For a second year running, the whole world has been under a global pandemic that has forced people put their lives on pause or slow it down a bit. The lockdown prevented public affairs for what feels like eternity. Aspects of modern day life that bring joy to people like concerts, live events, clubbing, festivals and other events that require large gatherings have been significantly affected by the pandemic. The events industry has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. In a bid to cope with the sectoral apocalypse, they tried to work around the situation and found ways to present events digitally. However, there’s no getting around the fact that the world turned upside-down for event organizers.
The 2013 Ethiopian New Year which started on September 11, 2021 G.C had a dull start to it. It kicked off with events attended by selected few individuals who had to wear masks and keep their distance from everyone. Even though the country is far from eradicating the Corona pandemic, venues gradually started opening with minor regulations. Live, in-person concerts and festivals are back. It’s something many people have been waiting for since the pandemic forced many of these events to be canceled or postponed.
Even with the rise of patients suffering from the delta variant, events with mass crowds still seem like they’re making a comeback. This New Year’s Eve has multiple live events lined up; events that do not require masks or social distancing. Despite the looming health hazards, Addis Ababa’s residents and tourists are expected to flood into these events with high hopes for a good time.
The Reporter reached out to a couple of youngsters who claimed that live events feel more important to them post-pandemic because of how deprived the pandemic made them feel. One of them pointed out they are eagerly awaiting the New Year’s Eve concert and added: “Nothing beats the feeling of live music, and to think we didn’t get to have that for such a long time. I personally am stocked to finally be able to do a countdown while singing and dancing amongst a group of people I don’t even know but are just as excited as I am.” These young people are more inclined to attend as many live events as possible.
Virtual events were what served as a patch to ease the transition from live events to no events at all. The youth were having free virtual concerts, readings, poetic events and lots more to keep engaging with each other. Some of the people The Reporter spoke to opposed the reopening of live events. “I don’t understand how everyone is okay with attending events in such packed venues with people that haven’t been tested. It feels irresponsible to me; I would rather avoid the fun rather than jeopardizing my children’s health. I have lost my father to this pandemic and I don’t want to risk losing anyone else at this point. Virtual events will do just fine until we, as a country, can control the disease. But I guess everyone would rather risk it than wait.” said Lucy with a tone of disappointment in her voice.
Vaccinations are being issued for free at government offices; yet there is a concerning level of vaccine hesitancy among the public. There is a saying that goes “you can’t have the cake and eat it too”, one must decide whether they want to keep social distancing or get vaccinated.
Amongst the biggest live events that took place was Bermel, a concert that comprised of multiple up and coming artists and Dj’s in the country. The event took place at the Kana warehouse packed with an audience eager to forget their troubles and dance the night away. The organizers made sure to remind attendees to wear their masks and be safe, but sure enough alcohol has a way of making us throw caution out the window.
Even though events like this are frowned upon by the older generation, almost every other activity isn’t. Amongst the people The Reported spoke to was Betty, a young woman in her twenties who recalls the pandemic as a pause button on her life. “If I am expected to show up at work every day and engage in activities that risk my life, then I see it fit that I get to attend events that liberate me while risking my life. I’ve forgotten how therapeutic events like this could be; the venue is well ventilated and I personally didn’t feel like I was suffocating. Almost everything is going back to its original state despite the pandemic’s lingering existence. I risk my health boarding public transportation that have stopped following the guidelines put in place to combat the pandemic. So why shouldn’t I be allowed to risk my health at something that makes me feel this alive.” she added.
The lockdown was depriving event organizers everywhere off their lively hood. They kept up appearances through virtual events but that did not bring in any income. After events started opening up, eager consumers made-up for the dry season during the lock down. Yonatan Mulugeta, a promotions manager at Shega events, recalls how all of a sudden their field of work became illegal. Their events are now thriving thanks to the added demand of people wanting events to make up for lost time. “After the lockdown, we had to close our office for more than 6 months and we had to see out the lockdown. We struggled a lot as the main source of income for our company is live events. So, we struggled with office rent, employee payments and other financial problems. We even thought of changing our business sector. Since we were also a year into the start of Shega events, the lockdown was particularly hard on startups like ours. It was a struggle to stay afloat.” added Yonatan.
This week alone has more than 5 live events lined up with most of the events booking their ticket sells ahead of time. The past week got to entertain one of the biggest music fests of the year, the Bermel fest, filling out the Kana warehouse with local music lovers. It was Shega event’s biggest accomplishment since they started their event organizing journey. Yonatan Mulugeta confidently said that anyone who had the chance to attend the event was bound to have a “Shega” time.
Event organizers are working overtime to deliver the safest most enjoyable live events. Shega events acknowledged the current spike in COVID-19 cases but they believe they are well equipped and prepared than they were a year ago. “We think if the right precautions and measures are taken, we could keep creating a safe space where everyone could come and enjoy a good time. If live events do get banned, social media would be the way. If you remember, Live Events on Instagram and YouTube were getting a lot of traffic. I think that’s the best way to go if we reach that point.”
People will keep going out for events; so the logical thing would be to find safe ways of doing that and the recent spike in live events suggests that it is the approach that is being applied. Hopefully, 2014 will be a better year for the event organizing teams and event goers everywhere.
Contributed by Yosthena Aynalem