By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead
Nearly a year ago, our volunteer Ageing Well Torbay Festival organisers started work on the annual celebration of ageing.
When they first met in November, they were still reeling from a fabulously successful festival held a month earlier at the Riviera Centre in Torquay.
A day packed full of events – entertainments, crafts, dance, informative talks, lots of music, sports to try, yoga and tai chi sessions to join in, hobbies to take up, a fashion catwalk and dozens of information stalls – had attracted a record crowd of around 1,750 people from across the Bay.
Feedback was fantastic and fulsome with one attendee remarking as she left; “Just like Christmas Day. Wonderful.”
And so at that first meeting when the subject of where to hold the Festival in 2020 came up, it was a no-brainer – we had learned a lot of lessons and were ready to build on our success with another bigger and better celebration once again at the Riviera Centre.
The committee set about bringing together a mix of new talent to appear alongside the popular speakers, musicians and acts from the previous five years of festivals and they were excited by what they had in store.
The Riviera Centre was booked again for Saturday, October 24th and planning began in earnest. Acts were confirmed, a programme started to take shape and groups and organisations across the Bay were queuing up to take a stall in the ever popular information hall.
What could possibly go wrong?
When COVID came to the Bay back in March no-one could foresee the effect on public gatherings some seven months later, but as the weeks and months passed it became obvious that there was no prospect of bringing together people in large numbers.
We knew we could not bring just short of 2,000 people together under one roof, but what if we brought them together virtually whilst they all stayed under their own roofs wherever they were in the Bay?
The meeting where it was decided was a virtual one via Zoom, and so it seemed only a small step to go from that to putting a whole festival on-line. We had the websites and we were sure we could acquire the required technology and what if we involved our local community radio station, Riviera FM 107.9 as well?
No sooner were the words uttered, than the plans were made and all our energy was put into doing something that none of us had ever done before – a festival online, a festival reflected in the name @Home.
Since then, the committee have done what they always do best – organise, persuade, cajole and ultimately convince others that the idea of performing to an empty auditorium from the stage in the Palace Theatre in Paignton was a good one.
We quickly learned, by dint of numerous errors, the best ways to capture performances both on video and in audio and how to all but iron out those errors using some clever bits of editing software.
The result? Most of what we would normally bring you in an Ageing Well Torbay Festival – crafts, dance, informative talks, lots of music, sports to try, yoga and tai chi sessions to join in, hobbies to take up. The only thing we have struggled with are the information stalls and social distancing meant that we couldn’t deliver a catwalk
But overall, we are incredibly proud of what we have achieved from a standing start and we have learned a lot in the process, an awful lot, which gives lie to the myth you can’t teach an old…
So please join us this Saturday (October 24th) online at www.ageingwelltorbay.com from 10am until 3pm for a visual feast or, if you would prefer, from 11am to 3pm on Riviera FM on 107.9 for an audio experience to savour.
We have just about everything we would usually have in a festival and as always it is a celebration, not just of ageing, but of the very best talent that over 50’s in the Bay have to offer.
It is not all perfect, but it is all delivered with the very best of intention, enthusiasm and a genuine desire to keep us all together at this difficult time.
We were determined that COVID would not beat us and we want you to share that determination with us from 10am on Saturday. See you there.
PS: Our programme should be materialising shortly…we recommend checking back at around 9:30am.