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Festivals Research and Covid 19: Virtual Community, Activism, Spirituality

Date: Tuesday, September 15, 2020 - 11:00 to 17:00
Location: Virtual Conference, The Open University
Deadline for abstract submissions: 31 July 2020
Deadline for participant registration: 14 September 2020
Conference Programme is now available.

This Festival Research conference will provide an opportunity for an interdisciplinary discussion of past fieldwork on festivals, as well as reflections on present challenges and changes: what can Covid 19 tell us about modern festivals?

In 2020, after 50 years of Glastonbury, festival fields will be silent.

Who could have foreseen that festivals would take a hiatus after half a century, just as they were getting ready to celebrate their becoming permanent fixtures of the cultural landscape? Festivals have transformed localities into hubs, and they are going digital. Whilst festival towns and villages may stay silent and green this year, the webs and networks they have spun go beyond terrestrial links and routes and Covid 19 has brought this to the fore.

Have festivals prepared us for the virtual global communities that are being born? The yearly fracturing of the festival towns and villages was already creating an interruption in local identity. A little village, like Pilton village in Somerset, became a city overnight, creating an unprecedented proximity. Yet Covid 19 is also strangely bringing us closer, as we are instantly zooming inside each other's living rooms and kitchens, with everyone in a different time zone.


This conference will consider a range of questions including but not limited to the following

  • What can Covid 19 teach us about modern festivals?
  • What has social distance reminded us about social closeness?
  • What is happening with festival and protestival communities in 2020?
  • Are festivals and protestivals coming to your computer screens this year?
  • What (global) forms are virtual communities, activism and spirituality taking and how can these help us in our cultural mapping of contemporary trends relating to religion, politics and the environment?
  • How are we, scholars interested in festivals, protestivals, activism, community and spirituality, re-inventing our research?

This conference will provide online forums for discussing contributors’ blogs and vlogs, as well as feature a selection of live papers.

Keynote Speakers:

Opening Keynote:

Dr Leonore_vanden

Dr Leonore van den Ende

Vrije University Amsterdam

Dr Leonore van den Ende is Assistant Professor at the department of Organization Science at the VU University of Amsterdam. She is an anthropologist and ethnographer studying temporary and alternative organisational forms that can facilitate transition, with a particular focus on contemporary rituals, festivals and events.

Plenary Keynote:

Professor Sarah Pike

Professor Sarah Pike

California State University

Sarah M. Pike is Professor of Comparative Religion at California State University, Chico. She has written numerous books and essays on contemporary Paganism, ritual, New Age, ancestral skills, Burning Man, spiritual dance, environmental activism, and youth culture, including Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves: Contemporary Pagans and The Search for Community and For the Wild: Ritual and Commitment in Radical Eco-Activism.

Resident Artist:

Zsófia Szonja Illés

Zsófia Szonja Illés

Zsófia Szonja Illés is a multidisciplinary artist and designer with a socially engaged practice. She is a lecturer on Landscape Democracy at the LED2LEAP Living Labs and a collaborating artist at the Centre of Contemporary Art: Glasgow as part of their ’School for Civic Imagination’ public engagement programme. Her practice-led research looks at creating accessible and democratic engagement processes and toolkits for land research, in order to mobilise alternative voices and experiences of the landscape.

Banner image: Night tower - Andre Benz / unsplash; Inset image: Raggedstone /

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