Want to know more before you sign up? Here is what one of last year's hosts had to say about her experience.
Hosting at an Online Festival
(photograph Geraldine McClure)
I have taken part in the music festival for as long as I can remember, and for the last few years I have been helping out with stewarding, as an adjudicator’s assistant. I was looking forward to volunteering again in 2020, until I heard that it was going to be online.
I was worried that it was going to be too complicated. I didn’t know much about Zoom and I was apprehensive about ‘hosting’ the classes through a computer screen. I need not have worried.
Before the festival week began, all the stewards - now “hosts” - were given a tutorial from Alex McCall who showed us exactly what we needed to do on our computers to make sure everything ran smoothly. We were also given a booklet with step by step instructions which even I was able to follow! The tutorial and the booklet laid everything out clearly and it was a lot less complicated than I had first thought.
The performers’ videos were all held in Google Drive folders which Alex showed us in the tutorial. The stewards/hosts were allocated to morning, afternoon or evening “sessions” as in a normal festival and given access to the relevant folders in advance so that we could practice playing the videos. Although I knew that they had been checked, I went through each video before my sessions to make sure that there would be no technological hitches during the class itself. (We have all seen one too many lecturers struggle to take a class because they haven’t checked the I.T. beforehand).
It was strange to talk to a screen as opposed to a room full of people. When everyone’s cameras and microphones are switched off you can’t see or hear any reactions/comments. You have to have the confidence to carry the meeting yourself and you have the responsibility for keeping things flowing.
You have to check that all the performers are present before the class starts, just as you would normally. This means that you have to keep an eye on the ‘waiting room’ and let any new arrivals into the meeting. You should ask people to mute their microphones, or as a host you can do that for them. After every performance video is played, it is good to encourage the audience to unmute themselves and applaud each performer. Finally, all the performers should have their cameras switched on, and be ready to unmute their microphones for the adjudication.
You have to share your screen to play the videos and whilst they are loading, there can be a few seconds to wait. This is another time that you have to keep the atmosphere relaxed and friendly, and just have a bit of a one-sided chat. You can get the next video ready to play while the adjudicator is writing up their comments for the previous performer. After a few videos you get into the swing of things.
I started each session at least 5 minutes early, so that I could check through a few things with the adjudicator alone, before admitting anybody else to the meeting. For example, you might want to flag up a class with a trophy, or any performers who do not want their video shown in the class.
Surprisingly, it was easier than I thought it would be. There was someone at the other end of the phone, usually Alex, to sort out any problems, and it became more straightforward with each class that I hosted. I will be volunteering again this June. Of course, I much prefer the real thing and am really looking forward to the return of live performance.