Storytelling in times of COVID-19

The global pandemic has placed the arts, culture, and storytelling sector - where human gathering and interaction are inherent to its practice - in crisis. National strategies put in place to fight the virus have demanded that these sectors be the first to close and the last to start back up. Without a clear end in sight and as we sit at the start of 2021, we have all attempted to adjust to the ‘new normal’ and tried to assemble something from the remnants of the plans, dreams, and intentions we had for the year passed.

There is, however, a glimmer of hope, light at the end of the tunnel or silver lining to this dark cloud. Many storytelling professionals and those making use of storytelling within their respective fields have begun to innovate and produce creative adaptations to their working methods.

The purpose of this report by the Federation of European Storytelling (FEST), is to provide insight into the impact that COVID-19 has had on the storytelling sector and those who work within it. Over a period of several months, FEST collected feedback from storytelling professionals by way of an online survey and face to face interviews.

What is evident from the feedback is that storytelling professionals have approached work during the pandemic in different ways. For some, the transition to online performance and activities was relatively smooth as they already had some experience of working in this way. Others approached the situation with a greater degree of apprehension but were eventually cajoled into taking part in online forums and projects. There are also many who have opted to wait out the pandemic and take time to focus on other projects or work. A key factor that influences the ability of storytelling professionals to invest time into successfully operating online, is funding and support for skills development from both private and public creative bodies and institutions. Without these, individuals operating within the sector face additional barriers to their creative work.