The events sector in the UAE has adapted to the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, and is steadily moving towards recovery while keeping the latest safety regulations at the heart of all planned future events, experts said.
John Lickrish, CEO Flash Entertainment, said that the events landscape has been “heavily disrupted” by Covid-19, which is understandable given the audience participation, travel and other factors involved. However, he noted that the sector has “adapted quickly”, and evolved into a virtual entertainment space, supported by the digitisation of content to meet audience demand.
“The entertainment and events sectors play a vital role in boosting international, regional and local tourism,” he said. “Our events contribute significantly to Abu Dhabi’s entertainment sector, in line with the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030, and with this in mind the events sector has been working with various stakeholders to plan for the safe return of physical live events to Abu Dhabi and the region, based on strict health, safety and hygiene protocols and an agreed roadmap.”
Carefully managed events including B2B exhibitions and sport are now a reality on the ground thanks to the UAE’s rigorous vaccination campaign, which is one of the fastest in the world, he added. “The recent announcement confirming mandatory proof of vaccination and a negative PCR test for all event attendees from June 6 is further evidence of the united effort to get the event space back up and running, and the industry will work tirelessly with the authorities to meet all protocols and ensure the safety of all attending. Whilst we expect a cautious reopening, there’s a growing confidence that a critical mass of vaccinated people will mean we see a return to live events by the second half of the year.”
Lickrish also highlighted that technology has been essential during the pandemic, connecting individuals and businesses all over the world. Throughout the pandemic, Flash Entertainment evolved its virtual offering to meet the rise in digital consumption; during the lockdown, the company hosted the region’s first virtual concert, providing a platform for artists across the UAE, including Freek, FAFA and Mo Flow. Lickrish explained that the virtual concert showed the potential for the entertainment sector, and the appetite for concerts and live shows from the audience who can still connect remotely.
“Innovation remains a founding principle of Flash Entertainment, with new outlets for content always on the horizon or in production, and as an industry innovator we will continue adopting the latest entertainment tech to host events and provide world-class experiences for audiences,” he said. “From our perspective, there is no substitute for the magic of the live arena, and although technology is playing a fundamental role in bringing people together at this difficult time, we believe individuals will be eager to once again savour the live experience.”
Gabriel Afrim, GM of Theatre of Digital Art (ToDA), also touched upon the role of technology in creating more immersive experiences for audiences, such as the ‘Being VAN GOGH’ multimedia play. The show, which premiered at the digital art space in Souk Madinat Jumeirah in May this year, is a unique and immersive experience about the life and works of Vincent Van Gogh, one of the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art. The digital art show combines the master artist’s artworks with first-class technology complemented by music, visual effects and surround sound.
“As the events scene in Dubai and the Middle East begins to open up post-pandemic, immersive events are key for attracting visitors, and giving them new levels of engagement with art, music, and culture,” Gabriel Afrim said. “The Theatre of Digital Arts’ use of Epson projectors in ‘Being VAN GOGH’ has delivered high levels of guest satisfaction and repeat visitors, along with striking colour that brings to life Van Gogh’s paintings, and optimised costs and low levels of projector servicing.”
Afrim explained that the paintings of the great artist are on display in galleries and private collections all across the world. To capture them in one exhibition is almost an impossible challenge. The multimedia performance ‘Being VAN GOGH’ invites the viewer to get acquainted with the story of his life through a packed gallery of his works. More than 300 images of Van Gogh’s paintings, sketches and documentary photos are used in the 45-minute immersive show.
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