IMMERSED! FESTIVAL | INTERVIEW
The pandemic hasn’t deterred this Cardiff festival from preparing one hell of a lineup to enjoy at home. Created by University Of South Wales students and staff, in aid of Teenage Cancer Trust, and running over three days for the first time, Buzz found out more from Emma Mae [pictured below], a student both performing and producing.
How will the festival work this year, with Covid restrictions?
Immersed! 2021 is an all-new online experience that can be watched wherever you are. It will be streamed each afternoon/evening from Fri 29 to Sun 31 Jan, and promises to be bigger and better than ever despite the challenges it’s faced.
We have six themed ‘virtual stages’ for viewers to pick and choose from, starting with our Unity and Let Us Dance events on the Friday, showcasing Cardiff’s r’n’b, hip-hop and dance scenes. Saturday sees our #saveourvenues and The Mosh Pit events – highlighting the indie and heavy scenes in south Wales, whilst also offering our support to the #saveourvenues and #wemakeevents movements and showing viewers Covid’s devastating effect on the live music and events sectors – before we wind down on Sunday with Sofa Sessions, where performers give one-of-a-kind acoustic sets.
Sunday also sees our long-awaited Libertino takeover, where Libertino Records shows the world what they have to offer. All viewable from your living room, and in support of Teenage Cancer Trust.
What are the biggest challenges of hosting a festival during a pandemic?
Creating an Immersed! event that lives up to expectations whilst also keeping everyone involved safe. That includes the students and staff at the University Of South Wales who’ve been putting this together, as well as the venues we’ve filmed all of the sets in, and of course the artists who’ve donated their time and energy.
But the challenges are ongoing. We find workarounds for the problems we’re faced with, and then the Covid rules change and our solutions are no longer feasible. I can’t tell you the number of times the entire structure of the festival has changed, or how many times we’ve had to change our plans – but we’re in the home stretch now, and what we’ve ended up with is a massive success for us.
How does this year’s lineup compare to past Immersed! events – 2019’s was nominated for a Cardiff music award?
This year, because an online festival means the potential for a significantly larger audience than 2019 and 2020, we have put all of our focus on empowering – and frankly showing off – the amazing local musicians who’ve been struggling through the pandemic. We do have some returning artists who played the 2019 festival, though, such as Otto, Eädyth, Led By Lies and Matthew Evans of Keys; and several more who played in 2020 too, like Adwaith, Clwb Fuzz, Bandicoot, Bloom! and Yasmine & The Euphoria among others.
Most importantly though, this year’s line-up is massive. Over the course of three days and six virtual stages, we will be streaming performances filmed in Cardiff venues, and artist living rooms, by over 50 fantastic artists. “Bigger and better than ever” is an understatement!
What do USW students think of the experience?
Students on the Popular & Commercial Music course at USW are genuinely proud to have worked on Immersed! 2021. We’re so grateful to those on the Sound & Live Event Production, Media Production and Journalism courses who’ve helped us too – couldn’t have done it without them. It’s been a busy few months, and Covid has definitely made it difficult, not only because of the logistics and literal laws stopping us from doing certain things, but of course the pandemic has affected students’ mental health too, and finding the motivation to get things done has been difficult.
However, Immersed! has sort of been a light at the end of the tunnel for many of us, as it’s really quite rewarding seeing how much we’ve accomplished despite everything standing in our way. So USW creative students are now a little more optimistic about the future of creative industries after this.
Any particular highlights of the weekend you would recommend readers to attend?
Our High Contrast workshop is going to be brilliant. He’s doing a deconstruction of one of his tracks to kick off the festival – I highly recommend. We’re also doing little feature interviews with representatives from #wemakevents and #saveourvenues, as well as venues such as the Tramshed where we filmed most of the performances. But truly, all of the performances are fantastic – see what catches your eye on our lineup poster, and I guarantee it’ll be brilliant.
Is there anything else you’d like Buzz readers to know about Immersed!?
Yes – it’s 100% FREE! Obviously, we encourage donations to Teenage Cancer Trust because they’re an amazing charity, but it is a free major music festival that you don’t even have to get out of bed for. It’s the closest thing you’ll get to live music at the moment, and it’s shaping up to be something really wonderful, so we hope you can join us for three days of exciting performances.
Immersed! Festival, online, Fri 29-Sun 31 Jan. Admission: free (donations welcome). Info: www.immersedfestival.co.uk
Profits from merchandise sales will be donated to the #saveourvenues campaign; organic cotton Immersed!/#saveourvenues T-shirts are available for £15 here
words LOTTIE CATRIN photos STU ROWLES