A new Chapter: How online events are becoming a lifeline for performers during the pandemic

Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff have started hosting online events to help entertainers and the public during lockdown.

Chapter’s exterior showcases a piece of artwork called ‘ Y Canu Chalkydri’ by artist duo Malaphors.
(Image Credit: Warren Orchard)

This week a Cardiff cultural centre is hosting an online comedy event to support performers and entertain the public whilst venues are still closed due to Covid.

Chapter Arts Centre closed in March of 2020, but has recently become an aid to entertainers who have been unable to perform because of lockdown restrictions.

Robin Morgan, a writer and comedian said: “A few months after the start of the pandemic it really hit me, when my diary emptied my mental health suffered hugely.

He has been hosting and performing in online gigs during lockdown and described the transition to online as a lifeline for performers and audiences alike.

This week Robin performed in one of Chapter’s comedy events alongside other comedians such as Jayde Adams, Olga Koch, Matt Rees and Leila Navabi.

The transition to online events has not been the easiest, and Robin who made his comedy debut in Chapter 10 years ago felt like the move to online was similar to beginning a new career in comedy.

“The first gig back in person, it felt like starting all over again, it felt like that gig in Chapter 10 years ago with all the same nerves and very intense,” said the comedian.

Although online gigs have been a lifeline to Robin and many other comedians over the country, the performer stressed how there is a lack of atmosphere online.

The 31-year-old writer said: “I miss the live performing, there’s nothing like that rush when you’ve got a packed comedy club. You can’t recreate that with online stuff it will have to be in real life.” 

Robin originally made his debut in one of the The Drones club events in 2010, here is in 2016 at the same event.
(Image Credit: Robin Morgan)

The closure hasn’t just affected the venue and performers, but also the 800,000 visitors they have annually that rely on Chapter for social and cultural enjoyment.

Ray Elliot, a fan of Chapter said: “Over the last year we have all got used to not going to galleries, theatres, cinemas, concerts etc.”

The artist from Llantrisant expressed his disappointment with the closure of the venue, but is keen to see it reopen once again when restrictions are lifted.

“My use of Chapter has been social and around the cinema, but if online events are keeping the centre going then clearly, I approve.”

Ray frequents Chapter with his granddaughter Kara where they are big fans of the cinema.
(Image Credit: Kara Kennedy)

Performers and audiences of the venue aren’t the only ones struggling during the pandemic.

Chapter’s CEO Andy Eagle said: “Each month we have lost around £250,000 of income and as an arts charity we self – generate 82% of our turnover.”

This last year the centre has relied on donations received from trusts, foundations, government support and their loyal customers. “We now have enough cash to take us to the end of the financial year, after that we shall see,” said Andy.

These new online events have proven quite popular with audiences, although some are eager for the venue to re-open. 

The CEO said: “In future I suspect there will be an increase in the digital performance experience, but audiences and artists cannot wait for the live performance experience to restart.”