MATRIXSYNTH: NEEMFest 2020 Cancelled

Thursday, July 30, 2020

NEEMFest 2020 Cancelled


"Hello Friends,

Unfortunately, we must postpone NEEMFest 2020 indefinitely. It was a difficult decision to make (and is even more difficult to communicate) because there was no single overwhelming reason for it. Rather I -- and the rest of the group that you’ve entrusted with planning and arranging it -- felt that there are numerous obstacles standing in the way of a successful and satisfying experience for the community, enough of them to make postponement the wisest plan. A complete list would take a while, but there are three I’ll mention here.

First, a virtual conference requires a huge effort from presenters and performers, and because much of that involves learning and experimentation, it must be done well in advance. Many of us, through no fault of our own, are not very far down that road. Even though we were ready to assist everyone with both documentation and in-person support, we did not feel that NEEMFest would be able to maintain its inclusiveness, the one thing that all of us value the most.

Second, those of us who had done streaming events realized that audience attention is far harder to capture and maintain with a multi-day virtual event. That, and the need to provide technical support, had already led to a decision to reduce the number of performance slots from our normal 40+ to around 16. At that point, we had entered a world where it was not at all clear that the rewards for the performers (or for the technical volunteers) would justify the effort.

The third reason is the most difficult to describe and at the same time the most compelling. The entire community is stressed and distracted now. There is a pandemic raging in the United States and it is going to get worse, even as the rest of the developed world is slowly returning to normal. Some of us face financial insecurity. Those who have children in school, or who work in schools and colleges, are experiencing worrisome risk and real uncertainty about what will happen in just a few weeks (my own city of 30,000 is about to face an influx of tens of thousands of college students who will, of course, maintain social distancing and other safe practices at all times). NEEMFest was scheduled for the week after the public schools reopen -- a peak time for either anxiety or relief, and either way a time when people will be most focused on family and friends. It seemed that our chances of capturing the attention of performers and audience at that point in the calendar were, if anything, substantially worse than they would be at other times.

We concluded that we should, as one of us put it, “do NEEM when we can really do NEEM”. In the meantime, we can all raise our game, and continue working on virtual events in a paced, deliberate way. We’re making all of the technical-support materials we prepared available on the NEEM website (at ]). All of us are available to help people who want to get going. There are any number of good ideas for Zoom presentations and online tours floating around; over the coming weeks, we’ll be putting those forward here in the hope that some educational events and virtual tours might spring up. There is a lot for all of us to work on, and I hope that as many of you as possible will join us.

Speaking now only for myself (and maybe for some of my bandmates), virtual collaboration and performance have been a real godsend for me over the last few months. This is a resilient and adventurous community, and I’m confident that NEEM will come back in the form of a hundred micro-NEEMs before we are all able to meet together in person again -- and that there will be some new things, uniquely possible in cyberspace, that will astonish and delight all of us.

A final, personal word: I am immensely grateful to the volunteer crew of organizers: Rebekkah, Mike, Steve, Ken, Rob S., Jim, and Chris. This has been a rocky road, and I have pitched a few of the rocks. All of us are even more grateful to those of you who have made financial contributions to support NEEM. Fortunately, we have spent very little if any money so far, and your contributions remain to be used exactly as you intended -- to make the next NEEM the most inclusive, fee-free event it can possibly be. All of us are in your debt.

We close with a musical selection:"

We'll Meet Again - Vera Lynn, Drag Queens in Quarantine (DiQ)

Cheddar Gorgeous

"26 drag queens from 5 different countries are asking you to help us raise money for Age UK."

1 comment:

  1. The rest of the developed world is not necessarily returning to normal at this time. Second wave in Europe is starting. No one knows what is happening in Russia and North Korea. This is not over by a long shot, as health experts have stressed.



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