Fringe Online 2020
The Bavard Bar is best described as Ted Talks for Ordinary Folks. In the live version of the show, three speakers get fifteen minutes to speak publicly about their passion. Each presentation is then followed by a gentle Q&A. The evening is broken up by a genial host, some comedy and a few silly games. Radio 4 at play. With Corona Virus in full flow, the live shows are off, and Tim is presenting the show online.
In this version of The Bavard Bar, we are treated to two interesting talks, by knowledgeable speakers mixed together with comedy, jokes, games, drum rolls and art, all hosted by the irrepressibly cheery Tim Bavard.
Let’s get the technical gubbins out of the way.
The Bavard Bar online is presented on Facebook, by Isolation Station Hastings. They have a daily broadcast schedule containing a variety of diverse, locally based, programming. The contributors/performers join in, via their home broadband connections. There is some magical trickery that puts the host and the different feeds together, creating a beefed-up Zoom meeting. There were various windows live at any one time, and the host was able to switch as necessary. Most of the flips appeared to happen on cue, there was no noticeable lag, and very little breakdown in the feeds. It wasn’t like watching a TV show, but it felt smooth and natural. Technically, it went well.
Tonight’s show kicked off with Piano Man Dan playing in the host, Tim Bavard. We were welcomed by Tim’s irrepressible cheeriness and a nice story about being, “a nation of alcoholics with a general knowledge problem.” He explained the format and introduced us to the cast of characters. Everything was handled with the good-natured, positive, charm, that is Tim’s trademark.
This Bavard Bar was themed around, ‘A Town Explores A Book’. The idea is that a town stages a series of events related to a book that is part of their literary heritage. In this case, St Leonard’s was exploring H.G. Wells, The Time Machine.
The first of the talks was ‘Science Meets Science Fiction’ by Dr Ljiljana Fruk, a Biochemist and NanoTechnologist from Cambridge University. She used a series of examples from popular culture, to highlight how far-fetched Science Fiction has become a reality. Examples included brain-controlled robotic limbs, self-driving cars and self-repairing clothing. Far from the vision of doom-laden cyborgs destroying humanity, her take was far more positive. Our speaker was, intelligent, informed and left this viewer with a feeling of hope that ultimately science makes life better. On a side note, science is more interesting when it’s illustrated by stills from Arnold Schwarzenegger films.
Next up was the historian, Professor Simon Schaffer. His talk was about H.G.Wells and the age he lived in. When Wells wrote The Time Machine, the world was going through a period of unprecedented technological and scientific change. This heavily influenced Wells. He had a fascination with the remarkable inventions and discoveries being made, and the future they heralded. It was fascinating to hear an eminent historian place such an iconic piece of literature into its historical and cultural context.
Because this event was hosted on Facebook, the audience was able to use Facebook Chat. This provided real-time feedback on the show. The comments in the chatbox were universally positive. This audience seemed to be enjoying and engaging with the experience.
As for Tim, he handled the running order well, having grown in confidence from the previous show. He jollied us along, making occasional references to audience comments and linking us with jokes and segues.
There are some elements of the presentation that warrant review. There was too much material crammed into one hour. By removing some of the filler elements there would be more room for audience interaction. From watching the live chat, this seemed to be something the audience was keen on.
The sudden growth of live content performed online is experiencing a period of rapid expansion. Creatives are working out how to make this a valuable and unique experience. The Bavard Bar has a unique opportunity to involve the audience, through their comments, questions and the caption competition, directly in the show. This would create an inclusive experience and move the audience from passive consumers of culture to co-creators. It isn’t possible to recreate the experience of a live show, over the internet, but by actively engaging the audience there is the semblance of a feedback loop, which has to be a good thing.
In summary, the online version retained the unique spirit of the live event, although the experience was very different. The core element, speakers who are passionate about their subject matter, still drove the show. It was fun, interesting and engaging. The show is recommended, and I look forward to the next one.
Here is a link to a recording of the reviewed show, The Bavad Bar Online