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Andrea O’Hagan, co-founder of Firefly Events, recounts what has proven to be a challenging, yet surprisingly fruitful, year during Covid-19 as an outdoor events company.

At the beginning of 2020, experiential, open air and live events had been seeing a great growth annually of around 8% in the UK as people increasingly looked for ways to spend time with their family and friends in a relaxed, exciting and fun environment. During this time, the outdoor events business made up more than £1 billion of the entire events sector’s worth (valued at £42.3b). However, the shape of this is set to change, perhaps permanently, during and following the Covid-19 pandemic. The general public currently feel a great deal safer in an open-air environment where there a far lower risks of catching the virus.

In the age of social distancing, we have seen a meteoric boom in the popularity of drive-in cinemas. Movies bring people together, they educate, evoke emotion and inspire audiences.  During this time of restriction, drive-ins have been able to offer a safe, distanced option for people desperate to get out and do something. For many businesses offering this type of event, it has been a new avenue to try and diversify their offering at a time when they are unable to run their usual events.

The general public currently feel a great deal safer in an open-air environment where there a far lower risks of catching the virus.

At Firefly, we have had our busiest drive-in year to date with people hiring our services from a range of different sectors. It seems one of very few event formats that people in heavily restricted areas can attend legally and safely in their bubble.

For example, we were employed by Porsche to curate a three-day drive-in event for their customers. The concept fitted with the automotive sector as well as ticking all the boxes for contact-free, socially-distanced entertaining. The event itself was a magical experience, hosted in the stunning flood-lit grounds of Chenies Manor with a mocktail bar, stone-baked pizzas, and an ice cream cart. Porsche owners were treated to classic movies including Disney Pixar’s Cars and Le Mans 66. We even developed a Porsche-branded mobile ordering service, so that all food and drink could be delivered directly and safely to the parked cars. We are expecting this trend to continue next Spring and so continue to keep a look-out for suitable drive-in venues.

Cinema complexes have hit the news due to the fact that many have sadly had to close their doors for the foreseeable future but the big screen experience offers many people a regular form of escape. This desire to watch a film on the big screen has meant that all our own outdoor cinema events this year have sold out in record time. Large outdoor space means that queues can be avoided, ticket holders can sit comfortably 2 metres apart while food and drink can be delivered straight to them in their seats. In fact, the demand has been so huge that we have also run an unprecedented numbers of private screenings. For the first time this year, our calendar has been filled with private bookings, including a growing number of UK celebrities that have opted to run their own outdoor cinemas in the comfort of their own gardens.