A Year of Digital Society Events

Grace Fannon looks back at how societies have adapted over the last twelve months

Trinity is heading into the final few weeks of a year that is hopefully unlike anything we will see again. Between online lectures, frustratingly short library booking slots and an absence of sneaker-wearing tourists meandering around campus, it has been difficult to get used to the changes this year has brought. In the midst of this upheaval, Trinity’s societies have been a bastion of normality, providing much needed social interaction and the reminder that there are other people in existence besides your flatmates or family members.

Society committees have had to push their creativity to the limit this year as they figured out what kind of events work best in a virtual format and how to make it easy for people to engage via online events. Although the year is not quite over, the season of AGMs is upon us, bringing with them a turnover in society committees and a reflection on the future of Trinity’s many societies. With this in mind, we’re looking back on this strangest of years at some of the societies that have persevered through the pandemic and the new types of events have been born out of Covid-19 restrictions.

“Rather than wallowing in the closure of the beloved Samuel Beckett Theatre, DU Players accepted from the beginning that Trinity theatre would have to adapt to online formats.”

I think most would agree that DU Players is one society that has definitely earned a round of applause this year for the continuous effort they have put in to keep theatre up and running at Trinity. Their Resilience festival, back in the long-forgotten days of summer 2020, was only the beginning of a constant stream of shows, events and festivals, including Freshers Fest, Lorde Fest, Glitter Fest, a pop up Grá festival and their recent Millennium festival. Festivals of this kind bring us all something to look forward to in weeks that can seem to meld into one long and boring Tuesday. Rather than wallowing in the closure of the beloved Samuel Beckett Theatre, DU Players accepted from the beginning that Trinity theatre would have to adapt to online formats, and has been undeterred in their commitment to keep producing and creating. Their festivals and events have provided a welcome outlet and motivation for student creativity. Another festival of note is of course Trinity Arts Festival (TAF), which came back in February 2021 with a bang. TAF brought an impressively packed schedule of workshops, speaker events, performances and exhibitions, with a number of different societies taking part, from DUDJ, to Trinity Visual Arts Society, to Trinity Yoga Society.

Trinity Musical Theatre Society (TMT) should also be mentioned as a performing arts society that has kept up momentum and enthusiasm during the year. The society started a workshop series over the summer that continued into the academic term and is still up and running. Workshops have been led by a mix of Trinity students and musical theatre professionals, including Ellena Vincent, a cast member of the West End production of Hamilton. Along with a stream of musical theatre inspired weekly events, TMT also produced a virtual production of Into the Woods for the 2020 Musical Theatre Intervarsities and announced in February that they will be producing Carrie as their 2021 Intervarsities submission.

If there are any silver linings in the transition to online life for societies, one of them is the potential for a greater range of guest speakers who otherwise may have been unable to come in person. As a result, virtual panel discussion and speaker events may be something that is carried over into future years. Trinity Law Society boasted an exciting lineup of different speakers over the past few months, including Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Stephen Fry; Niall Horan and Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland.

TCD Environmental Society has been another prominent presence this year, providing a range of different events each week, along with constant updates and information about environmental issues and initiatives. During Green Week, the society held a Climate and Inequalities event, which used art, music and storytelling to highlight climate injustice and the varied impact of climate change across the world. The event was introduced by Mary Robinson, and featured a list of impressive guest speakers. The society’s efforts to engage students in discussions around climate change and environmentalism in interesting and inventive ways are certainly praiseworthy.

[/pullquote]“With podcasts being so ubiquitous nowadays, it is unsurprising that societies have turned to them as another way to get members involved.”[/pullquote]

From the depths of Zoom events and social distancing restrictions, another society initiative was born– the podcast. Earlier this year DU History kicked off their new podcast, Many Moons Ago, with an episode on The Relationship between History and Art, which is now into its second season. With podcasts being so popular nowadays, it is unsurprising that societies have turned to them as another way to get members involved. TMT is another society to have recently started a podcast, called Spill the M.T., and many other societies may follow suit in the future.

It goes without saying that this year has been a challenging one for students’ mental health, and Trinity societies play an important role in keeping morale at least a little higher than it would otherwise be. Especially for students feeling isolated, whether they are living at home in more rural areas or unable to meet up with friends on campus as they usually would, this year has made it harder to reach out for company and support. With this in mind, Q Soc – Trinity LGBT should be mentioned for their closed space meet-ups that supplement the society’s regular coffee hours. The closed space events are safe, non-judgemental and supportive spaces where people can come to talk about their sexuality, meet others with similar identities, have a chat, and discuss the challenges associated with being queer in today’s world. This is a truly excellent initiative and particularly important during lockdown.

When it comes to creativity and commitment, there are too many societies to name. In a year when it would’ve been easier to reduce events and acquiesce to the limitations of Zoom, Trinity’s societies have kept coming up with different and interesting ways to facilitate social interaction. Craft workshops, cook-alongs, discussion panels, quizzes, stand up nights, magazines and exhibitions are just a handful of the things which have been organised this year, all online. Run solely by students, Trinity’s societies have managed to keep the spirit of student life alive at Trinity, even if they are unable to actually be on campus.