When the BEAST Team gathered many months ago to start developing the theme of this year’s festival, we were inspired by the notion that despite years of brutally negative politics and global turmoil, we might, through our shared love of this music, find a way to encourage something positive and optimistic, that embraced the possibilities of reconciliation and restoration. Thus was born the idea for BEAST FEaST 2020: Come Together, and the hope that we could use the festival, always a warm and engaging space for artists, thinkers, and audience members, to in some small way bridge the divides we’ve found opening within our societies and ourselves. That was a notion we could get behind, and seemed a wonderful focus to bring to what is our favourite moment in the BEAST calendar.

Now with festival time upon us, we find ourselves facing a new and bewildering divide, with the COVID-19 pandemic having wrought devastation on people’s health, lives and families. In the face of such fear and deep loss, the ruin of plans for festivals and artistic events seems almost a small thing, despite so much work, planning and anticipation having been invested and lost.

But, but, but… music still matters to us. We still need music, culture, the company of friends and colleagues, and the sharing of beautiful, exciting, challenging art and ideas. We still need to find ways to bridge the gaps, perhaps more than ever, and can do. Indeed we have, and I know I speak for the whole team when I say we can’t wait to share the weekend’s virtual events with you all!

I’m told I can be a bit loquacious when it comes time to deliver thanks at our events, but I can’t help saying I’ve been amazed and touched by the way everyone really has come together to re-make this festival over a shockingly short amount of time, and under terribly difficult circumstances.

As always I have to especially acknowledge the incredible efforts of the fantastic BEAST Team: Annie Mahtani, Emma Margetson, Simon Smith, and Chris Haworth. Our featured guest artists Beatriz Ferreyra, Hans Tutschku, Heather Roche, Eva Zöllner, Simon Emmerson and Christopher Fox have also been incredibly generous with their time and ideas, as have all of the artists in the festival. I’d also like to personally thank the students of the University Creative Exchange, who took the initiative to create a radically reconceived version of Christopher Fox’s A New Ocean, despite being isolated far from each other. Finally, thanks to all of you, for overcoming your own personal isolation, and being a part of the festival this weekend.

Here’s to a great festival, and to meeting again soon in better times!

Scott Wilson, BEAST Director, April 2020