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  • Writer's pictureZofia Reych

What will happen with the Women’s Bouldering Festival 2020?

A COVID-19 update of sorts

words by Zofia Reych | photos by Lena Drapella

September 2019: a rare moment when I could grab a climb with the participants 💙

Organising the Women’s Bouldering Festival twice, first time in September 2018 and then 2019, had not been enough to work up a routine. Preparations for 2020 were promising to be as exciting and challenging as ever, with plans to refine the format and create a new and exciting cultural programme. We had a draft lineup of inspirational guests and we were deep in conversation with brands we trust to make awesome things happen.

And then the world ground to a halt with COVID-19.

Amidst the chaos and grief of a global pandemic, the uncertainty that coronavirus brought us as event organisers seemed somewhat insignificant. At the same time, as much as a part of me wanted to, we couldn’t hide our heads in the sand and just wait it out.

Over the last two years, the end of April was the time when we’d put deposits down on our venues, solidify our plans, close the budget and get ready for releasing tickets. As a small non-profit organisation, we still operate in a zero-margin environment which doesn’t give us any flexibility. Everything has to be counted to the penny.

Although there are some predictions as to when the French lockdown might end, nothing is certain. And on top of that, the Women’s Bouldering Festival has always been envisaged as an international gathering and so we need to wait for borders to reopen.

The situation we’re dealing with now seems like a huge obstacle for a relatively new non-profit event put together by a bunch of volunteers. At the same time, I clearly recall that in early September 2018, just before climbers started gathering for the first WBF, I felt as if we had dived head-first off a cliff, spinning out of control, with no idea what was going to happen. But the landing was soft. I made it - we made it - and we pulled the event off.

I’m still a little surprised at how smoothly it went and how much we’ve learned. First of all, we’ve discovered that shortcomings are not failures but pointers for improvement. And we had such grand plans for 2020! With participant feedback as our main guidance, we were ready to make awesomeness happen!

Quick decision making moment between Sandra (Site Manager, left) and Amy (Mentor, right). Serious faces!

We simply couldn't have all this psyche go to waste. We’ve made the decision not to give up hope for 2020 yet. If the restrictions are lifted before our planned dates of 18-20. September, we will meet, we will climb and we will have an amazing time connecting with each other and growing.

What will the shape of the event be? That we cannot tell you. We only know that it will be called the Women’s Bouldering Festival LITE. However much time we’ll have left for preparations before the third week of September, we’ll make the most of it and do everything we can to put together something you’ll love. It might be different, the scale might be smaller. But it will be good and we wouldn't have it any other way.

There is of course a chance that the lockdown will continue, or that sport gatherings will still be banned in September. If that’s the case, we will follow the official guidelines and keep doing whatever we can to flatten that damned curve. (I can’t deny that I’m sad that only in our third year we might be forced to cancel. To keep dark thoughts at bay, I’m telling myself that if it doesn’t happen in 2020, it will happen in 2021 with a bang!)

All in all, it’s not about increasing the numbers of participants each year, nor it is about having a beautiful function room rented, or not even about giving out goodie bags. It’s about bringing the community together, learning from one another, sharing our experiences and creating a safe space.

If there’s only a handful of us, climbing, laughing and sitting around a bonfire, we believe that’s enough and can’t wait for you to join us as soon as it is possible.

In the meantime, stay safe and psyched. We’re in this together and together we’ll get through.

Rain, sunshine, or a global pandemic... We can only do our best 👯👯


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