Postcards from the Edge No.11: Finding Funky Solutions

Since the shutdown of March 23, there's been plenty of focus on the impact on venues and the breweries and other businesses that supply them, not to mention the thousands of staff now stood down or let go.

The ecology surrounding pubs, bar, breweries, cafés, restaurants and other venues involves far more than a straight supply line from producer through retailer to consumer, however. The end of socialising as we know it for the foreseeable future has impacted many more who are part of that world, among them the musicians, comics, bingo and trivia hosts who provide(d) entertainment week in, week out.

"Well," Mark Doble, founder of Funky Bunch Entertainment, says, "we went from over 60 weekly pub shows and probably 500 corporate events, social events and fundraisers over the space of two weeks to zero."

And his story is typical of many whose businesses were symbiotic with the country's network of venues.

"The writing was on the wall," he says of the days leading up to the shutdown. "Pub after pub phoning. Heartbreaking conversations with publicans, some of whom I've been working with for fifteen years. It was just body blow after body blow.

"By the end I was laughing because I knew what people were calling for. I'd say, 'I'm just surprised you haven't called earlier.'."

But, like many who have found the rug pulled away from them virtually overnight, he's turned to a virtual solution. While musicians have turned to streaming via events such as Isol-Aid and you can now play bingo hosted by drag queens at home, Mark quickly went from the despair of standing down pretty much his entire team of staff and casuals to working out how to take the trivia he started hosting in Melbourne in 2005 online.

 

Funky Bunch Trivia at the Brunswick Bowls Club back when socialising in person was still a thing.

 

"We did a crash course in web-streaming, which was actually easy but none of us had done it before. Then we had to work out how to do the answer sheets because we were going to have a lot of people."

Having found the solution to that challenge, last Wednesday they went live for the first time, attracting more than 900 people in more than 300 teams. It was free to take part (with a donation button that brought in $600) and will be again this week (April 8), although they're looking at introducing prizes and giving people the option of playing for free or paying a fee to be in with the chance to win. So far, Fixation have put up a slab of "delivered and decontaminated" beer to be won each week.

Beyond that, Mark says they're looking to reintroduce private events or functions – online, of course – as they attempt to navigate the period until venues open again. In doing so, the hope is to reestablish some of the work opportunities lost either side of March 23.

"Some of the hosts have other jobs in a band or they're stand up comedians and that's out the window – their whole industry is just gone," Mark says. "There's just nothing. It's just heartbreaking."

Yet, having found a temporary solution, and with other concepts being developed for this ongoing period of isolation, he's found positives amid the challenges. For one, it's forced the Funky Bunch team to learn new skills pretty much overnight and add facets to the business they'd been discussing for years but never found time for.

What's more, Mark says: "It's been good for building relationships. Because everyone's thinking, 'Holy crap!'."


Funky Bunch Trivia goes live online again at 7.30pm AEST on April 8, 2020. You'll find everything you need to take part here.

As part of the #keepinglocalalive campaign we're running Postcards from the Edge stories, highlighting the ways in which people are adapting to survive. If you've got a story you think is suitable – or have something to add to the campaign resources online, including other forms of online entertainment – get in touch.

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