Like many small entertainment businesses all over the world, Purple Carrot Events, a Romanian outfit which hosts weekly English-language pub quizzes in the country’s capital Bucharest and corporate events across the country, faced immediate financial problems when Romania closed pubs, restaurants and bars on March 17, and banned large gatherings in order to combat the spread of coronavirus.
Since then Romania has followed other countries across the region by imposing stringent lockdown procedures, with everyone except essential workers forced to stay at home unless they are shopping, exercising or seeking medical attention. Even then, people need to make a written declaration stating that they are free of Covid-19 symptoms, a declaration which must be presented to the ubiquitous police when asked. There are heavy fines in place for those who flout the rules.
For many in the entertainment industry, the effect has been devastating, with staff laid off and the future of many businesses uncertain. Purple Carrot is one of those which has been able to pivot, taking its quiz online.
“We quickly realised that we needed to come up with a solution fast, else we would go out of business,” says Marc Jenner, who runs Purple Carrot Events. “We have rent to pay, and other overheads. It was about survival.”
Jenner’s solution was to make the quiz digital. He joined the Patreon platform and created a weekly quiz open to those with subscriptions, which start at just five euros per month. It has become so popular that Jenner now runs two quizzes a week, one on Wednesday night, another on Saturday.
“The response has been amazing,” he tells Emerging Europe. “We now have over 200 patreons from all over the world: mainly from Romania, but also the UK, Germany, Spain, Saudi Arabia, and even from Australia.”
Jenner presents the quiz via a live YouTube stream with those taking part answering questions via the quizzing platform myquiz.org. Its popularity owes much to the fact that it provides an hour of interaction with others – albeit from a distance – and allows people to forget about the fact that they are stuck at home.
“What started as a way of keeping our business alive has become something far bigger,” says Jenner. “We have been running quizzes for more than 10 years and over that time a real community has grown around them. At a time like this it is always important to feel part of a community and I think that people feel just that when they log in to play our online quizzes. We have had requests to hold them every night: we’d love to, but putting a decent, competitive quiz together takes time. What we cobbled together in barely 48 hours has become so popular, that we have even been hired by Facebook to provide a regular quiz for their staff!”
As successful as Jenner’s online quizzes have been, he can’t wait to get back to presenting the real thing.
“It’s kind of weird staring at my own face on YouTube as I present, and I’d much rather be looking out and interacting in person with the people that have been supporting our quizzes since we started in 2010. I’ll keep presenting online for as long as the lockdown continues, but I cannot wait for the day we can all get back to normality.”
You can sign up for Purple Carrot’s quizzes by becoming a Patreon here. The next quiz takes place at 8pm on April 4.