Keep dancing

“Lockdown has been incredibly hard for students and their mental health. There was a need for our events to go digital and become more accessible for everyone in Australia.” - Alistair Stringer, Silent Sounds Co-owner

Image provided by Silent Sounds


It’s no secret mental health issues have been on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic; lockdowns have brought immense challenges to everyone in the community, including children.  


Since early 2020, children and students across Australia have had to adjust to life at home which also meant learning the ropes of the digital classroom. Time spent away from friends, playgrounds and social settings have had an immense impact on this group.


Alistair Stringer and Shelley Strauss, co-owners of event company Silent Sounds saw the impact lockdown restrictions were having on students’ wellbeing and came up with a digital solution to continue to deliver their service to kids in their own homes.


“We realised there was a need for our events - normally hosted in-person - to go digital and become more accessible for everyone in Australia,” Alistair says. “So we developed a plan to safely provide exciting school incursions directly to students living rooms.”


Through a unique audio experience, Silent Sounds, an ANZ customer, encourages movement and getting students singing and dancing, giving them the space and tools to improve their mental health. 


Keep dancing


Before the pandemic, R U OK? day was one of the biggest occasions for Silent Sounds however Alistair admits they had to come up with a way to deliver what are usually onsite silent disco incursions, silent wellness and conferences programs in schools that required no outside staff onsite.


“Our teams couldn’t get to schools, so we were constantly brainstorming ideas of how to meaningfully reach children and teens,” he says.


Alistair says they didn’t want to find a temporary solution but create a system that made sense for the market, now and into the future.



Kids and mental health


Nearly one-in-five Australian children have experienced disruptive behaviours, disturbed sleep or symptoms of anxiety or depression amid the pandemic, according to the first national survey of the mental health impacts of COVID-19 on young children.


One-in-five parents who participated in the first round of the study also struggled with moderate to severe anxiety, depression or stress symptoms during the same period.



The market demands digital


In the lead up to R U OK? day, enquiries from teachers started flooding in - they all wanted to know what activities Silent Sounds could provide for the day.


Shelley and Alistair knew they needed to bring a virtual experience to schools and homes.


“We had so many teachers reaching out… schools needed something to happen on this day and we wanted to give back to the community,” Shelley says.


However, with video conferencing and home-schooling fatigue becoming a real issue, they knew the available technology was not going to cut it.


Shelley says they wanted to create something more than just good-looking visuals.


“This had to be an experience that actually encouraged the kids to get out of their chairs and dance in their lounge rooms, sing-along and be fully in the moment,” she explains.


This led the duo to develop a new platform based on meaningful engagement, choice and accessibility.


Choose your own adventure


It was hard work to implement, however Shelley and Alistair agreed the new direction was worth it.


The solution was a one-way live virtual experience, where the screen is divided into sections.

The first three sections act as channels where the viewer can choose different experiences like a dance class, a DJ set or meditation. The fourth section acts as a control panel that allows the viewer to choose their own channel.


“When we came up with the idea, we had to put everything else on hold to get it ready in time. It was three weeks of long days and nights but we are so happy with the final product,” Shelley says.



Video provided by Silent Sounds


Alistair says the students choose what they want to listen to, making it interactive and providing choice which isn’t made available in other online experiences.


“It’s our way of re-creating Silent Sounds’ famous in-school experiences at home.”


The future of virtual experiences


More than 6,500 students across New South Wales and Victoria joined Silent Sounds’ R U OK? Day virtual event. Considering pre-pandemic events hosted activities for up to 2,000 students, the pair were very happy with the reach.


“When the feedback came in, we knew we had made something special” Alistair says. “We developed the platform for schools but now we know it has endless possibilities for venues, virtual galleries, expos or multiple stage concerts.”


Alistair and Shelley believe after the pandemic the future of events won’t be the same. Bringing events to your living room, wherever that is, is just the beginning. 


“We know when our country re-opens, event promoters and venues will have to offer virtual options - it will become standard,” Alistair says.


In-person events will demand a digital component which gives consumers the power of choice and is accessible, all on the one screen.


“Think about a conference with multiple speakers at a time, in multiple languages, all available in multiple locations at a time. It’s more than just live streaming, it’s an experience.”


Camila Salazar is Content Coordinator at ANZ



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