One dollar drafts, taco Tuesdays, and pub trivia, the trifecta of weeknight mixers, have been a staple at your friendly neighborhood bar for years. But when COVID-19 shut down those bars, it was back to jars of salsa and playing solitaire. As entrepreneurs around the world brainstormed, started GoFundMe pages, and prayed the pandemic would not bring and end to their businesses, Jay Flynn decided to take his pub trivia night online, inviting the usual patrons. What resulted from that simple Facebook post is now a matter for the Guinness Book of World Records.
Flynn, a car salesman from the Greater Manchester area, was trying to rebuild his neighborhood pub, The Crown, with a friend when COVID-19 came to town. Though the pub had not been a busy spot for some time, the weekly trivia event was a reliable source of revenue. As Flynn explained to Esquire, he meant to create an online event for friends and former patrons, but accidentally set the invite to his Virtual Pub Quiz to “public.” Within days, more than 250,000 Facebook users from around the world had RSVP’d. Guinness took note, and bestowed Flynn the honor of “Most Viewers of a Quiz YouTube live stream” at 130,000 viewers.
From Zero to Half a Million
Not only has Flynn emceed dozens of trivia games on YouTube, ranging from general knowledge to specialized content to trivia for kids, but the notoriety he’s gained has also enticed UK celebrities Stephen Fry, Jonathan Ross, and Scarlett Moffatt to preside on occasion. On his Patreon page, the former publican, now on furlough from his car lot job, explained, “I had never considered a career as a YouTube creator before this, let alone the intense media spotlight and attention.” Due to the size and scope of each live stream, he relies on donors to help him pay the bills while setting fundraising goals for the quizzes themselves.
Past live streams have raised funds for The Springboard Charity, an employment program for young people, Alzheimer’s Research UK, and NHS Charities Together to support frontline workers who are battling COVID-19. To date, the Virtual Pub Quiz has raised well over half a million pounds for all of its highlighted charities. The ones nearest to Flynn’s heart are the ones that assist the homeless, as he himself was for nearly two years in London.
Socially Distant Social Awareness
Though most have been forced to stay home, it’s possible that crowdfunding for a cause has never been more active. According to The New York Times, COVID-19-related GoFundMe pages increased by 65% in mid-March 2020, as many states and countries faced lockdown.
What do some of these campaigns look like? One campaign to benefit Charleston, South Carolina hospitality workers got started as proprietors hoped to keep their staff members paid during the lockdown. In another example, Comedians Mike Birbiglia and Roy Wood, Jr. took to Instagram Live to encourage comedy club patrons to tip their waitstaff, a fundraiser for comedy club workers in the United States who have lost pay due to closures.
While people have sought ways to contribute and stay socially engaged, many traditional fundraising events have also adapted to online formats. The traditional celebrity telethon has been augmented, with some of the world’s biggest names broadcasting from their homes and without makeup.
One example of this was helmed by The Roots’ star drummer, Questlove, who has hosted several live streams to raise money for frontline workers and hunger relief, specifically FoodHub. On his YouTube page, Questlove noted, “I’m raising money to support Food Hub to provide NYC students who depend on school meals who no longer have access. Let’s party. But let’s also help our fellow man. ANY AMOUNT can help.”
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