Streaming and remote candle lighting – very different November 17 planned

Photo: Ondřej Tomšů

Thousands usually visit central Prague on the anniversary of the start of the Velvet Revolution. Given the Covid-19 situation, events on November 17 this year are set to look a lot different – though the organisers are offering people novel ways to celebrate.

On last year’s 30th anniversary of the beginning of the Velvet Revolution, Národní St. in Prague was crammed, with a throng around the ocean of candles that traditionally light up the memorial to the events of 1989.

This year’s November 17 celebrations will look very different indeed, in view of the Covid-19 epidemic.

Ondřej Koutský is coordinator of Festival of Freedom, which brings together groups organising events in the capital and elsewhere in the country.

He says the Prague centre rock concert with guest speakers with which celebrations usually culminate will take a different form on Tuesday.

Photo: Tomáš Adamec / Czech Radio

“It’s split. The speeches will be held on Wenceslas Square. Every year we invite some inspirational personalities – Czech personalities and also ones from abroad – to speak to the nation.

“So that part will be held on Wenceslas Square, but without any viewers. It will be streamed.

“And the concert itself will take place at the Municipal House.

“It will be streamed as well. It will be streamed online on social media, on our profiles, on the profiles of the members of the Festival of Freedom.

“And it will also be shared by the major media.”

Other events being held in Prague include the annual awards ceremony of Post Bellum at the National Theatre. It honours heroes of the nation who suffered under the Nazi and Communist regimes.

There will also be the March of the Masks organised by Sametové posvícení, a satirical event whose theme this time out is Toward New Mutations. However, participation will be limited to 20 persons.

Národní St. is usually a key focal point of November 17 events, including Korzo Národní, or Národní Promenade.

Wenceslas Square, November 17, 2019, photo: Martina Schneibergová
The head of organisers Díky, že můžem!, Daniel Peřina, says this year most of their programme is going online, including streaming from the memorial spot where people traditionally light candles. They will also offer special brunches that will benefit the needy.

I asked Peřina if he thought some might visit Národní this year despite the coronavirus situation.

“By law, and by a regulation imposed by the government, it is impossible.

“People are not allowed to go on the street, if they are not going to work or going shopping.

“So we are really trying to persuade everybody to celebrate from home.

“If they want to light a candle we will have a group of volunteers who will be on the street on the given day.

“Anyone can just send a short message on our website from the comfort of their home and our volunteers will print this message out, put it on a candle and light the candle instead of the person.”

In addition Marta Kubišová’s freedom anthem A Prayer for Marta will be played by radio stations throughout the country at 17:11 on the state holiday.