Women on Tap 2020: A festival for lockdown

“It just shows what happens if you work out what can be done, rather than dwelling on what can’t.”

Women on Tap arts & beer festival was all set to take place across dozens of venues in and around Harrogate this May when Covid-19 hit. Rather than cancelling the event in the wake of lockdown, the Women on Tap team were determined to make it work and make it a success. Here’s how…

Unlike many scheduled events for 2020, the fourth annual Women On Tap Beer & Arts Festival still happened this May during the UK lockdown, following an innovative reconfiguration of the planned programme.

A virtual beer festival experience was created through a five-day schedule of online talks, live-streamed panel discussions, virtual tastings, internet gigs, and more – all designed to showcase brilliant women, highlight beer excellence, and promote equality. Events included beer sommelier-hosted tastings, poetry readings, yoga, interviews, a brewery tour, visual art exhibitions, and some wartime-themed specials to mark 75 years since VE Day. 

One particularly notable event on the 2020 programme was an emotionally charged ‘Post-pandemic Beer in Britain’ – a panel discussion of industry experts addressing the painful challenges faced ahead. The session reinvigorated many of those who took part with one brewery commenting “Thanks for running this session. It’s given me motivation and hope for our industry. Knowing there’s so many lovely folk out there really helps.” Panel host Miranda Hudson, Duration Brewing, added afterwards “Honestly the joy it brought me… may just have been the focus I needed”

Founded in 2017 Women On Tap has now delivered more than 70 events and four major festivals, all showcasing women alongside top creative talent, great beer and hospitality.

Rooted in Harrogate, Yorkshire, the 2019 Women On Tap Festival attracted sponsorship from leading UK breweries and presented 25 events over 5 days across 13 venues in 4 towns. Around 650 people got involved, and visitors traveled to Harrogate from across the UK. In 2020 the virtual festival became more accessible and far-reaching than ever, with participants from across the world including Australia, Italy, and the US.

Around 650 people got involved, and visitors traveled to Harrogate from across the UK!

Asked about the decision to carry on with plans for 2020 rather than postpone, Women On Tap CIC founder, Rachel Auty says: “We realise that many are missing the pub and the social benefits of pubs and beer, and our friends in the industry are feeling a lot of pain right now. We felt we had a responsibility to continue as long as we could find a safe and beneficial way to do so, and we could.

We wanted to create a virtual beer festival experience to help boost community morale, playing our part in supporting positive mental health and reducing social isolation, while highlighting persistent issues and tackling inequality. We also wanted to ensure that all the pleasures and benefits of beer is put back in the spotlight and I’m so proud we could still showcase an impressive portfolio of experts and talented creatives from across the UK against all the odds. We wanted to keep connecting people and keep the conversations alive.”

Due to funding challenges caused by lockdown, the festival was only possible thanks to the donation of time, energy and skills by more than 40 women, alongside the Women On Tap team who were also volunteers. Almost all events were completely free and instead £1,270 was raised for Refuge – a domestic violence charity experiencing a high demand for their services during lockdown.

Women On Tap Virtual Festival took place 6-10 May 2020 with 19 online events across the 5-days.

To access recordings and podcasts from the 2020 virtual festival and find out about future events visit


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