Ghosts in the Machine: analysing power in community festivals and events

Allan Jepson, Alan Clarke

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The context for this paper is set within the discursive constructions of power within community festivals and events. Our previous research (Jepson & Clarke, 2012; Clarke & Jepson 2009; 2010; 2011; 2012 and Clarke, Jepson & Wiltshier 2008) has explored the creation and management of community festivals. The focus in the current phase of our research focuses on how power is manifested and constructed in community festivals and events. This paper takes an ethnographic approach to the creation of a community festival and the ways in which its construction and presentation are shaped by different presentations of power within and around the festival organisation.
The framework for the analysis is explored but is set within a Foucauldian paradigm (Wright, 2002). However the discourses being deployed in the context of the festival are shown to draw on and deploy theoretical concepts from Weber (Hamilton, 1993), Gramsci (1976), Gray (1985) and Clegg (1989).
Our findings suggest that power is manifest in a variety of forms and that there are several seats of dissension and protest as well as consensus. There are evidences of formal and informal approaches to power within the organisation of the festival. The discourses of professionalism, managerialism, volunteerism and enthusiasm will be explored.
The conclusions suggest that community festivals are complex sites of power relations. There are multiple stakeholders, constructing complex and challenging relationships within and around the festival. There are scenes of reinforcement and resistance to be explored. We offer a dynamic reading of the discourses in play and their claims and counter claims to legitimacy within the festival organisation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLeisure Studies Association conference, University of Middlesex
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 22 Nov 2014


  • power ethnographic research methods, community festivals and events


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