Reimagining community festivals and events: Critical and interdisciplinary perspectives

Allan Jepson, Raphaela Stadler, Trudie Walters

Research output: Book/ReportBook


It is often the case that events are seen as the lifeblood of communities or societies with little critical examination into why this might be the case, and why they are so valuable to humans from sociological, psychological and more importantly perhaps physiological perspectives. To answer this fundamental question, events should not be studied in isolation: they are akin to trees in that their roots spiral deep. They overlap, they are intertwined. Events are of course multidisciplinary but to really understand them and how they influence us across our lifespan, researchers and event planners should approach them in an interdisciplinary way. In other words events might very well be a human raison d'etre but interdisciplinary contributions will inform us as to why this is so, and from this knowledge events can become even more beneficial to communities than they already are.

Events are often driven by a capitalist agenda/system or a desire to operate within strict financial targets, yet actually one could argue that if sociological, psychological and physiological needs of attendees are met as a result of interdisciplinary research, then financial sustainability would more easily be achieved. Hence if we want events to be impactful on deeper and more meaningful levels they should not be studied in isolation as there is a danger then that economics takes precedence over our wellbeing and other positive outcomes. There is also an [often unspoken] assumption that bigger and better events or mega events and festivals somehow bring more positive impacts to an area, that they deliver financial investment, development opportunities, long term employment and such like. Whilst there is evidence that some events do contribute in these ways, in many instances these rationales for hosting events are exaggerated to an extent that makes them unattainable.

Hierarchical event planning structures and hegemonic planning processes (see Clarke and Jepson, 2011) continue to add to this complexity and often result in exclusive events whereby communities are not invited into the planning process, not included within event programmes and as a result do not have the same equity of experience. Although this is improving, accessibility to events is still a major area of concern which requires greater research especially with respect to non-physical and invisible disabilities and conditions, such as neurodiversity or chronic illnesses. Some event sectors are setting a good example for others to follow. The Premier League in the UK for example has seen a rise in professional footballers showing solidarity with autistic children (by wearing ear defenders) when they are football mascots, but this is not enough and as an industry and society we must do more. Events and festivals are for everyone and this solidarity must begin with events in our communities. As Alan (Clarke) suggested in 2009 “Community festivals can bring people together, they make people forget their troubles, allow people to understand other cultures, and they can be a platform for peace in our societies… yet they can also be divisive and fail to recognise the needs, values and traditions of communities.”
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages264
ISBN (Print)9781032552514
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 13 Nov 2024

Publication series

NameRoutledge Critical Event Studies Research Series


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