On a bright Tuesday morning a couple of weeks ago, members of the CCSE team found themselves walking briskly about the corridors of UWS’s Paisley campus, counting chairs, tracking down pens, collecting printouts from photocopiers. The reason for this bustling activity? We were preparing to host our first, fairly sizable in-person event for quite some time! The occasion in question was the launch of our recently awarded, Spirit of 2012 funded #FestivalsConnect project. FestivalsConnect is the CCSE response to Spirit of 2012’s latest research framework Moments to Connect which aims to explore what catalyses the coming together of people and communities.
#FestivalsConnect is one of seven projects supported within this funding stream, the projects will be ongoing at a particularly busy and significant time for national events with the Coronation, Eurovision Song Contest, the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement and, the 75th anniversary of the arrival of HMT Windrush all claiming places alongside an array of other happenings on a busy national agenda this year. The work that CCSE and our network of colleagues and collaborators is to undertake will seek to strengthen the empirical basis upon which claims about the benefits of festivals and events for strengthening communities, promoting intercultural encounters and enhancing social capital are made. Although we do know some of the benefits of festivals and events, it is still often the case that outcomes are ‘expected’ or ‘presumed’ rather than empirically demonstrated.
Through #FestivalsConnect we aim to bridge some of these gaps by providing evidence at a variety of activity levels to assess the effects of hosting events and festivals of varying size, type and location and, to explore the impacts felt by the groups and communities who are intended to benefit from them.
Significantly, this project provides the opportunity for us to approach these questions longitudinally, so that we can better understand objectives, expectations, delivery approaches and effects beyond the moment of event delivery itself. In so doing, we hope that the findings from this work will assist policy makers, event planners, community members and groups to better understand the pathways through which festivals and events can contribute to equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) outcomes at a variety of levels. In turn, greater knowledge in this area will allow stakeholders to better focus their efforts and, potentially, to amplify the effects that their work has in those areas.
The launch provided an excellent opportunity to come together with our project partners – Spirit of 2012, UCI Worlds Cycling, Glasgow Mela and EventScotland – to share knowledge, discuss and debate approaches to, challenges encountered, and opportunities presented when delivering events.
In her introductory remarks, Spirit of 2012’s Amy Finch spoke about the inclusive story of the ‘new us,’ and posted questions regarding how festivals and events move beyond the superficial in terms of the understanding of EDI outcomes, asking us to think about what ‘good’ looks like at practical level? In the following panel discussion, speakers Marie Christie (EventScotland), Hardeep Deerhe (Glasgow Mela) and Craig Burn (2023 UCI Cycling World Championship) spoke about the ways in which their teams have sought to engage communities and ensure inclusion and diversity in event delivery from their perspectives. Marie Christie talked about how placing communities, creators and artists at the centre of their latest Themed Year delivery had helped EventScotland to achieve really strong and meaningful results for those groups. Hardeep Deerhe emphasised the crucial role of the Glasgow Mela in supplying a platform and performance space for cultures to come together, break down barriers, increase understanding, one which provides unique leveraging opportunities for EDI. 2023 UCI Cycling World Championship’s Craig Burn discussed the approaches that event organisers are taking to ensure that the Championships is accessible, and of interest, to the local community; cheaper tickets, free events and legacy planning are all in the mix.
A fascinating and engaging discussion followed where attendees shared ideas and insights into the ways that festivals and events can be leveraged to improve delivery on wellbeing, social capital and cohesion objectives.
We had a great time and, the day was an excellent start to our project. We’re excited to get underway! As ever, huge thanks to our speakers and audience members whose engagement, enthusiasm, thought-provoking questions and insightful comments gave us much food for thought.