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Title: The Contribution of Small-scale, Rural Festivals to the Social Sustainability of their Host Communities in Northumberland, UK
Authors: Black, Nicola Helen
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: Small-scale festivals, as occasions for communal gathering and celebration, have long held a place in the respective local calendars of many towns and villages throughout the United Kingdom. By their nature, they are sites for social interaction, performance and participation on many levels. Some have an historic precedent going back several centuries, while a great many arose post 1980 as a result, in part, of the burgeoning tourism and heritage industries and the regeneration policies and development strategies of the pre-millennium era. The proliferation of the UK festival field raises questions of sustainability, purpose and effectiveness and of the need for greater social evaluation in response to a perceived over-emphasis on economic outcomes. While some cultural and developmental strategies do acknowledge the potential social impact of small-scale festivals, to date the emphasis has been predominantly upon the economic contribution with research into festival impact taking a particularly urban focus. This research project examined the contribution of small-scale festivals to the social sustainability of their host communities within a rural context through a case study approach in Northumberland. A comprehensive overview of the dynamic of festivals within the county between 1980 and 2012 allowed for the selection of the four case studies. The mixed-method approach combined a review of the literature, archival and field research with a range of semi-structured interviews with festival and community stakeholders. Four principle indicators were identified through which to measure the contributions of the festivals to community social sustainability. These indicators are: contribution to community pride and localness, enhancement of knowledge and understanding, contribution to the continuity of local culture, and enablement of networks of connectivity. By examining these events through a lens of social sustainability, the thesis presents an argument, as outlined in the conclusion, which supports the potential for small-scale, rural festivals to make a positive contribution to their communities. The findings within the thesis suggest that small-scale, rural festivals make a significant contribution to the social sustainability of their host communities through the networks of connections they enable temporally (with heritage), spatially (with place) ii and socially (with the individuals and groups which interact with the event). In order for these festival connections to contribute to sustainability, these events must demonstrate a balance within these connections of both consistency and innovation and an accessibility and openness within the locale. It is this accessibility and the balance of consistency and innovation which ultimately determines the festival’s contribution to the social sustainability of its host community.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Arts and Cultures

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