Events conference day 3: the state of the art.

I continued my focus on theoretical and methodological papers today, singling out Allan Jepson’s work on ‘Power, Hegemony and Relationships’ in particular. He followed the journey of a large scale event in Derby from initiation to evaluation, charting the parts played by the different brokers of power and their priorities. Ultimately it ended up being a different festival (exclusive) to the one many envisaged (inclusive), lacking the sort of community involvement that many events thrive on. The key figures behind the festival ensured their hegemony over the event and its contributors, by restricting knowledge about the festival and ensuring that involvement and discipline was reliant on their agreement.

Jepson has a new word: ‘quintangulation’, which is two higher than triangulation, if you’re into spoof rock documentaries.

The rest of the day, and therefore the remainder of the conference, was focused on discussion of the nature of event management as an academic subject. Key themes to emerge were:
– Leo Jago: a need to move the subject on, building on a body of work that currently replicates itself to a fair degree. So how to link these articles together and move forward? Key demand is to link them back to theory and academic disciplines, which would also gain us respect in the wider academic world.
– Eleni Theodoraki: foresees a greater amount of explanatory research, which goes beyond exploratory and descriptive. She drew on a need to look to the local, while recognising global themes: a ‘glocalised’ awareness. Thirdly a continuing need for events to emphasise their value to their host communities.
– Donald Getz: wishes to pursue a ‘futurist’ path – branching out into new areas that put our subject in broader contexts in order to understand the future conditions we’ll be operating under. He also raised the concept of the ‘festivalisation’ of life, whereby everything we do is interpreted as an event.
– Glenn Bowdin: emphasised the need to know more about some of the practical/operational aspects of event management, whereby we see little research that explicitly links festivals and events to the requirements of HR, marketing, etc.

Discussion then ensued:
– gaining respect from other areas of the academic community was given particular attention
– perhaps there is a need to develop a particular research agenda, as directed by key international figures from within the events academic community
– should researchers be making a point of attempting to prompt change in the industry through their work: perhaps by being controversial?
– who is able to speak ‘for’ the events community, without it being linked to their local institution; and how is the settled opinion of the community to be established?
– what about the balance between practical/theoretical focus; what is the priority of the academy, what are the priorities of students?
– what can be learnt from other subject areas, such as tourism and hospitality: those subjects which are a little older, those subjects which feel under threat from the rise of events
– publishing material was the subject of much debate: how to establish a higher degree of respect from those who rank journals, so that events researchers can feel confident in publishing in those periodicals (rather than looking for alternative subject areas in order to get the greater kudos)
– this last point led to a call for events educators to back their own: don’t look elsewhere to carry out your PhD research, use your research to advance the work of event management departments
– …finally (from my notes at least) what of the role of organisations, such as AEME, to co-ordinate the work of event management academics?

This last point leads naturally to the final part of the conference – the AEME (Association of Event Management Education) AGM. I learnt more about AEME in an hour than in the last three years of teaching, which was very valuable and a good way to finish the week. Key organisations that AEME is building links with include:
– the HEA / HLST
– People1st
– Institute of Event Management (if it is ever created)
– Business Visits and Event Partnerships (BVEP)
– Eventia

My main contribution was to suggest that the next meeting be held during a festival somewhere – as happens with the BAFA conference. Who knows, maybe Edinburgh…
___

I’ll put together a full wrap-up post covering the conference once I’ve looked through my notebook in the cold light of day – no rush. My memories of the conference will be overwhelmingly positive however, with so many useful contacts made and ideas discussed. There was just enough there to suggest that my own ideas for future PhD research would fit into the wider research agenda, yet clearly a lack of almost anyone else working in the same areas – plenty of space for me! Also some ideas regarding potential supervisors and institutions, which is great – I’ll follow them up which doing a whole heap of reading in the months to come.

Right now though, it’s a beautiful evening in Northumbria as my train glides through the farms and forests. It’s a shame the train’s going to get me to Edinburgh an hour late – that’s not so good, but a driver must have his ‘personal needs break’, or whatever the train crew described it as. This journey’s becoming quite a performance, quite an event in itself.