Category Archives: conference

Critical Event Studies Symposium: a Friday in Manchester for #CritEvents

There’s a growing momentum around the idea of ‘critical event studies’, which has led to the publication of this edited book (including a chapter from me!). Themes include research methods, history, ideologies and encounters.

img_7199 img_7200My chapter is titled ‘The Strength of Festival Ties: Social Network Analysis and the 2014 Edinburgh International Science Festival’. It takes a broadly research methods focus, applying whole network analysis to the employees of the EISF on the eve of the 2014 festival. There are plans and hopes that this ‘critical’ agenda can lead to panels at conferences, further publications, and more symposia and gatherings.


Last Friday (9 September, 2016) saw the first Critical Event Studies Symposium, held at Mad Lab, Manchester. What follows are my bullet point notes from the day. Further material from the day is being posted to the main site, and the Twitter hashtag is #CritEvents. The format of the day encouraged discussion and conversation, critique and questioning. And some excellent note taking!


Making Events Critical 09-09-2016


Critical Event Studies Symposium

Friday 9 September, Mad Lab, Manchester

Opening panel

Maurice Roche: background in mega events, particularly sporting and world’s fairs.

    • Outlines growth in events work, including HE.
    • Critical Event Studies: a response to burgeoning interest in events, and their meaning. Going beyond practise, operation and economic dimensions of events.
    • Events need to be understood in terms of conflict and contest: should be aware of this when we look at events, going beyond mainstream interpretations.
    • Contexts are vital: political and cultural, in addition to economic.
    • So what’s new? Roche sees this as a re-animation and re-discovery of existing themes. (See Roche: ‘Mega-Events & Modernity’.) Example of 1936 Nazi Olympics: what was happening in Germany, what was the IOC doing at the time? But a need to justify and explain this to other academic fields.
    • Roche in Sheffield: strange time in the city as economy crashes (steel, coal), while also planning for 1991 World Student Games. What was driving it, what was the legacy? Result being 25 years of debt, thus opportunity costs as a negative legacy. Therefore… conflict and contest.
    • Recognition of the complexity of events; the rise of the global east; contexts are changing; changing contexts influences changes in events; what of ‘the future’ and where are we going; Roche predicts a strong future for events, coming out of the recent growth.
    • Threats to events: see issues relating to FIFA, IAAF, IOC and other global institutions. Existential threat?


Beatriz Garcia:

    • Notes value and good timing for this focus on ‘critical events’.
    • This is the right time, following 30 years of theorising around events. Time to bring this together with the managerial angle, to build bridges and look at common terms, and themes can be looked at afresh.
    • Anthropological angle: myth and ritual and their place in events. Contemporary myth making. City branding on one level, but also how we see ourselves and how are we presenting this to ourselves and to the world. How do you tell the story? How do we judge whether an event is a success or a failure?
    • Notes Brazil: a sense of pride around opening ceremony, perhaps unexpectedly, a sense that the Olympics weren’t going to be a failure after all.
    • Events and festivals: differences between them. Events as to be experienced, mediated, global, building a new reality for the Olympics since the 1980s. The Olympics sells access, sells exclusivity, sells sponsorship opportunities… but this brings pressure from the needs of the media, so that the real experience is the televised one, rather than the live experience. Limited resources need to be spent where the greatest pay off can be found. Festivals are more about the lived experience, hopefully paying attention to the needs of the local audience. How to recover the festival from within the event city?
    • Garcia: personally inspired by 1992 Barcelona Olympics, where the city was overtly integrated into the narrative, ‘the city as a protagonist’. However, always a struggle to get the city into the picture. Saw 9/11 as a spur to retreat back into arenas, where they can be controlled. Since then security is a key priority.
    • ECOC: different from sporting mega events on the basis of scale, length, motivations, focus. See cultural events as being a harder context in which to justify position. Are they really a mega event? Do they get the media coverage that help to define sporting mega events? Is it possible to link the ‘business’ angle of cultural events (which is vital) with broader objectives relating to society and culture?
    • Notes that Olympics are broadening their scope, to take on board cultural elements. See ‘national houses’ dimension, presenting a mini World Expo.
    • New: the way we deal with the public realm, in that cities can’t really be shut off, so how to deal with protest and debate? Particularly in the context of social media. How to create a festival around a mega event in this context?
    • New: a discussion around how to tell the story. Does the 1980s vision of exclusive media access, the experts on screen, etc. still hold true? Where is the multiplicity of voices that is expected today? What place experts today? Stories are being told simultaneously through multiple media, that no one can control.
    • Challenge: making use of the expertise available. The ‘caravan of experts’ that exists around each mega event, who will provide a festival model for you (at a cost): importing ideas into your city, because they worked elsewhere. How is this providing an answer for the needs of your city? They can’t, without creating ‘non-places’, where anything that doesn’t fit the model gets covered up and ignored. How to make the most of knowledge transfer, while responding to what’s difficult and challenging and specific to each destination?
    • Agrees that we need to value place making, and how do you combine the necessity to learn and provide legacy, with the need for wonderment, and for each host to question the situation it finds itself in.


James McVeigh: Festivals Edinburgh

    • Edinburgh Festivals context: 1947 to 2017. Festivals rooted in the destination, with both historical and contemporary links to the festivals. Lends ‘authenticity’ to the festivals.
    • Impact assessment report (2016).
    • 2007 ‘Publicly-funded culture and the creative industries’ text started debate over the role of the public funding and later commercial successes.
    • Fault line between ‘important work’ and ‘popular work’. Led to ‘Desire Lines’, to pick out the influence between the festivals and the year round cultural provision.
    • Resident versus tourist: who are the festivals for?
    • Social impacts: who are the festivals for? Scope: festivals are more than fireworks… they last longer that just the moment of experience. Where is the voice of the resident? How to find the voice of different communities? How to bring audiences and communities into the conversation?
    • Festivals in the broader cultural economy: how to establish the link between festivals and broader cultural work, when this is poorly understood? Note that Edinburgh festivals are seen as a place to see new work, and recognised as such by the artists themselves.
    • Festivals’ role in audience development: why do people do things differently at festival time? See new work, engage differently.
    • Festivals Innovation Lab: how can festivals adapt and change, act as a laboratory of new thinking. Festivals should be at the vanguard of cultural thinking.
    • Societal importance of festivals: from Holi to Tomatina, Day of the Dead, etc. Festivals interrupt the day to day. They introduce work into new spaces. They can help you reimagine your city.
    • 1947: context of post-war austerity and European conflict, yet Edinburgh held a party, for the ‘flowering of the human spirit’.


Ellie Turner: Walk the Plank

    • Critical events: community participation and relevance. Giving people and communities a sense of place, and pride. Working at all scales, on land, sea and air. Telling a story through their work, their artists, makers, musicians, etc. Bringing international artists together with local artists, to build the capacity of NW to deliver such projects. ‘Impact’ is delivered from the start.
    • Key to connect with the community that you’re working with.



    • Have we been held back by a focus on mega events?
      • The biddable nature of sporting events means that they get a lot of attention, have to be able to justify themselves and get support. How do we define mega events: does it include ECOC? In Edinburgh festivals are seen as a concentration of space, time and activity… so a year long festival doesn’t make sense, it’s a branding exercise.
      • The distinction between attracting events and supporting those you already have and are created yourself. Where should funding come from: different pots of money for these different types of events?
      • Distinction between local and global: how to reflect both. How to retain knowledge, experience and expertise within the destination.
      • James notes timing of festivals’ founding, often in a time of change and/or crisis: post-WWII, 1968, post-Berlin Wall.
  • Where’s the critical? Are we being constrained by orthodoxies and how do we overcome them? How do we think radically?
    • BG: bring new people to the table.
    • JMcV: Edinburgh’s engagement with tech sector, viewing the festivals as a laboratory.
    • Should events and festivals have a limited life time? That they exist to fulfil a particular need, but that they should be allowed to die once that need has passed.
    • KW: notes opposition to Paralympics and whether this ‘circus’ is meeting the needs of its various communities.
  • Institute of Event Management and professional recognition:
    • How will outputs be disseminated from today? LP highlights today as a starting point, but that outputs will be disseminated centrally and by different participants.
  • What of local/global and other dichotomies:
    • Looking to roots of festivals: to what extent are there common factors in different places?
    • What happens when you take an event from one context to another, with a different cultural context?
    • How to address the complexities of societies and cultures and destinations: disconnected communities, etc.?
    • How to reflect the diversity of a community or destination? How to avoid the standard white, middle class audience? The diversity of a city can be its strength, but is this reflected in the producers, consumers, participants and audiences of a festival?
    • How ‘local’ are local festivals, which are produced by external organisations? E.g. Walk the Plank getting a contract to deliver events in your city.
  • Distinctions between festivals and events and processions:
    • JMcV: points to FE criteria for being a member, which includes lasting for at least three days.
    • Cultural context important, because what works for one location might not be applicable elsewhere.
    • Different conceptualisations of ‘public space’, and how some places seem to ‘discover’ phenomena that are common elsewhere.


Open space

Questioning the role of ‘experts’

  • What is an expert?
  • Where is the expertise: local authorities?
  • What are graduates coming out of university equipped to do?
  • It sounds as though we need experts within the events industry, to avoid problems and potential catastrophes.
  • Research as an element of developing expertise.
  • How can Event Management courses be developed to meet the needs of industry: bringing the academic and/or the practical knowledge? How to address the variety of types of events, facets of the industry and so on?
  • Industry experience: situations where industry has to rescue event plans that go off track.
  • Experts having a clearer idea of realistic scale and scope for festivals and events, based on available budgets.
  • What of having experts from one city delivering events elsewhere: a means to the end of sustainability for the company? How to avoid the risk of damaging the original brand?
  • Expertise: tied to credibility? Each source being judged on its authority and justification. So, in the events context who carries that authority and validation?
  • Does the expert have to have the qualifications? What place experience? Perhaps the expert is the one to say ‘stop’.
  • Development of the events management education: skewed towards the operational, instrumental and evangelical? What have we done to this generation of graduates? Highlight the value of work placements and experience to build on the academic.
  • Different models of placements and internships within degree courses: concentrated, spread out, etc. A need to develop work based learning that suits the student and the employer – trying to avoid negative experiences that will put partners off in the future.


Is event management superficial and self-congratulatory?

  • Following on from Rojek’s critique of events (‘Event Power’).
  • DMcG: following up on this by identifying the critical work that has been done around events.
  • How does critical event studies avoid superficiality?
  • A sense that event practitioners are also blinkered in their approach to the industry… and yet look at Walk to Plank’s recognition that they are contributing to sense of place and pride.
  • How to take a critical approach, that draws on a range of ideas (authenticity, commercialisation, etc.), to deliver events that reflect those ideas. Easy to overlook these things in the need to be successful and sustainable.
  • Funding regimes: a need to satisfy funding requirements in order to get support.
  • How to educate students so that they can deliver events that are successful, can get funding, and can draw from the need to meet a range of objectives.
  • Rojek’s argument carries weight (though there are criticisms of how he delivers his argument).
  • Events education: moving away from hospitality and tourism. And yet… how does what we do match up with what employers are looking for. (Some might prefer the previous model!)
  • Legal matters: how to integrate legal content into an events management course? A dedicated module that covers ‘what you need to know’? Events students need to be aware of the broader legal context in which you operate, which includes some of the reasons why people might be protesting against your event.
  • Events struggling to have an epistemology and philosophy that defines it as being different. Without it, there will be questions over credibility, coming from other academic areas.
  • How are these courses then judged: on their level of academic criticality? NSS ‘intellectual challenge’?
  • The foundations of a programme might be crucial in its development: growing out of hospitality and tourism, or appearing independently of them?
  • Events literature: how to reflect and support the more critical work? See how Tourism has diversified, yet Events is still primarily publishing management/operational work in such journals? Critical work is being done, but it’s often published in non-events journals.
  • A possible parting of the waves? Management courses, and studies courses?
  • Do we see many students taking events courses purely for the academic side? Not really… the better academic students may well be generally switched on in all areas, or others are less keen to get involved in the volunteering side of things.


Events and festivals as liminal, radical spaces

  • Not quite every day life, but there are still rules.
  • Phases of ritual: liminal is central, the phase where someone goes from one state to another and is open to new ideas. A transformative phase.
  • What happens when the person goes back into the normal world?
  • A space of potential: other things are possible.
  • Venice Carnival: the wearing of masks to deliver equality, or at least anonymity.
  • Festivals that turn things on their heads: performances in different spaces; juxtaposing audiences and performers; altering the geography and flow of a place.
  • Transformative: do we see people being changed?
  • Ritual, carnival and liminality: Bakhtin, etc. …the potential for people to come back from a festival experience a different person. Does this work only at the individual level, but not for broader social change? Yet the individuals are what makes up society, and they have agency.
  • Thresholds: what does it take for an individual to let themselves go?
  • Examples: Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh; LIFT in London. Starting projects in order to produce and provide spaces in which new ideas can be discussed, phenomena created.
  • Does liminality apply in a sports context? Crossing a touchline into a space where different rules apply? Yet liminality suggests there are no rules.

Network creativity in Dundee: Mass Assembly 2016 #Mass16

Mass Assembly 2016Last Thursday, 26 May 2016, I headed up from Edinburgh to Dundee to Mass Assembly 2016. It was an early start, but the wonderful Scottish climate offers about 20 hours of daylight at the moment. That’s plenty enough to check on the new Forth crossing: looking good just now.

The whole event was devised and built around collaborations, networks, hubs and partnerships in the creative and cultural sector. I went along because of my interests in networks, as well as general support for Creative Edinburgh (one of the delivery partners). They worked alongside Creative Dundee to bring it all together. In the audience were those representing lots of other networks and organisations. A network of networks, a hub of hubs. All very meta.

The following notes lack much narrative. Rather than try to piece together the whole day, I have opted to copy and paste my bullet point notes. For further coverage of the day, please see the Storify constructed by Creative Dundee.


Mass Assembly

26 May 2016, Dundee

Opening: Gillian E and Janine M

  • Setting out basis for the day, ref to ‘creative cities’ project that linked cities across Scotland.
  • Thanks to British Council and their support.
  • Notes boundaries that prevent people working together, including visas (in today’s case).


Session one

Canan Marasligil: Translation as a bridge

  • Discusses language (her personal journey) and translation.
  • Translation relying on networks, and translation can help build communities.
  • Project 1: #cityintranslation
  • Project 2: Spectacular Translation Machine. An activity based environment in which people translate materials (pictures) into their own words.
  • Highlights importance of networks for freelancers.

Josyane Franc: Creating the opportunities to engage the wider population (Saint-Etienne)

  • Links between Dundee and Saint-Etienne: both the first UNESCO City of Design in their countries.
  • Key stakeholders in network:
    • Buildings: concert hall, administrative institutions
    • S-E School of Art and Design
    • Cite du Design 2009: festival held in former arms factory, in the heart of the city
  • Process: took time to engage local people and administration
  • Local government: established ‘Design Manager’ position, to introduce design into planning of each new development in the city
  • La Manufacture: a creative district for the city, bringing designers, researchers, fab lab, companies, etc. – emphasis is on collaboration, within a focused built environment
  • Large scale project: involving residential, leisure and business environments
  • Future: national theatre due to open a space soon
  • Deliberate effort to publicise the network and the work it is doing
  • Important role of S-E biennale, which engaged local communities and other cities (international)
  • ’S-E changes design, and changes the idea of design’

Discussion: led by Clive Gillman

  • To create a community and a hub we need to think about: language, space, place, interactions…
  • Q: How do we describe a place?
    • A: The people. The people describe that place.
    • A: Ambassadors, at different levels, who play a part in the development of the city. From local politicians/authorities to activists.
  • Discussion led to urban/rural debate, including limits to what can be achieved in rural environments.
  • Digital: what can digital tools provide?
  • Real estate prices in urban centres can be astronomic, but still desired, yet workers are often remotely connected.
  • Libraries: what place libraries as a platform for social capital, knowledge, engagement, meetings, all parts of community brought together: making people feel comfortable in a space.


Session two

Steven Drost: Start ups and creatives – some thoughts / The live audit

  • The role of start ups, and start up culture, in the creative sector.
  • Start up culture is generally optimistic, but needs to be tempered by talking to communities and the people who will actually engage with them.
  • Lessons from start ups: iterate and improve; build a business around your ideas; work with pirates (not the navy).


Session three

Steve Hamm: The future belongs to crowds

  • Steve works for Swarm.
  • A trend towards a more crowd based approach.
  • Technology is taking us in this direction, allowing us to connect.
  • Economics too: the ‘firm’ operates to reduce transaction costs.
  • What of the connected world, where transaction costs are reducing, allowing for collaboration without the need for a firm.
  • Collaboration: necessary to collaborate with a diverse mix of characters.
  • The importance of meeting face to face.
  • Recording: important to track and capture the process and outcomes of a collaboration. Helps to produce something that can be shared.
  • Makes reference to SNA research into Broadway musicals: what’s the right balance between all new teams and those who are tired and stale with no means of introducing new ideas.
  • Uber: highlighted as a service that supports one group of users very well, but neglects others (e.g. the drivers). A need to develop a broader approach, of ‘user-centred’ or ‘community-centred’ design.

Alex Zacharias

  • From ‘August’ consultancy (New York).
  • ‘Responsive working’: encouraging companies to help businesses prepare for a new way of working. Large, old companies aren’t able to compete with newer ones, where they’ve been hamstrung by hierarchies and bureaucracies.
  • How to work with companies and individuals that don’t always see the need for change?
  • Key principles: open, learning, networked, iteration.

Discussion: led again by Clive Gillman

  • On ‘exploitation of intellectual property’: written into law that Creative Scotland works to support those who work with intellectual property. Yet also seen that many in the creative industries actually work with traditional means of activity: producing goods, etc.
  • A need for those who are being affected by collaborative work to be part of the process.
  • Super connectors: important in the development of communities, and can be found formally or informally; but can be important to look beyond these people in order to develop a broader understanding of the ways people might react to a particular project.
  • Embedding of artists and creatives within other sectors of the economy: what benefits can this bring?
  • Notes the importance of businesses working with creatives in order to reach creative solutions to problems: new ways of thinking can achieve breakthroughs, but it takes for the business to be open to new ideas and believing that they don’t have the solutions themselves.
  • Designers bring skills and superpowers to the table. Get yourself through the door!
  • Janine: notes use of ‘hot desk hangouts’ to get creative folk into organisations for a day, helping to show that creatives can have a place to work in that environment.
  • Nice section where different people stood up to talk about their projects and networks.

#10wos 10: Journey’s end and Edinburgh festival shows, part four (25-31 August 2014)

Usher Hall10 weeks of summer would appear to be drawing to a close. If I were in Edinburgh just now I’d be looking ahead to the end of festival fireworks, which from a distance of a few hundred miles and a disputed border I shall have to enjoy vicariously. All the posts from 10 weeks of summer are linked through this #10wos tag. Before a few reflections here’s what happened in Week 3 of the International Festival, which took in the final hours of the Fringe and the Book Festival.

So there they are, just two events. The photo on this post is carefully chosen though, showing the end of the concert from my organ gallery vantage point. The end of the event, the closed music books, the covers back on the timpani and the audience filing out. They were superb: tremendous musicians who played so well together. (Even I could tell this, though others confirmed it to me.)

Totalling up my 2014 festival events then… four gala launches for @LoveEdinburgh; four regular festival events in Fringe Week 0 and nine the week after in the same blog post; ten after that; eleven more; then the two above. That’s 40. Add in the exhibitions I’m very glad I saw at Summerhall and the Edinburgh College of Art and you reach 42. Which is the ultimate answer to the question of whether this has been a good festival year for me. This could be a record.

This is of no consequence to anyone or anything but me. I really shouldn’t be counting, let alone putting the numbers in bold like that. Really, what have I become? A target hunting cultural magpie, taking little in and giving little in return beyond mere statistics? Then to put this online through a self-indulgent blog post? No wonder my readership stats are so small.

Same again next year, then?


Way back when, the #10wos project was a way to get me back into blogging. A structure within which to record a few thoughts and avoid memories slipping away forever. Since Week 01 started (on 23 June) I’ve been to Edinburgh, England, the Netherlands, Paisley, Berlin, Riga, Positivus in northern Latvia, the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow; I’ve had a Twitter audience of 10,000 followers through @LoveEdinburgh, been in the audience for dozens of Edinburgh festival shows and events; swung through the trees at Go Ape; presented my thoughts through a festival panel and a conference presentation; congratulated scores of students on their graduation and, right about now, started preparing for the next intake. The next ten weeks may not be quite so eventful, which could be a good thing as there’s work to be done. Speaking of which, I’ve also been contributing to Edinburgh Napier’s blog on World War I events at the Book Festival.

I am very lucky and very happy to have shared many of these experiences with Amy. They have been all the more important and memorable because of her.

The sun is still shining on this Sunday afternoon in England. Many miles away a few tons of explosives are being lined up and checked before they punctuate the Edinburgh night sky and bring the 2014 summer festival season to a close. Tomorrow the city will wake up and smell the cordite in the air, hopefully smiling at the memory. Then the working week will begin… except it will be September by then. September 2014 in Scotland has a special ring to it. The count down to the #indyref Independence Referendum will no longer be counted in years or months, we’ll be talking in days. Me and my vote? I’m still swithering, because although I know what the sensible, correct, right and proper answer is, the occasional shot of adrenaline makes me wonder ‘what if?’, ‘why not?’ and ‘what are we waiting for?’. Well, Scotland?

#10wos 03: Meta event (7-13 July 2014)

SNA detailFor the past few years I have been fortunate enough to attend some excellent academic conferences through the summer weeks. For 2014 I went one further and was on the organising committee for the 2014 LSA Conference, hosted by the University of the West of Scotland. My experience of conferences seems to have changed somewhat, for I didn’t leave this one with a raft of notes that I felt needed to be integrated into my modules. This time around it was more a case of hearing updates on a wide range of projects, research approaches and discussions. From David McGillivray’s (@dgmcgillivray) keynote on digital technologies and events, to Daniel Turner (@DanielTurner27) reflecting on Aberdeen’s experiences when bidding, unsuccessfully, for the 2017 UK City of Culture. Gayle McPherson (@gmp01) did a fantastic job as conference chair and it was great working with her and the rest of the team. Potential projects could follow, we’ll have to watch this space for more. Some slightly random notes from the conference follow in the bulletin points below.

Firstly though, I presented the fruits of some research the my Napier colleague Jane Ali-Knight and I have been doing with the Edinburgh International Science Festival. I’ve been talking about social network analysis for a number of years, but now have some actual data! Very exciting. The image that accompanies this post is from the resulting work: a close-up of what the SNA software (Gephi) has done to identify some communities within the overall population. I was happy with the way it went, though I probably spoke to quickly to try to cover everything I wanted to say. There were questions, interesting points raise and generally a successful proof of concept. The next step is to present the information to the Science Festival to see what they say.

Other conference contributors had this to say (with apologies if I’ve misrepresented or misinterpreted their work):

  • James Higham: 65,000 people went to Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium to watch Wales’s 2011 semi-final in the Rugby World Cup, even though the match was in New Zealand. The live audience was a capacity sell out, of just 60,000.
  • James Higham: challenges being faced by sports events today include the reproducibility and transportability of the event, so how can they stand out?
  • James Higham: sport has strengths in terms of authenticity – the competitors’ effort, uncertainty over the result, fans seeking unique experiences, co-creation opportunities, access to ‘back stage’ coverage.
  • James Higham: sports event administrators must make a choice between producing events which are footloose and transportable, or deeply rooted in local cultures.
  • Kath Woodward: on the topic of ‘time’ and the way events link past, present and future.
  • Kath Woodward: a sports event will look back to past records and competitions; to the present with the breaking of records and writing of new chapters; to the future with the qualification for tournaments and the accumulation of league points.
  • Kath Woodward: noted that she decided to write a text in real time during London 2012, which I did as well as it happens.
  • Debbie Sadd: reported on Bournemouth University’s FAME model for assessing events, linked to FestIM.
  • Debbie Sadd: they’ve been using social network analysis to pick out relational data in social media (Twitter) exchanges, based on Gephi and NodeXL software. Noted differences among events which manage to extend the social media conversation beyond the event itself.
  • David McGillivray: accelerated leisure in the digital age… seeing distinctions breaking down between work and leisure, with time and space no longer demarcated as once they were.
  • David McGillivray: there is a pressure on us to be connected, with digital communities increasingly focused on those we share physical proximity with as well.
  • David McGillivray: discusses the efforts of some event owners to try and protect their properties (and sponsors), alongside efforts of social media, Citizen Relay and Digital Commonwealth.
  • Daniel Turner: noting that Aberdeen doesn’t fit the bill of an industrial city now in decline, for it is wealthy; but it’s isolated with a transient population, many of whom go to London for their culture.
  • Daniel Turner: on Brighenti’s work on bidding for events (2005) – bids need to be (1) technically strong; (2) communication of the narrative is key, as is having a narrative; (3) lobbying is important to get support from stakeholders. Aberdeen suffered in these respects in its UKCOC bid, though there may be positive outcomes from defeat.
  • Dave O’Brien: ‘neoliberal’ is now a catch-all term, used by the left to describe and attack people they don’t like. As a concept it entails replacing political judgements with economic ones, manifested in monitoring, auditing and target setting.
  • Dave O’Brien: 2010… DCMS carried out a study into how it should operate, the result of which was a market based principle for justification of involvement in projects. Hard for both left and right to feel comfortable with this.
  • Dave O’Brien: so how else to value culture, other that woolly ‘it’s not economic’? 10 years of debate in UK has led to many documents and reports.
  • Dave O’Brien: ACE ‘Arts Debate’ (2006): pitched themselves as unique, with their research saying they were great! Heritage Lottery Fund: seeking to create evaluation framework… but how to measure intangible issues? Do any of these approaches produce the sort of data the Treasury wants?
  • Dave O’Brien: issues of both validity and reliability when measuring cultural value… the underlying questions are wrong and the tools available aren’t suitable.
  • Joe Aitken (GCMB; expert panel): cites ‘Strategic Major Events Forum’ as decision making forum for Glasgow. GCMB has policy of ‘people in, images out’ that underpins their work. Glasgow 2014 as part of a trend for the city, with past events over the years and much to come.
  • Paul Zealy (Glasgow 2014 ; expert panel): G2014 legacy is key and always has been. Economic legacy in contracts, apprenticeships, local training and future tourism. Regeneration also happening, though much is intangible. 10 year legacy research commitments have been made through ‘Assessing Legacy 2014‘.
  • Jill Miller (Glasgow Life; expert panel): decision was made to attract events in order to accelerate policy in a range of areas. Looks back to 1990 ECOC as helping to change attitudes. Glasgow has learnt lots from previous hosts and is passing this on to the next. Delhi handover as a dress rehearsal for working across all 32 local authorities. Anticipates £25m of value from £3.6m investment [not sure where this money is going, sorry].

Other points of note from the week included the conference dinner (taking place while Germany took Brazil apart in their World Cup semi-final) and the post-dinner ceilidh (which was very warm). Then conference drew to a close in time for me to get through to Edinburgh for a very enjoyable Creative Edinburgh ‘Glug: Haptic‘ event. All that’s left, as we progress towards Sunday evening, is to see if Germany can overcome Argentina in the World Cup final… quite a prospect for those travelling to Berlin the following day.

BUICE: International Conference on Events and AEME forum, Bournemouth University, July 2013


For three days in the hot July sun of Bournemouth event studies researchers, academics and industry professionals gathered for a broad and diverse mix of presentations, discussions and the occasional trip to the beach. You can read up on the BU conference coverage here (featuring a rapt audience listening to yours truly!), with further resources available via the conference Twitter feed. Many of the talks are on YouTube.

I’m going to publish four posts from the event, with three taken directly from the notes that I took during each day’s keynote talks and discussions (one, two, three). This post here is based around notes taken from some of the break out sessions and papers presented by participants and delegates. This one is also special because it features a photo of the beach and some blue south coast water.


Day one papers

Nigel Williams (Bournemouth University)

Nigel spoke on ‘3D Events’ and the role of social media. Much of his research is based on using social media data, which is cheaper and a way to show evidence of meeting event objectives. Social capital themes are present in his work, based around SNA analysis of maps, nodes, connectors and so on. Chosen focal festival was #LoveLuton, which had brought together existing and new events to create a new festival. Twitter was the chosen social medium, being the ‘most democratic’ and the assumed public nature of all open tweets – it was all therefore deemed to be available for use. Data was captured using Tweet Archivist and visualised using NodeXL. It enabled groups to be found and conclusions to be reached in relation to the festival’s stated goals. For the future it was felt that more tweets are including geographical data, enabling more complex analysis. In the Q and A ethics was discussed in relation to using these data; hashtags are apparently in decline; it is difficult to extract the ’signal from the noise’.


Katja Pasanan (University of East Finland)

Katja also looked at social media, specifically the ways in which it is used by festival managers in their new service development efforts. Social media enables customers to have a role in this NSD process, accelerating the process through engagement. Few festivals were seen to have a strategy however and marketing was their main use for s/m, rather that development work. Facebook is the most commonly used platform, but very little on Trip Advisor despite its importance to the tourism market.


Matt Frew (Bournemouth University)

Matt looked at Burning Man. We’re all going to burn…


Day two papers

Jenny Flinn (Glasgow Caledonian University)

Jenny looked at the Exit Festival and its role in re-imaging Novi Sad in Serbia. The research data came from press articles written about the festival since the 1990s, tracking its connection to images of Serbia and the Balkans in that time. As the country has opened up and perceptions have changed the festival has become more mainstream and no longer positions itself as a protest movement to the same extent. Coverage of the festival is also shifting, looking less at its past and more towards its future. In the UK press Exit is often presented as a cheaper and warmer alternative to British festivals.


Matt Frew (Bournemouth University)

Matt demonstrated the importance and validity of linking events research with well established theoretical works, such as Zizek, Bourdieu and many others that regularly feature in his work. The importance of technology – both to teaching and in our experiences of the world around us – was explored with great passion. A ‘hyper-experiential’ reality, going beyond Pine and Gilmour.


Raphaela Stadtler (Griffith University, Brisbane)

In her work Raphaela spoke about knowledge transfers within festival organisations, both formal and informal. Questions of how do you manage knowledge within such organisations, creating know-how and integrating documents, staff meetings, informal meetings and so on. This is the culmination of her PhD work, based on ethnographic data accumulated through time spent working for the Queensland Jazz Festival: the lived experience of a festival volunteer. As such she has been seeking to ‘make visible’ the standard practices engaged in by staff.


Day three papers

Robert Kielty (Glasgow Caledonian University)

Robert fronted a presentation that had been developed between a number of people, including Jenny Flinn. At its core is a story of the professionalisation of rugby union and the shifts in power, policy and politics that have accompanied it. The power of the ‘top eight’ nations is clear to see, leading to discussions about ‘scalar relations’ between the core and the periphery. Economically there is much to be said about the ways these top nations are seeking to keep the profits from the Rugby World Cup between themselves, so it will be interesting to see what happens with the upcoming Japanese RWC. Are they doing enough to keep the game visible after the Cup has been and gone?


For my own part I presented on the theme of social networks at cultural festivals. A PDF of the slides follows…


ICE2013 JARMAN Presentation PDF by davidjarman

BUICE day one, 3 July 2013: International Conference on Events and AEME forum, Bournemouth University

Notes from keynote talks and discussions on day one of the #BUICE2013 conference.


Vinney: BU courses accredited by UN WTO


Nick de Bois MP

  • Sees events as having formerly been under represented and under achieving, back in 1980s at the start of his events career
  • But a time of growth since, eg use of events within marketing mix
  • 2012: demonstrated that UK is a global home for events, eg in green credentials
  • As an MP: discusses role of government as having an impact on events industry, though not often specific
  • All party parliamentary group for events: demonstrating what events sector can achieve
  • £36bn business events impact to UK, growing to £48bn in years ahead to 2020
  • Links music festivals with business events, because they are run as businesses
  • Visiting delegates: bring people to UK, good for local economies, but also build for long term growth by attracting key thinkers and decision makers – building long lasting relationships based on the events industry
  • Is this evidence based? Up to this conference to work towards that goal, to validate itself scientifically in order to affect positive change
  • Government: a role in helping to attract business, though industry seems slow to try and engage ministers
  • Industry: cannot expect to have gov support unless it steps up to the mark to help promote UK abroad, and to shout about it
  • A single voice: events sector needs to work to bring groups together in order to provide a single message on topics, to help lobby, etc.
  • Other countries: Mexico places events at the heart of government, with structures in place to deliver cross government support
  • Q: discussion about the potential for bringing these parts of the industry together in order to reach ministers, etc.
  • Q (Frew): what of the social agenda, to use events to support communities in a time of austerity? De Bois: points towards local government and a chance for local authorities to bring down regulations in order to support events, create jobs, etc. – not really engaging with the cultural theme or wishing to single out events for special exemption from austerity drive
  • Q: should academics act as advocates and cheerleaders for events, or maintain a distance?
  • Q: subvention as a tool – legitimate incentives to bring in business: what can communities do to make choices when it comes to bringing in taxes in order to provide such incentives


Turner: ‘Britain for Events’ campaign

  • To help UK events industry become more internationally competitive
  • Has delivered this speech to many universities – reminding students that they are part of a wider industry
  • Has various resources online to support claims, with more to come soon as new data are released
  • Lots of numbers to show how valuable different parts of the industry are – festivals, conferences, etc.
  • Event impacts: creative policy opportunities if the impacts of an event are reinvested – policy opportunities to make direct link between event and subsequent investment (eg Adelaide and opthalmology industry)
  • Trends:
    • Less is more: time of austerity but people putting more value into fewer events
    • Grassroots events: local agenda
    • Hybrid: events and festivals working alongside digital media, to ignite online debates – eg London 2012 opening ceremony and changing mood of the nation
    • Content and creativity: attending events because of the content, which can move people
    • Experiential: we’re now in the business of creating experiences
    • Dynamism: different sectors can learn from each other – festivals influencing conferences, etc.
    • CSR: creating an argument for why people should burn fossil fuels to attend events in order to get content
    • Who’s paying for my space: events organisers arguing that they are bringing business into a location so shouldn’t have to pay for the venue – but what happens if the space support disappears?
  • Issues:
    • VAT in different countries makes one more competitive than another
    • Visas: need to make it easier for people to come into the country to build up the profile of the events
    • Business or tourism: where do events sit?
  • Britain for Events campaign:
    • Increase competitiveness
    • Support events
    • Support event professionals
    • Identify audiences for the campaign: business, government, industry, consumers
    • Research and reports: plenty of work being produced, but it needs to be more credible – particularly next week’s publication
    • International marketing: come to Britain for its events
  • Challenge:
    • Stay creative
    • Solve problems
    • See the bigger picture
  • Q: how to get the industry talking to each other, to recognise the value of CPD… so suggests organising a tragedy in order to get people to wake up and engage
  • Q: event education often placed within Tourism – is that appropriate when there’s a need to engage with all the fields which hold events?




Panel session: professionalisation in the industry

  • Spibey:
    • Does the events industry have professional recognition? Is the answer changing over time? Talks of developing a professional body, which she now helps lead, working in the conference area: Institute of Event Management (est 2012)
    • IEM now has a business plan, a platform on which to try and secure funding, etc.
      • Professional recognition
      • CPD
      • Body of knowledge
    • Developing through partnerships and steering groups, etc.
    • Accreditation is part of what they hope to do
    • Recognition of experiential learning too
    • On the job learning key: apprenticeships, etc.
    • Picks out the breadth of the events industry and foresees a need for people to develop specialisms
    • Suggests that event managers are project managers with specialist knowledge and experience
    • Supply chain: an events supply chain, taking on board a variety of specialist roles and careers
    • Keen to support education providers, providing resources and advice – linking resources, such as the ISO20121 work done in 2012, likewise Purple Guide


  • Kerr: People 1st (skills council)
    • Context of austerity, new government, new take on skills development
    • Professionalisation is about recognising qualifications, skills, training
    • Why does this matter: to recruit the right people; new entrants can work through the industry; to advertise the skills base of the workforce
    • Industry hasn’t necessarily had difficulty in attracting competent people, but do they have the skills?
    • Questions the provision from FE and also CPD in the industry: gaps in the skills provision
    • A call for industry to get behind qualifications and stick with them
    • Graduates not going into graduate positions is a wider debate than events alone
    • Government focus is on STEM subjects – largely because of the contribution that they make to GDP, which events graduates can’t compete with
    • National Occupational Standards Review: going on through 2013, to look at the national picture, plus international (such as Canada)


  • Rhodri Thomas
    • Argues that the prospects for professionalising the industry are poor
    • We need to think about more than just doing a job well
    • Professional means: certain traits that characterise the occupation, but how do you get from occupation to profession? It requires a level of control: you can be a lawyer if you pass this barrier. If you want to remain in the club you have to do your work by a set of rules: it creates a barrier between the professional and society. There’s a contract: we’ll do the job ethically and well in return for higher status and pay. But does this apply to more modern professions?
    • Corporate professionalisation:
      • Creating a collective identity: does this work?
      • Overcoming a fragmented knowledge base
      • Can you take on board people from a wide range of entry points?
    • On IEM: takes a classic approach at a time when such associations are under attack; how will it sit alongside other organisations; does it lead to further fragmentation; does it put it alongside other sectors that just don’t apply to large parts of the sector?


  • Q and A:
    • Looking at the fitness industry, where membership of a single body (REPS) is a prerequisite for career progression
    • Should EMBOK be moved further on?
    • Are we heading towards standardisation of event management courses?

BUICE day two, 4 July 2013: International Conference on Events and AEME forum, Bournemouth University

Notes from keynote talks and discussions on day two of the #BUICE2013 conference.


Fyall et al: case studies in tourism

  • High demand and high value for case studies, linking theory to practice
  • Multi-source and open-ended, so a very active and subtle way of learning, often longitudinal and certainly real world
  • CCO publications come in book form, but also online, also via channels for library subscriptions
  • Notes that cases take a long time to write compared to articles
  • There’s a free one available too… slides, guidelines, exam questions, etc.


Getz: Event Tourism

  • ET as the next key move perhaps, tying in to his new book
  • Factors are constraining and propelling growth of event tourism, different parts of the world experiencing different balances of these factors
  • Populations of events: cities and regions have multiple events, portfolios that need to be managed as assets; demands new thinking from a policy perspective, hence the rise of organisations that are set up to manage these: EventScotland, Melbourne, etc.
  • How to compete: traditionally a supply side thinking of ‘what do we have, now let’s sell it’…
  • …now a need for demand side: what do we need to invest in, in order to build competitive advantages
  • Dedicated event tourists: who will travel for events
  • Fragmented market:
    • Business
    • Entertainment
    • Sports
    • Festivals and culture
  • Do courses cover all aspects of this market? What of the overlaps between these aspects? Many links to venue management and facilities management
  • Challenges:
    • From top down to bottom up planning
      • eg agencies who take funding outside the big cities to communities
    • From supply side to demand side planning
      • eg catering for special interest groups: case study of food lovers, folk who have the money and interest to express themselves through their adherence to their interest via events
      • Leads to a situation where an event can combine lots of factors: elements of hedonism, plus cooking education, plus authenticity, celebration and ritual, creativity, mastery of techniques, symbolism and heritage
      • Event tourism strategy based on food cluster, with events at their heart
      • Case: activity tourists – trail runners and mountain bikers: what do they do within their portfolio of interests? Developing a career of events, moving from one to the next
    • Portfolios: a need to move away from single event analysis towards broader portfolios
    • Teaching event tourism: few places that teach this as a specific subject, though it has links to event management, event studies
      • Reflecting the growth of new career paths, found within progressive event tourism destinations


Fiona Pelham: ISO20121 and Positive Impact

  • Started off life as BS8901, developed through Pelham into ISO. Big industry input and international.
  • Is being used internationally – London 2012, Denmark, Japan, etc.
  • Focus: your own objectives, issues, situations; not just a checklist for meeting green issues; can be tough because of broad scope, but that’s a role for graduates
  • Future: IOC candidates all signed up to the standard, so it’s now in place
  • Applicable to large and SME businesses
  • Positive Impact:
    • Independent company
    • Lots of internships
    • Keen to engage with student dissertations: giving info, acting as a library for the work
    • Lots of materials available for use
    • Links to industry
    • Opportunities to train students up in order to get the word out to the industry


Liz Sinclair: graduate job market

  • Moving in the right direction since end of recession
  • Work experience is key, ideally within the curriculum: 3x more likely to get work after graduation; often within the same company, which limits opportunities for non-SWE graduates
  • Average graduate salary: £18,000 (overall £29,000)
  • Deciding early where you want to go makes a difference
  • Focus: and Guardian (Monday)
  • Use of LinkedIn: contacts, use as CV, connections to former colleagues
  • CV: a first impression
  • The Eventice: working towards jobs that aren’t generally available; raises the profile of graduates within the industry; gives students a focus