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Festivals Research Group

Investigating the social, economic and environmental impact of festivals.

Investigating the social, economic and environmental impact of festivals.

The Festival Research Group (FRG) was set up in 2016 to bring together academics at Cardiff University with key stakeholders to undertake collaborative research on the festival scene, and to consider urgent questions on the future of festivals.

UK festivals play a significant role in British culture and economy. Festival audiences continue to grow and the festival landscape, both urban and rural, is dynamic and diverse. Prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the UK music festivals and concerts market were worth an estimated £2.6bn with over a quarter of UK adults attending at least one music festival (Mintel 2019). For example, in 2018, 338,000 domestic and 25,000 overseas tourists attended music concerts and festivals in Wales and spent an estimated £124 million (UK Music 2019). In addition to their economic importance, festivals contribute socially and culturally, creating a sense of belonging and place, developing individuals’ identity and wellbeing through memorable experiences. Festivals can also have potential negative environmental impacts.

As a result of the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, music and arts festivals have been cancelled on an unprecedented level. During 2020, more than 250 events were cancelled or postponed (eFestivals 2020) with many further cancellations in 2021. Festival organisers and audiences have become uncertain about future festival experiences, especially if pandemic response measures continue to affect large scale gatherings.  

The value of festivals extends beyond their economic impact. To their thousands of attendees and creators they are an essential part of British culture and form part of our intangible heritage. Research indicates that festivals have an important role for social cohesion and wellbeing, building a strong sense of identity and belonging amongst their loyal, multi-generational communities, and they can be activated as ‘agents of change’, for example in promoting greener and sustainable practices (Alonso-Vazque 2016, Powerful Thinking 2018).

Given economic, social and technological changes, the absence of large-scale gatherings, what will future festivals look like? How will they be organised, enjoyed, perceived and developed? And how will they impact on society and the environment?

Our focus

The key focus of the FRG is music and arts festivals; members of the research group have substantial experience working with and at festivals such as Glastonbury, Green Man, Hay Festival and National Eisteddfod as well as food-themed events. The FRG is keen to connect academic research with the experiences of festival goers, organisers, performers and other stakeholders. Festivals also present researchers with different platforms for engagement and the sharing of research through participatory methods.

Our team

Cardiff University’s interdisciplinary FRG is comprised of staff from Cardiff Business SchoolSchool of MusicSchool of Geography of PlanningSchool of History, Archaeology and Religious Studies, and School of Journalism, Media and Culture. We are also affiliated with the Creative Cardiff Research Network. The group members have undertaken several festival studies including Sŵn Festival, the National Eisteddfod and Goodway Festival of Speed. This collaborative research has enhanced our understanding of festival audiences, their experiences and behaviours, and how festivals and festivalgoers can reduce their environmental footprint.

Our interdisciplinary research team has expertise in services marketing, consumer behaviour, social media and music fandom, heritage and contemporary archaeology, human geography and sustainability. Since 2012, we have undertaken research on a range of UK festivals, including music, literature, culture and food. We have a track record in collaborating with festival organisers (including Hay Literature Festival, Glastonbury, Green Man, Swn Festival, National Eisteddfod and Goodway Festival of Speed) and an extensive network of key contacts in festivals, NGOs, national and local government (e.g. AIF, AGF, Event Wales). We have extensive experience in undertaking audience-focused impactful analysis examining festival experiences, histories and their environmental consequences. We have research skills in interviewing, large-scale surveys (online and face to face), digital diaries, social media analysis, community consultation and mapping in partnership with festivals and stakeholders.

Pilot project

The FRG’s pilot project saw Cardiff researchers working with John Rostron and the Sŵn Festival. John was the co-founder of Sŵn, and this annual urban contemporary music festival occurs each October in venues across Cardiff. In 2016 it celebrated 10 years of making the city come alive. John was also the Vice Chair of the Association of Independent Music Festivals, which currently holds its annual congress in Cardiff. The FRG received seed-corn funding from REACT (the AHRC-funded Research and Enterprise in Arts and Creative Technology initiative) to explore the impact of Sŵn festival on the audiences, the city and the music scene.

Watch a short video about Sŵn Festival and the FRG's collaboration on the Sŵn Music Museum, featuring John Roston (1.35mins in) and the leader of the research group, Dr Jacqui Mulville (6.30mins in).

Those in the research group are currently taking part in joint projects and outputs. Please see below for a selection of previous work by some of the researchers.

Blogs:

Video:

Selected academic publications and conference presentations (by year):

Recent projects and events organised by members of the FRG

Shutdown Survey 2020: Festivals provide Emotional, Sensorial and Communal Experiences

With the cancellation of festivals last summer, we wanted to know what people were going to miss about music festivals. We conducted a survey with over 800 individuals responded.  Our data recognised that people attend events for myriad reasons, from the feelings of community, the sensory experience of music, art, food and culture, but also to feel emotions – basically festivals make us feel good. We analysed the data and have summarised our findings in this image. We grouped responses into three sectors, emotional responses, sensory stimulation and communitas (intense feelings of social togetherness and belonging) and discovered that these elements balance and are of equal importance as summarised in the image below:

Goodway Festival of Speed 2019

In this project, the FRG partnered with Siemens (2019 Technology Partner) and put a spotlight on the environmental impact of festivals in the UK. The report highlights what innovations and initiatives are needed to ensure greener, cleaner festivals of the future.

https://news.siemens.co.uk/news/festival-fever-leaves-its-mark-on-the-uk-as-festival-goers-increase-their-ecological-footprint-by-8-5-times

National Eisteddfod 2017 and 2018

In this project we examined festival goers’ engagement with activities and events during the National Eisteddfod 2017 and 2018, their experience, the wider impact of the festival including visitor travel. In 2018 we received funding from CUROP (Cardiff Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme) under the project: “Influencing the Impact and Legacies of Festivals in Wales: A spotlight on 2018 National Eisteddfod Cardiff”, Cardiff University (Centre for Education and Innovation).

Reports:

  • Koenig-Lewis, N., Collins, A., Rosier, E. (2017). National Eisteddfod 2017 – Research Findings, Cardiff University, October 2017 (Report presented to National Eisteddfod, 4th October 2017)
  • Koenig-Lewis, N., Collins, A., Rosier, E., Emyr, M., Murphy, S. (2018). National Eisteddfod 2018 – Research Findings, Cardiff University, October 2018 (Report presented to National Eisteddfod, 17th October 2018)

Blogs/News: 

Sŵn Festival 2016

Our 2017 report based on the pilot project with Sŵn is now available to download.

During this pilot project, we also worked with StoryworksUK to record interviews with some of the people visiting the Sŵn Music Museum.

A selection of these interviews are available on the Storyworks UK website.

Blog: 
http://blogs.cardiff.ac.uk/creative-economy/2017/04/03/a-spotlight-on-swn-music-festival-report-launch/

Hay Literature Festival

The FRG has undertaken research into the methods by which visitors travel to Hay Festival. This project also considered what types of strategies are needed to reduce visitors’ travel-footprint? and what are the key challenges in terms of influencing visitor travel behaviour, and delivering more sustainable events in Wales?

https://theconversation.com/save-the-planet-one-festival-at-a-time-60802

Research group leader

Professor Jacqui Mulville

Professor Jacqui Mulville

Professor in Bioarchaeology, Director of Research and Impact

Email
mulvilleja@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 (0)29 2087 4247

Academic staff

Dr Andrea Collins

Dr Andrea Collins

Senior Lecturer

Email
collinsa@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 (0)29 2087 0279
Dr Dimitris Potoglou

Dr Dimitris Potoglou

Reader in Transport and Applied Choice Analysis

Email
potogloud@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44(0)2920876088
Dr Nicole Koenig-Lewis

Dr Nicole Koenig-Lewis

Reader in Marketing

Email
koenig-lewisn@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 (29) 2087 0967
Dr Lucy Bennett

Dr Lucy Bennett

Lecturer in Media Audiences (Teaching and Research)

Email
bennettl@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 (0)29 2251 0789

Associated staff

Dr Joseph O'Connell

Dr Joseph O'Connell

Lecturer

Email
oconnellj2@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 (0)29 2087 4381
Professor Ian Hargreaves

Professor Ian Hargreaves

Emeritus Professor in the School of Journalism, Media and Culture

Email
hargreavesi@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 (0)29 208 74633

Creative Cardiff 

Investigating the social, economic and environmental impact of festivals. The group brings together academics at Cardiff University and key stakeholders to undertake collaborative research on the festival scene, and to consider urgent questions on the future of festivals.

In 2020 the group focused on mapping festivals in Wales with a particular emphasis on environmental sustainability.