Festival literature: the role of the entrepreneur

Juliette Wilson, Norin Arshed, Eleanor Shaw

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Festival Literature: The Role of the Entrepreneur

Aim of the Paper
The aim of this paper is to analyse studies on festivals and identify research gaps relevant to small business research. Festivals play a significant role in the lives of communities providing important activities and spending outlets for locals and visitors and enhancing the image of local communities (Getz 1993). Successful community-based festivals are growing in increasing numbers and concentrate on a range of particular interests (Getz, 2010). Despite this, researchers have been slow to consider contemporary festivals beyond either their economic impacts or the motivations of those who attend (Gursoy et al 2004). An area which has received little, if any attention from extant literature is that festivals are highly dependent on the driving forces of key individuals, often entrepreneurs, acting within festival networks which support their emergence and occurrence on a regular basis (Getz 1993; Getz et al 2010; Gursoy et al 2004).

Background Literature
The literature on festivals has been dominated by economic concerns, as well as operational and marketing issues (Robinson et al 2004). Little, if any prior research has extended understanding of festivals beyond basic economic and tourism matters (Quinn 2009). Prior research on festivals has demonstrated the positive impact which festivals can have on tourism, providing spending opportunities, attracting often significant additional money into local communities and regions and ultimately generating new employment opportunities (Crompton and McKay 1997; Kim et al 1998; Thrane 2002). Such research has also observed the wider, societal effects which local, community-based festivals can have, for example, on perceptions of place and locale (Getz 1997).

This paper seeks to examine the depth and breadth of published research on festivals and adopts a systematic approach to the review presented (Victor 2008). Using definitions proposed by Uysal and Gitleson (1994) and Getz (1997), key terms were identified to establish our conceptual boundaries and to restrict the focus of our search.

Results and Implications
A key focus of research in this area is the outcomes and successes of festivals, with economic impact receiving most attention (Crompton and Mackay 1997; Kim et al 1998). A number of studies have emphasised the importance of understanding why people attend festivals arguing that only by developing an understanding of such motivations can organisers’ effectively position and market festivals (Crompton and McKay 1997; Getz 1993). A final key theme emerging from the literature analysed is that of festival management.

This paper identifies research gaps and areas for further studies on festivals. Gaps of particular interest to entrepreneurship are the creation of festivals and the characteristics of their founders; the role of networks and key actors in those networks; and processes which are largely ignored in the existing literature, despite the reality that festivals are, by and large, a repeated event. Finally, we propose that place is an important construct to take into account.

We suggest that theoretical frameworks applied in entrepreneurship are useful lenses to aid understanding of these themes. In particular we identify network theories, the concept of embeddedness (Granovetter, 1985) and capital theory (Bourdieu, 1986) as relevant theoretical frameworks. We also see parallels with the emerging literature on social entrepreneurship (Shaw and Carter 2007) and community ventures (Haugh and Pardy 1999; Peredo and Chrisman 2006).

Methodologically, research has been dominated by single case studies undertaken at one point in time. We suggest that future research will benefit by embracing longitudinal studies involving ethnographic approaches which can explore context both from temporal and community or locale perspective. This allows real-time study of emerging festival processes and seeks out actors within the phenomena (Davidsson 2003).

The recommendations for future research offered by this paper will help advance understanding of festival studies from an entrepreneurship perspective. In particular the paper contributes to the discourse on festival entrepreneurs, their roles, contributions and the processes involved.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
Publication statusUnpublished - 30 Jun 2014
EventInternational Council of Small Business World Conference - Stockholm, United Kingdom
Duration: 15 Jun 201117 Jun 2011


ConferenceInternational Council of Small Business World Conference
Abbreviated titleICSB 2011
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • literature review
  • processes
  • actors
  • entrepreneurs
  • festivals
  • networks


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