Cultural events, storytelling and mythmaking: The Beggars Fair

Elaine Rust, Jason Sit*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Storytelling and mythmaking are known to be significant contributors to place branding in the context of tourism destinations (Calvi & Hover, 2021), and have been increasing in recent years (Quinn, 2003). Stories about places are frequently used as a vehicle to help connect the past with the present, the aim of which is normally to facilitate visitor immersion and strengthen the temporary sense of belonging. Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) use such narratives in place promotion activities, as they can act as a tool for differentiation and enhance intra-urban competitiveness. In this context, festivals and other cultural events offer a focal point for such activity. The cultural and social significance of events and festivals, along with their distinct ability to connect people with the past have not gone unnoticed, particularly since both have the capability of strengthening sense of place (Bassano et al., 2019; Quinn, 2003), which is considered to be ‘essential to human life’ (Bassano et al., 2019, p,11).

According to Levi-Strauss (1955, p.429) myths have ‘no logic, no continuity … with myth anything can become possible.’ How, then, can myths and stories focused on cultural events and festivals generate an authentic narrative that in turn support the creation of an immersive experience for visitors, and what does ‘authentic’ actually mean in such a context?

The aim of this study is to explore the stories, myths and narratives that have been generated about festivals. The research adopts a case study approach and uses a festival held annually in the Market Town of Romsey in Hampshire: The Beggars Fair that has been in existence only since 1993, yet as an historic market town with a charter dating back to the time of King John, the name of the festival suggests an ancient tradition. The reality could not be further from this.

A case study is most appropriate in this instance, as it offers the ability to undertake in-depth analysis from various perspectives. Using semi-structured interviews with multiple stakeholders enables a deep understanding to be formed of the phenomena that contribute to interpretations of authenticity that connect the event to the place. Questions include those relating to perceptions of the festival experience, its name and the place in order to determine the strength of the connection between all three.

This research is currently at the early stages of development, however, findings will be used to inform a broader study involving similar locations across the UK. The outcome will be of broad benefit to academics since it contributes to theory development about storytelling, mythmaking and authenticity. It will be of equal benefit to practitioners and place marketers, as it enables them to consider how to build narratives that are unique to their own places, thus increasing place attractiveness. This is particularly significant given the current economic climate in the UK, as urban centres are recovering from the effects of Covid-19, while facing the multiple challenges posed by rising inflation. Intra-urban competition is thus increasing and novel methods of attracting visitors are needed.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2023
EventUniversity of Surrey School of Hospitality and Tourism Management Surrey 2023 Conference: Bringing Hospitality, Tourism, Transport and Events Back for Good - University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, United Kingdom
Duration: 5 Jul 20237 Jul 2023


ConferenceUniversity of Surrey School of Hospitality and Tourism Management Surrey 2023 Conference
Abbreviated titleSurrey 2023 Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
CityGuildford, Surrey
Internet address

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