Unravelling the complex nature of events-focused policy: a framework to aid understanding

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This chapter explores the events-focused policy often adopted by local authorities, the aim of which is usually to attract visitors into town centres in the hope that additional economic activity will result. This is one of a range of tools employed by town centre managers (TCMs), buisness improvement district (BID) managers or local authority officials as they attempt to animate urban spaces and add vibrancy to what can sometimes be perceived as mundane or functional town centres, while at the same time demonstrating to local businesses that they are implementing policies that help to drive up footfall and support local economic activity. High profile, large-scale annual festivals, such as the Edinburgh International Festival or Notting Hill Carnival have done much to promote the success of such a policy, with commercial economic impact studies indicating significant revenue benefits (e.g. London Development Agency 2003; SQW Consulting 2005). As attractive as they may seem, large-scale events such as these are rarely attainable for smaller cities and towns. Further, not all towns have the existing infrastructure to enable an events focused policy to be successful. The research presented here explores how one local authority in the south of England implements its local economic development policy through an events programme, in order to demonstrate the complexities involved: complexities of place as well as event, and the interconnected nature of both. Serving as a cautionary example for TCMs, BID managers and local economic development officers alike, a framework to aid understanding of the delicate balance is proposed.

The framework comprises a set of factors based on empirical research undertaken at three different events in separate market towns within the Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC)1 area of Hampshire. The aim of this framework is to provide policymakers and other local decision makers with a structure that facilitates understanding of the implications of hosting events in their respective town centres and high streets. In addition, it is intended to help such decision makers reflect on what they aim to achieve by hosting an event or series of events and encourages them to consider that increased footfall may not necessarily result in increased economic activity for the town’s retail and service provision. This framework is at an early stage of development and although it would benefit from further testing, global events have, unfortunately, overtaken the ability to do this. Consequently, a Covid-19 recovery consideration may need to be accounted for, incorporating factors such as perceived risk, health and safety issues and crowd management.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFestivals and the City: The Contested Geographies of Urban Events
EditorsAndrew Smith, Guy Osborn, Bernadette Quinn
PublisherUniversity of Westminster
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781914386466, 9781914386473, 9781914386459
ISBN (Print)9781915445018, 9781914386442
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2022


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