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The impacts of small-scale cultural events on market town vitality

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

It is widely acknowledged that town centres in the United Kingdom currently face numerous challenges and are evolving at a time of prolonged economic uncertainty. Many are struggling for long-term survival, facing threats from changing patterns of consumer behaviour and increased reliance on internet retailing. In consequence, local policymakers are searching for solutions to these problems and various strategies aimed at reviving the fortunes of declining centres have been developed and implemented.

Cultural events such as fairs, festivals or markets are being used to increase town centre footfall in the hope that this will translate into improved economic activity for their, sometimes struggling, businesses. The staging of cultural or sporting events is a policy that has been used previously at city or regional level and much evidence exists of the impacts of these larger-scale or mega-events. Far less is known about impacts of smaller-scale cultural events hosted specifically in smaller settlements such as market towns. There is a pressing need, therefore, for such evidence so that informed decisions can be made.
This thesis employs case study methodology to examine the impacts of three small-scale cultural events staged in three different market towns in the Test Valley Borough Council area of the south of England. It reveals that although expenditure-related economic impacts are minimal, other contributory factors are evident and influence such activity. It concludes by proposing a framework for evaluating economic impacts more holistically.

This research makes a timely and important contribution to the ongoing British town centre and high street debate by providing evidence to illustrate the ways in which small-scale cultural events function within a market town setting. It also contributes to methodological knowledge by proposing that evaluating expenditure-related impacts in isolation is a narrowly-focused perspective, as it fails to account for other impacts and associated factors, such as the motivations behind visitor expenditure or the effect of both an event’s and a town’s reputation.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Southampton
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Neil Wrigley (External person) (Supervisor)
  • Nick Clarke (External person) (Supervisor)
  • Peter Sunley (External person) (Supervisor)
Thesis sponsors
  • Economic and Social Research Council
  • Test Valley Borough Council
Award date7 Nov 2019

Documents

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