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Socio-cultural impacts of events

Socio-cultural impacts of events
Meanings, authorized transgression and
social capital
Richard Sharpley and Philip R. Stone
Introduction: the impacts of events
All events have impacts (Hall 1997). More specifically, all events or, at least, planned events have
a purpose or objective and, hence, intended, desired and predicted (and, on occasion, unanticipated) outcomes. These, in turn, have impacts on host communities, participants and other
stakeholders who, as Getz (2007: 300) puts it, are
impactedby the outcomes of events. Such
impacts may be positive or bene
ficial. Indeed, it is the expected benefits of events, whether
economic, social, cultural, political or environmental, that is the principal driver underpinning
the support for and increasing popularity of them at the local, national and international scale. Of
course, the impacts of events may also be negative. That is, events almost inevitably incur costs or
have negative consequences that, to a lesser or greater extent, serve to reduce their net bene
Thus, a key task for event managers is to not only identify and, as far as possible, predict the
impacts of events, but to manage them in such a way that bene
fits are optimized and negative
impacts are minimized so that,
on balance the overall impact of the event is positive(Bowdin
et al. 2006: 37).
It is not surprising, therefore, that the academic study of events and event management
has long focused upon the impacts or consequences of events. As Quinn (2009: 487) notes,
initial research agendas focused on developing knowledge and understanding of the impacts of
from early on, events came overwhelmingly to be conceived as discrete entities with an
ability to unidirectionally create a series of impacts, both positive and negative, on contextual
. What is surprising, perhaps, is that until recently a predominantly economic
perspective was in evidence (Formica 1998). In other words, despite early recognition of the
wide variety of impacts that might be associated with events (Ritchie 1984), much research
focused speci
fically on their economic consequences, a trend noted by others (Hede 2007;
Moscardo 2007). Undoubtedly, this re
flected the importance that was, and continues to be,
placed upon the role of particular events in urban, rural, regional or national (economic)
development and, hence, the need to both justify and measure the returns on often signi
financial investment in festivals and events as agents of development (Andranovich et al. 2001).
In other words, despite their potential to contribute to, for example, the enhancement of a
s image (Richards and Wilson 2004) or the development of community cohesion and pride
(Waitt 2003), the success of events is often ultimately assessed according to economic criteria
such as income generation, employment generation or the attraction of inward investment
et al. 2000).
However, two points must immediately be made. First and quite evidently, events are not
always promoted or staged for the economic bene
fits that they might generate, and nor can
their negative consequences be measured simply in economic terms. Indeed, events may often
be staged at an economic
losswhen, for example, their costs are covered not by income from
participants but by sponsorship or local government funding. In such cases, the desired bene
of the event might be overtly socio-cultural: strengthening community identity and pride (De
Bres and Davis 2001), developing social capital (Arcodia and Whitford 2006), increasing local
participation in community activities (Ritchie 1984), revitalizing local culture, traditions, and so
on. Equally, events may be staged for political purposes (Roche 2000). Frequently, the hosting
of international mega-events may be driven by the pursuit of international prestige or legitimacy
whilst other events may seek to highlight speci
fic political issues or causes, both Live Aidand
Live 8concerts in 1985 and 2005 respectively being notable examples of the latter. Reference
should also be made, of course, to the physical or environmental impacts, both positive and
negative, of events. As discussed in Chapter 24, not only may events provide an environmental
fit (for example, improved infrastructure), but also there is a pressing need to manage the
environmental impacts of events within a sustainability framework.
Second, the impacts of events are neither discrete nor necessarily hierarchical. That is, all
events have a variety of impacts, both positive and negative, some being more immediately
evident than others, some being of potentially greater signi
ficance than the intended outcomes.
For example, a study by Lee and Taylor (2005) found that the sense of national pride
engendered by the South Korean national team
s success at the 2002 FIFA World Cup hosted
by that country far outweighed the event
s economic returns. Similarly, the annual London
Marathon has a major economic impact in terms of the money that participants raise for
charity whilst, for the runners themselves, taking part in (and, hopefully, completing) the
marathon not only provides a sense of achievement but also, as Shipway and Jones (2008)
reveal, is linked to social identity formation. However, the publicity surrounding the event may
also have a major in
fluence on encouraging people to take up running and, hence, on longer-term
health trends.
Together, these points suggest that, in order to fully understand the potential impact of
events, there is a need for more broadly focused research that explores beyond the con
fines of
economic analysis. Indeed, there have long been calls for a more expansive approach to
researching events. Moreover, it has been suggested that
despite the growth and popularity of
festivals and special events, researchers have been very slow in directing research beyond economic impacts
(Gursoy et al. 2004: 171), there is evidence to suggest that, in more recent years,
such a broader perspective has come to be adopted. In particular, the study of events has
increasingly embraced the identi
fication, measurement and analysis of their social and cultural
impacts, whilst a special issue of the journal
Event Management in 2008 focused on events
beyond economic impacts. Nevertheless, this research arguably remains limited both in absolute terms and also, as Fredline and Faulkner (2000) observed over a decade ago, relative to
related research focusing on the socio-cultural impacts of tourism (see also Fredline
et al. 2003).
Thus, the purpose of this chapter is to review contemporary approaches to the study of the
social and cultural impacts of events and to explore ways in which our knowledge and understanding of such impacts may be enhanced. First, however, it is useful to consider what, in a
generic sense, the social and cultural impacts of events
areand the different dimensions within
which they may be considered.
Richard Sharpley and Philip R. Stone

Social and cultural impacts: focus and dimensions
A major challenge facing the study of events in general and of their social and cultural impacts in
particular is the sheer volume and diversity of organized activities or occasions that may be
described as events. Without repeating the de
finitional debates addressed elsewhere in this book,
this volume and diversity is such that it is di
fficult and, perhaps, dangerous to generalize about the
purpose, management and outcomes of events. Every event is a unique activity, occasion or
happeningwith unique objectives and, hence, unique outcomes and impacts. Therefore, it is
unsurprising that much research into events is case study-based although, more recently, attempts
have been made to develop general frameworks for assessing the social impact of events (Delamere
et al. 2001; Fredline et al. 2003; Reid 2008; Small 2008).
Nevertheless, all events share a common characteristic: people. The staging of an event
attracts people from elsewhere as participants or spectators; equally, it may only involve local
people, again as participants and/or spectators. In either case, however, the event may have
impacts on both participants and spectators and on the local (host) community more generally as
well as, depending on its nature and scale, on communities further a
field or not directly
involved with the event. At the same time, people are also involved in events as organizers.
They may be members of the local community, local leaders, representatives of particular
interest groups or professional event organizers. Importantly, it is the interactions and relationships
within and between these di
fferent stakeholder groups that may go some way to determining the
nature and extent of the social and cultural impacts of events.
But what are these social and cultural impacts? In other words, what do we mean by the
socialand culturalimpacts, and can they be thought of collectively as socio-cultural
impacts? According to Burdge and Vanclay (1996: 59), social impacts can be defined generally
all social and cultural consequences to human population of any public or private actions that
alter the ways in which people live, work, play, relate to one another, organize to meet their
needs, and generally cope as members of society
. Conversely, cultural impacts are those which
involve changes to the norms, values, and beliefs of individuals that guide and rationalize their
cognition of themselves and their society
Putting it another way, the social impacts of events in particular may be de
fined as transformations
in how people live their lives or, as Wall and Mathieson (2006: 227) suggest,
changes in
the quality of life
of local communities, participants and other stakeholders that arise from the
holding of an event of any kind. On the other hand, the cultural impacts of events may be
thought of as transformations in the processes (values, traditions and norms) through which
individuals and societies de
fine themselves and their behaviour (see Richards 2006) although,
rather confusingly, the study of the cultural impacts of tourism, with its explicit relevance to
event studies, often embraces impacts on expressions or manifestations of culture, such as both
material and non-material forms of culture. Thus, the distinction between
socialand cultural
impacts is not always clear, the potential commoditization of a particular cultural event, for
example, arguably being de
finable as both a social and cultural impact. However, for the purposes of this chapter, social and cultural impacts may be defined respectively as the impacts of an
event on the day-to-day life of people associated directly or indirectly with that event and on
the values, attitudes, beliefs and traditions that determine or guide that day-to-day life. Moreover, there is an evident relationship between the two and therefore, for the sake of simplicity,
they will be considered here collectively as socio-cultural impacts.
The question then to be addressed is: how should the socio-cultural impacts of events be
assessed or researched? In other words, what broad perspective (as opposed to prescriptive
research frameworks) should be adopted when considering such impacts? From the preceding
Socio-cultural impacts of events

discussion of the meaning of the terms socialand culturalimpacts, it is evident that there are
two levels or dimensions within which they may be studied. First, what are usually referred to
as social impacts of events, that is, the more immediate and tangible impacts on local people,
participants and others in
fluenced directly by an event, may be considered within a simplistic,
deterministic, uni-dimensional
cause and effectframework. That is, the hosting of events
brings about a variety of immediate, identi
fiable and predictable social consequences which arise
from interactions between local people and visitors (in a tourism context, host
guest interactions),
from activities and developments related to the event and from the extent of local participation
in the event. Such impacts are similar to those associated with the development of tourism
more generally, such as the tangible impacts of congestion, crime and anti-social behaviour, as
well as broader transformations in the form of cultural commoditization and so on. These are
often balanced against the economic consequences of events and which, implicitly, may be
Second, the notion of cultural impacts, or changes to an individual
s or societys values,
norms, beliefs, traditions and so on, suggests that a more complex relationship exists between an
event and all its stakeholders, including performers/participants, visitors/spectators, organizers,
and local communities, distinctions between whom may not always be evident. That is, whilst
in some cases, such as sporting mega-events, each group of stakeholders is distinctive, in other
cases, such as small local events, all stakeholders may be members of the local community. This,
in turn, suggests that a multi-dimensional approach which not only addresses the immediate
causal relationship between the event and stakeholders (the uni-dimensional perspective) but
which also recognizes the complex relationships between the event and all stakeholders may
provide a deeper and richer basis for exploring the social and cultural impacts of events.
This multi-dimensional process
that is, the socio-cultural transformation arising out of
complex event-related social relationships
has been referred to as remaking worlds(Picard
and Robinson 2006) and embraces themes such as identity creation (personal, cultural, national),
ritualized transgression and so on. These will be considered in more detail shortly but, by way of
comparison, the next section brie
fly reviews contemporary approaches to the socio-cultural
impacts of events within the context of the uni-dimensional perspective.
Uni-dimensional perspectives on socio-cultural impacts
As noted above, research into the impacts of events has, perhaps understandably, adopted a
primarily economic focus. For example, at the
Events Beyond 2000: Setting the Agenda
conference in 2000, all papers focusing on event evaluationemphasized the importance of
economic impacts (Allen
et al. 2000). This is not to say, however, that the non-economic impacts
of events have gone unrecognized. Ritchie
s (1984) widely cited paper revealed the diversity of
forms of impact potentially resulting from, speci
fically, so-called hallmark events. Indeed, most
textbooks on event studies and event management include chapters that explore or describe the
impacts of events under a variety of headings, typically economic, socio-cultural, political and
physical/environmental. Nevertheless, much of the research into these non-economic impacts
remains limited to immediate and tangible consequences of events, often following a descriptive
ffect model; conversely, more in-depth or multi-dimensional studies have, until more
recently, been lacking.
This limited approach to non-economic impacts, in particular within the socio-cultural
context, may be explained by three factors in particular. First, the study of events is very much
concerned with management issues or, more speci
fically, how to manage events successfully. In
other words, the academic study of events is explicitly linked with the practice of event
Richard Sharpley and Philip R. Stone

management and, thus, much research is driven by the needs of the events industry; that
is, how to manage and respond to the socio-cultural impacts of events in order to optimize
desired (and implicitly, measurable) outcomes. As a consequence, longer-term cultural transformations have, arguably, been of less concern (Harris
et al. 2000). Second, academic study and
research in events has very much evolved from the broader study of tourism. Many
researchers are active members of the tourism academic community and are, therefore, aware of
the extensive body of knowledge with respect to (tourism
s) socio-cultural impacts, whilst event
tourism and event management are often explicitly linked (Backman
et al. 1995; Getz 1997).
Moreover, much existing impacts literature in tourism refers to events and, thus, to explore the
socio-cultural impacts of events may be seen as repeating existing research. Third, and as
observed in the previous section, the diversity and scope of events is such that it is di
fficult, if
not impossible, to progress beyond research into case-speci
fic, tangible and measurable impacts
of events.
Certainly, these three factors go some way to explaining the contemporary literature on the
socio-cultural impacts of events. Textbooks, for example, tend to identify and list the positive
and negative socio-cultural impacts of events before proposing management responses and
strategies. Typically, these are immediate, tangible impacts caused by events. Negative impacts
are those which collectively and negatively impact upon the lives of local communities, such
as crowding, rowdy behaviour, tra
ffic congestion, substance abuse, crime and loss of amenity, as
well as feelings of community manipulation/commoditization or exclusion (Bowdin
et al.
2006). Conversely, positive socio-cultural impacts reflect the commonly cited social objectives
of events, such as strengthening community cohesion, engendering community identity and
pride, revitalizing cultural traditions or enhancing place meanings to residents.
However, as Boyko (2008: 162) suggests,
impacts cannot be viewed in absolute terms of
good and bad
[nor] be regarded entirely in isolation from one another. Rather, the
impacts on a host community are intertwined and depend on goals and values
within that
. For this reason, perhaps, much of the extant research into the socio-cultural
impacts of events addresses one of two issues: either resident/host community perceptions of the
impacts of particular festivals and events (for example, Jeong and Faulkner 1996; Mihalik and
Simonetta 1998; Zhou and Ap 2009), which builds on an extensive literature focusing on
resident perceptions of tourism development more generally, or the development of frameworks or scales for identifying and measuring socio-cultural impacts (for example, Delamere
et al. 2001; Fredline et al. 2003; Small 2008). The latter approach is of particular note inasmuch
as it identi
fies those impacts of events that fall under the heading of socio-cultural. Delamere
et al.s (2001) study, for example, lists a total of twenty-one social benefits, divided into community benefits and cultural/educational benefits, and twenty-seven costs, separated into quality
of life concerns and community resource concerns
a condensed version is provided in
Table 23.1. It should be noted that this study focused speci
fically upon community festivals,
where socio-cultural impacts (both positive and negative) may be more widely and keenly
sensed than at other types of events. Nevertheless, it demonstrates the more immediate, tangible
impacts of events but, whilst revealing the diversity of such impacts that might be experienced
by the host community, the principal contribution of this research is to the e
ffective management
and planning of events. Consequently, Delamere
et al. (2001: 22) suggest,
as community leaders and festival organizers become more aware of the needs and priorities
of the community, they can better respond to community concerns and work together to
maintain an appropriate balance between the social bene
fits and social costs that emanate
from community festivals.
Socio-cultural impacts of events

What is not generally explored in the extant literature is the potential for longer-term cultural
transformations within host communities, nor indeed amongst individuals and groups beyond
the host community. In other words, although some commentators consider non-host community perceptions of events (Deccio and Baloglu 2002), the perceptions of event organizers
et al. 2004) or socio-cultural impacts experienced by participants (Shipway and Jones
2008), the predominant focus of the research on the host community has tended to exclude
other dimensions. Therefore, as suggested earlier in this chapter, in order to fully understand the
potential socio-cultural impacts of events there is a need for a multi-dimensional approach to
research which recognizes the complexity of stakeholder relationships as well as the potential for
longer-term, less tangible impacts that may well fall outside the control or in
fluence of event
managers and organizers. It is to this multi-dimensional perspective that this chapter now turns.
Multi-dimensional perspectives on socio-cultural impacts
As discussed in the preceding sections, the scope and diversity of potential socio-cultural impacts
of events has long been recognized, as has the need to manage such impacts. However, the
consideration of impacts within a somewhat parochial events management context has, arguably,
served to focus attention on tangible, manageable impacts. Conversely, relatively few attempts
have been made to explore the potential for longer-term socio-cultural transformations and
impacts within a broader non-management context; that is, attention has primarily been focused
inwardly on the management of events themselves rather than outwards on the world in which
events take place. However, as Picard and Robinson (2006: 4) argue,
festivals, while containing
worlds, also open out and spill over into
outsideworlds and their multiple dimensions can only
be understood by taking into consideration the di
fferent realties of these outside worlds. The
Table 23.1 Socio-cultural impacts of events
Social benefits Social costs
Community bene
fits Quality of life concerns
Celebration of community Increased crime/vandalism
Enhanced community identity Unacceptable increase in vehicular/pedestrian traf
Enhanced community image Overcrowding
Increased community cohesion Litter/ecological damage
increased community well-being Reduced privacy
Improved quality of community life Disruption to normal routines
Individual pride through participation Unacceptable noise levels
Shared ideas amongst community Overuse of community facilities
Cultural/educational benefits Community resource concerns
Experience of new activities Increased disagreement within community
Participants learn new things Event is
all work no play
Event showcases new ideas Excessive demand on community human resources
Development of cultural skills/talents Highlights cultural stereotypes
Exposure to new cultural experiences Unequal sharing of bene
fits of the event
Strengthening of community friendships Weakened community identity
Lasting positive cultural impact Excessive demand on community
financial resources
Achievement of common community goals Potential sense of failure within community
Source: adapted from Delamere et al. (2001).
Richard Sharpley and Philip R. Stone

same may be said of events more generally (festivals generally being defined as a specific manifestation
of event). As signi
ficant as the management imperative might be in order to ensure that desired
fits are achieved, the socio-cultural consequences of events can only be understood fully by
relating the analysis to the various
realtiesof the world beyond the social, economic, political and
environmental con
fines of the event itself. In short, in order to identify more completely the
potential extent of the socio-cultural impacts of events, a multi-dimensional approach is required.
Of course, as with the analysis of the more speci
fic, tangible impacts, it is both difficult and
inappropriate to generalize both the broader, perhaps intangible impacts and the realities of the
external worlds of events. Not only are events in
finitely variable in character and purpose, but
also di
fferent external realities will be more or less relevant to different events. For example, and
as discussed in the case study below, the impacts of explicitly gay and lesbian events, such as
s Mardi Gras, on participants, spectators, local communities, host places and the meaning
of the events themselves (Hughes 2006) are directly related to a dynamic cultural, political
(and legal) context with respect to homosexual communities in particular and sexuality more
generally. As Markwell (2002: 96) notes,
just as places and their meanings and interpretations are constructed out of processes that
flect the dynamic, often contested power relations between the social and cultural groups
occupying those places, so Mardi Gras continues to emerge from a dynamic mix of
contested views and philosophical positions.
Nevertheless, most, if not all, events occur in a world that is, according to Picard and
Robinson (2006: 2), characterized by
structural change, social mobility and globalisation
, referred to more generally by some as globalization (Held and McGrew 2000) and
by others as the condition of postmodernity (Harvey 1989). However labelled (a full consideration of these alleged processes is beyond the scope of this chapter, but see Sharpley 2008),
these transformations are typically manifested in or, more precisely, bring about, amongst other
things, cultural dislocation, a loss of self-identity and a sense of
placelessness(Relph 1976) or
anomie. Therefore, individuals, communities or speci
fic social groups within contemporary
societies seek meaning, authenticity and identity; this, in turn, may go some way to explaining
the rapid increase in both the number of events being organized and hosted in recent years and
their growing popularity amongst visitors (MacLeod 2006). For host communities, events or
festivals provide an opportunity to re-assert or re-invent cultural identity where
systems of symbolic continuity are challenged by the realities of new social, economic and
political environments
(Picard and Robinson 2006: 2). A widely cited example of this is the
city of Glasgow which, through its
reignas the 1990 European City of Culture, was able to
re-invent itself as a post-industrial cultural city (Garcia 2005), though innumerable other places/
communities have followed a similar process at a smaller, more local scale. For visitors or
tourism more generally being seen by some as a search for meaning or authenticity
(MacCannell 1989; Wang 1999)
festivals and events may be perceived as offering the
opportunity for authentic experiences. The extent to which they do so remains the subject of
intense debate, yet the ever increasing
supplyof events feeds a growing demand for such
The important point is that events in general, and their inherent meanings, processes and
social relationships in particular, can be better understood by locating their analysis in the context of their dynamic outside worlds. In other words, the external context provides an essential
multi-dimensional framework for exploring the socio-cultural impacts of events. Inevitably,
fferent external realities will be of greater or less relevance to different kinds of events. For
Socio-cultural impacts of events

example, religious events, whether one-off events, regular festivals/rituals held in recognized
locations (or, as Shackley (2001: 101) refers to them,
nodalevents) or linearevents, such as
pilgrimages, the socio-cultural impacts on participants, spectators, local communities and others
must be considered within the context of understandings of di
fferent religions, the significance
of the event within local culture, transformations in the signi
ficance or meanings of religion
(or spirituality), particularly within postmodern, secularized cultures, and so on. Research has
demonstrated, for instance, that visitors to particular sacred sites and events behave and respond
fferently according to their particular faith or belief (Collins-Kreiner and Kliot 2000). Similarly,
the analysis of dark events, termed here
thana-events that is, those festivals and special events
that have commemoration or display of death or the seemingly macabre as a main theme

should be considered within a broader socio-cultural context of post-conventional society
(Stone and Sharpley 2008). In other words, as contemporary societies
demand an open identity
capable of conversation with people of other perspectives in a relatively egalitarian and open
communicative space
(Hyun-Sook 2006: 1), thana-events may provide a temporal and spatial
opportunity to collectively convey moral discourse about particular atrocities, tragedies, or
customs (Stone 2009). For instance, events commemorating wars or battles must be considered
within a framework of national/international politics, history, culture and a broader moral
economy; the commemoration of Gallipoli, for example, is of particular cultural signi
ficance to
both past and present generations of Australian and New Zealanders (Slade 2003). Consequently, each event and its socio-cultural impacts should be considered within its unique
external realties.
However, it is possible to identify three potential impacts or consequences of events that, as
suggested above, lend themselves to multi-dimensional analysis. This list is by no means
exhaustive; nor does space permit a detailed discussion of each. Nevertheless, for the purposes of
this chapter, it serves to demonstrate the breadth of the potential socio-cultural impacts of
events and the bene
fits of a multi-dimensional approach in revealing them.
Events and place identity/meaning
Events of all kinds are being increasingly utilized or promoted as a means of enhancing the
identity of places, both
externallyand internally. Externally, events potentially serve to position
or market places, to distinguish them in a world where places are becoming more similar and
homogenous, and allow them to compete more e
ffectively amongst a variety of stakeholders,
including investors, tourists, policy-makers and so on (Richards and Wilson 2004). The purpose
is typically economic: that is, to regenerate or build the local economy through attracting inward
investment, new businesses or increased tourist visitation and expenditure, though of course
socio-cultural bene
fits may also accrue through, for example, improved infrastructure, amenities
and so on. Internally, the purpose of events and festivals is often primarily socio-cultural, to
celebrate or strengthen local culture and, as a consequence, to enhance a sense of identity
amongst local communities. Such events may also lead to an increase in tourism and associated
economic bene
fits as noted above. Indeed, the growing popularity of events may be explained
by increased numbers of tourists seeking authentic experiences
as well as the inevitable disbenefits associated with the development of tourism yet, as research has shown, festivals and
events may positively enhance community identity (De Bres and Davis 2001).
Beyond these immediate impacts, however, a number of issues deserve attention with respect
to the socio-cultural impacts related to place identity and meaning creation through events. As
is widely considered in the literature, place or, more precisely, place meaning is dependent
upon semiotic truism and the polysemic nature of space. In short, construction of place identity
Richard Sharpley and Philip R. Stone

is not a given, but is a function of three elements, namely: the physical/objective environment;
s experiences of place; and socially constructed meanings of places (Stedman 2003).
Putting it another way, an undi
fferentiated space only becomes a place when we endow it with
(Tuan 1977: 6). This value emanates from both the social constructs of place, or shared
cultural understandings of a particular place, and the conscious choices people make regarding
their use of places (Manzo 2003). Therefore, there is a general need to consider the impacts of
events on place identity and meaning not only from the perspective of di
fferent stakeholders
(visitors, local communities, event participants, event organizers) and non-stakeholders, but also
within a framework of place meaning construction, for it is likely that di
fferent stakeholders will
have di
fferent cultural understanding of places and different reasons for using them. These, in
turn, will re
flect the realities of each stakeholders cultural reality. For example, MacLeod
(2006: 232) suggests that events can remain or become placeless as they become the focus of
interactions between visitors seeking not authentic local culture but
convivial experiences with
similar people converging in the no-space spaces of festival destinations
. In other words, the
place culturally becomes subordinated or irrelevant to the activities of visitors/participants and,
in the extreme, becomes simply the venue for what MacLeod refers to as
global parties. For
local communities, this may mean a loss of identity, or a transformation in identity more closely
aligned with the event. For example, Glastonbury in the UK was traditionally known for its
links with spiritual myth and legend, often being claimed to be the Avalon of King Arthur;
nowadays, however, it is perhaps better known and more widely associated with the annual
music festival and, arguably, the place is consumed as a rite of musicological passage.
Conversely, the cultural identity and meaning of places (and local communities) may come to
flect the event and, consequently, trueculture is replaced by an emphasis on the spectacular
as the preferred experience of the visitor
(MacLeod 2006: 235). Yet, rather than viewing this
negatively, local communities may embrace it as a basis for a reformulation of local culture. For
example, though not related to a speci
fic event, it has been argued that, in Bali, interaction
with tourists and the tourist industry
has become such a central component in the definition
of ethnic identity
that the very presence of masses of tourists is commonly cited by Balinese
as proof of the continued authenticity of their culture
(Wood 1998: 223; also Picard 1995). In
other words, Bali
s culture has evolved into a tourism culture in a process that may potentially
be repeated in event-speci
fic contexts.
Events and social capital
As previously noted, commonly cited socio-cultural benefits of events relate to the development
of community cohesion, the enhancement of community identity or image, the encouragement
of community well-being. In some cases, this might be a primary objective of an event, particularly when it is organized and run at a local level; in other cases, it may be an expected or,
indeed, unexpected by-product of an event. These impacts may also, of course, be negative.
At the time of writing, for example, the controversy surrounding the readiness of the facilities for
the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India may, irrespective of the eventual success of the Games,
impact negatively on the image of the country and its people, both internationally and within the
country itself.
Less attention, however, has been paid to the potential of events to contribute to the development
social capital. Arguably, this is a more fundamental and significant element in the enhancement
of individual and community well-being, yet one which, according to some, is in decline as a
result of the cultural and structural transformations in contemporary societies referred to above
(Putnam 1995). This lack of attention may re
flect the fact that social capital is a rather
Socio-cultural impacts of events

ambiguous concept and, as Arcodia and Whitford (2006) suggest, it is difficult if not impossible
to measure. Nevertheless, the concept of social capital provides a framework for developing a
deeper understanding of the socio-cultural impacts of events on communities.
However, what is social capital? Adler and Kwon (2002: 17) de
fine it as the goodwill that is
engendered by the fabric of social relations and that can be mobilised to facilitate action
Coleman (1988: 98), a notable proponent of social capital, states that
social capital is de
fined by its function. It is not a single entity but a variety of different
entities, with two elements in common: they all consist of some aspect of social structures,
and they facilitate certain actions of actors
within the structure.
In other words, social capital is a resource that arises from relationships or interaction between
people or groups of people
that resource being manifested in, for example, trust, mutual
support and co-operation, or a collective will to work towards particular objectives
and which
create value through actions that result in bene
fits for society. In a sense, therefore, social capital
may be thought of as a form of collective or community spirit embodied in a society generally, or
within speci
fic organizations, groups or institutions, which underpins positive actions for the
fit of society.
The question then is: to what extent can an event facilitate the development of social capital?
Arcodia and Whitford (2006) propose three ways in which this may occur:
building community resources such resources include: skills and knowledge, social links
between community groups, networks, volunteer groups, and so on;
social cohesiveness events provide the opportunity for community members to unite, for
diverse ethnic groups to share experiences and world views, and to give voice to a common
social purpose;
celebration collective participation in a celebratory event may generate a sense of community
spirit, togetherness and goodwill.
Evidently, not all festivals will generate social capital through all of these avenues and, as Arcodia
and Whitford (2006: 15) note,
the development of social capital will only occur in a positive
social environment
; that is, negative impacts may actually diminish social capital. Nevertheless,
social capital represents a potentially fruitful conceptual framework for assessing community social
fits (and costs) of events.
Events and authorized transgression
Festivals and events have long been associated with the creation of liminal times and spaces,
where established social conventions may be temporarily relaxed, suspended or reversed. More
fically, festivals or carnivals have long been recognized as occasions where or when social
rules and mores may be inverted, where particular activities or forms of behaviour that challenge
social hegemony are indulged in and, importantly, temporarily permitted. In other words, a
particular feature of festivity is that it is
related to the idea of transgression of the boundaries and
taboos that de
fine social and symbolic everyday life spaces(Picard and Robinson 2006: 11) and,
moreover, that such transgression is, in a sense authorized. That is, the permitted organization of
an event implies that the behaviour that occurs within the spatial and temporal con
fines of the
event is also permitted or authorized.
Richard Sharpley and Philip R. Stone

Traditionally, such authorized transgression might have been considered a controlled social
safety-valvethat, whilst contravening dominant social convention, did not represent a serious
challenge to political or cultural authority (Humphrey 2001). Indeed, many contemporary
events, from music festivals to carnivals celebrating a particular culture, may be thought of as
continuing this tradition, whilst the creation of speci
fic places, such as theme parks or particular
mass tourist destinations, may be equally considered authorized locations of transgression.
However, the socio-cultural impacts of events may be more signi
ficant than simply acting as a
safety valve, a temporary, but controlled,
letting ones hair down. As post-conventional
societies and cultures become more
fluid and open to change, as notions of acceptable or
authorized behaviour expand, the potential exists for certain events to contribute to social
transformation, to dissolve the boundaries of socially acceptable behaviour and to in
social attitudes and, perhaps, even the law. Indeed, as the following case study suggests, in terms
of heteronormativity and homosexual identity, authorized transgression of event space allows
for the construction of social capital and subsequent privatized meaning, but within a public
(festival) place. Consequently, tensions become apparent within the festival place between
heterosexual hegemonism and a counter-hegemonist perspective of homosexuality.
Pride or prejudice? The case of gay parades and counter-hegemonic
In July 2010, the gay rights organization Stonewall hosted their annual Education for All
conference at the British Library in London and focused upon homophobic issues faced
by young people in the UK. Subsequently, the conference declared that it was
the new
public duty which requires [oneself] to proactively consider and accommodate the needs
of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people and promote equality
(Stonewall 2010). Furthermore, the new Equality Act 2010 in the UK brings together a multiplicity of legislation
aimed at promoting and securing equality, including sexual preference equality. Yet,
despite the increasing acceptance of homosexuality, certainly in secular societies over the
past few decades or so, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals still
suffer from a level of prejudice, either in society in general, or the workplace in particular,
not afforded to heterosexual counterparts. Indeed, throughout history, homosexuality has
been viewed as not only socially deviant but also criminal under a variety of sodomy and
sumptuary laws. However, since the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York a LGBT rights
movement, often referred to as
gay pride, has emerged to promote cultural goals which
include, but are not limited to, challenging dominant constructions of masculinity, femininity and homophobia, and the primacy of the gendered heterosexual nuclear family, or
heteronormativity (Bernstein 2002). Indeed, the LGBT rights movement uses the term
prideas an antonym for shame, which throughout history has been used to socially
and religiously control and oppress homosexual activity. As part of the challenging process, gay pride as a concept suggests that LGBT individuals should be proud of their
sexual orientation and gender identity. Moreover, the modern gay pride movement has
resulted in Gay Pride parades
organized hyperbole spectacles of music, costumes, and
general showing off
that aim to affirm the homosexual Self within broader society.
Presently, Gay Pride parades as mass participant events are held in many major cities and
other urban spaces across the world, including Sydney, London and San Francisco. These
in turn not only help expose LGBT inequality and broader homophobia within
contemporary society, but also create a valorized branded space for the creation of
homosexual identity. Thus, Gay Pride events throughout the world are carnivalesque
Socio-cultural impacts of events

constructions of gendered identity, allowing the temporary upsetting of the cultural order
and social mores with loud laughter, bawdy songs,
flamboyant costumes and lots of
alcohol. As a result, Gay Pride events permit authorized
queer placesof social acceptance
for individuals, as well as mercantile returns for the host. As McCarthy (2011: 141) notes,
the gay market has been de
fined largely through the concept of the Pink Pound and an
emphasis upon hedonistic consumption where
desire has been appropriated as a motive
that is predominately sexual
Consequently, Gay Pride events offer the LGBT Self a semiotic and authorized opportunity to (re)af
firm sexual orientation through ritually transgressing polysemic spaces. In
doing so, LGBT individuals both construct and draw upon a social capital of sexual identity by attempting to create social cohesiveness within a framework of celebration and
candidness. However, Gay Pride parades are also microcosms of broader tensions within
society, which according to Tomsen and Markwell (2007) have resulted in a steady
undercurrent of hostility, abuse and unreported violent attacks by non-gays against LGBT
individuals at Gay Pride events, particularly in the aftermath of the actual parades. Moreover, the political or religious elite often voice opposition to such events. For example, the
inaugural Gay Pride parade in Bratislava, Slovakia, in May 2010 attracted
fierce condemnation by anti-gay demonstrators who branded event participants deviantand
perverts(Brocklebank 2010). Furthermore, Jan Slota, who is head of the Slovak National
a coalition partner in Prime Minister Robert Ficos government reportedly stated
that he would attend the parade personally,
in order to spit(Brocklebank 2010). His
corrosive comment, according to Brocklebank, drew little criticism from other leading
politicians in a largely Catholic country.
Figure 23.1 Conceptualizing Gay Pride parades: homosexual identity within a heterosexual
Richard Sharpley and Philip R. Stone

Of course, the dichotomy between homosexual victimhood and heterosexual aggression is
complex, and cannot arbitrarity be assigned to the Gay Pride parade phenomenon.
Indeed, such discussions are beyond the scope of this chapter. Nevertheless, what is
apparent is the discord between those with hegemonic power, which arguably is possessed
predominately by those of heteronormativity persuasion, and those with a counter-hegemonic
that is, the LGBT Self. Despite legislative and educative attempts in various
countries to secure and promote tolerance for homosexuals, bisexuals, and transsexuals, it
is within this multi-dimensional analysis of hegemonic dissonance and the broader cultural condition of society that Gay Pride events are largely conducted. Nonetheless,
despite obvious inherent tensions between those who occupy an anti-gay platform (and
who may be event observers), and those who are gay or transsexual (and who are the event
participants), Gay Pride parades offer participants (and even observers) a unique opportunity
to construct a speci
fic social capital. Ultimately, this in turn may help sustain homosexual
identity and meaning within a dominant heterosexual hegemony (Figure 23.1).
Concluding remarks
As events by their very nature are conducted within temporal and spatial boundaries, this chapter
has encapsulated fundamental socio-cultural impacts from the organization, planning and performance of such events. Indeed, the chapter sought to clarify particular impacts of events and, in
doing so, has suggested that event socio-cultural consequences are
firmly grounded within the
broader and well-established tourism literature. As tourism may be simply de
fined as the movement
of people
, then events are simply the gathering of people that result from such a movement. Of
course, any such movement and gatherings of people require multi-dimensional analyses in order
to determine broader business management and social scienti
fic issues. Thus, with regard to the
latter, this chapter has suggested that events, and particularly mass participant events, have sociocultural consequences in common. Speci
fically, these revolve around notions of place identity/
meaning, social capital and authorized transgressions. Indeed, by locating events and their
inherent socio-cultural impacts within a paradigm of external realities, such as the example given
to Gay Pride parades, then event organizers have the opportunity not only to manage the actual
event, but also to understand and appreciate any event impacts and eclectic interrelationships with
the cultural condition of society.
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