The world turned upside down? Cities, festivalization and uncertainty

Gold, John Robert and Gold, Margaret (2021) The world turned upside down? Cities, festivalization and uncertainty. Built Environment, 47 (3). pp. 417-431. ISSN 0263-7960


The rapid proliferation of festivals experienced by cities round the world over the last four decades was brought to a sudden halt in early 2020 by the coronavirus pandemic. Planned gatherings ranging from local arts festivals to global megaevents were summarily abandoned, postponed, or converted to digital alternatives. This paper opens with a contextual introduction. The ensuing section considers the reasons for the seemingly unfettered proliferation and festivalization that had occurred pre-COVID-19, but indicates that problems had already arisen over appropriation of public space, overtourism and security before the current crisis. The next part surveys the pandemic’s impact on the urban festival sector to date. With reference to the megaevents planned for 2020 and a series of case studies of arts festivals. it notes responses ranging from whole or partial cancellations to implementation of wholly digital options. The conclusion argues that the continuing importance of physical congregation in designated places must be recognized, contending that this is enhanced rather than challenged by the rise of digital alternatives.

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