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Exploring notions of sustainability in the context of the performing arts festival

Zifkos, Georgios (2017) Exploring notions of sustainability in the context of the performing arts festival. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

The backdrop of this thesis is the emerging phenomenon of the sustainable festival. Namely, an increasing number of performing arts festival organisers, worldwide, are currently claiming that they can recognise and, essentially, address some of the perceived inherently negative externalities of their events. In trying to remedy the unfavourable impacts of their events they incorporate the notion of sustainability into the strategic mission and practical management of these festivals. By calling attention to their sustainability credentials and exercising particular interpretations of the concept, they either label their festivals as sustainable or emphatically promote the events’ contribution to sustainability. In doing so, they seem to become part of a coalition of actors that are committed to confronting some of the major global challenges facing contemporary society. Nevertheless, the discourse over sustainability has been bound to the power effects and processes of establishment appropriation and institutionalisation, which have led to particular understandings and practical translations of its concept. Such processes, along with the policy tools that these convey, have reportedly been responsible for a systematic delimitation of the once plastic, diverse, and open-ended visions of sustainability, defining what counts as sustainability and what does not. As this thesis will argue, these effects have significantly restricted the possibility for alternative understandings of sustainability to emerge from the lower layers of social organisation. The conceptualisation of sustainability as a template for absolute, top-down policy action, however, may be anathema to an institution such as the festival, which is assumed to have a “transformative, transgressive and even revolutionary role” (Bianchini and Maughan, 2015, p.243) in society. Sustainable performing arts festivals have been mushrooming in number and genres, yet the topic of sustainability has rarely been discussed in a conceptual framework within the relevant bodies of literature. This thesis aims to problematise current sustainability understandings and practice, as well as offer provocations to think afresh about its concept in the particular context of the festival. It will provide conceptual coverage to a developing academic field and also add a unique, critical voice to a discipline dominated by studies that tend to rest upon largely managerialist approaches to sustainability. Rather than relying on powerful constructs of sustainability, this thesis will try to gain access to and articulate festival participants’ perceptions and experiences of processes and praxes that provide the possibilities for flourishing festival contexts. The main research question asks: What does it mean for the performing arts festival to contribute to the achievement of a desired future for the festival and its surrounding social context, that is to say, for it to be a sustainable festival?

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: sustainability; sustainable development; festival; music festival; performing arts
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > Performance and Cultural Industries (Leeds)
Depositing User: Mr Georgios Zifkos
Date Deposited: 27 Oct 2017 13:10
Last Modified: 27 Oct 2017 13:10
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/18397

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