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The politics of participation : Burning Man and British festival culture

Yeganegy, Roxanne (2012) The politics of participation : Burning Man and British festival culture. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Numerous industry reports and publications have acknowledged the dramatic transformation of the British music festival industry over the last two decades, with the emergence of what has been described as a new 'boutique' model in festival production. Using a selection of boutique events, this study reveals a nexus of British events culturally aligned with the 'No Spectators' ethos of Nevada's Burning Man. How far it is possible to claim that the politics of Burning Man has transformed participation at festivals in Britain, is a question central to this investigation. Documenting the emergence of a transatlantic politics of participation, this study explores the relationship between Nevada's Burning Man and British festival culture. Firstly, a theoretical chapter surveys literature from interdisciplinary fields, identifying concepts previously utilized in the interpretation of festival and carnival forms. This analysis exposes the differences in audience engagement implied by contrasting carnival types, which form key conceptual frameworks throughout the investigation. Following this preliminary, a discussion of the concert-model event reveals the impetus for 'No Spectators' and critiques uniform interpretations of festival audiences as 'active'. Through the discussion of its milieu, production values and interpretive discourses, an examination of Burning Man exposes a fusion ofparticipative precept and praxis. Retaining a set of indicators for extreme participation, a detailed case study investigation of Cambridgeshire's Secret Garden Party exemplifies an attempt at achieving a similar synthesis. The idealizing discourse of Secret Garden Party is presented as a form of positioning that, despite producing a broader posture of authenticity that rejects commoditization and sponsorship, is subordinated by commercial necessity. Underlining Britain's inevitable de-radicalization of 'No Spectators', these findings are contextualized by a critical examination of the contemporary festival industry and boutique sector, concluding with an action-research-based analysis of the author's own festival, Raisetheroof. The assumption that the participative doctrine of Burning Man is active beyond the boundaries of its own official international network is confirmed by the investigation. The placement of this event as exclusively responsible for the reproduction of 'No Spectators' outside of Secret Garden Party is, however, presented as problematic. This study concludes by recognizing a synergy of demographic, economic and cultural factors responsible both for the emergence of the boutique festival industry, and the idealization of participation discernable within it.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of Music (Leeds)
The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > Performance and Cultural Industries (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.577532
Depositing User: Ethos Import
Date Deposited: 20 Jan 2015 12:17
Last Modified: 23 Apr 2015 12:07
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/6759

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