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Semiotics of Edinburgh’s Festival City Place-Myth: Management and Community Stakeholders’ Visual Representations of Festival Spaces

Todd, Louise



Andrew Smith

Guy Osborn

Bernadette Quinn


This chapter explores how two distinct strategic management and local community stakeholder groups engage with a festival city through their visual portrayals of spaces. Informed by festival city discourses and a hallmark event tourism stakeholder typology, it considers the semiotics of Edinburgh’s place-myth, as the ‘world’s leading festival city’. Today, eleven annual city-based festivals form the Festivals Edinburgh strategic umbrella organisation; they attract 4.5 million attendances from 70 countries worldwide; and they generate £313 million for Scotland’s economy. Edinburgh’s evolution as the festival city has seen destination managers’ leveraging its festivals to drive event tourism. Indeed, recent strategies recommend sustaining Edinburgh’s festival city status and promotion of its brand worldwide. Nevertheless, contemporary discourses have witnessed residents and media criticise commercial agendas of staging year-round festivals in Edinburgh’s historic centre; with accusations of destination managers’ commodification of these, marking Edinburgh as ‘the city for sale’. Semiotics uncovers layers of meaning and myth through studying systems of ‘signs’. This chapter applies a semiotic lens to stakeholders’ perspectives of Edinburgh as the festival city. It draws from digital images shared by destination management stakeholders, then from a participative visual map of the festival city. The map was co-created by community members of Wester Hailes, which is in South West Edinburgh, outside the central festival area. In terms of findings, projected and portrayed imagery from both stakeholder groups displayed shared semiotic characteristics of the festival city construct. Nevertheless, the distribution of imagery across urban space in the city varied between the groups. In exploring management and community stakeholders’ images of signs, and spaces, the chapter reflects upon the idealised view of the festival city, alongside its socio-cultural environment of inclusion and accessibility. Furthermore, it uncovers the semiotic narratives that sustain the visual culture, consumption, and place-myth of the festival city.

Online Publication Date Aug 23, 2022
Publication Date Aug 23, 2022
Deposit Date Sep 6, 2022
Publicly Available Date Sep 7, 2022
Publisher University of Westminster Press
Pages 187-208
Book Title Festivals and the City: The Contested Geographies of Urban Events
Chapter Number 11
ISBN 978-1-915445-01-8
Keywords stakeholders, place-myth, semiotics, festival city, Edinburgh
Public URL
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