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Festival hiatus, resilience and innovation during COVID-19: learnings from the Edinburgh festivals

Ali-Knight, Jane; Kerr, Gary; Stewart, Hannah; Holmes, Kirsten


Hannah Stewart

Kirsten Holmes


In this paper, we explore how Edinburgh’s key Festivals have adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their response presents the emergence of more innovative festival delivery models and a different imagining of the festival space.

Design/methodology/ approach
We use a qualitative mixed methods research design involving 13 in-depth semi-structured interviews with Edinburgh’s Festival Directors and other cultural and policy stakeholders as part of a University--funded stand-alone research project. The interviews were supplemented with participant observation at festivals virtually and in-person to experience new and emerging formats of festival content delivery, adherence to Scottish Government guidelines on COVID-19 safety, and to experience attending festivals during a pandemic.

We present findings on how Edinburgh’s Festivals have responded to COVID-19 and how they have adapted – and in some cases reimagined - their business models to survive.

We propose a new theoretical framework that establishes a model for how festivals can approach risk management within their business model, focused on the “3R’s” – Respond, Resilience, and Reimagine - with Communication and Support being central to this framework.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 23, 2023
Online Publication Date Jun 6, 2023
Publication Date 2023-06
Deposit Date Mar 27, 2023
Publicly Available Date Jun 6, 2023
Journal International Journal of Event and Festival Management
Print ISSN 1758-2954
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 14
Issue 2
Pages 170-188
Keywords Edinburgh Festivals, Covid-19, Hiatus, innovation, festival life-cycles


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