Social network analysis and festival relationships: personal, organisational and strategic connections

D.S.R. Jarman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Social network analysis and festival relationships: personal, organisational and strategic connections

In the world of festivals and creative communities, relationships matter. Festival managers and producers understand the overlapping links, both professional and private, amongst their colleagues. Freelancers and graduates developing their careers appreciate that opportunities may come by way of personal connections. The future success of entire festival organisations can depend on forging, maintaining and exploiting associations with collaborators, suppliers and allies. Academic literature in the field of festival studies has sought to better understand the interpersonal dimension of these events, from different conceptual standpoints, in a range of contexts. However, in this festival environment there remains an opportunity, if not a need, to establish the place of network-based research methods and perspectives in the development of academic and industry understandings of social relationships. Networks underpin these connections and communities, from simple ties between pairs of people, to complex webs spanning hundreds of individuals, venues, performing companies, supply chains and audience members.

This book is a response to the situation, an answer to the research question: “What can social network analysis, and a network-orientated perspective, contribute to understanding the relationships within festival and creative communities?”. The work also has personal significance for the author, who was previously employed within the creative industries, and now teaches International Festival & Event Management students at Edinburgh Napier University, in Scotland. A key challenge of writing this book has been to demonstrate that an instinctive general appreciation of how important festival networks are can in fact be examined, illustrated and discussed. A range of projects have helped with this, using different approaches to social network analysis, in a range of contexts. Surveys gathered data from people within organisations, which was illustrated through network diagrams and statistical analysis by specialist software. Interviews were also used, to uncover personal stories and experiences of a networked life. This book is one of the most comprehensive attempts to apply different forms of social network analysis in the festival and creative communities.

Key conclusions include showing that social network analysis has the flexibility to present individual stories and experiences, amongst a bigger picture of connections that stretch beyond any single person’s view. The book has shown that a better understanding of networks can help to inform other academic research, such as that focused on stakeholder groupings, social capital, the importance of place, and the network society. There are also benefits to those living and working in these networked communities, as this book is based on critical realist PhD work that has an “emancipatory” dimension: if people are better informed about their social position and opportunities, they are in a stronger position to make advantageous life choices. Finally, this book presents arguments for a “network theory of festivals”, to help show how the work can inform the development, management, experience and understanding of these events.

The main recommendations to emerge from this work are in two categories. Academically, more use of social network analysis can support and inspire work in new contexts, opening up future research opportunities, such as a focus on network flows as well as network structures. For the festival and events industry, managers who have a better understanding of their organisations’ social networks can make more informed decisions about recruitment, training, team development, resource allocation, creative development, and their links to external stakeholders. The relationship between an organisation’s organic social network on one hand, and its formal hierarchies and departments on the other, often remains hidden, yet it can be highly revealing and of strategic benefit. To all those pursuing a career in festivals, it is recommended that they find ways to appreciate what their network can offer, and consider how they might use their connections to the benefit of all.

Grateful thanks go to all the project collaborators and research participants who contributed to this book, including the doctoral work that led to its completion. Thanks are also due to the co-authors and editors that I have worked with throughout my research career. Permission to re-print the text and figures from existing publications has been confirmed from the publishers, with particular acknowledgement due to the Leisure Studies Association and Economia della Cultura who hosted my work long before I had ambitions to develop my research into a PhD.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
  • Richards, Greg, Promotor
  • Ali-Knight, J., Promotor, External person
  • Leenders, Roger, Member PhD commission
  • McPherson, G., Member PhD commission, External person
  • Wood, E., Member PhD commission, External person
  • Hitters, H.J.C.J., Member PhD commission
Award date1 Sept 2022
Place of PublicationTilburg
Print ISBNs978-94-6167-480-7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2022


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