Séverin GUILLARD, Université Picardie Jules Verne, France
David MCGILLIVRAY, University of the West of Scotland, United Kingdom
Over the past few decades, festivals and events held in public spaces have become a valuable tool in the development strategies of cities in the Global North. While these strategies have garnered praise for regenerating urban economies (Jakob, 2013, Lowes, 2002), they have generated criticism for producing negative impacts for local residents. The staging of events in streets, squares and parks has led to controversies over the status of public spaces in contemporary cities, and the role that citizens should play in their governance. These controversies generate several questions, including: ‘which stakeholders have a voice in these debates?, ‘how can they influence how urban public spaces are managed?’, ‘how have the debates been influenced by the crisis initiated by the COVID-19 pandemic?
In this presentation, we explore these issues through the case of Edinburgh, Scotland. Since the 1950s, Edinburgh as been an emblematic case of a Festival City (Gold and Gold, 2020), with many festivals held in the city in the summer (the Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe…) and more recently during winter (Edinburgh Christmas and Hogmanay). While these events originally asserted the role of Edinburgh in international relations (Jamieson, 2004), they have gradually become a tool for generating economic benefits by developing the visitor economy. However, recently, the growing number of events have been accused of contributing to overtourism while restricting access to public spaces for local residents. In this presentation, we outline how these urban controversies emerged both the media and political arenas. We argue that, far from representing a ‘natural’ uprising, they were the outcome of coordinated action involving a network of local organisations which collaborated online and offline. This expression of connective action pressured the local state and its partners to re-evaluate its strategy, a process that was facilitated by new arguments provided by the pandemic.
Mots clés : festivals|public space|power relations|collective action