Byronas Festival “In the Shadows of Rocks”
Local governments are being called upon to exploit festivals, in order to achieve important goals such as urban regeneration, city branding, cultural production, social cohesion, intercultural dialogue promotion and job creation.
Marketing orientation within the frames of the festivals that includes visitor orientation (knowledge about the visitors’ needs and preferences), strategy development (evolution of a strategic plan) and strategy implementation (the actions to turn the strategic plan into operational actions) is crucial to meeting the municipal goals above.
Byronas festival which was first established in 1987, is considered to be a success - story that could serve as municipal festival benchmark in Greece.
Festivals, local government, urban marketing, urban regeneration, marketing, management, city branding, social cohesion, urban regeneration, cultural production, social cohesion, intercultural dialogue and job creation.
People, no matter their cultural background and age, recognize the need to dedicate time and space to collective creation and community celebration, through festivals and a great range of events. Originating in ancient Greece (with the Olympian-, Isthmian-, Panathenaian-, Delian- etc. Games)[i], festivals have played a determinant role in the public or private, the religious or worldly sphere, throughout the centuries.
As cohesive groups of interrelated cultural events, festivals aim at conveying the sense of the extraordinary into the current flow of cultural mass production (Klaic, 2006:54). Furthermore, they constitute a vehicle of expression of the close relation between identity and region (Τurner, 1982:11), and their number which has increased significantly (Lee, Lee & Wicks, 2004:61), points to a rapidly developing market in every continent. This phenomenon is multi-sided, and consists of both factors affecting supply (cultural planning, tourism development and differentiation of local governments’ orientation) and demand (recreation, lifestyles, social needs and desire for creative and authentic experiences) (Prentice & Andersen, 2005:8).
This article builds on the work undertaken by Pugh C. & Wood E.H. (2004) The Strategic Use of Events within Local Government: a Study of London Borough Councils, Event Management, 9, 61-71 into the strategic or operational use of events within the marketing plans of London Borough Councils which recommended that a more “strategic” marketing orientation within the Councils was preferable, the focus is still operational and ad hoc, resulting in missed opportunities.
Based on that research framework, and on in - depth interviews and observation research techniques, we going to address that local governments can use festivals to promote certain municipal concepts such as urban regeneration, city branding, cultural production, social cohesion, intercultural dialogue and job creation, providing that they are marketing oriented.
Within the framework of urban marketing (Van der Berg et al, 1999), festivals become strategic tools, through which modern cities seek to promote themselves as creative destinations and gain a competitive advantage in the world map. As a result, festivals gradually become established as the basic components of orchestrated local, regional and national strategies (Deffner & Liouris, 2005:6).
Due to the fact that the thematic field of festivals grows and matures, letting researchers characterize this phenomenon as festivalisation (Thundering Hooves, 2006:16), the study of festivals is on the boundary between cultural production and research on the cultural policy today (Klaic, 2006:55). Of great interest is the local governments’ role in the festival market evolution, as they serve as gate-keepers as well as decision-makers on if, when, where and how festivals take place (Larson, 2002, Getz & Frisby, 1990:78). Additionally, the majority of festivals seem to be held under the umbrella of local governments.
Therefore, city-makers (local governments) are increasingly being called upon to provide support to or organize festivals and exploit them as strategic tools to promote urban regeneration, city branding, cultural production, social cohesion, intercultural dialogue and job creation, taking for granted that marketing orientation is the core of their philosophy.
Marketing Orientation has the following three dimensions:
· Visitor Orientation (knowledge about the visitors’ needs and preferences)
· Strategy Development (evolution of a strategic plan) and
· Strategy Implementation (the actions to turn the strategic plan into operational actions) (Ruekert, 1992:227).
The Urban Regeneration concept, as a comprehensive and integrated vision and action to address urban problems through a lasting improvement in the economic, physical, social and environmental condition of an area (Roberts and Sykes, 2000) incorporate cultural events and festivals in its theoretical and practical scheme (Robertson & Wardrop, 2004:116).
City Branding which is based on four main pillars (brand awareness, perceived quality of the brand, brand associations and brand loyalty) (Aaker and Joachimsthaler, 2000) is understood as the means both for achieving competitive advantage in order to increase inward investments and tourism, and also for achieving community development, reinforcing local identity and identification of the citizens with their city and activating all social forces to avoid social exclusion and unrest (Kavaratzis, 2004).
Festivals play a wide range of roles, the main of which is to support cultural groups and local identity (Crespi-Vallbona & Richards, 2007:103). They are considered as field for cultural innovation, due to the fact that festival organizers frequently promote an alternative lifestyle and ideal ways of action (Laundry, 2006:32), as well as meeting points of local cultural identities, pop culture and official national cultures (Lentz, 2001).
Festivals express the inner thoughts and the strong beliefs of a community in a symbolic way and continue its history and tradition (Hede & Rentschler, 2007:157), empower its social and cultural identity by strengthening community bonds (Gursoy, Kim & Uysal, 2004:173) and forming a communication channel through which social information flows (Chwe, 1998). Additionally, festival participants demonstrate their commitment to being active members of the community – good citizens, a potential partners in mutually reciprocal relationships (Gursoy, Kim & Uysal, 2004:173).
Because of their geographical expansion and their penetration to an increasing audience, many festivals bring together artists and participants with different national backgrounds, contributing to mutual understanding and cultural cooperation.[i]
Festivals create primary jobs (artistic staff, management staff, technical staff e.t.c. that work for the festival), secondary jobs, due to the their positive effects on commerce and tourism (Festival Tourism) (O’ Sullivan & Jackson, 2002:328), and tertiary jobs as there are many festival landscapes which attract business establishment because of their cultural character and atmosphere (Mitchell & Wall, 1989:31).
Byronas Festival “In the Shadow of the Rocks”
Byronas Festival “In the Shadow of the Rocks”[ii] first established in 1987, is annually held (June to September) at the ex open quarry of Ergani, in the border between the city of Byronas and the city of Ymittos (east suburb of Athens).
Byronas was one of the main cities where the Greek refugees of Asia Minor settled in after the Asia Minor Catastrophe in 1922. Its population mainly consisted of workers.
In 1981, the open quarry of Ergani hosted the ancient Greek drama “Mideia” directed by Minos Volonakis (Vasilakopoulou, 2008:75) pointing to the regeneration of the area through culture and its alternative use as outdoor theatre (“Melina Merkouri” and “Anna Synodinou” theatre).
Almost a quarter century after its launching, Byronas Festival has won great recognition as a very popular festival of performing arts on a national scale while it has recently made some steps toward its internalization (Vasilakopoulou, 2008: 85). Since 1987, it has certainly gained the interest of an increasing audience[iii] as well as intensive media coverage and strong sponsorship response rates (Vasilakopoulou, 2008:96) and according to the Mayor of Byronas Nikos Hardalias, it has become the trademark of the Municipality of Byronas cultural identity[iv]
During the 23rd Byronas Festival festival, the Communication, Media and Culture Department of the Panteion University of Athens organized the “Festival Management: tendencies, evolution and challenges for local governments”[v] conference, aiming at establishing the dialogue between academics, local authorities and festival managers.
Despite the financial crisis that has struck in Greece, as well as in the rest of Europe, the festival undoubtedly succeeded in ticket numbers. Many of its performances were “sold-out”, while the total number of visitors exceeded 1 million. The audience loyalty in spite of the harsh conditions of the macro – environment, is considered as a strong evidence of its success in conjunction with the intensive media coverage and strong sponsorship response rates.
In order to test the research hypothesis that with a marketing orientation the local government of Byronas could use festivals as strategic tools to promote urban regeneration, city branding, cultural production, social cohesion, intercultural dialogue, job creation and economic growth, we take advantage of the following research scheme that includes primary research techniques (qualitative - observation and in depth-interviews with questionnaires) which were used in order to gather first-hand data, that was further supplemented by the analysis of relevant documentation.
In depth interviews were used to elicit a vivid picture of the key – persons’ perspective on the given research topic. Key – persons are considered to be the Mayor of Byronas, the Municipality of Byronas Cultural Centre President and the Municipality of Byronas Cultural Centre Managing Director. As a result, six in depth interviews took place (two per key – person), with a total duration of six hours (two per key – person).
The main aim of the interviews was to describe and analyze the relationship between the marketing orientation of the festival and some municipal goals, such as urban regeneration, city branding, cultural production, social cohesion, intercultural dialogue, job creation and economic growth.
All participants were asked the same questions that were categorized into four main groups:
1. Description of the festival
2. Marketing orientation of the festival
3. Relationship with urban regeneration / city branding / cultural production / social cohesion / intercultural dialogue /job creation .
In order to co-ordinate the “Festival Management: tendencies, evolution and challenges for local governments” conference, a close cooperation between the two organizations (Municipality of Byronas Cultural Centre and Communication, Media and Culture Department of the Panteion University) was needed. During a period of 9 months (October 2009 – June 2010), 30 meetings took place in the Municipality of Byronas Cultural Centre offices, and 1 in the digital radio and TV lab of the Media and Culture Department of the Panteion University.
Participant observation of the workplace, the festival executives’ roles and the work practices during that period, contributed to a deep understanding of the festival backstage and the management operations.
All the participants answered that:
· Audience research is undertaken in order to get a clear picture of the audience needs and preferences.
· The main goal of the festival strategy is revenue increase and audience increase as well as artistic quality.
· Market research techniques are used as well as behavior studies of the audience.
The majority of them thought that:
· Marketing strategy aids the financial success and the festival success as a whole.
· The artistic quality of the festival is not endangered because of its marketing orientation.
According to the in – depth interviews’ answers, as well as the participatory observation’s results, the festival is proven to have positive impacts on the following municipal goals:
1. Urban Regeneration
The city is now famous because of its festival and open theatres, and has managed to fight against serious city problems (such as lack of free space and cultural establishment).
2. City - Branding
The Byronas festival is proven to be a strong attribute to the city’s brand name. It worth mentioning that it was a pivotal element to the city application for the European Youth Capital 2012. The Byronas application was as one of the three shortlisted applications of among 10 European cities as one of the three shortlisted.
3. Cultural Production
Examining the festival programming since it was first organized, it is clear that it aggregates several performances of high artistic quality.
4. Social Cohesion
The municipal staff, the elected officials, as well as the residents, are proud of the Byronas festival.
5. Intercultural Dialogue
Festival programming has included performances with non- Greek artists for the last 7 seven years.
6. Job Creation
Twenty full – time and five part-time job positions have been created because of the festival.
As far as marketing orientation is concerned, the Byronas festival seems to:
1. Have a clear visitor orientation, taking into consideration audience research results.
2. Follow a coherent development strategy mainly aiming at revenue increase and audience increase in conjunction with the maintenance of the artistic quality.
3. Implement an orchestrated strategic plan, which includes a. market research, b. audience’s behavior study.
What is more, the organizers’ attitude towards marketing could be described positive, due to the fact that:
1. Marketing is considered to be important factor of a festival success in general.
2. Marketing contributes to a festival’s financial success.
3. Marketing certainly does not jeopardize the artistic quality of a festival. On the contrary, artistic quality is further promoted.
Because of its certain orientation, the Byronas festival is proven to aid the following municipal goals:
1. Urban Regeneration
Byronas which used to be a refugee and working - class city, facing economic and social problems associated with its character, was transformed because of the cultural re-use of the open quarry of Ergani and the establishment of the festival.
2. City - Branding
The city is now famous because of its festival across the country and abroad, and it attracts not only visitors because of the festivals but also the interest of artists, sponsors and media throughout the year. The Byronas festival serves as a competitive cultural brand name.
3. Cultural Production
Due to its penetration among the artistic community, the festival has gained their trust so as to be one of the most preferable cultural events to host their artistic creations. Not only pieces of innovative performing art but also visual art creations have been included in the festival programs since its establishment.
4. Social Cohesion
The Byronas festival seems to boost the city spirit, as the residents feel proud of their home. Even if they come from different social sub-groups or support different political parties, the festival seems to bridge each gap between them, promoting social cohesion.
5. Intercultural Dialogue
Since 2004, a milestone in recent Greek history, the festival program has been enriched with non – Greek artists and cultural productions, in order to give the Greeks the chance to experience different cultural creations and expand their artistic horizons.
6. Job Creation
Twenty full – time and five part-time jobs are created because of the festival. The secondary effects on job creation have not been estimated yet.
Nowadays, Greek local authorities are being called upon to exploit cultural planning in order to promote their goals and implement their strategy. Festivals, as long as they are treated as strategic tools, can certainly contribute to the achievement of crucial goals such as urban regeneration, city branding, cultural production, social cohesion, intercultural dialogue, job creation and economic growth.
Crucial to these, is marketing orientation within the frames of the festivals that includes visitor orientation (knowledge about the visitors’ needs and preferences), strategy development (evolution of a strategic plan) and strategy implementation (the actions to turn the strategic plan into operational actions).
The institutional transformation that is taking place in the political field of local governments, as well as the financial crisis in Greece, could serve as great opportunities for the festival sector development, as they make it crucial to commit to a more sophisticated way of festival management, oriented towards wider and orchestrated municipal goals.
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