ATLAS Special Interest Group
Events Research Group
The contact person for this research group is:
||NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences
||Breda, The Netherlands
There has been a rapid increase in the number of cultural, sporting and business events in recent decades, and cities and regions have made growing use of these events to support their policy agendas. This growth has been coupled with a growth in research output and educational provision in the academic world in general and among ATLAS members in particular.
Given the rapidly developing nature of the field and the international nature of the subject matter it seems appropriate to develop a focus for collaborative research and educational initiatives in the context of ATLAS. A number of ATLAS members have indicated their interest in such a development (see list below), and it seems likely that the number of potential collaborators will be much greater.
The aims of the ATLAS Events SIG will be to:
Develop and support transnational research on events
To stage expert meetings and other information exchange activities related to events
To produce publications of interest to Group members and to the wider academic and practitioner communities.
The Events SIG will initially be convened and coordinated by Prof. Greg Richards of the NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences, the Netherlands. The international work of the Group will also be supported by the newly-established Events Group based in the Dutch Centre for Leisure and Tourism Research (CeLTouR), which combines the research capacities of Tilburg, Breda and Wageningen universities (all of whom are active members of ATLAS).
The ATLAS Events Group now has more than 20 members, and continues to expand its range of activities.
After previous Expert Meetings held in Breda (2011), Peniche (2013) and Sheffield (2014), in May 2015 the group held a meeting in Lecce, Italy. The meeting was organised by Ana Trono and her team from the University of Salento, who did a wonderful job of hosting the event and putting together a lively and engaging programme. The theme of the meeting was ‘Bidding for and Creating Events’, and 13 papers from delegates from nine countries were presented. A full report of the meeting is available on https://www.academia.edu/12521039/Creating_and_bidding_for_events
Founded in 2010, the ATLAS Events Group subsequently held meetings in Breda (2011), Peniche (2013) and Sheffield (2014), Lecce (2015), Barcelona (2016).
Special tracks were also organised at the ATLAS Annual Conferences in Malta (2014) and Lisbon (2015). The group has also produced two books with Routledge - Exploring the social impacts of events (2013) and Event Design: Social perspectives and practices (2014). The ATLAS Events Group continues to develop research and knowledge development activities rapidly, organising another expert meeting in 2016 and planning for more publications.
The main activity staged this year was the expert meeting on Rethinking the Eventful City in Barcelona in May. This event attracted 20 experts from around the world, including Don Getz, who gave a presentation on event sustainability and eventfulness. There was a lot of discussion from the assembled delegates about emerging concepts such as event portfolios and event systems.
The meeting was prefaced with a discussion on the relationship between cities and events, a report of which was made by Anna Ibañez, a PhD student at the Open University of Catalunya (UOC) and one of the meeting participants:
On May 11 a seminar was held at the CERC (Centre for Cultural Studies and Resources) in Barcelona on Eventful Cities: New strategies for sustainability. This event was organised by the ATLAS Events Special Interest Group and #UOCeventos.
During this meeting, we explored the relationship between events, the city and sustainability; in terms of economic, and social, cultural and environmental sustainability. The speakers were Donald Getz and Greg Richards, and the session was moderated by Alba Colombo, academic director of graduate studies in the Management of Cultural, Sporting and Corporate Events at the Open University of Catalunya (UOC).
The discussion reflected on the trend towards stronger relationships between cities and events and how this relationship is reflected in the evolution of management strategies, which are also increasingly influenced by sustainability issues. Large cities have often become a scenario or container to host major events, the city assuming a role of receptor. One wonders what events can bring to a city and what the city can bring to events? There are many studies of events in cities, but not all cities can be considered as ‘eventful’. In order to be an "Eventful city" it is necessary to have a good management strategy, which is sensitive to the specific characteristics of each city.
For example, a small town may lack the necessary infrastructure and therefore cannot compete globally, and in big cities sometimes in danger of becoming one runs in a single container without room for a type of more local event, more according to the identity of the place, ultimately, more authentic. In fact, a good strategy for an "Eventful city" such as Barcelona, is to find the midpoint between the major events planned in a top down fashion and the events arising from local communities, from the bottom up, which often provide an element of authenticity. For example, in the case of the 1992 Olympic Games the local community was intensively involved through the volunteer program. In contrast, the Forum of Cultures 2004 was organized with little reference to the city and was a failure. These examples might cause us to ask whether working closely with local citizens is essential to ensure the success of a major event.
The study of success factors is important, but to study the reasons for the failure of events can also teach us a lot about how to develop good management practices. The problem is that there are almost no data from failed events and indeed failures are often forgotten. Most failures are due to economic factors: either there are not enough resources or they are poorly used. By definition, the event is not economically sustainable in the long term unless it develops a relationship with the civic administration, which acts as a motor, or that it ensures that resources are well managed, in a sustainable way.
Environmental sustainability was also discussed, because in a city full of events it is difficult to have a positive effect on the environment. The events create litter and other problems, but there are also potentially positive effects, for example, generation and dissemination of tools to be more sustainable. Through event management you can introduce a philosophy of sustainability from new practices, e.g. contributing through education. It was concluded that an event should itself be a sustainable model, both economic and social and cultural level, while being respectful of the environment. But in order to have a good strategy for event portfolios it is important to have the know how to manage events sustainably in all these areas, and to identify successful strategies and experiences. For this, it is also important to have measurement tools for the monitoring and evaluation of event effects and the outcomes of different management strategies.
The ‘eventful city’ concept developed out of the basic observation that cities are using events to achieve a growing range of policy objectives, including economic growth, image change, social cohesion and physical redevelopment. The growing importance and scale of event activity in cities is driving a rapidly changing relationship between events and the city. Cities are no longer simply containers for events; they are co-creators, innovators, directors, managers, partners and beneficiaries of events. Events in turn are shaped by the cities they take place in, with their form, duration, content and effects being determined to a large extent by urban space, place and process.
Few cities illustrate this dialectic relationship between cities and events better than Barcelona, the host city for this meeting. Starting with the World Expo in 1888 and continuing through the 1929 World Expo and the 1992 Olympic Games, Barcelona has harnessed the power of events to put itself on the global map, shape perceptions and drive economic, cultural and social development. With the Mobile World Congress recently secured for a further eight year term, Barcelona is rapidly establishing itself as a global events hub.
This development has not always been smooth or entirely progressive. The forging of an economic growth coalition in Post-Franco Barcelona helped to secure the Olympics, but the focus on external promotion and economic growth has also attracted increasing criticism from social partners and local citizens concerned with the globalization of the city and the loss of identity. One of the basic emerging questions is – do events serve the city, or does the city serve events?
When the original eventful cities concept was developed a few years ago, few cities had experience of managing, developing and directing their event programmes to produce effective outcomes. In recent years, however, different models have emerged that show how cities can develop a constructive relationship with their events, and how the events can benefit from this relationship as well.
The aim of this meeting was to review the development of ‘eventful cities’ such as Barcelona, to analyse the emerging trends in the eventful landscape and to trace potential future development directions. The meeting will bring together leading international scholars in the event studies field, as well as practitioners from the events industry and the policy field in Barcelona and beyond. Selected papers from the event will be published in a special issue of Event Management in 2017.
The group is planning to hold a follow-up meeting linked to the ATLAS Conference in Viana do Castelo in September 2017.
In terms of research the group launched the ATLAS Event Monitoring Project in 2014, and is now developing a project on event visitor experiences using the Event Experience Scale (de Geus et al., 2015). Surveys have been conducted by ATLAS members in a number of locations, which are producing valuable comparative data about the experiences and profiles of event visitors.
For example, Daniel Barrera Fernández from the Universidad de Guanajuato in Mexico used the Event Experience Survey to study the Festival Internacional Cervantino. The Festival Internacional Cervantino (popularly known as El Cervantino) takes place in the city of Guanajuato, in central Mexico. The festival originated in the mid 20th century, when short plays by Miguel de Cervantes were performed in the city’s plazas. El Cervantino is now promoted by Visit Mexico as “one of the premier arts and cultural festivals in Mexico and Latin America”. In 2010 the festival attracted 179,000 people. The 2015 edition of the festival was celebrated on the 400th anniversary of the death of Cervantes.
Daniel Barrera Fernández was able to obtain funding from his university to carry out surveys at the 2015 edition of the event. In total, 230 surveys were collected during the festival, with the vast majority of those interviewed coming from Mexico. The USA (12%) was the biggest foreign visitor contingent. Almost 60% of the respondents came from the 20-29 age group, which is related to the large number of students in the sample. Over half of the visitors had been to the event at least once before. There was a high level of satisfaction and intention to return.
Almost all aspects of the EES scored highly among the participants in the Festival Internacional Cervantino (Figure 1).
Figure 1: EES experience dimensions for participants in the Festival Internacional Cervantino
In Brazil a different data collection approach was adopted by Lénia Marques and her collaborators in Recife. There, the survey was circulated via social media, using a snowball approach to reach people via Facebook and Whatsapp.
The survey generated 308 responses, and over 80% of the respondents indicated that they had celebrated Carnival in 2016. Of these, the majority had visited Carnival in Recife (44%) or the neighbouring city of Olinda (44%). Most people attended Carnival as individual visitors, but almost 11% indicated that they were part of a Carnival group (bloco). The position of Carnival as an institution in Brazilian life is underlined by the fact that over half the respondents indicated that they ‘always’ celebrate Carnival.
In terms of experience, the Brazilians were even more enthusiastic about Carnival – perhaps not surprisingly. Excitement was the most highly scored experience element, and learning was scored much lower than in the Mexican case. Location also did not seem to be a particularly significant influence on experience. The neighbouring cities of Recife and Olinda (both of which are famous for their Carnival celebrations) both had very similar experience profiles, with no significant differences on any dimension (Figure 2).
Figure 2: EES experience dimensions for Carnival participants in Recife and Olinda
Lénia Marques has also developed a Social Interaction module to complement the EES. This has been implemented at a range of events, including an eGaming event in the UK.
Further details of the activities of the group and the research projects can be found on https://independent.academia.edu/gregrichards/ATLAS-Events-Group
The ATLAS Events Group now has more than 20 members, and continues to expand its range of activities.
After previous Expert Meetings held in Breda (2011), Peniche (2013) and Sheffield (2014), in May 2015 the group held a meeting in Lecce, Italy. The meeting was organised by Ana Trono and her team from the University of Salento, who did a wonderful job of hosting the event and putting together a lively and engaging programme. The theme of the meeting was ‘Bidding for and Creating Events’, and 13 papers from delegates from nine countries were presented. A full report of the meeting is available on
The group is currently considering publication options for the papers from the Lecce meeting, following the previous group publications with Routledge - Exploring the social impacts of events (2013) and Event Design: Social perspectives and practices (2014).
Members of the group have also continued to conduct joint research through the ATLAS Event Monitoring Project:
Members of the group have so far conducted surveys in Portugal, Russia, Finland, the UK, the Netherlands, Cyprus and Spain, and more surveys are planned in the near future. This research involves the basic monitoring of events and their visitors to provide a basis for comparative research. However, we are also currently expanding the research in a number of directions. These include the development and testing of the Event Experience Scale (EES), which is designed to measure the different dimensions of visitor experience. The scale has already been tested at events in the Netherlands, and group members are planning to use the scale at events in a number of different countries in the next 12 months. Lénia Marques from Bournemouth University has also started a project to develop a social interaction scale, which can be added to the basic event questionnaire.
These and other developments will be discussed at the ATLAS Annual Conference in Lisbon in 2015, where the group is also staging a special track on Placemaking and Events. This track attracted 17 abstracts with a wide range of different empirical and conceptual contributions.
Plans are also well underway for the next Expert Meeting of the group, to be held at the Universitat Obert de Catalunya (UOC) in Barcelona in May 2016. This meeting will be on the theme of Rethinking the Eventful City: Perspectives, Practices, Prospects. It will examine the changing relationship between cities and their portfolios of events, considering the use of events as policy tools in the contemporary city. A call for papers will be issued at the ATLAS Conference in Lisbon and circulated to all members shortly afterwards.
The Events group currently has 25 members from 12 different countries. Over the past three years the group has organised meetings in the Netherlands, Portugal and the UK. Following the publication last year of the group’s first collected volume Exploring the Social Dimension of Events (Routledge), work has proceeded on bringing together the papers on Event Design presented at the second meeting in Peniche, Portugal in 2013. The volume Event Design: Social perspectives and practices, edited by Greg Richards, Lénia Marques and Karen Mein, was published by Routledge this month. It contains a range of perspectives on event design, including service design, visitor journeys, ritual analysis, urban studies and Imagineering.
The long term development of the social network perspective on events was continued during the meeting on Visitor Engagement organised at Sheffield Hallam University in the UK. This event brought together 22 scholars from seven countries to analyse different dimension ¡s of engagement and visitor experience. The concept of engagement proved particularly difficult to pin down, and many different conceptual approaches to the question were presented. Much of the discussion revolved around the extent to which engagement could be equated with experience, in particular ‘peak experience’ or ‘flow’.
A workshop session was also organised at the ATLAS Annual conference in Malta on Event Evaluation. A total of seven papers were presented during this session, including contributions from the Netherlands, Romania, the UK and Malta. Two of these papers have subsequently been published in the Journal of Policy Research in Leisure, Tourism and Events (Peperkamp, Rooijackers and Remmers, 2014; Richards, 2014). The papers presented during the Malta conference touched on many issues surrounding monitoring and evaluation of events, including problems of attribution of impacts, political influence and comparability of results.
Following the success of this workshop stream, another event is being organised in conjunction with the Budapest conference, focussing on the relationship between Quality of Life and Events.
Research has also continued in the framework of the ATLAS Event Monitoring Project. This uses a basic standardised questionnaire to generate comparative data on events from different countries and contexts. A number of studies have been completed in the past two years, including medieval and gastronomic events in Portugal (Cardoso et al., 2014), the Pori Jazz Festival in Finland, the Feria de Abril in Seville and Barcelona in Spain, and other festivals in Cyprus and the UK.
An analysis of the data from the first rounds of data collection has revealed strong links between modes of event participation, event form and levels of engagement. For example, the more engaged people feel with an event (as measured through an ‘event engagement scale’), the more likely they were to ‘feel part of a bigger community’ (figure 1). Engagement with the event also increased with the number of visits to the event (figure 2).
Figure 1: Engagement scale scores (1-5) by ‘feeling part of a bigger community’
Figure 2: Engagement scores by number of previous visits
The group hopes to expand participation and coverage of the research in the coming year.
The next meeting of the group is planned to be held at the University of Salento, in Southern Italy, in May 2015. The proposed theme of the meeting is Creating and Bidding for Events.
ATLAS Events Group Expert Meeting Report
Imagineering Events and Event Design
Peniche, May 2013
Greg Richards, Lénia Marques and Karen Mein
The second Expert Meeting held by the ATLAS Events Group was hosted by the Polytechnic Institute of Leiria in Peniche, Portugal in May 2013. The meeting centred on issues of event design and Imagineering and featured eleven presentations by delegates from Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the UK.
The aim of the meeting was to explore how the design of events can influence their outcomes and impacts and how design strategies can be employed to increase the value of events for stakeholders.
Greg Richards from Tilburg University in the Netherlands opened the meeting with a theoretical consideration of the role of ‘interaction ritual chains’ (Collins, 2004) as design tools for events. The co-presence implicit in events can be used to focus attention, create a feeling of belonging to a group and so generate ‘emotional energy’.
Many of these principles were illustrated in the case of Draaksteken Beesel presented by Ilja Simons from the Academy for Leisure, Breda. This event is only staged once every seven years by the inhabitants of a small village in the south of the Netherlands. The effort involved in the staging of this event by a small community means that they have to take their time and develop a ‘slow’ event that is rich in tradition. But at the same time the long time period reveals the changes that are taking place in the local community and the local culture.
Anna Trono and Katia Rizzello from the University of Salento, Italy analysed the Rites of Holy Week in the Puglia region. Their analysis showed that these traditional rituals are still very conservative, even if spectacular elements have been highlighted for tourist consumption. The centrality of certain people who buy particular roles in the ritual through an auction also mirrors to a large extent Collins’ model.
The design of music festivals was considered by June Calvo-Soraluze from Deusto University in Bilbao. Her research at three different festivals underlined how design is usually undertaken for the audience, which negates involvement and co-creation. Instead she proposes that festivals should move towards designing ‘with’ participants, so that a more active co-creation system can develop.
Satu Miettinen, Anu Valtonen, and Vesa Markuksela from the University of Lapland outlined the ways in which principles of service design can be applied to events. In this relatively new field experiments are being used to design services, looking at the customer journey and touchpoints to improve the experience of events. They define touchpoints as something physical through which you use the service – objects, places, interfaces.
Case studies of Portuguese and Danish events were presented by Marisa de Brito from NHTV Academy for Leisure, Breda, in terms of design for sustainability. She demonstrated how post-event sustainability actions are extending these festivals in time and space by prolonging interaction with the audience and other stakeholders. She illustrated how events were being made more sustainable through innovative approaches, such as re-using material from other events.
Carlos Fernandes, Goretti Silva and Marta Cardoso from the Instituto Politécnico de Viana do Castelo, Portugal analysed the Santarem national gastronomy event in Portugal. Although the festival is now in its 32nd year there has been little change in the design of the event, and this may now be contributing to a decline in visitor numbers. The research indicated that functional characteristics (such as the quality of the food) were more important than intangible factors, showing that there is still much work needed on the design of the visitor experience.
The use of the customer journey in Imagineering events was discussed by Dorothé Gerritsen and Ronald van Olderen from NHTV Academy for Leisure, Breda. They showed how the customer journey through an event is marked out by a series of ‘touchpoints’ at the interface between consumer and producer. They also reflected on how touchpoints can also imply that the visitor is touched at an emotional level, so that there is mutual touching between supplier and consumer.
Roberta Garibaldi from the Università degli Studi di Bergamo in Italy presented an analysis of the use of Web 2.0 tools by museums I n marketing events. This underlined the relatively limited use currently being made of the interactive potential of new technology to market events. This was a theme also picked up by Phil Crowther and Chiara Orefice from Sheffield Hallam University in their analysis of events as mutual value creation spaces. They showed how events have previously been seen as relatively peripheral in marketing, but that they have the potential to become much more central ‘value creation spaces’ if they are used effectively.
The use of events to support a creative entrepreneurship network was examined by Lénia Marques, Karen Mein and Marcel Bastiaansen of the NHTV Academy for Leisure, Breda. Using the example of the COLIN network they showed that it was important to engage entrepreneurs through the strategic use of events. They argued that networks are now shifting towards facilitation and becoming ‘pancakes’ instead of ‘pyramids’.
The discussion during the meeting generated a number of interesting perspectives that will be analysed in the forthcoming Event Group publication.
The purpose of design
As Richards and Palmer have argued in Eventful Cities, events are designed to serve a range of different purposes, and the effectiveness of events, and therefore event design strategies, should be judged in terms of how well the aims of the event are met. The aims of the event also usually emerge from interactions between the different stakeholders.
The function of events and event design was therefore a major area of discussion. It is clear that different stakeholders will have different priorities, but all are engaged in creating value through events, whether this is economic, social, cultural, environmental or creative value. Event design can therefore be seen as a strategy for generating (stakeholder) value from events. Events may also be ‘designed for success’, where success can also vary according to the perspectives of different stakeholders.
The network economy is increasingly an arena of co-creation, where distinctions between producers and consumers are becoming increasingly vague. Events are also co-created to a greater or lesser extent. At a basic level one could argue that all events involve co-creation, because they bring people together in physical co-presence, which means that every participant is also helping to create the ‘atmosphere’ or generate the ‘emotional energy’ of the event, even if they are not actively involved in creation or programming. Phil Crowther argued that this can be seen as a form of ‘co-creation by default’, which contrasts with the active ‘co-creation by design’ being stimulated by other events. In principle, as events move from passive to active co-creation, they should be able to generate more value.
Events can be seen as value creation platforms where levels of involvement by the different stakeholders can vary significantly. This can be seen as a continuum ranging from participation (which can be relatively passive, as in the spectator role) to involvement (which implies a more active role) to engagement (where there is active commitment and co-creation on the part of stakeholders).
Organic change vs radical change
The speed with which an event changes can have an important recursive relationship with design. Many mega events, for example, are designed to be catalysts for change, and as such are also designed to break with the past in a radical way. Such ‘pulsar events’ have an important influence in changing mindsets and perceptions of locals and visitors alike (Glasgow 1990, Barcelona Olympics, etc). Other events, and many smaller scale events are subject to more incremental change, which may be imperceptible at the level of individual editions of the event.
Taking Sewell’s definition of a historical event as a ‘gap between expectation and reality’, there is often a need to design change and innovation into events, so that the element of surprise or novelty enhances the event experience. This is an interesting discussion in the context of traditional events, where there is usually an emphasis on continuity, but where there is also a need to stimulate change to respond to changing generations of event users.
Events are a temporal phenomenon and therefore the time dimension is crucial in design. This covers many different design attributes, including duration, speed, frequency/recurrence, regular vs irregular. Ilja Simmons illustrated how some events can become ‘slow’ by design, which contrasts with the kind of ‘fast events’ that have to generate a large number or a wide range of outputs (economic impacts, image change, social cohesion, etc).
What is being designed?
Depending on the perspective of the stakeholders, there are often different foci of design. For example one can design experiences (output for consumers), externalities (e.g. economic impact for the city), profit (usually for the organisers), etc. These perspectives will also change depending on the disciplines involved - experience designers, service designers, social designers, creative entrepreneurs, etc.
Designing the next publication
The papers presented at the meeting, as well as the input from the discussion, will be included in the forthcoming book Event Design (Routledge). The final versions of the chapters should reflect the feedback given by colleagues during the meeting, as well as the points emerging from the general discussion. Final drafts of chapters should be submitted by July 1st.
Next meeting in Sheffield, UK
Delegates agreed that the next meeting of the ATLAS Events Group will be held at Sheffield Hallam University in the UK in May 2014. The general research theme of the meeting will be New Business Models for Events, but there will also be a stream dedicated to the production of case studies for events education.
The ATLAS Events Monitoring Project
The meeting period in Peniche also coincided with the award of the first Masters thesis in events to be defended at the Polytechnic Institute of Leiria. The study entitled Eventful Cities and Cities of Events was undertaken by Carla Delgado, and included collection of almost 1000 surveys using the ATLAS Events questionnaire. This rigorous testing of the research instrument indicated that there were significant differences between Portuguese cities in terms of their staging of medieval events and their levels of success in creating an authentic atmosphere for visitors. The research also indicated that the social dimension of the event was particularly important in Portugal. It will be interesting to compare the data collected in Portugal with those obtained from other countries, such as the Netherlands and Russia.
The ATLAS Group would like to extend their thanks to the Polytechnic Institute of Leiria in Peniche for their hospitality and support in staging the event. In particular we are grateful to Nuno Almeida for his tireless work in pulling the programme together and making sure that delegates had a fruitful working environment as well as an engaging social programme.
The ATLAS Events Special Interest Group was founded in 2010 and an initial informal meeting was held at the ATLAS Annual Conference in Cyprus in November. There was considerable enthusiasm expressed for developing a range of activities related to events research and education among the participants. The initial aims of the SIG were drawn up as follows:
- To develop and support transnational research on events
- To stage expert meetings and other information exchange activities related to events
- To produce publications of interest to Group members and to the wider academic and practitioner communities.
The first step in developing these activities was to convene an expert meeting on the Social Dimension of Events, which was held at NHTV Breda, the Netherlands on May 19th and 20th, 2011. The meeting was attended by a total of 21 delegates from five countries. A total of 11 papers were presented and there was considerable discussion of issues relating to research on the social dimension of events, particularly on issues of definition, measurement and implementation.
Following discussions among those present, a number of steps were also outlined for the further development of the group. One of the major areas of discussion was the potential for developing future research on the social dimension of events. Initial work in this area is anticipated to include the definition and measurement of social capital relating to events, The development of research instruments to monitor the social dimension of events and the development of a research database. In carrying forward the research it was also suggested that a number key areas should form the core of the research programme. These include:
- The use of events as a policy tool
- Events as a laboratory for innovation and creativity
- The role of events as spaces and nodes
- The event bidding process
- The anticipated outputs from these activities include publications, the development of a modular questionnaire for event research and the development of comparative case studies. Initial discussions about a volume on the social dimension of events for Routledge have already taken place with the series editors.
It is hoped that a second SIG meeting will be organised in Salento, Italy in the autumn of 2011.