Document Type

Book Chapter


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


Sociology, Cultural and economic geography, Social sciences

Publication Details

Chapter from Richards, G., de Brito, M.P. & Wilks, L. (Eds) Exploring the Social Impacts of Events, pp. 15 – 30, Oxon: Routledge


To date, while some researchers have investigated the nature of social inter-relationships evident in festival settings, the literature is under-developed. This has prompted some researchers to search for alternative theoretical frameworks. Social capital is emerging as a theory which shows potential. Drawing on the findings of two exploratory studies, this paper considers the diverse sets of social relationships at the heart of festival activity, whilst taking account of the role that place plays in these interactions. Empirically it undertakes a qualitative study of a range of festival actors at the Waterside festival in Milton Keynes, England and the Temple Bar Trad Fest in the Dublin, Ireland. The findings show festivals to be settings where social connections are made. Bonding social capital was prevalent amongst family and friendship groups, whilst bridging social capital was generated between other social actors. The geographical place of the festival was identified as a key feature in anchoring inter-connections and providing a sense of community. Trust and well-being were identified as prevalent. Trust is partly rooted in place, in that social actors had a sense of sharing norms and values by having chosen to attend the event, either due to local connections or, to connections to the cultural tradition. It seemed that Coleman’s (1988) approach to social capital, which stresses the role of the network in enabling the formation of social capital, as well as linking it to economic benefit, is most appropriate. However, Putnam’s (2000) bridging and bonding social capitals are also of value.