Role of Arts Festivals in Community Self-Development. Monitoring of Practical Issues

Short version of review on the results of survey. Full Ukrainian version will be published soon in an academic journal.  

The European Festivals Association (EFA) was founded in 1952 connecting today about 100 festivals and festival associations in above 40 European countries.  «Festivals bring together thousands of audiences and visitors within cities every year, – as it’s said in the information about the Association, – creating an added value to a city’s offer and community development»[1].

In 2014, EFA launched the project Europe for Festivals, Festivals for Europe – EFFE, which is a result of many years of intense collaboration with the European Commission and European Parliament. The information and organization points, EFFE hubs, were created in countries participating in the project. Such EFFE Hub in Ukraine was established in 2016 on the basis of the Development Centre “Democracy through Culture”. In July-August 2018, EFFE Hub in Ukraine conducted the survey dedicated to the festival movement, cultural heritage, tourism and local community development, results of which are presented here. The aim of the survey was to determine the readiness of festivals, tourist organizations and communities for common activities, evaluate and define ways for improving collaboration between different sectors and stakeholders as well as international cooperation.  

It should be noted that proposed questions concerned arts festivals or festivals where art component is priority while trade fair, gastronomic, sport or other components play secondary role.

Unfortunately, there are no deep and comprehensive analytical researches in Ukraine on the festival movement, either actual statistics is absent. According to the informal data, there are above 1000 active festivals in Ukraine connected with arts and culture, though it’s unknown which is the general number of festivals. Neither it’s known how many festivals are initiated and supported by the government on different levels, how many are independent or commercial.

The objective of the executed survey was to set up a barometer of feelings and expectations of main stakeholders for taking it into account in future development strategies of tourism and culture on local, regional and national level. That is why addressees (respondents) of the survey were festivals and festival associations, territorial communities and tourist organizations/associations. The survey was anonymous to discover possibilities for using available cultural resources and assets of cultural and historic heritage by means of festivals as important sources for community development, generating a feeling of belonging and sense of proud for own community or city. In total, there were 324 answers for the questionnaire, 183 came from local communities all over Ukraine, 65 from festivals and festival associations, 56 from tourist companies and associations (Diagram 1). It allows multilaterally, considering diverse positions and interests to appreciate possibilities and perspectives of festival movement development, especially, on the level of local communities.

The Diagram 2 represents respondents by types of community, and we see that authorities in villages, settlements and towns are the most interested in the potential development of cultural tourism, according to answers; the most energetic festivals (it deals here and throughout with separate festivals and/or festivals associations) act in medium size cities (between 50 and 100 thou of inhabitants) and in large cities with over 1 million population, while the most active tourist organizations work in cities with population between 100 and 500 thou dwellers or over a million.

More than half of respondents reaffirmed the interrelation and interaction between tourist routes and arts festivals which testifies to the possibility of involving new cultural resources, including the intangible cultural heritage.

173 local communities from 183 expressed their confidence in possibility of  festivals to attract tourists. Only 2 from 65 festivals and 1 from 56 tourist companies don’t put before them such purpose – Diagram 4.

93% of local communities believe that festivals are important tool for community development that provides good opportunities for collaboration between different interests, considering answers presented at the Diagram 5.

Diagrams 6 and 7 demonstrate the interaction between festivals and tourist organizations. The first (Diagram 6) shows the real situation evaluated by festivals: only more than one third (35%) indicate that festivals involve them to collaboration. At the same time, majority of tourist organizations testify that festivals are cooperative with them (61%).  

Diagram 8 and 9 indicate the potential for development of such collaboration representing answers to the question if one or other side would wish more mutual understanding and cooperation. Obviously, local/regional authorities and respective CSOs on preparing future plans and development strategies, should take into account this possibility which demands only support and creation of favourable conditions for cooperation.

While tourist organizations would like to have available, first of all, festivals connected with cultural and historic heritage, multidisciplinary and music basing on their experience and interest of tourists, local communities, proceeding from attitudes and interests of their residents, put music festivals first. At the same time, tourist organizations and local communities expressed their interest in such festivals as theatre, film, literature, architecture, photo, design. Among culture heritage festivals, local communities put museum festivals in separate line.  

The duration of a festival depends on many circumstances and target audience: if rock festivals could last 3-5 days, multidisciplinary – 5-7 days, theatre – 7-10 days and more, festivals related to tangible or intangible cultural heritage last, as a rule, no more than 3 days. The most optimal festival duration for tourists, as tourist organizations consider, is 2-3 days, as it is demonstrated at the Diagram 12.

It’s interesting that festivals of just this group, that is those lasting up to 3 days, have been the most active participants of the survey, according to the Diagram 13.

As for festival types, the most active were music festivals constituting majority of respondents. Certainly, it means very wide variety, from amateur, folk, popular to classic, vanguard and techno music (Diagram 14).

The information about history of festivals was rather unexpected. According to various reviews and data, festivals in Ukraine constitute respectively fresh and changeable phenomenon, that is, they have appeared actively and disappeared no less rapidly during last 5 years. The survey demonstrated, instead (Diagram 15), that the largest category of festivals included those having history from 5 till 10 years, and festivals with their history up to 25 years represented no less important group.

Valentyna Demian, Oleksandr Butsenko

Based on survey undertaken in July-August 2018

©DC “Democracy through Culture”






[1] European Festivals Association. EFA – the Festival Network //