Silver ‘Cutting Edge Research Award’ for ENU researchers’ contribution to Event Studies

Award winning group photo

An Edinburgh Napier University research team is the winner of the Silver 2023 Award for Cutting Edge Research in Event Studies. The team won the award for their paper published in Event Management, the leading international journal for the study of festivals and events.

The Business School’s Dr Gary Kerr, Professor Jane Ali-Knight, and Hannah Stewart collaborated with Dr Stephen Smith from the School of Health and Social Care for this research project exploring how cultural festivals and events can co-produce events with the dementia community. They examined how people living with dementia (PWD) can attend and enjoy the arts in a meaningful way when the development of the relationship between the organisers and the dementia community is centred in the design and delivery of the event.

Dementia is a progressive disorder that affects how the brain works, and how we remember, think, and reason. It affects speech, mood, mobility, behaviour, and how people perceive and respond to the world around them. In the UK, there are an estimated 850,000 people living with dementia, and that number is expected to grow to over 2 million by 2050.

The ENU research team explored how arts festivals and events specifically tailored for people living with dementia can help those with a dementia diagnosis live well after their diagnosis.

Through their research with festival and event managers, they created a new theoretical framework that explores dementia arts festivals and events as they relate to a palliative model of relationship-centered care for people living with dementia – the so-called ‘Senses Framework’.

The Senses Framework identifies that good care can only be delivered when all 6 senses are experienced by PWD, staff, and carers. The six senses are continuity, belonging, purpose, achievement, significance, and security.

The research team took this framework and further developed it in the context of critical event studies. They proposed two new layers to this model and identified the importance of how arts festival and event managers should work collaboratively with key stakeholders including PWD, their carers, healthcare professionals, and event producers, to ensure the six senses are fulfilled during any arts festival or event.

Furthermore, the researchers identified that to achieve an enhanced quality of life after a dementia diagnosis, festival and event managers have a critical role to play in being strategic in their event creation. Only when this strategic approach is truly inclusive and collaborative with the dementia community, can it influence policy and contribute to wider engagement and joined-up thinking on outreach and community engagement.

Dr Gary Kerr, Principal Investigator, commented “Our multi-disciplinary project has brought together perspectives from different schools in the university, and this diversity of backgrounds and perspectives has allowed us to conduct meaningful and impactful research.”

Dr Stephen Smith said “I am particularly pleased that this award has recognised research that is focussed on the lived experience of people with dementia, considering ways of maximising the experience of attending events to promote wellbeing. It was fascinating to consider the utilisation of the Senses Framework, an approach used to provide care, and how this translated into event management”

Professor Jane Ali-Knight said “as a person with lived experience of dementia care, this project was especially important to me and reinforced the social and cultural impacts that festivals and events can have on difficult to reach communities and how important it is to work collaboratively to make them as accessible and engaging as possible.’

Hannah Stewart, Research Associate, commented, “It’s a truly rewarding and humbling experience to be rewarded for our efforts, and we’re excited to see what the future has in store as we develop this research.”

Read the full paper below:

  • Stewart, H., Ali-Knight, J., Stephen, S., and Kerr, G. W. (2022). The ‘Senses Framework’: A relationship-centred approach to co-producing dementia events in order to allow people to live well after a dementia diagnosis. Event Management26(1), 157-175.


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