Dr Afiya Holder – 25 April 2023
What do events, festivals and sports have in common? – the power to connect, celebrate and inspire change.
Last week Professor Jane Ali-Knight and I attended the launch of #FestivalsConnect- an initiative of USW’s Centre for Culture, Sports and Events. The hosts Professors David McGillvray, Gayle McPherson and Sandro Carnicelli curated a gathering space in the rich cultural and historic town of Paisley for key industry practitioners, policymakers, and academia to discuss the role of events, festivals and sports in DEI and social cohesion.
The golden thread (pun intended) running throughout the discussions: “there is much being done but more support, structure, empirical work and practical impact are still needed”.
Amy Finch – Spirit of 2012 showcased numerous practical case examples of #MomentstoConnect, the power of inclusivity and engaging traditionally excluded social groups such as the British Futures Windrush 75 Project aimed to acknowledge the significant cultural histories and contribution of the Windrush generation and Caribbean community.
Panelists Craig Burn – UCI Cycling World Championships, Marie Christie – EventScotland, Sodhi Deerha- Glasgow Mela also shared their roles in fostering DEI and social cohesion in #events, #festivals, and #sports.
Craig highlighted the local and national impacts of cycling events that changed the socio-economic landscape of remote towns, developed purpose-built facilities in communities, and inspired active lifestyles among youth. In a side chat with Dr Holder, he also shared the impact of their involvement in developing the popular Scotland cycling course for eSports, a popular option and favourite of disabled international players.
Marie offered a holistic take on Event Scotland’s approach to inclusion and actions to ensure equality based on setting the #PerfectStage for all regarding age, ethnicity, religion, gender, and disability. Key action points included examining and ensuring equity in event funding and support. Marie also called for all to be actively involved in the upcoming series of consultation workshops aimed to address some of the gaps in the state of Scotland’s event industry and future- DEI being a main item for discussion.
Sodhi presented a unique perspective speaking from a supplier’s perspective as Producer of Mela multicultural events that showcase Indian music, dance, as well as interactive arts and culture. Sodhi shared the significant and lasting impact these events had on Glasgow’s cultural fabric, artists’ cultural pride and sense of self-determination as well as community social cohesion and acceptance of multiculturality.
On the topic, it’s safe to say Festivals, Events and Sports in Scotland are in capable hands. Yet, as I reflect on my work in this contested space, careful consideration is needed to avoid virtue signalling and ‘DEI-washing’ which is unsupportive when creating an inclusive and equal environment. Therefore, in this multi-layered and complex space it is imperative:
- To achieve a deeper understanding from multiple socio-cultural lenses to achieve a comprehensive outlook;
- To foster more engagement and empirical work to examine DEI impacts and social cohesion outcomes from events, festivals, and sports; and,
- To determine clear indicators of success and practical impact
As I noted in my research on socio-cultural aversions, socio-cultural and economic ramifications for individuals, businesses and communities can be considerable if left unaddressed.