Producing the Festival City: Place Myths and the Festivals of Adelaide and Edinburgh
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The Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) and the Adelaide Festival, and their associated Fringe Festivals, are large international multi-‐arts events that focus on artistic excellence and annually imbue their host cities with month-‐long festive atmospheres. They are also mobilised within tourism campaigns and urban governance strategies to promote these cities as great places to live, work, and visit. In an era of festivalisation, in which festivals have become a popular urban entrepreneurial strategy to promote economic growth, foster social cohesion and civic pride,and advertise positive images of the city, these festivals give Adelaide and Edinburgh a competitive advantage by underwriting their cultural, creative, and cosmopolitan credentials. I argue, however, that beyond a brand identity, these events provide the dominant ‘set of core images’ (Shields 1991, p. 60), or place myth, that is widely held and circulated about both places and characterises them as Festival Cities. This Festival City place myth has had important long-‐term cultural effects beyond its instrumentalisation within place promotion and creative cities discourses and is contested by different groups. This study therefore combines cultural geography and theatre and performance studies methodologies to explore how these festivals are necessarily shaped and produced by their host cities, and conversely, how the festivals materially and discursively produce the city in turn. By analysing the festivals of Adelaide and Edinburgh as theatrical events that can be read as performances of the city, I interrogate their conditions of production and reception in order to highlight the competing agendas involved and to contribute to understandings of place in performance. A detailed, comparative analysis of similar events in two diverse geographic, cultural, and socio-‐political locations, moreover, reveals how global trends intersect with local conditions and highlights the contribution of these events, which were once rare but are now ubiquitous, to the social, cultural, and political life of cities.
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