Dr Gary Kerr is Associate Professor in Festival & Event Management and the Business School’s Academic Lead for Innovation & Enterprise (Commercial).
LEARNING & TEACHING
Gary is Module Leader of the practical live events module, where students work in groups to design and deliver live events. Students in this class have successfully won awards for their creativity, including winning the Best Student Event Award at both the Scottish Event Awards and the Association for Event Management Education Annual Awards. Gary is committed to supporting students from all backgrounds, particularly those from an armed forces and/or sporting background. To that end, he is Co-Lead of the University’s Armed Forces Network, and is the Business School’s Dual Career Academic Tutor (DCAT) for high performing student athletes & coaches.
Gary is currently an External Examiner at Manchester Metropolitan University, University of Westminster and UWE Bristol. He has a PGCert in Learning, Teaching & Assessment Practice in Higher Education, and is also is a Certified Management & Business Educator accredited by the Chartered Association of Business Schools. In 2024, he became a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, where the panel commended his leadership in decolonisation of the festival & event management curriculum.
With two PhDs - one in biological sciences and another in critical event studies with science communication, Gary is an experienced researcher with expertise in qualitative, quantitative and mixed method approaches. He is Principal Investigator of a multidisciplinary research team (including a colleague from the School of Health & Social Care) who are researching how festivals, events, visitor attractions and cultural venues can become more accessible for people living with dementia. This research won the Cutting Edge Research in Event Studies Award (Silver) 2023, featured in The Scotsman, and contributed towards the National Dementia Strategy.
In addition to his research on dementia & event accessibility, Gary researches science festivals from a critical events perspective. Indeed, research on the criticality of science festivals was the topic of his 2nd PhD thesis, and he has given international keynotes on this topic, including as invited Keynote in both India and Mauritius. Formerly, Gary was a Visiting Research Fellow at the African Centre for Technology Studies (Nairobi, Kenya), where he researched home economics technology (supported by Global Development Academy).
Gary currently serves as Guest Editor of a special issue on 'Festival Frontiers' in 'Tourism & Hospitality' journal. He is Reviews Editor at Frontiers in Sport, Leisure, Tourism & Events. Gary is the Deputy Convenor of the Business School’s Research Integrity Committee. Externally, he sits on the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Research Awards Committee (Social Sciences) and on the Collaborative Doctoral Award Committee for the Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities.
Gary is currently supervising two PhD students on the broad areas of critical festival & event studies, and acting as Independent Panel Chair to a further two students. He has one doctoral completion. In 2022, Gary was nominated for the ENSA Award of ‘Best Supervisor for Research’. Consecutively, in both 2022 and 2023, Gary’s dissertation students have won the Association for Event Management Educator (AEME) award for ‘UK Event Management Student of the Year’ for their outstanding contributions to research and practice throughout their time at university. Gary sits on the Advisory Board of the Creative Economies Hub at the Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities, which aims to inspire doctoral researchers to be talented, caring, ethical and reflective professionals. Gary has written an e-book on how doctoral researchers can create effective digital profiles.
INNOVATION & ENTERPRISE (COMMERCIAL)
Gary is the Academic Lead for Innovation & Enterprise within the Business School and has responsibility for creating and delivering the strategy for this. He is Convenor of the Enterprise Action Group – the body responsible for the delivery of the strategy, and a member of the University’s Innovation & Enterprise Leads Committee. He has responsibility for the delivery of SFC-funded Upskilling short courses within the Business School.
Gary takes an entrepreneurial approach to knowledge exchange, and has led multiple successful projects where he and his team have created bespoke CPD provisions for clients, currently generating over £300k in the past 3 years.
In addition to the development of bespoke CPD provisions, Gary undertakes a range of consultancy projects for festivals and culture organisations, including providing consultancy on strategic planning and restructuring.
Gary is a Member of the Institute of Directors and actively engaged with the Midlothian & East Lothian Chamber of Commerce. He gained his Executive MBA in Sport Management from the Real Madrid Graduate School, Universidad Europea.
Actively a practitioner within festival and events industry, Gary engages with industry in order to keep his practical skills relevant, enhance the curriculum, and create practice-based volunteering and employment opportunities for students. Examples of professional practice roles include his ongoing role as Curator at Cheltenham Science Festival, in addition to other festival roles such as Event Manager, Stage Manager, Staff Manager, External Evaluator and Creative Producer. Gary is an Assessor with A Greener Festival – an organisation which accredits festivals for their sustainability efforts.
Gary has developed a series of 'Festival Academies' for practitioners that he has successfully delivered on behalf of British Council in Oman, UAE and India. The festival academy delivered in India was so successful that it was developed into three levels (Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced), and rebranded into the South Asia Festival Academy, where it takes on participants from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. These festival academies seek to strengthen the business skills of festival practitioners, with a view to strengthening the creative economy in the regions the courses are delivered.
More recently, Gary along with Professor Jane Ali-Knight have delivered an intensive 5-day residency for arts & culture managers from Mexico who have come to Edinburgh in both 2023 & 2024 for the Creative Leadership Programme.
Gary has also been commissioned by British Council to write a series of toolkits for practitioners in the festival sector, including a ‘Sustainability Toolkit for Festival Managers’ which was translated into Spanish.
Gary sits on the British Red Cross’ Event Medical Provision Working Group, which was established in light of the Manchester Arena attack. With this group, he contributes from an academic perspective on the minimum standards of medical provision at events, and the role of event management educators in providing education to students in this area.
Gary is enthusiastic around knowledge exchange particularly with researchers and politicians. He undertook a Science Policy Fellowship at the Scottish Parliament’s Information Centre, where he wrote briefing reports for MSP’s on the topics of Genetics Healthcare & Public Health Screening, and also on Climate Change and the role of individuals.
He has served as Associate Editor, Editor-in-Chief, Director of International, and then Chief Operating Officer at the Journal of Science Policy & Governance. Until the UK left the EU, Gary sat on the Expert Advisory Panel on Science Communication at the European Parliament. He was a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Advisory Board for the Citizen’s Panel on Covid-19.
He is also an Academic Framework Member at the Scottish Parliament, where he is on call to provide Covid-19 ad-hoc research and consultancy to Scottish Parliament. Gary is an active member of the Scottish Parliament’s Cross Party Groups on Creative Economy, and Culture & Communities. He has co-authored articles for Union of Concerned Scientists (USA) on how academics can engage effectively with policymakers.
Gary is a member of the Public Engagement Advisory Committee at the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He is also an Executive Committee Member at the Scottish Public Engagement Network (ScotPEN), where he runs a monthly journal club for public engagement practitioners and researchers. With a background in science festivals, Gary is a keen enthusiast of public engagement activities. He has taken part in various panel discussions at festivals and in his practitioner roles at science festivals, he works with organisations to help them make their content accessible and engaging for a range of audiences. Gary has received funding to run public engagement events related to his research including two events for people living with dementia and their carers. Gary is also regularly invited to host panel discussions, most recently at RSE Curious.
CONTRIBUTION TO CIVIC SOCIETY
Gary is Co-Chair of the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Young Academy of Scotland. He is also a member of the Global Young Academy. Gary represents the Young Academy of Scotland internationally and is Scotland’s Standing Delegate to the Young Academy Science Advice Structure – the organisation that provides science advice to the European Commission on behalf of Europe’s young academies.
Gary currently sits on the Advisory Committee of British Council Scotland. He is a Non-Executive Director of Newmilns Snow and Sports Complex (the UK’s only charity ski slope) and also as Non-Executive Director of the Autism Football Association (the governing body for autism and neurodiversity in Scottish football). He is an Independent Prisons Monitor at His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons Scotland, and a Member of the Law Society of Scotland’s Professional Conduct Committee. He also sits on the Appeals Panel at Scottish Swimming. Gary previously served as Chair of the Board of Trustees at Sonic Bothy - an inclusive music organisation for musicians with and without additional learning needs to explore, compose and perform contemporary music.