Research Output
Social network analysis and festival relationships: personal, organisational and strategic connections
  In the world of festivals and creative communities, relationships matter. Festival managers and producers understand the overlapping links, both professional and private, amongst their colleagues. Freelancers and graduates developing their careers appreciate that opportunities can come by way of personal connections. The future success of entire festival organisations can depend on forging, maintaining and exploiting associations with collaborators, suppliers and allies. Academic literature in the field of festival studies has sought to better understand the interpersonal dimension of these events, from different conceptual standpoints, in a range of contexts. However, in this festival environment there remains an opportunity, if not a need, to establish the place of network-based research methods and perspectives in the development of academic and industry understandings of social relationships. Networks underpin these connections and communities, from simple ties between pairs of people, to complex webs spanning hundreds of individuals, venues, performing companies, supply chains and audience members. The body of published work in Chapter 4 of this book presents a variety of projects that support a network focused approach, using social network analysis (SNA) methodologies. The accompanying commentary has built upon these publications in the other chapters below, to explore the implications and opportunities of a network- orientated mindset.

This thesis contributes to the field of festival and event studies by applying SNA to a variety of case studies and environments, highlighting interpersonal relationships both within festival organisations, and as connections to their host communities of creative individuals. Much of the empirical work was located in Edinburgh, Scotland, with its thriving and well-established festival sector. A festivals strategy for the City of Edinburgh Council recognised, at the turn of the century, that “The impression is of an integrated culture (or industry) with people, ideas and skills moving between different festivals” (Graham Devlin Associates, 2001, p. 14). This chimes with an understanding of SNA that priorities its interest in “Relational data... [that] concern the contacts, ties and connections, and the group attachments and meetings that relate one agent to another and that cannot be reduced to the properties of the individual agents themselves” (Scott, 2017, p. 4). This appreciation of the primacy of networks is reflected in the reviews of existing academic festival and event literature below, in Chapter 2 and the various publications themselves. Though network themes are generally most prominent in these discussions, other considerations include the roles of stakeholder analysis, social capital theory, and the significance of place. On such foundations, previous research from a variety of authors has considered the management, experience, evaluation and sustainable development of festivals and events. However, these approaches can lack detail, often fail to consider individual people as a vital unit of analysis, and achieve limited engagement with the dynamism of festivals and creative communities. In response, the overall aim of the current research (as set out in Chapter 1’s Introduction) is to critically analyse social relationships within festival and creative communities, and examine the potential contribution of social network analysis in supporting and developing understanding of these relationships, from a network-orientated perspective.

Social network analysis methods underpin the overall research methodology set out in Chapter 3. This part of the book examines how and why different forms of SNA have been used: these include whole network, ego network, and two mode network analyses. Each approach offers its own research tools and insights, which has proved appropriate to the development of discrete projects, and a range of publications (listed in Table 1.1, and in Figure 3.1). A motivating factor in compiling this PhD has been showing the applicability of SNA in a range of festival and creative community contexts. In this way, the work has sometimes been exploratory in nature. This has proven rewarding to those involved in each project, but it has also contributed to a general narrative in support of SNA’s value to festival studies. Chapter 3 also explores critical realism as the principal research philosophy to have informed the thesis, as expressed most clearly in the commentary below. Critical realism has encouraged the incorporation of fundamental themes in social research, such as the relationship between structure and agency, and the emergent properties of phenomena. The work in this book has raised the profile and the potential of both SNA and critical realism in festival, events and creative communities research.

In Chapter 5, the book’s chief contributions to knowledge are set out. The twin foundations for these contributions are the adoption of a network-orientated perspective to the study of festival and creative communities, and the application of SNA in this context. This combination of outlook and empirical analysis has provided novel insights and interpretations, to the benefit of both this thesis and also future work. Interpersonal relationships have been shown as vitally important to the development and management of festivals, and the organisations that deliver them. Connections between such organisations, and other stakeholder groupings, are then presented here as being facilitated and maintained by ties between individuals. For these people, networks shape access to information, resources and opportunities, both in the immediate term and with reference to longer term career development. A “network theory of festivals” has been introduced below as a realistic and recommended ambition, building on the work here to inform the future description, analysis, management and sustainable delivery of festivals. The aforementioned contribution of critical realism is also examined in Chapter 5, as an under-utilised lens and philosophical framework through which new research themes can be identified and pursued in festival and event studies.

The concluding chapter to the book, Chapter 6, sets out important limitations in the production of both the empirical research projects and the overall narrative commentary. These limitations are framed around four categories: methods and methodologies; approaches and objectives; applications of the work; and exemplars of good practice. Across these categories, consideration is given to limitations that are potentially applicable to all SNA projects, such as how to manage incomplete data sets. Attention is also focused on themes more specific to festival and creative communities, including recognition that this book is not intended as a guide to successful social networking in such environments. Nor are the case studies examined necessarily exemplars of best practice in this regard. Limitations are present in all research, to some extent, and they often provide inspiration for future work. Key recommendations from this thesis include the need to incorporate a broad network approach to festivals and creative communities research, supplementing an otherwise rather limited outlook from event studies that is based on stakeholder groupings and single events. It is also noted in Chapter 6 that empirical SNA’s emphasis on relational data can inform other perspectives on social relationships, such as actor network theory, the political market square, and communities of interest. Additional research is recommended to learn more about flows in festival networks, to better understand the meaning of networks alongside their structure, and ideally through longitudinal investigations. Finally, in relation to primary research, there are significant opportunities to expand the range of data sources used in the study of festival networks, including social media connections and other digital information. Recommendations are also made to producers, employees, freelancers, funders and policy makers in the festival and creative sectors, including the development of a formalised appreciation of the role of networks in the planning, delivery, management and experience of events. Further analysis will shine an increasingly revealing light on festival life in the network society.

In this book, festivals on the one hand are shown to be inextricably linked to the creative communities that support and nurture them on the other. Connections between the two take the form of personal ties, with the people involved fulfilling multiple roles, in both contexts, over a period of time. A network-orientated perspective recognises this recursiveness, and provides means of investigating and analysing it. Relationships that are forged, strengthened, forgotten and later resurrected in one context, can be relevant and influential in another. A festival can also incorporate pre-existing interpersonal networks, and will often outlive them. Communities are represented by their festivals, and those festivals are here shown to be networked communities in their own right, shaping and shaped by the individuals they connect.

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  • Date:

    01 September 2022

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  • Funders:

    New Funder


Jarman, D. (2022). Social network analysis and festival relationships: personal, organisational and strategic connections. (Thesis). Tilburg University. Retrieved from



festivals, networks, communities, social network analysis

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