Light festivals and Place Making in Northern England

Authors: Gail Skelly*, Manchester Metropolitan University
Topics: Cultural Geography, Social Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: Festivals, light festivals, illumination, community, place-making, social-impact
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Zulu, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The occurrences of light festivals in UK cities has grown exponentially in the last decade, yet little is known of their impact on participants’ and audiences’ lives; how the spatial landscape of their urban contexts shapes participants feelings and behaviours. Much has been studied of the impact of cultural festivals, how they may be central to our identification with place, however, investigation into light festivals has been minimal, therefore this research aims to address this gap, particularly focusing on a small event, where empirical evidence is lacking.

The research will utilise a case study of a community produced, local lantern procession, in Ordsall, Salford, UK, which began as a community initiative in 1994. Analysing the 2018 festival, which marks the 25th anniversary for an inner city community, the social landscape and sense of place, as increasingly influenced by peripheral private developments, will be explored. The research seeks to understand how this annual lantern procession deepens a sense of place for established residents, and introduces the character of place to newer residents and visitors. The research will also establish the particular affordances that light, as a cultural medium, produces and will contribute to the understanding of how these creative and vernacular sites of exciting, illuminated nightscapes contribute to place-making.

I will undertake participant observation and semi-structured interviews with participants, audiences, supporting agencies, festival organizers and cultural planners. I will present the early stages of this PhD research, including preliminary findings from participant observations during the festival planning process during 2017.

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