Rebecca Finkel has published a fantastic new paper in the first 2009 issue of Cultural Trends (Vol. 18, No. 1, March 2009, 3–21) entitled “A picture of the contemporary combined arts festival landscape.”
Finkel surveyed 66 “combined” (in order words, mulit-artform) arts festials across the UK using an established UK survey methodology; she also conducted in-depth interviews with the directors of 18 festivals including Edinburgh International Festival’s Jonathan Mills (an Australian).
The paper contains a wealth of information about this part of the UK festivals sector and builds on Finkel’s PhD thesis which obviously included an extensive investigation of this sector.
Finkel finds that because of an uncertain funding environment, enhanced competition and the pressures of the box office, many arts festivals are consciously mimicking each other’s programming (a phenomenon also apparent to the observer of capital-city arts festivals in Australia). “Although there are now more combined arts festivals than ever before in the nation’s history,” she concludes, “most of the ones researched are near ‘carbon copies’ of each other.”
Is this another example of Hotelling’s Model in the cultural industries? Finkel doesn’t say, and we should of course be cautious about describing programming convergence in this way, but I think there may be grounds to think so.