In any community, festivals are an important showcase of culture and creativity, and the cornerstone of economic development strategies to attract tourists. But governments often lack the tools necessary to measure the full impact of such multi-faceted events.
A new publication from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics aims to fill the gap. Festival Statistics: Key concepts and current practices, is the third in series of cultural statistics handbooks for policy-makers and practitioners. The handbook sets out major areas of research and practice in the measurement of festivals to help organisers and national authorities to evaluate the economic impacts of festivals.
Festival statistics can be cross-functional. They can be used to develop a macro-understanding of the role and impact of festivals on society, which can in turn inform policy on culture, development and diversity, as well as project management, tourism development and cultural industries commercially-driven or not-for-profit.
Simple definition of festivals as “themed, public celebrations” is the most practical approach. The 2009 UNESCO Framework for Cultural Statistics (FCS) categorizes festivals under ‘performance and celebration’, further defining them as including “all expressions of cultural events. that occur locally and can be informal in nature”.
In addition to assessing commonly-used methods of evaluation, the handbook provides guidance on how to measure the environmental, social and cultural impacts. It reviews best practices and provides a set of recommendations for festival organizers, public bodies and local communities to consider when deciding how their events should be measured.