Department of Sociology

Art festivals and the European public culture (Euro-Festival)

Funded under the EU 7th Framework programme as a contribution to the comparative cultural sociology of European society, the Euro-Festival project was a study of artistic festivals as sites of transnational identification and democratic debate. The project started in spring 2008 and ran for three years. It was a collaborative research developed by the University of Sussex Sociology Department, the Interdisciplinary Centre for Comparative Research in the Social Sciences, Vienna (lead partner), the École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris, and the Fondazione di Ricerca Istituto Carlo Cattaneo, Bologna.

The overall aim of the project was to analyze the way in which festivals constitute sites of cultural expression and performance of relevance for European identity-in-the-making and for the European public sphere. More specifically, the project aimed to:

  • explore how festivals use aesthetic forms to symbolize, represent and communicate social and political life (European/national/sub-national) from the perspective of different actors, including programme directors, funding promoters, performing artists and the audience;
  • study the way in which festivals frame the discourse of identity in relation to arts with particular attention to the local/European and local/global interfaces as well as conundrum of difference (diversity) and similarity;
  • analyze how festivals represent sites of competition for access to resources, status and power and how this competition impacts on debates about representation, openness and the public sphere.

The project was organised around a series of in-depth case studies of European festivals:

  • Urban mixed arts festivals (University of Sussex): Venice Biennale, Brighton Festival, Wiener Festwochen.
  • Film festivals (ICCR/EPHE): Venice, Cannes, Berlin, Vienna Jewish Film Festival.
  • Literature Festivals (ICCR): Hay Festival, Berlin Literature Festival, European Border Lands Festival.
  • Music Festivals (Cattaneo): Womad, Umbria Jazz, Sonar.

The Sussex Euro-Festival team included Gerard Delanty (lead scientist), Monica Sassatelli and Jasper Chalcraft.