The Festivalisation of Edinburgh: constructing its governance

Cliff Hague*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Edinburgh has forged a global brand as the Festival City. The international cultural festival began in 1947, but was contentious in the city for a long period. In the 1990s a wider array of festivals were promoted by the local council. Then in a third stage, from the mid-1990s the festivals became anchored in the city’s tourism offer, and achieved year upon year of growth, to widespread acclaim by the cultural and tourism industries and local politicians. A shared corporate culture was built in which national and local political and cultural bodies planned and delivered change through stakeholder partnerships. Private consultants are found to have played an important role in framing policy and prioritising the economic benefits of the festivals. The paper analyses these governance relationships, as a form of growth coalition. However, it sets the local actions in the context of international economic and political changes, noting also how the 2008 financial and economic crisis impacted on Edinburgh, and the subsequent period of austerity imposed on the local council. The result has been the festivalisation of the city, through intensification and extension of the festivals and associated commercial cultural events, and the commodification of public spaces. Those driving this process paid little attention to concerns about the impacts on the local and wider environment, or the capacity of parts of the city to absorb visitor numbers. The paper is the first part of a double article. The second part, to be published in a later issue, looks at why and how the hegemonic governance structures were challenged by civil society, and how the Covid-19 crisis that began in 2020 impacted on the growth trajectory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-52
Number of pages22
JournalScottish Affairs
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • Edinburgh Festivals
  • Governance
  • Growth coalitions
  • Local government
  • Overtourism
  • Tourism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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