Ahead of World Mental Health Day on Sunday 10 October, we have collaborated with the Event Industry Advisory Group (EIAG) to publish the findings from a research project commissioned to further understand and examine how events do, and can increasingly continue to contribute to Scotland’s wellbeing.
The Contribution of Events to Scotland’s Wellbeing is delivered by Wavehill Social and Economic Research, and led by Dr Bridget McConnell, CBE & Chief Executive of Glasgow Life as part of the EIAG Health and Wellbeing Economy workstream. It draws on a review of existing research and evidence across literature, as well as contributions and consultations from individuals and event organisations involved in hosting events and/or measuring the impact of events.
The literature review was directed by a framework which centred on a range of key questions, concepts, and criteria. These focused on understanding how events contribute to a number of different areas and levels including: National Outcomes; the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities; Mental & Physical Health, and; Participation, Engagement and Inclusion.
The key findings across the research project focus on reinforcing the direct contribution that events provide in promoting Scotland’s place in the world; creating opportunities for communities to come together; building social capital and supporting individual wellbeing.
The research also identifies good practice that can help inform and guide the development of a measurement framework, aligned to the National Performance Framework to enable events to demonstrate their contribution to Scotland’s Wellbeing.
As set out in our COVID-19 Recovery Strategy, promoting a Wellbeing Economy that is inclusive and encourages sustainability, prosperity and resilience is a top priority for the Scottish Government. As this report has highlighted, the diverse range of events that take place throughout the country bring social and economic benefits to our communities. Scotland is the perfect stage for events and this research underlines the important role they have to play as we recover and rebuild following COVID-19.
The last 18 months have been extremely challenging for everyone and one of the many things it has reinforced is just how important events are to our everyday lives. The economic benefits of sporting and cultural events are widely recognised. They support thousands of jobs, both directly within the events industry itself as well as wider sectors including hospitality and tourism. However, events do more than just bring economic benefits. They also have a wider societal benefit and make a valuable contribution toward our health and wellbeing. Demonstrating this contribution is less well developed as than the economic impact measures, however, but this new piece of research helps show how events can and do contribute to our nation’s wellbeing.
The research showed major events awards have the potential to enhance the reputation of our cities and communities internationally as well as help build a sense of pride and confidence at a national level. This is widely evident through our successful hosting of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in Perthshire, both in 2014, which were real game changers for Scotland. They were the springboard from which we went on to host other major events, including the 2015 FIG World Artistic Gymnastics and the 2019 Solheim Cup, and showed the world that Scotland is a proud and confident nation. These events in 2014 also instilled huge civic pride and were a catalyst for improving residents self-image of their community and making a positive contribution to their quality of life.
The research also highlighted how attending or regularly taking part, either as a participant or as a volunteer, can help improve wellbeing; while the social aspects of events - the chance to interact with friends and family - is a key driver for supporting mental health. This is more important than ever, especially after the last 18 months where the opportunity to interact with those close to us has been severely limited due to the need to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
The findings from this research and the recommendations on how to develop the evidence base for measuring the contribution of events to the nation’s health and wellbeing, will form an important part of our work going forward including building it in to our National Events Strategy, Scotland the Perfect Stage.
The past 18 months have presented numerous challenges and hurdles to overcome, but one which was perhaps underestimated was the impact the cancellation of hundreds of events and festivals, of all sizes, would have on people and communities right across the country. Leading this piece of research for the EIAG in collaboration with VisitScotland has been key to further understanding and demonstrating the positive social impact of events on our shared health and wellbeing.
Glasgow is no stranger to hosting outstanding local, national and international cultural and sporting events, and our reputation on the world stage is a source of genuine civic pride, not just for those who work across the many different facets of our events industry, but for all Glaswegians. It’s one of the reasons why Glasgow was named the top festival and event destination at the World Travel Awards in 2019.
Our unrivalled major events portfolio – from the likes of the Merchant City Festival and the Glasgow Mela to Glasgow International and the World Pipe Band Championships – makes a significant contribution to improving the quality of life of our citizens and visitors as well as shaping and enhancing perceptions of Glasgow across the UK and internationally.
Our much-loved Celtic Connections festival regularly sees visitors from across the world flock to Glasgow, allowing us to show our city at its best. Because of COVID-19 we were forced to deliver a wholly digital event this year, with audiences from more than 60 countries participating virtually. While it proved to be a real success, with thousands of viewers expressing their joy that we were still able to make it happen, it also reiterated how important physical events are in terms of supporting our mental health and fostering social connection, with many more viewers commenting on just how much they missed attending the live shows with friends and loved ones.
This summer, Glasgow hosted four of the postponed EURO 2020 football matches, as well as a free open-air Fan Zone in Glasgow Green. The delight of all those in attendance was palpable and coming on the back of various lockdowns and restrictions it was really the first opportunity in more than a year to combat the isolation and loneliness that so many people have faced during the pandemic. The social benefits which go hand-in-hand with hosting major events are considerable.
The Fan Zone also meant the city once again relied on its army of enthusiastic and invaluable volunteers, hundreds of whom regularly support events by dedicating their spare time to improving the experience for event-goers. Involvement in these events is an integral part of life for many of our volunteers, and one which brings them opportunities to interact with others and meet new people; something which we know becomes ever more important as we get older.
As we navigate our way out of the pandemic, this research serves as an important benchmark. It identifies the clear steps which must be taken to ensure we continue to prioritise health and wellbeing outcomes as part of our event recovery planning and will help to further shape the Event Industry Advisory Group’s ongoing focus in this area.