Events are vital to Scotland’s economy and support thousands of jobs, not only directly related to the events themselves, but also more widely in the supply chain and in tourism. Find out more information about events in our EventScotland section.
Building a Wellbeing Economy is a top priority for the Scottish Government. This means building an economy that is inclusive and promotes sustainability, prosperity and resilience, where businesses can thrive and innovate. It should also support all communities across Scotland by enabling them to access opportunities that deliver local growth and wellbeing.
VisitScotland, on behalf of the Event Industry Advisory Group, commissioned a research project to understand how events contribute to Scotland’s wellbeing and identify measures for wellbeing impacts. Discover more about the Event Industry Advisory Group.
The research, delivered by Wavehill Social and Economic Research, comprised a review of existing research and evidence and was produced in consultation with people involved in events. This page details some of the key findings from the report:
Scotland’s people and reputation
Major events have the potential to enhance the reputation of cities and communities internationally, as well as helping to build a sense of pride and confidence at a national level. Successfully hosting high profile events can enable nations to compete for and successfully attract future events. This highlights the direct contribution that events provide in promoting Scotland’s place in the world and projecting a proud and confident nation.
Edinburgh International Festival: Five Telegrams.
Events come in all shapes and sizes, enabling people to come together to watch or participate in a community, cultural, commemorative, recreational, sporting or arts experience. While small community events, by virtue of their scale may not have significant economic impact, they are important socially and culturally.
Scotland’s National Performance Framework outlines a vision to create communities that are inclusive, empowered, resilient and safe. A recurring theme in research reports, covering events and festivals across different sectors and scale, is how events have contributed to improved outcomes for communities.
One of the most commonly cited outcomes derived from the literature around events and festivals is their ability to instil a sense of civic pride. Events can act as catalysts for improving residents’ self-image of the community in which they live and for making a positive contribution to their quality of life. The image that residents have of the place in which they live is important for several reasons:
- Local pride and appreciation of an area are closely linked to feelings of attachment and a sense of belonging, which are seen by policymakers as key indicators of community cohesion
- Festivals and events improve perceptions of place. By enabling local communities to collaboratively produce festivals and events, it can lead to a collective process of placemaking
- Events create an opportunity for communities to come together, providing space for interaction for different groups within the community
- Events and festivals also provide an opportunity for people to engage in arts and cultural events and, as such, the events industry provides an important contribution to increasing attendance and participation rates across Scotland
- There are numerous examples of the role of events in providing volunteering opportunities and the impact of a volunteer’s experience on their wellbeing and social connectedness.
Paisley Food and Drink Festival. Credit: Renfrewshire council / paisley.is
Individual wellbeing refers to how people experience and evaluate their lives. This can relate to how ‘happy’ someone feels in the moment or how satisfied they are with their life. Wellbeing research points to the value of regular participation or attendance at events in driving self-reported improvements in wellbeing. A thriving, inclusive and diverse events industry, providing varied and inclusive opportunities for engagement, is more likely to contribute to improvements in subjective wellbeing than one-off events.
Several research reports highlight the impact of events in making people feel happier. The creation of an enjoyable or pleasurable experience for spectators should not be underestimated in its wider contribution to a nation’s wellbeing. However, the extent to which someone’s enjoyment of an event or festival translates into longer-term life satisfaction is less clear in the evidence base.
The most frequently referenced wellbeing impact associated with event or festival attendance relates to its ability to build social capital. A society with high social capital is characterised as one rich in connections, co-operation, and trust, where people help each other, provide information, and access to opportunities and spend time for the ‘common good’.
The social aspect of events and their ability to facilitate interaction with friends, family and neighbours is recognised in the evidence base as a key driver for supporting mental wellbeing. Cultural events can play an important role in helping people to cope with stress. Events also have the potential to directly address issues related to social isolation and loneliness, which are both key influencers on individual wellbeing.
World music festival, Knockengorroch Festival. Credit: VisitScotland/Peter Dibdin
The outcomes and indicators of the Scottish Government’s National Performance Framework provide a useful framework to consider which impacts to measure and which tools to use to build the evidence base on the contribution of events to supporting wellbeing in Scotland.
The focus for event organisers should be on capturing basic outputs on the number of participants (or participations), audience size and volunteers along with appropriate profile information. Event organisers can then decide, subject to resources available, on particular outcome areas to explore in further depth in both designing their event and measuring its impact.
The full report from this research is available on request, by emailing your name and company to [email protected].