Addressing community diversity: the role of the festival encounter
Local authorities are increasingly turning to festivals to try to encompass difference by creating welcoming, inclusive, and accessible communities. However, scholars have critiqued this notion, arguing that rather than encouraging diversity, such festivals may rather reproduce and disguise power relationships, leading not to increased tolerance, but rather to tensions and heightened differences. This chapter uses the concept of 'encounter' to draw together common themes that have emerged from the many studies of festivals that the authors have undertaken. The chapter initially identifies that 'community' is a contested term; therefore, festivals and events that rely solely on place-based conceptualisations of community are potentially marginalising other forms of community. Secondly, the chapter draws attention to the 'paradox of difference'. For example, while multicultural festivals may be staged to increase tolerance of diversity, such festivals may actually be contributing to disharmony or divergence by positioning different cultures as 'the other'. Similarly, festivals that bring an increased awareness of classed, educational, and financial divides in a community may actually be highlighting disadvantage. Festivals may increase meaningful social encounters and interactions, but they need to be planned and managed carefully to ensure such positive outcomes are realised.