The identity impact of festivals

The Piazza Grande during the film festival (image courtesy of Locarno Festival)
The Piazza Grande during the film festival (image courtesy of Locarno Festival)

Institutional Communication Service

29 October 2018

Dr. Alessandra Zamparini 

Festivals are increasingly the subject of economic studies, especially because of the activities they generate in their host cities and their influence on local branding strategies. However, it is well known that these events often have a deeper social role. Anthropological studies show that festivals strengthen local identities (e.g. ethnic festivals), or on the contrary they manifest a subversive power that enables a temporary release from the status quo (a typical example is carnival).

A study conducted at the USI Institute of Marketing and Communication Management, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) and which will be presented at ECREA 2018, aims at analysing the role festivals play in the dynamics of identity construction of the hosting city. Together with Prof. Francesco Lurati, I am studying how public authorities appropriate elements of the identity of a festival to formulate an identity vision for the city. The study is based on the case of the Locarno Festival, an organization which has peculiar spatial and temporal characteristics. It is in fact an event defined by periodic cycles, showing a peak of activity during the ten days of the summer festival, and then almost disappearing during the rest of the year. Every summer the Locarno Festival transforms the heart of the city of Locarno and attracts the attention of the local media, dominating the public discourse.

The people living in Locarno are exposed to this ritual every year and often actively participate in the Festival and related side events. Our study, integrating different methods of the qualitative tradition of organizational and communication studies, such as discourse analysis, interviews and observations, intends to propose a processual appreciation of the relationship that is established between a cyclical cultural event, the region that hosts it, and the cultural world it represents, thus providing an alternative and complementary perspective to traditional economic impact studies.

ECREA 2018 is the international conference of the most important European association bringing together researchers active in the field of communication, and taking place in Lugano from October 31 to November 3 at the Palazzo dei Congressi. For details:


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