Mapping Cultural Dispersal Report

Download the 2022 report here.

In spring and summer 2021, during the second year in which Edinburgh’s festivals’ programmes were impacted by restrictions in place during the global Covid-19 pandemic, the Culture and Communities Mapping Project conducted research on the role of festivals in Edinburgh communities outside the city centre. We conducted online interviews with managers of six community organisations in Edinburgh that had been identified through our previous research and by the festivals as ‘community hubs’ and which had had varying degrees of engagement with the festivals in the past. The project also conducted mapping workshops – both online and in-person – with community participants from each of the hubs, reaching 71 participants.

Through this research we found that the Edinburgh festivals are loved and celebrated by communities around Edinburgh. Workshop participants are invested in festival activities and positive about how the festivals could build stronger, more connected relationships with communities and the cultural hubs that serve them. Participants also described that these relations are currently constrained by barriers to access that are made up of complex and interlinked economic, geographical, structural, and socio-cultural factors. Some participants felt that the festivals do not actively communicate with their neighbourhood. Despite challenges and barriers to access, workshop participants were enthusiastic about dispersing festival activities across the city and bringing events into their communities. Participants particularly celebrated their neighbourhoods’ open green spaces and suggested family- focused events held in local outdoor areas.

The report makes three recommendations. The first is to communicate and actively promote, through community hubs, core festival programmes to neighbourhoods in areas of lower ticket buying, in addition to community engagement work. This would embed a relationship with the festivals into communities, encouraging both attendance at the festivals through promotion by community hubs and, by extension, cultivating literacy around the festivals. The second recommendation is to continue to explore and develop strategies – with support from policymakers, funders and stakeholders and colleagues from within festival organisations – for dispersing festival events and activities outside the city centre. This work would test the idea that incorporating programming with communities will strengthen connections and encourage movement around the city for inhabitants and visitors. The third recommendation is to disperse festivals’ programmes more widely by having a greater proportion of them take place in Edinburgh’s many green spaces located across the city.


Report by Vikki Jones and Morgan Currie. Interviews conducted by Vikki Jones.

Workshops conducted by Morgan Currie, Vikki Jones, Melisa Miranda Correa, and Joshua Ryan- Saha.

Funded by The University of Edinburgh’s ESRC Impact Accelerator Grant, with support by Festivals Edinburgh and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

With thanks to the community hubs and workshop participants who shared their stories of valued places and festivals and gave us their time.