Musings: why do international festivals matter to the city?


Photos taken during KLIAF’s September 2017 “KL LePark


Why do international arts festivals matter to the host city?

A research was done by AEA Consulting for Edinburgh Festivals focusing on the benefits under the Thundering Hooves report. The report mentioned that since the early 1980s, in relation to urban development, the concept of ‘festivalisation’ has been introduced as one of the mechanisms for a city to develop its economy.

Especially after the Second World War, a significant period where cities in Europe were focusing to develop international cultural festivals as it can be linked to the cities’ economic restructuring, competition between cities development and the commitment from related parties to develop cities as large-scale platforms that can be used as cultural hubs.

In current times, if an art festival is done in a right manner, it can help a city to foster a city’s brand, grow tourism, enhance the arts and community participation and last but not east to grow local businesses that can add to overall economic growth of a country which can attract domestic and foreign sponsorships.

The branding of a city as an arts festival city

A city like Adelaide, even though it is smaller compared to Melbourne and Sydney, due to its branding as an arts city can give a significant threat to other big cities and be one of the top choices to festival goers to choose. One of the reasons is also because of the support from both major political parties in Adelaide.

The fully equipped opera and orchestra in Adelaide such as South Opera of South Australia and Adelaide Symphony Orchestra also attract local and foreign artists to the city.

Photos taken during KLIAF’s September 2017 “KL LePark


Participation of local community

Edinburgh which is well-known as a city that has a mature arts ecosystem fostered a community that constitutes a confident, outward-looking and positive Edinburgh and local Scottish identity.

A study conducted by BOP Consulting for Impact Study Report for Edinburgh Festivals showed that participating in a festival was the primary cultural activity preferred by Edinburgh citizen and 89% of local audiences agreed that the Festivals in Edinburgh enhance their pride in the city.

The festival also helped to increase collaboration across Scotland as well as 81% percent of engagement projects during the festival came from outside of Edinburgh and across Scotland.

Mutual benefit of economic growth and arts sponsorship

Corporate sponsorship of Hong Kong arts festival has doubled since 2004. The increased support shows the willingness to promote arts in the city thus attract more foreign investments that help to flourish the overall economic development.

The custom is that taxpayers will cover 30% of the festival and 40% will be financed from box-office sales. The balance will be from corporate and individual sponsors. It shows, that, there is a mutual relationship between arts sponsorship and the enhancement of economic growth as both are mutually important to make a country to be better.

Festivals can be one of the critical success factors for a city to differentiate itself and move from commodity to brand. As this can be an attractive factor to attract and retain investment coming into a city and country, tourism and skilled labor.


This note was written by Nura Adila Asri, who is also the author behind Nura’s Estetik ( Based in Kuala Lumpur, her curations explore on her love for buildings and fashion. Currently, she is a Summer Associate for Kuala Lumpur International Arts Festival , working on an economic impact assessment report. Who knows what her next move will be?

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