Cities have much to gain from hosting festivals

Cities have much to gain from hosting festivals

Cities have much to gain from hosting festivals
The masquerade parade on the Grand Canal during the Venice Carnival. (Reuters)
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One of the greatest allures of any city is the variety of festivals on offer for domestic and foreign revelers alike. Festivals have been an intrinsic part of our social and cultural histories for millennia. Many of us have encountered them over the years, whether in the realms of music, art, food, film, nature, sports or culture. Indeed, there is a certain thrill that emanates from the vibe of a festival — the masses bonding in common celebration, curiosities piqued by thought-provoking or ethereal experiences, and the etching of a lifetime of memories in the process.
Many cities vie for the title of being festive, marking their calendars with many distinctive events that cater to diverse audiences. Many have successfully branded themselves as “festival cities,” including Dubai, Edinburgh, Bergen, Manchester and Adelaide. Such cities support the creative industries, offer a selection of cultural amenities and attract a vibrant creative community. Experts argue that these amenities can contribute to the well-being of local communities, in addition to improving social cohesion and fostering community pride. The hosting of festivals also enables locals to develop a connection to their roots while encouraging an interest in world cultures. Perhaps most importantly, festivals celebrate the best of human endeavors in various disciplines.
From an economic perspective, hosting festivals is a good way to attract tourists, delivering a number of economic benefits. This is reflected in the number of tourists and their average spend, in addition to creating jobs and supporting local businesses. Additionally, festivals can enhance a city’s image, boosting investment, trade and migration.
Festivals are plentiful across the globe, offering opportunities to celebrate a broad spectrum of themes that are close to people’s hearts. Venice’s annual carnival, for example, dates back to the 13th century and still enjoys a certain enchantment around its history, culture and literature. Its calendar of activities includes a costume parade, gala dinners and masquerade balls, classical music concerts, mask-making workshops, live opera performances, and traditional Venetian serenades sung by gondoliers.
The annual Chelsea Flower Show in London is considered the world’s most prestigious flower show, showcasing exceptional garden designs, innovative landscaping schemes, and pavilions awash with displays that are sure to impress. It first took place in 1913 and remains a much-loved event, receiving a lot of publicity and frequently being attended by the British royal family.
Festivals Edinburgh is a pioneering events management organization that aims to maintain the image of Edinburgh as a festival city. It manages an exciting array of events throughout the year, including the Edinburgh International Festival, which dates back to 1947. This three-week event showcases renowned performers in opera, classical music, ballet and drama during the month of August.
Another successful product is the Edinburgh International Book Festival, which is a popular literary event held at the gorgeous and historic Charlotte Square Gardens. It welcomes creative and inspiring writers from across the globe, delivering more than 900 author events every year. It attracts more than 250,000 visitors annually. Also on the Scottish city’s calendar are a children’s festival, an international film festival, a science festival, an art festival, and an international storytelling festival.
A defining feature of Japanese cultural symbolism is the dainty and fragrant cherry blossom. In Japan, it is cause for celebration, with the annual cherry blossom festival estimated to attract about 63 million domestic and foreign tourists. According to research conducted by Kansai University, the festival injects about $5.8 billion into Japan’s economy. Visitors can take part in many activities, such as boat cruises, elaborate picnic setups, cherry blossom-themed afternoon teas, and a thrilling food scene.

Festivals can contribute to the well-being of local communities, in addition to improving social cohesion and fostering community pride.

Sara Al-Mulla

The Dubai Art Season, which runs from February to April, hosts a wide range of art-inspired festivals, such as Art Dubai, the Sikka Arts Festival, the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, and the Middle East Film and Comic Con, among many others. The Al-Fahidi Historical District is a nostalgic venue for hosting the Sikka Arts Festival, with its traditional architecture adorned with exhibitions from the worlds of art, poetry, storytelling, music and film, while spacious courtyards host live bands and an open-air cinema. It is a truly iconic cultural festivity.
We have much to celebrate in the fields of the arts, music, culture, nature and film. Creative cities will always be remembered for generating beautiful memories by hosting such memorable festivals.

  • Sara Al-Mulla is an Emirati civil servant with an interest in human development policy and children’s literature. She can be contacted at
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view