Festivals and Wellbeing of
(peer-reviewed by Mia Riedel)
07 July 2023
Boots are out, flip-flops are in! The long-awaited summer is finally here! It is the perfect time to take a break from your studies, relax a little bit and recharge for the next year. Arts can be a great way to achieve that. The benefits of arts on mental health and wellbeing have been shown consistently (All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing Inquiry, 2017; Daykin, 2019; Fancourt & Finn, 2019). When you read the word “arts” though, what came to your mind first? Performing arts such as dance or music? Or visual arts such as painting or sculpture? If this is the case, it is quite normal because even in academic research, these types of arts are given more attention compared to the others such as online or digital arts (e.g., animations, film-making and computer graphics) (Fancourt & Finn, 2019). Through this article however I would like to draw your attention to another less discussed form of arts in the context of arts and wellbeing: festivals (Fancourt & Finn, 2019). It is important to focus on festivals because they have a potential to engage the parts of the population that may be otherwise hard to reach out (Packer & Ballantyne, 2010) and thus have broader impact on wellbeing.
As a young adult myself, I love festivals! Even though I haven’t attended that many of them, they are definitely something I look forward to when summer arrives. Besides having a lot of fun, I feel much better after I attend festivals. However, since festivals are intertwined with our daily lives, it is not possible to isolate such an experience from the flow of life (Daykin, 2019). As a result, it is difficult to determine whether attending a festival is a cause or a consequence of a greater wellbeing. As one can expect, attending a festival may lead to a better mental health and wellbeing. However, people who already have a greater wellbeing may be more likely to attend festivals as they have the motivation to do so (Daykin, 2019). Therefore, it is challenging to establish a cause-and-effect relationship between festival participation and wellbeing. This is one of the reasons why festivals are not as readily investigated as the other types of arts.
However, despite all these challenges, there are studies that show that festivals have a positive impact on young adults’ psychological health and wellbeing. For instance, Packer & Ballantyne (2010) carried out a focus group with people aged between 18 and 29 who attended at least one festival. These young adults reported that festivals provided them an opportunity to engage in social activities and thus created a sense of belonging. They also commented that it contributed to their identity development as they could explore different aspects of their personality. Similarly, in another study, Özdemir et al. (2023) asked young people aged between 18 and 25 to fill out a questionnaire about their experience and subjective wellbeing right after attending a festival. They found that festivals increased young people’s wellbeing through contributing to identity formation and by helping them regulate their emotions. These findings suggest that festivals may have a great potential to increase psychological health among young adults.
However, it is important to acknowledge that festivals are not a bed of roses. Besides great music and wonderful encounters, festivals often include situations and behaviours which can have a negative effect on both physical and mental health, which include drug use, overcrowding, public health issues and mob behaviour (Packer & Ballantyne, 2010). Furthermore, the studies I have mentioned above focus on how a specific type of festival effect wellbeing among a certain age group: music festivals and young adults respectively. However, there are different types of festivals such as religious or indigenous culture ones and people from various ages attend these festivals. The potential benefits of these festivals are waiting to be explored. The investigation of how different kinds of festivals enhance mental health and wellbeing of different populations is crucial because by understanding the relationship between festivals and wellbeing, festival organizers can maximize the psychological benefits of festivals while mitigating the negative aspects (Özdemir et al., 2023). So, if you are a researcher looking for a gap in the literature, here it is. If not, just enjoy your festivals.
All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing. (2017). Creative health: the arts for health and wellbeing. http://www.artshealthandwellbeing.org.uk/appg-inquiry/
Daykin, N. (2019). Arts, health and wellbeing: A critical perspective on research, policy and practice. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429356049
Fancourt, D. & Finn, S. (2019). What is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being? A scoping review. World Health Organization (WHO).
Özdemir, C. Düşmezkalender, E., Seçilmiş, C., Yılmaz, V., & Yolal, M. (2023). Emotion and social identification in music festivals on young’s subjective well-being, Journal of Youth Studies, 1-18. https://doi.org/10.1080/13676261.2023.2174011
Packer, J., & Ballantyne, J. (2010). The impact of music festival attendance on young people’s psychological and social wellbeing. Psychology of Music, 39(2), 164-181. https://doi.org/10.1177/0305735610372611