By Matt Burdett, 30 November 2017
On this page, we look at large-scale sporting, cultural, religious and musical festivals as temporary sites of leisure and their associated costs and benefits.
What is a temporary site of leisure?
A site of leisure is any place in which a leisure activity takes place. Most sites are permanent – such as a football stadium, a swimming pool, a hiking trail or a ski slope. The actual leisure activity may not always be taking place, but the facilities that they use are always there. For example, many ski lifts are not dismantled at the end of the winter season; they are used for the summer hiking tourists.
A temporary leisure site is one that is not continually used for that leisure activity. These can generally fit into two types:
- Temporary sites: Sites that are returned to another use after the leisure activity has taken place. Example: farmers’ fields that are used for music festivals, such as the Glastonbury Music Festival held on Worthy Farm (along with land from over twenty other farms), England. The site is normally a dairy farm, with the cows temporarily moved to other farms during the months the site is preparing, hosting and cleaning up after the music festival (Vincent, 2017).
- Permanent sites for temporary events: Sites that have leisure as their predominant use, but the leisure activity varies for short periods of time. Example: city centre parks that are used for temporary fairgrounds once a year, such as Goose Fair in Nottingham, England. This annual fairground show is held on the Forest Recreation Ground, which for the rest of the year is an open recreation space for sports (Nottingham City Council, 2017).
Features of temporary sites of leisure
The table below describes some key variables in the features of temporary leisure sites.
Non-recurrent: one-off location uses e.g. FIFA World Cup, Olympics
Recurrent: events that recur in the same location e.g. Goose Fair on Forest Recreation Ground, Nottingham, UK
Small scale: e.g. a seasonal village fête (small fair)
Large scale: e.g. a major music festival e.g. Glastonbury
Music – e.g. Clockenflap, Hong Kong
Religion – e.g. the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca
Sport – e.g. FIFA World Cup, various locations worldwide
Cultural – e.g. Sagre dell’Uva (wine festival), Marino, near Rome, Italy
Consequences of temporary sites of leisure
Temporary sites of leisure must cope with large numbers of people using the site at the same time, followed by periods with little or no use. The intensive use can bring specific problems that are harder to manage than sites of permanent leisure activity:
Visitors can bring an economic boost to the area for local business. This can be direct and indirect:
- Direct: People are employed by the activity itself for security, ticket sales, construction, cleaning, traffic management and so on.
- Indirect: Nearby businesses may benefit from the additional customers for food, drinks, transport (including car parking), accommodation and so on.
However, there can be negative economic impacts too:
- Not everyone benefits from the event – some people may experience a downturn in their business. For example, in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, hotel occupancy rates were lower than normal for the time of year because regular visitors were put off by the potential for overcrowding.
- Prices may rise, so local people struggle to afford products
- Associated problems such as traffic congestion may increase costs for some businesses
Social benefits include:
- Heightened cultural awareness
- Local people can attend an event that they might not otherwise be able to travel to
- Increased aspiration – local people may be motivated to participate in activities they otherwise might not be aware of
However, negative social impacts include:
- Overcrowding – too many people in the area
- Crime – an increase in petty theft
- Breakdown of existing social structures – the sense of community can be disrupted
While most events struggle with the environmental issues, there can be positives too. For example, some events – such as the Panama festival in the Lone Star Valley in Tasmania, Australia, had a very clear sustainable focus and resulted in almost no litter being left behind after the event, indicating that the festival had successfully promoted its message of sustainability (Brice, 2017).
Unfortunately, most events struggle to cope with the environmental impact. One of the main reasons is the lack of permanence, leading to the need for disposable materials to be used (paper plates, plastic forks, and so on). Other problems include:
- Noise pollution
- Traffic congestion and associated air pollution
- Waste disposal
- Lack of recycling facilities
Political issues can be seen as a subset of social issues. Political benefits can include:
- Communal decision making
- Community priorities being emphasised to a wider audience
- Civic pride – the community is proud of their ability to host an event
However, there can be problems:
- Disagreement about the use of the location can divide communities
- The benefits for one group can override the negatives for another group
- Decisions about the future of the event can be taken by a small and unaccountable group, e.g. landowners or event organisers, at the expense of the majority of people in the area
- Local government may not have the capability to effectively deal with the problems caused by the event, especially for large events that overwhelm the ability of the authorities to adequately plan for the event
Brice, C. ,2017. Are these the cleanest festival goers ever? ABC News. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-24/are-these-the-cleanest-festival-goers-ever/8376512 Accessed 30th November 2017
Nottingham City Council, 2017.Forest Recreation Ground. http://www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/ForestRec Accessed 27th November 2017
Vincent, A., 2017. Cows back on Worthy Farm after fastest Glastonbury clean-up in history. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/music/news/cows-back-worthy-farm-fastest-glastonbury-clean-up-history/ Accessed 27th November 2017
Temporary sites of leisure: Learning activities
- What is a temporary site of leisure? 
- Why might some people consider a site of leisure to be permanent, while others consider it to be temporary? (Think about the nature of the activity and how long the site is used.) 
- Outline the costs and benefits of using a location as a temporary site of leisure. 
- What factors affect the overall balance between the costs and the benefits? 
- Suggest why large temporary events often cause conflict amongst local people. 
For a temporary site of leisure near where you live, write to the local authority arguing one of the following:
- That the event should continue to happen in the future
- That the event should be modified to reduce problems
- That the event should be stopped altogether
As part of your letter:
- Outline the normal use of the site
- Outline how the site is used by the temporary event
- Outline when the site is used (time of year/day as well as duration of use)
- From your own knowledge and/or research, identify the possible costs and benefits of the site. Use a table similar to the one below
- Sum up your findings and recommendation in a conclusion
Other e.g. political
If you’re interested in this topic, you could look in more detail at the following resources:
- Irshad, H. 2011. Impacts of community events and festivals on rural places. http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$Department/deptdocs.nsf/all/csi13702/$FILE/Community-events-and-festivals.pdf Accessed 1st December 2017. This literature review contains a wealth of information about the typology, success factors and impacts of festivals in various locations are discussed.
- Gibson, C. & Stewart, A. (2009). Reinventing rural places: The extent and impact of festivals in rural and regional Australia. Wollongong, Australia: University of Wollongong. http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3357&context=sspapers Accessed 1st December 2017. This very accessible yet academic paper reviews the impact of festivals at various scales across Australia. There are extensive graphics including maps, tables and images that are excellent for an in-depth study of festivals in the country.