Can Events Facilitate Intercultural Understanding?: A Critical Investigation at Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod

Can Events Facilitate Intercultural Understanding?: A Critical Investigation at Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod

Karen Davies (Cardiff Metropolitan University, UK) and Caroline Ritchie (Cardiff Metropolitan University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5053-3.ch013
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Abstract

The founding philosophy of many cultural events established after the Second World War was to enhance the dynamics of peace through supporting and developing multicultural understanding. Over 50 years after their establishment, this chapter investigates the potential of such iconic events to achieve this aim and contribute to the concept of peace through tourism, based on a longitudinal ethnographic case study of Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod. The results show that this aim can be achieved by such events if they provide enough time and space for participants (performers and audiences) to interact. However, the study also identifies current cultural, political, and fiscal challenges in providing these temporal and physical spaces.
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Introduction

Multicultural festivals are a strong and flourishing sector of the international tourism industry. The chapter presents the details and results of an investigation into the potential of these multicultural festivals to develop international understanding and contribute to cohesion, friendship and peace. This is in a world rocked by terrorism, where information on other cultures becomes infinitely more accessible through the world-wide-web and modern transportation and yet where true intercultural understanding is often very limited or shallow. The research investigates the processes and mechanisms which are used to encourage and promote intercultural understanding, global citizenship and peace at Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, North Wales. The study critically aims to answer the following research questions:

  • What are the processes and mechanisms at Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod that are used to encourage and promote intercultural understanding, global citizenship and peace?

  • What different groups of people are involved in these processes and mechanisms?

  • Have these processes and mechanisms changed over time, and what can be done to improve them in order for the event to continue to promote intercultural understanding and world peace?

Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod was specifically set up to help achieve the ideals of reconciliation between nations and is one of the few current festivals which can state their overall objective as world peace. Klaic (2006, p. 55) commented that “after the end of the Cold War, festivals have […] become the backbone of international cultural co-operation”, and indeed, there were many other multicultural events set up in the period that Newbold, Jordan, Bianchini & Maughan term the “age of reconstruction” (2015, p. xi), as an opportunity to “re-affirm ‘appropriate’ cultural values, encourage social stability and boost morale” (Quinn, 2010, p. 268).

The annual six-day event has a traditional music and bardic competition structure, which is modelled on the more well-known National Eisteddfod of Wales, and takes place in Llangollen in north Wales in the first week of July. The first Llangollen Eisteddfod event took place in 1947 in order to provide a platform for international groups to compete in choral music competitions within a supportive and friendly environment. Now as then, amateur competitor groups from around the world and the UK attend the event to enter the competitions. In the early years around 60, 000 to 80,000 competitors would take part, but these days this has reduced to approximately 5,000 due to a number of factors, including the expense for groups to travel to the event, restrictions on visas, and changes in the funding schemes available. The competitions have been extended from the initial choral music to include dance. In line with other festivals, the event has faced many challenges and issues, not least the financial pressures of non-profit organisations that rely heavily on volunteers to ensure their longevity and sustainability and often need to “change business activities in ways that may compromise their mission in order to gain market shares” (Andersson & Getz, 2009, p. 252). At the Llangollen Eisteddfod this is reflected in the relatively recent addition of a series of evening concerts at which professional musicians play and which attract additional audiences to the event who do not necessarily attend the rest of the festival. Whilst the event has responded well to these and other external pressures, such as changes in legislation in relation to housing competitors, and competition from other similar events, there have inevitably had to be changes within the organisation which may have impacted on the overall initial intercultural friendship and peace objectives of the festival. Therefore, Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod is particularly well suited to be a case study to investigate how far present-day festivals can promote intercultural communication and thus contribute to global citizenship and world peace.

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