The impact of (jazz) festivals

An Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded research report


  • Emma Webster University of East Anglia
  • George McKay University of East Anglia



jazz festivals, impact, value, benefits, economic impact, social impact, cultural impact, literature review, socio-political impact


Festivals are an essential part of the jazz world, forming regularly occurring pivot points around which jazz musicians, audiences, and organizers plan their lives. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the purpose of this report is to chart and critically examine available writing about the impact of jazz festivals, drawing on both academic and ‘grey’/cultural policy literature in the field. The review presents research findings under the headings of economic impact; socio-political impact; temporal impact and intensification and transformation of experience; creative impact – music and musicians; discovery and audience development; place-making; the mediation of jazz festivals; and environmental impact. It concludes with a set of recommendations for future research, which identifies gaps in the field. To accompany the review, a 100-entry 40,000 word annotated bibliography has also been produced, which is accessible online.

Author Biographies

Emma Webster, University of East Anglia


Emma Webster is the postdoctoral research associate at the University of East Anglia working on The Impact of Festivals project, and ‘researcher-in-residence’ at the 2016 EFG London Jazz Festival. She is an academic expert on live music and festivals and is also a music and comedy promoter in her spare time. She received her AHRC-funded PhD from the University of Glasgow in 2011 for a thesis entitled Promoting Live Music: A Behind-the-Scenes Ethnography. More recently, she worked on a census of live music in Edinburgh in 2015 and wrote the six-year report of the Association of Independent Festivals in 2014. Dr Webster is also co-author, with McKay, of the report From Glyndebourne to Glastonbury: The Impact of British Music Festivals (2016). Among her other publications is the co-authored three-volume series The History of Live Music in Britain (Frith, Brennan, Cloonan and Webster), of which the first, covering 1950-1967, was published by Ashgate in 2013.  She takes up a position as postdoctoral researcher on a new AHRC project mapping live music in Britain at Edinburgh University in November 2016, just after her current UEA project is completed. Emma's website is  

George McKay, University of East Anglia

George McKay joined UEA as Professor of Media Studies in November 2014. Previously he was Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Salford (2005-14), where he established and directed the Communication, Cultural & Media Studies Research Centre, and Professor of Cultural Studies at UCLan (2000-05). He has a First Class BA (Hons) from Hull College of Higher Education (1984) and a PhD from the University of Glasgow (1992). Going further back, he attended secondary schools in Norfolk: King Edward VII Grammar School, King’s Lynn (1972-75), and Blyth-Jex Comprehensive School, Norwich (1975-80). 

He is currently engaged on a 0.8 role as an Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Leadership Fellow for its Connected Communities Programme.

Among his books are Senseless Acts of Beauty: Cultures of Resistance since the Sixties (Verso, 1996), DiY Culture: Party & Protest in Nineties Britain (ed., Verso, 1998), Glastonbury: A Very English Fair (Gollancz, 2000), Community Music: A Handbook (co-ed. with Pete Moser, Russell House, 2004), Circular Breathing: The Cultural Politics of Jazz in Britain (Duke UP, 2005), Radical Gardening: Politics, Idealism and Rebellion in the Garden (Frances Lincoln, 2011), Shakin' All Over: Popular Music and Disability (University of Michigan Press, 2013), and The Pop Festival: History, Music, Media, Culture (ed., Bloomsbury, 2015).

He was founding co-editor in 2002 of Social Movement Studies: Journal of Social, Cultural and Political Protest (Routledge), and associate editor (1993-2002) of the BAAS Paperback Series (Edinburgh UP). He was special issue editor of the journal Popular Music (28:3; 2009) on the theme of popular music and disability. He is currently a member of the editorial board of Jazz Research Journal and consulting editor of Social Movement Studies.

Professor McKay’s website is - it contains comprehensive information about his research—including lots of open access links—books, events, reviews, even a little about his music (semi-pro jazz double bassist). His page is here—again, open access links. You can also, if so minded, follow him on Twitter @george_mckay.


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How to Cite

Webster, E., & McKay, G. (2016). The impact of (jazz) festivals: An Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded research report. Jazz Research Journal, 9(2), 169–193.