Islay Jazz Festival


  • Haftor Medbøe Edinburgh Napier University
  • Diane Maclean Edinburgh Napier University



festival, jazz, culture, island, identity construction, festivalization


This article considers the ecologies and stakeholder interests that overlap in the staging of an annual jazz festival on a small Scottish island in the Outer Hebrides. Through interviews with festival promoters, performers and audience members, alongside insights from island residents, we interrogate the special circumstances governing the presentation of a festival of ostensibly urban music in a rural island location. Constructions of identity and myth are observed to permeate narratives around both festival and island, often symbiotically intertwined to mutual benefit. Nonetheless, tensions between incomer and visitor, the rural and the urban, ‘high’ and ‘low’ arts, nostalgia and progress are seen to emerge. In the discussion of the complexities involved in the import of a jazz festival to an island steeped in its own history, and internationally recognized for its manufacture and export of distinctive Scotch whisky, this article seeks to explore universal themes of identity construction through a finite study of a distinctly situated cultural festival.

Author Biographies

  • Haftor Medbøe, Edinburgh Napier University

    Haftor Medbøe is Associate Professor of Music and Head of Humanities & Culture in the School of Arts & Creative Industries at Edinburgh Napier University. As Jazz Musician in Residence, he directs the University’s annual Jazz Summer School and is founding chair of the Scottish Jazz Archive. His research interests lie in the overlapping communities of jazz production and reception.

  • Diane Maclean, Edinburgh Napier University

    Diane Maclean is Associate Professor and Interim Dean of the School of Arts & Creative Industries at Edinburgh Napier University. Her research is grounded in identity studies and applied through documentary film-making. Diane has produced a number of award-winning programmes for the BBC and has contributed to scholarly work on the role of interview and setting in identity construction.


Bennett, Andy, Jodie Taylor and Ian Woodward (2014) The Festivalization of Culture. Farnham: Ashgate.

Blaikie, Andrew (2001) ‘Photographs in the Cultural Account: Contested Narratives and Collective Memory in the Scottish Islands’. Sociological Review 49/3: 345–67.

Bowitz, Einar, and Karin Ibenholt (2009) ‘Economic Impacts of Cultural Heritage—Research and Perspective’. Journal of Cultural Heritage 10/1: 1–8.

Boyle, David (2003) Authenticity: Brands, Fakes and Spin and the Lust for Real Life. London: Flamingo.

Bryman, Alan, and Robert G. Burgess (1994) Analyzing Qualitative Data. London and New York: Routledge.

Chapman, Malcolm (1978) The Gaelic Vision in Scottish Culture. London: Croom Helm.

Cohen, Colleen (1995) ‘Marketing Paradise, Making Nation’. Annals of Tourism Research 22/2: 404–21.

Cormack, Mike (2008) ‘Gaelic, the Media and Scotland’. In The Media in Scotland, ed. Neil Blain and David Hutchison, 213–26. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Cross, Michael, and Stephen Nutley (1999) ‘Insularity and Accessibility: The Small Island Communities of Western Ireland’. Journal of Rural Studies 15/3: 317–30.

del Barrio, María José, María Devesa and Luis César Herrero (2012) ‘Evaluating Intangible Cultural Heritage: The Case of Cultural Festivals’. City, Culture and Society 3/4: 235–44.

Dowd, Timothy, Kathleen Liddle and Jenna Nelson (2004) ‘Music Festivals as Scenes: Examples from Serious Music, Womyn’s Music, and SkatePunk’. In Music Scenes: Local, Translocal and Virtual, ed. Andy Bennet and Richard A. Peterson, 149–67. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.

Etikan, Ilker, S. Abubakar and M. R. S. Alkassim (2015) ‘Comparison of Convenience Sampling and Purposive Sampling’. American Journal of Theoretical and Applied Statistics 5/1: 1–4.

Fisher, John A. (2012) ‘High Art versus Low Art’. In Routledge Companion to Aesthetics, ed. Berys Gaut and Dominic M. Lopes, 473–84. London: Routledge.

Franklin, Adrian (2003) Tourism: An Introduction. London: Sage.

George, E. Wanda, Heather Mair and Donald G. Reid (2009) Rural Tourism Development: Localism and Cultural Change. Bristol, UK: Channel View Publications.

George, E. Wanda, and Donald G. Reid (2005) ‘The Power of Tourism: A Metamorphosis of Community Culture’. Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change 3/2: 88–107.

Getz, Donald (2010) ‘The Nature and Scope of Festival Studies’. International Journal of Event Management Research 5/1.

Gurung, Dhan B., and Klaus Seeland (2008) ‘Ecotourism in Bhutan: Extending its Benefits to Rural Communities’. Annals of Tourism Research 35/2: 489–508.

Jedrej, Charles, and Mark Nuttall (1996) White Settlers: The Impact of Rural Repopulation in Scotland. London: Routledge.

Jordan, Jennie (2016) ‘The Festivalisation of Contemporary Life’. In Focus on World Festivals: Contemporary Case Studies and Perspectives, ed. Chris Newbold and Jennie Jordan, 6–18. Oxford: Goodfellow Publishers.

Keogh, Brent (2014) ‘A Tale of Five Festivals: Exploring the Cultural Intermediary Function of Australian Jazz Festivals’. Jazz Research Journal 8/1-2: 182–201.

Lopez, Barry (1996) ‘A Literature of Place’. U.S. Society and Values (August): 10–13.

Luckman, Susan (2015) Craft and the Creative Economy. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Macdonald, Sharon (1997) Reimagining Culture: Histories, Identities and the Gaelic Renaissance. Oxford and New York: Berg.

Macleod, Donald V. L. (2004) Tourism, Globalisation and Cultural Change: An Island Community Perspective. Clevedon, UK: Channel View.

Mewett, Peter G. (1982) ‘Associational Categories and the Social Location of Relationships in a Lewis Crofting Community’. In Belonging: Identity and Social Organisation in British Rural Cultures, ed. Anthony P. Cohen, 101–30. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Négrier, Emmanuel (2015) ‘Festivalisation: Patterns and Limits’. In Focus on Festivals: Contemporary European Case Studies and Perspectives, ed. Chris Newbold, Christopher Maughan, Jennie Jordan and Franco Bianchini, 18–27. Oxford: Goodfellow Publishers.

Oakes, Steve (2010) ‘Demographic and Sponsorship Considerations for Jazz and Classical Music Festivals’. The Service Industries Journal 23/3: 165–78.

Overton, James (2007) ‘A Future in the Past? Tourism Development, Outport Archaeology and the Politics of Deindustrialization in Newfoundland and Labrador in the 1990s’. Urban History Review 35/2: 60–74.

Phillimore, Jenny, and Lisa Goodson (2003) Qualitative Research in Tourism: Ontologies, Epistemologies and Methodologies. London and New York: Routledge.

Pocius, Gerald L. (2001) A Future in the Past? Tourism Development, Outport Archaeology and the Politics of Deindustrialization in Newfoundland and Labrador in the 1990s. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Quinn, Bernadette (2006) ‘Problematising Festival Tourism: Arts Festivals and Sustainable Development in Ireland’. Journal of Sustainable Tourism 14/3: 288–306.

Ramos, Howard, Mark C. J. Stoddart and David Chafe (2016) ‘Assessing the Tangible and Intangible Benefits of Tourism: Perceptions of Economic, Social and Cultural Impacts in Labrador’s Battle Harbour Historic District’. Island Studies Journal 11/1: 209–26.

Reed, M. G., and A. M. Gill (1997) ‘Tourism, Recreational, and Amenity Values in Land Allocation: An Analysis of Institutional Arrangements in the Postproductivist Era’. Environment and Planning A 29/11: 2019–40.

Riley, Mykaell, and Dave Laing (2006) The Value of Jazz in Britain. London: Jazz Services Ltd.

Rothman, Hal K. (1998) Devil’s Bargains: Tourism in the Twentieth-Century American West. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.

Royle, Stephen (2009) ‘Tourism Changes on a Mediterranean Island: Experiences from Mallorca’. Island Studies Journal 4/2: 225–40.

Salazar, Noel B. (2010) Envisioning Eden: Mobilizing Imaginaries in Tourism and Beyond. New York: Berghahn Books.

Scarles, Caroline (2004) ‘Mediating Landscapes: The Processes and Practices of Image Construction in Tourist Brochures of Scotland’. Tourist Studies 4/1: 43–67.

Scotch Whisky Association (n.d.) (accessed 21 January 2020).

Scotland’s Census (2011) (accessed 15 June 2018).

Shields, Carol (2004) Collected Stories. London: Fourth Estate.

Solymosi, Katalin (2011) ‘Landscape Perception in Marginalized Regions of Europe: The Outsiders’ View’. Nature and Culture 6/1: 64–109.

Stalker, Lynda, and Kathryn Burnett (2016) ‘Good Work? Scottish Cultural Workers’ Narratives about Working and Living on Islands’. Island Studies Journal 11/1: 193–208.

Summerby-Murray, Robert (2002) ‘Interpreting Deindustrialized Landscapes of Atlantic Canada: Memory and Industrial Heritage in Sackville, New Brunswick’. Canadian Geographer 46/1: 48–62.

Težak, Ana, Darko Saftić and Zdravko Šergo (2011) ‘Relationship between Cultural/Artistic Events Visitation and Other Activity-based Tourism Segments’. Economic Thought and Practice 1: 121–35.

Tuan, Yi-Fu (1971) ‘Geography, Phenomenology and the Study of Human Nature’. Canadian Geographer 15/3: 181–92.

Urry, John, and Jonas Larsen (2011) The Tourist Gaze 3.0. Los Angeles: Sage.

Weale, D. (1991) Them Times. Charlottetown, Canada: Island Studies Press.

——(2002) ‘Here and Away’. Paper presented at the 7th Islands of the World Conference, International Small Islands Studies Association, Charlottetown, Canada, Institute of Island Studies.

Webster, Emma, and George McKay (2016) ‘The Impact of (Jazz) Festivals: An Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded Research Report’. Jazz Research Journal 9/2: 169–93.

Williams, Raymond (1973) The Country and the City. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Withers, Charles W. J. (1988) ‘The Geographical History of Gaelic in Scotland’. In Language in Geographic Context, ed. Colin H. Williams, 136–66. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Womack, P. (1989) Improvement and Romance: Constructing the Myth of the Highlands. London: Macmillan Press.






How to Cite

Medbøe, H., & Maclean, D. (2020). Islay Jazz Festival. Jazz Research Journal, 12(2), 213–236.