Festivals: Relevant to entrepreneurship?

Entrepreneurship reflections from the UK. From early June through until late August the ECIC Academic Director for post graduate Innovation and Entrepreneurship programs, Allan O’Connor, will be on study leave. During his time away (mainly at the University of Edinburgh, UK), he will from time to time post observations, challenges, new insights and reflections encountered across his travels.

Just in case you were under the impression I did nothing but work while in Edinburgh (those who know me better will know otherwise) I did manage to attend a number of Festival events and to keep things legitimate it raised an interesting question relevant to Adelaide’s heavy association with a Festival Culture. What value do Festivals add with respect to innovation and entrepreneurship?

My reflections are not scientific but I have attended the International Film Festival, The Scottish Real Ale Festival, The Glasgow Jazz Festival, The Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Edinburgh International Festival. During the events I have conversed, observed and questioned folk which has given me a bit of an insight about how the Festivals may relate to innovation and entrepreneurship.

Here’s a short list:
1. Entrepreneurial (and other) learning. To compete in a short period of time and gain an audience, aspects of entrepreneurship (idea creation and concept development, creative selling and marketing, managing with few resources) are needed to create, mount and sell  little known shows or events. The ‘earthier’ the Festival the more ‘hands on’ the involvement of individual act proprietors as they build their audience (The Fringe Festival is a great example). Further, there are internships offered for the quid pro quo of attending the event and also friends/family and others tend to pitch in to help early stage artists. Entrepreneurial learning is happening here.
2. Market Testing. The ideas of artists are road tested and the reaction of audiences influence the development of the show/event for the next Festival.
3. Innovation. The application of new stuff is a feature of Festivals and this may have a few spin-off effects. First it may help diffusion of new ideas and to some extent new technologies as artists experiment and introduce unique and creative applications of technology in an arts setting (for example creative use  of multimedia or as in one show the use of Skype to have act participants from different places on the globe). Second, some shows or events expose the cultural impact and face of new technology and reveal how the world is changing. Third, (perhaps a bit of a stretch) but I think it quenches the appetite for new things, or that maybe just me.
4. Mobile Ecosystems. Festivals also create a layer of businesses that are mobile that move with the Festivals to leverage off the temporary booms in local population that Festivals create.
5. Collaboration. At a community level Festivals draw together the business, arts and government in a collaborative or at least a cooperative venture.

Well just some ideas.

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