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Social Impacts of the Hong Kong Arts Festival

Introduction

Art festivals have always been places where people could externalize their desire to watch new trends in art, assess different artists, and form a community based on personal overviews. Moreover, such events play important roles in the social, cultural, and economic life of cities where festivals take place. Hong Kong is among the cities where the primary art festival is the platform where both local and foreign visitors can enjoy various performances by new and established artists.

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The Hong Kong Arts Festival (HKAF) was established in 1973 as a platform where artists could showcase their work and visitors from all over the world could assess the pieces of art (HK Arts Festival, 2020). Since then, HKAF has become one of the city’s most prominent events, with local and international supporters who travel to the People’s Republic of China to examine the creative environment of the country.

There is a reason why this particular event became the leading art promoter. According to researchers, Hong Kong has great potential in terms of the relatively liberal approach to art and multiple international trade connections (Cros & Jolliffe, 2019). Moreover, there is a great potential for this city to become an epicenter for art in all forms. Fok (2018) specifically mentions Hong Kong as an ideal place in Asia where visual arts can develop and become one of the continent’s primary tourist attractions. It is certain that the Hong Kong Arts Festival has a significant impact on the population of the city and maintains its sustainability by ameliorating the categories most desired by the visitors. Moreover, to keep the interest high, the festival’s representatives are willing to improve when it comes to locals’ satisfaction rate and attract more tourists.

This report aims to analyze how the Hong Kong Arts Festival impacts the city’s social and cultural life, whether there are limitations, and how the stakeholders report the influence (both positive and negative). An analysis of the socio-cultural impacts will be performed to fill in the informational gap and formulate conclusions in regard to the effects of the event. Furthermore, as a result of the examination, specific recommendations will be suggested aimed at maintaining a high level of sustainability of the Hong Kong Art Festival.

Overview of Social and Cultural Impacts

Any major festival has certain effects on the social and cultural life of the location where they operate. Such effects illustrate the impact on locals in terms of their livelihood and cultural overview. Finkel and Platt (2020) refer to festivals as ways for cities to contribute to such beneficial impacts on the population. However, it is essential to mention that there may be negative implications since a large number of non-participants choose to avoid such events.

In some cases, locals may find it challenging to deal with the overpopulation during the time when the festival is most active. For example, such factors may lead to an increase in tourism. According to research, locals may engage in antitourism movements if many foreigners disrupt the typical way a city operates (Seraphin, Gowreesunkarb, Zaman, & Bourliataux-Lajoinie, 2018). While such issues may exist, this is usually the case for events that aim to attract foreign visitors. According to researchers, these events are community-based in most cases, including the Hong Kong Arts Festival (Li & Wan, 2016).

Moreover, there are multiple positive implications that correlate with such implementations. Academic theories that highlight the domains influenced through cultural events refer to festivals such as HKAF as long-term investments that improve the citizens’ desire to participate in the cultural life of their cities, be proud of where they come from, and have an active role within their communities (Lim, 2019). People are impacted on emotional, cultural, and educational levels. Based on the aforementioned evidence, the social and cultural impacts that festivals result in may have both positive and adverse effects on local populations.

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Analysis of Social and Cultural Impacts

The Hong Kong Arts Festival, as highlighted before, plays an important role in the socio-cultural life of people living in this city. According to researchers, events within the art domain affect the workers, customers, and the community as a whole (Rawhouser, Cummings, & Newbert, 2017). In terms of workers, it is inevitable that the HKAF is responsible for creating multiple seasonal employment positions and allowing local and global artists to showcase their pieces of work. At the same time, the community is also affected on multiple levels, similar to the visitors.

HKAF is a relatively inclusive event that provides everybody with an opportunity to participate. Based on the current information, the festival is eager to attract multiple different communities and age groups, including children (Gov HK, 2021). The younger audience has the ability to visit the events with family members and visit demonstrations and exhibitions designed for kids. Such an implementation is not only beneficial for entertaining even the younger visitors but also contributes to families having quality time and bonding experiences.

Moreover, since children are involved, the festival maintains sustainability by ensuring the young generation has a basis for continuing to appreciate art in all forms. Children who visit such events early on are more likely to develop in this field and become adults with a desire to find out about art in the following years. As a result, the stakeholders of the Hong Kong Arts Festival ensure to include as many people as possible, which allows them to have a loyal and stable base of visitors.

Sustainability Evaluation

As mentioned prior, such events as the HKAF are long-term investments that require multiple resources and a lot of effort towards the success of the project. Since the aim is to create long-term activity, it is crucial to ensure the stakeholders have all the necessary measures to keep the rate of visitors high. Several policies are implemented in this domain. The festival’s main objective is to promote art and support local and international artists.

However, without enough visitors, the festival would not be successful or impactful on society’s cultural development. Hence, it is essential to monitor the current overview of the locals, examine the demand of international visitors, and create an environment that would allow the events to become more popular every year. Analyzing this data will allow the stakeholders who are organizing the yearly festival to minimize risks and increase the rate of customer satisfaction.

Measurement

Social impact is difficult to measure since research designed to examine this topic primarily relies on subjective information. This measure is usually examined through surveys where local citizens give an overview of how the festival impacts them or why there is no significant impact. According to researchers, quantitative data is how such concepts are determined (Gouthro & Fox, 2018). This information gathered through interviews can have different connotations. One way of measuring social impact is using the social impact perception scale (Camacho, Núñez-Pomar, Moreno, & Escamilla-Fajardo, 2019).

The scale only analyses the perception of local communities in regards to the festivals that occur. As mentioned prior, the Hong Kong Arts Festival does have international visitors but majorly relies on local residents. Moreover, Hong Kong is a big city, and a relatively minimal influx of tourists does not create significant disturbances for the individuals living there. This scale is more adequately used for smaller cities that are not as dynamic and dense as Hong Kong. Moreover, current research does not have reliable information in regards to this theory being used by the local residents of Hong Kong in relation to the art festival.

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Multiple other theories examine the same subject. For example, a similar model is used by applying the Festival Social Impact Attitude Scale (FSIAS) (Pavluković, Armenski, & Alcántara-Pilar, 2017).

Several variables are being taken into consideration, such as personal attitude, the benefit for the community, and the overall factors that may draw individuals away from visiting the festival. In terms of the festival in question, there is data in regards to the community’s overview on the factors that are impacted by visiting the festival and aspects that contribute to their passiveness towards the event. Both scales give information on how the local residents view the implementation and whether there is a significant impact associated with it. Moreover, some of the points analyzed through qualitative data suggest certain negative implications that can compromise the festival’s sustainability.

Framework

The Hong Kong Arts Festival is a popular art festival with a lot of attention both from local and international visitors. However, no specific research was done based on the social impact measure scales mentioned prior. On the other hand, local residents have participated in a survey highlighting the main reasons they chose to attend it and how it impacts them. Moreover, the positive aspects mentioned by the participants can give organizers an idea in terms of which concepts need to be addressed due to their current success. According to researchers, most of the impact is emotional (including entertainment, cultural development, admiration of art, etc. (Hong Kong Arts Development Council, 2018).

The results show that 70-80% have reported this point as a vital one. Impact on inner self is another factor highlighted during the survey (Figure 1). Multiple people mention emotional distress, self-cultivation, improvement in self-image, etc. The number shows that more than 50% of participants gave this answer. Such factors illustrate the cultural effect the Hong Kong Art Festival has on attendees. Moreover, multiple participants (more than 50%) mention an intellectual impact.

Individuals pointed out self-learning, self-reflection, motivation, inspiration, and academic improvements as the main reasons for attending. Based on the answers, the events help people become more intellectually advanced and eager to reflect upon other subjects unrelated to art. Moreover, almost 35% of people mention an impact on interpersonal relationships. This includes having relevant topics of discussion in social situations, finding people with the same interests, and spending quality time with family members, which leads to bonding. The survey highlights the Hong Kong Arts Festival’s major impact on attendees in terms of emotional, reflective, intellectual, and social aspects.

Reasons for participation.
Figure 1: Reasons for participation.

It is essential to mention why many individuals have a negative overview of the festival, which leads to an increased risk of lack of sustainability. The same survey highlights why locals are not interested in attending the event. According to researchers, the first reason is a lack of interest (Hong Kong Arts Development Council, 2018). There are several adverse factors that create an environment where more than 70% of non-participants report simply having no desire to attend. First, it is possible that the organizers of the festival did not have effective marketing. On the other hand, a possible reason is the stakeholder’s lack of investments in the domains of art that truly interest people. In this category, people reported a lack of interest in art as a domain, not knowing about the events altogether, and not understanding art.

Since most individuals have reported these particular issues, it is certain that the organizers of the events have to invest in advertisement and create an environment where each person can appreciate different forms of art despite having no prior experience in art. This includes adding more categories that everybody is going to be able to appreciate.

Another factor is a lack of time, which has been reported by more than 65% of the people who participated in the survey. People have mentioned being busy due to their work schedule, taking care of young children, and attending school. There are several ways the event organizers can mitigate this aspect and improve the sustainability measure. First, weekends have to be the busiest days since most people can attend the festival during days off. Moreover, implementing more child-friendly programs where parents can attend with their young children will allow families to be a part of the event. Last but not least, advertising the festival as a great way to get familiar with art would allow teachers to encourage their students to visit the festival. Another factor is convenience since almost 15% have reported a desire to watch art shows and performances online.

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Due to the fact that the previous years have been challenging for any festival where multiple people gather in one place, the Hong Kong Art Festival switched to a more sustainable practice. According to researchers, the new system is a hybrid of in-person and virtual performances that can be viewed online due to the lockdown measures(Hansen, 2021). Such a solution allows people to watch some of the events without having to go to a physical location, which creates a more favorable environment for more participants to be engaged in the process.

A lack of finances and companions are aspects that the organizers cannot alter. However, more than 7% of survey participants have mentioned their physical conditions as the main non-attendance reason. If the festival were more inclusive in terms of providing people with disabilities an opportunity to visit and have the necessary conditions, this factor would be mitigated.

Reasons for non-participation.
Figure 2: Reasons for non-participation.

Conclusion

The Hong Kong Arts Festival is an event that maintains a high level of sustainability by attracting both local and international participants. Among the aspects that positively impact society, people have mentioned beneficial contributions to their emotional, personal, intellectual, and social lives. The events encourage people to interact with other individuals, improve in terms of general knowledge, and spend quality time while receiving tools for personal development.

However, certain aspects compromise the sustainability factor. People have reported a lack of interest, time, companions, finances, and other factors that lead to a higher non-attendance rate. These factors can be minimized if the organizers of the events implement new strategies as a base for how the festival operates. Focusing on domains that people find most appealing, operating under inclusive rules, switching to more online shows, and promoting the festival via advertisement can minimize the adverse effects. While there is room for improvement when it comes to sustainability, the Hong Kong Arts Festival has policies that attract new visitors and promote art in society.

Recommendations

Sustainability is an essential factor that allows a festival to maintain a high level of interest and participants. The Hong Kong Arts Festival already has specific policies focused on this aspect. However, due to the challenges that have been discussed prior, there is a need for new strategies aimed to mitigate them. Researchers highlights that stakeholders have to interact in order for art festivals to be successful and impactful (Chang, 2020). Thus, organizers have to take into consideration what the general population wants.

First, since most of the visitors are local, it is crucial to have a set of policies aimed at attracting attention from abroad. Reliable sources refer to such events as excellent opportunities to engage tourists and improve the national economy by attracting foreign participants (Boyle, Reaiche, Abdullah, & Murad, 2016). One way of doing this is by focusing on performances and artwork done by artists from various countries. If the program included more acts and pieces of work from well-known international creators, this would improve the situation with visitors from abroad (Boyle, Reaiche, Abdullah, & Murad, 2018).

This would not only be helpful in terms of the city’s economy but also contribute to more tourism based on the festival (Franklin, 2018). Hotels, people who rent out their apartments, and business owners would have a more considerable influx of finances, and the overall attitude towards foreign visitors would improve.

Another problem is ensuring the local audience has an interest in attending such events. According to Chung (2021), some of the non-participants mention that they would like to have access to the festival by watching the performances online. As mentioned before, the HKAF implemented a way for people to have a virtual experience due to the COVID-19 lockdown. This solution needs to be fully applied in order for the organizers to attract more people. If individuals were able to buy tickets and watch every performance without leaving their homes, this would significantly increase the number of tickets sold. Moreover, people would be able to participate even from abroad since no expenses on traveling, plane tickets, hotels, etc., would be required.

There is a way for the festival to maintain its sustainability by including children from a young age. Based on current information, festival impact and emotional solidarity go hand in hand (Yozukmaz, Bertan, & Alkaya, 2020). Emotional solidarity needs to be present from early childhood since children close to arts are more prone to having an emotional connection with such events for the rest of their lives.

The festival, as mentioned prior, has programs for children that they can attend with their families. To increase the rate of children visiting the events, the organizers may choose to focus on advertising at schools through flyers of teachers. For example, educators responsible for art classes can organize excursions to the festival on weekdays or after school. Such actions would engage kids in art-related activities and promote educational development that will significantly impact the desire to learn new things and attend such events in the future.

References

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Pavluković, V., Armenski, T., & Alcántara-Pilar, J. M. (2017). Social impacts of music festivals: Does culture impact locals’ attitude toward events in Serbia and Hungary? Tourism Management, 63, 42-53. Web.

Rawhouser, H., Cummings, M., & Newbert, S. L. (2017). Social Impact Measurement: Current approaches and Future Directions for Social Entrepreneurship Research. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 43(1), 82-115. Web.

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