Measuring an irrational entertainment

Date of publication: June 15, 1990

Author: Ian Fox


In this paper, Ian Fox, a Council Member of the Wexford Festival. Opera, Ireland, traces the evolution of research at the Festival. This started with a simple questionnaire in 1979 which was used to help formulate policy in the 1980s, to a more complex and original study in 1988 by the economist, Prof. John O'Hagan, Trinity College, Dublin, in which he analysed the social and economic factors governing the event. This had been commissioned to provide information when raising support from government sources and sponsors. The study combined a qualitative review with a quantitative analysis of visitors to the Festival. The results showed that the Festival is providing extra tourist revenue for Ireland, particularly at a time of the year (October) when tourism is at a low ebb. Prof. O'Hagan concluded that the Festival has a beneficial effect on the social life of the community and estimated its economic benefit. He also moved from a stance of doubting the value of such festivals to the State, to a position in which he feels there is clear evidence to suggest arts events such as the Wexford Festival can make real contributions to the national economy and should receive increased state support. Ian Fox concludes his review of the study with five main pointers for future research into an arts event: -1 it is possible to put hard figures on the value of an event; -2 the data should be of direct use to the organisers; -3 research encourages fresh thinking about and development of an event; -4 a good arts profile can help a nation or community attract new industries; and -5 a mix of qualitative and quantitative studies is essential to colour-in the full picture.

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