From Dark Tourism to Phoenix Tourism: The Ethics of Cultural Translation in Urban Festivals

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Department Name: Sch of Arts, English and Languages

Abstract

The popular Radio 4 series 'Mark Steel's in Town', which takes the stand-up to such unlikely touristic destinations as Merthyr Tydfil and Walsall, offers an alternative celebration of each destination via local histories, oral testimony from audience members, and Steel's own comic sense of place as an irreverent flâneur. Steel walks a fine line between expressing and exploding stereotypical perceptions of place. In late 2013, he performed in 'Derry-Londonderry', the then UK City of Culture, during which performance he described, to the audience's amusement, not only the unflinchingly buoyant attitude of the people of Derry in response to this year-long festival, but also the discourses of cultural transformation that were enthusiastically expressed by taxi drivers, shopkeepers, indeed anyone, it seemed, with whom Steel engaged in conversation. The city's experience in 2013 is the quintessential example of a shift from dark tourism to phoenix tourism, and indeed, the economic impact in terms of external visitors is well attested. Yet N. Ireland's troubled past was not absent from the landscape. The Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann (Festival of Irish Music) was also scheduled to be held in NI for the first time in 2013 (indeed in the city of Derry), rather than the Republic of Ireland. While the festival did go ahead, considerable resistance to its being hosted in Derry came even from within the ranks of its organising body, the Comhaltas Ceoltóiri Éireann (Society of the Musicians of Ireland), for whom the association between this Irish cultural event and the UK City of Culture was a problematic one.

These two events embody the ethical tensions that the current project seeks to explore, tensions between the competing imperatives of a commercially-driven projection of a positive sense of place to the outside world, and a more complex community-driven self-fashioning in the wake of a long history of conflict. Both imperatives are to be understood as forms of cultural tration: the state-funded translation of culture to potential consumers coming from outside (as performed by e.g. the NI Tourist Board) combines with, variously, a desire or resistance from within individual communities to translate/transform their cultures through an encounter that crosses NI's long-established sectarian divide. In neither case is the act of translation an ideologically neutral one, as the intertwining processes of domestication and foreignisation theorised by Translation Studies scholar Lawrence Venuti make clear. An additional mediating layer between these local and global drives is offered by NI's relatively belated, but increasing, ethnic diversity with which both top-down and grass-roots cultural organisations are seeking to engage.

The dialogue between the Fleadh and the UK City of Culture offers a high profile example of these interactions, but more revealing for the objectives of this project and with the potential for greater impact on the future of this and other events, is Féile an Phobail ('The Community Festival', also known as 'The West Belfast Festival'). This annual event has not been subject to the same national media scrutiny or academic attention as the Fleadh or the City of Culture, but since its inception in 1988, aimed at countering perceptions of West Belfast as a 'terrorist community', it has grown to become one of Europe's largest community festivals. Moreover, its evolving ambition to reflect a global as much as a local community is evident in its engagement with Belfast's ethnic minority communities and with international artists from outside Ireland. In the transition from dark tourism to phoenix tourism, Féile thus represents the celebratory potential of the so-called 'glocal' and, as such, provides a case study with potential applications reaching beyond the NI context to other post-conflict and postcolonial societies seeking to transform themselves through 'festivalization'.

Planned Impact

1. Culture and tourist industries: for the festival organisers, for key funders such as the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (NI), for museums and archives such as PRONI (Public Record Office of NI, with whom the PI has recently been awarded an AHRC CDA and which is funded by DCAL, the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure) and for the travel industry, the project will provide archival and touristic resources, academic analysis and policy proposals that will enhance the cultural, social and financial potential of their work into the future. It will also suggest paradigms for how festivals can surmount linguistic barriers, enable marginalised linguistic communities and enhance the capacity of those communities to create a 'third space' for engagement with the other. In constructing new platforms for engagement, in new and virtual media, informed by new archival material and an enhanced relationship with local communities (through the crowd-sourcing initiative in particular), the project will develop Féile an Phobail's e-marketing and v-marketing strategies, while also enriching the already profound sense of historicity and community that these festivals have for their activist base and permanent staff.

2. Wider community: the project will focus on disadvantaged groups on the margins of cultural capital, examining how those groups can be engaged to develop dynamic local cultural initiatives, and how those initiatives, in opening up a space for transcultural exchange, can translate the community to wider society, in linguistic, social and cultural terms. Festivals are widely acknowledged to play a vital role in enhancing community cohesion across a range of indicators (see Williams 1995, Goss 2000, Guetzkow 2002, Quinn 2005), often 'fostering pride in a sense of place, heritage and identity' in communities where 'feelings of disinheritance and loss of ownership are sometimes becoming prominent' (M. Smith and K. Forest, 2006; 139). Through an analysis of th cultural artefacts of the festivals and the historical hinterland of their formation, through the active participation of the community in harvesting date, and through the availability of materials in digital forms, it is envisaged that this project will also return to the communities the knowledge they have co-created through engagement with the festivals and the project itself.

3. Funders: The project will further provide those engaged in the provision of services aimed at promoting community cohesion and combatting disadvantage and division through cultural initiatives with substantial research and a position paper on which to base new policy information. In the UK region most adversely affected by the recent economic recession, DCAL's explicit policy on cultural development since 2011 has been to focus resources on initiatives aimed at tackling poverty and social exclusion.

4. Arts practitioners: many of Northern Ireland's most well-known arts initiatives - such as Féile an Phobail, the Stone Chair Project, Charabanc, Derry Frontline, Dubblejoint, Tinderbox, and more recently, Etcetera - have emerged from unfunded community ventures in contexts of marginalisation and few available resources. However, the success of these ventures has been attributable, to a large degree, to the goodwill and dynamic activism of community networks assisted by arts practitioners such as Martin Lynch, Marie Jones and Field Day. It is envisaged that this project will highlight the role of arts practitioners as nodes for the intersection of local community interests and arts bodies, channelling this confluence into new, creative synergies that have become the hallmarks of the festival examined by this project. The project will therefore illuminate the importance of arts practitioners in terms of activating what are often isolated and disadvantaged community groups, building traction in the arts communities and garnering support that is otherwise largely inaccessible.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description In terms of research methodology, we have developed new frameworks which recognise that traditional crowdsourcing techniques do not work in the same way in working-class communities and/or post-conflict communities where trust in academic projects may be fragile. These findings, which have been shared in a number of academic contexts, and which are currently being prepared for publication, will impact on other researchers seeking to use these methodologies and, indirectly, on the community groups/cultural contexts with which they work.

The crowdsourcing activity and resulting database and exhibition has had significant impact in providing a narrative for the history of the festival which is allowing it to consider its future direction. The festival will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2018, making this an appropriate moment to take stock of the - often controversial - evolution of the festival and, crucially, to use the history we have created to consider how the festival can position itself going forwards.

We have added significantly to the West Belfast oral archive by undertaking c. 45 interviews with key figures in the history of the festival - these interviews are shaping our own publications, but are also crucially being made available to a national and international audience via the existing Duchas database.

We have engaged with tourist bodies to advise on how the complex question of N. Ireland's troubled past can be incorporated meaningfully into contemporary tourist narratives - i.. how do we negotiate the tensions between dark tourism and phoenix tourism. the project has directly fed into the strategies of both the West Belfast Tourist Board and the N Ireland Tourist Board.

On completion of the monograph and other publications associated with the project, we will have provided the festival organisers with credible academic findings on which to base their case for ongoing funding to local government for whom enhancing social cohesion is a key goal.

Our research has also led to the commissioning of a documentary from BBC NI, a new theatre production by a local company, and a major exhibition in the Ulster Museum.
Exploitation Route 1. methodological innovation re crowdsourcing
2. our crowdsourced database will provide primary material for future researchers interested in west Belfast/history of conflict/role of festivalisation in mediating cultural difference - links in to policy contributions
3. wide database of material available for community use - e.g. making case for further funding based on academic findings of positive role of festivals in translating cultures
Sectors Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://www.feilebelfasthistory.com
 
Description Culture and tourist industries: for the festival organisers, for key funders such as the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (NI), for museums and archives such as PRONI (Public Record Office of NI, and for the travel industry, the project has provided archival and touristic resources, academic analysis and policy proposals that will enhance the cultural, social and financial potential of their work into the future. It has also suggested paradigms for how festivals can surmount linguistic barriers, enable marginalised linguistic communities and enhance the capacity of those communities to create a 'third space' for engagement with the other. In constructing new platforms for engagement, in new and virtual media, informed by new archival material and an enhanced relationship with local communities (through the crowd-sourcing initiative in particular), the project has developed Féile an Phobail's e-marketing and v-marketing strategies, while also enriching the already profound sense of historicity and community that these festivals have for their activist base and permanent staff. 2. Wider community: the project has focused on disadvantaged groups on the margins of cultural capital, examining how those groups can be engaged to develop dynamic local cultural initiatives, and how those initiatives, in opening up a space for transcultural exchange, can translate the community to wider society, in linguistic, social and cultural terms. Festivals are widely acknowledged to play a vital role in enhancing community cohesion across a range of indicators (see Williams 1995, Goss 2000, Guetzkow 2002, Quinn 2005), often 'fostering pride in a sense of place, heritage and identity' in communities where 'feelings of disinheritance and loss of ownership are sometimes becoming prominent' (M. Smith and K. Forest, 2006; 139). Through an analysis of the cultural artefacts of the festivals and the historical hinterland of their formation, through the active participation of the community in harvesting date, and through the availability of materials in digital forms, this project has also returned to the communities the knowledge they have co-created through engagement with the festivals and the project itself. 3. Funders: The project has further provided those engaged in the provision of services aimed at promoting community cohesion and combatting disadvantage and division through cultural initiatives with substantial research on which to base new policy information. In the UK region most adversely affected by the recent economic recession, DCAL's explicit policy on cultural development since 2011 has been to focus resources on initiatives aimed at tackling poverty and social exclusion. 4. Arts practitioners: many of Northern Ireland's most well-known arts initiatives - such as Féile an Phobail, the Stone Chair Project, Charabanc, Derry Frontline, Dubblejoint, Tinderbox, and more recently, Etcetera - have emerged from unfunded community ventures in contexts of marginalisation and few available resources. However, the success of these ventures has been attributable, to a large degree, to the goodwill and dynamic activism of community networks assisted by arts practitioners such as Martin Lynch, Marie Jones and Field Day. This project has highlighted the role of arts practitioners as nodes for the intersection of local community interests and arts bodies, channelling this confluence into new, creative synergies that have become the hallmarks of the festival examined by this project. The project has therefore illuminated the importance of arts practitioners in terms of activating what are often isolated and disadvantaged community groups, building traction in the arts communities and garnering support that is otherwise largely inaccessible.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic

 
Description Consultant to Festival Management Board
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description Impact Development Fund
Amount £3,000 (GBP)
Organisation Queen's University 
Sector Academic/University
Country Canada
Start 05/2016 
End 08/2017
 
Title New approaches to crowdsourcing 
Description Our research on Feile an Phobail has shown that the existing scholarship on crowdsourcing as a methodology for humanities research does not apply in the same way in working-class contexts and/or in post-conflict societies 2 papers presented to researchers in 2015: 1. 'Crowdsourcing and public humanities: some early findings from a Translating Cultures case study (5th Annual Digital Arts and Humanities Institute conference: Networks, collaborations, connections', Oct 2015, Royal Irish Academy, Dublin) 2. 'Crowdsourcing and community-based participatory research: some early finds from a Translating Cultures case study' (Humanites, Arts, Science and Technology and Collaboratory - HASTAC - conference, Michigan, 2016) 2. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Publications on how to adapt crowdsourcing methodologies to take account of class and post-conflict context in progress 
 
Title Feile an Phobail History 
Description This is a crowdsourced database charting the history of the festival through photographs, programmes, letters, video clips, oral histories: www.feilebelfasthistory.com It is the first systematic archive of the history of the festival and is of value t both the Feile organisers grassroots, community-led initiatives of this kind occurring in other cultural contexts. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact - community engagement in research - impact on funding applications by festival - more broadly, provides a model for sourcing the history of grassroots cultural intervention in china; also an opportunity snd glade if I have to be called to a funeral. 
URL http://www.feilebelfasthistory.com
 
Description Feile an Phobail/The West Belfast Festival 
Organisation The West Belfast Festival
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Our research project is creating the first archival resource to document the history of this festival which is crucial to recent N.Irish history. This is being created through a crowdsourcing methodology (using twitter, Facebook and an interactive website which allows for upload and tagging of images and documents).
Collaborator Contribution Our partners have provided a significant amount of undocumented material; they have worked closely with us on events aimed at developing trust with the community involved in the festival; they have hosted and funded such events; they are also devoting regular staff time to promoting the archive and further engagement with the crowdsourcing project through an international twitter and Facebook campaign
Impact The first year of the project has been devoted primarily to the co-creation with our community partners of the primary data for our research project (i.e. through semi-structured interviews, crowdsourcing project, digital archive creation)). All of these have required significant engagement work to ensure community buy-in. Our main outputs thus far have therefore been: - the crowdsourcing activity and website creation - key stakeholder interviews - community engagement events - training events on how to use/upload to the site - 6 academic conference papers at national and international events - public lectures - media coverage in Irish Times - academic publications are forthcoming or in progress - emphasis in first year of project on building the archive of primary material; Year 2 will produce key publications outputs - early impacts in relation to empowering a marginalised community to tell its own narrative will come to fruition as the project develops and will be underpinned by a policy document which the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in NI are keen to receive. This is a multi-disciplinary project, involving linguists, historians, literary scholars, the travel and tourism industry, cultural theorists, and scholars working in the field of conflict resolution
Start Year 2014
 
Description Community Engagement Seminar (Belfast) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Engagement seminar with community groups associated with the Festival being studied as a key part of the project; aim was to increase knowledge of the project and to encourage traffic to our multimedia, crowd-sourced website, Facebook and twitter feed. Led to increases in identification of people, participants shown in crowdsourced photos via website and twitter; also generated volunteers to produce memoir/blogs
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.feilebelfasthistory.com
 
Description Introducing from Dark Tourism to Phoenix: Our AHRC project (Culturlann, Falls Road, Belfast) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Introducing the project to key figures in the history of the Feile; engaging with any concerns; explaining proposed methodologies; agreeing modes of engagement with community via community centre, local media etc
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Public Lecture Belfast 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Cartlann na Gaelige Beo - Exhibition and lecture/discussion the Irish Language Living Archive - organised as part of our research in Feile's origins and cultural context, specifically in terms of the Irish language movement in Belfast
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016