Festivals or rituals?
Festival politics, religiosity and sociability,
The importance of the court jester.

Part VIII – Festivity, liminality, the carnivalesque (continuation).

Organic festivity

A knowledge of the organics of the festival is needed in order to offer unique and diverse experiences, allowing a communal sense of heart and soul to emerge by meeting the behavioral, psychological and internal needs inherent in a participant’s involvement on a physical, mental, emotional, social or spiritual level.

It cannot be assumed that there are liminoid experiences or social impacts in community festivals. Organic festivity needs to be incorporated into festival management.

The spatial layout can allow and encourage more improvised liminoid experiences, by offering a continuous flow of experiences rather than standardized units, where the unknown is just around the corner, and what will happen next creates a more organic sense of adventure and surprise, with the opportunity for spontaneous participant reaction outside the ordinary spatial experience.

To create opportunities for liminoid experiences at community festivals, event organizers must get participants moving. This is done through the original elements of festival activity: strong rhythmic beats, thumping bass and the pounding beats of loud music. Demographic differences are broken down as participants of all ages, races, economic and social class, gender and lifestyle lose themselves, bonding and bridging with others when the loud music and dancing get them moving.

Visual arts are also an important ingredient of the organic festival. This can involve art cars, performance art, wearing costume, mural painting… all of which are linked to the organic festivities of the past, and done with the intention of breaking down social barriers, increasing the connection between participants. Creating art and being a collaborative part of the process and performance, however, is what leads to a liminoid experience.

Real festivity is much more than passive spectatorship, having originated in the spiritualism of our distant ancestors, expressed with the performing and dramatic arts of rhythmic chanting and dancing to loud bass beats as well as with visual art forms of costumes, masks, and decoration, all combined into a sense of wild abandonment. It is these types of activities that get people out of their chairs and physically, emotionally, and collaboratively involved in social interaction… these types of activities that can develop and increase bonding and bridging social capital… these types of activities that event producers must acquire a deeper understanding and sensitivity about en route to provide the liminoid, authentic experience that today’s community festival attendee seeks and demands. The sustainability of community festival lies in its organically festive past.(Biaett, 2015, p.17)

Modern festivity, however, has evolved as a credit to consumerism.

Festivity’s biggest challenges are related to the omnipresence of new media and the co-creation of activities by consumers. The power of technology is a driving and transforming force in festivities. The fantasy of festivity now requires, to a certain extent, the digitization of the experience, because it is there that the magical moments of the experience are displayed, the capital decided and the fantasy of festivity formed, as well as the narrative is told. The performativity of the festival fantasy is now a co-created technology of the self, as consumers construct, retell and consume these dynamic narratives of identity.

In order to understand the local/global socio-cultural complexity of dance festivals, it is important to address the term “festivalscapes”, a set of cultural, material and social flows that emerge and are established during a specific festival. Festivals can be points of convergence and interaction between different cultural, aesthetic and political patterns and values that highlight problems raised by the multiple articulation of global cultural flows, local life and spatiality.

Taking the Glastonbury festival as an example, its modern management reflects the productive and rational power of management in transforming the festival into a central component of the creative industries, balancing the fantasy character of the festival with modernist management, by organizing the spaces, delimiting the freedoms of spatial movement in a hierarchical way, with the aim of accumulating capital, which masks the darker by-product of contestation over capital. If the fantasy of festivity becomes undifferentiated from the everyday festivity, Glastonbury loses its capital, power and marker of identity, and an experience of rough comfort is necessary to avoid the risk of standardizing the festivity.

Transformational festivals

The case of transformational festivals, which includes all festivals in the alternative spectrum of events, allows participants to become liminal while occupying the demarcated space-time structure of the event. This transitional world, accessed by participants as festival citizens, possesses liminal conditions and carnivalesque logics (or illogics) to which the inhabitants are forced to surrender. The prevailing state of mind is not inconsistent with a rite of passage, a structured ritual that has the power to transform an individual’s status, identity and life.

Innovation in events requires strategic efforts to win the favor, and build the support, of the public that goes to the event. The value of the festival emerges in the anticipation of a desired experience, not just in its consumption. The element of surprise builds excitement. Another circumstance that guarantees innovation refers to the ability to design the experience of returning to a familiar place. While the search for originality on the dance floor is counterbalanced by the desire for the familiar, for a return to origins, this festive tension brings us back to the logic of the state of flux. In dance music scenes, the vibe represents a curious act that balances novelty and familiarity, innovation and authenticity, change and ecstasy, whose tensions illuminate the most captivating experience, the familiar otherness of ecstasy, a psychic state in which the individual finds themselves as if transported out of themselves and the sensible world, feeling ineffably united with the transcendent.

The challenge of optimizing the musical experience sought in order to enter the flow involves balancing the challenges and the skill of the performer, the key to avoiding disinterest or frustration. When this balance is right, it increases concentration and the feeling of being in harmony with the people involved and the activity. The progressive nature of electronic dance music allows participants to enter experimental and identity-transforming states.

The more the events grow, the more their boundary domains become complex. While primordial cultural events represent an arguably simplistic case of liminality, hyper-liminal contexts emerge in larger-scale events. Transformational events tend to offer numerous means for transition, which enables audiences to perform variable identities emerging between the state of consumer and producer, between entertainer and artist. These complex liminal conditions make events dependent on the development of cultural industries dedicated to increasing the liminal conditions of participants through the optimization of event experience design, sensory technologies and prosumer arts (i.e. producer-consumer).

“Jafar Jarai’s model of ‘tourist culture’ is based on socio- anthropological theory concerning liminality, plus Falassi’s (…) notion of festivity as a time that is ‘out of ordinary time’. Essentially, people willingly travel to, or enter into an event-specific place for defined periods of time, to engage in activities that are out of the ordinary and to have experiences that transcend the ordinary—experiences only available to the traveler or the event-goer. As well, Csikszentmihalyi (…) and Csikszentmihalyi and Csiks- zentmihalyi’s (…) concept of ‘flow’ or peak experiences, from leisure studies, fits well into this model. Facilitating ‘flow’ might be something the event designer wants to achieve, for maximum engagement, and something the highly ‘involved’ might be more inclined to experience because of their predispositions.” (Getz, 2008, p. 414)


BIAETT, Vernon (2015) “Organic Festivity: A Missing Ingredient of Community Festival”, In Jepson, A. e Clarke, A. (eds.), Exploring Community Festivals and Events, Nova Iorque: Routledge, pp.18-30.

FLINN, Jenny e FREW, Matt (2013) “Glastonbury: managing the mystification of festivity”, Leisure Studies, 33:4, pp.418-433.

GETZ, Donald (2008) “Event tourism: Definition, evolution, and research”, Tourism Management, 29:3, pp.403-428.

ST. JOHN, Graham (2015) “Introduction to Weekend Societies: EDM Festivals and Event-Cultures”, Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture, 7:1, pp.1-14.

Authorship: João Carvalho [1].

Based on the project work “Business plan. Cosmic Festival. Transformational Festival”, authored by João Carvalho, under the supervision of Specialist Professor Victor Afonso and co-supervision of PhD Professor Nuno Gustavo, for completion of the Master’s Degree in Tourism, with a specialisation in Strategic Event Management, at the Estoril Higher Institute for Hospitality and Tourism Studies. Presented and defended on December 27th, 2019.

May, 2020.

[1] Master’s Degree in Tourism, with specialisation in Strategic Event Management, by Estoril Higher Institute for Tourism and Hotel Studies; Beach Break®.