Civil sphere values and moral responsibility in cultural production: The curation of music festivals today

Jo Haynes, Ian Woodward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Music festivals are a ubiquitous aspect of music economies and wider processes of cultural participation and community regeneration. They are now sites for exploring wider issues related to the environment, inequality, diversity and representation. Whereas contemporary literature productively draws on and reworks classical categories such as ritual, excess, and carnivalesque to frame the significance and meaning of music festivals, it has yet to coherently address how civil sphere values such as democracy, solidarity and justice are incorporated into their design and curation. In this paper, focusing on the curatorial strategies of festival organisers, we examine the narratives and practices through which music festivals frame wider social issues as part of the event’s ethos. Drawing on interview data with festival organisers located in Britain and Denmark, our analysis indicates how moral and civil values are internalised as an important discourse of festival curation and the practical management of music festivals. A fundamental requirement is that curators produce events that are both economically and culturally sustainable as well as resonating with important social and cultural issues. The major analytical contribution of this paper is to identify and address this central tension faced by music festivals around balancing cultural, economic and civil values within their events. Applying the conceptual resources of civil sphere theory, we point to an alternative way of thinking about what constitutes the music festival today.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCultural Sociology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 14 Jun 2024


  • civil sphere
  • curation
  • festival organisers
  • moral values
  • music festivals


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