Cultural mega-events – such as the Olympics or Eurovision Song Contest – have the potential to generate social and economic value in a place and impact individual and community wellbeing.
In a new discussion paper – launched today – Prof. Rhiannon Corcoran, Professor of Psychology and Public Mental Health University of Liverpool, uses her team’s evaluation of Eurovision 2023 to draw out matters that enhance our understanding of the impact of place-based cultural events and inform how we can effectively evaluate them.
We can continue to grow our understanding of how place-based arts and culture affect our quality of life through evaluation. Generating rich and robust insights helps shape the funding, planning and delivery of future events to enhance wellbeing.
What do we already know?
We have worked to synthesise the evidence on both community wellbeing and engagement with arts, culture, heritage and sport, and know that they:
In 2022, we collaborated with the Institute for Cultural Capital to conduct a rapid review of the wellbeing evidence from large-scale place-based arts and culture interventions.
The review found that increased cultural participation through mega-events leads to:
The University of Liverpool team drew on this knowledge base to design and deliver their independent mixed-methods evaluation of Eurovision 2023, commissioned by Liverpool City Council to understand the community and wellbeing impacts of winning and delivering the fortnight.
What was Eurovision 2023?
Hosted in Liverpool, on behalf of Ukraine, the 67th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest featured three live broadcasts alongside wider activities for communities across the city region geography, ages, genders and ethnic backgrounds.
The full report is available for download, alongside the four other in-depth evaluation strands and a synthesis that pulls together the main messages.
How was it evaluated?
The evaluation team focussed on assessing subjective and community wellbeing, civic pride, sense of belonging to different scales of place and on tolerance of diversity.
Tools used included:
- a pre-post household survey
- focus groups and interviews
- a thematic synthesis of the grantees feedback forms
- a simple Event Feelings Questionnaire distributed by volunteers
- 74.1% of Liverpool citizens surveyed were enthusiastic about their city hosting Eurovision,and 80% felt proud that Liverpool had won the competition to host the Contest.
- Anticipation of Eurovision prompted feelings of wellbeing, with respondents to pre-Eurovision survey reporting personal wellbeing above the national average.
- Those who felt involved in Eurovision showed improvement in wellbeing from pre- to post-Eurovision.
- Liverpool citizens engaged more in Eurovision events than they anticipated, but fans were still five times more likely to have attended live events than non-fans.
- Eurovision encouraged Liverpool citizens to view themselves as part of a global community.
- Feelings about Eurovision were highly similar to feelings about Liverpool as a city, with respondents describing both as ‘vibrant’ and ‘inclusive’.
- Community projects had enormous reach
- Community events associated with Eurovision acted as a powerful tool for fostering feelings of community and wellbeing, and created a sense of solidarity with Ukraine.
Sharing peer-learning and insights
We wanted to understand more about the experience of designing and delivering the evaluation, as well as key findings, so we invited Prof. Rhiannon Corcoran to share the team’s insights with us in the form of a discussion paper.
In the paper, Prof. Cocoran:
- explores key insights such as the relationship between enthusiasm and subjective wellbeing, and whether the size of a host city matters;
- shares methodological learnings;
- explains the rationale for choosing appropriate measures and metrics;
- considers the value of qualitative and quantitative data;
- reflects on issues related to ensuring and sustaining legacy.
What does this mean in practice?
Insights from the community and wellbeing paper, and the wider evaluation of Eurovision 2023, can be used by policy makers, funders and commissioners to inform spending decisions. This is more important than ever, given the vulnerability of cultural funding and the need for a resilient source of future arts budget, particularly in cases of one-off events.
For example, local and national government can consider how the infrastructure developed to support mega-events can be re-used or repurpose it to extend its value and benefits.
Prof. Cocoran also highlights how the very act of evaluation has a role to play in an event’s legacy, offering a framework for continuation and evolution.
“What we had not expected was the way the focus groups acted as ‘next steps’ for those involved. They facilitated further contact, networking and provided a reason to arrange more work together in the future. In a sense, the evaluation of Eurovision 2023 set in motion some of the first steps towards legacy.”
This unexpected benefit is something to bear in mind when designing evaluations.