Why do some festivals thrive, while others fail? Knowing what is likely to go wrong is a good first step to avoiding problems and creating a sustainable organisation. This study looks at a lifecycle model of organisational development and applies it to Buxton Festival, to see if the forecasts used in the commercial sector can also be applied to the arts.
Festivals are a ubiquitous feature of contemporary Western society yet their production processes remain largely unexplored. Why do some festivals thrive whilst others limp along, and yet more run for a year or so then disappear?
This paper applies a model of organisational development more widely used in the corporate world to a cultural organisation, Buxton Festival, that has been producing festivals since 1979. If the model can be seen to work for not-for-profit cultural festivals, it could help leaders and funders to identify and avoid the crises that prevent them from becoming sustainable, successful events for their communities.