Can cultural festivals function as counterspaces for migrants and refugees? The case of the New Beginnings Festival in Sydney

Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Leisure Studies, 2020, 30, (2), pp. 165-180
Issue Date:
Full metadata record
Despite the recognised benefits of cultural festivals, it is still unclear how they may assist marginalised groups in mitigating the adverse effects of marginalisation. Informed by the Counterspace Framework, this paper seeks to address the gap at the nexus of leisure, events and marginalisation by considering the case of the New Beginnings Festival in Sydney. Using hybrid thematic analysis and based on data collected through participant observation, semi-structured interviews, and document analysis, we argue that the festival operates as a counterspace for attendees through the processes of narrative identity work, acts of resistance, and direct relational transactions. First, the festival validated experiences of rejection and marginalisation by attendees, and at the same time celebrated migrants and refugees by showcasing their capabilities/achievements. This lead to attendees’ sense of affirmation and acceptance. Second, the freedom to express themselves in culturally meaningful ways helped bolster the attendees’ self-concept. Third, social and institutional support, and leadership roles such as mentoring and volunteering were made possible at the festival, which enhanced attendees’ social capital in empowering ways. In addition, we highlight the importance of location for events as counterspaces. Our findings contribute to both the critical event studies and the counterspace literature.
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