The end of August marked the completion of my MSc Management programme at the University of Edinburgh Business School. It also marked the end of my first ever Edinburgh festival season—the two events bound by a nerve-racking, but ultimately prideworthy milestone: the submission of my Master's dissertation on Festival Audience Development.
I’m from Moscow, Russia, and was drawn to Edinburgh for its festival cluster environment with the aim of pursuing a career in that field. I chose the University of Edinburgh Business School for its world-class expertise in Management Science. Seemingly the only one (obsessively) keen on the creative industries instead of Mergers & Acquisitions, blockchain technologies and start-up ideas in our cohort, I firmly believed the cultural sector, with its perennial struggle for sustainability and efficiency, will benefit immensely from a sound managerial perspective.
Intent on addressing a strategic challenge in the field of festival management in my dissertation, I set out to explore the practice of Festival Audience Development within a wider context of Edinburgh’s festival ecosystem. An ambitious undertaking given just the three full months allotted for the project, I was once again surprised by the resourcefulness of the Business School: not only did I manage to find the one particularly like-minded academic to discuss my research ideas with, but they were officially assigned to guide me in this endeavour thanks to the incredible help of the Postgraduate support office.
Several animated discussions, 17 in-depth interviews with festival practitioners and a summer spent volunteering for the Children’s Festival, the EIFF and the Jazz and Blues Festival later, I submitted my dissertation—exhausted, but content with the overall experience for a number of reasons.
Not only did my research initiative enable me to expand my network of contacts across Edinburgh’s dynamic festival scene, but it was also met with enthusiasm by some of the leading professionals in the field. Indeed, the resulting findings speak to a wider discourse in the cultural policy and arts management, providing fresh practical insights into the matters of Festival Audience Development and identifying potential avenues for future research.
Perhaps most importantly, however, I thoroughly enjoyed the entire process, confirming my passion for addressing the planning and operational challenges that cultural organisations face on a daily basis—a passion I developed during my year as a postgraduate student at the University of Edinburgh Business School and one I cannot wait to explore in a professional capacity.
Photography by David Monteith Hodge and courtesy of Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society
Anna Fedyushina, Master's in Management graduate at the University of Edinburgh Business School