Given the rise in popularity of festivals globally, the purpose of this paper is to examine two case studies to identify whether festival spaces could be identified as third places. This paper argues that third places are not vanishing but that new and emerging third places can be identified through applying the essence of third place theory.
The primary case study for this paper is The Falls Music and Arts Festival in Marion Bay, Tasmania, Australia that was the focus of a two year study into the interrelationships between informal leisure, social capital and place characteristics. 30 semi-structured interviews, participant observation and 937 surveys were conducted. To support this paper, findings from a smaller third place case study of six semi-structured interviews and participant observation at the “Festival of Lights” held in Pukekura Park in the New Plymouth, New Zealand are reflected upon.
Third place characteristics were elucidated in the Falls study. Essential characteristics of third places such as access to conversation, the evidence of “regulars”, the chance meeting of a “friend of a friend” and a playful mood were identified. The location was an important meeting place for users to create, maintain and strengthen relationships. Repeat visits to this place was found to be integral to social networking and a feeling of “home”. Insights from the Festival of Lights study support these findings.
Identifying festival spaces as third spaces contests traditional third place theory. It offers scope for festival organisers to explore more deeply the intangible aspects of the experiences they afford. More case study research needs to be conducted to explore this potential further as this is only a start at linking festivals to the essence of third place theory.
This paper pushes third place theory forward. It responds to calls for exploration of new and emerging third places in contemporary society. This research adds a new take on this exploration by affording an Australasian perspective.
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