Dr Andrew Smith, University of Westminister, has recently published a new book 'Events in the City: Using Public Spaces as Event Venues. Below he gives us an overview of the text.
‘Events in the City’ is a book about the trend for using public spaces as venues for events. Parks, streets and squares have always been used for events, but in the contemporary era they are being used more intensively and for a wider range of events. The book analyses how and why events are increasingly being taken out of purpose built venues and staged in city centres. Examples include the staging of urban music festivals in city squares and the increased use of our streets for sport events such as motor racing. The book examines the positive and negative aspects of this trend, focusing in particular on the implications for the provision of public space in our cities.
The book builds on some recent texts about events and cities (e.g. Richards and Palmer’s Eventful Cities), but it advances existing literature in several ways: via the dedicated attention to public spaces; through the coverage of a wide range of events (sport and cultural events); and by focusing on the design, management and programming of cities, rather than the design, management and programming of events. The book is a research monograph but, rather than focusing on a specific case study, the aim was to try and write about the issues more generally. Because of where I live and work, the book includes lots of examples from London, but it also includes a wide range of other cases from the rest of the UK and the developed world.
‘Events in the City’ addresses some important subjects, including the ways events can be used to animate urban streets / squares and how some events contribute to the commercialisation, privatisation and securitisation of public spaces. One key idea that provides a coherent guiding principle for the text is that public spaces are socio-material entities that are partly produced by urban planners / designers but also through the ways they are used. This idea has important implications for understanding how events help to both produce and denigrate urban public space.
I wrote the book for several reasons. First, because I wanted to write a book about events and cities that was interesting. There are too many books in both the events management and urban studies fields that make fascinating subjects seem extremely dull or obscure. I also wanted to write something that was critical, but which was also accessible and readable. This proved to be difficult as I wanted to try and apply some complex ideas from urban studies, but communicate them in a relatively simple way. Readers will judge whether or not this aim has been achieved!
Following the approach adopted in my previous book, Events and Urban Regeneration (Routledge, 2012), I wanted to produce a text that could bring together work on events that is written beyond the field of event management / event studies. In this sense the work should interest people interested in events who want to learn more about urban studies and urban design. However, the book is also written to highlight the significance of events to researchers working in the field of urban studies. In this sense, I hope it contributes to the growing credibility of event studies as a social science.