Eventful policies, public spaces and neoliberal citizenship: lessons from Glasgow

Séverin Guillard*, David McGillivray*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
26 Downloads (Pure)


Over the last three decades, festivals and events staged in public spaces have been an important element in the neoliberal regeneration of cities. However, so-called festivalisation strategies have been subject to criticism for their focus on economic imperatives to the detriment of the lives of urban residents. In many cities of the Global North, in particular, these debates have been accompanied by increasing calls for forms of urban governance that give more weight to local democratic processes and practices. This paper analyses these debates, focusing on the Scottish city of Glasgow, where the staging of festivals and events has long been a key factor in the city's rebranding. In recent years, city leaders have created processes designed to ensure that the voices of local people are heard. We analyse to what extent this turn towards more inclusive rhetoric is translated into practice when policy and planning processes are still governed by economic growth logics. We show how citizen participation and engagement processes to consult residents about the use of public spaces for festivals and events reinforce narratives of neoliberal citizenship, primarily acting to assimilate and neutralize opposition, rather than sharing power and decision-making with local citizens. The implementation of these policies in Glasgow represents an emblematic illustration of the neoliberal governance logics which prevent the local state from granting an increased role to citizens and local organizations, particularly in cities of the Global North. However, we conclude by highlighting some potentially fruitful new avenues to support greater transparency and accountability in public space governance.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103921
Number of pages9
JournalCities: The International Journal of Urban Policy and Planning
Early online date19 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2022


  • urban governance
  • public space
  • neoliberal citizenship
  • events
  • Glasgow


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