In January 2023, we rounded up our Inquiry into the Power of Events with our comprehensive final report, which outlined the current state of play in events legacy. With it came five recommendations and two proposals for how we can use future events to create happier, thriving and more connected communities.
We went on to enjoy a bumper year of events in 2023 with everything from Eurovision to the Coronation of King Charles III to the anniversaries of the Good Friday Agreement and the arrival of the Windrush. At the same time, the major events model came under increasing pressure. Internationally, Victoria pulled out from hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games so the next iteration of that event is currently without a host, and Alberta then followed suit pulling out of the 2030 Games.
There were continued debates about sports-washing and negative environmental impacts. Domestically, financial pressures for local councils across the country and the early closure of Coventry City of Culture Trust have led to renewed questions about how best to use events as a catalyst for change. These challenges strengthen the argument for swift implementation of our Inquiry Recommendations – and we’ve seen many signs over the past year of things moving in the right direction.
Recommendation #1: Long-term impact and a clear plan for “what next” must be the driver for the decision to bid or host a major event
Long term impact and integration into city plans is the expectation for Olympic and Paralympic host cities. The strongest case study for this looks likely to be Brisbane, 2032 hosts, who will have eleven years to plan their Games (London had seven). Not all major franchises are as far ahead when it comes to the emphasis on legacy, and it is arguably still too tempting to promise a single event will transform all of a city’s problems, rather than focusing on a smaller number of the most important indicators.
Domestically, it was pleasing to see the publication of new Gold Framework guidance for major event bids which mentioned legacy planning as part of the expectations for major events for the first time.
We believe that events are still too often viewed in isolation, and that we are missing opportunities to make connections between events and understand their place in the wider ecosystem. In the spring, we commissioned a piece of research from Warwick Business School to look at the connective tissue between events, which will conclude in May this year. We have also funded Leeds 2023 and Bradford 2025 to work together on a knowledge transfer project, providing dedicated time to bridge between events and ensure lessons are passed on.
Recommendation #2: The long-term impact of events must be underpinned by demarcated funding, accountability and governance
To support this recommendation, we have been continuing to fund work that brings together different parts of the event eco-system. As part of our Connective Tissue grant to WBS, we have hosted roundtables with event organisers and funders to explore legacy models and long-term funding in more detail.
There still needs to be greater clarity on where the long term responsibility for driving legacy work sits, and the 2029 City of Culture competition is a great opportunity to get this right for one of the UK’s flagship cultural events. Looking further ahead, we were delighted with the announcement that UL & Ireland would be hosting Euro 28 and accountability for legacy planning must be built in to every aspect of this event.
Recommendation #3: Greater attention must be paid to who benefits from events and who is left out
There is still a significant amount of work to do to ensure that the benefits of events are felt more widely.
In October, Warwick and Coventry Universities published their final evaluation of Coventry 2021, a significant contribution to our understanding of how to engage specific communities such as people with lived experience of homelessness or food poverty in a major events – and the rich rewards that can come from doing so.
We have continued to bring sports and arts events together to look at more effective disability-inclusion, and published a deep dive into our research on this topic, Making Events Work for Everyone, in December. We are looking forward to hearing more from Art Council England’s All In, a major project to improve access across their venues, and UK Sport who will be sharing conclusions from their 2023 Year of Para Sport.
Inspire 2022, our grant to UK Youth with the #iwill Fund to support young people to lead events within their communities, concluded in autumn. Watch this space for insights from their work.
Recommendation #4: More events should be designed and curated with a broad range of stakeholders to build common ground across divides
To put this recommendation into practice we announced a new funding round called Moments to Connect – a number of grants designed to capitalise on the major events of 2022 with uniting community events. These were a great success with genuine intergenerational collaboration being achieved by the Year of the King and Our Lives, Our Legacy projects and The Spirit of Windrush leading the way in co-creation with the local community. Research from Neighbourly Lab and British Future produced more insight into how these models for community events can be meaningfully used to encourage more cohesion.
Recommendation #5: Events that use volunteers should have a clear strategy to boost longer-term community volunteering
In 2023, the King’s Coronation put volunteering front and centre with the Big Help Out, an event to encourage widespread volunteering across the country.
We have continued to support a sustainable approach to event volunteering through our grant funding, which includes:
- a grant to United By 2022, the legacy charity from the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games to transition their Games volunteers into regular opportunities.
- grants to four applicants to the 2025 City of Culture to help them build a strengthen their volunteering offer, adapting ideas from their bid. These grants – collectively known as Volunteering Cities – are being evaluated by Neighbourly Lab, who outlined the conditions for the success of these programmes in their first report.
- Neighbourly Lab have also put together a toolkit to help them mobilise people in communities who don’t formally volunteer but ‘help out’ where they can, something which volunteering organisations can use as part of their recruitment strategies going forward
- Continuing our long-term support for the legacy volunteering programme from Hull 2017, which welcomed a new cohort of volunteers this winter.
Our proposals: Capital of Sport and the events data observatory
We have contracted two organisations to look at how we – and our successors – can bring our proposals to life. For the Capital of Sport, a feasibility study is being carried out by Counsel and Loughborough University which will look at how we can use the lessons from City of Culture to develop the Capital of Sport model, factoring in economic concerns and the readiness of places in the UK to host as well as health and wellbeing innovations that can be built in.
For the data observatory, Fry Creative are in the midst of a scoping study for potential models. They recently released a data aggregation report from three of 2022’s major events focusing on if and how you can bring together data from different festivals, similar in content and objectives, but deploying different data collection methodologies.
One year on, the case for our recommendations is stronger than ever. Spirit of 2012 will close its doors in early 2026, and in the next two years we will be continuing to gather and share evidence about what works to maximise the long term impact from events. We are hugely grateful to our Inquiry Chair Sir Tom Hughes-Hallett and all our Inquiry members for giving us the manifesto that will shape our work over that remaining time. We hope they will agree with us that this has not been a report that simply sits on a (virtual) shelf, but has continued to shape our thinking and our actions.