Festivals, by definition, are not there to impact society. Let’s face it, there are many festivals that do not want to or do not manage to have substantial and lasting effect on their surroundings. On the other hand, festivals are, by nature, extremely sensitive membranes: if there is a purpose, art festivals can exert robust societal effect.
That impact is indeed profound and lasting if it is rooted in the minds and hearts of the performers and the organisers. Expecting, pressing, or programming festivals from outside (or from above) to deliver messages result in limited efficiency. But funders, sponsors, and partisans of good causes can be sensitive to such potential in festivals and reinforce them accordingly. The public, too: the way visitors react is an important compass for the festival. How festivals impact is a shared responsibility of all stakeholders within and without.
Péter Inkei is the director of the Budapest Observatory: Regional Observatory on Financing Cultural in East-Central Europe. As a non-profit organisation, it conducts comparative projects on issues of cultural policy and planning. Inkei has done consultancy in various fields of cultural policy, among others for the Council of Europe, the European Commission, the Open Society Institute and the World Bank. He also served on the board of Cultural Information and Research Centres Liaison in Europe (CIRCLE) as well as the LabforCulture of the European Cultural Foundation (ECF). Previously, he had held various positions in the civil service, including deputy State Secretary for Culture.