Can we Live Without Mega-Events? by Dr Beatriz Garcia

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Can we Live Without Mega-Events?

A School of the Arts Public Lecture by Dr Beatriz Garcia, Department of Communication and Media

with guest panellists:

Philippe Blanchard – Senior Advisor to the Expo 2020 Dubai and previous International Olympic Committee operations director.

Shona McCarthy – CEO of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and previous CEO of the UK City of Culture in Derry / Londonderry 2013.


This talk, originally branded ‘Every city tells a story’ marks the end of the University of Liverpool 2020 Public Lecture series on Beauty | Time | Utility.

Having moved online, the event was attended by delegates and speakers from 24 countries across the globe via Zoom. You can now watch the talk and Q&A in their entirety below.


Can we Live Without Mega-Events? by Dr Beatriz Garcia


Panel discussion and Q&A

The arrival of Covid-19 has transformed the world we live in and put all major cultural events and festivals on hold. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics have been postponed. The 2020 Edinburgh Festival has been cancelled. The hosting of European Capitals of Culture across the EU is being postponed and requires careful reinvention. Fashion Weeks, Art Biennials, Theatre and Film Festivals everywhere are exploring their virtual options.

When may we gather in public again, to celebrate? Will city squares and iconic buildings recover their symbolic place as settings for major cultural interventions that can shape the collective memories of generations?

Beatriz Garcia takes us on a swift journey through over 150 years of major events and festivals that transformed the way we understand their host cities and nations: from Universal Exhibitions to the Olympic Games and the European Capital of Culture initiative. She tells us the stories of cities like Glasgow in 1990, Barcelona in 1992, Sydney in 2000, Liverpool in 2008, London in 2012, Marseille in 2013, and Rio de Janeiro in 2016. They all used a mega-event to put new stories of place forward and reinvent their narrative, sometimes with mixed success.

Can we Live Without Mega-Events? Mentimeter graphic

The audience responded to a series of polls throughout, providing real-time results


Beatriz also tells us the story of Tokyo, a city that was working on the ‘reconstruction Games’, using the 2020 Olympics as a platform to tell us of a new creative Japan. Now postponed into 2021 and with important question marks as to their feasibility, this may need to be a Games edition that tells the story of a whole world in reconstruction. Opening and Closing ceremonies are being rewritten. New global stories are being conceived.

Can we Live Without Mega-Events? Mentimeter graphic

Word cloud created from audience responses to the question 'What are your biggest concerns about mega events?'


In the meantime, in the UK, a new festival is being promoted: Festival UK * 2022, with the ambition to heal a nation divided by Brexit. How will this Festival be embraced? Who needs it? What stories can it tell?

In this public lecture we discuss our human need for mega-events and festivals and their importance to city life, city projection and city building. With or without a pandemic, can we live without major festivals?