A study of Scotland's Highland games: traditional sport and musical competition in the twenty-first century
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
Publish original journal articles
Highland games play a unique cultural role in Scotland, as a platform for indigenous sporting competition, traditional music and dance. There has been very little academic attention paid to Highland games and this is a first attempt to capture a detailed account of multiple events across Scotland. Organised by volunteers and operating the events on a not-for-profit basis, the majority of Highland games are self-sustaining, relying on the ingenuity and commitment of committee members. The political forces in Scotland do not appear to acknowledge or understand the importance of Highland games to communities; or the social, cultural and economic benefits they create, whilst contributing substantially to Scotland’s event and tourism industries. Key themes within the research objectives are volunteer organisers, sport, events, tourism and culture with social capital theory underpinning the study. The study adopts a mixed methods approach with three phases of data collection. An initial search identified 95 Highland games in Scotland which provided the context and knowledge base from 50 returned surveys. A second survey was conducted with audience members (n=1316) with the third data set collected from interviews with organisers and experts (n=16). The results reveal that Highland games operate in a very fragile financial environment with little support from central government or national tourism and event organisations. The events are well supported by domestic, UK and international visitors and tourists appealing to all age groups, encompassing family and adult social groups while transcending social and cultural diversity. There is evidence of repeat visitation by audience members and competitors to single and multiple events, furthermore, the evidence of bonding and bridging social capital is conclusive within the organising groups and spectators. This study confirms that Highland games collectively contribute to event tourism bringing social and economic benefits to Scotland and could be a key feature of Scotland’s international event and tourism strategies.
PhD in Managment Studies