School of Events, Tourism and Hospitality Management

Share your memories and feel better - #RKEFest23

Research in the UK Centre for Events Management has found that sharing memories with friends, family and peers about emotional social experiences makes us feel good about ourselves. In this post, as part of our Festival of Research and Knowledge Exchange blog series, Professor Emma Wood shares an insight into the team’s ongoing research into people’s memories of events and past stories.

Colourful image of a circus big top, by Steven Miller

Much of the research undertaken by myself, Dr Jonathan Moss and Dr Maarit Kinnunen (University of Lapland has involved listening to festival attendees reminisce with each other. In 2021 we undertook a study in the UK and Finland where six pairs recorded their individual festival memories and then reminisced about these with each other. In comparing the individual with the conversational memories it soon became clear that such memory sharing provides a feelgood factor often regardless of whether the festival was enjoyable.

The memories can be good or bad but in sharing they form a story that is easily retold and enjoyed. Our participants relished remembering tales of being knee deep in mud, surviving festival portaloos, falling out with friends and next day hangovers. Each tale became amusing, poignant or moving as the memory of it coalesced. Our colleague, and PhD student, Trish Coll worked with us to explore how storytelling structures can be used to better understand how we recreate memories with others.

A close up of someone's legs and feet in very muddy boots in the mud taken at Y Not Festival, Pikehall, by Tim Parkinson

Mud @ Y Not Festival, Pikehall by timparkinson

In an earlier study, North Yorkshire County Council Innovation funding allowed us to work with Rural Arts, Thirsk and Age UK to create loneliness interventions for rural living older women.  Around thirty women gathered to enjoy weekly craft sessions whilst reminiscing in smaller groups about the role craft and making has played throughout their lives. Professor Kate Dashper and I found that this sharing of similar past stories with peers helped the women feel valued and created a togetherness that many had felt lacking.

A group of older women reminiscing whilst crafting at a table together

A group of women reminiscing whilst crafting - Age UK and Rural Arts, Thirsk

Dr Julia Calver and I have developed this work in a study of attitudes to the circus. We brought together people over sixty years old, from all walks of life, to share their circus memories in small discussion groups. We explored how sharing childhood memories of circus experiences enables participants to form new attitudes to such events. This happens as they work together to make sense of their memories in the light of changing social values to traditional circus acts.

Colourful image of a circus big top, by Steven Miller

Circus big top by Steven Miller

Overall, we find again and again that the memories shared are of social moments. It is the being and doing with others that remains in memory. There is pleasure to be gained, long after the experience, in remembering these moments together. Thus, in cocreating an agreed version of the past our emotions become synchronised and a feeling of belonging and kinship develops.

Images used under creative commons license and with thanks to Tim Parkinson and Steven Miller.

Professor Emma Wood

Professor / School Of Events, Tourism And Hospitality Management

Emma Wood is Professor in Events and Experiential Marketing. Her current research is in emotions, shared memory and wellbeing. Her specialist areas are event tourism, event marketing and the impact of events and festivals on social change within communities.

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