The Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Heritage Festival Soundscapes—A Critical Review of Literature

Parker ( Murray Parker )
Spennemann ( Dirk H. R. Spennemann )
Bond ( Jennifer Bond )
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Publication Year
Current Pollution Reports , United States 
[ private ] 
Purpose of Review
The response to COVID-19 in the global community resulted in a disruption of usual sensory experiences associated with quotidian life and special events. While research has investigated urban and rural soundscape alteration/change during COVID and post-COVID, no summative work has focused on soundscapes of traditional (heritage) festivals. Research is warranted as cultural heritage festivals are significant and fundamental for human societal functioning, and associated soundscapes are a key aural reflection of these. This paper aims to critically review literature published from 2020 on the effect of COVID-19 on heritage festival soundscapes, with a particular focus on the loss of aural experience examined from a community perspective.

Recent Findings
We identified fourteen articles which covered heritage festival sounds or soundscapes, with the resultant aural experience being transformed, postponed or discontinued due to pandemic restrictions. There was a distinct lack of formal research investigating how communities perceived these changed soundscapes, with perceptions generally based on researcher’s own perspectives, either through informal conversations with community members or through content analysis. Furthermore, we identified no research which specifically targeted community perceptions of transformed heritage festival soundscapes.

In recognising and understanding both the importance of sensory components in creating a festival atmosphere and the significance of heritage festivals to the community as a cultural signature, the COVID-19 pandemic gives us a chance to pause and consider festival sensory components as an experienced intangible form of heritage and to question how alteration of these sensory heritage experiences concerns the communities affected.

Graphical Abstract
Visual collage of the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on heritage festival soundscapes

The response to COVID-19 resulted in a disruption of usual sensory experiences. In recognising the importance of festival sensory components in creating an atmosphere and the significance of heritage festivals to the community, the pandemic gives us an opportunity to consider festival sensory components as an experienced intangible form of heritage. 
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