Unlocking Doors: Decolonising the Event Design Process

Zigomo, Pamela. 2018. Unlocking Doors: Decolonising the Event Design Process. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Participatory Event Design (PED) is a potential innovative approach to the design of planned events intended to trigger social change. It is a values-based, transparent process that focuses on using safe, open spaces and dialogic encounters. The design of events for social change has traditionally relied on the voice of specialists commissioned by funders who prioritise socio-economic development objectives. This can result in the marginalisation of communities of interest. A Participatory Action Research (PAR) approach was applied to design an art exhibition with 17 Zimbabwean visual artists. The project focused on addressing problems relating to the access to spaces and resources that enable visual artists to achieve their economic empowerment. In PAR the researcher actively engages participants in the conduct of the research using an iterative process that requires periods of reflection for the researchers to identify key learning points. Post-Colonial theory was applied to examine the inherent power structures which enframed the traditional spaces of exhibition event design and to understand the beliefs and ideologies that informed the actions of the research community. The research drew on Participatory International Development practice to establish possibilities for solutions to the problems identified, this prompted the development of PED. The decolonisation of traditional event design processes is recommended to remove oppressive structures that compartmentalise stakeholders, encourage patronage systems and restrict the agency of marginalised communities. Event designers working on events with a social mission need to apply skills that enable them to empathise with communities that have experienced the traumas of being marginalised. They need to focus on facilitative and reflexive skills to leverage sustainable transformation. The notion of the colonial veranda is offered to explore the liminoid aspects of the PED experience which can be a safe space for communities to come together and create the necessary solutions for social change.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):



Critical event studies, Participatory Event Design, Post-colonial Theory, Participatory action research, Creative and Cultural Industries, Third Sector Events, Social Change

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Institute for Cultural and Creative Entrepreneurship (ICCE)


30 November 2018

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

11 Mar 2019 16:11

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:14



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