Too big to fail? The framing and interpretation of ‘success’/‘failure’ in cultural participation policy: a case study

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This article engages with questions of failure in cultural participation through a reflection upon matters of interpretation and meaning. That is, rather than considering the ways or extent to which cultural participation programmes might achieve their stated goals, the discussion centres upon the crucial role of representations and perceptions in relation to questions of ‘failure’/‘success’. The discussion centres upon one case study initiative, England's version of the Venezuelan El Sistema programme, In Harmony, and employs frame analysis to explore the ways press coverage and relevant policy documents cultivate an image of programme ‘success’. In order to help reveal some of the problematic assumptions embedded in dominant accounts, the article also draws on original interview data in exploring the marginalised perspectives of programme participants. The findings which emerge suggest the need for particular attention to the symbolic dimensions of cultural participation policies in relation to questions of ‘failure’/‘success’.
Original languageEnglish
Article number119747
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2020


  • cultural policy
  • failure
  • El Sistema
  • In Harmony

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