Somewhere over the Rainbow

Investigating Festival Decorations in the LGBT50 Celebration of Hull, UK City of Culture 2017


  • Barbara Grabher University of Graz



Material Culture, Carnivalesque, Critical Event Studies, LGBT Pride, Artistic Interventions


Festival decorations are crucial indicators of the carnivalesque atmosphere of events as they capture celebratory experiences in tangible forms. Due to the strong presence of rainbow colors, LGBT+ Pride events provide fertile grounds for the discussion of decorative materials. While the acclaimed symbol of the rainbow is an expression of the LGBT+ community and their campaign for equality, the color combination is contested due to commercializing and appropriating forces. Next to altered color compositions highlighting particular identities and communities within the LGBT+ spectrum, explorations for alternative decorative patterns and visual expressions inform contemporary celebrations of equality during LGBT+ Pride events. In this article, I begin with a conceptual discussion of the carnivalesque notion, its inherent contradictions of subversion and discipline, and their expression in the form of decorative materials. Through an ethnographic study of the commemorative LGBT50 celebration in the context of Hull UK City of Culture 2017, I argue that alternative decorative approaches not only aesthetically influence the event but enable the reclaiming of the subversive atmospheres produced by the carnivalesque environment. Countering disciplining mechanisms of brand-like rainbow strategies, I outline how artistic practices negotiate innovative approaches to frame LGBT+ communities, identities, and celebrations.

Author Biography

Barbara Grabher, University of Graz

Barbara Grabher is a postdoctoral research assistant in the research group Urban HEAP in the Institute of Geography and Regional Studies at the University of Graz, Austria. She recently completed her PhD at the University of Hull, UK, and the University of Oviedo, Spain, where she conducted research for her thesis, Gendering Cities of Culture, in the context of the Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action Framework GRACE project (Gender and Cultures of Equality in Europe). Her work combines perspectives from critical event studies and gender studies, as she highlights the relevance of celebrations in the production and negotiation of cultures of gender equality. Furthermore, as a research assistant in the Culture, Place and Policy Institute at the University of Hull, she coauthored the final evaluation report for Hull UK City of Culture 2017, with specific emphasis on the impact area “Society and Well-being.” Grabher holds a BA in cultural and social anthropology from the University of Vienna, Austria, and an MA in gender studies from Utrecht University, Netherlands, and the University of Granada, Spain.




How to Cite

Grabher, Barbara. 2021. “Somewhere over the Rainbow: Investigating Festival Decorations in the LGBT50 Celebration of Hull, UK City of Culture 2017”. Journal of Festive Studies 3 (1):200-214.