Purpose This paper aims to examine the role of grassroots (food) festivals for supporting the sustainability of micro and small producers, whilst exploring potential productive linkages between both stakeholders (festivals and producers) for enhancing a more authentic cultural offering and destination image in the visitor economy.
Design/methodology/approach This paper is exploratory, qualitative and inductive. Evidence is underpinned by a purposive sample, drawing on ten in-depth interviews and 17 open-ended survey responses collected across 2014 and 2015 - drawing perspectives from traders participating in the EAT Cambridge festival.
Findings This paper unpacks a series of serendipitous [as opposed to strategic] forms of festival and producer leveraging; strengthening B2C relationships and stimulating business to business networking and creative entrepreneurial collaborations. Positive emergent embryonic forms of event legacy are identified that support the longer-term sustainability of local producers and contribute towards an alternative idea of place and destination, more vibrant and authentic connectivity with localities and slower visitor experiences.
Originality/value This study emphasises the importance of local bottom-up forms of serendipitous leverage for enhancing positive emergent embryonic legacies that advance slow tourism and local food agendas. In turn, this enhances the cultural offering and delivers longer-term sustainability for small local producers - particularly vital in the era of Clone Town threats and effects. The paper applies Chalip's (2004) event leverage model to the empirical setting of EAT Cambridge and conceptually advances the framework by integrating digital forms of leverage.