After the creative City? PART ONE
Jonathan Vickery's groundbreaking study of the shift to a new Creative City
- Series: SPECIAL GUESTS – views & voices
The Creative City is an idea, a theory, and a diverse range of urban policies for both cultural innovation and economic development.1 Within intellectual debates across Europe, the term ʻCreative Cityʼ is also becoming a symbolic marker of a now defunct era of economic optimism.2
Even Germany, who did not suffer the fate of the UK in the global financial crisis of 2006-8, is facing an era of city, regional and national budgetary scrutiny and reassessment, where caution, risk-aversion and insecurity are quickly morphing into cultural values. The crisis is not simply about contracting
The issue is the City, not just urban regeneration
The psycho-political process of (ir)rationality within urban policy surely requires more attention from the thinking public. The original Creative City idea addressed this phenomenon to some degree. It was principally concerned with the way people in power ʻthoughtʼ and conceived ʻthe cityʼ as a space, place or platform for social, cultural and industrial activity. The Creative City idea asserted a challenge to the ideational basis on which policy decisions were made about the shape, function and development of the urban environment. It dispelled the assumption that a deductive, linear conceptual trajectory proceeds from the political public policy objectives of national government right through to and the urban policy implementation of particular cities. In other words, the Creative City was a challenge to the rationalist epistemologies that still seem to underpin the varied processes of political deliberation that determine our cities’ evolution.
Dialoge and urban cultures should have reigned
The original ʻCreative Cityʼ idea emerged in strength the mid-1990s as a kind of avantgarde cultural policy. In the UK, for example, it was framed by a growing political investment in urban regeneration, whose successive waves of redevelopment and renewal were originally driven by the fragmentation of
The artist would displace the engineer
The city could itself become a creative subjectivity, which first involved a re-thinking of the way its governing policies are thought-through and thought-out. Policy makers, urban planners, city officials, and even industrialists would talk to each other. Knowledge of the city would make its way out of the professional silos of city departments and professional services. New kinds of observation, language and conceptual frameworks would develop – not simply forming a new lexicon of urban life, but forming a city specific lexicon, where the urban-cultural particularity of a city would be registered in the forms of the dialogue it generated. The setting of an urban policy objective would be a creative act. The artist would displace the engineer as the model of professional labour in the hard physical contexts of the urban realm. This was not an exercise in neo-romanticism; from Constructivism to the Bauhaus to Situationism, the Twentieth Century European avant-garde understood this. Art was a laboratory through which new forms of urban life could be constructed – physically, aesthetically, spiritually and politically. We have not lost a sense of the interconnectedness of life, but the cultural politics of that interconnectedness. 3
1. This is a revised version of a paper prepared for MADE centre for place-making, Birmingham, November 2011: http://www.made.org.uk (accessed 12/02/12).
2. Talk of ‘after’ or ‘beyond’ the Creative City is now commonplace among UK urbanists and cultural policy researchers. It characterised a major seminar series in 2011 entitled ‘Creative City Limits’ (sponsored by AHRC, CABE and Urban Lab and hosted by University College London): http://creativecitylimits.wordpress.com/: (accessed 12/02/12). For the latest wave of books on the creative city and creative industries, see the following: Philip Cooke and Luciana Lazzeretti, eds. (2008) Creative Cities, Cultural Clusters and Local Economic Development (Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar); Lily Kong and Justin O’Connor, eds. (2009) Creative Economies, Creative Cities (London: Springer); Niina Koivunen and Alf Rehn, eds. (2009) Creativity and the Contemporary Economy (Liber/CBS: Denmark); (Andy, C. Pratt and Paul Jeffcutt, eds. (2009) Creativity, Innovation and the Cultural Economy (London: Routledge); Tim Edensor, Deborah Leslie, Steve Millington and Norma M. Rantisi, eds. (2010) Spaces of Vernacular Creativity: rethinking the cultural economy (London: Routledge).
3. The term Creative City was popularised by Charles Landry in the 1980s in part through his empirical research on cities like Glasgow, and his consultancy Comedia, subsequent international conferences (Glasgow, 1994; Helsinki, 1996; Huddersfield, 2000), and current creative urban strategy-making across the world. His ideas are articulated most clearly in the latest edition of The Creative City: A Toolkit for Urban Innovators (London: Comedia/Earthscan, 2009). His earlier influential reports include The Art of Regeneration: urban renewal through cultural activity (Landry, C., Greene, L., Matarasso, F., and Bianchini, F., Stroud, Glos.: Comedia, 1996).
All Photos by Jonatahn Vickery, except Title photo by Chris Poulsen