World Cities and Culture

Does size matter?

London's cultural sector shares more with Istanbul, Berlin or Johannesburg than anywhere in the UK.

In London, culture is a big deal. There are 1,030 museums and galleries, all contributing to the city's ability to attract 15 million international tourists in 2011. London's 214 theatres and their world-renowned productions result in more than £500m in ticket sales per year, while the 566 screens of London's 108 cinemas generated over £235m in revenue in 2010.

So what does it have in common with its nearest large neighbours? For instance, an hour away by train, Brighton is has just nine theatres, two museums, and a few heritage sites. It attracted about 1 million international tourists, most of whom will have come via London.
The difference is huge.
London is not just a world city, it’s a world cultural city.

World Cities
Dozens of studies have identified World Cities or Global Cities. These are the big name cities that dominate their countries and often their regions.
The typical cultural characteristics that they have are international, first-name familiarity.

London is as well known as the United Kingdom, for instance. Istanbul is often seen as a different place to Turkey. They also are centres for strong media. Each of the World Cities have a major media outlet, whether it’s the BBC in London or the New York Times.
But also, they typically have major cultural institutions, like galleries, ballet companies, orchestras. And because of these characteristics World Cities often have more in common with each other than other cities in their own countries.

The World Cities Culture Report
This is highlighted by the World Cities Culture Report, a major new piece of research by BOP Consulting, a London-based firm. (Full disclosure: I work there and they are partners of
The report takes 12 World Cities - including's London, Berlin and Istanbul - as well as New York, Sydney, Shanghai, Paris, Johannesburg, Sao Paolo, Berlin, Mumbai and Singapore.

Here's a short video explaining it.


The World Cities Culture Report from BOP Consulting on Vimeo.

The premise is that culture is international - so why shouldn't policymakers look internationally for new ideas and approaches. The report says: "In the era of globalisation, World Cities are increasingly competing with each other, rather than other cities in their own countries, for such things as the headquarters of multinational firms,or the rights to hold major sporting or cultural events.'
And if the report tells us anything, it is that as cities grow, culture becomes even more important to help them stand out and manage change.

But that also means they have a lot more to learn from other cities facing similar challenges - whether it’s attracting investment or managing immigration. For cities and culture, size matters.


Image credits:

Banner image, Stuck in Customs on Flickr Creative Commons




Sun, 28.10.2012 0

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Event Theory
3 years 47 weeks ago
Free space Folkwang
4 years 13 weeks ago



London – the British capital is the epitome of a metropolis. London sets global standards and impulses, be it in the film or fashion industry, and has always attracted creative visionaries from across the world. London city channel sponsored by BOP Consulting.


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