The World Cities Culture Report 2012 is a major global initiative on culture and the future of cities, established by the Mayor of London. It is a celebration of the importance of culture in the public and political life of world cities.
From ancient Athens, Renaissance Florence and Elizabethan London to modern New York’s Broadway or Mumbai’s Bollywood, cities have been the places where culture develops and moves forward.
This report examines the cultural offer of 12 of the world’s greatest cities. It gathers evidence on 60 cultural indicators, assessing both the supply of and demand for culture, and reports on the thinking of cultural policymakers in those places.
The level of detail of the cultural data collected across the cities is unprecedented, and represents the primary achievement of this research. However, what makes the project even more valuable is its exploration of attitudes to cultural policy-making in the world cities.
The potential for culture to contribute to economic and social develop-ment is understood by all the cities, but it plays out in different ways depending on the particularities of each place. Bringing an analysis of policymakers’ priorities together with the data gives a much more rounded picture of culture’s role in, and value to, world cities.
The research is examined in more depth over the course of this report. There are, however, a number of messages which emerge clearly.
World cities, by virtue of their scale, dynamism and diversity, are the cities most able to support the widest range of cultural activity.
Their large audiences (both residents and tourists) and strong private business sectors (a source both of funding for the arts and a market for creative goods) means they are able to ‘specialise’ in culture, supporting the high fixed costs of cultural infrastructure, as well as the other ‘soft’ infrastructure of commissioning, distribution, management and production. Their diversity allows them to sustain a great variety of art forms, while their dynamism – their constantly changing populations and their international connections – make the world cities hubs of new cultural ideas and knowledge, and also great centres for ‘hybridised’ art forms, created when ideas are blended together. The report’s findings make clear that the world cities play a crucial role in global culture.
Policymakers across the cities see culture as a central part of delivering the priorities and strategies of urban government.
New York put it nicely, suggesting that culture is the ‘no. 2 strategy’ in all fields; there will be a strategy to address a question directly, but there is always a recognition that culture too has a major role to play in support.
In Johannesburg, efforts to build social and community cohesion in the wake of apartheid have been strengthened by the development of a new heritage infrastructure that tells the history of all South Africa’s peoples.
In the very different context of Shanghai, culture is viewed as a source of cohesion in a city that is changing incredibly quickly. In Tokyo meanwhile, culture has been seen as an important response to the challenges posed by the 2011 earthquake, an event that has led to much soul-searching in Japan about the country’s future direction.
Culture’s role in supporting economic strategies is also recognised in the cities. In London and Paris the creative industries are seen as a potential source of new jobs and growth at a time of economic difficulty. Cultural activity is also an important tool in urban regeneration – New York stresses its importance in helping to revive run-down neighbourhoods.
In the era of globalisation, world cities are increasingly competing with each other, rather than with other cities in their countries, for such things as the headquarters of multinational firms, or the right to host major international sporting and cultural events.
Cultural prowess and economic success are increasingly seen as interlinked. Those cities with historically strong cultural offers, such as London, New York and Paris, see culture as a vital part of their economic strength. This is expressed in two ways. Firstly, the commercial forms of culture – the creative industries – make up a large and growing share of the economies of large cities. Given the challenges facing some other sectors of the economy, such as finance or public services, the creative industries represent a large source of employment, exports and tax revenue that needs to be better understood by policymakers in both the cultural and economic fields.
The second contribution of culture to urban economies is, if anything, more fundamental. Culture in all its diverse forms is central to what makes a city appealing to educated people and hence to the businesses which seek to employ them. In the globalised knowledge economy, having a well-educated workforce is the key to success, and such workers demand stimulating, creative environments. It is clear from partner cities’ responses that they are well aware of culture’s role in making their cities attractive to ‘talent’. A rich and vibrant culture thus also becomes an indirect source of economic success.
This is recognised by cities in emerging economies as well – from Shanghai to Istanbul to São Paulo there is a belief that culture will help determine their city’s future economic success.
BOP would like to thank the British Council, particularly the local offices in the partner cities, for their advice and support