We asked Andy Pratt, Professor of Cultural Economy at City University London, about ways that a city can be more creative.
What makes a city creative?
Most of us dream of living in a beautiful, creative place. We know these places when we see them: cities full of cultural beauty, with treasure troves of museums and stunning buildings. But such cities are few and far between, and their beauty is often rooted in the past. So what should a city do if it does not have such heritage?
The go-to policy to make a city stand out from the crowd has often been to combine architecture and culture: build an opera house, a contemporary art gallery, or a very tall building. This certainly gets a city noticed. But it doesn't necessarily make the city more creative.
Creativity is exploratory and involves risk. If a city promotes its established cultural heritage in a tourism marketing competition, the marketing team are in danger of being seen as the opposite of creative: copycats.
How can a city become more creative?
To make itself more creative, a city can develop in three different ways. The first is through creative products or experiences; the second is through creative people; and the third is by making creative things.
Each of these three options have their pros and cons, and have a tendency to pull against one another. Let's look at each in turn.
1. Set up creative experiences for people
The first option is to make creative events and experiences available to visitors and people who live in the city. This could be visiting a cultural site, such as St Mark’s Square in Venice, the Left Bank in Paris, or even a theme park such as Disneyland.
What's good about it
Setting aside the quality of culture on offer, the focus is on ‘the experience’. You can see this in how some brick-and-mortar shops compete with online shopping sites. They stress the experience of buying their products in-store, to the extent of making retail visits feel almost like theatre.
What's not so good
This model is attractive, but it is not sustainable, because the experience loses its novelty and excitement when repeated. Then it's time to re-build the theme park, or attract another World Cup, or Olympic Games to the city.
2. Attract creative people to live there
To make a city more creative, you need lots of artists. Most cultural products and events are the result of many people with diverse skills working together; not a lone genius.
What's good about it
In today’s economy, creativity is valuable. If the creative economy was a country, it’d be the fourth largest in the world based on employment and economy. Researchers report that the so-called 'creative class' of people tend to be better educated and in demand from high-tech industries; so much so that industries may move to be closer to them.