Beyond the Creative City

Blog 2nd August 2023

In this guest post, Dr Lauren England and Dr Abigail Gilmore discuss a 2023 workshop from the European Creative Cities and COVID-19 Seminar Series, which was supported with a USF Seminar Series Award grant.

On the 23rd June 2023, 19 academics from around the world came together for a hybrid ‘Beyond the Creative City‘ workshop held at King’s College London.

The workshop was organised by Dr Lauren England (King’s College London) and Dr Abigail Gilmore (University of Manchester) with support from Dr Claire Burnill-Maier (University of Manchester) and Jiahui Liao (King’s College London).

The workshop was supported by an Urban Studies Foundation Seminar Series Award and the University of Manchester.

This event was organised as a follow-on event to the Creative Cities & Covid-19: Reimagining Creative Economies Colloquium which took place in Biella, Italy in 2022 as part of the USF Seminar Series European Creative Cities and COVID-19 and brought this together with the ‘Beyond the Creative City’ project, a trilateral collaboration project between the University of Toronto, the University of Melbourne and the University of Manchester convened by Dr Abigail Gilmore.

A photograph of a black and white painted sign on a brick building, which reads 'King's College London'
King’s College London (source: Katy Ereira)

The workshop further explored questions and framings that emerged from the colloquium in Biella and ‘Beyond the Creative City’ project meetings. This included key questions of care, resilience, policy and practice in relation to urban, spatial and geographic themes and issues.

First, the participants briefly introduced how their work goes “beyond” the creative city and/or presents alternatives. This highlighted a range of interdisciplinary expertise and diverse research contexts across the global North and South but also helped to identify shared interests and points of connection and potential for future collaboration among the group.

A group discussion followed where participants critically considered the concepts of “Beyond”, “Creative” and “City” and reflected on why such discussions were important to have now. Discussions reflected on what could be an alternative to the current international policy script and how to go beyond the currently identified components of a ‘Creative’ city to consider what and who is excluded from such narratives, labels, metrics and the spatial confines of the ‘City’. The final point of “why now?” offered an opportunity to consider the resilience of creative cities policy and its perpetuation in parallel with critical scholarship positioned as ‘beyond’, ‘against’ or ‘struggling with’ the creative city.

While acknowledging the existing trajectories of research on creative cities and considering the implications of prolonging or repeating unfruitful discussion, the group highlighted the value of renewed debate in the face of current social, economic and environmental crises and also as a means of diversifying perspectives and international learning. This was seen as an opportunity to go ‘beyond’ the existing critique of the creative city, consider alternative methodologies and disciplinary perspectives on urbanism, creative production and cultural economy and present new understandings that turn the page from instrumental use of creativity.

These discussions are informing plans for future publications, including a special issue. The group also discussed developing alternative publication routes and formats such as podcasts, websites and visual case studies as a means of communicating ideas and research beyond traditional academic publication models.

Find out more about the events and activities of the European Creative Cities and COVID-19 series here.