Questioning the Creative City is a two-day event bringing together artists, researchers and grassroots innovators to debate the role of creative practice and innovation in the life of cities beyond the current obsession with market-oriented growth strategies. How do creative practitioners and grassroots social innovation see their contribution to the city? How can cities support and promote creative practice? Can we envision a city that values creativity for its own sake, rather than as a means to an economic end?
The event marks the culmination of a research project on the Politics of Urban Social Innovation (PUrSI) led by geographers at Durham and Loughborough Universities working partly in collaboration with two artist-led hubs: The NewBridge Project in Newcastle and Gateshead (UK) and ZK/U – Zentrum für Kunst und Urbanistik in Berlin (Germany).
Creativity and innovation have been sold as the solutions to urban ills for more than a quarter of a century, and cities as crucibles of creativity and innovation are widely regarded as the drivers of national economic progress. A vast ‘creativity industry’ has grown up comprising academics, consultants, think-tanks and policy-makers. Creative enterprise zones, cultural quarters, digital and media start-up networks and urban innovation labs jostle for attention and private and public investment. The ‘creative sector’ and the ‘creative economy’ are celebrated and boosted. Yet urban inequality is rising, food banks have multiplied as quickly as artist studios, more and more people live with chronic health conditions, and in much of Europe housing is unaffordable for many city-dwellers. As a result, there is now a backlash ‘against creativity’ (Mould, 2018), with commentators increasingly questioning previously taken-for-granted links between creativity, innovation and urban change. Moreover, in these debates, the voices of creative practitioners – artists, film-makers, writers, story-tellers, grassroots social innovators – have all too often gone unheard.
Photo Credit: Stephen Wilks
Artwork: Laura Yuile, Asset Arrest, ZKU Openhaus, Berlin, June 2019