World Cities Culture

I have recently been curious as to why certain cities are culturally successful. In my quest for information I came across the World Cities Culture Report 2015.

The report records cultural engagement from over 30 cities. The information was first published in 2012, with the second edition in 2015.

Key culture cities
Participating cities include usual suspects London, Paris, New York and closer to home Singapore, Sydney and Melbourne. The closest in size and scope to NZ cities (in my opinion) are Montreal, Edinburgh and Vienna, and perhaps Austin and San Francisco (which in 2014 invested $100 per inhabitant on culture).

·         Montreal which merges Parisian styles streets and old-fashioned elegance with a vibrant dining culture and club scene that reflects its contemporary and culturally diverse population. Montreal has a vibrant screen production environment alongside Toronto.

·         Edinburgh is famous for now 12 major annual festivals. Committed to virtuosity and originality, the International Festival presents some of the finest performers and ensembles from the worlds of dance, opera, music and theatre for three weeks in August.

·         Vienna has a renowned history of art and music. It was the largest German speaking city up until the end of the 19th Century and the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It is ranked consistently as one of the most liveable cities (alongside Melbourne). It is popular for congresses. It houses the UN and OPEC.

Emigres evacuating Europe around World War II settled in many far-flung cities. Perturbed at the absence of performance art they were central to creating cultural infrastructure in their new homes.

Key culture cities ingredients
The report seeks to identify and measure many factors. The ones I highlight are presented below.

Population: The cities have populations of approximately the size of New Zealand’s major cities. Their populations are increasingly diverse. That sparks both tension and creation.

·         Major city: They are not necessarily the largest (or hold a high percentage of the population).

·         Tourists: They are international in outlook and are influenced by the constituents of their population and their exchange of ideas from their visitors.

·         Education: They are of varying levels of education (noting that some countries recognise and equally prize vocational training as well as university qualifications).

·         Creative: There are a range of the population designated as working in the creative Industries. This is however, not always the dominant endeavour.

Engagement with culture

world cities table 2.png

Attendance of cultural institutions is strong, and not limited to international visitors as evidenced in the right column.

As a note of caution on interpretation of this information is that it is not necessarily collected/available for each city measurement. Survey questions may also be interpreted differently from metropolis to metropolis.

World Cities Chair summary
Justine Simons OBE, Chair of the World Cities Culture Forum notes in her foreword to the report that:

“The Economist publishes a ranking of the most liveable cities. And only four of the 30 World Cities Culture Forum members make it into the top 10 most liveable cities. So it’s clear that it won’t be enough to spend next century diligently working on our transport and healthcare systems, our policing and schools. We also need our people to be fulfilled and happy”.

That thing is culture.

Culture offers an exponentially good return on investment for a global city – it delivers against all urban policy areas with depth and sophistication. But although culture is on the list in cities, it’s vulnerable. As budgets tighten it is often the thing that gets dropped.

So we need a paradigm shift in global cities, we need culture at the top table if we are to build liveable flourishing cities. And to do this we need evidence and we need leadership. And the World Cities Culture Forum is both these things.

Without hard evidence we can’t make hard arguments. But culture is hard to quantify in a way that does justice to the breadth of its impact. Put simply you can’t measure the imagination, but you can try”.

What can I do?
How do you consider your city/country compares? What can be learned and shared with the flames of creation rather than of tension? How do you choose to actively engage in shaping the culture of your city? We welcome your conversation on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: Giddy Up facilitates the bridging of culture and business through carefully crafted long-term sponsorship arrangements. We are encouraged by the World Cities Culture report, and believe it should be extended to other cities.


InsightsBrian Steele