Creative City and Creative Clusters

Author: Denisa Zlatá, Project Manager at Slovak Governance Institute

Shift from the knowledge economy to creative economy

European leaders started to realize that we are in the middle of a paradigm shift: if we want to successfully compete with the globalization pressures and consequences of financial crisis. Innovation has been a central EU priority for the last decade, but creativity as the main driver of innovation with culture as its main resource has been recognized only recently, mainly with the discourse on creative economy. Policy instruments and procedures need to be set up in order to be able to establish measures and programs to support this focus that is based on a broader concept of innovation itself.


Culture-based creativity as a pre-condition to innovation

Culture is an important resource for creativity. Creative industries build upon a rich and diverse core of cultural heritage and skilful artists or other cultural practitioners. This core is surrounded by interconnected layers of entrepreneurial and innovative services bringing creativity to the market. In order to take full advantage of creative potential of Europe, business and creative leaders agree to combine arts and creativity with entrepreneurship and innovation. (KEA, Impact of Culture on Creativity, 2009).

This culture-based creativity is linked to the ability of people to think imaginatively or metaphorically, to challenge the conventional, and to call on the symbolic and affective to communicate. Culture-based creativity has the capacity to break conventions, the usual way of thinking, to allow the development of a new vision, an idea or a product. The nature of culture-based creativity is closely linked to the nature of artistic contribution as expressed in art or cultural productions.

When we are talking about culture-based creativity, we have certain driving factors in mind. These include personal abilities (ability to think laterally or in a non-linear way, to be imaginative), technical skills (often artistic skills or craftsmanship) and conducive environment (a social context through notably education and learning that encourages, and appreciates creativity as well as an economy that invest in culture and culture-based creativity, but also as Richard Florida puts it open and tolerant environment.)

With regards to a conducive environment, Elizabeth Currid states in her book on cultural and creative industries, Warhol Economy, some other driving factors of creativity. First of them is social milieu that represents places designed for informal gatherings of artists, cultural operators, free-lancers or cultural producers where they can meet, discuss and exchange new ideas, concepts, and formats or propose job offers among them. By this is, she means bars, clubs, neighbourhoods and other informal places that function as a living environment supporting mechanisms of cooperation that are specific for this kind of industry. “Economists often talk of the agglomeration of labour pools, firms, suppliers, and resources as producing an ensuing social environment where those involved in these different sectors engage each other in informal way. But this informal social life that economists often hail as a successful by-product (what they call a positive spillover or externality) of an economic cluster is actually the central force, the raison d’être, for art and culture.“( p. 4. Currid, Elizabeth, Warhol Economy). Another factor Currid mentions is media that in fact validate creative work and spread the news about it worldwide. This mechanism ensures success of CCIs on the market. The third factor is density & diversity of creativity, which means that critical mass of creative firms and their diversity is required for mechanisms of further development of CCIs to take place, not single companies. She explains that the City of New York that is famous for its creativity is the leader in cultural and creative industries also because creative people live and work in very close proximity and thus they inspire each other.


Culture – led urban regeneration

Culture as part of urban policy is widely seen as contributing to city development and urban regeneration and revitalization. We look at two types of cultural policy in the city: one oriented towards boosting the image of the city in the international setting and the other, more inner-looking, towards the neighbourhood in order to improve the quality of life of inhabitants (see Amendola 1998).

Culture-led regeneration comes with different assumptions as shown in the present literature: it will bring economic benefits for the city, and will lead to job creation; it will have a positive impact on the city’s image; it will increase the social cohesion in the urban fabric, improve the quality of life and decrease the criminality (see McCarthy 2005); it will lead to development of new cultural infrastructure which goes beyond the traditional cultural institutions and familiar cultural formats (Factories of the Imagination or Cultural Conversion 2008). These new cultural institutions are places for innovation and experimentation.

Cities are competing for good positions in different rankings (see Evans 2009) all related to creativity: creative city, creative class, creative industries and creative economy. They are emulating each other with regards to the urban strategy and policies for urban regeneration (see Evans 2009). Thus in their endeavour to become unique some cities end up being similar to others by ignoring their own heritage and collective memories, which city’s public policy should focus on (see Dragicevic Šešic 2007). However, we cannot generalize since in the post-socialist cities the debate regarding the city development and regeneration and the role of culture in such processes is relatively new (see Švob-Nokic 2007).


Creative city. Creative class. Creative industries.

Urban planners and city leaders have to respond constantly to the challenges – unemployment, poverty, inequalities, crime, migration – the cities are confronted with. Increased competition among cities makes the city leaders more sensitive with regards to the city’s image and “distinctiveness” (Landry 2003). In this context the notions of “creative city” (Landry, Bianchini 1995; Landry 2000) and “creative class” (Florida 2002), “creative industries” have appeared. The common feature is that “they are instrumental policies which seek to use culture or creativity to achieve non-cultural ends” (Pratt 2008, 107). The ideas behind these notions were adopted by many public institutions, especially in United Kingdom, some European countries, also in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Eastern Asia (Costa 2007).


Creative City

The creative city is usually associated with urban development policies. With “the creative city” a switch has been made from the interest shown to the physical infrastructure and solutions to more attention given to soft infrastructure. This change has required urban planners and city leaders with imagination and different skills than the planners which were concentrated on finding physical solutions (Landry and Bianchini 1995, Landry 2000). According to Landry (2000), the creative city is the city which manages to find innovative solutions to today’s problems and this cannot happen if the old framework does not change. In the creative city “urban culture, the media, entertainment, sport and education” are put to work together through adequate policies (Landry and Bianchini 1995). The creative city goes beyond cultural activities and cultural institutions although it incorporates them (Landry 2003). The involvement of different actors, i.e. local authorities, business representatives, voluntary sector representatives, in rethinking the city is a sine qua non condition for the success of a creative city and this goes back to the governance issue.


Creative Class

Florida in his book The Rise of Creative Class (2002) introduces the concept of creative class as a driver in the urban regeneration and economic growth. The creative class refers to the population residing in the city, possessing creative jobs which are situated in the following fields: research, architecture, design, education, arts, performing arts, entertainment. It also refers to the management and legal experts. In Florida’s vision, cities need to attract these types of workers in order to prosper. One of the critiques to this vision is that culture and the creative industries in Florida’s work, as Pratt underlines, “are an instrumental sideshow that attracts the workers, which in turn attracts the hi-tech investors” which will be conducive to growth (Pratt 2008,108). For these workers to come, the communities and the work places need to be liberal, tolerant, flexible, and the cities need to provide “a bohemian consumption place” (Pratt 2008) since the creatives are in search for the so-called “bo-bo culture” (see more Pratt 2008). The unused spaces, such as warehouses and factories, because they are cheap, can become places where artists gather to work and produce cultural goods. But as the “creative class” is being attracted by these bohemian places, they tend to move in order “to be close to the artists” (in Pratt 2008, 111, Miles 2005). Consequently, as many examples show, the prices of real estate rise and the artists are forced to leave the places, the city exposed to gentrification.


Creative Industries

The concepts of creative city, creative class and urban regeneration are usually linked to the creative industries (see Evans 2005). Pratt (2008) shows that the term was introduced in 1990 by the UK Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and substituted gradually the notion of culture industry, a concept defined by Adorno and Horkheimer in 1940s (in Bernstein 1991). According to DCMS the creative industries comprise: advertising, architecture, the art and antiques market, crafts, design, designer fashion, film and video, interactive leisure, software, music, the performing arts, publishing, software and computer games, television and radio (2005). In the logic of neoliberal ideology the relation between culture and economy became central. Culture is perceived as an instrument of economic growth and solving urban problems in the late 1970s (see Evans 2009; Miles 2005). The shift from cultural to creative industries was merely ideological as the term “creative industries” is associated to the neo-liberal government in UK (Pratt 2008). This change in terminology “created the possibility of placing the creative industries alongside other areas of government policy and providing output measures that were robust” (Pratt 2008, 113; see Kunzmann 2004; Miles 2005). The creative industries became a good ally for the UK’s New Labour in conducting its “policy of competition” (Pratt 2008, 113).


Definition of cluster

In economic and management literature it is understood that the most efficient environment for businesses to be developed are clusters. The concept of cluster appeared already in 19thcentury where it was composed of private firms, constituting the value system of buyers and suppliers, and also included firms in related technologies that shared certain factor or product markets. Later cluster expanded and added other agents like universities, public agencies and public-private organizations. (Solvell O., Clusters. Balancing Evolutionary and Constructive Forces, Ivory Tower, 2009, p. 13). The most famous example of cluster is Sillicon Valley that is currently the leading high-tech hub because of its large number of cutting-edge entrepreneurs, engineers and venture capitalists and because Stanford university had nearby extra land that was made available for the graduates and their spin off enterprises.

Well known American economist and cluster theoretic Michael Porter defines cluster as: “.. competitive advantage of Nations: ..geographic concentrations of interconnected companies, suppliers, service providers, firms in related industries, and associated institutions (for example universities, standard agencies, trade associations) in particular fields that compete but also co-operate.

Nevertheless, central is the assumption that creative industries operate differently from other industries. That is why Simon Evans, director of Creative Clusters, UK stresses that standard clusters are not the same as creative clusters and common strategies will not work. A cluster of creative enterprises needs much more than the standard vision of a business part next to a technology campus. Creative clusters need include non-profit enterprises, cultural institutions, arts venues and individual artists alongside the science park and the media centre. They are places to live as well as to work, places where cultural products are produced as well as consumed. They are open round the clock, for work and play and they feed on diversity and change and so thrive in busy, multicultural urban settings that have their own local distinctiveness but are also connected to the world.


Cluster benefits

Fully functioning cluster is based on a series of interconnections and interactions. Public bodies often play a coordination role, driving clusters through partnership building as well as providing practical support such as infrastructure or funding. Universities and other knowledge institutions provide research expertise that both informs industry and reacts to its needs – promoting innovation. They also provide the potential for knowledge based start up companies that can be incubated within the wider cluster. The presence of other actors such as financial institutions and media organizations can be pivotal in a cluster’s success, providing financial support and high levels of visibility to improve overall outputs.

There are a variety of perspectives on what clustering really is, but there is most often broad agreement on the critical importance of proximity. Proximity implies that those involved in clusters are close together. This results in linkages that allow the sharing of common knowledge and often infrastructure, knowledge spill over from universities (and triple helix linkages – that is the grouping of private, public and university sectors), and the opportunity to found and support start-up companies. (Solvell O., 2009)

Spill over effects in the context of creative clusters might have positive impact apart from economic assets also on widening cultural offer and thus participation which enhances cultural diversity one of the most proclaimed European values. Nevertheless, there is not much research on this topic yet.

Solvell explains that there are two types of agglomeration that can be considered centres of knowledge creation and innovation. “In the academic literature there is a debate about whether specialized regions with clusters perform better or whether diverse city-regions, offering a multitude of skills, technologies, political and academic institution, cultural inspiration and so forth are more conducive to innovation and upgrading. Solvell states that both models are not mutually exclusive but are rather complementary to one another. (Solvell O, p. 15, 2009).

In order to foster innovation via creative industries policy makers and business leaders call for new cluster concepts. These clusters would improve the physical and social environment for creative workers and related institutions such as art and design schools, museums, etc. and foster collaboration through clustering. New clusters would have more specific focus on creative industries companies and how they can benefit from being located in the same place by fostering networking, providing better support for stimulating creative start ups.


Cultural/creative quarters, Evolution of clusters.

Since 70s of 20th century we can trace evolution of culture-based urban development strategies. The first generation of strategies was in 70s and 80s and oriented to culture consumption that was reflected in building majestic cultural houses as big opera houses or theatres. (this strategy can be traced back also in our Slovakia or post- socialist cities). Nominator of success was the number of tickets sold. The second generation of strategies was between 80s and 90s and represents shift in its orientation from culture consumption to culture production that is reflected in building cultural clusters – cultural quarters. This type of strategy apart from developing cultural activities and organizations aims at incorporating also elements of entertainment industry (bars, restaurants, retail spaces, sport and wellness complexes. These urban projects can be located in former industrial buildings and complexes, but building new facilities it is not excluded . This is what is called revitalization of city by means of cultural development.

Within this concept many cultural quarters has been established as Museum Quarter in Vienna, Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam or Veermaktkwartier in Tilburg. In post-socialist cities, this strategy is to our disadvantage very rare. The third generation of strategies is currently being formed in conjunction with discourse on creative industries that is still oriented on culture production but with new concept of cluster. Now we talk about building creative clusters (creative hubs). The objective of this cluster is to create spaces of original artistic activities, experimenting and innovation processes as for example in Dortmund, Germany (Dortmund U that was established within Ruhr 2010, ECOC 2010, or Kulturpark in Košice, ECOC 2013 in Slovakia). These hubs are set up in a complex of buildings where are many creative specialists and other media, research organizations and incubators residing.

Cultural quarters and creative clusters, these urban projects have in common the fact that they represent strategies of grouping cultural activities; cultural organizations; production, consumption, experimentation and presentation of culture. They are associated with bringing benefits for a specific area or for the city depending on the purposes for which they were established and on who established them, for example local authorities, or artists and cultural organizations occupying unused spaces. Local authorities will, most probably, advance them with the goal of regenerating the urban space, sustain the “local ‘creative economy’”, “amenity and place-promotion, the revitalization of arts and culture and preservation of cultural heritage” and “stimulation of the local cultural democracy and diversity” (Mommaas 2004, 530). Artists and cultural organizations in need of a space would, most likely, transform them in contemporary arts spaces.

In conclusion, culture, in the post-industrial city, is merely seen as an instrument in attaining goals that are not related to culture, especially, economic goals (see Delgado I Calvera, Martinell 2000). Cultural policies tend to be evaluated in terms of being able or not to bring economic gains and are conceived with this end. In this context, policy makers should pay more attention to the development of culture as a field in itself and not only as a means.

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