The Cultural Cities Research Network met for the first time at Kelham Island Museum, Sheffield on 13th July 2011. Participants included network members from a range of sectors and organisations, including city councils, higher education institutions, and arts and cultural organisations. Following an introduction to the network from the Institute of
Cultural Capital, the following presentations were made by guest speakers,
providing reflections on the UK City of Culture (UKCoC) bidding experience, culture-led regeneration and cultural titles from policy, practitioner and research perspectives:
- Sheffield City Council: Let’s Create Something Amazing
- Anna Badcock, ArcHeritage: Heritage, Communities and Regeneration
- Dr David O’Brien, Leeds Metropolitan University: It’s the taking part that counts:incentive and momentum in two bidding cities
Following a networking lunch, participants then split into two groups to discuss the research theme of ‘incentive’, including the following prompts:
- How important is it to have an incentive such as UKCoC
in connecting and shaping a city’s cultural offer and strategy?
- How important is such a shared incentive in connecting
a city’s different communities?
- Are incentives such as UKCoC valued ‘catalysts for
- Can such outcomes be achieved without a substantial
- Are there any research questions emerging?
Discussion notes from group 1 indicate that bidding for UKCoC 2013 acted as a positive incentive in relation to ‘bringing people together’ via a common cause. This was achieved via the notion of embarking upon something new, or in the case of Birmingham for example, creating an ‘added value’ for an existing city-wide strategy. Similarly in Sheffield, the foundations for a cultural strategy were in place, but the UKCoC competition
‘fired the strategy’, and created a feeling of it being the ‘right time’ for Sheffield. The bidding process also created an incentive to reconcile internal aims within cities with external drivers and requirements, including a heightened awareness of national position and contribution. A noticeable impact of this has been a change in the way that the DCMS sees bidding cities. It is believed that media coverage follows ‘the quality of offer – not just the award’. Participants felt that the UKCoC programme helps to profile the creative ecology across the cities of UK (not just in London) and we now ‘need to make the link between this creativity and UK economy’s USP’.
Within cities, bidding for UKCoC allows culture to set agenda for the city as a whole, and supports aspiration-raising in terms of a city’s cultural offer. The 2013 bidding process revealed how to tell the ‘culture’ story to communities in the city – which is conventionally difficult as compared to something known and established like football. Confidence in the
city therefore is a positive outcome that should be treated as an incentive, along with the development of cultural capital in people.
Group 2 provided the following diagram summarising their discussion.