THE SO-CALLED ‘CREATIVE CITY’: we all think we know what it is, or was, and as much as we might ridicule it, we have our favourite examples. I began thinking about it in 2010 or so, just at the point at which it seemed so much the orthodoxy, so obvious that there was nothing left to say about it. That, of course, is exactly the time to start thinking seriously about something. So The Creative City is now a book project, to be published by my friends at Reaktion towards the end of 2016.
Like Sex and Buildings, it’s something of a journey, exploring instances of the creative city from Shoreditch to Singapore, Belgrade to Oakland. It’s also a book about a certain kind of urban theory. When 31st century archaeologists come to dig up the ruins of our contemporary cities, they’ll be amazed we spent so much on culture when so much was otherwise decaying. We believed, of course, that this was right, and we had the books (Richard Florida’s The Rise of the Creative Class) to tell us we were doing the right thing. But I’m sure this will turn out to have been a brief, if pleasurable, moment, when everyday life in the rich world’s cities seemed to have become pure spectacle.
I’ve been around long enough to remember what cities were like before anyone thought you could make money out of culture. I wouldn’t for a second want to go back to the Manchester of my early 70s childhood: it was a wretched place that you left as soon as you could. I still wonder at the way it, and other places, have changed. When capital really flows, it is a spectacle like no other. But if most of us struggle to afford the culture we’ve created, you have to ask whether it’s culture worth having. The class warfare in the San Francisco area, prompted by the technology sector boom is a case in point. That is one of the book’s key stories.
I’ll post more about the book here as and when there are things to report. In the meantime, watch out for articles on the topic in The New Metropolitan, and Foreign Policy, as well as my regular pictures and posts on twitter. And if you’ve got something to say on the question, let me know here. Tell me your stories.