World Cities Culture Summit, London
18 – 20 November

Over three days last week, London played host to leading civic figures in the planning and provision of culture from 31 cities around the world.

This was the annual gathering of the World Cities Culture Forum, described as a kind of cultural Davos for those cities that regard culture as equally important to finance, business and politics.  The unifying belief is that if you want to be a success city in the 21st century, you can’t do it without culture!

The Forum was established in 2012 by the Mayor’s Culture Team as part of the London 2012 legacy and has grown rapidly since then from New York to Shanghai and Bogota to Los Angeles.

The Institute of Imagination was pleased to be invited to attend the Gala dinner in Kensington Palace and meet the cultural leaders from around the world. It was very interesting in particular to hear about their various approaches to children and families as part of their strategic work.

Justine Simons OBE, is Head of Culture at the Mayor’s Office and is Chair of the World Cities Culture Forum. The Mayor’s Culture Team has been a champion for the Institute of Imagination and so it was great to hear Justine open her speech at the Gala dinner on the topic of imagination, by quoting Einstein who said: “Logic gets you from A to B. Imagination gets you everywhere”. She went on to say “Culture offers an exceptionally good return on investment for a global city – it delivers against all urban policy areas with depth and sophistication”.

As part of the Summit, the latest edition of the Forum’s landmark publication World Cities Culture Report 2015 was published

 The World Cities Culture Report 2015

The report reveals that the Cultural and Creative sectors are increasingly recognised as critical to the success of leading cities around the world, with many contributors talking about the role that culture has in creating shared spaces and bringing people together.

However there are concerns that cities are becoming too unaffordable for creative talent to survive and the report explores what practical steps should be taken to ensure arts and culture are accessible to the widest number of people and reflect the increasingly diverse populations now living in urban centres.

London has weathered the financial crisis remarkably well and its reputation as a centre for finance, trade and culture has never been higher. Four out of five people say that culture is main reason that they come to London, with cultural tourists spending £7.3 bn but there are fears its economic success is making the city increasingly unaffordable for artists and other practitioners. 

A number of other cities, including Hong Kong, New York and San Francisco, have similar concerns. Like London, many cities are now developing policies aimed at embedding culture in planning, such as the protection of cultural venues and the creation of creative workspaces alongside future development.

To return to Justine’s theme of imagination, she concludes that luckily there is a way to get from A to B and inspire the imagination. Culture is the key and so we at the Institute of Imagination feel well placed to answer her call, combining culture and imagination in one entity and one vision.  As the Forum grows in the future, we hope to play a role in exploring how these cities approach their own cultural agendas in terms of provision for children and families, and of course in sparking the imaginations of the next generation.

Gareth Binns, Director of Content and Learning

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