Culture is driving regeneration, creating the jobs of the future and diverting young people from crime. Culture makes us healthier, facilitates civic engagement and gives tourists a reason to visit. It continues to shape the heritage and identity of our cities. In short, culture addresses all the major city challenges we face today – it has moved definitively from niche to mainstream. (…) While there remain serious challenges in all our cities, there has never been a better moment to unlock the potential for culture to transform them. (Justine Simons, p.5)
“How do cities use culture to provide solutions to our contemporary urban challenges?”. This is the question underpinning the World Cities Culture Report, a compendium of the most innovative programmes, policies, key trends and infrastructure projects in culture developed by 35 cities across the world. The Report is the annual document of the World Cities Culture Forum, a collaborative network made up of 38 members from local governments and cultural sector of leading cities around the world, whose activities are delivered by BOP Consulting, on behalf of the Greater London Authority and the members of the Forum. The network was founded in London in 2012 by eight cities (London, New York City, Tokyo, Shanghai, Paris, Istanbul, Sydney and Johannesburg) convened by the Mayor of London, for the purpose of “advancing the case for culture across all areas of urban policy” and “sharing ideas and knowledge about the role of culture in building sustainable cities”. Beyond the annual Summit and Report, the network provides themed symposia, regional summits, policy workshops, collaborative publications and a Knowledge exchange programme.
Two major trends emerge from the 2018 Report, supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies: the “critical role for culture in addressing the inclusion of all citizens and a new definition of how, where and by whom culture is experienced”.
As for the first trend, there seems to be a shared commitment across the cities in increasing participation to “culture for all citizens”, by means of different tools and programmes, recognizing Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stating that “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community”. The report thus contains some examples of urban practices in access and inclusion, among which the TURN Project in Tokyo, Kulturpass in Vienna, the Agreement to Promote Reading in Milan, Neighbourhood Lives and Memories in Lisbon and many others.
As for the second trend, that is the “opening out of culture”, we assist to a change in both cultural spaces, places and forms and in the approach to support programmes and policies at the urban level. For instance, the Culture Minnesota Street Project in San Francisco, the Bronx Creative District in Bogotá, as well as the Opera Camion in Rome, the Cultural Hotspots in Toronto and so on. At the same time, new governance and policy solutions have been envisaged, such as the Cultural Matching Fund in Singapore, the Mayor’s Grant for Cultural Impact in New York, the Citizen participation shaping public art in Paris etc.
By providing “a city profile” containing data (45 indicators), trends and innovative programmes, the Report refers to more than 200 cultural programmes and practices (considered as the most innovative from the responding member cities), classified into 9 different categories:
- Cultural Diversity and Representation
- Cultural Access and Inclusion
- Culture in the Outskirts
- Citizen-Led Cultural Policies And Programmes
- Making Space for Culture
- Culture and Climate Change
- 21st Century Cultural Infrastructure
- 21st Century Cultural Event and Formats
- 21st Century Cultural Governance and Strategy
Already in 2017, within the World Cities Culture Summit, the 27 participating cities signed the “Seoul Declaration”, with the following commitment: “To ensure that culture is a golden thread in all aspects of city policy (…); To make culture available to and empowering for all citizens (…); To generate and learn from evidence and research, in pursuit of an enlightened and progressive approach to policy development and implementation; To act as leaders in our field and to continue to collaborate in the face of shared challenges and shared opportunities (…)”.
A shift is ongoing in urban culture-related policy across the world, a valuable phenomenon as demonstrated in the Report, especially in a time where “The resilience of world cities resides in their capacity to envision a different future, one rooted in interdependency that reflects and supports all the people they represent. An open culture builds that capacity” (Richard Naylor, p.17).
 Amsterdam, Austin, Bogotá, Brussels, Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Chengdu, Dublin, Edinburgh, Helsinki, Hong Kong, Lagos, Lisbon, London, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Milan, Montréal, Moscow, New York, Oslo, Paris, Rome, San Francisco, Seoul, Shenzhen, Singapore, Stockholm, Sydney, Taipei, Tokyo, Toronto, Vienna, Warsaw, Zürich