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Government / Local politics

What’s trending? On the cultural challenges facing cities

Cultural and creative industries are increasingly central to cities’ strategic agendas. They positively impact local economic development and can help generate greater social cohesion. As such, city administrations will have to consider the challenges these industries are likely to face in the coming years, and how cities themselves might need to adapt in order to meet them.

That is precisely the process EUROCITIES recently underwent with our members. By focussing on the horizon 2030, and talking to members, we identified five areas that will need the attention of city administrations. Through this dialogue, and thanks to our ongoing involvement in the Culture for Cities and Regions initiative, financed by Creative Europe, we have started to map and share ideas about the on-the-ground changes this will entail.

Horizon 2030: Creative thoughts for cultural planning

First, changing demographics will mean that cities’ populations have different needs. Many cities will focus on developing intercultural dialogue to welcome newcomers; others will offer services to a growing number of pensioners, or young families.

In many cases, culture is a perfect tool to help engage otherwise vulnerable societal groups. Birmingham’s Arts Champion scheme ensures it brings quality cultural activities to more remote neighbourhoods by pairing them with large city-funded arts organisations based in the city centre. Each organisation is then challenged to work with local adults and families to reduce social isolation and boost cohesion.

Second, audience empowerment means making better connections with citizens by reflecting their ideas in the everyday work of cultural organisations. Local cultural institutions will need to adapt by working more closely with local citizens. Co-creation can help build ownership of culture-led development among citizens.

From the city perspective, this can also mean making sure public spaces are accessible to different users. To take the example of public libraries, Aarhus provides rooms for mothers to feed their babies, and Antwerp offers knitting groups in one community library to help migrants socialise while learning Flemish.


Third, given that city budgets are increasingly stretched, we can expect to see a new approach to governance and networking. Cultural organisations will have to look for alternative and innovative forms of income generation, and work on more cross-sectoral projects. Sofia has already launched its Fund for Innovations in Culture, which earmarks funding for more risky and innovative cultural and creative projects. The city has doubled the amount of private funding raised for these projects, with a view to making them more sustainable in the long term.

Fourth, new technologies will heavily impact the way people access cultural services. From the city point of view it will be important to make sure all citizens have adequate digital skills, across social and generational divides, to deal with the trend. New technologies will affect the way cities communicate with citizens and work with local stakeholders.

By 2030 we expect this to be mainstreamed into arts and cultural programming. However, we all still have a lot to learn about how to make the most of these new cultural opportunities. What will be the impact of new technologies on cultural organisations?

Fifth, city administrations will take on new roles as brokers or advisors as cultural organisations start changing their business models. Rather than offering financial support, cities will be well-placed to use their connections to help broker new partnerships, or offer public spaces to be used by artists and cultural organisations.

They could also help out by assisting local cultural organisations with EU-funding applications or promoting local activities through their communications channels. In northern Portugal, ADDICT (the country’s creative industries agency) is bringing together a diverse range of local stakeholders – such as companies, artists and universities – with no history of cooperation in order to boost the performance of the regions’ creative industries.

Cooperating for better policy

By sharing their experiences, cities can learn from one another and develop the policies needed to face these challenges with confidence. Networks like EUROCITIES and the Culture for Cities and Regions initiative provide such spaces to foster cooperation among cities.

These challenges need to be approached strategically, with a clear political will and vision. The more evidenced-based learning that we share, the bolder new initiatives will become.

Julie Hervé is senior policy advisor at EUROCITIES, the network of major European cities. 
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