Creative Placemaking

The relationship between culture, creativity and urban development is both a rich site for interdisciplinary research and source of great interest for policy makers.

Creative placemaking and culture-led urban regeneration initiatives include the branding of quarters and districts and the building of arts venues, tourism destinations and designations. They also involve investment in cultural programming, creative innovation and cultural institutions that promote civic and social participation, identity and sense of place.

In this theme, researchers from various disciplinary backgrounds consider how the arts and culture, creative enterprise, heritage and tourism are used as transformational tools in urban strategies for economic development, place-marketing and branding. The concept of the ‘creative city’ has been a powerful discourse in urban policy for decades, not least in the city of Manchester, crowned the most ‘creative bohemian’ place in the UK in 2004, through an index of talent, technology and tolerance, following Richard Florida’s framework. Policy transfer and mobility has encouraged investment in creative industries innovation hubs and cultural districts world-wide with a focus on creating agglomeration and spillover effects and developing visitor economies. 

However, the success and effects of such initiatives are not without critical challenge, and vary between policy and place contexts. Whilst the socio-cultural dimensions of urban life and public realm can be enriched by creative placemaking, concerns of gentrification and displacement of indigenous and precarious creative communities join those of ‘left behind’ places that lack the capital and infrastructure to compete and attract the so-called ‘creative class’. Furthermore, a focus on economic rationalism and instrumentalism can rival and exclude activities which support multi- and sub-cultural identities relevant to diverse creative expression.

This theme explores these concerns through research from the arts, humanities and social sciences, to consider how placemaking through cultural investment can make creative places, civic institutions and social infrastructure that are equitable, just and inclusive. In close collaboration with Creative Manchester’s themes of Creative and Civic Futures, Creative Industries and Innovation and Creativity, Health and Wellbeing, and other projects from across the university, the theme is led by Abigail Gilmore

A lecture taking place in a theatre