Very few places are comprehensively creative, but every city can be more creative than it is. Those with a global reputation over a long time period, say 150 or 200 years, and where the sheer weight of creatives dominates the urban scene in a sustained way, can be counted on the fingers of one hand. They may include, currently, New York, London, Amsterdam and Tokyo. Over the next decades they may be joined by others such as Mumbai, Shanghai and Buenos Aires. At a slightly lower level there are places strong in niches that can be sustained over periods of, say, 50 to 100 years. For example Milan and fashion, Los Angeles and the media industry, Stockholm and public infrastructure, and Zurich and banking. All these places are attractors and to sustain their creative power they need economic, technological, cultural and even political status and pull. It is the combination of these factors that drives their drawing power, acting as a reinforcing agent to bring in talent and to generate talent endogenously. To sustain their positions they need to attract or develop leading research institutes, often built on the back of existing universities or cutting-edge companies. They need, too, today, a public sector setting and organizations that think long term, are focused on the key drivers of future wealth creation, and can assess honestly and strategically their city's relative positioning and potential assets in a broad-minded way.
Today a city's creativity is usually judged by its arts and cultural sector scene, such as music or film, or that of its alternative scene, rather than its creative capacities in science, engineering or technology and other spheres where reputations take a longer time to evolve. These rely on infrastructure in education, research and business and their results appear less glamorous. The cultural scene appears in its media incarnation as exciting, yet it is fickle and is subject to fads and fashions, even though a substantial museum and educational infrastructure helps in generating future innovative capacity. For example, the tens of thousands of textile samples in the Victorian and Albert museum in London have for decades provided inspiration to young designers. The faddish nature of the media plays a significant role as to which cities we believe to be creative, and cities move in and out of the news at a dizzying speed. At one moment Mumbai is the creative hub, the next it is Taipei that is suddenly creative, followed by Seoul or Buenos Aires or Accra and now Moscow. In Europe Barcelona was the city for a long moment, then Prague and Budapest, then Helsinki and Ljubljana. This is the fashion roundabout and obscures a deeper assessment of the true nature of potential in any given city.
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