Creativity when culture matters

Barcelona and Bilbao (and Montreal46) believe their threatened identity was a spur to cultural creativity and originality. But another primary reason for their success has been budgetary control and local autonomy to perceive and trust the long-term vision without having to dilute it through external negotiation with national government. This can be contrasted to the relative lack of budgetary authority British cities have. Imagine what they might have achieved if they had not been treated like infants by the British government. For instance, the Basque region keeps 90 per cent of regionally generated taxes and pays 6.2 per cent towards the state budget for external affairs and defence. The Barcelona and Bilbao models have also been taken up by Valencia, Seville and Malaga. While Madrid, as the nation's capital, increasingly draws talent, skills and headquarters to it, there is a strong countervailing force. For instance, in the music industry Barcelona was historically the centre, but with the re-emergence of Spain after Franco, many key players felt they had to relocate to Madrid as the global players such as AOL/Time/Warner had based themselves in the national political capital. However, each of the main regional cities, like Barcelona and Valencia, is now seeking to reinforce its strengths internationally in an attempt to bypass Madrid, for instance as centres of design. The battles of relative urban power continue, with Madrid trying to accrue as much power and resources as possible. This is also the case in other federal countries, like Germany, where cities such as Munich, Hamburg and Frankfurt try to create a counterforce to the newly re-emerging Berlin.

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