The creative city idea is allembracing

This is a pity, as the creative city concept is all-embracing. It is a clarion call to encourage open-mindedness and imagination from whatever source. It implies, too, a regard for tolerance, a precondition for cities to foster inventiveness. Its assumption and philosophy is that there is always more potential in a city than we imagine at first. It posits that conditions should be created in places for people to think, plan and act with imagination. This implies a massive opening out process and has a dramatic impact on a city's organizational culture. The style and ethos of such a place is one where a 'yes' rather than a 'no' attitude is likely to prevail, so giving people the sense that there is opportunity. It is possible to put the highway underground. It is possible to fund an innovation incubator out of public funds. It is possible to develop a passionate participatory culture.

The creative city idea claims that if conditions are right, ordinary people can make the extraordinary happen, given the chance. Here a glance at the inventiveness of social workers, business people, scientists, social entrepreneurs or public servants in solving problems highlights the potential - and many of these activities are deemed to be dull. I focus on this type of inventiveness because it is perhaps more significant than the creativity we usually focus on, such as new music, graphics or fashion trends.

These other creatives harness opportunities and address seemingly intractable urban problems like homelessness, traffic jams, pollution and enhancing the visual environment. The principle that underlies so much creativity is giving power to those affected by what you do.

Creativity, authorship and local distinctiveness Underlying much of the creative city debate is local distinctiveness, as most creativity is a response to local circumstance. The creativity debate itself emerged against the backdrop of reinvigorated globalization and the tendency towards homogeneity. This takes the emphasis away from a continual concern with the new. It asks instead what is unique, special or different about a place. Who is the author of a city's experience? A corporation headquartered far away that has decided a theme will work in your city, because you have the right demographics? 'Authentic' remains a difficult term, yet whatever its definitional vagaries it is more about controlling the creation of your experiences than the reverse. These, then, are some of the main resources a city can use to project its identity and to position itself in the wider world. These resources might include an idea we have that reworks a tradition, it could be an old industrial sector, such as textile or ceramics, that can be reinvented anew. It might include a tradition of learning expressed in a university, or a type of technology which themselves might be the basis of a new creative industry.

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