My City's Still Breathing

Cultural Cities

What makes a city a cultural hub? Can it be planned, or is spontaneous? The way a city’s identity is promoted and measured is closely tied to the cultural industries that it houses. This panel addresses the methods of quantifying the face of the city, with an interest towards understanding the value of a city’s cultural assets in relationship to its users, both citizens and visitors. Uniqueness and diversity are privileged over superiority ranking systems. The relationship of organic developments of creative clusters to citizens’ well-being  provide models for growth. How do dedicated night-time art festivals hold the ability to transform dark downtown cores into sites of wonder and delight?  Each of these perspectives provide insights into understanding the make-up of cultural cities.

Alan Freeman presents at My City's Still Breathing

Photo by Leif Norman

Alan Freeman Cultural Economist, Greater London Authority
London, UK
City, know thyself: the Cultural Audit and strategic planning Biography

Alan Freeman

Alan Freeman is an economist who works for GLA Economics, the Mayor of London's Economic Analysis Unit. He is a research fellow in the School of City Planning at the University of Manitoba.


At the GLA he held lead responsibility for the Living Wage, Innovation, Cultural and Creative Industries and benchmarking World Cities. At the GLA, he authored Creativity: London’s Core Business, produces regular updates on the statistics of London’s Creative Industries, and was lead author for London: A Cultural Audit. He is co-author, with Hasan Bakhshi and Graham Hitchen, of Measuring Intrinsic Value and Not Rocket Science: a Roadmap for Arts and Cultural R&D, both available on  He is the author of The Benn Heresy and has co-edited four books of which his most recent is The Politics of Empire and the Crisis of Globalisation, a collection of critical reflections on the state of the world economy, with Boris Kagarlitsky. With Radhika Desai he is launching a new book series to be entitled The Future of World Capitalism, published by Pluto Press.

His undergraduate degree was in Mathematics at University College London, followed by a diploma in Computer Science at Edinburgh and an MSc in Economics at Birkbeck College, London. His professional career includes 15 years as a programmer, 13 as a Senior Lecturer in Economics at the University of Greenwich, and 7 years in his present job at the GLA. He speaks French, Spanish, Italian, German, and reads Russian and Turkish.

He is coordinator of the UK-based Association for Heterodox Economics.

City, know thyself: the Cultural Audit and strategic planning

As a Londoner who has twice wintered in Winnipeg and plans to make it home, may aim is to look at the Cultural Auditof London, which I caused to be produced, through Winnipeg eyes. The audit compared London, Tokyo, Paris, New York and Shanghai. It studied their cultural offer and activities, in as many different aspects as we could, from the number and frequency of visits to theatres, cinemas and museums to the number of books read, or time spent watching television. Its evidence was extensively used to formulate the Mayor of London’s Cultural Strategy, and has excited worldwide interest. An update is set to appear in 2012, when London holds its next election and hosts the next Olympics.

I want to reflect, critically, on the growing trend towards ‘City Rankings’ provoked by such products as the Anholt Index Y/Zen’s Global Financial Centres Index or Price-Waterhouse Coopers Intellectual Capital index. These induce city planners to conceive their strategic objectives as climbing mythical ladders, like schoolchildren waiting to be graded or sports competitors striving for medals. It obstructs the central goal of strategic planning which is to grasp what is distinct, not what is better, about each city, as a means to frame its relationship to its neighbours, its neighbourhood, and the world.

The authors sought, not always successfully, to steer their audience away from rankings or league tables. We wanted each city to view itself in the mirror of its peers; to understand its value to its citizens and visitors as a product of its uniqueness, not its superiority.

Our study rested on four concepts. The first was diversity and range of offer: the modern city throws together a great and growing variety of peoples, communities and interests. This brings forth an equal variety of cultural expressions, through which these communities learn respect for each other, hopefully come to know more about each other and sooner or later, discover how to work with each other. The second concept was identity: it is through culture that its communities produce the distinctness of their city. New York’s skyline can no more be imitated than Paris’s cafés, London’s festivals, Tokyo’s unique brand of mechanical, electrical, and visual arts, or Shanghai’s complex overlaying of historic purpose with bustling modernity. The third concept is relationship. The Audit drew on the UK’s Global and World Cities (GaWC) Institute, whose fascinating research  show how each city feeds on, and is fed by, invisible nets of trade, travel, information, ideas and art that connect it to all other cities in the world.

Our final concept, which I will explore in my talk, suggests how the audit might be of use in setting strategic goals for the city of Winnipeg: the concept of hub, an over-used but under-analysed idea that I think is needed to grasp the place in the world of an utterly unique great city.

1 London: A Cultural Audit. <>


18.5 mB



Mark J. Stern presents at My City's Still Breathing

Photo by Leif Norman

Mark J. Stern Professor of Social Welfare and History and Co-Director of the Urban Studies Program, University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, USA
The Ecology of Culture Biography

Mark J. Stern

Mark J. Stern is Professor of Social Welfare and History and Co-Director of the Urban Studies program at the University of Pennsylvania, where he has taught since 1980.  He holds a master's degree in history from the University of Toronto and a PhD in history from York University (Canada). He has authored or co-authored five books, including One Nation Divisible: What America Was and What It Is Becoming (with Michael B. Katz, Russell Sage Foundation Press, 2006).

Since 1994, Stern has been principal investigator for the Social Impact of the Arts Project (SIAP), a research program of Penn's School of Social Policy and Practice.  SIAP has focused on developing methods for measuring the ways that the arts and cultural engagement influence urban communities and applying those methods to studies of metropolitan Philadelphia. Recent reports by SIAP include "Cultivating 'Natural' Cultural Districts," "From Creative Economy to Creative Society," and "Migrants, Communities, and Culture," all co-authored with Susan Seifert.  In 2010, Stern completed a monograph, "Demographic Destiny? Age and Arts Participation since 1982" for the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Ecology of Culture

This paper discusses the concept of “natural” cultural district—the unplanned concentration of cultural assets in particular neighborhoods—and its implications for urban policy and planning.  Using Philadelphia as a case study, the paper examines how four types of cultural assets—nonprofit cultural organization, commercial cultural firms, cultural participants, and resident artists—concentrate in a set of neighborhoods.  It then analyzes some of the social and economic consequences of this agglomeration, including impacts on indexes of children’s well-being and measures of ethnic and racial harassment.  Finally, the paper proposed a typology of “natural” cultural districts and examines the types of policy and planning interventions that are appropriate for each.

18.4 mB



Will Straw

Will Straw Professor in the Department of Art History and Communications Studies, McGill University
Montreal, Canada
Cities of the Night, Cultures of the Night Biography

Will Straw

Will Straw is Professor in the Department of Art History and Communications Studies at McGill University and currently serves as the Department’s Chair.  He is the author of Cyanide and Sin:  Visualizing Crime in 1950s America, and the co-editor of Circulation and the City: Essays on Urban Culture (2010).  Dr. Straw currently directs a multi-year inter-university research project on “Media and Urban Life in Montreal.”  He is the author of over 100 articles on cinema, urban culture, popular music and the popular press.

Cities of the Night, Cultures of the Night

In the words of Canadian novelist Christopher Dewdney, cities turn themselves inside out at night.  My talk will deal with the place of arts and culture in defining the night-time life of cities.  Over the last two decades, urban policy-makers, novelists, scholars of culture and activists have come to think, in new and interesting ways, about the urban night.  Long feared or dismissed as the time of danger, of illicit pleasures, and of unproductive activity, the night is now seen as central to the cultural life of cities.  Nuit blanches (all night arts festivals), "first night" festivals and other events, in cities across the world, have sought to push cultural activity late into the night.  The relationship of commercial night-life (bars, restaurants) to a city's cultural effervescence is now widely acknowledged.  In cities like London, Manchester and Paris, the economic role of night-time activity is increasingly measured, promoted and recognized.   My presentation will examine a variety of initiatives, in Canada and elsewhere, that seek to reimagine the cultural role of the night-time city.  


14.7 mB