Local, Global, Crap or Creative? Charting a Course to Creativity

This roundtable explores implications of “ordinary cities” (Amin and Graham, 1997), “small cities” (Van Heur, 2010), and “cold spots, crap towns and cultural deserts” (Gilmore, 2013) for creative city futures. Taking Southampton as a case study, it asks academic, industry and community-focused participants in the city’s cultural regeneration to critically reflect on navigating the values and material realities of the ‘creative city’-in-the-making.

Branded Britain’s former “Gateway to Empire”, Southampton is the product of maritime history: highly connected; socially diverse. Devastated by wartime bombing, the familiar ‘post-industrial’ narrative of service and knowledge economies has since played out through universities, technology parks, retail centres and containerisation. If ‘knowledge’ has been a driver of change in this move “from shipping to shopping” (Pinch, 2002), ‘creativity’ has rarely gained recognition. Many accounts implicitly characterize Southampton as a city-scale “non-place” (Augé, 1995): its interstitial ‘gateway’ status, connecting the nation’s capital to global flows (tourism and trade; labour and learning), arguably underpins persistent cultural frustrations (Anderson, 2007; Hatherley, 2010). A recent turn to culture-led regeneration (from the 2003 “A World Within a City” strategy to the present Cultural Quarter) seeks to rethink this status, developing urban and civic identity and aligning the ambitions of a range of stakeholders with a new political and economic vision.

The roundtable assembles agendas and perspectives from Higher Education institutions, local council, arts and cultural organisations, and community groups, seeking comparisons with existing studies elsewhere. It will reflect on the cultural and contextual particularities of Southampton to examine how the tensions, resistances and apparent ‘failures’ involved in navigating from “gateway to empire” to creative destination poses challenges to normative “creative city” imaginaries.

Please see this online document for articles, podcasts, and links that participants might find useful to explore for the Roundtable.

Dr Daniel Ashton (organiser), Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton
Dr Toby Bennett (organiser), Research, Innovation and Enterprise, Southampton Solent University
Louise Coysh, Associate Director (Arts and Culture), University of Southampton
James Gough, Director, Southampton Cultural Development Trust
Dr Ronda Gowland-Pryde, Freelance consultant (formerly John Hansard Gallery/University of Southampton)
Matt Salvage, Director, SoCo Music
Susanna Edwards, Independent artist and researcher

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