Recent insights

History and creativity can be great partners, but only if strong principles lead the way. This is my conclusion reflecting on recent involvement in places as varied as Siem Reap and seeing how tourism and world heritage sites could be good
partners; or exploring how to bend the frenzied development dynamic with the Arab Heritage Centre in Bahrain and then at the opposite extreme helping to launch creative incubators in Rio de Janeiro. Successful places have an important mix: A sense of anchorage, familiarity and solidity; an atmosphere of possibility, choice and opportunity; a feeling of connection, bonds and solidarity where divides between rich and poor are mitigated; a place of caring and welcome where differences can meet; somewhere that provides the ability to self-improve and grow as well as a sense of inspiration that heightens the registers in our mind. From this contentment grows.

A second reminder to myself was being involved with over 40 cities from the Eurocities network in Torino, the Human Cities crowd at St. Etienne Design Biennale and the Bologna smart cities researchers. I realized the digitizing city has only just begun even though it is everywhere around us. It will have dramatic implications and unexpected impacts. Interesting questions emerge: ‘what will be the nature of the collective experience’ or ‘what is the role of the centre of cities beyond being a playground or business hub’ or ‘what can a cultural policy be when increasingly so much is out of the control of public entities’. Consider the collective impacts of Tripadvisor, Google location maps, Airbnb,, Amazon, Uber and so on and how they are changing the way we navigate, feel and experience the city and the services it offers. The public sector has increasingly less control and is organizationally perhaps unable, currently at least, to respond effectively.

Third, the importance of gastronomy lies behind the catch all phrase ‘well-being.’ It is one of the most complex sensory experiences. It counts and goes back to fundamentals as what we eat or drink and how it tastes matters. Ingredients produced with consideration, awareness and even love help make us feel physically, emotionally and psychologically different. Suddenly the healthy cities and creativity agenda align as being creative is part of being healthy and equally you need to be healthy to foster optimum creativity. This is why the Unesco Creative Cities summit in Ostersund can be important, which I am scheduled to co-moderate as is the new European Region of Gastronomy award.

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