Where are the world’s most creative cities?

Patricia Clarke
Patricia Clarke

In anticipation of Vision’s latest Special Feature, Culture and the Creative Economy, Patricia Clarke explores the government support that drives five of the world’s most creative places

1. London, UK

Contributing a staggering £84.1bn to the local economy, the UK creative industries are world-renowned for their astonishing output and global influence. It is no surprise, then, that the capital city of the UK is a hub of creativity, housing some of the biggest names in music, fashion, film, architecture, advertising and more.

In fact, entire districts like Shoreditch are almost purely dedicated to creativity, accommodating a flurry of new architecture and design companies, as well as digital and technology start-ups, which keep the creative economy in full gear.

And yet the local government refuses to rest on its laurels; government-backed initiatives are continuously pouring out of the city, and are to thank for much of the success of its creative industries. A good example is Creative Land Trust, set up by London mayor Sadiq Khan in 2015. The initiative supports London’s artists by providing affordable workspaces across the capital, ensuring that modest businesses and individuals are just as well supported as the big UK names.

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There is a sense of creativity all around Beijing. Pictured: local decorations for Chinese New Year

2. Beijing, China

A celebrated hub for business and entrepreneurship, China sees constant innovation across all of its sectors, producing some of the most significant advancements from digital health to real estate. Less widely acknowledged, perhaps, but certainly no less thriving, are China’s creative industries, which often embrace and flaunt the country’s rich cultural heritage.

Beijing is a prime example of this. With regular cultural festivals scattered throughout the city (such as the Beijing International Cultural & Creative Industry Expo and the Beijing International Film Festival), Beijing is brimming with innovation and has become a leading destination for local and international creatives. Adding to the atmosphere are 119 design schools, driving the city’s illustrious design sector, which employs around 250,000 people.

Government support programmes like the Beijing Municipal Cultural and Creative Industry Promotion Center further fuel the city’s creativity. Founded in 2006, the centre helps investors and banks determine cultural projects to support, ensuring that the creative industries receive the funding they deserve.

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An fascinating blend of old and new, Dubai is one of the most unique creative cities

3. Dubai, UAE

With a firm commitment to preserving local heritage and tradition, as well as a continuous drive to innovate in the arts, the city of Dubai’s creative industries encompass a fascinating blend of old and new.

Overseen by the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (DCAA), the city is well on its way to becoming a “global Arabian metropolis”, with hundreds of high-calibre events related to music, visual arts, film and theatre all over the city (the  Emirates Airline Festival of Literature and the Dubai International Film Festival are prominent highlights).

Like London, Dubai also has areas dedicated to creativity, like the Dubai Design District (d3), which focuses on fashion, luxury arts and design. Alserkal Avenue, too, is driving local innovation with its creative hub of fine art galleries.

Perhaps even more impressive than the ubiquitous creative and cultural elements in the city are the ever-innovative initiatives that continue to fund and drive the creative industries in Dubai. One of the most intriguing of late was the DCAA’s Creatopia, a virtual community which aims to promote “a new level of partnerships, engagement and collaborative communication within the culture, arts and heritage sectors”. By fusing technology and the arts, and backed by a supportive government, Dubai is at the forefront of urban creativity.

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Bogotá's streets have a sense of colourful vibrancy, as well as musicality

4. Bogotá, Colombia

Though Bogotá boasts a number of creative qualities, like a significant performing arts scene, it is perhaps best known for its rich musical heritage, which remains one of the main pillars of the city.

Supported by public policies, Bogotá uses music as a way of encouraging community activities and reinforcing diversity, as well as its own cultural identity. Since 1995, for example, Bogotá has housed Festivales Al Parque, a series of free, open-air concerts that span everything from salsa to hip hop and gospel music. This event alone attracts over 600,000 people each year, and the city hosts over 60 other music festivals annually that also attract thousands of local and international visitors.

With the support of the Chamber of Commerce, Bogotá has taken its music scene a step further, hosting the Bogotá Music Market for music agents since 2012, and the Music Cluster, which aims to further support the flourishing sector by providing business and networking opportunities.

In order to encourage such musical appreciation from a young age, the government teaches music to over 23,000 students with the aim of making it an essential part of the curriculum. This, alongside continuous policy support for literature and audiovisual, performance and fine art, make Bogotá one of the leading global creative spaces.

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Melbourne has been voted the world's most liveable city for the sixth year in a row

5. Melbourne, Australia

Voted the world’s most liveable city by the Economist Intelligence Unit for six years in a row from 2011-2016, Melbourne is renowned for being at the forefront of everything from sport and tourism to healthcare and education. Perhaps most significant of all, however, are the city’s unrivalled cultural and creative industries.

The city is particularly well-known for its theatre, music, literature and street art (Melbourne is a UNESCO City of Literature), but also boasts continuously well-performing film, television and dance sectors, to name a few.

In order to maintain a high standard across such diverse platforms, the Australian government offers a wide range of programmes to support, diversify and fund local arts programmes. The Indigenous Professional Development Programme, for example, supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts-workers from Melbourne and the greater Victoria area in being represented at significant national and international conferences, thereby diversifying and supporting the creative industries.

There are also region-specific programmes like Creative Suburbs and Small Regional Presenters that focus on creating an integrated, cohesive cultural and creative scene in Melbourne, with urban, suburban and more secluded areas receiving equal attention. This is just to name a few of the host of government-backed initiatives supporting and building the prosperous local culture, and fast-developing creative industries in Melbourne.