Future dreaming – East Kent’s City of Culture bid
Lovell, J. 2016. Future dreaming – East Kent’s City of Culture bid.
Place is said to be constantly in motion, and open to the circulation of ideas (Massey, 2005), changing in ‘an actualisation of times and spaces that uses the fluctuating conditions to assemble itself’ (Kwon 2004). This paper investigates how the process of making a City of Culture bid – “East Kent: A City Imagined” - has influenced placemaking in the region, remapping a new model of connectivity and a sense of creative space.
“East Kent: A City Imagined” accords with the concept of Lefebvre’s (1991) ‘conceived space’, or Second Space (Soja, 1999, p.266); conceptual, idealised, utopian, or birds-eye visions (De Certeau, 1984) used by placemakers to reflect changing ideologies. The underlying rationale for embarking on the bid was that Kent is diversifying its core heritage tourism product by emphasising its contemporary attractions (KCC, 2013; Stuart-Hoyle and Lovell, 2007). The long-term cultural policy intention is to foster the creative industries and attract the ‘creative class’ (Florida, 2002; Zukin, 1995) and to this end, cultural destination management plans have been developed in Canterbury, Margate and Folkestone which, it could be argued, ultimately intend to support gentrification and the creation of Neo-Bohemias (Lloyd, 2002).
The East Kent City of Culture bid is suggestive of gentrification’s cultural agency, reframing places in a way designed to create ‘spatial narratives’ (Meethan 1996). Richards and Wilson (2007, p.12-13) detail the process of ‘heritage mining’ and the fixed cultural assets of East Kent aligned for the bid included festivals such as Whitstable Biennale and Folkestone Triennial and national portfolio holders, for example Canterbury Festival and Turner Contemporary. Whilst previously loosely linked in geographical ‘throwntogetherness’ (Massey, 2005) the process of bidding has been a uniting force for those involved, which has re-anchored and reshaped knowledge, schema, and imagination, resulting in reprioritisation and new meaning-making.
Drawing on participant observation, a series of semi-structured interviews with key cultural policy-makers and bid documents, the paper investigates how bidding has engendered connectivity by reframing the geographical area with a softer, metaphysical city of imagination. The paper traces the bid’s evolution from a top-down, conceptual desire to “grow” East Kent in order to attract the creative classes, into an emergent, living network, designed to reinforce the resilience of the arts in the context of the ‘Transformation Agenda’ of Public Sector cuts. The process resulted in an unexpected transformative, performed “ThirdSpace” (Soja, 1996) of emergent, simultaneous, multi-layered co-operation, resistance and reinterpreted boundaries, where the focus moved from competitiveness to survival.
Whilst embarking on bidding was the result of cultural agency; simply getting people “in the same room” has caused lateral, inter-genre thinking spaces and new channels and linkages between the culture, tourism and heritage industries have been forged.
The key findings examine the dynamic nature placemaking, indicating that the creative and cultural industries of East Kent have been united by the symbolic creation of a regional city. Although the bid was not successful, in addition to the idealised metaphorical city, cities operate at pedestrian level and the creative sense of place has been permanently remapped.
|Conference||ATLAS Annual Conference: Tourism, Lifestyles and Locations|
|Publication process dates|
|Deposited||07 Dec 2017|
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