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World Cities Culture Report 2015

The 2015 edition of the World Cities Culture Report is the most comprehensive report to date. Dedicated to the part culture will play in the life of world cities in years to come, the Forum now boasts a network of over 30 cities. Together they tackle the issues that will determine sustainable urban development: How can culture solve some of the biggest challenges of our urban environments? How do cities understand culture’s role in the way their citizens live, work and play? What will be the link between culture and urban citizenship?

Our major initiative, the World Cities Culture Report 2015 sets out the key issues facing World Cities today. 


This week the accompanying forum has been discussing the conclusions, and we have taken an in-depth look at the evidence behind them. We have covered innovation and cultural vibrancy so far.



Issue III. Distinctiveness is Vital But at Risk

Growing cities are usually seen as successful cities. Economic growth and population growth are key signs that places are doing well. Yet growth brings its own problems.


Strain on infrastructure, social systems and environmental pressures, can harm a city’s long-term development. Social and cultural tensions can threaten the sense of belonging. In many places, the poor are priced out by rising property values and hurt by failing services and social systems. Our opinion leaders repeatedly stress the urgency of these challenges.


“We are concerned that the rising cost of living in London could make it difficult for creative people to find the living and working spaces that have given contemporary British culture its distinctive character and texture.”


– Nicholas Serota,Director, Tate (London)



Past discussions about cultural infrastructure focused on support for mainstream venues like concert halls and libraries. Today, policy makers are just as concerned that informal cultural scenes have room to thrive. 


A lack of affordable workspace prevents cities from nurturing new, radical and provocative ideas. It creates an environment that stifles innovation. Cheap workspaces available in east London in the late 1990s were essential to the rise of ‘tech city’ and its start-ups. This means cities must make sure the space exists for cultural production on all scales, including informal places, such as bars and cafes, where people can meet, discuss, and plan their next projects. Affordable studio space is a priority for many cities, but the challenge of keeping housing cheap enough for artists and producers remains unsolved in many places.


Required reading


  • Gentrification is an issue of the moment. See coverage of London, Paris ($), New York (which could fill a library), Singapore, and many other cities.

  • As London becomes more expensive, a new generation of creatives are moving to Berlin to enjoy a better work-life balance and cheaper rent. But what does this mean for the natives?

  • Is San Francisco losing its soul with Silicon Valley’s global influence?


We love Professor Sharon Zukin on the importance of distinctiveness, authenticity and policy when considering sustainable urban development.


  • As a collaborative study, cultural leaders in five Canadian cities come together to better understand the importance of cultural investment as their cities grow.


We’d love your recommendations for reading – get in touch with us below.

Is all Growth Good?

Our final reading list on a key theme of the World Cities Culture Report 2015

Nov 20, 2015

Green Cities helping climate change through culture and sustainability

Nov 4, 2021

How are major cities around the world responding to climate change through cultural policies and programmes?

The Green World Cities of Tomorrow: Culture and Sustainability

Paul Owens

Culture and the Climate Emergency

Apr 22, 2021

5 Priorities for World Cities in the post-covid recovery period

Culture and the Climate Emergency

Paul Owens

Culture and the Recovery: Levelling Up Culture?

Dec 4, 2020

Culture can play an important role in recovery and renewal across the UK, if the right local decision-making is put in place

Culture and the Recovery: Levelling Up Culture?

Callum Lee

Central London’s celebrated

Sep 23, 2020

This focused, coordinated set of measures can not only rescue the sector, but position it to lead the recovery

Central London’s celebrated cultural offer is in peril

Jonathan Todd

COVID-19: Government support packages for culture and creative industries #3

Aug 21, 2020

Three big questions as applications close for Arts Council England’s Cultural Recovery Fund

COVID-19: Government support packages for culture and creative industries #3

Paul Owens

COVID-19: Government support packages for culture and creative industries #2

Jul 30, 2020

The UK’s £1.57 billion recovery package: priorities for a New Deal

COVID-19: Government support packages for culture and creative industries #2

Paul Owens

COVID-19: Cities, Culture and the 3 ‘P’s: powers, partnerships, place

Jul 20, 2020

Cities are using their unique capabilities to lead recovery and renewal

COVID-19: Cities, Culture and the 3 ‘P’s: powers, partnerships, place

Paul Owens

COVID-19: Government support packages for culture and creative industries #1

Jul 7, 2020

Investing in recovery, planning for transformation

COVID-19: Government support packages for culture and creative industries #1

Paul Owens

COVID-19 is a triple blow to culture and the creative industries

Jun 30, 2020

Recovery and renewal will depend on how we address the three dimensions of the crisis

COVID-19 is a triple blow to culture and the creative industries

Paul Owens

Take planning and collaboration to whole a new level.

Jun 3, 2020

In the face of radical uncertainty leaders and policy-makers will have to take planning and collaboration to whole a new level

‘Plans are useless, planning is essential’

Paul Owens

Relief, Recovery and Renewal

May 13, 2020

Nobody knows what will happen next, but we have a good idea of the three necessary steps out of the crisis

Relief, Recovery and Renewal: navigating our way to a new kind of future

Paul Owens

The Golden Thread in the 2020s

Dec 20, 2019

A cause for optimism

Weaving the Golden Thread into the 2020s

Paul Owens

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By BOP Consulting

Paul Owens

Co-Founder and Director

Paul is a leading international advisor and practitioner in cultural policy and creative economy. He is Co-Founder of BOP, and alongside his fellow directors he has pioneered now well-established methods to measure the impact of cultural policy. 

Paul Owens - Founder and Director | BOP Consulting

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Paul Owens

Paul Owens

Co-Founder and Director