Academic journal article The Geographical Review

The Wolves and Lambs of the Creative City: The Sustainability of Film and Television Producers in London

Academic journal article The Geographical Review

The Wolves and Lambs of the Creative City: The Sustainability of Film and Television Producers in London

Article excerpt

The term "sustainable creative city" has become a fashionable notion in contemporary urban governance (Oakley 2004). The idea of the "sustainable city" originated in the 1960s, when urbanists and planners introduced such notions as the "mixed land use," cultural and socioeconomic "diversity," "dense" and "compact" urban environments, and the "vitality" of city centers (Jacobs 1961; Lynch 1981; Nijkamp and Perrels 1994; Jencks, Burton, and Williams 1996; UTF 1999). These notions reflected a positive value placed on public spaces, a higher quality of life, and access to services (Alexander and Tomalty 2002). In the 1980s the need to stop urban sprawl and revitalize city centers through an "urban renaissance" reinforced the idea of the sustainable city (Montgomery 1994; Bianchini 1995; Landry 2000). This new sustainability was to be achieved via property-led and culture-led regeneration (Healey and Shaw 1993; Healey 1995; Evans 2001). Culture-led regeneration presupposed increased leisure and consumption activities, including the nighttime economy (NTE), and development of creative and cultural industries that led to recognition of creative producers as full stakeholders in the environment of cities.

Despite its long history, the notion of urban sustainability has serious shortcomings, the main one being an unresolved dispute over exactly what must be sustained (Matarasso and Landry 1999; NSF 2000). This debate highlights two candidates for sustaining: the process and the structure. The extensive work on newly formed creative quarters in the United Kingdom failed to explain why apparently well-planned and sustainably structured creative quarters lack vitality, whereas unplanned and edgy parts of the city often attract thousands of people (Crewe and Beaverstock 1998; Brown, O'Connor, and Cohen 2000; Newman and Smith 2000; Thornley 2000; Moss 2002; Crewe 2003; Hemphill, Berry, and McGreal 2004). The failure to re/ create vitality is due to the emphasis that planners and governing bodies place on the design of urban space (as in Montgomery 1998) instead of on the process of its production, informed by the patterns of everyday life of the diverse stakeholders (Lefebvre 1991). The design approach masks the fact that the main driving forces that enliven the place and the factors that sustain each participating actor are usually historically embedded and may lie outside the delimited space of the quarter (Molotch 1998). Emphasis on structure does not help to reveal the nature of the dynamic relationships among stakeholders who are involved in different activities and possess different bargaining power and real and symbolic rights over the place (see, however, Sharon Zukin's work on artists as pioneers of gentrification [1982]). Even if researchers accept the primary role of process over structure, the question of what kinds of cultural and socioeconomic reproduction should constitute the sustainable creative city remains (Haughton and Hunter 1994; NSF 2000; Krueger and Savage 2007).

Controversially, many authors see the sustainable creative city as a tolerant yet gentrified, clean and comfortable place mainly servicing the needs of the middle classes and the creative elite (Molotch 1998; Florida 2002b). Other accounts, though more sympathetic to local values, street life, and "grounded" activities (Jacobs 1961), also are biased toward cultural idealism.

The explanations underlying the process of production of creative spaces are twofold. In one reading only the creative class sustains the sense of vitality in the creative city, via face-to-face interactions, consumption, entertainment, and "experiences" (Florida 2002b). In this context, maintaining the amenities--restaurants, coffee shops, wine bars, and similar facilities--where these interactions occur represents a tool for sustaining the creative city itself. This vision prioritizes consumption structures over production processes, places creative businesses in an inferior position, and undermines the interests of noncreative workers, who still, it is believed, constitute two-thirds of the creative city's labor force (Peck 2005). …

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