Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Who Is in Charge? Liverpool, European Capital of Culture 2008 and the Governance of Cultural Planning

Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Who Is in Charge? Liverpool, European Capital of Culture 2008 and the Governance of Cultural Planning

Article excerpt

Cultural planning has emerged as a key concern for town planners and policy-makers. However, although extensive attention has been given to critical and evaluative approaches of the impact of cultural planning, there is a comparative lack of research using theories of governance. This article contributes to the literature on cultural planning using the case study of Liverpool, European Capital of Culture 2008. The article illustrates how a range of local state organisations, particularly those from the cultural sector, administer cultural planning in Liverpool, showing how cultural planning can be understood as a new form of urban governance.

The transformation of European cities continues at pace, as the demography and built environment of the contemporary urban landscape is reshaped for the post industrial context (Stevenson, 2003; 2004). Against the backdrop of globalisation (Griffiths, 1995), the hollowing out of the nation state (Rhodes, 1994) and the shift from government to governance, the city has re-emerged as a key spatial scale (Griffiths, 1995) and culture has taken a leading role within that re-emergence. The phenomenon of cultural concerns rising to the forefront of urban policy can therefore be understood as the foundation for the growth in debates on what has been described as the 'cultural turn' (Hastings, 1999, 9) within both urban studies and within the urban regeneration agenda, particularly in the UK (North and Wilks-Heeg, 2004, 305). Within this debate extensive attention, whether advocating or critiquing, has been give to the outcomes of cultural policy interventions at the urban scale (for example, see Landry and Bianchini (1995) who advocate culture-led policies whilst McGuigan (1996; 2005) gives a useful introduction to the more critical literature) and research has also been concerned with the administrative forms of the urban policy process (e.g. such as the case studies discussed in Bianchini and Parkinson (1993), or Boyle and Hughes (1993), Cochrane et al. (1996), García (2004) and O'Brien (2010a)). However, there has been relatively little research that has employed a case study approach whilst drawing on coherent and transferable theoretical frameworks that seek to understand the governance of urban cultural policy (although O'Brien (2010b) is an attempt in this direction).

In light of the cultural turn in urban studies, along with the need for theoretical frameworks that can be transferred across cities to allow for potential comparative analysis of urban public administration, this article analyses the case study of Liverpool, the European Capital of Culture 2008 (ECoC 2008). Liverpool 2008 is offered as an example of a European city where cultural policy, in the form of integrating the cultural sector into the administrative and decision-making network for the city, has developed as a distinct form of urban governance. The research presented is based on a series of interviews (n=66) that took place between 2005 and 2009, giving a sense of how key decision makers from organisations such as Liverpool City Council (LCC),1 regional government (Government Office North West),2 Liverpool's Local Strategic Partnership (LSP),3 Liverpool's arts and cultural sector along with Local Members of Parliament and Members of the European Parliament all understand cultural planning within Liverpool. The research data suggest that the 'Anglo-governance model' (Ball, 2008, 747) of governance-by-network is the appropriate framework for understanding Liverpool and that there is a clear possibility of applying this framework in other urban contexts, in a similar fashion to the way the framework has been applied to a range of contrasting areas of policy (such as Education (Ball, 2007), agriculture (Collins, 1995), or Lavenex's (2008) discussion of cross- European network governance).

The integration of the cultural sector into urban policy in Liverpool suggests the city has gone some way to create a form of cultural planning. …

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