Creative Policies for Creative Cities Literature Review: The Engagement of Marginalised and Disadvantaged Groups in Culture-Led Urban Regeneration
Posted November 24, 2010on:
By Adele Irving
As the forces of globalisation sweep across the globe, the promotion of inter-cultural dialogue (the open and respectful exchange of views between individuals and groups with different ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic backgrounds and heritage (Culture Action Europe, 2009)), cultural diversity and active citizenship has never been so important. Following several decades focusing on regional development, cultural action in Europe and beyond has progressively shifted towards more localised initiatives in urban environments (Garcia, 2004, p. 318). Yet, the preservation of culture and management of diversity remain amongst the most difficult challenges facing localities.
Whilst the 1970s and 1980s were, for many commentators, periods of decline for world cities, not least owing to the flight of manufacturing to lower wage economies and the decline of the inner city, cities are increasingly being seen as centres of growth in the globalised world, in terms of wealth, knowledge and technical capacity. Bontje & Musterd (2009, p. 844), drawing on the work of Peck & Tickell (2002), argue that, ‘large cities and their city-regions are now seen as the main engines behind the new economic growth…presented…more and more as areas of economic potential’. At the same time, however, many of the worst social, economic and environmental problems facing societies today continue to plague urban areas, including economic and social exclusion, degradation of the natural and built environment, intolerance and racism and the loss of local identity (EC, 2009). Furthermore, for the first time in history, over half of the world’s population live in urban areas (UN, 2007); according to the Worldwatch Institute (2007; in Flew, 2010), in 1950 less than 30% of the world’s population lived in cities. Urban areas are therefore important strategic locations for pursuing key goals such as promoting economic competitiveness, sustainability, social inclusion, local culture and diversity (EC, 2009).
Culture can drive forward the growth and regeneration of cities in many ways; from inspiring landmark buildings to help change the fortune and image of a deprived city, to reviving the decaying centres of market towns and bringing communities together around a local event (DCMS, 2005, P. 6). Evidence suggests that people want to live and work in attractive urban environments with clean air, green spaces, impressive architecture, high quality public services and importantly, cultural amenities (Bekemans, 2008). Furthermore, cultural diversity itself can be a source of innovation and entrepreneurship and therefore a positive force in the socio-economic development of a city (Commission of the European Communities, 2005).
In the last decade, in particular, there has been an ‘explosion’ of cultural activity in urban areas. Within cities, a key feature of the regeneration process has been the development of landmark cultural buildings. Yet, while many of these developments have been highly successful in different respects, several have closed and others are struggling to be sustainable. However, iconic buildings represent only a small part of cultural activity in cities. There has also been a growth of small-scale cultural activity, motivated by a range of drivers. These include: the regeneration of areas where traditional industries have dwindled or collapsed, creating the need for diversified economic activity; a celebration of the legacy of industries-past by creating heritage areas that generate local pride, employment and tourism revenue; and, the use of culture to refresh neighbourhoods through well-designed buildings and open spaces and investing in local amenities. Culture can also play a vital role in rejuvenating the life of and nurturing a sense of optimism in local communities (DCMS, 2005, p. 11).
However, while the culture-led regeneration strategies of many cities have undoubtedly been successful in economic and physical terms, little is known about the ways in which the diverse social groups which inhabit these cities have been affected by the changes. A number of key questions remain.
- How can global competitive cities retain unique local character?
- What evidence is there that cultural initiatives benefit the population beyond those who are directly involved?
- What impact do sustained and intensive campaigns of cultural activity have on the local population?
- Can the forms of cultural production and consumption now available in cities be considered inclusive?
- How can marginalised and disadvantaged social groups be engaged in and contribute to the culture-led regeneration of a city?
Every city has its own unique urbanity and presents its own challenges. Significant disparities in economic and social opportunities often exist between cities, necessitating the need for diversified policies and different types of action (Bekemans, 2008) and there is no guarantee that the culture-led regeneration strategies that work in one city will work in another. Evidence suggests that the fundamental ingredient of successful culture-led regeneration is community mobilisation (consultation and participation), rather than state-led, cultural flagship projects (Lin and Hsing, 2009, p.1). Participation in cultural activities fosters a sense of belonging, trust and civic engagement that results in far-reaching benefits for an area and its local population (DCMS, 2005, p. 33). As McGuigan (2004; in Miles & Paddison, 2005, p. 836), reminds us, ‘in the field of culture and cultural policy, civil society and the public sphere of rational-critical debate represent the possibilities of challenge and resistance to corporations that are only accountable to their shareholders and governments that submit too readily to corporate interest’. However, the means by which to effectively engage local communities, but marginalised and disadvantaged group in particular, in culture-led regeneration efforts remain poorly understood. Although Cinderby (2009, p. 2) warns us that ‘defining such groups is obviously problematic, contentious and possibly divisive’, most local authorities have situated the following groups in the ‘hard to reach’ camp: people from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities; asylum seekers; people with disabilities; young people; older people; and, people living in areas of deprivation or on a low income.
The aim of the ‘Creative Policies for Creative Cities’ project is to identify a series of recommendations for the engagement of marginalised and disadvantaged groups in culture-led urban regeneration. This paper first discusses the meaning of the terms ‘social exclusion’ and ‘culture-led regeneration’. This is followed by an overview of conflicting academic perspectives on culture-led regeneration. The paper then outlines good practice guidance for the engagement of marginalised and disadvantaged group in culture-led regeneration, based on academic literature and the findings of key research reports. Finally, the paper presents an overview of what we know about culture-led regeneration in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne; a major urban city in the North East of England, which will be the focus of subsequent participatory research. To conclude, the paper summarises what we know about the conditions needed for effective and sustainable culture-led regeneration.
In academic, policy-making and practitioner circles, there is a widespread acceptance and understanding of ‘social exclusion’ as a multi-dimensional concept. Social exclusion is the process by which individuals or groups find their access to basic rights (civil, political, economic, social and cultural) as citizens denied. This concept of social exclusion allows for an understanding that goes beyond monetary exclusion to encompass all aspects of citizenship. In this respect, social exclusion can be realised in various ways. These include: poverty, instability at the workplace, educational shortfalls; disabilities, dependency and work overload; gender, sexual orientation, religion or ethnicity based discrimination; a weakening of social relationships; a lack of access to basic public services; and, a loss of cultural expression (UCLG, 2008, p. 1).
An understanding of the concept of social exclusion and the social groups that are most at risk of exclusion (as discussed in the introduction) is fundamental to the development of inclusive policies. As outlined by United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), inclusive culture-led regeneration policies must set the goal of achieving an integrating urbanism policy that is respectful of social diversity and avoids the creation of segmented population concentrations, whether they are for ethnic, cultural or social reasons. UCLG believes that it is necessary to fight spatial segregation through actions such as a comprehensive rehabilitation of neighbourhoods, creating high quality public spaces and facilities for the least favoured urban areas, promoting different uses for open land, promoting social cohabitation regarding housing and eliminating architectural barriers that may isolate certain neighbourhoods, for example. They also argue that citizen participation in the design, implementation and assessment of policies is fundamental to improving the quality of life of people most at risk or suffering from social exclusion and therefore, the efficiency and effectiveness of the policies (UCLG, 2008, p. 3-4).
‘Culture-led’ regeneration strategies use cultural activity as ‘the catalyst and engine of regeneration’. This type of strategy is likely to be high profile; the most common features of which are: the design and construction of a new cultural building or the renovation of existing buildings for public or business use (as with the Baltic and Sage Music Centre, Tate Modern and Peckham Library in Southwark, the Chocolate Factory in Haringey or the Lace Market in Nottingham); the more effective use of open spaces (for events, for example, such as the garden festivals of the 1980s and 1990s in Ebbw Vale, Stoke, Gateshead and Liverpool); or the introduction of a programme of activity which is then used to rebrand a place (such as the Ulverston Festival Town and the Window on the World Festival, North Shields) (Evans and Shaw, 2004, p. 5). Evans (2005, p. 968) points out that culture-led regeneration strategies claim to produce unique developments, unlike non-culture-led regeneration programmes which often result in bland housing, office and retail developments, be a means by which to create (or rediscover) the distinctiveness of an area and raise awareness of and excitement about regeneration programmes. Giddens (2001; Evans, 2005, p. 968), purports that ‘money and originality of design are not enough…you need many ingredients for big, emblematic projects to work…key is the active support of local communities’. However, Evans (2005, 968) also points out that a key feature of many flagship developments is more typically, the resistance, or bypassing of, local communities.
The term ‘impact’ is now widely used in relation to the contribution of cultural activity to other objectives such as regeneration. Studies commonly refer to the following types of impact: environmental, economic and social. Environmental or physical impacts refer to land values and occupancy and design quality and quality of life issues (pollution, liveability, open space, diversity and sustainable development). Economic impacts refer to multipliers (jobs, income/expenditure), cost benefit analyses, contingent valuation (willingness to pay for ‘free’ activities such as parks, museums and libraries), inward investment and leverage and distributive effects. As Lash and Urry (1994, p. 64), suggest, ‘the economy is increasingly culturally inflected [while] culture is more and more economically inflected’. Gibson (2003), meanwhile, drawing on the work of du Gay & Pryke (2002), points to the ‘aestheticization’ of economic relations. Social impacts refer to cohesion, inclusion, health and well-being and identity. More recently, however, researchers have begun to refer to a fourth type of impact – cultural impact – which refers to the cultural resources available in an area and the cultural life of an area in terms its codes of conduct, its identity, its heritage and what is termed ‘cultural governance’ (citizenship, participation, representation, diversity) (Evans and Shaw, 2004, p. 6).
Academic Perspectives on Culture-Led Regeneration
Advocates of culture-led regeneration argue that this type of strategy can actively enhance and enliven local communities. They stress the interconnectedness of the environmental, economic and social spheres, arguing that developments in one area necessarily have a knock-on effect on the others. According to Hawkes (2001; in Ruiz and Dragojević, 2007, p. 14), actions for the development of societies rest on four pillars: the economic pillar, which refers to wealth creation; the social pillar which refers to the distribution of wealth; the ecological pillar which refers to responsibility for the environment; and the cultural pillar, which he argues is fundamental to the development cycle. Back in 1999, Leadbetter, one of the architects of the new ‘knowledge economy’, argued, in a report with Oakley (Leadbetter & Oakley, 1999; in Heartfield, 2006, p. 212), that ‘art, culture and sport create meeting places for people in an increasingly diversified, fragmented and unequal society’ – meeting places that were once ‘provided by work, religion or trade unions’. Indeed, in a number of cases, it is reported that programmes of culture-led regeneration are having positive and tangible effects on the quality of life of urban populations through boosting the local economy and job creation, encouraging public/private sector partnerships, improving the area’s public image, promoting interest in the local environment, enhancing social cohesion, developing self-confidence, exploring identities and visions of the future and supporting local independence (Binns, 2005). Similar sentiments are also expressed by Smith (2000; in Miles & Paddison, 2005, p. 834). who argues that culture-led regeneration is ‘an effective route for personal growth, a valuable contribution to social cohesion, of benefit to environmental renewal and health promotion, a producer of social change and a flexible, responsive and cost-effective element of community development strategies, [that] strengthens rather than dilutes Britain’s cultural life’. Breen and Rigby (1996; in Miles, 2004, p.922), argue that ‘waterfront redevelopment and expansion is…the best current example globally of the ability [of cities] to adapt to changed circumstances, adjust to new technological impacts, seize opportunities and forge new images for themselves, as well as create new or altered neighbourhoods for their inhabitants…[they] have a dramatic and visible impact that is capable not only of enriching a city’s economy but of improving its collective self-image’.
Prior to New Labour, cultural activities were largely seen as ‘adjunct’ to the real economy and were funded largely for their own sake (Selwood, 2007). Yet, as Stevenson (2004; in Miles & Paddison, 2005, p. 836), points out, cultural planning is becoming ever more bound up with ‘intervening and achieving outcomes that relate to a conception of culture as a civilising process that is not dynamic, flexible and situational, but linear and linked to a set of clearly defined political and government objectives’. Many, however, attack the use of culture for economic ends, including Stevenson who believes that funders and policy-makers underestimate the value of culture for people of the locality and the extent to which cultural developments succeed depending on how well they connect with local communities and cultures (Miles and Paddison, 2005, p. 838). In a radical critique of instrumental cultural policies and social impact studies in the arts, Belfiore (2002; in Heartfield, 2006, p. 12), argues that ‘the main problem created by the argument that the arts are a source of urban regeneration, or that public subsidy is in fact an ‘investment’ with specific, measurable social returns, is that the arts become entirely instrumental. Degraded to the function of mere tools, arts become a matter of ‘value for money’’. McDowell (2000) has also alluded to the ‘awkward relationship’ between the cultural and the economic. Garnham (2001; in Evans, 2009, p. 20), argues that inevitably, ‘there is likely to be a lack of fit, if not direct opposition, between policies designed to support regeneration through [arts/cultural] excellence and those designed to combat social exclusion’ and ‘it is indeed ironic that many official cultural strategies seem to operate as agents which continue to generate exclusion, even if they are not aware of this’.
There is a wealth of evidence to suggest that the planning and provision of cultural amenities and facilities, driven by development opportunities, in urban centres worldwide, have little resonance with the everyday practices and functions of the city. Evans (2009) identified a number of cases which illustrate the complex relationships between cultural policies aimed at tackling socio-economic problems and more self-fulfilling cultural practices; notably, flagship developments that were perceived to meet the twin policy goals of urban regeneration and social inclusion, but which failed to provide less formal cultural spaces that identify with and address the needs of the local population. The Public ‘digital media centre’, West West Bromwich’s £63M arts centre, is highlighted as one such example. The local community were not consulted regarding the development of the centre and subsequently reported that they would have preferred the money to have been spent on a number of small-scale, cultural amenities (Evans, 2009, p. 22). Willis (1991; in Evans, 2009, p. 23) suggests that ‘new temples of high art may enjoy some corporate popularity, but as a public spectacle, not private passion; as places to be seen rather than to be in’. Evans also points out the challenges of planning culture in a context of economic growth, using the example of Milton Keynes’ civic theatre which opened in 1999. Speaking at the launch of the new theatre, the Council reported (unknown; in Evans, 2009, p. 25), ‘in addition to bringing a variety of performances to the city, Milton Keynes Theatre provides a focus for the city’s already thriving cultural life’. However, the theatre’s trust later made the point that a town that already has a theatre within a 30 minute drive is unlikely to need another…but there might well be demand for an arts centre or other small cultural facilities (Evans, 2009, p. 25). Similarly, Mommaas (2004; in Lin and Hsing, 2009, p. 1321), highlighted instances in the Netherlands where the planning of cultural flagship projects have been beneficial to local economic development in the short term, but have produced undermining effects that have diluted the cultural meaning of the locality in the long term. The same challenge is also argued to be plaguing culture-led regeneration programmes in Asian cities also, where cultural strategies are threatening to marginalise indigenous communities from the spaces they occupy (Tao, 2003; in Lin and Hsing, 2009, p.1321).
On similar note, Harvey (1998; in Garcia, 2004, p. 317); argues against city branding exercises; which he believes act like ‘carnival masks’, diverting attention away from the economic, social and cultural polarisation that often exists within cities. He argues that such exercises rely on the creation of harmonic, all-encompassing messages that are often in direct contradiction to the diverse and often conflicting cultural identities of the city. Linked to Harvey, Jones and Wilks-Heeg (2004; in Miles, 2005, p. 835) argue that the flagship model of regeneration often promoted by national and local government is inherently misleading to the extent that ‘current trends suggest precisely the scenario of a rapidly regenerating and gentrifying urban core surrounded by a ring of intensely disadvantaged residential areas’. One could be forgiven for concluding that the combined effects of city branding exercises and the uneven economic outcomes of culture-led regeneration will only serve to reinforce and exacerbate the exclusion of the marginalised and disadvantaged groups in the locality.
Glasgow is often cited as an example of a city which has fallen into these traps. Many scholars believe that the city used its status as European Capital of Culture (ECOC) 1990 to hide its working class heritage; causing resentment and hostility amongst many inhabitants. In 1990, Glasgow launched an ambitious programme of culture-led regeneration focused around the arts but also design, engineering, architecture, shipbuilding, religion and sport. Being ECOC enabled Glasgow to invest heavily in capital projects and cultural infrastructures. However, the city approached 1990 from a solely economic perspective, rather than both an economic and cultural perspective. As a result, city planners and managers failed to establish partnerships and initiatives that would survive beyond the year and could be applied on a smaller scale and decisions were made on the basis of potential business returns, media coverage and tourist appeal rather than community development and self-expression (Garcia, 2004, p. 320). Booth (1996; in Garcia, 2004, p. 320) thus describes Glasgow’s ECOC experience as ‘expensive in terms of agency and money’ and ‘a distraction from the key goal of realising progressive social as well as economic and physical regeneration benefits’.
Landry (2000, p. 43), identifies ‘formula thinking’ as the principal barrier to a meaningful culture-led approach to regeneration. He argues that while ‘city marketing is concerned with identity and distinctiveness. Yet, common formulae emerge from urban publicity’ – so much so, in fact, that ‘if you replaced one city name with another you would not know the difference’. Similarly, Lin and Hsing (2009, p. 1322) argue that the ‘formulaic’ models of urban regeneration, which have been adopted by local governments worldwide, have ‘resulted in standardised landscapes in localities, displacing local symbolic context’. This view is also supported by Zukin (1995; in Bailey et al, 2004, p. 48) too, argues that the economic benefits which flow from culture-led regeneration strategies are often counterbalanced by the erosion of local distinctiveness. According to Jackson (1999), many previous studies of the globalization of consumption (broadly conceived) have pointed to the ‘destruction of regional cultures’ by a monolithic global capitalism. As the playwright Alan Plater remarked in an article for the Observer (Thorpe, 2005; in Heartfield, 2006, p. 219), ‘if you cover your waterfront with wine bars, you will make it look pretty much the same as everywhere else’ The rise of urban homogeneity has stemmed, he argues, from a ‘cookie cutter’ approach to development, characterised by a ‘university, some incubators and a ‘creative hub’, with or without a café, galleries and fancy shops’ (Oakley, 2004, p. 73).
The Engagement of Marginalised and Disadvantaged Groups in Culture-Led Regeneration
Many cities are currently treading a difficult path; attempting to mobilise culture to the ends of both economic growth and social inclusion. However, evidence suggests that the outcomes of cultural activity in terms of government economic and social targets but also in terms of improving people’s quality of life are often contradictory and unpredictable (Chatterton and Unsworth, 2004, p. 377). While culture-led regeneration strategies have the potential to attract investors, boost tourism, increase the value of commercial property and inflate residential property values, for example, success is too often accompanied by gentrification, the exclusion of local communities, the erosion of local identity and a homogenised, globalised, marketable version of culture. Such a realisation has significant implications for the ways in which policy-makers pursue culture-led urban regeneration. It is widely accepted that successful culture-led regeneration requires the participation of confident, capable, empowered citizens in the development and delivery of the programme.
Much of the existing literature on culture-led regeneration focuses on the role and impact of cultural flagship projects and art festivals on urban areas and communities, at the expense of discussing effective means for the engagement of marginalised and disadvantaged groups and the integration of their unique cultural resources in to culture-led regeneration schemes. Even in the EU, where there is a major commitment to the engagement of hard-to-reach groups in culture-led regeneration (evidenced by the Participation Charter, for instance), there ceases to be clear guidance on the issue. For example, despite the cultural achievements of many ECOC cities since the programme’s launch, critics argue that it lacks clear definitions and guidelines for action. The availability of information about cities’ ECOC experiences relies entirely on the willingness of host cities to produce final reports. However, such reports are largely promotional material, intended to justify the value of the year and celebrate its successes, rather than act as an informed analysis of the experience that explains the process of decision-making and recognises the cities’ shortcomings. Furthermore, such reports are mostly restricted to the assessment of immediate impacts, without a follow-up study into the medium and long term impacts of the programme (Garcia, 2005, p. 320). Garcia (2005, p. 321) argues that ‘the resulting effect is the creation of unquestionable myths about the value of hosting the title, which cover up the lack of serious attempts to learn lessons from the experience and establish replicable models of successful and sustainable culture-led regeneration’.
Another example relates to the ‘Agenda 21 for Culture’ programme. In May 2008, Agenda 21 for culture was approved by cities and local governments worldwide, as a guiding document for local cultural policies. A major theme of the Agenda is the participation of citizens and civil society in the cultural life of cities. Article 5 states that ‘the main principles of good governance include transparency of information and public participation in the conception of cultural policies, decision-making processes and the assessment of programmes and projects’. Article 11 states that ‘cultural policies must strike a balance between public and private interest, public functions and the institutionalisation of culture. Excessive institutionalisation or the excessive prevalence of the market as the sole distributor of cultural resources involves risks and hampers the dynamic development of cultural systems’. Article 19 states cities’ commitment ‘to implement the appropriate instruments to guarantee the democratic participation of citizens in the formulation, exercise and evaluation of public cultural policies’ (Ruiz & Dragojević, 2007, p. 16). However, a report produced for the 5th anniversary of the Agenda noted, ‘the leaders of the Agenda 21 for culture would benefit from gathering innovative know-how on the mobilisation of citizens that goes beyond the consumerist approach and translates the idea of culture’s cross-sector contribution to community development in order to generate an inclusive and lasting commitment from citizens that will have an impact on public policies. While raising awareness of the positive effects of arts and culture on communities among world leaders appears to be the priority, it is also vital to support communities themselves in the creation of a shared sense of cultural pride and affection as an essential factor in social cohesion and individual self-fulfilment’ (UCLG, 2009, p. 2).
The Engagement of Marginalised and Disadvantaged Groups in Culture-Led Regeneration: Good Practice
A review of relevant academic literature, government reports and research papers, suggests that it is possible to begin to identify the means by which sustainable culture-led regeneration programmes can be achieved; a fundamental aspect of which is the engagement of marginalised and disadvantaged groups in the design and delivery of the process.
Bailey et al (2004, p. 52) argue that successful culture-led regeneration is fundamentally about revitalising existing sources of identity, rather than imposing new ones, on the regeneration area. Linking local cultural projects with civic identities can enliven local communities and cultivate local distinctiveness. Cultural planning therefore should be more about engaging with the lives of those people who live in the city than it is about regenerating the city itself.
Ruiz and Dragojevic (2007, p. 31-32), argue that the implementation of effective culture-led regeneration strategies relies on coherent and sustainable processes of cultural mapping and planning. Cultural mapping involves the identification and recording of an area’s indigenous cultural resources, as well as other intangibles such as their sense of place and social value and is argued to be a crucial part of participatory policy-making. The identified values of place and culture will then provide the foundation for sustainable strategies; vibrant and more cohesive community networks; greater community confidence and direction; and increased community capacity for holistically addressing its own needs. Fundamentally, cultural planning requires an inclusive framework that recognises the cultural aspirations of different sections of the community, including groups that may otherwise be marginalised culturally, socially and economically. Indeed, in recent years, the issue of participatory policy making has been an area of growing interest for local governments and concepts such as working groups, quality circles, forums and meetings, citizens’ workshops, debates, community councils and exhibitions are all now familiar to us. In some cases, participative techniques also involve restricting the role of the experts in culture-led regeneration. There are many examples of effective community engagement in developing culture-led regeneration programmes, facilities and events.
Where engagement has the purpose of transformation, rather than legitimisation, the processes of participation can be genuinely educational for all involved. Lin and Hsing (2009, p. 1333), suggest that local communities should be included in the culture-led regeneration policy-making process through collaborative governance and partnerships. They suggest that local conditions should be altered in ways that enable local communities to re-establish ownership of their own sense of place and space. Local governments need to move beyond the instrumentalism of urban cultural strategies and to discover the spaces where local cultural activities and mobilisation capacities are attached. Local governments can begin to revitalise a community’s identity and sense of belonging by intervening in the existing cultural spaces and working with the local communities who live in the area. An identification and enhancement of everyday cultural practices and their manifestation in formal and informal spaces should remain the focus of culture-led regeneration strategies. In this way, creative spaces will accommodate local needs as well as bring about positive change. Research by Cairns and McArthur et al. (1996; in Foley and Martin, 2000, p. 485), suggests that a strong community voice results in better decision making and programme outcomes which are more attuned to local needs.
Rediscovering local tangible and intangible forms of cultural resources is suggested as a key element in the practice of culture-led urban regeneration. Endogenous festivals, differing from visitor-led festival projects, can help mobilise local communities, cam regenerate the socio-cultural identities of local inhabitants and help rediscover local specialties (Bianchini and Greed, 1999; in Lin and Hsing, 2009, p. 1328). Balsas (2004, cited in Lin and Hsing, 2009, p. 1323), in particular, supports the idea of endogenous festivals, believing that ‘cities have to avoid copy-paste events and instead, should maximize their cultural idiosyncrasies, develop endogenous regeneration strategies and foster institutional capacity building and civic creativity’. Quinn (2005; in Lin and Hsing, 2009, p. 1323), argues that the remaking of the endogenous cultural festival needs the collective action of local people, different artistic groups, organisers and governmental agencies; it facilitates the emergence of ‘institutional capacity through the collaboration of collective actors. This type of collaboration will also help to form durable relationships,
In order to integrate a community’s cultural resources into regeneration, Evans (2005) suggests the need to ‘represent cultural regeneration occurring through primarily social and community-based projects’ (p. 976). Evidence suggests that when opportunities are provided for members of local communities to volunteer and be involved in culture-led regeneration projects, they are generally enthusiastic to do so. Yet, it can sometimes be difficult to engage groups and individuals in the community who see regeneration as irrelevant to them and not something in which they have a legitimate role. The case of Rochdale demonstrates an innovative way of breaking down these barriers by engaging a community in a creative and enjoyable consultation exercise. A New Deal for Communities programme (NDC), known locally as A New Heart for Heywood, wanted to find new ways of consulting sections of the community that planners had previously failed to engage with. A range of targeted arts-based consultation projects were developed to help inform decision makers about people’s hopes and aspirations for themselves, their families and their community. One of the most successful projects was the Pub Art project, which employed two local artists to draw the residents and interview them about their aspirations for the programme. The portraits and residents’ comments were transferred on to beer mats and exhibited in pubs in the area. The beer mats were also used by NDC workers to encourage other local people to become involved in the programme (DCMS, 2005, p. 36).
Cities also require flexibility over cultural facilities; well-designed informal spaces that offer communities ‘the freedom to decide for themselves how they want to use each part of the space’ (Hertzberger, 1991; in Evans, 2009, p. 31). For Hertzberger (1991; in Evans, 2009, p. 31), key measures of the success of cultural facilities is the way that spaces are used, the diversity of activities which they attract and the opportunities they provide for creative reinterpretation. To achieve this success, communities should have some input into the type and range of cultural amenities required to meet their particular creative aspirations and interests. Willis (1991; in Evans, 2009, p. 23), suggests that ‘the recent success of certain [cultural institutions] in appealing to a wide range of people and communicating with new audiences, rests upon…allowing people and their informal meanings and communications to colonise the institutions’. Indeed, many community venues serve a dual purpose; not only as formal places to engage with arts and cultural activity, but also as informal meeting places. Research by Arts Council England (ACE) found that around 13% of people use their local arts centre for purely social purposes on a frequent basis (ACE, 2006; in Evans, 2009, p. 23).
Oldenburg (1999; in Chatterton and Unsworth, 2004, p. 374), argues that much creativity occurs in ‘third places’; the first being home and the second being work. There is no set format for such places but they often provide space for activities such as small-scale live acts, selling locally produced food and drinks and the dissemination of information. Inexpensive and welcoming places such as this are crucial to community life for a number of reasons: they are informal gathering places where local people can relax; they encourage sociability and friendship instead of isolation; they help create a sense of place and civic pride; and, they enrich public life. However, it is important to note that many of these places have been rationalised and corporatised in recent years. This work connects with that of Landry (2000), for example, who discusses the idea of hard infrastructures being pre-cursors to the development of social capital.
Chatterton and Unsworth (2004, p. 373), argue that: embracing the idea of culture as critical engagement and encounter rather than passive consumerism; instituting a social and economic climate based upon public ownership of space and resources; and promoting use-value rather than profit-based activities would pave the way for more beneficial and sustainable developments in city centres Furthermore, they argue that more spaces which exist at the difficult intersection between ‘controlled and secure’ and ‘open and spontaneous’ and where there is no defined policy stating what uses of the space are acceptable are needed in urban centres. This would create a sense of broad ownership of the space and would encourage sporadic forms of cultural engagement. There is also a wealth of evidence which suggests that culture-led regeneration programmes are most effective when community engagement in sustained throughout the lifespan of the project. The Bellenden Renewal Area in Peckham, South East London, exemplifies how artists, architects and designers can work with local communities to renew or regenerate an area. The Bellenden area was launched as a ‘renewal area’ in July 1997 due to its level of deprivation and poor living standards. Over a third of residents were on benefits and 28% were from BME groups. The main aim of the project were to improve the public and private housing provision, public spaces and local business premises (particularly run-down shops, pubs and cafes) in the area. A number of local artists worked with the council and residents to design improvements that would help address negative stereotypes about the area. Some of the projects included: replacing roofs, windows and front walls to give each street a distinctive look.; inscribing poems chosen by the residents onto pavements; lamp posts, bus stops, street bollards gates, children’s play equipment and mosaic murals were designed by well-established artists; and the installation of public art works. Active involvement in the project enhanced the social cohesion of, and community spirit amongst, the residents, who now take pride in the neighbourhood. People living in Bellenden not only have an improved quality of life but are now part of a highly distinctive and sustainable community. The area has received national and international recognition and acclaim and was awarded Visit-London’s Local Tourism Initiative Award in 2003 (DCMS, 2005, p. 23).
Education and outreach work is also frequently cited as being central to ensuring community engagement in culture-led regeneration, for whilst mainstream regeneration and economic development agencies often have the will to engage with marginalised and disadvantaged groups, there is often a lack of knowledge and skills on the part of the hard-to-reach groups to engage with the agencies effectively. Regeneration strategies, in some cases, therefore, many need to include an element of identifying skill gaps and training provision in local communities (Pemberton et al, 2006). One way of developing the community engagement skills of marginalised and disadvantaged groups is by supporting ‘champions’ of culture. This may be an individual or a group. The Community Champions programme was set up by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) in 1999 and ran until 2008, to support individuals who were either already active or who would like to become active in helping their local community. The DfES envisaged that the supported parties would become ‘inspirational figures, community entrepreneurs, community mentors and community leaders’ and would be ‘instrumental in improving the involvement of communities in regeneration and learning activity’ (DfES, 2002; in Johnstone and Campbell-Jones, 2003, p. 8). There was also a consistent theme throughout the guidance that the Community Champions programme should help spread good practice in community-led regeneration activities. In 2003, the ‘Skills for Regeneration’ project reviewed the way in which the fund was working. The study found that the programme was supporting a substantial proportion of champions from BME communities. Also, the social groups that the champions were engaging with varied widely. While many were working for the benefit of the community at large (in a given locality), young people, BME communities, disabled people and the elderly were the main social groups benefiting from the programme. The study also found that the ways in which the funding was being put to use varied widely. The most frequently cited types of activity being supported by the funding included arts and crafts based projects, work on community centres/meeting places, health promotion schemes and sport based projects. More specifically, the funds were used to purchase equipment, develop projects, attend events or short courses, provide training for others, produce a community newsletter and remove barriers to community involvement, e.g. meeting childcare costs (Johnstone and Campbell-Jones, 2003).
Culture-Led Regeneration in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne
Newcastle-Upon-Tyne is a major urban centre in Tyne and Wear, in the North East of England. The North East is the smallest English region and second smallest UK region (4.2% of the UK population). Approximately 2.5M people live in the region. Despite a declining population from the mid-1970s until the late-1990s, the North East’s population is now increasing year-on-year. Broadly speaking, the North East remains ‘a population of extremes’, with a large proportion of 15 – 19 year olds (many of whom are studying at the region’s five Universities) and a large aging population. There is a relatively low population of people from BME communities (less than 5%) in the region and the 20 – 24 age group (the young and economically active people of child bearing age) consistently represents the largest negative movement from the region each year (NEA, 2009).
For most of the twentieth century, the North East of England was a protagonist of industrial development, with its ship-yards, glassworks and coal mines. In its boom period in the 1950s, unemployment levels were as low as 3% and immigrant populations from Ireland, Scotland, Scandinavia and other places in England flocked to the region; attracted by the prospect of high wages. However, from the end of the 1950s onwards, this age of prosperity came to an end and instead, it became an emblem of the ‘post-Fordist’ crisis, with the mass closure of factories, mining and manufacturing industries, rising unemployment, poverty and widespread migration out of the area (Tornaghi, n.d, p. 8).
Many scholars argue that Newcastle’s focus on heavy industry was essential in creating a sense of identity for the area. Community life became based around manual work and leisure time spent in pubs, working men’s clubs and at sporting events. In some respects, this identity is still relevant to the city today, but is focused around consumption rather than production. According to Chatterton (2000), many localities appear to have embraced consumption-based rather than production-based growth models in an attempt to temper wider economic decline, particularly that stemming from the downturn in traditional manufacturing. Despite, paradoxically some would say, still contributing an above average share of regional GDP, the scale of the North East’s manufacturing base continues to contract. This shift to consumption is inarguably reflected in the strategies of the 1990s and early 2000s whereby Newcastle promoted an image of itself as a ‘party city’, emphasising the leisure opportunities which the city had to offer. In the 1990s, this reputation transcended national boundaries and Newcastle was voted the eighth best party city in the world (Middleton and Freestone, 2008, p. 3).
Today, following an extensive programme of regeneration, Newcastle is seen by many as the region’s capital; the regional centre for education, employment, services, shopping and nightlife. New industries (particularly in the creative sector) are thriving and tourism is now a key component of the region’s economy (with revenue increasingly annually and accounting for over 10% of jobs in the area (North East Tourism Strategy 2005-2010, 2005, p. 2)). The River Tyne has become the key focal point of the city, providing the location for several flagship cultural projects. In 2001, the Millennium Bridge was developed at a cost of £22M. This was followed in 2002 by the opening of the Baltic Contemporary Arts Centre at a cost of £50M and in 2004, by the opening of the Sage music and performance centre at a cost of £70M (Middleton and Freestone, 2008, p. 5). The old commercial river frontage, once full of industrial warehouses, has been transformed into bars, apartments, law courts, hotels and high quality offices. The historic core of the city centre has had attention to its buildings and public spaces and St. James’ Park has been modernised and enlarged to accommodate a bigger audience (Healey, 2002, p. 1784). Cultural events, festivals and programmes (largely under the guise of Culture 10) are regularly hosted in the city. Formed in 2003 and funded by a combination of government organisations and public and private sector bodies, Culture10 provides a continuous ‘programme of world-class events and festivals for North East England [to] build the region’s national and international profile’ (NGI, 2010). Key events, festivals and programmes which Newcastle has hosted or continues to host include: Gateshead Garden Festival 1990, Japan Festival North 1991, Year of Visual Arts 1996, Evolution, Mela, Chinese New Year, Boss Sounds and the New Year Carnival. Newcastle also has a sculpture garden (on the Gateshead riverfront), a number of cultural districts (Northern Gateway, Grainger Town, Discovery Quarter and Riverside), more than one hundred public art sculptures (throughout Newcastle-Gateshead), museums, art galleries, theatres and concert halls. Smaller-scale, culture-led regeneration projects which have also taken place in the city include: the Garden Festival’s art commission programme and partnerships such as the Art on the Riverside scheme managed by the Tyne and Wear Development Corporation and the Art on the Metro scheme run by Nexus (Bailey et al, 2004, p. 55). Increased funding has been directed towards existing arts and science based institutions including the Laing Art Gallery and the Centre for Life and Newcastle has been designated one of the UK’s six Science Cities (Jeffries, 2008; in Middleton and Freestone, 2008, p. 5). Furthermore, Newcastle’s culture-led regeneration strategy can be seen as a clear attempt to move away from the region’s working-class industrial image and create a new modern, cosmopolitan, cultural identity (Middleton and Freestone, 2008, p. 6). Indeed, in 2008, Shipley stated that ‘the image of Newcastle as having an evening economy based on alcohol consumption should be a thing of the past…it’s very important we create a café-style culture…we are trying to change Newcastle’s image to one that is inclusive for everyone’ (Shipley, cited in Middleton and Freestone, 2008, p. 6).
Newcastle’s Culture-Led Regeneration Programme: Post 2000
In 2000, the government asked all local authorities to work with partners to develop a local cultural strategy to promote local cultural wellbeing. At the time, both Newcastle and Gateshead authorities were facing significant challenges in attracting industry to the area and a host of socio-economic problems; a situation which was compounded by declining populations. As a result, the two councils joined forces to promote Newcastle and Gateshead as a single entity (Newcastle and Gateshead Council, 2002, p. 1) through a high profile, cultural promotion and marketing exercise. The NewcastleGateshead Initiative (NGI), was subsequently formed, to position Newcastle-Gateshead as a leading European destination for leisure, business and tourism, and in doing so, create a new identity for the ‘city’ and the wider North-East region (NewcastleGateshead, 2008; in Middleton and Freestone, 2008, p. 5).
In 2002, ‘Building Bridges Building Bridges: A Strategy for Culture in NewcastleGateshead 2002-2012’ was published, which outlined the councils’ plans for the culture-led regeneration of the area. Culture was defined as ‘everything that enables people and communities to articulate what they believe and see as valuable or meaningful. It embraces not just the areas most often seen as cultural such as the arts, museums and heritage but also sport, libraries, the creative industries, open spaces, festivals, children’s play and much more’ (Newcastle and Gateshead Council, 2002, p. 2). The strategy states that the following principles reflect the city’s social, economic and cultural position: a living culture (the active engagement of local people in culture); a distinctive culture (a region which values its own cultural traditions); an inclusive culture (everyone should be supported to make the most of their participation in culture, in their own way); a learning culture (building connections between cultures, ages, communities and places so that people can learn from, and live happily with, each other); a sustainable culture (improving local environments and the quality of people’s lives) (Newcastle and Gateshead Council, 2002, p. 28).
The development of the regeneration strategy placed considerable emphasis on encouraging local people to participate in the planning and delivery of cultural activities. Opportunities to volunteer and participate in the programme were introduced, alongside efforts to consult the local community. ‘Building Bridges’ was the result of an extensive 18-month consultation process with a wide range of community members and using a range of techniques to generate ideas and promote discussion. This was the largest consultation exercise ever to have taken place on the issue of culture in the region. A series of community and organisational consultation events were held across NewcastleGateshead; exhibition and information stands were displayed at big public events such as the Mela; leaflets were given out and discussions were held at the British Sign Language March through the city centre in 2001; discussions at ward and community committees/group meetings opened the consultation out to thousands of people across the area; a questionnaire was issued to every household via Council News magazines; and comments were invited via the Gateshead-Quays Newsletter. A website, http://www.culture2008.com, was also set up where people could post their views on culture and the city’s culture-led regeneration plan. Over half a million people visited and submitted comments via the site between 2000 and 2002. Partnerships were also established across the area with socially excluded communities, such as deaf people, people from BME communities and interfaith groups, to develop ideas which would be of specific benefit to them. Multi-sectoral groups of experts from across the region came together to develop ideas and creative development sessions took place where individual sectors met to discuss their aspirations and ideas. Once a draft version of the strategy was developed, it was subject to wide-ranging consultation within councils, partner organisations and other local cultural organisations. Responses were then fed in to the final version (Newcastle and Gateshead Council, 2002, p. 37-38).
Newcastle’s latest regeneration strategy, ‘Newcastle in 2021’, is based on the following principles; building on the heritage and cultural and economic strengths of Newcastle and the sense of identity and civic pride of its people; improving the quality of life for all people and communities in Newcastle; and playing a leading role in the sustainable growth and prosperity of the region. The council intends to do this through: a user focus – devolving decision making and empowering individuals and communities to influence services; equality and diversity – supporting all residents to fulfil their aspirations and potential by promoting inclusion, cohesion and equality; and, culture and creativity – using the regeneration strategy to build on the area’s heritage, cultural and economic strengths and on the sense of identity and civic pride of local people (Newcastle City Council, 2008, p. 4). There were several phases of consultation built into the development of this strategy. Phase 1 was undertaken during August 2005 – March 2006 with residents, community and voluntary sector groups, and public and private sector agencies. Feedback from the sessions was used to help shape the draft regeneration strategy. Phase 2 focused on gaining feedback on the draft strategy and ran from April – September 2006. This approach encompassed a wider, more formal consultation on the document with council staff, community and voluntary sector groups, private sector organisations, neighbouring local authorities and MPs, amongst others. The consultation techniques used for each audience varied to ensure their maximum engagement and involvement (Newcastle City Council, n.d).
Landmark cultural buildings and projects are at the heart of Newcastle’s culture-led regeneration programme. But importantly, a key aim of the programme is to strike a balance between cultural excellence and relevance to Newcastle’s diverse communities (Sargent, 2005, p. 5). The Sage is an example of a landmark cultural development reported to be successfully balancing cultural excellence and local relevance. In anticipation of the opening of the development, a region-wide outreach and educational programme was launched which engaged with a range of different social groups and organisations including: children, young people (including young offenders), the elderly, local businessmen, parent groups and cultural organisations. When the Sage opened in December 2004, the project’s community roots were established and an audience of 15,000 local people attended a weekend of world class music, free of charge. By Easter 2005, it had presented 150 performances and events and over 1,500 education and community sessions had been held in the building (as well as the continuing programme of outreach work) (Sargent, 2005, p. 5-6). The Baltic too, as part of its pre-launch campaign, worked with local groups, organisations and individuals in a variety of ways to support its development, opened up discussions with local people, encouraged participation and established relationships with schools and local organisations etc. in the hope of securing long term, sustainable partnerships (Newcastle and Gateshead Council, 2002, p. 32).
The Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) (2000; in Heartfield, 2006, p. 212) report ‘Centres for Social Change: Museums, Galleries and Archives for All’ claimed that museums ‘can play a role in generating social change by engaging with an empowering people to determine their place in the world, educate themselves to achieve their own potential, play a full part in society and contribute to transforming it in the future’. The Discovery Museum is seen as a good example of this. To ensure that the development plans for the Museum were relevant to the local community, visitor research was commissioned to inform the design process and ensure that the specific needs of a diverse range of audiences would be met. In 2002, the Museums Outreach Online project found that 4.8% of its users were of ethnic origin and 77% of museum users were drawn from inner city Newcastle (Sargent, 2005, p. 5). Another example is Tyne and Wear Museums which is recognised nationally and internationally as leading the field in inclusion, access and audience development initiatives. The organisation has been pursuing an inclusive agenda for over a decade and through programming, marketing and outreach initiatives, has more than doubled the number of in person visitors to 1.5M in that period. An example of one such initiative was the staging of the People’s Museums for the Millennium projects during 2000-2001; the most ambitious and extensive community-focused programme ever staged in UK museums. Over 1600 local people, coming from 350 community groups, joined in a contemporary collecting project. Evaluation proved the project to be an enormous success with many participants commenting on how they felt a greater sense of belonging to their region’s history and more than half said it changed the way they felt about museums (Newcastle and Gateshead Council, 2002, p. 16). Frank Furedi, however, in his book ‘Where have all the Intellectuals Gone’ (2004), takes particular issue with the Tyne and Wear Museum Service, criticising, in particular, their adoption of policies and initiatives that flatter its visitors. The museum has an access policy that ‘encourage[s] the display of works from the collections which may not necessarily be famous or highly regarded, but have been chosen by members of the public simply because they like them or because they arouse certain emotions or memories’. According to Furedi, cultural institutions ‘increasingly give us what they think is good for us, and what they think we can handle. They patronise us, spoon-feeding us culture and knowledge’ (p. 122).
However, smaller-scale community work has also been at the heart of Newcastle’s culture-led regeneration programme, to help strengthen and bring local communities together. The Sage has been involved in delivering a series of initiatives, which have helped engaged a number of different social groups from across the North of England in music-led or music-focused projects. The projects have ranged from corporate training to support for mental health service users (Sargent, 2005, p. 26). The Ouseburn Valley in Newcastle is another excellent example of the role that culture can play in strengthening communities. The Ouseburn Valley was the focus of the industrial revolution on Tyneside. The legacy from that period, mixed with a striking townscape in a riverside location and with extensive open space, makes the Valley a very attractive location. In the early 2000s, it was viewed by local people as an area affording many opportunities for sustainable regeneration. The key issue was how opportunities for developing housing, businesses and leisure opportunities in the area could be maximised without destroying the Ouseburn’s unique character. One of the council’s key objectives of the regeneration scheme was sustainability through community participation. In order to support this ideal ‘The Ouseburn Trust’ was formed to work in partnership with the council. The resulting ‘Ouseburn Partnership’ consisted of 19 members drawn from the voluntary, community, public and private sectors; making it representative of all stakeholders. The partnership was awarded £2.5M of Single Regeneration Budget (SRB) funding and subsequently, turned around the decline of the area through a coherent package of housing, business, leisure, cultural, security, heritage and environmental projects. Between 2003 and 2008, the Ouseburn Urban Village delivered 300,000 sq. ft. of new and refurbished workspace, £12M public sector and £140M private sector investment, 600 jobs, a wide range of accommodation for businesses and a large, unique and vibrant cultural quarter. The support of the local community, whose participation in the project was facilitated at all levels as a matter of protocol, is widely promulgated as being fundamental to the successful regeneration of the valley (Sargent, 2005, p. 27-29).
However, culture can also strengthen communities and bring them together in more modest ways. A key example of this is the Wrekenton Lanterns Parade which takes place every March in Gateshead. The project started in 1994 as part of Gateshead’s Arts in Health Programme and has now become an annual event. It involves hundreds of local children, their families, voluntary agencies, churches and the area health promotion team. The procession has become a distinctive event in the local calendar and is a celebration of community health. As well as lanterns, the event regularly includes making fruit sculptures with pre-school children, wholemeal bread-making and lantern songs composed by the children. In the two-week preparation period of lantern making, health promotion is discussed in a relaxed and informal manner. The centrepiece of the procession each year is the heart of the community lantern, which is carried through the procession and at the end of the event, is placed on a hill and illuminated with pyrotechnics (Newcastle and Gateshead Councils, 2002, p. 3).
The Impact of Culture-Led Regeneration in Newcastle
In many academic, policy and practitioner circles, the culture-led regeneration of Newcastle is heralded as a great success in both economic and social terms. Many agree that Newcastle shows all the typical features of cultural-led regeneration, including flagship cultural institutions in a waterfront location to lever private-sector investment in the surrounding area and attract tourism and the designation of a neighbourhood as a cultural industries quarter for businesses in the arts, media and leisure (Miles, 2005; in Tornaghi, n.d. p. 9). Miles (2005) suggests that while social polarisation is often the inevitable consequence of post-industrial culture-led developments, the example of Newcastle suggests that such investments can actually revitalise the identities of the people of a city or region. He argues that Newcastle is a ‘symbol of the future, rooted in the past’ (p. 919) and there is no better expression of this than the BALTIC. The Newcastle-Gateshead regeneration scheme has given the people of the region something tangible through which they can reassert their collective identities. Indeed, the Baltic and the Sage are vocal in their determination to appeal to a broad range of social groups; most notably through their education and outreach programmes. Zukin (1991; in Miles, 2005, p. 923) argues that urban space structures people’s ‘perceptions, interactions, and sense of well-being or despair, belonging or alienation’. In this context, Newcastle is an important representational space for the North East and plays a key role in structuring the above emotions. The Quayside development offers local people the possibility of an optimistic future in an otherwise pessimistic age in Newcastle and indeed, both policy makers and local people alike have aligned themselves to an imagined community and post-industrial future. Furthermore, Minton, writing in a RICS/DEMOS report (2003; in Heartfield, 2006), entitled ‘Northern Soul: Culture, Creativity and the Quality of Place in Newcastle and Gateshead’, argues that the developments on either side of the River Tyne are ‘a clear example of a successful transformation from coal city to culture city, underpinned by a dynamic form of urban entrepreneurship’ (p. 5). In June 2004, the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) published ‘Culture at the Heart of Regeneration’ (CATHOR), which attempted to identify and understand the role of culture in the regeneration of cities, towns and communities. The North East response to the document broadly supported CATHOR’s position and committed itself to undertaking research that would provide a more detailed analysis of the impact of culture-led regeneration in the North East. The research identified many interesting and successful examples of culture-led regeneration in the region and showed that Newcastle has a strong claim for providing best practice case studies (Sargent, 2005, p. 3-4). In economic terms, there is a wealth of evidence to support the level of prosperity and growth which the region has achieved as a result of investment in services, the leisure economy and cultural facilities and in 2000, the OCED reported that the city had achieved the highest rate of growth in the cultural economy in the country that year (OECD, 2006; in Tornaghi, n.d. p. 9),
There are, however, many who argue against the supposed positive economic and social benefits which have flowed from the culture-led regeneration of the city. According to Heartfield (2006), ‘the ‘Creative City’ formula is not another kind of redevelopment. It is a substitute for redevelopment’, (p. 221). Heartfield (2006) takes issue with Minton’s contention that the above-average employment in the service and leisure industries anchored on Newcastle’s quayside is a positive outcome of regeneration. For Heartfield, the de-skilling inherent to the service economy does not contradict, as Minton suggests, wider decline and high unemployment. On the contrary, it is complementary to it, ‘With other job prospects limited, the straitened people of Scotswood or Benwell serve up lattes at the Baltic café to the pampered residents of Gosforth’ (p. 218).
Heartfield also argues that the region’s economic performance continues to pursue a low skill trajectory synonymous with low levels of qualification, innovation and enterprise, while Gibson (2003) points out that many of the new ‘creative’ jobs that are created are often project-based and short-term: ‘The sorts of ‘work’ that are generated in cultural economies vary enormously in terms of conditions and security, from those holding down stable waged occupations, through to various forms of subcontracting, casual and occasional paid activities’ (p. 203), This reality sits in stark contrast with the vision of the Northern Economic Planning Council (1966; in Heartfield, 2006): ‘We are concerned, however, not only with the extent but the quality of industrial growth. It is not enough that we should aim to have sufficient jobs to match the manpower available. We must aim at achieving a much larger share than in the past of modern science-based and capital-intensive industries which show high productivity and provide well paid employment with a high-skill content….We cannot be content that the region should become the home of factories engaged on assembly work. It must have its proper share of research and development units and of administration’.
It is also Heartfield’s contention that the city’s Millennium Bridge, Sage music centre and the Baltic are emblematic not of private enterprise but public art (according to most estimates, the region remains disproportionately reliant on public sector jobs). The Sage, for example, was the recipient of approximately £70M from the National Lottery, with much of that funding routed through the Arts Council, Gateshead Council, the European Development Fund and the North East’s Regional Development Agency, One North East. The Baltic, meanwhile, won funds of £33.4M from the National Lottery and Arts Council and an additional £12.3M from the European Development Fund, English Partnerships, Northern Arts and the local council. The sheer scale of public subsidy lead Rosie Millard (2001; in Heartfield, 2006, p. 218) to comment, ‘clearly, no one wants the Baltic to run aground’. The key focus, then, according to Miles & Paddison (2005), should fall not on the question of whether cultural investment works, but on the extent to which cultural investment works for diverse social groups. Barnes et al (2007) warn, according to Bontje & Musterd (2009), policy-makers not to expect ‘creative class’ and ‘creative city’ strategies to provide a silver-bullet in respect of the alleviation of social problems and the animation of communities.
Agyeman, in a recent interview (2008; in Henderson, 2009), commented that the developments on Newcastle Quayside have provided little more than a ‘veneer of prosperity’…‘Newcastle is a two-tier society. There are the people who can dip into the wonderful things on places like the quaysides and others who don’t have that kind of life. The culture Newcastle is selling to the world is a culture that not everyone in Newcastle can be part of….deepening social inequality. Has regeneration floated all boats? It should have done but some boats are sinking, and some have sunk and some are rudderless at sea’. Likening the situation to a kind of ‘cultural apartheid’, Agyeman argues for a greater symmetry in investment: ‘beautification’ needs to proceed hand-in-hand with real and meaningful investment in Newcastle’s untapped reservoir of human capital: ‘we need to unleash and increase the potential of the people living here because a lot is still being wasted….the question is how do we maximise the human potential in a great city like Newcastle’. Indeed, writing in a US context, Wilson & Keil (2008) argue that the real creative class in many world cities is the poor – the homeless and the unemployed. Wilson & Keil highlight the ‘remarkable reflexivity and creativity’ practiced by poor communities. In an attack on the very notion of the creative class, they conclude that the creative class concept is ‘not really about discerning and nurturing the truest creative class in Western cities today. Rather, this thesis is about something else: finding another rationale to privilege in public policy the desires and aspirations of capital and the affluent. Indeed, this ideology is really nothing new. It is in line with previous fast-track policy approaches to replenishing these cities: urban renewal, urban regeneration, the new federalism, public-private partnership alliances and enterprise one mania’ (p. 846).
Healey (2002, p. 1778), point out that that the North East’s culture-led regeneration is inevitably ‘socially exclusive’ as the project is one formed around the building-blocks of economic and cultural capital. Poverty and social tension have increased in traditional working class neighbourhoods in the outskirts of the city, while the centre attracts young professional and student populations. Furthermore, efforts to stabilise and improve the poor neighbourhoods have been largely fruitless. The restaurants and bars favoured by the educated, young, middle class combine uneasily with the traditional heavy-drinking culture in the city. The apartment buildings that have been developed are more accessible to some social groups than others, as well as much of the work presented at the Baltic and the Sage. Large scale development projects mean that for those living and doing business in the area, new nodes of activity, new physical structures and new linkages keep appearing as old ones are closed off; redefining the social, economic, cultural and environmental ambience of the city in ways which are unknown and unnatural to the city’s local population. Healey (2002, p. 1874-1875) argues that since the mid 1990s, there have been vigorous efforts to present and re-present the city, which have largely centred on attracting outsiders (investors and visitors) and use images which are not part of the shared imagination of many of the city’s inhabitants. The imagining of the city has thus not been considered as a potential mobilising, coordinative and integrative force in terms of the city’s governance. The strategic governance task in relation to re-presenting the city might be to find ways to recognise the diversity and dynamics of the city and to describe it in that way, so that people can situate themselves more clearly in relation to what’s happening in the city. In this respect, the key task for decision makers is to work of planners and decision-makers is to make visible the multiple identities and dynamics of the city.
Furthermore, many argue that the focus of the marriage between Newcastle and Gateshead is only symbolic in nature; a construction of the destination-marketing agency NGI that brought together the reputation of Newcastle as a regional capital and party city and the cultural iconicity of Gateshead. While the developments on the Quayside have undoubtedly played a key role in highlighting the potential benefits to be had from the two councils putting their local rivalry to one side for the common good, the degree to which the outcomes of the collaboration are accepted and local people identify with the developments is an interesting question (Miles, 2005).
In 2000, the Cultural Investment Strategy Impact Research (CISIR) project was launched by ACE North East and One North East to map and evaluate the social, cultural, economic and regenerative impact of the Quayside development over the decade 2000 – 2010. The project sought to establish not only the facts about activity and participation levels, but also the impact of arts investments on the overall cultural life of the area and to measure any changes in attitudes and aspirations among the local community. In 2003, qualitative research found that in general, the Newcastle-Gateshead developments had strong public support. The research participants were informed that the developments on the Quayside had amounted to £250m; approximately half of which came from public expenditure. In 2003, 66% of respondents thought this was a reasonable amount, an insignificant drop from the 69% who felt the same in 2002. This compares with 27% who felt that this expenditure was too high in 2003, and 23% in 2002. In 2003, 95% of respondents felt that the Quayside was improving the national image of the area and 89% felt that the developments were creating local pride in the area. The project also found that the Quayside developments were having a significant impact upon arts attendance amongst the local population. In 2003, the percentage of people attending arts events in the region had risen dramatically from that of previous years. 27% of local residents attended a play in 2002, equalling the 2001 English average, but doing so from a very low base of 15% in 1988. 35% of respondents attended art galleries and exhibitions, compared to 15% in 1988 and the average in England in 2001 of only 19%. 64% had made a special visit to the Angel of the North and 64% to the Millennium Bridge. In 2003, there was also found to be a significant increase in local people’s awareness of cultural activities and facilities in the area. 83% of respondents felt that many cultural activities and facilities were available locally compared to 68% in London. From a situation in which cultural provision in the area lagged behind much of the country, Newcastle had arrived at a position of relative strength. 81% of respondents in Newcastle-Gateshead and the wider region said that if their local area lost its arts and cultural provision, they would be losing something of value, compared to only 70% of respondents in London and 62% in England as whole. The percentage of respondents who felt that the arts played a valuable role in their lives jumped from 23% in 1998 to 49% in 2002. 75% of respondents said their pride in the city was being reinforced by the city’s ECOC bid and 69% said they would be disappointed if the city did not win. 56% said they were more likely to attend cultural events as a result of the bid. If Newcastle did go on to win, 78% of respondents felt that Newcastle would be a more culturally diverse place to live and 67% felt that it would be a better place to live. Furthermore, when asked for their opinions on the cultural developments which had taken place in the region, responses were generally positive. Respondents felt that the city’s cultural initiatives had brought a new energy to the North East and that they had raised the profile of the region (Miles, 2005, p. 917-921).
However, the results of a similar study conducted by Middleton and Freestone in 2008 were less positive. The study found that many local residents felt increasingly disconnected from the cultural developments in the city on a spatial level, in that the majority of the developments had taken place within the city centre only, and felt detached from any benefits that the regeneration programme had yielded. Some respondents felt that the cultural developments were not meant for them. Furthermore, many respondents claimed to have visited the cultural developments in Newcastle when they first opened, but had subsequently lost interest (Middleton and Freestone, 2008, p. 11). Indeed, it is worth noting that visitor figures for the Baltic have fallen year on year since its opening (2002/3 – 630,000, 2003/4 – 650,000, 2004/5 – 455,000, 2005/6 – 405,888, 2006/7 – 391,479, 2007/8 – 384,436, 2008/9 – 344,379 (Baltic, 2009)). These figures also support the findings of Evans who found that after an initial opening period, attendance by locals at the Guggenheim in Bilbao declined, even though attendance from tourists continued to increase. The belief that culture-led regeneration could provide a solution to deep-seated socio-economic problems was not present amongst respondents. The benefits of culture-led regeneration were seen to be restricted to the opening of attractions and the raised profile of the area; both of which would not have any meaningful impact on the lives of people in the North East. Respondents clearly felt that regeneration programme were focused too heavily on the ‘professional’, ‘middle-income’, ‘middle-class’ demographic and excluded a large proportion of ‘low income’ people from the region. Respondents were also generally unaware of any of the scientific developments which have taken place in the region, such as Newcastle’s status as a Science City. When asked about the interplay between the regeneration programme and their perceptions of the North East’s regional identity, there was a belief that the regional identity of the North East is too strong or ingrained to be replaced with a new cultural image (Middleton and Freestone, 2008, p. 7-12).
The evidence from the above studies suggests that the long-term economic and social impacts of Newcastle’s culture-led regeneration programme are, at best, questionable; particularly at a time when commentators (such as Pratt, 2009) are querying whether the limitations of the ‘cultural economy as consumption’ model will be exposed by anticipated fluctuations in consumer spending. Whilst culture-led regeneration has undoubtedly had its successes in the North East of England, it may be that local inhabitants are feeling increasingly concerned about the ways in which ‘top down’ cultural strategies are being used to regenerate the city. While this concern is limited to a sense of general disillusionment and disconnection with the programme, continuing with the strategy without further consultation with local people, may jeopardise the sustainability of the programme. Acknowledgement of the history and diverse traditions of the region and the bottom-up consciousness of local people is essential if long-term socio-economic rejuvenation through culture-led regeneration is to be achieved (Middleton and Freestone, 2008, p. 12-13).
The concept of a ‘creative city’ refers to a city which has strong economic development and a successful business community; which celebrates the diversity of its people; and which uses that diversity as a source of learning, innovation, and entrepreneurship to develop products that reach beyond the city’s boundaries and can compete in national and international economies (British Council, 2009). Cities across the world are embracing the concept of a creative city and are using ‘culture’ as a means of achieving economic competitive advantage in an increasingly globalised world, addressing some of the most challenging economic, environmental and social problems facing societies today and improving the quality of life of citizens. One of the principle means by which cities are pursuing these goals is through the design and implementation of culture-led regeneration strategies.
Many scholars, policy-makers and practitioners believe in the interconnectedness of the four pillars of society (economic, environmental, social and cultural) and argue that developments in one pillar (e.g. culture) necessarily have a subsequent effect on the others (e.g. economic, environmental and social). Indeed, evidence suggests that culture-led regeneration strategies are having a range of positive and tangible effects on urban centres. These include: boosting the local economy, job creation, improving the area’s public image, promoting interest in the local environment, enhancing social cohesion, developing self-confidence, exploring identities and visions of the future and supporting local entrepreneurship and independence. However, while some cities are succeeding in their quest, several are failing and others are achieving some aspects of the creative city concept at the expense of others. In particular, evidence suggests that the outcomes of cultural activity in terms of government economic targets and improving people’s quality of life are often contradictory. For example, the economic benefits of culture-led regeneration, such as attracting inward investment and tourists to an area, are often accompanied by a homogenised, marketable version of culture and the marginalisation of local cultures and distinctiveness. Furthermore, questions are also being raised about the sustainability of many cities’ culture-led regeneration programme. In this context, it is important to understand the pitfalls of existing culture-led regeneration programmes and the fundamental ingredients of an effective and sustainable approach to culture-led regeneration.
Culture-led regeneration programmes typically contain two key elements: flagship cultural developments and high-profile marketing exercises. Evidence suggests, however, that while flagship developments may produce short-term economic gains for a city, the extent to which these economic gains can be sustained is questionable. Scholars argue that initial local interest in such developments invariably subsides and quickly, the developments come to be viewed as ’tourist attractions’ in the minds of local people. As a result, the sustainability of the developments depends heavily on tourist appeal rather than support from the local community. These scholars argue therefore that culture-led regeneration should primarily occur through social and community-based projects and should promote user-value rather than profit-based developments. Furthermore, many scholars argue against city branding exercises, suggesting that they divert attention away from the economic, social and cultural polarisation that often exists within cities. City branding exercises, it is argued, create straplines and promote iconic images which are not always part of the shared imagination of local people. As a result, they marginalise the diverse and often conflicting cultural identities of the city’s inhabitants. Scholars suggest therefore that the aim of city branding exercises should be to find ways of recognising the diversity and dynamics of each city and to describe them in that way that local people can identify with.
Scholars also question the sustainability of culture-led regeneration programmes which focus predominantly on providing for the consumption of culture, at the expense of the production of culture. They argue that while focusing on developments that facilitate the consumption of culture is likely to produce quick economic gains through the creation of jobs and attracting tourists to an area etc, an economy built on cultural consumption will be one which relies on a low skill trajectory, synonymous with low levels of qualification, innovation and enterprise, will be largely constituted of jobs which are project-based and short-term and will be vulnerable to fluctuations in customer spending. This, of course, is in contrast to the views of cultural planners and decision makers, however, who argue that jobs in the Creative Industries are a signal of prosperity. Related to this, scholars also express concern that strategies which are largely based on the consumption of culture, but particularly high culture, reinforce the two-tier social system which exists within many localities (between those who have the confidence and means to access such provision and those who do not). Critics argue that this type of strategy can be seen as another rationale for privileging the aspirations of the elite. Instead, these critics advocate strategies which embrace the idea of culture as ‘critical engagement’ and ‘encounter’ rather than ‘passive consumerism’ and which focuses on cultural provision which develops and supports the creative talents and abilities of diverse social groups. After all, diversity is itself a source of ‘innovation’ and ‘entrepreneurship’; both of which are fundamental to sustainable development.
Furthermore, many scholars stress the uniqueness of every city in terms of their social, economic and cultural resources, their identity and the challenges they face. As a result, they stress that it is important to avoid the pitfalls of a policy transfer (‘formulaic’, ‘cookie-cutter’) approach to culture-led regeneration and to develop culture-led regeneration strategies in response to the unique environment of the city in question.
From the literature reviewed, therefore, it is possible to identity a number of essential components of effective and sustainable culture-led regeneration strategies. These components, in turn, suggest that culture-led regeneration is not about state-led flagship developments or city branding exercises. Rather, it is about the participation of confident, capable, empowered citizens in the development and delivery of the programme. In other words, the beautification of cities should proceed hand-in-hand with meaningful investment in maximising the human potential of local populations. Indeed, one could argue that the problems associated with many culture-led regeneration programmes are the result of funders and policy-makers underestimating the value of culture for local people and the extent to which culture-led regeneration succeeds depending on how well it connects with local communities and cultures. However, the means by which local communities, but particularly marginalised and disadvantaged social groups, can be integrated into the culture-led regeneration programme of a city remains poorly understood. The review of both academic literature and research reports suggests that, as a starting point, the following approaches should be adopted:
Researching Local Needs: There is much evidence to suggest that successful culture-led regeneration is fundamentally about revitalising existing sources of identity, rather than imposing new ones on the regeneration area. Local governments, therefore, need to move beyond the instrumentalism of culture-led regeneration strategies and to discover the spaces where local cultural activities and mobilisation capacities are attached, what these local activities are and the collective sense of identity of the people who participate in the activities. The literature suggests that this can be achieved through the processes of cultural mapping and cultural planning. Cultural mapping involves the identification and recording of an area’s indigenous cultural resources, as well as other intangibles such as their sense of place and social values. The identified values of place and culture will then provide the foundation for sustainable strategies, vibrant and more cohesive community networks, greater community confidence and direction, and increased community capacity for holistically addressing its own needs. Cultural planning requires an inclusive framework that recognises the cultural aspirations of different sections of the community, including groups that may otherwise be marginalised culturally, socially and economically. The focus of culture-led regeneration strategies therefore should be the identification and subsequent enhancement of everyday cultural practices and their manifestation in formal and informal spaces.
Participatory Policy-Making: Local governments must engage in genuine consultation and partnership-working with a wide range of social groups in the development of culture-led regeneration strategies. This may be achieved through meetings, working groups, quality circles, forums, citizens’ workshops, community councils and/or exhibitions, for example. There is a wealth of best practice examples available on the issue of participatory policy-making. In relation to marginalised and disadvantaged social groups, the review suggests that creative consultation exercises in order to break down any barriers that may exist between those who lack the confidence needed to engage with the process and decision makers. Participative techniques may also involve restricting the role of the experts in culture-led regeneration.
Collaborative Governance: Local communities should be involved in the lifespan of the regeneration programme (including the design, implementation and assessment stages) and should have the power to influence decisions. This will facilitate a social and economic climate based upon public ownership of spaces and resources.
Training Provision: Evidence suggests that while mainstream regeneration and economic development agencies often have the will to engage with marginalised and disadvantaged groups, there is often a lack of knowledge and skills on the part of hard-to-reach groups to engage with the agencies effectively. Regeneration strategies, in some cases, therefore, many need to include an element of identifying skill gaps and training provision in local communities.
However, while it is possible to identify a number of recommendations for the engagement of marginalised and disadvantaged groups in culture-led regeneration, the evidence suggests that this is an issue which requires further investigation, primarily through participatory action research with target social groups.
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By Adele Irving
The ‘Creative Policies for Creative Cities’ project is exploring the potential role of the Creative Industries in intercultural dialogue and generating economic opportunity within the expanding European Union (EU). To achieve this, collaborative projects have been established in key cities within the EU to develop cultural-led solutions to challenging socio-cultural issue affecting urban centre. Intercultural arts, in partnership with Creativity, Culture and Education (CCE) and Northumbria University, are exploring the engagement of margiwnalised and disadvantaged social groups in the culture-led regeneration of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. The aim of this project is to identify a series of general recommendations for the engagement of hard-to-reach groups in processes of culture-led regeneration.
As part of this project, a series of focus groups were conducted with members of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities, young people and socially disadvantaged people (all of whom live in the North East of England) on this issue. Four focus groups were scheduled to take place in total. The first focus group was with twelve members of a BME cultural organisation based in Newcastle. The second focus group was with six members of a local youth theatre group. The third focus group was with five freelance creative artists working in Newcastle (whose income is generally less reliable than it is for those in other professions). The fourth focus group scheduled to take place was with five members of a BME community group based in Sunderland. However, due to a lack of availability, the focus group became a one-to-one interview. The aim of this session was to explore whether the views of the BME community group living in Sunderland, differed to those of the BME community group living in Newcastle.
The key aims of the focus groups were:
- To explore the participants views on the culture-led regeneration programme which has taken place in Newcastle city centre in recent years.
- To discuss how Newcastle could be made a more ‘inclusive’ city and any suggestions they have for ensuring that future regeneration plans have a positive impact on the diverse social groups which live in the city.
The key objectives of the focus groups were:
- To establish what the participants understood by the term culture-led urban regeneration.
- To identify examples of culture-led regeneration in Newcastle that could act as foci for the discussions.
- To discuss how the participants generally feel about the culture-led regeneration of Newcastle (what impact it has had on the city generally, and on their lives and the lives of their social group more specifically).
- To discuss which cultural resources they do and do not engage with in Newcastle and ways in which they feel the city’s cultural offer could be improved.
- To explore the extent to which they feel decision-makers have focused on attracting tourists to the city, at the expense of meeting the cultural needs of local communities living in Newcastle.
- To discuss whether they would like to contribute to the regeneration of the city and the means by which this could happen.
In the following report, the findings of the three focus groups and the interview will each be presented in turn. The report will then discuss the overall findings of the participatory research, including insights into the participants’ views of Newcastle’s culture-led regeneration programme and practical suggestions put forward for the engagement of marginalised and disadvantaged groups in future regeneration initiatives.
Focus Group One: BME Community (Newcastle)
The focus group participants had a good understanding of the term ‘culture-led regeneration’. They understood the term ‘culture’ to be about the ‘way of life’ of different social groups (interests, traditions, beliefs, actions and behaviours) and the term ‘regeneration’ to be about making a city a nicer place to live for local people, attracting tourists to an area and boosting the local economy. ‘Culture-led regeneration’ therefore was seen to be about redeveloping a city based around activities that connect with different social groups’ traditions and beliefs etc.
The group were able to name many examples of culture-led regeneration in Newcastle, including the big developments on the Quayside (the Baltic, Sage, Millennium Bridge), the opening of lots of new bars and restaurants, the development of cultural quarters (such as China Town), cultural festivals (such as the Mela), music venues, museums, arts galleries, theatres and the redevelopment of Eldon Square shopping centre.
Many of the focus group participants have lived in Newcastle for a number of decades. The majority of the group moved to the city between the mid-1960s and mid-1980s so have witnessed the transformation of Newcastle from a dynamic city based around heavy industry, to a ‘run-down’ city, to the modern, lively city that it is today. Only a minority of participants have lived in the city for less than 10 years but they also claimed to have noticed a number of major changes to the look and cultural offer of the city in that time.
All of the focus group participants are happy and proud to be living in Newcastle, describing it as ‘a beautiful place’, ‘a very nice place to live, ‘clean’, ‘calm’, ‘friendly’ and ‘vibrant’. They commented that they have visited many cities in the UK and much prefer living in the North, and Newcastle in particular, than in the cities in the south of the country.
The group feel that the culture-led regeneration of Newcastle has been a very positive development. They perceive that many ‘run down, unused’ areas of the city have now been put to good use and that the city is now a more attractive place to live.
The group enjoy going into Newcastle city centre as there are lots of places to visit and things for them to do. In particular, they like going to the shops and to the Baltic and the Sage when they can. However, while they enjoy going to the city for ‘a day out’, they report feeling excluded from Newcastle’s cultural offer in a number of ways.
The participants feel that Newcastle is a very multicultural city, ‘a great mix of cultures’, with ‘lots of Chinese, African and Asian people [increasingly] coming to the city’, but that it fails to live up to its potential in terms of its ‘multicultural offer’ and celebrating the different cultures of its local population. According to one participant, ‘[For the Asian community], Newcastle needs a lot. It doesn’t have much compared to other cities’.
The group commented that while the city has cultural resources such as the Sage and Dance City, which run lots of workshops and classes for young people in particular, very few people from BME communities access these resources/services. The group agreed that while ‘the buildings are beautiful’, many people from BME communities are reluctant to go to access these resources because ‘they are daunting’ and ‘aren’t welcoming for people from BME communities’.
Many of the participants actively engage with cultural and creative activity on a regular basis through their work as artists, musicians, writers and photographers etc. They would comment however that there are very few ‘inexpensive’ spaces for Asian artists to create and display work in the city centre. They feel that the cultural resources in the city are interested in supporting the work of high-profile names only and fail to encourage and support local artists, particularly non-white artists. One participant commented, ‘the Sage isn’t beneficial for local artists’. Another commented, ‘Asian artists aren’t seen as important, they aren’t being looked after. They only look after English artists’. They also commented that many resources will not accommodate the collaborative work of different types of artists, such as between musicians, traditional artists and writers, for example. The group therefore feel that in spite of the Asian community’s contribution to cultural resources in the city, in terms of tax for example, their culture is very poorly represented in the city’s big cultural developments and they would like to see more opportunities for Asian artists to showcase and promote their work in the city centre.
The group also feel excluded from the city financially, reporting that enjoying the cultural resources of the city, such as musical events, theatre shows and cultural cuisine is very expensive. This makes it difficult for them to be consumers of such resources on a regular basis. One member of the group jokingly said, ‘I sometimes go to the Sage…for a coffee’, implying that he can only afford to buy a coffee at the Sage as the events are too expensive for him to attend.
Finally, the group expressed concern over the extent to which the cultural resources in Newcastle are concentrated in the city centre. A number of the focus group participants have small businesses in the West end of the city but complain that very few people outside of the immediate area and their social group are aware that the businesses exist because few people tend to visit that part of the city. Furthermore, moving to premises closer to the city centre is not an option as they cannot afford the higher rent. In this respect, they feel excluded from the wider local community.
The focus group participants would like to see a number of changes in the city. First, they suggest ‘the devolution of cultural faculties, away from the city centre’ and the greater celebration and promotion of the cultural identities of all social groups living in the city. They would particularly like support for the development of an official ‘Asia town’ in the West end of Newcastle (like the Asian quarters in Manchester, Bradford or London, or similar to China Town in Newcastle itself). They argued that an Asian quarter would allow them to: celebrate and promote Asian culture to a wider audience; to educate non-Asian people about their culture and to encourage friendship between different cultural groups; and, to attract visitors to the area from across the country and therefore boost the local economy and earn a better living etc. In this respect, they see an Asian quarter as being of benefit not only to the Asian communities living in Newcastle, but also to the wider local community and the city’s reputation and economy.
The Newcastle Mela is the biggest Mela festival in the UK (it is a two-day event in Newcastle as opposed to a single-daty event as in other cities). The focus group participants are very proud of the city’s Mela festival. However, they were disappointed to note that it is the only major cultural event in the city which showcases the Asian culture. They therefore would like more events like this to be hosted in the city. They also commented that the rates for stalls etc for the Mela have increased to such an extent in recent years that many Asian businesses can no longer afford to exhibit at the event and that there is not enough promotion of the event, both in the region and nationally. They believe that similar to a cultural quarter, more frequent and well-supported cultural events, similar to the Mela, would benefit Newcastle’s general population and economy, as well as local Asian people.
The group would also like to see the development of a multicultural arts centre, similar to the Birmingham MAC, where Asian people can be creative and showcase their creative talents. Yet, they also envisage the centre as being a place where non-Asian people could go to learn about and engage with Asian culture. Ideally, the centre would also have long-term financial support from the government, as opposed to relying heavily on project-based funding.
The group also feel that the barriers between big flagship developments and local communities need to be broken down. Firstly, they would also urge a change in policy in the flagship cultural developments in Newcastle (the Baltic and the Sage) so that they are more ‘community focused’, ‘inclusive’ and ‘supportive’ of local Asian artists who have limited funds. Secondly, they would like cultural resources such as the Sage, Dance City and various art galleries etc, to try harder to engage with people from BME communities, by working in partnership with grassroots cultural organisations who have the respect of local communities and who would encourage them to make use of such resources. One member of the group commented, ‘they need to work with and integrate with grassroots organisations in the city who are at the heart of different communities’.
The focus group would also like to see the development of an Asian community centre for low-key community events. Currently, they hire out school halls or town halls for community events but the venues are generally not large enough to accommodate the volume of people who would like to attend the events and the cost of hiring a bigger venue in Newcastle city centre is too expensive.
Finally, the group are aware of Newcastle’s reputation as a ‘party city’ and a ‘drinking city’. While they accept that everyone should have personal choice and ‘should be free to ‘go out drinking if they want to’, the group feel very intimidated by the night-time cultural offer in Newcastle and avoid going to certain parts of the city such as the Quayside and the Gate in the evenings. They would welcome the marginalisation of this type of activity in the city.
The focus group participants were in unanimous agreement that they would very much welcome the opportunity to be involved in the development of future plans for the culture-led regeneration of the city. They would like to help make the city ‘a nicer place to live’, ‘more community focused’ and ‘more colourful’. The group commented that ‘every council has their own agenda and way of working. Some are better at interacting and working with local communities than others but some have a huge barrier to working with local groups’. They do not believe that decision makers genuinely consult local communities about their development plans for the city and feel that there is often a gap between what their social group would like to see in the city and what strategies are eventually developed and implemented. One member of the group commented, ‘we need inclusivity in real terms. It can’t just be consultation through a document as has always been done’. The group would happily attend public meetings about the regeneration of the city or a forum where influential members of local communities/social groups and decision makers could meet regularly, with an open agenda, ‘a blank canvas’, and ‘develop a strategy from the bottom-up’, rather than presenting a finished document to them and asking them for comments’.
Focus Group Two: Young People
The focus group participants all had a sense of what is meant by the term ‘culture-led regeneration’. They understood the term ‘culture’ to be about peoples’ beliefs and traditions. They understood the term ‘regeneration’ to be mainly about ‘knocking down old buildings and replacing them with new ones’ and making better use of and renovating existing buildings. Initially therefore, they understood the term to be about ‘building things’ in relation to people’s beliefs and traditions. A discussion took place with the group, however, to broaden their understanding of how a city could be regenerated through means others than new buildings such as making better use of open spaces and the introduction of a programme of cultural activities and events in a city.
The focus group participants were able to identify a number of examples of culture-led regeneration in Newcastle including: music venues and events, festivals, markets, museums, art galleries, theatres, cinemas, shops, parks, the redevelopment of St. James Park, the city library, the Baltic and the Sage.
The majority of the participants were in their late-teens and have lived in Newcastle their whole lives. Only one member of the group has only been living in the city since mid-childhood. All of the participants claimed to be aware of the main cultural developments that have taken place in the city since they were young children. In particular, they pointed out the major changes which have taken place in the Quayside in recent years. They commented that if someone had left the city ten years ago and came back now, it would probably be ‘virtually unrecognisable’ to them.
The group agreed that the culture-led regeneration of Newcastle has been a positive change for the city, describing it now as a ‘brighter’, ‘cleaner’ and ‘nicer’ place to live. Comments from the participants include; ‘In the last ten years, Newcastle has grown really well as a city. You can get involved in a lot more stuff now than you once could and you can develop yourself’, ‘the regeneration of Newcastle has been really beneficial for everyone, for tourist, for citizens, for our perception worldwide’, ‘it’s amazing to live in a city where everything is changing all the time, for the better’ and ‘it has become a much better, more interesting place to live…more diverse…there’s something for everyone’. They agreed that Newcastle has a great ‘diversity of things to do and places to go’ such as ‘the green’, open spaces, popular cultural sites, high-cultural sires and historical sites and believe that there is something in Newcastle to suit everyone’s tastes, irrespective of their cultural background. One member of the group commented, ‘you no longer need a purpose for going into the city…you can just go there and you will be entertained all day’. Another commented, ‘in other cities, you have to find things to do but in Newcastle, everything is just there for you’. The group feel that Newcastle, as a city, and its local population are regarded much more positively by the general population, than they were perhaps a decade or so ago, before the redevelopment of the city. As a result, they feel proud to live in Newcastle.
However, the opinions of the focus group participants were somewhat divided regarding the impact of the culture-led regeneration programme on the ‘community spirit’ of local people living in Newcastle and their sense of connection to the city. Some feel that the programme has created a new sense of community spirit amongst local people and that they personally feel a greater sense of connection to the city now than ever before. One participant commented, ‘culture is now part of the identity of the city, of us, and you cannot escape it’. Others claimed however that while they enjoy living in Newcastle, they do not feel that the regeneration of the city has resulted in greater social cohesion or has impacted upon their own identity in any way.
The participants enjoy many of the cultural resources on offer in Newcastle, ranging from more ‘popular’ cultural activities such as going to the cinema at the Gate and going shopping at Eldon Square, to more ‘traditional’ cultural activities such as going to the theatre, the Baltic and the Sage and participating in various creative/cultural workshops and classes. The group commented on how much they like the new mall in Eldon Square and how it connects different parts of the city together. They also mentioned that while they regularly visit the Baltic, one of the main reasons for going is that you do not have to pay an entry fee. They do not think that if they had to pay to see the exhibitions, they would be quite so willing to go to the arts centre. One member of the group commented, ‘I think they make much more in donations than they ever would if you had to pay at the door’. They also commented that if this was the case, it is unlikely that they would be able to afford to go to the Baltic frequently; this is true of many of the cultural resources on offer in the city.
The participants feel that Newcastle has a lot of cultural resources on offer for young people, particularly in relation to other cities. One commented, ‘I’ve been to other cities and they don’t even have half of what we have here. They don’t have the variety’. The group also pointed out that there are lots of cultural areas in Newcastle where different groups of young people ‘hang out’. For example, at the Castle Keep, ‘the green’, the Civic Centre and Exhibition and Leazes parks etc. One member of the group commented that Newcastle ‘used to be very insular’, in that people would stay in the Northumberland street area of the city – because ‘shopping used to be the only reason for going’ to the city – but now ‘the city is very spread out and there are groups of people in different places all over the city’.
However, while each member of the group is confident enough to visit the city’s big cultural attractions, they disagree over the extent to which young people in general, who are not culturally engaged, are confident enough to engage with such resources. While some of the participants report knowing young people who embrace much of the city’s cultural offer, others do not believe that the flagship cultural sites are accessed by the majority of young people. One member of the group remarked ‘sometimes you do feel that the staff look down on you when you go in there’ and commented that many of their friends would never go to the Baltic, for example.
The group also feel that the city is generally quite disjointed. Some areas of the city are ‘very nice’, others are quite ‘run down’ and others seem generally ‘out of place’. For example, while the group appreciate that the renovation of Haymarket metro station is very modern and is a great improvement on the old one, they feel that it looks ‘out of place’ in that part of the city. The dominant glass structure does not ‘blend’ with the war monument, the style of the buildings and the greenery in the surrounding area. The group think that decision makers need to be careful that the styles of the redevelopments which they undertake are in keeping with the overall feel of the area. They also mentioned that the Haymarket bus station is very ‘run down’. They feel very uncomfortable being in the bus station alone and that it is very reminiscent of the old ‘dirty’ image of Newcastle, as it was known in the 1980s, as opposed to the clean, modern, safe image which the city now boasts. Similarly, they feel that a number of areas on the outskirts of the city centre are ‘scary’ and ‘intimidating’ and have a ‘bad name’. They do not like to pass through these areas. The group commented, ‘there is a big contrast in different areas of the city’, and ‘the gulf between different areas is unimaginable’. They would like to see some community projects, involving local people, used to help rejuvenate these areas.
Furthermore, while the group do not think the decision makers have focused on tourism at the expense of the needs of local communities, they agree that often places to visit, exhibitions and events etc are advertised to tourists but fail to be made known to local people. As a result, many local people miss out on the cultural offer of the city unwittingly. The group strongly believe that this is something which needs to be addressed. They personally report often finding out about events at the theatre, the Sage and the Baltic etc through the theatre workshops which they attend but report never seeing advertisements for these events elsewhere. One member of the group commented that while they often go to the Baltic, they rarely know what’s on before getting there because the exhibits are so poorly advertised and that this is very true of most of the cultural resources in the city, including the city’s museums. Another member of the group commented, ‘it’s as if it’s all kept aside for the arts people and not for everyone’. Finally, another member of the group reported taking their son to the Discovery Museum a few months previous because they had heard about one of the museum’s exhibits through school. They both really enjoyed their trip to the museum and would like to go again in the future but the participant commented that they would never have gone to the museum otherwise because they have never seen any promotion for it.
The focus group participants also feel that while young people are included in decision making about the regeneration of the city to a degree (they took part in the city library consultations, there are various youth projects available for them to access and take part in and there is a youth parliament in the region), the decision making process still seems to be largely disengaged with young people. For example, they know very little about the youth parliament and don’t feel that they have benefited from its development in any way. They also feel that often decision makers consult with local people about their plans but that they have generally already decided on what course of action to take, irrespective of the outcome of the exercise.
The focus group would therefore like to see young people more included in decision-making about the cultural offer and identity of the city. One member of the group commented, ‘with regeneration, come responsibility…they have a duty to consult properly’. They suggested that consultation could take the form of well advertised public meetings or local surveys, for example. They believe that if communities see the city being regenerated in line with their ideas and wishes, they will be more likely to have respect for and take ownership of the space. They also suggested that decision makers consult more with young people through schools, rather than community groups, as this will enable them to hear a broad range of views from lots of different types of children and come to a decision which is representative of young people generally, rather than one which is representative of only a small group of young people.
Focus Group Three: The Socially Disadvantaged
The focus group participants understood the term ‘culture-led regeneration’ to refer to the re-growth and regeneration of the city in a way that makes it appealing to people with an interest in arts and cultural and in a way that will educate people about and celebrate the different cultures that are present in the city.
The group were able to give various examples of culture-led regeneration in Newcastle such as the Sage, the Baltic, theatres, museums, public art works, events, workshops and classes.
The majority of the participants have lived in the city for most of their lives (twenty five years+). Only two of the participants moved to the city in later life (approximately five years ago). However, all of the group reported noticing big changes to the image and cultural offer of the city in recent years.
The group were confident that the culture-led regeneration of Newcastle has been a very positive development. They feel that it has impacted positively on the local/regional economy, as well as the city’s public image. One member of the group commented, ‘culture-led regeneration is affecting the city massively where trade is concerned and lots more people are now coming into the city’. Another commented, ‘people have a much nicer image of the city now’. They were less confident however, about the extent to which it has had a positive impact on the quality of life of local people. The group feel that the culture-led regeneration of Newcastle has been largely focused on tourism and boosting the region’s economy, at the expense of cultural provision that caters to the needs of different local communities in the city. One member of the group commented, ‘its absolutely been developed more for tourists than the people who live here…its all about the image, the branding, the marketing, that’s what I feel about Newcastle-Gateshead’. Another commented, ‘I don’t see much consideration for local people’. Another commented, ‘It’s like they are trying to attract people to the area through culture but through imposing the same plans as has been done in other cities, rather than development based on our cultures’. Finally, when asked to sum up the culture-led regeneration of Newcastle in a few words, one member of the group replied, ’money and prestige’.
As practising artists, all of the focus group participants engage with many of the cultural resources on offer in the city, including the Baltic, the Sage, Tyneside Cinema and Dance City. They also like to attend lots of low key events which take place in the city but which go largely unnoticed by the general public. One participant stated, ‘there’s a lot going on underground…there’s lots of variety in small amounts’. However, there was a difference of opinion amongst the group about how much they like some of the new developments in the city. For example, some of the group like the new city library. They feel that it is a modern, informal, welcoming space in the city, especially for children. One participant commented, ‘it will draw the young people into the library’. However, others in the group feel that the new library has ‘lost the sense of a traditional library’ and that it is a ‘noisy, chaotic space instead of a quiet, calm, comfortable space’.
They did agree however, that the big flagship resources in Newcastle, like the Baltic, which are supposed to be ‘targeted at the masses’, have failed to connect with many local people. One commented, ‘I don’t know many people that go’. They attribute this to a number of reasons. The first is ‘the northern attitude towards culture’; the assumption that a lot of northern people feel that culture is an elitist interest, that ‘its only for the rich’ and ‘not accessible to everyone’. The group also report that entering high profile cultural establishments can make visitors feel uncomfortable, commenting that ‘unless you are confident and you let it go over your head, they aren’t very welcoming places’. One member of the group said, ‘if you are, say a young person, who isn’t that confident, they don’t do anything to welcome you in’. When talking about the Baltic, another commented, ‘most people are put off by being stood outside, it looks intimidating’.
Furthermore, they mentioned that cultural activities such as going to the theatre or the cinema or attending workshops or classes can be expensive and that this often results in local people’s exclusion from cultural activity. One member of the group commented, ‘if you cant get the cheap seats at the theatre, it is expensive’, while another mentioned the fact that people on benefits can go to Tyneside cinema and see a film at certain times during the week for £1 but that this information ‘is hidden in the corner of their website’ so very few people know about it. In this respect, there are provisions in place to make culture accessible to everyone but the information is not being communicated effectively to local people.
The group feel that poor advertising and the absence of a coordinated marketing strategy across the city is a major downfall in Newcastle. They commented that unless you are part of the ‘arts scene’, you will rarely see any advertisements for either high profile or low key events. When talking about the Baltic, one member of the group said, ‘I haven’t been there for years, not since it first opened, I don’t know what’s going on in there’. The group would like to see the better promotion of events not only to tourists and those who are already engaged in the arts scene, but also to local people in the area who are not necessarily culturally-engaged. In particular, they feel that the small, low key events that are happening ‘underground’ in the city are something which ‘the council should really grab on to and support’. One member of the group commented, ‘its all about support, that’s what is needed’. Another commented, ‘people need to be made more aware of what’s happening around them’. Another highlighted that, ‘other cities like Bristol and London are much better at promotion than Newcastle…we have so much going on here but we need to connect the dots’.
The group also feel that accessibility is a problem ion the city, both geographically, reporting that it can often be daunting trying to find your way around the different cultural resources in the city, especially as ’things in the city are quite spread out and it’s not always obvious how to get to all the different places’ and, financially, reporting that accessing culture can be expensive at times.
Furthermore, the group dislike the array of franchises that seem to have ‘sprung up’ in the city, in recent years, in spaces which used to house independent businesses such as cafes and bistros. They also feel that many of these sites are trying to appeal to ‘young professionals’ and that as a result, other social groups such as the elderly, working class families and young children are being alienated from the city’s cultural and recreational offer.
The group were pleased to note however, that they perceived the ‘party’ image of Newcastle to have ‘calmed down’ in recent years and that Newcastle is now known for activities other than drinking.
In terms of changes, the group would like to see more cultural sites in the city that encourage and facilitate creativity; more outside sitting areas; more independent shops, cafes and restaurants; and, a greater emphasis placed on the history of Newcastle and how multicultural the city is in the regeneration plans.
The focus group participants feel very strongly that the decision making process about how the city should be regenerated should be more democratic; allowing more people to have a say and input into the development of strategy. In terms of influences on the decision makers, the group feel that ‘only the loudest voices are the ones that are heard’ and often, local people don’t believe that speaking out about their wishes will have any influence on the regeneration agenda. However, the group would welcome the opportunity to engage in debate about the regeneration of the city and would like to see decision makers talking to people on a much greater scale about what they would like to happen. No members of the group were aware of any open consultations with local people in relation to the regeneration of the city in recent years. The group were also cynical in their belief that when decision makers have funding for a project, they have generally already decided how they are going to use the funding before consulting with local people. One member of the group said ‘they just want to tick the box…oh, we’ve talked to the local people’. Another agreed, ‘that’s it, it’s about the box’. Another said, ‘there’s a lot of mystery about what they do. They say they are consulting, but we don’t see it happening.
The group feel that the democratisation of the decision making process could be achieved through meeting with representatives from youth centres and different social groups to discuss what they want to happen in the city or by holding big voting events where local people could pick what they want to happen from a range of options.
Interview: Member of BME Community Group (Sunderland)
The interviewee described the term culture as ‘the glue that binds communities together’ and the term ‘regeneration’ as ‘entrepreneurship’. The interviewee understood culture-led regeneration to be about making changes to a city in order to help people understand other cultures and to see things from different perspectives. They suggested that events are a key means by which ‘culture’ can help regenerate an area.
They believe that the desire to regenerate cities has generated an interest in culture; not only in terms of what it can offer recreationally, but also in terms of the business opportunities associated with culture. For example, the more diverse an area becomes, the more likely it is that culturally-diverse businesses will open up in the area. Often when people from BME communities move into an area, they lack the conventional skills and qualifications which one might expect to see on a CV and so find it difficult to secure employment. The result of this is ‘recourse to entrepreneurship’. These individuals set up cultural businesses, using skills learned through their own culture to earn a living.
The interviewee has lived in Sunderland for five years and is aware of many of the changes that have taken place in Newcastle during this period. They described the changes that have take place as ‘fantastic’, ‘positive’ and ‘exciting’ and think that ‘the planners are doing a good job’. The interviewee does not feel that decision makers in Newcastle have catered to the needs of tourists at the expense of the needs of local communities.
The interviewee regularly engages in lots of cultural activity. They like going to restaurants and enjoying authentic international cuisine, attending music events, visiting the theatre and museums and writing poetry. The participant feels that in Sunderland, while there is lots of ‘popular’ or ‘low’ cultural provision available, there is a lack of ‘high’ cultural provision available to develop individuals’ cultural talents and abilities such as craft making or poetry and music writing classes. As a result of the regeneration programme, they feel that the provision of ‘high’ culture in Newcastle is much superior to that in Sunderland; it is far easier for people to engage and interact with different types of cultural activity and to learn about means of creative and cultural expression in Newcastle, through organisations such as New Writing North, Live Theatre and Dance City, for example, and the Sage’s outreach programme.
In terms of changes, the interviewee would like to see more opportunities for people to engage in creative activity in both cities, but particularly in Sunderland, such as drama classes, dance classes, music lessons and writing classes. They also feel that ‘low’ cultural activities such as drinking should be marginalised. They would like to see the redefinition of what culture is, particularly for young people, so that they stop identifying with ‘popular’ culture and instead, engage in ‘real’ cultural activities’.
The participant would welcome the opportunity to participate in decision making about cultural provision in, and the regeneration of, the area and thinks that greater consultation between local people and decision makers is needed.
The participatory research yielded a number of interesting insights into the views of marginalised and disadvantaged groups, living in Newcastle and the surrounding area, about the culture-led regeneration of the city and a number of practical suggestions to facilitate the engagement of typically hard-to-reach groups in future regeneration plans. The key findings of the research, which have been grouped into a number of key themes, are:
- All of the research participants had a good understanding of the term ‘culture-led regeneration’ and were able to name a number of examples of culture-led regeneration in Newcastle.
- The research participants feel that culture-led regeneration is fundamentally about reinvigorating an area by catering for, encouraging and supporting, promoting and celebrating the various cultures of the different social groups which inhabit the city. It was generally felt however that this has not been a key feature of Newcastle’s regeneration programme to date. This view was particularly strongly held by the BME participants who reported feeling under-represented by Newcastle’s cultural offer.
The Impact of Culture-Led Regeneration on Newcastle and its Local Population
- The age of the research participants ranged from late-teens to middle-age. The majority of the participants have lived in Newcastle for most of their lives. Nonetheless, all of the research participants, irrespective of their age and the length of time which they have lived in the city, seemed to be aware of the remarkable transformation of the city which has occurred in recent decades.
- There was an overwhelming consensus amongst the group that Newcastle’s culture-led regeneration programme has had a very positive impact on the city and the region. The reported feeling that the programme has helped attract tourists to the area and has boosted the region’s economy. They also reported feeling that the regeneration programme has improved the city’s public image and that of the city’s local people and has made the city a more attractive place to live.
- The participants were less confident however about the extent to which the regeneration programme has ‘culturally’ enriched the lives of local people.
Newcastle’s Cultural Offer
- All of the research participants feel that there are lots of cultural places to visit and activities to engage with in Newcastle, as a result of the regeneration programme.
- They all reported frequently enjoying ‘days out’ in the city and sampling various aspects of its cultural offer. When visiting the city centre, the participants most commonly cited going shopping and going to the Baltic and the Sage.
- They all expressed concern, however, that the Newcastle’s cultural offer in neither ‘inclusive’ in some respect or ‘representative’ of their social group.
- In terms of the passive consumption of culture, the participants reported that while they have the confidence to engage with the city’s cultural resources, many people in their social group, and Newcastle’s wider population, are reluctant to engage with these sites; perceiving them to be daunting, intimidating and unwelcoming.
- In terms of the production of culture, the participants reported that there is insufficient provision in the city to develop and celebrate the cultural and creative talents and abilities of local people, but particularly those from marginalised and disadvantaged groups. They also commented that that where this does exist, local people either do not know about the provision or they lack the confidence to engage with such resources, largely because of the daunting external buildings in which the creative activities takes place.
- In terms of both the production and consumption of culture, the research participants reported feeling ‘financially’ excluded or are aware of the financial exclusion of members of their social group, from Newcastle’s cultural offer. They commented that while they would like to engage with city’s cultural offer on a more frequent basis, they cannot afford to do so.
- The participants also commented that, in some cases, Newcastle’s cultural offer does not accommodate the needs and interests of their social group. This view was particularly prevalent amongst the BME participants who feel that there is very little cultural offer for Asian people, for instance, in Newcastle.
Changes to Newcastle’s Cultural Offer
- The research participants suggested a number of changes which they would like to see in the city. The first major change suggested was an increase in cultural provision which allows people to be active participants in culture as opposed to passive consumers. All of the research participants would like to see more opportunities in the city for people to develop and showcase their cultural and creative talents and abilities. The BME participants also expressed the desire for this type of provision to facilitate intercultural learning and dialogue.
- The participants were also in agreement that both high profile and low key cultural events need to be promoted much more extensively to local people. They commented that while tourists and those already engaged in the cultural scene are generally well informed about places to visit, exhibitions and events etc, they often fail to be made known to local people. As a result, many local people miss out on the cultural offer of the city unwittingly.
- The research participants also feel that the barriers which exist between the city’s big cultural resources and local people need to be broken down. They believe that this could be achieved through: changes in institutional policies so that the city’s big cultural resources are more community focused, inclusive of different cultures and supportive of local talent; and the city’s key cultural resources working in partnership with, and trying to engage with local groups through, grassroots cultural organisations and schools, which have the trust of marginalised and disadvantaged social groups.
Engagement with Decision Makers
- There was widespread agreement amongst the research participants that they personally, and their social group more generally, would welcome the opportunity to engage with the city’s culture-led regeneration programme.
- The participants were very pessimistic about the extent to which they believe decision makers engage in genuine consultation with local people about important issues such as the city’s regeneration plans. The participants reported being largely unaware of the consultation exercises which decision makers have carried out about the culture-led regeneration of Newcastle and were cynical about the extent to which decision makers actually alter regeneration plans in response to local peoples’ comments.
- There was widespread agreement amongst the group that decision makers need to consult much more extensively with local communities on this issue. The participants suggested a number of means by which the decision making process could be more democratised. These are:
- public meetings to discuss regeneration plans and find out what cultural developments local people would like in their area;
- forums made up of representatives from different social groups and decision makers;
- and, discussions, based around an open agenda to facilitate the development of ‘bottom up’ strategies which represent ‘inclusivity in real terms’.
- The participants believe that strategies could be developed which would be of benefit to their social group, as well as of benefit to Newcastle’s wider population and the area’s economy and public image.
- The participants also believe that the engagement of marginalised and disadvantaged groups in the regeneration of the city would result in them having more respect for the city and being more inclined to engage with and take ownership of the space.