Exciting ideas for urban living this year were not limited to design and planning of cities, buildings and vehicles. An idea with repercussions for future urban development was concretised into a path-breaking report for the first time ever in the world last week. It compels us to look at urban areas with new insight: Cities as hubs of cultural and creative industries that run into trillions of dollars worldwide, and how these industries impact the attractiveness or liveability of cities.
The first such report from UNESCO, authored by the consulting group EY, maps out the macro economy of the cultural and creative industries (CCI as the report terms them) in the world, continent by continent, industry by industry, and draws out the relationship between them and cities. The CCI spans 11 key sectors: advertising, architecture, books, gaming, music, movies, newspapers and magazines, performing arts, radio, television and visual arts.
The creative economy employed nearly 30 million people worldwide and generated $2.25 trillion in revenue — or 3% of the world’s GDP — in 2013, according to the report. This is substantially more than global telecommunications ($1.57 trillion) and greater than the GDP of India, Russia, or Canada. The top three employers were visual arts, books, and music. Cities are the centres of this economy, the report states.
Besides toting up revenues, the cultural and creative industries boost a city’s attractiveness to people. “World-class cultural infrastructure is a catalyst for urban development: building a museum often offers opportunities to engage in large urban development projects and to develop a new “city brand” around cultural and creative industries. Such flagship projects boost a city’s attractiveness for tourists, talent and highly skilled workers,” the report points out.
It cites the example of Bilbao, in Spain’s Basque Country, which is now an icon of culture-led urban regeneration. The construction of the Guggenheim Museum here led to the creation of more than 1,000 full-time jobs, and tourist visits have since multiplied eight-fold. “Equally important, CCI make cities more liveable, providing the hubs and many of the activities around which citizens develop friendships, build a local identity and find fulfilment,” it points out.
India is analysed in a separate chapter. Though all the 11 sectors show potential, the two industries that have thrived are cinema and newspapers. These, as much as the old textile and engineering industries or the new finance and banking industries, have shaped cities such as Mumbai. Indeed, many of the 11 sectors delineated in the report have a remarkable presence in the city. As plans for Mumbai’s development for the next 20 years are firmed up, the focus is on the more organised and structured industries such as finance and banking, and how the city can be transformed into a business-friendly destination. The cultural and creative industries hardly ever get a look in the grand plans for Mumbai’s future.
Creating the supportive infrastructure for the cultural and creative industries to flourish, regenerating old and building new areas through the creative industries, mapping the city by the cultural and creative industries and encouraging cultural hubs across the city, protecting the interests of creators as well as enriching the creative commons, preserving old cultural and creative activities and adapting them to the modern digital era, and more – all these require a vision and policies that must go hand in hand with the development of physical infrastructure.
The cultural and creative side of the city must merit serious attention of urban planners, the state and local governments. The UNESCO report should be made compulsory reading for all of them. It is time that the cultural and creative industries are given their due in shaping Mumbai — and space provided for their future.