Tell us a little about yourself and your interest in cultural mapping or municipal cultural planning – how does it relate to your work?
When I drafted this blog initially I was in Brisbane, Australia, and that’s appropriate and timely really because that is where my interest in cultural mapping and planning all started about 20 years ago. We had just established a research centre called the Institute for Cultural Policy Studies (ICPS) at Griffith University and we were invited by the City Council to develop a cultural policy and strategy for Brisbane. Tony Bennett, the first Director of the ICPS (I was the Deputy Director then) asked me to lead on the project. I had written some things, mostly in the academic vein, about culture and cities, and mostly about French and English 19th century poetry and novels and I seemed the natural person to ask. Not that I knew much about cultural policy at that stage, let alone cities, urban planning, quality of life, sense of place, new job creation, etc – all the key areas to which cultural mapping and planning now actively contribute. And cultural mapping and cultural planning weren’t even in my vocabulary then but they were available concepts which we set about applying in the Brisbane context. And bingo! it worked and subsequently I became very interested in the work of people like Patrick Geddes (who invented cultural planning in the early 20th century), his one-time US collaborator Lewis Mumford and the work of the Chicago School urbanists and, not least I discovered the invaluable work of Jane Jacobs, especially The Death and Life of Great American Cities and the later Cities and the Wealth of Nations. These are rich bibles for cultural planners.
The Brisbane policy and planning framework took about a year to develop and was accepted by the then Liberal Administration in the City and then by 5 subsequent Labor administrations and the policy framework stayed in place for about 13 years. After that it went national and then international. Recently I was in Iceland kicking off their first national creative sector mapping project on which I will be working until October this year. Then I was in Nouméa, capital of New Caledonia, leading a cultural mapping, planning and policy workshop for departmental heads and practitioners from 5 nations as part of a regional cultural strategy for the Pacific Islands of Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia. I have also been doing similar work recently in Ostrava and Prague in the Czech Republic.
I wrote somewhere in 1991 that cultural planning is an idea whose time has come. That may have been a bit of an overstatement then but as the sustained work in Canada has shown it’s a concept and practice which is still very vital and developing a momentum across the world. And, I have been particularly impressed recently by the work that Greg Baeker and his colleagues at AuthentiCity have done in the City of Hamilton, Ontario. This is, quite simply, the best example of using strategic and integrated cultural mapping and planning that I have ever seen.
Why did you want to contribute to the book?
I wanted to contribute for two main reasons. First, because Canada has really picked up the baton of cultural mapping and cultural planning and run hard with it at municipal and provincial levels in a sustained way (while Australia seems sadly to have dropped it as I write). Second, because the book was conceived, contributed to, and edited by Greg Baeker for whose pioneering work in the field, both conceptually and practically, I have immense respect and regard.
Now, in the Our Community Culture Phase One Report: Realizing Hamilton’s Potential as a Creative City for the City of Hamilton, Greg and Kat Runnalls and their team have produced what is, quite simply, the best example of this type of work that I have seen in any country in the world to date. And, I have seen a great many in 5 continents.
What were the main messages you wanted to convey in your chapter?
Simple messages really. Cultural planning has to be based on ongoing quantitative and qualitative cultural mapping of both tangible and intangible cultural resources. Cultural planning has to be strategic in its ambitions – not urban gentrification and prettification initiatives but linking to the lifeblood of the community and the mainstream of the creative economy. Cultural mapping needs to provide the knowledge and evidence base, the indicators and the policy architecture, so that cultural planning can be both comprehensive in its application and integrated with other mainstream policy agendas in the economy, social policy, the environment, and infrastructure and urban planning.
What’s the future hold for cultural mapping / municipal cultural planning in Canada?
Bright and productive I would say from what I have witnessed and read, especially in and from Toronto, Ontario, Québec and Vancouver. There is great energy and commitment there. Canada has distinctively and commendably worked from the bottom up, from community and municipal levels, to embed the cultural mapping and planning agenda in policy and practice in people’s daily lives, experiences and places, and that’s the crucial move in rediscovering the wealth of places.