Why choose the arts to regenerate a community?

This is the presentation that I gave at the ‘Cultural Journeys’ conference at University Centre Folkestone on 9th September. It is mainly images, but if you download it you can read my notes in the PowerPoint file that include references to some useful sources about cultural regeneration.

Seaside(r) regeneration video

An interview with Meanwhile Space’s Eddie Bridgman, about the Seasider project.  Eddie gives a useful summary of some of the issues affecting seaside towns and mentions some of the regeneration projects that are being carried out on the coast.  The interview takes place in the fantastic Seasider pop-up shop in Camden.

Via the Regeneration and Renewal youtube channel

Liminal Landscapes

Wesley Rykalski and I will be presenting a paper based on our research for the arcades / promenades project at  this conference.   Once the paper is finished we’ll post more details up on our project blog, along with a programme for the event, once it is available.

You can read the abstract for our paper by clicking here.  The final paper is quite a development from this point and incorporates some of the material that we have been posting on here over the last year.

Social Seaside

I have started a new blog and a new twitter account to record the progress of my PhD research into the cultural regeneration of seaside towns in the UK.  I’ll be posting fairly regular updates on my research, which is now into its last 12 months, and also using them as a forum for discussion and dissemination of my results.

Cities outlook 2010: the seaside

I’m going to be appearing on the BBC1 TV programme ‘The Politics Show South East’ on Sunday 14th February.  I’ve been invited on to discuss the role of regeneration spending in seaside towns, for an article that has been prompted by the publication of the Centre For Cities ‘Cities Outlook 2010’ report.

The Centre for Cities are a think-tank who investigate economic development issues with a focus on British cities and they publish an annual ‘Cities Outlook’ report which sets out the performance and prospects of the UK’s 64 main cities.  Their latest report was published a couple of weeks ago.


Like everything in this field at the moment, it makes for quite depressing reading.  Unemployment has risen to around 8%.  Retail, financial services and construction are the hardest hit sectors so far, all of which are key aspects of city economies.  The centre forecasts that it will take around 5 years for employment to return to pre-crisis levels.  We can add to this by noting that there is probably still some way to go before we hit the bottom of the unemployment curve.  With cuts still to come to the public sector and the commercial property market due to underperform significantly this year it is likely that unemployment will reach 10% by the end of the year, before it begins to pick up again in 2011.

A Key focus of the report is on what they describe as “public sector cities”, those urban centres whose recent growth has involved the re-location or creation of large numbers of public sector jobs.  As we all know, the pain of this crisis is going to be felt most strongly by the public sector. The Government is now taking steps to address the budget deficit produced by the bailouts of the banking sector and the programme of quantitative easing that is still ongoing, and necessary to keep the hyper-capitalist juggernaut rolling.  The graph below, taken from the report, places cities into categories of vulnerability according to their exposure to the effects of public sector cutbacks:

From a seaside perspective, the two cities that jump out  here are Brighton and Hastings seperated by only35 miles of coastline, but representing the most insulated and the most exposed groups of cities in terms of the risks associated with the coming cutbacks.

Brighton has seen highest contribution of any city in the country from the private sector to job creation -70.4% of all recent new jobs have been in the private sector, with a 20.8% growth in job creation since 2008,  and also the 6th highest rate of new business creation in the country.  Hastings, 39th on the list in terms of private sector contribution, saw a net loss of 0.3% of jobs in the same period.  In Hastings, only 57.5% of new jobs have been created in the private sector.

Hastings is the 2nd highest ranked city for earnings growth in the country, but 63rd in terms of average income, suggesting that the job creation is still taking place in the lower reaches of the earning scale.  This is supported by the city’s occupation of 58th place in the rankings for knowledge economy jobs (9.7% of the workforce), comparing poorly to Brighton in 10th place with 23.2%.  This contrast in the skills and profile of the two neighbouring cities is also reflected in the percentage of high skills (NVQ4+) in the local labour market:  Brighton is 6th on the list with 38.1% and Hastings is 40th with 22.5%.

It is clear from data like this that Brighton has a built-in resilience to the kind of economic shocks that Hastings is particularly exposed to in the current climate.  Brighton has been undergoing a renaissance since the early 1990s, with the regeneration of the town facilitated by good transport links to London, a growing creative industries sector and high levels of entrepreneurship.  Hastings, however, is still struggling to deal with the repercussions of the restructuring of the tourism industry following the recessions of the late 1970s and early 1980s.    As the report says, “Many of the cities that have been hit hardest are places still suffering from the legacy of industrial restructuring and previous recessions”. 

The regeneration of Hastings, which has recently embraced the cultural route to redevelopment, has been extensively supported by the public sector, notably the local authority and SEEDA, the regional development agency.  One of the reasons that the economic impacts of regeneration are so difficult to pin down in the short-medium terms is the effect of increasing public spending on job creation.  Major regeneration projects require investments in human, as well as physical capital, and these projects create employment by virtue of their existence.  Increasing the capacity of the local public sector to deliver change and bringing new facilities and projects online, often means increasing the size of publically subsidised sectors through the creation of new agencies, administrative structures and individual posts.  This growth in local employment is now at risk.

It would seem that Hastings, which has seen huge public sector investment over the last 5 years, is now in a precarious position.  No doubt, without the massive government interventions that the city has benefited from, Hastings would be in a far worse position.   Assuming that the funding continues to flow, the regeneration of the Harbour area and the presence of the new Jerwood contemporary art gallery will help to drive tourism in Hastings and begin to create secondary employment in the accommodation, catering and other tourism services sectors.  The real question for Hastings is can it weather the storm of the coming period of public-sector cuts without losing momentum? 

The reinvention of Brighton has been high-profile and dramatic; a more dramatic commercial-sector crash may have (and still might) jeopardise its future sustainability.  If public sector investment can be maintained in Hastings then this will help to maintain local development capacity and enable the city to push on with its ambitious plans when we come out of the other side of this crisis. Eventually, the public investment will begin to lever in private money and the city can look forward to the development of a more balanced economy.  If momentum is lost in Hastings it may never catch up with its more glamorous neighbour. 

The Centre for Cities report emphasises that the recovery, when it comes, will be uneven.  This will be no less true for our seaside towns.  In the south-east alone, the development of formerly bustling resorts is a patchwork of public, private, charitable and organic approaches to regeneration.  There will be winners and losers in the competition to become the next Brighton, but it appears that the city that has provide a template for so much current thinking about seaside cultural development will be on top for some time to come.

New posts on Aracdes / Promenades

There are three new posts up on our ‘Reading the Arcades / Reading the Promenades’ blog. The first is on our use of a yahoo pipe to collect images of the seaside promenade, the second is a set of links to other projects who also use Benjamin’s ‘Aracdes Project’ as inspiration for new work, and the latest post is a series of quotations on the use of photography in sociology.


Three short films were commissioned as part of the Sea Change initiative, which have been produced by the very creative people at Animate Projects.  Each of the films presents a perspective on a seaside town that is currently going through the regeneration process.  If you click on the picture below, you will be taken to the wonderful film about Teignmouth –  a small town on the south coast of Devon in the UK – made by Kayla Parker.

Smells like Teign Spirit

I’ve written about Teignmouth before on the Arcades / Promenades project blog, for those of you with an interest in finding out more about this quirky seaside town.  On the Animate Projects website you can also watch films about Bridlington and Hastings – enjoy!

The politico-cultural complex by the seaside

Last week I went to the Black/North SEAS conference in Skegness.  I posted regularly to my twitter profile while I was there and because of this I was asked by New Start Magazine to contribute a blog post to their website.  You can read this short article by clicking here.

“There was some exciting artistic work on show as part of the seascape event, and reports of fascinating research. But it seems as though the vogue for coastal cultural regeneration is in danger of repeating the rhetorical and ideological mistakes of the now not-so-novel approach to cultural regeneration taken by inland cities over the last 15 years, concentrating on attracting high-spending cultural tourists and viewing communities as a problem that needed to be solved.”

New post on Arcades / Promenades

Wesley has posted up the latest contribution to our ‘Reading the Arcades, reading the Promenades’ blog, where we are attempting to bring together our readings of Walter Benjamins’ ‘Arcades Project‘ and apply these to the British seaside promenade.

The Arcades Project
The Arcades Project

A taster of Wesley’s piece:

“Benjamin is, very, clear and, far too, concise in his summation of the method of The Arcades Project.  Convolute N, which deals with his historical method and his analysis of that method (moving into the philosophy of method and history), contains a very great deal of material but the following are his key methodological statements on the Project itself.

This work has to develop to the highest degree the art of citing without quotation marks. Its theory is intimately related to that of montage.

Method of this project: literary montage. I needn’t say anything. Merely show. I shall purloin no valuables, appropriate no ingenious formulations. But the rags, the refuse – these I will not inventory but allow, in the only way possible, to come into their own: by making use of them.
[N1a,8] “

SeaScape conference

I’m planning on going to this conference in October,which for some reason I only found out about today!

SeaScape Conference – Butlins, Skegness, PE25 1NJ
Thursday 1st and Friday 2nd October 2009

This is a two-day international conference exploring culture as a regenerative force for coastal communities.

Bringing together cultural strategists, architects, and regeneration experts to discuss creative applications and practice from the Black and North Sea regions, also highlighting the Sea Change programme led by CABE.

The SeaScape conference is part of the ‘SEAS’, a festival featuring installations and performances, happening throughout Skegness

Programme of events

Each day will begin with presentations and discussion followed by more informal opportunities for delegates to actively respond to the conference themes through hands-on exploration of cultural mapping; site visits to innovative arts capital projects and dialogue with local residents.

International speakers will discuss and explore approaches to coastal regeneration from capital investment to community engagement.

The programme includes a session hosted by CABE of examination of Sea Change funded projects from Margate, Bridlington, Boscombe and Hastings.

Event Speakers

Speakers include Dragan Klaic (Netherlands), Fast Urban Research: Jacek Dominiczak and Monika Zawadzka (Poland) and representatives from key projects in Sweden, Norway and the Ukraine. Mark Simmonds (UK), MP for Boston and Skegness and Shadow Minister for Health will be chairing Day 2 of the conference.  Mark is leading on the Conservative’s Coastal Manifesto.

Conference Purpose

SeaScape is part of ‘Cityscape’, a series of conferences within the Black/North SEAS festival. The festival has travelled through Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Denmark, Sweden and Norway before arriving in Skegness, on England’s North Sea coast.

SeaScape provides an international platform for reflection and discussion embracing politicians, residents, artists and cultural entrepreneurs exploring common themes of climate-change, regeneration and demographic challenge that bind these coastal communities.

The conference will be a dynamic and inspiring interchange of ideas and experiences, connecting UK activity to international exemplars and supporting European networking and community action.


Senior decision makers, planners and regeneration officers in coastal local authorities from the UK and internationally; RDA and other staff responsible for Coastal Action; Senior cultural officers, academics, planning consultants and other influential professionals; Local Strategic Partnership representatives; artists engaged in regeneration projects.


£80 + VAT + Booking Fee – conference, including lunch and refreshments (Does not include accommodation).

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