Cultural Tourism and Cultural Regeneration in Europe

Today, I gave a presentation at the IACSS 2013 conference in Istanbul.  You can view the presentation below. It is based on a chapter I wrote recently for the Routledge Handbook of Cultural Tourism. If you’re interested in reading the chapter and you don’t have access to it, please get in touch.

Back the bid: East Kent City of Culture 2017

East Kent, the area that I grew up in and where I’ve spent most of my life, is bidding to become the UK City of Culture in 2017.  This is an innovative, exciting attempt to bring together the areas of Ashford, Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone and Thanet as a single ‘city’ for the bid.

back the bid logo

Over the last ten years, there has been a flourishing of cultural activity and investment in East Kent.  My Phd (which is almost finished!), looks at how this has taken place on Kent’s coast.  I’ve written about cultural regeneration has been taking place in seaside towns generally and in Margate and Folkestone, specifically.  Inland though, there are other exciting cultural activities – Canterbury is a beautiful heritage city with an international arts festival and Ashford has an emerging arts scene with a new exciting venue and an inspiring, energetic arts manager in the local authority promoting the work of the borough’s artists.

East Kent is a diverse and interesting part of the country – it is an area of significant economic growth and home to some very wealthy people, but it is also the site of areas of significant poverty and exclusion.  Kent is a huge county, and large parts of it are rural (the garden of England, apparently!), but the urban areas are densely populated and growing fast.  For years, the area’s proximity to London has been a brake on the development of its cultural offer, but now high-speed links and it’s great quality of life mean that it can attract new residents from the capital and put on events that attract London audiences.

The successful opening of Turner Contemporary on East Kent’s most distant tip shows that distance is no barrier in attracting audiences if the quality of the cultural offer is high and the marketing is right – this bid will showcase the excellent cultural activity of the area and build on the buzz around Margate.

I want this bid to win. 11 cities are submitting bids and East Kent’s is clearly the most innovative – bringing together a huge range of local authorities, cultural organisations and other agencies.  If East Kent isn’t successful, then there is a huge amount to be gained from the bidding process: new links between councils who have competed rather than co-operated in the past, new networks of cultural organisations, a better sense of the cultural offer in the area and increased visibility for tourists and visitors.

Jools Holland and Tracey Emin at the opening of the Turner Contemporary Gallery
Jools Holland and Tracey Emin at the opening of the Turner Contemporary Gallery

Of course, as a researcher, I and others will be looking for opportunities to get under the skin of this bid and the project itself, if East Kent win.  These projects aren’t without their critics and maximising the benefits of this for tourism, economic development and the cultural sector will be challenging, but bidding, and hopefully winning, is the beginning of an exciting new opportunity for East Kent.  The short list for the next stage of the competition will be announced in June – you can support East Kent’s bid by clicking here and adding your name!

Dreamland, tourism and the regeneration of Margate

This week, a battle has been taking place in the High Court over the future of the Dreamland theme park site in Margate, Kent.  The Local Authority for Margate, Thanet District Council, has been granted a Compulsory Purchase Order for the site, because it wants to develop it in what it sees as the best interests of the town and its residents.  The owners of the site, Dreamland Live, are challenging this decision and want to retain the right to develop this land in their own commercial interests.

This is a brief news report about the background to the court battle, including a short contribution from me.  The court case finished yesterday, with a judgement due in around two weeks.

The Dreamland site is an important part of Margate’s tourism heritage and vital for the future of tourism development and regeneration in the area.  The delays to this project are incredibly damaging to the development of the town and are only worsening Margate’s Tourism Destination Image, which had been massively improved recently with the opening of Turner Contemporary.

Dreamland_header
Click here to find out about more about Dreamland

I wrote a journal article about the regeneration of Margate, and of the use of culture to regenerate seaside towns generally, which you can read more about here.

The large dreamland site
The large Dreamland site

I’m not convinced that the owners of the site have really grasped the full potential of a revitalised Dreamland for tourism and economic development. However, I’m equally concerned that the local authority may not have the funds, capacity and commercial experience to deliver a project that is sustainable in the long-term.

I hope that the future development of Dreamland involves a genuine partnership between the public and private sectors and that the Dreamland Trust remain at the heart of the project. The trust have put together a set of really exciting ideas for the future of the site and represent a range of views and interests in the local community.  Without them, I’m sure that the whole site would have been given over to housing or a supermarket development long ago.

Don’t wait for the state…

This is a short blog post that I’ve written for the Crossovers blog, that we’ve been developing to help stimulate some debate before the Crossovers event on 19th September, which I’ll blog about later in the week.  The post is based loosely on a chapter that I’ve written for the new Routledge Handbook of Cultural Tourism, which is being published in January 2013, and it is about the future of cultural regeneration.

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As public funding for both culture and tourism continues to shrink, and with the private sector feeling the effect of an extended period of economic gloom, it is easy to think that the long boom in cultural regeneration is over.  For two decades and more, cities and towns in Europe have been through cultural regeneration schemes of one sort or another, often focussed on high-profile, expensive new cultural icons.

 have cultural producers have bought into the cultural regeneration rhetoric?

The success stories that our attention is usually directed towards include Bilbao, Newcastle / Gateshead, Lille, Glasgow – cities that have used flagship cultural developments to help them grow their economies in response to decades of industrial change.

Right now, everywhere in Europe is facing the kinds of economic challenges that the regeneration schemes of the long boom were designed to tackle.  What role can the cultural sector play in meeting these challenges and who is going to pay for it?

We’ve heard for years how the cultural element of regeneration helps to promote things like community cohesion and sense of place, how it can address low aspirations and create new kinds of employment and educational opportunities, especially for young people, and how it can be used to re-brand and promote areas that are in need of investment, often through attracting high-spending cultural tourists.

What will be put to the test now is not whether civil servants and regeneration bureaucracies believe in the power of culture to achieve these things, or whether private sector investors understand the role of culture in attracting employers and employees to an area, but whether cultural producers have bought into the cultural regeneration rhetoric as much as policy-makers and funding bodies.

 is this the new model for cultural regeneration?

In Stokes Croft in Bristol, local activists and artists came together to improve and promote their neighbourhood, from the bottom up.  This meant working at street level with residents and visitors and not waiting for the state to step in with grants or the private sector to open a new shopping centre to attract tourists.  Stokes Croft designated itself as Bristol’s cultural quarter and over time has become known as a cultural tourist destination famous for its vibrant street-art scene and its energetic DIY culture.  Sometimes this brought it into conflict with the local authority; the recent protests against the opening of a Tesco in the area are a testament to its continuing anti-establishment stance.

What has happened in Stokes Croft show us that the positive impacts of cultural regeneration can be achieved by cultural producers, activists and others working together as a community, without the need for masterplans, grants, public-private partnerships or consultants.    We’ve seen this approach being taken in cities across the world from Berlin to London to New York, but historically the developers move in and start buying things up once an area becomes ‘successful’.

Now the developers are keeping their hand in their pockets, is this the new model for cultural regeneration?

Event: The tourism legacy of the 2012 Olympic Park – 8th December 2011

I’ll be giving a talk at the University of Greenwich on 8th December 2011, on the tourism legacy of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in London.  The talk will be part of an Olympic Park Legacy Company event that we’re hosting at Greenwich and also speaking will be Clive Little, the new Director of Events and Programming from the OPLC, Kevin Millington , Director of Acorn Tourism Consulting and Tracy Halliwell, Director of Business Tourism and Major Events at London and Partners, the body who have replaced Visit London.
The Olympic Park in Legacy mode

The presentation I gave at this event is below:

Rediscovering cultural tourism: cultural regeneration in seaside towns

UPDATE: This article is now available for free download from here.

I’ve just had this article published in the Journal of Town and City Management. The abstract is below.  If you’d like to know more about this paper and don’t have access to read it online, please get in touch.

“British seaside towns have been subject to numerous attempts at regeneration and rebranding since the collapse of traditional seaside tourism began in the late 1970s. This paper reviews contemporary approaches to seaside regeneration and demonstrates that cultural regeneration strategies are becoming increasingly prevalent in this area. The validity of transferring city-based models of cultural development to these smaller urban areas is critiqued. The history of cultural investment in seaside towns is highlighted to show how current approaches to cultural regeneration, while presented as novel, are in fact a resumption of earlier strategies of cultural tourism development. This heritage of cultural development provides a resource for seaside cultural regeneration which may allow development of this type to avoid the negative social impacts often associated with cultural regeneration in cities.”

CFP: RGS-IBG 2011: Travel, Tourism and Art Session

Below you will find a call for papers for the Travel, Tourism and Art Session at the Annual Conference of the Royal Geographical Society (with Institute of British Geographers) to be held in London 31st August- 2nd September 2011 which some of you might find of interest. 

 Travel, Tourism and Art

Convenors: Tijana Rakić ( Edinburgh Napier University, UK) and Jo-Anne Lester (University of Brighton, UK)

Sponsored by the Geography of Leisure and Tourism Research Group (GLTRG)

Session Abstract

Art, in its many forms, has long played an important role in people’s imagination, experience and remembrance of places, cultures and travels as well as in their motivation to travel. Travel and tourism, on the other hand, have also inspired artists and artworks. These fascinating relationships between travel, tourism and art encompass a wide range of phenomena. Drawing on historical contexts these include some of the eighteenth and nineteenth century travellers’ journeys made in order to experience works of art along with their literary travel writing, poetry, drawing and painting while away from home. Conversely, present-day travel inspired by art as well as artworks produced by contemporary travellers is also of interest. With its chief focus being the role of art and artwork in imagining, experiencing, representing and remembering places, cultures and travel/tourism experiences as well as the role of art in motivating travel, this session aims to provide a space for a dialogue about the complex relationships between travel, tourism and art. We therefore welcome the submission of abstracts that address themes including, but not limited to:

  • art and its role in motivating both historical and contemporary travel and tourism 
  • imagining, experiencing and/or remembering places through works of art
  • the role of travel and tourism in inspiring artists and/or artworks produced by travellers
  • representations of ‘touristic’ places, locals, travellers and tourists in artworks

Proposals for papers should be sent to the convenors in a form of a 250 word abstract by the 11th February 2011

For more details and to submit an abstract, please contact the session convenors:

Tijana Rakić

Edinburgh Napier University

t.rakic@napier.ac.uk  &   tijana224@gmail.com

Jo-Anne Lester
University of Brighton

J.Lester@brighton.ac.uk