How can cities reignite their creative and cultural industries?


Last November, the UN declared 2021 the “International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development”.

“The creative industries are critical to the sustainable development agenda. They stimulate innovation and diversification, are an important factor in the burgeoning services sector, support entrepreneurship, and contribute to cultural diversity,” says Isabelle Durant, Deputy Secretary-General at UNCTAD. 

Cultural and creative industries are instrumental in mediating global digital transformation, driving inward investment and enriching the lives of individuals and communities. Without CCI’s, economic development, equality and poverty alleviation SDG’s targets are unlikely to be met. 


The creative industry and the 30 million people it employs globally were severely affected by the Covid 19 pandemic. 


Last year, the cancellation of performances alone led to a 30% decrease in global royalties, while the film industry lost $7 billion in revenues. 

Cultural capitals like London, Berlin, New York, and Paris, in which the creative and cultural industries are an integral part of economic and city livelihoods, have strongly felt the impact of the pandemic. Venue-based sectors such as museums, performing arts, festivals and cinema’s are among the hardest hit.

In London, the creative economy accounted for 1 in 6 jobs and contributed GBP 52 billion in 2017. 1 in 8 dollars of economic activity in New York City can be directly or indirectly traced to the creative industry. In Berlin, 20% of all local businesses are active in the sector. Cultural infrastructures are essential to the life of urban and rural territories in France- 1,450 municipalities benefited from a performance hall or a festival, and 850 hosted a museum in 2016.

In the first three months of lockdown, over 15,000 theatrical performances in the UK were cancelled, and over £300 million was lost in box office revenues. It has been highly costly for venues to keep the lights on. Andrew Lloyd Weber spent £1 million each month to keep his 7 London theatre venues closed. 60% of UK- based museums and galleries were concerned about surviving the pandemic. 

Between April and July, approximately 2.7 million creative and cultural industry professionals lost their jobs in the US last year. Before the pandemic, New York City culture industries employed more professionals than the finance, tech or education sectors and accounted for 7.5% of state GDP. Last year, Germany’s creative and cultural losses were estimated to be between 21.7 to € 39.8 billion.


As we are coming out of lockdowns, public and private sectors across cities must work together to support CCI’s. Civic innovation strategies and initiatives are needed to help reignite the sectors and support creative professionals. 


Venue-based institutions, for instance, are in dire need of support to be able to efficiently and safely deploy social distancing measures and welcome people back.

Cities need to be creative when it comes to venue location planning, infrastructure development and talent management. 

City infrastructure can be adapted to support a diverse range of events in temporary locations. It will be essential to find ways to bring paid performances and nightlife outdoors, for instance, in public parks or spaces and privately owned land. For safety regulations to be met, additional security and human resource management professionals will need to be employed. It is also essential that measures to reduce the impact of nightlife events on local residents and the surrounding environment are in place.

Venues will need to emphasise building trust to encourage the public to participate and attend cultural venues. Developing creative communities will be vital to strengthening the relationship between communities and building resilience at a local level to drive innovation from the bottom up. 

As we come out of the pandemic, we need to place a stronger emphasis on inclusivity at events and venues. Before the pandemic, some LGBTQ and nightlife venues were already seeing declining numbers. We need to seize this opportunity to instil diverse and inclusive cultures across all events sectors by reducing physical and social obstacles which lead to discrimination and hate crime towards vulnerable communities. 

Throughout the pandemic, demand has been growing for “stay at home” cultural services such as online streaming services. This coupled with emerging technologies like virtual and augmented realities will create further demand for new forms of cultural experiences. Public-private sector collaborations will be essential in bringing these new cultural experiences to life. To do so effectively and at scale, The partnerships should address challenges associated with digital skills shortages and broadband access. Moreover, as new digital sectors emerge, creative and cultural talent will need further access to diversified skill training. 

Different creative and cultural sectors will have different needs. Cities will have various regulations. What’s universal is the need for public and private sectors to work together on innovative, flexible strategies to help CCI’s bounce back and thrive.