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The importance of local culture for a successful creative economy

June 15, 2010

Faunagraphic Sheffield, United Kingdom

Tom Fleming is currently in Sheffield en route to Wexford where he will talk about the language of the creative economy

You travel extensively, giving advice to cities, regions, states and nations about their creative economy. How important is the indigeneous and local culture to success in the creative economy?

It’s absolutely central to success. Creative businesses and cultural practitioners are all about producing meaning, exploring identity and reflecting on their environment. Without distinctive local cultures, we wouldn’t have the raw materials or indeed inspiration to develop content, products, services etc. For me, creativity can only be understood in context as based on a relationship with place. This isn’t to say there is some sort of ‘authentic culture’ that is expressive of place. For me, very little is ‘indigenous’ – almost everything is a compound of different influences. This means places are the confluence of negotiated identities, always in motion, never settled. This is why notions of, for example. ‘Irish music’ or ‘Danish Design’ are always changing. Localness is a driving factor, but notions of ‘local culture’ are never settled.

 You are involved in  Sheffield’s City of Culture 2013 bid in the final four with Birmingham, Derry and Norwich . What’s special about Sheffield?

 Sheffield is my kind of city: it doesn’t have the obvious ‘iconic’ palaces of culture; and it is not a classically beautiful city; but it’s a city with an incredible cultural life that bubbles beneath the surface and then, once in a while, bursts into international prominence. It’s a city that gives oxygen and prestige to the independent, DIY and boundary-crossing. Yes it has excellent cultural infrastructure – such as The Crucible Theatre and Millennium Galleries. But it’s the ‘everyday cultural life’ of the city that I love: people creating and making culture, often in the industrial spaces that shaped the landscape of the city. It’s a place where collaboration happens as an instinct, where experimentation is prioritised over business, and where new trends emerge without pretension.

When did you last visit Ireland?

Too long ago! About 2003 on a short visit to Cork.


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