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13 December 2022

King's researchers visit Helsinki for the start of the 'Creative Recovery' project with the World Cities Culture Forum

Dr Jonathan Gross and Dr Lucy McFadzean reflect on World Cities Culture Forum Summit 2022 and a new research collaboration investigating the role of cultural policy in post-COVID urban futures.

woman dancer with a large hoop performing on stage at the world cities culture forum with a black background
A performance at the World Cities Culture Forum Summit 2022 with dancer from the Susanna Leinonen Company. Image courtesy of the City of Helsinki.

We recently visited Helsinki for the annual summit of the World Cities Culture Forum, a network of cultural leaders and policymakers from 40 cities across the world. We were there as part of Creative Recovery: The Role of Cultural Policy in Shaping Post-COVID Urban Futures – a project in collaboration with World Cities Culture Forum, involving King’s researchers from the Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries (CMCI), the Department of Geography, and the Policy Institute.

COVID-19 has derailed many expectations of what the future will look like, particularly in cities. Commuting patterns have changed, many businesses have struggled, and inequalities have increased. Creative Recovery explores the role of art and culture in post-COVID cities, and in helping urban centres to ‘build back better’. We know that art and culture play crucial roles in urban life. But their role in a post-pandemic world remains uncertain. This research seeks to understand the role of cultural policy, specifically, within ongoing processes of urban recovery, and in helping to shape post-COVID urban futures.

At the Summit, we met with senior leaders and city delegates of the World Cities Culture Forum, and discussed urgent questions of urban recovery, post-COVID cities and cultural futures. We hosted two focus groups, hearing from cities about their pandemic responses, challenges faced, and the changing role of culture in urban areas following the outbreak of COVID.

The King’s team is excited to be collaborating with the World Cities Culture Forum on the Creative Recovery project. Attending the Helsinki summit was a wonderful opportunity to meet city leaders from around the world, as we develop this research together.

Dr Jonathan Gross, Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries

We were able to attend discussions involving city leaders and policymakers on a wide variety of topics. This included, how to support the creative workforce, who gets to imagine the future, and how research can best support urban cultural policymaking. Delegates were warmly welcomed by the City of Helsinki throughout the Summit. This included showcases of some of the city’s culture – such as performances by Susanna Leinonen Company and violinist Pekka Kuusisto, and visits to Lapinlahden Lähde Centre for Culture and Wellbeing and the Oodi Central Library – and the chance to meet a range of Helsinki’s creative organisations.

Insights gathered at the Summit form part of the data collected for the Creative Recovery project, and the King’s team will also undertake online focus groups and a survey of World Cities Culture Forum partner cities. We are also analysing data collected by World Cities Culture Forum during the 18 months following the outbreak of COVID-19 – including city-to-city webinars, sharing policy solutions in real time, and a database of the cities’ cultural policy responses to the pandemic.

City leaders from across the world shared creative solutions during the unprecedented global pandemic. For the first time ever, King’s College and the World Cities Culture Forum join forces to give insights on the role of culture on COVID recovery in major global capitals and the power of city-to-city collaborations to address the needs of their citizens.

Laia Gasch, Acting Director, World Cities Culture Forum

Working closely with World Cities Culture Forum Acting Director Laia Gasch and her team, the Creative Recovery project involves Dr Jonathan Gross, Dr Lucy McFadzean, Prof Roberta Comunian (CMCI), Prof Philip Hubbard, Dr Luke Dickens (Geography), Dr Kirstie Hewlett and Dr Niall Sreenan (the Policy Institute) – bringing together expertise spanning cultural policy, urban policy, urban creative economies, and urban futures.

The team have been working closely with King’s Culture, who brokered the partnership with World Cities Culture Forum, and sees the partnership as an exciting new opportunity for King’s to support knowledge exchange with the global cultural sector.

Understanding the role of art and culture in post-COVID cities is vital to successful urban futures everywhere. King’s Culture is pleased to support this collaboration between King’s researchers and international members of the World Cities Culture Forum.

Beatrice Pembroke, Executive Director, King's Culture

Ultimately the Creative Recovery research will share findings regarding the emerging and potential role of art and culture in post-COVID cities, offer urgent insights into the role of cultural policy within urban recovery, and identify possibilities for further work that can positively impact cultural policy in cities across the globe.

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