The CKC (Creativity, Knowledge, Cities) conference is a yearly meeting of creative and academic minds from all over the world that aims to critically explore the tensions between the cultural sector, cities and universities. Launched in 2018 by the Creative Economies Group, part of the Digital Cultures Research Centre at the University of the West of England Bristol, the conference is relatively new and looks to produce lively debate about what it means to be a creative city in this day and age by asking a number of all-important questions, including:  

“How can we mitigate the many and varied social, economic and cultural costs of creative urban policy?”

Taking place in Bristol’s Watershed over the course of two days (12-13 September) the CKC 2019 conference provided delegates the opportunity to engage in critical dialogue with some of the UK’s leading researchers, policymakers and practitioners through panels, roundtables and workshops. 

This year, CKC 2019: Rethinking, Resisting and Reimagining the Creative City continued the conversation and Creative Cardiff’s Project Manager, Vicki Sutton, was there to represent Cardiff University’s Creative Economy Unit. The themes from this year included Historicising Creative Policy and Practice, Local Cultures of Resilience and Universities and the Creative City. Speakers came from all over the UK and further afield to present case studies from their creative cities. Here, Vicki shares some of her learnings from the conference: 

On my arrival into Millennium Square and walk towards the Watershed, I was instantly struck by how boldly Bristol celebrates its creativity. Signage, murals, and installations rejoice in the ‘curious’ and creative nature of our neighbouring city. I saw many inspiring and insightful talks during the two days and was struck by how friendly and warm the welcome was, with everyone grateful for the opportunity to learn. It felt important to step out of the Cardiff bubble and spend time outside of Wales, to hear other’s perceptions of our creative city and hear examples of collaboration and creativity in other cities across the UK and beyond. Here are some of my highlights: 


Dr Rachel Sara of University of West England shared the story of the Ebenezer Gate Project in Bedminster. The research project asked the question ‘How can abandoned pockets of urban space be reclaimed for community use through participatory design processes?’. In this talk I was reminded of the value of thinking creatively and collaboratively about spaces in the city. A great example of how Universities can work in an inclusive way with community groups, students and children in order to bring about positive changes within their cities. 

During the second session of the day, I was introduced to Simon Nicholson’s concept of the ‘gifted few’. His studies in design education and craft made me think of the importance of challenging who decides which issues are deemed important in the city. His ideas tied into some of Dr Ayona Datta’s closing remarks of the day: “smartness means different things to different people”. She was speaking in relation to the notion of the ‘Smart City’ and the violence of ‘infrastructure failure’. 

 

The brilliantly led Rising Arts Agency workshop asked us to imagine how we survive and live a happy life in a city, and how can creativity can help us achieve that. I made many new connections in this interactive workshop environment and was struck by the question ‘how creative are you on a day-to-day basis?' . It has inspired me to bring more creativity into my own everyday practice. 
It was interesting to hear Professor Andrew Spicer offer a current perspective on the notion of the Bristol and Cardiff ‘Western Powerhouse’ in light of the imminent opening of Channel 4’s creative hub in Bristol and the recent end of the tolls on the Severn Crossing. He was advocating for the power of University research to dig deeper into the “long and complex cultural histories that shape creative cities”. His talk has underlined to me the significance of Creative Cardiff’s work to promote the depth and breadth of creative activity in Cardiff which is not just limited to the BBC and is perhaps still in part unknown to the rest of the UK.

Many of the issues and challenges raised at the conference are ones facing all cities in the UK at the moment, Cardiff included. Some examples of these challenges are tensions around the use of space for things like developing student housing versus developing considering creative and cultural spaces, a lack of creative spaces, problems around sustainability and consideration of future needs and sustainable growth. Many parallels were drawn and frustrations shared. However, on the whole, the conference was hopeful and offered a glimpse of a future in which cities measure creativity not just by its economic value but also by its civic output and impact on health and wellbeing. There was a focus on building a creative ecosystem in which creatives, academics and policymakers work together towards a shared vision and for the good of their cities.

 

Our ambition for Creative Cardiff is to build a supportive and inclusive ecosystem in Wales’ capital city. By providing a mechanism through we which we bring together creatives, freelancers, organisations, policymakers and academics we hope we can further grow and support the creative industries, as well as measure their valuable impact on the city’s culture and society as well as the economy from now into the future.
 

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