A rich Creative Clusters Final Conference!
07 September 2011
The URBACT Creative Clusters project completed its programme of exchange and learning activities. The 10 European partners have worked during three years on dealing with creative clusters in low density urban areas. Entitled 'Creative Footprint - The next big step will be a lot of small steps', the final conference of the project took place in the Lead Partner city of Obidos (Portugal) on 9 June, 2011. Discover what went on during this one-day event.
Creative Clusters is an URBACT project testing how quite small cities with a rural hinterland, can generate a dynamic creative environment and creative industries. The starting assumption of this project is that creativity can act as a driving force for economic development of small urban centres and not only of big cities. Its aim is to transfer the "creative city model" (too much focused on big and middle-sized metropolis) to low density urban areas.

The final conference of the project was organized in a special venue, an old building that will be rehabilitated with the aim of hosting creative industries and artists. An original atmosphere was created in an interaction between the degraded space and new technologies and creative solutions. Around 20 speakers and 120 participants attended the event, public authorities and universities, schools, creative companies, cultural organisations and creative experts.

The opening session of the event was chaired by the Mayor of Óbidos, Telmo Faria. His speech was characterised by a strong sense of leadership and ambition where creativity was considered a driver of economic, social and political regeneration. The Mayor demonstrated how the small town of Óbidos, in the framework of the URBACT Creative Clusters network, was able to combat some common assumptions: the attraction of the creative class is not only viable in megacities and core cities but also in small and medium-sized towns; the concept of 'creative industries' is much broader than the concept of ‘cultural sector’; the focus on the human factor, and not only in the technological dimension is essential in a creative development strategy; creativity is an horizontal concept and must be disseminated through companies, public bodies, schools and the community. Moreover, the Mayor advocated the need to monitoring and evaluating the implementation of creative-based strategies through the use of specific methodologies: the "creative footprint".

The Final Conference structure was conceived as a video game, with different levels corresponding to the main pieces of what the project call the local creative ecosystem, namely: creative based ideas and businesses; new urban facilities for the creative talent, always setting people at the core; or ways of governance creative-based local strategies.

Level 1
The Idea: Upgrading Simplicity – From Ideas to Solutions

The main message of this panel was that simple ideas can originate big projects. Filip Meuris and Jan Despiegelaere were introducing the My Machine project, in Flanders (BE). The initiative aims to promote creativity and cross-pollination throughout all levels of education (primary, higher and secondary levels), and is intended to create prototypes of objects based on the imagination of young children, linking in this way pure creativity with applied design and manufacturing.

Level 2
Doing : Human Solutions – You are the answer

This session was centred on the presentation of ongoing projects in the area of culture and creativity. The first speaker, Federico Riboldazzi presented the company TIWI, located in Reggio Emilia (IT). TIWI produces digital contents and is specialized in creating motion graphics videos, "making things simple". Then, the Creative Industries Incubator ABC in Óbidos was described by his Director, Filipe Montargil.
The incubator aims to attract companies of the creative sector by offering favourable conditions in what concerns innovation and competitiveness.

Level 3
Atmosphere: A Creative Cloud – For a Community Storm

This panel was focused on the favourable conditions for the establishment of local creative ecosystems. Three speakers made their contributions. Paola
Amato, senior official, presented the creative based strategy of the city of Terni (IT), based on an urban regeneration project anchored on culture and creativity. Then Cristina Coelho, from the Guimarães European Capital of Culture 2012 Foundation (PT) described the creative economy agenda of the programme of the European Capital of Culture, emphasising projects such as the Digital Lab, the Urban Creativity Lab, ephemeral artistic creations, etc. Codruta Cruceanu, consultant from Romania and former involved in the British Council programme on creative cities, spoke about a recurrent issue in URBACT Creative Clusters, namely "Setting People at the Core in Creative-based Urban Strategies".

Level 4
Space: Creative Spaces – Living Hard, Working Creatively

The theme of this session was centred on the nature of creative spaces, where creative people can live and work. Jarkko Könönen, researcher at the University of Jyväskylä (FIN) presented his vision on the features of creative spaces capable of attracting talent to small cities. He advocated that creativity supporting spaces are not only physical, but also mental and virtual. Then, Rui Horta, a well-known Portuguese choreographer presented the transdisciplinary arts organisation - Espaço do Tempo, which supports various national and foreign contemporary performing artists, located in an old convent, Convento da Saudacão, in the small town of Montemor-o-Novo.

Level 5
Zoom: Action Plans to Cities in Action

The final conference was a perfect occasion to present a sample of the URBACT Local Action Plans developed during the project by some of the network cities. Far from simply reproduce global receipts on the "creative city", these strategies are embedded on their local background and potential related to culture-creativity-business.
Such Local Plans have also benefited from the networking activities carried out between 2008 and 2011 and the interchange of core competences between the participating cities.

Level 6
Commitment: Governing the Local Creative Ecosystem

Engagement of elected people and key policy decision makers has been a distinctive feature in URBACT Creative Clusters from the beginning. In this line a round table was organized under the moderation of Dan Sequerra from CIQA Sheffield - Creative Industries Quarter Agency, with the participation of Telmo Faria, Mayor of Óbidos; Emile Proscan, Mayor of Mizil (RO); Arto Lepistö, Jyväskylä Deputy Mayor, and the Mayor of São João da Madeira (Portugal). Leadership, stakeholder management, new formats for citizen participation and open innovation in local policies were some of the issues discussed.

Read more: