Urban Myths? Transforming narratives of place via the media representation of one-off international...

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Hosting a major one-off cultural event has become a key aspiration of cities attempting to renew or change their local economic base and position themselves as world, international or national cultural centres. This paper discusses evidence gathered in a wide diversity of cities across Europe throughout the last three decades, which is the period seeing the most noticeable growth in culture-led regeneration strategies to the point that they now dominate the policy debate within a majority of post-industrial cities. The focus is the European Capital of Culture programme, an EU initiative launched in 1985 and hosted by close to 60 cities in 30 European countries. One of the key claims associated with this programme is that it can transform the ‘image’ of a city and that this, in turn, can lead to widespread social (eg. boosting pride) and economic (eg. attracting tourists and investment) benefits. These image transformation claims are mainly the result of the heightened media attention that some of the host cities have been able to generate. The paper offers a reflection over the media impacts of the programme at large and a closer interrogation of two of the most high profile examples, spanning from the beginning of the initiative in the mid 1980s (Glasgow 1990), to one of the most recent cases, taking place at a time when city branding and the notion of Capitals of Culture as a media event has become common place (Liverpool 2008).

Transcript of Urban Myths? Transforming narratives of place via the media representation of one-off international...

  • 1. Urban Myths? Transforming narratives of place via the media representation of cultural events Dr Beatriz Garcia Head of Research Institute of Cultural Capital Mediated City Los Angeles Woodbury University & Amps, 1-4 October 2014

2. European Capitals of Culture & image making Major one-off events: a cultural policy priority for aspiring world cities European Capital of Culture Programme (ECoC) EU initiative, launched in 1985, awarded to 60 cities in 30 European countries Glasgow 1990 sparked a new era that is currently taken for granted: the ECoC as a catalyst for city image renaissance However, claims of image change are rarely supported by concrete evidence My proposition today | Mediated City Events The importance of the media narrative arch surrounding special events to solidify image change claims about respective host cities Core claim: media narratives on the city become defining evidence if: They show significant change in thematic and attitude focus over time They are voluminous enough over a significant period of time They cut across geographical and journalistic style variations 3. From myth management to data capture Glasgow 1990: a success story, revisited CCPR, University of Glasgow: The Cities and Culture Project (2002-2006) 18 years of coverage: award, lead-up, event, 12 years post event (1986-2003) UK national press, Scottish national & local press, other UK local (6,400 clips) Liverpool 2008: a success story in the making University of Liverpool: Impacts 08, ECoC Research Programme (2006-2010) 12 years of coverage: 7 years pre-award, award, lead-up, event (1996-2008) UK national press, Liverpool local press (7,000 clippings) Focus of press content analysis Which themes emerge as most dominant How positive or negative are these media reactions Which topics and attitudes become normalised over time After cities host their event, it is crucial that they learn to manage the myth (Bob Palmer, on ECoCs & legacy building) 4. Glasgow 1990 5. Glasgow 1990 Viewed as a pioneer in the production of a culture-led regeneration rhetoric Image management, a key priority (a decade ahead of rest of Europe) Becomes a key exemplar of success for all ECoCs to come and referent for cities embarking in a renaissance strategy 6. Glasgow 1990 | Volume & attitudes over time www.iccliverpool.ac.uk www.beatrizgarcia.net Pre-and during event year (1986-1990) Post event year (1992-2003) N= 5,023 articles N= 1,318 articles Source: CCPR Cities & Culture Project Datasets (see Garcia 2004) 7. % attitudes pre & during event: 1986-1990 % attitudes post event: 1992-2003 Glasgow 1990 | Attitudinal change www.iccliverpool.ac.uk www.beatrizgarcia.net N= 5,023 articles N= 1,318 articles Source: CCPR Cities & Culture Project Datasets (see Garcia 2004) 8. Pre-and during event year (1986-1990) Post event year (1992-2003) Glasgow 1990 | Thematic emphasis N= 5,023 articles N= 1,318 articles Source: CCPR Cities & Culture Project Datasets (see Garcia 2004) 9. Liverpool 2008 10. Liverpool 2008 | UK national stereotypes Images being circulated online at the time of the ECoC bid, 2002-2003 11. Liverpool | International perception 12. Reimaging Liverpool 13. Reimaging Liverpool 14. Glasgow 1990 vs Liverpool 2008 Changes in the volume & attitudes to stories from award to event year 15. 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 2003 2005 2007 2008 negative neutral positive % 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 2003 2005 2007 2008 % Liverpool 2008 | Attitudes UK national press (2003-2008) Liverpool local press (2003-2008) N= 1,138 articles N= 5,811 articles Source: Impacts 08 Press Content Analysis (Garcia 2010: p. 27) 16. Liverpool 2008 | Themes UK national press (1996-2008) Liverpool local press (2003-2008) Source: Impacts 08 Dataset Analysis & Garcia 2010 Top graphs: clippings that refer to the ECoC 2008 explicitly (N= 1,138 nationally; N= 5,811 locally) Bottom graphs: clippings about Liverpool that do not include any explicit reference to the ECoC (N= 14,453 nationally; N= 31,275 locally) 17. Press narratives of urban change Two decades of regeneration stories 18. The media narrative arch: 1986 to 2008 Over thirty years, some noticeable changes in the thematic and attitudinal emphasis of press stories about major events A move from understanding and narrating regeneration as a mainly physical process into a mainly symbolic process A growth in the proportion of positive analysis Media coverage trends that remain similar Switch between quality of the citys cultural offer (event year) and projected economic outputs (award year) or economic legacies (aftermath) Governance becomes noticeable and focus of most negative coverage (event) Emphasis on the capacity for cities to experience an image renaissance as most frequent justification for success Variations in treatment of key themes: economics & culture relationship Glasgow: showing that culture had an economic dimension was considered a novelty and became a key argument to project the city as a successful pioneer Liverpool: generic claims not sufficient: economic impacts must be evidenced; quality and distinctiveness of cultural offer must also be clearly articulated to attract discerning creative classes 19. Discussion The media have played a key role in re-shaping the image of Glasgow and Liverpool, two cities ridden by widespread negative stereotyping Sustained reference to both cities as exemplars of successful event-led regeneration within expert reporting evidence effect of journalistic discourse to assert a citys identity nationally and internationally This suggests that one of the most effective mechanisms for cities to reposition themselves is to have a powerful story to tell about change and overcoming decline In a highly competitive urban development environment, where large numbers of cities invest in similar strategies for regeneration, it is not sufficient to be effective in the delivery of actual (positive) change: generating momentum and carefully managing how the story is told is paramount to attract a sufficient critical mass of press attention with the capacity to become a national and/or international referent which, in turn, is more likely to self-sustain over time 20. Thank You Dr Beatriz Garca @beatriz_garcia www.beatrizgarcia.net www.iccliverpool.ac.uk