X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

Please note: Previously subscribers used a 'WebID' to log into the website. Your subscriber number is not the same as the WebID. Please ensure you use the subscriber number when you link your subscription.

Blogs Culture House Daily

What is the point of having a ‘city of culture’?

20 November 2013

5:10 PM

20 November 2013

5:10 PM

‘Hull has been named the 2017 city of culture. Better luck next year, Luton.’ So wrote the Telegraph’s Tim Stanley on Twitter.

Nadine Dorries said: ‘Hull? City of culture? As one originating from Liverpool, a former recipient, I’m er, surprised but of course, delighted for Hull!’

That summarises the general reaction to the choice of the 2017 UK City of Culture. I’ve never been to the East Riding city, so I can’t comment on whether the widespread view of it as a dump is fair, but certainly lots of the cities that compete for this honour are certified Crap Towns. Dover? Stoke-on-Trent? These are not cities of culture, unless you mean culture in the loosest sense, as in ‘gang culture’ or possibly the culture that grows at the back of the fridge.

[Alt-Text]


I’d be curious to know how much concrete economic benefit there really is, and to what extent the real winners are the various arms of the state-run heritage, culture and arts industry, based in London.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport says it wants to promote a ‘vibrant and sustainable arts and culture’ scene in the chosen cities, although I would question whether anything that relies on the state can really be called ‘vibrant’ (unless you’re using that word in its euphemistic multicultural sense, which I don’t think they are).

The best way to ensure a lively arts scene in any city is to attract artistic people, and the educated, middle class who will support them, and make them want to stay and have children rather than leave after university. Since crime is a major factor that puts people off, hiring a load of extra policemen in the New York style to patrol the streets for a couple of years would probably have just as good an impact on a town as getting the Arts Council along.

A more cultural and perhaps slightly less fascistic sounding way of attracting culture vultures would be to make towns more beautiful, as this is one of the drawbacks English cities face in trying to permanently regenerate – it’s why Edinburgh and Dublin are much better at attracting the right people and therefore capital.

Hull was actually the city that inspired the system of listing historic buildings after a photographer captured the aftermath of the Hull blitz, the worst after London. Following the war, like with all English cities, most of its beautiful architecture was not rebuilt and what replaced it was sub-standard. You can see what town planners and Nazis between them did to our cities from 1930 and 1970 in Gavin Stamp’s wonderful Britain’s Lost Cities (old Hull, in particular, looks stunning).

So rather than spending time and money on a culture scheme which is going to attract a fair degree of mockery, why not invite cities such as Canterbury, Norwich, Plymouth, Bristol, Worcester, Birmingham and all the others to lobby to have their city centres restored to what they were before the 20th century’s various maniacs got their hands on them?

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


Show comments
Close