For over a decade, the creative industries, especially the visual and performing arts, have been seen as important drivers of competitive advantage in the U.K., especially for 'post-industrial' cities, communities and real estate.
But in an age of fiscal tightening, social enterprise, green enterprise and infrastructure are fast becoming "the new black", with their promise of new employment, new markets and a new alignment of development, sustainability and social justice.
The challenge for the arts/creative sectors is stark. To make matters worse, culture may thrive everywhere but bankers' bonuses don't - and these are a key source of philanthropy and investment.
Earlier this month I led a one-day 'masterclass' on culture and urban renewal, supported by Arts Council England, Sheffield City Council and New Start that asked the question: In a time of 'more for less', can cultural enterprise offer value for money and different models?'
My answer is "yes" - but with two first thoughts.
First, cultural people need to assume the mantle of a warrior class, go to the gun cabinet and engage immediately with particular symptoms of downturn: empty properties, low rental demand and struggling businesses.
So, point one, take up your weapons, get down and get dirty.
Point two, promote public association and use this to make markets for new enterprise - and for inspiration, take a look at the current DIY Urbanism exhibit at the Urban Center in San Francisco.
In a fit of pre-'masterclass' nerves, I wrote down two lists of things that I find inspiring in the fuzzy thing we call 'culture': one list of 'creative places', the second of 'creative culture'.
And instead of arias, artworks or award-winning, architect-designed spaces, I was prioritising places that stage and express imagination, excitement or communal experience.
Now a lot of what I've listed doesn't address key issues of recession such as food, shelter, transportation and security - or at least directly.
But they do suggest that in a time of 'more for less' we should
- highlight business and entertainment solutions to social problems
- continue to shift creativity away from edification to the nurturing of talent and self-help
- make social spaces in which that talent can collectivize and excel
- take a leaf out of Facebook and launch hundreds of new applications every day
And a given is the principle scratched on the beam of a studio in East London, photographed by Viktor Vauthier:
So here are my lists:
For Creative Places...
Hub, Angel, Islington, London
Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield
Kitchen at the St. John restaurant, London
Latitude Festival, Suffolk
Union Street Orchard, London
People dancing beside a lake in North Beijing, China (seen a few years ago)
Wardrobe making studio, Scottish Opera, Glasgow
Chictopia - a website for user-generated fashion content
The offices/flat of culture website http://www.lookatme.ru, Moscow
Gardens of Musee Branly, Paris
Backstage, New York Fashion Week (seen a few years ago)
Upstairs room - turned in to a bar - of Malcolm, a former coal-worker, Castleford, Yorkshire
Chalk drawings for a vintage clothing store, pavement, Shoreditch, London
Studio of Georg Baselitz, Germany (seen a few years ago)
For Creative Culture...
Work of Manchester dupstep/2-step producer Synkro
Streetstyle photography of Yvan Rodic
Fashion blogger Wedge Heel
Cycling cafe 'Look Mummy No Hands'
Park Slope food co-operative, Brooklyn
Grameen Bank and other micro-finance organizations
Florence and the Machine's live performances
Green Demolition company Buffalo Re-Use
Social innovation project Southwark Circle
Under Age Festival, Hackney
Work of fashion designers Rodarte & Stolen Girlfriend
Feel free to hate what's here - but please do your own list.
In the meantime, I'll