What makes a place creative?
Here we launch a new series of posts, designed to explore the theme more analytically. Each post will focus on a place that I find makes me creative, asking, What is it about this place that makes it a creative one for me? To save the analysis from excessive subjectivity, I’ll try to identify what human need each factor behind the place’s creative genius fulfils.
But before we zoom in on particular places, let’s consider the overall question of scale. For me, the most inspirational places typically fall into the following categories:
- towns – for example, Ely (which, though technically a city, is the size of a market town);
- modestly-sized cities – for example, Norwich;
- Parts (streets or districts) of larger cities – for example, Trumpington Street in Cambridge.
This preference – for what we might call the middle scale – is far from idiosyncratic (think Middlemarch, though the novel isn’t a favourite of mine) but then again far from typical.
Many creatives prefer big cities. This often intrigues me. Here, for example, is a tweet from @ManBookerPrize (11 October 2012) that I favourited: ‘AD Miller – “If you have a novel within you, Moscow will liberate it. It’s a very literary place”’. Ever since I read that, I’ve been wanting to go Moscow, just to see whether it is true. For the most part, though, I don’t respond creatively to big cities.
And many prefer wilderness. I often like to visit such places. Especially the Black Mountains, on the Powys/Hereforshire border and the land to between the mountains and the Golden Valley to the east. I don’t know any more attractive place than Craswall Priory, the ruined Grandmontine house just to the east of the Black Hill. Such places are wonderful – but not, I find, creative.
But more interesting than what someone doesn’t find creative is what they do. First up (i.e. as the focus of the next post in the series) will be Trumpington Street, Cambridge.