Creativity isn’t just an urban phenomenon

“Underpinning all the interest in creative industries over the last couple of decades is a growing recognition of the place of creativity as a key driver of economic growth”, writes Susan Luckman is the introduction to Locating cultural work: the politics and poetics of rural, regional and remote creativity (Palgrave, 2012). 

“However”, she continues, “creative industries thinking…has tended to focus on cities and urban spaces, especially those of the Global West and progressively Asia as the site of creativity and cultural work.”

Monographer has itself referred to this city-oriented literature – for example in reviews of books about New York, by Elizabeth Currid (24th and 31st January 2013) and Sharon Zukin (13th December 2012). 

Locating cultural work, in contrast, examines the phenomenon of creativity elsewhere: 

This book is about rural, regional and remote creative work from the perspective of the cultural workers themselves. As my research arises out of cultural studies approaches I am committed to hearing the voices of participants, even if they are marginal to dominant theoretical and policy scripts. In this context I have foregrounded the importance of bringing the voices of rural, regional and remote cultural workers back into the picture of the contemporary creative economy. (p.9)

As a provincial creative myself, I’m sympathetic to this endeavour. About the outcome, I’m more equivocal. Luckman is no stylist: her prose is at best functional and at times wooden. (Perhaps it is the lack of a literary ear, as it were, that explains why Luckman refers to the lines of verse that she quotes from Wordsworth’s The Prelude as ‘prose’).

More seriously, a relatively lengthy chapter on the twentieth century arts and crafts movement, which migrated from London to the Cotswolds, seemed to me no more than a tangent.  And throughout Luckman seems to me too reliant on, and insufficiently critical, of Raymond Williams, from whom there are a number of frankly pedestrian quotations.

That said, Luckman’s research has yielded some interesting insights into the ways in which provincial creatives see their work and their lives. My favourite chapter is ‘Cultural work, stage of life and balanced lives’, in which a number of socio-economic themes are explored – notably digitalisation, markets, gender, and demographics.

Overall, the value of the book lies simply in the fact that it achieves its aim of acting as a counterweight to the many studies of creativity as an urban phenomenon.

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