What ever happened to the Liverpool model? Urban cultural policy in the era after urban regeneration

Dave O'Brien, Peter Campbell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter seeks to chart the rise, dissemination and limits of a specific model
of urban governance, namely the use of ‘culture’ to further urban regeneration.
This usage of culture is exemplified by the 2008 European Capital of Culture
programme held in Liverpool. This example is shown below to have been highly
influential on subsequent urban interventions and governance arrangements in
the UK. We argue that this influence is a direct result of the intersection of social
scientific practices that privilege the production of evidence of ‘impact’, and the
continuation of a public policy settlement associated with broader urban regeneration practices of the 1990s and 2000s.
Mirroring the concerns of the other chapters in this collection, we thus seek to
identify the role of social science expertise in bolstering policy-making
narratives, to consider ‘street-level’ understandings of governance, and so to highlight the disparities between apparently rational narratives and the ‘lived realities’ of those involved with the rendering these narratives into practical action. As such,
we seek to emphasise the need to add nuance to any totalising policy narrative
and draw out local specificities which risk being lost in such accounts.
We begin by exploring how cultural policy has been disseminated, considering
the case of policy regarding the support and promotion of ‘creative industries’
as an exemplar, with a focus on urban settings. We then move to discuss
the specifics of the take-up of a ‘Liverpool Model’ of urban cultural policy, along with critiques of the use of this type of urban intervention. Following this,
we present and discuss empirical data generated through engagement with the
research team responsible for the social science practice which is used to
underpin narratives regarding the nature of this ‘Liverpool Model’ of cultural
regeneration. In so doing, we seek to demonstrate the importance of academic
practice to making the case for this model, highlighting the ‘social life’ of economic impact figures against the more complex understanding of culture and
urban policy offered by the academic team. These data come from interviews
with five key researchers from the ‘Impacts08’ research programme commissioned by local government to run alongside Liverpool’s European Capital of Culture. We conclude with a comment on the prospects for success, or otherwise, of municipalities using urban cultural policy in this way.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDecentring Urban Governance
Subtitle of host publicationNarratives, Resistance and Contestation
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9781138229372
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sep 2017

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