Cultural heavyweights from across the world are heading to Liverpool

Liverpool 2008 - aerial shot of People's Opening event

Liverpool Leads Global Cultural Conversation

Cultural heavyweights from across the world are heading to Liverpool for a conference which explores the big questions cities face today around culture AND also reveals the real legacy of the European Capital of Culture 2008 title.

Cities of Culture 30 Years On: Who Has the Edge? is an international symposium taking place on Thursday 18 and Friday 19 October. It will see world-renowned speakers head to the Town Hall to discuss experiences in cities big and small, from Barcelona to Shanghai, Marseille to London and Porto to Los Angeles. They will debate topics such as what counts as a cultural renaissance in the 21st century, what are the risks to success, what are the impacts of local and international partnership working and whether going bigger is always better.

Key speakers include:

  • Jon Snow – Renowned TV presenter and former student at the University of Liverpool.
  • Maria Balshaw CBE – Director of the Tate art museums and galleries.
  • Ulrich Fuchs – German culture expert, member of the European Capital of Culture selection committee, former artistic director of the European Capital of Culture years for both Marseille-Provence (2013) and Linz (2009).
  • Professor Ann Markusen – Leading scholar on urban planning, regional and industrial economics for the University of Minnesota.
  • Lord Michael Heseltine – Politician and businessman who played a key role in the city’s regeneration in the 1980s.
  • Jude Kelly CBE – Founder and Director of the Women of the World festival and former Artistic Director of the Southbank
  • Alice Webb – Director of BBC North and BBC Children’s.
  • Darren Henley OBE – Chief Executive of Arts Council England and author of a number of books specialising in art.
  • Tamara Rojo – Artistic Director for the English National Ballet.
  • Martin Green CBE – Chair of Middle Child theatre company’s Board of Directors and former Hull UK City of Culture chief executive and director.
  • Professor Michael Parkinson CBE – Adviser to the Vice Chancellor of the University of Liverpool. Former director of the European Urban Studies Institute.

They will be joined by representatives from the city’s arts and cultural sector who played a key role in Liverpool’s bid to become Capital of Culture and the delivery of the acclaimed year itself.

Maria Balshaw, Director of Tate, ahead of her visit, reflected on the impact of Tate on the city, and vice versa: “Tate Liverpool opened in 1988 as part of the regeneration of the Albert Dock and was one of the main catalysts for huge change in the city. Since then, Liverpool has experienced a renaissance, with flourishing universities and a lively arts and culture scene moving the city from being perceived to be in decline to the third most popular city tourism destination in the UK. Tate Liverpool has played a key role in the success of the city and over the past three decades the gallery has established itself as the most visited modern and contemporary art gallery outside of London.”

As part of this unique symposium, Dr Beatriz Garcia, Director of Institute of Cultural Capital will reveal findings of Impacts 18 – a 20-year longitudinal study which charts Liverpool’s journey since bidding for the title of European Capital of Culture 2008.

Research began with the Impacts 08 programme which spanned 2005-2010 and evaluated the social, cultural, economic and environmental impacts of Liverpool holding the cultural accolade.

Juan González-Posada, CreArt Coordinator EU, wanted to see the impacts of Capital of Culture, and how the city has developed. “We are delighted to be part of this important conference which ties in with our own experience of development of culture in cities.  Our own research within the programme of activities of CreART, has revealed the importance of culture-led strategies and the promotion of creativity to contribute to social innovation, economic growth, and the image and internationalization of cities. It also revealed the enrichment of the local cultural offer; the appearance of new creative spaces and the positive impact on the artistic community. Local artists and public institutions are the main players in the events organized by CreArt, contributing to a creative atmosphere in the city. Our experience has shown us that European cities differ from each other in many ways, but we all come together with the common desire of cooperation and to improve the lives of our artists and citizens.”

Impacts 18 continues this vital research and examines how this experience has evolved a decade on. The research interrogates the legacy of Liverpool as European Capital of Culture across five main themes:

  • City image and reputation
  • Participation and wellbeing
  • Governance and leadership
  • Cultural vibrancy
  • Economy and tourism

The findings of the report will be unveiled at the conference and is expected to reveal if culture has really made a difference since 2008, what the level of engagement with culture is in the city, how has it changed people’s perceptions of the city and is it really a catalyst for wellbeing?

A debate will take place around whether having the cultural accolade has made a difference to Liverpool since 2008. From changing media representations and perceptions of the city to being a catalyst for wellbeing; changing levels of cultural engagement across neighbourhoods, to shaping resident’s sense of place; from changing levels of visitor engagement with culture to enhancing governance and cultural leadership.

To complement the announcement of this internationally significant symposium and research, a brand new legacy website has been launched which looks back at Liverpool’s special culture year and includes key information documenting 2018. To find out more visit

Director of the Institute of Cultural Capital, Beatriz Garcia, said: “No other city has documented the journey surrounding a major cultural intervention and its multiple impacts as extensively as Liverpool, and it is the first time these questions are revisited a decade onwards.

“This is why, this coming October, cities around the world will benefit from engaging in the conversation and identifying areas worth replicating. City leaders, practitioners and researchers have accumulated over 30 years of debate about the merits of culture-led regeneration across the globe, calling it the ‘Barcelona model’ or the ‘Bilbao effect’.

“In parallel, we also have over three decades of criticism and warnings: from the risks of gentrification to the fear of empty, unused grand spaces or ‘white elephants’.

“This symposium will engage with actual evidence and discuss how to capture it. From explaining what leads to an ‘image renaissance’ to assessing what makes stakeholders act collectively, we will present unquestionable evidence about the value of culture for city development and explain what does – or fails to – sustain over time.”

For more information about running orders or to buy tickets for this unique conference visit Early Bird tickets are £95 (including VAT) for both days, and once they have gone, the price will increase to £140 (including VAT). Follow @Impacts_18 on Twitter and Instagram for the latest information.

Cities of Culture 30 Years On: Who Has the Edge? forms part of the Liverpool 2018 programme which celebrates the tenth anniversary of the game-changing European Capital of Culture Year. The conference is supported by the British Council and CreART. CreART is a European network of public and private institutions committed to developing the cultural, social and economic offer of cities.

For more information on CREART visit:

For more information about events taking place this year, visit

For more information about associated research, visit and