City, Know Thyself: the Cultural Audit and Strategic Planning

October 25, 2011 - 4:00pm to 5:30pm

Chicago Cultural Center
78 East Washington Street
First Floor Garland Room

This talk will assess current work on the evidence base for city cultural planning. It will focus on the Cultural Audit of London, for which Freeman was the lead author whilst working for the Mayor of London, England. The Audit's evidence was extensively used to formulate the Mayor of London's Cultural Strategy, and has excited worldwide interest. An update is set to appear in 2012, when London holds its next election and hosts the next Olympics.

Freeman will critically reflect on the relation between alternative indicators, such as those in the audit and in other city indicators such as Chicago's cultural vitality indicators, and more traditional economic indicators such as GDP, employments and firm counts in the creative or IP-based industries, arguing that a wider palette of measures is indispensible to good strategic judgement.

He will take a critical look at the growing trend towards 'City Rankings' provoked by such products as the Anholt Index, Y/Zen's Global Financial Centres Index, and the Price-Waterhouse Coopers Intellectual Capital index. These products induce city planners to conceive their strategic objectives as climbing mythical ladders, but can obstruct the central goal of strategic planning which is to grasp what is distinct, not what is better, about each city, as a means to frame its relationship to its neighbours, its neighbourhood, and the world.

Alan Freeman was principal economist in the Greater London Authority's Economic Analysis Unit from 2001 to 2011, and now writes and advises on cultural policy. Whilst with the GLA's intelligence unit he produced a series of reports that defined the field of measuring the cultural and creative industry activity of large cities. These were Creativity: London's Core Business, the first comprehensive study of London's cultural and creative industries, five subsequent updates, and London: A Cultural Audit, a rigorous comparison of the cultural offer of London, Shanghai, Paris, New York and Tokyo. Alan is now working on the 2011 update in a private capacity. His was also responsible for the unit's work on the Living Wage and city benchmarking, in both of which he maintains an active interest. Alan's email is His research and scholarly publications can be accessed His work for the GLA has been collated