Impact And Legacies Of Creative Clustering: The New Culture And Education District, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Communication and Media (Close)


The development of a new Culture and Education District (CED) within Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (QEO Park) offers a unique opportunity to fully capture and understand the value and legacies of a major culture-led regeneration initiative, as they unfold. Building on the learning accumulated over the last four decades in cities around the world, and counting on a wealth of relevant UK-based case studies to benchmark against, we have the ideal conditions to set up an unprecedented study into the multiple effects of a large-scale urban intervention.
This paper proposes four priority lines of enquiry (see Fig.1) as part of a scoping study that will bring together existing knowledge and data in order to set the foundations towards a larger scale research programme. This scoping study will make recommendations and propose lines of enquiry that should form part of a longitudinal study (ideally, five to ten years on) into the medium to long term impact of creative clustering. As argued extensively by Garcia (2004, 2010, 2016) understanding the multiple impacts of regeneration requires a long term view: cities like Glasgow post 1990, Barcelona post 1992 or Liverpool post 2008 offer clear examples of how some of the most remarkable (and sustainable) benefits of culture-led regeneration occur five to ten years on and come in a diversity of forms. The 'successes' we now associate with these cities could not have been appropriately captured via short term 'one year-on' evaluation exercises. Further, the reasons for these 'successes' and their sustainability have never been fully explained. This is largely due to the fact that we lack information about each of these cities' points of departure. This is study is the first of its kind to document the impact and legacies of creative clustering from the outset, thus bringing a unique opportunity to capture impacts 'in the making'.
This proposal assumes CED stakeholders are proceeding with a baseline study to document their activities and populate key benchmark indicators. The value of the study is to provide additional lines of enquiry to capture the more complex dimensions of impact and document the development of medium to long term legacies as they happen. It is timely for the AHRC to lead the way funding such work, given the growing acceptance that the arts and humanities provide much needed complementary tools to capture - and explain - the full range of benefits and challenges surrounding accelerated urban change. As such, this proposal combines established social science methodologies with an arts and humanities methodological lens.
Following on the model developed by Dr Beatriz Garcia within Impacts 08 (European Capital of Culture Research Programme, 2010) and the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad evaluation (2013), the four proposed areas of enquiry and associated methodologies do interrelate. The chosen research leads will thus coordinate methodologies, data gathering and analysis of findings to ensure a holistic approach to final reporting. The final report will draw together all findings, identify synergies and produce a set of joint recommendations to inform AHRC as well as, potentially, other funders' priorities.

Planned Impact

To be included


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Description The grant has been used to produce a multi-disciplinary scoping report into the potential economic, creative, social and symbolic impacts of orchestrated creative clusters. This involved four interrelated work strands, each headed by leading research specialists. The research team drew upon ten months of observations, interviews and desk-based research into the development of the Culture and Education District (CED) within London's Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (QEOP), as a case study of a creative cluster 'in the making'. The four individual work-strand reports provide a multi-faceted, research lens through which the concept of creative clustering was examined in order to offer recommendations for future research led by the AHRC.

Clustering presents both risks and opportunities for the organisations, institutions, and communities involved and for those orchestrating their creation. However, clustering is more than the co-location of these key partners and cannot result from a random collection of businesses, or designed stakeholder interests alone. It occurs in multiple, interrelated and shifting, dimensions; in the relationships between cluster members, and the economic, political and social contexts in which they work. There is a need for very close and dedicated curation and evaluation in order to align the often competing agendas and stakeholder interests.

The final report details how the physical spaces of the district are merely the tip of a much larger and complex iceberg of relationships and activity that will require researchers to develop new modes of research. The research revealed how projects like this are 'emergent' and dynamic whereas traditional evaluation methods may be static, and assume stable processes. Finding ways to explore and represent the dynamism of clustering is essential to finding rigorous and robust evaluation approaches to them.
Exploitation Route The reports extensive findings will be used to set the basis for a large, open call for research into the multiple impacts of the CED, with the benefit of observations of processes and documentation taking place from the very inception of this development.

In addition to this, the project involved extensive consultation with key development and cultural partners. This culminated in a half-day workshop with invited representatives from the AHRC, London Legacy Development Corporation, V&A, Sadlers Wells, London College of Fashion, and the UCL. The workshop provided an opportunity to report key findings, invite feedback and open up a dialogue that sought to further the practical dimensions of impact evaluation, curation and shared communication in the orchestration of creative clusters.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description Discussions with Syngrou Avenue network in Athens - this group has benefited from presentations outlining the key findings from this study, and are adapting them into their priority strategy
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact This impact is evolving - the network received training, building on learnings from this study. The outcomes of this training are yet to fully manifest, but they have started showing via their social networks (see below)
Title Creative Clustering - observations of development 'in the making' 
Description This method is still being tested but it involves the combination of methodologies and observations of a development (a creative clustering process) while still 'in the making' / before it goes live or into the public domain 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This method is still being tested 
Description Cultural Flagships: pathways, practices and politics of a global urban type 
Organisation University of Lausanne
Country Switzerland 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I am an expert advisor to this new project, involving the mapping of key cultural flagships across the globe. This work is informed by the findings emerging out of our research on London Culture and Education District (no East Bank)
Collaborator Contribution To date (March 2021) there have been no contributions. the collaboration with UNiL has just started
Impact NA
Start Year 2021
Description Eurocities | Rock webinar: Culture as a rocket fuel for Urban Regeneration 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Webinar dedicated to discussing the impact of cultural interventions in cities, sharing evidence and best practice
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description Syngrou Network - Co-Creation Workshop in Athens, December 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 30 people attended a co-creation workshop to discuss ways to establish and strengthen the notion of their (at present) congested and traffic-saturated avenue as a new creative hub in Athens
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019