Centre for Media Research

Culture, Economy and the Contemporary City

city_newsletter_01Culture, the economy and the contemporary city are themes under discussion at a forthcoming symposium to be held at the University of Ulster. The event is organised by the Centre for Media Research at the University of Ulster, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and Trademark, a trade union based organisation responsible for the Labour after Conflict project. The day will be an opportunity to reflect upon the challenges that face cities such as Belfast and Derry, and they hope to attract community activists, trade unionists and political representatives to join in the conversation. The event takes place on Friday 20th September 2013 in the Courtroom (82D23) at the University of Ulster, York Street, Belfast, and it starts at 12 noon. Full details are below and if you would like to attend RSVP: Sally Quinn: s.quinn@ulster.ac.uk Tele: +44 28 70123361


The contemporary city is one which ceaselessly trades on and monetises its culture as commodity. We see this very explicitly in the cultural and creative industries, and in the emergence of an open competition between cities and regions as they continually seek to secure inward investment from significant global or transnational economic players. In this respect, the city is a crucial unit of economic and political analysis, showing us how transnational capital moves through particular spaces and places, how it transforms these spaces and places accordingly. The question of how the particular cultures or forms of cultural production in a given city connect up to the economic forces that play through it is a hard one to pose with any real clarity and purpose. This is one of our key ambitions for this one-day symposium, bringing together, as it does, a range of scholars to talk about how culture and economy connect up in the contemporary city.

12.30 pm. The rebranding and redevelopment of Belfast: Stephen Baker, Robert Porter and Daniel Jewesbury from the Centre for Media Research at the University of Ulster will invite participants to reflect upon the cultural re-imaging of Belfast as a city ‘open to business’, its physical transformation and the economics that underscore these processes.

1.15 pm. Culture policy and regeneration: Dr. Susan Fitzpatrick from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, has researched Liverpool’s hosting of the European Capital of Culture in 2008. While heavily couched in the language of the ‘peoples bid’, of community, increasing participation, Susan links the bid to the increasing interest which land development corporations, multi-national accountancy and consultancy firms as well as local and state actors began to take in the land the city centre rested on around at that time. In the face of this regeneration she argues for the presence and the importance of already existing spaces of cultural expression in the city and the need to reassert their political significance.

2.30 pm. Work, Work, Work: the view from the ‘City of Culture’: Aileen Burns & Johan Lundh from the Centre for Contemporary Art in Derry, reflect upon how Northern Ireland is the poorest part of the United Kingdom, with a disposable income of just £13,966 per household in 2012, according to the Office for National Statistics. Both Belfast and Derry had significant industrial infrastructures in the 19th and 20th centuries, which in recent history have moved or become obsolete. Still rebuilding after decades of conflict, the cities and its citizens are looking for new means of sustenance. In recent years, Northern Ireland has turned to tourism and so called culture led generation in order to make the region more attractive to businesses and individuals alike. Belfast’s Titanic Quarter and Derry’s City of Culture celebrations are two of them most prominent examples of this trend.

Because of urgency of examining the issues underlying this development, the Centre for Contemporary Art has dedicated our programme during City of Culture to different aspects of art and labour in our post-industrial society. As writer and scholar Marina Vishmidt, who we are working with for the autumn exhibition, which departs from the centenary of the Dublin Lockout, writes in the publication accompanying the show: “The relation between art and labour is perennially vexed, whether art identifies its own practice with labour, takes labour’s side against the depredations of capital, or ridicules the self-evidence of labour as useful activity.” Under what conditions are we working today? For whom and to what end? Ultimately, what kind of society we want Northern Ireland to be?

3.45  pm. The economics of the new Northern Ireland:  Dr. Conor McCabe, historian, author of Sins of the Father: Tracing the Decisions that Shaped the Irish Economy (Dublin, 2011) and a research fellow with Equality Studies, School of Social Justice UCD, will talk about Northern Ireland’s ‘double transition’. It is moving from a situation of conflicted democracy and conflict to one where democracy is supported and broadly participative. However, Northern Ireland is also moving from an economic framework that is formulated upon social democratic ideals to one that is dominated by market agendas and neo-liberal principles. What are the key characteristics of this transition and what is this transition’s potential for stabilizing the peace and ensuring a more just society?

4.45 pm. Closing remarks and future plans


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