Transforming Hamilton, Creatively: How to Change a City from a Cowtown to a Wowtown
In July 2007 a group of stakeholders were invited to form a strategic think tank and engage with Charles Landry, the international authority on creative cities, in a two-day conversation about Hamilton, New Zealand’s largest inland city. Hamilton is New Zealand’s fastest growing city at the heart of one of the world’s richest agricultural areas. The country’s main dairy industry surrounds Hamilton along with significant ag-bio research and hi-tech manufacturing. With its strong agricultural roots, Hamilton has also developed a reputation for being a cultural desert.
The strategic think tank was a rich ideas-generating environment for a mix of minds from businesses, local government, iwi, education and the arts. As a member of the think tank, it was enriching to be involved in deep discussions about how to foster creativity and innovation in Hamilton. By the end of the two days we had high expectations that a seismic attitudinal change was taking place and that Hamilton could be transformed from a cowtown to a wowtown. However, as soon as our council published the resulting “Creativity & Identity Strategy” it was shelved - until grassroots intervention helped its re-activation.
The Hamilton Arts Sector Reference Group is a citywide group that takes a long-term strategic view of arts development. We work as leaders, managers, creators, educators, producers, researchers, and artists. We’ve been meeting regularly since 2004 to promote and nurture participation in the arts, meeting monthly throughout the year. We believe a collaborative approach is vital to help stimulate a vibrant creative city. We decided to intervene and encourage our council to re-activate the strategy by developing our own arts report, which brought instant results.
Our council told us that leadership is essential, and that those involved in arts must make the most of opportunities… We are doing just that!
Keywords: Creative City, Place-Making, Transformation, Grassroots, Strategy, Art, Culture, Identity
Director, Centre for Creative Industries, Waikato Institute of Technology