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A Study of the Cultures of 'World Cities'

by Jerome Weeks 2 Aug 2012 10:11 AM

“What links world cities to one another is trade, commerce and finance. What makes them different from one another is culture.” So which cities have what kinds of cultural outlets?


Image from shutterstock

The World Cities Cultural Report 2012 came out yesterday (here’s ABCNews‘ story). It’s an examination of 60 factors that make up the leading cultural meccas on the planet, a study commissioned by Boris Johnson, the mayor of London. From the Guardian, which had the most thoughtful take on the subject so far:

Johnson said: “World cities are international hubs for commerce and trade, but as this groundbreaking report makes clear, they are powerhouses for culture too – in London the creative industries alone contribute £19bn to our economy and employ 386,000 people. …

The report says the contribution of the arts and creative industries is fundamental to a city’s health.

This is not another ‘Top 10 Hotspots to Party On!” kind of list –a bit of bait to increase online page-views. Witness the fact that 12 cities were included and only one of them is in the U.S. Yep, it’s New York. The others are London, Berlin, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Mumbai, Paris, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo.

So if Dallas or Fort Worth is not in it, why should we care? Well, we might actually learn something — the report coincides with a summit trying to address what it all means.  F’r’nstance: “The report addresses the assumption by some that the world is ‘flattening’ or becoming more homogenous; that cities are becoming more similar places. “What links world cities to one another is trade, commerce and finance. What makes them different from one another is culture.”

Some revealing data hits, and these are just from the news reports, not the actual study:

  • The importance of public libraries is explored with Paris leading in numerical terms. It has 830 public libraries compared to Shanghai’s 477, London’s 383.
  • But Tokyo and Shanghai have the most bookstores — by far.
  • New York is the leader in live theaters. It has 420, compared to 353 in Paris, 230 in Tokyo, 214 in London and 184 in Istanbul.
  • Paris has the most cinemas (302) and cinema screens (1,003).
  • A real surprise: London is tops in comedy performances: 11,388 compared to 11,076 in New York and 10,348 in Paris.

Forget the 830 libraries for a moment — an astonishing number for a metropolitan area that has twice the population of the entire Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex (Dallas has only 29 public libraries, a half dozen more if we include university libraries. Even if you quadrupled those numbers, they’d be a drop in the bucket compared to Paris).

But could you image North Texas having more than 11,000 live comedy outlets?