The ultimate clash of cultures: The World Cities Culture Forum

New research allows art-loving travellers to choose their destination by numbers
  • @MrNickClark

Los Angeles has more museums and live music venues than other cultural “powerhouse” cities, while Seoul has the most theatrical performances, according to new research seen by The Independent.

The report analyses a range of cultural indicators including theatres, cinemas and bookshops in cities that have joined the World Cities Culture Forum, a cultural advocacy group.

The forum, which was set up last year to bring senior policymakers together to discuss cultural issues, has been so successful that it has almost doubled its number of member cities from 12 to 22. 

Justine Simons, head of cultural policy at the Mayor of London’s office and chair of the World Cities Culture Forum, said: “We’ve been blown away by the interest in the report. Culture is the core of cities and the fact 22 are now involved in it shows there’s a recognition of that.” New cities involved this year include Amsterdam, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro and Hong Kong.

While the plan was to release the World Cities Culture Report detailing the 60 cultural indicators every three years, the addition of so many new cities in 2013 persuaded the forum to update its data to present to officials who meet in Istanbul later this month.

Ms Simons continued: “Often cities only talk about what they offer in relation to themselves. For the first time, we pulled together a comparative portrait. It was an under-researched area and poorly understood.”

The inaugural report found London in particular was “strong in almost every category, with a great stock of cultural infrastructure, and high participation and attendance rates”.

BOP Consulting, which compiled the report, has now updated it to include the new cities. It found that the newcomer Los Angeles has topped a range of indicators in its first year including overtaking London as the city with the most museums at 221 compared with London’s 173.

LA has the most live music venues (510), and cinema screens (1,073), although Paris still has the highest number of cinema admissions at 58 million. 

It is revealed that Seoul, another new entrant, stages the most theatrical performances, with roughly 67,000 last year, compared with New York’s 43,000 and London’s 30,000. It is also has the most dance performances with 15,200, more than double the number of those in New York, which comes second.

The forum will encourage more cities to join and has already had conversations with others that have expressed an interest.

The report provides crucial insight for governments on the role of culture in the development of the world’s biggest cities. “Culture is now at the heart of public policy in most major cities,” Ms Simons said. “You’re never going to capture in a report the feeling you get when you go to hear an incredible piece of music or you’re inspired by art. But this is a good stab at getting a portrait of the cultural standing of cities. Particularly from a policy perspective.”