Becoming a city of culture

A Musical Club showing composer and musician Joseph Emidy of Truro (1775-1835). Courtesy of the Royal Institution of Cornwall

A Musical Club showing composer and musician Joseph Emidy of Truro (1775-1835). Courtesy of the Royal Institution of Cornwall

I’ve been working in recent months on the value and role of museums and similar organisations in place making–the new way of describing what has developed from early millennium debates on creating a sense of place.

What makes places unique isn’t cutting it anymore. Like our museum visitors and users, people’s expectations from a city visit have changed. We want experiences that are memorable, not just an ill-defined and oft-unsatisfying learning something new.

Just before I left for a study trip to Finland and Estonia, Cornwall was in the midst of some pretty grim arguments about putting Truro forward as a candidate for European City of Culture 2023 (unfathomably a joint bid of Truro-Cornwall). The development of the bid itself came under fire and eventually it was dropped altogether following our recent local authority elections.

At about the same time I was working in a small group comprising good minds from Truro Cathedral, Hall for Cornwall and the Royal Institution of Cornwall (the organisation that runs Royal Cornwall Museum on River Street) to discuss how three of Truro’s leading organisations could come together to promote the city as a cultural centre, for local communities and tourists alike. All are also developing ambitious new plans for their future and it made sense to me that they should try and work together in a strategic way. They are, after all, the content holders, when it comes to creating stories and narratives about a city, its heritage and most importantly its people.

While visiting Tartu in Estonia–the country’s second city and cultural capital, I realised what it really meant to be in a city of culture and came back with some tips…

What Truro can learn from Tartu – the city of good thoughts