York set to benefit from Unesco City of Media Arts win

York is spelled out in lights against the backdrop of Clifford's Tower.
York is spelled out in lights against the backdrop of Clifford's Tower.
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YORK’S vibrant digital arts scene has helped the city join the likes of Sapparo in Japan and Lyon in France to be recognised as a City of Media Arts by Unesco.

From light artists to computer game designers, those in the city’s thriving media arts industry are set to benefit from the accolade, which will see contemporary culture visibly celebrated across York.

During 2015 and 2016, an ambitious programme to encourage greater participation and enjoyment of the arts will take place, including international cultural festivals and the building of a new Digital and Media Arts Centre in the city’s historic Guildhall.

The designation secures York’s entry into the Creative Cities Network, a global string of culturally-significant centres across a range of creative fields, including literature, design, and film. Members of the network include Edinburgh, for literature, and Bradford, a city of film.

“This clearly flies the flag for York’s bid to be the first port of call for media arts in the UK, and indeed, one of the most creative cities in the world,” said Kersten England, chief executive of City of York Council, which supported the application. “This designation recognises all of the people involved in York’s vibrant digital arts scene: computer games designers, digital archivists, film producers, light artists, online publishers and many people who play a supporting role.”

It is hoped the designation would help retain York’s creative talent in the city, and draw other in as creative industries thrive.

Coun James Alexander, leader of York Council said: “This prestigious recognition of York’s creative and media sectors will boost these existing strong industries in York, raise the profile of the city globally, attract new businesses and provide employment opportunities for York residents for years to come”.

York joins five other cities to receive designation this week: Gwangju, in the Republic of Korea, Linz in Austria, Dakar in Senegal and Tel Aviv-Yafo in Israel, with Lyon and Enghien-les-Bains in France, and Sapporo in Japan having already received the honour.

To achieve the status, cities have to demonstrate development of cultural and creative industries triggered by digital technology, successful media arts integration into urban life, and wider access to culture through digital technology development. Planning for the bid began in 2011.

Mat Lazenby of York creative agency, Lazenby Brown, said: “York is leading the way with its free WiFi coverage of much of the city centre, and is well on its way to becoming the country’s first ‘gigabit’ city, with superfast network connections making it easier than ever before for people to both work in the digital arts sector, and also for citizens to engage with this new art form, whether by seeing projections onto the sides of buildings, or using their own mobile technology to access other interactive arts.”

CREATIVE and digital businesses form the largest growth area of the city’s economy, benefiting from significant investment in recent years.

In 2011, the £20m Ron Cooke Hub for creative enterprise opened at the University of York, followed this year by the £30m Heslington Studios.

Charles Cecil, founder of York based Revolution Software, said the city is an “exceptional and inspiring place to live and work” , embracing its past while creating the best possible environment to foster creativity.