British Council Creative Economy

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27 October 2013

Creative Ulyanovsk

British Council Russia leads a pilot project on supporting smaller Russian cities to realise their creative potential.

(c) William Veerbeek

In September 2013, four UK creative economy experts travelled to the city of Ulyanovsk, by the banks of the Volga in Russia. The aim was to participate in the Ulyanovsk Cultural Forum – one of the main cultural policy events in the Russian calendar – and to use this high profile event to collaborate with local policy-makers and stakeholders to explore how Ulyanovsk can develop a strong and distinctive creative economy.

Ulyanovsk (pop. 613,000) is the capital of the province of the same name. Originally known as Siribisk, its name was changed in 1924 in honour of Vladimir Lenin (originally called Ulyanov), who was born there in 1870. The city became an important touristic destination during Soviet times because of its affiliation with Lenin, but tourists' numbers declined considerably after 1992. The rest of the economy also suffered in the early years of the Russian Federation: mass unemployment, industrial production decline, etc. The economy (largely industrial: car and aircraft production, food-processing) started to recover in the early 2000s.

UK experts and British Council colleagues from the Moscow office explored the city’s current cultural and creative assets via a set of study visits and facilitated a day-long workshop where participants were charged with co-creating a ‘Creative Economy Manifesto’ for Ulyanovsk.

(c) Yuri Brisk

Originally known as Siribisk, its name was changed in 1924 in honour of Vladimir Lenin (originally called Ulyanov), who was born there in 1870.

Led by Tom Fleming (, the UK delegation included Gillian Easson (independent consultant from Dundee; Lynne O’Neil (Scottish Cultural Enterprise Office) and Neil Peterson (independent consultant from Liverpool).

Tom Fleming also delivered two keynote speeches at the Forum, where he outlined how the city can play a leadership role for other smaller cities across Russia. Russia has hundreds of smaller cities (and just two big cities in Moscow and St. Petersburg), so if the country is to grow its creative economy and support the government's diversification agenda, then it will be necessary to devise approaches which work well in them - where issues of capacity, connectivity and confidence hamper innovation and growth.

The Ulyanovsk Cultural Forum 2013, supported by UNESCO.

The Creative Economy Manifesto for Ulyanovsk sets out a basic step-by-step approach for the city to develop its creative economy and it outlines some necessary conditions for smaller cities across Russia should they wish to collaborate with the British Council and benefit from UK expertise.

The Manifesto sets out an agenda to position the creative industries and wider cultural sector as a major economic driver for the region – as a direct generator of jobs, attractor of talent and value-adder to other sectors. It calls on partners across the region to build a creative future for this distinctive, historic and welcoming city and region. It calls for a set of dedicated actions to ensure the region not only has the title ‘Capital of Culture’, but the actions to match.

To download the Manifesto, click here.