The urban theorist Richard Florida wrote that the “creative class lifestyle comes down to a passionate quest for experience” (2012: 134) through street level culture, cafés, music and small bars. It is suggested that when an individual is ‘open’ to this experience then their behaviour will be creative. This work is situated within Florida‘s argument that cities are engaged in a global war for talent that can be won by developing the people climates valued by the ‘creative class’ (2002). These people climates are thought to be authentic, organic venues where consumers have a hand in creating them as opposed to big-ticket, high art events where the consumer is merely a spectator (Florida, 2012). Florida argues that we identify ourselves as ‘creative beings’, thus we pursue pastimes that express and nurture our creativity. As a result, we are often forced to pursue pastimes that are constantly in the process of becoming as human creativity becomes the “defining feature of economic life” (Florida, 2002: 21).
Exeter may not be the first place that comes to mind when we think of a ‘creative city’ with London the obvious example in the UK but also the growing popularity of Bristol perhaps providing a blueprint for what cities in the South West can achieve. And if Florida’s suggestions are true, then it is places like the Book Cover that nurtures the idea of Exeter as a creative city.
Disguised as an antiques book store, the Book Cover requires a password for entry and uphold rules for consumer behaviour in an effort to reproduce an authentic 1920s speakeasy experience. The ideal of the creative class, according to Florida (2012), is to live a life packed with intense, high quality and multi-dimensional experiences. The idea of the Book Cover came from a desire to enhance the city’s nightlife and to offer something new and alternative to what is already provided to tap in to the high quality and multi-dimensional experiences that the creative class seek.
However, within the creative economy there is concern with commodification as this often results in an inauthentic experience (Peck, 2005) to which the creative class avoid, preferring fluid, indigenous and organic venues (Florida, 2012). Large corporate ownership of nightlife venues in London has been critiqued by Hollands and Chatterton (2003) for this reason. Although not owned by major corporations, the problem for the Book Cover is to distribute a product that is perceived to be an authentic experience that attracts those looking for new experiences. This requires a need to engage with ‘organic’ venues at the street level such as Exeter’s busking scene which was utilised during the promotion of the venue’s opening night. This aims to promote the venue as an extension of the street level culture that Exeter is well-known for while also offering a new and unique experience for consumers.
Florida (2012) states that the experiential lifestyle is a fundamental component of creatives lives that are often experience driven. So if this has interested you, why not pursue it? Just don’t forget the password!
Florida, R. (2002) The Rise of the Creative Class, New York, Basic Books.
Florida, R. (2012) The Rise of the Creative Class, Revisited, New York, Basic Books.
Hollands, R. and Chatterton, P. (2003) Producing Nightlife in the New Urban Entertainment Economy: Corporatization, Branding and Market Segmentation, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 27(2): 361-385.
Peck, J. (2005) Struggling with the Creative Class, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 29(4): 740-770.