York receives UNESCO recognition with prestigious title


York has been designated a City of Media Arts by UNESCO.

The prestigious title puts York on the map as one of the most creative cities in the world.

The university’s new Heslington East developments have been credited with helping York win the bid.

UNESCO said: “York is already a leading destination for creative and digital businesses: it is the largest growth area of the city’s economy, benefiting from significant investment in supporting infrastructure in recent years, including the £20 million Ron Cooke Hub for creative enterprise and the new £30 million Heslington Studios at the University of York.

“This attracts both extraordinary entrepreneurs and outstanding talent, helping to create the thriving cultural scene for which it is famed.”

Student reaction has generally been positive with first year History student, Ed Hunter, commenting: “York is a spectacular and remarkable city that is rich in culture and history.

“I feel privileged to be able to study and live here, and I think it’s fantastic that it’s getting recognised by UNESCO.”

Stakeholders from York’s business and creative sectors gathered in the Merchant Adventurer’s Hall in Piccadilly last Friday to celebrate the award.

Discussed was the city’s 2015-16 Plan to encourage more participation and enjoyment of the arts in many different forms.

However, the worry that York was fostering a ‘cultural elite’ was brought up.

City of York Council Chief Executive, Kersten England, also said: “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.”

The city was officially announced as part of the Creative Cities network on 1 December last year.

Other cities that have received the accolade include Lyon, France; Tel-Aviv, Israel; and Dakar, Senegal.

New investment opportunities as a result of the title are hoped to boost the value of York’s creative industries to £330 million, two times its current size.

The University of York has come up on the international agency’s radar before, with a York Professor of Chemistry and Physics receiving a L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science Award.

UNESCO, or the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, is part of the United Nations and promotes international collaboration through education, science and culture.

The Creative Cities Network, which York will now be a part of, aims to encourage cultural diversity and sustainable urban development.