‘If everyone says so …’ Press narratives and image change in major event host cities

I have just published this academic paper within the Urban Studies Journal. You can access it here



This paper looks into the European Capital of Culture (ECoC) programme as a leading example of culture-led regeneration intervention aimed at renewing or diversifying the economic base and positioning of host cities. One of the key claims associated with the programme is that it can transform the ‘image’ of a city. These image transformation claims are often supported by evidence of heightened or more positive media coverage in the short term. However, little evidence has generally been gathered to determine long-term, sustained image change. The paper seeks to at least partly address this lacuna by presenting evidence on the media representation of Glasgow and Liverpool over three decades. These two cities are widely perceived to be paradigmatic not only of successful culture-led regeneration but also of the power of the ECoC title to transform city image. The paper looks at the importance of the media narrative arc surrounding major cultural events in solidifying ‘image change’ processes, regardless of the existence of evidence to suggest a change in perceptions by local communities at the time the event is taking place. The core argument is that if media coverage about a particular place shows a significant change in focus and attitude over time, is voluminous enough and cuts across geographical and journalistic variations, then it effectively becomes a key source of evidence of de facto image change. The key proposition in this paper is that evidenceable and sustained change in media representations of place can be taken as tantamount to image change. This is based on the assumption that widespread and longitudinal trends in media representation have the capacity to both reflect and influence public attitudes and perceptions.