Cultural Futures in the Crisis – Book Launch and Panel Discussion

Date & Time
12 March 2024, 15:30 – 18:30

Join Justin O’Connor for a launch event for his forthcoming book ‘Culture is Not an Industry’, published by Manchester University Press.

Culture is at the heart to what it means to be human. But twenty-five years ago, the British government rebranded art and culture as ‘creative industries’, valued for their economic contribution, and set out to launch the UK as the creative workshop of a globalised world.

Where does that leave art and culture now? Facing exhausted workers and a lack of funding and vision, culture finds itself in the grip of accountancy firms, creativity gurus and Ted Talkers. At a time of sweeping geo-political turmoil, culture has been de-politicised, its radical energies reduced to factors of industrial production. This book is about what happens when an essential part of our democratic citizenship, fundamental to our human rights, is reduced to an industry.

‘Culture is Not an Industry’ argues that art and culture need to renew their social contract and re-align with the radical agenda for a more equitable future. Bold and uncompromising, the book offers a powerful vision for change.

“Justin O’Connor’s brilliant book argues for a holistic, ecological vision of culture in which it is seen as an essential part of the maintenance of a functioning society.” – Brian Eno

Justin will be joined by Katrina Brown, Abigail Gilmore, and Robert Hollands to discuss the book and the role of culture in the future, particularly in the context of the climate crisis, and questions of cultural policy as we face a UK General Election in the near future. The panel discussion will be chaired by Mark Banks, with Kate Oakley chairing the book discussion.

About the contributors

Justin O’Connor is Professor of Cultural Economy at the University of South Australia and Visiting Professor at the School of Cultural Management, Shanghai Jiaotong University. Between 2012-18 he was a member of the UNESCO ‘Expert Facility’, supporting the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of Cultural Diversity. Previously he helped set up Manchester’s Creative Industries Development Service (CIDS) and has advised cities in Europe, Russia, Korea, Vietnam and China. Under the UNESCO/EU Technical Assistance Programme he has worked with the Ministries of Culture in both Mauritius and Samoa. He is currently working with the Reset Collective. He recently co-authored Red Creative: Culture and Modernity in China (2020), Reset: A new Start for Art and Culture (in Dutch, Starfish books); and Culture is Not an Industry, Manchester University Press. More information at

Robert Hollands is an Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Newcastle University, UK and author of Beyond the Neoliberal Creative City: Critique and Alternatives in the Urban Cultural Economy (2023).

Katrina M. Brown is founding Director of The Common Guild, Glasgow, a not-for-profit visual arts organisation, presenting a highly respected, international programme of artists’ projects, events and exhibitions since 2007. Katrina was also Director of the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art in 2010 and 2012 which included the commissioning of major public projects by Susan Philipsz (‘Lowlands’, 2010) and Jeremy Deller (‘Sacrilege’, 2012). In 2013, The Common Guild curated the ‘Scotland + Venice’ exhibition for the 55th Biennale di Venezia, with Corin Sworn, Duncan Campbell and Hayley Tompkins. She has regularly written about artists for publications, including on Abbas Akhavan, Roman Ondak, Susan Philipsz and Katinka Bock and is the author of the 2004 Tate monograph on Douglas Gordon.

Abi Gilmore is a Senior Lecturer at the  Institute for Cultural Practices, University of Manchester. Abi’s research is on cultural policy, participation and place with a focus on devolved and local government. She has recently published a monograph Culture, Participation and Policy in the Municipal Public Park with Palgrave and is currently seconded part-time to the UK government as a UKRI Policy Fellow to work on Cultural Placemaking with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Mark Banks is Professor of Cultural Economy at the University of Glasgow. His interest is in the cultural or creative industries, with a focus on work and employment, culture-economy relations, participation and social justice. Mark has a particular interest in the visual arts, music and media industries and writes about cultural theory, cultural value, cities, and popular culture. His current research is concerned with how the cultural industries and the wider ‘creative economy’ can be made more socially and (‘creatively’) just, and better linked to ecological politics, especially through the ideas of post-growth, well-being or transitional economies.

Kate Oakley is Professor of Cultural Policy at the University of Glasgow. Her research is in the broad area of cultural industries and the cultural economy, with  a particular focus on labour.  She has published widely in cultural policy including two books Cultural Policy, with David Bell in the Routledge Key Ideas in Media and Cultural Studies Series and Culture, Economy & Politics: the case of New Labour, co-authored with David Hesmondhalgh, David Lee and Melissa Nisbett. Current research includes work on sport and new municipalism.

This event is presented in collaboration between The Dear Green Bothy and Thinking Culture, University of Glasgow.