The Soft Power of UK Core Cities

This 2021 report from Core Cities focuses on the ‘soft power’ of UK core cities – that is, the institutions, attractiveness factors, people, and values, which can attract people to a place and open it up to a global stage. It outlines the soft power assets of the 11 UK core cities and how these have been drawn on to generate social, cultural and economic value. Short case studies are provided for Belfast, Leeds, Cardiff, Bristol, and Liverpool.

Date added 16 November 2021
Last updated 16 November 2021

This report focuses on the ‘soft power’ of UK core cities – that is, the institutions, attractiveness factors, people, and values, which can attract people to a place and open it up to a global stage. It outlines the soft power assets and strengths of the 11 UK core cities and how these have been drawn on to generate social, cultural and economic value (Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, and Sheffield). As the report argues (p. 2):

Together, the UK Core Cities have a critical role in delivering the Government’s ambitions for Global Britain. With a portfolio of highly attractive soft power assets – including internationally recognised universities, science, research and innovation facilities, sports clubs, and civic and cultural institutions, the UK Core Cities play a dynamic role at the heart of the UK’s soft power.

As the report explains, soft power assets can be institutions (e.g. universities, science and research facilities, sports stadia and cultural organisations); attractiveness factors (e.g. food scenes, cultural districts, events, natural heritage, retail), people (e.g. diverse communities, distinct identity, famous people), and values (e.g. history, heritage, and innovation). These factors can provide measurable economic, social, and cultural benefits for cities.

The report provides short case studies of how core cities have drawn upon their soft power assets to increase place attractiveness, as summarised below:

Cardiff- focused on building its cultural, musical and sporting infrastructure, positioning Cardiff and Wales as a centre for major cultural and sporting events.

Belfast- with a young population (43% under 30), securing the One Young World Summit for 2023 will attract future young leaders, and the 25th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and will provide an opportunity for the city to demonstrate its resilience.

Leeds- Hangzhou has been a sister city of Leeds since 1988, which has attracted new businesses (e.g. Dahua Technology) and cooperation with other Hangzhou based companies is also on the rise, some of which participated at events in Leeds Digital Festival in 2020.

Bristol– designated by UNESCO as a Creative City of Film in 2017, which has been further harnessed upon to ensure the long-term sustainable development of the film and TV industry, for example through the expansion of Bristol’s main production facility, The Bottle Yard Studios.

Liverpool - culture, music, science and major events are at the core of Liverpool’s international brand profile, and the city has created an integrated approach to the way that it presents itself as both a visitor and investment destination.

The report concludes by recommending that a better understanding of soft power assets is achieved, core cities establish a regular dialogue with UK Government, and shared approaches to leveraging relations, partnerships, and programming are developed.