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Illuminating York 2011

York – UNESCO City of Media Arts

For two millennia York has been the meeting point for the ideas and creativity of the world. Today, it is playing this role once more through digital innovation and media arts as it was recently designated City of Media Arts status by World cultural organisation UNESCO. York is the first and only city in the UK to receive this prestigious accolade which is shared by French cities Lyon and Enghien-les-Bains, Sapporo in Japan, and Tel Aviv (Israel) totalling 69 throughout the world.

York was designated this status because of the driving contribution of media arts to the city’s quality of life, the ingenuity of the local economy, high levels of public participation, and the investment in the human capital in our academic institutions. York’s creative community is increasingly making its mark abroad through best- selling computer games, new music technology, immersive digital playgrounds, cutting- edge museum interpretation, and by making its cultural and creative output available across boundaries.

These evident strengths in media arts and its supporting technologies together with official accreditation from UNESCO allow York to play a part as a Centre and world leader for new ideas and art forms in the 21st Century, and a beacon for the exploration of creative pursuits and professions.


Following the designation, York is putting a plan in place which sets out four major aspirations for York’s creative sector:

To double the size York’s creative economy* from £164.8m to £329.6m by 2025

To increase engagement in the Arts** from 50.3% to 75% by 2025

* Defined as the ‘Information and Communication sector’ by Oxford Economics** As reported by DCMS on Active People. Baseline taken from 2010 figures.

To double the proportion of schools in the area with Arts Council Artsmark accreditation from 17% to 34% by 2025

To increase the proportion of cultural tourists from 17% to 25%, contributing to a doubling of the value of tourism to York to £1bn by 2025

Read the full plan

Creative industries, IT and Digital technologies form two key areas of sector specialism in York which has been a key driver in the city gaining its City of Media Arts accreditation. York also has sector specialisms in healthcare and medical technologies, biosciences, bio-renewables, environmental research finance and advanced engineering and manufacturing.  The city hopes to take advantage of these strengths going forward and further capitalise on its flourishing economy.