On October 23, 2022, Director Adrian Ellis joined a panel at Culture Summit Abu Dhabi on the topic 'The Power of Cultural Districts.' 

Watch the 'The Power of Cultural Districts.'

The concentration of cultural activities and organizations in particular areas can happen organically but since antiquity, it has also been part of urban planning. In the 19th century museum and theatre districts were created in European capitals that have come to be integral to those cities' identities and economies. In the last 30 years, cities from Abu Dhabi to Azerbaijan, Hong Kong to Houston have invested in creating cultural districts to foster tourism, to create seedbeds for creative industries, to provide cultural amenities for their communities and to stimulate economic development. At the same time, the effectiveness of districts in promoting these wider policy goals is being challenged on a number of fronts in the post-covid period: changing work patterns are challenging the economic vitality of the downtown areas where many districts are located; the future of international cultural tourism is unclear; the digital revolution is undermining the primacy of place in cultural consumption; the legitimacy of the cultural institutions that are anchors is being questioned; supply chain issues and preoccupations with environmental impact and sustainability are changing the focus of programming. Can districts adapt to this changing context and in the process remain the effective tools of cultural policy they have been? If so, how? 

This panel explores this agenda with a panel comprising cultural leaders at the sharp end of planning and managing cultural districts from around the world. 

Moderator: Fiammetta Rocco, Senior Editor and Culture Editor, The Economist 


  • Adrian Ellis, Founder, AEA Consulting, Global Cultural Districts Network 
  • Nora Al Dabal, Executive Director of Arts and Creative Industries, Royal Commission for AlUla
  • Yvonne Tham, CEO, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay 


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