York: UNESCO Creative
City of Media Arts

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Creative City of Media Arts Toolkit

Download the new business toolkit and digital assets to find out more about York’s UNESCO designation and get involved.

A meeting point for ideas and creativity for two millennia, York is a city where outstanding, renowned heritage meets a cutting-edge and contemporary approach to creativity. York’s rich history combines with our status as a UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts to act as a powerful catalyst to attract, encourage and help grow York’s cultural and creative sectors.

York is part of a network of 246 Creative Cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor in sustainable urban development. We place creativity and the cultural industries at the heart of our development plans at a local level and we actively cooperate at an international level.

Kaiser Chiefs in the Silent Gig as part of the exhibition When All is Quiet - Kaiser Chiefs in Conversation © York Art Gallery
Dance workshop by York Dance Space in the exhibition When All Is Quiet - Kaiser Chiefs in Conversation © York Art Gallery
© Van Gogh - The Immersive Experience

As a UNESCO Creative City, we seek to embed creativity in every aspect of making and living in our city – in the economy, in wellbeing and in placemaking. In 2020, York launched a new Culture Strategy – York’s Creative Future – which has inclusion and participation at its core; showcasing the city’s commitment to ensuring culture is relevant and accessible to everybody in York regardless of age, background or postcode. It places culture at the core of activities from major capital developments to residents’ wellbeing and will work to ensure cultural entitlement for every child.

As a UNESCO Creative City, we:

  • strengthen the creation, production, distribution and dissemination of cultural activities, goods and services;
  • develop hubs of creativity and innovation and broaden opportunities for creators and professionals in the cultural sector;
  • improve access to and participation in cultural life, in particular for marginalized or vulnerable groups and individuals;
  • fully integrate culture and creativity into sustainable development plans.
People We Love, by KMA at York Mediale 2020 © Esme Mai

York is one of only 12 UNESCO Creative Cities in the UK and we are unique in being the UK’s first and only UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts.

To us, media arts encompasses all contemporary creativity: it is the nexus of the creative economy, art and technology – and York is home to many vibrant, leading media arts organisations, events and initiatives. 

York Mediale is an international media arts charity, which delivers an international media arts festival every two years; the Guild of Media Arts consists of around 200 creative practitioners across the sector, and represents York as the Focal Point for the UNESCO designation; the Aesthetica Short Film Festival is a leading annual international festival in York; and XR Stories provides research and development for the future of immersive and interactive storytelling.

City to City

City to City is the Media Arts Network of Creative Cities. In 2020, the cities of Austin (United States), Braga (Portugal), Calí (Colombia), Changsha (China), Guadalajara (México), Karlsruhe (Germany), Košice (Slovakia), Sapporo (Japan) and York (United Kingdom) commissioned a series of projects around the theme “Human Responsibility”. You can look at the virtual gallery of these works here.

The 2021 edition is launching around the theme of “Play!” and will have 14 UNESCO Media Arts Cities taking part: Austin, Braga, Calí, Changsha, Dakar, Enghien-les-Bains, Guadalajara, Gwangju, Karlsruhe, Kosice, Sapporo, Toronto, Viborg and York.


Find out more about how the UNESCO Creative Cities worked together on City to City to support art and creativity as a major force for sustainable development during the pandemic.

Viborg UNESCO Creative City - #DrawWithDenmark

During 2020, Viborg UNESCO Creative City spearheaded an international project, ‘Draw with Denmark’, which encouraged children to make drawings that give hope to children all over the world who have suffered because of COVID-19. Children from York UNESCO Creative City got involved and shared their drawings, which are featured in this inspiring film.

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