Closing of the ASEAN Creative Cities Forum. ©

DTI-DCP 2017

24–27 April 2017

BGC Arts Center, Taguig City.


John Howkins is a British author best known for his work on the creative economy. Howkins was in Manila to give the keynote speech for the ASEAN Creative Cities Forum and Exhibition. The forum itself took place at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig from 26–27 April. The event put the spotlight on creativity’s role in urban development. It was organised by the Department of Trade and Industry through the Design Center of the Philippines, in conjunction with the 30th ASEAN Summit in Manila.

Howkins, speaking in front of government officials, cultural workers and guests from the ASEAN, highlighted that ‘creativity is being normal’, that ‘everyone is born with imagination and the passion to use it for private pleasures and public purposes’. He also recommended the establishment of creative hubs, which not only provide shared spaces, but also services.

Howkin’s ideas were further articulated on day 2 of the forum by guests from the UK, Thailand and Malaysia working within the creative sectors. Jia Ping Lee, former programme director of Think City, discussed how Think City’s cultural initiatives in urban regeneration were able to transform George Town’s sleepy streets and abandoned shophouses into a hip, creative neighbourhood in Malaysia, while preserving and promoting its heritage. The panel also featured Gillian Easson of Creative Dundee (UK), Andrew Erskine of Tom Fleming Creative Consultancy (UK) and Peeradorn Kaewlai, senior advisor of Thailand Creative and Design Center (TCDC, Thailand).

John Howkins keynote speech. ©

British Council 2017

L-R. Andrew Erskine (Tom Fleming Creative Consultancy, UK), Peeradorn Kaewlai (Thammasat University / TCDC, Thailand), Gillian Easson (Creative Dundee, UK), Jia Ping Lee (Think City, Malaysia).  ©

British Council 2017

In another panel, Victoria Herrera of the Ateneo Art Gallery, provided an overview of existing creative hubs in the Philippines. Creative hubs are described as spaces for knowledge exchange and play an important role in innovation and community building. They can be art spaces, makerspaces, hackerspaces, co working spaces  and fab labs. Other members of the panel were Katelijn Verstraete, regional director of Arts and Creative Industries for the British Council East Asia; Ellen O’Hara, creative and cultural strategist; Marika Constantino, co-founder and executive director of 98B Collaboratory; Fajri Siregar, executive director of Indonesia’s Center for Innovation and Policy Governance; and Ling Low, a journalist from Malaysia.

‘Creative hubs are about bringing people together and testing ideas’.
– Katelijn Verstraete, Arts Regional Director, British Council in East Asia 

The British Council worked on a regional research on creative hubs in the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Initial results found that one of the biggest challenges that creative hubs face is the lack of business skills and expertise on arts and creative disciplines. The complete research was made available online in 2017. 

The activity was part of British Council’s programme to support Philippine ambitions through creativity and enterprise.