Zombieland: Has the race to become a “Creative City” made us uncreative?

I hail from the colourful city of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I love my city. It is bright, it is beautiful, and it is creative… I think.

Setting the Scene: Sophie’s Vancouver on a sunny day.

Walking down the street, the smell of fresh ground coffee, international cuisines, and medical marijuana mix with fresh mountain air to fill your nose with that “smell of home.” The sound of banjos and trumpets being played by men with ponytails and waxed moustaches act as a morning theme song. As you step onto a tree-lined street, you see colourful houses boasting neighbourhood libraries; urban gardens and beehives filling backyards; and people mashing apples with their feet to make illicit cider. Making your way into the city centre, the main radio station has paid for a local band to perform over the lunch hour; the art gallery is surrounded by artisan sellers; and a mob of slow moving zombies is creeping towards you.

Wait, what?


My uncle, mother, and brother in Zombie Walk 2014


Yes, zombies. Vancouver is home to many different kinds of zombies. Some good, some funny, and some that should just stay dead.

The first kind of Zombie is innocent. During The Annual Zombie Walk, hundreds of Vancouverites dress up as zombies and walk slowly through downtown moaning and consuming fake brains. It’s hilarious.

The second kind of zombie, again, is fun and innocent. Referred to as “Hollywood North,” Vancouver is home to a booming film and television industry. Often, one of Vancouver’s many television shows (i.e. iZombie) calls for a set of zombie extras to walk slowly through downtown moaning and consuming fake brains.

The third kind of zombie is boring. They’re the overworked business zombies found in every city. These commoners can be seen anywhere, anytime, moaning and consuming Starbucks.

But then there is the fourth. The fourth and the worst kind of zombie. I call them The “Creatives.” Distinct from living creative humans, the “Creative” zombie no longer uses their imagination. They no longer do just to do. Creativity has become nothing but a goal.

Preparing for the 2010 Olympics nearly a decade ago, Vancouver needed to boost its public profile and began a rapid gentrification of the entire city. Construction and start-ups have continued since, as the government has set out an official task to become more creative. We even have a downloadable document that perfectly explains our steps to creative heaven.


Like many cities, Vancouver strives to be creative. Yet we want to stand out from the crowd so badly that in doing so, the concept of creativity has begun to dissipate. We follow a textbook that says to be creative, we need:

  • tech-start ups
  • starving artists
  • colourful glass panelling
  • environmentalism
  • brushed-brass
  • media
  • street art
  • street food
  • alternative music venues
  • an army of man-buns
  • (etc, etc, etc)

But how “creative” is it if the entire Western world strives for the same thing? From Cardiff to Vancouver- we need to stop defining “creativity” and just do it.

The Creative Zombies may be helping to make our cities more livable and cool, but we must remember that creativity is much more than infrastructure and vibe. Creativity is found within our social structure. It is nourished by people, promoted by education, and powered by imagination.  It is the guys running the Zombie Walk, the banjo players on the street, and the neighbours smashing apples with their feet. It isn’t just “creative” it just is. And what it is, is constantly changing. Good luck, living creative humans!

(All photos my own)