As a long-time New Yorker, I find it eerie to see once lively stretches of theaters, comedy clubs, hotels, and cinemas boarded or papered up, advertising events from March 2020 like they’re frozen in time. COVID has emptied city streets in the last few months, prompting some fair-weather locals to claim “NYC is dead.” (Don’t worry: Jerry Seinfeld came to the city’s defense.) The notion that a city as vibrant as New York—or London, Paris, Tokyo—could actually “die” short of nuclear intervention or a revolution is a little laughable, but parts like Midtown Manhattan—typically corridors of white-collar business, nightlife, and culture—do seem to be hibernating. And yes, that can be unnerving for the city that never sleeps.
But look beyond the financial centers or traditional downtowns and you’ll see late-night parties in the parks (on a Sunday, no less). Same for Paris, where its locals are reveling in a city free(er) of tourists. Tokyo’s biggest attractions are empty, and that might be a good thing.
Could COVID prompt a reset of great urban centers around the world? How will they rebound from this pandemic, and how can we continue to support the cities we love from far away? There’s one easy way to start: This October 22–24, the WRLDCTY Festival, a first-of-its-kind virtual event, will bring together urbanists, entrepreneurs, DJs, authors, and artists for a three-day, round-the-clock celebration of cities.
Producer Resonance Consultancy Inc. expects roughly 10,000 people to attend, given the appetite for engaging with cities (somehow) right now. “We may not be traveling to other cities, but the planet’s urban centers are still innovating, growing and evolving, now more than ever amidst the pandemic,” says Resonance Consultancy president and CEO Chris Fair. “We wanted to unite this global community of citizens and creative nomads, activists and artists, entrepreneurs, students, planners and policy makers from around the world to explore, create and celebrate the best of urban life.”
Across three stages and six hubs—London, Singapore, Los Angeles, Toronto, New York, and Hong Kong—big names in urban development will lead conversations about the future of our cities: design, economies, culture, you name it. Meanwhile, musicians and artists, from Chicago to Tel Aviv, will livestream or record performances and all are welcome. No matter what time zone you’re in, you could log on to the Experience Stage and join things like:
- An early-access tour of the new Academy Museum of the art and science of movies (possibly led by museum board member Tom Hanks!) before it opens to the public in spring 2021 in Los Angeles
- A livestream from Badaboum Club in Paris
- DJ sets at landmarks and down backstreets of Montreal
- A cocktail-making session with Jonathan Kahn, who designed the drinks program for Time Out Market in Chicago
A $25 ticket also gets access to everything on the Experience Stage as well as the City Stage, site of panels, keynote talks, and fireside chats. There will be a lot of big ideas shared by leaders in urban innovation that—hopefully, ideally–will shape the future of our cities. Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class and The New Urban Crisis, will join a panel discussion on hot topic “This Is Not the End of Cities,” while former Toronto mayor and climate change specialist David Miller will dig into “How the World’s Great Cities Are Fighting the Climate Crisis.”
We’re also interested in joining chats about “Design for Distancing” (inner tube restaurants?!), the future of “Music Festivals in Urban Public Spaces,” and the notion of “The 15-Minute City,” or “la ville du quart d’heure,” a concept developed by Sorbonne professor Carlos Moreno that says “residents can fulfill their typical daily needs for goods, services, and recreation within a 15-minute reach on foot or by bike,” per WRLDCTY organizers.
A Pro Pass for $99 gives anyone who wants to wonk out on the topic or develop professional connections to network and attend live Q&As with experts. AFAR (as a media partner) will also host a panel—we hope to see you there.
WRLDCTY Festival runs Oct. 22–24 at WRLDCTY.com. Tickets are $25 or $99. AFAR is a media partner and a portion of ticket sales will support our independent publication.