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London, Ont. named a UNESCO City of Music, becoming Canada’s first to earn designation

The London, Ont., skyline, November 2020. Matthew Trevithick / Global News

The Forest City has officially been named a UNESCO City of Music, becoming the first city in the country to earn the designation.

The news was announced Monday in a joint statement from the city and the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, or the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

London joins more than 50 other cities around the world which have earned the UNESCO City of Music designation, including Liverpool, England; Glasgow, Scotland; Hanover, Germany, Kingston, Jamaica; and Kansas City in the United States.

In a statement, London Mayor Ed Holder said being named a City of Music reaffirmed that London was “an international hub for music and culture,” and was a “recognition of the ongoing commitment and dedication to the development of the music industry by all those involved in the music sector.”

Music, he noted, was a vital part of the economic and cultural identity of London, “a community with deep roots in the creative field.”

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In particular, UNESCO officials cite the city’s post-secondary institutions for producing “internationally recognized, award-winning talent,” and city hall’s efforts to bolster the local music sector, including adopting a music strategy in 2014, and hiring a music industry development officer in 2015.

London has 15 recording studios, and sees more than 4,700 live performances every year in a live music scene which employs nearly 1,000 people. In all, the city says London’s cultural scene generates nearly $600 million in economic activity every year.

The city has played host to major music events in recent years, including the Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) Awards and the Juno Awards. London will host the CCMA Awards again this year on Nov. 29, preceded by Country Music Week which begins on Nov. 26.

In a statement, Cory Crossman, London’s music industry development officer, said the designation “elevates London’s brand nationally and internationally and provides London with greater outreach and learning from access to UNESCO’s network of creative cities.”

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The City of Music designation is one of seven that UNESCO bestows on cities around the world as part of its Creative Cities Network, launched in 2004. Other designations include crafts and folk art, film, media arts, literature, design and gastronomy.

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At least 295 cities in 90 countries have received a designation, including 59 as cities of music. Previously, Montreal was designated a UNESCO City of Design, Quebec City a UNESCO City of Design, and Toronto a UNESCO City of Media Arts.

“This designation is years in the making and was supported by our music community and the successful hosting of international acts and national events such as Canadian Country Music Association’s (CCMA) Country Music Week, the CCMA Awards and the JUNOS,” Crossman’s statement read.

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