Nick Wilson


Hello and welcome!

I like to explore what it means for people to live full and flourishing lives, and how these can be enabled and supported at organisational, industry, and policy levels. I am interested in the interconnections and interdependencies between human creativity, art and culture, the arts and cultural and creative industries, practices of care, authenticity, knowledge and truth. This is a big topic, and takes me down many paths(!)

My current research is exploring the relationship between knowing and the unknowable.

I have previously researched and written extensively on early music and authenticity, creativity and care, cultural capability, a realist theory of art, and what I term Aesthetic Critical Realism (ACR). At the heart of ACR is a commitment to our learning to become more experienced in experiencing the world (I define experience in terms of our thought and un-thought knowledge of being-in-relation with the world).

Creativity - the discovery of the possibilities and potentials of the world and bringing these into being; creativity involves recognising and pursuing meaningful and valuable projects; such projects may or may not get recognised as valuable by others.

Art - the creative practice of giving sharable form to people's experiences of being-in-relation with the world; this includes people's connections with all that is 'real' - how the world is (and is not); such experiences constitute a particular form of knowing - which we might label as aesthetic knowing. Human beings make art in all sorts of contexts, and not just in 'the arts'. You don't have to be an 'artist' to do art. However, the arts are vital because this is where society gives permission to value aesthetic knowing - which helps people recognise what they have reason to value, and come to know what it is like to be human; it is in the arts that society recognises the production, consumption and all-round enjoyment of 'art-works' (see Culture - below); it is also through the arts that the skills and competences to make art (whether as artists or not) are learned and passed on to others.

Culture - our systems of value recognition (i.e. how we determine what matters). Understanding and critically interrogating our systems of value recognition (the market, politics, education, science, healthcare, and the arts) is one of the emost important tasks we can embark on.

Cultural capability - people's substantive freedoms to recognise what they have reason to value.

Cultural development - the expansion of people's substantive freedoms (i.e. their opportunities) to recognise what they have reason to value.

Cultural needs - people's needs to recognise what they have reason to value (comprising their needs to connect, to create and to count).

Care - seeing and hearing others' needs and taking responsibility to fulfil these needs. Creativity and art are practices of care.

Cultures of care - the cultures  we reproduce and transform everyday that enable us to care and be cared for. (See

I have recently completed my involvement on a three-year research project focused on Developing Inclusive and Sustainable Creative Economies (DISCE). I led the development of a Cultural Development Index (CDI) and a Needs-based Approach to Governance.

I regularly upload writings and links to publications, as well as information about my current research interests and projects. More details of my work at the Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries, King's College London is available on the CMCI website.

Please do get in touch if you would like to collaborate!

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Credit: David Tett

Recent News

Research sabbatical

During 2023-24 I am on research study leave.

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Beyond 'policy-based' cultural governance - chapter published 2024

This chapter asks two questions - what is 'cultural governance'? And why does it matter? It is a part of a collection designed to highlight the importance of culture to broader policy agendas and the inherent value of culture in addressing the challenges ahead in the 21st century.

A Modern Guide to Creative Economies - August 2022

Building on work for the Developing Inclusive and Sustainable Creative Economies (DISCE) project, this new co-edited volume offers a timely reflection on the importance of creative economies. Alongside my contribution as co-editor I have a chapter titled 'What is the creative economy - really?' (submitted manuscript version available below)

Wilson_Modern_guide_Submitted Dec 21.pdf
Click here for 'What is the creative economy - really?'
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Symposium on The Space That Separates: A Realist Theory of Art

In July 2022 the Journal of Critical Realism published a series of review articles on my book, with contributions from leading academics who draw on critical realism: Dave Elder-Vass, Andrew Sayer, Tobin Nellhaus, Ian Verstegen and Alan Norrie. My response is titled Bridging the Space that Separates. To download a free eprint please click here.

On May 21st, 2021 I was invited to speak at the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Event on Culture and Sustainable Development. My panel talk was on 'The status of artists, cultural professionals and organizations: Equitable digital transformation to support COVID-19 recovery. A video of my talk is available here. The full programme of the event is available here.

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Providing the first dedicated and comprehensive account of art and aesthetics from a critical realist perspective – Aesthetic Critical Realism (ACR), Wilson argues for a profound paradigm shift in how we understand and care for culture in terms of our system(s) of value recognition. Fortunately, we have just the right tool to help us achieve this transformation – and it’s called art. Offering novel explanatory accounts of art, aesthetic experience, value, play, culture, creativity, artistic truth and beauty, this book will appeal to a wide audience of students and scholars of art, aesthetics, human development, philosophy and critical realism, as well as cultural practitioners and policy-makers.

The Palgrave Handbook of Creativity at Work is co-edited with my colleague and friend Lee Martin. It is comprised of 30 chapters which explore the subject from a diverse set of perspectives. As I outline in the final chapter's synthesis of ideas, I believe that the handbook offers a genuinely new, constructive (albeit challenging) way of thinking about creativity (at work) as a structured practice of care. Chapters are available to download here.

Entries I've written on "authenticity", "early music", and "Werktreue" are included in this new comprehensive encyclopedia of historical performance in music (2018).


I was honoured that my article "What's the problem? Cultural capability and learning from Historical Performance" features in this inaugural edition of  Historical Performance (2018). For more details click here.

Huffington Post article (24th May, 2017) by Tony Woodcock discusses the 'Entrepreneurship in Music' conference in Oslo, Norway in April, 2017, in which I gave the opening Keynote.


As a conflation of the words ‘creativity’ and ‘if’ (as in ‘what if?’), creatifity carrys with it an aspirational message about human creativity that is imaginative, emancipatory, and value-positive. This is a message that informs my approach to creativity research and practice.

“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties”
Erich Fromm


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