Whether advocating creativity as a means to place competition or critiquing the social dislocations that stem from creativity-led urban regeneration, research about the creative economy has tended to assume that large cities are the cores of creativity. That many workers in 'creative' industries choose to live and work in small urban centres is often overlooked. In this context, this article aims to recover within debates the importance of size, geographical position and class legacies in theories of creativity, economic development and urban regeneration. Using empirical materials from a case study of one Australian city - Wollongong, in New South Wales - it is argued that what might at first appear a rather parochial example illustrates the importance of rethinking the creative economy in place. Crucially, it is shown that, regardless of the numerical population size of a city, creativity is embedded in various complex, competing and intersecting place narratives fashioned by discourses of size, proximity and inherited class legacies. Only when the creative economy is conceptualised qualitatively in place is it possible to reveal how urban regeneration can operate in uncertain and sometimes surprising ways, simultaneously to estrange and involve civic leaders and residents.