Dundee – Once known as being the worst slum in Britain in the 19th Century has now transformed to be defined as Britain’s coolest little city as well as being titled the only UNESCO city of Design in the UK – and soon to be home to the only design museum outside of London. How did our cool little city come to be this way and how does it keep this impressive status?
In 1867 Architect George Gilbert Scott built the Mcmanus galleries, now an icon of the city, which at the time seemed like a strange place for this impressive and grand building to be built – in the city of Jute, Jam, and Journalism (once a ‘juteopolis’), but it endeavoured to provide an education for everyone in the city – a way for them to access culture out with the cities small bubble. Now, with the V&A Dundee set to open in summer 2018 and already being coined as, “A living room for the city,” and focussing on Scotland’s rich design heritage, it seems it too will provide for those who come looking from near and far. Dundee appears to always have been committed to providing its people with the highest quality of cultural experience.
A recent event run by the Architecture Fringe ‘Turncoats Dundee: Is Dundee losing itself in the chase of glamour?’, explored the idea of losing our ties to Dundee’s gritty past in the chase for shiny new titles. Four speakers presented for the argument and then had to switch sides and present against it – showing that there are always valid points to both sides of the argument. Overall the audience felt that the city was not losing itself as the definition of glamour is, ‘an attractive or exciting quality that makes certain people or things seem appealing!’, so how could we possibly be lost chasing something we already have.
On the subject of architecture, 2016 was the year of Design, Innovation, and Architecture, celebrating all our major advancements in each of these fields over the last century. The Festival of Architecture a major, year-long, Scotland-wide celebration led by The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland which brings Scottish architecture to life and is a key part of the 2016 Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design. Both the DCA and Dundee Rep theatre were nominated as the most impressive buildings to be built in the last century and the Light Nights celebration saw our City of Design host the closing ceremony, lighting up significant historical buildings/sites such as the Steeple, Mcmanus Galleries, Caird Hall and an area of current significance, the V&A site, showing the cities commitment to our new cultural direction.
The city itself has a vast variety of places and spaces which can be found in 99 things to see and do in Dundee – published by creative Dundee – all offering a rich cultural experience of the city. Outside of these, a number of events happen frequently that celebrate, support and question the creativity and creative future of Dundee. A number of these hosted by Creative Dundee – a small organisation that supports creative endeavours within the city. Recently, I had the pleasure of attending two events hosted by Creative Dundee, Pecha Kucha and Make/Share.
Make/Share, a monthly event held on the second Wednesday of every month brings people together to gain a behind the scenes insight into the work and process of people from a mix of creative, scientific and technological backgrounds to create links in the community and build on the creativity that’s already there, all alongside a free bevy! From condoms, knitting, 3D printing and community projects all of these have recently come up and have been incredible topics to learn more about.
Pecha Kucha – to sum up the absolute power of this event I only need one quote;
“Some industries burn through coal and oil – the creative industries burn through people’s lives.” Colin Anderson – a local games developer.
This quote embodies what the arts, design, and creative industries really mean and why they have true value. Dundee is one of the few cities that really holds this value to heart, (demonstrated in no shortcomings at Pecha Kucha) often this value can be misplaced in items of monetary value, but to see a city put value in people’s time and people’s lives is truly refreshing and shows why the city is starting to make some real headway.
Also at Pecha Kucha a new scheme AMPS was launched – a way for creative practitioners to ‘buy into’ their local communities. From as little as £2 a month (for students), among other things you get access to all future Pecha Kucha events, an annual amps forum on how to improve the Dundee creative scene, the opportunity to apply for an exclusive amps members Community Ideas Fund awarded once a year to enable a new collaboration between local Amps. This enables the community – a wide and varied community – to have a say in the continued development of our creative culture, co-designing all of our futures.
Another of Dundee’s recent titles in the media ‘living cultural experiment‘ highlights how early on our city is in its development, as a city with two universities many of the people who come here are looking show what we can do and find out who we are, much in the way the city is doing right now! We’re so early on in our cultural journey, just discovering who we are and just about to show what we can do! The future has never been brighter for Dundee, from Jute, Jam and Journalism to the future of Scotland’s design direction – we truly are a city of pioneers and innovators.