For the past few years I have held a strong desire to visit Dundee. This has largely been inspired by having read and heard a great deal which suggested that Dundee was a city embracing change, regenerating and reimagining itself and with significant ambition to put culture at the heart of this change process. My recent visit did not disappoint.
I was fortunate to make my first visit to Dundee during a week of heightened activity due to the opening of the first Dundee Design Festival 25-28 May. The event that I had travelled specifically to attend was Mass Assembly a one day forum organised by Creative Dundee and Creative Edinburgh to explore the future of collective working for creatives and the places they are based. The event profiled a thoughtfully curated collection of speakers talking to this theme from diverse perspectives including networks, hubs, start-ups, partnerships, translation, collaboration, places, identities, communities etc. My primary purpose for engaging with this was to inform the work we are currently engaged with in developing a creative hub for Cardiff and connecting with hubs across the city region. There were lots of useful insights and sharings for me to take away.
Whilst many of the attendees were from Scotland, there were a few who made the worthwhile journey to participate in this event. I am certainly glad I did. It was a very rich event in terms of content and contacts and most notably a very open event where discussion and sharing was encouraged and facilitated.
As a UNESCO City of Design and home of the new V&A Dundee (due for completion in 2017) the city is well placed to make an offering of this kind. There are a number of really interesting places, spaces and organisations across the city which have been or are being used or reconstituted for cultural and creative purposes. One example of this was West Ward Works - the former industrial factory building which is one of Dundee’s most important historic centres of magazine and book production as the former home of D&C Thomson’s annuals. A map/guide to share more of these was crowdsourced and produced by Creative Dundee listing 99 Things to See and Do in Dundee.
The Dundee Design festival itself included over 30 exhibitors, an extensive talks and workshops programme, exhibitions and performances across the city and had a really open and welcoming feel. The theme for the festival was ‘Place. Work. Folk. Design.’ which explores the potential of design to connect the city’s communities and improve everyday lives and it was this that really seemed to resonate with the diverse community engaging with the events that I attended. It was also inspiring to see pop-up events taking place alongside the festival programme, for example the pop-up atelier space Tea Green which included a boutique and live studio space sharing an eclectic array of works from independent artists and designers from across Scotland.
Cardiff has lots to both learn and share with a city like Dundee. I look forward to continuing conversations and further opening up opportunities to do so.