Support Young Champions


I want your money. £5 will do.

This Saturday I am abseiling down the outside of a high building in Dundee. Holly Scanlan, Rod Mountain and I are among those doing this daring stunt to raise money for an amazing cause. Young Champions is a youth mentoring programme or young people in Dundee who have been failed by school and lack the skills and confidence find their way in life. They are mentored by some great students – design students from DJCAD.

Initiated by the remarkable Anthea Reid and supported by the equally great Kirsty Thomson, the project is making a real significant difference to the lives of those involved. But the point is, we need to involve more young people and make more – much more of a difference.

I saw the first cohort of Young Champions talk about their experience, and was so impressed by what they had achieved and how they now felt about their future. And I am lucky enough to know the mentors who had equally grown in confidence and ambition. Vitally, it showed them how they could apply their creativity in a sharing community-based context. This project can change lives.

You can help us to change more lives.

If we can raise £2,000 this Saturday then that will help us to gain additional grant funding, secure a few extra months for the project, and involve more of the city’s young people.
I would hugely value whatever support you can give to Young Champions. And if you fancy watching me hanging on a rope screaming silently to myself then pop along to the Tower Building this Saturday at 8.30am.

Visit our Just Giving page here and donate what you can. Thank you.


Dundee Becomes European City with New Flight


Direct flights between Dundee and Amsterdam went on sale today from £25 each way. The taxpayers’ lobby may take issue with it, but this new flight could be a game changer for Dundee. While it brings some major opportunities, these do not come automatically – we need to work hard to ensure that the city (and the taxpayer) reaps the full benefit.

Connectivity is everything

So, why is this connection so vital for Dundee? In short, because it gives us a one hour connection to Europe, to the UK’s principal hub airport, and to the world. And in today’s global economy and culture, connectivity is everything.

Heathrow has long since relinquished its role as the UK’s main hub airport, as Tom Forth argued recently in City Metric. It connects to just 7 UK airports, while Manchester flies to 13 and Amsterdam’s Schiphol flies to 24. Any creditable UK hub airport should also offer good rail connections. Heathrow has one rail connection: to London. Manchester Airport, on the other hand, has rail links to just about every city in the north of England and Scotland. With a rail link to London, Schiphol draws equal with Heathrow in terms of UK rail connectivity, but provides direct rail connections throughout The Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. Unlike Heathrow, it is a pleasure to use and easy to navigate.

There are three potential benefits for Dundee – an increase in tourism, more attractive for international students, and better international connectivity for businesses and the public sector.

Time to up our tourism game

When EasyJet launched its direct flight from Newcastle to Schipol in 2012, it was estimated that it would deliver 30,000 visitors to the city annually. For V&A Dundee to work and deliver fully to the city, and the taxpayer, it requires a significant hike in tourism. This flight gives us an opportunity to attract tourists from The Netherlands, Belgium and northern Germany. With this flight, Dusseldorf could be five and a half hours away door to door, which makes a weekend city break to Dundee realistic. You leave home at 3pm, and around 8.30pm you’re easing your knees under a table in the Malmaison to enjoy a brasserie that top critic Jay Raynor described as one of the finest he’d recently enjoyed.

In total, around 50 million people are easily within five hours’ door to door travel from Dundee with the new flight – indeed many of them are well within this time. That represents a lot of potential visitors, but we have to attract them with a totally unique offer. Our competition is Edinburgh, Newcastle, London, Paris and Berlin. With new opportunities come new challenges. Time to up our game.

Creating a unique offer requires a visionary, co-ordinated, targeted and enterprising approach. We also need to revitalise our street culture and service provision for tourists. Recent initiatives are a great start – but need to go much further. Imagine river taxis from the airport to Discovery Quay, welcoming visitors with one of the most spectacular entries that any city could offer. How about a cable car up to the Law? An iconic museum and a new flight is just the start. We must think very big if these are truly going to transform Dundee. The time for thinking small and modestly is over.

Benefits to our knowledge and creative economies

Both of the city’s Universities (and indeed the city itself) need a healthy stream of international students, but we fall short of fulfilling our potential. Think of it from the students’ perspective and you’ll see why. Those that come here love the experience of studying and living in ‘Britain’s coolest little city’ (GQ Magazine) – but they have a fair trek to enjoy it. Even if your port of entry is Edinburgh, there’s 30 minutes on the bus to Haymarket, and if you’ve just missed a train you may have at least another two hours until you reach Dundee. And that after a 12 hour flight from Shanghai and an hour (probably more) negotiating Border Control.

But assume that on arrival from Shanghai there’s a problem with your visa. If your port of entry is Heathrow or Edinburgh then it’s a safe bet that you’ll be on the next flight home, but if your port of entry is Dundee, then within five minutes a member of the University’s international team can be at the airport trying to sort things out. As well as being the UK’s coolest little city, we could be the most welcoming little city.

Dundee is big on knowledge and creative businesses – whether it’s our world class research in life sciences or our vibrant video games sector. These and other related industries in Dundee are all globally connected. The scientists, designers and technologists who work within them need to travel internationally to do their work on projects which often involve partners in different countries. Our connection with Schiphol makes this easier, quicker and quite a bit cheaper, enabling more of this type of work to take place (with savings for the taxpayer). Local designers like Hayley Scanlan have succeeded in developing world markets for their products – but opportunities increase considerably when the world starts paying you more regular visits. There is also Dundee’s aspiration to develop a film industry. International air links makes this a far more likely proposition.

But this is no silver bullet. One flight by itself will do little or anything for Dundee’s future. We need to be enterprising and flexible in bringing vitality to the streets of our city; we need a co-ordinated, visionary and ambitious programme to attract European tourists; the Universities should jointly develop and profile a ‘Dundee offer’ that fully exploits the benefits of the Schiphol connection; and the city should make the most of its link to Europe’s top airport hub when attracting inward investment.

We need to embrace service design as a means of ensuring that that the visitor journey to, through and back from Dundee is welcoming and pleasurable. Frankly, some of the city’s services – especially in food and leisure – need to take a long hard look at how they deliver to the customer. As the only UK UNESCO City of Design, then this is a great opportunity to really show how design can totally transform the experience of visiting Dundee.

All of us learning Dutch would help too. Tot ziens.

Dundee Global Service Jam


Next Friday – 26 February – at 5pm we begin the fourth Dundee Global Service Jam

This event is part of the Global Service Jam initiative, so the Dundee Service Jam will join people jamming in upwards of 100 cities, across countries worldwide.

The Global Service Jam movement began in 2011 and has grown ever since, with over 120 locations and nearly 3,000 people taking part around the world in 2014. Dundee participated for the first time in 2013 and hosted the 9th largest jam in the world, with more attendees than either Los Angeles or New York, and was the biggest jam in Scotland, second to London in the UK.

But while we were proud of the interest we attracted, we were clear that it’s not a world competition. The Global Service Jam is a unique way of bringing people together from across the global. Some of the best experiences of our jams have been live video link ups with others in Beirut, Mumbai, Helsinki and many other places. This is internationalism in spectacular creative action. Just look at this map of all the jam locations!

The main aim of the weekend is to have fun in a creative way!

Weekends often provide a much needed break from the working week, so don’t think of this as work. Instead envisage an action-packed design adventure. We will connect with a number of the global design jams during the weekend and by the end of the jam you will have the chance to present your design ideas to the world!

So what is the experience like? Well take a look at this one minute film by BAFTA award winning director Dylan Drummond who will also be our resident documentary film maker next weekend.

We also have a great line up of mentors – some are highly experienced designers, others well regarded design strategists and change makers. We also have some very successful local entrepreneurs who will encourage participants to make their ideas real through business or social enterprise start up!

To get your ticket (£10, £5 or free) go here. If you need any more persuasion, read on….

why jam

jam emp



Dundee – support for Calais refugee camp

Those in Dundee and Angus may be interested in this.

A van is leaving Carnoustie next Wednesday (9th) heading for the refugee camp in Calais.

They are looking for the following to be donated:

  • SHELTER – Sleeping bags, tents, blankets, pallets, canvas sheets, tarps.
  • CLOTHING – Belts, rucksacks, bags, shoes, socks, underwear, hoodies, waterproofs, jackets, hats, scarfs, gloves, bags, towles, trousers, jeans, t-shirts, jumpers, babys and childrens clothes.
  • HYGIENE – Toilet bags, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, tissues, sanitary products, tissues, toilet roll, mouthwash, razors, shaving foam, brushes, combs, bobbles, shower gel, shampoo and conditioner, deodrant, wet wipes.
  • FOOD – Tinned food, rice, pasta, oil, sauces, sugar, flour, packet food, longlife milk, tea, coffee, juice, water, baby milk and food.
  • ADDITIONAL – Candles, torches batteries, pots, pans, lighters, cups, baby bottles, anything which will help.

Collection points:

  • Carnoustie – Panmure Centre – 141 Kinloch St -10am to 4pm Monday to Friday
  • Marianne Scott – 1B Woodside Terrace – 6pm onwards – Ring Buzzer – not Wednesday but any other day
  • Monifeith – Seaview Primary School – Ask for Joe Whaite – 10am – 3pm Monday to Friday
  • Dundee – Metalurgey – 40 Dock Street – Ask for Kimbo – 10am to 5pm Monday to Saturday
  • Arbroath – 61 Dishlandtown Street – Ask for Jilly Anderson
  • Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, reception desk during office hours
  • Fluph knitting shop – 164 Blackness Road – during opening hours

Marianne Scott (who I don’t personally know) is organising this and doing the drive. She’s unemployed and using her savings for the petrol and ferry ticket, so financial donations also help. There’s a bank account set up, but probably safest to get details from her rather than for me to post it here.

Pop Up Dundee – Making It Happen


The event we held in Dundee on 24 June to promote a pop up retail culture in the city was a great success, attracting a large and committed audience who listened to some great speakers and participated in four diverse workshops. We have put together this Storify on the event which captures its atmosphere, and details some of the key points made by speakers.

So what is the outcome of this event?


First, people are invited to put themselves on a register of interest. Simply download and return this enquiry_form. If you are proposing a food and/or drink pop up then additionally download and return the PopUpDundee_EnvironmentalHealthForms.

Second, a number of pop up market opportunities are being provided. These include a two day pop up market on November 20 and 21. Prior to this event there will be smaller events to help test and refine the concept and the offer to shoppers. Those on the register of interest will be contacted to advise them of the opportunities.

Third, the City Council is working with property companies and developers to help open up access to suitable buildings and other spaces in the city.

Finally, there are initial plans underway to hold further events at which we can learn lessons from initiatives elsewhere

And now it’s over to you…

Pop Up Dundee never has been about “the council” making pop ups happen. The City Council certainly can play a catalytic role in opening up opportunities, bringing people together and encouraging enterprise, but ultimately this is about providing space for creative enterprise to flourish and lead a renewal of the city.

So here is the idea…

City Centres are in trouble – and not just ‘post-industrial’ cities. Recent visits to affluent cities in the south east of England reveal the exact same problems that we face in Dundee – vacant shops, growing urban decay and a general tiredness and lack of vitality. Put simply, the economic model that in the past sustained urban centres no longer works. We shop differently, and expect different things of our city centres. We need to reinvent them.

Pop up enterprises have proven their worth as low cost ways of testing new business ideas and encouraging entrepreneurship. They add hugely to the life and vibrancy of towns and cities, and explore creative new ways of using spaces and places. How about throwing in a local currency?


Brixton and Bristol are among those places that have their own currency. Research suggests that use of a local currency raises cash flow within the independent business sector and boosts local employment. Not only does this contribute to a more sustainable local economy, but it provides strong social bonds within communities.

Now is the time for bold creative ideas and above all actions that can make new things happen in our city. If you want to help make change happen in Dundee, then get in touch.

Meanwhile, here’s some useful information!

Let’s design and make a better Dundee


The Office for National Statistics published figures this week showing that Dundee has the fourth lowest employment rate in the UK with around 40% of local people not having a job last year. That’s the worst rate in Scotland, and in the UK only Liverpool, the London Borough of Newham and Middlesbrough perform worse.

Something is very seriously not working in the city – and not just too many of its citizens. This is the City of Design, the first UK city to secure this enviable UNESCO status. This is the city that has a bold cultural future ahead of it, thanks to the V&A Dundee project, that promises a steady stream of visitors to its blockbuster exhibitions.

Just yesterday the Business Editor of the city’s Courier newspaper wrote a challenging piece – Talent pool is huge – use it – that began with these words: “Last week I had the thoroughly depressing task of writing about yet another local company that has gone down the swanny…” It continued to describe the remarkable talents on display at the DJCAD degree show: “there was enough on show, from beautifully detailed animation works to silversmithing, graphic design to high-end fashion, to convince me the future of the city and the wider region is in good hands.” Graham Huband’s key message is that business needs to recognise and make use of the amazing creative talents of its design and art students.

I agree. I’ve been saying this (in a variety of cities) for 25 years and, to be honest, only rarely do local businesses show any more than a passing interest in creative talent. Dundee holds its fourth economic summit next week. I am sure the so-called creative industries will be mentioned. They were at last year’s summit. And do you know what will happen? Nothing. Because design is not regarded as a core capability in a city’s economy. When design was referred to at last year’s summit we saw some photos of fashion and jewellery. I love fashion and jewellery as much as the next person – but that is only a very small part of what design is and what it can contribute.

I am writing these words waiting for a plane at Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport. I am one of two design people going to Kuwait, along with a party from our School of Medicine to provide an innovative training and education programme for diabetes clinicians. Colleagues at Ninewells have been quick to see the benefits of service design in taking on some acute health challenges. And now health professionals in Kuwait want part of its benefits too.

Increasingly design is seen as key to transforming healthcare in the UK and internationally. But we still have a job on our hands to persuade business to really embrace design. This is one of our key challenges.

We need to demonstrate how design can make jobs, create opportunities, and transform the prospects for our citizens. Design does not reside in ‘design schools’. It is not just something you see at degree shows. It is a way of looking at the world, of framing and solving problems, of thinking about new opportunities, and exploiting the creative potential of ALL the people – not just the arty ones!

So what are the priorities? What do we need to do to design and make a better future for our city? Here is my six point design plan for Dundee.

1. Design mechanisms for citizen engagement

This is something that Catriona Macaulay and her colleagues at Scottish Government are active in doing, and we can expect some positive moves in this direction very soon. Imagine creating spaces where people can come together and prototype new services, create visualisations of how they want their neighbourhoods to be developed, move beyond talking shops and ‘committee culture’ and give people the tools to make their own future. Representative democracy has perhaps reached its limits and we should now create tools for participative democracy.

2. Embed design in policy making

Throughout the world design has been used as a tool to develop policy in both local and national government. Design labs are one of the initiatives that is transforming how government bodies open themselves up to a broader range of influences, ideas and – most importantly – citizen actions.   If you need evidence on the efficacy of this, then read the national research report Valuing Design, co-authored by Hazel White of the Dundee-based Open Change consultancy.

3. Design for sustainable development

There is an overwhelming need to create sustainable cities. As a recent government report argued: “Worldwide there is also an increasing focus on how design and other creative skills can contribute to a green transition. A major part of a product’s environmental footprint is defined through the early design phase, so many environmental issues can be solved by focusing on reducing environmental impact early in the development process… Rapid urbanisation is another example. The rise of megacities with millions of inhabitants is increasing the need for design solutions both technical and social that can meet the challenge of creating sustainable urban environments on a huge scale.”

4. Design to reclaim the high street

I have made the case earlier that design is a vital tool to make us think differently about urban spaces and in particular to think about how we bring new life, culture and enterprise into our tired city centres. We need to design a pop-up revolution – not just in Dundee, but in all of our cities – to open up the boarded up stores for use by designers, makers, and enterprising would-be retailers, restauranteurs and others. As I wrote: “The City Council should work to strip back regulation, work with other bodies in the City Centre to identify and make available properties and locations, and invite the people of Dundee to literally reclaim their streets for vibrant enterprises and cultural activities.” And I’m very pleased to say that since those words were written just months ago, we have made considerable progress.

5. Design for health

Again, throughout the world there is a growing realisation that design is key to dealing with the acute health challenges facing us – design better and more effective health services, using technology more appropriately, understanding the needs of patients and communities. Dundee has some great examples of this already – but clearly we have much further to go. This is a city with some hugely challenging health outcomes, and so there is scope for great improvement. We need to be embedding designers in health teams and encouraging innovative initiatives that target the more acute problems.

6. Design for jobs

As the Dundee Partnership has argued before: “The current financial crisis and resulting joblessness and decrease in spending power across our communities will undoubtedly have a knock-on effect on people’s health and well being.” We can have all the innovation for health in the world, but unless the local economy picks up, it is unlikely to have much positive impact. We need to embed design within a local strategy for employment growth, that necessarily looks at how we support and sustain new enterprise development. As I have argued elsewhere, there is a policy gap in Scotland around self-employment and business startups, which we must address with some urgency. Self-employment and enterprise are not the enemies of a more inclusive, healthier community – they are absolutely fundamental to its development.

We’re not short of ideas, creative talent, or enthusiasm.

We could design and make a better Dundee.

If the will is there.

This Is Pop


Designers and artists have a massive potential to breathe new life into our cities, to build new enterprises, and to offer people completely new products, services and experiences. In Dundee this is our vision, and this week an event will take place that will move us closer towards our goal of a vibrant creative city centre.

POPDUNDEE is a week-long pop-up shop that will be held in the Overgate shopping centre between 11 – 15 May. It is part of the 15 Good Deeds event run by the Overgate to celebrate its 15th birthday. During the week between 9am – 5pm, students from DJCAD will be showcasing and selling their work, ranging from art prints to jewellery to handcrafted gifts. This is a wonderful opportunity for emerging artists to showcase their talent and for the public to see what is being created right here in Dundee. POPDUNDEE also lays the ground for the DJCAD degree show, which opens on the 22nd May.

Jamie Mowat, Ashling Larkin and Vicky Stephen are the three design students from our animation course who are organising and running the event. The initiative arose from their participation in the pioneering DJCAD design module Design Enterprise that aims to connect design enterprise with the city of Dundee. Jamie Shankland of Marble Boy Clothing helped to broker the connection between the DJCAD Design Enterprise team and the Overgate.

POPDUNDEE is very much a product of Dundee’s status as UNESCO City of Design. Jamie, Ashland and Vicky attended Dundee’s first Pop Up Design Cafe organised by Creative Dundee back in January to celebrate this new status. POPDUNDEE shows how the City of Dundee is creating a powerful design vision, inspired by Creative Dundee, supported by creative enterprises, and made real by hugely talented and enterprising young designers.

Follow this on twitter: #popdundee