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!

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

Time for some street life


The iconic fashion designer/activist Katharine Hamnett gave an inspiring and entertaining talk at the University of Dundee today in an event hosted by Design In Action. Her talk laid down the gauntlett for Scotland to value its textiles industry and use it to build a distinctive sustainable fashion industry. Her 300 strong audience included many of tomorrow’s fashion designers, and it is hoped that they will take up her challenge. But to do this they need to be encouraged and actively supported.

In answer to a question about how Dundee can use the V&A’s presence to build a vibrant sustainable fashion industry and market, she called on the City Council to give the City’s designers access to empty shops – she was calling for a design-led pop-up retail renaissance in the city. Who could disagree with this? We have some great designers and would-be designers in the city – why not give them a chance to give the city a bit of street life?

Cities – all cities – are in the fashion business. And if Dundee does not appreciate this and address its specific challenges, then the V&A is unlikely to succeed as the magnet for tourism and other growth that the City’s economic future depends on.

The highly influential American economist Richard Florida makes the compelling but controversial case that cities need to attract specific types of people to succeed and develop in the future. These he terms “the creative class” – “people in design, education, arts, music and entertainment, whose economic function is to create new ideas, new technology and/or creative content”. They are attracted to cities that have talent, technological infrastructure and are tolerant. All good news to Dundee then.

But this mobile and highly independent creative class expect something else too. They are attracted to experiential activities, described as Street Level Culture: a “teeming blend of cafes, sidewalk musicians, and small galleries and bistros, where it is hard to draw the line between participant and observer, or between creativity and its creators.”


We are attracted to places like Brixton Food Village, or Bergen’s fish market, or the Union Square farmers’ market in New York, or the Edinburgh Festival precisely because of the spectacle, surprise and shifting character of the street. Dundee needs to encourage and enable vibrancy on its streets. A tired and low key farmers’ market merely underlines the challenge that faces the city.

We have empty properties and some great streets. We have a hugely talented aspirational creative community who would be willing to set up pop-up fashion shops, street food fairs, street performance and much else besides.

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. Because civic regeneration is not about iconic architecture and ambitious town planning. It is about giving the people who live in a city the opportunity to bring their street to life. With their life – their ambitions, their talent, their distinctive character; to design their future city. Design is not an activity done to people, it is done by them to give form to their values and dreams.

Dundee is a city of design. UNESCO says so.

Time to prove it.