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.

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Scottish innovation: design and democracy

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We are perhaps seduced into believing that the UK is moving into the Harry Potter economy, in which so-called ‘creative’ industries, such as film production, television and publishing drive wealth creation and employment. Indeed, some years ago it was suggested that boy bands contributed more to the GDP than the aerospace sector. While I’ve never been able to fully examine the veracity of this claim, the day after One Direction called it a day, I paid a visit to the Tayside firm of Scott & Fyfe. The broad product portfolio of this textiles manufacturer includes composites that stitch bond together glass, carbon, aramid and other high performance fibres in products that are used in a range of sectors, including aerospace. While this company’s turnover may not quite be up there with the world’s top grossing music act, they represent a sector that is vital to the UK economy. The textiles industry in Scotland has undergone something of a renaissance in recent years, contributing over £1 billion to the economy, and generating considerable export earnings. There are currently around 570 companies Scottish textiles manufacturers directly employing around 9,000 people. In Scotland we still make things. But we make them, and create them very differently, and Scott & Fyfe shows us a unique way of doing things.

The company  has a 150 year history as a manufacturer of technical textiles, from its base in the small coastal town of Tayport in the north east corner of Fife. What it weaves and knits are the textiles that are used to create motorcycle helmets, rubber underlay backing, irrigation piping systems, bus interiors, yacht hulls, water slides, truck wind deflectors and much else. This company, which has a global reach in highly competitive markets, is a hidden gem of Scottish innovation. For me, its significance and inspiration comes from its unique fusion of design and democracy that creates an aspirational, highly creative firm that values and fully uses the skills and insights of its employees.

The global economic crash of the late 2000’s coincided with a crisis in the company’s fortunes. But its slide towards crisis was caused less by recession and more by its long-term failure to innovate and develop new products.

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“Ours is a business of failure”, said Michaela Millar, the hugely impressive Business Development Officer who had invited me to the company. Michaela’s background is in textiles design from DJCAD, but it is evident that her responsibilities go far beyond a design brief. She explained to me that the company’s varied markets demanded constant innovation and bringing new products to the market. Most of these products will fail, so the task is to learn from failure, build on success and move on.

In our risk averse culture, this attitude is refreshing and places Scott & Fyfe in a rare group of organisations which have succeeded in finding strategies that innovate through encouraging creativity.

Talking to me in one of the innovation pods in a huge open area adjoining the factory, painted in primary colours and floored in astroturf, Michaela told me how two key developments pulled this ailing family-run firm back from the brink. In 2010 the company began to work with Glasgow School of Art’s Design Innovation Studio, to explore how creative thinking and innovation could infuse its culture and operations. This resulted in a range of tools and methods being explored and applied in the company. This opened them up to new perspectives and – crucially – new thinking tools that could be applied to new product development.

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Joined by Business Manager, Michelle Quadrelli, the two spoke to me with obvious passion and enthusiasm how this design-led strategy was quickly accompanied by a move towards employee ownership. In December 2012 Scott & Fyfe evolved from a fourth generation family owned firm to a fully employee owned enterprise. The workforce is fully informed and briefed on what the firm is doing, and above all is valued in terms of their knowledge and skills. The tools provided by GSA are one means of harnessing this vital expertise, and turning it into new successful products.

This appears to be a vital element in the company’s success – and all too rare in the UK. Unlike Germany and the Scandinavian countries, industrial democracy has been notably absent from Britain’s industrial landscape. Perhaps predictably, it is on the agenda of none of our political parties, and it should be.

Scott & Fyffe shows another way ahead for our manufacturers – based on design and democracy. It embraces creativity – the creativity of ALL of its workforce. Far from pillorying failure, which is seemingly our national pastime, it uses failure as a useful source of learning. As Michaela said to me “we fail fast, and we fail often, and that way we do things better.” It uses methods of innovation and design thinking that I last saw being applied in California’s Silicon Valley. It trusts and it values its people. And yes, they are “people” not “human resources”.

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Giving relatively untested employees like Michaela trust and responsibility is refreshing. Hers has been a steep learning curve, but the scope to explore new markets and possibilities has brought the very best out of this highly talented young woman. But that is my enduring impression of Scott & Fyfe – an enterprise that knows that its employees are its most valuable asset. Respect and value them, give them a stake in success, support them and give them tools and space to creative, design and take risks – and you will succeed.

With design and democracy, Scotland’s enterprise can be world class.

Pop Up Dundee – Making It Happen

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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?

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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?

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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

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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

Vote for design

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The forthcoming General Election demands us to be critical of all parties and interrogate their manifestos for the issues and policies that we believe to be most vital.

There are three issues that I expect parties to address – creative education (in its broadest sense), the embedding of design methods in both policy making and the development of public services and the nurturing of the creative industries. I have a professional interest in all three of these.

Creative education is not only fundamental to civilised values, but empowers citizens to contribute creatively to their communities and there is evidence that it enhances wellbeing. Indeed that was why Aneurin Bevan argued equally for the NHS and an arts policy in his ground breaking book In Place of Fear. Placing design within government and the public sector is demonstrably a good and progressive idea. You can pledge all the money you like to the NHS, but unless you address the issue of service design, then such pledges become meaningless. And creative industries exploit the talents of the UK’s filmmakers, craftmakers, designers, artists, writers and others to create wealth and employment.

If these were the only issues that matter (and clearly they are not) then only Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party are in the running.

The Labour manifesto refers to design nine times in the context of the redesign of public services and the introduction of co-design principles. To be honest here I was very surprised at this emphasis. Labour also assert “We will guarantee a universal entitlement to a creative education”. The Greens have a similar policy and further claim “We will set creative government free”. Their manifesto has considerable reference to design, including the design of safer cities and communities. So, some fine words and general principles, from both parties, but not a huge amount of detail.

But it is the Liberal Democrats who win the design prize – 19 references to design, including three explicit references to “design against crime” (thanks Nick, all our research on this issue clearly made an impact). They also win the prize for creativity for their section “Pride in Creativity” which has clear policies for education and more detail on support for the creative industries.

Rodney Fitch once said that no other British Prime Minister had ever banged the drum of design quite as hard as Margaret Thatcher. And with the possible exception of Sir Robert Peel, he was probably right. So how do the Tories stack up in 2015?

Design is actually mentioned, between “theatre” and “film”. So, a very 1980s notion of what design is – which is curious given that the Cabinet Office actually has recently done some very fine work at embedding design in government. There is reference to support for creative industries, but mainly centred on tax breaks for the film industry and anti-piracy measures. The emphasis in education is on STEM rather than any reference to creative education. So the message is very much: we like the money the creative industries earn for us, we want people to have access to culture and arts, but how people are empowered to create that culture is not something we think is important enough to mention.

But when we move on to the SNP, a rather curious and frankly disturbing black hole opens up. Just a simple word search results in: creativity: not found; design: not found; arts: not found; culture: mentioned twice in terms of business (culture of innovation) & twice in terms of agriculture and aquaculture; creative mentioned twice, both in the context of the BBC. There are a couple of very passing references to creative industries (less than two short paragraphs saying little), and one whole page about fishing. In Scotland the fishing industry employs 4,000 people and the creative industries employ 85,000. No mention of creative education at all.

I am told that this is because all of these issues are devolved. Excuse me? Creativity and design are devolved? How does that work? Education is very definitely devolved but there is considerable reference to it in the SNP manifesto. There are five references to the devolved policy of “free” university education in Scotland. Five. Just in case you miss four of the references. Curiously there is no mention of the 1,000 further education jobs that have been cut and the 12% reduction in FE budgets resulting in a 48% reduction of part-time places, many of which are in creative disciplines.

There is an interesting and telling use of language and reference to ideas in the SNP manifesto that is very conventional in its political rhetoric and simply does not refer at all to those ideas and methods that are transforming the public sector across Europe, which some other manifestos on the “progressive” side do.

However, the SNPs wins the prize for repetition. In addition to the five references to “free” university education, the term “more progressive” was used eight times. Neither the Liberal Democrats nor the Labour Party mention “progressive” at all. The Greens refer to “progressive” seven times, but in terms of taxation and energy tariffs rather than the assertion of a political mantra.

But don’t take my word for it, read these manifestos with an open mind and make your own decision. Whatever we think of political parties and their manifestos, they are the best guide we have to assess how seriously parties take the issues that are important to us.

I’m voting for the party that helps us to design a better future.

Oh yes, I nearly forgot. UKIP.

Creative: not found; creativity: not found. So no surprises there. The references to design are twofold. ”Design and print by…” a reference to the printers of the manifesto. And “The EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) was designed from the beginning to steal our fish”.

So long, Nigel, and thanks for all the fish.

Time for some street life

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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.”

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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.

Je Suis Charlie

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Four cartoonists are gunned down. Cartoonists. People who make funny drawings. Very dangerous people, cartoonists – if you an enemy of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité – the values upon which our open society are built.

That most wonderful of cartoonists Gerald Scarfe has said this: “I don’t think cartoons in any way alter anything that happens in the world.” With the greatest of respect I have to disagree with him. As a teenager in the early 1970s trying to make sense of a world defined by Vietnam and pub bombings, I found his cartoons in the paper that fell onto our doormat every Sunday hugely provoking and engaging.

And while the pomposity and brutality of Thatcherism destroyed jobs, communities and people in the 1980s, it was Steve Bell’s Maggie’s Farm and If cartoon strips that gave the left confidence that while it could no longer win elections, it still had the best jokes.

The great thing about political cartoons is that they can present visually views and ideas that – if they were to be committed to the printed word – could easily result in litigation. Political artists exercising their comic liberty (which is what cartoonists are) have a skill possessed by few others – to look through the masks worn by politicians and others who exercise power and draw what they see. This form of artistic practice is not only in itself a good thing – but essential to an open society and to our democratic process. Cartoonists are artists who look hard at those who wield (and often abuse) power – providing through great visual economy an eloquent and powerful argument as to why they are wrong – and how they are vulnerable.

This is what the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo did supremely well. And that is why today’s events are such a dreadful blow to those values we hold dear. But through solidarity, love and comic liberty, those values will endure. We must hold on to our faith. And our sense of humour.