Fabric – Developing Dundee’s Creative Sector

Creative Dundee is running a new project called Fabric Dundee to consider how the city can collectively develop the future of its creative sector for those living, studying and working in and around the city. You can learn more about the project here. As we all know, Dundee has a strong creative ecology, however we feel there are areas which could be further improved for the sector to thrive over the next few years.

We invited a group of people representing some of the many creative disciplines which make up Dundee’s impressive scene to come together to share ideas, inspirations and experiences.

Initial discussions focused on the challenges and opportunities for the city’s creative sector around the following themes: spaces, skills, resources and connectivity; then we identified some values which a local creative industries strategy could include.

We wanted to share the findings from the first session and would love to hear your views.

Spaces

Space is important but space isn’t always just physical, from institutions, communities, to ideas and experiences, we need to better understand the importance of connection and belonging.

The city’s small size enables us to connect quickly with a wide range of people, projects and communities; however there’s a need for mixed-purpose and flexible spaces to collaborate, outside of the ‘creative community bubble’. Many of the city’s creative sector businesses are small, or are independent freelancers, so they can sometimes feel quite isolated working in siloed ways. An increase in different types of spaces could allow the development of large-scale projects and will build on existing positive energies and goodwill, for the collective growth of the city.

There’s also a need for affordable and suitable spaces, or perhaps more urgently, a need for innovative ways to access and use spaces. The commercial route isn’t the only way, with creatives often being the first to be pushed out, therefore the creative industries could benefit from developing a new understanding with landlords/developers to avoid a state of being under constant threat.

We also need to imagine alternative spaces such as high speed broadband zones. The city has an undeniable need for temporary spaces for performing, exhibiting and selling work to allow more routes for getting work in front of the public and not just showcasing to an audience of the like-minded.

Skills

More support for graduating students to see beyond their degree and connect with employers in the city would be useful. Creative graduates require strong business skills to make a future for themselves, which could be developed better through a programme of coaching, mentoring and career development tailored to the city.

Fulfilment, happiness and stability for individuals and the community, as opposed to fame, should be promoted as a definition of success and values of creativity. As creative businesses, we have to be prepared for failure and how to learn from these experiences, but we also need to be open and multidisciplinary to quickly strengthen our skills and overcome our weaknesses.

Universities are seen as self-contained environments and are often disconnected to the city. They need to develop or seek more opportunities outwith education for live projects and build new links between industries and educators. Growing talent in the city could reduce the mass exodus we see each summer, and as a result the city must be able to match the expectations and growing numbers of people wanting to live and work in Dundee.

There was a sense that we need to encourage more people to be T-shapedmatching and combining skills with each other – ‘we’re missing stuff because we’re trying to be everything’. We also need to open up our processes when developing digital or handmade stuff so others can understand what we do.

Resources

Resources that provide the potential to achieve something often have many challenges attached to their use. We could own them collectively, find landlords with open minds and develop a clear process for using and sharing them.

Agencies who support the creative sector need to be more flexible with their resources and we need access to the right people to avoid barriers in policy/admin role between users and resources – find champions for lobbying and have a collective organisation that gives a voice/place at the table.

Because budgets are tight for everyone we could find economies of scale, organise shared resources and pooled support, use this hyper-connectivity and talk to each other to create a simple logistic for community asset transfers and sustainable practices. Owning a collective pool of fire extinguishers to rent from when using a temporary venue is one example to find strength in numbers.

People are our most valuable assets! We need to build on our business skills and professionalism through shared conversations to benefit from each other’s knowledge and expertise.

Connectivity

Dundee’s creative connectedness can appear cliquey sometimes and discourage those outside to engage, so we need to fully understand the benefits of connecting and collaborating within and outwith the creative sector.

Networking events can be stigmatised, perceived as not personal enough, too formal or corporate. Not knowing where to start, particularly outside of the creative sector, means we need to change the way we network.

Our Universities are producing world-class graduates, but the city can struggle to retain them. There’s a lack of jobs and opportunities that provide clear paths to career development and not just jobs with limited scope and pay scales. It would be valuable for the city to invest in the future of new recruits, for example, by organising a city-wide internship programme to connect the Universities with the city’s creative sector and its future.

However for better connectivity, we need to share a common language to talk about what we do and build bridges between sectors and practices.

As a relatively small city, graduates move to Glasgow, Edinburgh or London to find opportunities, however today’s digital economy should in theory allow anyone to be based anywhere, although there are still challenges for certain sectors.

How to take part in the project

The above might seem more critical than positive, however there were lots of positives discussed during the session. We think that in order for the city’s creative sector to continue moving forward in a positive direction, we need to tackle the issues which need fixed.

We would be grateful to hear your views on the local creative sector by simply responding to the following questions:

Feedback from first session

“It’s a nicely diverse group across disciplines. Everyone was keen to share, and we were very quickly able to get discussion going on where we thought the issues are for us as creative practitioners. I found the session really interesting, the topic prompts about what to discuss were really useful, and a good touchpoint to come back to when we got carried away in our chat! I felt like there was an overriding response to all of the discussion groups that was about breaking down barriers between people and avoiding silos so we can share expertise. Already in the room people were able to suggest solutions to each other, it felt very proactive and positive.”

“Overall the session went very well. The group section was a highlight as it gave us a great platform to look at the major areas of improvement, explain the problems we were having and talk about ways that we can fix or mitigate these issues. This was as enjoyable as it was enlightening – it allowed me to see that my company is not alone in dealing with the issues we face and got me excited to tackle these issues with the help of the Fabric group. It feels as if we are moving towards real action, not only from Creative Dundee and potentially the stakeholder group, but from the attendees as well. This is extremely positive and I’ve greatly enjoyed the process so far. I’m looking forward to seeing that progress at the next session.”

We’ll be following each session with a post like this and are keen to speak to creative practitioners/businesses who want to input into the discussion. If you would like to discuss this please contact Claire, on: claire@creativedundee.com, thanks.