In Dundee you will find creativity brewing in all types of spaces and Fleet Collective, a studio space tucked away in the attic of one of the city’s oldest buildings, is no exception. Fleet houses a community of artists, designers and other highly skilled individuals which allows them to work on their own projects and also bring together their range of skills to collaborate on larger enterprises.
In just 4 years this month, Fleet Collective has grown from two founding members who originally took on the space at the Chamber Building across from the iconic McManus Galleries, to a community of thirty individuals. There’s an exciting and diverse mix of creative talent based there – from web developers, illustrators, a PR consultancy, a games production company, a writer, a passivhaus architect and a video producer – just to name just a few.
Fleet members (or Fleeple) act as a support network for each other, working on their individual businesses however when members join forces to collaborate on larger projects, a spectacular quality of work is produced which takes advantage of individual skills possessed by its members.
Creative Dundee caught up with Fleet Founder and Curator Donna Holford-Lovell to find out more about the creative haven.
What inspired you to create Fleet Collective?
The space between commercial and non-commercial businesses has alway intrigued me. Fleet is built on social values, although generates both social and commercial benefits for the freelancers and businesses based here.
I was inspired by 401 Richmond, a creative hub in Toronto. During a visit I saw how 401 Richmond had brought new opportunities to the artists based there and could see how it had also transformed the neighbourhood – this was something that was missing from Dundee’s creative scene.
How do you approach running the collective?
My background is Contemporary Art curation and I view Fleet like a gallery. It’s about creating a balance of the right people, environment and resources – but it must also be democratic so it works for every member.
I think it’s important to always challenge yourself to do new things. Alongside my work with Fleet I also work part time for a charity and run the NEoN Digital Arts Festival. This helps me to find new opportunities for Fleet’s members as well as build skills that I can bring back to the collective.
What have been the lessons from Fleet?
Be flexible! People worry too much about finding the best business model – there’s no such thing! The best business model is the one that works and that’s something that will always change.
You can’t run a business on assumptions and you need to be prepared to adapt and make changes when things aren’t working.
What advice would you give to creatives starting out?
Design strategist John Thackara once told us to remember that small interventions can have a big impact. Fleet’s 4th birthday is this month and since it started we’ve grown slower than first anticipated, but that’s not to say were not creating an impact. Our members see the benefits of our collective every day and all their hard work leads to a wider impact for the city.
What’s next for fleet?
Let’s make it bigger and more experimental! Our current desk set up is almost at capacity but there is always more room to expand. I’d also like to take Fleet on the road and showcase the skills of the collective to audiences outside of Dundee – maybe even abroad! Dundee’s international profile as a creative city is growing and I hope it’s UNESCO City of Design status will help drive this further.
In the future maybe Dundee will be an attractive place for creative tourists – we could even have a Fleet Hotel! You see arts hotels in other european cities, look at the Volkshotel in Amsterdam. Why shouldn’t Dundee have it’s own?!
We also spoke to a few resident creatives at Fleet to learn a bit more about what they do and why they like being a part of Fleet Collective.
Looking back over the past 14 or so months after starting the business, I’d say it’s definitely had its ups and downs! No-one ever said working in the creative Industry was easy but, honestly – I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Working in Fleet Collective has definitely been one of the most positive experiences of my life. Collaborating with, and working around other creative people that all have their own talents, personalities, history (and quirks!) never fails to provide a warm, welcoming and often times entertaining environment. But I think the best part is that we’re all determined to make Fleet Collective work, because although every member is a fiercely independent individual, we all still strive to strengthen our ties with each other both socially and professionally to create something bigger and better, together.”
“I lead my own practice, Kirsty Maguire Architect Ltd, based at Fleet. This is an award winning practice that blends design led work and environmental responsibility, believing the two elements are interdependent in creating good design.
Our specialism is in eco, low energy and ‘Passivhaus’ design for new and existing buildings. Projects are on the doorstep, across Scotland and worldwide. The best design comes from collaborative practice, on large and small projects. Our Clients range from private individuals with self-build projects to large scale organisations such as the United Nations where we provide specialist training. Every day is different. The collaborative nature of our approach means that the atmosphere at Fleet Collective is particularly inspiring. Whether it is a chat over a coffee about a particular design, sharing day to day business experiences or working on projects together, the creative enthusiasm that Fleet is seeped in never ceases to give a fresh outlook and new ideas.”
“I’m Ruud Hendriks, a self-taught illustrator from the Netherlands, and the owner of a tiny design studio called Momo & Sprits.
My work takes inspiration from retro cartoons and geometric shapes to create colourful and fun illustrations for various purposes. Momo & Sprits has had clients all over the world from app stickers in China to editorial illustrations in Canada. When I moved to Dundee, I saw Fleet Collective as a perfect base, and a great opportunity to meet fun and inspiring people with various disciplines in a strange country. Working here as a freelancer feels as social as working in an office but allows you to focus on your own line of work, and even sharing it with creative colleagues when possible to take on bigger jobs.”
“I’m Jennie Patterson and recently set up my own public relations consultancy based in Fleet called Patter PR after many years working in the industry.
The great thing about my job is that I get to come up with ideas and strategies to grow positive awareness for clients and believe the best way to do this is through good relationships and partnerships. There’s always a first for everything in PR, this includes wrapping up a 30ft bus in preparation for the media launch of V&A Dundee’s “Design in Motion” touring exhibition, which kicked off at City Square, Dundee in February. Other highlights include working with Dundee City Council and Visit Scotland to help promote Dundee as a tourist destination and supporting Dundee’s City of Culture campaign in 2013. Being based at Fleet Collective in Dundee is much more than just hiring out a desk, it offers the opportunity to be involved in a larger entity that contributes creatively to the city. Fleet helps to boost and develop my creative visions – it’s a space that naturally encourages collaboration and community.”
“My name is James Williamson, I am a Motion Graphics Designer/Animator based in Dundee and have been working in house and remotely with clients throughout the UK and overseas for the past 10 years.
I have spent time building up my client list and working very closely with a number of advertising agencies on some high profile projects. I offer a service that covers all creative areas of production including online, TV and internal/external communications. I have recently set up my company, Undefined Creative Ltd and am offering video marketing services out of my office at The Fleet Collective. I only moved into Fleet one month ago but have a really good feeling about it. I don’t think I’ve even met everyone yet but feel that it is a very creative environment where hopefully I will be able to collaborate with other individuals and companies and grow my business.”
“I’m Ryan McLeod and I decided to start up Slurpp to work with interesting people, take on some exciting challenges and design beautiful things. Design is essentially problem solving but as much as it’s about finding a solution it’s about making a lasting impression, getting someone to crack a smile or changing people’s perceptions.
Slurpp has been running from Fleet Collective for almost a year now and it’s a great environment to work in. I work alongside likeminded individuals every day and it’s also great to have a community on hand to help test out new prototypes and ideas.”