‘One year on’ since the launch of Dundee’s Creative Industries Strategy

One year after the launch of Dundee’s Creative Industries Strategy, a core group of individuals and organisations involved in its development and delivery met to share and reflect on developments that have happened since. You can read, listen and comment on the online Strategy here.

Were also invited the newly formed Fabric group to this event, bringing the participants of this creative leadership programme into an honest and insightful conversation about the state and support given to the Creative Industries locally and nationally, as a way of an introduction to a series of events that will help them connect the characteristics, needs, shortfalls and opportunities of creative leadership in the city. Read more about the Fabric project here.

As the organisations took turns describing their actions and goals over the last year, attendees had an opportunity to hear about things they might have not known were previously happening in the city. Fabric participant David Scott explains he found the event very insightful, especially when he discovered about ‘DCA’s Dundee Made branding project which I’ve mentioned to several folk who may be interested in applying to have their work featured in future’.

The Dundee Made project is part of DCA’s effort to highlight local makers in their shop, by giving them an easily recognisable ‘Dundee Made’ sticker. Visitors to the city can get a sense of art and design in Dundee, local consumers are more able to ‘buy local’ but most prominently, especially from David’s perspective, local artists are being supported in both meaningful and material ways.

David also picked up on the V&A’s learning programme as an opportunity for local artists to find work and experience. In his words: “I’ve just completed leading an eight-week iPad Photography Workshop with Tayside Healthcare Arts Trust and hope to take on more teaching work in future”. As a freelancer himself, David can empathise and connect with the parts of the strategy that are about increasing opportunities (and access to them) for independent creative practitioners in the local  market, but also internationally.

The UNESCO City of Design Dundee project manager shared their ambitions to develop more business opportunities for local designers through the creative cities network which Dundee is part of, and initiatives like Dundee Rep’s new festival Rep Stripped is also a great example of how we can get better at showcasing Dundee’s creative talent.

During the event, there was an interesting cross-over that happened due to Fabric. Freelancers being put in the same room as established creative leaders in the city. This ends up being both a trial by fire for the leaders and an opportunity for the Fabric participants to project themselves in these types of positions. Going by the principle that any meaningful collective effort towards change in the city’s creative networks needs to come directly from the people most affected by that change, this juxtaposition allows for everyone involved to seriously consider – what would each stakeholder within the creative industries in Dundee do if they were leading the Strategy?

Reflections at this event also came from Fabric participant Laura Darling. Much like David, as a freelancer herself, Laura picked up on the practical and material differences some of the actions have made to the work of freelancers. Elevator UK and Business Gateway, for instance, described helping artists understand the peculiarities and jargons of the business world. Creative Dundee talked about commissioning local illustrators and makers, Laura being one of them, for its regular events. Beyond her perspective as an independent creative practitioner, she also stated that more events like this one should happen, with an extended invitation to different groups and stakeholders across the city and from different sectors.

Laura also commented that the part of the discussion which turned to challenges of implementing the Strategy is one we should keep encouraging. The point was raised also, that we have to start being open to talking about our failures, especially when it comes to aspects of the Strategy that we want to implement, but are not able, for several reasons. This point resonated with Laura and she explained we could be doing more of that – not just learning from the expertise and successes, but also from the failure of creative leadership in the city, a process that is both insightful and rare.

Overall, the session was an interesting opportunity to hear and get up to date with what’s going on in the city in terms of supporting the Creative Industries to strengthen their abilities to create positive and meaningful impact. With the two stark pieces of learning being:

  • Stakeholders who have a very different stakes in this discussion, across the city, will pick up on different aspects and focuses of the conversation. With that in mind, how do we curate conversation like this, to be open and accessible to a variety of groups, and still keep the quality of the exchanges and learnings?
  • Failure, when dealt with openly, should be seen as a strength – something that must be shared, learned from and acted upon collectively.

Keep tuned – a blog will go out after each Fabric Meet Up! Read more about the Fabric project here.

Partners who developed the strategy include: Creative Dundee, Dundee Partnership, UNESCO City of Design Dundee, V&A Dundee, DCA, Dundee Rep, University of Dundee, Abertay University, Dundee and Angus College, Developing Young Working Force Dundee, Cultural Enterprise Office, Elevator UK, Business Gateway and Creative Scotland.

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