Creative Dundee

My Fabric Journey // Barry Robertson

Fabric is a peer-to-peer development programme, run by Creative Dundee, which supports individuals who are passionate about Dundee and want to build on their creative leadership journey. Participant Barry Robertson wrote a piece about his reflections the Fabric programme.


Psychotherapist Carl Jung introduced his concept of synchronicity in the early 1920s. Derived from the Greek ‘syn’ (with) and ‘chronos’ (time), the term defines the simultaneous occurrence of events (or coincidences) which appear significantly related, yet have no discernible causal connection. Arguably phenomenal, we can all interpret deeply meaningful connections. This was mirrored in my Fabric experience.

At the outset of the ‘horror story’ which we have all been living through, day one of the programme happened online. With an unexpectedly mute webcam, my introduction to Zoom became less awkward after meeting the group and sharing our brief stories. Although I was uncertain about what to expect, I suspected that we were all in a similar mindset.

Jonathan Baxter was our guest speaker that afternoon and his key skills for creative leadership left me with two resonating thoughts: feeling unsettled is good, and creatives make the future. As a seasoned un-settler, I began to grasp the principles which Jonathan was explaining. His ‘future’ statement set the tone for what was to come.

On the morning of day two, it was a pleasure listening to Dave Close and Andy Robertson explain Hot Chocolate’s ethos for collective leadership. Mutual respect was evident in the youth group’s presentation video. It showed a safe and accepting environment in the heart of our city. Their values helped me to understand how I can use my experience when working with similar groups.

Focusing on Dundee Fighting for Fairness in the afternoon, we listened to stories of stigma and hardship. Learning why some people have difficulty tackling life’s challenges left me feeling sad and helpless. This can’t happen here – in Dundee, 2020? Our group discussed if recurring problems of inadequate housing, food poverty, and equal opportunities can ever be solved. I struggled for answers and realised that I had been ignorant of the depth of these issues. This made me confront the choices that I make for informing myself with accurate information and processing negative news.

Between Fabric sessions and at approximately eight weeks into lockdown, I had never thought more about a garden. Day three arrived and with these inescapable lockdown thoughts, our topic was civic spaces. We listened intently to four guest speakers describing the current necessity of re-organising spaces, inside and out. New conditions for socialising would have a significant effect, not only for their practices but also for how we all interact.

The afternoon workshop ignited new ideas and conversations which I can’t remember discussing in detail before. How can we use public spaces efficiently? What can these spaces provide? Who makes the decisions?

Decision-Making was a pertinent topic on day four when The Stove Network team from Dumfries spoke about community-led projects. Their story of a creative hub energising a small town is fundamentally social and supported by a changing local economy. Funding and diplomacy weaved in and out of the conversations. Strength of character is crucial for good leadership and just as important in co-operation. It became clear that collective leadership was universally vital for avoiding conflict.

We were paired for virtual coffee meetings which I enjoyed over the length of the programme. Connecting with new people and fresh conversation had never been more important. Insights into different careers and aspirations also opened new ways of thinking about my own future and how I make a living.

With time, the Fabric programme and Creative Dundee at large have altered my perception of the city in which I wish to live. Reflecting on this experience has also made me consider the qualities required for leadership in a resilient social structure. Importantly, reaffirming the urge to learn and improve by engaging with others has impacted my outlook forever.

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