Creative Dundee

Blog: A new collaboration in Dundee!

2020’s Amps Community Ideas Fund has been awarded to a newly formed collaboration, which will invite people in the Hilltown area to re-imagine and lead change in their neighbourhoods. Here’s more about the project…

We are Eilish Victoria, Manuela De Los Rios and Russell Pepper, and we are developing a co-design process which empowers people to physically prototype change in their communities. This will be done through playful hands-on workshops, helping to promote happy, fair and sustainable neighbourhoods.

This is a form of “tactical urbanism”, which if you’ve not heard of, is basically the use of cheap materials to prototype changes quickly and effectively, working with the local community. It’s fun, it’s effective, you can see results very quickly, and it gets people excited about the way their spaces and streets could be.

We’re developing a process to do this in Dundee, because for decades, the city has been designed with cars as the number one priority. This is to the detriment of our health, the environment, local economy, and communities – and we want to see change!

Luckily, policy is beginning to reflect the need for more sustainable public spaces. However, change in neighbourhoods is generally decided using a top down placemaking system initiated by people that don’t live in them. Communities are generally consulted about the redesign of their own neighbourhoods in the late stages of developments, at which point their contribution is often tokenistic and limited to a vote for or against measures.

Rarely are they involved in a collective creative process of rethinking their area that brings them together and allows them to take ownership and develop the full potential of their own interests, skills and spaces. Community engagement fatigue can also occur, where communities are endlessly asked for their time and ideas, only to see no change happen.

Prototyping through temporary interventions allows for more democratic placemaking, with the opportunity to break the rules, test scenarios and subvert preconceptions, and in the end more likely to create change that communities want and benefit from.

Our Plan

In developing our process, we will work with an already engaged community group – The Maxwell Centre in the Hilltown area of Dundee – to re-imagine the area of Hilltown Park directly outside the centre. This has the added benefit of being able to try out our process without the red tape and expense of closing streets.

Our focus will be a 3-day community co-design workshop:

Day 1: We will begin with a series of talks, ideally with some guest speakers to show the community other regeneration projects, the benefits they have brought to their communities and hopefully inspire their own ideas for the days ahead.
Depending on Covid restrictions, it could be:

  • An event in person within the Maxwell Centre
  • Online Event (bearing in mind accessibility barriers for this community)
  • Pop-up Exhibition where we will have the opportunity to chat and exchange ideas.
  • A combination of the above.

Day 2 + 3: Hands on workshops which will be based around creating playful physical prototypes in the park with simple materials such as cardboard, tape, string and other repurposed materials or furniture. The design briefs will be based on ideas already suggested by the community through previous engagement including “Happy to Chat” Benches, a Community Library and Pop-Up Cafe. They will have the opportunity to experiment with space, form, colour and most importantly experience and discuss their ideas in-situ. On these days we will also gather to enjoy a nutritious lunch together (we think that sharing a meal is an important part of the creative process!)

Lead Up: The Maxwell Centre already brings the community together in the park weekly at the MAXhour, to connect over walks, growing and cups of tea. In the lead up to the workshop they will use some of the funding to make small improvements to the park which will hopefully inspire people to be involved in the workshops. Russell and Eilish will join some of these sessions to start building relationships with the community prior to the co-design event.

Follow Up: We believe this approach will better engage the local community and therefore inspire them to demand change. Following the project, we will create a publication showing the aspirations and ideas of the Hilltown community and the benefits of the work carried out.

This will be a valuable tool for The Maxwell Centre, its partners and the wider Hilltown community to apply for further funding to make permanent change. It will also allow us todocument our process so that we can develop it further for use in other areas of Dundee.

About Us

Eilish Victoria has worked as a freelance designer on both spatial and service design projects for brands and third sector organisations such as NHS Tayside and The Scottish Government. She’s passionate about creating happy and sustainable cities and is am particularly interested in how temporary spaces and interventions in the city can be used to prototype ideas and empower communities.

Manuela De Los Rios is the community garden mentor at the Maxwell Centre; their aim is to maximise the Hilltown community’s potential by feeling well and doing well. She’s worked with community groups for over 20 years to bring about positive changes to people’s environment and lives.

Russell Pepper runs Open Close, a community interest company with sustainable streets at its heart. He commissions public art across the city, connecting communities and cultural institutions. He also has a very keen interest in sustainable travel is newly elected the chair of Dundee Cycling Forum, as well as being a member of the West End Community Council.


This new collaboration was made possible through our Amps Network’s Community Ideas Fund – 50% of your support goes to this cash award each year – and chosen to be awarded the Fund by the community at our annual Amps Forum. Read about the other projects pitching on the night here.

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