2021 has been another complex year to navigate. In the wake of the pandemic, we have continued to see the social inequalities and injustices of the times we live in grind our spirits down. As an antidote to the seemingly never-ending wear and tear, however, structures of prejudice have been countered with many beautiful moments of collective action, people power and creativity as a beacon of hope.
When we consider all of the ways in which culture and communities have been affected, this year has really shown how our local networks have continued to offer vital support, by finding new, creative ways to navigate the ever-changing peaks and valleys of the pandemic. We stepped into 2021 with the intention of finding greater connection, support and care for each other and our planet; we hope that this is a sentiment we managed to sustain through all of our activities.
Join us in reflecting on some of the many things that have happened this year!
Following the launch of CULTIVATE, we were delighted to welcome and support the Creative Practitioners who have been working in close relationship with their Community Partners across the Tay region since September. We have seen so many wonderful glimpses into the embedded community engagement work that they’ve been doing with and for the communities involved. The Creative Practitioners have facilitated engaging and creative spaces for conversations around climate justice to happen – this has taken many forms, including: hosting gigs in community garden, creating an award-winning film, facilitating outdoor playful sessions with local people, celebrating the apple harvest, inviting communities to tell their stories, and using oral history practices to connect!
We are excited about what the future holds for these new ways of creating and holding civic spaces and activities for communities to be part of wider conversations about the Climate Emergency. Projects that centre local creatives working in tandem with community organisations will doubtlessly feed into the future wellbeing and sustainability of communities, and has the ambition to make space for change to happen.
Within our events programme, it was great to be back in Dundee Rep Theatre with a full auditorium for PechaKucha Night Vol 28. The evening coincided with our 10th year PKN anniversary and COP26. Speakers had a big focus on the care and sustainability of our planet, sharing experiences and views on environmental architecture and food inequality, to an uplifting prompt to really take notice of our immediate environment. To everyone who attended in person or watched from home, we are incredibly grateful to you for making the time to support us and make it happen.
We have existed in mostly digital realms this year; as we make a slow and tenuous transition towards more physical forms of connecting, ideas of space and place have been at the centre of a lot of discussions. As more and more meanwhile spaces emerge, collective conversation is vital in considering their potential uses and impact on cultural recovery.
Thoughts around different kinds of space were echoed in features on our website, with a blog from Agency of None exploring the issues around a lack of space for creative connection in No Space For Design(ers); in Walk With Me, artist and curator Hayley Whelan reflected on creating space to gather the experiences of women walking alone in the city.
We also commissioned hidden route with Hayley Blakeman to research Taking Space in the Creative Industries, a report that responds to a recent study by Plan International UK that found that Dundee was the worst place to grow up as a girl in Scotland. The report considers how we can navigate the barriers faced by young women and girls in Dundee and makes suggestions towards a better future for women in the creative industries.
Throughout 2021, our weekly online Amps Breakfasts have continued to create a safe and nurturing space for connecting and sharing. Our Open Your Drawers segment featured 40 different people generously sharing their work with us across the year.
Half of all Amps subscriptions go towards the Community Ideas Fund which, thanks to our growing network, reached an astonishing all-time high of £2,500! Join us for the year ahead!
At our annual forum, the community voted to award the fund to City Soundscapes, a new collaboration between Rebecca Jones and Claire Gorman. Rebecca and Claire started making music together after making contact at an Amps Breakfast; it’s exciting seeing the direct link between people building a connection and collaboratively working together, and we can’t wait to see their project come to life next year.
Our Amps network was cited as a case study in Joining the Dots – a cultural network research project facilitated by Creative Cardiff that maps and explores the functions and sustainability of creative networks across the UK and beyond.
We also recently celebrated one year of peer-sharing and mutual support with Ampersand+. Since launching in November 2020, we have seen some valuable and special exchanges being made. In Grit, Gold and Guidance, Andy Robertson documents a time when Ampersand+ was harnessed to manifest a connection between aspiring young people and ceramicist Steph Liddle.
The team took part in Abertay University and Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design welcome events, introducing Creative Dundee to over 300 new and returning students in September. We also updated our Spaces of Dundee page and created a short guide to provide a welcome to what’s what in the city.
We took part in the Connections Through Culture event hosted by the British Council to share more about the Indigenous Materials Library, a collaborative project with MATIC Hub in Cebu. Creative Climate Producer Claire Dufour and CULTIVATE Creative Practitioner Nicky Bolland shared their thoughts on locally-led creative action in ACT: Environment and Climate hosted by Culture Collective during COP26 in Glasgow.
Thinking about how we might shape the future, we invited Dundee Cultural Recovery report author, Dr Lauren England, to share positive recommendations for recovery, which we will continue to refer to and use as a resource for what we do next.
We developed a partnership with fellow UNESCO City of Design, Kobe for Small Society Lab, a collaborative, experimental, playful and open project exploring the urban spaces of our future. We took an opportunity to listen and learn from one another, fostering a shared sense of what the future holds for Dundee, Kobe and their residents.
Working in partnership with other organisations on projects like Small Society Lab, InGAME, Dundee Fashion case studies and The Full Picture, enables us to commission more local creative practitioners. These collaborations bring significant benefits to all involved and we will endeavour to continue working in this way in the year ahead.
This year we also said goodbye to four long term Board Directors and welcomed the expertise and enthusiasm of six new Board Directors! Helping us with our aim to support creative individuals and organisations, ensuring that Dundee is and continues to be a sustainable, thriving place to live, work and grow in.
For a fuller picture of our activities, we encourage you to have a read of our first Annual Activities Overview, illustrated by Lauren Morsley. This report was a valuable reminder of the resilient communities and networks we are part of as well as highlighting how there were opportunities for shared experiences, growth and collaboration during a difficult year.
It is hard to ignore the overarching impact of the conditions we have found ourselves living and working through this year. These circumstances—although difficult, challenging and spirit dampening—have reinforced our beliefs in radical forms of empathy, care, support and collaboration. We are more conscious of the importance of time, particularly the time we have had to connect and to come together over shared thoughts, ideas and creative energies.
All of the beautiful collisions of people, knowledge and experiences that have resulted from these connections and collaborative projects are difficult to map – constellations have formed that would not have occurred without the support of our partners near and far and the good creative energies of our communities in response to a time of crisis.
This is all with great thanks for your support of us and each other. Also a Director’s note – massive appreciation to our staff team for achieving so much under difficult circumstances this year. We look forward to collaborating with you on more practical action during 2022.
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