Reflection has often felt like the Creative Dundee buzzword for 2023. In the midst of funding applications, beginning exciting new projects, drawing others to a close, and celebrating substantial milestones, opportunities for reflection have been a prominent and deeply valued fixture in our team’s year.
With the end of the year rapidly approaching, we’ve once again found ourselves looking back on the many highlights that have brought us together in celebration, community, creativity, and joy. Alongside these high points were challenges of balancing big projects, reconnecting networks, questioning the systems we work within, and a landscape of financial precarity that reaches beyond our organisation and sector. Uncertainty and injustice is rooted locally as well as globally – encouraging us to keep questioning how we can do things differently, and where we still need to do better.
In light of this and as we’ve already spent some time recapping on 15 years of Creative Dundee, for this Year in Review we’re doing things a little differently and offering up the space to our team to share some more personal reflections on what has impacted them, the lessons they’ll be carrying forward, and a few recommendations to spark inspiration in 2024.
For me, this year has felt like an important reminder of the value of using your voice – of having the courage to share your experiences and knowledge, and give space to conversations that require purposeful time and care. Looking back for our 15th anniversary (having been part of the team for only a year) has been a wonderful lesson in the many voices that have shaped our work today, all threaded together across projects, events, content, and more.
I’ve loved spending my time in the spaces that, as an organisation, we cultivate both on and offline. While collating blogs, sharing with others at Amps Breakfasts, or listening to both funny and deeply moving PechaKucha talks, it’s clear that there is so much to be said and shared, and we’re so privileged to provide a platform for these stories.
Amongst everything that weighs heavy on the world this year, seeking to add a voice to the chorus of many feels particularly powerful and I hope in the new year we have many more opportunities to foster these conversations.
With my mind on this topic and always on stories… I’m recommending Saltsea Chronicles, a brilliant and life-affirming narrative game that has provided me with some much needed moments of calm this year.
This year I have loved bringing people together through events and workshops to develop Hapworks. I am so inspired by the enthusiastic people that want to be involved, have shared their ideas, listened to mine and want to make change happen in our small city.
It was also a pleasure to witness the journey of this year’s CULTIVATE practitioners and participants, and see how spaces were shared and curated by communities who felt empowered to tell their own stories. Finally, time as a team to reflect on past projects, recognise our individual and collective strengths and think about the future together was also so valuable.
Each of these examples emphasises for me the necessity for space and time to come together to listen, share ideas and collaborate. Next year I hope to continue to create vital spaces of exchange with others. Let’s work better together, try new things and be ambitious.
In the spirit of creating the change we want to see in the world, I’m recommending this podcast episode from 99% Invisible telling the story of small acts by everyday people which led to Amsterdam’s transformation into a cycling city.
I’ve made a real focus this year to embrace vulnerability in all aspects of my life.
The opportunity to put together a short film for World Mental Health Day and our Care in Creative Practice event really pushed me out of my comfort zone not only from the point of view of never having put a short film together before, but to share a personal side of me that only a select number of people knew beforehand. I felt like I was leaving myself exposed and vulnerable by sharing an insight into my processes and how being a creative works for me, but in the end I think putting myself out there is what made people respond to the work because they could connect with it and have perhaps gone through similar things. I think when we’re prepared to share those stories, then it can have a meaningful impact on others.
I guess we’ve been made to believe that vulnerability is a sign of weakness, but if we allow ourselves to embrace vulnerability, take risks and work outwith our comfort zones then we open ourselves up to new ways of learning, experiencing and connecting with the world around us.
This year has deepened my appreciation for how care and consideration of others must be central, and foundational, to all that we do.
It feels like stating the obvious – of course care is important! – but if stretched for time, facing tight deadlines, making assumptions about people’s needs or working with limited resources (and I write this acknowledging that we’re more resourced than many), it can be easy to sideline the small, but impactful, ways that care manifests.
We recently asked our Amps network about the things organisations could do better when working with freelancers; many responses highlighted the need for care in working together. Things like honesty, empathy and engaging on a human level. Having an access statement (that you stick to) and valuing freelancers like a team member. Understanding that organisations hold power, and therefore responsibility.
Care requires good intention, but also awareness of impact – and includes asking those in the room what they need, whilst also noticing who isn’t in the room to ask. I’m always grateful for the insights and feedback that help us do our work better.
Two things I’ve read and reread this year are Care-fuelled Leadership: an artist’s perspective, by artist and producer Lucy Wright, and Our Voices: A Diverse Artists’ Guide, created by peer groups that brought together underrepresented voices within the Culture Collective network.
Time. The luxury of time. People often ask me if I’m busy, as if this is a sign of success or, even worse, happiness. For a while I was saying that indeed, I was busy and enjoying it. Back then, it felt as if I was making the most of my time. I was wrong.
In this ever speeding, productive and harshly unequal world, I’m learning to reclaim time… To pause, listen, reflect, experiment, and play. Making time to learn from each other, without aim or judgement, to understand other perspectives, and most importantly, pressing pause to celebrate what we’ve already achieved collectively. And yes, taking a moment for celebration is not the same as simply sharing our work and impacts (aka, writing a comprehensive report).
This year we’ve continued to be generative, investing creativity into complexity. The hard and often hidden stuff.
Leading disruptive projects deeper in the unknown means we don’t get everything right. Sense-making requires energy and care to listen and learn, with limited reserves of individuals, communities and small teams often facing the biggest drains.
I reflect a lot on fairness and how Power flows. There’s a growing chasm between those in service of old, industrial models; and those who are organising next, catalytic in their action. The latter is underinvested, reparative future work.
I’m inspired by social changemakers here and further, like Maurice Mitchell’s social justice resilience work. Challenging power in our world shaped by sexism and ableism is astutely articulated in Lucy Webster’s The View from Down Here.
Taking space is hard. Cycling again after decades has helped me. Being challenged by my eight year old on their rights as a child, learned at school via Scotland’s UNCRC bill, shows me that future agency will be different. Healthy challenge or ‘generative conflict‘ is vital to engage with, rather than to avoid, to value difference and collectively progress.
I’m optimistic that Collective Power gives strength in solidarity for communities through challenge and celebration—with enough baton-passing energy to mobilise in increasingly unpredictable times.
Love to our incredible team and supportive ecosystem. Here’s to being out with the old in 2024!
Before we officially say goodbye to 2023 and carry these reflections into our resolutions for the New Year, here are some further moments that we’d like to remember from the last twelve months.
This year we saw the return of the crowdsourced and ever-popular 99 Things to See and Do in Dundee guide and revelled in the arrival of Art Night, collaborating on two special events with local collectives and organisations. We welcomed six new CULTIVATE Creative Practitioners and were thrilled to see their projects come to life, giving space to communities and amplifying their voices for collective action.
We returned to our favourite Tuesday morning activity with our online Amps Breakfasts and enjoyed gathering together again at meet-ups and events. After a series of workshops and consultations with local creative practitioners and businesses we launched Hapworks – a new project aiming to answer the issues of creative space in the city and offer a future for creative sector growth.
Rounding out the year we celebrated not only our 30th PechaKucha Night Dundee with a full-house at Dundee Rep Theatre, but our 15th anniversary! It was wonderful to celebrate together, sharing our past work and looking to the future. You might also have spotted us in The Courier!
We’ve said it a lot this year but we’ll say it again – thank you. Thank you for all your continued support, over this year and the fourteen before, and for being part of a community that remains full of positivity and generosity in spite of the continued hardships facing so many.
Here’s to sharing in the hope, and working together to ensure a more just, safe and peaceful 2024 for all.
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