It would be wrong to assume Dundee is on its way to becoming a cultural city with the arrival of the V&A Design Museum in 2018. Dundee is a cultural city; from artist talks to audiovisual performance to makers meet-ups, the creative scene is well established and welcomes newcomers with fervour.
Here is a whistle-stop tour of creatives in and from Dundee who make things happen:
Where else could we start? Mike Press is a writer, researcher, emeritus and above all, an inspireR. After working as the Professor of Design Policy and Associate Dean at Duncan of Jordanstone for ten years, he has recently moved into the role of Associate Director of Open Change – a company whose focus is to create positive change with emphasis on community, capacity and leadership.
This message is what he instills in his students, too. Influential insight, unwavering support and an array of connections, Mike Press knows how to motivate and prepare you to embark on your own creative journey. His influence will be carried through DJCAD and beyond by the students he has inspireD to create change for themselves and the world around them.
Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design Alumni
A friend and collaborator of Mike Press’, Lauren Currie has made impressive progress since graduating from Product Design and a subsequent Masters of Design at DJCAD. Co-founder of company Snook, Scotland’s leading social innovation and service design company, she is a designer whose “drive comes from [her] belief in people and [her] unwavering determination that things can be better”.
Alongside her company, Lauren has acted as Project Manger for the Digital Experience Design Masters course at Hyper Island over the last two years. Additionally, she writes about social change, design, education and entrepreneurship on various platforms, most prominently her successful blog Redjotter, and speaks at conferences around the world, including various TED talks.
Now an artist and filmmaker, Joanna Helfer graduated with a degree in Time Based Art and Digital Film in 2009. Since then, she has become a Youth Arts Worker and creative programme coordinator for Hot Chocolate, a Dundee charity providing young people with the community and support they need to progress as individuals. Alongside this, in 2010 she co-founded Tinroof – a collective for artists, run by artists, that provides affordable studio space, a gallery and workshop – where she acts as chairperson to this day.
News that the original premises of Tinroof had to be shut down was announced in March, regarding costs of a renovation that would be necessary to comply with building regulations. This was met with frustration as it was feared the volunteer-run charity would not find reasonable property to relocate to – being one of the main sources of affordable studio space in the city, this would be incredibly damaging to the creative community.
Since then, a small premises – now nicknamed ‘Tiny Tin’ – opened up where the charity has now moved in to, and through support from the Creative Scotland Open Project fund a new ceramics workshop will also be opening.
Abertay University, another of Dundee’s educational institutions, is home to Lecturer of Sound Production Christos Michalakos who overseas the Sound and Music for Games programme. Aside from this, Michalakos is a software developer, composer, performer and sound artist as I discovered at the November edition of make/share, hosted by Creative Dundee.
His fascination with the relationship between sound, games and their environment can be seen through his improvisational performances and collaborations using his “augmented drum-kit, a custom hybrid instrument which extends the traditional acoustic drum-kit through the use of sensors and bespoke software”.
The augmented drum kit is the centrepiece of his latest project, Pathfinder – “an audiovisual performance-game exploring the synergies between multiple contemporary creative practices” – winner of the Best Performance Award at this years NIME conference in Australia. In this instance, the drum-kit is used as an alternative game controller that is highly responsive and appeals to the users sound, sight and touch senses as the physical instrumental performance induces the projection of light and game art around them. Overall the result is of a variegated performance-game experience in comparison to traditional gaming outlets that allows the user greater freedom of expression on their electronic journey.
Check out his website for more information on his projects, Pathfinder tour dates and music releases available for purchase.
Unlike the previous creative influences, this one is not an individual, but a collective; and its widespread and consequential effects are a credit to the impact of creatives when acting together. Amongst all that they do, they: create a community that embraces newcomers; support those in art and design industries and amplify what they have to offer; and most importantly inspire and induce creativity to ensure that the future of Dundee will remain creative. For these reasons, Creative Dundee is one of the most valuable establishments the city has to offer.
A small core team of three supported by a board of eight are all it takes. Together, they aim to “Amplify, Connect and Collaborate” through a series of events. Pecha Kucha – chit chat in Japanese – was established in Tokyo by Klein Dytham Architecture in 2003 as a simple presentation format: 20 images, for 20 seconds each. Now held quarterly by Creative Dundee, Pecha Kucha Night is one of their most anticipated events. A variety of speakers are invited to talk about a subject of their choice, work or play, making for an inspiring and entertaining night!
Make/Share also has a presentation format – however a little more flexible! On the second Wednesday of every month, typically four speakers are invited to present whatever they are working on at The Beer Kitchen. This gives people from a wide range of backgrounds the platform to share and raise awareness of their work, and lets the public connect, question and learn (with the added benefit of a free 2/3 of beer).
Additional to these events, Creative Dundee organise a spectrum of thought-provoking talks such as the Turncoats Debate and What is the Future of Domestic Life?, and as if they have not done enough for the city, they have produced 99 Things to See and Do in Dundee – a pamphlet detailing all the unique attractions Dundee has to offer.
For a blog that was created as a side-project, Creative Dundee has blossomed into something brilliant.
Dundee is a cultural city.