Salmond backs Dundee after City of Culture defeat

FIRST MINISTER Alex Salmond has vowed to help Dundee’s artistic revolution continue despite the city losing out to Hull in the race to be the UK’s next culture capital.

Dundee is set to find out today whether its bid to become City of Culture 2017 has been successful. Picture: TSPL

He has pledged to stage early talks with the city council about taking aspects of the £25 million bid forward to try to realise some of the “great ideas” that had been drawn up.

Mr Salmond told The Scotsman the key strengths of Dundee’s bid - the £1 billion transformation of its waterfront area and the planned V&A museum were going ahead anyway, regardless of how the bid had gone.

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He also insisted the prospect of Scotland being independent in 2017 had not had an adverse impact on Dundee’s chances on winning being named UK capital of culture, adding that some critics would have said Dundee was a politically-motivated choice had it been selected.

Dundee is set to find out today whether its bid to become City of Culture 2017 has been successful. Picture: TSPL

Dundee had predicted it was set for an £80 million economic boost, 1000 extra jobs and 1.7 million visitors in 2017 with a winning bid.

But despite drawing up a £25 million programme of events, it was left to lick its wounds after losing out to the Yorkshire city, which drafted in Creative Scotland’s former chief executive Andrew Dixon, who was forced to quit the post almost a year ago, to help advise on its bid. The other contenders were Leicester and Swansea Bay.

Miller praises ‘determined’ bid

UK culture secretary Maria Miller, who made the announcement on the winning city, said: “This is brilliant news for Hull and everyone involved in the bid there. But I also want to extend my thanks and admiration to the three other bid teams.

“I know just how much time, effort and determination they each put into their bids. I hope they will still take forward many of the fantastic ideas and events they had planned so that their communities can enjoy these innovative cultural plans.”

Also included in Dundee’s bid were plans to create one of the largest arts spaces in Scotland in a former DC Thomson printworks building and a new museum of transport.

The events programme included dramatic sound and light shows around key landmarks, outdoor concerts, street theatre spectaculars, blockbuster exhibitions and large-scale theatre shows.

Actors Brian Cox, Alan Cumming and Tilda Swinton, singer-songwriters Ricky Ross and Sheena Wellington, choreographer Michael Clark, playwright David Greig, the National Theatre of Scotland, the British Museum, Scottish Dance Theatre and Scottish Ballet were among those hoped to feature in major productions in Dundee.

Unique Events, the producers of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations for the last 20 years, were brought in as artistic consultants on the Dundee bid, with T in the Park organisers DF Concerts, Disney and NASA also involved.

‘Dundee knows where it’s going’

Mr Salmond said: “It’s obviously a disappointment that the bid wasn’t successful. But they know where they are going in Dundee.

“We will certainly be speaking to the council about it (the bid programme) in a very positive way.

“The strength of the bid and the city’s profile - the V&A museum, the transformation of the waterfront, the revitalisation of the city - all that goes ahead.

“The underlying renaissance is there. We’ll talk to them about how some aspects of that wonderful presentation can still be taken forward. They are a very progressive council and have some great ideas.

“Of course it was feasible Dundee could win the contest for 2017. It was part of the competition. If it couldn’t have won it wouldn’t have been in it in the first place.”

Minutes after the result was announced, Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop told her twitter followers: “Just spoken to Stewart Murdoch from Dundee bid - there is so much in their plans to still drive forward.”

She added later: “Dundee has already embarked on a pioneering journey that uses culture and creativity to promote regeneration and tackle wider social issues in a range of innovative ways. A city rooted in culture and heritage, Dundee not only cherishes its diverse heritage and traditions, but also seeks further opportunities to share, celebrate and regenerate, and I am confident that its cultural journey is well on track to continue.”

‘Excellent ideas’

Dundee’s Lord Provost Bob Duncan said: “Our bid document was full of excellent ideas. We will be looking at what aspects of this can now be taken forward and staged for the people of Dundee.”

A statement from the We Dundee campaign, which had spearheaded the bid, said: “For Dundee, this is not the end but just the beginning.”

The winning bid - which outlined plans to stage more than 80 events over the course of 2017 - was chosen by a panel led by Brookside and Grange Hill creator Phil Redmond.

It also included a number of prominent figures linked to the cultural scene in Scotland, including Channel 4 executive Stuart Cosgrove, former Scottish Opera director Ruth Mackenzie, ex-Glasgow School of Art director Seona Reid and Robert Palmer, who led Glasgow’s reign as European Capital of Culture in 1990.

Hull will become the second official “UK City of Culture” after Londonderry, in Northern Ireland, which has been staging events throughout 2013 and has seen £120 million worth of investment pumped into the city since winning the title four years ago.