Dundee reveals plans for UK City of Culture bid

DUNDEE’s reign as UK City of Culture would include hosting the Turner Prize, the Man Booker Prize, Radio 1 and MTV events, and the world’s largest celebration of comics, under bold plans revealed by the team bidding for the prestigious crown.

The proposed £25 million programme features more than 80 events. Picture: Alan Richardson

Dramatic sound and light shows around the city’s landmarks, outdoor concerts, street theatre spectaculars, blockbuster exhibitions and large-scale theatre shows would be staged during 2017 if the bid is successful.

The proposed £25 million programme - finally revealed after a last pitch to judges - features more than 80 events and includes some of Scotland’s major event organisers, arts organisations and leading cultural figures. Backers predict 1.7 million people will attend events, generating some £80 million for the city’s economy and creating more than 1000 jobs.

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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 are among those hoped to feature in major productions.

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

The bid document also reveals a pledge from London mayor Boris Johnson to support the bid by sending major cultural institutions like the Barbican, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama north for special collaborations.

A consortium led by the city council is up against Hull, Leicester and Swansea Bay for the honour, which Dundee was shortlisted for in the summer, when north-east rivals Aberdeen lost out. Despite the prospect of Scotland being independent when 2017 comes round, the SNP has thrown its weight behind Dundee’s efforts, with First Minister Alex Salmond penning a message of support for the bid document.

Mr Salmond said: “Dundee has an amazing cultural heritage - you can see that in the galleries, in its rep theatre company, the universities, the colleges. They’ve all made a huge contribution - not just to Dundee, but to Scotland’s cultural footprint.

“But what makes Dundee’s bid special is the ambition for the future, both in terms of infrastructure - the totally amazing waterfront development with the V&A rising in the centre of that - and the involvement of Dundonians.”

Unique Events founder Pete Irvine said: “If Dundee’s bid is successful it will be as equally transformation as Glasgow being named a European capital of culture was in 1990, not just for the city, but for the country as a whole. At the moment it is really just Edinburgh and Glasgow that are seen as centres of the arts. This would completely change that.

“The key thing with the bid is absolutely everything is deliverable and a lot of thought has gone into the various elements of the programme. Lots of people are looking at all the events happening in 2014 and wondering what’s next. This would be it.”

The 2017 programme in Dundee would get underway in spectacular fashion with thousands of people gathering on the city’s waterfront to watch a pyrotechnic and light show overseen by international expert Chistophe Berthonneu and inspired by the 17th Siege of Dundee led by General Monck.

Signature events include a three-week summer festival celebrating Dundee’s music and dance traditions, reaching a climax with a city-wide celebration deploying the city’s main parks and gardens.

As part of the programme, Dundee is planning to host the world’s first “virtual festival” with a one-day mass computer gaming event, the French street theatre outfit Komplex Kapharnaum would be invited to stage a promenade show through the city centre for three nights which would reach a finale at a huge open-air nightclub arena, and Broughty Ferry would host a brand new opera inspired by the loss of the lifeboat Mona, in 1959, with the loss of 118 lives.

Other highlights include turning the Tay Rail Bridge into the “pulse of the city” via a breathtaking light display, an interactive exhibition inspired by the characters in The Beano created by design guru Wayne Hemingway, and a festival of football bringing Italian giants AC Milan and AS Roma to the city for exhibition matches.

The creation of one of the largest arts spaces in Scotland in a former printworks building, a new museum of transport, the opening of the long-awaited V&A museum and the city’s £1 billion waterfront regeneration are all central to the bid.

One-off tributes are planned to the late singer-songwriters Billy Mackenzie and Michael Marra, the Average White Band, the city’s most famous poet, William Topaz McGonagall and the polar explorations undertaken by vessels like Discovery, Dundee’s most iconic visitor attraction.

The bid document states: “Our programme will be centred on quality and equality, determined to effect a step-change in opportunity and the way in which culture is viewed and delivered for and by the next generation.

“We are a city in transition and therefore a city of contrasts. We are on an upward trajectory from a period of decline and we will continue to invest in culture and creativity to help power and inspire this journey.

“We are unashamedly ambitious. Dundee will deliver a celebratory year in 2017 worthy of being the UK’s representative.”

Speaking after presenting Dundee’s bid in Londonderry, which is the current UK City of Culture, project director Bryan Beattie added: “We are cautiously optimistic at the moment. We think our bid is very credible and although we had a two-hour grilling there was nothing to cause us any alarm.”

Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “With its rich cultural heritage and exciting future, Dundee can be a beacon of creativity to the world.

“Dundee is already using its culture and creativity to tackle wider societal issues in innovative ways.

“The bid to be UK City of Culture 2017 capitalises on the vital role of culture in Dundee’s continuing regeneration – and the example the city can set to the UK and the rest of the world.

“Dundee has already delivered great work to increase cultural participation and City of Culture status would encourage even more people to take part in all the city has to offer.

“Dundee can showcase Scotland and the UK to the rest of the world. I hope they are given this deserved opportunity, and wish the City every success in its bid. I look forward to hearing the outcome later this month.”