Dundee bidding to host world culture festival

Dundee's ambitious plans to stage a Creative Cities World Festival  in 2022 is aimed at building on the momentum from the opening of its new V&A museum Picture:  JOHN DEVLIN
Dundee's ambitious plans to stage a Creative Cities World Festival in 2022 is aimed at building on the momentum from the opening of its new V&A museum Picture: JOHN DEVLIN
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Dundee is set to stage a brand new global cultural festival under plans to build on the momentum from the opening of its new V&A museum.

The city plans to host a multi-arts event up to six weeks long in the summer 2022 if funding for the ambitious venture can be secured within the next year.

Dundee has already won backing in principle from Unesco to stage an event for members of its Creative Cities Network after a presentation from city leaders in the summer.

It is hoped both the Scottish and UK governments will throw their weight behind the venture, which has been developed after Dundee was forced to abandon long-held hopes of becoming a European Capital of Culture in 2023 due to the Brexit vote.

Backers of the new initiative, who are hoping to win final approval for their plans in the spring, are hoping to attract all 180 cities from the 72 countries in the Unesco network.

They have previously been recognised for their track records in the likes of music, literature, film, gastronomy, crafts, folk arts and media.

The Creative Cities World Festival would be staged in the run-up to the 2022 Edinburgh International Festival and Fringe.

An initial programme put together would feature a mix of live performances, film screenings, outdoor events, exhibitions and talks, as well as an international youth culture summit.

Dundee spent three years pursuing a bid to be named European Capital of Culture after losing out to Hull in the race to be named UK City of Culture in 2017.

It was estimated the 2023 title would have generated an extra £128 million for the economy and 1,600 new jobs. But Dundee was dealt a devastating blow last November when it emerged the European Commission had ruled out the UK’s participation in the contest.

However, city leaders are determined to build on the momentum generated by the 2023 bid, the designation of Dundee as the UK’s first Unesco City of Design in 2014 and the long-awaited opening of V&A Dundee this week.

Dundee’s recent cultural transformation has already seen it named one of the top must-see destinations around the world by the Wall Street Journal, Lonely Bloomberg and CNN, and rated alongside Abu Dhabi, Shanghai, Tokyo, Fiji and Borneo.

Bryan Beattie, director of Dundee’s UK and European culture capital bids, is spearheading the latest efforts to propel Dundee into the international premier division.

He said: “The Creative Cities Festival is a brand new concept, which was actually borne pretty quickly out of what happened when the European bid ended so abruptly. We wanted to keep the momentum going with similar objectives.

“It was felt that capitalising on the Unesco status the city already has would be the ideal way to do that as it gives Dundee ready access to 180 cities in every continent of the world.

“At the moment they have no formal way of collaborating. This is an opportunity to bring these cities together and take things to the next stage. It’s a concept that we’d be looking to develop with the other creative cities. The first would be in Dundee and it would then be an annual event other cities would take on.”

Seville, Bologna, Glasgow, Liverpool and Adelaide are official Unesco Cities of Music, Edinburgh, Dublin, Reykjavik, Dunedin and Manchester have been approved as Cities of Literature, and Sydney, Galway, Rome and Sofia are recognised for their cinematic heritage.

Mr Beattie said: “The idea is that our event in 2022 would provide a showcase for each city and its designation over the course the festival. It was very warmly receieved when it was presented to Unesco’s Creative Cities Network in the summer and we’re now talking with the UK and Scottish governments, and their various agencies, about taking it forward.”

Stewart Murdoch, director of Leisure and Culture Dundee, said: “Our plans have the backing of Britain’s ambassador to Unesco and all of the other UK cities in the Unesco network. It has a lot of support, but would need funding from the two governments to make it happen.”

In a message of support for the initial bid submitted to Unesco, Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said the event would be “a landmark global moment that will highlight the power and potential of placing creativity at the heart of development plans.

She added: “This is an exciting opportunity for Dundee to showcase its leadership internationally in re-imagining the city’s potential through culture, design and technology, and to strengthen Scotland’s cultural ties with the rest of the world.

“As the first UK city to be ecognised as a Unesco City of Design, Dundee is already an international success story. I welcome that its ambition to host the festival in 2022 seeks to create further opportunities to share, collaborate and to celebrate transformative power of creativity with the rest of the world, while learning from others.

“With the iconic V&A Dundee’s opening, the timing couldn’t be better for Dundee to further strengthen its reputation as an international hub of creative excellence.”

Council leader John Alexander said: “We want to create a platform which allows the world to see how creativity can change lives and be a force for good.”