David Watt: New V&A will show there's more cultural gems to discover in Dundee

On 15 September, Dundee will provide the backdrop for the keenly anticipated official opening of the V&A ­Dundee, the culmination of many years of ­construction work, planning and preparation. It's also just one element of a £1 ­billion masterplan for Dundee City Waterfront, a 30 year vision that will transform 240 hectares of land along 8km of the Tayside waterfront.
David Watt is Chief Executive of Arts & Business Scotland.David Watt is Chief Executive of Arts & Business Scotland.
David Watt is Chief Executive of Arts & Business Scotland.

The project is a fantastic showcase for the benefits of closer collaboration between Dundee’s cultural and business communities. While a key purpose behind V&A Dundee is to provide Dundee residents and ­visitors with an enhanced cultural offering, the benefits to local business are also numerous and substantial.

At its simplest, V&A Dundee is the flagship that has drawn international attention towards the city as a great place to do business – now and in the future – as the Waterfront masterplan takes shape. There’s undoubtedly a real buzz about Dundee in the ­lead-up to September’s opening weekend that many businesses want to be part of.

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Through its Culture & Business Fund Scotland (CBFS), Arts & Business Scotland has witnessed local business enthusiasm first hand. The fund is matching Dundee-born ­technology company NCR’s ­sponsorship of V&A Dundee’s 3D ­Festival, a two-day celebration of design, music and performance marking the museum’s opening.

Wealth managers Brewin Dolphin and local media company DC Thomson have added their support, taking total sponsorship to £250,000. ­Separately, the CBFS has also match funded housebuilder Stewart Milne’s partnership with the Dundee Heritage Trust, which will bring the Lego Brick City exhibition to Dundee’s Verdant Works jute textile museum between September and November.

The exhibition will feature more than 60 Lego models of famous buildings from around the world, including local Dundee landmarks and a scale replica of the V&A Dundee building itself. Amongst many other benefits, this sponsorship enables Stewart Milne to engage directly with the local community surrounding one of its newest housing developments in the north of the city.

These new attractions sit alongside a wealth of existing architectural and cultural gems throughout Dundee.Dating back more than 500 years, the Old Steeple is Dundee’s oldest surviving building and a fascinating ­tourist attraction in its own right, a climb to the top rewarded with panoramic views of the city.

The McManus, Dundee’s art gallery and museum, last year celebrated its 150th anniversary and regularly hosts a rich programme of events and exhibitions that justifies its ­status as another major cultural attraction.

Almost a century old, Dundee’s Caird Hall is an iconic concert venue that regularly hosts the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and a host of international artists and performers.

Meanwhile, opened in 1999, ­Dundee Contemporary Arts combines art gallery space with arthouse cinema to give visitors a world class offering in contemporary culture. Then of course there is Discovery Point, located next to the new ­Dundee V&A building and its centrepiece, the Dundee-built ship RRS Discovery, which carried Robert ­Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton on their first ­successful exploration of the ­Antarctic in 1901.

This award-winning visitor experience is bound to reap major benefits from the opening of the neighbouring Dundee V&A with significantly increased footfall and revenue.

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This is just a small flavour of ­Dundee’s uniquely rich cultural ­heritage. The new V&A Dundee will certainly act as a powerful draw for visitors to the city.

But it’s the wealth of other cultural attractions in ­Dundee that should encourage ­visitors to turn their visit into a longer stay, delivering enhanced benefits to the local economy and business community. The launch of V&A Dundee offers a huge opportunity for Dundee’s local cultural and business communities, working in partnership, to maximise the associated benefits to the wider local economy by encouraging a new influx of visitors to make the most of everything the city can offer, both new and established.

With the right focus, Dundee can turn itself into a city visitor destination to rival Edinburgh or Glasgow, creating a positive ripple effect across the Scottish economy.

These are truly exciting times for Scotland’s City of Discovery. Coupled with ongoing work to transform the Dundee City Waterfront, the V&A Dundee is already putting the city firmly on the tourist destination map. Bringing direct economic benefits through increased visitor numbers while attracting new businesses to the city and giving local businesses real confidence about the future, it is proof of what can be achieved when the cultural sector and business community work in partnership.

More information about the Culture & Business Fund Scotland is available at www.aandbscotland.org.uk/culture-and-business-fund-scotland/

David Watt is chief executive of Arts & Business Scotland.

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