Dundee unveils plans to create month-long cultural celebration

IT IS a city synonymous with the trades of jute, jam and journalism which has its future hopes pinned on the worlds of cutting-edge art and design.

Hayley Scanlan is in the line-up for the inaugural  Ignite Dundee festival which is timed to coincide with end-of-year degree shows. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Hayley Scanlan is in the line-up for the inaugural Ignite Dundee festival which is timed to coincide with end-of-year degree shows. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Now Dundee has unveiled ambitions to create a month-long celebration which would become the city’s equivalent of the Edinburgh Festival.

Fashion entrepreneurs, computer games designers, craft-makers, visual artists and musicians are set to take centre stage over the next four weeks as part of Dundee’s biggest ever cultural celebration.

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Timed specially to coincide with the end-of-year degree shows in the city, it includes a new four-day Dundee Design Festival, which will showcases Dundee’s role as the UK’s only city of design, an honour awarded by Unesco in 2014.

The month-long initiative, which has already won the backing of government agencies Creative Scotland and EventScotland for this year, is also expected to raise awareness of the city’s long-awaited V&A design museum in the run-up to its opening in 2018.

Organisers say the city will be “bursting at the seams” with culture and creativity in May, but insist there is huge room for expansion in future years as its new £1 billion waterfront takes shape.

It is hoped tens of thousands of people will flock to converted historic sites, existing arts venues and academic buildings, and public parks like the new Slessor Gardens on the waterfront. Pop-up markets, exhibitions, performance art events, workshops and concerts will be among more than 40 events staged under the banner of “Ignite Dundee.”

The West Ward Works building, where The Broons and Oor Wullie annuals used to be produced, will host the design festival. Leading fashion industry figures from the city like Hayley Scanlan and Kerrie Aldo, games designers Space Budgie and Fox Wot I Drew, Dundee V&A architect Kengo Kuma, and “forensic jeweller” Maria Maclennan are all in the inaugural line-up.

The old printworks will also host an atmospheric revival of a celebrated Dundee Rep production, Witch’s Blood, nearly 30 years after it was staged.

Other events are being held aboard a 19th century Royal Navy frigate berthed in the docks, in the City Square, at the Wellgate shopping centre and inside an old flour mill.

Ignite Dundee co-ordinator Annie Marrs said: “Ignite Dundee brings together and celebrates the outstanding range of culture, and depth and variety of creativity, that our city has to offer.”

Anna Day, manager of Unesco City of Design Dundee, “May is a time when creativity and culture is bursting at the seams in Dundee. We wanted to create a month in the year where people in the city and visitors could come and enjoy a real array of activities.”

Stewart Murdoch, managing director of Leisure and Culture Dundee, said: “The city has an incredible offer for May. The different festivals and teams have worked together to create a month that is fun, exciting and with something to whet every appetite.”


- The Dundee Design Festival, running at the West Ward Works from 25-28 May, is one of a host of stand-alone events during Ignite Dundee, which starts tomorrow.

- The exhibition in the old printworks will feature a showcase of Lateral North, a Glasgow-based design collective representing Scotland in the Venice Architecture Biennale.

- The show, which will have a major health and wellbeing strand, will showcase designers of “Maggie’s” cancer care centres, including Frank Gehry, Richard Murphy and the late Zaha Hadid. It will include a pop-up by Masterchef winner Jamie Scott and host a Scottish Jewellery Week show.

- V&A Dundee, which is also exhibiting at the West Ward Works, is bring two of the designers from hit stage show The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time to reveal some of its secrets, while the National Theatre of Scotland is staging its hit show The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart.

- Dundee’s 19th century Royal Arch, knocked down in 1964 to make way for the Tay Road Bridge, will be temporarily recreated out of cardboard on the waterfront, while the botanic garden has had a secret sound installation created for it by Lily Hassioti.