Rebooted festival has designs on seeing the city of Dundee in a new light

A secret submarine base, a welder who fought for women’s rights in the workplace, a pigeon racing club, a mystery over a missing stone camel and a "Hogwarts-esque" school building are being celebrated as part of a new drive to champion Dundee as a design city.

Rachel Simpson, one of the designers involved in producing this year’s Dundee Design Festival, leads the way on the new Hilltown Design Trail. Picture: Alan Richardson

A series of new walking trails and a colouring book have been created under a radical reboot of the Dundee Design Festival to ensure it can return in a Covid-safe format, running from Thursday to October 3.

The festival has previously seen major showcases of work of artists, designers and architects, staged at a former printworks and a shopping mall.

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It is hoped this year’s edition will help locals and visitors “look at the world a little bit differently and understand more about the process of design”.

Pop-up design houses offering activities, games and workshops are being created at the heart of half-hour walking trails in four parts of the city – Finlathen, Stobswell, Hilltown and the waterfront – while the festival will also have an online incarnation.

The new colouring book, which will be available from the design houses along with guides to the new walking trails, was created from images captured by photographer Kathryn Rattray and illustrations from artist Dana Ulama.

The festival will highlight Bella Keyzer, a war-time shipyard worker who went on to be honoured by the city for her fight to secure equality for women, and the site of Scotland's submarine base, which was created in Dundee’s docks in 1909.

The Bowbridge Works jute mill, which used to be dominated by a huge stone camel, the former electricity sub-station now home to a pigeon racing club and Morgan Academy, the castle-esque school building dating back to 1850, will also be celebrated.

The West Bell Street Car Park was built on a former burial ground in Dundee.

Scotland's first council housing estate, a “curly” car park built on a historic burial ground, a rocket-shaped water tower described as being “like something out of War of the Worlds”, the city’s first savings bank and Dundee’s historic custom house are all being recognised.

Much-loved Dundee institutions like Forte Cafe, which dates back to the 1940s, the football grounds of Dens Park and Tannadice, and the “DJCAD” art school building are all featured, along with the city’s former gasworks, which have been earmarked for the city’s proposed Eden Project attraction. Arctic research vessel Discovery and the city’s new V&A museum will feature.

The festival will be recalling key moments in Dundee’s history, including an 18th-century tsunami, a seven-year battle to get public toilets for women built in the city, the building of the “Hilltown Multis” flats, the demise of its tram network and the creation of an aqueduct to boost its water supplies.

Annie Marrs, UNESCO City of Design Dundee’s lead officer, said: “When Dundee became a UNESCO City of Design in 2014, right at the top of the lists of things to do was to run a major design festival.

Dundee's historic gasworks is due to be transformed by the first Eden Project in Scotland.

“It was always our intention to host a festival in 2021. The pandemic forced us to review the way in which we worked, the places we wanted to work and the people who we worked with.

“Delivering a large event, in one space where lots of people gather together, just seemed like an impossibility.

“But we are a design festival and a team of designers, so all we really needed to do was redesign what a festival was.”

A camel can be found on the gates of the old Bowbridge Works where there used to be a huge stone version which vanished in mysterious circumstances. Picture: Alan Richardson
Dundee's famous Forte Cafe, on Dura Street, dates back to the 1940s. Picture: Alan Richardson
The 'Hilltown Multis' feature in a new Dundee Design Festival colouring book.
Dundee Design Festival colouring in book
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