A new report published ahead of Dundee bidding to become a European Capital of Culture has found that the city’s creative economy is in a “fragile” state.
The blueprint for Dundee's creative future, which has been two years in the making, warns of the need to address a shortage of suitable space for individuals and companies to make, perform, show and sell work and the lack of job opportunities “of meaningful scale if it is to thrive in future.
Significant numbers of students who want to stay in the city after graduating are said to “feel forced into leaving to find opportunities elsewhere and are reluctant leavers.”
The city’s new creative industries strategy, led by the Creative Dundee network, calls for efforts to be stepped up to breathe new life into “redundant spaces” and under-used properties across the city.
It states: “With a large creative student population in the city, a significant challenge is encouraging its students from the local schools, universities and college to have the confidence to base their professional practice in Dundee upon completing their studies. Institutions and students are often disconnected from the local creative sector.
“The research and consultation found that students themselves felt the city lacked sustainable local opportunities of meaningful scale which were attractive enough to encourage them to stay and be rooted in Dundee beyond graduation."
The strategy recommends cultural and creative organisations sign up to become “Living Wage” employers in order to make Dundee and calls for “a city-wide rethink of the infrastructure, support and progression routes from education, through to gaining employment, or starting and growing a creative business.”
It adds: "Dundee’s creative economy is innovative and vital to the city, yet is still fragile. Like other cities it has limited access to available spaces to make, perform, show and sell work.
"The creative sector has made great progress in bringing to life redundant spaces in the city, but it needs real effective partnerships with the public and private sector to continue this work.
"There is a need in the city for both temporary suitable spaces (for making, performing, exhibiting and selling work) and mixed-purpose, alternative spaces (for experimentation and the development of new collaborations).
"Both the creative and property sectors could benefit from greater communication and understanding through regular meetings and events to develop new strategies which tackle common challenges of empty and under-used spaces."
Other recommendations aimed at making Dundee a more attractive city for creative workers include the creation of new world-class “cultural tourism” attractions to follow the opening next summer of the long-awaited V&A design museum on the city’s waterfront.
The blueprint states: "These cultural products and experiences with provenance to the local area have the potential to increase visitor spend and stays, and inspire the next generation of creative businesses. Finding ways to create authentic cultural tourism experiences will also be critical for the success of the city and the wider region’s offer."
Gillian Easson, director of Creative Dundee, said: “This strategy is important to ensuring we all work together to ensure our sector underpins our vibrant city and ultimately contributes to creating a healthy and positive place for everyone.”
John Kampfner, chief executive of the Creative Industries Foundation, who helped launch the study in at the Dundee Contemporary Arts centre, said: "The Creative Industries are worth £87 billion to the UK economy and I'm delighted that Dundee is taking a lead in using them to help define its economic, cultural and social future."