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“Don’t follow the path. Go where there is no path and start a trail” -Ruby Bridges

As Ruby grows it’s my responsibility as her parent to encourage and guide her. As she gets older I must allow her freedom and independence as her role in our home changes and develops and she learns the skills that are vital in day to day life. Personal hygiene, self presentation, responsibility for her own space, helping others, walking to school safely and contribution in preparing meals are key factors Ruby has been working on.

I am confident in Ruby’s ability to find her way around our kitchen, awareness of hazards, identification of specific food groups, basic knife skills and her help in creating a healthy family meal. Make no mistakes, I’m under no illusion Ruby would much rather sit on her backside and play Minecraft on her IPod or create music videos using VideoStar but with a bit of motherly persuasion and a huge nudge in the direction of the parlour, she soon gets into the swing of it. This morning we had a full blown tantrum because I asked the poor child to polish her school shoes. Small chores at the age of eight can have a significant impact on her choices as an adult. I’m strict in belief that looking well, feeling well and eating well are ultimate lessons my daughter will learn and are the foundation of greater achievements in life. An outlook I was lucky enough to be gifted with as a child and a way of life that should be transferable from generation to generation.

Everyone will have different opinions, interpretations and boundaries as to how they educate their children in life skills and some may not even decipher the critical importance of teaching youngsters how to become self sufficient, aware of themselves and their surroundings or the significance of a healthy lifestyle.

18,000 children in Dundee are living in poverty and will tonight go to bed hungry, higher living costs are making it difficult for people to make ends meet. This statistic doesn’t just run through our lower class or benefit receivers, it’s a problem wide spread as the elated cost of basic amenities are pushing parents into working longer hours to provide for their families, unwillingly sacrificing time and experiences with their young ones. As everyone feels their purse strings tighten, we have to subsidise accordingly and more often than not basic necessities such as our expenditure on food can be impacted, driving us to make unhealthy or cheaper choices. It’s an issue that I struggle with myself as a single, working parent. Life can be difficult to juggle but it is by upmost importance I provide my daughter with the best my budget allows. Lack of education can have a significant impact on this worrying statistic. It’s absolute as a community we allow every child a happy and fulfilling lifestyle and a chance for the future.

Food on Friday reaches some of the poorest and most vulnerable families in Douglas, Whitfield and neighbouring schemes of Dundee. The charity provides support for families to take responsibility and improve their own lifestyles through the means of cooking, gardening, fitness, education on health, hygiene and tasting new foods. Their vital work within Primary and Secondary Schools solidifies relationships with children and their carers and an education on a healthier lifestyle can be sustained. Anthea Reid the project leader has campaigned ceaselessly and the project is growing, from strength to strength they are creating more awareness and spreading the word, its an idea I would love to see reach across the West End of our city too. Food on Friday also run other activities such as Women’s Cooking groups, life coaching and experience in the work place. Through social media, radio, television and networking promotion, Food on Friday has become well known across Dundee and is respected for its achievements and succes in tackling childhood poverty.
Anthea is determined in her field and is ‘honoured to work within this community and will continue to strive to outreach to the people who really need it’.

Help for Kids is another local charity, flying the flag for our younger generation within Dundee. The aim of Help for Kids is to support, aid and fund local children, or causes concerning the youngsters, who are either vulnerable or disadvantaged through social and economic circumstances or through health and disability. Supporting those who are effected by illness by donating funds for equipment or other necessary treatments, which are not provided by the NHS. Sourcing necessary clothing and furniture for kids who have had less fortunate and sometimes traumatic start to life due to unexpected circumstances. Since 2011 Help for Kids have supported over 10,000 under 18’s living in our local area. Working directly with communities, families, support workers, volunteers and professionals. Their support is not just about donating funds, they get involved, engaging with the community is at the heart of what they do.

I was honoured to meet Anne-Marie of Help for Kids and Anthea of Food on Friday at Dundee’s Face of Freedom, where I heard their incredible ongoing achievements first hand. The annual charity event was enthusiastically presented by local radio presenter Gary Robinson of Wave 102 who professionally kept the eager audience engaged and entertained with his charismatic persona in between an exciting catwalk show and live music by local artists Connor Reilly, Andy Goudie and Kevin Webb.

Dundee’s Face of Freedom gives prospective models a platform to shine including credible exposure, the winner receiving a cash prize, a starter portfolio of photographs and an opportunity of securing a modelling contract. The fun event brings together the competition with a catwalk show also involving adults and kids fondly named the Help for Kids models. The event is growing in popularity within Dundee’s creative community and this year the fab models strutted down the runway in Marble Boy, Rosy Tuesday and Hayley Scanlan, high street giants Debenhams and Primark kindly contributed too. The night is a celebration of kids, a celebration of creative talent and a celebration of everything that’s great about Dundee.

With the help of the cities finest photographers, film makers, musicians, boutiques, students, charity workers and top make-up artists, Irving Miskell Reid along with his hard working Freedom Hair Experience Team created an event which is strategically thought out with no stone going unturned. Organisers finely tune the catwalk show months in advance. Irving has a lovely way of allowing people to get involved and giving them full praise and credit where due. I was willingly given the task of customising the finalist t-shirts, a contribution I took on with pride and great pleasure, unskilfully shredding and slicing the stretched cotton, I was admirably impressed as the models wiggled down the raised runway trying to catch the eye of the three main judges- Fashion Designer Hayley Scanlan, Dom Migele of Migele Experience and Gail Sneddon of Paul Mitchell.

Jewellery and textile designers from Duncan of Jordanstone were keen to get involved in fundraising for the local charity, they donated time and skill in creating shirts and tote bags unveiling a thoughtful, eye catching logo which was displayed and retailed on the night.

A fantastic effort was felt in the modern surroundings of Fat Sam’s Live but it was the kids that inevitably stole the show. Ruby, Daisy and Jacob proudly adorned their Help for Kids T-shirts as they weaved in and out the crowd, shaking their donations bucket, pulling in admirers with their sweet determination, I beamed with pride as the three sat perfectly during the show, taking in the importance of fund raising for a cause so close to home, they even managed to get their five minutes of fame when they cheekily sneaked on stage to announce the raffle winners. The young models drew joyful gasps from the crowd as they skipped down the catwalk with neon rags twisted in their sweet hair and young Serafina had everyone in fits of laughter with her adorable pout and stylised strut. An incredible eight year old named Summer proudly took the stage and had her long blonde hair chopped off, she kindly donated her locks to The Little Princess Foundation.

The night came to a close with the announcement of the deserving winner, Jamila. A beautiful lady with just as much personality, stage presence and charisma as her exotic looks. I left feeling like a winner and there may only be few who didn’t feel the same. Another event that encourages my faith and passion of the people within my home city of Dundee, raising a proud sum of over £2000. If Ruby continues to be surrounded by so much inspiration then I’m comfortable in the knowledge that I’m ensuring she receives the best lesson in life than all.

Long live the VEF and Jamila the Dundee Face of Freedom Queen.

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Above images by Tammy Lyn Shaw

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Film by Dylan Drummond, Son of the Sea

I AM MOVED TO DESIRE BY VENUS AND, WHEN SATURN RETURNS, I AM SORELY TESTED

It was only a few weeks ago I was invited along with Hayley and Kerrie to the annual St Andrews University Charity Fashion Show. Held in an elegant, bespoke marquee erected especially for the occasion in the grounds of the affluent university. Made famous in 2002 by a certain Princess in a sheer slip dress, which of course left little to the imagination. The event in its 23rd year has since seen subsequent press coverage, sold out tables, lucrative sponsorships and eye catching collections from sought after British designers, and has deservingly become the UK’s greatest student run event.

This year a dream like theme named ‘Eyes wide Shut’ inspired by the delicate realm between reality and fantasy, with a risqué undertone taken from Albert Schnitzler’s novel ‘Dream Story’. This brought to the forefront of my mind a dream or perhaps a nightmare I’d experienced just few nights previous…..

Hayley and I arrived at the medieval institution, the drifting fog affecting our clear vision, we were greeted by Minotaur-like security guards in puffa jackets, their bull’s heads complete with gold, chunky septum rings. As we entered through the opulent, heavy baroque curtains we were met by a group of sinister looking photographers, luring us towards the red carpet and conspicuously persuading us to have our photographs taken, posing in front of the sponsors wall, blinding flashes glazing our eyes, the gaunt figures in draped black hoods, faceless and menacing behind their camera lens. Ushered through double glass doors we proceeded down a grand staircase and entered the main hall. A slim, well stocked bar ran around the outskirts of the lavish room. Bare chested waiters skimmed through the crowd effortlessly, feeding guests with delicate, crystal urns of baby pink champagne. An eerie shock of distress flooded through me as I gaped around the vast space, discovering Hayley and I had formidably underdressed and perhaps read our invite to the popular event wrong. Fellow females fashioned haut couture gowns complete with flamboyant headwear whilst our male counterparts dressed in tuxedo suits. The disconcerting thought not of our company’s attire but in their mythological hybrid image. Centaurs, goats, fauns and birds all with humanoid bodies, giddy and woozy, the bunch slurped their fizz through beaks and muzzles. A ripe feeling of delirium whizzed dramatically throughout and the creatures gave off a rattled feeling of emptiness, crazed with alcohol or more.

The catwalk show proceeded imminently and we took our seats in the VIP section, raised intrusively above the catwalk and the whimsical students below. Casting my eyes over the crowd, the scene reminiscent of Shakespere’s ‘A midsummer nights dream’ or an ancient secret society cult. Profoundly beautiful models strutted fiercely down the twisting catwalk, making their Hayley Scanlan garments look jaw-droppingly good. The masked crowd leering and lampooning the unsuspecting mannequins. Young men prowled the stage, stalking their prey, aggressively grabbing towards the girls as the skilfully slinked through the intimidating crowd.

Caught in the haze of our phantom reality, Hayley and I giddily downed flutes upon flutes of champagne, our minds effervescing and our body’s weakening to the music that pumped over head. Hazily dragging our way through the crowd, bumping and bashing into the rowdy animals that surrounded us, we escaped into the crisp night.

Unaware of my legs carrying me there, I looked across to the passenger seat where Hayley was strapped in and ready for her journey home, our damp skirts drying on the back seat, we were in the car and I was drunkly driving through the winding streets and hills of Fife. Tiny speckles of light danced in front of my eyes as the Dundee skyline came into focus and I realised we were crossing the Tay Bridge, driving through the empty streets I safely pulled the vehicle into a safe spot opposite The Westhouse on South Tay Street.

A short, firm tap on the window ensured I came to my senses. The police officer scowling ordered me to roll down the window, overwhelmed with panic and realising I wore nothing but a cerise pink thong I obeyed and pleasantly chatted with the confused constable. Looking down once more I realised I was fully clothed, my patent skirt fresher than ever and I awoke. Confused as to whether the vivid tale was a dream or reality.

In actual fact it is utterly difficult to determine fiction from reality as the night turned out to be just as imaginative as the story above. We met our friend Jonny at the Ogston hotel for a quick drink before hobbling along to the university grounds in six inch heels. The three girls looking rare and kitted out in Hayley’s latest HS collection. Our late arrival unfortunately determined us missing out on the complementary Lanson champagne. The show started and the models strutted there stuff showing off collections from Hayley Scanlan and her sister label HS. Other designers included Tom Morris and Persephone Corsetry. The event as always was precisely thought out and exquisite with an exciting auction bumping up the cash for the charities chosen. A constant flow of fizz kept our intimate VIP party alive as we all intertwined, mixed and networked, swapping business cards and blog details. The crowd as rowdy and as rude as last year, we decided to leave the event.

With the lure from friends and Optimo calling from the Reading Rooms we cut our fashion night short and stumbled on to the cobbled streets of Scotland’s most beautiful town. This time deciding against the inebriated drive home, we staggered to the bus station. Equipped with our goody bags, stolen plastic champagne flutes and a bottle of Lanson stuffed down my sweetheart swing dress, we managed to bully poor Glaswegian Jonny into getting the bus back with us. Keeping the late night travellers entertained with annoying stories, high pitched singing and the constant flow of alcohol.

A short pub crawl, then eventually making it onto the Reading Rooms, I end my story here. The rest of the night has a slight cellphone covering and I only recall snippets, including Hayley climbing and dancing on the stage, Kerrie swapping me coats and playing violin and myself nose diving through the hatch of the cloak room door. All’s well that ends well.

Long live the VEF and reality is not only stranger than you think QUEEN, it’s stranger than you can think.

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“IF YOU’RE BRAVE, DO IT LIKE WE DID” – ALAN RANKINE (THE ASSOCIATES)

“The rain falls hard on a humdrum town
this town has dragged you down
oh the rain falls hard on a humdrum town
this town has dragged you down

And everybody’s got to live their life
and God knows I’ve got to live mine”

For decades there has been a shadowy air of discontent surrounding Dundee our City of Discovery. An undercurrent of negative waves whipped up from the choppy waters of the Silvery Tay, eerily creeping towards the Law Hill and beyond. I have often wondered and asked the question why the city in which I was born and love has endured such an unfavourable stigma surrounding its landscape and the people in it.

“I wander through the streets of Dundee
Mum said you shouldn’t walk them alone
A fight’s a fight, ‘n’ that’s quite alright
But please leave the tools at home”

Unfortunately figures show that we are still tipping the scales of class A drug abuse and we continuously find it difficult to shrug the brand surrounding teenage pregnancy, charring us with the logo and the feeling we can achieve nothing more. An ever increasing volume of people are living in poverty. It is understood that if you are surrounded by and living in this environment you can often feel depleted, undervalued, oppressed and unworthy. It’s likely people overcome with these feelings can become angry and volatile, it’s easy to steer towards anti social behaviour such as petty crime, drug or alcohol abuse and unstable relationships. Becoming such ‘products of their environment’. The harsh cycle continuing from generation to generation.

“You think it’s cynical to call this home a miracle,
It’s not a miracle; we’re just so strangely typical,
Initiate in one gang, initiations tough man,
Imprisonment is on the cards,
We’re heading for the quick sand.”

I see my city in a different light, I personally know Dundonians who have achieved lucrative success within the fashion industry, the music business, the film scene, dance and theatre arts and art/design amongst many more. Although I’m surrounded by many creative friends, my dad has been a hard working, successful local businessman for over 30 years and we only have to walk down the Perth Road, through the City Centre, down Albert Street or along our progressive Waterfront to prove Dundee is consistently increasing and giving inhabitants more opportunities and development. We are slowly picking away at the unfavourable plaque that has spread up our tenements and creeped through our cobbled streets bringing with it a wash of encouragement as we all sail together on the ship of new discoveries.

“Dundee’s setting is probably more extraordinary than any other city in the UK. It is about as ideal – ludicrously ideal – as any setting could be.” Stephen Fry, Actor.

Work has started on The V&A Museum. Dundee now powering through the complete regeneration of its Waterfront. The V&A Dundee will be an international centre for design for Scotland – the first ever design museum to be built in the UK outside London. It will host major exhibitions, celebrate Scotland’s heritage, inspire and promote contemporary talent and encourage design innovation for the future. With a promise of 7,000 new jobs and the growth of our economical, cultural and physical assets. I joined fellow enthusiasts at the V&A Friday Night Late a few weeks back, an upbeat event held at The Vision Building organised to give people a taster of things to come.

“This is a city in transformation. We’re confident in our decision making and confident in backing the people of Dundee with funding for the museum.” Kengo Kuma

Saturday seen me return to The Vision Building and I dragged along with me Cara and Sophie, who kindly agreed to assist me in a workshop I created for designers involved in The Global Service Jam.

‘What is a design jam?
For one weekend, creative, passionate people will meet, form teams and get to work in an energetic, global, constructive event. They’ll have fun creating brand new real world projects, design concepts and initiatives which might make a difference. Think of a design jam the same way you would a music jam session. At a jam you bring all of your instruments, skills, and knowledge, a theme is set and you begin to jam. It’s not about having pre-set ideas, over analysing or spending hour and hour talking about what you plan to do. At a jam everyone comes together, you play around with ideas, push yourself to try something new and share insights with with your team. In the end you are left with something that is greater than any one member could have produced on their own, but you will all walk away with new skills, fresh ideas, a better understanding of your strengths and having had a blast of a time.’ http://www.dundeejams.co.uk

Design Professor Mike Press encouraged me to become the groups ‘energiser’. A concept of manipulating the hairs natural texture by the use of different materials was an idea I put into motion to engage my creative audience. I performed a short demo, weaving hair onto strips of elastic and heating to ply hair and form frizz. The inspired designers surrounded me, keen to know exactly what I was up to. Enthusiastically throwing questions at me, this rowdy bunch wanted to discover everything and why. I was thrilled by the response and relieved I was successful in breaking up their day by giving them an insight in another form of design- hair design. The girls enjoyed playing around adorning each other’s locks with curls, crimps, feathers and even a rubber chicken! It was a well planned, thought out, non profit event that anyone in the city can be involved in.

Being part of such a motivating, free experience made me think, myself and my fellow Dundonians have an unbelievable amount of prospects within our city. I believe it’s events like these that can impact and involve the younger generations here in Dundee. Perhaps it can change their path from the short skip down the lane to the misconstrued preconceptions of our local life to the long winding but self-satisfying road to success, bypassing the turn-offs for petty crime and unprotected sex instead running down the shortcuts through enjoyable experiences, personal growth and self respect.

Forget the stigma, change our attitudes, seize the opportunities and become a success.

“Take you life in your own hands,
walk down the street, looking over your shoulder,
Who will you meet?
Look at the street lights what a pretty sight”

Long live the VEF and you can do it Queen!

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