“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!

image  image image image image image image image image image image image Photos by Kathryn Rattray

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