Scottish Government launches Dundee as UK’s first UNESCO City of Design

Dundee, the home of  the world’s first radio broadcast, and birthplace of Desperate Dan and Dennis the Menace, hosted its first event as a UNESCO Creative City of Design on 30 January to celebrate its new accreditation. It opened a three-day launch set in venues around the city, including a pop-up café from teashop Avery & Co, Dundee Contemporary Arts, and the Dalhousie Building lecture theatre.

Fiona Hyslop MSP, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs, opened the event, saying ‘“This award is down to the people of Dundee who have embraced the city’s design-led vision to change their communities, change their lives and regenerate the city. They join a network of other great UNESCO design cities alongside the likes of Berlin, Montréal and Shanghai using the power of design to promote cultural and creative talent and showcase our inspiring building design and places to the world.’ Mrs Hyslop met with the design businesses that had congregated at the launch, including Guerilla Tea and A Fox What I Drew game designers, and the meal sharing community Stonesoop.

The designation comes in the midst of the £1 billion Waterfront redevelopment programme, which will transform the city’s waterscape with a marina, artificial beach, ice rink and the V&A Museum of Design Dundee. Although the museum is not set for completion until 2018, it is already holding events, such as the Design in Motion exhibition, which will celebrate seven contemporary Scottish artists on the 13th February. The museum is expected to attract 270,000 every year, generating an estimated £11.6 million in annual revenue.

UKNC’s Andrea Blick gave a speech on behalf of UNESCO and the UKNC at the launch, passing on a number of congratulatory messages received from the global Creative Cities network. She emphasised the value of the internationalism the designation represents, and the collaborative opportunities afforded through membership.

Stewart Murdoch shared his hopes for the project, ‘Our vision is simple – to use design to improve people’s lives’. His comments reflect a growing urban reality: over a dozen gaming companies are now established in Dundee, working alongside the numerous artistic projects that exist in the city. Design in Action, an influential Scottish creative network with 6 partner universities, is based at the University of Dundee, and is just one example of how the city is now widely recognised as fertile ground for original expression.

The city is already a veteran digital innovator: in the last two decades it has produced cult video games Lemmings and Grand Theft Auto, pioneered the first degree in computer game design and attracted £2.5 million of government investment for a video games centre at its University of Abertay. Both of the city’s universities produce hundreds of design graduates every year, many of whom choose to stay in the city to benefit from its vibrant creative industries.