Pass The Mic - Stories from Creative Dundee: 2008 to Now

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Stories from Creative Dundee: 2008 to now



Pecha Kucha Dundee




Dundee Soup


Digital Content






The Way Through Dundee


The Dundee Way


The Almost Here








You can’t argue against the effect that Creative Dundee have at creating moments and spaces with people to connect. It’s always been their agenda, to bring people together, to increase opportunities and to be involved, and I think with less energy and less focus that could really easily have dissipated and disappeared. . . I think there’s a kind of really positive relentlessness about Creative Dundee. - Tom de Majo

INTRO Creative Dundee has built a community that is predominantly interested in listening to one another, something completely rare in the 21st century! - Blair Boyle

Back in January 2008, Creative Dundee started life as a blog - a place to find out about things happening which were led by local artists, designers, producers and collectives. These included exhibitions, talks, screenings and much more. It was a project driven by passion, often done late after work and updated by Gillian Easson and Lyall Bruce. The idea behind this blog was to amplify what was happening in the city and make it more visible - a direction which became key for the organisation from then on.

The couple organised a few Christmas parties and meet-ups, before considering running Pecha Kucha Nights. These ‘in the flesh’ events did something the virtual community couldn’t. They brought diverse people together into the same room to share the things they loved most - which turned individual sparks into collaborations that in turn began spreading across the city.

You probably know someone, perhaps yourself, who had an online journal at some point. For a while, starting and abandoning a blog was a surprisingly common experience which makes it all the more interesting to trace Creative Dundee’s start to a simple blog.

During a Pecha Kucha in 2012, a technical glitch stopped the night mid-set. Unsure how to fill the 30 minute gap until the tech was fixed, the team began passing the microphone around the audience. Hearing individuals talk about their work and opportunities offered a new and valuable way for people to connect. It was there that Pass the Mic was born and is now a core part of all Creative Dundee’s events.

Since the start, Creative Dundee has provided the opportunity to share the fascinating, complex and organic creativity in and around Dundee, by pointing a mirror at the city so that it could see itself. Local people and collectives who were working creatively in their studios, offices and bedrooms, could relate to the content and feel connected with others in the city.

What was initially a simple blog and a few regular events became a social enterprise in 2013. Others joined the team, the city changed around them and Creative Dundee deepened its engagement with partners, locally and beyond. They moved from the fringes to being central to the development of the city and its creative scene. In 2018, the organisation joined Creative

Scotland’s Regularly Funded Organisation network, reaching a status never imagined in its first few years. And yet, the story here is not just one of surprising growth or organisational success. It is a story about creating spaces for people to connect, collaborate and cultivate, making sure their stories are amplified beyond their means. It is a story of sparks, the places which nurture them and what they are able to ignite.



Pecha Kucha brings everything that’s brilliant about living in Dundee into focus. #PKN_DND - Hazel White

However, the impact turned out to be more significant than immediately observed. As a quarterly event starting in 2011, PKNs have offered way more than an entertaining showcase. As individuals of all ages and backgrounds came together to seek inspiration, it quickly became a regular gathering filled with opportunities for connections and collaborations that would not have happened otherwise.


In 2011, Creative Dundee took a step forward. The blog had successfully showcased the many different creative activities in the city, but the time had come to also focus on nurturing the community on the ground.

I was excited and met new people. It wasn’t scary at all. - Ava Collins

Pecha Kucha Night (PKN) seemed like the perfect format to get started. Pecha Kucha, or ‘chit chat’ in Japanese, was developed by Klein Dytham Architecture, in Tokyo in 2003. PKNs now run in thousands of cities all over the world. It’s a simple quick-fire format – presenters show 20 images, each for 20 seconds and they choose their own topics – their work, loves, hates, hobbies, even holidays! PKN Dundee was an immediate success. In addition to offering a fascinating insight into the city’s creative ecology, these regular nights have also opened the doors to all sorts of honest, heartfelt topics and completely unexpected twists. From international politics, metaphysics and cancer, to dolphins, horror films and moustaches. PKN Dundee delivers laughs, tears and everything in between.

Many projects that have gone on to take centre stage in Dundee’s cultural life were born out of quick chats during the breaks. Attendees say PKN inspires them to try something different, and others describe it as ‘life changing’. These popular nights have also sparked many friendships, relationships and at least one baby! PKNs include international guest speakers and online viewers from around the world, connecting Dundee to a global creative scene. The once small events are now hosted in venues like Dundee Rep Theatre, Whitehall Theatre, West Works Ward and even The Caird Hall!

Pecha Kucha is about different voices from different perspectives coming and sharing about really diverse things and although there’s threads that sometimes tie it together, I think it’s nice to have that sense of never quite knowing what to expect. - PKN attendee

Pecha Kucha Night Dundee is now the largest PKN in the UK! Over 330 speakers at PKN Dundee. The overall audience attending has reached 8,000 people. Over 100,000 people globally have viewed the live streams and filmed talks online since 2011.

Co-created with 25 local young people, Young People Pecha Kucha TAKEOVER was run in partnership with Dundee Design Festival, as part of Scotland’s Year of Young People 2018, the event featured an inspiring panel of young people as both speakers and supporting the design and delivery of the event. PKN Dundee became both about the content of the talks and the communities of interest that grew around them. While Creative Dundee started by asking how it could amplify voices in the city, it soon started asking how it could also connect and cultivate those voices.



It’s an invitation to become part of a community... There is something very special in this city, and Creative Dundee has a unique place within that and is the linchpin in a lot of those relationships. I think Creative Dundee is incredibly good at signposting people within the city, and across sectors. . . that invitation for people to become supporters, to be part of something, is quite distinct, and very smart.’


- Beth Bate

The idea behind the Amps supporters network was to involve everyone in creating a better way to build Dundee’s local creative scene, communities and the future of the city. Its name came from the accepted definition of ampersand (&), meaning ‘one plus another one’ as in ‘that and the other’.

Since its launch in 2016: 157 individuals, students, organisations and city supporters have joined the Amps community. Regular breakfasts, meet-ups and forums have brought people together from all backgrounds, in various locations across the city. A total of £1,900 have been awarded from the Community Ideas Fund to two innovative and collaborative projects which enhance Dundee. Amps support enables BSL interpreters at PKNs, provides accessible transport to events and enables captioning of original online content.

Creative Dundee initiated this network out of the awareness that an identified and hyperconnected community of people wanted to do more, to give more back to the city and its diverse communities. As connections occur, the network has threaded existing and new partnerships together and managed to cultivate them collectively. Supporters pay a subscription, 50% of which go towards a Community Ideas Fund which they can pitch for each year to form collaborative and experimental projects between Amps, to benefit Dundee. The other half goes into supporting Amps to meet and find new collaborators, as well as enabling greater accessibility to Creative Dundee’s features and events. Some people choose to Pay it Forward and support other people’s inclusion within the Amps community.

I originally became an Amps supporter when Creative Dundee approached me and offered me a full year subscription as they understood some of the barriers to access that can exist for women of colour in the arts. This was extremely helpful and again showed that they support artists and understand the importance of encouraging participation of creatives that might find themselves on the margins. The following year, I decided to continue on as an Amp, purchasing my own subscription. - Sekai Machache



projects across the city supported include: food poverty, cancer support networks, community gardens, children living in poverty, addiction recovery, art therapy, and much more. The Soups are run in partnership with fellow social enterprise, The Circle. This collaboration is really key to enable connections between the creative industries and the social sector to happen, which contributes to the wider city’s cultural regeneration and inclusive growth objectives.


Based on the successful Detroit Soup model, Dundee Soup is a social event which gives micro-grants to local community based projects to make ideas a reality, over a simple soup supper.

Since the first Dundee Soup in April 2017: There have been 6 Dundee Soup events in 4 different venues across the city. Over £1,700 has been raised through people’s generosity. Over 270 people have attended. 23 community-led projects have been presented.

Each guest donates a recommended £5, then after a chat and a bowl of soup, they hear from people who have creative ideas to benefit their community. All of the donations collected are voted by guests and awarded directly to each of the community projects. Whilst this support is important, even more critical are the connections and network - people often come forward to give extra in-kind support which can make a real difference when starting or growing a project. Detroit Soup founder, Amy Kaherl, says of Soups: ‘It’s a little bit of funding, it’s a lot more empowering and it’s even more about connectivity!’ and Dundee Soup follows this idea. In sync with Creative Dundee’s values, the Soup events connect people to help make good things happen across the city. So far, the

Dundee Soup is a perfect example of the nomadic, collaborative way Creative Dundee works - amplifying communities and individual voices, nurturing partnerships across the city, supporting actions from small church halls to V&A Dundee. The organisation’s own journey has shown that to grow any community you must pass the mic, in other words - it’s sharing collective wisdom, insights, energy and enthusiasm of any given group that will actually make a difference.

Our success at Dundee Soup was instrumental in supporting CANDU to have a regular presence within the Ardler community, where we’re able to offer support to local people affected by cancer. This was made possible by money donated on the night, but more importantly is sustained by the amazing community connections which CANDU has developed by attending Soup events. We work closely with local community groups and creative change makers and are passionate about the potential for positive action which is made real for small grassroots initiatives in Dundee by Soup events. - Julie Wardrop



Creative Dundee has highlighted themes including the waterfront development, food poverty, climate change, gender balance in local projects, government cuts, chronic illness, burnout, Brexit and much more. It has looked at several topics from a creative lens and sourced thoughtful responses from its community.

Since starting the website: Over 60 monthly News Mail-Outs have been sent since 2013, each highlighting many Dundee-based features, events and opportunities, across all creative fields. 350 videos have been added to Creative Dundee’s Video Wall, including Pecha Kucha talks, interviews, features and more.


Having come a long way from being just a blog in 2008, Creative Dundee continues to amplify creative voices in the city. Initially just sharing event details, the site’s content has now evolved to also include more elaborate features, videos, interviews and personal essays.

My favourite interaction with Creative Dundee is the website, especially when applying to come study as a student here. - Shanna Maxwell

Showing Dundee back to itself turns out to be more complex than it seemed. From an issue of representation, for instance, the action of reflecting the city to itself is not a neutral one. In a vacuum, media tends to showcase the people in the orbit of those in charge. Breaking that barrier requires intentionality when it comes to inclusion and self-reflection. Creative Dundee has worked on that with the help of many wise and patient collaborators willing to develop strategies, training and resources. This intentionality is key. As years go by, the website has continued to be a space for the broader community whilst also pushing the conversation forward on key issues and realities of the city. Original content from

After Dundee, the highest number of visitors to come from the cities of London, Edinburgh and Glasgow. After the UK, countries include: US, France, Germany and Australia.

It’s just so interesting getting to know what is actually going on in the community. - Erin Stevenson



I think what Creative Dundee do is fight for the value of creativity and culture and that then inspires all of us to do the same. . . Creative Dundee are paddling the boat into the sea, and I think they play a role in encouraging everyone else to try and get on board. - Annie Marrs

LOCAL [on Creative Dundee and the city’s wider transformation] That whole ecosystem is really important because it doesn’t always mean that bigger is better. It’s the strength of what you do that counts. - Creative Review

Creative Dundee’s story would be nothing without the different voices and insights that populate its projects and fill it with life. Many of the things written about in this publication have been born out of conversations, relationships and a resilient sense of community. The first big project which explored what Creative Dundee could be, was We Dundee in 2013 - a digital crowdsourcing platform highlighting what people love about the city and would like to see happen in its future, supporting Dundee’s bid to be UK City of Culture. Initiated by Creative Dundee, over 4,000 people contributed their thoughts and ideas and many were taken forward into Dundee’s Cultural Strategy and successful bid to become a UNESCO City of Design. They continue to be significant partners to this day. More recently, Culture Connects was an exciting collaboration with Dundee’s Place Partnership team. Creative Dundee undertook research and consultation to find out more about where cultural activities take place across the city, what the barriers to

participation are and what could be improved. Visiting community festivals, events, local hubs, out of school clubs and more, right across the city ensured they reached the broadest range of backgrounds. The results highlight the opportunities and potential for greater collaborations between citizens and decision makers in the city. Another project, The Small Society Lab, explores the development and understanding of the small city of the future. The Lab was founded in 2011 and over the years SSL has worked with citizens, artists and designers, as well as local and international partners to explore themes of democracy, making and digital value - bringing together communities from as far afield as Mexico City and Kobe in Japan. Ultimately, it is these relationships with partners doing similar and yet different things to strengthen local creativity that bring about change. Far from one single piece, Creative Dundee is part of a larger puzzle of communities, expertise, passion, experience, insight and dedication.



creative industries. Produced in partnership between Creative Dundee, Creative Scotland and the Academic Health Science Partnership in Tayside, the day featured exemplar case studies, discussions and practical workshop sessions to establish a high level engagement between senior policy makers in both sectors.

CROSS SECTOR Creative Dundee have shown me the generosity and forwardthinking attitude that Dundee’s creative community has to offer and given me opportunities that have, not only expanded my career prospects but, helped me to work within the community to really make a positive impact. - Event attendee

The importance of partnerships discussed so far must, however, go beyond just the creative industries. Creative Dundee has managed to create vital links between creative businesses and industry sectors including healthcare, property, big data, cultural tourism, food and drink, with partners such as Dundee City Council’s City Development team, Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Food and Drink Network, NHS Tayside and a number of Universities. Innovations and collaborations continue to evolve, supporting cultural tourism, inward investment and city-wide placemaking.

The MIX IN is a Creative Dundee event programme which has brought together the area’s local food, drink, tourism and hospitality sectors with creative and digital individuals. It has created opportunities to showcase products, produce and hear about current and future innovative practices. The Creating Care Forum was a one day workshop exploring the opportunities of collaboration between healthcare and the

Shpeel at London Design Biennale 2018 explored how video games can support young people’s mental health. The 360 degree immersive digital environment prototype, was designed by Biome Collective, representing Dundee at the prestigious LDB in September 2018. Shpeel was produced by Tilde Arts in partnership with Creative Dundee and city partners, designed in collaboration with local youth groups, The Corner and Hot Chocolate Trust. This cross-pollination is an important step in making sure that the whole city sees the benefits and impacts of the growing creative scene, as opposed to being locked out of some kind of professional clique. Equally, that bridge serves the creative industries and individual practitioners trying to figure out how to build a sustainable experience within Dundee.

Feeling all the goosebumps for what’s happened in Dundee while watching #TMWKN live tonight. . . There are people dedicating their lives to making Dundee better and fairer. They don’t have all the answers but they need our support and ideas. - @nicola1donnelly



I really enjoyed discovering another side of Dundee and meeting all these people who are making Dundee a more interesting and cultural city. Thank you very much for the tour! - Behind the Scenes tour participant

Do in Dundee in 2012 - a crowdsourced guide by people who live here and love it, containing some of the unmissable local spots.


Creative Dundee has become the creative ‘go to’ for local and international journalists and influencers keen to experience the city. Over the years, they have led hundreds of global journalists around Dundee, from supporting V&A Dundee’s opening programme, to hosting international bloggers during their Blogmanay trip to cover the city’s story.

The 99 Things to See and Do in Dundee guide is the most visited website resource and has been downloaded thousands of times. In 2019, the guide highlights the accessibility of venues, which have been reviewed on Euan’s Guide, the disabled access review website.

In partnership with Dundee Contemporary Arts they initiated and run Behind the Scenes Tours of Dundee’s cultural life, aimed at locals, visitors, journalists and international delegations. Made up of talks, stories and backstage visits of some iconic cultural sights around the city, many people who live locally have also joined for a better insight into the city spaces they already know and love. Enabling people to explore and understand the city has been the main driver to run the tours, but how could Creative Dundee showcase what makes the city great in a more practical way, energised by its communities? The answer came in the idea to create 99 Things to See and

This essential city guide is produced annually with support from and UNESCO City of Design, Dundee. During 2018, 26,000 copies of the guide were distributed by Universities, several cultural organisations and V&A Dundee during its opening weekend!

To make the guide and all the organisation’s activities happen, Creative Dundee continuously commissions hundreds of local artists, designers, producers, researchers and other creative practitioners, to support them with amplifying and connecting the city’s creativity.

I can’t believe how much Dundee has changed since I was wee. A perfect host for the @SPAJournalism Regional Conference. So excited to come back and do the 99 Things in this #dundeeguide - @wesenkat



Creative Dundee grew from a grassroots movement. Founded in 2008, Creative Dundee is now at the heart of the city’s developments. Creative Dundee is a social enterprise with strong expertise in community engagement that connects talents from the arts and digital sectors. . . Its success and sustainability of projects can be attributed to the fact that the initiative is not tied to one single person or entity.

THE DUNDEE WAY Dundee has this lovely ‘doing attitude’ which is all inclusive of everyone and is about sharing what you have, doing favours for people and not expecting anything in return, just ‘a get up and go do attitude’. - Stephanie Fulke

- Committee for Geelong (Australia)

It is not only the streets of Dundee that need mapping and showcasing. How sparks are formed and how they have contributed to making the local scene quite unique are just as important as the locations where they take place. Beyond its local grassroots work, Creative Dundee is in high demand for external and international commissions, being a key partner in projects across the city and around the world. Some of the projects described here capture the energy, passion and vibe of the ‘Dundee Way’, and how this has been taken out to the world.

by the European Commission’s Creative Europe programme, 40 leading creative hub leaders from across Europe visited Dundee and Edinburgh to undertake masterclasses led by the two organisations considering the future of network leadership skills.

The Creative HubKit: Along with Creative Edinburgh, Creative Dundee co-wrote this resource on behalf of British Council in 2015. This toolkit has been made by hubs for emerging hubs, and has now been translated into several languages and used around the world, as part of British Council’s extensive Hubs programme.

Act Locally: Today’s Fight for the Future of Equality was an event led by Creative Dundee supported by University of Dundee’s Festival of the Future. This event enabled Creative Dundee to commission writers to feature in a designed zine, and bring speakers, Ellie Mae O’Hagan, writer and commentator with the Guardian, and Alberta Whittle, artist and educator based in Scotland for a conversation about the steps towards equality in Scotland.

European Creative Hubs Network partner: Creative Dundee worked in partnership with Creative Edinburgh to represent the UK in this 2 year project, which ran 2016 - 2018. Supported

Hubs for Good: Creative Dundee developed and facilitated the first Hubs for Good capacity building programme, two-days practical training for 17 established creative hub leaders across Malaysia, which looked at leadership skills for building creative communities.

UNESCO City of Design, Dundee: Creative Dundee was instrumental in securing the city’s UNESCO designation. Working closely with the core UNESCO team, Creative Dundee has supported the launch programme in 2014, ran community engagement workshops, and has hosted a number of key Dundee Design Festival activities, enabling collaborative working practices to be explored, discussed and shared through Mass Assembly, Make/ Share and WRKSHP. Speakers on the creative industries and networks: Creative Dundee’s team has worked extensively locally and internationally, sharing their approaches, the organisation’s work, ethos, delivery model and impacts for the creative industries and cultural economy as invited speakers, facilitators and mentors, across the UK, Europe, Philippines, Malaysia, Russia, Indonesia, Canada, Romania and more.



Although we can’t predict the jobs of the future, we can create the conditions to ensure they have the potential to emerge. - Fabric participant

The creative sector has a lot to offer to the society and the economy, how does the city develop the conditions for these collaborations to emerge? Resources are tight for everyone, so how do we join forces and find economies of scale to unlock our potential to achieve?


Creative Dundee has continuously grown as a response to its surrounding communities, their talents and needs. Having focused on connecting people and opportunities, helping collaborations to happen, nurturing organic growth and advocating for a more diverse representation in the creative sector, the organisation has also always found it important to look at the future.

Being part of the Fabric group, I feel like I’m being challenged to be a better me... It joins the dots between like-minded creative change makers which unleashes a huge potential for creative and sustainable social and economic growth! - Manuela de los Rios

Leading the development of Dundee’s Creative Industries Strategy 2017 – 2021, Creative Dundee initiated and has been driving the Strategy on behalf of the city, in close collaboration with those working in the city’s creative industries sector and the local and national agencies who support the sector. This Strategy is the first of its kind in Scotland and was launched with support from the UK wide Creative Industries Federation. The strategy sets out 14 objectives from 3 key questions. How can the city develop a nurturing environment that ensure s cre ative practitioners and businesses from all backgrounds can succeed?

Alongside co-ordinating this broader commitment of intent and actions, Creative Dundee believes that it’s in our collective interest to take a proactive approach to nurturing the talent and values that will lead us to tomorrow. This is why the organisation has been running a creative city leadership programme, Fabric, to support individuals who are actively interested in strengthening their creative leadership skills and agency in Dundee. The Fabric programme has created an informal peer learning space for current leaders to connect with and start investing in new leaders. By sharing insights, learning and experiences, they discuss key issues and are better able to understand local needs and form crossdiscipline alliances. The aim is to further build the collective intelligence within Dundee’s thriving creative sector, through shared and co-operative civic leadership. Creative Dundee has also focused on building more pathways for young people to get into creative careers, by developing internships for University and College students, graduates and PhD researchers, piloting the city’s first creative Shared Apprentice for school leavers, as well as strategically commissioning underrepresented young people, providing valuable paid opportunities for emerging creatives.

Here are some key facts: Dundee’s Creative Industries Strategy is supported by 6 national and 12 local partners. You can read, download, comment and even listen to the audio version of the Strategy online. Fabric has brought together 40 creative leaders from various backgrounds and stages, and 7 organisations over 2 programmes.

These ongoing programmes and partnerships are about capacity building, future leadership skills and sustainability of the creative industries. The focus is to build more knowledge, experience and good practice of how we best nurture and prepare the next generation of creators, makers and leaders for the opportunities and challenges of the future.


OUTRO I know they want me to do well, to do what’s best for me and others. They are not out to profit from us, they are here to lift us up. - Community consultation

I would like to see Creative Dundee as the central heating. Just bringing a little bit of warmth to all areas. - Andy Robertson


There has been so much packed in these eleven years that not everything could make it in here. But if you could distill the whole of Creative Dundee down, then this is a story about what happens when people find space to connect and collaborate and their work is amplified beyond their studio walls to the world. Creative Dundee has dedicated its work to bringing people together and creating environments around the city that are fertile for creativity. It is crowdsourced, nomadic, intentional, collaborative and has its finger on the pulse. Ultimately, the work is about Dundee and the people in it. It is about making space where communities can do what they do best. Deep down, the fundamental force driving Creative Dundee is a love for what the city is and a vision for what could be - it is focused on the people and is nothing without them… so… Get in touch! Let’s show off the good and work together for the better. Find the world outside your office, meet the people outside your studio. Let’s find somewhere that makes sparks and let’s see what can be ignited.




It has been a journey. Thanks as ever goes to all of our friends, partners, collaborators and supporters. To our funders, Creative Scotland and Dundee City Council and everyone who commissions our work. To our incredible staff team and voluntary Board, past and present. To everyone we’ve partnered with over the years, who continue to champion our small yet ambitious city. To the team behind this publication:

Creative Dundee Team Sam Gonçalves, Gillian Easson, Claire Dufour and Andy Truscott Designer Patrick Hughes Community consultation Frances Brown Printers Bruce Clark Printers Photographers Erika Stevenson, Graham Black, David P Scott, Jody Mitchell, Kathryn Rattray, Ross Fraser McLean and Jamie Whyte.


Creative Dundee believes that culture and creativity are essential catalysts for positive change. We exist to support creative talent to base, grow and sustain their practice in and around Dundee, by amplifying and connecting the city’s creativity.

Web: Twitter: @Creative_Dundee Facebook: @creativedundee Instagram: @creative_dundee