Go Dundee launch event – February 2005

‘Positively Passionate About Dundee’

Introduction and background

The inaugural Go Dundee event took place at the Apex Hotel in February 2005. There was a stimulating mix of local speakers who shared stores of how they had initiated change, or been part of positive change, that had impacted on people’s lives – often against the odds! Carol Craig from the Centre for Confidence & Wellbeing also spoke at the event – a reflection of her role in the creation of Go Dundee (as related on the page).

We started the event by telling stories. Stories of actions from the past or present which have made a real difference. This document summarises the ‘headlines’ from these conversations. The other group work focused on two main areas. Firstly, what ‘big ideas’ could transform the city? And finally, what action can we take to make a difference and realise our aspirations for Dundee? The responses from the day to these two questions are summarised by the mind maps “Big Ideas”, and “Action”.

The stories shared at each of the tables were many and varied. For those present, reading this will bring back some of the energy and ‘buzz’ that was present at the event. If you were unable to make the launch event, by reading this, you’ll get a sense of the diversity and depth of the conversations that took place.

The team that initiated the go Dundee event believe that telling each others stories is a key element to help build confidence in the city.


The stories clustered into a number of themes:

  • Belief and self belief
  • Business
  • Challenges
  • Culture
  • Education & Learning
  • Location & Environment

While some of these themes overlap, we have captured the comments under main headings to help the ‘flow’ of the document. This is not an exact science – so don’t be constrained by the categories.

This document is structured in three parts. This part, the introduction, the next part, a high level summary of the six themes, and finally a detailed summary and analysis of the flipcharts from the session. If you want to get a ‘flavour’ you only need read this page and the next. If you want to get ‘beneath the skin’ of some of the conversations, read the following pages.

The purpose of making a space for these stories to be heard was to stimulate ongoing telling of our stories.

As you read these, please think of what interests or inspires you. You can post a question on the discussion forum if you find an area you want to help make a difference. The whole purpose of go Dundee is to get as many people as possible involved in doing things that improve the life of our City.

The simplicity and power of conversation

To advocate human conversation as the means to restore hope to the future is as simple as I can get. But I’ve seen that there is no more powerful way to initiate significant change than to convene a conversation. When a community of people discovers that they share a concern, change begins. There is now power equal to a community discovering what it cares about.

It’s easy to observe this in our own lives, and also in recent history. Solidarity in Poland began with conversation—less than a dozen workers in a Gdansk shipyard speaking to each other about their despair, their need for change, their need for freedom. In less than a month, Solidarity grew to 9.5 MILLION workers.

There was no email then, just people talking to each other about their own needs, and finding their needs shared by millions of fellow citizens. At the end of that month, all 9.5 million of them acted as one voice for change. They shut down the country.

Margaret Wheatley, 2002

Summary of the six ‘themes’

Six themes (launch event) Belief and self belief

There is a sense in which the City is beginning to believe it itself. There are many great stories_2_closeup_IMG_9144and positive things about the city, however there is a need for all citizens, to strengthen and build this growing atmosphere of confidence. This is a key issue for our young people, and many creative ideas were shared to develop the confidence of young people in the city.

Many of the stories centred round people who had achieved something with their lives – from hundreds of years ago to the present day.


The success of business in the past built much of Dundee. While these ‘tradition’ industries have gone, there was recognition that for the City to continue to thrive, we needed a vibrant business community. The success stories of the Bio-Tech start-ups, computer games companies, and the creative industries, the arts and digital media, were all very encouraging. There was a strong desire to promote a spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation in the city. And clear links can be made with education and the arts to achieve this.


There were a number of challenges presented on the day. Some of these may feel negative, however there is frustration on some of these issues, and a feeling that action should be taken. These feelings are reflected authentically, and some of the issues are already being tackled in other arenas. One issue that emerged from the event is the lack of awareness of all that is happening in the city.

All these challenges can be reframed positively, and we can begin a conversation to seek to turn the negative to a positive.Launch event revised


The cultural renaissance of Dundee was seen by many as a central plank in the regeneration of the city. Places like the DCA, the Rep, the Space. The quality of work produced by Duncan of Jordanstone, and the close links between the creative arts and digital media make Dundee a vibrant and culturally vibrant city.
These developments are playing a part in developing a more confident city, and attracting the attention of others.

Education & Learning

The recent press coverage of the City’s secondary education has been challenging. It is possible to raise attainment if we get the right people involved. We have new, innovative and creative learning institutions and business in Dundee. These can make subjects like science, technology and maths alive for young people.

We have two universities and Dundee College, who are all leading the way in key areas. There was a number of suggestions that we build partnerships that improve the learning of all in Dundee.

Location & Environment

Dundee has an outstanding environment. There has been much regeneration over the past 10 years. There has also been real vision. To quote just two examples: the DCA, now a leading arts centre; and the Welcome building – now home to world class science and bringing employment and profile to the city. There are long term plans to revolutionise the waterfront, and there is ongoing work to develop the university campus.

Detailed consolidation of the flipcharts

Theme 1: Belief and self belief

People come from all over the world to work in Dundee. We need to catch up with their view of the city!!!

From the speakers in the morning there were some common themes on how to make a difference:

  • Passion
  • Tenacity: not giving up!
  • Vision
  • Goal Setting
  • Belief
  • Visualisation

Also, how our lives are shaped by people that believe in us (Tom’s story on the chemistry set), or sometimes negatively influence by people who don’t believe in us!

These inspirational stories have been shared by people who are enthusiastic about the city – the people of Dundee are great! “Do you know the names of your cleaning staff?” Everyone in the operation has an important contribution.



We can be ambitious for the city. We can advocate for the City, Dundee has many positive attributes.
We can be confident!

Good citizens have made a difference; we can choose to be good citizens.

The best from our past

Many tables shared stories from the past of huge changes, particularly over the past 30 years. Dundee has been underrated by us, its own citizens, as well as by the wider Scottish population.

Dundee women’s strength of character

Strength of Dundee: “Couthiness” – lacking in pretence.

Building a climate of encouragement

‘Public Leadership’ – is helping towards a ‘climate of encouragement.’

This is not just some hyped up positive thinking or marketing ploy. “People are providing the substance to the soundbite.”

People choosing the base their business, life and family in Dundee as it is a better place to raise kids

Events or initiatives that have, or can build, confidence

City of discovery campaign. Great start, need to develop this further.

Discovery Brought back to Dundee. Thousands of people came to see this. City of Discovery ‘right’ slogan.

“When the Discovery came back to Dundee, it gave us a sense of pride and gave us focus to take things forward.”

As well as City of Discovery we need something to reach Dundonians. Something they can relate to and means something to them.

Explore, be confident, find people- they are already doing what you want but you both don’t know it yet!


Theme 2: Business

A lot of people at the event reflected that Business would play a significant role in shaping the future of Dundee and that strong, vibrant local businesses were critical to the further development of the city.

Critical role of Business

The city is in significant transition. From the demise of traditional industries, and a perception of being a ‘depressed’ city, the city is transforming. This is evidenced by a number of factors.

  • “Ingress” of education, in IT and Life Sciences (Bio Tech). This has brought significant opportunity to the city, along with lots of new people with new ideas.
  • Clusters of enterprise are developing around these themes. This is giving Dundee an enhanced profile. There are new perceptions of city, and this is encouraging other new industry related to these new ‘clusters’.

These newly energised parts of the community require a new social or recreational environment. This is beginning to happen, for example with the developments in the arts.

Links from successful companies into further and higher education. How to extend opportunities to local people.


New Business

There were many stories around encouraging entrepreneurship, embryonics, bio technology etc to shift the industries culture and work practices so that Dundee has high employment with skills base in technology encouraging businesses to start up and stay in Dundee.


Create inviting environment so businesses stay locally.

New Businesses are STAYING in Dundee, Entrepreneurship, Embryonics.


To encourage multiculturalism through more venues such as the DCA. To give the people of Dundee more choice of difference. Recognising that many ‘world class’ people from other cultures are coming to Dundee through the Universities.


It was felt that there was a good network between voluntary/community and the business world. Also there were other networks such as Women Ahead which nurtured individuals and built confidence. How do we broaden these networks to develop our city further?

Joined-up Working

Bio Dundee has become a self fulfilling prophecy. How can we do this over the whole city?
Partnerships with other organisations positive thinking. Strengthening connections. Creative links/fun/social dynamic

Development of the Digital Media Centre will help business and the profile of the sector in Dundee.
Engage with politicians, encourage them to encourage entrepreneurial spirit.

Theme 3: Challenge

There were a number of areas where there were challenges given to change the way things were done and to do something new.

Making it happen

You can talk and talk – but it’s about doing things!

The ‘system’

There is a perceived ‘Benefits trap’, which leads to passivity and loss of incentive.

Local Attitude

As well as City of Discovery we need something to reach Dundonians. Something they can relate to and means something to them.

There seems to be less of a traditional ‘Class’ divide, but there seems to be an increasing ‘Knowledge divide’. Key challenge is finding creative ways to bridge this perceived ‘divide’

Perceived Negative Culture

Aware some of the aspects of Dundee culture are perceived to be negative. Dundee people are friendly but reticent.

There is a view that some people don’t buy into new ideas, and there is for some a sense of apathy


There were a number of challenges on the Transport infrastructure, a general feeling that it should be improved, with specific suggestions as to what needs to happen.


There were a number of comments on the marketing of Dundee and the need to raise awareness of what the City has to offer. Some challenges on “Why come to Dundee?”

Improved marketing required – social level not just corporate business


There was some frustration expressed about lack of understanding from local politicians. “Old School”


There is a challenge for local leaders to demonstrate even more “philanthropic” leadership. Including political, business, academic and professional.


There is a “ripple effect” throughout the community, but there are still barriers in parts of the community to be overcome.

Theme 4: CultureStories_1_IMG_9114

Dundee is a “Culturally vibrant” city. “Culture is on the way up.”

We have artistic vision – we are willing to take risks (for example development of the DCA against significant odds!)

We need to demonstrate that we are at the forefront, fashion, arts, DISPLACE THE TRADITIONAL STEREOTYPES

Culture speaks about the feelings, perceptions and thoughts of those who live in the city and those who do not.

Community Arts work in the city is changing perceptions

Discovery Brought back to Dundee. Thousands of people came to see this. City of Discovery ‘right’ slogan.

1989 Dundee was a dump! Now very attractive to look at, good choice of places to take people to
Helping open the “Eyes” of one individual – starfish effect

There was a desire to move on from the past to the future
“..Time to move on from Caledon/Timex”

There was also an emphasis on Dundee taking more risks people needed to be committed champions with tenacity

Dundee is beginning to build up a good reputation with people outside the city because of its Universities, focus on bio-technology and the arts. Incomers are more positive

Joint thinking for opportunities – not singular anymore

Sun City (i.e. Dundee=sun city (the sunniest city in the UK!)

City has a lot to offer young people

Community regeneration hand in hand with economic developments


Jazz, Blues, Guitar Festivals

Art festivals/cultural activity attracting professional and visitors fresh talent

Theme 5: Education & Learning

There is a clear need for access to education for all in Dundee. Most of the conversations round the tables focused on young people. Encouraging them, and providing opportunity for them. The desire to promote children and young people in Dundee was evident. There were many stories around this area. It was also seen as an area which would help Dundee to change and have a more positive focus.

We need an injection of entrepreneurial dynamism!IMG_9173

Need to raise expectations of kids and next generation

Opportunities for young people (school children who had no interest in education)-found interests in arts, dance, drama. Rep drama class great interest in inspiring other young passion for drama

What do the young people of our community want? Why don’t we ask them?

Life-style choices – Discussions, Teenage press – Media – HOW DO WE TURN THIS AROUND?

Personal reflections

The explore video inspired me to want to volunteer. I’m from a privileged background and I want to give something back.

Starfish story: some thought it was good, some thought it was a bit ‘cheesy’, everyone liked the metaphor of ‘putting the headlights on’!

Joined up thinking

Many people spoke highly of the jointed up thinking of a number of businesses and schools working together such as school joining with DCA & Dundee Rep. There is a real need to explore opportunities to develop this further and touch the lives of more young people.

The recent press coverage of the City’s secondary education has been challenging. It is possible to raise attainment if we get the right people involved. We have new, innovative and creative learning institutions and business in Dundee. These can make subjects like science, technology and maths alive for young people.

We have two universities and Dundee College, who are all leading the way in key areas.

How can we build partnerships that improve the learning of all in Dundee?

We have a strong education system. We need to realise the potential and create learning environment. We have the opportunity to drive new learning environments. Primary – Secondary – University – Technology in learning

Size of city allows for close integration between industry & education.

Dundee – the Learning City

Dundee could position itself more as a learning city

The Universities

Dundee University granted independent status. University has gone from strength to strength and is now a leader in some significant fields. (e.g. Dundee was the best English Department in U.K. last year – over Oxford/Cambridge)

University of Abertay is producing world leaders in some fields.

Rethinking graduations realising potential

Dundee college

Dundee college is considered a leader in the Further Education field. After building ‘the Space’, the only purpose build dance theatre in Scotland, it has further innovative plans for development. Dundee college plays a key role in developing people to work in the new economy.

IMG_9139 - Copy

Key projects

The Corner, The Shore, Encouraging young people to take responsibility.

Xplore Programme: Engaging young people, giving them freedom to manoeuvre, offering them opportunity to take responsibility for their own learning. Moving on and Becoming good citizens

Theme 6: Location & environment

Key Events from the past

Opening of Tay Road Bridge

Building of the Dundee University Welcome Building

The vision that created the DCA

Positive aspects of our location and environment

Cultural & Creative Infrastructure provides spaces for people to MIX & feel comfortable in a creative milieu.
There is a real sense of ambition for the City. However there is a lack of good hotels. The Apex is a new model.

City is easy to promote

Shopping and parking is good!

The Overgate – layout, space, artwork

Major brands here, don’t have to go to Glasgow

DCA, the REP, coffee shops, restaurants growing, waterfront developments, longer term plans to open up the waterfront

There is a lot of things that are ‘best things about Dundee’ here are some:

The River – beauty and scenery

The University – it’s world class

Dundee is small and close to it’s surrounding areas, Perth & Angus. That makes it great for networking – you can get to know people that are important for what you are trying to do fairly easily.

Development essential

Purpose built venue– conference and concert centre.

The Waterfront

There were many stories and dreams for the waterfront. The summary below does not fully capture the volume of discussion on this key topic.

“Bringing Dundee to the Waterfront”

“Turning the city back to the river”
On a number of the tables there was a belief that there will be a commitment to deliver major development following consultation.

“Let’s make the most of the attractive landmarks that the city has. There was a real sense to build on what we have and there are many areas which can be further developed.”

Attract people to the city

A desire to offer more choice in shopping, dinning and entertainment. Dundee – the Barcelona of the North.
Make the most & best of landmarks

Make the outlying areas of Dundee attractive

Retail outlets – Bringing increase of choice of business to city/shopping


The University needs to be of a very high quality. The location is important. University High Quality Urban regeneration – new campus.


This was mentioned a number of times in areas such as Whitfield, the Stacks, Tesco area by the waterfront.
1989 Dundee was a dump! Now very attractive to look at, good choice of places to take people to.
Huge improvement in housing replacement in city

Regeneration in Whitfield has transformed the environment.

Good Architecture

Make the city centre ATTRACTIVE

Overgate centre. The curved glass wall – can see the church

Stack/Tesco area – Develop but balanced by attraction – balance between past and future.
Property in Dundee rising very high

Great vibrant change in Dundee – culture centre – International feel to it.

Maggie’s Centre – World class architecture example of way forward

A thrill re-building of Morgan Academy – best of old and new renewable

Architecture – future focused on past glory, capitalising of assets beauty

Bush Shelters – great!


Accessible – easy access to other cities
Population declining or decentralising? City or region potential of area. How can we buck the trend of the nation and grow?

(updated 11/06/08 by JL)