Expert Interview: Gillian Easson of Creative Dundee

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Dundee recently received the accolade of being named the UK’s first UNESCO Creative City of Design. Keen to find out more about the buzz currently surrounding the city on the banks of the silvery Tay, we spoke to Gillian Easson of Creative Dundee to get the inside track.

Can you tell us a bit more about just what this award means for the city and for its creative community?

Dundee has a rich design history and vibrant future ahead, as a city which is rooted in design and innovation. In the late 19th century Dundee was an industrial powerhouse, supplying the world with shipbuilding expertise, whaling and textile manufacturing. Today Dundee continues to have significant global reach; it’s a city which has rebuilt itself through the knowledge economy, particularly through our strengths in science, technology and culture.

Becoming the UK’s first UNESCO City of Design is of course a fantastic accolade because design touches everything and therefore has huge applicability across all sectors and drivers – economic, social and environmental. Dundee’s creative community is big, diverse and exciting and I think that Dundee now being a recognised City of Design has the potential to connect the community into important topics both at a hyper-local and global level.

Dundee’s traditional reputation was, of course, for ‘Jute, Jam and Journalism’, do you think there has been one particular event or one particular company that has kick-started the City of Discovery’s transition into a creative hub?

I think the two Universities and College have played a huge role over the decades in developing talented creatives; and over the last few years we’ve seen more and more graduates stay and base themselves in the city. I think there have been a number of factors which have helped the transition – changes in the games industry following the economic crisis have led to some really innovative digital companies being established here.

The cultural offer of the DCA, The Rep, Scottish Dance Theatre and The McManus is excellent and matched by a really strong bottom-up creative scene, which includes Tin Roof, Generator Projects, Fleet Collective, Wasps Studios who have taken over the city’s former industrial spaces and filled them with creatives. The £1billion waterfront transformation and the V&A Museum of Design Dundee, which will be the first design museum in the UK outside of London, are also of course valuable for shining the light on the city. Collectively, all of these things and more have enabled Dundee to punch well above its weight as a creative hub.

What kind of events and support are provided by Creative Dundee? Can you tell us more about your Pecha Kucha nights?

We amplify and connect creative talent across all disciplines, through our online channel and events programme. We profile the city’s up-and-coming and established creative talent – businesses, artists, designers and cultural organisations; and we run events which give creatives a platform to speak about their work, such as Pecha Kucha Night Dundee. PKN is a speed presenting night which was developed in Tokyo and now runs in over 700 cities globally, it creates an even platform for anyone to speak, irrespective of their age or career status.

We run PKN quarterly and each night has an audience of around 300 people coming along to find out what is happening locally. We’ve also run events with Chamber of Commerce and ENET, the enterprise support agency; and the Social Enterprise Network – bridging divides between different sectors is something we look forward to doing more of this coming year.

Are there any areas of the creative industry that you feel are particularly strong right now – either in Dundee or across Scotland?

In Dundee, I’m excited to see the emerging crossovers between the Life Sciences and Digital sectors – the digital healthcare market is a huge opportunity and given Dundee’s strengths in both then there is the potential to create really disruptive and valuable creative solutions. I think the transformative power of design as a process, beyond thinking about design as just an aesthetic/product, is something which Scotland needs to rapidly build understanding and support of – the role of design, culture and innovation to tackle societal challenges and also improve Scotland’s businesses, is an area I would love to see develop. I hope that Dundee can help support this understanding over the next few years.

What advice would you offer people in Dundee or Scotland as a whole who are looking to build a career in the creative sector?

Dundee is really welcoming, so come along to the many create events happening and make sure you are tapped into the network – our website and news mail out are pretty good places to start. The creative scene has been built by people who have just got on and made things happen, rather than waiting for others to do it; so thinking about what you can do for the city, and/or the sector should be useful. Show what you’ve done already or what you would like to do given the opportunity… All talk and no action back-seat drivers need not apply!

Thank you to Gillian for taking the time to talk to us about this fantastic accolade for the City of Discovery. The central belt hubs of Edinburgh and Glasgow, along with oil powerhouse of Aberdeen, are mentioned a lot when it comes to employment in Scotland. It’s important to remember Dundee’s role in driving the future of Scottish jobs too though. At s1jobs we’re committed to connecting the right people with the right jobs across the whole of the country and we applaud Creative Dundee’s role in pushing the city to the centre of the creative zeitgeist. 

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