We like to practice what we preach and get under the skin of a place when we visit for the first time. Last month we went to Dundee to give the key-note at The Mix-IN – an event organised by Creative Dundee for the city’s cultural and creative industries and tourism partners.
Getting off the train you are greeted with the final stages of the brand new V&A build on the waterside. The city is gearing up for its opening in 2018 and recognises the need to build partnerships, raise skills and increase capacity to optimise the cultural tourism benefit.
At The Mix-IN we heard about pilot cultural tourism projects funded by a new small grants scheme; how the local design and digital sector is feeding creative ideas in to the mix and how the UNESCO ‘design-city’ status is being made visible and tangible for students, creatives, residents and visitors. We loved the crowd-sourced map of the city that Creative Dundee has produced and a talk about the growth of the Scottish Mountain Biking sector was a brilliant parallel case study of how long-term vision and leadership, infrastructure investment, talent, iconic moments and entrepreneurship has created a thriving sporting and tourism industry. Next day we found great coffee-bars cum galleries and a tiny shop selling vintage spectacles amidst the old warehouses and printworks that are fast-developing as a cultural quarter.
As a ‘business tourist’ the welcome and enthusiasm we found in Dundee was exemplary – and catching! We’ll be back to explore as cultural tourists ourselves, and wish Dundee the very best of luck with its exciting plans.
Perhaps the star of the show was the venue. Hospitalfield isn’t on the visitor map – yet. A few miles out of Dundee in Arbroath – this artists’ retreat is in an inspirational setting: coast, countryside and a stunning historical building very evident of an Arts and Crafts feel and its own kitchen garden. A future plan for the house is unfolding. Working with architects Caruso St John, new developments will allow resident artists to share these charismatic historical spaces with visitors, whilst retaining the privacy and sanctuary of the retreat. If you are up that way we highly recommend a visit.