All this has lead to GQ Magazine calling Dundee the UK’s coolest small city.
Emerging from a post-industrial past, the city, with two universities, world class science, a thriving computer games and IT sector and a vibrant, growing creative sector, Dundee feels like an exciting place to be.
While there is a lot of good news, and many would give their right arm for these developments, like all of Scotland’s cities, we are not without our issues.
On the broader stage, seismic political events over the past year have shown we have a crisis in democracy. While Trump and Brexit were not protest votes for all, there is no doubt it demonstrates just how disenchanted citizens are with political elites. Seeing no difference between politicians from different parties, what is the point of voting. Even the recent defeat of UKIP in the Stoke by election in England, while a relief, was on a 33% voter turnout.
So what’s that got to do with an event in Dundee? I’m a great believer in focusing on what I can influence. On things I can do something about. And while these big national and international issues may have significant impact on our economy. On our sense of who we are. On our ability to relate, work and trade with others. Right now there is nothing I can do about them other than moan or get anxious.
So, I want to focus on what is in my gift, our gift. On what I can do, what we can do, and consider what we want for our City. For Dundee and its surroundings. That’s why I’m involved in this event. Local democracy matters, and it’s not just about voting once every 4 or 5 years.
On Saturday 18th March, some of us will gather in the Shore in Dundee to talk about things that are important to us. This we can influence, things we want to see change.
We will hear from speakers something of their stories where activism and engagement has made a difference to their local community. Derek Robertson from Dundee University will tell the story on how he used the computer game Minecraft to engage primary school pupils in purposeful and relevant learning about civic society. Using Minecraft these young people were able to reimagine, redesign and recreate what their vision of an effective city space might look like with Dundees exciting new waterfront development. We’ll hear examples of local democracy in action from the lead of ERS in Scotland. And we will hear stories from a local activist in Barcelona who has been working in fields of culture, migration, health, and urban rights.
Together we will reflect on our issues, consider the learning from these inspiring stories and develop a plan to take action in Dundee. Making democracy ours: ‘Oor democracy.’ Come along and join us if you can. You never know, we might just act as if we own the place.
Joe Lafferty is an adopted Dundonian, founder of Lifetree, a Scottish and Swiss based leadership consultancy. He’s a past president of Dundee and Tayside Chamber of Commerce and is currently Chair of Dundee Contemporary Arts.