Ahead of its launch, Michael Alexander finds out about Weave by Abertay – a new initiative dedicated to creating a vibrant programme of cultural events across Dundee.
Growing up in the Stobswell area of Dundee, former Morgan and Harris Academy pupil Clare Brennan was always involved in community arts and theatre.
She loved to draw, make art, dancing and to go to exhibitions and performances – a creative passion that took her on to study fine art at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design and won her a John Kinross Scholarship to study in Florence after she graduated from Dundee in 2006.
But while grateful for the opportunity to spread her wings and to meet creative, interesting people from different cultures and backgrounds, the now 34-year-old visual arts lecturer at Abertay University’s School of Design and Informatics is loving that she is now back home helping to change the fortunes of her home city of Dundee.
As well as being a lecturer, she was also curator of Abertay’s Hannah Maclure Centre – a cultural hub, which engages researchers, academics, students and creatives in knowledge exchange activity.
And it was through the centre’s cultural outreach programme that a new initiative called Weave by Abertay is now running instead of the Hannah Maclure Centre programme. Weave was due to be launched on the evening of Wednesday February 28 at the headquarters of DCT Media in Dundee – however this launch has now been postponed because of bad weather and will take place later.
UPDATE: The launch has been postponed because of bad weather
— Weave by Abertay (@WeaveAbertay) February 28, 2018
It aims to create a vibrant programme of cultural events – woven across the city – sharing local and global creativity while tapping into Abertay University’s unique network of contacts across the world, including leading lights from the computer games industry.
“Weave was born out of the activity we’ve delivered for the past seven years at the Hannah Maclure Centre,” explains Clare, who delivers the activities with Abertay colleagues Dan Faichney and Susie Buchan.
“The Hannah Maclure Centre delivered four or five exhibitions per year, and there was a programme of talks around that to promote the research, skills and talent at Abertay. That was successful.
“But one of the things we found to be a bit of a barrier at the Hannah Maclure Centre was our physical location.
“The on-campus gallery is based on the top floor of the student centre on the university campus. That was a kind of visibility issue which we had to overcome for exhibitions and launches.
“Against the backdrop of all the exciting creative things going on in the city, we were keen to develop the concept further.
“So about a year ago we did this consultation with students, staff and members of the creative community across the city to say ‘you are our audience, you are also our participants; you are our artists – what would be a positive development?’
“What came back from that was that people really liked the programme, the content of what we were delivering; the approach to it.
“They liked that we always kind of made it a convivial, social welcoming atmosphere. “But the physical location was the one thing that came back as a negative.”
With the continued support of the university, it was decided that rather than expecting people to come to them, the best way forward for such inter-disciplinary cultural engagement would be a “nomadic style of programming” across the city, with partnerships at the core of what they do.
The aim was to build on years of interesting partnerships while “creating cultural happenings in non-traditional spaces.”
So far the “skeleton” of a Weave programme has been created.
“We’ve still to flesh it out in discussion with people across the city – it’s not yet a fully formed thing,” explains Clare.
However, a number of ideas have already been “gently rolled out” to see what people are receptive to – and an update will be given at the launch.
One of the main strands that’s been developed so far is a monthly talk series called Platform held at Avery & Co in South Tay Street.
Talks so far have included games historian Riccardo Fassone and British electronic arts due Gibson/Martelli, while next month renowned Berlin-based games designer Brie Code will discuss whether humans can harness the alternate realities of Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence to solve our collective problems.
“There are lots of really great things in Dundee that give voice to local makers and creatives – things like Pecha Kucha which is run so well by Creative Dundee,” says Clare.
“What we wanted to do was really capitalise on Abertay University having this amazing global network of contacts.
“A thread that runs through everything we do is more from the digital perspective.
“But that doesn’t mean it exists in isolation. I think the most interesting things happen when there’s cross over with different disciplines and different mediums.
“If we’ve got a bit of resource and that kind of address book then let’s use it; let’s bring people to the city who can inspire what we do here, that we can connect with and seed potential future projects.
“It’s about looking to not duplicate what is already happening and going really well in the city and identifying maybe where the gaps are.”
Weave, the name of which gives a nod to Dundee’s textile history, also aims to build on Dundee’s UNESCO City of Design designation.
Clare adds: “While the Hannah Maclure Centre still exists as a physical space within the Abertay student centre, I am no longer considered the curator of it. My focus and the focus of our team has turned towards delivering Weave.”
Watch this space for news of Weave’s rescheduled launch night!