Five of Dundee’s cultural organisations are planning their road out of lockdown, thanks to a £1 million fund.
The Dundee Cultural Recovery Fund is a joint enterprise led by V&A Dundee to benefit five organisations in the city, the other four being Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee Heritage Trust (Discovery Point and Verdant Works), Dundee Rep and Scottish Dance Theatre, and Dundee Science Centre.
At the beginning of the first lockdown Tim Allan, Chair of V&A Dundee, says he was determined that culture had to be ready to reopen almost seamlessly once doors could open again safely.
“No-one knew that it would take this long of course,” he says.
“It’s been well-documented that we did get some government money to help us, but the reality is we have to help ourselves as well. To make sure that we did not fail the city, we had to raise money.”
With V&A Dundee’s track record of successfully engaging with donor and funders, Tim feared that there was a danger that it would hoover up all the assets that other people would be trying to access.
To make sure that we did not fail the city, we had to raise money.”
“The way to tackle this was as a group. I spoke with the leader of the council and asked where the maximum impact would be in terms of Dundee in post Covid recovery mode.
“To get people to visit, to get people in hotels and shops and restaurants and bars, the big attractions need to be open.
“Then I spoke with the chairs of the other four organisations and when we looked at the financial situation, everyone realised that it was going to be difficult to get our heads around a catastrophe on this scale.”
The group approached the Northwood Charitable Trust, run by the Thomson family.
The aims of the group were in line with the Trust’s main funding themes of addressing deprivation, poverty and inequality; advancing educational attainment; progressing physical and mental health and wellbeing; supporting community, heritage and cultural enrichment.
“They said yes,” adds Tim Allan.
“We were offered a maximum of £500,000 from the Trust if we could match it. Our job was to do that between the five of us – and we managed to do that in the year.”
Support for cultural enrichment
Christopher Thomson, a Trustee of The Northwood Charitable Trust, says, “Enhancing cultural enrichment in our communities is one of the key objectives of The Northwood Charitable Trust and we are therefore really pleased to support the Dundee Cultural Recovery Fund.
“Dundee is renowned for its rich creative heritage and our many cultural attractions will play an essential role in the recovery of the city’s local economy in the months ahead.
“This important collaboration will help not only protect several of our leading cultural organisations and the jobs they create, but also help them to grow and develop for the future.”
The donors making up the remaining £500,000 range from large trusts and organisations to small individual donations, down to pocket money contributions from Dundee children.
Determination to open better than before
“What has touched me hugely about the fundraising is the spectrum of people who have funded us. Even Dundee bairns. It gives us the impetus to make sure that when we open, we open better than when we closed.”
Among the donors are Tim and Kim Allan, Alliance Trust, Al-Maktoum Community Grant Fund, Dundee City Council, Morris and Joyce Leslie, Alasdair Locke, The RJ Larg Family Trust, Leng Charitable Trust, Lethendy Charitable Trust, The Mathew Trust, MHA Henderson Loggie, Tay Charitable Trust, Eric Young, and a number of anonymous donors.
Dundee is only city in the UK where cultural organisations have created such a united front on the road to recovery.
Beth Bate, Director at Dundee Contemporary Arts says that it has also created a template for working together in the future, not only with the five organisations benefiting from this fund, but a much wider range of partners.
Dundee alone in working together
“I am particularly proud because it’s something that only Dundee has done. I don’t know of anywhere else that has worked like this, and it’s been such an enthusiastic collaboration.
“This is a genuinely huge cash contribution, which will help support these organisations over the uncertain months ahead. We’ve been able to pull together and make the case for the role that culture has in the city, not only socially but economically, in terms of the jobs we support and the income we generate.”
Tim Allan adds that this working together is typical of the city, which, he describes as “outstanding on common purpose. We have an outstanding third sector – particularly those community groups who work with hard-to-reach communities.”
He also makes the connection with culture and say Leonie Bell of V&A is something of a “revolutionary” who has made it her mission to make the museum spill into the city.
“I think everyone realised that it was a great result when the V&A Dundee opened, to see it done. When I became Chair in September 2019 I think it was yet to find its stride.
“None of these organisations are about things in boxes, they are about enriching people’s lives. And don’t we all need that after the past year?
“We couldn’t afford not to be ready to open and do that. It’s what the cultural recovery fund is all about.”