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6 takeaways from latest Slessor Gardens gigs in Dundee – including issues organisers must address

Thousands of people enjoyed shows by James and Bastille at the weekend but there were complaints from fans over on-site provisions.

Fans watching Bastille at Slessor Gardens on Saturday
Fans at a Bastille concert in Slessor Gardens in 2023. Image: Steve Brown/DC Thomson

The dust has settled on the latest run of concerts at Slessor Gardens in Dundee.

The Waterfront venue hosted thousands of fans over the weekend as James and Bastille played their biggest gigs in the city.

Things did not go entirely to plan, with complaints of long queues at Friday’s event.

However, many still enjoyed the chance to see more major acts in Dundee.

We look at six key takeaways from the events.

1. Huge boost for Dundee businesses

As the latest music acts rolled into town, so did thousands of punters – and there was barely a seat to be had at any city centre pub in the hours before the concerts.

Friday in particular saw large numbers heading into nearby venues before making the short walk to Slessor Gardens.

Thousands were in town to see James on Friday. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson

It was a much-needed shot in the arm for the ailing hospitality industry.

Not only that, but shops and other businesses will have had a boost too – such as Assai Records, which was paid a visit by Bastille singer Dan Smith.

Traders will be keen to see more of the same in the months and years to come.

2. Central location: Good for gig-goers, bad for commuters

For concert-goers, Slessor Gardens could hardly be more ideally placed.

The venue is just yards from the railway station, bus stops and various car parks.

It makes getting to the shows as easy as any major venue in the UK.

Getting back might be more of a challenge – as rail passengers found out on Friday night when they were forced into a long wait as huge crowds tried to pile on a service heading north.

Large crowds waiting for a train in Dundee after the James gig on Friday.
Large crowds waiting for a train after the James gig on Friday. Image: Supplied

And for those not attending the concerts, it can be an inconvenience, with reports of long delays for anyone trying to make their way through the city centre while the road closures are in place.

One angry university worker told us on Friday: “It took me over an hour to leave Dundee.

“The whole city was in gridlock with long bus and taxi queues.

Set-up taking place for a concert in 2019 – in the shadow of the Caird Hall. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson

“Why not have it on Saturday or Sunday, or at Camperdown where it doesn’t disrupt everyone’s commute?

“This type of event needs to be timetabled or organised to minimise disruption for the rest of the city.”

However, many would argue it is worth the inconvenience during a few days each year for the benefits the events bring.

3. Organisation needs to be better

For thousands of fans heading to see James on Friday, their experience heading into Slessor Gardens was less than satisfactory.

Many spoke to The Courier and took to social media to complain of queues of up to an hour just to get into the venue.

Queue to get into Slessor Gardens
Long queues built up outside Slessor Gardens on Friday night. Image: Supplied

Several criticised the lack of information on arrival at the Waterfront area – with two long lines of people and no one directing fans on which one they should join.

Revellers in one of the queues were eventually told they would be quicker joining the other one, but only as they approached the entrance.

The delays getting in meant many missed seeing support act Razorlight.

4. On-site provisions need improving

Once inside the venue on Friday, fans faced long waits to use the toilet or to get a drink.

At 8pm, revellers were told one of the bars – close to the northern entrance – had run out of beer, forcing them to join longer queues elsewhere.

There were also waits of 30-plus minutes to use portable toilets, which seemed to be in short supply.

Previous events at Slessor Gardens have had more toilet provision, including men’s urinals, but there was no sign of those on this occasion.

Some even took to relieving themselves round the sides and back of the portable loos in full view of everyone else.

5. Big acts are now the norm for Dundee

Despite the challenges, the vast majority of fans enjoyed the performances from James and Bastille.

And following on from shows by Noel Gallagher, Stereophonics and Simply Red last year – with the likes of Little Mix and Tom Jones performing in the past – it was further evidence that Dundee is now an established destination for major acts.

Bastille on stage in Dundee. Image: Steve Brown/DC Thomson
Little Mix performing in 2017. Image: DC Thomson
Tom Jones in concert in Dundee in 2019. Image: Steve Brown/DC Thomson
Stereophonics at Slessor Gardens in 2022. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson

It is no longer the case that the city constantly loses out to the bigger Scottish cities when it comes to live music.

Promoter Liz Hobbs Group has booked Slessor Gardens to host concerts for several years now – long may it continue.

6. Is Camperdown Park a better venue for bigger concerts?

While Slessor Gardens was always designed to host concerts, and has become a favourite for Liz Hobbs Group in particular, the potential of Camperdown Park was evidenced in the success of Radio 1’s Big Weekend in May.

There are some clear downsides – mainly its out-of-town location, meaning some complexities around how to get fans to and from the site.

There is also the environmental impact of hosting a major event at one of Dundee’s best-loved greenspaces.

Thousands of people attended Big Weekend at Camperdown Park in May. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson

However, the park can host significantly larger numbers than Slessor Gardens – meaning more room for facilities and the potential to sell more tickets.

About 40,000 people went to each day of Big Weekend.

Holding concerts at Camperdown instead of Slessor Gardens would also remove concerns about congestion in the city centre.

Dundee City Council is clearly keen on hosting more major events in the future, and a venue like Camperdown may make Dundee even more attractive to the world’s biggest acts.