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Anger as new Dundee events strategy fails to mention single future event

Dundee City Council's strategy plans to bring bustling high-profile events to the city all through the year, but didn't specify what the events will be.

Crowds enjoy Winterfest at Slessor Gardens. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson
Winterfest at Slessor Gardens. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson

A new strategy has been unveiled showing how Dundee City Council will support future high-profile events, without saying what any of them will be.

A report outlined how the council intends to bring events to the city throughout the year, through “working with partners, both private and public” and being “welcoming hosts” to make Dundee an appealing destination for event organisers.

But councillors hit out at a lack of detail in the strategy at a meeting on Monday night, as it failed to mention what kind of events Dundonians can expect to see.

During the fair work, economic growth and infrastructure committee meeting, Labour councillor Wendy Scullin said: “There are a lot of words in the events strategy without saying very much.

“Personally, I was expecting a lot more, especially actually mentioning future events.

“When it comes to Christmas especially, I think our offer is pretty poor compared to other cities around us.

“I just think that I was expecting a lot more.”

Councillor Wendy Scullin. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson

Councillor Kevin Keenan also hit out at the report.

He said: “I’m really disappointed in the fact that we haven’t got some level of what our council are prepared to do – given that the report was called for by the leader of the council – I expected there to be a considerable amount more.”

Councillor Kevin Keenan.

It comes after it was announced the city’s Christmas market is being scaled back after just two years, including the removal of the ice rink and big wheel.

Dundee Winterfest 2022.
Dundee Winterfest in 2022. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson

Public fireworks displays were axed by the council back in 2022 due to safety concerns.

Motion for return of City Square Christmas tree

Some councillors used the report as an opportunity to call for the return of a Christmas tree to City Square following its controversial removal.

Liberal Democrat councillor Daniel Coleman asked officers to consider the viability of returning the tree, as well as restoring annual public fireworks displays every 5th November.

Dundee’s controversial “living” Christmas tree, planted at Steeple Church, died just nine months after it was installed last year.

It has since been replaced and has this year been joined by artistic fake trees made from building waste, old tin cans and recycled skateboards.

recycled Christmas trees
Recycled Christmas trees outside Steeple Church. Image: Dall Communications

The trees were produced in partnership between the council, the V&A Dundee and UNESCO City of Design.

Mr Coleman’s motion looked to have officers report the viability of returning the tree and fireworks to the committee by March of next year, but the motion was voted down by 14 to 13.

Liberal Democrat councillor for Strathmartine, Daniel Coleman.

Mr Coleman said: “I have heard from more people than I can count about their dismay in respect of the loss of a real city Christmas tree and the public firework displays.

“We are all aware of the financial issues local government currently faces, but my amendment simply suggested we explore the viability of the return of a real Christmas tree in the city square and public firework displays.

“It did not commit the city council to anything other than a report back to committee in March 2024.”

What is set out in the new strategy?

The strategy covers the next five years from 2024 to 2029 but considered the benefit of previous events.

It cited BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend and the Summer (Bash) Streets Festival as main examples of success stories.

Big Weekend is said to have brought 33,652 visitors to Dundee and had an economic impact of £3.7 million.

The report says: “Being welcoming hosts and focusing on collaboration will be the two key underlying principles to ensure we become a destination of choice for event organisers.

“Working with partners in the city will enable us to maximise the benefits of events.

“Collaboration with local organisations and commercial partners with shared objectives will enable us to deliver new events for our citizens and visitors beyond the current events calendar.

“Working with key partners including Leisure and Culture Dundee, the city’s many cultural and sporting organisations and key venues, we will promote the city and ensure we have a varied and lively annual events programme.”

Financial pressures

Council leader John Alexander agreed he would like to see more events in the city, but maintained increased financial pressure continues to be a problem.

Dundee City Council leader John Alexander. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson

Mr Alexander said: “Whilst I agree actually with colleagues, I would always like to do more and members of the administration know that we are always talking about what more we could do because the ambitions for all of us are incredibly high.

“Whether that be related to Christmas or anything else for that matter.

“I’d always like to see a much wider offer, a much-enhanced offer, but it always comes down to how much finance is available.

“It’s not helpful I think for any of us to just say it’s not good enough without actually offering where it might come from (financially).”

Councillor Steven Rome added: “I think there needs to be some realism, any choice that we make in terms of the city centre offer is going to mean cuts elsewhere and as I say – let’s be realistic about this.”