16 episodes

A podcast by design studio, Agency of None. Ryan McLeod and Lyall Bruce look at what design is.

No Opinion Agency of None

    • Arts
    • 5.0 • 1 Rating

A podcast by design studio, Agency of None. Ryan McLeod and Lyall Bruce look at what design is.

    05 - Conclusion

    05 - Conclusion

    We're summing up everything we've learned throughout creating this podcast and trying to work out what we do next.

    There have been so many interesting avenues to explore with all our guests it's been hard to condense them all into this series. Space is such a complex issue that hasn't been solved over many years with many people trying. This series was never going to solve the problem but we have come up with a few key learning and starting points.

    We have to start with the creative community and bringing people together to define what we actually want for the future and how we do that together. In the same way that Baltic Creative and Midsteeple Quarter have done, we need to create a long term vision that people can get behind and a business plan that will attract investment.

    Beyond that we need to define a structure which could take many different forms but we need to create a protective layer between creatives and property. This could be the ownership model, the CIC model or working in partnership with a landlord/local authority who are committed to the vision. What we've seen in the past and recently is that if you are at the mercy of the commercial property sector long term sustainability just won't work.

    Agency of None - twitter.com/agencyofnone

    • 29 min
    04 - Placemaking

    04 - Placemaking

    We need to appreciate the value creatives bring to areas of our cities when we give them space and create a destination. There are so many cultural and economic benefits attracting other businesses and visitors to the area.

    Mark Lawler from Baltic Creative CIC talks us through how they have completely transformed a former industrial area in Liverpool into what is known as the Baltic Triangle.

    There are two real strands to what they have done. Firstly, creating a commercial property company that essentially holds the assets in trust solely for the advancement of the creative community and their activities. This has been done by creating the company as a community interest company (CIC) which means the profits are only used in 3 ways: for reinvesting in the properties that house creatives, reinvesting in creatives through training or other support or reinvesting in the wider sector strengthen the sector in Liverpool. A CIC is essentially a normal limited company but it exists purely for the benefit of the community.

    Secondly, Mark talks about the area company which works as a lobbying organisation. Through this company they generated a vision for the area and a business plan to get people on board and to support the project. This vision for the future of the creative community is something that we are really lacking in Dundee. We really need to come together to work out what we need and want for the future.

    Mark also goes on to explain that the support and buy in of the local authority is crucial to create long term strategy and sustainability for an area. Again this is something we feel Dundee lacks and although the marketing materials celebrate the design in Dundee, the examples that are heralded are the big corporate businesses not the strength of the small scale creative community.

    We wanted to bring back in some of the thoughts of David Cook around the provision of space in Dundee and why creative businesses want to stay small rather than growing exponentially. This model of growth is what the economic develop of a city want but it doesn't take into consideration the quality of the creative outputs. It also fails to address the issues of creating a culture and space to allow the small scale businesses to thrive.

    An interesting potential development and placemaking opportunity in Dundee's Blackness area has been proposed by Kennedy Twaddle Architects and 71 Brewing. This goes back to the same building we discussed with Joanna Helfer in episode one where Tin Roof were based.

    Baltic Triangle - https://baltictriangle.co.uk/

    Baltic Creative - https://www.baltic-creative.com/

    Kennedy Twaddle - https://www.kennedytwaddle.com/

    Agency of None - https://twitter.com/agencyofnone

    • 51 min
    03 - Community

    03 - Community

    In this episode we focus on community, how you shape it and the importance of building a culture within a space in order for it to thrive.

    We start out by speaking to Annie Marrs, Lead Officer at UNESCO City of Design and Gillian Easson Director of Creative Dundee about the needs of Dundee's creative community and what they need as organisations in the city.

    We then bring in Claire Carpenter who set up the Melting pot in Edinburgh and now helps others start and build coworking spaces across the world. She explains how the melting pot came from a need that she saw to deliver a more flexible model for space, particularly for freelancers. At that time, offering the ability to pay for space as you wanted or needed it was a pretty radical concept but it has now become commonplace.

    We also go on to discuss the affects the pandemic has had on coworking space and why the terminology is often confused with flexi-working space. Lot's of big corporates like bars, hotels and banks are trying to move into the space but they are offering Flexi-work space. They are not developing the culture and community of a coworking space which is confusing and leads to a misconception of what try coworking is.

    If you are creating a coworking space it needs to have a community and a culture that is valuable to its members. Whoever is creating or running the space needs to define the the boundaries around who is right for the space and ultimately the right customers for the coworking business. Claire explains some of the complexities around this and a few key considerations when defining how a space is structured and operates.

    Ultimately, coworking spaces take a lot of effort to run and desk rent does not generate a lot of income so the business model has to work for the scale of the space. We spoke to Christine James of Blick studios who have around 60 members over 3 spaces in Belfast. She talks about what they have done to ensure they have a lean business model and integrated more profitable services to make it work over the long term.

    UNESCO City of Design Dundee - https://cityofdesigndundee.com/

    Creative Dundee - https://creativedundee.com/

    The Melting Pot - https://www.themeltingpotedinburgh.org.uk/

    Blick Studios - https://www.blickstudios.org/

    • 41 min
    02 - Empty Spaces

    02 - Empty Spaces

    "Our city centres are dying." We start this episode with a passionate statement from Architect Gary Kennedy who talks about the fact that we have a creative community with the drive and desire to make things happen but we just can't find a way of pairing them up with empty spaces. We also speak to Annie Marrs and Gillian Easson about the challenges of empty space and Scott Mackay shares the story of Misteeple Quarter and how they have developed their model for community ownership in Dumfries.

    There are many complex reasons as to why we have big gaping holes in our high street. Businesses closing down during the pandemic, rising costs, the move to online retail and changing shopping habits are all contributing factors. Ultimately landlords and property owners have control over who fills the spaces and if they have a big enough portfolio they are happy to leave properties empty waiting on a tenant that will pay full market rate.

    We also spoke to Annie Marrs Lead Officer of the UNESCO City of Design Dundee and Gillian Easson Director of Creative Dundee. They have been trying to work with the local authority and private landlords for many years but they still identify space as the number one issue facing the creative community. It's also the biggest area that hasn't been addressed from Dundee's Creative Industries Strategy released in 2017.

    Gillian highlights the challenge of the creative sector often being offered short term opportunities and that's not what we need or deserve. Annie goes on to talk about the practical issues of occupying a space. Often properties that have been left empty are in disrepair and don't actually have the basics such as running water, lighting, heating etc. These factor and more lead to a lot of difficulties utilising empty space.

    There are projects out there trying to utilise empty space, particularly empty retail space, such as Edinburgh Printmakers EP Spaces and Outerspaces. These projects create relationships with landlords and allow artists and creatives to set up and use empty spaces on a temporary basis. The problem is that these are only temporary until a full fee paying tenant comes along so unfortunately they don't offer a long term sustainable solution to space.

    The final guest for this episode is Scott Mackay Executive Director of Midsteeple Quarter. He talks us through the history of Dumfries' city centre and how it has become largely owned by pension funds, which has led to the decline of spaces and no one actually living in the city centre.

    The activity to change this was initially driven by the creative community and the Stove Network to create a vision. Midsteeple Quarter was formalised as a community benefit society with each person paying £1 to become a member and having a stake. The membership then own the properties that Midsteeple Quarter purchases and it is truly a community ownership model. As an organisation they have utilised various different methods to acquire buildings from asset transfer from the local council to a kickstarter campaign. Overall this approach works fantastically well and community ownership puts the city centre back in control of those who live and work there.

    Kennedy Twaddle - https://www.kennedytwaddle.com/

    UNESCO City of Design Dundee - https://cityofdesigndundee.com/

    Annie Marrs - https://twitter.com/anniemarrs

    Gillian Easson - https://twitter.com/GillianEasson

    Creative Dundee - https://creativedundee.com/

    Dundee's Creative Industries Strategy - https://dundeecreates.creativedundee.com/

    Scott Mackay - https://twitter.com/mackayplanning

    Midsteeple Quarter - https://www.midsteeplequarter.org/

    The Stove Network - https://thestove.org/

    Agency of None - https://twitter.com/agencyofnone

    • 35 min
    01 - Looking Back

    01 - Looking Back

    We're looking back at some of the collective creative spaces that have existed in Dundee and the reasons why they had to close. We'll also be speaking to David Cook consultant on the West Ward Works project to get an insight into why the development was unable to get off the ground.

    First we speak to Joanna Helfer who was one of the founding members of Tin Roof Collective. In 2011 they took on part of the old foundry building in the Blackness area of Dundee at a time when affordable studio space was virtually non-existent and the council didn't believe it was possible for artists to thrive outside cities like Glasgow or London.

    After having over 100 artists through their doors and many exhibitions and gigs in the space, Tin Roof sadly had to move out of the building in June 2016. 71 Brewing were moving in to the downstairs space and building regulations visited giving Tin Roof an ultimatum of finding £100,000 within six weeks to make upgrades or leave the building. Although this was the end of the large collective space Tin Roof does live on in two smaller WASPs spaces and the ceramics workshop in Dundee. We'll also come back to more creative use plans for the Blackness foundry in a later episode.

    In 2011 Lyall and Donna Holford-Lovell saw the need for a desk based collective space that also acted as an agency bringing in projects for the members to work on. Over time membership grew and Fleet supported the development of the city of culture bid and V&A to Dundee. Over time Lyall stepped down as director to focus on design work and Donna became much more involved in NEoN Digital Arts Festival. There just wasn't the resource to help fill desks, run marketing campaigns or bring in the projects that earned money for the collective. These factors ultimately led to the doors closing on Fleet.

    Donna went on to run another space in the Vision building and we spoke to Mal Abbas, founder of Biome Collective, who were part of the Vision Building space run by NEoN. He describes it as a great showcase for the creative community in Dundee where visitors to the city were often paraded through like a bit of a creative zoo. The space at Vision was always on a short term deal, if a full paying tenant came along then they would have to vacate. This began on a 6month notice period but as time progressed this shortened to 1 month and led to a lot of uncertainty. This was the trade off for being able to offer affordable space.

    West Ward Works is the last space we explore in this episode, an absolutely massive old DC Thomson print works over four floors. After it was the venue for Dundee Design Festival in 2016 conversations started to happen around the potential of the space and how it could be transformed into a creative hub for the city. It had real potential to house a massive part of Dundee's creative activities but after several delays to the Tay cities deal funding the project could not be realised. In the end it was too ambitious and needed to be able to start small and grow.

    Joanna Helfer - https://joannahelfer.net/

    Tin Roof Collective - https://twitter.com/tinroofdundee

    Donna Holford-Lovell full Creative Chit Chat episode - http://cccdundee.com/episodes/fleet-collective/

    NEoN Digital Arts Festival - https://neondigitalarts.com/

    Mal Abbas - https://twitter.com/maltron3D

    Biome Collective - https://www.biomecollective.com/

    Designing a Liveable City in Helsinki -

    Casual Spying in Helsinki - https://www.agencyofnone.com/no/casual-spying-in-helsinki

    David Cook - https://twitter.com/cookied66

    No Space for Design(ers) Creative Dundee blog post https://creativedundee.com/2021/11/no-space-for-designers/

    Agency of None - https://twitter.com/agencyofnone

    • 1 hr 4 min
    Introduction - No Space for Design

    Introduction - No Space for Design

    Dundee has a problem with space for design. In this second series of the No Opinion podcast series we're looking at how to create a model to address it. Although we will be focusing on Dundee we will be bringing in insights from across the the UK throughout the series. Lots of these insight will be relevant to cities across the UK and potentially further afield.

    Back in November we wrote a blog for Creative Dundee called No Space for Design(ers) outlining the issues around space in the city. This six episode podcast series is a deeper dive into the subject where we will be bringing in many different voices and perspectives. From people involved in collective spaces that have started and failed in Dundee to locations where long term sustainable models have been put in place like Baltic Creative in Liverpool and Midsteeple Quarter in Dumfries.

    We have previously been part of a co-working space and have seen the benefits it can bring it's members but also what it can offer in a wider context to the city. From the conversations that happen around a lunch table to the ideas and projects that are generated, space plays a vital role in developing our creative community.

    We need design and creativity to be taken seriously. Small scale create businesses and freelancers are often undervalued but they can play a vital role in growing our and working together to address some of the big environmental, infrastructural and social issues we face.

    So, join us on a journey exploring how we can create a long term sustainable model to allow designers and creative to utilise space in our city.

    No Space for Design(ers) Creative Dundee blog post https://creativedundee.com/2021/11/no-space-for-designers/

    Gillian Easson - https://twitter.com/GillianEasson

    Agency of None - https://twitter.com/agencyofnone

    • 10 min

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