Tayside and Central Scotland

Is Dundee's V&A 'a living room for the city'?

V&A Dundee Image copyright Steven Brown
Image caption The £80m Dundee V&A opened in September 2018

Dundee's V&A Museum of Design celebrates its first birthday having attracted more than 830,000 visitors. But beyond the numbers, its wider benefits for the city are harder to measure.

Architect Kengo Kuma's vision was for a "living room for the city" - a welcoming space for everyone to visit, enjoy and socialise in.

While some locals have taken the new £80m cultural addition to their hearts, others are not so sure.

Image caption Myles McCallum said the museum seemed "a bit distant" for some living two miles away in Lochee

Myles McCallum, a community campaigner in Lochee, about two miles from the V&A, said the museum did not feel like a living room at all.

"It seems a bit distant from us," he said.

"A lot of people I know haven't been down [to see it] and the people I know that have been, say it's quite empty and they're not too impressed about it."

Mr McCallum said it was possible the museum needed more time to benefit more deprived areas of Dundee.

"I hope it succeeds and some of that wealth and success can spread out into these struggling communities," he said.

Image caption The museum has been visited by more than 830,000 people

Dundee City Council leader John Alexander believes the museum is fulfilling its aspiration as a living room for the city "in many ways".

However, he points out that V&A Dundee is still very much the cultural new kid on the block compared other Dundee institutions like the McManus Galleries.

He said: "The McManus is over 100 years old so it has historical value and it is the best-loved building.

"I think in time we'll probably see the same thing with V&A. I think it is being used by many people in the city."

Image caption John Alexander said some felt strongly that this was "their V&A"

Mr Alexander said there was a "strong view" from some locals that the museum was "their V&A".

He said: "This isn't just one institution itself, it's helping promote a wider array of cultural assets."

Image copyright Michael McGurk
Image caption The museum's previous exhibition focused on video gaming

V&A Dundee said it was designed to be a welcoming place for people from Dundee and all over the world to explore and enjoy.

It points to the fact that more than 10,000 people have taken part in free family workshops since the museum opened.

It said there were more than 4,000 engagements with local schools through tours and workshops, and that the core group of the V&A Dundee's Young People's Collective consisted of about 15 members who lived in Dundee and the surrounding areas.

It said that beyond welcoming visitors from around the world, the museum had "become part of the city."

Image copyright Hufton Crow
Image caption The museum has been described as a place to hang out, catch up and learn

A new report notes that 46% of repeat visitors in the first three months came from Dundee.

Former Collective member Ailsa Purdie said: "It is a place to hang out, catch up and learn.

She said: "It's young people meeting up to change the world."

Image caption V&A Dundee chairman Tim Allan said visitors "aren't shy" of giving their opinion on the museum

New V&A Dundee chairman Tim Allan said he had spoken to local school pupils who visited the museum daily to sit with a hot chocolate and "soak it all in".

He said: "If we're getting the young people of the city coming here to do that then we truly are becoming the living room for the city.

"I spent a day as a visitor advisor soon after taking over the chair and people aren't shy on giving you their views on the place.

"The sense of ownership, the sense of engagement people have is very evident."

Image caption Sarah Glynn said the museum would not make a "major change" for most people in Dundee

Dundee architect and activist Sarah Glynn said she was not against the idea of a local museum of design.

"But please don't pretend it's going to make a major change for most of the people in Dundee, because it's not," she said.

"Before they built this, they kept saying DCA (Dundee Contemporary Arts centre) had completely changed Dundee.

"Well the DCA didn't completely change Dundee.

"I love art but don't use it for regeneration because it's not creating the jobs people need."

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