Winter Planetarium Show at the Mills Observatory #dundeewestend

This Saturday – 11th January – you can take a tour of the night sky in the observatory’s planetarium room and learn about constellations, galaxies and the latest space news and much more.
Please note that Winter Planetarium Shows are suitable for children aged 5 and over.
Just £1 for adults;  50p children.     Booking essential on 435967.

Winter Planetarium Shows at Mills Observatory #dundeewestend

This Friday – 20th December – you can take a tour of the night sky in the observatory’s planetarium room and learn about constellations, galaxies and the latest space news and much more.
Please note that Winter Planetarium Shows are suitable for children aged 5 and over.
£1 Adults, 50p Children with shows at 6pm, 7pm and 8pm.
Booking essential on 435967.

Friends of Balgay Autumn Meeting & AGM

The presentation at the Friends’ AGM yesterday
I was delighted to attend the Friends of Balgay Autumn Meeting & AGM yesterday afternoon at the Mills Observatory.
Liz Houghton from the Scottish Wildlife Trust gave a fascinating talk about urban wildlife, complete with a superb photographic presentation.
Its always a good sign when the turnout requires extra chairs to be found for all the attendees!    
I wish the Friends of Balgay committee every success in the forthcoming year.

Planetarium Shows at the Mills Observatory

The next Mills Observatory Planetarium Shows take place on Friday 22nd January at the Observatory – four timings to choose from – 7pm, 7.45pm, 8.30pm and 9.15pm.
Take a tour of the night sky in the Observatory’s Planetarium Room and learn about constellations, asteroids and galaxies.
Booking essential on 435967 (with a nominal entry charge of just £1 Adults, 50p Children)
You can also download the Mills Observatory Winter Events Programme 2015/16 here.

Busy Saturday!

Yesterday morning, I had the pleasure of visiting the West End Tennis Club in Shaftesbury Road to speak with committee members and some of the parents whose children attend Saturday morning training sessions.   
It was good to discuss the club’s future plans with the committee and great to see the enthusiasm of all in promoting tennis in the area.   
You can read more about the West End Tennis Club here.
In the afternoon, I attended the Friends of Balgay Summer meeting which took place at the Mills Observatory.  There was an excellent and informative presentation by Dr Kenneth Baxter of the University of Dundee on ‘Old Dundee.’   You can read more about Friends of Balgay here.

Mills Observatory news

If you click here, you can download the brochure giving the summer activities at the Mills Observatory.
The Head of Cultural Services at Leisure and Culture Dundee has advised that, last month, the parquet flooring on the ground floor of the observatory was refurbished and there was also painting the ground floor walls as a refresh as was done with the first floor last year.

Mills Observatory – an update

A number of constituents have expressed concern to me regarding the decision by Leisure and Culture Dundee to close Mills Observatory to normal public opening between April and September, concerns also expressed by a number of organisations and Dundee TV personality Lorraine Kelly.
I therefore raised with Leisure and Culture Dundee a number of questions that constituents had made and their Head of Cultural Services has responded as follows:

Please see below in response to the enquiry that you made.       During this process we had consultation with Staff, trade unions, Mills Observatory Advisory Group and Dundee Astronomical Society.   Further discussion with Friends of Balgay and other interested parties took place.  

a) Dates of the closure – The Mills Observatory will not be closing per se.  During our summer opening period from 1 April to 30 September the Observatory will be open to the public on selected targeted dates with a variety of events and activities.  This is published on the Mills Observatory website and is notified through Facebook postings also.   

b) Where are staff redeployed to? – As part of Cultural Services, Visitor Assistant Team staff work throughout the year at the following venues: The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery and Museum, Broughty Castle Museum, and Mills Observatory.  The staff who are generally based at Mills Observatory will work between The McManus and Broughty Castle Museum during the summer opening period, but will be based at the Mills Observatory on the selected dates as published above.   

c) Can groups still book the venue (eg Friends of Balgay) for meetings? – Access to the Observatory can be arranged and dates have been confirmed with the Friends of Balgay following a meeting I had with (them).  They have scheduled meetings taking place on 26 April, 26 July and 18 October.  They have also requested their annual litter pick have access to Mills for practical reasons and once this date is confirmed we can make final arrangements.  
Dundee Astronomical Society have also scheduled their series of meetings over this summer period.  The Mills Observatory remains as a wedding venue for the city and we will continue to take bookings as required.   

d) What events were run in 2013 during the equivalent period and will any similar ones be run at the same period this year? – A total of 26 events, including summer planetarium shows, Dundee Astronomical meetings and children’s activities, were delivered April to September 2013 with a total of 30 similar events taking place for this period in 2014.   

e) What were visitor numbers in 2011, 2012 and 2013 in the period that is now to be a closure period? – The visitor numbers are as follows: 

April to September 2011 – 3,976

April to September 2012 – 3,647

April to September 2013 – 3,895 

The focus on our targeting of events during this period will be for specific activities and events indicated in response to question d.  I am hopeful that our targeted programming will be at least on par with previous years.   

In addition to the questions you have asked, it would be useful to note that the Mills Observatory is undergoing a number of upgrades to the fabric of the building and some repairs to the dome itself and we are keen to have a refreshed venue ready for the new season starting 1 October when we carry out 80% of our engagement in the winter period.  

I have asked that Leisure and Culture Dundee closely monitors visitor numbers to ensure there is no drop in this and I would also welcome residents’ views on the feedback above.

Friends of Balgay Spring Meeting

The next meeting of the Friends of Balgay will be held on Saturday 26th April 2014 from 12.15pm – 2pm in the Mills Observatory. 
This is the Friends’ ‘Sandwiches and a Blether’ meeting which is always popular and well attended. 
Please come and feel free to bring a friend.
Entrance is free for members and £1 for visitors.   
Please note the timing is slightly different from previous years.

Friends of Balgay AGM

The Friends of Balgay AGM will be held at the Mills Observatory on Saturday 19th October at 2pm.
2.Minutes of last AGM
3.Matters arising
4.Chairman’s Report
5.Presentation of Accounts
6.Retirement of Treasurer
7.Subscriptions 2013-14
The AGM will be followed by a talk from Stewart Murdoch of Dundee City Council on Dundee’s bid for the ‘City of Culture’.  This will be followed by discussion and refreshments.   All welcome!

Dundee’s second Blue Skies Festival!

This coming Saturday sees the start of the second Dundee Blue Skies festival, a week of kite flying, stargazing and rainbow chasing starts – and it runs until 11th August.    Blue Skies brings together cultural agencies from across the city to present you with an exciting mix of free events for all ages.   
Events include :
* Blue Skies at Celebration in the park – launch activities on Saturday 3rd August.
* Make Paper come alive – on Monday 5th August – at DCA.
* Top Gun – with extra guitars – on Saturday 10th August – at Dundee Airport.
* The Perseids – on Sunday 11th August – at the Mills Observatory.
There’s many other events as part of the Blue Skies Festival – see more at – and what’s more, all are free of charge!

Friends of Balgay AGM

The Dundee Weaver Craft
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending a packed Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Balgay that took place at the Mills Observatory.
There was an extremely informative and entertaining talk by Ron Scrimgeour on the history of the Dundee weaving trade in the year of the 500th anniversary of its incorporation as one of the nine incorporated trades in the city. 
Friends of Balgay has had a very successful year and Dr Hilda Spear, Chair, gave a resume of a number of the Friends’ activities over the past twelve months – including the successful grant application for improvements at the Planet Trail, a well-supported litter pick on Balgay Hill, the successful level of sales of the Friends’ new edition of its ‘A Visitor’s Guide to the Treasurers of Balgay‘, and the recent very heartening news of a grant from Archaeology Scotland to provide a historic market plaque at the park’s Rose Window.

Welcome road resurfacing at Balgay …

I’ve welcomed the resurfacing of the whole stretch of road entrance to Balgay Hill and Balgay Cemetery at its Glamis Road entrance.
I have made various complaints about this poor road surface into Balgay Hill and Balgay Cemetery in the past on behalf of constituents so I am very pleased to see the whole stretch now being resurfaced.    It’s not only one of the routes to the cemetery and park – its also the main route to Mills Observatory, so the improvements to the entrance will be welcomed.
There are still some repairs required to the road as its leads up the hill itself but this is nonetheless a very welcome improvement.

Blue Skies Festival starts Friday!

On Friday, the first ever Blue Skies Festival, Dundee’s festival of kite flying, stargazing and rainbow chasing starts – and suns until Sunday. Blue Skies brings together cultural agencies from across the city to present you with an exciting mix of free events for all ages.   
Events include :
*   FRIDAY :  Cloudbusting – A one-day event at DCA that will bring together representatives from the creative and cultural sectors with those in health and education, to explore how the knowledge and imagination of the country’s creative sector might be applied to address the various issues around poverty.
*   SATURDAY :   Life of Galileo – A special presentation taking place at the University of Dundee, Carnelley Building (old Chemistry Building) on Life of Galileo by Bertolt Brecht created by Dundee Rep Theatre, directed by Ben Harrison (Artistic Director of the award-winning site specific theatre company Grid Iron) in collaboration with local astronomer Brian Kelly. 
*   SUNDAY :   Perseid Nocturne – A series of events at Mills Observatory.
There’s a whole host of other events as part of the Blue Skies Festival – see more at – and what’s more, all are free of charge.

Mills Observatory Update

Following my update yesterday about concerns over the future of the Mills Observatory, I was interviewed by Radio Tay today (click here to listen) and the issue has been covered in the Courier, the Press and Journal, the Sun, and various other newspapers.   

Judging by the number of people contacting me regarding the issue today, it is of considerable concern and it is vital that the City Council is transparent and ends the secrecy over this important matter.

Assurances sought over future of Mills Observatory

Today’s “Scotland on Sunday” newspaper reports my concerns – and those of Professor John Brown, Astronomer Royal for Scotland – over the future of Mills Observatory in the West End Ward, the only full-time public observatory in the UK.

Following concerns expressed to me about the future of the observatory, I contacted the City Council’s Chief Executive, who advised :

“… the officers are examining a variety of options. I can give you an assurance that within the options being considered the ownership of the Mills Observatory remains with the City Council, and in my opinion will be beneficial in securing the long term future of the facility.”

Whilst the assurance that the observatory remains in the City Council’s ownership gives a measure of reassurance, it is high time that the council SNP administration is a whole lot more open and transparent about any proposals for the future of Mills Observatory.   The “secret cabal” of SNP councillors meeting at the so-called Changing for the Future Board and deciding possible changes to council services is exactly the wrong way to approach the council’s budget challenges – secretive and wholly lacking in transparency.

It is about time that the council administration brought any proposals to the City Council’s Policy & Resources Committee where these can be discussed openly and publicly. Secretive boards are simply not the right way forward and simply lead to speculation and concern. I think the people of Dundee are entitled to know exactly what the council administration is planning in relation to the future of Mills Observatory – and other facilities and services. It is time for all this ‘cloak and dagger’ stuff to come to an end and the matter being publicly discussed at the Policy and Resources Committee.

West End forthcoming events

Mills Observatory

Mills Observatory’s Summer Programme includes the following :
Wednesday 2nd July : Water Rockets
Wednesday 9th July : Constellations
Tuesday 15th July : Solar Systems
Tuesday 22nd July : Space Models
Tuesday 29th July : Planet Trail
Wednesday 6th August : Story telling
All take place between 2pm and 4pm and are aimed at children aged 8 to 11 years (admission £2 per person) – click on the headline above to view the Observatory website.
… and Sunday Bandstand Concerts …
There will be the annual (and absolutely brilliant) Sunday bandstand concerts on Magdalen Green from 2pm to 3pm on :
Sunday 15th June
Sunday 22nd June
Sunday 29th June
Sunday 6th July
Sunday 13th July
Sunday 20th July
Sunday 27th July
Sunday 3rd August
Sunday 10th August
Sunday 17th August
Admission free, as always!