Verdant Works Indian Summer Family Day #dundeewestend

Raw jute fibre was first imported into Britain in 1791 by the East India Company which traded in Bengal.    
Tomorrow, Saturday 19th August, the links between India and the Indian subcontinent and Dundee will be celebrated again with this family-friendly afternoon of colour, music, food and dance, celebrating Dundee’s international community.
12 noon to 4pm : Drop in crafts
1pm to 3pm  : Face-painting
1pm : Bollywood performance and workshop
2pm : Traditional storytelling
3pm : A taste of India snacks
3.30pm : Sitar music
All activities included in the regular Verdant Works museum admission.

Event today at Verdant Works #dundeewestend

From Sheena Wellington :
1.20pm to 1.50pm  – The Wighton Singers – Verdant Works, West Henderson’s Wynd
Join us for the last of the special fortnightly summer programme of lunchtime concerts in the High Mill, covering a wide range of music genres. 
The Wighton Singers describe themselves as “a group of friends who love to sing together” and they meet on Tuesday afternoons at the Wighton Heritage Centre.  Their repertoire is mainly Scottish traditional but they might provide a surprise or two!
Concert, £2 includes tea/coffee, no booking required. Children, free.

Wednesday meetings …

A very busy day yesterday with numerous meetings, including :
* Attending two tenants’ meetings organised by Home Scotland at Blackness Court and Sinderins Court for the residents there and at Pennycook Court,   The meetings were to review the revised warden/support arrangements that were introduced last year and get tenants’ feedback.    The meetings were a good opportunity for all the tenants who attended to raise any issues or concerns, not just about support issues but also on other matters, such as repairs.
* A meeting with two senior Police Scotland officers to discuss the proposed loss of the 999 and 101 calls Dundee response centre, with the resultant loss of local knowledge in call handling, which I view as a detrimental step.    We had a useful exchange of views and information on the matter and I will be raising the issue at the council’s Policy & Resources Committee next Monday.
* A meeting of the Harris Academy Parent Council, which took place at Menzieshill High School.   This was followed by a joint meeting with the Menzieshill High School Parent Council – an excellent initiative, given that that the two school communities come together later this year.     It was a very positive meeting and planning for the future is well in hand and very reassuring.
* The formal opening of the High Mill at Verdant Works took place.  It was a very well-attended event and the restoration of the High Mill is simply superb – I would thoroughly recommend a visit.    Sir Neil Cossons, the eminent historian and leading authority on the industrial heritage, performed the official opening.    I had the opportunity to speak with Sir Neil, who is very pleasant and interesting.     A few photos from the opening of the High Mill :
Large turnout for the High Mill formal opening
Part of the High Mill restoration
Sir Neil Cossons performs the official opening
The beautifully restored Boulton and Watt steam engine

Mary Slessor: Mill Girl to Magistrate

Thanks to generous funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, an exhibition is currently taking place in the city about Mary Slessor, a centrepiece of the centenary commemorations of her life and work.
The exhibition is at Verdant Works @ Scotland’s Jute Museum and is free to visit.
The main exhibition is already open and runs until 1st November.    
For more details about Verdant Works, please call 309060.
The centenary exhibition tells the story of Mary Slessor’s journey from Dundee mill girl to missionary and later magistrate in Calabar.    It celebrates her work to improve the lives of the local tribes, in particular the women and children and her ongoing legacy.
You can read more about the exhibition here.

West Henderson’s Wynd and Miln Street

Verdant WorksI have, in recent months, raised with the City Council, the need to improve the road situation near to Verdant Works.

My own view is that there is merit in creating a safer pedestrian entrance to Verdant Works by stopping up West Henderson’s Wynd outside Verdant Works.

The advantages of this are obvious – a safe entrance area for this important visitor attraction (whose visitor numbers are going to continue to increase with the new facility opening at the High Mill), a better meeting point in the event of evacuation of the building due to a fire alarm – and there are other adjacent streets for through traffic so no adverse impact on traffic movements.

I was recently updated by the City Council as follows :

“Just to update you on West Henderson’s Wynd/Miln Street you will be aware that West Henderson’s Wynd, north side of Verdant Works entrance for approximately 25m and a section of Miln Street is currently closed for building operations.

At the previous meeting with Verdant Works management this closure was discussed and it was agreed that this temporary closure would be a good trial for any permanent stopping up section or one way proposals.

As previously advised as part of the development works at Verdant Works they were considering alternative entrance arrangements including people with disabilities and would submit these proposals to Dundee City Council for permission.

Please be assured we will continue communications with Verdant Works following submission of their proposals.”

High Mill Open Gallery Project

Yesterday, I had a productive meeting with Mark Munsie, Operations Director and Gill Poulter, Heritage & Exhibitions Director, both of the Dundee Heritage Trust, regarding the High Mill Open Gallery Project.
I had previously met Mark back in September 2013 soon after the announcement of the Heritage Lottery Fund being allocated £1.48 million to the project and it was good to learn of the good progress that has been made with the project, with the restoration work on time and on budget.
The High Mill Open gallery will open to the public in late summer 2015 and will be a fantastic new facility in the city.
The photo below shows the external scaffold of High Mill at present :

Unleashing Creativity at Dundee and Angus College

Over 30 budding creative entrepreneurs from Dundee and Angus College have been working with Dundee Heritage Trust partners on an exciting range of projects for the new High Mill Open Gallery. The entrepreneurs consisted of 3D designers and interactive media developers.
The 3D design entrepreneurs developed plans and sketch perspectives to illustrate their design ideas for the interior of the new Hill Mills Open Gallery.    These designs were then developed into 2D digital models using specialist 2D software.
The brief for the Interactive Media entrepreneurs was to develop a mobile friendly website for the gallery.    The website allows visitors to access architects drawings and get the latest news and images on the development of the gallery.
This exhibition is open daily at Verdant Works until 18th January and will demonstrate the development phases for both these projects, along with the finished products.   It is well worth a visit.

Celebrations in Dundee’s Jute Mills

Currently running at Verdant Works, this exhibition is an exciting chance to view a selection of fascinating objects from Dundee Heritage Trust’s collection, which aims to show how the jute mills of Dundee were frequently centres of celebration. 
Far from being simply places of work, this exhibition will reveal how the mills had tightly-knit communities, which were keen to celebrate the qualities and achievements of their co-workers and also to recognise important events such as weddings, coronations and anniversaries. 
This is also a unique opportunity to see some previously unseen items which have only recently been acquired by the Verdant Works.   Mills featured in the exhibition include Pitalpin Mill, Camperdown Works and Dudhope Works. 
You can read more about this free exhibition here.

The Warp and Weft of Life

A very interesting exhibition highlight the history of the work and life of the Dundee weaver is taking place the Verdant Works Social History Gallery until Sunday 6th April.  
Titled “The Warp and Weft of Life” it was originally displayed a couple of years ago and the current exhibition is giving the public another chance to view a selection of striking framed images from Dundee Heritage Trust’s superb historic photographic collection.
Dundee Heritage Trust also has an on-line collections database covering Dundee’s social, textiles and maritime history that you can access here.

High Mill Open Gallery Project

Also yesterday, I had a very useful meeting with Mark Munsie, Director of the Dundee Heritage Trust, regarding the High Mill Open Gallery Project.   Having visited the High Mill last year and seen the deteriorated state of the mill (apart from the renovated Verdant Works), it was great to be updated on the success thus far of the Trust’s fundraising to have the High Mill fully restored and opened as a tourist attraction to complement the existing excellent Verdant Works museum.
The High Mill will be given a complete refurbishment which, while retaining all of its historic features will also see it turned into a gallery space.   Original machinery from the mill will be renovated and become features in the space, while other mill machinery owned by Dundee Heritage Trust will be brought back into public view.   In addition, a large steam engine, which is owned by Dundee City Council and is currently in pieces, will be reconditioned as one of the major exhibits in the gallery.
The project will cost over £2.2 million and the Heritage Lottery Fund has allocated £1.48 million to the project.  With Historic Scotland having allocated £500,000 towards emergency repairs, and other funding, the project’s funding is almost fully in place.
This is a highly exciting project that should see the High Mill Open gallery open to the public in 2015.

Community music event at Verdant Works

Update from Petra Vergunst, community musician :
Singers wanted for a community music event at Verdant Works on Saturday 27th October
We are now looking for singers (experience is not required) to join the chorus at Verdant Works on Saturday 27th October from 1pm to 4 pm.
The event will be the culmination of the community music project Warp and Weft.   This project, commissioned by Dundee Heritage Trust with money from Dundee’s Weaver Craft, celebrates the 500th anniversary of the weaving trade in Dundee.
The public singing event consists of a workshop to rehearse We Can Dance, We Can Swing, a ten-minute work for narrator, mezzo soprano, baritone, chorus, flute, violin and cello, written and composed by community musician Petra Vergunst.  The libretto is inspired by conversations with people who used to work in the jute industry or had family who did so, held during a Memories Weekend at Verdant Works last August. 
For the workshop on 27th October, community musician Petra Vergunst is looking for singers who want to join the chorus. The singing rehearsal will take place on 27th October from 1pm to 3 pm, followed by an informal performance for friends and family at 3.30 pm. People of all ages are welcome to join the choir. Singing experience is not required and participation in the event is free.
If you want to join the community chorus, please let me know by email ( by Wednesday 24th October or by phoning Dundee Heritage Trust’s Education and Community Outreach Officer Brian Kelly on 309078. 
For more information about the community music project Warp and Weft itself, please contact Dundee Heritage Trust’s Education and Community Outreach Officer Brian Kelly at

Further concern over Queen Victoria Works

Over a long period, I have raised concerns about the dilapidated state of the former Queen Victoria Works between Brook Street and Douglas Street.    

The concerns were raised again recently by residents of Pleasance Court at a meeting I held with them.

Following this, I raised the concerns again with the City Council and the Head of Planning has advised:

“Building Standards Officers have regularly inspected this property following the receipt of numerous reports.  These inspections have confirmed that a reasonable level of site security is achieved such that no law abiding citizen could inadvertently find themselves at risk within the existing perimeter walls.

A recent inspection on 28 May 2012, following a report that the Mill was accessible to children, again indicated the site to reasonably well secured.  A loose security mesh grill was identified over a ground floor window to the building on Brook Street and dislodged lining boards were observed to a timber gate to the Lower Pleasance elevation.  Neither of these damaged/vandalised areas created a significant or immediate breach of the site perimeter security.  However, when one of my officers returned the following day to effect repairs, the loose security mesh (and others which did not necessarily require it) had been re-secured by spot welding and the timber gate had been boarded over.  It is assumed that these works had been carried out by the owner, or on the owner’s behalf.

The owner has intimated that regular security checks are carried out on the premises.  

The serving of a Dangerous Building Notice may be subject to technical or legal challenges via the appeals procedure.  Any such Notice would set out a description of works to be undertaken and a timescale for completion.  In the event of an owner’s default, the Council would be required to instruct the works required by the Notice and recover costs reasonably incurred.  Such costs can only be recovered where the owner has sufficient funds.  Emergency Works can be instructed without a formal Notice, but this action has to be justified, and creates the same issues in cost recovery as indicated above.
The condition of this site will continue to be kept under review.”

I have responded saying:

“I am pleased that there was a recent inspection but remain concerned about the continuing decline in the condition of the site and the owner’s lack of any real action to address this other than alleged infrequent “security checks.”

I note what you write about the Dangerous Building Notice but given the long term decline of this historic mill, I feel this is a procedure the City Council should now be initiating – the alternative is simply to see the mill’s state to decline to an extent that demolition is the only answer and I convinced that the City Council has a responsibility to ensure that does not happen.”

Here’s two photographs I took last week that show the extent of deterioration of the mill:
The City Council’s Chief Executive has agreed to my request to reconvene a working party to tackle vacant and derelict buildings in the city.   I have asked him to ensure that this group swiftly tackles issues like Queen Victoria Works and Verdant Works.  Dundee has an industrial heritage that is in danger of being lost – and the City Council has a key role in ensuring this does not happen. 

Dundee’s West End 1750-1950 – Through the Eyes of an Illustrator

Verdant Works – until Sunday 22nd April – with free admission.

A special exhibition of around 50 ink and colour wash art works by illustrator Keith Walker.

Featuring images of familiar landmarks and locations; some still existing, others gone but within living memory and others much further back in time such as ancient drover’s roads which Keith has recreated. All the pictures are based on meticulous research from old maps, photographs and street directories undertaken in the libraries and archives of Dundee.

Places on show include Roseangle, Balgay, Magdalen Yard, Blackness House, Guthrie Street, Hawkhill, Sinderins, the ‘Blue Mountains’ and the ‘Witches Knowe’.

Keith studied at Duncan of Jordanstone, the old ‘tech’, and then worked as an illustrator for DC Thomson full time for 50 years. He worked on numerous publications including Commando and The Scots Magazine and also worked as a motoring illustrator.

Keith has been interested in Dundee history all his life and this exhibition is the culmination of a personal project that has engrossed him for 50 hours a week for the past 3 years.

Verdant Works and the High Mill – Dundee’s industrial heritage

This afternoon, along with a representative of Dundee Heritage Trust, I had a tour of the parts of Verdant Works  and the High Mill that have not, as yet, been restored and, left in their current state, are under threat.

As the photos below indicate, these areas of the mill are a stunning representation of Dundee’s industrial past.    There has been interest shown by Historic Scotland and we discussed possible options.   It will be a challenge to secure a positive solution but it is absolutely worth progressing.   To see the neglect and decay of nearby Queen Victoria Works, it reminds us of the need to preserve our city’s historical heritage.