City of Culture bid doomed

by Ken McEwen, Ken McEwen Public Relations

The announcement that Aberdeen has failed to make the short leet for the 2017 UK City of Culture is disappointing, but not surprising.

Comparing the two local rivals – Aberdeen and Dundee – who were aiming for this accolade is quite revealing.

In recent years, Dundee has shown itself to be determined to reinvent itself as a dynamic city, keen to seize and develop new opportunities.

One billion pounds is being invested in the transformation of Dundee Waterfront (pictured below) with an ambitious master plan that includes:
  • Discovery Point and the RSS Discovery
  • Dundee Law
  • The stunning plans for the V&A at Dundee
  • The Front
  • Dock Street Overview
  • Green Park

Dundee Waterfront

Add to this Dundee’s vibrant cultural scene. Then factor in how Dundee has embraced the need to make the city an attractive leisure destination, focusing on culture, leisure and even shopping.

Aberdeen on the other hand, seems to be stuck in the late 20th century mindset of assuming people will want to come into the city centre just because it is there. It expects people to put up with poor public transport, road congestion and limited, expensive parking, just because this is Aberdeen.

I can hear the councillors in the current Aberdeen City Council administration getting ready with their usual response about ‘Aberdeen not getting support from central government’.

To an extent, that is fair comment. Aberdeen does get a raw deal, receiving less of its money per head than any other city. But, you don’t get funding without proving that you have a good case that is worthy of support.

You don’t get government support for doing up the toilets in Union Terrace Gardens, or some odd idea about building a tunnel ‘under the city’ from the station to the gardens. You get government support for bold, step-changing, well-thought-out schemes.

Offered the £192 million regeneration scheme based around the City Garden, with funding and public support attached, the new administration voted it down despite the referendum vote in support.

In doing so, they promised us an alternative plan, but 12 months on we are still waiting. Or did I just miss it?

The apparently random statements from the Town House about pedestrianising Union Street, doing up the Music Hall, refurbishing toilets and building tunnels here, there and everywhere, suggest there is no plan, or even a vision. At the moment the administration appears to be a loose coalition of councillors with different ideas and different agendas.

If there really is a vision, they desperately need PR help to explain it and articulate it!

In these circumstances, it appears that Aberdeen’s City of Culture bid was holed below the waterline before it was even launched.
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