Something in the City: Design and culture in Dundee

Case Study - Fleet Collective

There’s something poetic and wonderfully apt about a former Chamber of Commerce from Dundee’s Victorian glory days being reinhabited by the kind of light-on-their- feet, creative and canny freelances and small businesses that are helping to power the city’s modern renaissance. Fleet Collective took over the top floor of the Grade A listed Chambers East building in 2011, as an artists’ collective, though the building was then barely habitable. Donna Holford-Lovell, freelance curator and founder of the space, along with graphic designer Lyall Bruce, says: ‘For two years we sat with gas fires on during the winter, [though] the landlord has slowly added a new heating system and insulation.’ With very little in the way of capital, apart from making the top floor sound, furnishings were slowly acquired from the local recycling centre, while those few items left behind from the Chambers of Commerce were upcycled.

A shelving and storage system was improvised from cardboard, thanks to a product designer from Dundee’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design. Says Holford-Lovell: ‘He designed the bespoke shelving to reflect the shape of the hammer-beam roof. Sections were laser cut from two large sheets of cardboard by a London company, shipped up to Dundee and constructed on site, with the help of a scalpel and a glue gun…It cost a couple of hundred pounds and took a week to build.’ Over the past five years, Fleet has proved itself as a vital hub for a range of artists, PRs, designers, writers, curators and film-makers, connecting Dundee’s talent pool with clients and networks across the UK and beyond. Says Holford-Lovell: ‘We are a community-interest company and all our profits are fed back into the collective to grow facilities and resources. We are committed to the arts, and passionate about using them to make the world a better place.’

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