Nick Barley finds his expectations smashed when he heads off for a weekend in DUNDEE
e park the camper van near the city centre and
within minutes we're confronted by troubling
scenes of urban squalor. 'l‘hree boys — probably
no older than l2 — are skiying from school. hanging around
a derelict building. There’s rubble and old furniture
everywhere. and the kids look undernourished. ()ne of them
is smashing glass bottles against a wall coyered in graffiti. Welcome to Dundee.
01‘. to be more specific. welcome to Dundee
Contemporary Arts. What we‘re watching is a brilliant and
haunting lilm. made by (ierman artist Anna Klamroth. of
young boys playing in a derelict sports stadium in eastern Berlin. The docutnentary footage is shot in a place where the glories of Soyiet communism were once paraded to the world in the shape of muscular. heroic swimmers and gymnasts. Now. it‘s a symbol of Germany’s continuing problems after reunification.
Dundee is following the opposite trajectory. Just fiye years ago. it was a post-industrial mess. struggling to deal with the had blood and low self-esteem caused by 50 years of industrial decline. Today. the city‘s on a roll. The news may only be filtering out slowly to the rest of Scotland. but make no mistake about it. this city is actually becoming ﬁrs/zirmulﬂe.
I‘ve come for a short weekend break with my partner » a chance to escape the stresses of life in the central belt ~ and witnessing this extraordinary piece of art reminds us how different the city has becotne since we first yisited in 1998.
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Not only does l)(‘.'\ earn respect and raye reyiews all met‘ the world. but it has also created a social hub — the bit/xing .lute Bar — for l)undonians. Just as importantly. there’s a new four star hotel in the city which is best place to stay for under L'l()(). anywhere in Scotland. ' Let's get this clear: I'm not suggesting Dundee’s the new Barcelona. The legacy of bad city planning is all too evident in the dual carriageway which caryes its way right along the otherwise impressiye waterfront. and the Victorian architecture of the town is generally dour and uninspiring. But despite this. and totally against many people‘s expectations. Dundee punches aboye its weight in a number of quite surprising ways. A small city with just l5().()()() residents that was once famous only for producing jute. marmalade. and Dennis the Menace. it has become a brilliant place for a cheap weekend away. Don't belieyc me'.’ Then check out some of the things we did on our lightning Visit. and decide for yottrself. Saturday. 4.30pm A spot of culture at l)(';\. :\s it approaches its fifth anniversary. the gallery has established itself as one of the best places in the country for contemporary art. It‘s always beautifully installed. there's neycr any pscudy bullshit on the walls. and you can be sure that art‘s at the cutting edge.
The Spa and hotel rooms at Apex City Quay, just minutes away from
THE NEWS MAY BE FILTERING OUT ‘ SLOWLY, BUT THIS CITY IS ACTUALLY BECOMING FASHIONABLE