On the back of a surge in visitor numbers to the city, new Dundee Heritage Trust chief Deirdre Robertson wants to build on the tourism boom.
Dundonian Ms Robertson is set to take over leadership of the charity which is dedicated to the preservation of the city’s industrial past. She previously served as chief operating officer and adviser at the Tate Modern art gallery and was a board member of Dundee Contemporary Arts.
As part of her new role, she has the challenging task of fundraising to maintain two of Dundee’s cultural gems – Discovery Point and Verdant Works – against a backdrop of low funding.
Speaking about the job which lies ahead, Deirdre said: “I’ve been incredibly lucky in inheriting two extraordinarily well-loved vistor attractions in Dundee.
“But there’s still a huge amount of work to do. Discovery needs a lot of money spent on it because historic ships need huge investment. We have two Tay Cities Deal bids in at the moment and one of those is a significant reinvestment in Discovery so that’s a clear priority for us and we’re also leading the comic centre bid.”
Proposals to create a space celebrating classic comic characters from the likes of the The Beano and The Broons were revealed in 2016.
Deirdre has a wealth of experience in the heritage industry and is currently a trustee of West Ward Works, the former print works which housed collections of DC Thomson annuals. She said: “One of the key reasons for my involvement at West Ward was to try to create a cultural tourist hub.
“For example, we could have the comic centre or other cultural attractions up there close to Verdant to drive more visitor numbers to that area and will make the whole place more vibrant.”
A key moment in Dundee’s visitor tourism came when the long-awaited V&A opened in September last year.
Figures released this week showed visitor numbers to Discovery Point have since risen by 42% while Verdant Works, which tells the story of Dundee’s industrial textile heritage, recorded an increase of 21%.
Deirdre said: “We’ve had an upsurge in visitor numbers as a consequence of the V&A which is fabulous for us.
“That’s been against a number of years where we have had big losses within the charity so it’s been helping in that regard.
“We need to be cautious though, because who knows how long that upswell will last.
“I’m sure we’ll get two good years at the beginning while everyone is interested but we have to build a sustainable future for all the attractions. We will work together with the V&A and other partners across the city to ensure we retain a tourist offering which will bring people into the city for more than one night.”
The tourism spike comes at a time when the city council has made cuts in the sector, with latest budget papers showing a 25% reduction in funding for the heritage trust.
Deirdre said: “Any cuts in funding are a challenge, particularly against a background of losses in previous years, but we’ve had very constructive relations with Dundee City Council over the development of the V&A and other partnerships.
“It’s a challenging time for all cultural attractions across the UK and we’re no different.
“Any reduction in funding will have an impact and we’ll just have to keep an eye on that in the longer term.”