Wednesday 30 November 2011

Magdalen Artists at The Vine

As part of this year’s West End Christmas Week, a group of local artists are exhibiting in the West End at the historic Vine building.   The Vine was built in 1836 for George Duncan MP. It is a substantial single storey villa, a neo-Greek pavilion set upon a plinth and set within spacious gardens overlooking the Tay. 

Last summer local community groups enjoyed hosting events in the garden of The Vine but with winter fast approaching the garden is now resting.   The garden's vibrant colour is being kept alive by The Magdalen Artists' exhibition of flowers and fruit.   The West End’s Community Room at The Vine with its domestic proportions is the perfect place to view the paintings.

It is every artist’s dream to exhibit their work in somewhere beautiful and for five Dundee artists this dream has come true, when their exhibition opened on Saturday in the lovely setting of the Vine.   The Vine with is artistic and botanical history is the ideal setting for the Magdalen Artists to show their work. The floral and foliage theme of the exhibition is very much at home in the Vine. Jim Petrie’s work with his trademark bold colour and shape is contrasted by Liz McCarthy’s soft focus flowers with pastel shades. Fiona Moore’s almost photo realistic studies of flowers blend together with Pauline Murray’s work with its detailed oriental floral imagery.  Completing the artist fusion Pat Leishman’s beautifully coloured and composted work of flowers and leaves bring the overall atmosphere of the exhibition to its striking outcome making it an exhibition not to be missed.

For information – Opening times this week 12 noon to 2pm at the Vine, 43 Magdalen Yard Road (opposite Roseangle Car Park).     Magdalen Artists are Pat Leishman, Pauline Murray, Jim Petrie, Liz McCarthy, Fiona Moore. 

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Ancrum Road Primary School's Library - 10th Anniversary - some more photographs!

Last week, I mentioned that I had had the pleasure of attending Ancrum Road Primary School's library 10th anniversary celebrations.

Now, with grateful thanks to DC Thomson for their kind permission, here's some more photos from this event :

All photographs courtesy and © D.C.Thomson & Co., Ltd

Nethergate Writers' success!

Last night, after the City Council meetings, I managed to attend some of the very enjoyable Nethergate Writers'  reading evening, with live music and refreshments, taking place at the Vine as part of West End Christmas Week.

It was a superb turnout and here's a short video of part of the introduction that I made, thus showing off my lack of skill in videoing!

Monday 28 November 2011

Well done Ancrum Road Primary School's A Team!

Further to Saturday's West End Christmas Week launch and P5s' football tournament, and with thanks to WestFest for sponsoring the football and to Alan Richardson for the photos below, my congratulations go to Ancrum Road Primary School's A Team - West End football champions!

Tonight's Council Committees

Following my surgeries this afternoon at the Mitchell Street Centre and at Harris Academy, I attended tonight's City Council meetings at which :

* At Education Committee, I sought assurances from the City Council's Chief Executive that the council's involvement in the East Scotland Territory Hub for capital projects will ensure Best Value, will give local contractors a fair share of the work and that funding per square metre on schools' projects from the Scottish Futures Trust is sufficient to build a high-quality new Harris Academy building.

* At Policy & Resources Committee, I welcomed the City Council's support for the Whitehall Theatre, but sought assurances about the continuing role of the theatre's superb volunteers.

* The item on local road speed limits was withdrawn from the City Development Committee agenda at short notice.    The Director of City Development has advised me :

"It has been withdrawn to enable a review of the key recommendations and will come back to Committee as soon as possible."

I have made clear that the 40 mph reduced speed limit proposed for Riverside Drive and Riverside Avenue should be retained in any revised report.

* I joined with colleagues in thanking all who made last Friday's Christmas Light Night such a success and also took the opportunity to mention Thursday's forthcoming West End Christmas Lights switch on!

Another West End Christmas Week event!

A reminder that the Nethergate Writers' reading and social event takes place at the Vine tonight.   

In their latest anthology, A Private View, Nethergate Writers find inspiration from exhibits in the McManus collection.   The result is an entertaining, illuminating and sometimes surprising read.

Join us tonight at 7pm at the Vine - 43 Magdalen Yard Road - opposite the Roseangle Car Park.

Dundee Transition Town - new poster

Dundee Transition Town Group has a new downloadable poster :

Sunday 27 November 2011

Many thanks Tesco Riverside!

Yesterday, in addition to attending West End Christmas Week events, I had the pleasure of visiting Tesco Riverside to be presented with the store's generous contribution to this year's Christmas Week in the West End.
From left :  Emma Lyttle (Customer Services Manager at Tesco Riverside), yours truly and Kath Torode (Community Champion at Tesco Riverside)
We are extremely grateful to Tesco and all local businesses for their generous contributions to Christmas Week, without whose support West End Christmas Week would not be possible.   Our many thanks to one and all.

Saturday 26 November 2011

West End Christmas Week Launch - a day in pictures!

We had a superb start to this year's West End Christmas Week today with a really enjoyable Community Fayre at Dundee West Church's community facilities.   I'm most grateful to the Lord Provost for performing the official opening and visiting the community groups' stands as well as the Church Guild's Christmas Coffee Morning.   Here's a few pictures from today!
Lord Provost John Letford opens the West End Community Fayre
The LP purchases some of the excellent baking at the Dundee West Church Guild Coffee Morning
Rev Andrew Greaves shows the Lord Provost the stunning Afghanistan photography exhibition at Roseangle Cafe Arts
The Primary 5's 5 a side football competition about to start at Magdalen Green, kindly sponsored by WestFest
More of the football participants!
Coffee Morning in full swing!

Friday 25 November 2011

All prepared for West End Christmas Week ...

Following a very productive meeting I attended with the City Council's Environment Department and the Western Cemetery Association at the Vine this afternoon, and with thanks to all helpers, we got tomorrow's West End Community Fayre set up at Dundee West Church.

All looking good for the launch for the 2011 West End Christmas Week, our 11th year ...

All set up at Dundee West Church!
The super artwork winners from the West End Christmas Week schools' competition, with thanks to Park Place, Ancrum Road, St Joseph's and Blackness Primary Schools

Thursday 24 November 2011

The show does go on

The hugely talented Freddie Mercury died 20 years ago today.   No-one compares :

Riverside Nature Park - stakeholder meeting

Last night, I attended a very well-attended initial meeting of what we all hope will become a friends' group for the newly opened Riverside Nature Park.

The meeting, kindly hosted by the Dundee Botanic Garden, had three excellent presentations by David Bell, Alison Anderson and Peter Sandwell, and there was real interest in setting up a group to move this superb park further forward.

It was a very positive meeting and will be meet up again early in the New Year to progress this.

West End Christmas Week 2011 - full details!

Further to the item in yesterday's Courier and on, you can now download the West End Christmas Week brochure.

Page One - events and activities - also see below

Page Two - offers, prize draw and thanks!

Two key events!

Saturday 26th November at 10.00am - Christmas Week starts!

The eleventh annual West End Christmas Week will be launched at 10.00am in Dundee West Church’s Community Facilities (enter at top of Roseangle) where a West End Community Fayre is taking place. Many local organisations are participating and all residents are invited to attend. Entrance is entirely free of charge and it will be a great way to learn about all the organisations in the West End that are working for our local area.

At 11am, P5 pupils from our local primary schools will take part in a 5 a side football competition – we are grateful to the Riverside Community Sports Club for organising this.

Thursday 1st December at 6pm – West End Christmas Concert, Christmas Lights Switch On and spectacular fireworks extravaganza!

This year’s West End Christmas Concert takes place at Dundee West Church at 6pm. All local residents are very welcome to attend. There will be musical contributions from local primary and secondary schools and we are also delighted to welcome leading Scottish traditional singer Sheena Wellington and the children of the Russian School that takes place at Harris Academy at weekends. 

At 7pm, the West End Christmas Lights will be switched on at Seabraes by Sheena and characters from the Downfield Musical Society Panto Aladdin! There will be carol singers from the University of Dundee group DARE round the tree and a spectacular fireworks display after the lights switch-on.    This is a super family Christmas night – don’t miss it!

Wednesday 23 November 2011

West End Christmas Week Brochure launch!

The West End Christmas Week Brochure rolled off the presses at local printer Urban Print on Perth Road yesterday afternoon and a number of us were present to see the brochure launched.    A download of the full brochure will be available at shortly!

Barney's Fund, the charitable fund established by Barnetts Motor Group, is kindly sponsoring the West End Community Fayre on Saturday and it was great to welcome Barnetts' representatives to the photocall yesterday, along with some of the Christmas Week committee members who could manage along :
Above from left :  Susan Sherriff of Barnetts Motor Group, Andrew McBride, Chair of West End Community Council, Rev Andrew Greaves of Dundee West Church, yours truly, Frank Urban of Urban Print and Carole Phillips of Barnetts Motor Group.

Friends of Magdalen Green committee meeting

Last night, I was minute-taker at the latest Friends of Magdalen Green committee meeting.    We had a visit from the new Police Inspector for the West End, Inspector Graham Young, and a useful discussion about issues around the green.

We also had a debrief discussion about our highly successful coffee morning, possible new committee members, attending the West End Christmas Week Community Fayre this coming Saturday and the West End Sports and Heritage Association (WESHA - of which Friends of Magdalen Green are part) "visioning exercise" and the sales of our Christmas Cards - going very well!

Getting things done ... Ryehill Lane/Perth Road corner

Following complaints from residents about pink chips lying across the pavement of Perth Road at the corner with Ryehill Lane, my thanks to JC Decaux, the advertising company who own the corner site.   

They have, at my request, replaced the wooden edging to their site - see right.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Balgay Stakeholders' Group meeting

Yesterday, along with two representative of the Friends of Balgay, one of my ward colleagues and City Council Environment Department officers, I attended the latest Balgay Stakeholders' Group meeting.

This group discusses projects and issues at Balgay Park, the Hill, Cemetery and Victoria Park and we had a very productive discussion about a number of matters including ranger-led events planned for the New Year such as path clearing, new signage for the Planet Trail and historic markers, and news that lighting improvements in the park should begin in the next week.

Ancrum Road Primary School's Library - 10th Anniversary

Yesterday, along with the Lord Provost and other invited guests, I had the pleasure of attending the celebration of the 10th Anniversary of Ancrum Road Primary School's superb library - surely one of the best amongst the city's primary schools.

The school, staff and parent volunteers deserve much thanks for their efforts in creating a lovely, well-stocked library.

Whilst there, and along with Davie Bowman of Dundee United, I met the two Ancrum Road Primary School P5 five-a-side football teams that are playing in the West End Christmas Week Primary Schools' Football Competition on Friday, kindly sponsored by WestFest.    Here's the two teams with Davie (back right) and Mrs O'Rourke, Ancrum Road Primary School's Head Teacher (front right) :

Dundee's Christmas Light Night - Friday 25th November

Just before I spend a lot of the next few days covering the impending West End Christmas Week, here's an update on the Christmas Light Night for the city, taking place this Friday :

Christmas Light Night - Friday 25th November
From 6pm
Dundee City Centre

The street party begins with the peal of church bells, a magical torchlight procession, followed by the official switching on of the Christmas lights kicking off a fun packed programme of entertainment for all the family.

The whole city centre opens up and becomes an event arena with performances from local groups and entertainers at outdoor locations and indoor venues.  Stroll around and enjoy some of the city's best talent.

Put the date in your diary and download the full programme!

Monday 21 November 2011

Cutting speed on Riverside Drive and Riverside Avenue

In today's Courier, I welcomed the proposal by the City Council to reduce the speed limit at the western entrance to the city.    The proposal, to limit vehicle speed on Riverside Drive and Riverside Avenue to 40 mph between Tesco Riverside and the Landmark Hotel at the city’s west entrance, has resulted in a number of residents contacting me today to welcome this (currently 25 for - 2 against!)   It is something I have long campaigned for.   

The proposal for speed reduction will be considered by the Council’s City Development Committee next Monday and, if agreed, would mean the inconsistency of the east entrance to Dundee (Ethiebeaton Retail Park to Claypotts) being a 40 mph speed limit but Riverside being 50 mph would be ended, with both entrances having a safer 40 mph limit.

There is much merit in having a safer speed limit on this part of Riverside Drive and Riverside Avenue – not least that it will allow for the possible future construction of pedestrian crossings at appropriate points – for example at the playing fields on Riverside Drive and at the Riverside Nature Park on Riverside Avenue.   A 40 mph limit makes such pedestrians crossings possible.

I would also point to residents’ concerns following a number of car accidents on the stretch of road over the years – the most recent being the tragic death of a local man crossing Riverside Drive in February of this year.

Even with committee approval, there will have to be discussion with Perth and Kinross Council as a short part of Riverside Avenue after the turn-off to Invergowrie is in Perth and Kinross Council’s area.   

I was interviewed on Radio Tay News about this issue today - click 'play' to listen:

Temporary Traffic Order - Douglas Street

From the City Council :

Dundee City Council proposes to make an Order under Section 14(1) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 for the purpose of facilitating works for flooding investigations.  The Order is expected to be in force for two weeks from 5 December 2011.  Its maximum duration in terms of the Act is eighteen months.

The effect of the Order is to prohibit temporarily all vehicular traffic in Douglas Street from its junction with Milnes East Wynd for a distance of 20 metres or thereby in an easterly and westerly and southerly direction.

Pedestrian access and vehicular access to premises will be maintained where possible.

An alternative route will be available via Park Street, Brewery Lane, Lower Pleasance and reverse.

Please forward any comments you may have regarding this proposal to the Network Management Team, City Development Department, Dundee House, 50 North Lindsay Street, Dundee  DD1 1LS, no later than five working days prior to the commencement date.  If you have any queries please call 433168.

Monday music ...

A Stevie Wonder classic ...

Sunday 20 November 2011

Music from Nablus

Four musicians from An Najah National University, Nablus playing the oud, Arabic flute and keyboards will enchant you with traditional songs and music :

Tuesday 22nd November at 7pm (doors open 6.40pm)

Steps Theatre, Wellgate, Dundee DD1 1DB  (Victoria Road entrance)

Tickets £8 (Concessions £6,  under 16 free)

For tickets phone Catherine Rice 07757 356 930 or email

Special offer - join Dundee-Nablus Twinning Association - and get £2 off ticket prices (you can join on the night) - the offer of £2 off does not apply to under 16s who get in free.

LibDem councillors and campaigners get together ...

Yesterday, along with some of my Dundee LibDem colleagues, I attended the party's Kickstart event at the Grampian Hotel in Perth, in preparation for the 2012 local elections.

It was heartening to see the large turnout of party activists from the length and breadth of Scotland.   Jim Hume MSP (right) gave the final address of the day, ending with the immortal tongue-in-cheek mantra - "Go back to your constituencies and prepare for local government!"

Saturday 19 November 2011

Pentland Avenue wall damage

Yesterday, I inspected damage to the walling along Pentland Avenue (see right).

It looks like vandalism but may be accidental.   I am pleased that the Housing Department has reacted very promptly, already removing the fallen bricks and surveying the site yesterday to get repairs underway.

Today at the Wighton Heritage Centre ...

Dundee singer Sheena Wellington is guest at the Friendsof Wighton Cappuccino Concert today, Saturday 19th November.

This popular Saturday morning concert series is held in the atmospheric surroundings of the Wighton Heritage Centre, upstairs in Dundee Central Library.

In this Saturday's concert, Sheena will be drawing on both the traditional and literary strands of the Wighton Collection, an internationally important collection of old Scottish music books from centuries past, which is housed and displayed in the Centre.

Sheena's performance will range from the Muckle Sangs, or big ballads, to some of the less travelled byways of Burns, Moore and Nairne.

Admission to the concert is £5, which includes complimentary coffee and newspapers served from 10.30am, and the music will begin at 11am.

Dundee Central Library

Friday 18 November 2011

West End Local Community Planning Partnership meeting

Last night, after my weekly surgery at Blackness Primary School, I attended the latest meeting of the West End Local Community Planning Partnership, taking place at the Tartan Coffee House on Perth Road.

It was a lengthy but very productive meeting at which there were presentations on Dundee West park and ride and on the Community Carbon Exchange.   The Community Carbon Exchange has operated successfully in the Coldside and Maryfield and an extension of activity to the West End will be welcome.

The new draft local community plan for the West End was agreed, the success of the local Fire and Rescue service in minimising fires during the period around Bonfire Night was applauded, as was work of local police services in protecting the local area.   

We also discussed derelict buildings locally that blight the area and my suggestion of the council again having a Derelict Land Working Group to tackle the issue, as well as a number of other West End issues.   

Dundee College - fabulous Gardyne Campus

Later yesterday afternoon, I had a very interesting tour of the fabulous newly opened Gardyne Campus of Dundee College and I am most grateful to the Depute Principal of the college for the guided tour of what is a superb learning facility - see right.

My main reason for the visit was to see the TV facilities, given my interest in the Fife and Tayside television consortium.

Dundee College's new facilities are tremendous but, as I have already highlighted, the Scottish Government is disproportionately cutting college funding - and this will affect the life chances of thousands of local young people.   

In the forthcoming period, Scotland’s block grant from Westminster for the period represents a cash increase of 1.9%.   The way in which the Scottish Government has chosen to distributed these slightly increased funds is as follows in cash terms:

Local authorities     -5.2%
Universities     +14.6%
Colleges     -13.6%

Despite having slightly more cash (albeit a real terms cut given the challenges of budget deficit) from Westminster, the SNP government has chosen to cut colleges disproportionately, with a 13.6% cash cut representing a real terms cut of around 20%.   This comes on the back of both colleges and universities having had a 10.4% cash cut this year - 2011/12.   Over the 4 year period (including this year), total college budgets will have reduced in cash terms by almost 25%.   


Willie Rennie MSP, Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, has already called on the First Minister to use the Barnett consequentials of the English Council Tax freeze (£67 million) to plug the college funding gap.   Time for the SNP government to act.

Al-Maktoum College Graduation Ceremony

Yesterday afternoon, I had the pleasure of attending the 2011 graduation ceremony of the Al-Maktoum College of Higher Education, that took place in the Marryat Hall.

It was great to see the academic success of the graduates being recognised and the college, situated in Blackness Road, going from strength to strength.   In the past year, the college has undergone a name change from Institute to College - recognition of its role as an independent and internationally-recognised research-led college of higher education.

Next year, the college celebrates its 10th anniversary here in Dundee.   It has achieved much thus far and has a bright future ahead.

Thursday 17 November 2011

Getting things done ... Abbotsford Street

On behalf of local residents, I recently requested from the City Council an additional grit bin at the east end of Abbotsford Street, in advance of the wintry weather.   

I am pleased to advise that the City Engineer has responded positively as follows :

"With reference to the request for a grit bin in Abbotsford Street, an assessment has been carried out by a Road Maintenance Partnership inspector against the current grit bin criteria. 

I am pleased to advise that a grit bin is to be set out on in Abbotsford Street on the path next to the electricity sub station and this will be set out in the near future."

Dundee Food Train

Earlier this year, the City Council agreed to supporting the idea of a Food Train in Dundee.

The Food Train is a Scottish charity providing a vital grocery delivery service to older people.  This service is run by volunteers and it is now recruiting for volunteers to come forward to help.

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Getting things done in Pentland ...

I have previously mentioned the need to trim foliage across the footway in Pentland Avenue that made the footway difficult to negotiate - see below :
I am pleased to say that, after numerous reminders, the City Council has now got the trees trimmed (and at another location in the estate) - the picture below was taken at dusk yesterday, but the improvement is obvious :

Tuesday 15 November 2011

... and then there was Tuesday ...

As reported in tonight's Evening Telegraph, I have condemned the irresponsible persons who drove across the football pitches at Riverside over the weekend leaving the pitches damaged - see right.

I am pleased to say that, having spoken with the City Council's Head of Environmental Management about the situation, he has promised remedial works and the offer from the Riverside Sunday Morning League to assist with this is both generous and welcome.

Tonight, I attended Dundee Contemporary Arts' Finance and Operations Sub-Committee at which there was productive discussion on a number of financial and administrative matters.

Monday 14 November 2011

Monday ...

After my surgeries late this afternoon at the Mitchell Street Centre and at Harris Academy, I attended tonight's City Council meetings.

* At the Environment Committee, I welcomed proposed playground improvements across the City, including at Lochee Park, Milnbank and the Roseangle car park.    I sought and received assurances that the City Council will work with Friends Groups like Friends of Magdalen Green that wish to work in partnership with the council to see further improvements to play equipment in their local area.   Its an obvious point that this should not be at the expense of the council providing resources for improvements, but the work of Friends Groups that flourish in the West End Ward and across the city should be encouraged, not discouraged, and its good that the council's senior officers recognise that.

* At the Housing Committee, I welcomed a sensible proposal to improve a block of flats in Charleston with a view to sale on the open market.   Given the background, this is a sensible way forward.

* At the Policy and Resources Committee, I asked questions about the doubling of the City Council's Credit Card bill between 2009/10 and 2010/11 and sought assurances about best value of goods procured.  This follows the highlighting of the council's credit card costs.

After City Council meetings, I took part in a very useful training session at Number 10 (Dundee Voluntary Action) on setting up a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation.    A number of the West End Sports and Heritage Association (WESHA) team attended and we found this evening's training event to be extremely helpful.

Wave 102 News - on Dundee College Cuts

I am on Wave 102 News this morning about the concerns over Dundee College funding cuts - click 'play' to listen :

TACTRAN quarterly e-newsletter

With the permission of TACTRAN, our regional transport partnership for Tayside and Central Scotland, you can download the latest quarterly e-newsletter from TACTRAN by going to

Subjects covered in this edition are :

  • progress on improving rail services through Tay Estuary Rail Study (TERS) work;
  • approval of  the Tayside and Central Scotland Health and Transport Framework;
  • progress on Travel Planning support for public and private sector employers;
  • development of plans for a Freight Consolidation Centre in Perth;
  • progress on the delivery of TACTRAN's revenue and capital projects
Having chaired TACTRAN between 2007 and 2009, I am hugely supportive of the need for strategic regional transport planning and projects and it is good to see TACTRAN's continuing progress.