Dundee is one of Scotland’s true creative hubs, a city moving from the shadow of post-industrial decline to claim a new idea as a centre for innovative thinking. Gloriously located on the side of an extinct volcano called the Law, the city is famously the sunniest in Scotland, and is rapidly coming into its own once more.
This year, BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend rolls into town, its first visit to Dundee since 2006. Back then, The View were hot young things, and the city’s underground was primed and waiting for a bit of exposure. Could lightning strike twice? Well, a host of new Dundee artists are bubbling up, already making their mark across the country.
Take Theo Bleak. A vivid songwriter who thrives on honesty, she’s supported everyone from Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and Suede to Glasgow pop polymath Joesef, releasing two brilliant EPs in the process.
There’s no better guide to Dundee, then, than this potent pop voice. With Theo Bleak’s new EP ‘Iliad’ out now, Clash caught up with her to gain some unique insights into her home city.
I currently live with my family in the seaside suburb of Dundee, but before that I stayed in a flat on the Law. I walk along the Ferry Beach most days, making the most of the fierce fresh air from the North Sea. For many years I would sit on the same bench, looking towards the two bridges and watching the sunset. That bench is no longer there, but for the most part this sleepy part of Dundee has stayed the same since I was at school here.
Either by walking along the docks, or catching the bus I make my way into Dundee City Centre. My first degree in Philosophy was from the University of Dundee so I’m well acquainted with the Perth Road – which is where I’d recommend any visitor to head. Dundee University has an amazing art school and just last week I had a great time looking round the Degree show, the textiles department was my favourite!
When I walk along the Perth Road, I tend to firstly beeline for the crystal selection in The Windsor Gallery, I spend ages reading about what each crystal is for before usually buying a handful. I stop off for a coffee and cinnamon swirl from EH9 coffee before crossing the road to look for some vintage finds in SookSouk! Obviously a pint is a must after dinner at my favourite vegan restaurant Loco Rita’s, so the historic Art Bar or Speedwell are my goto’s.
Most Sunday’s I’ll check out Assai Records to see what’s going on and say hello to my boyfriend who works there. Dundee had a really famous and iconic record shop called Grouchos which sadly shut down after the owner passed away. However, multiple record stores have opened since and are absolutely killing it; 13 Records, Le Freak Records and of course Assai Records!
It has been great to see the local music scene growing here in recent years because it was relatively quiet for some time. When I was a teenager the venue Dexters was my usual hangout with other music lovers. More recently the venue Rad Apples has a thriving punk scene and the Hunter S Thompson offers events ranging from house music to indie bands. My dream is to headline the stunning Marryat Hall in Dundee though!
If you’re looking for other things to do in the City, Dock Street Studios and Generator Projects often have local artists exhibiting their work! A walk along riverside drive is another favourite of mine, passing by the Discovery Ship, The V&A and the historic rail bridge. For the best view, you have to get to the top of the Law. From there, you can see every angle of Dundee and even over to Fife on a good day. It always reminds me how stunning the setting of Dundee actually is.
One of my favourite things to do growing up was to run around and picnic at Camperdown Park. I love that such a huge music festival is being held someplace so sentimental to me. Last time the Big Weekend was here in 2006, it did so much to kick start the music scene in Dundee. Let’s hope a bit of that magic happens again!
If you’re heading to the BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend, I’d recommend you going to see Gretyl Hänlyn, Terra Kin, Bemz, Katie Gregson-Macleod and Test Press.
If you need me, I’ll be at The Jonas Brothers! Have fun in Dundee!
Theo Bleak’s new EP ‘Iliad’ is out now.
Photo Credit: Nathan Dunphy