Mary Garden - world renowned operatic soprano, the Madonna of her day. Thomas Blake Glover –a key figure in the industrialisation of Japan, who helped found the shipbuilding company which was later to become Mitsubishi. James McBey - self-taught artist who became best known as an official war artist for the British Government and whose work is displayed globally.

Three very diverse individuals all with one thing in common – they hail from the North East of Scotland. I wonder what they would make of us, and of the region, today if they could see us now?

Aside from their local heritage, they are all connected by their drive, curiosity and focus on what was in front of them – their ‘eyes up’ approach, rather than ‘eyes down’.

It is this kind of focus that attracted me to Vanguard. The Vanguard initiative aims to challenge norms and inspire new ways of thinking in order to write the next chapter in the success story of the Aberdeen city region.

As we enter the next phase of Vanguard’s life-cycle in a world changed immeasurably by COVID-19, it is worth reflecting on what our region might look like if we all adopt an ‘eyes up’ approach to our next chapter.

Better and Bold

The need for ‘bold thinking’ is frequently used whenever change is needed. Sometimes we do need innovative, bold thinking. However, sometimes we also need small, incremental ideas and baby steps forward that can ultimately make a lasting difference.

For me, the volunteers involved in the next phase of Vanguard should be thinking about both of these things as they adopt the mindset of those people that Disney calls ‘Imagineers; - people with creative ideas who can get things done. Vanguard might not always be best placed to deliver some of the ideas that come from the initiative but I have no doubt the people involved have the energy to generate those new ideas, large and small and to take forward those that they can.

When people accept the world is evolving around them, that can often be the time to turn the obstacle in their path into fuel, to see it as an opportunity to do something different. To stop being reactive and to get involved in making a positive change.

The region has made some great strides in recent years and this extraordinary time has given us twists, turns and yet another painful blow to our economy. That said, if we can adopt an ‘eyes up’ approach - accepting the challenges we face and find new ways to work around them – we continue Aberdeen’s march towards a new ‘better’.

Now should be the time to help create the next Mitsubishi. To ensure culture is at the heart of the region by making it accessible to everyone through delivery in our open spaces. By documenting and championing our past to inform our future path. I think that’s what Mary, Thomas and James would like to see us do.