One year on from the inaugural event, ABZolutely Aberdeen: a Vanguard Conference took place on November 6, 2018. It looked at the plans that have been put in motion by the groups of volunteers working towards creating a bright future for the Aberdeen City Region.
At The Lemon Tree, an audience of around 150 people heard from a panel of inspirational speakers who shared their insights and experiences of working on transformational projects.
These included Bob Keiller, chairman of Scottish Enterprise and founder of consultancy AB15, who spoke about the impact that transformational projects can have on the confidence and economic performance of places; and Mike Galloway, former executive director of city development, Dundee City Council, who talked about the role of culture at the heart of urban renaissance. Mike was part of the Dundee Waterfront project, with the V&A Museum at its heart, a 30 year regeneration initiative which has the cultural industries as the core of its economic strategy. He explained the origins of this project and how he and his team at Dundee City Council have delivered its success to date. Mike also outlined how the project will develop over the next ten years as it reaches its conclusion.
Derek McInnes, manager of Aberdeen Football Club, joined the line up, explaining how they got the city to fall back in love with its football club - and how this journey could provide insight into how to get Aberdeen to fall back in love with itself.
The conference also heard updates on the work the Vanguard teams have been doing across three main project themes:
Tourism – exploring how to take forward key parts of last year’s business case, including a campaign to get local people to become tourists in their own area and creating a package to attract the millennial weekend audience.
City centre – considering how to inject pace into existing activities and further develop the Union Street brand.
Regional narrative – looking at work being undertaken to talk up the North-east, encompassing talent attraction and retention; cultural ambitions and making our city region a ‘cool’ place.
Delegates were also given an update on the Cluster Culture initiative which has been taken forward following funding from Skills Development Scotland and Opportunity North East, with a new, full time role created to promote the North-east as a hub for the life sciences sector.
To see a gallery of images from ABZolutely Aberdeen: A Vanguard Conference, click here.
The history of Vanguard
The Vanguard initiative aims to challenge norms and inspire bold, new ways of thinking in order to write the next chapter in the success story of the Aberdeen city region.
Its roots trace back to a piece of research in 2017 which revealed that three quarters of young professionals in the area felt disenfranchised and uninvolved in the future of the region.
We wanted to create a platform to get them involved in real economic challenges, tasking them with coming up with fresh ideas across a wide range of topics.
In June 2017, we launched an appeal in the local media for volunteers of all ages, experiences, sectors and backgrounds across the North-east business community to volunteer their time and expertise as part of a once in a lifetime opportunity to shape the future economic prosperity of the region.
Around 100 people came forward and were tasked with developing business cases around eight key projects designed to create an amazing legacy for future generations of Aberdonians.
These included what it would take to establish food and drink tourism as a unique regional selling point, how best to galvanise a new generation of independent retailers at the heart of our town centres, how to retain the graduate talent coming out of our universities; and how to re-invent Union Street as a shining, vibrant mile to be proud of.
In December 2017, the Vanguardees put their presentations forward at the Route to Renaissance Vanguard Conference, presenting them to a panel of ‘judges’ including representatives from both local authorities. Delegates at the conference were also asked to vote on the projects they felt would have most impact.
Following on from the passion, enthusiasm and desire to effect meaningful positive change in the region in 2017, 2018 has been about using all the effort our Vanguardees put in during phase 1 to make great things happen in the region that, without Vanguard, would not.