25 years: the cultural renaissance of Dundee, City of Discovery

25 years: the cultural renaissance of Dundee, City of Discovery

Dundee landscape
To celebrate The National Lottery's 25th Birthday, we follow the 'Silv'ry Tay' to see how our funding has transformed Dundee.

Dundee: rising from the River Tay

Scotland’s fourth largest city, with a population of 150,000, sits on the Firth of Tay on the east coast of Scotland. Today, the river that shaped its past is helping define its future.

Home to innovation and industry

Dundee began as a strategic trading post and home to one of Scotland’s largest whaling fleets.

The discovery that the traditional jute fibre manufactured in the city, when mixed with whale oil, could be woven into sacking for bags and carpet backing, saw the city’s fortunes rise.

Dundee emerged as a world centre for jute manufacture, employing 50,000 people in the industry. The city grew rapidly, stretching along eight miles of the river.

That jute industry is now completely gone and after decades of post-industrial decline and neglectful planning, Dundee lost its connection with the river that had once been its lifeblood.

Voyage of rediscovery

Woman looking out over the river
Looking out over the river 


In 2001, a masterplan was published with an ambitious £1billion vision to reverse the decline and reconnect the city with the mighty Tay. Dundee’s strong cultural identity and history of innovation and creativity were fundamental to that plan.

Turning the corner

With the help of over £32m of National Lottery funding supporting over 100 projects, contemporary Dundee has turned a corner. Today it has a vibrant creative and cultural economy. Investment is flowing into the city and businesses are springing up to service the growing number of tourists.

Verdant Works - the once-derelict mill is now, thanks to National Lottery funding, telling the story of Dundee’s incredible jute textile heritage, from the weaving of jute products to the transfer by ship to markets across the world.

School children
Schoolchildren at RSS Discovery


Scott of Antartic’s polar expedition vessel, RRS Discovery, is now a highly popular tourist attraction. Young and old alike climb aboard to explore the Dundee-built ship which left the Tay in 1901.

The opening of Kengo Kuma’s V&A Dundee building, which sits at the heart of Dundee’s waterfront, is having a transformative effect on the city.

Supported by National Lottery funding, the V&A Dundee is one of Scotland’s most important cultural projects in recent years. It celebrates the country’s incredibly rich design heritage while its instantly recognisable architecture strengthens the city’s bond with the river.

Did you know?

Jute – In the 19th century, Dundee’s jute production earned it the nickname ‘Juteopolis’ as the population quadrupled to support the industry. 

Jam – Dundee’s Janet Keillor is credited with inventing marmalade. The Keillor factory once did a booming trade in jams and marmalades across the world.

Journalism – Dundee publishers DC Thomson produced iconic titles such as The Dandy and The People’s Friend as well as Britain’s oldest children’s comic, The Beano, which was first printed in 1938.

25 years of funding for heritage

Over the past 25 years, The National Lottery Heritage Fund has been the largest dedicated grant funder of the UK’s heritage. We’ve awarded £8bn to more than 44,000 projects across the UK.

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