Sense of Place – part three

electric theatre

I started using QR Codes in 2010 – firstly to see if I could add any value to advertising. I then became more interested in education and developing the ‘game’ element (of what were essentially digital treasure hunts) to engage children in learning activities.

Conveniently, in the middle of this diversion from advertising in education I was asked to create a trail for an eTouirsm PhD Summer School at the School of Computer Science at St Andrews University. One of the lecturers had been watching the NEoN Knights QR Game unfold on Twitter and got in touch.

QR page mini-banner

His brief was for my trail to achieve two things: 1) An example, on day one, of technology enabling tourism that would prompt discussion and encourage the students to design their own ‘products’ throughout the remainder of the week. 2) An ice breaker, an introduction for the students (most of whom would be travelling from across Scotland) to St Andrews and to each other.

The aim of the eTourism trail, from my perspective, was a combination of both advertising and education. For a city like St Andrews those tow things are inseparable because the majority of the tourism is heritage and history.

St Andrews Space Hop

It was also an opportunity to engage with a Twitter/Social Media active community of independent traders across St Andrews who would value the interaction with tourism in a technological way and boast about it through their online channels.

The combination of these three opportunities has prepared me with the experience to create at least two other trails (though their have been more) that both educate and entertain:


Dighty Water – A vital stretch of water in Dundee’s history; rich with stories that have been gathered and tagged to QR Codes that will be dotted along portions of the walkway that follows the water.

And now:


Sense of Place (SoP): The McManus, Dundee

The McManus has a fantastic permanent collection, curated under the title of The Making of Modern Dundee (MoMD). This collection is situated down stairs at The McManus includes remnants of the original Tay Bridge that collapsed in 1879, through to video games from the 1980s created in the city. Many of the objects in this collection inspired work created for Sense of Place. Without moving them, we wanted to acknowledge them as part of our exhibition. QR Codes were the simple solution.


Throughout the SoP exhibition programme visitors will find QR Codes alongside project descriptions. These codes deliver additional content and help visitors understand the connection to MoMD – you may even find a sample hide here…

However, should you wander into MoMD knowing nothing about SoP there are QR Codes on the display cases that point you to the relevant work in our exhibition.


For me, it is the richest combination of physical and digital artefacts that I have worked on and another accomplishment in the image of the model I established with my Masters ‘Mystery Boxes’ project during 2011.

As if this wasn’t enough, the content behind some of the QR Codes are pieces of work that could constitute an exhibition for themselves. Trips across the Tay Bridge replicating a journey made, captured and shared over 100 years ago. Besides that you can share in the tour of MoMD that we made as a group with Brian Cox and hear him recounting memories of growing up an living in 1950s Dundee.


The thread through all of this is a desire to preserve memories, stories and experiences. While this feels very new, because the technology is so ubiquitous in 2013, we learned that our capturing and sharing activity is no different, in practice, to that of 1897. More people have access to the tools but the majority of them are filming the mundane processes of daily life as the pioneering filmmakers of the late 19th Century had. Train journeys. People at work. Children at school.

So, I am very grateful to ‘Sense of Place’. As I’ve said before, working with the young people was rewarding/entertaining enough. But in addition to that, together we’ve worked on projects that we will talk about for the rest of our lives – Tay Bridge journey, SmallPetitKlein, Brian Cox, the BIG Print, and so on… Finally, the fact that we’ve had the opportunity to bring it all together for the exhibition is the icing on the cake. But not just any old icing. Elaborate, swirly, multicoloured icing with adornments of sweet decorations covering a beautifully hand-made cake. That’s what it’s like.

Go along. Have a look. Let me know what you think.

Thanks :)

Find out more about:

NEoN Knights (Digital Arts Festival) – St Andrews Space Hop (St Andrews Uni PhD Summer School) – Balmullo Primary School (Permanent Heritage Trail)

Creativity requires courage

SuperFly images

Ever have a great idea and someone pips you to the post?

I once pitched an idea to a web developer friend which got us both quite excited for a while. Soon after it became clear that the people we thought would benefit from this idea just weren’t ready for it! Three years later I discovered ‘Etsy’ for the first time and gave myself a bit of a kicking! Such is life for ‘the ideas man’!

I was involved in a project recently and and someone suggested we get a ‘thank you’ present for the organiser, although they were a bit concerned that we might upset the person who originated the idea (they had to pass on managing the project for personal reasons). My response was that there is a million miles between having an idea and actually seeing it through.

And “Here”, as the man said, “…endeth the lesson”.

Besides being creative you have to be courageous. Sometimes it financial. Sometimes it’s confidence. Either way, If you get pipped to the post then you’ve no one to blame but yourself.

So, my ‘Etsy’-ish idea passed me by, but I delivered elsewhere..!

SuperFly Flyer

This other idea I sat on for about five years before getting a wave of confidence in 2009. In the Dundee, where I worked, there was a legal fly-posting system managed by Street Advertising Services (SAS). I always saw fly-posting as ‘exhibition space’, and being averse to traditional gallery spaces I saw the need for an alternative.

I established SuperFly as a creative platform and exhibition for artists and designers of all disciplines, founded on two key criteria:

1.    No submission fees
2.    No traditional gallery spaces

Having gathered in over 150 submissions from almost 70 artists, 7 pieces were chosen, each having 5 posters across the City of Dundee. It was a success! Off the back of this show I collaborated with Glasgow creative collective ‘Central Station’ who were organising a pop-up event in Dundee. Consequently I curated an exhibition for them of five Dundee artists. The street poster sites were part exhibition, part advertising space for the event.

Back to 2013 and I have a sense of deja-vu!’
Art Everywhere’ is an initiative to put ‘classic’ artwork on billboard sites across the UK (read more on Creative Review’s blog here) . To be fair, this project is “Gone With The Wind” to my “Local Hero” but I wouldn’t hav it any other way. All involved contributed their time, print and space for free and all of the artists were pretty much unknown (My first show even had a ‘Burt Lancaster’ equivalent in Scotland’s Johanna Basford).

Painful TV appearance:

So SuperFly may not have had the ‘national’ impact of ‘Art Everywhere’ but I’m sure as far as some people are concerned it had the ‘personal’ impact. SuperFly kicked of a whole string of projects and collaborations, for me and it’s artists, that are continuing today; and if nothing else, I’m just relieved that I’m not sitting here writing about ‘another idea’ that I should have done something with! Creativity requires courage!

So, this time four years ago I was about to launch the inaugural SuperFly. Do you have any memories of SuperFly? If so please post them here. You’ll find out more about SuperFly here; and while nothing is planned for the future, we never say never!