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"If you build it...they will come." Dennis the Menace on Dundee's V&A

We asked Dundee's most impish son to tell us what the new V&A means for his city

Dennis the Menace

“If you build it… they will come.”

That was my promise to big Kengo Kuma and Philip Long the first time we ‘met’. Truth be told, it was not a meeting as such, more a case of me knocking them on to their artistic bahookies, as I skated past them on Dundee’s waterfront. Result!

When I yelled back, “Why the ‘Long’-face, dude?” at the mud-splattered museum director I reckoned I’d guaranteed that I was barred for life, before the first brick had even been laid. Bothered. Things like the V&A weren’t for me, or for Dundee for that matter. Or so I thought.

When I said “they will come” I was only talking about The Bash Street Kids on a cheap school trip, so I was bugged when I heard loadsa’ money was being lashed out on building it. I began to think about all the other things £80m of investment could bring to Dundee. A gigantic, gold Dennis the Redeemer statue on the Law Hill was my top choice.

Dad was more pragmatic. Boring! He said the money would be better spent signing Cristiano Ronaldo to get United promoted so the city could enjoy a derby match again. 

I feared a venue packed with old stuff, just hanging around. Like a parents’ evening. Not cool

Mum said we were both being silly and that V&A Dundee was designed to make folks feel they all belonged there. Like they are inside a giant living room. Eh?! Full of cracked vases? A carpet covered in Irn-Bru stains? I feared a venue packed with old stuff, just hanging around. Like a parents’ evening. Not cool. Then I saw the building taking shape and I started to wish I wasn’t banned. I thought it looked like a spaceship. Like Jabba the Hutt had docked on an all-inclusive cruise! I couldn’t blame anyone from any galaxy for visiting Dundee.

Gran says I was conceived across the water, in full view of the site of the V&A, on the back of a fag packet. It’s a true story, Google it if you don’t believe me (I mean ‘Creation of Dennis in Beano not ‘Fag Packet Conception’).

Me, Minnie, Desperate Dan, The Broons, Oor Wullie, The Bash Street Kids and Gnasher all born within a single city!  A city where comics are taught at university… by the world’s first professor of comics. 

Then mum got a call. Turns out Philip had a ‘Long’ memory and was wanting his dry-cleaning bill covered.  I offered him compensation of half a Sherbet Fountain (liquorice gummed-up so no biggie) and some chuggy from the underneath of my school desk.

Turns out he wanted me and The Bash Street Kids to actually appear in V&A Dundee. To help tell Scotland’s design story.

Phil had a counter-proposal. Turns out he wanted me and The Bash Street Kids to actually appear in V&A Dundee. To help tell Scotland’s design story. You could have knocked me down with a catapult!

We’re included. That’s when I realised V&A Dundee is a place for me and people like me. Everyone! It’s the type of living room where a flea-ridden Abyssinian wire-haired tripe hound is welcome to scratch on the sofa. A place where rebels are wanted, where the establishment will not rule.

It’s bought into Dundee’s rebel spirit. No matter how old your body may be, a rebellious, shoe-sized attitude will always help you get the most out of every situation.  This city will always discover and design because it will never fall into the trap of growing up, taking itself too seriously, and settling down to show off about its achievements.

Dundee, unlike me, doesn’t like to blow its own fart whistle for attention. It’s just casually brilliant.  So, from here on in, the more we talk about it, the better. Sharing’s caring. I hope V&A will put the ‘art’ into the fart whistle, blow it, and make sure it’s loud and proud. 

V&A Dundee has taken a lot of pocket money, but my mates and I have  been wearing the same clothes for nearly 70 years so maybe it’s time to live a little and splash out on something special for everyone.

I’ve never seen Dundee so excited, about anything, ever. It’s like the night before Christmas. A mahoosive prezzie’s been sitting there for yonks, just waiting to be torn open. Nobody knows what’s inside. Everyone has kept the secret.

I just hope it’s not socks.

Dennis will be making worldwide news at the 3D Festival.

For more details check out beano.com or @BeanoOfficial.

V&A Dundee is open now, vam.ac.uk/dundee

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