Dyan Owen, of Weber Shandwick
Dyan Owen, of Weber Shandwick

Duo join the board of Scottish creative community

Scotland’s largest creative community has welcomed two new members onto its board.

Entrepreneur Hugo Burge and communications specialist Dyan Owen have been appointed to board of Glasgow-based Wasps, Scotland’s largest creative community providing high quality affordable workspace, and other facilities, for more than 800 tenants from Shetland to the Borders.

The pair have spoken about the need to support Scotland’s artists and makers.

Hugo, who was CEO of the Momondo Group, a travel search enterprise acquired by Booking Group for $550m in 2017, believes there is an urgent need to provide workspaces and showcasing opportunities for creative people and to upgrade their business skills.

He joined the board of Wasps Artists’ Studios along with Weber Shandwick business communications specialist Dyan.

Hugo, who won the 2018 Historic Houses/Sotheby’s Restoration Award for the restoration of Marchmont House in Berwickshire, decided he wanted to support Wasps after buying work by one of the artists from its Selkirk studios.

He said: ‘Having learned about the great work they do across Scotland I am keen to help them grow their impact. I love how Wasps has developed, starting with modest council grants, and with unwanted buildings in declining areas.

‘They have not only supported artists but promoted regeneration and, in the process, become a viable and self-sustaining organisation. I find that social purpose and ability to make a difference inspiring. I want to be part of it and help write the next chapter.’

At the same time he believes Scottish business can do more to support the country’s artists and makers simply through buying or commissioning work.

Hugo said: ‘The business community can make an enormous difference, for example by thinking about what art they have on the office walls or in the entrance hall or the meeting room.

‘Buying from local craft makers does so much, it helps you become part of the local community to support creativity. It’s an easy way and an interesting way to make a difference.’

More broadly he sees a need for society to value craft makers and artists more highly and not focus solely on a globalised and digital economy.

Hugo said: ‘I love the design and technology that are shaping our future, but the grounding values of the arts and crafts are as important as the iPhone. We need balance.’

This, he believes, demands the kind of practical support that will enable artists and makers to build sound businesses.

He added: ‘We can support artists in so many ways – giving them better tools, better affordable spaces, confidence, support, community, commercial awareness and – of course – exposure.’
Hugo has a deep personal commitment to promoting craftsmanship and wants Marchmont House to be a home for arts and crafts in the Borders.

Dyan, originally from the Ross-shire town of Alness, is an account director with expertise in the use of communications for business strategy and development.

She has a long personal and professional interest in the arts and believes they have an invaluable role to play in generating growth and strengthening society, especially in economically fragile areas.

Dyan Owen, of Weber Shandwick

Dyan said: ‘I’m a strong believer in both the economic and the social importance of the arts. So I’m excited to be working with an organisation like Wasps that understands the potential of the arts in driving social as well as economic development.

‘Wasps is so impressive because it has invested in places like Nairn and Skye rather than just focusing on the Central Belt.

‘It allows people to invest in their passion, it creates opportunities and provides long-term security for artists and makers.’

Owen will help Wasps deliver its strategy for supporting artists and makers to develop their businesses and their marketing.

Audrey Carlin, Wasps chief executive officer, said: ‘It’s great to be able to welcome two such talented people to our board, especially as they have a deep commitment to the arts and the creative economy.

‘Over the past 40 years Wasps has become Scotland’s largest provider of high-quality studios and working spaces for artists, makers and creative companies, but we are ambitious to achieve far more.

‘The creative economy is one of Scotland’s greatest assets but it needs support to develop and grow. Hugo and Dyan have exactly the skills and experience that will help us to make that happen.’

Wasps has recently been focusing on a series of projects in the Highlands. Stage one of its new Inverness Creative Academy is due to welcome 30 tenants before the end of the year, after which it will be pushing ahead with the ambitious second stage.