As part of the ‘Speeding Backwards’ project there was to be a woman’s build weekend. The weekend was to help plan and construct a bicycle trailer that will house a dark room and equipment for taking photographs using the wet plate collodion process (you can learn more about this here) The build up to the weekend was nerve racking, still the questions of ‘Can we? Can’t we?’ floating aground with the restrictions seeming to change daily.
But the day finally arrived, food planned and workshop laid out! On the first day Emily Tough, Beck Tucker and Myself all got to know each other and then went into the workshop to get to know the tools. One of the most empowering things as a woman learning construction can be understanding the use of tools and what they can do. It gives you an idea of what is possible and how. We applied the tools to the task of creating a box that we designed and began to execute. I took portraits of the interns using the wet plate collodian process that the trailer is destined to house.
On the second day our female builder Alice Francis arrived and we set to work looking at how to construct the trailer, it was so inspiring being around all these different creative and problem solving minds. When having meals together it helped to cement us as a group and come at a problem with the same energy. After lunch we set about looking into the interns individual projects that they had been asked to prepare. The weekend ended on a high of everyone getting a start and insight into their own projects and the mass giveaway of tools!
The next phases of the project are to complete the build and begin to contact primary schools about seeing them in the spring. This is when the other intern Faye McKellar will be joining to deliver educational workshops and create a slow moving wonderment down the coastline of Dumfries and Galloway.
This week The Stove has unveiled a new art exhibition by artist Andy Brooke in the town centre as part of our Elsewhere project. The exhibition reflects on the impact of the lockdown in the Spring, and the on-going impacts of covid-19 on the sense of community in Dumfries and beyond, from the lack of physical connection with others, to navigating public space, balancing relationships with our families, and valuing the health of everyone.
The exhibition has been created for two shop windows of The Midsteeple Quarter, and includes ceramic sculptures and a series of handmade prints. The exhibition will be on display at 113-115 High Street from the 21st of October to 22nd November 2020, and is viewable from the street from 9am to 9pm daily.
Where Were We Then?
“At the start of Lockdown I was surprised and touched by the new ways we learned of avoiding strangers on the street by a set of mutually agreed movements a bit like dancing around each other.
We were responsive and respectful towards others when out walking, shopping or cycling and a new code of citizenship was born out of the solidarity we shared. There was a kind of beauty there.”
Where Are We Now?
“We are better connected than we were in Lockdown, but we don’t really know the pathway through the next few months and beyond… The warp and weft of physical connection is still strong but we long for the touch of our fellow humans – we are tactile creatures who feel strange not feeling the rough or smooth palm of another in ours.”
Andy Brooke is a member of the Stove and a recently new resident to Dumfries. Having had the move from Essex to Dumfries delayed by the pandemic, Andy took part in the Stove’s homegrown project, a series of online invitations during the lockdown to respond creatively to covid-19, and is one of several artists commissioned to further develop his responses for this exhibition.
Elsewhere is a research project facilitated by The Stove Network that looks to locate creative activity in the High Street of Dumfries as a means of exploring public space during a time when we as a community are responding to, and recovering from the effects of covid-19 on our sense of place. Elsewhere is supported by the Midsteeple Quarter, and is part of the larger current project, Atlas Pandemica.
Elsewhere will culminate in a series of outdoor artworks in unusual spaces around the town centre on the 13th and 14th of November.
As part of this months Wild Goose Festival, The Stove cafe is currently sharing an exhibition of works produced by Fife College Learners at HMP Dumfries made as a direct response to the festival. The exhibition includes a flock of paper cut out birds, alongside two wall mounted works. Following a prolonged period in lockdown the festival was welcomed by learners as a breath of fresh air and working on this festival has been a welcome distraction during the present climate.
The learner who produced the watercolour on board painting said: “I would say the grey Largs arrive first – they are a much larger goose than the barnacle goose. About 50 went over flying very high, just a dot in the sky. They fly in family groups with 4/5 hatched gosling chicks that fly together. They return to the same place so their return to Scotland is passed onto their goslings. They like to feed as a family group and this too is passed on in this migratory journey. Food includes eating grass, rotting potatoes and chats – they love that!”
The conceptual goose painting is made up of lots of different geese contributing to the overall picture. The learner felt that this showed the comparison between all the geese working together and similar experiences within the learning centre and wider community. Individuals have tasked they need to complete to contribute to the successful journey together.
The geese will be on display in the Stove cafe until Saturday, 24th October.
Nithraid River Festival has been running as an annual event for the past eight years and I have had the absolute privilege of being the producer for the last five of them. Last year’s event saw flood, rain and high winds pushing our team to the limit with adapting last minute to still deliver as much of the event as we physically could. After 2019 we thought, “Well, we’re not going to get anything more difficult than that”. Boy, were we wrong.
When the news hit in March that the entire world was under threat from a global pandemic, we were left with complete uncertainty and dread – much like the rest of the world. What is this thing? Are people going to be safe? How long will it last? When did lockdown and furlough become common words that we use in almost every conversation?
It became apparent very quickly to our team that even though the festival was scheduled to be in August, there was a high chance that the event would have either have to be cancelled completely or we were going to have to try and adapt the festival to a digital format – so we decided to flip Nithraid on its head. We looked at the core values of the festival and the reasons why we do it and who do we do it for?
To cut a long story short – we came to the conclusion that we do it to celebrate the River Nith. We celebrate its history and uses, we celebrate its beauty and we use it to inspire our creativity. We use it to teach our children about the wildlife and environment (special mention goes out to Huffy the Heron!) – but most of all we use it to connect with communities. With all of this in mind, we created the Nith inspired ‘Source to Sea’ project, exploring not just Dumfries but the entire River Nith and the communities that it travels through. Throughout lockdown, it was obvious we were on the right path as all over social media people were photographing the river on their daily walks and were appreciating it as they never had before.
Once we had a concept, the challenging part was trying to figure out how we were going to share all of these elements of the river as well as creating and sharing activities for families and children who were finding themselves stuck at home with little to do. We were delighted to have one of our fantastic funders, the Holywood Trust, on board with our reimagined River Festival. The Holywood Trust were a huge support to Nithraid and our entire team throughout the whole project, and we wouldn’t have been able to do this without them – thank you! This scale of online activity was very much new territory but I have the privilege to work with much more tech savvy individuals than myself and we were able to come together to figure out how to present our festival online. I think as it stands, we are now in Version 652 of the project as it turns out there was more than one problem that arose on a very regular basis. I give them all my love and respect for not running away at Version 150 (I will do the embarrassing shout out at the end!)
As we come to the end of our journey, we’ll be pulling all over the research together and sharing it with you in a beautifully designed map, created for us by local artists and graphic designer, Jamie Stryker. This map is the culmination of everyone’s incredibly hard work over the past 6 months. We’ll also be sharing Hugh McMillan’s lovely Source to Sea poem, where he has a dedicated verse for each area that we explored.
One of the hardest things about the lockdown was the difficulty in being able to research and that we were unable to reach out communities and go out and explore. But now we have information, footage and stories about the River Nith that you can use to learn about these communities yourself. I hope the project does what we set out to do and celebrates the river that connects us and brought so many people a sense of calm in amongst the chaos.
And a special thanks to Derry and Greg from BattleStations who trekked through the Carsphairn hills with a lot of kit to try and find footage of the source of the Nith – which turns out wasn’t where I told them, sorry! You got the shot though!
All of those that took the time to chat to us as we were researching the content. One of my favourite moments was when Bob Clements told us the story of the Thornhill’s Rock Festival on the back of a lorry that was plugged into a house!
Finally, a massive thank you to the team that has held this all together. You have done so much more than these basic titles I have written but I have rambled enough and don’t want you thinking I have gone soft.
Rob Henderson – web design and master of tech-like witchcraft
Kirstin McEwan – marketing and social media queen that makes this stuff look easy!! It’s not!
Ruaridh Thi- Smith – project support and all round support to my sanity.
Liam Morrison- Gale – community lead & ultimate research Jedi Master
Jamie Stryker – Graphic designer and hero that makes the best maps in the whole wide world!
Martin O’Neil – Programmer, Word Wizard and keeper of the creativity.
Graham Rooney – Stove Project manager and dude that keeps every single one of us from spontaneous combustion.