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Anne Waggot Knott in conversation with community artist, Maya Rose Edwards

Written by Anne Waggot Knott

In preparation for ‘Raise the Sails’, a community festival celebrating a new vision for Stranraer’s harbour area and marking the culmination of public art project, ‘Harbour’ by artist Maya Rose Edwards, I asked Maya to share some of their reflections on the project so far. 

Maya, you’ve embedded yourself so joyously and emphatically in the town. Talk to me about Stranraer’s incredible community.

Where do I start? They’re marvellous. They stick together in a very fundamental, tangible way, a result of living somewhere on the edge of things. But despite the wonderful togetherness I’ve also found pockets of futility – people have big ideas and are very impassioned, but there’s a shared sense of being on the wrong side of history. 

The younger generation faces real challenges and lack of opportunity. But, encouragingly, they have a vision of what the place could be, not blighted by what it was or hasn’t been. They’ve got an energy about them which is really exciting. Allowing space for young, positive voices is essential for community regeneration. 

Stranraer is a hub for a lot of surrounding villages. There’s a distinct rurality and sometimes a certain disconnection with the rest of Dumfries and Galloway. But this also generates pride and determination: “Stranraer is brilliant and we’ll make sure you know that, and if you don’t accept it we’ll keep it for ourselves.” Fine, and fair enough!

There are pockets of potential change; people with great ideas, inspiration, a lot of fight. People that show up, show an interest, are hardworking and inquisitive. The Urban Collective, the Men’s Shed, Stevie at the fishing shop, Vivienne at the Community Re-Use Shop, young people from the college. There are so many more… I feel like I’ve developed real, reciprocal relationships in the town, proper friendships. 

One thing that strikes me is that there are lots of people and organisations developing plans for the future, but they need to talk to each other. Hopefully I’ve started helping them make those connections. 

Your project brims with connectivity but also has a basis in activism and disruption. How can this light the touchpaper for change?

For a community with a historical legacy of being let down again and again, there’s only so much fight that they can conjure from within themselves. For me, the ability to make a mark in this respect was so important. 

The idea of occupying space, either with an artwork or your body, can generate change. Parts of Stranraer have suffered from the management of decline, but it’s happening so slowly that the locals sometimes miss it. Creating unexpected things to look at, things that catch your eye or that you can interact with, generates a strong shift in people. It’s my job to equip people with the tools to do that themselves, help them see that standing up for a change they want to see is always an option.

There’s something about being an outsider that makes this possible. Sometimes you need someone with a fresh perspective to come and say, how about we try this?

One of the biggest markers was when we spraypainted the Harbour wall mural. It kicked up some fuss, but it turned a dial. It generated conversation, which generated understanding, then finally an expectation about what’s coming next. It could have failed, but it didn’t. Tiptoeing around wasn’t going to work. I had to set an example that risky moves are ok. 

Risk is an important tool. When a community doesn’t feel in control there’s a sense of disempowerment. By choosing a risky action you choose the level of control for yourself rather than having it put upon you. It’s also a great way to get a big response from a lot of people and get the conversations started.

What are your project highlights?

The high points are unquestionably about bringing people together.  

The graffiti with the college kids, one of the very first things we did together. Their sense of pride was evident, marking a real moment of arrival. Similarly, we’ll be marking my departure with the festival in April. 

The Sea Witch sculpture day was great. Everyone brought different perspectives but a common purpose, which then flowed outwards into the community. Looking through the beachcombed objects was important in a cross-generational way – older people had memories about the pottery and plastic soldiers, young people recognised the vapes as part of their own history. The sea collects and spits out these stories, mixed and matched and collaged together – everyone’s past, present and future is there. Creating a character from those lost objects was a beautiful thing to see.

Making sails at The Hub was fabulous fun! We had people of all ages helping each other out. Kids that wouldn’t normally be in a room together. Older women who said art drop-ins should be prescribed on the NHS, that it’s like therapy. Tiny, naughty tots just running around painting themselves. We had a blast.

None of the above means anything without quiet moments though. Someone brings you a cuppa. The hello-in-Tesco moments. The guy in the chippie asking how the project is going. Like having a baker or a teacher, every town should have a community artist. Creativity has a huge impact on people and places. 

What have been your biggest challenges?

There have been just as many challenges as highlights! In simple terms, sometimes you just want to shake people who think change is impossible. That sense of futility being so ingrained, to the extent that it influences others too. Trying to unpick it has been a real challenge. But I also have a lot of respect and understanding for it.

At the very least, what seeds can I sow? I’m planting seeds in the middle of that knot of futility. But it’s a massive responsibility and has to be undertaken really carefully.

It’s also been hard to bring to attention things that people firmly don’t want to look at. That brings vulnerabilities. You can see these things very, very brightly when you come from elsewhere but dealing with them sensitively is often difficult. 

I see you working with other people’s vulnerabilities but in order to do that you need to make yourself vulnerable as an artist too, don’t you? It’s reciprocal.

Yes. You’ve got to expose bits of yourself too, so it’s an exchange. That’s how I’ve built trust and relationships. I really enjoy it and it’s integral to my practice. 

Stranraer is a community partly built on migration which is an interesting dynamic to work with. You have the embedded generational impacts over time and then you have people who come here and see it with fresh eyes as a great place to live. Once those people have a conversation with each other, possibilities emerge.  

The way the waterfront is cut off from the town by the road is a huge problem. You can’t just wander down to the waterfront, you have to actively cross several lanes of traffic. Those historical planning decisions have massive impacts when considering public spaces. 

Interestingly, not everybody sees themselves as a community of the sea; there’s also a challenge in the disconnect between the people who use the water and the people who use the land. Sometimes they don’t realise that they’re each other’s greatest asset and many of them want the same things. It’s like a glass wall, and nobody wants to be the one to make the first move. So there have been occasions when it’s my job to make the first move on behalf of everybody and nobody.

That’s interesting, can you expand on that a bit more?

For people originally from Stranraer, the water is a historically dangerous place due to sea waves from the ferries. It wasn’t always about having a good time and mucking about on the beach, it was a place of industry. Seeing people using it in a leisurely way, when first and foremost it’s a place for work, that grates. So there’s almost a moral judgement: you have the luxury of time to play around, but we need the water to make a living. I’ve come to understand that it can generate a bit of friction. 

There’s something exciting about the waterfront as common ground though, as the physical place for people to come together, because of its status in between. At the minute, aside from the working harbour, parts of it feel unexciting and inhospitable. People say, why would I want to occupy that middle ground, there’s nothing there? We need to change not only what we put in that space, but what it means to people and how it can reflect them. 

Let’s talk about Raise the Sails, the harbour festival on 20th April, the project finale.

It’s a free, daytime festival with food, live music and exciting activities for all ages, held at the Unexpected Garden on Saturday 20th April, 11am-2pm. There’s a very special event at 12 noon, so come down early!

I have a lot of hope for this, bringing people together. Stranraer has a long history of festivals – it’s a language the community speaks. It’ll be creatively out of the ordinary but really enjoyable, something people will remember. This is my final chance to plant a seed in those knots, and reach people I’ve missed. 

Food, music, activities for kids – we’re listening to the necessities then adding so much more. I’m hoping the legacy continues to unfold quite slowly over the coming months. That those seeds start to grow.

And finally, why should folk join us at Raise the Sails? 

For the sake of sheer nosiness, just pop down – you’re going to get a free meal! Be open to something you might not expect. It’s an opportunity to come together. And anyway, what else are you doing on a Saturday morning?!

See you there. Bring your hopes, dreams, friends, and family. We can raise the sails together. 

‘Raise The Sails’

A special community festival taking place in the Unexpected Garden, Stranraer

Saturday 20 April 

11am – 2pm

News Project Updates

Raising the Sails and Raising the Game

Written by Anne Waggot Knott, Project Researcher and Reporter

A spotlight on the work of community artist, Maya Rose Edwards, in Stranraer.

Diving into Stranraer’s history paints an evocative picture. A proud port town and a vibrant, prosperous meeting place. Its connection to the sea meant connections right across the world.

This rich history, full of local stories, memories and reflections are explored in the work of artist Maya-Rose Edwards. Commissioned and supported by The Stove Network, Maya is using their creative practice to spark new ideas about Stranraer’s waterfront and how it can once again form a vital part of the community, infrastructure, and identity of the town.

It’s been years since the all-important ferry terminal was moved to Cairnryan and, following a fire at Ayr station over six months ago, the train from Glasgow doesn’t currently stop at its unique waterfront destination on the East Pier. Maya’s project, ‘Harbour’, has identified the challenges faced by these changes. Through creative consultations and engagement activities with local people, they’ve supported parts of this community to continue to grow in confidence, to express their opinions and to work collaboratively to lead the change they want to see in their town. 

Research shows that proximity to the coast boosts our health and wellbeing, yet Stranraer’s wide roads, car parks and security fencing separate the town from the seashore. Despite this, the community has responded to the provocations initiated by Maya’s approach, galvanising the town’s fighting spirit, to reconnect with, revitalise and reimagine Stranraer’s iconic waterfront.

It only takes a tiny bit of research to understand that Stranraer has been let down again and again. Grand plans for the waterfront have been unveiled before, or built, removed, or fallen into decline. Promises made but rarely sustained. But, despite the departure of the final ferry, there remains a canny vibrancy in Stranraer, a strong sense of place and pride, locals and incomers, warmth and tradition, prosperity, and innovation. It’s a wonderful place to be. Yet all this potential seems somewhat unrecognised by a very specific combination of circumstances, policy decisions, and an apathy borne of a long history of false starts. 

Urban Collective Presenting at a Creative Stranraer Vision + Action Meeting

But now if feels as if the tide is turning. Strong glimmers of hope are arriving. There’s a cumulative explosion of funding and progress right now, much of it driven by arts, culture and sport: Creative Stranraer, the George Hotel, the Unexpected Garden, the Urban Collective, the Stanctuary, Spring Fling Rural Mural, the new Water Sports Centre, Dumfries & Galloway Council and various community groups are working in conjunction with Stranraer’s Place Plan and associated activities. This is a huge opportunity to rethink the waterfront. It’s time to seize the moment. 

That’s exactly what Maya has helped people do over the last six months.

Maya has delivered collaborative arts activities and conversations with over 500 participants. Children and families built a Sea Witch from coastal plastic gathered by the Beach Cleaners – you can see it in the Harbourmaster’s Office window; newly-empowered college students painted a guerrilla mural showing just how much they love Oor Wee Toon; drop-in visitors set hopes and dreams afloat in paper boats, and young people made Portholes to the Future.

At the same time, unexpected installations appeared. Mysterious doorways arrived along the seafront overnight, dreamlike portals for us to depart from the present and arrive in an imagined future. Silhouettes emerged on the security fencing at the East Pier, inviting us to take ownership of that wasteland once again.

Throughout, Maya worked deeply in and with the community. Everything has been co-created. Each work involved reaching out and forging new partnerships, listening to Stranraer and building layers of understanding.

All these interventions have brought people together and sparked impassioned conversations about the waterfront. Maya encouraged an openness about the challenges and frustrations, but also reignited hopes, dreams and actions.

We’re looking forward to ‘Raise the Sails’, a free waterfront festival in April. This will be a culmination of all the work so far, a chance to enjoy food, music, performance and a bonanza of community ideas.

‘Raise The Sails’

A special community festival taking place in the Unexpected Garden, Stranraer

Saturday 20 April

11am – 2pm

Musings News

Martin Hamblen on wakeupand (2024)

Artist Martin Hamblen shares an insight about his current exhibition at The Stove Cafewakeupand (2024). This guest exhibition was commissioned by the Stove and is part of our Conversing Building Project.

By Martin Hamblen

When is an exhibition, not an exhibition?

Google ‘exhibition’ and the definition that drops down states “a public display of works of art or items of interest, held in an art gallery or museum or at a trade fair.” Conversing Building is not that.[1]

I was feeling sceptical about the project until I read about this year’s Artes Mundi prize winner, Taloi Havini. “An artist from a small Pacific Island who has found unexpected resonances with her work in the mountains […] of Wales […] Hyena (day and night) […] dominates the wall of the bustling cafe at Chapter Arts Centre.”[2]

Usually, an artist writes a statement to accompany an exhibition. But this, unusual business, demands questions: buildings? conversing? Obviously, bricks and mortar can’t talk so what does The Stove mean?

Late last century, curator Nicolas Bourriaud published a book called Relational Aesthetics. He defined the term as “artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space.”[3]

So, the chairs are talking to the tables, the tables to the walls, the walls to the windows, the windows to the street. Sometimes, the process of thinking about asking a question, and anticipating answers, stops the question.

Scientists hypothesise. To misquote Yoko Ono and John Lennon, they imagine. At The Stove’s AGM the guest speaker, Dr. Duckie, introduced the concept of “Homemade Mutant Hope Machines”.[4] The key concept being, believing that better worlds are possible.

The words on the windows, talking to the street, read ‘Colonial Cartography’. Sign written in a font akin to Coca-Cola (a famous fizzy drink that may be made of cabbage and caffeine). Fizzy sounds nice and innocent. But the process of carbonation means adding carbon dioxide. Sound familiar?

The ‘art world’ appropriates languages from other fields. Biologically speaking, plants pioneer places. The first plant colonises. Then, there is a process of succession and an ecosystem evolves.

According to the Tate “intervention applies to art designed specifically to interact with an existing structure or situation, be it another artwork, the audience, an institution or in the public domain.”[5]

This aesthetic intervention aimed to consider Cafe Culture, in the context of conversing buildings. I asked: Can we imagine a future (2074) when warmer temperatures enable landowners to grow coffee in The Highlands? Also, can we imagine a world without carbonated cabbage juice? Is it possible? Poetically, of course.

Further Reading;







Talking Showcase, favourite projects and recruitment with Creative Spaces Producer Mia Osborne

We chatted to our Creative Spaces Producer Mia ahead of the 23/24 Showcase taking place on the 28th of March. Hear more about the programme, her highlights of what this year’s associates got up to and what you can expect at the showcase!

Q. 1 – Can you give us a very quick summary of what Creative Spaces is?

Creative Spaces is a collective of young creatives aged sixteen to thirty who work with and advocate for the region’s young artists. We run a development programme every ten months where we hire in three emerging artists that work closely within the project and within the wider Stove.

Q. 2 – Can you tell us a bit about your role as Creative Spaces Producer?

So my role basically means that I support the associates throughout the ten months. So, I work with them closely, looking at their goals and their aims and what they want to get out of the programme and then help them develop the programme around that. I’m also there as the link between them as individuals and freelancers, and the Stove as an organisation. I work with them to develop different training and different opportunities that would be good for them as individuals, taking into account their creative practice and what they are like as creative freelancers. But, aside from that, I also work on the development of the programme in general and the engagement between Creative Spaces and lots of different organisations and partners.

Q. 3 – Who were the CS Associates this year?

“So the 23/24 group of Creative Spaces are: Martha Ferguson, who is a set designer, who works within production design. Sahar El-Hady, who is a theatre-maker and an actor. And, Korey Patterson who is an illustrator and musician.”

Q. 4 – What has been your favourite project that CS team have worked on this year?

“So, I think I’ve got two favourites from the year – although it’s really hard to pick because all of the projects have been amazing. One of them was the Muckle Mixer which was a freshers mixer that we did at the Dougie Arms. It was a really really good laugh and it got really really good engagement, and was an overall nice night. Quite different to that, was when we worked with Laurieknowe Primary over four days to delivery a series of small workshops with the primary school pupils around Wild Goose Festival. It was so lovely to work with primary school kids and watch how excited they got about geese!”

Q. 5 – Each of the associates is working on their own personal project that will be presented at the showcase. Can you give us a sneak peek of what they are working on?

“So I kinda want to leave a little bit of mystery, because they’ll be presenting fully what they have been up to at the showcase. But, what I’ll do is give you a couple of words, that I would say, describes what they are doing. So – Sahar: Discourse on immigration. Martha: Dystopian. And Korey: Robert the Bruce.”

Q. 6 – The CS team have been on quite a few adventures this year – where has been your favourite place that you visited?

“So it definitely has to be Bristol! We have been to a lot of really really cool places and seen a lot of amazing organisations, but, Bristol just completely topped it off. We had such a good time! We were so inspired and we left Bristol feeling like there was this new energy and I think it was a real turning point in everyone’s heads about not only what the team could do as individuals, but what Creative Spaces could do as an organisation in Dumfries. So, Bristol! One hundred percent.”

Q. 7 – What has been your highlight with the current round of associates?

“So my highlight has got to be working with such an amazing group of people. And, I mean, I say the same every year but, the team dynamic is always what makes you so energised. Every single person is so different but what they bring to the team is just so harmonious. Working closely with the Creative Spacers over the last ten months has been my highlight. It’s not been one singular instance, it’s been the whole thing!

Q. 8 – The 23/24 Showcase is on the 28th of March – what can people expect from it?

“So I know the term ‘good vibes’ is usually quite cringe, but, I actually think that the showcase is such good energy. It’s hard to explain – I mean obviously there is the literal explanation which is you are going to see people presenting what they do and what they are about, and it’s a culmination and celebration of young creatives. But, the energy in the room is just always almost meditative. You leave and everyone just feels so good! It’s so empowering, but it’s fun and it’s silly, but also quite laid back. It’s just really quite inspiring. I think everybody leaves with a sense of how we have a really cool thing happening here and let’s just shout about it!”

Q. 9 – And finally – CS will be recruiting the next round of associates later this year – what do you say to someone who is considering applying?

“The first thing I would say is definitely come to the showcase! We don’t put on the showcase specifically for recruitment, it’s not part of the application pack. But, I would say that you can definitely notice people who have come to the showcase in comparison to people that haven’t. They have way more context when it comes to the programme. I think it sets them up in good stead because they can really see what the showcase and Creative Spaces is all about. I think it makes people feel a lot more confident if they are starting the role when they have seen what the last year’s group have done. It also gives the opportunity to ask questions in real life.

That brings me on to the second thing which would be – don’t be afraid to reach out! We’re a really nice group people and we love hearing about people who want to apply and having a chat with folk that have any sort of questions about the application process or about the programme in general.

The third thing would be don’t read the application pack and think ‘oh my goodness, maybe this doesn’t fit with me’. The Creative Spaces programme is so special because it really fits around the individual. The special thing about the past few years is every year has been different and everybody’s individual experiences has been different. Because, we work so closely with the individual through mentoring and through one-to-ones, that we can really adapt what the programme does for you based on your personal needs and goals.”

The Creative Spaces Showcase is taking place from 7:00pm – 10:00pm on Thursday the 28th of March. Hear from guest speakers from Dumfries & Galloway who work in the creative sector, learn more about the Creative Spaces programme and how to get involved and enjoy live performances!

Musings News

Celebrate International Women’s Day with the Stove

This March, join us at the Stove as we celebrate International Women’s Day 2024 with programmed events by, for and to celebrate women!

On the first of March we are kicking off our short series of #IWD events with a screening of Wildfire; part of our Reel to Real programme.

Reel to Real: Wildfire (March 24th):

This powerful film explores the complex bond of sisters Lauren and Kelly, navigating loss, trauma, and community secrets set on the Irish border.

The film is triple F rated in that it is written and directed by women and features significant women on screen; and in this case all three by writer/director Cathy Brady.

Doonhame Queens: Open Mic Poetry & Pamphlet Launch (March 8th):

On March 8th (this year’s official #IWD!), join us for an evening of powerful words and heartfelt expression at Doonhame Queens.

We will be celebrating the launch of ‘Mucky Pup’, a pamphlet of poetry by Elieen H Irvine. Edited and put forward by Susi Briggs, the Galloway Scots Scriever of the National Library of Scotland.

Doonhame Queens will also feature an open mic. Whether you’re a seasoned poet or just starting out, come share your work in a supportive and encouraging atmosphere.

Dumfries Women’s Signwriting Squad: Monthly Meet-Up (March 9th):

Our final event in our #IWD mini-series is our March edition of Dumfries Women’s Signwriting squad. This monthly meet-up is a space for women of all ages and backgrounds to learn and practice sign writing. It’s a fun and interactive way to develop a new skill, meet new people, and build a supportive community. No prior experience is necessary, so come with an open mind and a willingness to learn!

So, mark your calendars! International Women’s Day is just around the corner, and we can’t wait to welcome you to the Stove. What stories will be shared? What voices will be heard? Let’s connect, empower, and raise awareness for gender equality.

Musings Project Updates

Creative Spaces takes Bristol

During January, the Creative Spaces team took a trip to Bristol on their final ‘go-see’ trip of the year. The purpose of this trip was to meet with representatives from a variety of creative and cultural organisations in Bristol, particularly those that work with young and emerging creatives. The following article is a round up of their time in Bristol and reflections from the trip.


Meeting with Rising in Bristol – Watershed Venue

Rising is a Community Interest company and non-profit creative agency. They strive to cater/influence/support young creatives and artists under 30 within the city. With a fundamental goal to make creative facilities more accessible and lucrative for artists, Rising shares a lot of similarities with the Stove Network. The Creative Spaces team had a fun, light hearted conversation with members from the Rising team – Jess, Syd and Euella in their part time workspace – Watershed. We found ourselves relating to each being in a company whose focus is to bring young people in the community to a creative space to socialise, learn and interact.

Being from a smaller town I naturally assumed that Rising had a bigger issue on their hands since their operation was based in the big city. But their obstacles were more or less the same, especially concerning outreach and engagement. It was comforting to know that a city wide organisation doesn’t automatically guarantee anything in terms of the engagement numbers or the progress of development in the relative local creative sector. One thing we bonded on was the phenomena known to Rising as “The Returners”- young creatives who leave for university with the intention of staying away to then return with the desire to change or make a difference in their hometown. The Rising team we met were impressed and inquisitive about the Stove Network and Dumfries and Galloway’s creative output and compared their format with the Stove’s. Rising has what they like to call “Pollinators”, who are creative mentors/tutor/instructors who pollinate the city . The details of the Creative Spaces programme definitely left an impression on them as they were actively taking notes. To go to a meeting such as this was an eyeopener because I almost thought of us (being representatives for The Stove Network) were going to be asking all the questions and looking to them for advice but, instead it was a completely mutual experience where each team got an equal share of useful information and a compulsion to work together at some point.

One aspect of Risings’ format that sparked our interest was their membership system that recruits once a year. We took personal interest in their approach to engaging with their members – having one-to-one mentorship meetings with a member of the Rising staff, invites to exclusive events, and access to Risings own and partnered paid opportunities, most of which would be detailed in their weekly newsletter for members.

Then we wandered over to the Aardman studio building where Martha was scheduled to meet Peter Lord. The rest of us sat blissfully in the lobby where there was so much to look at and admire, such as a genuine Oscar award for Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were Rabbit, along with Baftas, Models and figures from Aardman films, and books filled with sketches and rough drafts of storyboards and character designs. The building was very inviting inside and looked like a brilliant place to punch in and out of each day. It was inspiring to think that real people were involved in these very real jobs inside this building and that it’s not in some distant Hollyweird land that appears to be a closed club.


Aardman Studios Tour

On our first morning, Mia gave me the very exciting news that Peter Lord of Aardman Studios may potentially be able to speak to me as I have an interest in working in Film & TV. I tried not to get my hopes up as he has an incredibly busy schedule… but after staring at my phone all day, I received a call!

We checked out nearby Spike Island as we patiently waited for 4pm to stroll over to Aardman Studio. The lobby was like a mini exhibition in and of itself, with a giant Shaun the Sheep model, a cabinet displaying an Oscar and Bafta trophies, and cartoon office props at the reception desk.

Having a personal tour of the game design office, the various animation studios and even some hot sets by Peter Lord himself was surreal. I was shocked to learn that animators are essentially actors who carefully manipulate the limbs of clay models in response to recordings by the voice actors. I was also shocked to see how many cameras are on set – something that is required to ensure each frame is shot from two positions for 3D productions.

Each location was bursting with memorabilia and original props from sets I grew up watching and confirmed how much I wanted to be part of this world. I had the chance to pick the brains of veteran animators and modellers and discuss everything from their typical day, to the way work processes were being affected by new technologies and AI.

It was particularly refreshing to see how hands on the work is at the studio despite how large scale the productions are. Learning that the analogue methods of stop-motion animation could not be replicated by CG work made me optimistic that the hands-on creative process that drew me to the industry will hopefully be protected.


Arnolfini Arts Centre

On the Friday, we went to check out Arnolfini, an international centre of contemporary arts located on the picturesque harbourside. We started off by looking around the exhibition they had on, ‘Eregata’ by Ethiopian artist Elias Sime. There was a vast installation of ceramics and a lot of his art incorporated found objects, electrical parts and discarded wires woven into large tapestries and 3D sculptures.

Martha and I  then joined in with a weekly Women’s Craft Club held at Arnolfini in partnership with Bristol Refugee Festival. We enjoyed a chilled out time making jewellery with women from lots of different backgrounds, each absorbed in their own craft project.

The team then met with Keiko Higashi, Head of Engagement, in the cafe at Arnolfini and talked about what we get up to at The Stove. It was great to see the strengths of the Creative Spaces program through her eyes and be able to discuss different strategies on a level pegging with someone who had so much professional experience.

She shared a bit with us about what she does in her role and the history of the building. She talked about the challenge she is currently working on – diversifying their exhibitions. They have a huge amount of foot traffic in the building but their actual engagement is much less when you discount people coming in to use the cafe/toilets as not everyone is there to interact with the exhibition. It was really interesting to hear about challenges from her perspective of having a huge building in the middle of the hustle and bustle of a city centre, and it made me reflect on the similarities and differences with our reality at home.

After our morning at the art centre, we went to the nearby Bristol Old Vic, which is the English speaking world’s oldest continuously working theatre. They had an fun interactive exhibition on sound design for theatre, Foley art, and the use of analog tools in theatre to create gunshots and other sound effects. I liked the way they designed the exhibition, with interactive displays, buttons on the wall you could press to hear audio recordings of actors doing vocal warm ups, and machines you could use to make rain and thunder sounds. It made it feel like we were backstage designing the sound effects for a show!

In our free time we walked around St Nicholas market, saw a bit of street art, and walked to Millennium Square for a Wallace & Gromit themed escape room, ‘The Great Escape’. We also got to visit a cool area of Bristol called Stokes Croft and sat in The Canteen, a venue that has free live music and locally sourced vegan food.

Last Day

We did a heritage walk around the streets of Bristol city centre, viewing some of the iconic street art, graffiti and murals, and stopping in to see the cathedral and the historic Bristol Central Library. We visited a board game cafe on the Christmas Steps for some inspiration for the Vennel, and finished off our trip by touring some charity shops and the Bristol Museum.

On reflection, visiting Bristol was inspiring and motivating as we were each left with a positive sense of envy. To bring what a place like Bristol has to Dumfries feels achievable. It was great to see positive spaces being held for young creatives to connect with each other. With a renewed motivation from our trip, we feel we can bring more vibrancy and youth-led creativity to our town.

By our 23/24 Creative Spaces Team Korey, Martha & Sahar.

The 2024 Creative Spaces Showcase is taking place on the 28th of March! Keep an eye on the CS socials for updates.

Learn more about Creative Spaces here.

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