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Wild Goose Festival Returns with Soaring Success

The Wild Goose Festival returned for another year of inspiring and educational family-friendly activities and events. Read about our 2023 Festival below.

The Wild Goose Festival returned to Dumfries and Galloway this autumn, bringing with it a flock of exciting events and activities for all ages. The festival, which ran from October 19th – 29th, is inspired by the annual migration of geese to the Solway Firth.

Over the course of the festival, the public had the opportunity to learn about the incredible journey of these birds, as well as the diverse ecosystems and wildlife of Dumfries and Galloway. The festival also featured a variety of creative workshops, interactive storytelling sessions, and nature walks.

A Celebration of Nature, Creativity and Place

The Wild Goose Festival is not just about geese; it celebrates both the inspirational journey undertaken by our feathered friends and our deep connection with the natural world. 

This year’s family-friendly program aimed to engage communities through creativity, education, and play, building meaningful relationships and encouraging people of all generations to reconnect with their environment.

With events taking place throughout the region, from Stranraer across to Glencaple, the Wild Goose Festival saw an audience of around 4200 people celebrating the journey of the geese.

A Hub for Discovery and Creativity

This year’s Festival Hub opened its doors in a brand new location within the Loreburne Centre in Dumfries. The Hub served as an information point for the festival, as well as an accessible space where a variety of fun and creative activities was hosted.

At the hub, members of the public could engage with individuals dedicated to protecting our natural resources, unleash their creativity with artists, and delve into the fascinating world of wild geese, discovering why these birds make their annual pilgrimage to Dumfries & Galloway.

Around 800 people visited the Hub this year, to see the full programme of events that were available, click here.

A Festival for All Ages

The Wild Goose Festival’s family-friendly program cultivated meaningful conversation between generations and encouraged participants to reconnect with the environment around them.

From seasoned birdwatchers to curious newcomers, the Wild Goose Festival 2023 had a range of events for all ages and backgrounds. To view each of our 2023 events visit here.

A Focus on Environmental Awareness

Wild Goose serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of preserving our natural heritage. The conclusion of our 2023 festival Three Sisters – A Story from the Climate Future promoted this sentiment, premiering an immersive audio drama set in 2030 questioning how we will live under the impacts of climate change.

The Stove Networks creative response to this year’s festival was the Keep Looking Up Roaming Exhibition. This exhibition invited members of the public to observe the skies and consider our relationship with the non-human inhabitants of our everyday spaces. The artwork prompted new ways of observing our wildlife and how we impact it, and vice versa.

A Legacy of Inspiration

This year the Creative Spaces team worked with pupils from Laurieknowe Primary School to deliver a series of creative workshops on the migration of Geese and their relevance to the region. Learn more here.

As the Wild Goose Festival draws to a close this year, it leaves a legacy of inspiration and environmental stewardship of the unique biodiversity of Dumfries and Galloway.

The festival’s commitment to engaging communities through art, culture, and nature will continue in 2024.

Visit the Wild Goose Festival website here.

Musings News Project Updates

Creative Spaces – Laurieknowe Workshops

In the run-up to Wild Goose Festival 2023, the Creative Spaces team worked with pupils from Laurieknowe Primary School to deliver a series of creative workshops on the migration of Geese and their relevance to the region. We would first like to say a huge thank you to Laurieknowe’s P4 class and both teachers who were brilliant to work with!

Creative Spaces team talking to the Primary using a map

The first day Creative Spaces went into the primary school we were pretty nervous. We had a plan but were also prepared to be flexible as we didn’t know what to expect from the class. The P4s were really excited to see us and paid close attention as we introduced ourselves and showed them a short video about bird migration. When we asked them questions afterwards, they were all eager to put their hands up and show off their recall skills. We started to see their different personalities shine through and were reassured by the energy of the class – they were so ready to learn about geese! 

The next task was map-based. We put a big world map onto each of the 3 tables in the classroom and worked in groups to identify the places where the different species (Barnacle, Greenland White-Fronted, Light-Bellied Brent, and Pink Footed Geese) breed. The first challenge for the kids was spotting Scotland (it’s tiny!) and then understanding that the geese fly hundreds of miles to get here from Iceland, Greenland, Svalbard and Canada even though it’s only a few centimetres on the map. We gave them little card cutouts of geese that they could move around the map – some of the kids’ geese were much more interested in flying to Africa and South America than following their usual migration patterns. 

After learning a lot in the classroom about where the geese in Dumfries come from, when and why they come and go, and the challenges they face on their long journeys, we relocated to the hall for an active break. We had come up with a loose concept for a game, where we held up the flags for different countries that the kids had to ‘fly’ between. A few of them played different risks such as predators (foxes, eagles, badgers), wind turbines, bad weather etc. The ‘geese’ had to make it safely to their destination (Scottish flag) without being caught by a ‘risk’, otherwise they would join the obstacles in the middle of the hall. They had a blast with this active learning, amongst the noise and chaos, and enjoyed the challenge of running in V formations like the geese fly. 

Active Break to learn more about geese.

We then went back to the classroom for a drawing activity. Each child received a comic strip template designed by Korey and drew/coloured in the story of the wild geese migration. They were really impressed by Korey’s ability to draw a goose and were queuing up to get his help with it. This seemed to be the recurring theme of the day, with everyone asking Korey to tie their shoelaces as they left at 3 o’clock! It was an all-around successful afternoon, and we went home feeling very tired but encouraged. 

Before starting Day Two, the team were slightly daunted by the task of engaging the class for an entire day about geese and incorporating more research-based lessons. These nerves immediately disappeared when recapped what the class had learned from the previous session and realised how much they had remembered from only one afternoon. 

We decided to dedicate the morning to teaching the class about Goose habitats – what they need to nest and to protect themselves from various dangers. In groups, the kids designed beautiful three-dimensional habitats out of coloured paper and freestanding elements arranged inside shoeboxes. We then moved on to the computers so that the class could complete some further research and fill out their ‘Goose Facts’ booklets.

Colouring in geese cartoon strips

This helped the kids differentiate the different goose species that come to D&G and put all their findings in one place. Just before lunch, we switched things up and held a goose-making workshop where the kids had the choice of dressing our pre-made chicken wire geese in newspaper scraps or making miniature tinfoil geese. What was most impressive was watching the pools of PVA glue and mountains of newspaper scraps disappear and the classroom return to its previous state in a matter of minutes before the lunch bell. 

In the afternoon, we decided to put the kids’ learning to the test with a newsreader task complete with costumes. Finally, we brought in our goose expert extraordinaire Hagen Patterson, to answer all the questions the kids had come up with over the past two sessions. They loved having their burning questions answered and it was hilarious watching the Q&A go off track with a couple of questions (shout out to the pupil who asked which goose was the tastiest to eat). However, the highlight was definitely Hagen’s true-to-life goose calls which showed the class a fun, tangible example of the differences between the various geese species they were learning about. 

We felt a great sense of achievement after the second day as we achieved a better flow between the various lesson plans and felt genuine excitement from the class about geese migrating to our region.

A very magnificent goose!

On Thursday the 12th of October the Creative Spaces team headed into Laurieknowe Primary School for the final time. The class were just as excited to see us, and the feeling was mutual. During the third visit, the team felt more comfortable and at ease with the P4 class. The lessons were well received and as the kids had familiarized themselves with us, they were genuinely engaged, and the lesson continued at a good pace.

The lesson of the day was centred around Scots language and poetry with the theme of Geese. Mia grabbed the class’s attention immediately with a self-written Scots Poem about Geese visiting Dumfries. At this point, it was interesting to see which Scottish words the kids already knew or didn’t know. This was a great way to introduce some Scots Words to the pupils’ developing vocabulary.

So, using words provided (and explained) by us, and some useful goose facts, the children were then prompted to write their own poems. They did brilliantly and it was a great pleasure to help translate regular English words into Scots for the kids. That in particular was something they were all excited about, and even though it wasn’t mandatory, all the pupils stuck to writing about Geese.

The brilliant poems were available to view at the Wild Goose Festival Hub in the Lorebrune Centre during this year’s festival. Towards the end of the day, we also finished off our miniature goose sculptures with some coloured pens and got some great results, which were also displayed in the WGF Hub.

By the 2023 Creative Spaces Team.

Learn more about the Wild Goose Festival here.

Visit the Wild Goose Festival website here.

Musings News

Travelling Gallery Visits Dumfries & Galloway

Travelling Gallery, a contemporary art gallery in a bus in collaboration with The Stove Network, will be bringing its latest exhibition, Take Care, to Dumfries & Galloway this November.

The exhibition is a group show featuring artists such as Uma Breakdown, Gwenan Davies, Ellie Kyungran Heo, Laura Wilson, and Joy Baek, along with the Sculpture Placement Group. Take Care explores our relationship with non-human things that we care for in our often isolated society.

The artworks showcased in the exhibition explore a wide range of mediums and subjects. For instance, Laura Wilson‘s new video, “You would still almost expect to find it Warm”, focuses on the intimacy of baking, presenting fresh dough as a living organism that is alive with yeast. In contrast, Ellie Kyungran Heo‘s moving image work, Plantarians: appendix, delves into our care of house plants and questions “Why is it that we place a plant in a pot, constricting its ability to grow and occupy physical space?”.

Continuing our relationship with non-human things, artist Uma Breakdown presents their video game Animal Agency, the multi-layered click and point game invites the player to work with animal-like creatures to move between a number of rooms and spaces. Gwenan Davies’ paintings then explore our ‘in-between’ times as she observes the ritual and social function of the coffee break, turning a sea of abandoned coffee cups into a surreal landscape.

Artist Uma Breakdown has created a video game called Animal Agency, which continues the exploration of our relationship with non-human things. The game is a multi-layered click-and-point adventure, where the player works with animal-like creatures to move between a number of rooms and spaces. In addition, Gwenan Davies’ paintings capture our ‘in-between’ times by observing the ritual and social function of the coffee break. She turns a sea of abandoned coffee cups into a surreal landscape, creating a unique perspective on our daily routines.

Finally, Travelling Gallery is collaborating with Sculpture Placement Group (SPG) to exhibit the sculpture, Here, My waiting by Joy Baek, from their Loan scheme. The SPG Loan scheme works with artists to extend the life cycle of artworks that are currently in long-term storage, allowing people to care for and enjoy an artwork, often outside of a gallery context. 

Finally, Travelling Gallery is collaborating with Sculpture Placement Group (SPG) to showcase the sculpture titled “Here, My waiting” by Joy Baek, which has been borrowed from the SPG Loan scheme. This scheme aims to prolong the lifespan of artworks that are currently in long term storage. It enables people to appreciate and take care of the artwork, sometimes outside of a traditional gallery setting.

Graham Rooney, Operation Director at The Stove Network shared the following:

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with the travelling gallery on its tour of Dumfries & Galloway. Connecting people and places through creativity is fundamentally at the heart of what we aim to do here at The Stove, and this project is a fantastic example of where we can support access to the arts in an exciting and meaningful way.”  

Travelling Gallery will be visiting the following venues, in partnership with The Stove Network:

  • Wednesday 1st November – Outside Stranraer Library, North Strand Street (Supported by Creative Stranraer)
  • Thursday 2nd November – YMCA, Lochside Dumfries (Supported by LIFT D&G) 10 am – 4 pm
  • Friday 3rd November – The Lockerbie Old School, 10 am – 4 pm

The gallery is free to visit, and everyone is very welcome. 

As well as visiting Dumfries and Galloway, the Travelling Gallery has toured the following areas:

Stirling University, in partnership with Stirling University 

West Lothian College, in partnership with West Lothian College

North Ayrshire, in partnership with North Ayrshire Council 

East Ayrshire, in partnership with East Ayrshire Council 

South Ayrshire, in partnership with South Ayrshire Council

Inverclyde, in partnership with RIG Arts

Musings News Project Updates

Wild Goose Festival: Keep Looking Up Roaming Installation

Our Public Art Lead, Katie Anderson, tells us about the Keep Looking Up Roaming Installation, The Stove’s artistic response to this year’s Wild Goose Festival.

A blue fabric flag waves in the wind with 'Keep Looking Up' painted across it.

As part of this year’s Wild Goose Festival, I’ve been invited as part of my Public Art Lead role to create and host a playful birdwatching experience inspired by the returning migratory bird population. Appearing in and around Dumfries town centre, this new artwork will explore bird watching in a creative way at dedicated pop-up spaces produced for viewing and listening to birds and their behaviours.

A blue deckchair with 'Keep Looking Up' painted on it, sitting on cobblestones next to a river.

As ‘Roaming Birdwatchers’, the artwork – of no fixed location – will ‘pop up’ in four different public spaces around Dumfries. This interactive artwork will ask those passing by to pause and reflect on our non-human winter residents.

Audiences and members of the public are invited to join the Wild Goose Festival affiliated artists and partners in an outdoor environment to observe the skies and consider our relationship with the non-human inhabitants of our everyday spaces. The artwork comprises a series of colourful deckchairs, a commissioned soundscape using audio recorded from local visitors and alternative viewing devices for seeing the birds and wildlife differently.

A person sitting on a blue deckchair next to the river, wearing a green jacket, looks to the sky. Another deckchair is next to them which has 'Keep Looking Up' painted across it.

The project is inspired by the Wild Goose Festival’s theme ‘Keep Looking Up’ and includes a series of project flags that will appear around the town. Each flag will encourage those passing by to look skyward and spot the returning bird population as they continue to arrive. Also, each flag will act as a message of hope and optimism in challenging times. How can we see the town differently, and what new ways of seeing can help us uncover unique understandings of our place?

The Keep Looking Up roaming installation will be found in and around the town centre on the following dates:

Thursday 19th at 1 pm – 4 pm

Friday 20th at 1 pm – 4 pm

Monday 23rd at 2 pm – 5 pm

Thursday 26th at 1 pm – 4 pm

The pop-up locations will not be published in advance, but sites could include Dumfries High Street/Fountain Square, the Whitesands, Greensands and Dumfries Museums sites. If you would like to find the roaming installation, please pop into the Wild Goose Festival Hub in the Loreburne Centre for information on the day.

Two blue deckchairs on the banks of the River Nith with 'Keep Looking Up' painted on them

by Katie Anderson

Musings News

Dystoveia – Dumfries’ First Escape Room

Hear about the Dystoveia Escape Room from the Creative Spaces Team. This project transformed Room 2 in the Stove into a dystopian escape room in August 2023. 

Why an Escape Room?

On one of the blessed sunny days in June, our creative producer Mia asked us two million-dollar questions: what kind of things do we like to do for fun? And how could we bring that to D&G? After a great creative session where each of the CS team individually mind-mapped our answers, we discovered a common thread between us: an escape room! Why did such a thing not exist here?

We initially thought this might be too ambitious an idea for a bunch of amateurs. However, a good friend of mine (shoutout to Seb Summers) kindly booked us a slot at his escape room in Glasgow. Our visit to Riddle Rooms, led to us learning a lot about what makes an escape room good and the mechanics behind it. The possibilities of what we could create ourselves seemed endless, so deciding our theme early was key for honing our ideas. This made us consider the room as an unravelling story as opposed to a random mixture of puzzles.


Dumfries has fallen under the control of an oppressive regime. Your team of rebels have managed to infiltrate the high-security government control room and the town is locked down on red alert as they try to hunt you down. It is up to you to save the town in time and to escape before state officials discover you.

Following an in-depth storyline that unveils the secrets of Dumfries and the authoritarian regime, you and your team must work together to uncover hidden clues and solve a variety of puzzles to progress and beat the clock.

We wanted our participants to feel like they had stepped into a parallel universe, completely different to the town they knew. So, we blacked out the windows, turned on the AC, and set the scene with a distorted video of our mole (played by the talented Sahar) leaving instructions for the rebels (the participants). Without a huge budget to work with, we circulated our props list far and wide and managed to collect a lot of cool stuff that helped transform the room. Finishing touches like a doomsday timer, fake cobwebs, chains and hazard tape really pulled the room together.

What we hadn’t anticipated was how much of our planning time was taken up by logistics. Without any access to fancy tech, we had to come up with solutions (painful zoom trialling and walkie-talkies) to make the scenario feel as realistic as possible with close to zero in-person contact with the room. The timings of the room also required a lot of planning. Every participant in an escape room approaches the experience differently with unique problem-solving skills. In the end, Room 2 had transformed into a complex labyrinth of puzzles, where we made sure the room wasn’t too easy or too difficult to complete in the hour – something we discovered when trialling the room with different groups of people.

It’s time to escape…

Once the escape room was set up and ready to trial, we had two teams come and test the room for any bugs or potential problems that would cause any mishaps. The trials were successful for two reasons; it Identified what worked and what didn’t, and it revealed itself to be a fully-fledged legitimately enticing escape room.

The night we opened, all our participants were keen to get started and they all had brilliant positive feedback once they had escaped the room. Each team that participated were all enthusiastic and up for an evening of puzzles and hilarity which made each game as lively as the last. Whilst being informed of the room rules and the mission brief, it was clear that participants were becoming increasingly intrigued and excited to get started. Perhaps this was because the room’s particular story was unique to Dumfries/The Stove. With the aid of a lot of in-house equipment, we were able to create a convincing atmosphere which was as functional as it was aesthetically immersive. As the creators and facilitators of the evening, we had an enjoyable night. This felt fantastic, as we had come so far since our ambitious idea a couple of months previous. Since we had no major technical issues or mishaps, it was safe to agree it was a successful night. We felt like we had accomplished something great when there was a demand to potentially do it all again!


Dystoveia was a very popular and successful event. With only eighteen spaces available (three groups of six) we didn’t have to do much advertising before it sold out, and we found that there were many friends and family who expressed interest after all the spaces had already been taken.

Once the groups had booked, in hindsight we could have gotten in touch earlier to tell them the time slot we wanted them to come in for. If we were to run this event again, we would also request contact numbers from those who signed up so we could communicate with them more easily.

We learnt that arranging the room and the puzzles took a lot more time than expected when we began constructing the space. We only gave ourselves a week which felt quite rushed, but thanks to the Stove team’s flexibility we were able to have two trial runs to iron out any mistakes or sticking points before the day of the event.


A free escape room in a town without any escape rooms was a brilliant idea, and it sold out very quickly! If you are looking to create an escape room from scratch, here are our learnings.

1.      Make use of resources online for puzzle ideas – there are lots of ideas out there, and many are cheap, low-tech and relatively easy to put together.

2.      Develop a strong back story, narrative and characters for the escape room – the fun in the experience is largely due to how immersive it is, try to completely transform the space.

3.      Do your research – visit at least one escape room with a group of friends/teammates and record what you learnt.

4.      Find people to help you with trial runs – you will learn a lot!

5.      Don’t put too many distracting decorations in the room – everything will be seen as a potential clue so make sure you do a deep clean and make sure nothing is in the space that you don’t want to be there.

Thank you to everyone who got involved with Dystoveia; from testing puzzles, lending décor to the space, to coming along to the event! It was a team effort, and we definitely couldn’t have done it without you!

By our 2023 Creative Spaces Team – Martha, Sahar & Korey.

Musings News Project Updates

Nithraid 2023

Hundreds of people joined us along the banks of the River Nith to celebrate the Tenth Anniversary of the Nithraid River Race!

Photography by Kirstin McEwan

This year, our famous Salty Coo was carried along Mill Green behind a piper, before being dunked in the Nith by a group of vikings!

On 2nd September 2023, we welcomed teams of sailors, coastal rowers, canoes and kayaks at the tenth annual Nithraid River Race. Our competitors entered the Nith at Glencaple at high tide and raced to Dumfries and back, battling for the best time.

Competitors getting ready to race in Glencaple.

Although there was the occasional cloud, we were fortunate to have a bright warm day for racing. The nice weather brought lots of people to the banks of the Nith, who enjoyed spectating the race. The day brightened as the afternoon went on, creating perfect conditions for those who joined us to watch and take part in the activities at Mill Green.

Some of our racers watching the tidal bore come in at Glencaple – with some kayakers enjoying the wave!

Produced by The Stove Network and supported by Dumfries & Galloway Council, Historic Environment Scotland, and EcoArt, this year’s race saw the return of competitors from previous years, as well as new racers who travelled as far as the Firth of Clyde, and North Queensferry to compete. This year we had a great mix of kayakers, coastal rowers and a few sailors who enjoyed their surroundings on the Nith.

Wigtown Bay CRC before the race.

The first vessel left the banks of Glencaple at 1:03pm, with sail boats setting off first, followed by rowers and finishing with kayakers.

Coastal rowing boats preparing for the race to start.

This year, each boat had to transport precious ‘cargo’ – flags created by young people during EcoArt’s flag making workshops.

As the boats arrived at Mill Green, each boat delivered their flag and it was raised over the Suspension Bridge, creating a fantastic visual spectacle for those enjoying the race in Dumfries and signalling the halfway point of the race.

Rows of colourful flags adorn the Suspension Bridge, marking the halfway point of the race. (EcoArt is a grassroots charity connecting community, art & sustainability. Find out more about the LAND project and EcoArt here.)

“Nithraid celebrated its 10th Birthday this year with one of it’s most successful turnouts! We had over thirty vessels of different shapes and sizes competing which really brought the river to life, making it feel like aproper celebration. Thank you to all of the spectators that lined the banks of the Nith to cheer our racers on! It made a very special day even more memorable. Nithraid is all about celebrating our town’s river, and we are delighted that so many people took part, watched and enjoyed the activities planned for the day.”

Sal Cuddihy, Nithraid Project Manager and Head of Production at The Stove Network
The public watching the boats arrive at Mill Green, whilst enjoying stalls and activity.

In addition to the annual River Race, the Stove Network led a series of family-friendly activities at Mill Green, all free of charge and accessible along the banks of the River Nith, including:

  • EcoArt – Environmental Flag Design Drop-In
  • Simon Lidwell’s Viking Cluaran
  • If Fishes were Wishes for the Nith’ by Elizabeth Tindal, Freelance Ranger.
  • The Missing Museum Drop-In
  • Nith Life Community Visioning

Before the second leg of the race could begin, we had the annual tradition of the dunking of the salty coo! The coo (our mascot) symbolises the historic journey made by herds of cattle, led by their farmers, across the river at low tide, from Maxwelltown on the west bank to the cattle market at Whitesands on the east side of the river.

Our Salty Coo was taken in procession across Mill Green, led by a piper, before being returned to the water.
The vikings from Cluaran took care of our coo on her voyage in the Nith.
Hello coo!

After a quick rest and and refreshments from the Robert Burns Centre, our competitors were ready for the second leg of the race.

Racers get ready for the second leg of the race.

Our sailors and rowers were first to depart back to Glencaple, with our kayakers canoeists setting off at the same time for the final stretch!

The Nithraid team ready to time the second leg of the race.
Team rowers setting off for Glencaple.
On your marks, get set…

Beyond Mill Green, there was various activity for the public to enjoy at the Coach and Horses and the Dougie Arms. At the Coach, there was an exhibition by artists Fraser Irvin, Neil Patterson, Leanne Bradwick and a live performance of ‘Nithraid’, a poem by Davey Payne. Both pubs hosted live music throughout the day till late at night!

We can’t thank our competitors enough for all the hard work and effort each of you gave to this year’s race. You are all winners in our eyes.

However, it is also important to give credit to those who were succesful in achieving the best time!

The Nithraid 2023 winners:

CategoryTeam / Boat NameTotal Time
Coastal RowingFirth of Clyde Rowing Club01:25:51.00
RowingLady Moira 01:10:45.00
KayakingPhil Dean01:10:56.00

A MASSIVE thank you and well done to all who took part in our tenth anniversary race. We are had a fantastic day, and we hope you did too!

The Nith Inshore Rescue team.

Thank you also to EcoArt, Simon Lidwell & the Cluaran Heritage Project clan, Nith Life, The Missing Museum and Elizabeth Tindell for the wonderful entertainment and activity at Mill Green; the safety boats who were out on the Nith all day to keep the competitors safe; Nith Inshore Rescue, who do the vital work of keeping our waters safe all year-round; Dumfries and Galloway Radio Unit who helped with parking and safely directing boats and competitors in Glencaple; all those who volunteered at this year’s event to help us set up and facilitate the race; and the businesses around Dumfries who set up special live entertainment around the town to help us celebrate Nithraid – The Dougie Arms, and Coach and Horses Inn.

Our Salty Coo en route to the River Nith.

The Stove Network

For more information on Nithraid, visit our webpage here.

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