Musings News

Response to the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee on the current Covid-19 crisis on our sectors

This is The Stove’s response to the call-out from the Cross-party Committee on Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs on the impact of covid-19 to Scotlands Culture and Tourism sectors and how our sector should be supported at this time.

We see it as part of our role in the region to advocate for those working in the creative sector in D+G but there is strength in numbers so we strongly encourage others to send in responses so that as many voices can be heard as possible – link here

photo credit Kirstin McEwan

Response submitted on the 17.8.2020

This response comes from our experience as a community focused organisation in the High Street of Dumfries, ongoing discussion with the freelance creative community of Dumfries and Galloway, the small groups and businesses we work with and as many of the national discussions and emerging reports we can sanely be part of.

Q – how best the industry can be supported during this unprecedented time.

We need urgent support for the freelance creative economy in Dumfries and Galloway in the form of a) paid work opportunities for freelancers, b) support for local arts infrastructure to effectively support freelancers and c) support for a network that can learn and share learning from this activity.

This paper develops a series of proposals for support and a long term vision through an understanding of the cultural sector that has been brought into sharp focus by COVID.


  • We need devolved local delivery of support that takes into account the monumental variety of work and structures that produce and deliver it within our sector at a grassroots level
  • We need a long-term VISION that embraces innovations in how we value cultural and creative work – wider social benefit, place-based initiatives and community wealth building, localised power and delivery
  • We need to talk about what we have missed, not just what we have done, and be clear on who has not been heard or supported
  • We need to be honest about the “real” long-term impact of support, who will not benefit and why. We need to share and recycle ALL support given – if we invest into spaces/buildings/large institutions for example, how can they then pay that forward to others in the sector and their surrounding community through resource, space, knowledge sharing, local expertise and procurement and be held accountable to that?
  • Fundamentally we need a grassroots and sector-led approach led by the people who make creative work and the local communities it should benefit and be a part of


Our building and community is a non-residential and transient community. At the very start of lockdown it became clear that others were better placed than us to provide the type of community care roles that we have seen a lot of creative place-based groups and organisations take in the field creative community-led work we operate in.

Our focus became the immediate and devastating impact on our local community of creative freelancers who are the pillars that hold up the region’s creative sector – small creative businesses, local projects, independent festivals and events across SW Scotland. The freelancers in our community do not have a platform in national conversations on arts, culture and their economic impact and value, advocating for them as well as providing work opportunities and networking support became our way to act.

We have been approaching this twofold – by taking part in as many of those local, regional and national conversations as we have capacity for and actively working with our membership and creative community so that the grassroots of the sector can be as loud and visible as possible in shaping how we move forward.

For our small acts of solidarity and creativity see our Homegrown Blog

Atlas Pandemica is a new project, like Homegrown, specifically developed in response to COVID, it commissions artists to gather and react to stories of the pandemic’s impact on often unheard voices in our communities and develop creative visioning for going forward into a more socially inclusive future.

It is this grassroots workforce in creative and cultural activity alongside local groups and organisations that we have seen as key collaborators and indicators of the resilience and innovation by local folk and communities.

Our long-term, strategic aim here is to support a regional network of Creative Placemaking activity that helps build and sustain a robust creative workforce whilst responding to real need at local community level.


The creative and cultural sector that is embedded in communities is under-represented across our national agencies and as such also lacking in engagement and relative collection of data in terms of their wider economic impact for our places and communities.

The Stove’s recent Embers report, April 2020, highlighted the necessity of supporting community-led, localised action and the lack of understanding of the value of this work to healthy economies. The grants for self-employed creatives were welcome but they do little to consider and understand the expense needed to continue to work as a freelance worker in our industry (support for three months of living/work expenses in Scotland coming out lower than the UK average of £2900, under £1000 a month) SEISS Statistics.

” Performers and other creative practitioners like me earn on average £10k a year and do not fit within the Chancellor’s characterisation of those left out of the SEISS. It is claimed that those who are excluded represent just 5% of the self-employed workforce, earning on average £200k – this is very clearly not the experience of the more than 40% of Equity members who have not been able get support so far.”Equity letter to Government

Excluded UK estimates that 3 million freelancers across sectors have been excluded from any support.

This needs to be courageously recognised so that it can be addressed in the plans we now take forward. Through our experience this includes, but is not limited to, the following groups and activities in cultural and creative industries:

  • Voluntary
  • Community-led
  • Freelancers
  • Young emerging and those not registered as self-employed
  • Vulnerable groups and minorities
  • Informal learning programmes and groups
  • Independent festivals and events

“Creative workers–one of the more vulnerable sectors of the workforce–are already seeing devastating impacts on their income, not only in turnover terms, but also in their charitable contributions and sponsorships. Leaving behind the more fragile part of the sector could cause irreparable socio-economic damage.” – p5 Oxford Economics Report – The projected economic impact of cvoid-19 on the UK Creative Industries 15.6.2020

Our ideas around this add to the pool of information, research and experience coming from creative freelancers across the globe, community groups and workers, academics, think tanks etc. to justify a more holistic and creative approach to economic recovery that makes use of our community groups and organisations (Community Wealth Building, Carnegie Trust on Wellbeing, Wellbeing Economy, Anchor Organisations). We need the investment to start making it happen and the courage to do it in a localised, place-based way.

Through our work at The Stove we have seen the impact that can be had when the ground is made fertile and people are given the agency to develop and grow things locally.


We see an opportunity to devolve resource and power to local people by supporting creative freelancers and groups and organisations that are already working as part of their communities to develop locally responsive projects that can also take advantage of cross sector opportunity for long-term benefit.

What if we were to pay out of work people in the Creative and Community sectors a fair wage to work in their local communities to start new projects (or build on things started in lockdown) – these could be cultural projects like choirs, writer’s groups etc. but they could also be environmental projects or new social enterprises. Our skill set is to ‘make shit happen’, we are producers, innovators and entrepreneurs! If this National Task Force was to get things started then the national agencies and funders could come in behind and help take things to the next level and, before you know it you have communities making their places, economies and health better.

The premise is simple – our Embers report has clearly shown the pivotal role played by creative practitioners and small creative organisations to initiate and maintain momentum in placemaking projects. These may start with cultural projects, but quickly develop into new social enterprises, asset-based and environmental initiatives. In short – do some cultural pump-priming in a community setting and the payback in terms of community resilience, economic development and people’s wellbeing is incredible.

This idea is based on power of community and cross-sector collaboration and respondent to the Guiding Principles from the Report by the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery – p12. More on the development of this can be found on The Stove Blog here


We believe support needs to align towards a clear VISION that can be shaped by the changing needs of the sector and is representative of the wide variety of work this includes – notably the less heard voices of creative freelancers, voluntary and community-led groups and organisations. It needs to be local, be a collaboration between the sector and our communities and feed the local innovation that is already there.

Carnegie Trust UK’s recently published (1st July 2020) “Conversations with Communities” initial findings state it brilliantly

“The COVID-19 emergency has let us see what only the state can do – set up hospitals; fund research into a vaccine; shift resources to the front line – and what only communities can do – mobilise and respond quickly by building on existing relationships; pool collective resources; think creatively about what assets are available.”

While the Government is able to float ideas for action, these can only become a reality through collaboration with the arts and creative sector. For example, the idea of a National Arts Force needs all of us in culture to come together and work with other bodies to shape a plan that can make this happen…only we the creative practitioners on the ground know how this could work…we must take our place at the discussion table for the sake of everyone who works in our sector and for society at large.” –

We have the knowledge, we have the tools, we have the live projects that are working and the historical examples of what activities and investments are impactful in a deeper, wider sense of economic resilience and wellbeing, now is the time to stop pitching our systems to big business and outdated ideas of ‘growth’ as a measure of societal success.


Embers – Igniting culturally-led regeneration across Dumfries and Galloway

Our Norwegian Story in Dumfries town centre 2017

How do we connect up the culturally-led work that is happening in communities across D & G and build our region into a powerhouse of enterprise and opportunity?

There is growing recognition that something special is happening in D+G – our creative sector is working at the heart of rural communities and helping to inspire, facilitate and connect other initiatives (eg taking over underused buildings) that are making a real difference for places and the people that live there.  The Stove Network has been both a resource and catalyst for the region through its work in Dumfries town centre. It has formed in-depth working partnerships with the local authority and other groups/agencies, building a portfolio of experience in bringing together community, agency and business interests to develop its work in place-making and culturally-led regeneration.

The Stove has received national and international recognition for their pioneering work in this field and with the advent of the new South of Scotland Enterprise Agency (SoSEP) an opportunity has been identified to develop a plan to strengthen the connection between existing projects and seed new ones for the benefit of the region as a whole. SoSEP has granted The Stove funding for a focused piece of work, based on their Enterprising Communities proposal, to look at the opportunity for better shared learning, the support needed for this activity in place-making and culturally-led regeneration and pathways to opportunities in Creative Industries.

How can we work together to strengthen these for our region? What support does this work need to flourish and grow localised decisions for the places we live?

For the next 6 months The Stove will be carrying out a feasibility study for Enterprising Communities, under their project – Embers – igniting culturally-led regeneration across Dumfries and Galloway  to explore and define a joined-up vision for work in place-making and culturally-led regeneration and enterprise in Dumfries and Galloway. This piece of work will not focus on the model to deliver this work but on how we can strengthen the pathways between the work we ALL currently do. We will look at what we need to support this, to encourage new work and sustainable development in this area.

How do we build on existing networks in the communities and cultural/creative sectors – overlaying and combining them to create a powerfully integrated regional field of shared resource, capacity, knowledge, skills and opportunity?

Embers will be led by Katharine Wheeler for The Stove with support from across our networks, agencies and partners. Firstly, Katharine will look at areas of best practice in place-making across the region and secondly, produce a feasibility document as a regional development model for place-making and culturally-led regeneration across Dumfries and Galloway defining out how best to take this forward.

We are working closely with Carnegie Trust who will be providing case studies and help in identifying significant indicators of this work throughout the project.

The feasibility study – Embers – will explore a regional development model in relation to the main aims of how the new South of Scotland’s Enterprising Partnership (SoSEP) can support place-making, creative industries and culturally-led regeneration across Dumfries and Galloway.

This will feed into SoSEP’s current enquires:

  • What forms of support are needed to enable the communities in the South of Scotland to become more resilient and to help communities grow?
  • Advise within that what type of support SOSEP could provide, and how, to enable community organisations to become more successful.
  • What would success look like – for communities and for SoSEP?

We have already been in communication with some of our partners and other organisations and groups across the region about this piece of work and will be looking to connect with others. If you are wanting to find out more about this, or get a copy of our initial Enterprising Communities proposal please email directly.

We are delighted to also be working with Issy Petrie, Policy and Development Officer, Carnegie UK Trust on this collaboration – read a recent blog about her work with us here:

D-Lux at Bakers Oven in Dumfries 2018

Stitching Our Story continues into 2019

Stitching Our Story began in 2016 as part of The Stove’s project ‘Our Norwegian Story’. The project was a series of events and activities led by Curatorial Team Member, Katharine Wheeler, which celebrated Dumfries’ unique connections to Norway. Stitching Our Story was created as a two day event and led by artist Deirdre Nelson. The event then turned into a 4-week block and was supported by our very own local artist and Archival Historian, Alyne Jones. Stitching Our Story has continued every month since due to the immense support and enthusiasm from a small focused group of stitchers. They meet on the first Wednesday of every month in The Stove Cafe, and spend a few hours talking stitching significant places on to map squares and sharing their unique stories and experiences of the town.

Initially, the group focused on places in Dumfries which played a significant role in the town’s Norwegian connection, including the iconic Rosefield Mills, which was used as the Headquarters for Norwegians in Exile during WWII. It was through their research of this particular building they were able to find out about other connections and places of significance and made time to sit together, talk about the stories that connect these places, share memories both old and new, the visions they had for these places and the importance they place on them stitch by stitch.

Over two years, the Stitching group have 20 beautifully stitched squares; some more detailed and others more sparse, all varied, personal and lovingly handled. The group are now looking to where they would like to go next with the project and are aiming to bring it all together for the end of 2019 and find a way to allow the squares to feel complete without covering every area in the same way. They hope to leave room for parts that are untouched next to areas that are more detailed, and find a way to display this work at the end of the project.

Norway is still very much an important factor in the stitching sessions and the group have continued to celebrate this connection when ever the chance arises – including the recent unveiling of the Whale Bench in Dock Park, which is situated opposite Rosefield Mills. They also recently joined Oceanallover’s Orographic micro-festival at The Stove to exhibit some of their map squares. 

Stitching Our Story continues on the first Wednesday of everything month from 3-5pm. It is open to all and they hope to welcome some new members over the year to help them continue to recognise important places in Dumfries.


Reflections on an Engaged Practice

by Katharine Wheeler, Stove Curatorial Team member since June 2015.

Katharine has been doing an Artworks Fellowship the past 10 months with The Stove and Artworks Alliance, a period of artist-led development and deep interrogation of practice presented through personnel and honest reflection.

Early last year an application crossed my desk, and that of The Stove’s, to submit a proposal as an artist/organisation pairing for a supported period of interrogation and artist-led CPD (continued professional development) in Participatory Practice.

This is a language learned through my deepening involvement with The Stove over the last 3.5 years but can still send me into a labyrinth of jargon…anyone who has attempted to casually slip “Participatory Practice” into lunch-time conversation knows my pain! Never-mind trying to communicate what that work can involve, what the “thing” is that I do within that. It is there, it’s benefits come through the the things we make with people, the conversations we have, the ideas we share and the projects that this creates where people, from all backgrounds and experiences, really are working together to creatively change the places they live, and it may seem cheesy but the lives it changes (including my own) in the process. It is this process, the ethos, the change I see it make in people and places that I am passionate about and makes me want to be able to communicate it, to understand what the “thing” is that makes it work, or not work in many cases, what are the sometimes very subtle differences between an activity that really is engaged, collaborative with others, and one that isn’t.

So how is this relevant to my Artworks Fellowship with The Stove. Well we were asked two things: to think about what we wanted to develop in ourselves as artists (blue sky, anything we wanted to achieve) and come up with a line of interrogation, a question, that our Artworks journey would relate to in our participatory work with the paired organisation. I found this incredibly difficult, to identify a question that I felt was relevant to this “thing” that I was passionate about. I wanted to reflect on this “thing” that makes our work at The Stove so profound, as an organisation and for me as an individual artist. But I kept getting lost in the language, trying to understand the structure. I needed to really understand this “thing” outside of the jargon and identify my part within it, my relationship to it, before I could reflect on it. What am “I” and what is “It” and is the separation important.

In this way we were maybe different from the other 4 pairings, as I had become completely entwined in the structure of The Stove and my practice had developed profoundly within that but I could not see what it had become exactly. As you might notice I do not tend to do anything by halves…continued professional development you say…some might just go away and do something but I needed to spend months pulling it all a part. I did end up just doing some things in the end – drawing, reading (or compulsively buying books and trying to find the time to read them) – turns out that is also important.

Artworks became a lens from which to observe myself, The Stove, my/our work, relationship, everything I did I began to look at with interest: Why do I/we do it that way, what is the usefulness of that, what is important? I set aside Fridays as Artworks days, points for reflection, often Fridays were over-run catching up on project enquiries, partnership development, talking with people. Sometimes I thought I would drown in what seemed self-indulgent reflection of my “practice” and what was important within that, sometimes I got lost in Stove world, lost myself entirely to the “Organisation” and Artworks gave me a life line back to look at what my individual needs were, and why they were both important for myself as well as The Stove.

I didn’t identify a single line of interrogation, I observed the process of finding the dilemmas in my work with The Stove, the tensions, our working process and how this is relevant to our work with other people, to the “thing” we do with our communities. My journey with The Stove became more about looking at all the pieces and how do they fit together, what piece am “I” in the organisational jigsaw, what pieces may be over-used, under-used, lost under the table.

In hugely simplified terms what came out of it for me is that Participatory Practice (one that involves others at its roots and not just its surface) is not about how it all fits together, or what the picture looks like at the end, it is about the “process” by which you choose to approach it, who is involved, the time you spend along the way. If this process was a walk it would be about who is there at the beginning, who joins at various points for a little while or for the whole jaunt, how our route changes direction and navigates the places we go through, how those places change us, and how we constantly choose and re-adjust our route. And whether we are aware this is still only one way and we can only ever see it from our individual perspective, how can we take that into account? In that sense it is truly about valuing the individual rather than coming up with one umbrella we can all fit under – spoiler…you will never find that umbrella!!! And why would you want to.

A creative practice is a deeply personnel thing…this journey became a deeply personal thing but it has also added another level of understanding to what I do with The Stove…even if I am still a long way from being able to fully communicate it.

If I were to communicate one thing from this learning then it would be if you really want to include other people in your work, to co-develop and collaborate, then you need to create a process together that you agree on and then surrender to a journey that leads you in directions you have not considered or planned on. And in order to do that you will need to understand each-others methods of communication.

News Project Updates

Stove is Norway Bound

‘Our Norwegian Story’ catch-up – Instalment II.

Part of this project took us to Norway to start to make some friends across the water.  We visited some of the former whaling towns that are directly connected to Dumfries as the home of those first arriving into Dumfries Station in the summer of 1941 – Tonsberg (our former twinning town), Sandeford and Bergen.

The enthusiasm and sense of shared connection to Dumfries with the people we met was quite overwhelming.  We spoke about the project in the Forsmannsenteret Centre for elderly residents in Sandefjord, children of those relationships and marriages made during the time of so many Norwegians in our town.  Met with local officials and other arts organisations to talk about future collaborations and tried to capture a tiny part of Norway’s side of our story.  There is still much to find out but we have made a start at least….we even made the local Sandefjord Press!

Norway:Scotland Flag copy

And it begins…

Norway Sandefjord copy

Sandfjord’s beautiful moving water sculpture

Norway Tonsberg2 copy

Making boats in Tonsberg

Norway Bergen copy

The World Heritage site of Bergen

Photo 01-10-2016, 11 08 51

Meeting Jenny of North Sea Traffic Museum

Norway Sandefjord Press copy

and the Sandefjord Press


Finn The Whale

Catching up on ‘Our Norwegian Story‘ Instalment I.

Finn the Whale – written by our very own talented Stove Curatorial Team member Martin Joseph O’Neill and local artist Maria Ruiz Plana – took the metaphors of Exile, Journey, and Friendship and wove them into a beautiful tale of finding your true self and a safe place of Refuge.  Workshops were held at The Stove and Lincluden Primary school in November with performances given to inspire the compositions of our young Paragon musicians.  Both these compositions and the Shadow Puppet show were performed as part of the Our Norwegian Story showcase in November’s STORY event.


STORY in The Stove

Finn the Whale Puppet Making copy

In the Making

Finn the Whale5 copy

Our very own Finn

Finn the Whale2 copy
News Project Updates

Journey through our town – ONS

September brought Our Norwegian Trail to life with the most recent Mapping Event.  We scribbled, played, discussed and stitched Our Story into creation on a beautiful sunny day despite half of our team being struck down by one of those Autumn bugs.

The Mapping Our Norwegian Story/Dumfries

Large chalk drawings are always fun!  We had lots of young helpers join in our antics outside on the pavement as well as a few inquisitive chats and walks down memory lane.


Artist Deirdre Nelson joined us over the two days with large printed squares of Dumfries.  Embroidery silks at the ready she helped passers by stitch significant places in Dumfries’ Norwegian history as well as other personnel significance onto our maps.  We are looking forward to welcoming her back to continue – and maybe tidy up slightly some of our own attempts – for the next ONS event STORY on the 10th, 11th and 12th of November, come join us!

The Mapping Our Norwegian Story/Dumfries
The Mapping Our Norwegian Story/Dumfries
The Mapping Our Norwegian Story/Dumfries

If you have a place or a memory that relates to Dumfries’ Norwegian Story please do get in touch, we are keen to make this story truly Dumfries’.

News Project Updates

Football in Our Street – ONS Rematch

In August we reclaimed the High Street of Dumfries town centre with football (albeit in a cage – next time we can try without!).  Celebrating the long standing friendship of local football club Greystone Rovers with Norway started in a 1940 match between Dumfries locals and Norwegian exiles resulting in a draw.  A rematch was called and eventually played in Bergen in 1951 beginning a series of exchange visits over the years since.  With Greystone Rovers 80th anniversary upcoming in 2018 they are keen to resume their friendship and exchange opportunities for their club members.  Graham Muir, club manager, has supported The Stove’s Our Norwegian Story project as an important recognition of how beneficial these friendships can be.

This event tied in with the Our Land festival of events across Scotland looking at land use and the importance of community ownership of these spaces.  The Stove wrote an article to highlight how our events can reach out to tackle wider national issues which can be found here on The Common Space website:

Our Norwegian Story continues to develop, with the depth of stories bubbling up from under the surface, with personnel memories knitting together these more historical events.

Stay tuned for more next week – Films, food, drawing big maps and stitching our story into existence!

Football in our Streets
Activity outside The Stove
The Greystone Rovers youth team
The Greystone Rovers youth team
Screen printing T-shirts with Sarah Keast
Memorabilia from the 70 year relationship between Greystone Rovers and SK Brann was on display in The Stove
Time for Subbuteo

News Project Updates

Our Scottish/Norwegian Skill Share

Back to “Our Norwegian Story” so far – July brought us a two day event sharing skills and learning about our common love of making.  We made boats, oars, whistles, rope and nets while also exploring the knitting of Sanquhar patterns and their Norwegian counterparts.  Our friends from Galgael Trust up in Glasgow, Alyne Jones of Moniaive, Simon Lidwell of local group Clauran Haven and Wordsmithcrafts helped us explore the beauty of skilled craft and our intertwined history within it.

The Stove ‘Our Norwegian Story’
Rowing instruction from Cluaran
A different kind of street market
Whistle Making with Nora from Forest Schools
Oar making with the Galgael Trust
Knitting with Alyne Jones of Vanishing Scotland
News Project Updates

ONS Market & Recipe Swap

Looking over the next few weeks on Our Norwegian Story so far – The project kicked off on June 17th the with a wonderful array of specialities from Norway as well as this side of the ocean for our Recipe Swap and Market. Those who turned up shared stories over warm waffles with Norwegian blueberries, Kransekake and some scotch favourites like Chranachan, writing down some recipes for you to enjoy at home.

All of the Recipes have now been up-loaded to our project page here:

Saturday the 17th June saw us join Dumfries’ annual Guid Nychburris celebrations with more waffles, cinnamon buns and a special Norwegian Market kindly put on by Alex of Edinburgh based Nordic Affar – – where you can buy all the Norwegian classics from Brown Cheese to Salted Liquorice.

More food to come at Septembers Scottish/Norwegian film Shorts and Pot Luck night on September 15th at 7pm, information to follow.

Norwegian food swap at the Stove , Dumfries
Recipe Swap gathering
Norwegian food swap at the Stove , Dumfries
Sharing our Recipes
Norwegian food swap at the Stove , Dumfries
Enjoying Norwegian stew
Norwegian food swap at the Stove , Dumfries
Norwegian food swap at the Stove , Dumfries
Norwegian food swap at the Stove , Dumfries
Waffles and blueberries
The stove
Norge Hus at The Stove
Cinnamon buns!
Our Norwegian Market
Nordic Affar joins us at The Stove
Sharing Stories