Thank you to everyone who took some time to visit Elsewhere last weekend, it filled us with hope to see the town again from fresh perspectives and in new lights.
The first of our images from the weekend are now available, thanks to photographer Kirstin McEwan.
If you weren’t able to attend in person, much of the wonderful work we included as part of Elsewhere is available to view online, see a selection of links below.
Elsewhere was supported by Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Regional Arts Fund.
Artists and Community Landowners is a collaborative project digging down into the stories of community landownership across Scotland and the impact it has for communities. The Stove is working with Community Land Scotland and six collaborating community trusts to explore stories of “ownership” and the effect it has had for local people, their identity, decision-making and the economic and social benefits for their community.
The Stories of Radical Landownership commission is being undertaken by Coulson and Tennant. As part of the project they have been visiting community land owners throughout the country; Bridgend Farmhouse in Edinburgh, Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust, North Harris Trusts and South West Mull and Iona Development Trust.
Can you briefly explain your practice?
We (Dr Saskia Coulson and Colin Tennant) are an award-winning artist partnership, who develop projects through a lens-based practice, combining genres of documentary and fine art. Our work is underpinned by academic research and through visual storytelling, we create artistic, documentary and environmental work and draw inspiration from historical, creative and ecological references.
We aim to make works that spark conversations about the past, present and future of our man-made and natural world. We strive to create stories and produce work that can speak to various audiences; from local communities, international media, academia, art and cultural sectors We want to reach as many people as possible because we seek to create work that can advocate for change in the world.
How are you approaching the commission?
We believe that capturing stories of radical land ownership is important, both in terms of current social documentation, but also as a means to advocate for future practices and policy. And we think that communities should not only have rights to their land, but also the ownership of their narrative. Therefore, we wish to explore and share the story of community land ownership in Scotland through collaborative visual storytelling. For several years we have been embedding forms of co-creation into the process of visual storytelling. This way of working leverages the voices of communities and can enlighten situations in ways that could have not been otherwise anticipated.
We aim to use our skills in making multimedia stories and foresee our project building on three collaborative actions:
Document– In the context of photography and filmmaking, our work sits at the intersection of fine art and documentary and this allows our work to be used across many different media platforms. We will make multimedia material that can raise awareness and visibility of community land trusts across Scotland. Understanding the needs and expectations of various audiences, we can work with project participants to tailor the narrative and identify the various platforms where these stories can have a real impact.
Enable– We have developed methods and processes in our practices which supports others in visual storytelling, specifically, using mobile phones to document their lives. We have experience in delivering training workshops, both in-person and online. We want to collaborate with the four trusts to create visual stories which show the unique background of their journey and the impact it has had on their community.
Connect– Our practice is transdisciplinary (arts and culture, editorial and academia), and we make connections to try and increase the recognition of our work and the work of our collaborators. We see this project as part of our ongoing practice. Prior to the Stories of Radical Landownership commission being publicised, we had been researching current initiatives, including the community buyout of Langholm and Wanlockhead, and would like to explore how this project could develop into a framework for other communities.
The main aim of this project is to co-create visual stories with the communities. We hope to create a mixture of multimedia pieces, including photographic essays, short films/moving image work and audio pieces. These stories are expected to take several forms. They can be made in Gaelic and English and can vary in length from each community partnership, but also culminate in a longer documentary project. We want the communities to feel ownership of these stories and to use them to demonstrate their successes, but also the challenges they face. We also want to explore how this way of working can advocate and support future community buyout projects and have an effect in areas such as policy and land reform.
What excites you about the project?
We are excited to be working with four diverse community trusts at a very important and exciting time of Scottish land reform. The trusts that we are working with as part of this project are Bridgend Farmhouse in Edinburgh, Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust, North Harris Trusts and South West Mull and Iona Development Trust.
Each trust provides a unique perspective in the bigger story of radical land ownership. We are collaborating with each to capture the journey that led them to form a trust and undertake a land asset transfer, but also to explore how the concept of ‘ownership’ effects the people of the communities. We are framing this project in an approach to building stories around the past, present and future of the trusts and community land ownership in Scotland.
There are many exciting aspects of this project, but we’ve been thrilled to meet so many interesting people from so many different backgrounds and hear from them their stories of land ownership. We’ve also been working with some young people from some of the trusts and getting to know what their aspirations for the future of their communities are.
How has the process been so far? Anything unexpected?
Currently, we have been immersing ourselves into the project by visiting the trusts and speaking to community members from each.
For example, earlier in the month we went to North Harris, a spectacular area of land located in the centre of a long chain of islands called the Western Isles off the North West coast of Scotland. Its dramatic Atlantic coastline and an incredible mountain range make this a very special place. The community purchased the land in 2003 and established the North Harris Trust to manage the estate. The estate comprises of 25,900 ha. of croft land, common grazings, and open hill ground. The Trust aims at building a stronger community and enhance its wild landscape.
We spent a week with the young people who live on, the estate as they undertook a John Muir Award during their October holidays. This was a great opportunity for us to get to know how young people perceive land ownership and what it means to them to grow up in a community trust. We were able to explore North Harris through their eyes, as they went on many hikes and kayak trips around the estate.
We also met community members who helped to establish North Harris Trust, and they took us to locations which meant a lot to them when they were young. The photo is of Callum, one of the founding members of the North Harris Trust. We started the week with a tour of all the places where he grew up whilst he told us stories of what it was like to be raised in such a remote and picturesque part of the world. The second photo is of Scarp, one of the places where Callum grew up but is now an uninhabited island.
We have also been visiting Bridgend Farmhouse several times over the past month to speak to the members about what it is like to be part of community trust in the city of Edinburgh. This is the only project partner that is situated in an urban context. We’ve been speaking to as many people as possible asking them about how they are involved in the trust, what they think is the value of having Bridgend Farmhouse as a community-owned asset and what they would like for the future of the organisation.
We’ve also been asking everyone at Bridgend what they think ‘radical land ownership’ means to them. We’ve been surprised that for many it is a simple idea that by having a place where you can go and do something that connects you with nature, physical making or building in the company of people you feel connected to. It is often reflected on in sharp contrast to many of the current values that are prevalent in contemporary society.
Has covid-19 affected your work with the community?
Everyone has been more careful in light of the global pandemic and we’ve been keeping up and abiding by the increased social distancing regulations. Fortunately, we have been spending a lot of time outdoors as part of this project. We’ve been lucky so far as most of the time that we have been collaborating with people the weather has been surprisingly good for Scottish standards.
We have also been meeting some community members on online platforms instead of face-to-face meetings. The silver lining of this approach is that we have been able to organise and meet a lot more people with a greater geographical reach than what we might have normally.
This short film, Our Island/Eilean Againn Fhèin was created by young people working with The North Harris Trust alongside Saskia and Colin as part of their project.
Artists and Community Landowners is a collaborative project digging down into the stories of community landownership across Scotland and the impact it has for communities. The Stove is working with Community Land Scotland and 6 collaborating Community Trusts to explore stories of “ownership” and the effect it has had for local people, their identity, decision-making and the economic and social benefits for their community.
Virginia is working directly with Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn – Galson Estate Trust – on the Isle of Lewis. As a maker with a strong conversational aspect to her work, collaborative engagement underpins Virginia’s practice.
Can you briefly explain your practice?
Evolving around conversation my practice is broadly participatory and exists within an environment of social engagement. Shifting from work that sits within civic spaces to work within education, questions of how stimulus from works of art and architecture can affect memory and learning is central to this. Where and how we respond to works of art also affect our perceptions of ownership, the legacy of any particular artwork and the authorship of new narratives associated with it. With the processes involved in artistic production and presentation in mind what can be learned from how we engage with artistic practices? What happens when the roles of artist, object and viewer shift and how can we challenge the processes we have in place for critique and evaluation?
How are you approaching the commission?
Embarking on this commission during a global pandemic and the issues this presents in terms of how and where we communicate with each other is central to how I have chosen to approach this project. Taking the object as a point of departure for new narratives I am creating a series of cast bronze ‘talking objects’ that will become way-markers around the Galson estate – points where we might stop and reflect or navigate to another area. Embedded within the bronzed peats are QR codes – digital codes that when scanned will direct the listener to an audio archive on the Urras website. As a dynamic link the archive can develop alongside the walks and talks. As the archive grows the community will have the opportunity to site the way-markers permanently or to take them for a walk. As hand sized objects they are able travel to around the island – or mainland, contributing to other narratives around the country.
What excites you about the project?
I’m really delighted to be working with such an engaged community such as the Galson Estate and to learn first-hand how radical land ownership has helped to develop the Estate socially, culturally and economically. Ideas of ownership are central to my own work and I’m excited to see how the project is shaped by the community.
How has the process been so far? Anything unexpected?
It has of course been challenging in terms of how we engage with each other but it has allowed the objects breathing space to develop and for us to experiment with digital archiving processes.
Has covid-19 affected your work with the community?
Expanding on my answer to question above – it is of course very hard to conduct interviews or community engagement when restrictions keep changing and when folk may live in different boroughs. Having a period in which experimentation and object production takes place is providing a buffer to this. It is also allowing the project to evolve in response to new COVID developments and allowing us to come up with solutions to community engagement.
This week The Stove has unveiled a new art exhibition by artist Andy Brooke in the town centre as part of our Elsewhere project. The exhibition reflects on the impact of the lockdown in the Spring, and the on-going impacts of covid-19 on the sense of community in Dumfries and beyond, from the lack of physical connection with others, to navigating public space, balancing relationships with our families, and valuing the health of everyone.
The exhibition has been created for two shop windows of The Midsteeple Quarter, and includes ceramic sculptures and a series of handmade prints. The exhibition will be on display at 113-115 High Street from the 21st of October to 22nd November 2020, and is viewable from the street from 9am to 9pm daily.
Where Were We Then?
“At the start of Lockdown I was surprised and touched by the new ways we learned of avoiding strangers on the street by a set of mutually agreed movements a bit like dancing around each other.
We were responsive and respectful towards others when out walking, shopping or cycling and a new code of citizenship was born out of the solidarity we shared. There was a kind of beauty there.”
Where Are We Now?
“We are better connected than we were in Lockdown, but we don’t really know the pathway through the next few months and beyond… The warp and weft of physical connection is still strong but we long for the touch of our fellow humans – we are tactile creatures who feel strange not feeling the rough or smooth palm of another in ours.”
Andy Brooke is a member of the Stove and a recently new resident to Dumfries. Having had the move from Essex to Dumfries delayed by the pandemic, Andy took part in the Stove’s homegrown project, a series of online invitations during the lockdown to respond creatively to covid-19, and is one of several artists commissioned to further develop his responses for this exhibition.
Elsewhere is a research project facilitated by The Stove Network that looks to locate creative activity in the High Street of Dumfries as a means of exploring public space during a time when we as a community are responding to, and recovering from the effects of covid-19 on our sense of place. Elsewhere is supported by the Midsteeple Quarter, and is part of the larger current project, Atlas Pandemica.
Elsewhere will culminate in a series of outdoor artworks in unusual spaces around the town centre on the 13th and 14th of November.
As part of this months Wild Goose Festival, The Stove cafe is currently sharing an exhibition of works produced by Fife College Learners at HMP Dumfries made as a direct response to the festival. The exhibition includes a flock of paper cut out birds, alongside two wall mounted works. Following a prolonged period in lockdown the festival was welcomed by learners as a breath of fresh air and working on this festival has been a welcome distraction during the present climate.
The learner who produced the watercolour on board painting said: “I would say the grey Largs arrive first – they are a much larger goose than the barnacle goose. About 50 went over flying very high, just a dot in the sky. They fly in family groups with 4/5 hatched gosling chicks that fly together. They return to the same place so their return to Scotland is passed onto their goslings. They like to feed as a family group and this too is passed on in this migratory journey. Food includes eating grass, rotting potatoes and chats – they love that!”
The conceptual goose painting is made up of lots of different geese contributing to the overall picture. The learner felt that this showed the comparison between all the geese working together and similar experiences within the learning centre and wider community. Individuals have tasked they need to complete to contribute to the successful journey together.
The geese will be on display in the Stove cafe until Saturday, 24th October.
Messages is a new artwork installation created by artist Helen Walsh, and sited in the windows of 113-115 High Street, Dumfries.
The installation will be on view from Monday 21st September to Monday, 19th October.
“We use envelopes to send mesages, to communicate, to share our ideas, our secrets, our hopes and dreams. Envelope also means to wrap and protect and in my installation I want to look at both these ideas. These envelopes represent some of my hopes, dreams and fears for us post Covid-19.
I’ve made the envelopes from transparent paper so you can see some of the contents, a sharing of my hopes, dreams and fears. I hope you’ll share some of yours with me by taking an envelope from the box provided, working on it and then returning it to us at The Stove Network so we can add it to the installation.”
To get involved collect an envelope from either 113-115 High Street, or The Stove cafe and share your hopes and ideas of what life should be like after the Covid-19 pandemic. You can share these ideas however you like, drawings, words or another way – and return it to the Stove cafe addressed to ELSEWHERE. Alternatively, if you are based outwith the town centre, post us your ideas to ELSEWHERE, The Stove, 100 High Street, Dumfries. Envelopes should not be larger than C5.
“The High Street is somewhere we thought we knew, and now it’s different, it’s elsewhere.”
Elsewhere is a research project by The Stove Network that looks to locate creative activity in the High Street of Dumfries as a means of exploring public space during a time when we as a community are responding to, and recovering from, the effects of COVID on our sense of place.
Helen Walsh is an artist and creative practitioner living on the Solway Coast. Helen specialises in drawing and textiles, particularly embroidery. Helen is continually fascinated by the natural world and our connection to it. Find out more about Helen and her work online here
Helen’s work is located in 113-115 High Street, a property recently purchased by Midsteeple Quarter. Find out more about the project here
Elsewhere is part of Atlas Pandemica. Find out more here
‘The High Street is somewhere we thought we knew, and now it’s different, it’s elsewhere.’
When the lockdown struck, all activity at the Stove was put on hold and what quickly emerged was a project titled Homegrown, gathering and sharing the conversations, creativity and new narratives being drawn in real time during the Lockdown by Stove members and community.
Elsewhere is a research project that looks to locate creative practice in the High Street of Dumfries as means of exploring public space during a time when we as a community are responding to, and recovering from the effects of COVID on our sense of place.
We will be experimenting with new forms of communal experience, gathering and exchange – investigating the unfamiliar in the local, coming together whilst social distancing, and creating a space to share, reflect and create new ideas for public space going forward.
Elsewhere aims to be about low-key testing, pop up investigations for small, transient audiences. We want to explore pausing whilst out beyond the confines of our homes, and at all times of day, inviting audiences to make tentative steps back into their town centres and high streets.
As part of this project we have invited three of our homegrown artists Éoghann MacColl, Helen Walsh and Andy Brooke who initially took part in our micro-commission opportunity to further develop their proposals to appear in the town centre. Each of our three artists contributed to the homegrown project in a variety of ways, and inspired us to re-imagine our future public spaces. Each artist will be presenting their work over the course of the Autumn, from shop window exhibitions to large scale paste-ups, with initiations to respond from our wider community.
We will also be looking to bring some of the other works developed during homegrown into the town centre, from both our members commissions, and wider community of artists who responded to the homegrown themes of open heartedness, solidarity, insight and perseverance.
The Dumfries Signwriting Squad are also working in partnership with the Midsteeple Quarter to develop a visual identity and signposting for elsewhere, keep your eyes peeled for some of this appearing in the High Street in the coming weeks!
Elsewhere will contribute towards Atlas Pandemica: Maps to a Kinder World, through the research and learning carried out throughout the project. Find out more about Atlas Pandemica here.
Elsewhere is curated by Katie Anderson, and includes the work of artists and Stove members, Éoghann MacColl, Helen Walsh, Andy Brooke and the Dumfries Signwriting Squad. Each artist initially took part in the homegrown project during the lockdown and continue to develop these conversations as part of Elsewhere.