Events Projects

Lowland: Text in Context

“I wrote about what was around me. But some people are so daft they don’t understand that writing about Prestwich is just as valid as Dante writing about his Inferno.” Mark E. Smith

In an in-between place like this, writers have free reign. A place, on the edge of becoming, nearest to the precipice of the green dreaming miles to the coast. We know, it’s not quite like anywhere else. Far from it. Too close to call home. Too far in reach. Too full of hope to try.

Over the last three years, a project has been quietly simmering in the studios of the Stove. Launched in its first year by writer-in-residence, Stuart A Paterson, Lowland sought to create a new literary portrait of Dumfries town.
Now approaching the third year, the project aspires to engage more writers to reflect on a town in a transitional phase of its history.

About The Play


Barnside is sinking and the residents are on the edge of revolution. The local council, in its bleary wisdom, has been drafted in to ease the tensions. Only, not everything is, as it seems. And sooner or later, something’s got to give…

Inspired by over 300 postcards by local people, visitors and newcomers reflecting on Dumfries as well as conversations in the heart of the high street, ‘Lowland’ is a play about life in an in-between place. Developed in association with the Stove Network and the National Theatre of Scotland, this new play written by young local writers is an often otherworldly, farcical and radical presentation into the nature of community.

The first public sharing of Lowland, a work-in-progress play written by local writers, performed by a community and directed by Stove programmer Martin O’Neill will take place at the end of this month in Langholm, Moniaive, and the YMCA in Lochside, Dumfries. Tickets are priced £2-5 on a pay-what-you-feel basis – get yours now, available here

Events News Projects

Caerlaverock Stories

This year at the Stove, we are looking at the towns connection to Caerlaverock Castle, exploring the routes there from the town centre, the heritage and history of the site and it’s importance in the history of our region, drawing new connections and opening up the site to new audiences.

What are your connections with Caerlaverock Castle? What do you know about it, what are you memories of time spent there? What local myths and legends are connected with the site?
We are looking at stories: stories of history, environment and communities, trade routes and pathways, ways of living then and now.

To kick things off we’ve been meeting with local partners, gathering creative projects and looking at how we can be part of expanding the narrative of Caerlaverock.
The core theme of the project is Living on the Edge, exploring ideas of Peace, War, the Living Landscape and the Wolves at the Door – Caerlaverock is more than just a castle at siege but has a long and winding history – how much of it do you know? Caerlaverock is more than just a castle.

To launch this new conversation, we are mapping some of these histories, routes and pathways to and from the Castle in the Stove café. Pop in between the 6th and 28th of March to add some of your own, and help us build a bigger picture of Caerlaverock’s past – and future.

Do you remember your earliest visits to the castle? Do you have any great images of the castle or grounds that you could share? What does Caerlaverock mean to you? Get in touch, or let us know using #LivingCaerlaverock.

We will also be hosting a conversation between project lead Katharine Wheeler and Sally Hinchcliffe of Cycling Dumfries about routes to and from the castle, slow travel and alternative transport options. This will be a free event on Friday, 13th March from 5pm – come and join in the discussion! Full details here

A performance of Solway to Svalbard, led by musician and composer Stuart Macpherson in Caerlaverock Castle in 2019

The Stove is working with Historic Environment Scotland as part of their work to develop Caerlaverock Castle as a significant place in our region, specifically around what this place means to our communities to develop skills and learning opportunities.

For more information, contact


National Culture Strategy

Last Friday, the Scottish Government published the new National Culture Strategy for Scotland, and we are delighted that the Stove has been featured as a case study! You can download and read the Culture Strategy in full online here, and comment on Twitter using #culturescot.

The strategy has three main aims:

  • to strengthen culture

  • transforming through culture

  • empowering through culture

We’ve been having a read of it over the weekend, and have picked out some of the key facts that we found particularly inspirational.

“Value, trust and support creative people – for their unique and vital contribution to society and the economy.”
“Encourage greater openness and diverse cultures to reflect a changing Scotland in the 21st century.”
“Foster international collaboration and build on Scotland’s reputation for cultural excellence.”
“Open up the potential of culture as a transformative opportunity across society.”
“Extend the view of culture to include the everyday and emerging, the established and more formal.”
“Extend opportunities that enable people to take part in culture throughout their lives.”
“Recognise each community’s own local cultures in generating a distinct sense of place, identity and confidence.”
“Everyone has the right to participate freely in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits (Article 27, Universal Declaration of Human Rights).”
Events Musings News

Solway to Svalbard: In Conversation with Stuart Macpherson

Coming up this Friday, 28th February as part of National Theatre Scotland’s Just Start Here festival in Dumfries will be the next development of Solway to Svalbard, an creative project led by composer and musician Stuart Macpherson, in collaboration with filmmaker Emma Dove and sound recordist Pete Smith.

Following a successful starter residency supported by NTS, and a recent trip to Svalbard on the trail of the barnacle geese – the project has continued to grow and develop, so we are so excited to find out more about how the work has been developing! Ahead of Friday, Stuart tells us more about the project:


How did it all begin?

Well… funnily enough it all started off with a commissioning opportunity through the Stove Network for one of their members to create a piece of work responding to the brief of Migrating Birds, to coincide with the opening of Kathy Hinde’s Luminous Birds installation that was coming to Dumfries.
At the time there was another Stove project exploring Dumfries’ ties to Norway and I thought I’d explore the avian link between Norway and Scotland.  I knew the barnacle geese that came to the Solway each year had something to do with Norway but didn’t realise that was just their spring staging point and they in fact came from Svalbard. Pretty impressive… there’s also loads of really cool mythology surrounding the geese which is fascinating.
Anyway, the resulting piece that I created was “Flight” – a migratory soundscape incorporating field recordings and free triggered samples.  Pretty early on in the process of making that piece I started to think about where they stop on their journey and the idea of exploring those environments.  I really liked the idea of incorporating visuals and some proper field recordings.  Also, I guess I had grown a bit of a fondness for the geese through working on “Flight” and felt that I wasn’t quite finished with them yet!

Its important to me that I make work that has a relevance to where I am and with what is around me.

I also wanted to work on this project with other artists that have ties to the region, Emma and Pete were an obvious choice, I love both their work, they’re really good at what they do and in fact both had been involved in some level with “Flight” too.

What about geese particularly sparked your inspiration?

Initially the folklore surrounding the barnacle geese was the bit that got me hooked, the idea that folk actually thought they hatched from barnacles on bits of driftwood… totally brilliant!  But I guess very quickly there was an admiration that grew for them, it is amazing what they do – the distances they travel each year.  They evoke a lot and represent all sorts of different things to different folk, all the while they’re just being a cool wee goose flying between here and the high arctic trying to eat the best grass when it grows and raise a family… I like that.

I believe you’ve visited Svalbard twice now, along with your key collaborator Emma Dove to record the geese as well as the natural surroundings. How has this affected the work?

I’ve actually only visited Svalbard once… and that was with key collaborators Emma Dove and Pete Smith.  We also have spent a fair amount of time at Caerlaverock filming and recording the geese and last April/May I spent a month on a wee island in Northern Norway (just in the arctic circle) where the geese spring stage on their way north.
So yeah, a lot of this project has been about filming and recording the environments that the geese pass but also about talking to people and what place means to them.  It was particularly important for the three of us to make it to Svalbard as that has really put things into context, to be able to explore the furthest extents of the flyway and get a perspective from both ends.

Its been an interesting one as a project that started off with the geese has ended up with lots of chat about people, its been a very organic process.  We’ve learnt a lot from each other.

How’s it been working with the National Theatre of Scotland?

I’ve been really enjoying working with NTS on the project, they’ve been incredibly supportive, not just with the narrative development of the work but also with the technical/practical side of things and being able to help hold the production elements of the project… something that I personally find pretty overwhelming.
They’ve got a huge amount of experience and all this resource that we have been able to access, so its been a really great process for us.
We’ve been working closely with director/playwright Davie Anderson and he feels very much like part of the Solway to Svalbard team now, having that outside lens to look at a project has been a really helpful.  He’s been encouraging and supporting us to explore different ways of presenting the work… its definitely been a change from what we are used to within our own practices and at times a little daunting but actually it has been really refreshing and enjoyable and genuinely feel the work will be the better for it.
Its also been great to work up at Rockvilla, to have a bit of separation to properly focus on a project has been super helpful, not to mention that it’s a really cool space to work in.

What should we expect?

That’s a hard one as we’re still working that one out ourselves… I guess showing the work through Just Start Here allows us to properly test for the first time all the different elements of the work, that up until now we have been unable to.  As well as figuring out how to actually make this work we’ve been focusing a lot on the narrative of the project, and feel we’ve got to a really strong place with that.  There’s obviously elements that will be missing for this showing, but we’re hoping that folk will be able to get a good idea of what the finished work might be like.
For lots of different reasons this is a pretty complicated show, we’re combining multiple screens with surround sound design and live musicians as well as dialogue and other more theatrical elements.  So on that side of things it looks and sounds pretty cool… not the kind of thing you see very often… especially in a social club.

What are the future plans for the work?

What is great about Just Start Here is that it is an opportunity to test ideas and to see how folk respond to those ideas.  There will no doubt be things that need tweaked afterwards as well as other elements that we simply have not had time to get to yet.  We have a rough diamond here.

As I’ve said previously I’m really enjoying working with NTS on the project, so would like to continue that journey and see where we end up.  But the idea would be to create a touring work… it makes perfect sense to me that a work based on migration should travel itself.

Solway to Svalbard will be a part of Friday evenings Just Start Here festival, in Dumfries on Friday 28th February. Limited tickets are still available for the evening are £5 per person, and available online here

Musings Projects

Love Letters to Europe

At 11pm on Friday, 31st January 2020 as Britain officially exited from its position within the EU and began the transition process of finding a new way forward – the Stove’s Conversing Building project invited attendees of the Big Burns Supper’s Europa Picnic hosted by the wonderful Hope London, and visitors to the Stove cafe to pause and mark the moment with us.

Audiences were invited to write and share a love letter of their own to Europe: to a memory connected to a place, or to a friend, a stranger, present, past or future, and add it to a large map in our cafe, creating a map of inclusiveness, of welcoming, of respect and care for each other and all those who would wish to make this place their home.

“It’s going to be a letter about the future.”

The map was on display in the Stove from Thursday 6th-13th February. Thank you to everyone who took the time to contribute a letter to the collection.

Events Musings Opportunities

Behavin trials a new kind of experiment for Just Start Here 2020

In July of 2019, a micro-festival of performance art, live music and spontaneous creative action took place across the High Street of Dumfries. Set-up to agitate, disrupt, celebrate, poke fun and play, Behavin’ invited performance artists, the local community, musicians and local artists to contribute to a new kind of scene for Dumfries. 2019 featured the world’s smallest music venue, drag performance, Kung Fu master-classes, a band of seagulls, plays in our elevator theatre and a madcap day of extraordinary work from artists throughout Scotland.
And since then, it’s all gone a little bit quiet. The streets have resumed their normal operation of passers-by, people watchers, the school run, lunch- time meetings, chai latte soirees and bank appointments, all this alongside the looming avian threat of a hungry, sausage-roll-loving-seagull. Colloquially known as ‘Rats With Wings’ (also a good name for a death metal band).
Until now.
Behavin’ have been invited to take part in Just Start Here 2020 with the National Theatre of Scotland. And this year, we’re doing just that, starting right at the beginning. Our troupe (if you can call it that) is banding together once again to play, chat, explore ideas and perform, in the very heart of the High Street.
Welcome to Elsewhere, bring a chair.
We don’t know what it will be. We’re sure we’ll be sitting on a chair. We’re sure it might rain. We’re certain it’s in Fountain Square. Something is starting.
With Just Start Here, we’re in the most unique position as local artists to explore, create, start, challenge and expand our creative horizons. And we invite you, our community, our network to start something too. Join us on the 28th and 29th of February and explore how we can start a new kind of creative ambition for Dumfries.
Just Start Here is a two day festival of bold new work, taking over shop-fronts, working men’s clubs and the streets of Dumfries this February. Organised by National Theatre of Scotland, Just Start Here will take place on 28th and 29th of February 2020. Tickets are available now, for details on how to get yours along with the full line please visit the NTS website:
Tickets and General Information
Festival Line Up

Artists Kerry Morrisson and Helmut Lemke perform a durational piece as part of Behavin 2019.

Glaciers in the Stove Cafe


There are 178,000* glaciers currently around the world. How many of them can you name?

People name things for lots of reasons; to claim ownership, to map, to locate, to commemorate or congratulate, to know or mark a time, or a place or a landscape.

In the naming of things we gain familiarity. It is easier to image a glacier called Foggydog, than one without a name.

If we can’t name them, how will we miss them when they are gone?

At the moment, 10% of land area on Earth is covered with glacial ice, including glaicers, ice camps and ice sheets. Glacial ice store about 69% of the world’s fresh water, if all land ice melted, sea level would rise by approximately. 70 metres worldwide.

Glacial ice often appears blue when it becomes very dense. Years of compression gradually make the ice denser over time, forcing out the tine air pockets between crystals.

Since the early 20th Century, glaciers around the world have been retreating at unprecedented rates. Many are retreating so rapidly that they may vanish within a matter of decades. Glaciers are considered among the most sensitive indicators of climate change as they are so affected by long term climatic change such as precipitation, mean temperature and cloud cover.

In the Stove cafe as part of our Christmas decorations, we have christened over 80 of our festive baubles ceremoniously after some of our favourite glacier names, alongside the co-ordinates so you can look them up yourself. Pop in for a closer look.

Musings Opportunities

Mentoring and Collaborative Learning: Nithlight

As part of this years Nithraid Festival, The Stove commissioned artists Emily Tough and Philip Mairs to create ‘Nithlight’, a temporary light and audio installation for the Mill Green to close this years event.

Artist, illustrator and Stove member Stephen Pickering joined the team to mentor and support Emily Tough’s role.

“My minor input was in the form of mentoring Emily Tough, who undertook part of the design and construction of the public art sculpture for this event. The mentoring process went surprisingly well, and Emily was quick to learn, and keen to use any newly learned skills. She had strong ideas on what she wanted and how the finished sculpture would look and function, I merely helped by filling in the missing practical knowledge and experience.”

“This mentoring was by no means a one way process and lively discussions took place both before and during the construction-fabrication stage. From Emily I learned some new approaches regarding the promoting of my own business, and gained considerable confidence in my ability to pass on existing personal skills and knowledge while making myself and my processes readily understood.”

The final build for Nithlight, included the installation and rigging of ‘sails’ on the Mill Green which became projection surfaces for the digital content created by Philip – the inspiration and collaboration of which more can be read here:

Stephen’s first involvement with the Stove, was through organising and running a series of illustration workshops in partnership with illustrator Mark Toner. Stephen is an artist, maker and illustrator with a studio and workshop based in Nithsdale.

One of the exciting opportunities of the Stove’s Network is the potential for collaborative learning with artists, creatives and others across a whole range of ideas and projects. The skills and expertise existing across Dumfries and Galloway is a wonderful resource, and many of us have something to contribute to each other. In the future, The Stove hopes to become better at gathering, including and sharing this potential in our projects and works – keep your eyes peeled for information coming soon to Stove members.

If you are not a Stove member, and would like to become one, find out more here:

News Projects

EMBERS – Workshops across the Region

EMBERS – Igniting Culturally led Regeneration across Dumfries and Galloway

“What we hope is that EMBERS will be a map, advocacy document and proposal for support needed to further advance the really great work in place-making across Dumfries and Galloway.”

We have been talking with groups and organisations around the region about the culturally-led and creative work that is happening in communities across D&G and the great examples of place-making this has led to. About the commonalities in support and resources and the challenges, barriers this work can come up against.

We are now running a series of Group Workshops to explore the Emerging Themes from these conversations and what support for this work might look like – please see details below and sign up if you would like to join in with these sessions.

Most of our activity at The Stove has been focused on community-led activity in Dumfries town centre (and within that building opportunities for the regions creative sector as much as we can). We are aware of great things happening all over the region, the brilliant work happening in communities in D+G that are using their own skills and creativity to make positive changes for their places, and think there is an opportunity for this work to be highlighted, better supported and joined up for all our benefit.

We have a vision of joining up networks across D+G in a way that stays true to the grassroots ethos we all started with. What we’d like to do through EMBERS is represent this ‘place-making’ activity in the region back to the new South of Scotland Enterprise Agency in the hope (and expectation!) that they will then shape part of their programme specifically to support this area of work by creating a genuinely bespoke way of working that strengthens what we have all started independently.

We are not focusing on a delivery model but on how we can strengthen the pathways between the work we ALL currently do. How we can build on existing networks in communities and cultural/creative sectors – overlaying and combining them to create a powerfully integrated regional field of shared resource, capacity, knowledge, skills and opportunity.

Group Workshops
Langholm (Outpost Arts) Wed 18th Sept 3-5pm
The Look Out, 42-44 High Street, Langholm, DG13 0JH

Stranraer (Stranraer Development Trust) Wed 2nd of Oct 5:30-7:30pm
8 Castle St, Stranraer, DG9 0AG

Dumfries (The Stove Network) Thur 3rd Oct 2-4pm
Rm2 (upstairs) 100 High Street, Dumfries, DG1 2BJ

Please book places via Eventbrite here

We are delighted to be working with Issy Petrie, Policy and Development Officer at Carnegie UK Trust on this.
Please contact Katharine for more information

Events Opportunities

Sound Performance Opportunity

Would you like to participate in a SOUND PERFORMANCE on
October the 9th between 1pm and 3pm in the High Street of Dumfries?

As part of the event ‘Making Common Cause’ (in association with 2019: A Year of Conversation and Voluntary Arts Scotland) The Stove will contribute a live art performance. This project will be led by sound artist Helmut Lemke, who will run a series of workshops to introduce the concept and to rehearse the performance.

Everybody is welcome to participate. No previous experience, special knowledge or equipment is required.
If you want to be part of the performance, or if you are curious please get in touch with Helmut on for more details and date of the first workshop.

Helmut performs with the Artist group ‘Heinrich Mucken’ a walking/sound performance (Frankfurt 1987)

Making Common Cause is an event through the afternoon and evening of Wednesday 9th October. After the live art performance led by Helmut Lemke there will be a public guided walk around Dumfries in the company of cultural activists from Scotland and Ireland, inspired by ‘Making Common Cause’, a collection of essays exploring the commons, published by Voluntary Arts. Topics raised will include the rights to take part in culture, community, food, language, knowledge and nature. The guided walk will lead to The Stove where the evening will continue with refreshments and a discussion inspired by the walk and led by poet Tom Pow.

Helmut Lemke
Since Helmut started his journey into the world of sound – more than 40 years ago – he investigated sounds that are around us – some are obvious, some are familiar, some have to be found… and he has performed and exhibited process based work responding to his investigations.
His endeavour has taken him to concert halls and outdoor markets, to Galleries and Museums and to the frozen seas off Greenland, to Function Rooms of Pubs and to International Festivals.
He has presented his work all over the globe, collaborating with other Sound Artists and Musicians, with Dancers and Scientists, Visual Artists and Architects, Poets and Archaeologists, Performance Artists and Wildlife Rangers.
Helmut has recently moved to Dumfries & Galloway – he continues to listen here……