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Jordan Chisholm is a student at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland studying Contemporary Perfomance Practice. She is currently doing a placement at The Stove and writing a blog about her experience with us – this is her first post..

Jordan (with blue hair) performing in the Salty Coo performance (Nithraid 2016) she co-designed and produced with Dillon Colthard
Jordan (with blue hair) performing in the Salty Coo performance she co-designed and produced with Dillon Colthard for The Stove’s Nithraid 2016. Photo Kirstin McEwan

When I was thinking about where I wanted to do my placement for third year – I had no doubt in my mind that I wanted to do it in Dumfries. I moved to Dumfries, in 2012, when I was seventeen years old. When I left school, I had a university offer to do Criminology but I wasn’t entirely sure if this is what I wanted to do. My mum has stayed in Dumfries for around fourteen years and it was decided that I would move in with her, to be in a new environment with no one I knew.

I’d visited Dumfries many times at the weekends and over school holidays but living there on a daily basis was something extremely different. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the town. As an ‘outsider’ coming from Edinburgh; I felt as though I really did not belong in this beautiful space and I could not explain why. I guess this was something internal and I spent most of my first year living in Dumfries travelling back to Edinburgh; there was something I was not prepared to let go and starting a new life was not as simple as I had anticipated.

Time passed and I began to open my mind. I met new people and started to do new things. I began to explore Dumfries in a new way; it was like a playground – full of magic, wonder and uncertainty. I still feel much of that uncertainty today – over four years later. However, I am not scared by this anymore; instead it inspires me and it always leaves me wanting more.

Dumfries changed me. It changed the way I look at things, it changed my opinions, it gave me a platform to do things I never thought I was capable of doing, it gave me something to be passionate about, it allowed me to learn about myself and who I could be, it shaped my future, my hopes and my dreams; Dumfries changed my life. But could I change Dumfries?

When I think about what I may want to do in the future; giving something back to Dumfries is at the top of my list. You see, in this misunderstood town, where there may not be very much to do, there are hundreds of people who all share the same love and understanding of what this space really is. Dumfries has a strange pull to it; and this pull is of upmost importance to the future of the town. We have to work together to allow people to feel proud of where they come from – to make them want to stay. This is what I want to be a part of. A part of the regeneration of Dumfries through art, creativity and sheer hope. I want Dumfries to give everyone what it gave to me, and I don’t want them to have to look very hard to get what they are looking for.

The Stove Network is situated in the centre of Dumfries. It is a fully accessible public arts space/facility/resource for the population of the town and the wider region. It is a support network that creates opportunities and connections for the creative community and integrates with the local economy and wider society. One of The Stove’s aims is to use the arts to engage and empower people for themselves, the places they live and society at large. This aim is vital to my own learning and development; I knew that this was where I had to be for placement. I wanted to know how they manage to do what they do in a town that says no much more than it says yes. I wanted to live and breathe their commitment to the Dumfries community and I wanted to be around people who share the same desires as I do; who can show me how to make a positive difference with an understanding of the quality in process as well as the product.

Although I knew why I wanted to be at The Stove, I was still extremely nervous on my first day and I did not know what to expect. It reminded me of my earlier ‘outsider’ feelings but I pushed these to the side and arrived with no expectations as to how my first week may turn out.

I was met by curator, orchestrator and public artist; Matt Baker. The motivation for Matt’s work is to have an effect in the place for which it is made. I find it comforting and reassuring having the opportunity to be mentored by someone who vocalises that they became an artist to change the world.


Its Time to Buy Back Our High Street


Changing the World with Hand and Brush

Today our new friend and sign painting ninja Ciaran Glöbel led a group of Stove members in an inspirational workshop on the art of hand painted lettering.

An example of Ciaran’s work – you can see more at his website 
Ciaran talks alphabets

There is a resurgence of interest in the traditional art of sign painting – this is partly because the sameness and ubiquity of computer generated plastic signage is wearing thin and partly because street artists (graffiti etc) are rediscovering the old arts of hand painted signage as a language for their work. Ciaran Glöbel is good example of this – he is a street artist who for the last two years has been making a living as a sign painter.

Letters by Elli, Ciaran + Jo, Katie, Lyndsay
Single stroke brush lettering practice

The day was rounded off with a public screening of ‘Sign Painters’ a movie which is a moving call to arms for artists to take to the streets and bring back the quality and originality of bespoke designed and hand made signage and street art.

‘I think every human being has the ability to alter their own environment with their bare hands.’ ……absolutely goddamn right!

Just imagine how different Dumfries High Street could look if all the independent traders had hand painted signage by local artists? #MakingDumfries

Thanks to Katie for organising everything and Ciaran for being so generous with his knowledge and having great banter


#MakingDumfries heads for Lochside and Lincluden

We have the use of the Scottish Festival of Architecture’s Travelling Pavillion all week – so we thought we’d take it on a wee tour of Dumfries. On Thursday 31st March you’ll find the pavillion in and around Lincluden and on the 1st April keep your eyes peeled in Lochside. These days are part of the Our Place project for NW Dumfries and mark the beginning of The Stove collaborating with locals in the area about future cultural activity in DG2.

If you are interested to find out more and/or be involved in the project – please get in touch at [email protected] or call 01387 252435


Art_Inbetween as a Starting Point

Jo Hodges and Robbie Coleman were appointed as artists-in-residence to the Art_Inbetween project – they began their engagement with the project at the Art_Inbetween Summit  and are now working with ideas formed at the event…..

‘We’re delighted to have been commissioned to make new work in response to the ideas and themes discussed at the Art_Inbetween Summit held at The Stove 25/26 Feb.

The cross sectorial summit brought together people working in ‘Inbetween’ places – towns, villages and other rural areas, to recognise, re-articulate and explore the distinctiveness of the contemporary rural arts scene and to share experience and knowledge. We went to the summit with the idea of keeping our minds open and listening, but the discussions were such, that it was hard to maintain a watching brief and we ended up getting fully stuck in.

Artist Jo Hodges at Art_Inbetween
Jo Hodges at Art_Inbetween
Robbie Coleman (left) at Art_inbetween
Robbie Coleman (left) at Art_Inbetween

The workshops were open formats for conversations around; art as activism, the potential for creating new structures and ways of working in Inbetween places, strategies, communication and networking in rural contexts, cultural high streets and challenging traditional methods of evaluation. Download the Art_Inbetween Summit Pack


In practice the workshops extended their reach to question the language and concepts that were used as starting points. There was much talk around what constituted ‘the rural’ and what that might mean for contemporary arts practice. Were new narratives / visions needed and what role could artists have in facilitating/creating these? There was a realization that there was a lack of clear definition around these ideas and terms and we’ve been left with an interest in delving deeper; what is it about this context that creates possibilities for new forms of art practice?


Other recurring themes of interest to us were the discussions on democracy and participation and how art may make visible/curate/ engage with civic processes. This fed into the general consensus that art practices and processes can act as active agents in thinking about and creating positive social change. We were also interested in the conversations around working collaboratively using models of co-creation across sectors / disciplines and the need to take risks in order to move into new territories of practice with transformational possibilities.


There was much talk around ideas of developing new models for evaluation of arts projects that were more relevant to the rural context and how evaluation could be built in as a creative element of any project rather than something to be done ‘later’. There was discussion about networks of various sorts and how vital they were in contributing to the resilience of ‘Inbetween’ arts practice.


The second day was for more focused work with partner organisations from The Highlands, Wales and Northumberland. We were led in this by Sam Cassels who moved participants at a hair-raising pace using specific questions and provocations in order to quickly arrive at ideas for projects that had the potential for being developed further.


The summit was buzzing with people, conversations and ideas. It was hugely successful as a forum to share and engage with the issues in contemporary ‘Inbetween’ art practice and attracted delegates with a wide and deep interest in the subjects at hand from a range of contexts across the UK. The structure of ‘less presentations – more open discussion’ allowed for conversations to develop and commonalities to surface and be articulated.


From our point of view, as artists tasked with responding to the reach and vibrancy of these conversations, we are now starting to look for patterns, undercurrents, seams and overlaps. As a shared practice we don’t have a regular recurring methodology, but conduct conversations that evolve over time, gradually finding paths that lead us somewhere/nowhere. Currently we are at the beginning of that process.


Since the summit we have found ourselves looking at our own practice (shared and individual) and have realized that it straddles the conventional rural/urban divide in ways that we had not considered before, an area that we will try and explore and articulate as part of this commission.

We have been left with a palpable feeling of excitement about ways of working outside the urban, centralized setting and the potential for developing this model of integrated working in ‘Inbetween’ places. Our challenge now is navigate a route within this enormously rich and evolving context.’

To contact Jo and Robbie – please leave a comment on this blogpost or email [email protected]

Musings News

We Live With Water


SUBMERGE offered The Stove the chance to imagine a Dumfries of the future…a future that is predicted to be as much as fully twice as wet by the end of this century.

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 22.02.46

As we prepared for SUBMERGE our local council unanimously voted for a plan to build a physical structure along the edge of the River Nith in an attempt to hold back the surges in this spate river and prevent the flooding that has been a feature of the town since records began. Hard though we searched, we could not find the longer term vision for the town that the barrier plan fitted into – how did the barrier work towards a future for Dumfries we wondered? The only answer we could fathom was to make a small area of the town more attractive to property developers. The strategy of trying to attract private investment to make the town flourish has been the mantra for the last 20 years – it has not been a success and appears increasingly questionable during the decline 20th Century capitalism which is failing to deliver well-being for the majority of the population in Scotland.


The Stove put out a call for people to join a group who would take an alternative approach and try to imagine a future where increased rainfall, sea-levels and river surges would be seen as an opportunity. We tried to imagine Dumfries as River Town….a place that embraced its environment…a place that Lives With Water.


In this plan the banks of the River Nith are re-wilded as riverbank through the centre of town and these new spaces are joined with existing green spaces adjacent to the river to create a green corridor along the Nith which is used for a combination of food and energy production, leisure, culture and education.


The commercial district of the town centre is constricted and focuses on its traditional function as a market for local producers, a meeting place and a centre of culture/heritage. As the transport hub for the region Dumfries is the place that connects national and international relations to the wider region of South West Scotland.


The area immediately bounding the High Street and Market Square is returned to residential use with urban smallholders and makers taking advantage of the proximity to market for their excess production and bringing vitality to the town centre throughout the day and nights.


This vision was presented in a document called ‘We Live With Water’ which was written from the vantage point of Dumfries in 2065 and included commentaries by local writers looking back from the future.


Richard Arkless MP visited his constituents in Dumfries on Monday 7th December 2015 to inspect the aftermath of the flooding from the previous weekend. He heard rumours of an alternative plan for the town and the river during his visit and collected a copy of We Live With Water to take back to Westminster as a potential way forward for our town.


We Live With Water was coordinated by The Stove Network and included contributions from:

Katie Anderson
Kate Foster
Rita Pacheco
Alyne Jones
David Slater
Mike Bonaventura
Lee McQueen
Matt Baker
Mark Zygadlo
Ivor Gott
Stuart White
Mary Smith
Lauren Soutar
Rhiannon Dewar
Linda Powell
Katharine Wheeler
(and some anonymous writers)

Copies of We Live With Water are downloadable as a PDF

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