News Opportunities Project Updates

What We Do Now – The Stove & Culture Collective

What We Do Now: An Introduction

What we do now echoes in eternity.’ – Marcus Aurelius

Ideas, Place and Opportunities

Last month, we announced the news that The Stove Network will be taking part in the Culture Collective programme – a major Scottish initiative for culture and creativity to play a role in the nation’s long-term recovery from the pandemic. 

The Project

The Dumfries & Galloway project ‘What We Do Now’ (WWDN) is a pioneering experiment working with creative freelancers, places and communities across the South West of Scotland. 

The Stove will work with five towns across Dumfries & Galloway to develop creative projects that support freelance practitioners/artists to platform and celebrate previously unheard sections in their communities through place-specific, relevant, community-led artistic projects. It is hoped the project will ignite and inspire new imaginative possibilities for the places that we live; with for and about the communities and towns involved. Inclusion, empowerment and creative freedom are at the heart of WWDN, reflecting the Stove’s and others continued practice in community arts and creative placemaking.

The Stove is partnering with Dumfries & Galloway Council, South of Scotland Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland, Third Sector D&G and regional arts organisations Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival, Upland and Wigtown Book Festival to bring together a proposal for Dumfries & Galloway that will see creative freelancers employed to work with communities for up to a year in five ‘Place Hubs’. 

Each Place Hub will be supported to commission freelancers to collaborate and support creative ideas and projects with key sections of each respective community. Creative freelancers will be supported at every stage of WWDN and have access to relevant experience and skills of The Stove and our partners including: one on one support and mentorship, project delivery and production support, flexible payment and working formats that can be responsive to differing needs and working approaches.

Each of the five ‘Place Hubs’ are in or working with communities experiencing disadvantage and took part in The Stove’s research project – ‘Embers: Creative Placemaking in South Scotland’. All have identified sections of their own community where COVID has accentuated existing disadvantage and exclusion and have some experience of working culturally.

The Places

The five ‘Place Hubs’ we will be working with are: 

A’ the Airts – Sanquhar

A’ The Airts is a community arts space in Sanquhar working to contribute to the social, economic and cultural well-being of the communities of Upper Nithsdale by actively encouraging participation in a range of arts, crafts and related activities. They have identified the need to better connect with socially-disadvantaged young people (14-25) in the upper Nithsdale and engage this demographic in identifying, developing and producing activity and work that is relevant to them. 

Castle Douglas Development Forum – Castle Douglas

In the Stewartry the community anchor organisation for What we Do Now is Castle Douglas Development Forum, a community organisation set up to incorporate various civic organisations under one body. CDDF aim to develop a physical performance project with young women and families.

LIFT – Northwest Dumfries

LIFT is a community group focused on bringing together their community in celebration, activity and development of their place. Northwest Dumfries is a housing estate on the outskirts of Dumfries and listed in the top 5% on index of multiple deprivation. WWDN will work with young families and residents living in high-rise flats in the area, focussing on identity and a sense of belonging for children and families to enjoy and feel safe in the places they live. 

Outpost Arts – Langholm

Outpost Arts delivers an ambitious, contemporary and diverse programme of rural arts, offering a high quality creative education programme, multi-generational creative health and well-being opportunities and works to support the regeneration of Langholm & Esk. WWDN will work with Outpost Arts to creatively explore new spaces that community members and groups can use locally, working with a broad range of the community in the process.

Stranraer Millennium CentreStranraer

Stranraer Millennium Centre a Community Trust and resource for Stranraer that a regular program of events for community groups. The Stranraer project will work with businesses and other communities that use the town centre to engage with visions for the future of the town.  

The Creative Freelancers

At the end of this month, we will begin the Artist Call Out Process, so please do keep an eye out for opportunities coming up in the next few weeks. The Stove is an organisation that has had collective freelance creative practice at its core for over ten years in embedded community arts practice, and we’re delighted to be able to continue to use this experience to engage creative freelancers and support them in collaborating with communities, Place Hubs and their peers across the project.

10 substantial commissions of one year’s duration will be on offer through What We Do Now – these will be open to people from a range of disciplines and experience. Training will be available for people looking to diversify their practice into community-focussed work. Stay tuned!

Musings News

Not farewell, but fare forward voyager!

Ailsa playing for laughs with the financial report at The Stove AGM
Ailsa playing for laughs with the financial report at The Stove AGM

Written by Matt Baker.

In any organisation there are always very special people who invest so much of themselves into something that they leave part of themselves behind in it and it is hard to imagine the place without them. Ailsa Watson was one of those people for The Stove – she has literally built the foundations that we all stand on today. Quietly and modestly Ailsa has applied her very special skills to the task of giving structure and stability to an idea. An idea that she believed in and held dearly – to change the way we do things in our society and for the people who don’t usually have a voice in local decisions to have a platform and opportunity to show the world what they can do.

Ailsa leaves the Stove after working with us for 7 years, she is someone with many (and diverse!) interests, one of which is environmentalism and we are delighted that she is able to support this cause in her next career adventure with Future Woodlands Scotland.

For most people at The Stove. Ailsa has just simply ‘always been there’ – but in her modest way, not that many know the stories. Actually, Ailsa has been around longer than 7 years. Around 2011, Ailsa had fallen in love with a Doonhamer (she was in Glasgow at the time) and set about researching the creative scene locally, she heard whispers of something starting called The Stove and finally tracked us down in a long ‘visionary’ planning session in the Snug bar of The Globe. We were planning the first ever Stove event called ‘First Foot’ (part of the first Big Burns Supper) and Ailsa quickly convinced us that she was indispensable to making this happen…it turned out that she was. This was Just one of Ailsa’s many guises – that of tech wizard and project management guru. Somehow a bunch of people who had never worked together before managed to pull off a technical tour de force and Ailsa was right in the centre of that. And then she vanished, only to reappear three years later when The Stove advertised for an Administrator – although perhaps the most over-qualified administrator ever, Ailsa took the job and set about making herself indispensable again. Not long after (I wonder why?), The Stove was successful in securing Regular Funding from Creative Scotland and Ailsa’s work started in earnest to build the dream of an accessible and inclusive space for creatively changing the world in the heart of the Dumfries community.

So who is this multi-talented woman of mystery that keeps appearing at the right moment in handknitted jumpers and dungarees? Not many know that Ailsa actually studied at Art School (Camberwell in London) – which is more than can be said for some of the ‘artists’ who work at The Stove (eg me) – from there, everything is a bit murky with ‘diverse’ career paths including boatbuilding, ski guiding, software designing and creative enterprise support…so it is completely clear to anyone how she would end up managing the operations of a creative placemaking organisation in Dumfries.

Ailsa with Stove team at Surf Awards dinner 2016
Ailsa with Stove team at Surf Awards dinner 2016

Through her time at The Stove Ailsa has touched the lives of many – we all have reasons to thank Ailsa – for my part I have learned so much about creative problem solving and really going the extra mile for people – for others Ailsa has been a wise counsel in times of trouble, a careers adviser and guru on all things from computers, to tax returns, to fund raising, to hand spinning and knitting. Ailsa has always had her own take on everything and never been afraid to swim against the tide for what she believed was right. She was the best of The Stove and we will all miss her terribly – but we just know that the ‘knitted avenger’ could resurface at any moment and until she does, we wish her all the best and thank her with all our hearts for all she has been and done for everyone connected with The Stove.

We’d love to hear your stories of Ailsa – drop us a line?


Feedback from the Stove’s Annual Gathering

Missed out on our AGM last month? We’ve got you covered with recordings of the two presentations shared during The Stove’s Annual Gathering. First up, a review of the past 12 months from Matt Baker (Orchestrator) and Katharine Wheeler (Partnerships and Development), featuring (approximate!) closed captions:

The second presentation looks forward to the year ahead, from Martin O’Neill (Artistic Director).

Also as part of our AGM we hosted a series of short members conversations reflecting on some of the key findings from our membership survey carried out last year. We wanted to take the opportunity to share some of the ideas that came out of these five really interesting sessions.

  • a creative exploration of night time culture
  • a debating club
  • a debating club for Disabled Access
  • Digital recording of live events at The Stove to allow more inclusion for audiences who can’t attend in person
  • More making spaces – we need to move from attics to aircraft hangers to realise our potential
  • Signposting good practice nationally and internationally in social/community arts
  • Digital recording of live events at The Stove to allow more inclusion for audiences who can’t attend in person
  • Use technology to reach across distance
  • Make a statue of Ailsa in Fountain Square
  • Stove learning: Don’t just tell people stuff, support them with the means to do it themselves
  • Access to IT skills development and recording of activities
  • See our towns and villages in D+G as mini-cultural hubs Its good for Stove to be more regional, but don’t forget about Dumfries, there is still a lot of work to be done doon hame
  • Analysis of the population in comparison to our current engagement reach – elderly inclusion 
  • Intergenerational working  particularly within the medium of movement
  • ‘Access to Choice’ – diversity in how to access events and activity
  • bringing in Community Learning and Development expertise available locally into the Stove team
  • grow ‘night-time culture’ in the town centre
  • bring some of the ‘positives’ discovered during the past year into future activity 

There were loads of brilliant conversations between the 75 attendees, and we were sorry to not have longer to open up the space to hear from friends, members and Stove supporters after such a long period away from the Stove building, but hope that we can continue these soon!

You might notice that our website has had a bit of an upgrade to reflect our programme this year, so to explore more of our current and upcoming projects visit: home page, and Soapbox.


Region Chosen for National Culture Programme

We are delighted to announce that The Stove Network have won a place for Dumfries and Galloway in a major Scottish initiative for culture and creativity to play a key role in the nation’s long-term recovery from the pandemic. The Culture Collective programme will see £6M invested by Scottish Government in 26 regional projects around the country, developed in partnership with Creative Scotland. The Dumfries & Galloway project ‘What We Do Now’ was granted the maximum award of £300,000. 

The principle of Culture Collective is to pay creative freelancers, who have seen livelihoods decimated by the pandemic, to work in community settings and support local groups who have also been badly impacted by Covid-19. The Stove Network worked together with agencies such as Dumfries & Galloway Council, South of Scotland Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland, Third Sector D&G and local arts organisations to bring together a proposal for Dumfries and Galloway that will see creative practitioners employed to work for up to a year in Sanquhar, Dalbeattie, Langholm, Stranraer and Northwest Dumfries. In Sanquhar, our lead organisation is A’ the Airts, in Langholm OutPost Arts, in NW Dumfries LIFT D&G, in Dalbeattie Birchvale Theatre* and in Stranraer, Stranraer Millennium Centre.

This is wonderful news and a very powerful recognition of the way that Dumfries and Galloway considers culture and creativity as something that is integrated into the heart of the way we do things in communities, in the economy and in the environment in our region. Culture is not something for an elite; it is something that belongs to all of us and something that we all make together. Culture Collective is part of our country’s commitment to ‘build back better’ – it uses years of dedicated work at grassroots level as the foundation for a major pilot project to devolve decision-making and funding to local level and create the conditions for partnership working across sectors to ensure the legacy of this approach.

In the coming weeks, we will coordinate development work in the five D&G communities towards creating detailed briefs for creatives to work within. It is anticipated that adverts for people to work on the project will be published in mid-March. The Stove’s project for Culture Collective is called ‘What We Do Now’ and builds on the group’s ‘Embers: Creative Placemaking for the South of Scotland’ report which was published in April 2020. Embers highlights the central role that culture and creativity are playing in community regeneration projects around the region and presents a case for investing in a networked and integrated approach to placemaking in Dumfries and Galloway, employing creativity as a key tool in community planning.

‘What We Do Now’ is all about imagining today, the world we wish to exist in and making the steps towards creating that world now. A world shaped by the gifts and ideas of the communities we belong to and serve. It explores and brings to the surface, the voices previously unheard in our region so that we can empower ideas and communities, through creativity, to celebrate and cherish the places that we live.

All of the communities involved in the ‘What We Do Now’ project were partners in Embers. All have identified sections of their own community where COVID has accentuated existing disadvantage and exclusion and have some experience of working culturally. Each community will be supported to commission freelance creative practitioners who will co-create original projects with people in the targeted sections of that community.

Yvonne Barber, Project Manager for A’ the Airts in Sanquhar commented: ‘A’ the Airts is excited to be participating in this exciting collaborative project. Our community in Upper Nithsdale will benefit immensely from A’ the Airts having further artistic capacity to work with local communities. Partnership and sharing good practice can only be positive, strengthening and building peoples’ skills, and more importantly their well-being.’

For more information on Culture Collective, click here.

*Due to their current organisational and programming needs Birchvale will no longer be taking part in the What We Do Now project in this instance. Castle Douglas Development Forum will however be joining us as a place-lead in the Stewartry.

News Opportunities

Opportunity for Freelance Artists/Creative Practitioners in Dumfries and Galloway

The Stove has been asked by the Wheatley Group to help them find creatives in D+G to put themselves forward for grants of up to £5,000 to develop and deliver new projects with children and young people in the region. Wheatley is a national organisation for social housing in Scotland and they are working in partnership with Creative Scotland on this project.

In the first instance the project is looking for expressions of interest from creatives with an idea for a project that can help improve the skills, confidence and wellbeing of young people. Projects are to be delivered within a year (though do not need to last a whole year) and you do not need to specify a community you would work with as Wheatley will help connect artists to communities locally.

If you are interested, there is more information available here including dates for online information sessions.

Please email to receive an application pack. Deadline 5th March

News Opportunities

We’re hiring: Community & Membership Liaison

Are you a people person looking for a new challenge; something that uses your skills and has meaning and purpose? We are looking for a special person to join our small team. We’re passionate about making a difference locally and need someone to help us connect with our membership, support volunteers and be part of delivering projects that target need in our community.

The Stove Network is a well-established social enterprise in the centre of Dumfries, we use creativity as a tool to support people and groups to Learn, Create and Change. We are also a hub for people working in the creative sector, be they musicians, filmmakers, artists, fundraisers, community activists, etc.

We are offering an opportunity for someone who is a brilliant communicator, with a flair for organisation and being in the right place at the right time. The job we are offering is Community & Membership Liaison and we’re looking for someone who will grab the chance with both hands and make it their own … is that you?

It’s a full-time job in Dumfries for an initial one-year contract and it pays £20,000 pa.

Please download the details here: 

To apply for the position, please complete the application form and send it, along with your CV, to will confirm receipt as soon as possible.

Deadline for applications: 5pm on Friday 26th February 2021

Interviews will be held on Wednesday 3rd of March 2021. We would like to make sure that our recruitment process is as open as possible, so if you’d like to discuss any accessibility requirements, or have questions about the opportunity in general, please get in touch with Graham via or phone 07714 294856.

This position is possible through the support of the Scottish Government’s Investing in Communities fund.


The Stove Presents: Conversations at Home

The Stove continues to advocate for the power of creative community-led work in supporting and sustainably developing our places. We are doing this by continuing conversations at home, through activity with Homegrown and Atlas Pandemica, and also as part of local, national and international networks that provide opportunities for shared learning and inform and advocate for this Creative Placemaking work.

The Stove’s Embers report defined this placemaking practice as:

“a collaborative practice that uses creative activity to connect and come together with other individuals, groups and organisations and respond to local needs with innovative solutions that focus on social wellbeing and inclusion in our communities.” 


We continue to focus on opportunities for collaboration, shared-resource, cross-sector working and locally led innovation. This month our team will be joining key partners at two major public events (see below for details) to talk about how the Creative Placemaking practice of The Stove has led to significant change in the regeneration and development of Dumfries’ High Street, helping to grow social enterprises and community initiatives for our local communities. A most notable example of this Creative Placemaking work is Midsteeple Quarter (MSQ), now a Community Benefit Society in its own right, MSQ is a community-led regeneration project for the centre of Dumfries and an exemplar of a co-creation, collaborative community and sector led approach to economic development for its place. 

Matt Baker, founding member and Stove Orchestrator, will be joining Community Land Scotland and Carnegie Trust UK for ‘Community Ownership – Shaping the Future of Our Towns’. Katharine Wheeler, Stove Partnerships and Project Development lead, will be joining the Newcastle University Engagement Team for Wor Culture: Re-thinking the High Street and the role for Arts and Culture.

Please join us:
Community Ownership – Shaping the Future of Our Towns – Tuesday 26th January 2-3.30pm

Wor Culture: Re-thinking the High Street – What Role for Arts and Culture? – Wednesday 27th January 12.30-2.00pm

News Opportunities

We’re hiring: Finance & Funding Development Manager

The Stove Network is seeking a Finance & Funding Development Manager to take a senior role within a dedicated core team running an award-winning, creative organisation that is playing a leading role in community-led placemaking initiatives in Dumfries and South West Scotland.

Over the last ten years The Stove has built a national and international reputation for using creativity to engage and involve people in taking an active part in re-imagining and shaping the places they live through an innovative programme of activity across artforms, sectors and communities. We are in receipt of Regular Funding from Creative Scotland, have established working partnerships with regional and national agencies and generate additional income from commissioned and self-initiated projects. 

We are looking for someone with the ambition and ethos to use their skills in finance and organisational and strategic thinking to make a fundamental contribution to the way The Stove Network works with our partners, those we employ and the community we serve. We care deeply about who we work with, and the way we work with them, if you are looking for an opportunity to really make a difference and work as part of an inspiring team of like-minded folk then please get in touch to find out more.

The Finance & Funding Development Manager is a part-time job, 3 days per week, in Dumfries (but remotely in line with Covid guidelines) for an initial one-year contract. The salary will be £32,000 (£19,200 pro rated) which is negotiable, dependent on experience.

Please download the Job Pack with job description and further details – see below.

To apply for the position, please send a covering letter and your CV to Ailsa Watson at We will confirm receipt as soon as possible.

Deadline for applications: 5pm on Friday 5th February 2021

Interviews will be held on Thursday 11th of February, most likely via Zoom. We would like to make sure that our recruitment process is as open as possible, so if you’d like to discuss any accessibility requirements, or have questions about the opportunity in general, please get in touch with Ailsa via or phone 07854 096282 (Mon, Wed, Thu 10-4pm).

Musings News

2021: The Stove at 10 Years

‘For me, the question of democracy also opens up the question of what does it mean to be truly human. And it seems to me that we need to recognize that to develop the best humanity, the best spirit, the best community, there needs to be discipline, practices of exploring. How do you do that? How do we work together? How do we talk together in ways that will open up our best capacities and our best gifts?’

Vincent Harding

Looking back, looking forward

Our first foot into the New Year might seem like little has changed. With a new spike rolling in with the first snowfall of January, a third lockdown begins. And as we huddle further into our little worlds the news cycle spins and bounces off the walls with the discovery of a vaccine. And for now, we carry on.

2021 marks ten years of the Stove’s work. And we’re immensely proud of what’s been achieved in that time; from festivals and events to community buy-outs and river races. Together with our community, we’ve shaped a new vision not only for the arts but also for the vital role that communities and creativity play in the shaping of our town.

This year, we’re focused on sharing and learning together again so that we can build and support new and ambitious ideas from the voices hitherto unheard across the region.

As of December, the Stove has been focused on building a programme of new projects that will allow us to delve deeper into connecting communities, ideas and creativity together. We want to build new connections, routes and opportunities for learning across our membership and wider region.

This year we want to discover new voices, train and support new ideas as well as deepen our relationship to the places beyond the town center.

We will do this by:

  • Creating new spaces for people to learn, share and take part in conversations to map the future of our region.
  • Continuing to explore and promote bold and innovative projects that connect people in a time of social isolation.
  • Finding the new stories and storytellers to help us navigate a world spinning further out of reach.
  • Focusing on localism and power by providing the tools necessary for communities to realise and shape their identities and futures.

Our programme will stretch across sharing skills in digital communication to help communities and artists reach further and more meaningfully to people, regional projects to support bold ideas concerned with community ownership and place-making and a responsive series of events and conversations open to all.

We are committed to exploring, developing and sharing how we work with other places and people and to continue the conversation online through our new podcast channel and other outlets.

Throughout January the Stove will be planning and organizing for the year ahead, so we encourage you to keep an eye on our website and social media for announcements, job opportunities and activity.

We’d like to once again thank our membership and community who have helped to shape our ideas for the year ahead by taking part in our projects, events, consultations and conversations throughout 2020.

And to celebrate ten years of the Stove we’ll be sharing the stories of those who have come through our doors, sharing their favourite memories as well as finding out what lies next for us over the next 10 years.

Whilst the road ahead looks rough, we’re hopeful our work will cement a new vision of community and creativity that seeks to support a fairer society for all. We can’t wait to see what comes of it.

Musings News

Dark Time: An Update

We’ve reached the end of our annual Stove Dark Time, following three weeks of conversations, discussions and reflecting on the past year. A key focus of this year’s Dark Time was incorporating into our plans for next year the feedback from our Community & Membership Survey. This survey helped us to learn more about our membership and what we mean to our wider community so that we can continue to consider better ways of working together. We received incredibly thoughtful and rich responses, which have laid the foundations for our team discussions during Dark Time. These will feed into our plans for next year in order help us make more informed decisions for the future of The Stove, Dumfries and the wider region. Although so much is still in the planning stage, here is an update on key areas we are exploring and developing:

  • We are looking at how our core team can be re-structured to support a deeper culture of opportunities for our membership to be involved in the direction of The Stove and, in particular, how the Curatorial Team model will evolve to achieve this.
  • We are reflecting on our commissioning process, the types of opportunities we support, the language we use to communicate opportunities and our processes for selection. We also want to explore ways in which we can open up our interview process and make it more accessible.
  • We want to increase the opportunity for interaction between members by creating spaces for our members to mingle such as networking days, coffee mornings, workshops and in general, more occasions for members to come and bounce ideas off the Stove team and each other.
  • We want to be ambitious in our programming and are exploring how we can remain responsive and targeted in an ever-changing environment. In particular we are continuing to look at The Stove’s regional focus, which was a core theme of membership responses to the survey. This work was already on-going with the Embers work, but is an even sharper focus for The Stove now.
  • We are deep in conversation about The Stove’s role as a learning organisation and are committed to exploring how this might work. We know already that we want to help increase opportunities for skills sharing and up-skilling across the region as well as to explore how members can learn from each other and will be taking this forward into next year and beyond.

While we are still in the early stages for much of what is mentioned above, we have already achieved a great deal through discussion and planning over the previous few weeks and are excited to build on this and see how a shared vision can be implemented. Dark Time has also helped us to touch base, reacquaint ourselves with our core values and place our members at the heart of what we do. We will keep members updated on progress on this through news updates on the website, members emails, the next AGM and specific events as appropriate. Your input into The Community & Membership Consultation was pivotal to this success and thank you again for taking the time to provide your thoughts.