Musings News Project Updates

Karl Drinkwater on WRITE!

The author, and host of the monthly creative writing workshop, shares what you can expect at a regular WRITE! meet-up.

“What goes on in a session of WRITE? Are there funny handshakes, grumpy faces, and writing snobs? I thought about coming but I haven’t ever written much.”

My experience of these sessions is smiling faces and laughter, people making friends, and just a shared joy of words. There’s no pretension, no criticism, no expectations of perfection. The people who’ve attended have been such a welcoming bunch that I love running the sessions!

The general format for a session is that people turn up and chat over a hot drink (and maybe cake), welcomed by the lovely Stove team. Then we get started and usually I get everyone to say their name, and maybe I make that into some kind of game related to the theme of the session.

Then we’ll move on to some thoughts relating to the writing topic or subject that I’ve picked for the night. We’ve had sessions discussing myths and legends; how to describe places or people; the importance of friends; beginnings and endings; and many more. Usually I’ll have questions or quotes to prompt discussion, and to give ideas. People take part as much or as little as they like. It’s fine just to listen!

The WRITE! ‘Writing Board’ at the session on ‘Place’.

That’s when we get to the main part, where we all do some writing related to the theme. I’ll usually offer a few options and some prompts, then we have 20 minutes to write whatever takes our fancy. It doesn’t even matter if it’s nothing to do with the theme – the key thing is that it is a chance to let our imaginations
free and write something that might never have appeared on paper (or screen) otherwise. It can be prose, or poem, or dialogue, or word lists, or doodles, I don’t care.

At that point we usually split into groups and everyone has the opportunity to read out some or all of what they wrote, if they wish. It’s totally optional, but everyone should have the chance. We never need to apologise for how rough it is: it’s accepted that it is an unedited idea. All that matters is the potential, and
we approach the readings and chat as if we are all good friends, supporting each other (which is actually what we are!)

And that’s it. Nothing crazy. Just a situation that encourages creativity, and an opportunity to give ourselves the time to enjoy it. If you don’t create the opportunity, nothing will happen.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve never written before, or you’re the world’s best author. We’re all equal in that room. We all have our own thoughts, our own voices, and that’s what’s so fascinating. Give ten people the same prompt, you get ten different creations. I love that.

WRITE! is the creative workshop at The Stove that gives you the space to guide your imagination and transform it into writing.

Hosted by multi-genre author and editor Karl Drinkwater, WRITE! is designed to allow you to play with words and construct short or longer pieces of work, whichever you desire, and it is open to all abilities!

If you would like to attend the next WRITE! session, click here.

To learn more about Karl, and to visit his website, click here.

Open Hoose is a project at the heart of the Stove’s community venue. Ideas are given the space, time, resources and support of the Stove Network to launch ambitious projects to galvanise and gather our communities together. From climate cafes to bread clubs, jam nights and creative writing groups, Open Hoose offers an eclectic mix of different activities for everyone to take part in. Find out more about groups like this one on our Open Hoose page, here.

Musings News Project Updates

Year in Reflection

What has The Stove achieved over the last year?

2022 was an exciting year for us here at The Stove. From developing new projects, expanding and delivering ongoing ones and growing opportunities for creatives in the region, we’re immensely proud of the team, and so thankful for the continued support of our members, customers, communities and partners, all of whom have played a part in the story of The Stove.

Looking back at all the fantastic things the Stove team have accomplished from April 22’ to March 23’, we asked our team to reflect on their highlights of the year:

Saying Hello and Goodbye

From April 2022 onwards, we had a year of providing opportunities at the Stove. During this time, we awarded the total value of £237 537 of contracts to people, 56% of which were under 25 and 86% were local.

We said goodbye to two members of staff this year who have left to grow and complete projects and career goals of their own, Edith and Beth. We said hello to five members of new staff over the course of the year. This year we were fortunate to work with a brilliant new team of Creative Spacers; Alice, Emma and Morgan, and we said hello to two new members of our comms team; WWDN Content Creator Malcolm, and Marketing Assistant Erin. Last year we also welcomed our community events producers, who have been supporting Open Hoose; Leanne & Mia. You can learn more about our team via our The Stove Team page. Our Production lead, Sal Cuddihy, shared the following thoughts about our producers;

“Its’ been an absolute pleasure having Leanne and Mia join our team this year to pilot a Creative Event Producer program, they both have done some amazing things this year, working with a wide range of communities to deliver events. Now with Meg as our newest edition to the production family, I’m super proud of them all!”

Sal Cuddihy (Production Lead) on our Community Event Producers

22/23 Projects at The Stove

Open Hoose

Open Hoose is a project at the heart of the Stove’s community venue. Ideas are given the space, time, resources and support of the Stove Network to launch ambitious projects to galvanise and gather our communities together.

The projects that have been nurtured through our Open Hoose programme this year have been; Doughlicious, Free Improvisation, Queer Club, The Hoose, WRITE!, Climate Kitchen, Nith Life, Doongamers and Repair Shop.

Our Community Events Producers shared the following about their involvement with Open Hoose: 

“My Highlight of last year was watching community groups grow through our Open Hoose program in numbers and ambitions throughout the year.”

Leanne Bradwick (Community Events Producer)

Working on Open Hoose events makes you realise what’s possible when you empower the community to take a lead in local programming. The possibilities are endless and the impact this has had on individuals and the wider community has been invaluable.

Mia Osborne (Creative Spaces & Community Events Producer)

You can read more about Open Hoose HERE.

High Street Multiverse

High Street Multiverse is a digital, public art project run by the Stove Network, supported by Dumfries & Galloway Unlimited. This project saw different QR codes being stationed at different points on Dumfries High Street with different content to access when scanned.

You can find out more about High Street Multiverse here.

Brave New Words

Brave New Words continued throughout 2022, before coming to a bittersweet ending. Brave New Words was the Stove’s monthly open mic night for writers, artists, musicians and songwriters to share words spoken or sung to an audience in the heart of the town centre. 

“Brave New Words – I cried, I laughed, I contemplated and I was inspired!'”

Lindsey Smith (Finance & Operations Manager)

You can read about Brave New Words HERE.

It sadly saw its last hurrah but keep an eye out on our programme to see any future developments

WWDN & kNOw One Place

2022 was a big year for WWDN – our creative placemaking network. WWDN supports partnerships between artists and community organisations across Dumfries & Galloway, co-creating with local communities to develop new projects, local plans, training, and enterprise. 

Kathryn Wheeler, our WWDN Project Lead shared the following about the previous year.

“Last year has been one full of changes, as most are in both the areas of community and cultural working. The focus of my work has grown more and more towards the development the What We Do Now project, working with the team here, and the community organisations involved, to shape a network that can support creative projects to emerge from communities across the region with the aim of starting new and inspiring things in those places. A highlight for me was September, when we were able to stage Scotland’s first ever Creative Placemaking forum, welcoming artists, community groups, policy-makers, funders, to share their ideas on the value of this work and the impact it could have for our communities if properly supported. For me it really highlighted how our small corner of the world is punching way above its weight.”

Katherine Wheeler (Partnerships & Project Development)

Malcolm Struthers our WWDN Content Creator shared the following thoughts about their involvement with WWDN last year,

“It has been a pleasure to help share the story of What We Do Now, and how it has grown and developed over the past year. In particular to help showcase the variety of activities that have taken place across the region, in the communities that are part of this ground-breaking initiative.

Malcolm Struthers (WWDN Content Creator)

KNOONE Place took place in Dumfries in September 2022 and was an ambitious, future-thinking discussion on how communities can use creativity to lead the development of their places. 

You can read KNOONE Place HERE, and you can visit the WWDN website HERE.


A highlight in our calendar every year, Nithraid returned with a splash in in 2022. Nithriad Festival celebrates and explores Dumfries’ long relationship with its river and its importance to people and the communities it connects in the past, present and future.

Each year we hold a River Race to celebrate our heritage and connection to the Nith. The 2022 race was saturated in sunshine and saw lots of people venture along the Nith.

Production Lead Sal shared the following about last years race;

“Now part of the fixtures for coastal rowing and canoing we had over 40 different vessels competing on the river Nith, that and the weather being in our favour for a change, saw the river the busiest it has ever been with competitors and was incredible to see.”

Sal Cuddihy (Production Lead)

You can read more about Nithraid here, and follow the Nithraid Instagram account here.

Public Art

2022 was also a big year for Public Arts. Public Art activity at the Stove supports core programming with additional activities exploring temporary or permanent uses in public space, as well as offering support to external projects such as the fountain project. From the Progressive Seagull Alliance (yet to be trademarked but watch this space), to the beginning of the Fountain Restoration project, a wealth a public art projects have been carried out across the year. 

Reel to Real Cinema delivered monthly screenings of cinematic gems. From documentary to artists made shorts, independent to international film. We aim to bring people together to share food, film and discussion. Katie, our public art lead shared the following about Reel to Real, 

“In August we hosted a special screening of Long Live My Happy Head with the filmmakers, Gordon Shaw and friends. Gordon left a truly inspirational mark on all of us and I feel privileged to have been able to host the space. And just last month, we hosted a screening of [BREATHE] from Orchestras Live in the Dock Park bandstand, which felt like a such a good opportunity to experience film together in an unexpected setting.”

Katie Anderson (Public Art Lead)

Conversing Building exhibitions in the café this year have included work from Access Art, Holywood Primary School and HMP Dumfries in collaboration with Alice Myers. 

Wild Goose Festival

The Wild Goose Festival returned, bigger and better as ever. The week-long festival weaves art, culture, and nature together through a series of activities from interactive storytelling, nature walks, conversations to performances and creative workshops for all the family. 

“Wild Goose Festival welcomed 3000 visitors across 35 events at multiple venues throughout Dumfries and Galloway. The festival is co-designed and delivered in partnership with over 20 local and regional organisations, and is a platform to explore nature, creativity and place through celebrating the inspirational migration of 6 species of geese into D&G each year.”

Graham Rooney (General Manager & WGF Project Lead)

“My standout moment of last year was the successful launch of the Wild Goose Festival website. It was months of planning, collaboration, geese, and hard work. I’m very proud of what we achieved.”

Robbie Henderson (IT Coordinator)

Solway to Svalbard, an immersive, multi-artform response to the spring migration or barnacle geese launched in 2022. Created by composer Stuart Macphearson, filmmaker Emma Dove and sound recordist Pete Smith, this unique piece of theatre brought together original music with cinematic visuals, evocative soundscapes, and live storytelling.

You can visit the Wild Goose Festival here.


The Stove Network and Stranraer Development Trust (SDT) partnered with Dandelion, to create the Unexpected Garden at Burns House in Stranraer. Led locally by, Emerging Creative Producer, Bethany Piggott who worked with both the partners and community to deliver the project.

Stove Orchestrator Matt Baker shared the following thoughts about what was happening in Stranraer last year,

“The Stove project that gave me the shivers this year was the Harvest Festival in the Unexpected Garden in Stranraer, it had all the classic ingredients to transform a place into something exciting and gathering people from all walks of life to come together and celebrate their community and their love of their town.”

Matt Baker (Orchestrator)

Read more about Dandelion here.

Creative Spaces

Fuelled by experimentation and play, Creative Spaces is predominantly about working collaboratively to engage, inspire, provoke and provide both experiences and opportunities for young people in Dumfries & Galloway. 

Creative Spacer Producer Mia shared the following about the 22/23 Creative Spaces achievments: 

“If there’s one thing this years Creative Spaces team did with bells on, it was engagement. From Dundee to Stranraer, Wester Hailes to Caerlaverock, the team have engaged with a plethora of community groups, organisations, charities and people in order to build a larger picture of what the creative industries looks like in not only D&G but the whole of Scotland and to inspire wins from other places here in Dumfries. The associates have engaged with young people from across the region championing the creative industries whilst also engaging with our board and membership to inform proactive change internally from the perspective of young creatives.”

Mia Osborne (Creative Spaces and Community Events Producer)

You can read more about Creative Spaces HERE

It’s true that ‘the people make the place’, particularly when talking about the team here at The Stove. Working with such a talented and dedicated team is a joy, and I cant wait to see what we achieve together over 2023.

Kevin Stewart (Head of Communication & Engagement)

Looking forward…

You can find out more about each of our ongoing projects here, and you can look at the the work we have completed over previous years in our archive here.

We have events at the Stove all year round! You can check out our current event programme here.

News Project Updates

Creative Stranraer

Thursday 13th April saw the opening of Creative Stranraer on the corner of George Street and King Street in the centre of the town.

The space is a former shop unit that has been renovated by owner Mr Gillespie to achieve the vision of creatives in the town coordinated by Arts and Engagement Officer Janet Jones.

The opening night was a joyously happy occasion attended by a mixture of people from the creative sector, those involved in regeneration initiatives and the curious/willing.

There were speeches, music from Stacey Joy and family and charcoal drawing with the hub’s first artist-in-residence Jane Fraser.

Creative Stranraer will host artist gatherings, workshops, events, exhibitions and become an HQ for information and exchange on all things creative that are going in in the town.

Creative Stranraer is imagined as a prototype hub that will lead into the much-anticipated redevelopment of the former George Hotel as a new cultural and community space for the town and surrounding area.

The whole Arts and Engagement project is woven into the George redevelopment initiative, to create momentum and organisation in the local creative sector prior to the George opening, it has been managed by Stranraer Development Trust (SDT) with funding from DG Council.

The Stove is commissioned by SDT to support the Arts and Engagement Officer and provide guidance and direction from our experience in Creative Placemaking regionally and nationally.

The Arts and Engagement project began in June 2022 and has been shaped around three strands of activity:

  1. Community Engagement and Co-Creation – Janet has convened a highly successful and ongoing series community gatherings called ‘Vision and Action’ meetings with attendances typically 50+ local folk coming together to share ideas, hear about progress and for local businesses/projects to showcase what they are doing. Janet has also held a number of dedicated creative meetings for different groups within the cultural and creative sector locally.
  2. Public Art Projects – to date the most highly visible public art project has been the mural on the Creative Stranraer hub building by artist Tragic O’Hara. Tragic has also undertaken workshops with local groups of young people and is now working with the Stair Park Skate Park group. Another public art initiative is the photo and poetry wall next to Gateway to Galloway at the harbour. In the pipeline is a planned Street Art festival for 2024 and numerous other small-scale projects bringing together local creative practitioners in partnership with businesses and community groups.
  3. The Creative Hub – now open at the top of King Street!

All of the above activity is designed around the principle of the creative sector taking a lead in the regeneration of Stranraer by injecting some energy, vibrancy, sound and colour into the town and in the process inspiring and bringing people together and also creating opportunities for people to express their own creativity and support people to embark on creative careers in the local area.

The Arts and Engagement project has also been working in alongside the creation of the ‘community place plan’ for the town.

News Opportunities Project Updates

Join Creative Spaces as an Associate

(This Opportunity is Now Closed)

We’re looking for THREE NEW PEOPLE to join our team.

Here at The Stove, we’re all about supporting creativity and helping those who are interested in building a career in the creative sector.

Creativity, by definition, is the the use of the imagination or original ideas to create something.

So, if you’re the type of person who likes to dream up new solutions to problems, can imagine new possibilities and work with your peers to engage with young people from across Dumfries & Galloway in a creative way, this might just be the opportunity you’ve been looking for.

These three positions are offered on a part-time basis for a fixed period of 10 months. Each successful candidate will receive a monthly payment of £560* and will work with The Stove Team on various projects, and with guidance, will learn to develop and deliver a programme of activities and events aimed at the under 30’s.

Fee: £560 pcm freelance contract (equates to 8 days per month at £70 per day)

Duration: 10 months (8 days per calendar month from May – March)

Start Date: 8th May 2023

These opportunities aren’t just for people already working in the sector and you don’t have to be an ‘artist’, have a degree or previous experience to be considered. The Creative Spaces programme is designed to offer you the chance to experiment, provoke, create, and inspire, the only criteria is, you must be aged between 16-30 and have some form of creative work** you’d like to develop.

If you’re interested in finding out more, check out our full application pack here or book to attend our Creative Spaces Showcase on 31st March and hear from last year’s Associates who will be chatting about their experience of being in the programme.

*Fees are based on a commitment of approximately 80 days over the 10month period (8 days per calendar month at a day rate of £70).

** We define ‘creative work’ as anything from photography, drawing, film, music and performance, to cookery, design and activism. If you have a creative passion and want to explore it further, let us know!

How to Apply

Deadline for Applications: Friday 7th April 23 at midday.

Application Requirements:

Personal Statement (500 words max) or video/audio file (max 5 minutes)
You can use this statement to tell us about yourself, what draws you to the project and what you feel you might be able offer and/or gain through the Creative Spaces Associate programme.
Feel free to be creative with your application, all we ask it that you answer the questions below:

  1. What do think is/are the main challenge(s) facing young people in the region?
  2. Do you have a project, idea, or area of interest* you believe the Creative Spaces programme will help you to develop or realise? Don’t panic! We’re not looking for a fully thought-out project proposal or manifesto, we just want to know what your current interests are and how you see the Associates programme helping you to develop this. This may well change during the course of the programme.

Remember – Be honest. We want to know who you are and what you think this opportunity might be able to do for you. You don’t have to be a wordsmith or filmmaker, just be you!

Please submit your application by email to [email protected] (max file size of 10MB) with heading: Creative Spaces – Associate

It’s important that our people reflect and represent the diversity of the communities and audiences we serve. We welcome and value difference, so when we say we’re for everyone, we want everyone to be welcome in our teams too. Wherever you’re from, and whatever your background, we want to hear from you.

*Please note that this idea is just so we can understand the kind of areas you may be interested in and any projects you wish to pursue. This is not a final idea that you have to take forward.

Creative Spaces is a project for the under-30’s that supports the development of those seeking a career in / currently working in the creative industries or community engagement and encourages artistic responses to cultural issues that impact young people in Dumfries & Galloway. Find our more about Creative Spaces here.

Musings News Project Updates

Creative Spaces – Dundee

By Emma Forsyth

At the end of January, the Creative Spaces team, alongside multidisciplinary artist Marly Baker, travelled up to meet with the team at Creative Dundee. We have made contact with this organisation at the Know One Place conference in September 2022, and have been eager to connect with them and see what they are doing in their city. 

We arrived at the V&A to attend the event Plastic Lab: Material Matters. It was four makers from different disciplines talking about the materials they work with. They discussed their relationship to the chosen material, their history and how they see their practice becoming more sustainable as we move forward to a more eco-conscious world. It was very interesting and fun hearing makers talk so passionately about their work.

After the talk, we went through to the Lab section, where we got to ask the designers questions, “meet the materials” and explore samples of their work. 

There was also information about different types of plastic, and how people are trying to create things out of a material that takes thousands of years to decompose. The Lab was very interactive, with people allowed to leave comments on slips on the wall. There had been schools in the Lab before us, and the young kids had filled out some of them with their inventive ways to help the plastic problem.

I was lucky enough to be introduced to John-David Hendshaw who owns production and venue company Sweet Venue, and organises Dundee Fringe. We chatted (and ranted) about accessible theatre, and bringing back old Scottish traditions that can make theatre more attractive to those who have written it off as ‘too artsy’. It was a real meaningful chat to have, and I’m so glad to have made that connection. 

After we left the V&A, we were given a tour of the city centre of Dundee. Walking through the public gardens, Gillian, Claire, and Eilish told us about their role in Creative Dundee, and the projects that they’d been involved in across the city. Their aim is to showcase the creativity in the city, connecting it to the people that live there. We could draw commonalities between The Stoves work and Creative Dundee’s, as both aim to collaborate with their local community to showcase diverse creativity.

They showed us Union Street in the centre of the city, which has now been pedestrianised; the McManus Art Gallery and Museum, a beautiful building in the centre of town; The Keiller Centre home to alternative gallery spaces, and ended in the Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre, a hub for people to create. They have a large print studio with amazing facilities which we got to wander around after seeing the Creative Dundee office and having some lovely snacks.  

Overall, it was a very meaningful experience in Dundee. Being introduced to different creative spaces that have popped up in Dundee was fascinating, exposing people to art in alternative places. The connections made were meaningful and provided a lot to think about and build upon. Thank you to the Creative Dundee team for being such good hosts and showing us more ways creativity can better people’s view on a place.

Emma is one of three Associates currently engaged in a 10-month commission through Creative Spaces at The Stove Network. Creative Spaces is a project for the under-30’s that supports the development of those seeking a career in / currently working in the creative industries or community engagement and encourages artistic responses to cultural issues that impact young people in Dumfries & Galloway. Find our more about Creative Spaces here.

Musings News Project Updates


The Open Hoose project that lets your imagination guide your hand.

Unsure what WRITE! is about? Author and organiser, Karl Drinkwater, responds to ten questions about his practice and the monthly creative writing workshop.

What is WRITE! all about?

Specific time set aside to be creative in a short and inspirational burst, surrounded by friends.

Which authors inspire you and your practice?

Rather than individual authors, it tends to be individual books which have some wonderful element that is worth studying to see how the writer achieved their effects. So I might be inspired by the style of The Road (McCarthy), or the scope of The Descent (Long), or the storytelling of The Shining (King), or the characterisation in Jane Eyre (Brontë).

What motivated you to start the group?

When I went on residential writing courses I learnt a lot, but it was often the sessions when we wrote silently to prompts that stuck with me or led to trying out new styles and ideas. I wanted to come up with a format focussing specifically on that feeling. 

How effective do you think writing can be as a form of expression?

It allows you to explore ideas, to be different people, to create something beautiful that may inspire others. To hold our lives up to the great magnifying glass and see them for what they are.

Can you tell us of a time that you were recently inspired to write creatively?

To be honest, as a full-time author, I tend to have my projects scheduled up to a year in advance. For me, the inspiration comes from setting out a plot full of conflict/drama, which has enough detail to provide guidance, but not too much to take away the fun of discovery as I fall through the page and write. 

What is your advice for overcoming writer’s block?

Planning. Without a structure, writer’s block will come and knock.

Where is your favourite place to visit locally to inspire creativity for writing?

I like writing and editing in a pub. The requirement is that it is warm, friendly, and does not have a distracting TV. So normally that would be The Dougie, Coach & Horses, Riverside Tap, or the snug in The Globe.

What do you see for the future of WRITE!

Well, a lot of that depends on The Stove! How can we reach more people? Can it spread across the whole county? (Some people travel a big distance to attend!) Could we run repeat sessions at a different day and time so more people have a chance to join in? I’d like to look at opportunities for publishing creative work from Dumfries & Galloway, open to all residents, not just those attending WRITE! (though obviously the latter would be a key audience for submissions!) Plus I have been working on ideas for a non-fiction book about the craft of writing, and some of the material I prepare for sessions could be my inspiration to get on with it!

Just for fun – what has been your favourite writing prompt shared during WRITE! And how did attendees respond to it?

Ah, there have been so many! I love seeing how the same prompt leads to totally different interpretations. Also, the Titles session (titles of books, stories, newspaper articles etc) was fun. We drew titles from a hat and used them as prompts. Some had been provided by attendees, and it was revealing to see where people’s imaginations went!

WRITE! is the creative workshop at The Stove that gives you the space to guide your imagination and transform it into writing.

Hosted by multi-genre author and editor Karl Drinkwater, WRITE! is designed to allow you to play with words and construct short or longer pieces of work, whichever you desire, and it is open to all abilities!

If you would like to attend the next WRITE! session, click here.

To learn more about Karl, and to visit his website, click here.

Open Hoose is a project at the heart of the Stove’s community venue. Ideas are given the space, time, resources and support of the Stove Network to launch ambitious projects to galvanise and gather our communities together. From climate cafes to bread clubs, jam nights and creative writing groups, Open Hoose offers an eclectic mix of different activities for everyone to take part in. Find out more about groups like this one on our Open Hoose page, here.

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