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Wild Goose Festival Returns with Soaring Success

The Wild Goose Festival returned for another year of inspiring and educational family-friendly activities and events. Read about our 2023 Festival below.

The Wild Goose Festival returned to Dumfries and Galloway this autumn, bringing with it a flock of exciting events and activities for all ages. The festival, which ran from October 19th – 29th, is inspired by the annual migration of geese to the Solway Firth.

Over the course of the festival, the public had the opportunity to learn about the incredible journey of these birds, as well as the diverse ecosystems and wildlife of Dumfries and Galloway. The festival also featured a variety of creative workshops, interactive storytelling sessions, and nature walks.

A Celebration of Nature, Creativity and Place

The Wild Goose Festival is not just about geese; it celebrates both the inspirational journey undertaken by our feathered friends and our deep connection with the natural world. 

This year’s family-friendly program aimed to engage communities through creativity, education, and play, building meaningful relationships and encouraging people of all generations to reconnect with their environment.

With events taking place throughout the region, from Stranraer across to Glencaple, the Wild Goose Festival saw an audience of around 4200 people celebrating the journey of the geese.

A Hub for Discovery and Creativity

This year’s Festival Hub opened its doors in a brand new location within the Loreburne Centre in Dumfries. The Hub served as an information point for the festival, as well as an accessible space where a variety of fun and creative activities was hosted.

At the hub, members of the public could engage with individuals dedicated to protecting our natural resources, unleash their creativity with artists, and delve into the fascinating world of wild geese, discovering why these birds make their annual pilgrimage to Dumfries & Galloway.

Around 800 people visited the Hub this year, to see the full programme of events that were available, click here.

A Festival for All Ages

The Wild Goose Festival’s family-friendly program cultivated meaningful conversation between generations and encouraged participants to reconnect with the environment around them.

From seasoned birdwatchers to curious newcomers, the Wild Goose Festival 2023 had a range of events for all ages and backgrounds. To view each of our 2023 events visit here.

A Focus on Environmental Awareness

Wild Goose serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of preserving our natural heritage. The conclusion of our 2023 festival Three Sisters – A Story from the Climate Future promoted this sentiment, premiering an immersive audio drama set in 2030 questioning how we will live under the impacts of climate change.

The Stove Networks creative response to this year’s festival was the Keep Looking Up Roaming Exhibition. This exhibition invited members of the public to observe the skies and consider our relationship with the non-human inhabitants of our everyday spaces. The artwork prompted new ways of observing our wildlife and how we impact it, and vice versa.

A Legacy of Inspiration

This year the Creative Spaces team worked with pupils from Laurieknowe Primary School to deliver a series of creative workshops on the migration of Geese and their relevance to the region. Learn more here.

As the Wild Goose Festival draws to a close this year, it leaves a legacy of inspiration and environmental stewardship of the unique biodiversity of Dumfries and Galloway.

The festival’s commitment to engaging communities through art, culture, and nature will continue in 2024.

Visit the Wild Goose Festival website here.

Musings News Project Updates

Creative Spaces – Laurieknowe Workshops

In the run-up to Wild Goose Festival 2023, the Creative Spaces team worked with pupils from Laurieknowe Primary School to deliver a series of creative workshops on the migration of Geese and their relevance to the region. We would first like to say a huge thank you to Laurieknowe’s P4 class and both teachers who were brilliant to work with!

Creative Spaces team talking to the Primary using a map

The first day Creative Spaces went into the primary school we were pretty nervous. We had a plan but were also prepared to be flexible as we didn’t know what to expect from the class. The P4s were really excited to see us and paid close attention as we introduced ourselves and showed them a short video about bird migration. When we asked them questions afterwards, they were all eager to put their hands up and show off their recall skills. We started to see their different personalities shine through and were reassured by the energy of the class – they were so ready to learn about geese! 

The next task was map-based. We put a big world map onto each of the 3 tables in the classroom and worked in groups to identify the places where the different species (Barnacle, Greenland White-Fronted, Light-Bellied Brent, and Pink Footed Geese) breed. The first challenge for the kids was spotting Scotland (it’s tiny!) and then understanding that the geese fly hundreds of miles to get here from Iceland, Greenland, Svalbard and Canada even though it’s only a few centimetres on the map. We gave them little card cutouts of geese that they could move around the map – some of the kids’ geese were much more interested in flying to Africa and South America than following their usual migration patterns. 

After learning a lot in the classroom about where the geese in Dumfries come from, when and why they come and go, and the challenges they face on their long journeys, we relocated to the hall for an active break. We had come up with a loose concept for a game, where we held up the flags for different countries that the kids had to ‘fly’ between. A few of them played different risks such as predators (foxes, eagles, badgers), wind turbines, bad weather etc. The ‘geese’ had to make it safely to their destination (Scottish flag) without being caught by a ‘risk’, otherwise they would join the obstacles in the middle of the hall. They had a blast with this active learning, amongst the noise and chaos, and enjoyed the challenge of running in V formations like the geese fly. 

Active Break to learn more about geese.

We then went back to the classroom for a drawing activity. Each child received a comic strip template designed by Korey and drew/coloured in the story of the wild geese migration. They were really impressed by Korey’s ability to draw a goose and were queuing up to get his help with it. This seemed to be the recurring theme of the day, with everyone asking Korey to tie their shoelaces as they left at 3 o’clock! It was an all-around successful afternoon, and we went home feeling very tired but encouraged. 

Before starting Day Two, the team were slightly daunted by the task of engaging the class for an entire day about geese and incorporating more research-based lessons. These nerves immediately disappeared when recapped what the class had learned from the previous session and realised how much they had remembered from only one afternoon. 

We decided to dedicate the morning to teaching the class about Goose habitats – what they need to nest and to protect themselves from various dangers. In groups, the kids designed beautiful three-dimensional habitats out of coloured paper and freestanding elements arranged inside shoeboxes. We then moved on to the computers so that the class could complete some further research and fill out their ‘Goose Facts’ booklets.

Colouring in geese cartoon strips

This helped the kids differentiate the different goose species that come to D&G and put all their findings in one place. Just before lunch, we switched things up and held a goose-making workshop where the kids had the choice of dressing our pre-made chicken wire geese in newspaper scraps or making miniature tinfoil geese. What was most impressive was watching the pools of PVA glue and mountains of newspaper scraps disappear and the classroom return to its previous state in a matter of minutes before the lunch bell. 

In the afternoon, we decided to put the kids’ learning to the test with a newsreader task complete with costumes. Finally, we brought in our goose expert extraordinaire Hagen Patterson, to answer all the questions the kids had come up with over the past two sessions. They loved having their burning questions answered and it was hilarious watching the Q&A go off track with a couple of questions (shout out to the pupil who asked which goose was the tastiest to eat). However, the highlight was definitely Hagen’s true-to-life goose calls which showed the class a fun, tangible example of the differences between the various geese species they were learning about. 

We felt a great sense of achievement after the second day as we achieved a better flow between the various lesson plans and felt genuine excitement from the class about geese migrating to our region.

A very magnificent goose!

On Thursday the 12th of October the Creative Spaces team headed into Laurieknowe Primary School for the final time. The class were just as excited to see us, and the feeling was mutual. During the third visit, the team felt more comfortable and at ease with the P4 class. The lessons were well received and as the kids had familiarized themselves with us, they were genuinely engaged, and the lesson continued at a good pace.

The lesson of the day was centred around Scots language and poetry with the theme of Geese. Mia grabbed the class’s attention immediately with a self-written Scots Poem about Geese visiting Dumfries. At this point, it was interesting to see which Scottish words the kids already knew or didn’t know. This was a great way to introduce some Scots Words to the pupils’ developing vocabulary.

So, using words provided (and explained) by us, and some useful goose facts, the children were then prompted to write their own poems. They did brilliantly and it was a great pleasure to help translate regular English words into Scots for the kids. That in particular was something they were all excited about, and even though it wasn’t mandatory, all the pupils stuck to writing about Geese.

The brilliant poems were available to view at the Wild Goose Festival Hub in the Lorebrune Centre during this year’s festival. Towards the end of the day, we also finished off our miniature goose sculptures with some coloured pens and got some great results, which were also displayed in the WGF Hub.

By the 2023 Creative Spaces Team.

Learn more about the Wild Goose Festival here.

Visit the Wild Goose Festival website here.

Musings News Project Updates

Wild Goose Festival: Keep Looking Up Roaming Installation

Our Public Art Lead, Katie Anderson, tells us about the Keep Looking Up Roaming Installation, The Stove’s artistic response to this year’s Wild Goose Festival.

A blue fabric flag waves in the wind with 'Keep Looking Up' painted across it.

As part of this year’s Wild Goose Festival, I’ve been invited as part of my Public Art Lead role to create and host a playful birdwatching experience inspired by the returning migratory bird population. Appearing in and around Dumfries town centre, this new artwork will explore bird watching in a creative way at dedicated pop-up spaces produced for viewing and listening to birds and their behaviours.

A blue deckchair with 'Keep Looking Up' painted on it, sitting on cobblestones next to a river.

As ‘Roaming Birdwatchers’, the artwork – of no fixed location – will ‘pop up’ in four different public spaces around Dumfries. This interactive artwork will ask those passing by to pause and reflect on our non-human winter residents.

Audiences and members of the public are invited to join the Wild Goose Festival affiliated artists and partners in an outdoor environment to observe the skies and consider our relationship with the non-human inhabitants of our everyday spaces. The artwork comprises a series of colourful deckchairs, a commissioned soundscape using audio recorded from local visitors and alternative viewing devices for seeing the birds and wildlife differently.

A person sitting on a blue deckchair next to the river, wearing a green jacket, looks to the sky. Another deckchair is next to them which has 'Keep Looking Up' painted across it.

The project is inspired by the Wild Goose Festival’s theme ‘Keep Looking Up’ and includes a series of project flags that will appear around the town. Each flag will encourage those passing by to look skyward and spot the returning bird population as they continue to arrive. Also, each flag will act as a message of hope and optimism in challenging times. How can we see the town differently, and what new ways of seeing can help us uncover unique understandings of our place?

The Keep Looking Up roaming installation will be found in and around the town centre on the following dates:

Thursday 19th at 1 pm – 4 pm

Friday 20th at 1 pm – 4 pm

Monday 23rd at 2 pm – 5 pm

Thursday 26th at 1 pm – 4 pm

The pop-up locations will not be published in advance, but sites could include Dumfries High Street/Fountain Square, the Whitesands, Greensands and Dumfries Museums sites. If you would like to find the roaming installation, please pop into the Wild Goose Festival Hub in the Loreburne Centre for information on the day.

Two blue deckchairs on the banks of the River Nith with 'Keep Looking Up' painted on them

by Katie Anderson

Musings News Project Updates

Nithraid 2023

Hundreds of people joined us along the banks of the River Nith to celebrate the Tenth Anniversary of the Nithraid River Race!

Photography by Kirstin McEwan

This year, our famous Salty Coo was carried along Mill Green behind a piper, before being dunked in the Nith by a group of vikings!

On 2nd September 2023, we welcomed teams of sailors, coastal rowers, canoes and kayaks at the tenth annual Nithraid River Race. Our competitors entered the Nith at Glencaple at high tide and raced to Dumfries and back, battling for the best time.

Competitors getting ready to race in Glencaple.

Although there was the occasional cloud, we were fortunate to have a bright warm day for racing. The nice weather brought lots of people to the banks of the Nith, who enjoyed spectating the race. The day brightened as the afternoon went on, creating perfect conditions for those who joined us to watch and take part in the activities at Mill Green.

Some of our racers watching the tidal bore come in at Glencaple – with some kayakers enjoying the wave!

Produced by The Stove Network and supported by Dumfries & Galloway Council, Historic Environment Scotland, and EcoArt, this year’s race saw the return of competitors from previous years, as well as new racers who travelled as far as the Firth of Clyde, and North Queensferry to compete. This year we had a great mix of kayakers, coastal rowers and a few sailors who enjoyed their surroundings on the Nith.

Wigtown Bay CRC before the race.

The first vessel left the banks of Glencaple at 1:03pm, with sail boats setting off first, followed by rowers and finishing with kayakers.

Coastal rowing boats preparing for the race to start.

This year, each boat had to transport precious ‘cargo’ – flags created by young people during EcoArt’s flag making workshops.

As the boats arrived at Mill Green, each boat delivered their flag and it was raised over the Suspension Bridge, creating a fantastic visual spectacle for those enjoying the race in Dumfries and signalling the halfway point of the race.

Rows of colourful flags adorn the Suspension Bridge, marking the halfway point of the race. (EcoArt is a grassroots charity connecting community, art & sustainability. Find out more about the LAND project and EcoArt here.)

“Nithraid celebrated its 10th Birthday this year with one of it’s most successful turnouts! We had over thirty vessels of different shapes and sizes competing which really brought the river to life, making it feel like aproper celebration. Thank you to all of the spectators that lined the banks of the Nith to cheer our racers on! It made a very special day even more memorable. Nithraid is all about celebrating our town’s river, and we are delighted that so many people took part, watched and enjoyed the activities planned for the day.”

Sal Cuddihy, Nithraid Project Manager and Head of Production at The Stove Network
The public watching the boats arrive at Mill Green, whilst enjoying stalls and activity.

In addition to the annual River Race, the Stove Network led a series of family-friendly activities at Mill Green, all free of charge and accessible along the banks of the River Nith, including:

  • EcoArt – Environmental Flag Design Drop-In
  • Simon Lidwell’s Viking Cluaran
  • If Fishes were Wishes for the Nith’ by Elizabeth Tindal, Freelance Ranger.
  • The Missing Museum Drop-In
  • Nith Life Community Visioning

Before the second leg of the race could begin, we had the annual tradition of the dunking of the salty coo! The coo (our mascot) symbolises the historic journey made by herds of cattle, led by their farmers, across the river at low tide, from Maxwelltown on the west bank to the cattle market at Whitesands on the east side of the river.

Our Salty Coo was taken in procession across Mill Green, led by a piper, before being returned to the water.
The vikings from Cluaran took care of our coo on her voyage in the Nith.
Hello coo!

After a quick rest and and refreshments from the Robert Burns Centre, our competitors were ready for the second leg of the race.

Racers get ready for the second leg of the race.

Our sailors and rowers were first to depart back to Glencaple, with our kayakers canoeists setting off at the same time for the final stretch!

The Nithraid team ready to time the second leg of the race.
Team rowers setting off for Glencaple.
On your marks, get set…

Beyond Mill Green, there was various activity for the public to enjoy at the Coach and Horses and the Dougie Arms. At the Coach, there was an exhibition by artists Fraser Irvin, Neil Patterson, Leanne Bradwick and a live performance of ‘Nithraid’, a poem by Davey Payne. Both pubs hosted live music throughout the day till late at night!

We can’t thank our competitors enough for all the hard work and effort each of you gave to this year’s race. You are all winners in our eyes.

However, it is also important to give credit to those who were succesful in achieving the best time!

The Nithraid 2023 winners:

CategoryTeam / Boat NameTotal Time
Coastal RowingFirth of Clyde Rowing Club01:25:51.00
RowingLady Moira 01:10:45.00
KayakingPhil Dean01:10:56.00

A MASSIVE thank you and well done to all who took part in our tenth anniversary race. We are had a fantastic day, and we hope you did too!

The Nith Inshore Rescue team.

Thank you also to EcoArt, Simon Lidwell & the Cluaran Heritage Project clan, Nith Life, The Missing Museum and Elizabeth Tindell for the wonderful entertainment and activity at Mill Green; the safety boats who were out on the Nith all day to keep the competitors safe; Nith Inshore Rescue, who do the vital work of keeping our waters safe all year-round; Dumfries and Galloway Radio Unit who helped with parking and safely directing boats and competitors in Glencaple; all those who volunteered at this year’s event to help us set up and facilitate the race; and the businesses around Dumfries who set up special live entertainment around the town to help us celebrate Nithraid – The Dougie Arms, and Coach and Horses Inn.

Our Salty Coo en route to the River Nith.

The Stove Network

For more information on Nithraid, visit our webpage here.

News Project Updates

The Market of Possibility Reflection

Images by Kirstin McEwan Photography

Throughout July & August 2023, the Market of Possibility took over a former retail unit in the Loreburne Centre in Dumfries, offering a new and interactive space, where the public could visit free of charge, get creative and share their visions for the future of our town.

This project was made in collaboration with Dumfries Partnership Action Group (DPAG) and supported by the National Lottery Community Fund. The Market held exhibitions, workshops and interactive elements by local community groups and each of the Stove’s Open Hoose Projects. Learn more about the project below.

The Market of Possibility was an opportunity to work with our Open Hoose groups towards realising an ambitious project exploring the future identity of the town as a thriving, connected and creative place to live. Being able to connect these campaigns, communities and enterprises within the larger Dumfries Partnership Action Group action plan, rooted the ideas and activity to a broader campaign towards the grassroots regeneration of our town. From music to history, the idea of a diverse, cultural and community-led town centre once again felt more than tangible.

Martin O’Neill, Artistic Director

The space that held the Market was transformed by the Stove’s production team from an empty retail space into a collaborative playground with tactile exhibitions, interactive elements and areas where the public were urged to get involved and share their own thoughts about the future of the town.

The space was open three days each week over the two months from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm, and was visited by Dumfries locals, visitors, and tourists who delved into a world of grassroots campaigns, electrifying projects, and inspiring initiatives, all led by local people.

Being involved with the transformation of the unit in the Loreburne Centre was a fantastic opportunity to bring together so many fantastic community groups from Dumfries into one cohesive, stimulating, and accessible space. We sectioned the ‘market’ into different town sections, where those visiting the space could explore different futures for Dumfries just by walking around taking everything in. As the production team, we were able to engage and talk with the public, which resulted in very meaningful and insightful conversations about our town that we are excited to build upon in the future.  

Sal Cuddihy, Production Lead

Referencing Dumfries’ history as the regions key market town, the Market was focussed on the celebration of local innovation and creativity and featured a plethora of creative workshops as well as interactive installations in partnership with some of the town’s most popular creative community groups.

The local community groups that were involved with the Market of Possibility were Re:Dress, DMC, For Enjoyment, The Missing Museum, Dumfries Pride, Deep Green Space and Paragon Music.

Our Open Hoose groups were also involved, with Doughlicious, Free Improvisation, Queer Club, Write, Nith Life and Repair Shop hosting drop-in events for the public.

The space as a whole asked those who entered “What if Dumfries was…”, where visitors were urged to ponder the possibility of our town being a green, creative, making, inclusive, music, and historic town. Each of these avenues of thought roused hundreds of responses, and from this exercise we can explore what the future of Dumfries might look like, and all the different possibilities that may shape it.

The legacy of MOP is so vast that being able to boil down to a few key actions is a little daunting but certainly something we can’t wait to explore. Using the different ‘towns’ within the space was particularly well received as a means of exploring not only the Dumfries of the future, but the town as it is today. We’ve over 400 postcards of creative ideas from the public to rifle through which may well lead to the next big thing for Dumfries. Above all however, working across all the community groups, partners, organisations, campaigns and businesses towards realising this project has laid a fertile ground for more collaborations in the near future. Collaborations both enterprising, creative and surprising. I can’t wait to see what comes next. 

Martin O’Neill

Learn more about the Market of Possibility, and each of the groups involved with the project here.

Musings News Project Updates

The Market of Possibility at Guid Nychburris 2023!

Imagine a future where fashion, gardens, and stories come to life. Exciting, right? 

At Guid Nychburris 2023, The Stove Network and Dumfries Partnership Action Group joined forces with various community projects in launching ‘The Market of Possibility’.

Our ‘Town of Possibilities’ parade entry was made up from volunteers from Stove members and those involved in the various groups taking part in the Market of Possibility in July and August. Thanks to the large number of volunteers who helped, we won first place in the walking category of the parade!

We would like to say a massive thank you to all of those who took part in our parade entry and to those who supported us as we walked round the streets of Dumfries. Another massive thank you to the organisers of Guid Nychburris 2023 for such a fantastic day!

What is the Market of Possibility?

Nestled in the vibrant heart of Dumfries, the Market of Possibility invites you on a journey into a world of grassroots campaigns, electrifying projects, and inspiring initiatives led by local heroes. It’s not just a market—it’s a captivating blend of studio, playground, and laboratory. Step inside, and you’ll find yourself immersed in a thought-provoking space that ignites new ideas and nurtures your ambitions.

From revolutionary green spaces to innovative social bakeries and homegrown fashion, the Market of Possibility, located in the Loreburn Centre throughout July and August, is a grand celebration of local innovation and creativity. But it’s not just about admiring these incredible endeavours; it’s about actively participating in shaping the future.

Imagine attending creative workshops, exploring interactive installations, and even building your very own towns of the future. The Market of Possibility is an invitation to play, connect, explore, and create together. Let’s embark on a journey where we can build new ambitions, explore fresh ideas, and uncover limitless possibilities for the future of our beloved town.

Prepare to have your imagination sparked as the Market of Possibility showcases a diverse range of local campaigns, enterprises, and grassroots projects. Each project presents an interactive installation that will inspire big ideas, ignite conversations, and welcome new visions for a future town fueled by imagination, connectivity, and equality.

Step into the Green Town, where you’ll encounter Deep Green Space, Climate Kitchen, and Nith Life. Dive into the Historic Town, home to Creative Caerlaverock and The Imaginarium. Discover the Creative Town, where Drawing For Enjoyment and Write! flourish. Explore the Making Town, with its Repair Shop, Re:Dress, and The Guild. Immerse yourself in the Music Town, where Paragon Music, Free Improvisation, and Dumfries Music Collective harmonise. And don’t miss Queer Town, where Queer Club and Dumfries Pride shine brightly.

Each project at the Market of Possibility presents an interactive installation that sparks imagination, initiates conversations, and invites fresh ideas. Together, we’ll envision a future town grounded in imagination, connectivity, and equality.

The Market of Possibility builds upon the visionary ‘Town Centre Vision & Action Plan’ developed by Dumfries Partnership Action Group, a comprehensive community-led initiative that outlines the future of Dumfries town centre. This event is an evolution of that plan, and it’s designed to bring people together, foster collaboration, encourage experimentation, and, most importantly, have fun!

We can’t contain our excitement to welcome you to the Market of Possibility. Prepare for a thrilling experience filled with imagination, innovation, and endless possibilities. Join us as we embark on this incredible journey. See you there!

The Market of Possibility is opening it’s doors on Thursday the 13th of July with the Re:Dress takeover!

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