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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The pop-up locations will not be published in advance, but sites could include Dumfries High Street/Fountain Square, the Whitesands, Greensands and Dumfries Museums sites.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!

Musings News Project Updates

Meet the 23/24 Creative Spaces Team

The new Creative Spaces team outside the Stove Cafe.

Creative Spaces is an exciting collaborative project at The Stove which offers both paid and voluntary opportunities for the under 30s in Dumfries & Galloway.

The project brings together young creatives, from different disciplines, to facilitate an annual programme of events, activities and workshops, all designed to explore and develop artistic responses to cultural issues that impact young people in Dumfries & Galloway.

In May 2023 we were joined by 3 new members to The Stove team: 

This year’s three Associated Artists are Sahar El-Hady, Korey Patterson and Martha Ferguson. You can find out a bit more about each of our new teammates here.

We asked them a few questions so you could get to know them! Here’s what they had to say…

Q) What is your creative practice?

Sahar – My background is actually in science! I studied Geology but spend most of my spare time in the theatre, and using creativity to channel young people’s energies into improving their local community. I love acting and I’m hoping to connect with other performers and develop my skills. I also do some painting and crafting for fun – I’ve done one art project with rocks but I’d like to find more ways of combining my scientific and creative interests. 

Korey – My Creative practices are music and character art. I’m a guitarist and I play in a local band called YABBA. The music is big and the fun is endless so its favourite way to spend my time. I also like to draw and paint, my subject matter typically tends to be real life people or characters I’ve created. I think in both my music and artwork I like to develop a story and aesthetic around a single idea.

Martha – My interests are in set and production design, but I am very much at the beginning of my journey! I studied Art History so it has been exciting exploring ways to apply my knowledge in a practical setting. My practice is kind of all over the place at the moment as I’m still trying to figure out what I enjoy most. That being said, I’m definitely drawn to the idea of wearing many hats. Whilst volunteering at the Theatre Royal I’ve done some prop sourcing, prop making, set painting and set construction which has opened my eyes to how much I love collaborative and varied work.

Q) Where are you from? What draws you to D&G as a creative?

Sahar – I’m from all over the place – my parents are originally Egyptian and American, but both of them grew up moving around and living in different parts of the world. I was born in New Zealand, spent most of my school years in London, and went to uni in Bristol, with some time in China and Australia as well. I ended up moving to Dumfries by connecting with friends of a friend and I love it here – the sense of community, creativity and vibrancy is like nowhere else I’ve ever lived!

Korey – I’m born and bred in Dumfries & Galloway. What keeps me here as a creative is the prospects and opportunity to use my skill set to create a lifestyle for myself and also to change local opinion on the potential a town like Dumfries has. There is potential for it to be a great host for music and it already caters well for local artists.

Martha – I was born and raised in Dumfries but I am half Japanese, half Irish. After a couple of years doing a corporate job, I realised that I wanted to spend my time being creative and doing more hands-on work. I felt a bit lost on how to make this a viable career which is the main reason why I returned to Dumfries – D&G has such a positive and supportive community for emerging artists which is perfect for developing a practice and for creative exploration in general. The abundance of nature and the chance to have a healthier lifestyle is also hugely attractive after living in cupboards in London. 

Q) What do you like to do outside of work?

Sahar – I love going for walks in beautiful places, swimming, eating good food, and cuddling my guinea pigs.

Korey – Outside of work, I like to go on walks and bike rides with my friends. There are a lot of great outdoor spots to explore, cycle, camp, fish and hangout in D&G. So it’s a great place for people who like the outdoors. I also like to go to the pub, I appreciate pub culture and I like meeting new people as much as I can, and the town has some great welcoming pubs, housing some equally welcoming people.

Martha – I mostly spend my free time with family and friends cooking, going out, or going on wee adventures. That being said, I spend a lot of time binge watching films and shows with my cat.

Q) What are you hoping to get out of Creative Spaces?

Sahar – I’m really excited to expand my network of creative people and plug into all the great projects The Stove and its partners are working on. I feel the Stove team has a huge wealth of knowledge, both from the experience it’s built up over the years and from the dynamic, talented individuals who are involved in the projects. I hope I come out of Creative Spaces a little more clued up on what it takes to make dreams of change into a reality.

Korey – Whilst I’m working for Creative Spaces, I hope to put on some great events and bring in some new blood and fresh faces. I’d like to see my ideas come into fruition. I’d also like to become a professional freelancer that is fully capable of operating to a suitable standard on my own, whilst gaining plenty of experience working within a team.

Martha – I’m hoping to absorb as much as I can from talented people inside and outside the Stove network, to acquire new skills, and to change the way I’ve been conditioned to think as I’ve become a bit of a corporate drone. I’m also hoping to connect with other young creatives after almost 9 years away from home and to help create an inclusive community for young folk in general. There are so many cool projects and opportunities in the region that I wish I knew about growing up so I want to spread awareness as much as possible… as the old saying goes – knowledge is power!

Q) What’s your Stove Cafe order?

Sahar – Dirty chai and vegan bhaji toastie – since I’ve found out what it is I’m a big fan of a dirty chai from The Stove! 

Korey –  The pastrami toastie and a ginger beer.

Martha – Pastrami toastie and a flat white.

Offering both paid and voluntary opportunities for the under 30’s, Creative Spaces facilitate an annual programme of events and workshops designed to help you find your voice, explore and develop your artistic practice. Learn more about Creative Spaces here.

Musings News Project Updates

Dumfries Fountain, Unveiled

By Katie Anderson

New Public art work for Dumfries Fountain
New Public art work for Dumfries Fountain

Small pebbles can make big waves, right? And change doesn’t happen overnight – it’s a slow burning, incremental process for the most part, but every so often there are moments when you can really see the change happening.

On the 1st June, the Dumfries Fountain was turned back on after many years without a water supply. Unveiled from behind the metal hoardings that have fenced off a section of the High Street whilst works took place to completely restore this Victorian beauty to its original glamour.

I’ve been on the Dumfries Fountain Restoration project team for a few years now on behalf of The Stove Network. My role involving the support and drive for a wider community engagement plan as part of the works. Supporting artists and community activists to take part in the project and have their voices heard.

Why this? Why now? What impact does this restoration, caretaking and renewal have on our town?

It won’t solve the potholes in the road, or absentee landlords, or sea gulls or long-term employment, but as an iconic monument that has stood in the heart of the town for over 100 years, that witnesses and stands as a marker of where we have come from and where we are going – monuments like the fountain are surely worth preserving. We need investment into the town, an approach of care and responsibility for the landmarks that give our everyday a sense of place and identity, and a vision for how our public spaces can be.

As part of the restoration we have realised the importance of telling the story of the fountain. How it came to be here and it’s place in the history of the town. The restoration, now completed, forms part of this story. As we move forward, and to mark this a series of nine bronze floor plaques have been set into the cobbles surrounding the fountain, telling the history of the town through its connection to water.

The plaques designs are inspired by water droplets from the fountain, the textures of the sand out on the Solway and a small nod to cup and ring marks found in the depths of Galloway. Their penny-like finish feels in keeping with the space and since their unveiling, passers-by have been seen adding their own pennies back into the newly refurbished fountain bowls. Over time the plaques will develop their own patina as many feet and weathers move over them.

It’s not been a solo work by any stretch, working first with the creative team at The Stove Network, then writer and historian JoAnne McKay on the texts and dates, pattern maker Ruth Davies on the final patterns and printed elements, Lost Art who led on the casting and finishing works and Stevie at Kirk Masonry on the installation.

Projects like these are only possible with the attention and perseverance of many hands behind the scenes. Kirsten Scott and the St Michael’s Primary School class groups campaigned for years for the works to be undertaken and since those beginnings it’s taken many folks from a wide variety of backgrounds to see the project through, from council teams to the skilled artisans of Lost Art and various specialist contractors amongst many others.

The step over the threshold from bystander into a more active citizenship can be a bit of a leap of faith, but in raising a flag, pitching in, making space for the voices of others to be heard we create the potential for change, the act of making together a town of possibility.

Find out ore about the restoration process on Fountain’s own Facebook Page.

To celebrate the official unveiling of the Fountain, The Stove will be will be hosting a series of events, from talks about the restoration process with archaeologists, to creative workshops, history tours and exhibitions. Find our more here.

Katie has been a part of the Stove since 2013, and currently delivers her role on a freelance basis alongside her own personal creative work from her studio in Annandale. Her role at The Stove as Public Art Lead, supports core Stove programming with additional activities and events including Reel to Real Cinema and Conversing Building which offers specific support for projects that hold public art elements, and also develops it’s own distinctive projects that explore public spaces in and around the town centre.

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