By Katie Anderson
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.