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New Distractions

We asked ourselves a question: “Can a sign above a High Street building ever do anything other than promote and brand; can it ask questions, be part of a conversation with other signs… can our High Street ever be a space that prioritises people as well as sales?”

Street sign montage_DOWNTURN_lowres

Whose downturn is this?

As a species we show ourselves to be resilient and forever adaptable, but what true opportunities are there between the moss and the ‘for sale’ signs? How do we re-make the spaces between the High Streets we remember and what is left when our High Street no longer meets the bottom line of the multinationals?

Our town centres have grown out of a need to gather, connect, meet, barter and exchange. Dumfries owes its place to the river, the cattle marts and the passage of people. But from our largely rural context, Dumfries has also been the gathering point, the melting pot of communities meeting and exchanging, not just economically but socially, our connection out into the world.

‘A marketplace (rather than ‘market’) is a sociable space in which buying and selling take place surrounded by other activities, a place you come to see friends, to hear stories, to argue about ideas. Crucially, unlike a Starbucks or a department store, it is a space where your welcome is not determined purely by your abilities to spend money.’*

What is valuable on our High Streets?

Dumfries stands at a point questioning its identity, and it’s place within the world. Primark may not have arrived, but there is an air of anticipation and change whispering quietly amongst a growing number of the town’s communities. Now is the time to search for the new role we can play in creating the future of Dumfries, to reach out for a possible Dumfries.

Dumfries is not dead, only sleeping. Hidden Dumfries is in plain sight, behind the sagging bus stances and single occupancy street furniture.

Now is the time to act.

How do we judge what a downturn is anyways?

This action does not require grand master planners, or large scale redevelopment, but a little collective energy and small positive acts. Testing and experimentation, problem solving and lightweight interventions can lead the way to a more active high street, looking forward to a more valuable town centre. Small actions can highlight, question, explore and initiate discussion, growing from an inquisitive response to our everyday.

This is a call for new distractions.

Can we create a new visual language for our high streets?

*Dougald Hine, Space Makers. Quoted in how to save our town centres, by Julian Dobson.

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4 replies on “New Distractions”

Cam we further patronise an agonized populace
By pretexting the art world as ‘open all hours
By invite only’
Our suffering is not political nor marketable
It is psychological.Google Mindfulness.
Ancient artefacts are weekly used to manipulate
The mental imprint called
Extremists annihilate love in the name of none-such.
Very few dare speak on’t.What art is that?
From the High street to hame’l dae me.
Who trusts what?
Why is the artstore mostly closed?
Is there something else untold
Of exclusivity in repose,
Of a closedcircuit’s
unaltered pose
Wishing patronage upon the undertow.

Playfully yours always

Hey Brian – hows things?
Thanks for keeping us right as ever. As we’ve talked about, the long-term vision for the Stove is to have catering and a drop-in space on the ground floor. You’ll like have seen the advertised opportunity to run Stove catering ( ….we’re looking at the responses to that advert just now and hope things will keep moving on towards having all this properly open by Christmas.
In the meantime there is a buzzer on the side door of the building which anyone can ring anytime – if there are folk there to answer then someone will always come down and let you in. There is always a good flow of people in and out of the building – but we just don’t have the resources available to keep the front door open at all times (but it will be when the catering part of Stove is up and running!)
all best and see you soon

Great to see some catering gear on the floor on 16/1/16, I doubt it will be ready for the Big Burns Supper though which is an opportunity lost.

Hi Blair, It has definitely been an extended and long process but we are hoping to have the Stove open fully with the new equipment installed by the end of next month. Unfortunatly, some delays have held us up to be open in time for Big Burns Supper – but we hope the wait will be worthwhile! We’ll be announcing details of the opening once we have a set date.

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