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Not farewell, but fare forward voyager!

Ailsa playing for laughs with the financial report at The Stove AGM
Ailsa playing for laughs with the financial report at The Stove AGM

Written by Matt Baker.

In any organisation there are always very special people who invest so much of themselves into something that they leave part of themselves behind in it and it is hard to imagine the place without them. Ailsa Watson was one of those people for The Stove – she has literally built the foundations that we all stand on today. Quietly and modestly Ailsa has applied her very special skills to the task of giving structure and stability to an idea. An idea that she believed in and held dearly – to change the way we do things in our society and for the people who don’t usually have a voice in local decisions to have a platform and opportunity to show the world what they can do.

Ailsa leaves the Stove after working with us for 7 years, she is someone with many (and diverse!) interests, one of which is environmentalism and we are delighted that she is able to support this cause in her next career adventure with Future Woodlands Scotland.

For most people at The Stove. Ailsa has just simply ‘always been there’ – but in her modest way, not that many know the stories. Actually, Ailsa has been around longer than 7 years. Around 2011, Ailsa had fallen in love with a Doonhamer (she was in Glasgow at the time) and set about researching the creative scene locally, she heard whispers of something starting called The Stove and finally tracked us down in a long ‘visionary’ planning session in the Snug bar of The Globe. We were planning the first ever Stove event called ‘First Foot’ (part of the first Big Burns Supper) and Ailsa quickly convinced us that she was indispensable to making this happen…it turned out that she was. This was Just one of Ailsa’s many guises – that of tech wizard and project management guru. Somehow a bunch of people who had never worked together before managed to pull off a technical tour de force and Ailsa was right in the centre of that. And then she vanished, only to reappear three years later when The Stove advertised for an Administrator – although perhaps the most over-qualified administrator ever, Ailsa took the job and set about making herself indispensable again. Not long after (I wonder why?), The Stove was successful in securing Regular Funding from Creative Scotland and Ailsa’s work started in earnest to build the dream of an accessible and inclusive space for creatively changing the world in the heart of the Dumfries community.

So who is this multi-talented woman of mystery that keeps appearing at the right moment in handknitted jumpers and dungarees? Not many know that Ailsa actually studied at Art School (Camberwell in London) – which is more than can be said for some of the ‘artists’ who work at The Stove (eg me) – from there, everything is a bit murky with ‘diverse’ career paths including boatbuilding, ski guiding, software designing and creative enterprise support…so it is completely clear to anyone how she would end up managing the operations of a creative placemaking organisation in Dumfries.

Ailsa with Stove team at Surf Awards dinner 2016
Ailsa with Stove team at Surf Awards dinner 2016

Through her time at The Stove Ailsa has touched the lives of many – we all have reasons to thank Ailsa – for my part I have learned so much about creative problem solving and really going the extra mile for people – for others Ailsa has been a wise counsel in times of trouble, a careers adviser and guru on all things from computers, to tax returns, to fund raising, to hand spinning and knitting. Ailsa has always had her own take on everything and never been afraid to swim against the tide for what she believed was right. She was the best of The Stove and we will all miss her terribly – but we just know that the ‘knitted avenger’ could resurface at any moment and until she does, we wish her all the best and thank her with all our hearts for all she has been and done for everyone connected with The Stove.

We’d love to hear your stories of Ailsa – drop us a line?

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