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Brave New Words: JUST DO!

March 29 @ 7:00 pm 9:00 pm

SW Scotland’s premier open mic night is back! Whether it’s words spoken, sung, shot, signed, or silent, all forms of expression are welcome.

Simply sign up on the night and share your creativity with us.

100 High Street
Dumfries, DG1 2BJ United Kingdom
01387 252435
View Venue Website

Access Information: Level Access in rear of building through adjacent close to left-hand side of the Cafe (facing the front of the building). To ensure your experience with us is as best as it can be, please do let us know if you have any specific access requirements and we’d be happy to help. Please email Kevin or Sal on: [email protected] or phone 01387 252435 and speak with one of our team. We are able to provide walk-throughs of the building before attending our events as well as assign seating before your arrival.


What’s On?

November: New Beginnings & Fond Memories at 100 High Street 

November’s here! For all its drizzly driecht, soggy leaves and howling breeze, it’s all go for a month of dance and exhibition, climate chats and birthday celebrations! 

But first…you might have heard about COP26. 

Yes, the glitterati of global politics will be arriving in Glasgow, in all their blue blazered, shooder-pads and pouting. Not to mention the news crews and protestors, police vans and placards, it all feels a little bit nerve-wracking. (Yes, just what we need from this year, another thing to worry about!).

So while the whole wide world tumbles on to George Square and Kelvingrove, we want to ask; what does all this mean for us down here?

A Doonhamer’s Guide to the End of the World

Creative Spaces are hosting a series of conversations, workshops and creative activities for people under 30 to share, collaborate and make their ideas heard in the big climate conversation. Working with Historic Environment Scotland the programme explores climate through story and myth, unearthing our local history to see what lessons can be learned from our past to guide the future we’ve yet to take.

Alongside this, Reel To Real, the Stove Cafe’s monthly film night, will be screening two films exploring climate, loss, distance and relocation, from Africa to Ireland. Our Reel To Real film nights include some scrumptious pre-movie scran courtesy of stew-maestro Marcus, from 5PM through till 6:30!

But that’s not all…

Atlas Pandemica: Maps to A Kinder World

First beginning in June of 2019, Atlas Pandemica: Maps to a Kinder World is a compendium of 10 projects led by Dumfries & Galloway based creative people exploring different themes highlighted by life during the COVID pandemic, working directly with people in the region, it focussed on the impacts and learning from the community’s experience of the evolving pandemic. 

The project is now drawing to a conclusion, aside from the many outputs each of the commissioned artists have shared, a collection of 10 maps, based on each of the project’s findings will be unveiled as part of ‘After the Pandemic’, Glasgow’s creative and cultural fringe at COP26. For more information on the project please visit

Are ye dancin? We’re askin!

Join us on Saturday 6th November for an intimate evening of dance performance and conversation as DG Dance celebrate the end of their first season touring pop up dance across Dumfries and Galloway.

Martin McKeown, taken as part of Sanquhar Arts Festival.

The evening will include a performance of Matthew Hawkin’s Triple Echo, sharing excerpts from new screendance research with Emma Dove inspired by Emma Jayne Park’s touring performance And Now We Unravel, Again, and a performance of Louise Ahl’s newly premiered work heartbeats, fresh air, gestures, time. 

This will be followed by an open conversation with lead artist Emma Jayne Park, and company dancers Claire Pencak, Jorja Follina and Malcolm Sutherland.

The following week, we’ll be showcasing the final UK screening of Penny Chivas’s ‘Burnt Out‘ this year, followed by an opportunity to discuss the work with the artist.

Brian Hartley

With original music by Paul Michael Henry, interwoven with the delicately detailed lighting design of David Bowes, this is an autobiographical dance-theatre work from the daughter of an environmental geochemist, bringing together fact and personal account. ‘Burnt Out’ is at once an intimate personal story and a universal meditation on our changing climate.

Water you up to? 

The Dumfries Fountain Project: Research & Studio Work 

A pop-up exhibition at The Smithy, 113-115 High Street, hosted by artist Alex Allan. Allan has been working with the Dumfries Fountain Project coordinated by the Stove Network, exploring, and designing a proposal for a permanent piece of public art to be situated by the Dumfries Fountain to complement the historic landmark.

You are invited to consider the research gathered during their time in Dumfries, experiment and play with ideas and materials from the studio and contribute your own thoughts to the work. What would you like from a new piece of public art in the centre of the town? This is a unique chance to hear from the artist themselves and learn more about this timely and fascinating project. Come on in!

Dumfries Fountain Project: Film and Soundtrack Premiere

The Smithy, 113-115 High Street
Saturday, 13 th November 5-7pm

Join us for a celebratory evening marking the conclusion of our two Holywood Trust commissioned artist projects, with a sharing of the short documentary film created by filmmaker Patrick Rooney, and film soundtrack by musician and composer Jenna Macrory.

After the screening we’ll be hearing from our two commissioned artists about their experiences with the project. Light refreshments provided. There is limited capacity available for the event so please sign up via Eventbrite to let us know if you would like to attend.

It’s our birthday and we’ll print if we want to…

Can you believe we’re 10 years old? Seems like just yesterday, the Stove were chalk painting flagstones and launching a coo into the Nith (not an actual coo, don’t fret). 

10 Year Celebrations 

Join the Stove as we celebrate our 10th Birthday! We’ll be turning the Stove Cafe into a t-shirt printing factory where you can print your own 10th Anniversary t-shirt, and the cafe will be open with a special menu (yes, there will be cake!).

Hang on, theres maire!

B-B-B-Brave New Words

Our monthly open mic night for fresh words spoken, sung, shot, signed or silenced returns. This month’s theme is: ENCOUNTERS

U18 Acoustic Cafe returns

Our pals Dave Bass and the magnificent Dumfries Music Collective, fresh off the heels from their stellar 2021 conference are finally back to takeover the Stove Cafe with the U18 Acoustic Cafe.  Featuring a line-up of fresh voices from the region, the afternoon is open to all to enjoy. More info coming soon! 


D’ough! Doughlicious are back in the building! Share ideas and recipes whilst breaking bread with like-minded folks. Featuring practical workshops exploring techniques and style, for those that kneed that extra bit of help and radical recipes for aficionados, from chapati to brioche! 

Women Signwriters Assemble! 

Dumfries Women’s Signwriting Squad are back again with the wee monthly meet-up. This session, open to beginners of all levels, will teach you the basics of signwriting. A popular event so sign up to guarantee your spot!

In Other News

Dark Time!

It’s not as gloom as it sounds, we promise. Dark Time is our yearly switch off, where we re-group as a team, drink too much coffee and chat all things Stove. From planning 2022, pouring over our members feedback (thanks by the way) and reflecting on a year unlike any other.

As we draw some breath from the run of festivals and projects, from wild geese to multiverses, we’re making time to ask some important questions. From who uses the Stove, to what we can offer our community and what themes might take us forward into the new year. We divide our conversations into three areas, which include:

Are you interested in Dark Time? Let us know by emailing [email protected]

…Phew! And breathe…


Testing, testing… anybody there?

Welcome back Dumfries. This month we’re ready to open our doors once again with a month-long programme of inspiring events from conversations to workshops, creative activities and talks alongside the long-awaited return of our monthly film night Reel To Real, as well as the unmissable Brave New Words. We want to be extra safe as we navigate our way back into the world of live events so the way of doing things is a little bit different. First of all, you’ll need a ticket. You can see the full list of events here, so if you’d like to attend, you’ll need to book your place. And we’re not out of the woods yet so we’ll have some extra safety measures in place when you arrive, to protect everyone in our community. 

This month it’s all about testing new activity. We want to see how we can have a blended approach to our live events. So whether that’s a mix of live streaming to walks outdoors, we want to play with new ways of coming back together, that’s both safe and creative. Who knows, some of it might stick. So why not join us as we retrace our steps back to the world of live events…

Dumfries Fountain Project

The Dumfries Fountain Project goes live this month with the first of our workshops with writer JoAnne McKay, and a conversation evening exploring the history and heritage of the fountain!

Creative Spaces

Creative Spaces welcomes you back to our blended model of bi-monthly workshops we shall be exploring the link between mental wellbeing and creativity through the concept of the Tortured Artist.

Brave New Words

You heard us right, it’s back! We’re going live on the last Friday of the month, in The Stove Cafe and The Stove Network’s Youtube channel.

Reel to Real Cinema

This month we are discussing film and food in The Stove Cafe with filmmaker Zev Robinson, and his short film The Glasgow Diet


Quarter-Life Crisis: Where was Martin Joseph O’Neill at 25?

By Hayley Watson

Feeling secure in your 20s is tricky at the best of times, and our generation are lucky to have a housing crisis, yet another recession and a global pandemic punctuating our continued ‘coming-of-age’ panic. Add a desire to pursue a creative career into the mix – if you’re reading this I don’t need to tell you how unstable this can feel because you likely already know – and you’ve got a recipe for a real headf..iasco. This interview is part of a series where I ask established creative professionals, people you and I might view as ‘real adults’, what they were doing at 25. I have my suspicions that they were probably as confused then as we are now and I’m determined to prove it.

This time around, I spoke with Stove curatorial member Martin O’Neill. Martin is a Dumfries-based artist, writer and producer and hosts The Stove’s monthly open mic night, Brave New Words. Looking back at his 25th year, Martin reflects on leaky flats, cats and the power of language.

Tell us a bit about yourself and where you’re at now!

I’m a multi-disciplinary artist, writer and producer who’s trying to find a less pompous way of describing himself.

I live in Dumfries, born and bred.

As a ‘practice’, I’m interested in spaces, people, stories and inviting the imagination in. I’m sort of all over the place in that. But it’s usually about telling, and inviting the stories, that are often unheard, undervalued, or underappreciated. I also want people to have fun and share unique experiences together, even if it’s not in the way that I might have planned or predicted. All the better if that’s the case.

You were 25 between 2015 and 2016 There’s a lot going on in the world in 2020, but what was happening in 2015 and 2016? What’s the biggest news event you can remember from this time?

I can’t really recall what happened last week, so five years ago is sort of like a half-remembered dream, foggy snapshots of bad lager, cash in hand jobs, leaky roofs and 3AM jam sessions. That said, I cheated, and a quick Google search reminds me that the atrocious Charlie Hedbo attacks in Paris happened in January of that year and 2016 brought with it a new raft of misery in Brexit, Trump, the death of David Bowie and the Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando. I remember quite vividly the news of the shootings in Orlando. As a gay man, this was particularly devastating. Shaking me to my core, it brought with it a stark reminder of the work yet still needing to be done in the fight for LGBT rights across the world, and a shiver that it could well have been me in that room.

Where were you living? Who with?

I was sharing a leaky 3 bed flat with two female musicians at the time. And a cat. And then several more cats (she had kittens).

Did you have a job? What was it?

I had started as a CT member at the Stove Network in, I believe, May/June of 2015. I was also working 7 days a week in the magnificent Coach & Horses.

Is there something you did when you were 25 that no one knows about?

Mostly everything I did at that time in my life was pretty public, either in a desperate attempt at notoriety or just the nature of what I was up to. Gigs, Brave New Words, installations, it was all there in the public domain, and still is, in all their amateur glory thanks to social media. Some awful graphic design was done in that time. And poetry. Bad, bad poetry.

What was your dream job at the time?

Whatever it was, it was usually about wanting to tell stories, so whether that meant being a poet, novelist, folk musician or dramatist, it revolved around that constant need to keep writing. I was also beginning to explore my practice as a visual artist and designer. At the time, I was way too conscious of the ‘27’ Club. Not so much for the untimely tragedy that befell them, but how much, and the quality of the work, their elite members had achieved in the time it took me to get a flat, find some steady paid work and land the occasional gig for extra cash.

If you had to choose one memory from your 25th year, what would it be?

The first Brave New Words. A really special night where some mad idea that folk might want to hear poetry together actually paid off. Who’da thunk?

If you could tell your 25-year-old self one thing, what would you say? And what do you think your 25-year-old self would say to you?

To my 25 year old self: You should be writing.

My 25 year old self to me now: You should be writing.

Are you where your 25-year-old self thought you’d be now?

 The last five years are such a blur of anxiety and chaotic thinking, that any thought of where I’d be in five years was clouded by some self-imposed pressure to complete something so short-term I can’t even recall what it might have been. Turning 30, that pressure seems to have eased off a little bit. You never do your best work when you’re worried about how you might be perceived. It’s better to just get on with it. And if it fails, move on, fail better.

We sometimes focus too much on success and forget how much our failures help us grow. What were your biggest failures from back then?

Too many to name. Mostly to do with poor communication. Mostly every problem is down to that. Just make sure you’re on the same page as others.

Finally, do you have any ‘words of wisdom’ for the 20-somethings reading this?

It’s not that far away from me so take this with a pinch of salt, I’m barely 30 as it is! But I suppose there’s an energy in your mid-twenties that’s really powerful, especially when you’re working with other, often older, more experienced people. You’re questioning, provoking, challenging and you’ve all the time in the world.  And that is so important. Be loose. Be creative. Make the mistakes and don’t overthink everything. But be mindful of others lives. Everyone has something to bring to the table. Everywhere. Also, language is a really powerful thing. Don’t let others use it to disempower you or make you feel small. But also, don’t play into those hands in thinking that is the ‘norm’ and adopting those same bad behaviours, it’s not, and it’ll bite you in the ass one day. Make sure to step outside of yourself every once in a while. There’s a whole world of lives herein, allow yourself to be passive. That’s when the best ideas come.

News Opportunities

Brave New Words: What Now?

A Brave New Words update from founder and director, Martin O’Neill

This year has been quite the rollercoaster, hasn’t it?

With next year looming round the corner, we’re asking ourselves, what will it bring? Global societal change for the better? Universal basic income? A fairer and more just world? Or, judging by this year, is it all going to go a bit belly up?

Well, we hope not. But let’s ask the questions.

What Now?

Over the next couple of months we’re holding back our usual Brave New Words Friday night mash-up live-streamed extravaganzas in favour of something a little bit different. To end our year, we’re inviting creative writing submissions around the theme of ‘What Now?’ with contributions making up our first ever printed newspaper publication. We’re looking for submissions from poetry, short stories, flash fiction to text-based art from writers young and older, professional or just dabbling. Think of it like an open mic, but as a newspaper!

You can submit up to three pieces to be considered.

That said, just like our open mic, whilst every effort will be made to ensure your piece ends up in the final print we will be limited on space and can’t guarantee that everything will make it through, so do think hard on what you’re sending in.

This is a completely open submission for anyone based in Dumfries & Galloway. You don’t have to have been at a Brave New Words before, and we’re always looking for new voices to showcase.As always, we encourage you to be brave and put yourself forward.

Submission Details

If you need any more information on the publication please get in touch through our social channels or email [email protected].
Submissions should be sent to: [email protected] in PDF or Word format (please don’t put your submissions in the body of the email)
Deadline: 1st December.
Get writing, & be brave.

With Love,
Brave New Words.


Five Years of Bravery

It was 2015. A year in from the Scottish independence referendum, when stickers faded pale on lampposts and flags fluttered limply in the breeze, or un-tethered, clung to high fences like a loose pair of nickers. It was as though some basic law of thermodynamics failed to take place. As if that fiery energy ought to have moved on. Heated up some other vessel or agitated another movement. Instead, it lingered in the air, resigned itself to the bar stools and blogs for the time being. And most people just got on with their lives, some relieved, some numb and others, angry as ever.

Writers Sarah Indigo and Eryl Sheilds concocted Brave New Words as a space to confront some of that undirected energy left from the referendum. We worked with them on structuring the day, talking with schools, community groups and others to come along and work it all out through a series of writing workshops, discussions and debates. That evening, we hosted the first Brave New Words Slam, an evening of spoken word, performance and beat-style poetry, reminiscent of the back alley bars of Brooklyn circa 1960 lit up the High Street. Well, not maybe not quite like that. But in my head, everything feels a bit like that. The poets played a blinder. From the ages of 14 to 80, it felt like something pretty special had happened.

A year later, we lost Sarah too soon. A light went out in the spoken word community in Scotland, with tributes pouring in from the central belt to the Galloway coast. Her work broke stigmas, challenged the status quo and energized everyone she came into contact with. Each birthday since then is not only a celebration of words spoken, sung, shot, signed or silenced. It’s a tribute to our founder and visionary.

This year, as it stands, is so unlike all the others. We’re not able to meet. And whilst we’re all weary of the rolling lockdowns, the dead air of pubs without music, the face masks, the rumbling anxiety of purchasing a pint of milk from the supermarket. It seems that now it’s more important than ever to celebrate as we once did and to share our thoughts, feelings, creativity and power with each other is so vital in making sense of the world around us. Beyond the peeling vinyl stickers of the town centre and the tequila-scented hand gel.

Just as in 2015, there’s an energy now that lingers in the air. What it is we can’t be as certain of what it is as then, but it comes out in the quieter moments of our lives. That’s when stories are written, songs are sung and creativity thrives.

Brave New Words is not possible without people. Literally. I’ve tried. More than a couple of empty mic nights confirm this. It’s the space to take a chance, often when you never you thought you had it in you. And each month, it’s completely different from the last. From epic poems on elderly cats, to Kate Bush inspired fluorescent neon dancing, 10 minute silences and rabble rousing political speeches.

So join us as we celebrate everything Brave this September. I mean, what else is there to do?!

Be Brave.

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