The Stove Presents: Conversations at Home

The Stove continues to advocate for the power of creative community-led work in supporting and sustainably developing our places. We are doing this by continuing conversations at home, through activity with Homegrown and Atlas Pandemica, and also as part of local, national and international networks that provide opportunities for shared learning and inform and advocate for this Creative Placemaking work.

The Stove’s Embers report defined this placemaking practice as:

“a collaborative practice that uses creative activity to connect and come together with other individuals, groups and organisations and respond to local needs with innovative solutions that focus on social wellbeing and inclusion in our communities.” 


We continue to focus on opportunities for collaboration, shared-resource, cross-sector working and locally led innovation. This month our team will be joining key partners at two major public events (see below for details) to talk about how the Creative Placemaking practice of The Stove has led to significant change in the regeneration and development of Dumfries’ High Street, helping to grow social enterprises and community initiatives for our local communities. A most notable example of this Creative Placemaking work is Midsteeple Quarter (MSQ), now a Community Benefit Society in its own right, MSQ is a community-led regeneration project for the centre of Dumfries and an exemplar of a co-creation, collaborative community and sector led approach to economic development for its place. 

Matt Baker, founding member and Stove Orchestrator, will be joining Community Land Scotland and Carnegie Trust UK for ‘Community Ownership – Shaping the Future of Our Towns’. Katharine Wheeler, Stove Partnerships and Project Development lead, will be joining the Newcastle University Engagement Team for Wor Culture: Re-thinking the High Street and the role for Arts and Culture.

Please join us:
Community Ownership – Shaping the Future of Our Towns – Tuesday 26th January 2-3.30pm

Wor Culture: Re-thinking the High Street – What Role for Arts and Culture? – Wednesday 27th January 12.30-2.00pm


Scottish Cultural Manifestos for 2021

The excellent Culture Counts organisation has just launched their Cultural Manifesto ahead of the 2021 Holyrood Election.

You can read it here

They have also started a page where they are gathering all other Cultural Manifestos being produced at this time

Particularly interesting, we think, to see ‘Place’ right at the top of the Culture Counts manifesto, given our recent experiences of connecting with different Scot Govt departments and agendas – Place looks to be a shared platform where ‘culture’ can definitely show its worth as a vital ingredient of building a healthy and inclusive society.

Musings News

Creativity and Community as Part of the National Recovery

The diagram above is The Stove’s submission to The Advisory Group for Economic Recovery for Scotland. It is just the first germ of an idea and we are sharing it now in the hope of generating further discussion with others in the Creative and Community sectors.

Download a full-size version of the diagram here

The premise is simple – our Embers report has clearly shown the pivotal role played by creative practitioners and small creative organisations to initiate and maintain momentum in placemaking projects. These may start with cultural projects, but quickly develop into new social enterprises, asset-based and environmental initiatives. In short – do some cultural pump-priming in a community setting and the payback in terms of community resilience, economic development and people’s wellbeing is incredible.

In the current climate we have thousands of creative practitioners with little prospect of working in the short and medium term. We have communities who have experienced working together for mutual benefit during lockdown and we have many brilliant resources (theatres, sports centres etc) that are lying temporarily idle.

What if we were to pay out of work people in the Creative and Community sectors a Basic Income to work in their local communities to start new projects (or build on things started in lockdown) – these could be cultural projects like choirs, writers groups…but they could also be environmental projects or new social enterprises. Our skill set is to ‘make shit happen’ we are producers, innovators and entrepreneurs! If this National Task Force was to get things started then the national agencies and funders could come in behind and help take things to the next level and, before you know it you have communities making their places, economies and health better.

It may sound mad, but something not so very different was successful in the US as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal in 1934 and again in 1940 in Britain with the Council for Encouragement of Arts and Music which saw a force of musicians staring choirs and orchestras all over the country during wartime.

That’s as far as we’ve got til now – whaddyfink? Let us know and help us shape the idea if you think it has legs..


Creative Placemaking – a local phenomena in the South of Scotland


A major report into Creative Placemaking by The Stove Network has recently been released. It presents an in-depth investigation into the importance, impact and potential influence of Creative Placemaking for the local economy and wellbeing of communities in South of Scotland.

EMBERS report aims to ignite creative and culturally-led regeneration by exploring the work and experience in Dumfries & Galloway and helping to define a joined-up vision for work in Creative Placemaking for the South of Scotland. Embers presents Creative Placemaking as a collaborative practice that uses the tools of arts, culture and creativity to work as part of our communities, responding to local needs to build a better quality of place.

In this time when community responses and collective action is at the front of everyone’s minds, there is a long history of community activity in the South of Scotland with people coming together to look at the future of their towns and villages. A common factor across many of these projects is the involvement and often leadership of creative people that are already embedded in their communities and collaborative activity with the arts, culture and creative industries.

“What we hope is that the Embers Report will be a map, advocacy document and proposal for support needed to further advance the really great work in placemaking that we can see happening in our communities. People are doing amazing things as part of their communities, bringing all sorts of life experience, expertise and ideas together to make a better place for everyone who lives there. Ideas don’t always work but when they do they are making a real difference in people’s lives.”

Katharine Wheeler, Curatorial Team Member and lead on the Embers report.

The Embers report was produced with the support of South of Scotland Economic Partnership (the forerunner of the new South of Scotland Enterprise agency) and Carnegie Trust UK. Embers involved six months detailed consultation with people and projects working in local communities including Dumfries, Sanquhar, Lockerbie, Langholm, Moniaive, Stranraer and Wigtown.

With the coming of the Borderlands Growth initiative and South of Scotland Enterprise, there’s an unprecedented opportunity for the South of Scotland to create genuinely bespoke development strategies, suited to its unique character. Creative Placemaking should be at the heart of this through the way that communities are coming together to develop new social enterprises and place-based projects.

“We hope to continue to support Embers to strengthen local government collaboration with community groups and local enterprise, to enable communities to improve their own wellbeing according to local priorities.”

– Pippa Coutts, Research and Development consultant for Carnegie Trust UK.

The Embers report puts forward a series of clear recommendations which contributors hope will be taken forward by regional and national agencies operating in the South of Scotland.

Effective Creative Placemaking engages communities at grassroots level, building on the existing culture, activity and relationships in each place. It brings people, communities, groups and organisations together to co-develop better strategies for our places. It uses Creative Industries and spans Community Development sectors contributing to long-term social outcomes for our communities.

The Creative Industries play an important role in our towns, particularly at this time. It is vital that our region supports its creative sector, which has been such a success story in recent years. There are currently more people working in the Creative Industries in the South of Scotland than there are in agriculture, yet many of the people working in this industry are freelance and self-employed and the COVID-19 crisis has taken a terrible toll on these important local businesses. The Embers report presents a road map for integrating creative businesses into communities and the future inclusive economy of our area.

“How can we, as a creative agency for change, make things slightly different here.”

– Lucy MacLeod, Creative Director for Outpost Arts, Langholm

The Embers report is available to download by here: Embers Report  

For a Clear Text Version: Embers Report – Clear Text Version

If people have ideas about how this vision can be taken forward please do get in touch with Katharine by emailing


Creative Repositioning for the New Normal

What makes a place? And what role does creativity have in times of crisis?

Katharine Wheeler of the Stove Curatorial Team and Lead Artist/Researcher for our Embers project, reflects on the role of ‘creative place-making’ in wake of the national lockdown.

As people pull together to face the collective challenges and strain at this time and without the usual noise of other ‘news’ it is the kindness, ingenuity and resilience of people that are centre stage. We can see more than ever the generosity and value local people, groups and organisations invest in supporting their communities.

Small businesses re-organise themselves to take food to our most vulnerable (often without payment), neighbours leave groceries on the doorsteps of those they barely know, people pledge all manner of support and money to those they have never met, we share creative ideas to keep us busy and explore ways of connecting when we cannot physically meet.

The Stove has always been many things for many people – a café, an events space, a space to gather and take part in activity, to have conversations about our place, to challenge ideas and perceptions, to grow projects and activity together. All of this expressed as seriously playful partnership with our community to support and grow a resilient, progressive and creative Dumfries and Galloway.

We strive to be for, and of, our community and have been asking ourselves “How do we reposition our work at this time?” as a creative community-led organisation that uses creative practice at the heart of what it does.

We have taken time to think and are exploring two directions:

  • in our program – as we explore new ways to grow activity that engages local people in reflection and co-development of work and activity 
  • for our wider creative community – to reconnect and support this community at this time.

Through this we hope to support the building of a collective awareness and narrative of the ‘new normal’, one which helps the transition into the next stage of this new journey we are all on together. Our intention has not changed, this is an ethos and approach of Creative Placemaking. We have spent the last 10 months digging down into the grassroots practice of Creative Placemaking across Dumfries and Galloway through our Embers consultation talking to groups and organisations embedded in their communities about their work. Creative Placemaking is a collaborative practice that uses creative activity to connect and come together with other individuals, groups and organisations and respond to local needs with innovative solutions that focus on social wellbeing and inclusion in our communities.

Times such as this highlight the struggle in places that have had their local resource and ability to respond stripped in favour of centralised service provision. Our new reality is shining a spotlight on the value of our sometimes less recognised and smaller parts, our key workers, our local services and businesses, our sole traders and freelance workers, our community spaces and social relationships. We are seeing the value of our collective creativity to shape and adjust systems and support appropriate to our local need.

Where will we go from here? At the Stove we will continue to advocate for the value of our smaller community-focused parts and use activity to test and develop ways of working that invest and support the creativity and innovation around us to grow our local resilience.

A few related things to and look out for…

Embers report – to go live in a few weeks this report explores some of the fantastic work in our communities and proposes more considered understanding and support for Creative Placemaking work for the South of Scotland.

Don’t Forget the Self-Employed – talking about our responsibility to the region’s cultural, creative and community sectors. Of our 600+ members, we estimate that as many as half will be self-employed or freelancers.

Culture and Creative Industries consultation – add your voice to the role the new South of Scotland Agency can take in supporting our creative sector.

Homegrown – addressing this new normal by proposing four values that will frame our work: Insight, Perseverance, Open-heartedness & Solidarity.

Third Sector D&G Resilience Map – a page created in partnership with Dumfries and Galloway Council that displays information from local community groups and organisations offering support or looking for support in response to the COVID-19 public health crisis.

As people pull together to face the collective challenges and strain at this time and without the usual noise of other ‘news’ it is the kindness, ingenuity and resilience of people that are centre stage. We can see more than ever the generosity and value local people, groups and organisations invest in supporting their communities.

Small businesses re-organise themselves to take food to our most vulnerable (often without payment), neighbours leave groceries on the doorsteps of those they barely know, people pledge all manner of support and money to those they have never met, we share creative ideas to keep us busy and explore ways of connecting when we cannot physically meet.

The Stove has always been many things for many people – a café, an events space, a space to gather and take part in activity, to have conversations about our place, to challenge ideas and perceptions, to grow projects and activity together. All of this expressed as seriously playful partnership with our community to support and grow a resilient, progressive and creative Dumfries and Galloway. 

We strive to be for, and of, our community and have been asking ourselves “How do we reposition our work at this time?” as a creative community-led organisation that uses creative practice at the heart of what it does.


Embers – Igniting culturally-led regeneration across Dumfries and Galloway

Our Norwegian Story in Dumfries town centre 2017

How do we connect up the culturally-led work that is happening in communities across D & G and build our region into a powerhouse of enterprise and opportunity?

There is growing recognition that something special is happening in D+G – our creative sector is working at the heart of rural communities and helping to inspire, facilitate and connect other initiatives (eg taking over underused buildings) that are making a real difference for places and the people that live there.  The Stove Network has been both a resource and catalyst for the region through its work in Dumfries town centre. It has formed in-depth working partnerships with the local authority and other groups/agencies, building a portfolio of experience in bringing together community, agency and business interests to develop its work in place-making and culturally-led regeneration.

The Stove has received national and international recognition for their pioneering work in this field and with the advent of the new South of Scotland Enterprise Agency (SoSEP) an opportunity has been identified to develop a plan to strengthen the connection between existing projects and seed new ones for the benefit of the region as a whole. SoSEP has granted The Stove funding for a focused piece of work, based on their Enterprising Communities proposal, to look at the opportunity for better shared learning, the support needed for this activity in place-making and culturally-led regeneration and pathways to opportunities in Creative Industries.

How can we work together to strengthen these for our region? What support does this work need to flourish and grow localised decisions for the places we live?

For the next 6 months The Stove will be carrying out a feasibility study for Enterprising Communities, under their project – Embers – igniting culturally-led regeneration across Dumfries and Galloway  to explore and define a joined-up vision for work in place-making and culturally-led regeneration and enterprise in Dumfries and Galloway. This piece of work will not focus on the model to deliver this work but on how we can strengthen the pathways between the work we ALL currently do. We will look at what we need to support this, to encourage new work and sustainable development in this area.

How do we build on existing networks in the communities and cultural/creative sectors – overlaying and combining them to create a powerfully integrated regional field of shared resource, capacity, knowledge, skills and opportunity?

Embers will be led by Katharine Wheeler for The Stove with support from across our networks, agencies and partners. Firstly, Katharine will look at areas of best practice in place-making across the region and secondly, produce a feasibility document as a regional development model for place-making and culturally-led regeneration across Dumfries and Galloway defining out how best to take this forward.

We are working closely with Carnegie Trust who will be providing case studies and help in identifying significant indicators of this work throughout the project.

The feasibility study – Embers – will explore a regional development model in relation to the main aims of how the new South of Scotland’s Enterprising Partnership (SoSEP) can support place-making, creative industries and culturally-led regeneration across Dumfries and Galloway.

This will feed into SoSEP’s current enquires:

  • What forms of support are needed to enable the communities in the South of Scotland to become more resilient and to help communities grow?
  • Advise within that what type of support SOSEP could provide, and how, to enable community organisations to become more successful.
  • What would success look like – for communities and for SoSEP?

We have already been in communication with some of our partners and other organisations and groups across the region about this piece of work and will be looking to connect with others. If you are wanting to find out more about this, or get a copy of our initial Enterprising Communities proposal please email directly.

We are delighted to also be working with Issy Petrie, Policy and Development Officer, Carnegie UK Trust on this collaboration – read a recent blog about her work with us here:

D-Lux at Bakers Oven in Dumfries 2018

Who or What is The Stove? How Does it Work?

Our Orchestrator, Matt Baker is one of the original founders of The Stove Network and offers some personal reflections about how The Stove started and how it works today.

So just Who or What is The Stove? 

‘The Stove’ has existed for 7 years now. Its origins have perhaps been forgotten, and questions and assumptions naturally arise about what The Stove is now, how it functions, for whom and why?

Let me start by stating that I am fiercely proud of The Stove, and believe passionately in its potential to help people shape their own dreams and careers. I also hope that The Stove is a creative force that has become a vital part of supporting local people to re-invent Dumfries as a vibrant and prosperous place, a Dumfries fit for our times.

The Stove started as a conversation in 2011, between 10 artists and creative people working in the area. We all shared a belief that placing a community project with a creative ethos at the heart of Dumfries town centre would have a positive impact on the future of the town and contribute new opportunities for local people, when precious few existed. That was it really – a commitment to the generous way that creative people work together and how that could infuse the life of the town.

There were moments of doubt and significant obstacles to overcome on the journey: ‘how would we run a space?’, ‘where would the money come from?’, ‘how would we organise ourselves and make decisions?’… we have tackled every question and situation in the same spirit – by talking together and applying our founding values:

  • To work through collaboration (not in isolation)
  • To innovate (not be risk-averse)
  • To put people first and consider the emotional landscape of all decision-making

These values bring creative practice into all of the structures and processes that we encounter, developing a working methodology that keeps The Stove open, transparent and flexible. People are genuinely able to shape The Stove in ways that work for them and for the town.

Our values led us to the two foundations of how The Stove works:

  1. The Stove is a membership organisation, membership is free and unrestricted*. Currently we have just over 500 members who, every year, elect a Board of Directors who are responsible for running The Stove.
  2. The Board employ a very small team of core employees who take care of the day to day management of The Stove. The core team supports a much larger group of freelancers – this is a flexible and changing group of people who work on one or more project with The Stove, some of these roles are longer term and some can be just a matter of weeks connected to a particular festival or workshop.

Our doors are always open for members. They can (and do) get in touch at any time with their questions, ideas and projects. Literally anyone can work with the Stove, either in a paid capacity, as a volunteer, for the experience or just the good craic of being involved in something worthwhile. We are proud that in 2017-18 we were able to offer £212,000 in contracts and opportunities for the local creative people and small businesses at all stages of their development. Since 2011, we’ve commissioned £665,775 in total. This is all money that the vision and vibrancy of The Stove has managed to attract to the area. For every £1 of local council support we receive for local projects, we attract an additional £8.00 of income from other sources (check our ‘Key Facts’ for more info about Stove income sources and history)

It has been an extraordinary journey since that original conversation around a table at the Coach and Horses in 2011…but the Stove’s success continues to be drawn from those original founding principles of: people first, collective working, openness and, of course, creativity. Why not see for yourself and come in for a chat – it might just be a conversation that changes your life!

*you don’t have to be an ‘artist’, just interested in our mission to be part of shaping the future of our region. Check it out here


Making Dumfries – Part 1

Week beginning 28th March sees the Stove welcome the Scottish Year of Architecture, Innovation and Design into our world with a series of events and activity, as the first part of an ongoing project, Making Dumfries. Over the course of the next few months, Making Dumfries will create opportunities to contribute to the development of a new vision for the town centre, with workshops facilitated by leading local designers and cultural groups, of which our events are the starting point of.

matts disk CROC

Square Go
Tuesday 29th and Wednesday 30th of March 10am – 4pm daily
Join the Stove alongside a team of local architects, artists and planners in creating a giant pavement drawing re-imagining the town centre – whatever your interests. How would you like to experience Dumfries in the future? As part of Square Go, the Glasgow Institute of Architects will set up the travelling pavilion, Eolas in the square which will be the HQ for our Square Go project, drop by and get involved.
If you are interesting in participating in the development of this project there are more details available here

Possible Scotland
Tuesday 29th and Wednesday 30th of March Lateral North’s touring project, Possible Scotland will visit Dumfries as it travels around Scotland in 2016 to support and work with the Square Go project. Join the team for an open workshop on Wednesday, from 2 – 5pm.


Scottish Scenic Route exhibition
28th March – 8th April
From the 28th of March, the Stove will host the Scottish Scenic Route exhibition, a project exploring the impact and possibility of small architectural interventions along Scotland’s key tourist routes.

Film Premiere
Tuesday 29th March 7pm
The premiere of a specially comissioned film by artist and filmmaker, John Wallace exploring the history and culture of Dumfries High Street. The screening will be accompanied by talks and discussions on the past and future of the High Street. All welcome.

Musings News

We Live With Water


SUBMERGE offered The Stove the chance to imagine a Dumfries of the future…a future that is predicted to be as much as fully twice as wet by the end of this century.

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 22.02.46

As we prepared for SUBMERGE our local council unanimously voted for a plan to build a physical structure along the edge of the River Nith in an attempt to hold back the surges in this spate river and prevent the flooding that has been a feature of the town since records began. Hard though we searched, we could not find the longer term vision for the town that the barrier plan fitted into – how did the barrier work towards a future for Dumfries we wondered? The only answer we could fathom was to make a small area of the town more attractive to property developers. The strategy of trying to attract private investment to make the town flourish has been the mantra for the last 20 years – it has not been a success and appears increasingly questionable during the decline 20th Century capitalism which is failing to deliver well-being for the majority of the population in Scotland.


The Stove put out a call for people to join a group who would take an alternative approach and try to imagine a future where increased rainfall, sea-levels and river surges would be seen as an opportunity. We tried to imagine Dumfries as River Town….a place that embraced its environment…a place that Lives With Water.


In this plan the banks of the River Nith are re-wilded as riverbank through the centre of town and these new spaces are joined with existing green spaces adjacent to the river to create a green corridor along the Nith which is used for a combination of food and energy production, leisure, culture and education.


The commercial district of the town centre is constricted and focuses on its traditional function as a market for local producers, a meeting place and a centre of culture/heritage. As the transport hub for the region Dumfries is the place that connects national and international relations to the wider region of South West Scotland.


The area immediately bounding the High Street and Market Square is returned to residential use with urban smallholders and makers taking advantage of the proximity to market for their excess production and bringing vitality to the town centre throughout the day and nights.


This vision was presented in a document called ‘We Live With Water’ which was written from the vantage point of Dumfries in 2065 and included commentaries by local writers looking back from the future.


Richard Arkless MP visited his constituents in Dumfries on Monday 7th December 2015 to inspect the aftermath of the flooding from the previous weekend. He heard rumours of an alternative plan for the town and the river during his visit and collected a copy of We Live With Water to take back to Westminster as a potential way forward for our town.


We Live With Water was coordinated by The Stove Network and included contributions from:

Katie Anderson
Kate Foster
Rita Pacheco
Alyne Jones
David Slater
Mike Bonaventura
Lee McQueen
Matt Baker
Mark Zygadlo
Ivor Gott
Stuart White
Mary Smith
Lauren Soutar
Rhiannon Dewar
Linda Powell
Katharine Wheeler
(and some anonymous writers)

Copies of We Live With Water are downloadable as a PDF

News Project Updates

Lateral North and the Norway Connection

You are invited to share ideas and contribute to our Cultural Wayfinding event on 5th – 7th November with Lateral North and The Stove Network.


Town Centers are a hot topic throughout Scotland at the moment and how people might once again populate them. Initiatives have been established by the Scottish government and partnership organisations with the likes of Scotland Can Do Towns and Scottish Towns Partnership leading the way and working with communities throughout Scotland. Discussions, conferences, ideas and innovative project proposals are increasing as we try to connect communities to their local shops and town centers.

Dumfries is one such place taking an extremely innovative approach where art and design takes centre stage to provide innovative solutions for their town centre. Arts resource, The Stove Network, have been working on a variety of projects to regenerate the town centre, residing in one such building no longer in use and turning it into a hub of creative thinking and out of-the-box design.

The Stove Network have teamed up with Lateral North, an architecture, research and design collective based in Glasgow but with strong connections to Dumfries, to work on an exciting, dynamic and innovative project reflecting on the culture, heritage and built environment of Dumfries town centre which has been forgotten or is not particularly highlighted.


Their Cultural Wayfinding project aims to establish a series of opportunities, which would not only increase tourism but also act as an economic catalyst for new jobs and opportunities for local people based around art and design showing how it can highlight the culture of this historic town.

The first of these initiatives aims to showcase Dumfries’ relationship with Norway and in particular the buildings which lie hidden within our town centre which once hosted the Norwegian army in exile and provided them with a space to hold meetings and gave them places to live throughout World War II.


Lateral North and The Stove Network will host a 3 day workshop between 5-7th of November where they invite the public along to contribute their ideas to a public art installation which will highlight the building used as Headquarters and Cultural Centre by Norwegians from 1940: Norway House at 8 Church Street. The building currently lies empty, and with extortionate retail rates probably will for some time to come, however, this project will highlight the creative opportunities which could happen within such a space allowing communities to bring tourists into their town centers and create economic activity through their existing built environment.

Graham Hogg of Lateral North who was brought up in Dumfries said “I’ve watched Dumfries town centre slowly lose more and more of its local shops with vacant shops popping up. It’s had a detremental effect on the town as a whole and I believe it is fantastic that Stove is leading this exciting project. To be part of it is a real honour and hopefully through the Norway House project we can create an exciting and innovative model which can be applied throughout Dumfries town centre in the future but also be adopted throughout the rest of Scotland.”

To attend the workshop please email Ellen at the Stove Network:

NB There are paid opportunities for Stove Network members to assist with the project on 5, 6 and 7th November. To find out more please contact

Supported by: