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

News Research

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


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 Research

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:


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.

Supported by:


Thinking Differently About Our Town

Screenshot 2015-06-25 at 11.25.17

Dumfries is a town at the gateway to Scotland. Famous for its relationship with Rabbie Burns, the town is the nodal point of the region (Dumfries and Galloway) and has a strong heritage past, and an even stronger cultural potential.

Cities, towns and villages throughout Scotland are reimagining their centres and what function they serve within their urban setting.

Inverness is creating different artworks along its River Ness ranging from simple signage installations through to engineered viewing platforms; Oban is reinventing its waterfront and becoming a hub for the Hebrides; Helmsdale has centred its village around arts and heritage with a wonderful cultural centre that is growing leaps and bounds; and even rural Scotland is getting involved in the act with initiatives such as the Scottish Scenic Routes, Spring Fling and the North Coast 500 aiming to reinvent the landscape that they find themselves within.

Dumfries has a similar ambition to reinvent, reimagine and reactivate its high street, its town centre and its entire region. The Stove Network working in collaboration with Lateral North and creative organisations throughout Dumfries would like to invite you to contribute your ideas for a future Dumfries and ultimately towards creating new ideas within the town to showcase the heritage, cultural, environmental, industrial and creative communities that thrive within Dumfries.

unnamed (1)

Join us to design these interventions, contribute your ideas and find out about the Dumfries you don’t know; yet.
If you’re someone with a passion for the town of Dumfries, and a commitment to being part of its future, then join us for the Cultural Wayfinding Workshop on the 15th July at The Stove. Full information about the event can be found here.

Musings News Research

Cultivating the High Street: Artists and Town Centres

From Andrew Gordon

High streets across Britain are fundamentally changing, and Dumfries is no exception. The combined impact of the economic downturn, out of town complexes and online shopping is leading to more and more town centre closures. The effect on Dumfries is unmistakable, from the closure of national chains stores, to long established family-owned businesses, each leaving behind empty husks in what once were regarded prime locations. With their empty displays these unwanted buildings contribute to a worrying sense that the town is in perpetual decline.


However there have also been signs of different life; the Electric Theatre Workshop has turned a disused shop into a space for practicing and performing theatre, as well as the central hub for winter festival, Big Burns Supper. Although shops have struggled, cafes and restaurants are continuing to generate business, prompting a number of new openings and refurbishments. These changes remind us that high streets have historically been places to “debate and meet”, as retail-consultant Mary Portas stated in her 2011 report for the UK Government. It is her opinion that high streets must return to this role as “multifunctional, social spaces” if they are to serve any purpose in the future, commerce forming just a part of their civic service rather than dictating it.


The Stove Network shares this vision – it aims to demonstrate that rethinking the way we use the vacant buildings on the high street can have a profound and beneficial impact on the local community. By opening it’s new accessible public arts space at 100 High Street, it will be placing creativity and risk taking right at the centre of local efforts to re-imagine Dumfries as a contemporary regional capital.


The retail chains that previously occupied these spaces were concerned with telling us what we want. The Stove will instead respond to what we need, a collaborative effort between artists and others in the town to cultivate a place that will serve us as citizens rather than consumers. This means including the public in the operation of the Stove itself and the Tuesday Drop-In sessions are one example. These weekly meetings will invite one and all to discuss the Stove’s operation, and to voice their own ideas about what it should be doing more of to contribute towards the regeneration of Dumfries town centre. The Charter14 event held during last year’s Guid Nychburris festival, asked Doonhamers to put forward their own ambitions for the town’s future as part of a new “People’s Charter”, and is another example of The Stove Network’s approach.


By offering ready access to art and the tools of its creation in the very centre of the town, the Stove stands to thoroughly involve the people of Dumfries in bringing about constructive change to the place we call hame, turning an otherwise forlorn relic of times gone by into a symbol for a new future for Dumfries – one conducted on our own terms. “High streets will thrive if we re-imagine them”, Mary Portas suggests, and what better way could there be to inspire new ways of thinking about the high street than through art?

All images are of Charter14, Guid Nychburris Day Festival June 2014. All images: Colin Tennant


Dumfries in line for Creative Places award

It’s an exciting day down at the Stove, and as if the build up to tonight’s big gig as part of DMC wasn’t enough, we are pleased to welcome in the morning with the following press release. Go team Dumfries!

United artists approach makes shortlist for National Award

Several organisations were jumping for joy at the news in Dumfries today – that the town has been shortlisted for the coveted Creative Place Award for 2014.

A joint bid was led by Big Burns Supper, The Stove and Electric Theatre Workshop to attract investment of £150,000 to the town to support the development of a Creative Place through a year-long celebration of Creativity to help support Dumfries town centre.

Uniquely – the bid has been developed by the arts organisations independently, which mirrors the trend that has been happening in Dumfries over the last three years.   Artists and their Organisations are leading the way in the regeneration of place, community and identity.

Graham Main, Artistic Director of Electric Theatre Workshop & Big Burns Supper said, “We are thrilled with the news of the shortlist – which celebrates the ground breaking transformation, and creative leadership model in our community. Organisation’s like Big Burns Supper, The Stove and Electric Theatre Workshop – and our many associate organisations like Theatre Royal, Peter Pan Moatbrae, Greyfriars Concerts, DG Arts Festival and The Crichton Campus are leading on a fresh approach to arts delivery, and redefining the rules to creative participation through a new confidence that is spreading throughout our region.”

Matt Baker, Stove Network artists collective founder member said: “Culture and Heritage have been identified by many as the key to revitalising Dumfries – a future built on assets like the river, the history and the creative talents of our citizens. Much work has been done already by groups like Stove, Big Burns Supper and Electric Theatre Workshop – we have all focussed on making opportunities for other local folk to get involved and through this building a network of amazing people with a ‘can do’ attitude.

Being shortlisted for this award is amazing national recognition of both the work done to date and potential for the future. Dumfries is ready to claim itself Queen of the South again for the new century – we look forward to working with everyone to make that happen.”

It comes on the same day that Big Burns Supper announced plans for their Homecoming Carnival, which will set the town alight on the 25th January 2014, which will see over 2000 people taking part in the organisations largest ever Participation project to date.

A massive community celebration which help pay tribute to the centenary of World War One, with second year students from several high schools helping to design and create the first ever Burns Night Carnival in the town’s history.

As the news came in, Final preparations were being made to the Dumfries Music Conference weekend which is taking place at The Stove in the centre of Dumfries.  The second Dumfries Music Conference (#DMC2013) will pick up where Greg Wilson signed off last year, with a programme centred on sharing knowledge, ideas and thoughts about music.

Their aim is to be progressive, which is why this year’s sessions have a different complexion than last year’s. Where 2012’s focus was electronic music and technology, 2013 is about shining a light on the music industry’s storytellers.

As part of their continued development, Electric Theatre Workshop have announced continued expansion into communities throughout Dumfries, supporting communities and schools to get access to creativity.

The Community Interest Company based in the centre of Dumfries has opened Youth Theatre projects at Lochside Primary, Lincluden Primary, St Teresa’s Primary and St Ninian’s Primary Schools throughout the next year.  It comes as part of the organisations pledge to lift barriers to creativity in Dumfries thanks to support from the Holywood Trust.

Dumfries will find out at an Awards Ceremony in January 2014 whether or town the town will lift the prize.


An Update and an Invitation

The Stove committee have been pushing forward on all fronts over the past year and we would like to invite you to a catch-up meeting on Wednesday 5th of September at 7pm at The Stove building.

At this meeting we will report back on progress with the building and projects and discussing the future structure of the Stove as an arts organisation. he Stove began as an open invitation and opportunity for D+G practitioners we’d like to discuss ideas we have for sustaining this ethos into the future and are eager to involve as many of you as possible in these discussions.

Some of you may also be aware that we have been commissioning artworks to accompany a 2 week long programme of public arts activity in and around Dumfries at the start of November. Artist Mike Inglis was award one of the Stove’s Inbetween commissions; Mike is one of Scotland’s leading street-artists and will present a short illustrated talk on 5th September about his practice and what he has planned for the November events.

Utopian Junk Dreams  
 kirsty whiten centaur/ fraser grey explosion/ martin mcguinness landscape / mike inglis spaceboy and the no9 junk dream /rab choudhry coins

We will also be introducing a two day symposium we are presenting in November where invited speakers will be addressing issues surrounding the identity of contemporary market towns in the UK: ‘Place Sustainability and Future Culture’ in Dumfries on 8 + 9 November 2012.

We hope you can join us, if so please RSVP via with the text ‘ Stove Meeting Wed 5th Sep’ in the subject line.