This November is our annual Dark Time. Over the course of the next two weeks we’ll be working hard, thinking, planning and implementing some of the biggest projects we’ve ever dreamt up. It’s also a time for us to question our role, our processes, communication and vision fully so that we might step into the New Year resourced, ready and receptive to whatever it might bring.
Dark Time is a chance for the team to take a step back and reflect, to listen and plan for the year ahead. It is a significant and valuable process where we take a critical and constructive eye over everything we do, through an intensive series of conversations and workshops. We’ll discuss everything from projects and production, events and hospitality, festivals and gigs to the way we use our café, connect and work with our membership as well as explore further our role within the region, and to question, adapt and embed a vision for the organisation to share for the year coming.
2020, perhaps more so than previous years, has brought a lot into focus for us, as it has for many. From the delivery of our events, our digital programme and our engagement with new audiences and collaborators, as well our commitment to creating and sustaining grassroots activity which narrows the gaps (or gulfs) between art, creativity, government and community.
It’s been a tough year all round. But it stands as testament to the commitment we feel to what we do. We’ve had to re-imagine our entire 2020 programme for an online audience as well as manage projects and festivals throughout the country, alongside shaping the conversations on artists and communities at a national level. Rather than limiting our focus for the year coming, we believe this time to be invaluable in helping to shape new projects out-with Dumfries, and to re-fresh our ideas in shaping a fairer future for our region, through the sharing of art, ideas and gifts from the voices all too often unheard in our communities.
2020 if nothing else, has proven what is possible at a distance, such as working from home and the ability to connect with a broader spectrum of society than we ever thought possible. But it has deprived us all of the experiences which colour our lives, connect us with one another and help us to understand, navigate and continue in a world spinning further out of sight. But we’re far from pessimistic. Instead, we’ll think of this year as fallowed ground for something so much bolder, brighter and connected than we ever have been before.
Our recent membership survey has given us a lot to talk about. From our engagement with the community, the way we communicate, how diverse we are and how focused we ought to become in our vision. Our Dark Time this year is framed on the ideas, suggestions and feedback we have received from our members and wider community over this year, and we cannot thank you enough in helping to shape the Stove with us over this time. Whether it’s through a coffee in the café, filling out the membership survey, engaging in our programme of digital events or dropping us a line to check-in. Every conversation is meaningful, especially those of dissent.
The work here now is to recognise where we are and what we now need to do as an organisation so as to connect, inspire and grow new visions for our community in the wake of an international pandemic. A vision fully shared, that is inclusive, welcoming and principled. This may mean many things, and it may take strange and exciting new shapes, but as always and even more so, they are guided by the values shaped by, with and for the communities we belong to and serve.
Our Dark Time is framed around three conversations, and we’ll be sharing our progress with you through our social media and website as we go.
How do we define ourselves and what are the systems in place to let others participate and create with us.
How connected are we, and to whom?
We’re a growing organisation, how do we keep being connected to what’s happening around us?
Understanding our role as a learning organisation and how we engage with formal and informal education.
Working with our neighbors, partners and creative businesses throughout the region in further building a sustainable and connected network.
We want everyone to feel included, so do we do that? From working with the Deaf community to making the very building we operate in accessible to everyone, we’re making plans to engage with as many people as we can, sharing and learning as we go.
How we engage, from social media, blogs, and our website. We believe we’re an approachable organisation, so how do we build on this?
Engaging our membership. We want to create the spaces for our memberships to input into the running of the organisation as well as create the spaces needed to network with one another.
We want to centre community and creativity at the heart of the region’s future. Who else can we work with to do this?
In the wake of the pandemic, what can we learn from this and how do we create new work which resonates and belongs to our communities locally?
As a learning organisation, we’re building the skills and confidence of those we engage, and those we collaborate with. How do we expand on this? And can we offer more platforms, roles and opportunities for our community to shine?
Who owns what? What does ownership mean for our community, and how do we ensure everyone is involved? What does the shift from private to community-owned mean, and can what we learn, in order to change things at a higher level?
As always, if you have any thoughts that might help us in our direction, our (digital) door is always open. Drop us a message on our social media, ask to speak with someone at the café, or send an email along.
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