Categories
News

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.” 

Embers

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
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/community-ownership-shaping-the-future-of-our-towns-registration-132730463389

Wor Culture: Re-thinking the High Street – What Role for Arts and Culture? – Wednesday 27th January 12.30-2.00pm https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/wor-culture-re-thinking-the-high-street-what-role-for-arts-and-culture-registration-135664737883

Categories
Musings News

Response to the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee on the current Covid-19 crisis on our sectors

This is The Stove’s response to the call-out from the Cross-party Committee on Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs on the impact of covid-19 to Scotlands Culture and Tourism sectors and how our sector should be supported at this time.

We see it as part of our role in the region to advocate for those working in the creative sector in D+G but there is strength in numbers so we strongly encourage others to send in responses so that as many voices can be heard as possible – link here

photo credit Kirstin McEwan

Response submitted on the 17.8.2020

This response comes from our experience as a community focused organisation in the High Street of Dumfries, ongoing discussion with the freelance creative community of Dumfries and Galloway, the small groups and businesses we work with and as many of the national discussions and emerging reports we can sanely be part of.

Q – how best the industry can be supported during this unprecedented time.

We need urgent support for the freelance creative economy in Dumfries and Galloway in the form of a) paid work opportunities for freelancers, b) support for local arts infrastructure to effectively support freelancers and c) support for a network that can learn and share learning from this activity.

This paper develops a series of proposals for support and a long term vision through an understanding of the cultural sector that has been brought into sharp focus by COVID.

NEEDS

  • We need devolved local delivery of support that takes into account the monumental variety of work and structures that produce and deliver it within our sector at a grassroots level
  • We need a long-term VISION that embraces innovations in how we value cultural and creative work – wider social benefit, place-based initiatives and community wealth building, localised power and delivery
  • We need to talk about what we have missed, not just what we have done, and be clear on who has not been heard or supported
  • We need to be honest about the “real” long-term impact of support, who will not benefit and why. We need to share and recycle ALL support given – if we invest into spaces/buildings/large institutions for example, how can they then pay that forward to others in the sector and their surrounding community through resource, space, knowledge sharing, local expertise and procurement and be held accountable to that?
  • Fundamentally we need a grassroots and sector-led approach led by the people who make creative work and the local communities it should benefit and be a part of

OUR FOCUS IN DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY

Our building and community is a non-residential and transient community. At the very start of lockdown it became clear that others were better placed than us to provide the type of community care roles that we have seen a lot of creative place-based groups and organisations take in the field creative community-led work we operate in.

Our focus became the immediate and devastating impact on our local community of creative freelancers who are the pillars that hold up the region’s creative sector – small creative businesses, local projects, independent festivals and events across SW Scotland. The freelancers in our community do not have a platform in national conversations on arts, culture and their economic impact and value, advocating for them as well as providing work opportunities and networking support became our way to act.

We have been approaching this twofold – by taking part in as many of those local, regional and national conversations as we have capacity for and actively working with our membership and creative community so that the grassroots of the sector can be as loud and visible as possible in shaping how we move forward.

For our small acts of solidarity and creativity see our Homegrown Blog

Atlas Pandemica is a new project, like Homegrown, specifically developed in response to COVID, it commissions artists to gather and react to stories of the pandemic’s impact on often unheard voices in our communities and develop creative visioning for going forward into a more socially inclusive future.

It is this grassroots workforce in creative and cultural activity alongside local groups and organisations that we have seen as key collaborators and indicators of the resilience and innovation by local folk and communities.

Our long-term, strategic aim here is to support a regional network of Creative Placemaking activity that helps build and sustain a robust creative workforce whilst responding to real need at local community level.

GRASSROOTS CULTURE

The creative and cultural sector that is embedded in communities is under-represented across our national agencies and as such also lacking in engagement and relative collection of data in terms of their wider economic impact for our places and communities.

The Stove’s recent Embers report, April 2020, highlighted the necessity of supporting community-led, localised action and the lack of understanding of the value of this work to healthy economies. The grants for self-employed creatives were welcome but they do little to consider and understand the expense needed to continue to work as a freelance worker in our industry (support for three months of living/work expenses in Scotland coming out lower than the UK average of £2900, under £1000 a month) SEISS Statistics.

” Performers and other creative practitioners like me earn on average £10k a year and do not fit within the Chancellor’s characterisation of those left out of the SEISS. It is claimed that those who are excluded represent just 5% of the self-employed workforce, earning on average £200k – this is very clearly not the experience of the more than 40% of Equity members who have not been able get support so far.”Equity letter to Government

Excluded UK estimates that 3 million freelancers across sectors have been excluded from any support.

This needs to be courageously recognised so that it can be addressed in the plans we now take forward. Through our experience this includes, but is not limited to, the following groups and activities in cultural and creative industries:

  • Voluntary
  • Community-led
  • Freelancers
  • Young emerging and those not registered as self-employed
  • Vulnerable groups and minorities
  • Informal learning programmes and groups
  • Independent festivals and events

“Creative workers–one of the more vulnerable sectors of the workforce–are already seeing devastating impacts on their income, not only in turnover terms, but also in their charitable contributions and sponsorships. Leaving behind the more fragile part of the sector could cause irreparable socio-economic damage.” – p5 Oxford Economics Report – The projected economic impact of cvoid-19 on the UK Creative Industries 15.6.2020

Our ideas around this add to the pool of information, research and experience coming from creative freelancers across the globe, community groups and workers, academics, think tanks etc. to justify a more holistic and creative approach to economic recovery that makes use of our community groups and organisations (Community Wealth Building, Carnegie Trust on Wellbeing, Wellbeing Economy, Anchor Organisations). We need the investment to start making it happen and the courage to do it in a localised, place-based way.

Through our work at The Stove we have seen the impact that can be had when the ground is made fertile and people are given the agency to develop and grow things locally.

A CULTURE COLLECTIVE

We see an opportunity to devolve resource and power to local people by supporting creative freelancers and groups and organisations that are already working as part of their communities to develop locally responsive projects that can also take advantage of cross sector opportunity for long-term benefit.

What if we were to pay out of work people in the Creative and Community sectors a fair wage to work in their local communities to start new projects (or build on things started in lockdown) – these could be cultural projects like choirs, writer’s groups etc. 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.

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.

This idea is based on power of community and cross-sector collaboration and respondent to the Guiding Principles from the Report by the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery – p12. More on the development of this can be found on The Stove Blog here

A LONG TERM VISION

We believe support needs to align towards a clear VISION that can be shaped by the changing needs of the sector and is representative of the wide variety of work this includes – notably the less heard voices of creative freelancers, voluntary and community-led groups and organisations. It needs to be local, be a collaboration between the sector and our communities and feed the local innovation that is already there.

Carnegie Trust UK’s recently published (1st July 2020) “Conversations with Communities” initial findings state it brilliantly

“The COVID-19 emergency has let us see what only the state can do – set up hospitals; fund research into a vaccine; shift resources to the front line – and what only communities can do – mobilise and respond quickly by building on existing relationships; pool collective resources; think creatively about what assets are available.”

While the Government is able to float ideas for action, these can only become a reality through collaboration with the arts and creative sector. For example, the idea of a National Arts Force needs all of us in culture to come together and work with other bodies to shape a plan that can make this happen…only we the creative practitioners on the ground know how this could work…we must take our place at the discussion table for the sake of everyone who works in our sector and for society at large.” – https://thestove.org/creativity-and-community-as-part-of-the-national-recovery/

We have the knowledge, we have the tools, we have the live projects that are working and the historical examples of what activities and investments are impactful in a deeper, wider sense of economic resilience and wellbeing, now is the time to stop pitching our systems to big business and outdated ideas of ‘growth’ as a measure of societal success.

Categories
News

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 katharine@thestove.org

Categories
Musings

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.

Categories
News

Hello 2020 at The Stove Network!

2019 was an incredible year for us at The Stove – we had the opportunity to work with an amazing host of people and groups, and to share a wide range of events and projects, both in-house and led by other organisations and artists.
Our programme for 2020 is starting to fill up fast and we’re gearing up for another jam-packed year of art, community and creativity at 100 High Street, aiming to encourage, gather, educate and inspire. We thought we’d share a few projects that we’re looking forward to in the coming year – so get those diaries oot!
 

National Theatre of Scotland: Just Start Here

Next month, we’re delighted to be working with National Theatre of Scotland to bring you a two-day festival of brand new work from a wide range of Scottish artists. ‘Just Start Here’ features bold new work and will take over shop-fronts, working men’s clubs and the streets of Dumfries this February.
Throughout the day, intimate performances and provocative talks will take place in between a bite to eat and time to mull ideas over. The evening will see live music performances, engaging conversation and a chance to experience something unique.
The lineup includes Nic Green, Behavin’, Two Destination Language, Ashanti Sharda, Stuart Macpherson, Emma Dove & Pete Smith, Stewart Laing, Mele Broomes, SUE ZUKI plus much more to be announced! To keep up to date please visit the National Theatre of Scotland Facebook or website by clicking here.
 

Dumfries Music Conference: The Plaza

Inspired by initiatives set up throughout the country, DMC launched ‘The Plaza’ at their seventh annual conference back in October. The Plaza is a roving music venue, dedicated to the takeover of the under-utilised, the abandoned, the ruinous and the unusual.

The first Plaza took place at Soul Soup on Irish Street, with live performances from Quiche, Megan Airlie, Prussia Snailham and the Lutras, with the second Plaza taking place just before Christmas at the Secret Gallery on Friars Vennel. A special Christmas themed evening with live performances from Kate Kyle, Steven Thomas and Callum Easter.
With plans for a Plaza event every second month, the DMC team are gearing up for a year of scoping out the hidden music venues of Dumfries and providing a platform for bands to showcase their talent in a unique space. Keep up to date with the latest Plaza info on the DMC Facebook here or visit their website by clicking here.
  

Lowland

It’s now over two years since the Lowland project began with its first writer-in-residence, Stuart Paterson whose work with the Stove generated a mass of over 500 written postcard responses from poetry, short fiction, illustration and observations of life in a town in the midst of a transition. The project, first conceived as a means by which local people and visitors could contribute to a new contemporary portrait of Dumfries, has now since quietly developed with a core team of emerging writers and theatre-makers, contributing, devising and workshopping in the heart of the High Street. Now, entering into the rehearsal stages for its debut production in late March. For more information on the Lowland project and to find out how you might like to take part please email martin@thestove.org

The Stove Café: Community Table

The Stove Café is the social heart of our network and, following a refurbishment last year, we’re looking forward to an exciting year of events and projects in the café and working with our community on a more regular basis. The Stove Café team are currently putting plans in place for a regular ‘Community Table’ where community groups and organisations can make use of the café space for regular meet ups, discussions or informal gatherings in a comfortable space with a hot drink and delicious food from local producers.

Nithraid 2020

Save the date – Nithraid is back! Dumfries’ annual River Festival returns to the Mill Green on Saturday 22ndAugust to celebrate our beloved River Nith with our community and partners. Nithraid is the biggest event in the Stove calendar, and with our eighth one approaching this year we’re looking at our biggest one yet – including opportunities to work with organisations, artist commissions, local food, live music performances, art installations and so much more!

For Nithraid 2020, we are looking forward to welcoming Dorothy Lawrenson to the team as our poet-in-residence. Dorothy will be researching the River Nith and its role in the life of the local community. The resulting work will be a collection of poems and podcasts, with each one concentrating on a specific aspect of the river.
Make sure you keep up to date with all our Nithraid news over on the Nithraid Facebook page here.
 

Embers – Igniting Culturally-led Regeneration across Dumfries and Galloway

Last year we had conversations with and gathered information from 21 groups and organisations from across Dumfries and Galloway with additional feedback and input from regional and national support bodies and agencies. We wanted to find out directly from groups and organisations working successfully as part of their communities more about the strengths and challenges of their work and build a picture of effective creative place making in Dumfries and Galloway and its impact for our places.

We are excited to share what has emerged from our consultation work and help build a case for a holistic approach to community focused enterprise and economic wellbeing, with the Embers going live at the end of February.

Categories
News

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 katharine@thestove.org 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: https://www.carnegieuktrust.org.uk/blog/culture-creativity-and-conversation-thinking-about-tomorrows-towns/

D-Lux at Bakers Oven in Dumfries 2018