The Midsteeple Quarter Project in Dumfries has been presented as a case study at a national conference on community land ownership in Glasgow. The event, which took place on Tuesday 6th March, was led by Community Land Scotland – a registered charity which was established as a response to the need for a collective voice for community landowners in Scotland.
Our very own Matt Baker delivered the presentation last week, and commented on new legislation from Scottish Government which has made places with a population of over 10,000 people eligible for community buy outs of derelict buildings and land that is blighting their communities. For years, absentee landlords have been able to hold our High Street to ransom – this national event in Glasgow showed that Dumfries is one of the towns in Scotland that is leading the way for local people to take back control of their town centres.Up until now, communities taking ownership of their land has been a rural affair, with high profile examples such as the Islands of Eigg and Harries and Assynt in the North West mainland. The event on Tuesday addressed the need for urban communities to use the legislation and opportunities of community empowerment to regain ownership of empty builidings on High Streets that are owned by absentee landlords.
The Midsteeple Quarter Project is an example of community-led initiatives and has been working to breathe new life into Dumfries town centre by developing a section of the High Street as a live/work quarter. This project is a response to the desire to re-populate the town centre. Long-term and careful consultation facilitated by the Stove Network, Dumfries High Street Limited and other partners have identified a block of mostly Georgian buildings in the heart of the town centre as the site for this bold initiative that will see local people developing their own High Street.
On Saturday 7th April, there will be a public launch for the Midsteeple Quarter Benefit Society, and everyone in the community is invited to join in the effort to take back control of our High Street.
People can keep up to date with Midsteeple Quarter Project by visiting their website: www.midsteeplequarter.org.
We were inspired recently by a letter into the local Standard newspaper from Maureen Farrell, looking at some of the locally led community projects and initiatives kicking off in Dumfries and calling for a push from agencies and larger organisations in the region to join a new movement of locally inspired positive change for Dumfries.
For those who missed it in the paper, on the 6th of February, we’ve decided to reproduce it here.
Thank you Maureen!
‘Having just enjoyed the delights that the Big Burns Supper brings to my home town of Dumfries has made me think that here was a homemade success story that was conceived by a local person, Graham Main, and brought to life by the hundreds of volunteers.
It brings the town to life in the dead of winter but, as well as entertaining us, it most importantly brings money and people into our region.
Kirstin McClure Rowe and Leah Halliday are working on a project to bring artists, makers and producers of crafts to the High Street to assist them in marketing their produce but especially to revive the High Street. By having a variety of talented people show their wares they hope to offer a range of unique products and help to market Dumfries as a town that people would want to visit.
At the moment Save Rosefield Mills is holding community consultation meetings to explore how we might rescue the beautiful mill in Troqueer that overlooks the Nith. Luke Moloney, Mark Zygadlo and Sheila Cameron are leading the battle. It would be such a failure if we let our heritage rot away. Again it is a local initiative led by local people.
The Stove is facilitating an attempt to bring housing and other services back to the Midsteeple Quarter. Matt Baker and fellow activists are leading this community-led initiative which would help in re-populating our wonderful Georgian High Street architecture.
Belle Doyle is leading an attempt to improve the rail connections between Dumfries and the central belt with the Dumfries Railway Action Group. This would not only improve our access to Glasgow and Edinburgh but it would also bring people flooding into this area.
These are all examples of local people doing it for themselves. These initiatives have sprung up now because people are tired of seeing the town of Dumfries fade away. We deserve something better.
There has been a lot of criticism of Dumfries and Galloway Council for not doing more but we have to remember that local government is being hammered by austerity and is struggling to fulfill its legal duties in the fields of education, social work, litter collection, planning etc.
Today I read an article by Aditya Chakrabortty about the regeneration of Preston, a town in Lancashire, which had problems similar to our own. Preston turned its fortunes around by spending locally. They call it Guerrilla Localism. [You can read the article in full here]
The local council, NHS and other big-spending organisations were persuaded to spend whatever monies they received from government in their local area, keeping the money circulating there and bringing more employment to the town and its surrounding area.
They did this by breaking down contracts that had to be tendered into amounts that local firms could provide. This increased the number of people locally who were in employment, they in turn spent their money locally and the town and surrounding area prospered. By having the courage to take the initiative local councilors in Preston rescued their town from fading away into obscurity. Who not Dumfries and Galloway, I thought.
I believe the examples I have outlined show that we have the people locally who are prepared to work energetically to make things happen. Now we need the local council, NHS and other agencies that are centrally funded to examine what they do with the considerable amount of money they do receive and make it work for Dumfries and Galloway.
Guerilla Localism could turn around the fortunes of Dumfries and Galloway.’
An evening of short artist films, screened outdoors in our backdoor Greenspace, accompanied by freshly baked pizzas created by Shed Therapy’s Gavin Philips with support from some of our foodie Stovies!
Our Greenspace project is an ongoing project within the Stove that looks to transform the backdoor area of the Stove creating a warm and welcoming level access to the building, as well as providing bike parking, and options to populate and take over an otherwise disused and neglected space within the town centre.
As part of our first outdoor Reel to Real, we screened a selection of films by local filmmakers, focusing on artists based across Scotland, including:
Thank you to everyone who helped out, and the filmmakers for kind permissions to screen their films. We hope to do more events in our Greenspace later in the year! This event was part of our Rabbie Burns Time – a week of events and activities celebrating the Bard and the Big Burns Supper in Dumfries. Photography credit: Kirstin McEwan
Our recent exhibition in the Stove cafe is now on the move! Following a two week show in Dumfries, the exhibition is now installed and available to visit in the Southblock, in Glasgow during regular cafe hours.
The Midsteeple Quarter Ideas Exhibition features 15 different submissions to our Architecture Ideas Competition that was launched in April in partnership with the Glasgow Institute of Architects.
The winners were selected by our panel of judges (see here for details) and are as follows:
Winner – First Place
Gordon Fleming, ARPL Architects
Andie Cooke, Megan Ward, Cara Brunton and Ashley Mitchell
Pioneer Landscape Architecture
Ryan Canning and Titas Grikevicius, Holmes Miller
Following the close of the Dumfries exhibition our People’s Choice Winner, selected by popular vote, has also been announced:
Gordon Fleming, ARPL Architects
Friday 30 June – Wednesday 12 July 2017
South Block, 60-64 Osborne St, Glasgow, G1 5QH
Monday – Friday: 9am – 5pm
Saturday & Sunday: Closed
MQIC Winner’s Presentation and Debate:
We invite you to join us on Thursday 6th July, between 6-7.30pm, to see presentations by the winning 3 entries and to discuss the possibilities of architectural responses to the decline of our high streets. Free to attend with complimentary wine but please book here
If you missed seeing the exhibition in Dumfries, and can’t make the Glasgow venue, the competition entries are available to download as a pdf, available here
The results of our Midsteeple Quarter Architecture Competition have been announced, with Ayr based ARPL Architects winning the 1st prize of £1000. Gordon Flemming from ARPL Architects stated, “We are very pleased that our ideas for the Midsteeple Quarter in Dumfries were recognised by the competition judges. The challenge of ensuring regional town centres stay viable and lively is a great task and we hope our contribution to the discussion helps add a new dimension to this.”
The Midsteeple Quarter project is an important part of a national debate about the future of town centres as traditional retail declines everywhere, the architectural ideas submitted are not proposals of what will be built, but a way of continuing the conversation of how the Midsteeple Quarter could develop as a new heart of our town centre.
The judging panel consisted of John Dowson, a Dumfries High Street Resident; Melissa Gunn, Lecturer in Business and Enterprise at the University of the West of Scotland & Chair of the Board of Directors at The Stove Network; Tim Gray, Director at Holmes Miller Architects & GIA President; Iain Monteith, Director at Loader & Monteith Architects and Tutor at the Mackintosh School of Architecture and David Cowan, Head of Regeneration Unit at the Scottish Government.
Second place was awarded to a group of young female architects who focused their entry on the social aspect of regenerating Dumfries High Street, providing solutions which introduced both day and night time activity. Their reimaging of the town centre sought to provide an achievable, affordable and permanent solution to empty shop fronts whilst integrating student accommodation into the heart of a potentially thriving community. Third place was awarded to Pioneer Landscape Architecture, who looked at the unique nature of the site and its spaces to guide their response. Their aim was to revitalise the Midsteeple Quarter by making proposals on both a regional and local scale, reinstating the importance of Dumfries as a regional capital in a post retail society. In addition to the cash prizes the Judges wanted to commend Ryan Canning and Titas Grikevicius from Holmes Miller with a Drawing Commendation.
Sam Patterson, who coordinated the architecture competition on behalf of the Glasgow Institute of Architects, commented, “The GIA are delighted to have worked with The Stove Network on developing such a rich and challenging competition brief and we are thrilled with the range of ideas that were received across the 15 submissions. The quality of the submissions exceeded our expectations and we hope will stimulate the debate in Dumfries about the potential of the Midsteeple Quarter.”
Long-term and careful public consultation has brought a consensus that re-populating the town centre is an urgent necessity. Late last year,we conducted an online survey and had responses from over 800 members of the public. Their responses revealed support for a more diverse approach to the future of the town centre with a very positive response to ideas of enterprise, education, live-work, health services and restaurants/nightlife all being available in the town centre as well as more events, festivals and markets to encourage more people to come into the town.
On Friday 9th June, entries to the Midsteeple Quarter Architecture Competition will be on display in the Stove building, 100 High Street, until 21st June, as well as South Block in Glasgow. The exhibition launch at The Stove will be opened by the new Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council, Councillor Elaine Murray, and will begin at 6.30pm. Everyone is invited to come along and view the architectural concepts for the Midsteeple Quarter of Dumfries High Street from professional individuals and practices for a reimaged urban core of Dumfries. The public in Dumfries will be able to vote for a ‘Peoples Choice’ winner at the exhibition at The Stove.