Support Us

OPEN HOOSE: Doughlicious – Making Focaccia

June 19 @ 6:45 pm 9:00 pm

Image by Jamie Stryker

For amateur bakers and bread enthusiasts alike.

Doughlicious is a bread club with a twist. Share recipes and techniques in a relaxed atmosphere and get practical with some hands-on activity. Open to all! Discover more about Doughlicious here.

This month, we will be making Focaccia!

The levain will be provided, but you’ll need to bring some tools from home. These are: A mixing bowl, a cloth or cover for your bowl and a jam jar.

We also have a small ‘Bread Book’ reference library for you to look through to get inspired and learn new techniques.

Free In-person donations welcome to go towards materials for the event.
100 High Street
Dumfries, DG1 2BJ United Kingdom
01387 252435
View Venue Website

Access Information: Level Access in rear of building through adjacent close to left-hand side of the Cafe (facing the front of the building). To ensure your experience with us is as best as it can be, please do let us know if you have any specific access requirements and we’d be happy to help. Please email Kevin or Sal on: [email protected] or phone 01387 252435 and speak with one of our team. We are able to provide walk-throughs of the building before attending our events as well as assign seating before your arrival.

Doongamers – Magic: The Gathering

June 19 @ 6:00 pm 10:00 pm

Magic: the Gathering is a collectable trading card game dating back to 1993. Players use their decks, containing lands, spells, and creatures, to battle against their opponent using a variety of tactics and strategies until one player emerges victorious.

Magic comes in many formats, each with its own list of cards that are allowed to be played in that format.

The Pioneer format (the one chosen by Team Scoop to be played at The Stove) is beginner friendly, accessible, and fun, with cards from late 2012 (Return to Ravnica) being legal, with a few exceptions that have been banned due to their power level.

Games (Over 18’s)

Pioneer: £5 entry fee will add 1.5 boosters to the prize pool per player, with each player receiving one pack, and the rest being distributed amongst the top scoring players. 

Commander/other casual play: Free, can be arranged into pods/events on demand. 

More information can be found at or by contacting us via our Facebook Group (Team Scoop Magic Club) or joining our Discord ( 

What is Magic? 

Bringing people together through fun, competition and friendship. 

At a glance, Magic is a trading card game filled with strategic battles and unique card decks. But Magic has always been bigger than the box. Whether you’re having fun at the kitchen table, or battling in a high-stakes competition, there’s a place for you here.

5 colours. 5 play styles. Endless possibilities. 

Each of the five colours in Magic represent a different philosophy and a different play-style. Choose your colour(s) to decide which type of land you’ll be drawing resources (mana) from and what type of Magic you’ll wield.

Who are Doongamers?

Doongamers are a friendly, inclusive community of Doonhamer gamers with a passion for geek culture from Magic to D&D, Digimon to collectables! Hosting regular gaming sessions at the Stove Cafe, the community is always on the look-out for new members. With a community both in-person and online, Doongamers is fun-first, competition second. Oh, and milkshakes. Lots of milkshakes. 

Free – £5
100 High Street
Dumfries, Dumfries & Galloway DG1 2BJ United Kingdom
01387 252435
View Venue Website

Access Information: Level Access in rear of building through adjacent close to left-hand side of the Cafe (facing the front of the building). To ensure your experience with us is as best as it can be, please do let us know if you have any specific access requirements and we’d be happy to help. Please email Kevin or Sal on: [email protected] or phone 01387 252435 and speak with one of our team. We are able to provide walk-throughs of the building before attending our events as well as assign seating before your arrival.

Dumfries Women’s Signwriting Squad: Monthly Meet Up

June 4 @ 4:00 pm 8:00 pm

The Dumfries Women’s Signwriting Squad returns this month for a bit of large-scale painting practice – if you’ve been looking for an opportunity to practice painting designs straight to the wall, this is the one for you! We’ll be working alongside the Stove team to repaint a section of the Stove building. Painters of all experience levels welcome.

This date has extended times from the usual monthly slot, but feel free to drop in at a time that suits you. For more information contact The Stove directly.

Tea and coffee and basic materials provided. Donations welcome.

Please note that our monthly meet-ups at the Stove are a space solely intended for women and those identifying as to share and develop their practice together. If this demographic does not include you, but you would like to get involved, please send us an email enquiry at [email protected].

About the Dumfries Signwriting Squad

DWSS are an informal and independent group of female artists with a love of traditional hand lettering. They support the growth of women in a traditionally male-dominated industry inspiring confidence and collective painting opportunities.

The DWSS take on commissioned based work for local businesses and organisations and can host signwriting introductory sessions or workshops at a fee. For more information visit their Instagram @dumfriessignwritingsquad.

100 High Street
Dumfries, Dumfries & Galloway DG1 2BJ United Kingdom
01387 252435
View Venue Website

Access Information: Level Access in rear of building through adjacent close to left-hand side of the Cafe (facing the front of the building). To ensure your experience with us is as best as it can be, please do let us know if you have any specific access requirements and we’d be happy to help. Please email Kevin or Sal on: [email protected] or phone 01387 252435 and speak with one of our team. We are able to provide walk-throughs of the building before attending our events as well as assign seating before your arrival.

WWDN – The Launch of a Creative Placemaking Network

May 9 @ 1:00 pm 6:00 pm

Join us for the launch of an exciting new creative placemaking network for Dumfries and Galloway.

What We Do Now is an exciting new creative placemaking network for Dumfries and Galloway, brought to you by The Stove, and shaped together with creative practitioners, community organisations, and partners from across the region.

This event has very limited availability and booking is essential. Please book your place now via Eventbrite below to avoid disappointment.


13:00    Arrive

Tea, coffee, and nibbles

13:15    Presentations and Questions

Introduction by Katharine Wheeler, WWDN Director

14:00    Artists Presentations talking about their experience working in public space

Betwixting: A Reflection on the Art of Inbetweening with artist Peter McCaughey

(Re)claiming Public Space with artist Emma Jayne Park

14:00    Small Group Discussions

Reflecting on experiences of community embedded work

15:00    BREAK

15:30    Workshop Activities

GCAT Tour – Brian Edgar

New Galloway History Walk – Zoe Kirkpatrick

A Journey Into the Unknown – Peter McCaughey

Market of Possibilities – Martin O’Neil

Sound Workshop – Stuart Macpherson

Conversation Corner – Emma Jayne Park

16:30    Closing Comments

Hopes for the future and discussion points from the floor

17:00    Buffet Dinner and Social

Sound Piece – with Stuart Macpherson

18:00   Close

Download the full programme here.

High St
New Galloway, Castle Douglas, Dumfries & Galloway DG7 3RN United Kingdom
01644 420374
View Venue Website
Musings News

Homemade Hope – A Blog

a screen displaying the words, what gives you hope
What gives you hope? From the Gaither Inn – image credit Erin Aitchison

Artistic Director, Martin O’Neill has spent almost a decade creating, developing, collaborating on and championing some of the brightest creative ideas to come out of our town through his work with The Stove. All of which have been co-created with for and by our local people. However, at a time where so much uncertainty looms over all of us, not just in the creative sector, we challenged Martin to reflect on the last year, and asked him; “What gives you hope?

Homemade Hope

By Martin O’Neill – Artistic Director

The last few years… they haven’t exactly been a fairground, have they?

Each New Year, the promise of better unfurls like a golden ticket. Although initially adorned with fine intents, clear plans, and a bright outlook… it gradually reveals itself to be more akin to Glasgow’s Willy Wonka experience – complete with gloomy Oompa Loompas, bargain bucket backdrops, and a quarter cup of lemonade. Happy New Year folks!

So it’s forgivable, when asked ‘what gives you hope?’, to re-coil and grimace given the last few years.

Hope is not often a word we hear in the news. Its closest relative ‘resilience’ is banded around in party political slogans; spun and doctored till they’ve lost much of whatever profundity they were meant to stand for. ‘Resilience’ now appears before us akin to a Frankenstein’s monster. Its made up of all the different parts, and looks about right – but there’s no soul about it. The word has been so chewed up by billionaires and politicians it’s been rendered tasteless. But this isn’t a blog about billionaires. I’ll save that one for another day.

With that said in many ways, there’s hope for… hope.

But hope encompasses more than its definition suggests; ‘a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen.’

Across various scientific disciplines worldwide, entire factions have dedicated to study hope. From neurology to social science and economics, the study of this hard-to-put-into-words feeling is uncovering stuff that may well determine the future of our world and us in it. Hope’s significance extends from longevity and survival to happiness and humanitarianism. It’s becoming a key factor in determining an individual’s happiness and resilience, making waves in our understanding of mental illness. Moreover, its impact on fostering progressive and healthy communities is increasingly recognised.

So I’d like to take you on a little voyage through hope as I see it – the places where it thrives and the people that nourish from it. From Stove-led projects to the quiet things we’re up to no one really hears about, and to others in D&G, working their way day-by-day to what some might call utopia ‘Dumfrutopia’?!

Homemade Mutant Hope Machines

What a title!

In February, during the Stove’s annual general meeting, we welcomed researcher, artist, and all round ruddy guid guy ‘Dr. Duckie‘ (also known as Dr. Ben Walters) to discuss his PhD research. Titled ‘Homemade Mutant Hope Machines’, Ben’s research was completed with the queer performance collective ‘Duckie‘ from Vauxhall, London.

Duckie is a pioneering LGBTQ club collective born in Vauxhall, London 25 years ago. Known for its eclectic mix of music, artful stage performances, and inclusive atmosphere, Duckie has evolved from late-night revelry to a respected arts organisation. Their portfolio includes award-winning shows like ‘C’est Duckie!’, immersive experiences like Lullaby and The Class Club, and a vibrant LGBTQ history program. Beyond their core community, Duckie extends its reach with socially engaged projects targeting diverse audiences, supported by Arts Council and National Lottery funding. With a dedicated team and a host of collaborators, Duckie hosts over 130 events and workshops annually, always aiming to blend fun with creativity.

‘From 2014-2018, Ben did a PhD about Duckie’s work and coined the concept Homemade Mutant Hope Machines – a way of describing how people without much clout can start to build better worlds on their own terms.’

“Homegrown Mutant Hope Machines” broadly describes emergent, autonomous, and adaptive forms and processes that consistently cultivate hope for a better world, especially for marginalised populations. This title encompasses community groups, art projects, and organisations dedicated to enabling and empowering people. This is successfully done trough a values-driven approach centred on possibility, hope, and utopia.

In my own little world, hope took hold as the characteristic of not only our past, present and future projects here at the Stove, both now and then and yet to come, but that of nearly countless other groups and people across D&G.

A Manifesto of Homegrown Hope

In January, we launched the inaugural Gaither Inn event. It marked the beginning of a ongoing, dynamic series of gatherings designed to kick-start new ideas and possibilities for our town. The Gaither Inn also featured a mair than plentiful spread of haggis, neeps and tatties in honour of the Bard. With each course of food, a question accompanied, dividing the evening into three chapters. These were:

  • What gives you hope?
  • What are the ingredients of a space to nurture hope?
  • How do we achieve this together?

Invited to speak with their neighbours, everyone discussed these questions and worked towards creating a ‘Manifesto of Homegrown Hope’. Notes upon notes of handwriting from our ‘punters in residence’, (that would rival that of a chain-smoking Doctor in the 1970’s), combined with a sprinkling of poetic license, resulted in the following manifesto…

The Manifesto of Homegrown Hope
Manifesto of Homegrown Hope - developed by the attendees of The Stive Network's Gaither Inn.

Of all the captivating headlines here, one stood out to me the most, ‘Vision & Visibility’.

History reminds us that significant change seldom occurs in obscurity. It is not typically driven by the majority or the zeitgeist of the masses, but rather by the vision of a determined few. So the notion of ‘embracing darkness’ to light the way forward is precisely where creativity, coupled with community, ought to exist. This is where the adaptive and autonomous nature of hope machines thrives: not in prescribing bold and concrete answers for the future, but in posing questions and consistently caring in their efforts toward an as-yet unwritten future.

Questions open the door to the future and are more powerful than answers in that they demand engagement. Engagement in the right questions is what creates accountability. How we frame the questions is decisive. They need to be ambiguous, personal, and stressful.

Peter Block

With that in mind, let me introduce you to a selection of Homemade Mutant Hope Machines. Some we’ve directly supported, others we’ve stood beside as allies, and a few have even sparked our own inspiration.

While there are countless inspiring projects happening across D&G, I’ll focus on those we’ve recently engaged with. Here is a glimpse into the ongoing work and the individuals driving us onward.

The Art Cabin: LIFT

Proposed by artists Alice Francis and Rosie Giblin, the Art Cabin is on the verge of becoming a reality. The project began back in 2021 during the initial phase of the What We Do Now project. Nestled in Dunlop Road, it will serve as a communal space for collective creativity. Above all, the word that epitomises the Art Cabin is “persistence.”

Persistence in the belief that it is the right thing to do. In chasing that one guy who does that one thing. Persistence in getting that one thing done so the other seven hundred things move to get the cabin open.

The Stove’s Operations Director, Graham Rooney, led the charge, and made it happen. The Art Cabin will be launching later in the year thanks to Creative Scotland funding. Achieved in part by the remarkable Morgan Love, a Creative Spaces alumni and LIFT team member.



Liz, a retired Macmillan nurse turned community pioneer, has spearheaded Doughlicious for several years. She has fostered a sense of camaraderie through the shared joy of making delicious sourdough together.

Her dedication extends to Summerhill. Liz volunteers her time to offer free, locally sourced, organic, homemade sourdough bread to those in need. She has successfully united the community in promoting homegrown, locally made, healthy alternatives to store-bought bread.

She is a truly remarkable individual who inspires us all every day.

Maya Rose Edwards: ‘Harbour’ Stranraer

Rarely does an artist, especially one so young, embody the principles of socially engaged and community arts as effectively as Maya Rose Edwards.

Throughout their tenure as the Creative Stranraer Waterfront Project artist, Maya’s project ‘Harbour’ has forged connections with the townsfolk in a manner that even the most outgoing individuals would find challenging.

Referring to their process as “making friends” rather than retreating into solitary research and introspection, as many artists do, speaks volumes about Maya’s ethos, which firmly believes in the transformative power of community engagement.

In Stranraer, Maya’s mission has been to foster dialogue, connection, and a shared vision for the town’s waterfront, rooted in its heritage and future aspirations. The culmination of this endeavour was a community festival, ‘Raise The Sails’, that celebrated possibility and imagination, marked by the symbolic act of “raising the sails” for a rejuvenated Stranraer.

Summerhill Community Centre: Anne Marie


If you’ve not heard of Anne Marie then where have you been?! I’ve only had the pleasure of working with Anne Marie recently through our Creative Caerlaverock project. The project worked with the young team at Summerhill to engagee, promote creativity and excitement about the history and future of Caerlaverock Castle as a site of historical significance and burgeoning creative potential. If you haven’t yet seen the ‘Siege of Summerhill’ and the accompanying documentary capturing the work led by Stovie Sal Cuddihy then check it out, if nothing else, it’s a good laugh.

In even a short visit, it’s evident Anne Marie has managed to nurture a caring, supportive and connected space that I feel every community deserves. Or rather, if every community or neighbourhood had an Anne Marie, the future would be good in good hands.

Off The Margin

One of our most recent projects was a deep-dive into the world of grassroots press and radical print. Over the weekend we were joined by journalists, print-makers and artists both local and national – engaging the town in conversations and workshops from investigative journalism with Karin Goodwin of The Ferret to podcasting, print-making and comic books.

What felt remarkably clear was the appetite and desire for Dumfries to re-connect with its vibrant printing heritage and sewed the seeds for exciting future projects in community news and print-based practices.

The hope here lies in the re-establishing of Dumfries as a place where opinion, expression, creativity and colour could once again return to the written and printed word – and away from the divisive and exclusionary worlds of social media. Watch this space.

Creative Spaces

Nothing embodies the essence of a “Homegrown Mutant Hope Machine” quite like Creative Spaces, especially its recent Showcase. Featuring a diverse array of local young creatives and entrepreneurs from across D&G, it was an evening that showcased the remarkable talent and potential of the region’s future leaders.

This initiative, nurtured by The Stove, has flourished over the past decade, evolving from Young Stove to Blueprint100. The work being done, led by the youth of D&G, is truly remarkable – from community projects aiding those in need to vibrant queer activism and artistry.

These young innovators ensure inclusivity in shaping the region’s future, a valuable lesson for us all. Despite the challenges and prevailing narratives of decline often associated with our aging population, these young creatives embrace a forward-thinking mindset. They are inspired by the possibilities of what lies ahead and are actively forging paths forward, even in the face of darkness.

Wild Goose Festival – the partnership

The Wild Goose Festival is not just about the event itself, but the incredible individuals and organisations behind it. Comprising 24 partners spanning the arts, nature, community, tourism, and wildlife sectors, it serves as a beacon of hope.

In Scotland, there’s often a tendency for organisations to operate in silos, focused solely on their own needs due to financial pressures, policy shifts, and societal challenges stemming from years of government disinvestment. However, the partners of the Wild Goose Festival have committed to collaboration, working together to create a sustainable and vibrant event.

By celebrating our natural ecology and redefining the traditional festival model with a forward-thinking and hopeful perspective, these partners are paving the way for a truly unique festival experience. One where creativity, nature, and community converge to address the pressing issues of our time and inspire positive change.

Oor Hoose

Nothing embodies the spirit of “just do it” quite like Oor Hoose. Founded by Dumfries’ own Madame Jo and Devine Tension, Oor Hoose has provided vital support to young LGBTQ+ creatives and performers, nurturing their talents and empowering them to showcase their skills in the heart of the town centre.

As a gay Doonhamer growing up in the town, if you had told me such a space was going to exist, I would have called you a fantasist. But no, it’s very much a real thing – and it’s truly amazing to see. Now established as a community interest company, Oor Hoose has secured funding from the Hollywood Trust to offer workshops and experiences for young queer artists in D&G. With a Showcase scheduled for May at the Stove Cafe, I’m eager to witness the incredible talents of this remarkable crew.

Musings News

Lessons in Collaboration, Empowerment & Capacity

The Stove recently played host to a visiting artist, Peery Sloan, a multi-disciplinary artist who actively seeks out opportunities to collaborate with other creatives. Reflecting on the practical application of The Stove’s values, finding inspiration in the commitment to continuous learning, growth, and the pursuit of positive change, Peery documented her visit and experience of working with The Stove team. You can read all about it here:

A Month at The Stove:
Lessons in Collaboration, Empowerment, and Capacity

By Peery Sloan

Upon my arrival at The Stove, my curiosity spanned across various facets of the organisation, ranging from structural organisation and team management to the creative processes at the workplace and community impact. I was eager to delve into every aspect. What immediately caught my attention was the remarkable level of attention and dedication exhibited by the team towards their work.

Contrary to my initial assumption that the focus would primarily be on managerial and organisational aspects, I soon realised that the heart of The Stove lay in the individuals comprising the team. The organisation’s tireless functioning, output, and successes relied on the specific roles, unique talents, and unwavering dedication of each team member. This revelation pleasantly surprised me, highlighting the depth of commitment embedded within the team.

This notion particularly resonated with my initial fascination with The Stove, specifically the prospect of reproducibility. The question arose:

In my own small community in dire need of empowerment, could the ethos and methodology of The Stove be reproduced?

The potential for the creative sector to serve as a catalyst for positive change intrigued me, and Kat Wheeler played a pivotal role in elucidating this possibility through her profound belief in creative placemaking. As evident through her massive initiative, What We Do Now, she is devoted to connecting a variety of partners, artists, and organisations to weave themselves into a supportive network.

Creative placemaking, as I came to understand through Kat’s teachings, involves harnessing the power of the creative sector to shape and rejuvenate communities. It goes beyond traditional urban planning, emphasising the role of arts and culture in fostering a sense of place, community identity, and empowerment. The Stove, with its commitment, epitomises creative placemaking in action, demonstrating how artistic endeavours and community engagement can cultivate hope and instigate positive transformations.

Creative placemaking, epitomised by The Stove’s initiatives, emerges as a beacon of hope for communities aspiring to empower themselves. The organisation’s commitment to generating hope, adapting to change, maintaining a routine output, and offering a replicable model showcases its dedication to this transformative approach.

My journey with The Stove not only prompted a personal exploration into applying its principles to my own community but also highlighted the broader significance of creative placemaking as a potent tool for positive social change.

The impact of these efforts is meticulously tracked, documented, and disseminated by the dynamic communications team, led by the adept Kevin Stewart. Kevin, with his sharp wit and lightning-fast mental processing speed, buttresses the entire team in managing the website, shaping the brand, orchestrating social media activities, and ensuring visibility across all channels. His background in corporate marketing enriches the Stove’s approach by providing a big-picture perspective, seamlessly integrating strategic vision with the practical aspects required to convey a clear and accessible message. He has developed an incredible team consisting of resident tech guru Robbie Henderson, Web & Data Manager, Erin Aitchison, social media wiz and Marketing Officer, and Wren Winters, the personable Venue and Digital Coordinator; their lively office reflects the engaging and communicative spirit of the team.

From artist and Chief Executive Officer, Matt Baker, I learned of the journey from art collective to organisation. Initiated by a small artist collective, the expedition commenced when they recognised a prevailing disempowered attitude within the community, characterised by a lack of belief in their ability to make a meaningful impact or claim ownership. In response, the collective devised a straightforward yet impactful solution: reclaiming public spaces. This manifested through events such as bonfires in the square and boat races in the River Nith, serving as visible demonstrations that change and action were not only possible but also attainable. Over the course of a decade, the collective underwent a transformative evolution, solidifying its position as the indispensable community hub, now known as The Stove Cafe, while simultaneously expanding its influence through diverse programming, partnerships, and projects.

Matt’s profound wisdom, derived from his extensive experience as both an artist and the CEO of The Stove, stands as an indispensable pillar supporting the ongoing evolution of the organisation. His influence extends beyond geographical confines, seamlessly traversing regional boundaries and establishing meaningful connections within the realms of both the arts and civic engagement in Scotland. In meetings, Matt assumes a contemplative and non-dogmatic presence, choosing to speak only when the discourse requires the illumination of a critical question that has yet to be addressed. His judicious approach not only reflects a discerning insight but also underscores the strategic importance of his contributions in shaping the organisation’s trajectory.

Examining the organisational systems in place at The Stove Network, it became evident that flexibility was integral to their operations. Graham Rooney, Operations Director, designs and implements systems to make the workflow smoother and more efficient. He recently unveiled a new two-calendar system with a rotating two-week cycle; the approach remained dynamic. Despite the visual complexity of the Google Calendar resembling a pile of oriental carpets, the team actively utilised and reviewed it on a weekly basis, incorporating changes as needed. Graham gathers the feedback, shifts, and changes the structure as necessary. This adaptability was crucial in navigating the evolving landscape of The Stove Network.

One pivotal insight into the organisation’s ethos emerged during a meeting with the What We Do Now team, where “reflection” was identified as a core value. Subsequently, I witnessed this commitment in action when concerns arose about some individuals being overworked. The ensuing discussion transcended the immediate issue, delving into the team’s overall capacity and the organisation’s well-being. The prevailing high-achieving culture, driven by passion, had set demanding standards, resulting in a substantial output that now necessitated a careful evaluation. The discourse was marked by genuine interpersonal concern rather than the resentment and frustration often observed in other grassroots spaces.

The central inquiry revolved around the imperative for immediate changes to foster mutual support and prevent burnout. This contemplation brought forth reflections on the sustainability of maintaining elevated standards, the feasibility of augmenting the team through new hires, and the unavoidable necessity for an upsurge in funding. This, in turn, ignited deliberations on who would shoulder the formidable responsibility of securing such resources.

In the midst of this complex financial landscape, Lindsey Smith, the Finance Director, emerges with a daunting but vital role. She skilfully navigates the intricacies of funding, adeptly managing and tracking finances, and delving into the intricate details associated with budgets and funds. Amidst the genuine concerns surrounding financial matters, Lindsey maintains a surprising calm demeanour. Instead of merely emphasising constraints dictated by the budget, she tirelessly seeks innovative solutions, striving to find a pathway that enables the team to achieve their objectives within the financial parameters. Her approach reflects not only financial acumen but a profound commitment to ensuring that financial considerations do not hinder the team’s pursuit of its goals.

This ongoing dialogue at The Stove Network centers around the concept of capacity, exploring the boundaries of individual endurance and contemplating its application across the entire organisation. This introspection underscores the organisation’s commitment to maintaining a healthy equilibrium between passion-fuelled excellence and pragmatic goal-setting, ensuring sustainable growth and well-being within The Stove community.

Under the guidance of Mia Osborne, the Creative Spaces project nurtures the artistic endeavours of three young talents (Korey Patterson, Martha Ferguson, and Sahar El Hady) over a span of ten months, allowing them to manifest a project of their own choosing. This particular facet of the Stove captivated my admiration, evoking a sense of nostalgia wishing I had been involved in such a dedicated incubation mentorship a decade earlier. Graciously, Mia extended an invitation for me to impart my insights through a workshop.

I settled upon the topic of “How to Write an Artist Statement,” a choice stemming from the perpetual challenge it has posed throughout my artistic journey. Crafting an artist statement is an unavoidable task for a practicing artist, essential for seeking opportunities and advocating for one’s creative identity. The enthusiasm and active participation within the Creative Spaces group proved to be nothing short of infectious. Together, we engaged in dynamic brainstorming sessions, meticulous editing processes, and collaborative workshopping, navigating the intricacies of crafting distinct and compelling artist statements. Through this immersive experience, I bore witness to the core essence of the program – a collaborative space designed to inspire, provoke thought, and actively engage with young artists, all while presenting them with valuable opportunities and enriching experiences.

Another compelling exploration was the first event I attended at The Stove Network, the Gaither Inn.

Designed as a community dinner to foster engaging discussions and craft a manifesto of hope, the evening was skilfully guided by Martin O’Neill. He prompted reflections on the elements instilling hope, the qualities inherent in spaces generating hope, and how to manifest it in the present.

This inquiry led me to the concept of “Homemade Mutant Hope Machines,” introduced by Martin through his association with the revolutionary London queer organisation, Duckie.

These machines, as defined by Duckie, are “emergent, autonomous, and adaptive forms and processes that routinely generate hope in the possibility of better worlds for people on the margins.” Strikingly, it became apparent that The Stove’s programming aligns with the characteristics of a Homemade Mutant Hope Machine – an autonomous creation, adapting when necessary, consistently producing outcomes, and being replicable all while capable of encouraging civic change.

Operating at the intersection of arts and community engagement, The Stove Cafe resides in the heart of Dumfries High Street. Deirdre Rooney and Pam Mackay, Cafe Co-Managers, create an atmosphere of connection through the friendly service and delicious food. It’s common to find the same people day-after-day, a true sign of an inviting and warm space: regulars. However, it’s not just a cafe, a meeting place, or an events venue; it’s a dynamic hub with full and diverse programming.

The team’s commitment to using arts and creativity to revitalise the town center is palpable and extends to a broad audience.

Sal Cuddihy, Production Lead, works tirelessly flipping the space from cafe to bread-making venue, to drag show stage, to movie theatre, to art studio and back again. Under her leadership she mentors and empowers a small team of production workers in gathering the skills to propose, plan, and implement an event of any scale.

What struck me most was the team’s exceptional cooperative spirit. With a core team overseeing specific projects, accountability is woven into the fabric of daily operations. However, what sets The Stove apart is the fluidity of partnership among co-workers and partners. It was a revelation to witness familiar faces in a myriad of meetings throughout the week, highlighting a level of involvement in each other’s projects that goes beyond mere professional courtesy. Often out of necessity, each team member wears many hats and they do it well.

Decisions at The Stove are not made in isolation; they are the result of open discussions and feedback from the staff. Through my interviews, I gathered that the associative decision-making process fosters an environment where each person’s work is valued. In each one-on-one interview, there was an emphasis on the appreciation for co-workers. What’s more surprising is the genuine advisory role that team members play in each other’s projects, even if not directly involved. The willingness to share insights and offer support speaks volumes about the cooperative culture that defines The Stove. More than once, I heard an employee ask for direction on “what to do next,” which in itself reflects a space that values learning, growth, and trust. Not knowing is welcome as it makes space for creative solutions, in which The Stove is well-versed.

Integrated within the weekly workflow is a system of tracking casual moments and highlights. This mechanism not only serves as a celebration of successes but also acts as a collective reminder of the positive impact they’ve had each week. It emphasises the importance of recognising and appreciating the team’s achievements, big and small, contributing to a culture of continuous evolution.

I see this also reflected in the public art showcased in the Cafe. Katie Anderson, Public Art Lead, hung two beautiful shows during my time. The first, a participatory installation that encouraged visitors to drop a token to vote for what they want Dumfries to invest in: outdoor spaces, heritage, the arts, etc… Then it rotated to a round-up of The Stove’s year in preparation for the Annual General Meeting demonstrated in photos, signage, and items made and utilised the year before. It illustrated the dynamic projects The Stove supports from Reel to Reel to the Wild Goose Festival.

The Stove’s dedication to core values such as risk-taking, collaboration, empowerment, positive disruptive change, innovation, and inclusion goes beyond mere articulation; it permeates the organisation’s culture and daily operations. This commitment to fostering a dynamic and inclusive environment serves as a catalyst for creative placemaking, a concept that recognises the transformative power of the arts and culture in shaping and revitalising spaces. The seamless collaboration and empowerment of every team member contribute to a harmonious synergy that propels The Stove towards its visionary goal of a revitalised High Street, region, and nation.

I was truly grateful for the opportunity the team gave me to observe their daily operations. It not only allowed me to develop an inside view of the inner workings, but also left me impressed by the enduring energy each team member brought to their work. However, as much as I relished being a shadow and absorbing insights, I felt a growing desire to contribute actively. It became clear that the daily shadowing was becoming more of a personal benefit than a reciprocal arrangement. In an effort to give back, I conceived a project that symbolises the interwoven essence of The Stove.

My initiative takes shape as a collaborative weaving project, an outdoor endeavour set up outside the Cafe on High Street with the entire team participating. In an effort to mirror the cooperative nature of The Stove we will make a “Stove Tartan” together. The four roles for the weaving symbolise different facets of the organisation. Stabilisers, holding the loom steady, represent the steadfast support and stability provided by teammates at The Stove. Mechanics, responsible for daily operations, embody those who maintain systems and troubleshoot with expertise. Weavers, using creativity to interconnect people, projects, and ideas, reflect an inquisitive and connective nature. Movers, characterised as action-oriented individuals, embody those driving progress and making things happen.

This weaving project not only expresses gratitude but also showcases the diverse and collaborative structure of The Stove. The final result, a large-scale weaving, will be left with The Stove to use as they see fit. This hands-on experience serves as a meaningful contribution and a demonstration of appreciation for the invaluable lessons learned during my time with the team.

Upon contemplation of this enriching experience, I find myself not only appreciative of the chance to observe the intricate operations of The Stove but also inspired to imbibe the invaluable lessons acquired into the fabric of my own community. The Stove’s unwavering commitment to introspection, adaptability, and maintaining a harmonious equilibrium between passion and pragmatism establishes a commendable standard for sustainable growth and overall well-being, both within the organisation and the encompassing community it serves.

Yet, amidst these insights, the paramount revelation lies in the pivotal role of the assembled team in fostering success. As evidenced during my time at The Stove, it becomes evident that a fervent work culture is a product of the collective efforts of dedicated individuals.

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