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Karl Drinkwater on WRITE!

The author, and host of the monthly creative writing workshop, shares what you can expect at a regular WRITE! meet-up.

“What goes on in a session of WRITE? Are there funny handshakes, grumpy faces, and writing snobs? I thought about coming but I haven’t ever written much.”

My experience of these sessions is smiling faces and laughter, people making friends, and just a shared joy of words. There’s no pretension, no criticism, no expectations of perfection. The people who’ve attended have been such a welcoming bunch that I love running the sessions!

The general format for a session is that people turn up and chat over a hot drink (and maybe cake), welcomed by the lovely Stove team. Then we get started and usually I get everyone to say their name, and maybe I make that into some kind of game related to the theme of the session.

Then we’ll move on to some thoughts relating to the writing topic or subject that I’ve picked for the night. We’ve had sessions discussing myths and legends; how to describe places or people; the importance of friends; beginnings and endings; and many more. Usually I’ll have questions or quotes to prompt discussion, and to give ideas. People take part as much or as little as they like. It’s fine just to listen!

The WRITE! ‘Writing Board’ at the session on ‘Place’.

That’s when we get to the main part, where we all do some writing related to the theme. I’ll usually offer a few options and some prompts, then we have 20 minutes to write whatever takes our fancy. It doesn’t even matter if it’s nothing to do with the theme – the key thing is that it is a chance to let our imaginations
free and write something that might never have appeared on paper (or screen) otherwise. It can be prose, or poem, or dialogue, or word lists, or doodles, I don’t care.

At that point we usually split into groups and everyone has the opportunity to read out some or all of what they wrote, if they wish. It’s totally optional, but everyone should have the chance. We never need to apologise for how rough it is: it’s accepted that it is an unedited idea. All that matters is the potential, and
we approach the readings and chat as if we are all good friends, supporting each other (which is actually what we are!)

And that’s it. Nothing crazy. Just a situation that encourages creativity, and an opportunity to give ourselves the time to enjoy it. If you don’t create the opportunity, nothing will happen.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve never written before, or you’re the world’s best author. We’re all equal in that room. We all have our own thoughts, our own voices, and that’s what’s so fascinating. Give ten people the same prompt, you get ten different creations. I love that.

WRITE! is the creative workshop at The Stove that gives you the space to guide your imagination and transform it into writing.

Hosted by multi-genre author and editor Karl Drinkwater, WRITE! is designed to allow you to play with words and construct short or longer pieces of work, whichever you desire, and it is open to all abilities!

If you would like to attend the next WRITE! session, click here.

To learn more about Karl, and to visit his website, click here.

Open Hoose is a project at the heart of the Stove’s community venue. Ideas are given the space, time, resources and support of the Stove Network to launch ambitious projects to galvanise and gather our communities together. From climate cafes to bread clubs, jam nights and creative writing groups, Open Hoose offers an eclectic mix of different activities for everyone to take part in. Find out more about groups like this one on our Open Hoose page, here.

Musings News


Ahead of Creative Space’s mindfulness month, team member Jenna Macrory shares her thoughts on using Stoicism as a method of mindfulness for creating.

Note: Each of the following points could be an essay in its own right. It was extremely challenging whittling down such an expansive way of thinking into a few points. Although I’m an avid fan of Stoicism I am no expert. What I do not what the following text to be interpreted as is me preaching an approach to being creative (although I hope you do find elements of it you can employ in your own life). This is simply an account of how I use this thinking in my own practice


As a teenager, I used to wish there was a way to know how to make the “right” decisions. I would get incredibly overwhelmed and often burnout because of the pressure I placed on trivial matters. Then I encountered Stoicism, an ancient school of philosophy emerging in the third century B.C.

Initially developed by the Greeks and expanded on by the Romans this approach to life became incredibly beneficial for me because it provided a set of logical rules to live my life by. Stoic teachings made sense of the difficult times and provided me with a way to navigate life’s complexities. As I’ve progressed through my musical career I find myself turning to the ancient teachings as a way to navigate a highly competitive sector.

One of the most common misconceptions about Stoicism is that it is simply about remaining stoic. Rather than being concerned with enduring hardship Stoic thinking is about facing these difficulties head-on by identifying what is, and what is not in your control. Roman Orator Cicero offers the analogy of an archer shooting an arrow to aid us in comprehending this:

“Take the case of one whose task it is to shoot a spear or arrow straight at some target. One’s ultimate aim is to do all in one’s power to shoot straight, and the same applies with our ultimate goal. In this kind of example, it is to shoot straight that one must do all one can; none the less, it is to do all one can to accomplish the task that is really the ultimate aim. It is just the same with what we call the supreme good in life. To actually hit the target is, as we say, to be selected but not sought.”

The archer can do everything within his control to hit the target, from strenuous training to the selection of adequate weaponry but despite this, there are still variables once the bow leaves the arrow. The shooting of the bow is in the archer’s control but the arrow colliding with the intended target is never guaranteed. This is extremely relevant for the majority of creatives in our modern world.

When I release a song there are many factors within my control including the sound of the track and the marketing but alas this does not guarantee the commercial “success” of the song. The number of times my song is streamed or shared is not something I control even though I have aimed for my personal goals. I have selected my target but it is not sought after.

This brings us to my next point, who are you making your art for? To illustrate this point I would like to reference the Byzantine Military Commander Belisarius. Born in 500 A.D., Belisarius accomplished a plethora of notable military conquests in his life including recapturing Rome following the demise of the Western Roman Empire. One would expect a commander of this calibre to be adorned with military accolades but contrary to this Belisarius was condemned by the paranoid emperor that ruled over him. Emperor Justinian the first grew suspicious of Belisarius and his achievements were underwritten by bad politics which eventually led to him being tried and convicted for conspiring against the Emperor. The irony of this is that Belisarius had the opportunity to cease the throne multiple times but he chose not to. He identified that this was not his path, it was not his work and he took pride in the career that he did have. He showed up, he did his job and he expected nothing more.

Despite historians and scholars criticising Justinian’s treatment of Belisarius, according to records, he was not one to complain about his poor treatment. Although extreme examples of Stoic values such as this are not uncommon in the Classical Era, they are highly applicable to the situations many artists find themselves in. Belisarius was able to bypass the negativity associated with his circumstances because he was simply doing his job. He identified that not only did he not have control over how the Emperor may treat him but he knew that any additional praise that resulted due to his conquest was simply a bonus. This is how creating art should be.

Interpreting the Stoics it becomes evident that the purpose of creating music or any art form is not to receive praise. Any praise received is a bonus.

Believe in your art and make art that is true to you and your ego will get out of your way.

It is very easy to say all of this but from my experience with Stoicism, it is an intense philosophy to live by. It is not as easy as just being the best version of yourself it is naive to think it is this simple. Life often gets in the way but that is okay, it is okay to stumble and falter when we are trying to be better, and we can see this depicted by one of the world’s most prominent Stoics Marcus Aurelius:

“When jarred, unavoidably, by circumstance, revert at once to yourself, and don’t lose the rhythm more than you can help. You’ll have a better group of harmony if you keep on going back to it.”

New Year resolutions are the perfect antithesis of this quote. Too many of us are familiar with the process of setting an overly ambitious goal which will leave us disheartened when we inevitably give up because we are unable to incorporate our new goals into our lives in a healthy manner. Rather than reprimand ourselves for this, Aurelius conveys that this will be unavoidable at times and that is okay. But we should not give up. We should go back to our goals and approach them in a manageable way. Before utilising Stoicism in my practice I would spend long days at my computer making music before getting frustrated because I had not produced any quality work. This would result in long hiatuses from music-making which would make returning to composing incredibly daunting. Now instead of pressuring myself into long sessions, I dedicate two or three hours every night to making music. It is a healthy part of my schedule although I do also have a social life which does often result in socialising during this time. Although I am strict with my music-making when I miss a session I do not get frustrated at the fact I have not composed that day. Rather I recognise this, reflect and set the intention to compose the following day.

Despite history repeating, we tend to disregard the teachings of civilisations that came before us. Stoicism has guided many people since ancient Rome through life and as long as humanity remains it will continue to guide many more generations. Although Stoicism has been adopted by a variety of people it still seems absent in the creative industries. Through implementing Stoicism into your creative endeavours there is an opportunity to supercharge your art practice while becoming resilient to the mental strains of life. 

How do you cope with the stress associated with being creative? Next week Creative Spaces launch their block of workshops on mindfulness. We’ll be launching this block of workshops with an open discussion on mindfulness next week (Thursday 3rd) at in The Stove Cafe from 7pm. If you’re under 30 and would like to attend you can register below:

For information on all our Creative Spaces Mindfulness Events check out our events here.


What is the responsibility of art in times of crisis?


By Martin O’Neill, Stove Curatorial Team and Head of Programming

What is the responsibility of art in times of crisis? 

Things look very different now. 

My neighbor has washed the same tea towel, every two days, for the last three weeks. It’s Hokusai’s wave. 

I didn’t really want to notice this. I never really thought about my neighbor’s washing line, let alone her tea towel. Aside from the fact it seems a little bit much to wash it every two days, it’s in my life now and it’s past the point of familiarity. Like the traffic lights at the foot of the road I crossed every day, the ‘Clearance Sale’ vinyl on a shop on the High Street, the two grizzly dogs on the Mill Green; it’s ubiquitous. Maybe Irene has been washing her tea towel, hanging it on the washing line every two days for seventeen years. Or maybe it’s just her little routine in the lockdown. The tea towel waves heroically in the breeze, and I’ll get on with other things, cooking, reading, watching the television. And before the sun dips, it’s gone. 

Similarly, a friend of mine, on his daily walk observed new paths, termed ‘desire lines’, a consequence of footsteps eroding the earth, un-foiling a path across parks, fields, forest floors or gardens. These lines leading home have multiplied over these three weeks of lockdown. 

These observations of the mundane might represent a reacquainting, or revelation of the environments we thought we knew. Our neighbors, the paths leading home, the way time passes. Crisis, in this case, has given us pause and somehow focused our lives entirely on the in-between. But for all its meditative qualities, it is scored with a sadness as yet not understood. 

This reflection comes at the worst possible costs, not only of the very real threat of our health and our lives, but also the alienation of our lives from one another. This new perspective is weighted with an anxiety, needle-pointed in the reality of the weekly shop, or a visit to the chemists. We move in a heightened awareness of one another, yet for many, this is a privilege un-bestowed to key-workers, from the NHS to the supermarket cashier, their roles akin now to soldiers in warfare. Their responsibilities, particularly of those whose work has often been derogatively termed ‘un-skilled’ by governments, represent the fragility of socio-economic systems as well as the hypocrisy in the demonization of labor in our country.

The role of art, then through this, seems nearly un-definable. More often than not, definitions of its role in this time appear and disappear like mirages in a desert, and mostly its definitions return to the safety of ‘entertainment’, or the spectacle. The live-streamed play, the virtual tour…

Artists and creative freelancers are hit with a financial insecurity on a scale unseen since the financial crash of 2008, so for the most part, artists are now seeking to consolidate and revise their work so that it might ‘prove its worth’, an unfortunate consequence of the precariousness of our professions. Others are overwhelmed with a sense of responsibility to focus on new work, finish their novels, work on their next collection, underpinned by capitalistic notions of productivity, that we have somehow been given ‘free-time’, a sentiment in ignorance of the psychological ramifications of a national health pandemic.

Many may be thinking that art is facing a crisis in meaning. It’s understandable, given the anxieties of this time. Yet art, throughout history, has demonstrated its capacity to survive. Whether in its ambiguity as a social movement, its ties to the political landscape, its power in advocacy, its role in activism and its power to reflect our lives and emotions. At the root of this are its defining characteristics, that of survival and its role as a healer. 

The Stove’s driving force has been, throughout the years, the untapped power of conversation and creativity through the act of gathering, building and celebrating communities within a town ripe for acknowledgement, and change. We now are seeking to find ourselves once again, and perhaps through this, re-define our role as community artists, producers, and community members, as a team. Our power is in being embedded in the life of our town, yet our responsibilities are often taken for granted, both in government, local and national as well as internally, with such focuses on events to bring together the branches of our community, to one space, becoming familiar in the day-to-day motion of the organisation. The challenge now then is, without the physical space, how do we connect?

In Home Grown, these questions are at the forefront of our activity. Beneath it, values of solidarity, open-heartedness, insight and perseverance seek to illustrate the present as well as symbolize our hopes for the future. Similarly, these values represent our work up till this point. For now, they must hold their ground. 

Beneath the surface of all this, is a search for belonging. The Stove represents the questions of where art and creativity belong aside from the corridors of mansions, the museum or the free-market. In this search, art is not defined by product or spectacle but in essence its role in the make-up of Who We Are, not only as people, but as a community, threaded together by a common care for one another. This art then seeks to celebrate that which makes us human, in a place, and what that then means, and how it defines us.

Who we will be when we return, and who will be with us, we cannot know yet. Our community and our town must take time to heal, and this art will flow through these times with the community in conversation, in activity and in reflection to weave some new future, knowing its responsibility, to then ask of those in power where their responsibility lies. 

For now, we must acknowledge these moments in-between, the desire lines, the tea towel in the breeze, the slow flow of time, for whatever they may not mean to us now, they will be the backbone of some future as yet unwritten. 


Feedback – it’s a real thing

From Moxie DePaulitte – The Stove Herald

Throughout the year, we like to make sure we keep in touch with all our members and ensure that everyone has chance to easily express their hopes, wants and needs relating to the development of The Stove and joint creation of a better Dumfries. Whether that be more formally at the members ‘Housewarming’ event; ‘Cultural Wayfinding’ sessions; via Tea with Moxie (yep, that’s still going if you want a natter and a cuppa!); at drop in sessions; during live events; the speechbubbles project; or just casual encounters in the street: the core team are keen to hear thoughts, suggestions and ideas on how to take things forward.

Moxie at work at Guid Nychburris
Moxie at work at Guid Nychburris

The Stove has really blossomed since opening its High Street doors earlier in the year and there are lots more exciting adventure on the horizon so here is just a quick recap of the kind of things you were asking for and what we’ve done by way of response.

Spoken Word and creative writing was very high on people’s agenda and an increase in events was suggested by many. April saw Open Mouth blast onto the scene with Sarah Indigo and Eryl Shields leading performance and creation workshops with school students during the day. The success of this has led to Brave New Words being developed into a regular Open Mic night at The Stove, the next of which is this coming Friday October 30th, and is open to all (musical or spoken word, Brave New Words is open to all original writing). In the run up to Christmas, various other word based events are planned, including Wagtongues Pop Up Bookshop at the end of November and there is an open-call out for new writing for exciting art installations in the closes of the town.

Brave New Words - poetry slam September 18th 2015
Brave New Words – poetry slam September 18th 2015

A number of conversations around food were sparked at the Housewarming event, perhaps sparked by the delicious Chai Tea made by Open Jar and the Bannocks baking on the open fire in the square! People were keen to harness the power of nourishment in all its senses, suggesting gatherings; gardening experiments where people could come to learn how to grown and learn how to cook seasonal produce; cup return schemes for our café and film evenings and talks linked to food and produce. We’ve also been in talks regarding community gardens, rewilding, and working with groups around the region to provide a chance to explore the lines where the act of growing becomes art.

The amazing Alic Thompson from Social Bite talking food and social enterprise at The Stove (
The amazing Alice Thompson from Social Bite talking food and social enterprise at The Stove (

The latter was explored during our recent film season at The Stove where films such as Moo Man, Vanishing of The Bees, and The Lunchbox were accompanied by wonderful talks and equally wonderful tasty, relevant treats.

We also had an incredible talk by Alice from Social Bite who shared their journey from scratch to building an amazing network of Sandwich shops which help the homeless back on their feet and into work.

Work has started on The Stove Café which will provide a vibrant meeting place in the heart of Dumfries and a base for further creative exploration of how we think about, grow, distribute and cook food. The tender was won by Angela and Colin Green and we are very excited to see what this new development brings.

Stove members at Housewarming talking about ideas for the future
Stove members at Housewarming talking about ideas for the future

We are really keen to hear from people who might like to host groups in the early evening (for example we have a regular Craftivism (Creative Activism) workshop beginning on October 28th) which will encourage people to linger a little longer once the shops have closed, and build on our commitment to breathe new life back into the town centre.

The Craftivism workshops also touch on a couple of other points raised by members. It became apparent that people were keen to form Skill Sharing groups and to engage in Mindfulness initiatives. Craftivism encourages both and we hope will be the catalyst for other Skill Sharing/Skill Swap events to be born.

It was suggested we take ‘The Stove’ outwith the building and do more projects around the region. One such project involved The Young Stove working with a group of school aged children in the woods near New Galloway where they ran a workshop called Survival Art School and then showed the youngsters around their own show at Gatehouse of Fleet., another was the co-production of EAFS; a wonderful Off Grid Adventure in the grounds of Morton Castle that, amongst many other magical things, encouraged the sharing of food as a point of human contact and engagement, calling on that primal need to break down modern social barriers and open up a world of friendship and communication around shared nourishment.

Rajasthan heritage Brass Band at The Stove
Rajasthan heritage Brass Band at The Stove

People asked for Drumming and what a line up we gave them! Not only did we fill the day with the incredible Rajasthan Heritage Brass Band, who brought huge smiles to everyone they encountered, but then an evening which gave way to a spectacular workshop with local drumming groups which brought the community together in a loud and joy filled way.
Thinking of the future vision, in addition to calls for giant water slides, segways instead of Orange Bike Schemes, permanent Block Parties, Adult Ball Pits and Drive in Cinemas, it was clear people wanted to feel the love coming back into the town centre.

Phrases like:

“Let’s celebrate what we have and what we can be rather than focusing on what we don’t. We are a vibrant town with vision. Work together to make it happen.”

“Keeping Dumfries’ heritage but being more upbeat and welcoming to new things”

“Convert dead shops into flats = get people back into town.”

“Use empty shops as art galleries/installations – artists get work shown, town gets colourful, vibrant art instead of empty shops full of litter.”

have been repeated in various forms and, although a little less exciting than gigantic bowling alleys made of foam, are a little more tangible and form a good starting place for change.
It’s obvious that the regeneration has already begun with many people commenting on what a positive difference having The Stove present on the High Street has already had but there is, clearly, much more to be done.

We had some great public sessions working with Lateral North to discover how interventions and Cultural Wayfinding could help develop Dumfries, help her be more welcoming, and make it easier (and more exciting) to navigate, just as it has in other towns; and there’s more of that to come with an event surrounding Norway House next month.The building itself has had a wide range of personalities since its birth. It’s provided a messy space for The Young Stove and other artists, been an exhibition space for a range of artists, housed workshops, meetings, gatherings and music gigs. It’s welcomed a wide range of people through its doors from immensely varied walks of life, and that makes us very proud. It’s also become an ideas exchange, a place where people can come to give inspiration and take it, to bring ideas and help them grow.

Radio DMC
Radio DMC

Music has been another hot topic for members and the public and we have been growing a Music strand since The Stove began through our Dumfries Music Conference – since 100 High Street has been open this has continued to blossom through partnerships with other local music groups, such as Small Town Sounds, Music Plus and Electric Fields. These partnerships have led to great gigs showcasing local talent such as Rudi Zygadlo, MØGEN and Mark Lyken. You can even learn guitar at The Stove now with guitar teacher David Bass.

Other things that have come up in chats include:

  • Partnerships with the Crichton Campus – exciting news on that next February
  • Fast Public Broadband – big up to Ailsa for making The Stove the first business with fibre-optic broadband in the town centre
  • Space for screenprinting – we’re supporting Upland and Maklab in trying to start a facility at Maklabs premises on the High Street
  • Classes in IT and Film Editing – our digital making suite will be taking bookings soon…watch this space
  • Support for research projects into Environmental Issues – Stove was the base for the recent Environmental Art Festival Scotland and watch out for ArtCOP Scotland @ The Stove in early December
  • More for young people in the town – the Young Stove continues to flourish and is integrated into just about everything we now do
  • Be part of making Dumfries better – The Stove continues to be a place that people come to debate and take positive action for the town…we are taking an active part in the current debate about the Whitesands and there is exciting news coming up about major improvements to the High Street.
'Not to Be Sold Separately' an exhibition by Young Stove
‘Not to Be Sold Separately’ an exhibition by Young Stove

So, let us know what you think. Book in with Moxie for a cuppa, send an email or drop our Herald a line on Facebook. The Stove is ever evolving and its quiet energy is building all the time; so get in touch and let’s see how we can sail together into the next phase.

PS if you are ever wondering what is going on at The Stove then please check our Events Calendar – here or to check back over what has been going on our Blog – here


Ode to a Moody Cow

From Moxie de Paulitte

Nith Raid (65)

She can be a moody cow
This town of ours.
Swinging between
Udderly lovely and
Udderly unbearable
Just as her unmarked udders
Back and forth
Almost clanking
Like a long forgotten souvenir Swiss bell.
Heave with untapped potential.
Nostalgic for a time long gone,
That was never really there,
endless sunny days
And sweet pasture.
Of not having to lock front doors
And Tender Loving Care,
Where the milk of human kindness flowed abundant
And you knew the names of all your neighbours.

Moody she may be
But her mind is open
As she stands by the river
sniffing the air
And smiling at the head scent of a
On the

She welcomes the change,
This moody cow.
happy that her milk,
can nourish.
Her wisdom valued
Just filtered different.
No longer weighted down
By burdens of her own making.

The sun returns
Igniting hope
Flooding dark,
moody corners.
And she can flourish in its glow.
this Moody Cow
This town of ours.

A tide turned.
Goodbyes waved.
Missions accomplished.

Nithraid was concieved as a public artwork to activate the riverside in Dumfries in the summer of 2013, and bring new focus and people down to celebrate the Nith. Now in it’s third year Dumfries is preparing to welcome sailors up river to the heart of the town when Nithraid 2015 will sail into town on Sunday, 2nd of August. Nithraid is free and open to all to attend, and last year saw crowds of 4,000 lining the banks to watch the winning boats cross the finish line. Find out more about this years Nithraid here

The discussion is open, and we invite contributions to our artistic conversations – whether you have been involved in Nithraid in previous years, are interested in the changing face of public art and when a sailing race is also an artwork, please get in touch via the comments box below or to send your contribution please email [email protected]

Image: Nithraid 2013. Tom Telfer.



From Matt Baker

Foggy Beltie Cap

When the earths crust thickened and cooled deeply, it cracked and four avenues dropped neatly in lines: four invitations for four rivers – Annan, Nith, Dee and Cree. Water washing soil over the rock posted another invite – for a beast to graze the land, to break it with footprints for germinating seeds and to re-fertilise it with their dung.

We know the coos, slabbed together on a cold, damp morning their breath hanging together like the breath of the earth, or contented and dispersed across a summer field chewing in deep rhythm. We know them as part of the oneness of our place.

Our land is pasture land, home to a kinship between humankind and cookind that has spawned a million inventions with milk, meat and leather.

Our coos have been our wealth, their mobility precious in times that you couldn’t hide a field of barley from ancient raiders. Always moving from winter to summer pastures and to market over Nith, Annan, Dee and Cree.

Humans moved too, in tough times we spread far across the seas and as migrants found their feet they called for their coos to follow. Great Uncle Jimmy raised shorthorn cattle in Wigtownshire to send on boats to the Argentine. The canny exiles sent us meat home in cans. Corned beef is still the favourite food of one of Jimmy’s daughters and the other drank unpasteurised milk straight from the farm all her days.

We are Nithraid and this land is where we bide, so we race the tide up our river to release the salty spirit of Coo.


Nithraid was concieved as a public artwork to activate the riverside in Dumfries in the summer of 2013, and bring new focus and people down to celebrate the Nith. Now in it’s third year Dumfries is preparing to welcome sailors up river to the heart of the town when Nithraid 2015 will sail into town on Sunday, 2nd of August. Nithraid is free and open to all to attend, and last year saw crowds of 4,000 lining the banks to watch the winning boats cross the finish line. Find out more about this years Nithraid here

The discussion is open, and we invite contributions to our artistic conversations – whether you have been involved in Nithraid in previous years, are interested in the changing face of public art and when a sailing race is also an artwork, please get in touch via the comments box below or to send your contribution please email [email protected]

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