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Musings News Project Updates


The Open Hoose project that lets your imagination guide your hand.

Unsure what WRITE! is about? Author and organiser, Karl Drinkwater, responds to ten questions about his practice and the monthly creative writing workshop.

What is WRITE! all about?

Specific time set aside to be creative in a short and inspirational burst, surrounded by friends.

Which authors inspire you and your practice?

Rather than individual authors, it tends to be individual books which have some wonderful element that is worth studying to see how the writer achieved their effects. So I might be inspired by the style of The Road (McCarthy), or the scope of The Descent (Long), or the storytelling of The Shining (King), or the characterisation in Jane Eyre (Brontë).

What motivated you to start the group?

When I went on residential writing courses I learnt a lot, but it was often the sessions when we wrote silently to prompts that stuck with me or led to trying out new styles and ideas. I wanted to come up with a format focussing specifically on that feeling. 

How effective do you think writing can be as a form of expression?

It allows you to explore ideas, to be different people, to create something beautiful that may inspire others. To hold our lives up to the great magnifying glass and see them for what they are.

Can you tell us of a time that you were recently inspired to write creatively?

To be honest, as a full-time author, I tend to have my projects scheduled up to a year in advance. For me, the inspiration comes from setting out a plot full of conflict/drama, which has enough detail to provide guidance, but not too much to take away the fun of discovery as I fall through the page and write. 

What is your advice for overcoming writer’s block?

Planning. Without a structure, writer’s block will come and knock.

Where is your favourite place to visit locally to inspire creativity for writing?

I like writing and editing in a pub. The requirement is that it is warm, friendly, and does not have a distracting TV. So normally that would be The Dougie, Coach & Horses, Riverside Tap, or the snug in The Globe.

What do you see for the future of WRITE!

Well, a lot of that depends on The Stove! How can we reach more people? Can it spread across the whole county? (Some people travel a big distance to attend!) Could we run repeat sessions at a different day and time so more people have a chance to join in? I’d like to look at opportunities for publishing creative work from Dumfries & Galloway, open to all residents, not just those attending WRITE! (though obviously the latter would be a key audience for submissions!) Plus I have been working on ideas for a non-fiction book about the craft of writing, and some of the material I prepare for sessions could be my inspiration to get on with it!

Just for fun – what has been your favourite writing prompt shared during WRITE! And how did attendees respond to it?

Ah, there have been so many! I love seeing how the same prompt leads to totally different interpretations. Also, the Titles session (titles of books, stories, newspaper articles etc) was fun. We drew titles from a hat and used them as prompts. Some had been provided by attendees, and it was revealing to see where people’s imaginations went!

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.


WWDN Update

Meet the Artists

‘What We Do Now’ (WWDN), is a pioneering, experimental project working with creative freelancers, places, and communities across the Southwest of Scotland, through ten substantial commission opportunities for freelance creatives and artists to work locally on creative projects that directly benefit five towns in Dumfries & Galloway.

Forming part of the national programme, ‘Culture Collective”, What We Do Now focuses on culture and creativity and how these play a role in the nation’s long-term recovery from the pandemic.

The project provides creative practitioners the opportunity to work with community-led organisations throughout the region from over the course of one year, first launched in summer 2021.

A detailed recruitment process was undertaken to ensure each of the five place hubs were partnered with the right artist(s) to collaborate with and develop each brief, identifying and addressing the needs of the communities they represent.

Now in the next phase of the project, What We Do Now is ready to introduce the commissioned artists who will work with community groups to ignite and inspire new imaginative possibilities for the five towns across Dumfries and Galloway for the coming year!

This team, of experienced and emerging artists, will work together with communities exploring bold new ideas to celebrate the voices often unheard in our region. Over the course of the next year, What We Do Now will weave together and showcase a united, creative vision of our region. One that is built and inspired by the communities we all belong to and serve.

Supporting our artists on their journey and recording their progress will be documentary duo, Patrick Rooney of Dear Friend Films and photo-journalist Kirstin McEwan. Their work will illustrate the varied creative approaches each artist will undertake as well as follow the development of each brief, documenting the unique stories of each place, the communities therein and the vision each will evolve.

To find out more about out the artists, and community organisations they’ll be collaborating with click here.


Feedback from the Stove’s Annual Gathering

Missed out on our AGM last month? We’ve got you covered with recordings of the two presentations shared during The Stove’s Annual Gathering. First up, a review of the past 12 months from Matt Baker (Orchestrator) and Katharine Wheeler (Partnerships and Development), featuring (approximate!) closed captions:

The second presentation looks forward to the year ahead, from Martin O’Neill (Artistic Director).

Also as part of our AGM we hosted a series of short members conversations reflecting on some of the key findings from our membership survey carried out last year. We wanted to take the opportunity to share some of the ideas that came out of these five really interesting sessions.

  • a creative exploration of night time culture
  • a debating club
  • a debating club for Disabled Access
  • Digital recording of live events at The Stove to allow more inclusion for audiences who can’t attend in person
  • More making spaces – we need to move from attics to aircraft hangers to realise our potential
  • Signposting good practice nationally and internationally in social/community arts
  • Digital recording of live events at The Stove to allow more inclusion for audiences who can’t attend in person
  • Use technology to reach across distance
  • Make a statue of Ailsa in Fountain Square
  • Stove learning: Don’t just tell people stuff, support them with the means to do it themselves
  • Access to IT skills development and recording of activities
  • See our towns and villages in D+G as mini-cultural hubs Its good for Stove to be more regional, but don’t forget about Dumfries, there is still a lot of work to be done doon hame
  • Analysis of the population in comparison to our current engagement reach – elderly inclusion 
  • Intergenerational working  particularly within the medium of movement
  • ‘Access to Choice’ – diversity in how to access events and activity
  • bringing in Community Learning and Development expertise available locally into the Stove team
  • grow ‘night-time culture’ in the town centre
  • bring some of the ‘positives’ discovered during the past year into future activity 

There were loads of brilliant conversations between the 75 attendees, and we were sorry to not have longer to open up the space to hear from friends, members and Stove supporters after such a long period away from the Stove building, but hope that we can continue these soon!

You might notice that our website has had a bit of an upgrade to reflect our programme this year, so to explore more of our current and upcoming projects visit: home page, and Soapbox.


Region Chosen for National Culture Programme

We are delighted to announce that The Stove Network have won a place for Dumfries and Galloway in a major Scottish initiative for culture and creativity to play a key role in the nation’s long-term recovery from the pandemic. The Culture Collective programme will see £6M invested by Scottish Government in 26 regional projects around the country, developed in partnership with Creative Scotland. The Dumfries & Galloway project ‘What We Do Now’ was granted the maximum award of £300,000. 

The principle of Culture Collective is to pay creative freelancers, who have seen livelihoods decimated by the pandemic, to work in community settings and support local groups who have also been badly impacted by Covid-19. The Stove Network worked together with agencies such as Dumfries & Galloway Council, South of Scotland Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland, Third Sector D&G and local arts organisations to bring together a proposal for Dumfries and Galloway that will see creative practitioners employed to work for up to a year in Sanquhar, Dalbeattie, Langholm, Stranraer and Northwest Dumfries. In Sanquhar, our lead organisation is A’ the Airts, in Langholm OutPost Arts, in NW Dumfries LIFT D&G, in Dalbeattie Birchvale Theatre* and in Stranraer, Stranraer Millennium Centre.

This is wonderful news and a very powerful recognition of the way that Dumfries and Galloway considers culture and creativity as something that is integrated into the heart of the way we do things in communities, in the economy and in the environment in our region. Culture is not something for an elite; it is something that belongs to all of us and something that we all make together. Culture Collective is part of our country’s commitment to ‘build back better’ – it uses years of dedicated work at grassroots level as the foundation for a major pilot project to devolve decision-making and funding to local level and create the conditions for partnership working across sectors to ensure the legacy of this approach.

In the coming weeks, we will coordinate development work in the five D&G communities towards creating detailed briefs for creatives to work within. It is anticipated that adverts for people to work on the project will be published in mid-March. The Stove’s project for Culture Collective is called ‘What We Do Now’ and builds on the group’s ‘Embers: Creative Placemaking for the South of Scotland’ report which was published in April 2020. Embers highlights the central role that culture and creativity are playing in community regeneration projects around the region and presents a case for investing in a networked and integrated approach to placemaking in Dumfries and Galloway, employing creativity as a key tool in community planning.

‘What We Do Now’ is all about imagining today, the world we wish to exist in and making the steps towards creating that world now. A world shaped by the gifts and ideas of the communities we belong to and serve. It explores and brings to the surface, the voices previously unheard in our region so that we can empower ideas and communities, through creativity, to celebrate and cherish the places that we live.

All of the communities involved in the ‘What We Do Now’ project were partners in Embers. All have identified sections of their own community where COVID has accentuated existing disadvantage and exclusion and have some experience of working culturally. Each community will be supported to commission freelance creative practitioners who will co-create original projects with people in the targeted sections of that community.

Yvonne Barber, Project Manager for A’ the Airts in Sanquhar commented: ‘A’ the Airts is excited to be participating in this exciting collaborative project. Our community in Upper Nithsdale will benefit immensely from A’ the Airts having further artistic capacity to work with local communities. Partnership and sharing good practice can only be positive, strengthening and building peoples’ skills, and more importantly their well-being.’

For more information on Culture Collective, click here.

*Due to their current organisational and programming needs Birchvale will no longer be taking part in the What We Do Now project in this instance. Castle Douglas Development Forum will however be joining us as a place-lead in the Stewartry.


Its Time to Buy Back Our High Street

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