I offer my reflections on a couple of aspects of the mustering to mark the reopening of 100 High Street, Dumfries on the 29th May 2015.
First, the building is just a building; open or closed. The Stove, on the other hand, has never been away. However, the resumption of 100 High Street is a cause for celebration because, occupied by the Stove, the building becomes a symbol, a statement of intent, a declaration in the heart of the town redolent with possibility.
These are carefully chosen words. When you get to be an old Stovie like me you can laugh in the face of cool and bravely speak of sentiment, and for this I take my lead from Moxie who put her wares gently on the table at the re-opening and slid under the radar to remind me, at any rate, that to be anything meaningful, an artist not least, you have to be a human being first. This was cleverly done. Addressed obliquely and full of ambiguity, her condimental list invoked the mysterious nine tenths. Elementary my dear Moxie, fundamental.
Onward, the mugs. Whisked back to my first days at art school longer ago than even my new bravery wants to consider; messing about with a process I couldn’t quite handle, yet desperate for my mug somehow to transcend its mugginess and become art, then not caring if it did or… hang on – I love that browny orange, let’s get some more of that… The noise level, the concentration, the babies… what’s going on? Is this a family or something?
Thanks to a shock resistant bottle and the shock absorbing qualities built into the fabric and spirit of the old Stove, useful qualities against the vicissitudes of the future, the sledgehammer of the young Stove finally cracked it. “Jules, fetchez la vache,” comes to mind for some reason. A phrase so poignant for an old Nithraider that I include it despite its irrelevance. So what? So what? So what? John Dowson, the only other resident of the High Street, told us what. The making of history, he said, quite rightly. Now, here’s a thing and it’s one of my favourite things: life is lived forward but looked at backwards. History is the backward view, a mash-up of memories, archives, documents, photographs and of course the way we have shaped the environment, it’s all history. But the making of history is the process of living, of doing, making things happen and changing the place we live in.
If you thought nothing cool ever happened in Dumfries then your mind must have been truly blown by the recent Open House series of events at the Stove. If you missed it, then I’m sorry its not Dumfries that’s uncool my friend – its you!
On Tuesday 28th of April The Stove opened its doors to anyone wanting to have a go at the fashionable art of Spoken Word. The all-day live event was called Open Mouth and promised to wow audiences with local and national talent whilst providing support and encouragement to keen youngsters with a raw thirst for poetry slamming.
Part 1 – Schools Workshops @OpenMouth
In the morning pupils from a local school attended workshops designed to get them thinking about words.
They were split into 3 groups to rotate between 3 sessions. The Open Jar Collective put a foodie twist on things and each group was given the opportunity to paint a plate which will be used in the new Stove Cafe.
So not only will they be eating their own words when they say Dumfries isn’t cool, they will be eating them off a plate with their own words painted onto it! You couldn’t make it up, its so genius.
At the same time as these workshops were taking place Poet Eryl Shields was conducting creative writing workshops upstairs.
To delve into their deepest personal truths Eryl set the theme as “10 things I know to be true” Eryl said “We shared the lists, then I asked them to write a short piece in their chosen form, based on, or inspired by, any aspect of their own list. We read out our pieces and looked at how they could be redrafted to be more effective as spoken word performance pieces. I very impressed by the strength and variety of the work produced
Meanwhile, in another room of The Stove’s amazing new premises,I was busy hosting Spoken Word performance masterclasses. I explained what “Spoken Word” was, what it could be and how they could make it unique for themselves. The main rule we established was that it should be your own work and it should be performed in front of a crowd.
The pupils then wrote a short piece about themselves, employing emotion or humour, often both.They didn’t seem shy or scared when I told them it was time to read their pieces into a microphone. With sensitivity they were given critical feedback by myself and the other members of the group on how they could improve content and delivery.
For the humourous ones we talked about ways to make them funnier- exaggerating actions, using pauses appropriately and engaging the audience with eye-contact and pointing. “Do you do this for a living!?”, one girl asked, “thats so cool, I wanna do that”
At one point some of the participants told me they could speak other languages and were able to translate their pieces into Mandarin and Lithuanian. By the end of the class we had two girls rapping about their love of cheese with audience participation sections in three languages. Yaldi!
Afterwards their teacher sent a text to say “Thank-you very much for today, the kids loved it and I thought it was really interesting and learned loads too !”
Part 2 – Open Workshop @OpenMouth
One student even came back at 5pm to take part in the open mentoring sessions with established performance poet Emily Elver, Emcee and Girobabies front man Mark McGhee and Scottish Slam champion Bram E. Giebens.
The Notorious Young Stove were also heavily in presence as well as several other local poets and keen amateurs. Sitting round in a circle talking about how we first came across writing I suddenly felt like I was at a Poets anonymous meeting.
“My names Sindigo and I’m an addict”….”How long have you been addicted to poetry Sindigo?”
But the mood soon lifted with a few laughs, participants were able to get some invaluable advice from our guests and even had a chance to perform their work and get feedback from the experts.
Part 3 – Gig @OpenMouth
After the briefest of pauses for pizza and ginger beer, I took to the stage to announce the evening performances and thank the wonderful folks of The Stove for making it all possible. Scottish Slam champion Bram broke us in and was incredible as usual with his haunting portrayal of the inner psyche and poignant references to politics and personal anguish.
Local poet and keen appreciater of the Stove Peter Angelini provided a sentimental and romantic look at Dumfries and the surrounding area with his infectious smile winning over the crowds. Next up was our incredible school girl Annemarie who had taken part in the morning workshops. She bravely took to the stage and melted our hearts with a poem about her baby sister’s ginger afro and her heartshaped freckles. I was swelling with pride at my wee protege.
Young Stovers were the real stars of the show, Ivor Gott wowed us with a poem wrote on the day about mother earth, Cara McNaught sauntered on to the stage with real style and blasted out an accomplished rap as if she’d been doing it for years. Then Rhiannon Dewar bared her soul with a hard hitting piece straight from the heart. She modestly declared afterwards “I definitely found it a cool experience”. Steven Rogerson proved himself to be an accomplished writer of personal experiences and his confidence shone out on the mic. All future stars in the making!
Mark McGhee of Jakal Trades showed us why he’s always an asset on any bill with his faST-paced social commentary and wit, inventing his own words and getting the audience chanting along. His poem about Edward Snowdon is still one of my favourites and he absolutely smashed it to rapturous applause.
Eryl Shields’s refined and etheral style conveyed wonderfully her polished poetic narrative. Catherine Major had a punchy slam style and her savvy performance was an asset to the show. Herald at the Stove and all round ray of light Moxie de Paulette gave us a rousing reaction to the election including a mighty fine impression of Nigel Farage. Ginger, a local professional took us all to muddy fields and festival shenanigans with his take on some tradition Burns, twisted through psychedelic raving and all night swallying.
Emily Elver, another rising star on the scene threw out another phenominal performance. She had us all in stitches with her sci-fi foreplay piece and demonstrated why she’s a much loved talent and unstoppable force of spoken word alchemy. She said, “Open mouth was one of the best events I’ve had the privilege to be involved in. The workshop was buzzing with new voices and experienced performers. The open mic showcased how many amazing new performers Dumfries & Galloway has. Could not have been more impressed with The Stove team, and Sindigo’s hard work.”
I enjoyed introducing everyone and felt an electricity running through my body every time I went on the mic. It was actually one of the best nights of my life and a celebration of everything that is coming alive in Dumfries and all over Scotland.
“This is just the beginning!!”, said Debz McDozey, leader of The Young Stove. I gave her a high five!
#OpenMouth was produced in association with the Wigtown Festival Company…..huge thanks to them for everything
What is DMC? It’s a good question. But ‘what wasn’t it?’ is better.
The third Dumfries Music Conference slid triumphantly on its knees into The Stove Building on Friday 24th and Saturday 25th April 2015 – dragging in a heady concoction of workshops, panel discussion, live music, film and a radio station in its vapour trail. With two successes under their belt and a bagful of lessons tucked neatly under their arm, this was to be the coming of age DMC.
While DMC2012 and DMC2013 were important in their own right – the first one for being first and the second for being a four-day monster (lesson learned) – DMC2015 carried an extra bit of weight on its shoulders. DMC2015 WILL BE THE EVENT THAT OPENS THE STOVE BUILDING. Yeah, you heard it. That project, started by a beautiful bunch of arty folks (of which team DMC belong), with a vision for a better Dumfries, which began, like, four years ago and has had more ups and downs than the Big Dipper – that one. Not to mention the fact that DMC had been in hibernation for 18 months.
Unfurl the bunting and re-hang the banners – this has to be big!
Well, it was less bunting and more Rock Against Racism. The exhibition, which depicts the vibrant fight against fascists and racists, who have intermittently raised their extremely ugly heads over the last four decades, was on display throughout DMC2015 – on the ground and middle floors. This is the artwork for marches, demos and gigs that have stood in the name of social justice and equality for all. It gave The Stove a look that it suited to a tee and brought out a part of its personality that had been hiding beneath its blank canvas.
The major addition to the Dumfries Music Conference format this year was Radio DMC. It’s an idea that the organisers found at goNORTH Festival (now XpoNorth) and it worked an absolute treat. It gave the event a currency and monkey bars to swing
across throughout the daytime. Presenters Craig Watson and Chazz (also known as Deep Fried Soul) and Melissa Gunn (of Thursday Night Showcase on Alive Radio fame) gave it the energy and professionalism that was so vital to it. Over 20 local musicians, bands and DJs performed over the two days – going out live to the room and over the digital airwaves. The special and unique moments that Radio DMC churned out were truly unforgettable.
So many great Radio DMC moments. Listen back to (almost – slight technical issue) all of them here.
A special mention and one of the many highlights of Radio DMC was when 15 year old Doonhamer Euan Leslie, who just happens to be ‘Young Scottish Drummer of the year 2015’, performed live and was then joined by a series of young musicians for an impromptu jam session on Saturday afternoon. The music was so sweet that Radio DMC presenter Chazz transformed himself into a rapper for an off the cuff rendition of ‘Rapper’s Delight’ by Sugarhill Gang or should we say the Stovietoon Gang – epic!
Then there was Cinema DMC – a room on the top floor of the three-storey Stove Building, which was transformed into an intimate cinema room. The general subject, of course, was music. There was: End Of A Century: The Story Of The Ramones, Who Shot the Sheriff (about Rock Against Racism), Hector Bizerk’s Bird That Never Flew, The Punk Singer and Searching For Sugarman. All in all, a nice and relaxing addition to the DMC line-up. Bring your own popcorn was optional.
So those three things were the constants. The Rock Against Racism Exhibition was a backdrop to every DMC2015 event (apart from the cinema). Radio DMC broadcast both days between midday and teatime (6pm on Friday and 4.30pm on Saturday). And Cinema DMC rolled out the music documentaries between midday and 6pm both days.
Since it began, DMC has been a bastion of sharing ideas. Their workshops are stuff of legend – and, frankly, this year was no different. MusicPlus+ have been valued DMC partners since the first event and this year the music-mentoring vehicle motored in with an absolute belter. Hector Bizerk frontman, Louie, with ‘Hip Hop was Born in Scotland’. The two-hour session provided a unique opportunity for young (and older) enthusiasts to hear from one of the UK’s most exciting hip-hop artists, who’s in one of the UK’s most exciting hip-hop groups. It was as much about knowledge and culture as it was about mastering the art – Louie was crowned King of Dumfries (for the day).
Number one soundman, Dave Miller, took charge of the other two workshops – ‘Recording Audio Using Pro Tools’ and ‘An Introduction to Live Sound’. For anyone at the live gig, which concluded DMC2015 and for which Dave was sound engineer, you’ll know the level of this man’s skills. The sound for the gig (in a pretty difficult acoustic environment) was stunning. Those who attended Dave’s workshops walked away as better people. Better knowledge. Better EQers. Better everything. Dave was King of Dumfries that day (sorry Louie).
For many people, Friday night’s DMC2015 Seminar will go down as their favourite part of the event. Masterminded and held together by Derick Mackinnon (there are rumours that the D M and C in DMC come from Derick’s name, which are so far unsubstantiated, however, there is no denying how important he is to the event and its organisation), it featured a (again, this cannot be overstated) ridiculously brilliant cast of music industry movers and shakers. Let’s re-cap: Ally McCrae (manager Prides and A&R Sentric Music), Keren McKean (We Make Music Work and Deep Blue Festivals), Scott Kirkwood (manager KLOË, Hit The Road and First Run Records), Alan Morrison (The Herald), Jeff Thompson (Un-Convention and Off Axis) and Nick Roberts (Electric Fields Festival). The seminar was ace – revealing industry secrets about media coverage, records labels and management.
Post-seminar saw the part of the evening that all the bands and musicians in the audience (featuring a who’s who of the D&G music scene) were most excited and downright petrified about – the A&R Listening Lounge, in which their music would be played and reviewed before an audience of roughly 60 people. All acts of bravery should be commended. These particular acts received warm appreciation from both the audience and the industry experts. It could have been terrible but, in fact, it was a topper of an ending to a blinding evening and smile-inducing day.
The Saturday night was, of course, crowned by DMC Live, featuring Miaoux Miaoux, KLOË, Sean vs The Robots and MØGEN. Pretty much everybody knew this gig would be great beforehand. All it needed was good sound (check – nice one Dave and The Stove for investing in a super boss Funktion-One sound sytem) and an appreciative audience. Hello to the 100 or so (sold out) good souls who made it down for that and sorry for making you stand outside while the bands finished the sound-checks. Turns out the timings were pretty much spot on (lesson learned). It really was a treat for the ears. Afterwards, some DMCers toddled off to Electric Theatre Workshop for the aftershow, while others disappeared into the night.
Whichever way, they and all who sailed its path were united by the warm glow of all that had been DMC2015. A brilliant event, in a splendid new creative hub for the town and the start of a new chapter for all.
Our ambition to Get Dumfries Talking is coming to pass – people are really getting stuck in to the #OpenHouse speech bubbles and finding great ways for the town to express itself:
What would your house say?
What would your workplace say?
What would a park bench say?
What would the cannon in Dock Park say?
Taking part is super easy – just pick up a speech bubble from The Stove (or form cafes and shops around the town) – write a message in the bubble, snap it with your phone and post it to Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #OpenHouse…
We’ve been artists in residence with The Stove for 5 months and are now in to the final month before our film and sound installation HAME opens on 2nd May as part of The Stove’s Open House series of events to mark the launch of 100 High St.
HAME explores relationships to Dumfries and Galloway through the words of those who call it home. During our time working here we have been very privileged to record conversations with over 45 people throughout D&G and guided by these conversations have gathered footage around the area from our trusty Black Cab, chauffeured by the excellent Will Marshall. Our experience, perspectives and knowledge of D&G has gradually mutated and transformed through these conversations and our own explorations.
We have been recalling when we first moved here from Glasgow, following the Sat Nav to our house, exploring our own street and seeking directions to the shop. Journeys through the unfamiliar have gradually become dotted with reference points – places we’ve passed through, stopped to film or interview someone. Names of towns and villages that previously floated in an imaginary space now slot in to their geographical location. Buildings, bridges, trees and rivers that were once void of meaning now sprout stories and conjure images.
Through the process of filming and recording whilst journeying through the area we have become more acutely aware of its rhythms and the interconnecting threads of feelings, memories and knowledge of those living both within it and thinking on it from afar.
We have heard stories of everything from ancient stone markings in Eggerness to hiding places at Annan harbour to recollections of a Palmerston football match in 1958. There have been childhood dens, daredevil antics and trees that sprouted chocolate biscuits. Grub-collecting hot spots, smelly spots and “J” spots. Bad corners, best views, secret beaches and spooky ruins. Sunday mass in a chip shop, raves in a woodland, and the 2am ‘accidental’ purchase of a stretch limo in a pub. We’ve learned how to appropriately pronounce ‘Kirkgunzeon’ ‘Caerlaverock’ and ‘Red Cola’, have finally worked out the parking system in Dumfries and we now know how to find anyone’s house in D&G (over the wee bridge, round the bend and up the hill).
As ever, the more we explore, the more questions arise, layers of perspectives overlap, clash and muddle, and the more we realise we do not know. Yet through this has developed a kinship and a care. And this seems to be the binding thread connecting everyone that we have spoken to. Everyone, in one way or another, genuinely cares.
Perhaps what has most surprised us though is how the process of the last few months has changed our own perspectives so much so that we now feel at home here ourselves and are on the look out for a place to stay beyond the project (you know the place – over the wee bridge, round the bend and up the hill?).
We hope you can make it along to the opening of HAME, 2nd May and look forward to seeing you there!
Open House sees The Stove Network populating The Stove at 100 High Street for the first time since building works began last year, and welcomes the town and the wider network to stop by, get involved in and experience some of what we hope to bring into Dumfries’ town centre. Open House is a series of very different events that will show the versatility of The Stove as a physical space and the ambition of the project for the town centre.
We kick off with the third annual Dumfries Music Conference on 24th and 25th April. As in previous years, DMC2015 will feature workshops, talks, film, live music, expert opinion and creative collaboration. Through a collection of brilliant partners and guests, we hope to educate, inspire and entertain. DMC2015 will mark the official opening of The Stove Building at 100 High Street. In celebration of this we are going to fill the entire building with colour, music and people. Full details will be made available here as they are announced!
On 28th April The Stove hosts Open Mouth – a day of spoken word, performance and cooking. During the day The Stove building will hold workshops for school students before then moving into a performance workshop from 5pm. A public performance starts at 7pm featuring Moffat based Sarah Indigo and other performers from the Scottish spoken word scene and young people who have attended the daytime workshops. Full details available here
29th April sees House Warming – an open invite (12.30pm-4.30pm) to come and see The Stove building, have a chat and make a T-shirt.
From 6pm there will be a Stove Members Gathering, which will include a public bonfire, and Bannock making in the town square with Open Jar from 7.30pm. More details available here.
At 7pm on Saturday 2nd May come to The Stove for the public launch of HAME, an impressionistic journey through Dumfries & Galloway voiced by those who call it home. Film, voice, field recording and subtle music intermingle and connect across 2 floors and out into the High Street of Dumfries.
HAME is a film and sound installation by artists Mark Lyken and Emma Dove, specially commissioned for the opening of The Stove at 100 High St, Dumfries.
Full details of the launch will be announced shortly, and available here
Every Tuesday starting 19th May (until mid June) you are invited to Drop-In @ The Stove – pop in for a brew and a blether about The Stove and the town…. what would you like to see The Stove doing? What are your ideas for the town centre? What would you like to do at The Stove? We’ll be open and we’d love to hear your ideas! Drop In will run from 12 noon till 6pm every Tuesday, so just drop in on your way past! More details available here
Keep up with the latest updates on Open House via our social media on Facebook and Twitter, using #OpenHouse