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Catering Scoping Project for The Stove – Open Jar Collective

Catering Scoping Project for The Stove – Abridged version to accompany Catering Tender
Original version by Clem Sandison, Alex Wilde and Hannah Brackston


Outline of the project

The aim of Open Jar’s work with The Stove Network was to gather ideas and viewpoints about the creation of a catering enterprise at The Stove. Following a period of targeted conversations with key stakeholders and pop-up engagement activities with the public, Open Jar Collective produced a report. This will now inform how the space is developed and used by the public, and forms part of tendering process to appoint someone to deliver the catering enterprise at The Stove. From Dec 2014 – Feb 2015 we surveyed the food businesses local to the Stove building, spoke to eleven individuals / group and ran a public feeding creativity event, which 20 people attended.

Identified needs

By the Stove:

  •  To provide a welcoming space that is a community resource, a hub for the arts community, a space for people to share and connect
  • To provide a flexible space that be used for a range of events, workshops, meetings or other ways of engaging people
  • To have the functioning of any cafe element of the space operated autonomously
  • A catering enterprise would be a stepping stone to the wider programme of the Stove and activities within the building. A way of signposting people.
  • An income stream as part of the social enterprise of the Stove Network Ltd charity and an integrated part of the activities of the charity.
  •  A desire to offer something different with its own unique identity
  •  A desire for the approach to be ethical in terms of operation, production and supply
  • Connected to the wider aim of regeneration and attracting people into the town centre
  • To connect with the street outside the Stove and activity in the square

In the meetings:

  • Training opportunities in the hospitality industry for college students
  • Somewhere to go after 5pm in the town centre
  • There is very little for 14 – 21 year olds in Dumfries
  • For people to work together to rejuvenate the town centr
  •  To create a destination

In the feeding creativity event:

  • Place to meet and space for groups to hire
  • Connecting with local food and food producers
  • A platform for exchange of knowledge or produce between small scale growing
    projects/allotments/community gardens
  • Mindfulness of food – simple menu, good food, affordable price, nourishing environment, sharing table / space
  • A space that is accessible to young people
  • To promote transparent and ethical buying
  • Collaboration – support a range of other local businesses
  •  Not displacing existing business – offering something new or distinct

What are the opportunities?

  • There is a lot of goodwill towards to Stove and excitement about the new building and what it can offer.
  • Offer something different, most places in the town centre are the same
  •  Work with the college to cook food off-site
  • Multi-functional arts venue – meet needs of lots of different groups
  • Alcohol free? – Stricter drink-drive limit – pub atmosphere in a cafe environmen
  •  Experiment with the waste food catering model
  • Growing Hub – connect allotments, exchange/barter schemes, information and knowledge about growing, seed banks
  •  To provide education about growing produce and cooking methods
  • Bringing food production into the town
  • Profit share with pop-up guest chefs / food producers
  • To create a community of people/organisations within the building which has it’s own momentum and draws in different audiences


  • If you have a specific offer in order to be a viable business (eg. local food focus), how do you avoid alienating people who aren’t attracted by that particular focus?
  •  Quality is really important
  •  Is it possible to have a social objective of local, fairtrade, ethical and make money?
  • Not to be in direct competition with other food businesses in the town
  • Need a shift of mindset to encourage people to support small, independent business over the chains and multi-nationals
  • To ensure that an operator didn’t crash and burn due to lack of revenue or energy after a year
  • To create a viable enterprise opportunity given the lack of space and kitchen facilities

Considerations / restrictions

Restrictions of prep/serving/storage area:

  • The limited space available for preparing food, cold storage and serving means that it is fairly impossible to do much more than hot and cold drinks, cakes and maybe soup.
  • Catering for pop-up events would still need to happen off-site as there are not the facilities to make cooked meals.
  •  The conversion of the space off the courtyard into dry storage is essential to enable a catering enterprise to operate.
  • A double prep/washing up sink (in addition to the hand wash sink) will need to be permanent fixtures in the space along with the coffee machine, and electrics to power fridges.
  • Ideally the double sink and additional cold storage would be in the courtyard but this doesn’t seem feasible given potential building restrictions and the pillar blocking access.
  • Design will require counter area for serving, preparation and till. Cold storage required, recommend 3 undercounter fridges minimum – for milk, cold drinks, and food. Additional dry storage space for daily stock.
  • Need to be able to reconfigure the space on a regular basis for events so you will want to limit fixed items and have units on wheels.

Design / fit out:

  •  How do you balance the brand of the cafe with the aesthetic vision of the Stove for the space?
  •  Coffee machine would be expected to be part of the equipment that came with the space.
  • Due to space limitations, it may be difficult to fit in a dishwasher in the proposed set-up. This means that all drinks and food would need to be served in compostable paper plates/cups, essentially like take away. This may not appeal to all customers. If an industrial dishwasher was integrated into the prep space and china serving ware was used, additional staffing would be required to clear tables and manage washing up and additional storage space would be needed for china.

Further thoughts

Sourcing / Pricing policy:

There is a direct tension between local/fair trade sourcing and affordability/accessibility of the cafe (i.e. having a more expensive menu than other local cafes and therefore being seen as niche market). The general trend in food businesses in Dumfries is to sell at a very low price (e.g. £1.40 for a take away toastie). This results in food that is not locally sourced, organic, ethical, and is often quite highly processed. Some people in Dumfries may be willing to pay more for better quality ethically sourced food (making it a unique selling point for the cafe), but not everyone. The Stove need to make a decision about how important local food is to them, and define what they mean by ‘local’, ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’ in the tender document, as these terms can be very widely interpreted. The Cafe manager/operator may need to charge more than other cafes in the area to fulfil this brief. It’s quite simple to serve organic fairtrade tea and coffee, because the mark-up is much greater on hot drinks than it is on food. There is good profit margin on seasonal veg soups, so this would be a good item on the menu to showcase local produce. Sourcing good quality meat, cheeses, and bread, and keeping prices competitive with other local establishments will be more difficult. The Stove could consider developing a “prefered supplier” list e.g. cheese from Loch Arthur, bread from Earth’s Crust, dried goods from Greencity Wholefoods. The Cafe Manager/Operator would then need to price the menu accordingly based on these suppliers. We think seasonal soup using local ingredients could be the unique food offer, and the best option with limited prep/storage space. This could be a springboard for creating a local food hub, engaging with local growers and setting up fruit and veg bartering schemes. This requires a creative and competent cook/cafe manager to make use of available seasonal produce to prepare fresh soup each day. Alternatively the cafe manager could research other caterers/local businesses that could supply fresh soup, sandwiches, and cakes on a daily basis.

Musings News Project Updates

Feeding Creativity in Dumfries

From Andrew Gordon

Many have suggested simple solutions to the French Paradox, the apparent contradiction that the French can eat rich, fatty foods while maintaining a lifestyle much healthier than many their counterparts in the western world. Could it be all the red wine? Or maybe its something in their genetics? The answer, as Will Marshall explained in his introduction to the Open Jar Collective’s “Feeding Creativity” event, is likely much more complicated than that, and is a clear indication that our attitude towards food has a fundamental effect on our everyday lives. From how we socialise, to how we interact with our surrounding landscape and, importantly, how we create, Will understands that our relationship with food shapes us as individuals and as a community, capable of bringing us together and prompting what he calls “unexpected interactions” across all sorts of social and cultural boundaries. For him and the rest of the Stove team, the prospect of opening a cafe Dumfries town centre is much more than a simple business venture. On the contrary, the Stove sees its future cafe not just as a place to drink nice coffee but as lively hub that will bring the community together, be it to participate in the events or activities facilitated by the Stove network or just to enjoy good quality local produce, sourced from across the region.

The Project Cafe in Glasgow, one of the cafe’s cited by Open Jar in their exploration of Creativity and Food

o fulfil this vision, the Stove has enlisted the expertise of the Open Jar Collective, a group of Glasgow-based artists who specialise in all things food. Open Jar have been carrying out extensive research to in order formulate an operational plan and identity for the cafe, analysing similar projects undertaken by other arts organisations in the UK (Glasgow’s Project Cafe was offered as one such example) and meeting with local producers such as the Loch Arthur Farmshop.

Feeding Creativity represented another stage in this process, a 2-hour event held at 100 Midsteeple in which they invited anyone with an interest in food and creativity to have their say about what they’d like to see from a new eating spot in the town centre – and to share some tasty soup and bread in the process.

Attendees included caterers, health workers, business owners and civil servants amongst other professionals, all interested in leveraging the cafe’s prime location and the region’s ample culinary resources to enrich the town and the lives of its denizens alike. Splitting into groups, they identified problems currently ailing the town and suggested some ways these could be addressed, resulting in a sort of mission plan that might inform the functioning of the cafe in its finished form.

Chief among these was the need for a place to meet after shopping hours that isn’t a pub, giving young people a chance to get out of the family home and giving community groups somewhere amenable to convene on a regular basis. Another was the desire for a knowledge centre where townsfolk can share their passion for food, be it cooking skills, growing techniques or healthy eating advice.

The Bakery at Loch Arthur Farmshop

All in all, Open Jar were met with an enthusiastic response and left with plenty of ideas to work with, ending the night by assuring that further public consultations are in the works. With the cafe due to open in time for Guid Nychburris, the Stove is keen to get as many people excited about food’s potential to bring about positive change as they can in the coming months, ideally resulting in a space that the people of Dumfries can feel invested in and responsible for, and which gives the town centre a whole new lease of life.  If Feeding Creativity is any indication, it’s off to a great start.

Musings News

What did we eat before baguettes, toasties and Panini?

From Open Jar Collective

Dumfries, in common with most Scottish towns, has a particular lunch time snack – the toasted Panini.  First referenced in a 16th Century Italian cookbook, Panino (which comes from the Italian pane meaning bread) is traditionally a grilled sandwich made with slices of porchetta, that is popular in Central Italy.  Panini became trendy in Milanese bars called Paninoteche in the 1970s and 1980s, and then subsequently in New York.  Paninaro came to mean a fashionable young person who was very image conscious.


Through the dominance of American fast food culture, Panini have become ubiquitous in Scotland, alongside white sliced bread toasties, and french baguettes. All of these breads are made from highly refined strong wheat flours which are very difficult to produce in Scotland.  Due to our shorter growing season, the wheat grown here has a much lower protein content which is fine for baking but lacks the elastic gluten required for conventional bread making. Scotland’s most successful cereal crop is Barley, once used in almost every home to bake bannocks.

According to the NFUScotland, out of the 2 million tonnes of Scottish barley produced in 2013, 55% was used as animal feed, 35% went to Whisky malting, and only a small proportion was sold as pearl barley or milled as flour for us to eat.

Bere (pronounced ‘bear’) is a form of six-row barley which has been grown in Scotland for thousands of years. Bere is quite possibly Britain’s oldest cereal grain still in commercial cultivation and was likely to have been brought here by Viking settlers. It has adapted to growing in soils with low pH and in areas with long daylight hours which makes it particularly suited to Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles. It grows rapidly, being sown in the spring and harvested in the summer.  Beremeal was one of the earliest flours to be used to make bannocks.


Robert Burns once described southern Scotland as a “land o’ cakes”. He didn’t mean desserts, but oatcakes and barley bannocks that would have been baked on an iron girdle over the fire.

“In Scotland, amongst the rural population generally, the girdle until recent times took the place of the oven, the bannock of the loaf.”  F. Marian McNeil, 1929

In The Scots Kitchen, F. Marian McNeil suggests that the name bannok occurs in 1572, and derives from Latin panicum, probably through the influence of the Church. It may have referred originally to Communion bread.

Bannocks can range from soda breads, scones, or pancakes to a sweet fruity tea loaf in the case of the famous Selkirk bannock, but they usually have some barley meal in them.  After testing numerous recipes, I think the best turned out to be F. Marian McNeil’s “Modern Method” using Beremeal from Barony Mills in Orkney (which is available through Greencity).

Bannocks o’ bear meal, Bannocks o’ barley,
Here’s to the Highlandman’s bannocks o’ barley.

Wha, in a brulzie, will first cry a parley?
 Never the lads wi’ the bannocks o’ barley.

Bannocks o’ bear meal, Bannocks o’ barley,
Here’s to the Highlandman’s bannocks o’ barley.

Wha, in his wae days, were loyal to Charlie?
Wha but the lads wi’ the bannocks o’ barley!

Bannocks o’ bear meal, Bannocks o’ barley,
Here’s to the Highlandman’s bannocks o’ barley.

Robert Burns, 1794
News Project Updates

Rushes from Parking Space

IMG_7180 (1)
Strange yellow circles appeared in car parks around town
Stove widows with yellow circles
Clues began to emerge elsewhere and on social media
Meanwhile in a basement under Greyfriars Church other painting was going on
Meanwhile in a basement under Greyfriars Church other painting was going on
On Friday 17th October the Stove members and other members of the public gathered on Level Four of the underground NCP car park for the Annual General Meeting of The Stove Network
On Friday 17th October the Stove members and other members of the public gathered on Level Four of the underground NCP car park for the Annual General Meeting of The Stove Network
Hannah Brackston and Alex Wilde of Open Jar Artists Collective and Stephen Pritchard of Dot To Dot Active Arts led the discussion that followed the formal business of the AGM
The Stove Network Board worked hard
The Stove Network Board worked hard
Stan and Cara thought hard
Stan and Cara thought hard
Craig Patterson from Burns Cafe served Stovies from the back of a pick-up
Craig Patterson from Burns Cafe served Stovies from the back of a pick-up
The Doonhame Derby Doll Usherettes arrived
The Doonhame Derby Doll Usherettes arrived
Crucial chat
Everyone helped convert the space into a cinema
Eating popcorn whilst watching 'How to Start a Revolution'
Eating popcorn whilst watching ‘How to Start a Revolution’
The next day people played street games on the top deck of the carpark
The next day people played street games on the top deck of the carpark
The skaters were busy on Level 1
On Level 2 'Mirrorlands' by Mark Lyken and Emma Dove was showing on two walls simultaneously
On Level 2 ‘Mirrorlands’ by Mark Lyken and Emma Dove was showing on two walls simultaneously
On Level 3 was Mark and Emma’s ‘GabCab’ in which people were filmed talking about where they would like the taxi to take them
Emma Dove operating 'GabCab'
Emma Dove operating ‘GabCab’
Entering level 4
Entering level 4
Where Alice Francis made popcorn
Where Alice Francis made popcorn
...and Max Fox made hot chocolate
…and Max Fox made hot chocolate
Parking Space cinema - screening 'Shell'
Parking Space cinema – screening ‘Shell’
Screening of movies by Mutual Motion (films made by local skaters)...watched by local skaters
Screening of movies by Mutual Motion (films made by local skaters)…watched by local skaters

Parking Space – by The Stove Network and the people of Dumfries

Lead Artist: Katie Anderson

Stove Artist Team; Matt Baker, Hannah Brackston, Moxie DePaulitte, Doonhame Derby Dolls, Emma Dove, Dumfries Skaters,  Alice Francis, Max Fox, Andy Jardine, Mark Lyken, Will Levi Marshall, Debs McDowall, Mutual Motion, Stephen Pritchard, Colin Tennant, John Wallace, Ailsa Watson, Alex Wilde

Photography: Cate Ross, Colin Tennant, Galina Walls

Thanks to: Members and Board of The Stove Network, Stuart and Sean at NCP, SHAX, Speedy Hire

More images from Parking Space – here

Musings News Project Updates

‘We Are Nourishing Soup’

As part of our AGM last Friday at #ParkingSpace, we were keen to discuss some of the broader issues surrounding the Stove’s values surrounding the relationship between the Stove, Dumfries and the role of public art. 

We kicked off the debate with Open Jar Collective, and Dot to Dot Active Arts and started to work on a ‘recipe’ for the Stove.
This has felt like the somewhat experimental beginning of a process, which we are hoping to develop more fully over the course of the next few months, and we will be looking for more input from our Stove members during this time – more details to follow on this in the near future.

In the meantime we’d like to share some of our considering vegetables…


The Contraversial Pear

no prejudice
no judgement”


The Honesty Jar

“Honest and Clear


The Critical Thinking Scissors

“Critical thinking
Prepared to take risks
Visionary Work
Make people feel good
…Getting to the point”


The Blender of Fulfillment

Accessiblity (conceptual)
Fulfillment and hungry for more
Challenge yourself”


The Catalytic Convertor Carton

“Catalytic convertor
Pride of Place


The Unexpected Fish

The Banana amongst us

The Parterships Tongs 

“Partnerships: Working Together”

More vegetables available on our facebook page here

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