Hot off the success of Loud Poets collaboration we are reigniting SW Scotland’s most eclectic (and energetic) open mic night.
Hosted by the incomparable Susi Briggs and the Stove’s ain Martin O’Neill, Brave New Words is for words spoken, sung, shot, signed or silenced.
To sign up to perform: arrive promptly for 7pm to ensure you have a slot.
Doors open at 6:30pm See you there!
STROBE WARNING: Brave New Words will feature strobe lighting that may trigger people with photosensitive epilepsy. If you have any access requirements please email us at [email protected] or phone us at 01387 252435
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.
As Skye Loneragan makes her return to The Stove on Saturday 25th June 2022 with her solo performance, Though This Be Madness, Skye tells us all about the play and how it came to fruition, following her own journey in new parenthood alongside the challenges of coping with mental illness within her family.
“I am looking forward to returning to Dumfries & Galloway this week. I remember performing Though This Be Madness in its early days, before it was Covid-cancelled, at The Stove. An audience member emailed me in the days after the show, about L.O.I.P (Loved Ones In Pain) which I talk about in the show, words I cherish as they remind me why we have a response sanctuary at the end of the show, and put soft toys on the seats:
“There were so many points of traction and heart-opening in your performance, more than I can sum up here… So much discourse focuses on the person experiencing the crisis, and of course they should be at the centre, but for those of us holding and caring and witnessing and having our hearts just about ripped out of us in the process, it doesn’t often feel like there’s space for that… My heart was moved tonight in a way I didn’t quite expect… Thank you for making this kind of pain and process visible, I really appreciate it, and want you to know how important this work is.”
Someone else shared with me their own resonances after the performance, and helped me find my where I’d parked the hire car. They allowed me to record their spoken word:
“Basically it was about my life… the insight in that show was amazing… for somebody who has seen both sides, as a worker and as a patient, I think that was the most honest, actually complimentary almost, portrayal of mental health I’ve ever seen. I don’t know Skye’s background, I don’t know if she has actually been locked up with her rights removed, but if she hasn’t, respect to her because I don’t know anybody who could write something like that who hasn’t actually seen it from the inside.“
I share these words with you (with permission) because so many people are juggling so much. Staying afloat, letting alone seeing a theatre show, can be a huge task which can take a lot of energy, never mind the energy it takes to look after yourself and allow your own creative quest to take flight.
I had started writing Though This Be Madness before I had a baby, initially toying with ‘diagnosing’ Shakespeare’s female leads. Once I had my sought-after wee one, I had to try and write it in snatches of baby sleep and found I literally could not… finish a sentence.
The show begins with, “she’s down, but she doesn’t sleep lying down, so we may not have long”. A new mature-age mum, I spent hours trying to get my baby to snooze by walking her in the harness or bouncing her on the Pilates ball… I was so on the ball.
My own sleep never made it past a two-hour stretch, for years. I don’t know how people do it, stay functional despite sleep-deprivation. I managed to script tiny segments: ‘Grasp’, “fish-hook’, ‘Ophelia’, ‘The Bits You Don’t Get Back’, ‘Activated Macadamias’….and each of these has a little nut of truth in it and a curly question about how we nurture our collective sanity.
Post-natal, I was also trying to make sense of the debilitating mental health crises of close family members and those I love dearly. So, the play became a fractured fiction and an honest attempt to reach you with a tale that isn’t about parenting at all, but is scuppered by that very context:
“Once upon a Time… I Don’t Have Time…”
I also remember feeling terrified of leaving the house in case she’d cry. Would we make it?So I knew I wanted to make an adult show for parents or carers with babes-in-arms. The story will follow the same route but if your baby cries that’s ok, if you need to come or go, feed them – that’s fine too. I will take a pause if that’s what is needed, and one audience member told me this was needed:
“I really appreciated having something cultural to go to…aimed at us parents but accommodating our babies….it’s depressingly rare”
The show has dug itself deeper for me during the pandemic, through the cancellations, the home-not-schooling, the caring for loved ones – it became a digital version, Though This Be (online) Madness!.
Though This Be Madness is a 72-min piece without an interval. At the end we host a 15-min ‘post-show sanctuary’… a space to allow your response to the show to surface… and find some form of expression before heading home.
Not all stories wrap themselves around a beginning, a middle and an end. New motherhood doesn’t afford the time for that kind of structure. Though This Be Madness is an inventive and darkly humorous story of many sisters that delves into the combined challenges of new parenting alongside loved ones struggling with psychosis and depression.
In this fractured fiction told through poetry and performance, with a musical score co-created by Mairi Campbell, we meet a recovering mum bouncing on a Pilates ball in The Land of the Lounge Room. Determined to soothe her baby and ‘stay on the ball’, she tries finish her sentence and tell us how she is unable to reach her sister Ophelia, who wrestles with a cataract on what Shakespeare calls the ‘mind’s eye’.”
It was 2015. A year in from the Scottish independence referendum, when stickers faded pale on lampposts and flags fluttered limply in the breeze, or un-tethered, clung to high fences like a loose pair of nickers. It was as though some basic law of thermodynamics failed to take place. As if that fiery energy ought to have moved on. Heated up some other vessel or agitated another movement. Instead, it lingered in the air, resigned itself to the bar stools and blogs for the time being. And most people just got on with their lives, some relieved, some numb and others, angry as ever.
Writers Sarah Indigo and Eryl Sheilds concocted Brave New Words as a space to confront some of that undirected energy left from the referendum. We worked with them on structuring the day, talking with schools, community groups and others to come along and work it all out through a series of writing workshops, discussions and debates. That evening, we hosted the first Brave New Words Slam, an evening of spoken word, performance and beat-style poetry, reminiscent of the back alley bars of Brooklyn circa 1960 lit up the High Street. Well, not maybe not quite like that. But in my head, everything feels a bit like that. The poets played a blinder. From the ages of 14 to 80, it felt like something pretty special had happened.
A year later, we lost Sarah too soon. A light went out in the spoken word community in Scotland, with tributes pouring in from the central belt to the Galloway coast. Her work broke stigmas, challenged the status quo and energized everyone she came into contact with. Each birthday since then is not only a celebration of words spoken, sung, shot, signed or silenced. It’s a tribute to our founder and visionary.
This year, as it stands, is so unlike all the others. We’re not able to meet. And whilst we’re all weary of the rolling lockdowns, the dead air of pubs without music, the face masks, the rumbling anxiety of purchasing a pint of milk from the supermarket. It seems that now it’s more important than ever to celebrate as we once did and to share our thoughts, feelings, creativity and power with each other is so vital in making sense of the world around us. Beyond the peeling vinyl stickers of the town centre and the tequila-scented hand gel.
Just as in 2015, there’s an energy now that lingers in the air. What it is we can’t be as certain of what it is as then, but it comes out in the quieter moments of our lives. That’s when stories are written, songs are sung and creativity thrives.
Brave New Words is not possible without people. Literally. I’ve tried. More than a couple of empty mic nights confirm this. It’s the space to take a chance, often when you never you thought you had it in you. And each month, it’s completely different from the last. From epic poems on elderly cats, to Kate Bush inspired fluorescent neon dancing, 10 minute silences and rabble rousing political speeches.
So join us as we celebrate everything Brave this September. I mean, what else is there to do?!
Our current Blueprint100 team, Jordan Chisholm, Kyna Hodges, Claire Bell and Blossom McCuaig are all coming up to the end of their year with us and we’d like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to the team for all of their contributions this past year. It has been an incredible 12 months working with Jordan, Claire, Blossom and Kyna and we’re excited to see what the future holds for these talented individuals.
The current team have been reflecting on their time with the Stove and are sharing their highlights, their triumphs and what they have learned on their year-long journey with us.
After a 4 week university placement at The Stove, Jordan joined the Blueprint100 team in August 2018 for an initial 6 months and continued for a further year with the new Curatorial Team. Jordan’s practice stems from both an interest in care and a performance art background and is deeply rooted in having conversations.
“My time with blueprint100 and The Stove Network has been incredible. It has been testing, eye-opening, uncomfortable, safe, uplifting and warm. I have been given the opportunity of a lifetime, to try and fail and try again and get some things right whilst learning how to respond to the things that don’t go how you once wanted them to.
Some highlights, for me, were being given the lead artist role for the Nithraid 2019 Salty Coo Parade; this project allowed me the opportunity to pay many young artists to contribute to this day (some from my own uni class, which felt liberating!)”
Claire joined the Blueprint team last year after hosting a series of Life Drawing classes as part of the Blueprint100 regular programme of activity. Claire’s creative practice is grounded in drawing and mark making, as she observes, captures and plays with these to uncover the hidden patterns and connections within.
“A big part of my experience, for me, has been the huge amount of varied learning experiences I have had; through getting involved with a great variety of events and activity. There was Nithraid, in which I assisted the running of workshops such as flag making, as well as making costumes for the procession, which I also took part in through the town centre. Other events I’ve contributed in both big and small ways, are: Drawing Queer, Behavin? Festival, Mental Health Week and our monthly ‘Open Studio’. Although brilliantly varied, this work was very different to previous experience I had had. I felt at times that my overall ‘journey’ lacked focus, however, I ultimately found such value in not thinking too much about ‘is this exactly what I want to be doing’ but just doing it anyway. I encountered so many interesting moments along the way and learned much more than I ever would have by staying with what I already knew.”
“I wrote about what was around me. But some people are so daft they don’t understand that writing about Prestwich is just as valid as Dante writing about his Inferno.” Mark E. Smith
In an in-between place like this, writers have free reign. A place, on the edge of becoming, nearest to the precipice of the green dreaming miles to the coast. We know, it’s not quite like anywhere else. Far from it. Too close to call home. Too far in reach. Too full of hope to try.
Over the last three years, a project has been quietly simmering in the studios of the Stove. Launched in its first year by writer-in-residence, Stuart A Paterson, Lowland sought to create a new literary portrait of Dumfries town.
Now approaching the third year, the project aspires to engage more writers to reflect on a town in a transitional phase of its history.
About The Play
Barnside is sinking and the residents are on the edge of revolution. The local council, in its bleary wisdom, has been drafted in to ease the tensions. Only, not everything is, as it seems. And sooner or later, something’s got to give…
Inspired by over 300 postcards by local people, visitors and newcomers reflecting on Dumfries as well as conversations in the heart of the high street, ‘Lowland’ is a play about life in an in-between place. Developed in association with the Stove Network and the National Theatre of Scotland, this new play written by young local writers is an often otherworldly, farcical and radical presentation into the nature of community.
Coming up this Friday, 28th February as part of National Theatre Scotland’s Just Start Here festival in Dumfries will be the next development of Solway to Svalbard, an creative project led by composer and musician Stuart Macpherson, in collaboration with filmmaker Emma Dove and sound recordist Pete Smith.
Following a successful starter residency supported by NTS, and a recent trip to Svalbard on the trail of the barnacle geese – the project has continued to grow and develop, so we are so excited to find out more about how the work has been developing! Ahead of Friday, Stuart tells us more about the project:
How did it all begin?
Well… funnily enough it all started off with a commissioning opportunity through the Stove Network for one of their members to create a piece of work responding to the brief of Migrating Birds, to coincide with the opening of Kathy Hinde’s Luminous Birds installation that was coming to Dumfries.
At the time there was another Stove project exploring Dumfries’ ties to Norway and I thought I’d explore the avian link between Norway and Scotland. I knew the barnacle geese that came to the Solway each year had something to do with Norway but didn’t realise that was just their spring staging point and they in fact came from Svalbard. Pretty impressive… there’s also loads of really cool mythology surrounding the geese which is fascinating.
Anyway, the resulting piece that I created was “Flight” – a migratory soundscape incorporating field recordings and free triggered samples. Pretty early on in the process of making that piece I started to think about where they stop on their journey and the idea of exploring those environments. I really liked the idea of incorporating visuals and some proper field recordings. Also, I guess I had grown a bit of a fondness for the geese through working on “Flight” and felt that I wasn’t quite finished with them yet!
Its important to me that I make work that has a relevance to where I am and with what is around me.
I also wanted to work on this project with other artists that have ties to the region, Emma and Pete were an obvious choice, I love both their work, they’re really good at what they do and in fact both had been involved in some level with “Flight” too.
What about geese particularly sparked your inspiration?
Initially the folklore surrounding the barnacle geese was the bit that got me hooked, the idea that folk actually thought they hatched from barnacles on bits of driftwood… totally brilliant! But I guess very quickly there was an admiration that grew for them, it is amazing what they do – the distances they travel each year. They evoke a lot and represent all sorts of different things to different folk, all the while they’re just being a cool wee goose flying between here and the high arctic trying to eat the best grass when it grows and raise a family… I like that.
I believe you’ve visited Svalbard twice now, along with your key collaborator Emma Dove to record the geese as well as the natural surroundings. How has this affected the work?
I’ve actually only visited Svalbard once… and that was with key collaborators Emma Dove and Pete Smith. We also have spent a fair amount of time at Caerlaverock filming and recording the geese and last April/May I spent a month on a wee island in Northern Norway (just in the arctic circle) where the geese spring stage on their way north.
So yeah, a lot of this project has been about filming and recording the environments that the geese pass but also about talking to people and what place means to them. It was particularly important for the three of us to make it to Svalbard as that has really put things into context, to be able to explore the furthest extents of the flyway and get a perspective from both ends.
Its been an interesting one as a project that started off with the geese has ended up with lots of chat about people, its been a very organic process. We’ve learnt a lot from each other.
How’s it been working with the National Theatre of Scotland?
I’ve been really enjoying working with NTS on the project, they’ve been incredibly supportive, not just with the narrative development of the work but also with the technical/practical side of things and being able to help hold the production elements of the project… something that I personally find pretty overwhelming.
They’ve got a huge amount of experience and all this resource that we have been able to access, so its been a really great process for us.
We’ve been working closely with director/playwright Davie Anderson and he feels very much like part of the Solway to Svalbard team now, having that outside lens to look at a project has been a really helpful. He’s been encouraging and supporting us to explore different ways of presenting the work… its definitely been a change from what we are used to within our own practices and at times a little daunting but actually it has been really refreshing and enjoyable and genuinely feel the work will be the better for it.
Its also been great to work up at Rockvilla, to have a bit of separation to properly focus on a project has been super helpful, not to mention that it’s a really cool space to work in.
What should we expect?
That’s a hard one as we’re still working that one out ourselves… I guess showing the work through Just Start Here allows us to properly test for the first time all the different elements of the work, that up until now we have been unable to. As well as figuring out how to actually make this work we’ve been focusing a lot on the narrative of the project, and feel we’ve got to a really strong place with that. There’s obviously elements that will be missing for this showing, but we’re hoping that folk will be able to get a good idea of what the finished work might be like.
For lots of different reasons this is a pretty complicated show, we’re combining multiple screens with surround sound design and live musicians as well as dialogue and other more theatrical elements. So on that side of things it looks and sounds pretty cool… not the kind of thing you see very often… especially in a social club.
What are the future plans for the work?
What is great about Just Start Here is that it is an opportunity to test ideas and to see how folk respond to those ideas. There will no doubt be things that need tweaked afterwards as well as other elements that we simply have not had time to get to yet. We have a rough diamond here.
As I’ve said previously I’m really enjoying working with NTS on the project, so would like to continue that journey and see where we end up. But the idea would be to create a touring work… it makes perfect sense to me that a work based on migration should travel itself.
Solway to Svalbard will be a part of Friday evenings Just Start Here festival, in Dumfries on Friday 28th February. Limited tickets are still available for the evening are £5 per person, and available online here