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News Project Updates

Nithraid 2021

Wow… can you believe it’s been two weeks since Nithraid 2021?!

It was a spirit-filled, action-packed day, with lots to do and enjoy despite the wet weather!

We’re so pleased that everyone who took part in the river race was able to do so safely, braving the elements to give us a race to remember.

We also had some great activities taking place at Mill Green, with help from Dumfries Fountain Project, Creative Spaces, TS Beall, Heather Molloy of PAMIS and Simon Lidwell of Wordsmithcrafts.

It was brilliant to see some old friends and new faces taking part in the river race and visiting Mill Green, which really put into perspective how fortunate we were to finally be able to facilitate the race after a long, two-year wait. 

“Nithraid this year was a triumph in the face of the double adversities of Covid and the weather, we had a record turnout of boats and all the participants, as ever, were thrilled by the unique experience of journeying up our beautiful river on a big tide. The current context meant that we reached out wider than ever before through digital platforms meaning that people who cannot normally attend the event were brought into the heart of things – we also catered for people with multiple additional support needs and the D/deaf community with activities on site…”

Heather Molloy (PAMIS) as The Spirit of the Nith
Simon Lidwell (Wordsmithcrafts) as The River Rambler

…Nithraid is about bringing people together to celebrate the role of our River Nith in the town and region The Stove continues to find new ways to fulfil this mission and open up the fun to everyone in our community, demonstrating that community spirit for our visitors.”Matt Baker, Orchestrator

We’d like to say a huge, special thanks to the following individuals and groups who helped us to bring together Nithraid 2021:

All our partners and funders, as always, for their support: Historic Environment Scotland, Creative Scotland and Dumfries and Galloway Council

Mark Zygadlo, as always, for ongoing support with organising and facilitating Nithraid

Hamish Denerley for lead commentary during our livestream
Winston Denerley for BSL interpretation and livestream commentary

BattleStations for their technological support and facilitating our livestream

Heather Molloy from PAMIS Scotland and Simon Lidwell of Wordsmith Crafts for their immersive and tactile storytelling and performance of Source to Sea

Dumfries Fountain Project for their creative workshops

TS Beall, in collaboration with the Scottish Showpeople, for the informative and insightful signposting around the history of the suspension bridge

PAMIS for the supply of the ‘Changing Places’ toilet, helping us to provide accessible facilities at Mill Green

Only Foods and Sauces for providing on-site refreshments at Mill Green

Our volunteers for providing help on the day – you’re stars!

Barbour Hall at Glencaple for giving us a dry, warm place to brief and prepare all those involved in the race

Annan Harbour Action Group and their safety boats for ensuring the safety of those involved in the race

Andy Jardine for the beautiful on-site photography at Glencaple and Mill Green

…and last, but definitely not least, a HUGE thank you to all that made the race possible by taking part and those who joined us at Mill Green or tuned in to our livestream. 

It’s safe to say Nithraid’s return this year was a success, and we’re so excited for what’s to come in Nithraid’s future.

From all at The Stove Network, thank you, stay safe and have fun out there!

Until next time.

#Nithraid2021

Categories
Musings

Source to Sea: A Reflection

Post by Nithraid Producer, Sal Cuddihy

Nithraid River Festival has been running as an annual event for the past eight years and I have had the absolute privilege of being the producer for the last five of them.  Last year’s event saw flood, rain and high winds pushing our team to the limit with adapting last minute to still deliver as much of the event as we physically could. After 2019 we thought, “Well, we’re not going to get anything more difficult than that”. Boy, were we wrong.

When the news hit in March that the entire world was under threat from a global pandemic, we were left with complete uncertainty and dread – much like the rest of the world. What is this thing? Are people going to be safe? How long will it last? When did lockdown and furlough become common words that we use in almost every conversation?

It became apparent very quickly to our team that even though the festival was scheduled to be in August, there was a high chance that the event would have either have to be cancelled completely or we were going to have to try and adapt the festival to a digital format – so we decided to flip Nithraid on its head. We looked at the core values of the festival and the reasons why we do it and who do we do it for?


To cut a long story short – we came to the conclusion that we do it to celebrate the River Nith. We celebrate its history and uses, we celebrate its beauty and we use it to inspire our creativity. We use it to teach our children about the wildlife and environment (special mention goes out to Huffy the Heron!) – but most of all we use it to connect with communities. With all of this in mind, we created the Nith inspired ‘Source to Sea’ project, exploring not just Dumfries but the entire River Nith and the communities that it travels through. Throughout lockdown, it was obvious we were on the right path as all over social media people were photographing the river on their daily walks and were appreciating it as they never had before.

Once we had a concept, the challenging part was trying to figure out how we were going to share all of these elements of the river as well as creating and sharing activities for families and children who were finding themselves stuck at home with little to do. We were delighted to have one of our fantastic funders, the Holywood Trust, on board with our reimagined River Festival. The Holywood Trust were a huge support to Nithraid and our entire team throughout the whole project, and we wouldn’t have been able to do this without them – thank you! This scale of online activity was very much new territory but I have the privilege to work with much more tech savvy individuals than myself and we were able to come together to figure out how to present our festival online. I think as it stands, we are now in Version 652 of the project as it turns out there was more than one problem that arose on a very regular basis. I give them all my love and respect for not running away at Version 150 (I will do the embarrassing shout out at the end!)

As we come to the end of our journey, we’ll be pulling all over the research together and sharing it with you in a beautifully designed map, created for us by local artists and graphic designer, Jamie Stryker. This map is the culmination of everyone’s incredibly hard work over the past 6 months. We’ll also be sharing Hugh McMillan’s lovely Source to Sea poem, where he has a dedicated verse for each area that we explored.

One of the hardest things about the lockdown was the difficulty in being able to research and that we were unable to reach out communities and go out and explore. But now we have information, footage and stories about the River Nith that you can use to learn about these communities yourself. I hope the project does what we set out to do and celebrates the river that connects us and brought so many people a sense of calm in amongst the chaos.

Big shout out time!

And a special thanks to Derry and Greg from BattleStations who trekked through the Carsphairn hills with  a lot of kit to try and find footage of the source of the Nith – which turns out wasn’t where I told them, sorry! You got the shot though!

All of those that took the time to chat to us as we were researching the content. One of my favourite moments was when Bob Clements told us the story of the Thornhill’s Rock Festival on the back of a lorry that was plugged into a house!

Finally, a massive thank you to the team that has held this all together. You have done so much more than these basic titles I have written but I have rambled enough and don’t want you thinking I have gone soft.

  • Rob Henderson – web design and master of tech-like witchcraft
  • Kirstin McEwan – marketing and social media queen that makes this stuff look easy!! It’s not!
  • Ruaridh Thi- Smith – project support and all round support to my sanity.
  • Liam Morrison- Gale – community lead & ultimate research Jedi Master
  • Jamie Stryker – Graphic designer and hero that makes the best maps in the whole wide world!
  • Martin O’Neil – Programmer, Word Wizard and keeper of the creativity.
  • Graham Rooney –  Stove Project manager and dude that keeps every single one of us from spontaneous combustion.

Thank you all! All the best,

Sal Cuddihy
Nithraid Producer

Categories
News

Nithraid 2019

2019 Nithraid will definitely be a year to remember for us at The Stove. After months of planning and a huge amount of hard work by our fabulous Nithraid team, the decision to pull our annual River Festival had to be made the day before the main event to keep everyone safe in the face of terrible weather, and a complete deluge of rain. However, we are SO grateful for everyone who arrived to pitch in and lend a hand for an unbelievable turn around.

We were able to bring elements of the festival into the town centre, including workshops with Creative Futures, Freelance Ranger, Battlestations and the Dumfries American Hunters Football Team. The Salty Coo Procession roamed the streets of Dumfries town centre and was led by Blueprint100.

In the 3 months leading up to this year’s Nithraid, the Blueprint100 team worked with various local community groups and organisations to create banners and flags to used in the procession celebrating the people of Dumfries with their ‘powerful communities’ theme.

The live music took place in the Stove Cafe with fantastic performances from Freya Cloy, Ra, Eddie and Isla of Tiderays, Corrie Russell and Kate Kyle. Nithlight provided a beautiful close to the day on the Mill Green once the river had died down.The Friday evening provided a night to remember too0 – with an amazing array of local performers turning out to participate in the Big Nithraid Warm-Up Brave New Words, followed by a ceilidh from Reidhle which had every person in the room up dancing all night long.

This would not have been possible without so much hard work – thank you to everyone over the weekend who was able to lend a hand, and who came along to our event regardless – to all those in the procession, and who took part in the events, who re-arranged workshops and pitches to join us on the High Street – thank you!

There was a lovely atmosphere, and the sun even made a few brief appearances.Thank you to everyone for their support during Nithraid –  it has been a joyful and affirming reminder of why we all put the hours in to make these events happen – even in the face of very challenging conditions.

Categories
Musings

The Salty Coo Procession 2019

From Jordan Chisholm

“Wow! Nithraid 2019, you really were something else. I can’t quite believe I have to let go of you now; your procession has taken up many of my daily thoughts over the past few months.

This year you were unique, a little bit of a chancer, very salty and many of us learnt something new from you whilst asking important questions along the way.

I began to conceive the idea of the Nithraid 2019 procession when I was feeling inspired by what it means to “belong” alongside the want to work with different communities. I hoped for the procession to become a celebration of what Dumfries and Galloway has to offer, whilst creating a space for people to meet and connect with those they haven’t before. It is easy to believe that nothing ever happens here and question what there is to celebrate – but I believe that together we can do so much, so let’s try it.

Throughout June to the end of August, with support from the Blueprint100 team and The Stove Network, we contacted over 100 community groups from Dumfries and Galloway (yes, there really are that many!) encouraging them to make a banner in celebration of who they are, with a hope that they would then walk in our procession and become a part of the day. We had great fun throughout these workshops, and although challenged by the summer holidays, we met many new faces, conversed with people of all ages, heard many fascinating stories and connected with one another in a way that we wouldn’t have been able to before, whilst spreading the word about Nithraid and our Salty Coo.

“Pagan” means belonging or relating to a modern religion that includes beliefs and activities that are not from any of the main religions of the world (for example, the worship of nature). When I discovered this, I was keen to take this idea in to the procession. Imagine what the worship of community could look like. Imagine community as a religion. One which owns its own magic and is inclusive of all. I began to think more about where our beliefs come from, what Dumfries’ beliefs are, rituals and blessings; that is where much of the vision came from.With salt at the heart of this year’s overall Nithraid theme, it felt right to use this material as the source of action for the performers in the procession. Salt has many attributes, including being used for healing and sanctuary. Together, we spread salt throughout the high street in an offering of protection and safety for all our communities. Worshiping the place many of us call home. The 2019 Nithraid procession became a subtle disruption to a normal Saturday morning in Dumfries Town Centre. One which made people look twice as they walked on by. A moving image, a ritual, a blessing, a memory, an ephemeral moment, a discovery, many hearts and one community.

This experience was a huge collaboration from the very beginning to the very end and could not have been made possible without all those involved, including community groups, The Stove Network team, performers, musicians, costume designers, make-up artists, Salty Coo carriers and volunteers. I will never forget it.

Community is about doing something together, that makes belonging matter. We are community.

Here is the salt and here is the coo, let the river have its due,

Here is the salt and here is the coo, let the river have its due,

Here is the salt and here is the coo, let the river have its due.”

Jordan Chisholm is an artist and a current member of the blueprint100 curatorial team.

Categories
Musings

Nithlight by Night, a Reflection

By Philip Mairs

With the theme of this years Nithraid festival being salt and ritual – including salt’s local, historical and mythical uses – we thought of a way to combine all three of these things into something that could form the basis of Nithlight.

Nithlight 2019

Upon finding out about the Celtic connection to the history of salt in the South-West Scotland region, we thought about using vibrational acoustic-phenomena to create patterns in the element of salt. A lot of these patterns appear surprisingly Celtic. For the Celts, the Earth and its elements, including all water and salt, were sacred.This idea was made possible by using a vibrating metal ‘Chladni’ plate, so called because following the pioneering experiments of Robert Hooke in the 1600s, it is the German physicist Ernst Chladni’s name that became most associated with these figures.

We set about filming the patterns emerging on our own plate, with the intention of beaming the projection over a maze of ship masts.

The ship masts were to replicate an old galleon ship, used for trading in the 1700’s. We then began to extend this narrative out by introducing reworked old seaman’s recipes and orientating our soundscape around water, grainy sounds and symmetrical patterning. We also wanted to give context to the projected video, and so thought that having the source for the images on site in an ‘obelisk’ type structure that people could sing into in order to create patterns themselves would be compelling; creating an immediate connection between creation and content.

Despite it looking like the event might have to be called off due to the Scottish summer in full flow, the event went ahead as planned. The ship sculpture provided an intriguing backdrop to people (and the occasional animal) singing and howling into the microphone, often watching patterns emerging as they would do so.

The feeling of old seafaring was enhanced by the provision of the some of the only kinds of food and drink that would last on voyages- in this case those being hard, salty biscuits; along with homemade ginger beer.

We also enjoyed the workshop we hosted earlier on in the day, where we were able to give people an up-close experience of Cymatics, from one of its original methods- bowing of metal plates with a violin bow; to one of its more recent related developments of the plate being driven by a loudspeaker. ___

Nithlight was a commission as part of Nithraid 2019, led by artists Emily Tough and Philip Mairs. The commission was supported by The Holywood Trust.

All image credits: Jamie Thomson, see his Facebook page here for details.

Nithraid 2019

The tide is high and Nithraid is back! ⛵️ Taking place on Saturday 31st August, 2019 from 12noon until 4pm. Nithraid is FREE to attend and take part!

Nithraid is a community-led River Festival beside and on Dumfries’ River Nith. This years event starts off with a race for sailing, coastal rowing and other craft – each racing up river on the highest tide of the year, and finishing over the line below the caul in the centre of Dumfries. The Salty Coo parades through the town centre as part of our procession and awaits the arrival of the boats from the centre of the river Nith.

On the Mill Green we have a jam-packed day of family fun with the Nithraid village, including:
📌 Live Music
📌 Food stalls
📌 Creative Workshops
📌 Family friendly activities for all ages!

For the third year, we will be hosting Nithraid Nighttime from 7pm – this year many of the pubs in the town are getting involved and presenting an amazing array of local musical talent. Whilst you are wandering between gigs, also visit a specially commissioned light installation called ‘Nithlight’. The installation takes place on the Mill Green and the River Nith to be experienced from a distance and close up during the hours of darkness.

Interested in taking part in this years sailing or coastal rowing races? Download the race form and details from our website: www.thestove.org/nithraid or email nithraid@thestove.org.