News Project Updates

Creative Stranraer

Thursday 13th April saw the opening of Creative Stranraer on the corner of George Street and King Street in the centre of the town.

The space is a former shop unit that has been renovated by owner Mr Gillespie to achieve the vision of creatives in the town coordinated by Arts and Engagement Officer Janet Jones.

The opening night was a joyously happy occasion attended by a mixture of people from the creative sector, those involved in regeneration initiatives and the curious/willing.

There were speeches, music from Stacey Joy and family and charcoal drawing with the hub’s first artist-in-residence Jane Fraser.

Creative Stranraer will host artist gatherings, workshops, events, exhibitions and become an HQ for information and exchange on all things creative that are going in in the town.

Creative Stranraer is imagined as a prototype hub that will lead into the much-anticipated redevelopment of the former George Hotel as a new cultural and community space for the town and surrounding area.

The whole Arts and Engagement project is woven into the George redevelopment initiative, to create momentum and organisation in the local creative sector prior to the George opening, it has been managed by Stranraer Development Trust (SDT) with funding from DG Council.

The Stove is commissioned by SDT to support the Arts and Engagement Officer and provide guidance and direction from our experience in Creative Placemaking regionally and nationally.

The Arts and Engagement project began in June 2022 and has been shaped around three strands of activity:

  1. Community Engagement and Co-Creation – Janet has convened a highly successful and ongoing series community gatherings called ‘Vision and Action’ meetings with attendances typically 50+ local folk coming together to share ideas, hear about progress and for local businesses/projects to showcase what they are doing. Janet has also held a number of dedicated creative meetings for different groups within the cultural and creative sector locally.
  2. Public Art Projects – to date the most highly visible public art project has been the mural on the Creative Stranraer hub building by artist Tragic O’Hara. Tragic has also undertaken workshops with local groups of young people and is now working with the Stair Park Skate Park group. Another public art initiative is the photo and poetry wall next to Gateway to Galloway at the harbour. In the pipeline is a planned Street Art festival for 2024 and numerous other small-scale projects bringing together local creative practitioners in partnership with businesses and community groups.
  3. The Creative Hub – now open at the top of King Street!

All of the above activity is designed around the principle of the creative sector taking a lead in the regeneration of Stranraer by injecting some energy, vibrancy, sound and colour into the town and in the process inspiring and bringing people together and also creating opportunities for people to express their own creativity and support people to embark on creative careers in the local area.

The Arts and Engagement project has also been working in alongside the creation of the ‘community place plan’ for the town.

Musings News Project Updates

Oh, What a Harvest!

Looking back at the Unexpected Garden’s community event

Image – Matt Baker

On Saturday 10th September, Harvest Festival was held in the Unexpected Garden, Stranraer’s newest outdoor community space.

A day full of music, performances, workshops and creativity, Harvest was an opportunity to bring the community together, celebrate and take a moment to reflect on the journey the Unexpected Garden Team, its supporters and volunteers had taken to transform a previously unused area of land on the waterfront of Stranraer’s ionic harbour into a community garden filled with flowers, edible pants and spaces to relax.

Six months ago the Unexpected Garden team stepped foot on what was an inconspicuous patch of green space, used regularly by dog walkers. With a lot of planning, digging, laughter and fun, they managed to turn the space into a little oasis in Stranraer. 

Image – Matt Baker

After many weeks of hard work, this oasis, the Unexpected Garden, was in full glorious bloom and ready to welcome the town for an afternoon of family-friendly fun. Harvest was a sea of colour and life – attracting not only the locals but also an influx of bees and other pollinators enjoying the flowers in the garden. An array of fabulous performers animated the garden with their lively, off beat shows and musicians provided the soundtrack to a fantastic day.

Harvest Festival and The Unexpected Garden are part of a national project called Dandelion; Scotland’s contribution to Unboxed, a year long UK wide festival of creativity which aims to develop our understanding of where food comes from, down to the basic principles of ‘growing your own’. The team in Stranraer are part of a cohort of 13 garden teams who have all been using art and creativity to share the message of ‘sow, grow, share’.

Harvest was a culmination of the event series that ran over the summer and was a really important opportunity to bring more people than ever into the garden. The festival day was really special, with an abundance of smiling faces enjoying the space, food and entertainment which included; a dedicated kids corner with creative workshops and activities like, scarecrow making competitions, magic shows and musical instrument making, plus musical performances throughout the day with sets from: Paragon, Drum for Fun, Dandelion Musician in residence, Bell Lungs and Kissing the Flint, and interactive performances from the Bippity characters and gardener, Hugh Bushey Babcock and his psychic leek, Leia.

Image – Gregor Anderson

Of the Harvest Festival, Beth Piggott, Creative Producer of the Garden said:

“One of the highlights of the day was our delivery of the community meal. Over the past few months we have worked with Simon Preston and the Fed-Up Cafe to create a menu for the town that could be served at the festival. After collecting stories from people across the town, we devised a menu that reflected the people and the traditions: sweet potato and chilli soup to represent the warmth in the community; beef stew with nice leafy greens in tribute to the beef farming and livestock which is ever present on the local green landscape, a vegan boxty represented links to Ireland and our victoria plum cake commemorated the lives of those lost when the MV Princess Victoria Ferry sank in 1953.”

On the day the garden also hosted a produce swap which was a big success and the team were delighted to be able to give away a selection of vegetables grown in the garden and invited others to bring their own to the table. 

Image – Gregor Anderson

The garden is a shining example of the possibilities that regeneration has to offer at a time when lots of exciting conversations are taking place about what could be next for Stranraer. It’s wonderful to think that the unexpected garden is one of the many new building blocks of change in the town, supporting innovation and creativity locally. 

Supported by so many local and national businesses and organisations including; Ulsterbus, Burns Real Ale, Dumfries & Galloway Council, Incredible Edibles, Stranraer Academy, and Soleburn Garden Centre, the Unexpected Garden Stranraer also captured the imagination of both Caledonian MacBrayne and The Northern Lighthouse Board who both donated large scale props in the form of a decommissioned lifeboat and two sea buoys respectively.

Of the donations, Mike Bullock, Chief Executive of the Northern Lighthouse Board said:

“It’s an honour for our decommissioned buoys to be part of the Stranraer Unexpected Garden Project. The buoys served at sea for many years helping keep mariners safe and had reached the end of their operational life.  We are therefore delighted that they have found another role being reused as part of this innovative project where they can be enjoyed by the local community and act as a symbol of Scotland’s rich maritime heritage.”

Still glowing in the aftermath of the festival, which put smiles on so many faces, the UNexpected garden team are still working to realise a vision for the future of the garden. Right now, they’re focus is to keep the garden alive, and who knows there may be many more Harvests to come! 

If you’re interested in getting involved with the garden feel free to drop me an email on [email protected] 


Artist Commission

(This Opportunity is Now Closed)

An Opportunity to Transform a Prominent Town Centre Location in Stranraer

About The Commission:

As a precursor to a Stranraer Street Art Festival (planned for summer 2023), our friends at Stranraer Development Trust are on the hunt for Contemporary Street Artist to undertake a commission to paint the first major wall painting in the town.

The commission forms part of ‘The Creating Stranraer Project’. The work will be positioned in a prominent town centre location, on the same building that will be home to a creative hub for the arts in the town.

This commission forms a part of the early stages of significant investment in culture as a catalyst for change in the town, and creative people will play major role in this change.

Currently a community engagement exercise is underway in Stranraer for local people to choose a contemporary / historical / fictional / real character who the community hopes will be someone who will inspire a new future of the town.

The commissioned artist will be asked to create a design for the wall that interprets the chosen inspirational character.

Elements of the commission:

  • Develop a design for the wall piece
  • Devise and lead two hands-on street art workshops (one with Secondary School pupils and one with FE College students)
  • Give an artists talk for local artists
  • Paint your design on the gable wall

(Workshops and talks will be coordinated by Stranraer’s Arts and Engagement Officer. Budget for access requirements for wall painting will be provided by the commissioner in addition to artist fee.)

Artist Fee: £3000

The fee is inclusive of VAT (where applicable), travel / accommodation and materials for the wall painting.

(NB preparation of the wall surface will be covered by the commissioner and spec agreed with the selected artist).

Time Frame: work to be complete by end 2022


Stranraer is at a very interesting point in its history – it is somewhere that has re-invented itself several times in the past as industries (eg herring fishing) have changed.

10 years ago the ferry service to Northern Ireland moved from Stranraer and a question mark has hung over the place since – what would the next version of the town be? Stranraer is the regional centre for one of the most beautiful and remote areas of Scotland, a place with a rich history through its connections to Ireland, NW England and Wales.

This commission is part of the series of significant arts projects in Stranraer (eg Dandelion ‘Unexpected Garden’‘What We Do Now’ and ‘Creating Stranraer’) – these projects are supporting a larger regeneration initiative for the town that places arts and creativity at the heart of a future Stranraer and includes the wholesale redevelopment of the former George Hotel as a Community/Cultural Centre.

How to Apply

Please send the following by email to Janet Jones at

[email protected]

  • Letter of interest – stating why you are interested in this project and think you are the right person for the commission. We are interested in hearing about what you are interested in and what motivates you. Tell us about how you might go about getting to know Stranraer and develop your ideas for the project, any relevant work you have done in the past and what you learned from that.
  • Up to five examples of relevant recent work – in any format (weblinks etc), if you are sending files by email, please keep these under 10MB.
  • The names of two referees who can vouch for you and your work (we will not contact anyone until we have offered you the commission)

We are open to submissions in any format  (eg. video, audio file etc for letter) – please contact us via the email address above to arrange an informal chat about the project and/or discuss any access need you have in order to apply.

Deadline for applications is midnight Sunday 18th September 22

It’s important that our people reflect and represent the diversity of the communities and audiences we serve. We welcome and value differences, so when we say we’re for everyone, we want everyone to be welcome in our teams too. Wherever you’re from, and whatever your background, we want to hear from you.

We will accept applications from anyone and everyone who feels they have the skills required to fulfil this role.

This project is supported by:


Garden Consultant

About the Role

We’re on the hunt for a resident gardening expert to join our team. This is a fantastic opportunity to work with the Unexpected Garden – Stranraer production team to deliver a new community garden in the heart of historic town of Stranraer in the Southwest Scotland.

The Unexpected Garden – Stranraer is part of Dandelion, a national community food growing initiative that is taking place across Scotland. It is part of the UK wide UnBoxed Festival; a celebration of in 2022.

Find out more about Dandelion here.

Title: The Unexpected Gardener – Garden Consultant

Location: Stranraer, Harbour Street, DG9 7RD. What3Words code: armrests.farms.lilac

Client: Stranraer Development Trust

Hourly Rate: £25 (freelance)

(We are looking for a commitment of approximately 3 hours per week, which will extend to 6 hours per week as we approach the Harvest Festival in September 2022)

Type: Hybrid – working from home and support on site in the Unexpected Garden – Stranraer. 

Start: 4th July – or nearest possible date

Ends: 31st October

About You

Providing specialist support and advice for the team working on the garden, you’ll be knowledgeable about plants and growing (mostly edible plants). The garden is situated on the waterfront of Stranraer’s famous harbour and as a coastal garden is prone to strong winds from all directions so we’re looking for someone who can oversee the planting of the Unexpected Garden with knowledge of coastal gardening.

You will join us with an already established broad and deep knowledge of horticulture, gardens, and plants, gained by proven and extensive experience as a Head Gardener, Garden Manager or Horticultural specialist or from previous work on community gardens.

You will be up to date with the latest trends and developments in sustainability, which will help us achieve our ambitious sustainability policy.

What You’ll be Doing

You’ll work with our team of volunteers to ensure they are equipped to care for the garden to ensure it can be enjoyed by many people. You will be working as part of a team and have a passion for sharing your knowledge and enthusing those who you meet.

You’ll work collaboratively with the production team to plan a schedule of work to be carried out, based on the needs of the garden.

The garden will be a place for members of the community to come and have a go at gardening, we will be looking to attract people who are new to gardening as well as experienced gardeners and so making sure the space is inclusive and accessible is one of our main aims.

How to Apply

If you would like to discuss this role further, please get in touch with a letter or video expressing your interest in the role we can have a chat

Please send your application to [email protected]

It’s important that our people reflect and represent the diversity of the communities and audiences we serve. We welcome and value difference, so when we say we’re for everyone, we want everyone to be welcome in our teams too. Wherever you’re from, and whatever your background, we want to hear from you.

We will accept applications from anyone and everyone who feels they have the skills required to fulfil this role.

News Project Updates

What is Dandelion All About?

By Beth Piggitt

Beth Piggott – Emerging Creative Producer

Dandelion is a national creative community food growing initiative that is coming to Stranraer.  It is part of the UK wide UnBoxed Festival; a UK wide celebration of creativity taking place in 2022.  A new community garden, known as an Unexpected Garden, will be created on the harbour that brings together food, culture, ideas, and technology driven by the concept of sow, grow and share.  There will be 12 unexpected gardens across Scotland including floating gardens in Falkirk and touring garden on the back of an HGV lorry in Caithness. At the heart of the project, we want to reconnect people with the food they eat, how it’s grown and show them that in the unlikeliest of places food can be grown. There will be a summer events programme which will culminate in a harvest festival in September – with the aim of re-establishing it as a cultural festival for the town.

Why we’re doing it?

Dandelion is committed to empowering young people, inspiring the creative sector and offers new opportunities for the Stranraer community – which is why we’re taking part. Working in partnership, Stranraer Development Trust and The Stove Network are proud to be part of this new initiative that’s going to get hundreds of people growing their own food across Scotland, with over 400 schools taking part and a new archive or stories about growing, gardening and the unique history and memories of the town and local traditions.

What have we planned?

Our Unexpected Garden will be a hive of activity over the summer with a range of volunteer opportunities, events, workshops, and our take on the Harvest Festival. The garden will be a fantastic opportunity for people to come and learn the basics of food growing, try their hand at gardening and become part of a vibrant community; we are looking forward to welcoming new and experienced gardeners (I include myself in the latter).

People will be able to attend our free events and workshop programme over the summer which will encompass talks, music, crafting, music, and art, as well as veggie and herb plug giveaways and vertical farms on tour. Find out more about our programme of events on our Facebook Page.

Process up until now?

Over the course of the past few months, I’ve enjoyed having the opportunity to chat with members of the community to hear what they want to get from the garden and the types of activities they’d like to see there. The garden will be a community project that will continue to evolve over the summer, and I am looking forward to watching it grow as more people visit the garden and leave their mark on it.

Part of my own personal process has involved moving up to Scotland from a small town in Leicestershire and coordinating the build of a new community garden; two things I never imagined happening in my wildest dreams; a comforting reminder that you never know what’s around the corner. I’m sure the garden will continue to remind me of that.

We’ve been lucky to have the support of Northern Lighthouse Board and CalMac who are donating old nautical items including a 27ft lifeboat and 2 big colourful ocean buoys to the garden to help us create a garden fit for a seafarer. Burns Real Ale and Dumfries & Galloway Council have kindly allowed us the space to bring the project to Stranraer and Ulsterbus, who will be providing access to water for the garden have also kindly housed 25 tonnes of soil & mulch.

Find out more about Unboxed & Dandelion

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