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We Live With Water


SUBMERGE offered The Stove the chance to imagine a Dumfries of the future…a future that is predicted to be as much as fully twice as wet by the end of this century.

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As we prepared for SUBMERGE our local council unanimously voted for a plan to build a physical structure along the edge of the River Nith in an attempt to hold back the surges in this spate river and prevent the flooding that has been a feature of the town since records began. Hard though we searched, we could not find the longer term vision for the town that the barrier plan fitted into – how did the barrier work towards a future for Dumfries we wondered? The only answer we could fathom was to make a small area of the town more attractive to property developers. The strategy of trying to attract private investment to make the town flourish has been the mantra for the last 20 years – it has not been a success and appears increasingly questionable during the decline 20th Century capitalism which is failing to deliver well-being for the majority of the population in Scotland.


The Stove put out a call for people to join a group who would take an alternative approach and try to imagine a future where increased rainfall, sea-levels and river surges would be seen as an opportunity. We tried to imagine Dumfries as River Town….a place that embraced its environment…a place that Lives With Water.


In this plan the banks of the River Nith are re-wilded as riverbank through the centre of town and these new spaces are joined with existing green spaces adjacent to the river to create a green corridor along the Nith which is used for a combination of food and energy production, leisure, culture and education.


The commercial district of the town centre is constricted and focuses on its traditional function as a market for local producers, a meeting place and a centre of culture/heritage. As the transport hub for the region Dumfries is the place that connects national and international relations to the wider region of South West Scotland.


The area immediately bounding the High Street and Market Square is returned to residential use with urban smallholders and makers taking advantage of the proximity to market for their excess production and bringing vitality to the town centre throughout the day and nights.


This vision was presented in a document called ‘We Live With Water’ which was written from the vantage point of Dumfries in 2065 and included commentaries by local writers looking back from the future.


Richard Arkless MP visited his constituents in Dumfries on Monday 7th December 2015 to inspect the aftermath of the flooding from the previous weekend. He heard rumours of an alternative plan for the town and the river during his visit and collected a copy of We Live With Water to take back to Westminster as a potential way forward for our town.


We Live With Water was coordinated by The Stove Network and included contributions from:

Katie Anderson
Kate Foster
Rita Pacheco
Alyne Jones
David Slater
Mike Bonaventura
Lee McQueen
Matt Baker
Mark Zygadlo
Ivor Gott
Stuart White
Mary Smith
Lauren Soutar
Rhiannon Dewar
Linda Powell
Katharine Wheeler
(and some anonymous writers)

Copies of We Live With Water are downloadable as a PDF

Musings News

Quest 3 at SUBMERGE

“Quest” is an ongoing environmental Quest by artist Jan Hogarth which explores our relationship with environment, land and water. Jan’s working practice grows out of a deep love of the land (in the broadest sense of the word, by land I mean water, trees, animals, mountains etc), an empathy for it and a deep desire to heal it. Jan has been working with Sheila Pollock who is a practitioner in the healing arts for over 30 years. And invites others who love the land to become involved in the environmental Art Quests.


In Celtic tradition healing wells, springs and the sources of rivers were thought to have healing and sacred properties.

“Quest” explores rituals and the truths behind ritual to create and invent new environmental Art rituals that seek to heal the environment. The idea of looking for the source of the Nith came from a local rumour that the Lynors from Dumfries Guid Nychburris took spring water from the source of the Nith and carried it with them when they rode the boundaries of the town. Myself and my friend Sheila who has been working in the healing arts went in search of the source of the Nith which is at Dalmelington in Ayrshire and found an environmental massacre in the form of open cast mines and landfill sites there with no access to the source due to the open cast mine operators. It was shocking how could you heal this river when the source was an example of how we take from the land with no empathy for our own energy consumption? This seemed to be a metaphor for the wider climate change problem. The problem is us and out lack of love for the non human, our lack of reverence for nature, water and the land.


Sheila has worked with Jan on the Quests project and has been looking at the energy of water and its places and exploring how to lift that energy, how to lift the vibration. Having dowsed there is evidence that the vibration was raised in the water she has worked on in Quest 1 and that improvement has remained. The Nith is a huge challenge because of its source in a open cast mine. Sheila and Jan will be talking about this on Thursday evening at the Stove about our work.

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Jan’s install in preparation for SUBMERGE

Quest is a part of SUBMERGE, an exhibition as part of ArtCOP Dumfries, which runs daily from 10-5pm until Saturday, 12th December.

Jan and Sheila will be talking about Quest as part of A Question of Scale, on Thursday 10th December from 6pm.

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