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Dumfries’ first Sign & Dine at The Stove!

A fortnightly drop-in for the signing community to gather will be launched this week at The Stove!  The region’s first ‘Sign & Dine’ has been organised in association with the signing community and is a fortnightly drop-in in the cafe which is open to all to meet with one another, grab a coffee or just find out more about signing!
The initiative aims to engage both the hearing and deaf communities in signing and is the first regular event in what is hoped to be many more catering for the signing and deaf communities in the region.
Organiser and activist Eileen Cassells, who is an active and prominent member within the signing community has created this event as a welcoming place to come, whatever your level of sign language skills. It’s a universal language that can be used around the world. She is hoping to bridge the gap between the “hearing” and the “deaf” worlds, making it just “our” world. The event will allow the deaf to be heard and bring the whole community together, so you can “talk” to your deaf neighbour, friend, family member, or even that stranger you see every day.
We are delighted to be supporting such a great project and hope this grows similar initiatives across the region to engage the signing communities, both deaf and hearing. We want to be open to everyone in our community and encourage those learning or curious to pop in!
The first Sign & Dine is on the 16th of November at the Stove Café from 1pm followed by a launch reception at 7pm on the 16th featuring talks, refreshments and a chance to learn more about the project.


Latvia at 100 Evening Reception

A travelling exhibition has stopped off in Dumfries, offering the public the opportunity to find out more about the fascinating story of Latvia as a European nation since its becoming independent 100 years ago. The project is part of Latvia’s Centenary celebration culture programme and has been created in cooperation with the Latvian National Library, with the participation of Honorary Consuls of Latvia and various organizations in the United Kingdom. Its goal is to create a dialogue about the differences in what each of us perceive as the true history through historical cartoons. 

The exhibition presents a selection of political cartoons from the Latvian press, covering the entire 20th century right up to the present day. This chronicle of Latvia’s history also features historical events with international resonance: World War I, the interwar period, the Great Depression, World War II, the periods of occupation and related restrictions on freedom of expression, as well as the European Union and other contemporary political-economic subjects. 

The exhibition opened on Wednesday 5th September, with Deputy Head of Mission to the UK Katarina Plâtere official opening the evening alongside Dumfries Provost Tracey Little. An evening of Latvian food and drink followed.

We would like to say a huge thank you to Katarina for travelling to Dumfries, and a special thanks to Sanita Lapkase for organising the exhibition and bringing it to Dumfries. It was a wonderful evening enjoyed by all! If you missed out then don’t worry – the exhibition will be on display in the Stove cafe until Thursday 13th September.


June Gigs: In Photos

This month at the Stove, we were very lucky to have not one but two DMC:Presents gigs in our Cafe Space! Photographer Kirstin McEwan was there to capture both evenings.

First up was a double headliner evening of folk style ukulele music from Galloway songstress Zoë Bestel, and Danish virtuoso Tobias Elof. The two ethereal artists performed an intimate gig of beautifully crafted songs, both together and solo to celebrate the launch of Transience, Bestel’s newly released album.

Next up was the amazing Glasgow based band from Castle Douglas ‘VanIves’, who held their first headline show in Dumfries at the Stove on 14th June. The electronic pop duo take influences from artists like Boniver, Matt Corby, Disclosure and SG lewis. They were supported by ‘Flew the Arrow’ – a fast-rising contemporary folk artist from Ayr.


New Openings at The Stove

Image: Kim Ayres

If you have been passing the Stove over the past couple of weeks, you may have noticed Simon Harlow’s team of artists and makers are very much installed on the ground floor making final preparations towards the regular opening of The Stove, from Monday 29th of February.

From the 29th, The Stove will be open Monday to Saturday, 10am – 5pm, including drop-in information point and cafe space on the ground floor. The cafe at the Stove will be run by Angela and Colin Green, who will continue to run their current business, Mrs Green’s up the street. The Stove will offer a place to drop in, meet, exchange and find out about current events and activities as well as a space to enjoy hot drinks, cakes and lunches. We hope that if the cafe is successful that we can extend opening hours to include more evening provision, and the space will also support our evening events – such as Brave New Words and Reel to Real Cinema, which will continue.

Plate designing and food discussion workshop with the Open Jar Collective

The drop-in space will function as a place to visit to find out about the Stove and our upcoming programme, as well as a location for workshops, meetings and small scale activities. More details on this space will be announced online, or drop by from the 29th of February to find out more.

The first floor will continue as our project space, with pop up events, workshops and activity taking place. Find out more about our programme here

The second floor is made up of our own digital suite, workshop, and small offices, currently rented out by the LGBT+ Group, Blueprint100, several local artists and guitar teacher David Bass.

If you would like to find out more about how you can use the stove cafe and drop in space, for projects, ideas or events find out about how to submit ideas to us here

Final tweaks to the new designs for our cafe furniture, being produced in partnership with Maklab
Final tweaks to the new designs for our cafe furniture, being produced in partnership with Maklab

The refurbishment of the Stove cafe and interior is being led and created by Simon Harlow of Silo Design and Build. Based in Glasgow, Simon was selected from our design commission call out, and has led an exciting process exploring how to design a functional and beautiful space, using a range of local materials and skills. More about Simon and his design practice available online here

Silo Design & Build from Make Works on Vimeo.

Would you like to help out with the final works on the interior? We are looking for volunteers to help with furnishing and painting here


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.

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