The Stove has always been a responsive and community-led organisation, we care deeply about our team, our membership and the community we serve. The current public health situation with Coronavirus is a serious challenge to all of us and the way we do things as a society. We have decided to take a series of measures which are listed below and would ask everyone to have a read of these and pass on the message to anyone who you think might need to know.
However, thinking about the situation in its entirety, our team’s decision is not to leap in to immediate responses. Rather, we plan to wait, be watchful and listen to those around us and work to support the efforts of the council and other agencies who are taking a lead role in managing the challenges that face us all. The Stove has always been a future-facing and responsive organisation, we will make available all of our capacity, knowledge and experience and look for opportunities for positive action and change for our community.
From today (Monday 16th March), all Stove programming for public events is cancelled until further notice. This means that all events in our calendar that are open to a public audience will not be going ahead. We will be reviewing this policy as official advice and guidance is available as the COVID-19 pandemic develops.
Room Bookings at The Stove
For outside groups using the Stove for their own private room bookings, we will continue to offer this facility for groups. We will be making some detailed changes to the way we use rooms and protocols for hygiene. These details will be made available to individual groups prior to their event.
The Stove Cafe
We are aware of the fast changing situation with regard to cafes and bars. For the time being we will keep the Stove Café open. We’ve discussed this with our staff who feel comfortable and confident. Everybody at the Stove feels that the community function of the café is important to people and that we should offer this facility for as long as possible. We will be keeping a close eye on national guidance and anticipate that the café may have to close in the near future, until then we have reduced the number of tables to allow folk to remain further apart and introduced additional hygiene measures around payment systems etc. The coffee will remain awesome!
In the meantime please stay safe and look after each other – if there is anything that you feel The Stove could be doing or you would like to contribute to our thinking about how to act in the future, please do get in touch.
2019 was an incredible year for us at The Stove – we had the opportunity to work with an amazing host of people and groups, and to share a wide range of events and projects, both in-house and led by other organisations and artists.
Our programme for 2020 is starting to fill up fast and we’re gearing up for another jam-packed year of art, community and creativity at 100 High Street, aiming to encourage, gather, educate and inspire. We thought we’d share a few projects that we’re looking forward to in the coming year – so get those diaries oot!
National Theatre of Scotland: Just Start Here
Next month, we’re delighted to be working with National Theatre of Scotland to bring you a two-day festival of brand new work from a wide range of Scottish artists. ‘Just Start Here’ features bold new work and will take over shop-fronts, working men’s clubs and the streets of Dumfries this February.
Throughout the day, intimate performances and provocative talks will take place in between a bite to eat and time to mull ideas over. The evening will see live music performances, engaging conversation and a chance to experience something unique.
The lineup includes Nic Green, Behavin’, Two Destination Language, Ashanti Sharda, Stuart Macpherson, Emma Dove & Pete Smith, Stewart Laing, Mele Broomes, SUE ZUKI plus much more to be announced! To keep up to date please visit the National Theatre of Scotland Facebook or website by clicking here.
Dumfries Music Conference: The Plaza
Inspired by initiatives set up throughout the country, DMC launched ‘The Plaza’ at their seventh annual conference back in October. The Plaza is a roving music venue, dedicated to the takeover of the under-utilised, the abandoned, the ruinous and the unusual.
The first Plaza took place at Soul Soup on Irish Street, with live performances from Quiche, Megan Airlie, Prussia Snailham and the Lutras, with the second Plaza taking place just before Christmas at the Secret Gallery on Friars Vennel. A special Christmas themed evening with live performances from Kate Kyle, Steven Thomas and Callum Easter.
With plans for a Plaza event every second month, the DMC team are gearing up for a year of scoping out the hidden music venues of Dumfries and providing a platform for bands to showcase their talent in a unique space. Keep up to date with the latest Plaza info on the DMC Facebook here or visit their website by clicking here.
It’s now over two years since the Lowland project began with its first writer-in-residence, Stuart Paterson whose work with the Stove generated a mass of over 500 written postcard responses from poetry, short fiction, illustration and observations of life in a town in the midst of a transition. The project, first conceived as a means by which local people and visitors could contribute to a new contemporary portrait of Dumfries, has now since quietly developed with a core team of emerging writers and theatre-makers, contributing, devising and workshopping in the heart of the High Street. Now, entering into the rehearsal stages for its debut production in late March. For more information on the Lowland project and to find out how you might like to take part please email [email protected]
The Stove Café: Community Table
The Stove Café is the social heart of our network and, following a refurbishment last year, we’re looking forward to an exciting year of events and projects in the café and working with our community on a more regular basis. The Stove Café team are currently putting plans in place for a regular ‘Community Table’ where community groups and organisations can make use of the café space for regular meet ups, discussions or informal gatherings in a comfortable space with a hot drink and delicious food from local producers.
Save the date – Nithraid is back! Dumfries’ annual River Festival returns to the Mill Green on Saturday 22ndAugust to celebrate our beloved River Nith with our community and partners. Nithraid is the biggest event in the Stove calendar, and with our eighth one approaching this year we’re looking at our biggest one yet – including opportunities to work with organisations, artist commissions, local food, live music performances, art installations and so much more!
For Nithraid 2020, we are looking forward to welcoming Dorothy Lawrenson to the team as our poet-in-residence. Dorothy will be researching the River Nith and its role in the life of the local community. The resulting work will be a collection of poems and podcasts, with each one concentrating on a specific aspect of the river.
Make sure you keep up to date with all our Nithraid news over on the Nithraid Facebook page here.
Embers – Igniting Culturally-led Regeneration across Dumfries and Galloway
Last year we had conversations with and gathered information from 21 groups and organisations from across Dumfries and Galloway with additional feedback and input from regional and national support bodies and agencies. We wanted to find out directly from groups and organisations working successfully as part of their communities more about the strengths and challenges of their work and build a picture of effective creative place making in Dumfries and Galloway and its impact for our places.
We are excited to share what has emerged from our consultation work and help build a case for a holistic approach to community focused enterprise and economic wellbeing, with the Embers going live at the end of February.
Eight years ago a group of artists in Dumfries started a conversation. Standing here in 2019’s ‘A Year of Conversation’, this initial spark has grown into 4 separate social enterprises, which between them provide regular employment for more than 40 people and a working partnership between the community, Council and Government towards a new future for our town.
And, what have we have learned? We’ve learned that keeping the conversation going is the single most important thing of all – for conversation is an open space of possibility, it is owned by no-one, rather it is stewarded, nurtured and protected by everyone who takes part. Inclusive Growth is the new mantra of Scottish Politics – it’s a vision of a society and an economy that does not simply value numbers, but rather supports economic activity that benefits communities, places and ALL the people who live there. For this idea to make any sense at all, it needs to be shaped and held in a conversation, one that is rooted at a profoundly local level, a conversation that is open and free to roam without limits imposed by those who wield ‘power’. Rather, the true power must be in the principle of conversation itself.
In 2001, our conversation in Dumfries began with a on open question: ‘What is the purpose of a small market town in 21st Century rural Scotland?’. Dumfries had fallen on hard times, there were in excess of 70 empty shops in the town centre. What is now popularly cried the ‘Death of the High Street’ (big retailers pulling out of High Streets because of online shopping and Out of Town retail parks) was already happening fast. We wondered what creativity and culture could do to help, it wasn’t that we had any answers to the problem that we wished to promote…on the contrary! But, we saw how important the health of the town centre was to the sense of identity within our community. We knew that town centres were places for people to gather to celebrate, to protest, to remember – but what are the mechanisms of interaction between people (commerce, leisure, services etc) that are necessary to maintain a town centre as a place for us all to gather in?? The withdrawal of big national and international concerns from our town centre created a vacuum, but it also presented an incredible opportunity for a new kind of town centre – one founded in an ‘inclusive localism’. We knew that this could only grow from a spirit of conversation which made a space for everyone’s voice to be heard. We have helped steward this conversation for eight years now – asking our question in myriad different ways..town dinner parties, a crowd-sourced Town Charter, a giant chalk drawing in the local square, an annual festival celebrating the role of the river in the town, a 2 year exploration of Dumfries’ relationship with Norway, a monthly open-mic evening for new writing – spoken or sung. We now operate two High Street buildings as ‘can-do places’ or ‘arty community centres’ or ‘alternative town halls’ depending on the flavour of the town conversation as you choose to see it.
This is what could be called ‘Conversational Practice’, but really, it is just a set of shared values about the way to treat people and to operate as a human being. Being in conversation is a useful metaphor that encompasses the three core values of our collective work in Dumfries..which could also be seen as necessary ingredients for a good conversation?:
To work through collaboration (not in isolation)
To take risks
To put people first and consider the emotional landscape of all actions
The Stove Network is taking part in A Year of Conversation in two ways: through the first two weeks of May we are staging an interactive exhibition and series of events to explore ‘Art in Public Space’ which centres around a series of conversations with artists working in public. Then, in June, we are shaping all of our regular programming activity into a ‘Month of Conversation’. Our conversation month will also mark a significant shift in our practice as we move onto a new topic of conversation – the new conversation space that we will help to hold for our town is ‘how we grow our own culture’ and how everyone can give themselves permission to be part of that endeavour.
Pop in for a chat!
Matt Baker is a public artist, since 2011 he has focused on long-term activist strategies for the social, economic and political structures of his home region in South West Scotland. He was one of the founders, and is based with, The Stove Network in the heart of Dumfries town centre. www.thestove.org
By Martin O’Neill, Curatorial Team member and Programme Lead for The Stove Network
‘We have a tiny minority of people calling themselves artists. I am recommending that everyone should be an artist. I am not recommending in a spirit of dilettantism, but as the only prevention of a vast neurosis which will overcome a wholly mechanized and nationalized civilization.’ Herbert Read 1955
permission Dictionary result for permission /pəˈmɪʃ(ə)n/ noun
the action of officially allowing someone to do a particular thing; consent or authorization.
Between 2017 – 18, 100 High Street set out an agenda to become a hub of activity, treading a programme of events, workshops, films, gigs, ‘interruptions’ and discussions. Each, in its own way, opened the door to re-imagining the role of art not only on the High Street, but also aside from the main centres of ‘culture’. Its discussions were more often than not grounded in a sense of movement towards a common goal – and that was to shape a vision hand-in-hand with the community, of a new high street.
There then arrived, through this work, the establishment of the Midsteeple Quarter – with a job to continue envisioning the role of our town centre, alongside the community with a much more considered approach in its creativity, so as to create a consistency in the exchanging culture of ideas between the company, their ideas, agendas and the community.
With the recent community asset transfer of the Baker’s Oven to Dumfries High Street Ltd and the unfortunate news of the private purchase of two buildings within the quarter, despite the community raising over £20,000 in small donations, there came into being something which might be termed a ‘movement’. Finally, a commonality, ignited by something outwith our control, has cemented Dumfries as a community that will not take the continuing deterioration of our High Street for granted, or something that is to be expected. As a young returner to Dumfries, I’d left my hometown with a sense of freedom, untethered to the slow unwinding of power, in the face of an international financial crisis, looking forward instead to a quicker pace. On returning, disillusioned by the mechanisms of culture embedded in much of the central belt, there seemed to be a new momentum in creativity within the town. And since then, a lot has happened.
Now the conversation has changed, because some people have changed – become ignited by the processes of making, by the open exchange of ideas, concerns and angers by freeing themselves from the idea that it was outwith their control – some might call it a revitalisation of local democracy. (Shrugs and slinks back)
Now with this, what’s left to do? By no means is this conversation over. But it’s time to return to something based on the principles, which lead to the formation of the Midsteeple Quarter. What’s to say of the role of artists (in the assumption that everyone is an artist) in the community, regardless of its place. Our High Street is now our blank canvas, our open stage and our studio.
‘What’s stopping you?’
An 85-year-old man recites his poetry for the first time to over seventy people at an open mic. A fourteen-year-old songwriter closes one of the biggest music conferences in Scotland. Thirty people, armed with boiler suits, litter pickers and paint brushes come together on a Sunday afternoon to clean up their High Street. Two local businesswomen decide to start a makers’ market. And a community group decide to turn their local area around by working hand-in-hand to change the perception of their home, for the better.
The word, above all else, is permission.
Each person, at some point, allowed themselves the freedom, through a collage of experiences both positive and negative, formative and reactionary to give themselves the permission to experience, challenge and provoke themselves into action. And thereafter, begin to challenge the structures of bureaucracy and the permissions therein.
And that’s what the Network is.
In 2019 we will challenge not only ourselves, but those around us by providing the opportunities, the experiences and the space for our members to realise their own potential through a considered programme with its feet firmly on the ground.
In our projects we will endeavour to uncover the stories untold, the conversations not yet heard and build the platforms necessary for something new to emerge and by doing so, offer these the permission to be shared, vocalised, staged or exhibited. In this, through the filtration of a process defined in the values enshrined by our community and the principles of a participatory art-form, as yet undefined but still discovering, we will try to unlock each person’s potential.
In 2019 and forward we’re looking into how our projects communicate not only with one another but with activities, events and workshops in and outside of 100 High Street, and thereby build new communities shaped through collective interests, whatever that might be.
Lowland will seek the stories as yet untold – past, present and future.
Dumfries Music Conference will reignite the music venue and raise awareness about women in the industry from across Scotland.
Conversing Building will expand to illuminate conversations around public space, democracy, art and civic responsibility.
Creative Futures will continue to offer the mechanisms of support and creativity for its local community to thrive.
Brave New Words is opening its doors to filmmakers, performance artists and makers of sound and light. Challenging, each month, the world at large with work from local people.
Reel to Real is growing, including nights of good food from our cafe and a programme of international film, highlighting global issues with intimate local relevance.
And 100 High Street will continue to host, produce and collaborate with our local community as well as national companies bringing to life remarkable projects that seek to inspire, provoke, engage and entertain.
There are inevitable dangers in every process and practice, especially those that rely on funding. With each step that the Stove makes in its programming and its wider output, we tread deeper into an undefined land, with unexpected pitfalls, challenges and agendas that require time and sensitivity to fully appreciate and learn from. But if the routes ahead of us were already defined, we would sit in the shadow of an easier road, and in that lose who we are as practitioners with a collective responsibility.
To quote our newly completed Blue Book, a handy guide to our work at the Stove:
‘The Stove is just a part of the conversation happening throughout the world. How can people better take control of the places they live, and by doing that, how can we create a better society for everyone? At the heart of it, the Stove is all about Dumfries. Born from a respect for ourhome town, we believe we can shake things up and begin to reclaim our town as something everybody can be part of. Sure, it’s a big idea and we don’t have all the answers but we’re not ones for sitting back and letting the big decisions happen without us. We believe we can reclaim, inspire and forge big new ideas on community, art,and citizenship alongside our neighbours, communities and partners. We believe that art is a gateway for people to better understand their lives, their sense of place and their rights. By doing this, through our programme and our work with partners, both local, national and international we’re building new careers, challenging the outdated ideas on community and art and making those in power listen. So, be part of the conversation. Drop in for a chat in our cafe, come see a film, perform at Brave New Words, join Blueprint100 and learn new skills or volunteer at Nithraid. There are so many ways to get involved!’
So, what are you going to do?
Come along and find out.
Lauren is a researcher who has been working with the Stove for over a year looking at the Stove as a business and how it interacts with other organisations, the community and its members.
I first came across The Stove three years ago when I was working in a different job, but as soon as I started this research project I knew I wanted to work with them. My supervisors recently asked me why this was, and that made me reflect on what attracted me to working with The Stove.
The first thing I remember about meeting The Stovies was how friendly they were, and their interest in what I was researching. That was a big plus for me. When I asked to research them, they proposed a more collaborative approach. This was right up my street, I wanted to research with them, rather than do research on them.
From the perspective of my topic, this was also interesting. I’m looking at how ‘open’ organisations are to different sources of information. And already The Stove was showing that they were ready to collaborate with researchers. They understood that it would take up their time and were careful to make sure the research was the right fit for them.
Their openness to working with me did not stop there. I was invited to different events, meetings and discussions. While some of the other researchers I know working with other companies were struggling to get information from organisations, I was heading to meet The Stove’s partners, sitting in on team meetings and attending the board away day.
Throughout this time, I built up a rich picture of how The Stove does business, and how it works with partners, the community and its members. While I am still in the middle of getting all my notes and interviews ready to be analysed, I have a few insights into what makes The Stove an interesting business.
The Stove’s Curatorial Team is one of the ways they are unusual. The majority of charities and community groups will have a voluntary board (which The Stove also have) who are in charge of overseeing the organisation, but who also may have a huge impact on the direction of the organisation. The Stove has two levels to set direction, the board and the CT, and at the board away day, both levels came together to generate ideas for the future of The Stove.
In terms of my research, this was interesting and important. The Curatorial Team is made up of practising artists who have strong ties to the community of Dumfries, and they therefore bring in practical experiences and their ideas help shape The Stove.
When looking at how they decide when to work with another organisation, we spent a lot of time talking about the ‘fit’ between The Stove and the possible partner. There isn’t a set of conditions an organisation or person had to meet to work with The Stove. The way people work is important in making this decision. That’s not to say that The Stove expects everyone to do things their way. It looks more like the ethos of the approach that matters. The values embedded in how people work are important to The Stove.
Although I’m two thirds of the way through this research project, I still feel I have so much to learn and that my observations, thinking and ideas will grow. I know one thing for sure, I’m so grateful I was able to work with The Stove and they have supported me with so much throughout the process.
Lauren will be presenting and sharing alongside researcher Lizzie Smith as part of an open discussion on the role of cultural and third sector organisations like The Stove this month. It’s open to all and takes place on Thursday, 21st February.