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Beyond Burns

From Dr Gerard Lee McKeever
I was delighted to have the opportunity to run an event at The Stove in Dumfries in February. They are a really exciting arts network who have been a driving force in revitalising Dumfries town centre in recent years, part of a much broader flowering of cultural activity in the region.

Gerry McKeever introsducing 'Beyond Burns' at The Stove
Gerry McKeever introducing ‘Beyond Burns’ at The Stove

 Beyond Burns was an evening of poetry and talks about literary Dumfriesshire & Galloway, past and present – the first event funded by my British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship. It was an opportunity to engage with the local public, aiming to inspire thinking about other literature connected to the region around the time of Robert Burns, as well as more contemporary writing.

Beyond Burns Galina Walls

After an opening talk in which I surveyed some of the early fruits of my research, I was delighted to give the stage over to three local poets: Hugh McMillan, author of many books and pamphlets including Not Actually Being in Dumfries (2015) and McMillan’s Galloway (2016); Liz Niven, widely published in Scots and English and recently the editor of I’m Coming With You (2017); and Stuart A. Paterson, the latest BBC Scotland Poet in Residence, who has a new collection titled Looking South (2017). All three poets gave performances featuring a mix of their own work, other local poetry and reflections on the literary history of the region, with particular stress on issues including place, gender and language.


‘Knowledge Exchange’ and ‘Impact’ in academia have acquired the off-putting quality of all buzzwords. But literary scholars are among those best placed to engage with wider audiences. I’ve been really heartened at the response my project has had from the local community over the past six months. It’s clear that there is a significant wellspring of local knowledge and enthusiasm for eighteenth and nineteenth-century subjects. Through my involvement with the Oxford University Press edition of Burns at Glasgow, I was introduced to some creative ways of tapping into the massive public interest in Burns. Certainly no other D&G writer has his profile, but there is a real appetite for the wider literary-historical landscape here.

Beyond Burns Galina Walls Stuart Paterson
Stuart A Paterson
Beyond Burns Galina Walls
Liz Niven
Beyond Burns Galina Walls
Hugh McMillan

Engaging with three contemporary writers has also been a refreshing way of developing my thinking. Liz, Stuart and Hugh are all poets with a keen interest in the historical, geographical and political issues around living and working in this part of Scotland, with its unique perspective on local, national and global contexts. Further collaborations have already been mentioned – it’s great to reach beyond the traditional confines of scholarly research and participate in what is an optimistic moment in the region’s arts scene.

Beyond Burns Galina Walls

Beyond Burns was well-attended and closed with a Q&A session, before an after-hours writing workshop for keen attendees. The response to the event has been brilliant – I hope that it has helped to stimulate some new conversations about this rich literary history ­– including but also beyond the legacy of Burns.

Credit to Galina Walls for the photos from the evening.


Melting Pot with blueprint100

From Emily Cooper:

‘Open creative space is vital when it comes to fostering and nurturing creative thought and practice but it comes at a premium both in terms of cost and available footage. Studio space for young people can seem a daunting and unobtainable prospect and can be an almost immovable barrier when starting out.

Having a safe and inspirational environment in which young people can freely express themselves without fear of ridicule can be the catalyst that takes an “Artist”, whatever their chosen field, visual, word, music and beyond, from a being a timid foreshadowing of their full potential, to a confident and self-empowered young Artist (this time minus the air quotes).


Throughout my time at Blueprint, I’ve watched as waves of young people reap the benefits of being allowed to take up space, sometimes for the first time in their lives. It makes me incredibly proud to be part of such a project, a project that has helped some young people, uncertain of their paths in life, and more worryingly uncertain of their ability and worth to both pursue careers in the arts independently and also get accepted into prestigious Art Schools.

Artists, by nature, often suffer from crippling crises of confidence. A ready made cure for this can be collaboration, at least in idea and discussion, if not in practice. Meeting with peers and engaging in debate, whether harmonious or discordant, can go on to create sparks which ignite some of the most vibrant and innovative artistic endeavours.


With all these things in mind, following a successful pilot, Blueprint are launching a block of four Melting Pot sessions. Melting Pot is an open studio drop-in running on every Tuesday of March from 5:30pm- 7:30pm. Young people are invited to come and hang out in The Stove Cafe, to work on their own projects and feed off the creative atmosphere.

melting point blueprint100

BNW Big 2nd Birthday

Brave New Words Big Birthday 2

Brave New Words celebrates its second birthday at the Stove on the 29th of September at 7PM with an apocalyptic showcase and open mic of new words spoken and sung. Featuring the launch of a brand new zine entitled Not Safe for Work.


Over the past two years Brave New Words has been a staple event in the town center attracting emerging writers, performers, singer/songwriters, comedians and even magicians It has showcased the biggest names in the spoken word and poetry scene both locally and internationally and continues to run workshops with schools and community groups on creative writing and performance.


Organizer Martin Joseph O’Neill says ‘It’s been an incredible two years, with some amazing talent on show from all ages and backgrounds. I’m looking forward to what the next year has in store.’ This year its celebrating with an all-out ‘end of the world’ theme and inviting the public to perform or attend in what is set to be a night not to be missed.  Entirely free, Brave New Words is held every last Friday of the month at the Stove in Dumfries.


Poems to the Salty Coo

This trio of Nithraid poems are written by local poet Daniel Gillespie. More about Daniel’s work available online via his Facebook page here

Fare thee well
Yon Salty Coo.
Dripping wet 
And freezing noo.
Come young, come old,
Come see it too.
Behold the sight
Of the Salty Coo!
salty coo 2016
Nithraid 2017
Is happening on
The 9th September, we
Hope tae see you at the
River so please remember.
Adore oor famous Salty Coo
In this years procession, getting
Dunked in a Dumfries obsession.
salty coo 2016
Long live
The Salty Coo
And his everlasting 
Viking Moo!

As part of Nithraid 2015, we gathered a collection of Nithraid themed poems from our members and artists, and we have been carrying the tradition on this year. If you would like to contribute one to our growing collection, please get in touch!


Nithraid Poetry 2017

Ridin through oor cobbled toon,
as foretold by song an rune.
Room in yer herd fer everybody,
artist, gardener, or warrior.
Yer milk tae nourish a' o' us,
high street neighbours or aff the bus.
A rogue shines bright as ye descend,
intae the tide while clowns attend.
Salty Coo above everyone,
mooin oor toon intae autumn.
Salty Coo astride yon Nith,
meltin oot o' Viking myth.

By Jimmy Russell.

As part of Nithraid 2015, we gathered a collection of Nithraid themed poems from our members and artists. Jimmy Russell, writer and part of the MooCoo Collective for this years Nithraid procession has contributed the first poem of 2017. If you would like to contribute one to our growing collection, please get in touch!

More about the MooCoo collective’s procession available here

News Project Updates

Brave New Words

Building on the success of Open Mouth during The Stove’s Open House events, we welcome back Sindigo and Eryl Shields, alongside curatorial member Martin O’Neill who are hosting Brave New Words, a day of performance poetry and spoken word at the Stove. Brave New Words is an afternoon of free discussion events, workshops and one to one consultations for the aspiring performance poet, followed in the evening by Dumfries’ first ever poetry Slam, with the winner securing a place in the Scottish Slam Championships in Glasgow!
Whether you’re a seasoned professional or have never done it before we want to hear from you!
There is absolutely no restriction on content.
For full instructions, to take part or for more information send an email to: [email protected]

Detailed below are the times and content of the discussion events and workshops:

2PM – 3PM: Sotirius Frantzanas: Democracy: What does it mean now?

Sotirius shall host a discussion on the meaning of democracy in the 21st Century. How does it relate to the current political landscape and in turn, our personal life? Is there such a thing as a truly democratic society? An open discussion and lecture on the process, philosophy and meaning of democracy in 2015.

Democracy. Ligorano/Reese.

3PM – 4PM: Emily Elver: Personal is Political

Emily Elver is a ground-breaking spoken word performer from Edinburgh who combines the shocking and mysterious with the mundane, disgusting and delightful. There is no subject matter off limits and she deals out laughter and gasps in equal measure. She co-hosts Poetry Circus and is editor of Edinburgh’s newest literary magazine Freak Circus

Emily’s workshop aims to help remove some of the stumbling blocks aspiring writers and new performers have when trying to tell a personal tale. Emily will offer guidance on how to approach personal subjects confidently through discussions and readings of her work, followed by one to one advice and mentoring for the aspiring performance poet.

4PM – 5PM: Rory O’B: Rhyming and Rapping

Rory O’B is a fiercely intelligent rapper and talented musician from Oban. He has played at Kelburn, Audio Soup and The Loch Lomond Boat Party and performs to enthusiastic crowds both as a solo artist and with Ciaran Mac. He is currently part of Volition in Glasgow and runs exciting rap workshops for young people.

Rory O’B’s workshop looks at the origins of Hip-Hop culture, where it’s going and how we can relate it to our lives. Participants will have the chance to write their own rap, get to grips with rhythms, rhyming techniques and patterns with the opportunity to perform what they’ve written to the group.



7PM – Slam Championships

Brace yourselves for Dumfries’ first ever poetry Slam! Expect the controversial, heartfelt, beautiful, disgusting and joyous. Staged in three rounds, the winner will go on to compete in the Scottish Slam Championships in Glasgow.

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