Categories
Musings News

2021: The Stove at 10 Years

2021: The Stove at 10 Years

Looking back, looking forward

 

‘For me, the question of democracy also opens up the question of what does it mean to be truly human. And it seems to me that we need to recognize that to develop the best humanity, the best spirit, the best community, there needs to be discipline, practices of exploring. How do you do that? How do we work together? How do we talk together in ways that will open up our best capacities and our best gifts?’ (Vincent Harding)

Our first foot into the New Year might seem like little has changed. With a new spike rolling in with the first snowfall of January, a third lockdown begins. And as we huddle further into our little worlds the news cycle spins and bounces off the walls with the discovery of a vaccine. And for now, we carry on.

2021 marks ten years of the Stove’s work. And we’re immensely proud of what’s been achieved in that time; from festivals and events to community buy-outs and river races. Together with our community, we’ve shaped a new vision not only for the arts but also for the vital role that communities and creativity play in the shaping of our town.

This year, we’re focused on sharing and learning together again so that we can build and support new and ambitious ideas from the voices hitherto unheard across the region.

As of December, the Stove has been focused on building a programme of new projects that will allow us to delve deeper into connecting communities, ideas and creativity together. We want to build new connections, routes and opportunities for learning across our membership and wider region.

This year we want to discover new voices, train and support new ideas as well as deepen our relationship to the places beyond the town center. We will do this by:

  • Creating new spaces for people to learn, share and take part in conversations to map the future of our region.
  • Continuing to explore and promote bold and innovative projects that connect people in a time of social isolation.
  • Finding the new stories and storytellers to help us navigate a world spinning further out of reach.
  • Focusing on localism and power by providing the tools necessary for communities to realise and shape their identities and futures.

Our programme will stretch across sharing skills in digital communication to help communities and artists reach further and more meaningfully to people, regional projects to support bold ideas concerned with community ownership and place-making and a responsive series of events and conversations open to all.

We are committed to exploring, developing and sharing how we work with other places and people and to continue the conversation online through our new podcast channel and other outlets.

Throughout January the Stove will be planning and organizing for the year ahead, so we encourage you to keep an eye on our website and social media for announcements, job opportunities and activity.

We’d like to once again thank our membership and community who have helped to shape our ideas for the year ahead by taking part in our projects, events, consultations and conversations throughout 2020.

And to celebrate ten years of the Stove we’ll be sharing the stories of those who have come through our doors, sharing their favourite memories as well as finding out what lies next for us over the next 10 years.

Whilst the road ahead looks rough, we’re hopeful our work will cement a new vision of community and creativity that seeks to support a fairer society for all. We can’t wait to see what comes of it.

Categories
Opportunities

OPPORTUNITY: Artist/Maker Commission – Symbol of Community Support

Artist/Maker Commission – Symbol of Community Support

Midsteeple Quarter is a community-led project to breathe new life into the centre of Dumfries. The Stove Network is working in partnership with Midsteeple Quarter  to commission an artist/maker to create an innovative and changing artwork that demonstrates the support of local groups, businesses and individuals for the Midsteeple Quarter project. The artwork will be sited in the window of ‘The Smithy’ – one of the community owned shops on Dumfries High Street. As the project develops the artwork must adapt to incorporate the names of sponsors as they get involved.

In the first instance, the artwork will form part of a Crowdfunder campaign that will raise money to purchase more buildings for the community; but, the intention is for the artwork to have a life beyond this first campaign and become an enduring symbol of community support for Midsteeple Quarter.

The commission is open to artists and makers working in any medium. The developing nature of the work must be practical and achievable without additional expertise or expense. The total budget for the commission is £1000 inclusive of all fees, materials, expenses and VAT.

To apply please submit the following:

·      A sketch design of your idea

·      Images of up to three relevant examples of your recent work

This is a short turnaround project; applications must be received by 5pm Friday 15th January. The Commission will be awarded on Monday 18th January and the artwork will be in place in by 5th February.

If you would like to discuss the opportunity please contact Scott Mackay on [email protected]

Categories
Musings News Projects

Dark Time: An Update

We’ve reached the end of our annual Stove Dark Time, following three weeks of conversations, discussions and reflecting on the past year. A key focus of this year’s Dark Time was incorporating into our plans for next year the feedback from our Community & Membership Survey. This survey helped us to learn more about our membership and what we mean to our wider community so that we can continue to consider better ways of working together. We received incredibly thoughtful and rich responses, which have laid the foundations for our team discussions during Dark Time. These will feed into our plans for next year in order help us make more informed decisions for the future of The Stove, Dumfries and the wider region. Although so much is still in the planning stage, here is an update on key areas we are exploring and developing:

 

  • We are looking at how our core team can be re-structured to support a deeper culture of opportunities for our membership to be involved in the direction of The Stove and, in particular, how the Curatorial Team model will evolve to achieve this.

 

  • We are reflecting on our commissioning process, the types of opportunities we support, the language we use to communicate opportunities and our processes for selection. We also want to explore ways in which we can open up our interview process and make it more accessible.

 

  • We want to increase the opportunity for interaction between members by creating spaces for our members to mingle such as networking days, coffee mornings, workshops and in general, more occasions for members to come and bounce ideas off the Stove team and each other.

 

  • We want to be ambitious in our programming and are exploring how we can remain responsive and targeted in an ever-changing environment. In particular we are continuing to look at The Stove’s regional focus, which was a core theme of membership responses to the survey. This work was already on-going with the Embers work, but is an even sharper focus for The Stove now.

 

  • We are deep in conversation about The Stove’s role as a learning organisation and are committed to exploring how this might work. We know already that we want to help increase opportunities for skills sharing and up-skilling across the region as well as to explore how members can learn from each other and will be taking this forward into next year and beyond.

 

While we are still in the early stages for much of what is mentioned above, we have already achieved a great deal through discussion and planning over the previous few weeks and are excited to build on this and see how a shared vision can be implemented. Dark Time has also helped us to touch base, reacquaint ourselves with our core values and place our members at the heart of what we do. We will keep members updated on progress on this through news updates on the website, members emails, the next AGM and specific events as appropriate. Your input into The Community & Membership Consultation was pivotal to this success and thank you again for taking the time to provide your thoughts.

Categories
News Opportunities Projects

Beauty in the Broken: Call Out for Community Gardeners

As part of Atlas Pandemica, local artist Peter Smith is seeking local people to become ‘gardeners’ in the town.

‘Beauty in the Broken’ is a project which has been commissioned by The Stove as part of ‘Atlas Pandemica: Maps to a Kinder World’, which uses creative ways to chart the changes that have happened around us recently and to try and navigate the way forward into a more hopeful and shared future.

Peter Smith is a Dumfries based artist who works in fields of interactive art and wood-based sculpture and design.

 

Peter has created a series of Zen Gardens that will be placed around the town and is looking for a people to volunteer to tend the gardens over the three weeks they are in situ.

The project looks at the way in which Covid-19 may have broken us, but there is always an opportunity to repair in a new, beautiful way. We don’t try to hide these breaks and damage, but we repair our town and community – creating something unique and powerfully beautiful.

Peter sees this project as a social ‘Kintsugi’ – a method of repairing broken things in a way that embraces flaws and imperfections – worked out through the mindful practice of rock gardens.

The gardeners will regularly tend a set of sand and rock gardens throughout Dumfries every morning for 10-20 minutes. Rocks are placed on the field of sand and rakes are used to mark patterns and shapes into the sand. They will then be left for the day and a new design created the following day.

This opportunity is open to anyone – you do not need to have any gardening experience or experience in the creative industries. The gardens will go live over a 3-week period, from 18th January to 7th February 2021. The only requirement is availability every morning for 10-20 minutes during the 3-week period and to be able to carry some hand tools. The project looks to include a diverse mix of people from the local community.

If you would like to volunteer or for further information, please email [email protected]

The deadline to get in touch is Monday 14th December at 12 noon.

For more information on Atlas Pandemica, please click here.

Categories
Musings

Quarter-Life Crisis: Where was Martin Joseph O’Neill at 25?

By Hayley Watson

Feeling secure in your 20s is tricky at the best of times, and our generation are lucky to have a housing crisis, yet another recession and a global pandemic punctuating our continued ‘coming-of-age’ panic. Add a desire to pursue a creative career into the mix – if you’re reading this I don’t need to tell you how unstable this can feel because you likely already know – and you’ve got a recipe for a real headf..iasco. This interview is part of a series where I ask established creative professionals, people you and I might view as ‘real adults’, what they were doing at 25. I have my suspicions that they were probably as confused then as we are now and I’m determined to prove it.

This time around, I spoke with Stove curatorial member Martin O’Neill. Martin is a Dumfries-based artist, writer and producer and hosts The Stove’s monthly open mic night, Brave New Words. Looking back at his 25th year, Martin reflects on leaky flats, cats and the power of language.

 

Tell us a bit about yourself and where you’re at now!

I’m a multi-disciplinary artist, writer and producer who’s trying to find a less pompous way of describing himself.

I live in Dumfries, born and bred.

As a ‘practice’, I’m interested in spaces, people, stories and inviting the imagination in. I’m sort of all over the place in that. But it’s usually about telling, and inviting the stories, that are often unheard, undervalued, or underappreciated. I also want people to have fun and share unique experiences together, even if it’s not in the way that I might have planned or predicted. All the better if that’s the case.

 

You were 25 between 2015 and 2016 There’s a lot going on in the world in 2020, but what was happening in 2015 and 2016? What’s the biggest news event you can remember from this time?

I can’t really recall what happened last week, so five years ago is sort of like a half-remembered dream, foggy snapshots of bad lager, cash in hand jobs, leaky roofs and 3AM jam sessions. That said, I cheated, and a quick Google search reminds me that the atrocious Charlie Hedbo attacks in Paris happened in January of that year and 2016 brought with it a new raft of misery in Brexit, Trump, the death of David Bowie and the Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando. I remember quite vividly the news of the shootings in Orlando. As a gay man, this was particularly devastating. Shaking me to my core, it brought with it a stark reminder of the work yet still needing to be done in the fight for LGBT rights across the world, and a shiver that it could well have been me in that room.

Where were you living? Who with?

I was sharing a leaky 3 bed flat with two female musicians at the time. And a cat. And then several more cats (she had kittens).

 

Did you have a job? What was it?

I had started as a CT member at the Stove Network in, I believe, May/June of 2015. I was also working 7 days a week in the magnificent Coach & Horses.

 

Is there something you did when you were 25 that no one knows about?

Mostly everything I did at that time in my life was pretty public, either in a desperate attempt at notoriety or just the nature of what I was up to. Gigs, Brave New Words, installations, it was all there in the public domain, and still is, in all their amateur glory thanks to social media. Some awful graphic design was done in that time. And poetry. Bad, bad poetry.

 

What was your dream job at the time?

Whatever it was, it was usually about wanting to tell stories, so whether that meant being a poet, novelist, folk musician or dramatist, it revolved around that constant need to keep writing. I was also beginning to explore my practice as a visual artist and designer. At the time, I was way too conscious of the ‘27’ Club. Not so much for the untimely tragedy that befell them, but how much, and the quality of the work, their elite members had achieved in the time it took me to get a flat, find some steady paid work and land the occasional gig for extra cash.

 

If you had to choose one memory from your 25th year, what would it be?

The first Brave New Words. A really special night where some mad idea that folk might want to hear poetry together actually paid off. Who’da thunk?

 

If you could tell your 25-year-old self one thing, what would you say? And what do you think your 25-year-old self would say to you?

To my 25 year old self: You should be writing.

My 25 year old self to me now: You should be writing.

 

 

Are you where your 25-year-old self thought you’d be now?

 The last five years are such a blur of anxiety and chaotic thinking, that any thought of where I’d be in five years was clouded by some self-imposed pressure to complete something so short-term I can’t even recall what it might have been. Turning 30, that pressure seems to have eased off a little bit. You never do your best work when you’re worried about how you might be perceived. It’s better to just get on with it. And if it fails, move on, fail better.

We sometimes focus too much on success and forget how much our failures help us grow. What were your biggest failures from back then?

Too many to name. Mostly to do with poor communication. Mostly every problem is down to that. Just make sure you’re on the same page as others.

 

Finally, do you have any ‘words of wisdom’ for the 20-somethings reading this?

It’s not that far away from me so take this with a pinch of salt, I’m barely 30 as it is! But I suppose there’s an energy in your mid-twenties that’s really powerful, especially when you’re working with other, often older, more experienced people. You’re questioning, provoking, challenging and you’ve all the time in the world.  And that is so important. Be loose. Be creative. Make the mistakes and don’t overthink everything. But be mindful of others lives. Everyone has something to bring to the table. Everywhere. Also, language is a really powerful thing. Don’t let others use it to disempower you or make you feel small. But also, don’t play into those hands in thinking that is the ‘norm’ and adopting those same bad behaviours, it’s not, and it’ll bite you in the ass one day. Make sure to step outside of yourself every once in a while. There’s a whole world of lives herein, allow yourself to be passive. That’s when the best ideas come.

Categories
Events News Opportunities

Brave New Words: What Now?

A Brave New Words update from founder and director, Martin O’Neill
This year has been quite the rollercoaster, hasn’t it?
With next year looming round the corner, we’re asking ourselves, what will it bring? Global societal change for the better? Universal basic income? A fairer and more just world? Or, judging by this year, is it all going to go a bit belly up? Well, we hope not. But let’s ask the questions.
Over the next couple of months we’re holding back our usual Brave New Words Friday night mash-up live-streamed extravaganzas in favour of something a little bit different. To end our year, we’re inviting creative writing submissions around the theme of ‘What Now?’ with contributions making up our first ever printed newspaper publication. We’re looking for submissions from poetry, short stories, flash fiction to text-based art from writers young and older, professional or just dabbling. Think of it like an open mic, but as a newspaper!
You can submit up to three pieces to be considered. That said, just like our open mic, whilst every effort will be made to ensure your piece ends up in the final print we will be limited on space and can’t guarantee that everything will make it through, so do think hard on what you’re sending in.
This is a completely open submission for anyone based in Dumfries & Galloway. You don’t have to have been at a Brave New Words before, and we’re always looking for new voices to showcase. As always, we encourage you to be brave and put yourself forward.
If you need any more information on the publication please get in touch through our social channels or email [email protected]
Submissions should be sent to: [email protected] in PDF or Word format (please don’t put your submissions in the body of the email)
Deadline: 1st December.
Get writing & be brave.
With Love,
Brave New Words

Categories
Musings News Projects

Dark Time 2020

This November is our annual Dark Time. Over the course of the next two weeks we’ll be working hard, thinking, planning and implementing some of the biggest projects we’ve ever dreamt up. It’s also a time for us to question our role, our processes, communication and vision fully so that we might step into the New Year resourced, ready and receptive to whatever it might bring.

Dark Time is a chance for the team to take a step back and reflect, to listen and plan for the year ahead. It is a significant and valuable process where we take a critical and constructive eye over everything we do, through an intensive series of conversations and workshops. We’ll discuss everything from projects and production, events and hospitality, festivals and gigs to the way we use our café, connect and work with our membership as well as explore further our role within the region, and to question, adapt and embed a vision for the organisation to share for the year coming.

2020, perhaps more so than previous years, has brought a lot into focus for us, as it has for many. From the delivery of our events, our digital programme and our engagement with new audiences and collaborators, as well our commitment to creating and sustaining grassroots activity which narrows the gaps (or gulfs) between art, creativity, government and community.

It’s been a tough year all round. But it stands as testament to the commitment we feel to what we do. We’ve had to re-imagine our entire 2020 programme for an online audience as well as manage projects and festivals throughout the country, alongside shaping the conversations on artists and communities at a national level. Rather than limiting our focus for the year coming, we believe this time to be invaluable in helping to shape new projects out-with Dumfries, and to re-fresh our ideas in shaping a fairer future for our region, through the sharing of art, ideas and gifts from the voices all too often unheard in our communities.

2020 if nothing else, has proven what is possible at a distance, such as working from home and the ability to connect with a broader spectrum of society than we ever thought possible. But it has deprived us all of the experiences which colour our lives, connect us with one another and help us to understand, navigate and continue in a world spinning further out of sight.  But we’re far from pessimistic. Instead, we’ll think of this year as fallowed ground for something so much bolder, brighter and connected than we ever have been before.

Our recent membership survey has given us a lot to talk about. From our engagement with the community, the way we communicate, how diverse we are and how focused we ought to become in our vision. Our Dark Time this year is framed on the ideas, suggestions and feedback we have received from our members and wider community over this year, and we cannot thank you enough in helping to shape the Stove with us over this time. Whether it’s through a coffee in the café, filling out the membership survey, engaging in our programme of digital events or dropping us a line to check-in. Every conversation is meaningful, especially those of dissent.

The work here now is to recognise where we are and what we now need to do as an organisation so as to connect, inspire and grow new visions for our community in the wake of an international pandemic. A vision fully shared, that is inclusive, welcoming and principled. This may mean many things, and it may take strange and exciting new shapes, but as always and even more so, they are guided by the values shaped by, with and for the communities we belong to and serve.


Our Dark Time is framed around three conversations, and we’ll be sharing our progress with you through our social media and website as we go.

How do we define ourselves and what are the systems in place to let others participate and create with us.

How connected are we, and to whom?

We’re a growing organisation, how do we keep being connected to what’s happening around us?

Understanding our role as a learning organisation and how we engage with formal and informal education.

Working with our neighbors, partners and creative businesses throughout the region in further building a sustainable and connected network.

We want everyone to feel included, so do we do that? From working with the Deaf community to making the very building we operate in accessible to everyone, we’re making plans to engage with as many people as we can, sharing and learning as we go.

How we engage, from social media, blogs, and our website. We believe we’re an approachable organisation, so how do we build on this?

Engaging our membership. We want to create the spaces for our memberships to input into the running of the organisation as well as create the spaces needed to network with one another.

We want to centre community and creativity at the heart of the region’s future. Who else can we work with to do this?

In the wake of the pandemic, what can we learn from this and how do we create new work which resonates and belongs to our communities locally?

As a learning organisation, we’re building the skills and confidence of those we engage, and those we collaborate with. How do we expand on this? And can we offer more platforms, roles and opportunities for our community to shine?

Who owns what? What does ownership mean for our community, and how do we ensure everyone is involved? What does the shift from private to community-owned mean, and can what we learn, in order to change things at a higher level?

As always, if you have any thoughts that might help us in our direction, our (digital) door is always open. Drop us a message on our social media, ask to speak with someone at the café, or send an email along.

Stay up to date by following the Stove Network on:

Facebook

Instagram

Twitter

Categories
Blueprint100 Musings News

Speeding Backwards: An update from Kyna Hodges 

As part of the ‘Speeding Backwards’ project there was to be a woman’s build weekend. The weekend was to help plan and construct a bicycle trailer that will house a dark room and equipment for taking photographs using the wet plate collodion process (for more information click here). The build up to the weekend was nerve racking, still the questions of ‘Can we? Can’t we?’ floating aground with the restrictions seeming to change daily.  

But the day finally arrived, food planned and workshop laid out! On the first day Emily Tough, Beck Tucker and Myself all got to know each other and then went into the workshop to get to know the tools. One of the most empowering things as a woman learning construction can be understanding the use of tools and what they can do. It gives you an idea of what is possible and how. We applied the tools to the task of creating a box that we designed and began to execute. I took portraits of the interns using the wet plate collodian process that the trailer is destined to house.  On the second day our female builder Alice Francis arrived and we set to work looking at how to construct the trailer, it was so inspiring being around all these different creative and problem solving minds. When having meals together it helped to cement us as a group and come at a problem with the same energy. After lunch we set about looking into the interns individual projects that they had been asked to prepare. The weekend ended on a high of everyone getting a start and insight into their own projects and the mass giveaway of tools!  

The next phases of the project are to complete the build and begin to contact primary schools about seeing them in the spring. This is when the other intern Faye McKellar will be joining to deliver educational workshops and create a slow moving wonderment down the coastline of Dumfries and Galloway.  

  

Kyna Hodges 

 

Email: [email protected] 

Website: https://kyna-hodges.com 

 

Categories
Musings Projects

Source to Sea: A Reflection

Nithraid River Festival has been running as an annual event for the past eight years and I have had the absolute privilege of being the producer for the last five of them.  Last year’s event saw flood, rain and high winds pushing our team to the limit with adapting last minute to still deliver as much of the event as we physically could. After 2019 we thought, “Well, we’re not going to get anything more difficult than that”. Boy, were we wrong.

When the news hit in March that the entire world was under threat from a global pandemic, we were left with complete uncertainty and dread – much like the rest of the world. What is this thing? Are people going to be safe? How long will it last? When did lockdown and furlough become common words that we use in almost every conversation?

It became apparent very quickly to our team that even though the festival was scheduled to be in August, there was a high chance that the event would have either have to be cancelled completely or we were going to have to try and adapt the festival to a digital format – so we decided to flip Nithraid on its head. We looked at the core values of the festival and the reasons why we do it and who do we do it for?


To cut a long story short – we came to the conclusion that we do it to celebrate the River Nith. We celebrate its history and uses, we celebrate its beauty and we use it to inspire our creativity. We use it to teach our children about the wildlife and environment (special mention goes out to Huffy the Heron!) – but most of all we use it to connect with communities. With all of this in mind, we created the Nith inspired ‘Source to Sea’ project, exploring not just Dumfries but the entire River Nith and the communities that it travels through. Throughout lockdown, it was obvious we were on the right path as all over social media people were photographing the river on their daily walks and were appreciating it as they never had before.

Once we had a concept, the challenging part was trying to figure out how we were going to share all of these elements of the river as well as creating and sharing activities for families and children who were finding themselves stuck at home with little to do. We were delighted to have one of our fantastic funders, the Holywood Trust, on board with our reimagined River Festival. The Holywood Trust were a huge support to Nithraid and our entire team throughout the whole project, and we wouldn’t have been able to do this without them – thank you! This scale of online activity was very much new territory but I have the privilege to work with much more tech savvy individuals than myself and we were able to come together to figure out how to present our festival online. I think as it stands, we are now in Version 652 of the project as it turns out there was more than one problem that arose on a very regular basis. I give them all my love and respect for not running away at Version 150 (I will do the embarrassing shout out at the end!)

As we come to the end of our journey, we’ll be pulling all over the research together and sharing it with you in a beautifully designed map, created for us by local artists and graphic designer, Jamie Stryker. This map is the culmination of everyone’s incredibly hard work over the past 6 months. We’ll also be sharing Hugh McMillan’s lovely Source to Sea poem, where he has a dedicated verse for each area that we explored.

One of the hardest things about the lockdown was the difficulty in being able to research and that we were unable to reach out communities and go out and explore. But now we have information, footage and stories about the River Nith that you can use to learn about these communities yourself. I hope the project does what we set out to do and celebrates the river that connects us and brought so many people a sense of calm in amongst the chaos.

Big shout out time!

And a special thanks to Derry and Greg from BattleStations who trekked through the Carsphairn hills with  a lot of kit to try and find footage of the source of the Nith – which turns out wasn’t where I told them, sorry! You got the shot though!

All of those that took the time to chat to us as we were researching the content. One of my favourite moments was when Bob Clements told us the story of the Thornhill’s Rock Festival on the back of a lorry that was plugged into a house!

Finally, a massive thank you to the team that has held this all together. You have done so much more than these basic titles I have written but I have rambled enough and don’t want you thinking I have gone soft.

  • Rob Henderson – web design and master of tech-like witchcraft
  • Kirstin McEwan – marketing and social media queen that makes this stuff look easy!! It’s not!
  • Ruaridh Thi- Smith – project support and all round support to my sanity.
  • Liam Morrison- Gale – community lead & ultimate research Jedi Master
  • Jamie Stryker – Graphic designer and hero that makes the best maps in the whole wide world!
  • Martin O’Neil – Programmer, Word Wizard and keeper of the creativity.
  • Graham Rooney –  Stove Project manager and dude that keeps every single one of us from spontaneous combustion.

Thank you all! All the best,

Sal Cuddihy
Nithraid Producer

Categories
Blueprint100 Music Research

Looking Forward / Looking Backward

By Hayley Watson.

It’s September already, and I’m still trying to pare away the feeling that this month is a fresh start – a miniature new year, though distinguished by routine, structure and peeled-from-the-packet stationery rather than Big Ben’s chimes, Auld Lang Syne and kisses. The thing is though, a year and a half out of education I’ve still ended up synchronising my ‘fresh starts’ with the end of summer. I’m not sure if this is by accident or coincidence (or, if you want to get philosophical, whether or not there’s even a difference). This time last year I’d just moved to Italy, and this year I’m in the process of moving back to Glasgow, which is a phrase I think I’ve said about a thousand times since I came back to Annan.

The recurring element of how my last five summers have ended, no matter what my plans have been, is suitcases I’ve stuffed my life into and usually an obligatory Ikea trip. The suitcase zippers burst a little along the edges, and anticipatory, so do I. This time around feels like it should be the same but I’m not so sure. Italy felt like an adventure, easy to romanticize. Working for shit pay and hopping from flat-to-flat takes a while to get old when there’s late summer heat and vino-tinto-tinted streets to meet you every time you finish a shift. And the last time I lived in Glasgow, I was a student – I don’t need to expand on why that combination worked.

Beginning my latest move to Glasgow comes in tandem with the end of my contract as blueprint100’s Associate Artist supporting its re-development. Working with blueprint100 this year, after my first experiences shaping its early structure and with four extra years of life behind me, has offered an opportunity to consider the continual motions of change we experience in early adulthood and how organisational support and belonging to a community can make it all feel a little bit more… easy. When I first started working with blueprint100 I was a teenager who’d just realised creative careers are possible, and now I’m an adult (I guess?) who’s a bit overwhelmed by just how many different ways there are to pursue creativity professionally.

A huge part of my role over the past few months has been consulting past blueprint100 participants on their experience and their professional and creative needs. Reflecting on how my own professional practice continues to evolve has been really interesting alongside speaking with other young adults going through the same process – I think we’re all very excited and very ready to take on creative careers, whether full-time or freelance or whatever else (the beauty of creative work is how flexible it can be). At the same time, we’re now living through a pandemic. One excited hand locks fingers with a frustrated/confused/kind of scared one. It’s been comforting for me to understand how similar our feelings and our needs are at this stage of our lives, and this has reaffirmed how important it is – at any stage of life, but especially during the ‘uncertain’ ones – to feel like you’ve got a community behind you.

Community, then, has been a core theme that needs to be considered as part of blueprint100’s identity following our re-development this year. As blueprint100 moves forward, its membership will be re-integrated into The Stove, as it was in its very early days. As part of The Stove, we’ll be centred on creative opportunities that are community-focussed – in alignment with The Stove’s own mission. I started writing this not wanting to mention the pandemic at all (I’ve already failed) but after 2020 I really do think isolation of any kind is the last thing any of us want – including in our creative practices. For a lot of the people I spoke to, myself included, it was blueprint100 & The Stove which introduced us to working creatively in a way that might just possibly make this region feel like the exciting place you want it to be. For a lot of us again, this is something that continues to direct our creative practices. It’s an approach that’s fresh and unique when you’ve previously only experienced creative opportunities which focus exclusively on yourself and the development of your skills as an individual.

Alongside community-focused practice, the future of blueprint100 is one of building an inclusive and accessible creative community. If you’ve spoken with me at all since June when I started the initial consultations, I’ll probably have mentioned ‘accessibility’ and ‘inclusivity’ so much its borderline annoying. I’m pretty sure the words are even on my CV. That’s fine though. I believe, especially where the arts are concerned, accessibility and inclusivity can’t be taken into account enough. Throwing yourself into creative spaces when you’re not even totally sure of your identity as a creative practitioner yet is hard! And there are barriers as well to even claiming this identity alone – if you’re working in a bar 5 days a week, tired when you’re not working, and the total amount of time you can dedicate to even thinking creatively amounts to like, maybe an hour here and there, it’s difficult to feel as though you’ve got any sort of creative identity at all.

By establishing a community of young creatives in the region – whether online or eventually in the real world – we can learn that actually, wherever we’re at right now is fine, and its normal. This doesn’t mean we all need to be in the same positions, but rather that we can see creative careers don’t tend to happen in a smooth, linear, get-a-degree-then-do-a-grad-scheme way. Accessibility and inclusivity within this community should go beyond just being buzzwords. It’s making sure people feel able to speak up and even interrogate its structure without possessing 4 years’ worth of art school language. It’s shaping the opportunities within it to suit its members, rather than the reverse. It’s creating access to the space and tech to get work done because maybe you can’t get a quiet space at home. It’s knowing that maybe you can’t swap shifts to get involved with something, but people get it, and other opportunities will still be there whenever you are. No judgment.

Something I’ve gained from re-evaluating blueprint100’s role in its participants creative and professional development is a better acceptance of my own. I mentioned earlier the vast means through which you can pursue a creative practice, and as much as I said this can be overwhelming it’s also been quite reassuring. Being able to work creatively full-time in the early stages of your practice is a position of privilege, or very good luck. As with many other positions of privilege, not possessing it can have some kind of weird stigma attached. I studied Fashion Design at uni, and felt guilty every summer that I chose not to try and get an unpaid London internship. In the first months after graduating I felt guilty for not applying to graduate jobs that would cover my commute costs and little else. Since then I’ve learned that honestly? I love fashion, but I love being able to eat and pay my bills even more. Van Gogh gets touted as an icon of ‘starving artist’-hood but its reductive to think his work would be any less beautiful if he didn’t have the struggles of simply surviving to deal with. Poverty is only poetic to people who’ve not experienced it.

I guess what I’m getting at with that paragraph is that actually, working full-time in a factory and part-time in a creative role has actually been pretty good. Tiring, but good. It’s totally possible to continue the trajectory of your career while earning enough to live, and day jobs really aren’t as bad as you’re led to believe when you’re still maintaining some sort of constructive creative practice. I originally wasn’t going to move back to Glasgow until I had like… my absolute dream first graduate job. I’ve since decided that it’s equally completely cool to take a 50/50 approach to building my career instead – I’m going to be working part-time in clothing manufacture again, and spend the rest of my time working creatively on a freelance basis. It’s pretty exciting, a little like dropping everything to move to the city and become an artist but with the added security of actually having a predictable income every month.

I seem to have a talent for taking these blog posts a lot further than they’re probably intended to go (blame lockdown and reduced opportunities for rambling to people in real life). If you need a tl;dr for this – blueprint100 has developed, grown, and changed in the past few months at a faster pace than it ever has before. I have too.