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.

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.

News Projects

Artists and Community Landowners: Meet the Artists: Coulson and Tennant

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Artists and Community Landowners
Meet the Artists

Artists and Community Landowners is a collaborative project digging down into the stories of community landownership across Scotland and the impact it has for communities. The Stove is working with Community Land Scotland and six collaborating community trusts to explore stories of “ownership” and the effect it has had for local people, their identity, decision-making and the economic and social benefits for their community.

The Stories of Radical Landownership commission is being undertaken by Coulson and Tennant. As part of the project they have been visiting community land owners throughout the country; Bridgend Farmhouse in Edinburgh, Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust, North Harris Trusts and South West Mull and Iona Development Trust.

Can you briefly explain your practice?

We (Dr Saskia Coulson and Colin Tennant) are an award-winning artist partnership, who develop projects through a lens-based practice, combining genres of documentary and fine art. Our work is underpinned by academic research and through visual storytelling, we create artistic, documentary and environmental work and draw inspiration from historical, creative and ecological references.

We aim to make works that spark conversations about the past, present and future of our man-made and natural world. We strive to create stories and produce work that can speak to various audiences; from local communities, international media, academia, art and cultural sectors We want to reach as many people as possible because we seek to create work that can advocate for change in the world.

How are you approaching the commission?

We believe that capturing stories of radical land ownership is important, both in terms of current social documentation, but also as a means to advocate for future practices and policy. And we think that communities should not only have rights to their land, but also the ownership of their narrative. Therefore, we wish to explore and share the story of community land ownership in Scotland through collaborative visual storytelling. For several years we have been embedding forms of co-creation into the process of visual storytelling. This way of working leverages the voices of communities and can enlighten situations in ways that could have not been otherwise anticipated.

We aim to use our skills in making multimedia stories and foresee our project building on three collaborative actions:

Document– In the context of photography and filmmaking, our work sits at the intersection of fine art and documentary and this allows our work to be used across many different media platforms. We will make multimedia material that can raise awareness and visibility of community land trusts across Scotland. Understanding the needs and expectations of various audiences, we can work with project participants to tailor the narrative and identify the various platforms where these stories can have a real impact.

Enable– We have developed methods and processes in our practices which supports others in visual storytelling, specifically, using mobile phones to document their lives. We have experience in delivering training workshops, both in-person and online. We want to collaborate with the four trusts to create visual stories which show the unique background of their journey and the impact it has had on their community.

Connect– Our practice is transdisciplinary (arts and culture, editorial and academia), and we make connections to try and increase the recognition of our work and the work of our collaborators. We see this project as part of our ongoing practice. Prior to the Stories of Radical Landownership commission being publicised, we had been researching current initiatives, including the community buyout of Langholm and Wanlockhead, and would like to explore how this project could develop into a framework for other communities.

The main aim of this project is to co-create visual stories with the communities. We hope to create a mixture of multimedia pieces, including photographic essays, short films/moving image work and audio pieces. These stories are expected to take several forms. They can be made in Gaelic and English and can vary in length from each community partnership, but also culminate in a longer documentary project. We want the communities to feel ownership of these stories and to use them to demonstrate their successes, but also the challenges they face. We also want to explore how this way of working can advocate and support future community buyout projects and have an effect in areas such as policy and land reform.

What excites you about the project?

We are excited to be working with four diverse community trusts at a very important and exciting time of Scottish land reform. The trusts that we are working with as part of this project are Bridgend Farmhouse in Edinburgh, Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust, North Harris Trusts and South West Mull and Iona Development Trust.

Each trust provides a unique perspective in the bigger story of radical land ownership. We are collaborating with each to capture the journey that led them to form a trust and undertake a land asset transfer, but also to explore how the concept of ‘ownership’ effects the people of the communities. We are framing this project in an approach to building stories around the past, present and future of the trusts and community land ownership in Scotland.

There are many exciting aspects of this project, but we’ve been thrilled to meet so many interesting people from so many different backgrounds and hear from them their stories of land ownership. We’ve also been working with some young people from some of the trusts and getting to know what their aspirations for the future of their communities are.

How has the process been so far? Anything unexpected?

Currently, we have been immersing ourselves into the project by visiting the trusts and speaking to community members from each.

For example, earlier in the month we went to North Harris, a spectacular area of land located in the centre of a long chain of islands called the Western Isles off the North West coast of Scotland. Its dramatic Atlantic coastline and an incredible mountain range make this a very special place. The community purchased the land in 2003 and established the North Harris Trust to manage the estate. The estate comprises of 25,900 ha. of croft land, common grazings, and open hill ground. The Trust aims at building a stronger community and enhance its wild landscape.

We spent a week with the young people who live on, the estate as they undertook a John Muir Award during their October holidays. This was a great opportunity for us to get to know how young people perceive land ownership and what it means to them to grow up in a community trust. We were able to explore North Harris through their eyes, as they went on many hikes and kayak trips around the estate.

We also met community members who helped to establish North Harris Trust, and they took us to locations which meant a lot to them when they were young. The photo is of Callum, one of the founding members of the North Harris Trust. We started the week with a tour of all the places where he grew up whilst he told us stories of what it was like to be raised in such a remote and picturesque part of the world. The second photo is of Scarp, one of the places where Callum grew up but is now an uninhabited island.

We have also been visiting Bridgend Farmhouse several times over the past month to speak to the members about what it is like to be part of community trust in the city of Edinburgh. This is the only project partner that is situated in an urban context. We’ve been speaking to as many people as possible asking them about how they are involved in the trust, what they think is the value of having Bridgend Farmhouse as a community-owned asset and what they would like for the future of the organisation.

We’ve also been asking everyone at Bridgend what they think ‘radical land ownership’ means to them. We’ve been surprised that for many it is a simple idea that by having a place where you can go and do something that connects you with nature, physical making or building in the company of people you feel connected to. It is often reflected on in sharp contrast to many of the current values that are prevalent in contemporary society.

Has covid-19 affected your work with the community?

Everyone has been more careful in light of the global pandemic and we’ve been keeping up and abiding by the increased social distancing regulations. Fortunately, we have been spending a lot of time outdoors as part of this project. We’ve been lucky so far as most of the time that we have been collaborating with people the weather has been surprisingly good for Scottish standards.

We have also been meeting some community members on online platforms instead of face-to-face meetings. The silver lining of this approach is that we have been able to organise and meet a lot more people with a greater geographical reach than what we might have normally.

We’ve also been meeting with all the project partners and artists on for regular online meeting sessions. These have been great for meeting the other trusts and artists in the project and hearing about the other brilliant initiatives that are happening in regards to Scottish land reform.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row] [vc_row type=”in_container” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ width=”1/1″][vc_video link=”″][vc_column_text]This short film, Our Island/Eilean Againn Fhèin was created by young people working with The North Harris Trust alongside Saskia and Colin as part of their project.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

News Projects

Artists and Community Landowners: Meet the Artists: Virginia Hutchison

Virginia Hutchison, artist with Urras Oigherachd Ghabhsainn (Galson Estate Trust)

Artists and Community Landowners
Meet the Artists

Artists and Community Landowners is a collaborative project digging down into the stories of community landownership across Scotland and the impact it has for communities. The Stove is working with Community Land Scotland and 6 collaborating Community Trusts to explore stories of “ownership” and the effect it has had for local people, their identity, decision-making and the economic and social benefits for their community.

Virginia is working directly with Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn – Galson Estate Trust – on the Isle of Lewis. As a maker with a strong conversational aspect to her work, collaborative engagement underpins Virginia’s practice.

Can you briefly explain your practice?

Evolving around conversation my practice is broadly participatory and exists within an environment of social engagement. Shifting from work that sits within civic spaces to work within education, questions of how stimulus from works of art and architecture can affect memory and learning is central to this. Where and how we respond to works of art also affect our perceptions of ownership, the legacy of any particular artwork and the authorship of new narratives associated with it. With the processes involved in artistic production and presentation in mind what can be learned from how we engage with artistic practices? What happens when the roles of artist, object and viewer shift and how can we challenge the processes we have in place for critique and evaluation?

How are you approaching the commission?
Embarking on this commission during a global pandemic and the issues this presents in terms of how and where we communicate with each other is central to how I have chosen to approach this project. Taking the object as a point of departure for new narratives I am creating a series of cast bronze ‘talking objects’ that will become way-markers around the Galson estate – points where we might stop and reflect or navigate to another area. Embedded within the bronzed peats are QR codes – digital codes that when scanned will direct the listener to an audio archive on the Urras website. As a dynamic link the archive can develop alongside the walks and talks. As the archive grows the community will have the opportunity to site the way-markers permanently or to take them for a walk. As hand sized objects they are able travel to around the island – or mainland, contributing to other narratives around the country.
What excites you about the project?

I’m really delighted to be working with such an engaged community such as the Galson Estate and to learn first-hand how radical land ownership has helped to develop the Estate socially, culturally and economically.  Ideas of ownership are central to my own work and I’m excited to see how the project is shaped by the community.

How has the process been so far? Anything unexpected?

It has of course been challenging in terms of how we engage with each other but it has allowed the objects breathing space to develop and for us to experiment with digital archiving processes.

Has covid-19 affected your work with the community?

Expanding on my answer to question above – it is of course very hard to conduct interviews or community engagement when restrictions keep changing and when folk may live in different boroughs. Having a period in which experimentation and object production takes place is providing a buffer to this. It is also allowing the project to evolve in response to new COVID developments and allowing us to come up with solutions to community engagement.

News Projects

Artists and Community Landowners: Meet the Artists: Richard Bracken

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Artists and Community Landowners
Meet the Artists

Artists and Community Landowners is a collaborative project digging down into the stories of community landownership across Scotland and the impact it has for communities. The Stove is working with Community Land Scotland and 6 collaborating Community Trusts to explore stories of “ownership” and the effect it has had for local people, their identity, decision-making and the economic and social benefits for their community.

Richard is currently working with Abriachan Forest Trust, an environmental artist and creative educator based in Drumnadrochit, with 10 years experience of engaging with communities and collaborating with multi-disciplinary teams in Scotland and abroad.

Can you briefly explain your practice?

My work is a response to an ongoing, personal exploration of the land. I’m influenced by specific places, individual experience and wider themes that relate to how we live with the land.

My attention is usually drawn towards ecology, folklore, natural processes, time and memory.  I typically create sculpture using casting and mould-making processes. Drawing, photography and printmaking methods are also key aspects of my practice.

How are you approaching the commission?

I’ve been keen to understand the story of Abriachan Forest Trust by looking at the past, present and future of the community and it’s relationship to the land.  I’m looking at the story as an ongoing journey and to identify places that relate to key stages of this journey the community is taking together.

I’m aiming to create artwork that is accessible – eg objects that can be picked up, held and taken for a walk.  I believe that walking around the land plays a key role in understanding the story of AFT, so I’ve felt drawn to creating something that is portable, rather than something that exists in a fixed location.

So far I’ve been:

  • Getting to know how the trust operates and how it has developed
  • Looking through archive material that relates to the development of AFT – photographs, newsletters, forest plans and other maps.
  • Getting to know the young people and volunteers that participate in AFT’s activities – learning about the land from them by going on walks with them.
  • Talking to staff and community members about their relationships to AFT
  • Finding out which places resonate with the community by asking a series of questions.

Learning about materials I can feasibly source from AFT, plus facilities / expertise in the community that may come in useful for fabrication.

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What excites you about the project?

The opportunity to contribute creatively to the conversation about land use in Scotland.

Getting to know a community and seeing how they have grasped opportunities to utilise their land in ways that benefit local people and the environment.

Exploring the parallels between young trees and young people – the growth and development of both are crucial to AFT and their long term vision. 

On a personal note, having recently moved to within about 6 miles of Abriachan, the project has provided me with an invaluable opportunity to make new connections that I hope will last well beyond the lifespan of this project.

How has the process been so far? Anything unexpected?

Living so close has been a great advantage, giving me time to meet up with staff from AFT, slot into existing sessions and create new ones with relative ease.  This has allowed me to start getting to know people and allowed me to communicate to others about the project.  I feel that my thinking around the commission has benefitted from this close contact, as I come to understand AFT better, letting that influence my work.

Being close-by has also meant that I can spend my own time exploring other parts of AFT.
Has covid-19 affected your work with the community?

AFT are not able to work with as many young people as they would normally, so I have had less opportunity to see this side in it’s fullness. 

Some uncertainty around changes in guidelines and restrictions has meant having to be flexible in planning, or waiting until the last minute, but generally this has not been a disruption on outdoor working.


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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:




News Projects

Wild Geese: Exhibition

As part of this months Wild Goose Festival, The Stove cafe is currently sharing an exhibition of works produced by Fife College Learners at HMP Dumfries made as a direct response to the festival. The exhibition includes a flock of paper cut out birds, alongside two wall mounted works. Following a prolonged period in lockdown the festival was welcomed by learners as a breath of fresh air and working on this festival has been a welcome distraction during the present climate.

The learner who produced the watercolour on board painting said: “I would say the grey Largs arrive first – they are a much larger goose than the barnacle goose. About 50 went over flying very high, just a dot in the sky. They fly in family groups with 4/5 hatched gosling chicks that fly together. They return to the same place so their return to Scotland is passed onto their goslings. They like to feed as a family group and this too is passed on in this migratory journey. Food includes eating grass, rotting potatoes and chats – they love that!”

The conceptual goose painting is made up of lots of different geese contributing to the overall picture. The learner felt that this showed the comparison between all the geese working together and similar experiences within the learning centre and wider community. Individuals have tasked they need to complete to contribute to the successful journey together.

The geese will be on display in the Stove cafe until Saturday, 24th October.

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

Events Musings Projects

Five Years of Bravery

It was 2015. A year in from the Scottish independence referendum, when stickers faded pale on lampposts and flags fluttered limply in the breeze, or un-tethered, clung to high fences like a loose pair of nickers. It was as though some basic law of thermodynamics failed to take place. As if that fiery energy ought to have moved on. Heated up some other vessel or agitated another movement. Instead, it lingered in the air, resigned itself to the bar stools and blogs for the time being. And most people just got on with their lives, some relieved, some numb and others, angry as ever.

Writers Sarah Indigo and Eryl Sheilds concocted Brave New Words as a space to confront some of that undirected energy left from the referendum. We worked with them on structuring the day, talking with schools, community groups and others to come along and work it all out through a series of writing workshops, discussions and debates. That evening, we hosted the first Brave New Words Slam, an evening of spoken word, performance and beat-style poetry, reminiscent of the back alley bars of Brooklyn circa 1960 lit up the High Street. Well, not maybe not quite like that. But in my head, everything feels a bit like that. The poets played a blinder. From the ages of 14 to 80, it felt like something pretty special had happened.

A year later, we lost Sarah too soon. A light went out in the spoken word community in Scotland, with tributes pouring in from the central belt to the Galloway coast. Her work broke stigmas, challenged the status quo and energized everyone she came into contact with. Each birthday since then is not only a celebration of words spoken, sung, shot, signed or silenced. It’s a tribute to our founder and visionary.

This year, as it stands, is so unlike all the others. We’re not able to meet. And whilst we’re all weary of the rolling lockdowns, the dead air of pubs without music, the face masks, the rumbling anxiety of purchasing a pint of milk from the supermarket. It seems that now it’s more important than ever to celebrate as we once did and to share our thoughts, feelings, creativity and power with each other is so vital in making sense of the world around us. Beyond the peeling vinyl stickers of the town centre and the tequila-scented hand gel.

Just as in 2015, there’s an energy now that lingers in the air. What it is we can’t be as certain of what it is as then, but it comes out in the quieter moments of our lives. That’s when stories are written, songs are sung and creativity thrives.

Brave New Words is not possible without people. Literally. I’ve tried. More than a couple of empty mic nights confirm this. It’s the space to take a chance, often when you never you thought you had it in you. And each month, it’s completely different from the last. From epic poems on elderly cats, to Kate Bush inspired fluorescent neon dancing, 10 minute silences and rabble rousing political speeches.

So join us as we celebrate everything Brave this September. I mean, what else is there to do?!

Be Brave.

News Projects

Lowland: Re-Imagined

In the good old days, if you recall, before the big bad virus swept across the world. You know, that flu that awakened our most primal of fears, leaving us high and dry, bleaching banana skins from the supermarket shelf and losing all concept of social cues and humility. The ‘good times’, before bumping into an old colleague in the supermarket left you equal parts scattered like some unassembled jigsaw and petrified, marooned and struggling in vain to stitch together some semblance of a normal, pleasant English sentence from the ruined, anxiety ridden attic of your mind whilst gripping a bottle of disinfectant (anti-viral of course) just in case they dared step foot within your 2 meter sanctuary of social isolation.

Pause for air.

Well, before all that, we had such things called ‘plays’. ‘Plays’, or ‘live TV’ (not really, but bear with me) were these real-life moving pictures where people called ‘actors’ would perform words written by writers, too strange and socially awkward for most other professions.

These ‘plays’ would be performed in ‘theatres’. Theatres were buildings that came in all shapes and sizes. From majestic stone coliseums in Greece, to tiny wee almost-shed-like structures near Whithorn on the Galloway coast. Yes, they were quite the hit for some time. People would travel in their millions to a tiny, expensive over-crowded city in Scotland to watch some semi-sane people dance and prance their way on stages in dive bars and portaloos. The legends of the Internet are rife with memories and photographs of these most magical, dumb and dangerous shenanigans.

Then the Big Bad came and ‘plays’ weren’t able to take place in theatres, with people, sitting right next to you, loudly chewing Werthers Originals, letting their mobile phones ring loudly occasionally interspersed with quiet farts now being considered a health risk. So much of them went online, in Instagram stories and glitchy Zoom sessions where you got to sit and stare at yourself, striking the odd socially-conscious facial cue to let them know you were in fact listening and not just scrolling through cat videos on YouTube. The same too happened here, at the Stove with the ‘Lowland’ play, ready to be performed in Lochside, Moniaive and Langholm, Lowland sank back into the dusty shadows of the rehearsal room and sat, patiently waiting for the time to return. Realising after three to four months that maybe wasn’t looking all that likely, it was time for a re-imagining!

Originally conceived and developed with the help and guidance of local young writers, poets and dramatists, Lowland initially explored what it meant to ‘belong’, using postcards filled out by Doonhamers, featuring drawings, poetry, stories and the occasional dirty joke. Over 500 of these postcards were filled out during poet Stuart A Paterson’s residency with the project over a year ago.

As time went on, the play started to take a bit of shape. Several adaptions, rewrites and voyages into dead-end dark tunnels later, the play was ready to be rehearsed with a talented community cast of local actors, writers and performers. Just as it was coming to the scripts-down, lights up, camera action…the big bad burst on through the stage door and it all went quiet.

Since then, the play has been re-adapted as a podcast in 2 chapters (originally it was meant to be a radio play but there was just too much swearing). Following on from the cast’s first digital get-together and read-through of the adapted script, we are embarking on a journey into the world of audio plays!

We can’t say it’s been easy. Four months of mourning for live theatre and foggy lockdown head doesn’t do a playwright any good. And the pubs were closed. Yet now, ladies, gentlemen and everyone in-between we are delighted to be returning to the rehearsal room (albeit in cyber space) and are almost ready to buckle down and get recording! Lowland: The Play is on its way. And we can’t wait for you to hear it…

So, what’s it all about?

‘Let me get this straight. You’re telling me I have to present some new fangled resources centre, right in the middle of the scheme, with little to no idea what it will actually be used for. On top of all this, they’re all here, Barnside, for a consultation. Only, there is no such thing. I’m nothing more than a salesman. And if I don’t do this. I destroy three years of clawing my way back out of the gutter…for a job.’

Barnside is sinking and the residents are on the edge of revolution. The local council, in its bleary wisdom, have been drafted in to ease the tensions. Only, not everything is as it seems and sooner or later, something’s got to give.

A play in two acts, inspired by over 500 postcards reflecting on life in Dumfries written by Doonhamers. Lowland: The Play features a community cast, devised through collaboration with local writers’ groups, communities and members of the local council, Lowland is the tale of a consultation gone wrong.

As Angela, a council officer, prepares for a consultation, one year in the making, her boss throws a curve ball, eradicating all her best intentions, leaving her and her assistants in disarray and woefully unprepared. As a storm rages on outside, a community prepares a coup d’état…

Lowland is a tragi-comedy, offering a satirical and emotional look at the nature of community, power, local democracy and belonging.

Next Up: Meet The Cast