Monday 28 April 2014

Guid Nychburris and beyond

The Stove’s focus is growing towards Guid Nychburris Day, and our upcoming events to co-incide with Dumfries’ annual Riding of the Marches Day. This will be our third year presenting work as part of the annual festivities, and with each year our fascination with the history behind it grows. 

Lochmabengate Port - we'd like to know a bit more about the gates and customs arising from the Guid Nychburris route, any suggestions?

 Guid Nychburris Day has been held near annually since 1932, but it’s origins lie further back when King Robert III granted Royal Burgh status to the town in 1186. But where has the festival we see today grown from? From where and when have each of the customs, important figures been added to the event? 

Although there are other March Riding traditions across the border and beyond, each having grown it’s own unique customs and traditions – and we’ve been thinking slightly further afield at the origins of tradition in community based and led festivals: 

From the ancient and obscure, such as Ottery St Mary’s Flaming Tar Barrels tradition: part of their annual carnival on the 5th November. “The exact origins are unknown but probably started after the gunpowder plot of 1605. Various alternative reasons suggested for burning barrels have included fumigation of cottages and as a warning of the approach of the Spanish armada.” 

To the more modern adaptations – take the Edinburgh Beltane Fire Festival (coincidentally this week) for example, which only started up in 1988 but harks back to the celtic Beltane festival that traditionally took place at this time of year. At what point do these events go from being a bit of fun to a ‘venerable tradition’? 

A shortlist of some of the curatorial team’s favourite festivals: 

The Baby Jumping Festival 
Or, “El Colacho” dates back to 1620 and is a Spanish ritual involving men dressed as the devil in red and yellow jumpsuits paired with modern running shoes, jumping over babies born in the previous twelve months; thought to bless the newborn children and remove original sin, preparing them for a life on God’s true path. 

Burning Man 
Which needs little introduction, but sees the creation of a temporary community for a week each year in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. “The Burning Man organization (Black Rock City LLC) creates the infrastructure of Black Rock City, wherein attendees (or "participants") dedicate themselves to the spirit of community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance. They depart one week later, leaving no trace.” 

Up Helly Aa 
Although first appearances may suggest a harking back to ancient Viking celebrations, Up Helly Aa is actually a relatively modern – having grown out of wild Christmas holiday celebrations. The current form, including guizing and torchlit procession was first introduced in the around 1870.  

The Hindu festival celebrating the end of Winter and the arriving Spring – sees social rules and expectations relaxed in India, “Social barriers are broken as people of all ages, genders, castes, and wealth gather together and celebrate the festival. In fact, it is said that one can get away with almost any kind of behavior on the day of Holi by saying "bura na mano holi hai," or, "don't mind, it is Holi."

Palnackie Flounder Tramping Championships 
Naturally, we couldn’t miss out the more local eccentric festivals. Palnackie’s Flounder Tramping Festival has been missing from the calander the past few years, but rumour has it is due to make a comeback this year. was the brainchild of villager John Kirk, who on a sunny summer afternoon in 1973, offered a bottle of whisky to the person who could catch the biggest flounder. 

And so back to Guid Nychburris. As we delve into the history of the town’s Charter and Seal, the importance of the flag and the many gates and keys along the route as well as the roles played out by the Cornet, Lass and entourage – all the pieces that add to the sense of tradition and occasion - get in touch with us! If you have any knowledge or insight into the history of Guid Nychburris, we’d love to hear from you: Fire off an e-mail to

Tuesday 22 April 2014

The Regeneration of Dock Park

The Stove set up temporary residence one afternoon last week in the newly regenerated and renovated Dock Park as part of the ongoing festivities celebrating the park's clean face. In anticipation of this year's Nithraid, we took to the river - send massed flotillas of paper boats downstream and out to the Solway. 
Photographs: Galina Walls - more available here 
The boats were christened after famous links to the Park's history including: 
The Great Pedalo (Kirpatrick MacMillan - inventor of the bicycle and honoured by the footbridge) 
The Dragon Slayer (.. St Michael's Bridge at the top of the park)
The Tweed Rose (Rosefield Tweed Mills on the opposite bank) 

The Rosefield Mills featured as part of one of Lisa Gallaher's pieces made for TDRM: Dumfries during InBetween Dumfries. Working with local artist Evelyn Gray, Lisa produced a tweed coat incorporating Evelyn's sketches of the mills... more of that and other Inbetween projects here 

 The two week long youth festival coinciding with the school holidays was envisioned to shape how the park as a public space could be used by the good folk of Dumfries, and the re-instate the park within the psyche or awareness of the town, as opposed to a periphery space. 

With the park's Victorian history, could a new fashion for a contemporary promenading culture be re-invented? 
promenade (ˌprɒməˈnɑːd) 
 — n 1. chiefly ( Brit ) a public walk, esp at a seaside resort 
2. a leisurely walk, esp one in a public place for pleasure or display 
3. ( US ), ( Canadian ) a ball or formal dance at a high school or college 
4. a marchlike step in dancing 
5. a marching sequence in a square or country dance 

 [C16: from French, from promener to lead out for a walk, from Late Latin prōmināre to drive (cattle) along, from pro- 1 + mināre to drive, probably from minārī to threaten] 

On walking around the park, The Drying Ground particularly caught my interest - as Glasgow City Council looks to controversially impose new rules on the use of their public parks, with Drying Grounds clearly outlawed: 

" 11.1 No one shall in any park, except with the prior written consent of the Director: 

 (f) hang linen or other material, beat, shake, sweep, brush or cleanse any carpet, rug, mat or other article. "
The trampolines are due to make a comeback as part of the regeneration works 
The full list of proposed banned activities includes organised sports, gatherings of more than 18 people, walking more than 4 dogs and outdoor education - a full and interesting article on the A Thousand Flowers blog or to read the rules for yourself head here

The importance on non-commercial public spaces, and their benefit to town and city life not just in terms of regenerating the surrounding areas but also in creating spaces (and therefore towns) where people want to be is discussed by Animal Behaviourist turned City Planner for NYC, Amanda Burden in her recent TED talk (available here) 

The bandstand has also had something of a facelift.. a new alternative music venue for Dumfries?
As groups like the Incredible Edible's continue to promote and grow a greener vision for the town, how can the parks play an active role in this? How do these public spaces become once again instilled as part of the townscapes' sense of self? As 100 High Street remains closed for the time being, do keep an eye out for the Stove in exile throughout the town over the next few months, and if this great weather continues, we can maybe reconvene our meetings in the park.. 

Tuesday 15 April 2014

Guid Nychburris 2014

The Burgh Seal of Dumfries
The first outing in our year-long art programme TheStove@TheStove is Guid Nychburris – the original (and still the best) Dumfries community festival. The Stove has taken part in the last two Guid Nychburris celebrations with Punkin’ the Jubilee in 2013 and Back2Back in 2013. This year we have been mining the town archives for some of the origins of Dumfries (that are celebrated in Guid Nychburris) – we’ll be looking at the idea of a new Charter for the town, the Common Good and generally making a mess and having a good time……lots of opportunities to use your existing skills, learn new ones – work with some terrific folk and wear hats.
Punkin' the Jubilee - The Stove@Guid Nychburris 2012
If you are interested in being part of Team Stove for Guid Nychburris 2014 then drop us a line at and we’ll keep you in the loop with developments
Back2Back - The Stove@Guid Nychburris 2013

Stove in Spring

Standing here in the Spring of 2014 The Stove has an incredible opportunity to make a difference for the future of people and places locally. Through the generous support of our funders: Creative Scotland, Dumfries and Galloway Council, Holywood Trust and Edward Marshall Trust we have the chance to move forward simultaneously on three interrelated fronts:

1.     100 High Street – converting the Stove building into a fully accessible HQ for The Stove that is welcoming to all and reflects the high quality of The Stove’s ambition

2.    Our Organisation – to be viable in the long term The Stove needs to creatively use the skills and facilities available to us to bring in money that will continue to support of the vision of the arts at the heart of Dumfries. We have business development support to build the foundations of The Stove for the future.

3.    The Art Stuff….aka TheStove@TheStove – we are making a detailed programme of artwork projects between now and July 2015. This will include opportunities for residencies, commissions and volunteering – to be part of new public art events, gatherings, workshops etc.

Working on all three of these fronts at the same time is an incredible opportunity to show what the creative community is capable of when we are given the chance to properly be part of the ‘real world’ (not just fluffy stuff stuck around the edges). Lets get it done!

We’ll be publishing more details of ways to get involved in TheStove@TheStove soon – but do give us a shout if you have ideas about what The Stove could be doing and other folk we could be working with….

Stove in Words

For those of you who have been asking ‘what is The Stove’ – here is our latest attempt to define it….this is a work in progress and we are committed to inclusivity in all things….please do chuck your threepenneth in……

The Stove is a project to add creativity to the structures and thinking that will shape a future we all will share.

The project is run by a collective of artists and other active citizens in Dumfries and Galloway. The Stove creates inclusive public art events to engage the citizens of Dumfries in constructive and practical action in the town. The Stove uses a three storey building in the town centre of Dumfries as an HQ for the project and will operate 100 High Street as a social enterprise. The Stove has a membership of over 100 people ranging from café-owners and wild-food chefs to video artists and DJs.

We see the arts not as something solely for an ‘arts audience’, but rather, as a vital contribution to society on all fronts.  The Stove is a vehicle for practical partnerships with people and organisations working in Health, Education, Tourism, Regeneration and Environment.

The creative arts are one of the top ten economic sectors in Dumfries and Galloway – The Stove is an expression of confidence, professionalism and ambition for that sector – placed physically and practically at the heart of the evolving future of our region.

The Stove and 100 High Street

Man, if we had a pound for every time someone asked how the building was going….
So, in case you are one of those who haven’t asked recently – the skinny is this:

1.     The Council took possession of 100 High Street at the end of January 2014 – after much fun and games with the locks The Stove agreed to leave the building temporarily whilst DGC undertake the first stage of the building works required.

2.     It is anticipated that the final planning permission will be through by the middle of May and that works will commence at this time.

3.     The first stage works comprise new access for people with disabilities, a lift, new toilet provisions, services for a café, general repairs etc. If all goes to plan (haha) this will take 12 weeks

4.     So the very earliest The Stove will be allowed back in the building will be September

5.     When we get back in we can begin our own fit out and modifications to the building (aka Stage 2) – these will include the café, integrated artworks, IT and AV equipment (hell yes!)

We will be partially open as soon as we get the keys back from DGC – don’t ask us when we will be fully open (because Will says it is not possible to estimate this) – but there is a sweepstake running on the opening date – if you are interested in taking part – contact Colin via
One of the adapted parking discs currently in the widows of The Stove - marking the Cooncil's temporary stay

The Stove welcomes Ailsa

First Foot by The Stove 2012 - Ailsa Watson was project coordinator (not Ailsa in the doorway btw!)
We are delighted to be weloming back Ailsa Watson as The Stove’s new Financial Ninja. Those of you with long Stove memories will remember Ailsa as one of the brave souls who organised our First Foot project – way back in January 2012. Ailsa was the amazing person who, amongst other things, programmed the timings for the performance and telt everyone where they should be and when….. respect to her for that…..and for then coming back!!


Y.E.S – that's the Youth Enquiry Service...innit

The Youth Enquiry Service have been pals of The Stove for a while now – so we were delighted when they got in touch to ask for our help with their ambitious project to chart their own 20 year history. Their project will look at how things have changed for young people over the last 20 years in Dumfries, they will do this by undertaking research and then creatively pulling their work together as a film, a publication and a travelling exhibition.
Y.E.S crew working on Back2Back at The Stove 2013
The Stove will be working with Y.E.S on this from now until September and making as many opportunities as possible for our own programme to compliment  the Y.E.S project.

More info etc – drop us a line

Stove and Regeneration

Lately we’ve been thinking a lot about The Stove as an opportunity to put our money where our mouths are in thinking about the society we live in. We’ve been inspired by the New Economics Foundation to think about the way we work, and crucially, invest in services and people locally.
The 'leaky bucket' - how easy it is for new investment in a place to be allowed to escape and lose its long term effect - from 'Plugging the Leaks' - New Economics Foundation
'Money, like other aspects of life, has become controlled by distant organisations who, as the recent economic turmoil has demonstrated, do not necessarily have our best interests at heart. As the New Economics Foundation put it, our economies have become like ‘leaky buckets’, money that should be staying and circulating locally being sucked out to distant corporations and shareholders.  This all adds to our vulnerability in times of increasing uncertainty, rather than reducing it.

Local enterprises are more likely to employ local people, provide services to improve the local quality of life, spend money locally and so circulate wealth in the community, promote community cohesion and, by reducing transportation of goods from across communities, are likely to have a smaller environmental footprint.'
Lets use the resources of The Stove to give the maximum effect in our local economy and society -  if you’ve got ideas about ways The Stove could be effective in assisting regeneration locally then please do get in touch