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July 2, 2014

Ancient past, exciting future

Over 600 years ago, Dumfries was granted a royal charter which conferred all sorts of special privileges on the town. Lest anyone forgets the fine detail of this historic document, the townsfolk of Dumfries get an annual reminder when it is read out at the Guid Nychburris (Good Neighbour) Festival.  The town’s ancient history is clearly a source of civic pride but Dumfries is a town with a bright future too – and it’s one that the town’s local artists are helping to bring to the fore.



The Stove

Dumfries-based artists’ group the Stove Network has challenged the town to create a ‘people’s charter’ for the future of Dumfries. The 1395 Royal Charter for the Burgh of Dumfries is read out each year as part of Guid Nychburris (Good Neighbours) Festival – this year there will be an alternative version as well.

The Dumfries Charter 14 is made up of contributions from individuals and community groups and begins with the premise that people are responsible for making their place – and they do not need to ask anyone’s permission other than their fellow citizens.

Artist from The Stove Network Katie Anderson commented: “We have been overwhelmed at the response we have had. People have contributed through face-to-face meetings, by letter and by social media. Connecting with other projects and groups in the town in this way is building a rich and powerful potential for the future regeneration of Dumfries”.

Dumfries & Galloway Multicultural Association said: “We were delighted to be approached to contribute to the new charter. We exist to give a voice to people who do not always feel included and we feel very proud to be part of a charter which reflects local people’s commitment to increase understanding and promote equality.”

The Stove artists plan to make the revealing of the Dumfries Charter 2014 as interactive as possible. It will be launched on the High Street on a series of giant canvas banners with ‘secret’ text on the banners requires the application of water to make it visible. Stove members will be inviting members of the public to assist them in ‘applying’ the water and revealing the Charter to the world.

Stove member Matt Baker said: “The day promises to be great fun and we hope people enjoy being part of launching the charter. But there is also a serious side to this and we hope this new People’s Charter will inspire more people to believe that they can and will play a part in making Dumfries the best place for everyone to live, work and play”.

People will also be invited to edit, stamp, sign and seal their own personal version of the Charter to take away with them, with members of The Stove team there to help and talk. Proceedings will also be helped along by the visit of a mystery guest from history who has been close to radical movements in Scotland.

An article by Dr Linda Pollock at Newcastle University – Beyond the Rural Cringe – describes in more detail the work of the artistic collaboration,The Stove, which has been the driving force behind the initiative to present a more contemporary charter for Dumries – not a royal charter but a people’s charter. The article can be accessed here