(Scots Law) A common; a piece of land in which two or more persons have a common right.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Culture Minister Comes to Town

The arts in D&G continued their rise to national prominence with a special day-long visit from Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop. The Cabinet Secretary was officially in the SouthWest to launch the Place Partnership between Dumfries and Galloway Council and Creative Scotland. In harsh economic times this partnership is a welcome sign of a lasting commitment, local and national, to building a strong arts sector.

Ms Hyslop came to the region at the invitation of Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Arts – and was particularly interested to learn more about the region’s Fresh Start for the Arts initiative. A packed audience at CatStrand heard both the Minister and Kenneth Fowler of Creative Scotland refer to the region as an ‘example of best practice in the arts nationally’ and Ms Hyslop went on to offer her continued support for region-wide initiatives like our emphasis on Environmental Arts and help us make further international connections for the arts, practitioners and organisations in Dumfries and Galloway.

She had a full day’s tour, meeting a wide range of people and learning about projects that are benefiting from Creative Scotland support of various kinds. It showcased both the vibrancy of the D&G arts sector, and the ways in it makes a real difference to the lives of individuals, groups and whole communities.

Cabinet Secretary and Minister for Culture and External Affairs - Fiona Hyslop MSP .....launches Environmental Art Festival Scotland at Clatteringshaws - image Rob McDougall

Perhaps the most colourful part of the visit was a trip to Clatteringshaws Dam for a photo opportunity which acted as a media launch for the partnership and for the new Environmental Art Festival Scotland. The EAFS has been offered partnership funding and is a prime example of the way it is intended to achieve lasting results. The hope is that once the festival is off the ground it will develop into a major national and international biennial event. That could have many advantages, for example keeping D&G at the forefront of environmental art and pulling in tourists.

Fiona Hyslop asking Ruby and Beadee if she can get a shot with their bows and arrows - image Annie Crabtree
The launch event itself saw Ms Hyslop joined by Ruby Roberts-Self, aged 11, and Beadee Kirsch, aged 14, from Newton Stewart, who launched the festival by becoming the first people to “Sign the Sign”. Each put their names on a luggage tag and wrote one reason why they value the environment, before tying it to an old-fashioned signpost carved from natural wood. Ms Hyslop wrote: “Love the land, let the sky inspire – Year of Natural Scotland, 2013.”
The signpost, which is carved with quotes, will tour the region throughout the lead up to the main festival weekend at the end of August, allowing people across Dumfries and Galloway to add their own labels.

Just an ordinary day in a riverbed, under a bridge in D+G - image Creative Scotland

Later there were visits to the CatStrand for a reception and video shout out
featuring projects from across the region, then to Creetown to meet schoolchildren who have been creating colourful flags which will be used on special occasions to adorn a recently commissioned sculpture. There were also visits to the Fullarton Theatre, The Stove (where Ms Hyslop had a chance to meet the Fresh Start for the Arts team) and the Theatre Royal, all of which have received Creative Scotland capital development grants.

Fullarton Theatre after their refurbishments

The day concluded with a visit to DGOne for the eagerly awaited performance of ‘We Could be Heroes’ – the postponed opening show from January’s weather affected Big Burns Supper. The performance was on a spectacular scale with at least 150 performers on stage for the finale – the vast proportion of these being school children from across the region – who had all participated in rehearsals and costume making for the show over the weeks leading up to the original festival date. ‘We Could Be Heroes’ ambitiously attempted to combine new creative material with a mass participation ethos. Like any piece of art it raised as many questions as it answered and there will be long and fruitful discussion about the show’s apparent presentation of a polemic and the particular version of Scottish identity it portrayed.

'We Could be Heroes' - image Creative Scotland
All in all, a grand day for the arts in the region that presented quality, cooperation, innovation and debate. Such occasions often provide benchmarks for us to reflect on where we are with the arts locally……many present yesterday commented on the marked contrast in atmosphere and confidence in the sector between this occasion and the last big Creative Scotland set piece of their Roadshow visit exactly 2 years ago ……we are getting there folks ?!

Strenuous attempts were made to be as inclusive as possible in the visit – representatives of organisations and sectors were invited to events and a general invite went out to be part of the video shout-out…….one of the things that seems to be working at the moment is a greater awareness of each other practices and aims…and a willingness to cooperate – this was continually remarked on by Fiona Hyslop. Even if you were not individually featured as part of events yesterday hopefully everyone can agree that what is good for the region as a whole is good for all of us individually


  1. For the 2 minutes News clip, go here:

  2. What a fantasic show!!! Really enjoyed the story, the music, the fun and the costumes!!! Our children and the Big Burns Supper Team made us so proud to be a part of this magical part of the world. Thank you for working so hard and for so long to bring this wonderful show to all us parents xxxx roll on Big Burns Supper 2014!!! (pls can DVD's of the show be made so we can relive the magic and our children can see how brilliant they were) xxx

  3. In actual fact, the show entitled "We Can Be Heroes" had more than 320 people on stage for the finale. And approximately 500 children were involved in the participatory element from across the region in the run up to the show. A feat not to be taken lightly! Well done to everybody involved and here's to Big Burns Supper 2014!

  4. The Commonty 'ambitiously attempted' to provide arts coverage from Dumfries & Galloway........

  5. Grand work indeed from everyone involved in making We Could be Heroes (and thanks for the exact numbers of participants!) - the show was presented as participation/engagement AND as a piece of new theatre.....this is very new ,brave and exciting territory. As a creative community we surely need to be able to constructively debate the qualities of the work we do. There was a lot of debate after the show - it is great that this is able to continue on the blog - the piece above only attempted to identify some of the themes that we heard being discussed - without taking a particular side on them.
    Roll on BBS 2014 indeed!

  6. We can be Heros was heroic in the number of people it involved which was great. As a piece of theatre not for me but each to his own I suppose

  7. Many thanks for writing about the performance from the Big Burns Supper team but please note that the show is called 'We Can Be Heroes'. However, I was more than disappointed to read your rather neutral critique. What is the point in providing such a piece when one is left not sure whether your third person comments are supportive or simply speculative? So neutral it was, I was left thinking that you didn't enjoy it at all. From all the feedback I have received from many different sources, perhaps you should have said that it was not only 'on a spectacular scale' but that it was actually 'spectacular'. Others have already reminded you that there were initially around 500 children involved at the beginning and more than 300 children on stage in the show! It was contemporary,exciting,ambitious and a damned good night out. I apologise to all your readers for your rather bland and timid report!

  8. There should be more theatre in Dumfries. I really like it. Apart from that pantomime, The Emperors New Clothes.