Dumfries, Queen of the South: the capital of south-west Scotland, and with 40,000 residents by far the biggest town in the region. But for years, the town centre had struggled with empty property, physical dilapidation and declining population and footfall.
As in many town centres the local authority tried to play its part with ambitious plans to improve public spaces and stimulate investment, but these struggled to gain traction and funding.
What’s inspirational about Dumfries is that members of the local community – largely volunteers – have stepped forward over the last decade to lead the town centre’s renaissance. Rather than complain about the state of the town centre, they decided simply to get on and do things.
The focus for action has been The Stove Network. It’s an arts and community development trust with 500 members. Based on Dumfries High Street, the network is a café, a meeting place and an arts venue.
Since 2010, the Stove Network has used arts and creativity to bring life to the town centre through events and projects, collaborating with the local authority, community organisations, local businesses and charities. Their aim is for culture, community and enterprise to work hand-in-hand to support a new vision of the High Street.
Over a decade, this fresh and invigorating approach has reopened empty premises on the high street, brought countless more people into the town centre for events and activities, and implemented dozens of projects.
A string of empty town centre properties is being redeveloped for new homes and businesses by the community-led Midsteeple Quarter project, which is tapping into new funding thanks to its links with the Scottish Government’s community empowerment agenda.
Reinvigorated by this fresh approach, all the major players in the town centre including the local authority are now collaborating on an overall vision and action plan to pool resources and expertise for maximum effect.
The basis of the whole approach is to use the energy and resources of the local community to repopulate and revitalise the town centre – and work has continued even during Covid-19, as you can read here.
Inspired? Find out more:
- Carnegie UK Trust Turnaround Towns UK 2019 (see case study on pages 15-16).
- Scottish Urban Regeneration Forum (SURF) Creative Regeneration Award 2016 (page 6).
- Architecture and Design Scotland Carbon Conscious Towns in Scotland: Case Studies.
- Scottish Community Alliance fact page on The Stove Network.
- Architecture and Design Scotland video and blog on learning from the Midsteeple Quarter project.