Summer 2020

Community land ownership                                            

Eco action does not have to involve gathering in huge crowds to wave banners at the government. Over lockdown, smaller, local, land-based actions have felt more empowering (and possible!) These changes start from a small point and ripple outwards. Reclaiming land and spaces helps us become more resilient to climate change and other sicknesses of society. It helps us become less reliant on, and contributing less to exploitative systems. It helps us become more connected with the land and each other.

Eco Midsteeple

Midsteeple Quarter is an example of this principle of community land ownership in Dumfries. It is a Community Benefit Society, set up and run by people of Dumfries to help shape a prosperous, compassionate and vibrant town centre for the future. They plan to take ownership of a group of disused buildings on the High Street, and refurbish and steward them for the local community. Affordable enterprise space will be at street level, and good quality flats for rent on the floors above. 

“This is an organised movement, this is grassroots stuff at its absolute finest” – Evie Copland, Board Member

[Picture: still from Community Land Scotland’s film, see below for link].

They already own The Oven (135-139 High Street), after a Community Asset Transfer from DG Council in November 2018, and building work is starting to convert part of this building into flats.

Midsteeple Quarter is set to be a sustainable development, built with

  • all natural, and recycled materials where possible
  • good insulation to minimise energy requirements
  • orientation for solar gain and solar energy
  • designed for low water usage, and for ensuring good air quality, with heat recovery ventilation.
  • low-carbon standards, responding to the ecology of the site
  • minimising waste during construction

They even have some exciting ideas for geothermal energy, dependent on research and feasibility studies, as Dumfries is apparently sitting on a hot aquifer (I know, hard to believe!)  

While the project is primarily for indoor, built space, the plans create space for greenness, with private balconies, courtyards, green roofs and closes as part of a planted landscape. This is great for residents, and will help to use or store surface water.

Finally, they have a robust approach towards transport; to reduce reliance on transport and high energy activities, their project is ‘based around a car-free environment’. It proposes cycle storage facilities for residents and visitors, and possibly a pool car with electric charging point system.

See plans here:

https://www.midsteeplequarter.org/a-blueprint-for-the-heart-of-dumfries/

https://www.dumgal.gov.uk/media/22146/Midsteeple-Quarter-Masterplan/pdf/Midsteeple_Quarter_Masterplan_LDP2_Nov_2019.pdf?m=637098381229270000

Introductory video, featuring Dan Gillespie’s poem ‘Midsteeple People’: https://www.midsteeplequarter.org/1168-2/

Become a Member: https://www.midsteeplequarter.org/join-us/

There are also projects for potential community ownership of big tracts of land in Dumfries and Galloway: one at Wanlockhead – https://wanlockheadcommunitytrust.org/, and one at Langholm – https://www.langholminitiative.org.uk/.

The Community Empowerment Act (2015) allows us to:

  • Register interest in buying land with a group
  • Purchase land that is abandoned, neglected, or causing environmental harm to the wellbeing of a community, for sustainable development of that land.
  • Seek Community Asset Transfers

https://www.gov.scot/publications/community-empowerment-scotland-act-summary/#page-top

‘Soil and Soul’ by Alaister McIntosh – recommended reading for insights and ideas around community land ownership.

Spring 2020

Though Covid-19 has put a spanner in the works for many climate and eco-related happenings across the region, there are a few to report on before the lockdown kicked in, and one which is taking place virtually this year.

XR Dumfries Film Screening: 2040

The Robert Burns film theatre was packed on March 5th for this screening of a film showing ideas for positive change across the world. Ian Gasse, member of Friends of the Earth Dumfries hosted a discussion panel, with Annie Wild from Dumfries XR, John Higgs from D&G Climate Group, and Dougie Campbell, the D&G councils’ Climate Champion. They, along with audience members, shared inspiring and empowering words in an uplifting evening seeking a better future for our children.

XR Dumfries Craftivism – On 14th March, children and adults came to Zero Waste Space to take part in designing and making their own eco-messages.89472035_492275884802399_8494783164969910272_n

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Jonny Cartwright Photography 

They used sewing to make banners, paint on cardboard for signs, and local artist Cate Ross led silk-screen printing activities using stencils. It was a great turn-out of creative people sharing ideas (and paintbrushes!)

D&G ENVIRONMENT FAIR goes Virtual

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This year, the annual family-friendly gathering will appear online for the first time. D&G OWL, Outdoor & Woodland Learning said: “We are not giving up on it – we are reinventing it!” They organise this event to give people the chance to learn what is going on locally to help the environment. It will happen on 31st May 2020, available on Facebook and YouTube from your home! Videos live streamed on the day will provide workshops, discussions, activities, poems, songs, crafts and demonstrations. They are trying to have the same sorts of things on as usual, including organisations representing nature reserves, renewable energy projects, and local branches of national charities and NGO’s (Non-Governmental Organisations). They hope to emulate the buzz created in previous years as hordes of visitors poured in to the Rutherford-McCowan building at Crichton campus to visit stalls brought by eco groups from across the region. https://www.facebook.com/EnvironmentFair/

Winter 2019/20

Zero Waste Space opens on Dumfries High Street!

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Mother and daughter team Vicky and Esme created Zero Waste Space in early 2019, selling zero-waste toiletries and cleaning products online. Katie soon joined them, and they now have their own space in Dumfries, above Powerbikes near the Burns’ Statue bus stop. The Powerbikes team advertised the extra space on Facebook, as part of their “ethos to promote sustainability however we can”, and Zero Waste Space were the perfect match.

There was a lot of D.I.Y. work needing done before they could open their doors on December 19th. In the process of creating Dumfries and Galloway’s first Zero-Waste food shop, they believe “community is the key”, and that “one man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure.” So, they tried to source everything second hand – reclaiming, recycling and upcycling what they could. They were blown away by the response received to a call-out for volunteers, shelving, fabric, kids toys/ books, and other furniture/ tools. As well as a shop space, they have a large workshop space for educational talks and events. They hosted a clothes swap on February 2nd, enjoying many happy customers and a lot of cake. There is another one for children coming up on March 7th. On February 29th, the Upper Room Art Café opened too, bringing life to a community hub where people can come to chat, connect and have some refreshment. They are helping the transition to a Zero-Waste, plastic-free lifestyle; be sure to pop in when you are next in town.

Contact: @ZeroWasteSpace / zerowaste.space@gmx.com

Extinction Rebellion (XR) D&G

  • A new sub-group for Dumfries and Nithsdale formed, following a film screening at the Frothy Bike Co. An audience of between 40 and 50 watched ‘Heading for Extinction (and what to do about it)’. A discussion afterwards gave people a chance to talk in small groups about the film.
  • This new group’s first event was a walk to Lincluden Abbey and a drink at the pub – a social event for chats and getting to know each other.
  • D&G XR members joined the ‘Blue Wave’ event in Glasgow on 29th Everyone 93400777_3210690359155623_6319589719415980032_odressed up in blue and brought signs to raise public awareness of rising sea-levels and increased risks of flooding in Scotland due to the climate breakdown. They walked from River Clyde up Buchanon Street, chanting, singing and handing out flyers on their way. The D&G XR choir did a special performance, and they all caught up for a brew afterwards. Some of the responses shared after:

“a great day, fabulous singing, friendship, kindliness, thoughtfulness, wisdom and solidarity. What a stunning bunch of folk!”
“A fantastic coming together of so many like minds.”

Painting of the blue people performers by Mother Malarky 

Autumn 2019

Climate Strikers in Kircudbrightafnfegjdkhdffjcb

The region saw at least two climate strikes on 20th September, with one in Dumfries, and one in Kircudbright. Here, 100 students filed out from the Academy at 11.15am and marched to Harbour Square.   They sang, chanted slogans and had speeches on Greyfriars Church mound. Contingents from Auchencairn and New Galloway joined, and there were over 100 members of the public and other supporters watching and joining in. Councillor Dougie Campbell gave a talk about the Council’s declaration of Climate Emergency and target of zero net CO2 emissions by 2025.

Laurieston Hall hosts Young Friends of the Earth Scotland’s skill-share 

EGWU_iSWsAAydVgThe weekend of October 4th – 6th saw around 30 young people from around Scotland come to Laurieston Hall in Galloway. They participated in trainings about topics such as climate justice, crafted banners or zines, and connected with each other and the beautiful wooded surroundings. They also learnt from the residents about how they live together, sustainably from the land. The cooperative has been running for over 50 years. They use hydropower from a local burn and wood for their energy, and grow a lot of their own food in the kitchen garden. Find out more: https://www.lauriestonhall.org.uk/ // https://foe.scot/get-involved/young-friends-earth-scotland/

Big Climate Conversation

On 2nd September, over 50 people from all over D&G came together at the Usual Place, Dumfries, for a chance to give their views to the Scottish Government on what climate action Scotland should take. Keep Scotland Beautiful facilitated this; they gathered participants’ opinions and ideas in the form of questionnaires, via discussions among small groups, and from setting priorities from multiple-choice lists. They will collate and present responses from across the country in coming months.

Introducing… Dumfries Recycling Initiative

A platform for your comments and experiences on recycling in Dumfries. They received funding for, organised and oversaw creation of a new mini documentary, see below! @dumfriesrecyclinginitiative.

67808705_479138932875514_6068177452193021952_nArt with a Message…

Videographer Studio 105 created ‘Sustainable Action Now!’, funded by the 2050 Climate group. The film gives updates about council recycling services, and shows examples of local residents making a positive change to reduce their impact on the environment. The Stove was packed on 18th September for the viewing and discussion. You can view the video online here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6lur-P8TaY

Finally, Stewartry Climate Group made a series of conversations and film screenings to raise engagement in their local area, see flyer here: Stewartry Climate Group Flyer

SUMMER 2019

EXTINCTION REBELLION Dumfries & Galloway formed, via a Facebook page and event, and a few informal meetings in pubs. The groups’ genesis was inspired by the national organisations’ huge protests in London in April, which were accompanied by Non-Violent Direct Action or Civil Disobedience, a disruption that blocked roads and bridges, and succeeded in Westminster calling a climate emergency, which was one of the demonstrations’ demands. From 16th-20th June, five members attended the Holyrood Camp, outside Scottish parliament. This was timed to coincide with discussions inside parliament about legislation to amend the Climate Change Act of 2009. Instead of an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, a ‘net-zero’ date was set for 2045, with a 75% reduction by 2030. The XR camp assembled to witness, push for strong targets, and to celebrate what has been achieved so far. On 7th July, around 30 people gathered at Laurieston Hall in Galloway for an Intro, organise & direct action workshop. On 15th July, seven members attended the Summer Uprising in Glasgow, occupying a street in Trongate and harnessing the opportunity to speak with hundreds, if not thousands of people throughout the day. One member said: “I was struck how supportive nearly everyone we spoke to was, and what a positive and caring atmosphere was created by all the Extinction Rebellion folks involved.” Contact: @XRDumGal/ xrdumgal@protonmail.com

D&G Council Climate Emergency Declaration – On 27th June, roughly 40 activists/ members gathered with the council as they passed the motion. It was accompanied by a ‘12-point plan’ and appointed Councillor Dougie Campbell as ‘climate champion’. The council also committed to the target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.  

D&G Climate Group formed in July out of Auchencairn (?) Stewartry and New Galloway Climate Groups and Extinction Rebellion D&G. They are an association of local people who came together “as we are increasingly concerned about the Climate and Ecological Crisis we are all facing and wish to take action.” They have been advising the council on ways to reduce emissions in the region. Contact: dg.climategroup@gmail.com. Facebook: @DGClimateGroup

Introducing… INCREDIBLE EDIBLE – This is a scheme for local growing of food to share – herbs, veg and fruit – in plots and planters around the town. Everyone is welcome to get involved: dumfriescanbeincredible@hotmail.co.uk. Schemes in Stranraer and Gatehouse: https://www.incredibleedible.org.uk/find-a-group/

68637810_2363545270402478_5598808251966685184_nArt with a message… Quartz @ St. JOHN’S – uses creative approaches to sensing and exploring spirituality, with a focus on environmental issues. ‘OUTERWEAVE’ events leave the church building to connect with the natural and human community outside. On 23rd June, they walked around Dumfries looking at Incredible Edible plots. They made signs to show what is growing, in 3 languages – Gaelic, Arabic, and English, to show cultural diversity and unity.  Contact: @QuartzInStJohnsDumfries/ Website: https://www.wordsmithcrafts.co.uk/Quartz.html

SPRING 2019

STRIKE FOR CLIMATE Dumfries schoolchildren, youth and older allies gathered outside D&G council on 15th March as part of a global protest to raise the issue of climate change.

IMG_3422 Swedish Activist Greta Thunberg, 16, inspired the strike, which was organised by Lucy Forteath, an ex-pupil from Dumfries Academy. She said “I took it upon myself to organise Dumfries’s strike because it’s not often an event like this happens in Dumfries, it usually happens in the cities”. The group of around 30 people moved from the Council building to outside Dumfries Academy, then down the High Street to the Burns Statue, back up to the fountain, before finishing back at the council building. As they walked, members chanted their messages and waved handmade banners and placards, attracting attention and the odd blare of a car-horn from people passing by. Contact Lucy at lucyforteath1234@gmail.com.

51899617_2654279871278636_1421793312104251392_nFREE VEGAN COOKOUT Dumfries had their second event on 4th May. A great turn out of volunteers gathered at the Plane Stanes on the High Street, bringing vegan food and ready smiles to engage passers-by. As a rough estimate, they fed around 75 people, with homemade nut roast baps, pakora and wraps from Cubbie’s vegan café on Bank Street, flatbread, hummus and cakes. The team took around £40 in donations: money that they can put toward future events. They had roughly 65 meaningful conversations about veganism with members of the public. Image credit:  Agnė Zdanavičiūtė 

D&G ENVIRONMENT FAIR gathered groups and organisations from across the region on 18th May to set up stalls in or outside the Rutherford-McCowan building on the Crichton campus. Hordes of visitors poured in, attracted to family-friendly activities and a chance to learn what is on locally, from nature reserves to renewable energy projects. Friends of the Earth (FOE) Dumfries (contact: @foedumfries – Facebook, foe.dumfries@gmx.co.uk – email)  were helping people fill out letters to their MP’s, MSP’s and councillors about divesting pension funds from fossil fuels. If you missed out, you can still do so here: https://act.foe.scot/divest-council-pension-funds

Introducing… D.U.S.T. – Dumfries University Sustainability Team – has been going since February 2019. Their goal is to make the campus more aware about environmental issues and more sustainable. Contact: @Dumfries Sustainability Team – DUST (Facebook)/ dust@cucsa.org.uk

Art with a Message… OCEANALLOVER 57303981_2240257912721201_8390173313715929088_npresented a micro-festival for their OROGRAPHIC project. On 13th April in Dumfries High Street/ in The Stove, and at a mystery location in the surrounding countryside, the theatre company made experimental performances with the theme of ecology, landscape and emotion. The performance has toured Scotland. Website: http://www.oceanallover.co.uk/Pages/Orographic.html  Image credit: Galina Walls Photography