Nithraid 2014 – another success for the Stovies!

Nithraid 2014 is a return of a fun and spirited public celebration of the River Nith crossing Dumfries. Masterminded and organised by The Stove artists’ collective, this year’s Nithraid is bigger and more eventful and colourful. Some 5000 spectators lined the riverbanks on September 13 to see the Salty Coo parade, BMX demonstration, Roller Derby skating  and skateboard performances, visit the market stalls, take hand at metal casting and, of course, to cheer the finale of the boat race.

The Nithraid celebrates the past, present and future role of the river in the flourishing of Dumfries .The river was once a busy international and domestic trade route making Dumfries an important harbour. The boat race from Carsethorn to the Caul at the Whitesands, each boat carrying a symbolic ‘cargo’, is designed to remind Doonhamers of this historical role. The sailors have to negotiate the trait0rous sand traps, unreliable currents and low bridges to ride up the high tide, where the salty waters of the sea mingle with the ones of the river. The race takes place around the time of the Autumn Equinox when the tide is at its highest, however many a boat doesn’t make it to the Whitesands where the winning crew member has the honour of releasing the Salty Coo, a sea salt cow statue, to dissolve in the Nith.

As an event photographer it was a pleasure to join the documentary team and be re-united with the Stovies who worked tirelessly and selflessly to ensure the smooth running of the Nithraid’s multiple components. Artists are often viewed as these slightly useless creatures producing luxury items for the privileged, but here in Dumfries and Galloway they are a visible constructive social force, concerned and actively involved in the area regeneration. Market stalls were erected and the Curry lorry parked to serve as a stage. The whole area was beautifully decorated with banners and flags. I was amazed how brisk, quick and practiced the whole process was!

A miniature  model of the race, complete with the river, model boats and bridges, was constructed in the sand ‘amphitheatre’  where the current positions of the boats was updated by the radio unit patrol, marked on a score board and reported to Doonhamers. It became the kids’ fav place to play.

Meawhile, a festive procession carried the Salty Coo through the town down the Friars Vennel to the Whitesands and across Devorgilla Bridge. A carnival band played the music commissioned to accompany the statue, and a flock of young ceilidh dancers entertained the onlookers. The Salty Coo was then afixed in a tongue in cheek sculptural bull holder mechanism and raised on a specially constructed pontoon waiting for the dunking ceremony in the middle of the river.

On seeing the cow (and the bull) John asked me: ‘Is it deliberate? I mean, the cow and the bull doing it, you know…’ Well, that’s the carnevalesque spirit for you!

I came home with a lot of images for the Stove, tons of new impressions, a burned forehead (it was such a sunny day) and a feeling of gratitude to the Stovies for implementing such a fantastic successful event!

Below are my favourites from the day.

Devorgilla Bridge in Dumfries town centre

Devorgilla Bridge in Dumfries town centre - a medieval market route. The river Nith historically played a crucial role in domestic and international trade here

The Salty Cow pontoon awaiting the ceremony in the middle of the river before the high tide

The Salty Cow pontoon awaiting the ceremony in the middle of the river before the high tide

The Curry truck to serve a performance stage at Nithraid

The Curry truck to serve a performance stage at Nithraid

The Stove Network flags

The Stove Network flags to decorate the Whitesands | Market stalls framework is built

The Stovies busy erecting the market stalls

The Stovies after hard work erecting the stalls at the Whitesands car park. Will it be there next year after the anti-flood work starts?

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Salty Coo before the Nithraid 2014 parade

Salty Coo before the Nithraid 2014 parade

The boat race route model under construction

The boat race route model under construction

Nithraid model route through the spider web

Through the spider web

Young Stovie taking part in the Nithraid model building

Young Stovie at work!

A festive parade in Dumfries town centre

A festive parade in Dumfries town centre

Ceilidh dancers carrying the Stove flags

Ceilidh dancers carrying the Stove flags

Nithraid parade on Friars Vennel

The parade passes through Friars Vennel

The Salty Coo carried through Dumfries

The Salty Coo carried through Dumfries

Trash street band performs a specially commissioned music piece at Nithraid

Street band performs a specially commissioned music piece

Moxie, the Herald of the Stove, announces the tribute to the gods and goddesses of the river

Moxie, the Herald of the Stove, announces the tribute to the gods and goddesses of the river

The procession continues onto the Mill Bank

The procession continues onto the Mill Bank

Trash drummers performance

Trash drummers performance

BMX performance

BMX display

Metal cast demonstrations

Metal cast demonstrations

Members of the public take hand at producing their own commemorative salty Coo buttons

Father and daughter take hand at producing their own commemorative salty Coo buttons

Finishing the commemorative buttons

Finishing the metal work

Ceramic casts open

Ceramic casts open

Young boy showing a finished metal button produced during the Nithraid demonstrations

The finished item

Doonhamers lining the riverbanks to welcome the boats

Doonhamers lining the riverbanks to welcome the boats

The model of the Nithraid boat race in action

The model of the Nithraid boat race in action

Kids playing with the models in the Nithraid commentator amphitheatre

Kids playing with the models

Scores  reported by the radio unit patrol and marked on the board

Scores reported by the radio unit patrol and marked on the board

Nithraid race commentator

Race commentator

It's a long wait!

It's a long wait!

The first boat appears  but it's not a salboat

The first boat appears but it's not a salboat

The winning boat approaches...

The winning boat approaches...

... and reaches the Salty Coo pontoon

... and reaches the Salty Coo pontoon

The statue is slowly lowered to the water

The statue is slowly lowered to the water

The ceremony is about to start

The ceremony is about to start

Crowds awaiting the dunking

Crowds awaiting the dunking

Salty Coo is released into the river during Nithraid in Dumfries

The youngest memder of the winning boat crew helps to release the Salty Coo

Saying goodbye for now

Saying goodbye for now

Boat passing the dissolving Salty Coo

Boat passing the dissolving statue

The Caul at the Whitesands exposed

The end of the day - the Caul exposed

The market stalls are dismantled and tired pirates carry their bounty home

The market stalls are being dismantled and tired pirates carry their bounty home

Goodbye, the Stovies!

Goodbye, the Stovies!