When we had just moved to Dumfries I noticed how many shops here were either boarded up or had their windows whitewashed. High rents and new industrial estate shopping habits ousted businesses from their traditional High Street stronghold. Like in Glasgow, artists were commissioned murals depicting vibrant street life scenes to cover up the dereliction, but Doonhamers started to call Dumfries a “ghost town”.

This frustration and failure to improve the situation via conventional channels provoked a five-year long community consultation about the future of High Street led by the Stove Network and gave rise to Midsteeple Quarter project and the community society of like-minded people who are willing to invest time and effort into the future of their town.

As far as I understood, the MSQ project aims to take ownership of disused buildings, refurbish them and create affordable business and accommodation space for the benefit of the community.

It was amazing to feel such a positive buzz at the launch of Midsteeple Quarter Community Society and see all those people who came up to express their approval and to fill in membership forms. There were over 150 applications on the day!

The Stovies as the backbone of the Doon Toon Army of community activists were busy spreading the information to passers by. I could only imagine how much work was put into preparing installations for the Plainstanes stage, designing and making T-Shirts, and painting all those peaceful protest signs that spilled out the angst about the town centre present state!

Local politicians, such as Provost Tracy Little and members of Scottish Parliament Colin Smyth and Joan McAlpine, stepped onto the “Midsteeple Soapbox” to praise the project and pledge their support. There were live music acts and a bed-of-nails street performer to be enjoyed by the MSQ launch participants. Illustrator Emily Tough captured the atmosphere of community empowerment in a series of on-the-spot watercolour drawings.

Would the first stage of the project – taking over and refurbishing the former Bakers Oven premises into a successful business premises with some affordable flats above – be a success? I sincerely hope so…

Dumfries Town Crier Douglas Meechan opens Midsteeple Quarter Community Society launch
Dumfries Town Crier Douglas Meechan opens Midsteeple Quarter Community Society launch
Provost Tracy Little gives her inaugural speech at Midsteeple Quarter Benefit event
Provost Tracy Little gives her inaugural speech
Doonhamers arrive to support Doon Toon Army
Doonhamers arrive to support Doon Toon Army
Emily Tough creates on the spot watercolour illustrations of the proceedings
Emily Tough creates on the spot watercolour illustrations of the proceedings
Sneak-peek of Emily Tough's unfinished drawing of live events in Dumfries
Sneak-peek of Emily’s unfinished drawing
Colin Smyth MSP speaks in support of Midsteeple Quarter Project
Colin Smyth MSP speaks in support of MSQ Project
Joan McAlpine MSP on Midsteeple Soapbox
Joan McAlpine MSP stands on Midsteeple Soapbox to praise local activists’ reserve to take charge of the town’s future
Local artists turn up to encourage Midsteeple People
Positive conversations – local artists turn up to encourage Midsteeple People
Matt Baker and Tracy Little share their impressions
Matt Baker and Tracy Little share their impressions
Doon Toon Army T-shirts on offer at the information desk
Doon Toon Army T-shirts on offer at the information stall
Critical sign expressing Doonhamers' angst about the closing down shops on High Street
Critical sign expressing Doonhamers’ angst about the closing down shops on High Street
Peaceful protest musicians perform on the Plainstanes stage
Peaceful protest musicians perform live on the Plainstanes stage
Filling in Midsteeple Quarter Society membership application
Filling in Midsteeple Quarter Society membership application
Singer/songwriter/guitarist Paul Winter
Singer/songwriter/guitarist Paul Winter
Young and old stop to watch street performance for Midsteeple Quarter Benefit Society
Young and old stopped to watch street performance for Midsteeple Quarter Benefit Society

A bit of Midsteeple TV
A bit of Midsteeple TV
SWing Band
SWing Band

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