Nithraid 2018 once again hits Dumfries, It’s a community led riverside fest and boat race celebrating the historic legacy of the river Nith in creating the town through trad, goods and sail power and its current myth/art-making and identity-focusing role for Doonhamers, now in its 6th instalment.
My favourite local artist group Maddjakallss were commissioned to run the Nithraid procession this year. They succeeded in creating a majestic marching show, somewhat perplexing in its meaning but fantastically dramatic ritual moving through the town centre via Devorgilla Bridge to Mill Green, accompanied by the beat of African drums.
The Salty Coo figure was carried by the volunteers from the international Amaze Me Leader project – never before Nithraid was so multi-national!
There were lots of creative workshops for kids – stone carving, zine and mosaic making, upcycling and Chinese lantern making. Local community groups had an opportunity top air their new projects and found recruits. Families could watch the races from Solway Firth up the river – one for sailing boats, the other for coastal rowing boats. Each boat delivered a symbolic cargo at the finishing line – the Salty Coo platform. Mark Zygadlo and a member of Alnmouth team won the respective races and the right to dunk the Coo into the Nith waters.
Live acoustic music sets performed by local musicians in Nithraid marquee. Several food stalls and drinks were provided so people did not have to move away from site for their meals. I was particularly impressed with Northern Wilds Wood-Fired Pizzas team who invited me to take a look at their ovens and pizza-making process!
In the afternoon Nithraid visitors walk across to Dock Park to listen to the specially commissioned sonic artwork for to mark the long-awaited Rosefield Mill revival. The music (and the disco floor) was provided by the popular Double Down Disco crew – and there was lots of dancing for kids and grownups alike led by Maddjakallss! Lavender smoke floated from the derelict Mill building and over the Nith waters to draw attention to Dumfries Victorian-era landmark.
Like last year, the festivities programme continued into the night with an outdoor cinema, campfire with tales from Mostly Ghostly, more food, electrifying DJ sets and dance-worthy live music provided by SoundSystems.
All in all, this year’s Nithraid had all the makings of the local town festival turning into a regional tourist attraction, as provided activities engaged all ages of fest goers and lasted from late morning through the afternoon into nighttime.