Martin O’Neil, Artistic Director with The Stove Network, and Katharine Wheeler from WWDN, recently took a trip to Vestfold in Norway to share their knowledge and insights on community-embedded work.
During the visit they talked about creative approaches and how these methods apply globally, sharing valuable ideas and experiences. Collectively they explored how different cultures can benefit from each other’s strategies and the importance of exchanging knowledge on community-embedded work in today’s interconnected world.
The visit to Norway is a great example of how collaboration and exchange of ideas can foster innovation and create opportunities for learning. It provided an understanding of how these practices can be adapted across different cultures can create positive change and growth in Dumfries & Galloway.
We caught up with Martin to chat about the trip! (check out Katharine’s update here)
Why are these connections and relationships with Vestfold so important?
In the wake of Brexit’s impact on European infrastructures, forging connections with individuals, locales, and organisations across the continent (and beyond) is now more crucial than ever.
This profound shift in the political landscape demands a concentrated focus on local contexts to formulate solutions and strategies for predominantly national, global, and political challenges—ranging from climate issues to cultural and economic considerations.
Embracing this move towards localism for the development of cultural and community-led solutions underscores the importance of acknowledging, engaging, and implementing cultural ties with our European neighbours. This approach ensures a recognition of the diversities within our populace, both historically and in the present.
These connections, deeply rooted in shared heritage, act as crossroads for a heightened understanding of our world and the potential for collaborative efforts to address shared challenges. Whether it be in the realms of culture, economy, ecology, or history, our association with Vestfold county has established the groundwork for achieving a shared purpose amidst radically different contexts, driven by a common commitment to sharing our respective practices, towards a process with an indeterminable outcome. The journey’s only really just begun.
How will these connections enhance The Stove’s artistic practice, particularly in relation to creative placemaking?
Our connection, especially with Norway, goes beyond the town’s history tied to the arrival of the Norwegian battalion in WW2. Frequently, our work is challenging to grasp, often due to the complexities of the localities we operate in. Navigating through various contexts, places, scenarios, departments, and people poses a risk of our embedded approach. An approach which, depending on who you’re talking to may be described as social arts, activism, community development, wellbeing and regeneration.
This connection is uniquely, and crucially, creative. Engaging with Sirene, who operate in a similar field. Crucially, we share values centred on integrating creativity into civic structures, working towards creating spaces that respect the reality and potential of people. This connection not only enhances our understanding of our practice but also provides fertile ground for a broader cross-cultural connection between our regions. It contributes to a unique international relation specific to Dumfries & Galloway and Vestfold. One we’re proud to be developing.
Any moments of personal inspiration from the trip?
Mølen is a coastal geopark in the Brunlanes area of Larvik in Vestfold. It has over a hundred types of rock, including Norway’s national stone, Larvikite, which is named from the area. Along the coast, the remnants of 2500-year-old cairns, thought to predate the Vikings, stand sentinel along the shore.
In this near-ancient locale, the emotional weight is profound. The boulders, shaped by millennia since the last ice age, are nearly perfectly spherical, crafting a landscape that appears oddly constructed, even alien. The arrival, amid a thunderstorm just a mile away, lent the journey a forbidding yet tremendously exciting atmosphere.
What exciting developments lie ahead in this partnership?
With a visit from our Norwegian friends from Sirene scheduled for spring next year, the possibilities are only now beginning to emerge, from shared residencies to collaborative projects linking our two regions, we’re excited to draw new perspectives, people and places into the conversation to develop and nurture this new relationship.
Take a look at some of the photos from the trip, and Katharine has provided some additional reflections.