First Minister Alex Salmond joined over 5000 spectators on the banks of the River Nith in Dumfries on Saturday 13 September to watch an annual sailing race which only takes place on the highest tide of the year.
The ‘Nithraid’ event celebrates the past, present and future role of the River Nith in the flourishing of Dumfries as the Regional Capital of South West Scotland and is designed and organised by The Stove Network artists’ collective.
The crowd lined the banks of the Nith for over a mile, while 100 people took part in a procession with a ‘Salty Coo’ through the town and down to the river to welcome the boats. The First Minister dropped in unexpectedly and addressed the crowds form the ancient Devorgilla Bridge.
The race was conceived as a sailing dinghy race, but any form of boat, and any form of propulsion except engines can compete. The race symbolises the historic role of the River Nith as a trade route and communication link between Dumfries and the rest of the world.
In spite of tricky light winds, 12 boats completed the race, a feat only made possible because of the short window of water depth afforded by the highest tide of the year. The ‘Salty Coo’ was raised on a ‘Coo Delivery Mechanism’ and lowered and released into the water by the crew of the winning boat.
Lead Artist for The Stove Network on Nithraid, Matt Baker said: “Nithraid was a day of hope and positivity in Dumfries, with Doonhamers claiming back the riverside in fine style. What we all saw today was the enormous potential of the riverside as a vibrant public space – hopefully its days as a gloomy car park are numbered.
There were so many families on the Mill Green that there was hardly space for anyone else to set up their picnic – a little imagination goes a long way in reclaiming our towns as places for people.”
The Stove Network is a community of artists that work collectively and collaboratively to organise public art events for the people of Dumfries. For more details about the Stove, the artists and their previous projects, please see the website: www.thestovenetwork.org. The Stove Network has over 100 members and is a registered charity, SC044947.