Nith scoping (2012)

Nith scoping; artistic out come for Inbetween: Dumfries public Art Event

This project is one of three  research led artist projects (and one of eight total projects) commissioned by The Stove for their program, Inbetween:Dumfries running 5-11th November 2012. The Stove is a collective of local artists and the event consisted of a series of specially commissioned projects presented in the public spaces of Dumfries. There was also a two-day discussion program presented by Intersections Public Art focusing on the role of culture in the development of small market towns.


Following a period of 3 months spent researching the relationship between people in Dumfries and their River Nith, I developed two outcomes which are the synthesis of this research:

Firstly a free limited edition of the ‘Nith‘ newspaper, available in public places in Dumfries and delivered by bicycle along the Whitesands between 5th-9th November (some left lingering in libraries, doctor surgeries and on kitchen tables… See Nith Newspaper for more information)

Secondly a week of workshops, introducing Nith Scoping to Dumfries town…

Nith scoping is a new outdoor pursuit activity I invented to provide people in Dumfries with an exciting experience of their river from a prospective which it is seldom seen. It addresses the challenge and struggle we can have in trying to understand and engage with natural forces (such as rivers) which we no longer have an industrial use for or much control of. In the case of the Nith in Dumfries, the river bed is one of the most talked of topics in the town, not because most people have actually seen it, but because it lies at the heart of strongly held dredging debate. It is trapped invisibly between those who want it to be removed to solve the towns enduring flooding problems and environmental groups and geologists who work to protect its essential biodiversity. In my attempt to understand this debate further I was troubled by a question; surely it is more meaningful to debate something we can actually look at? several adapted pieces of piping, magnifying lens, some recycled bicycle inner tubes, duck tape, truck tarpaulin and empty water bottles later, this became possible…

Nith scoping is a public art event, operating in the style of a street workshop, engaging members of the public (both passing and invited) in the activity of looking at the river bed of the Nith. This is achieved by encouraging the audience to borrow a Nith scoping kit, several of which are transported to the site and presented from a bicycle trailer. The hand assembled kits consists of a chosen pair of fitting Wellington boots, a life jacket and Nith mits, Nith goggles and a Nith scope. To use the kit the participants will be guided onto the steps and will be instructed how to use the scope to enable under water viewing. Notable sightings will recorded on black boards attached temporarily to railings nearby and an additional board will indicate times of the activity and any weather or water conditions which significant effect Nith scoping. Copies of the Nith newspaper, a twin to the project, will be available for free from a newspaper rack on the front of the bicycle. The event should promote conversation about the river and facilitate the projects enduring determination to provide a field for dialogue which interchanges different knowledge’s and experiences of the Nith.

Nith scoping time table, 2012, Wide steps at the Whitesands, Low to high tide

Monday 5th Nov – 8.52 – 14.59

Tuesday 6th Nov- 9.40 – 15.50

Wednesday 7th Nov (Greensands) – 10.43 – 16.57

Thursday 8th Nov – 12.00 – 18.14

Friday 9th Nov – 13.13 – 19.26

In addition we brought some of the underwater population up to have a good look at us, the strange land animals also. Using methods of invertebrate sampling used to monitor the quality of the river water

During the week, 95 members of the public in Dumfries put their eye to a scope and looked into the Nith…

35 adventurous Primary 2 children explored the underwater world of the river, one little girl even spotted a mermaid!!!

A further 123 people stopped to talk, take newspapers and share river memories and stories…

Each day a chalky black board was filled with notes of river conditions and things spotted

(Click on image to enlarge)

Nith Scoping equipment has remained in the vicinity of the river Nith, donated to the Nith District Salmon Fishery Trust, to be used with their educational project with children, but through arrangement it can be borrowed by anyone in Dumfries

For more information;

(For further images see )



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s