Re the threatened closure of Dartington college of Arts

Convener(s):Mary O’Connor

Participants: Sophie, Martin, Laura, Will, Gemma, Cheryl, Richard, Dan, Ruth, Shelley, Liz, Matthew and a few moresorry I didn’t collect all your names.

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Yes, the closure of D.C.A. does matter.

Many people attended, mary was the only person who was an ex-student, there was an attendee who is currently a theatre student. This issue is of concern to many people.

E.G. sophie : B.A.C. Graduates festival, Dartington theatre students chosen to participate. ready for professional performance straight off the course. She was impressed by the high standard of work from them.

We discussed the issues of the closure, difficult as the facts were muddled and there were so many agendas/ hidden agendas misinformation around the closure. We felt it was largely  financial.

Will was alarmed that in the context of conservative (formal and political) culture that this progressive theatre is under threat.

Hanna talked about knowing Totnes and students, how the economy and local arts will be so affected detrimentally. The arts is so London -centric so to move further away would be creating a void in the arts in Devon.

Gemma told us about Bretton hall, how in 1999 the students were told that it would be amalgamated with Leeds, they were told nothing would change over 5 years,. from that moment there was a systematic undermining of creativity, course was gradually cut, the course is NO LONGER THE SAME…. It is a worse, “super Course” just not the same education for arts practitioners available.

This was purely down to economics.

please visit this site to register your protest, to read testimonials, find out what you can do,

Dartington is rural, not urban. On a city campus it would be a different thing.

Tutors will leave.

William went to a conference “no way back, arts and ecology” and was amazed that Dartington was so unique in crossover views. Fertilising  ecology and the arts.

No desire from D.C.A. to move, £25,000,000 needed for the college to remain?

What will the trust do with the buildings? Conferences?  Summer schools?

To move it would erode the confidence of tutors and students irrevocably It would be a different college of arts.

There is a general trend towards feeling “Bigger is Better” , we artists know that is not the case necessarily.

It was raised about the original intention of Dorothy & Leonard Elmhirst and their intent for the society at Dartington is not in accord with the current trustees view.

what does the trust want to do? what is happening on the Dartington estate is happening over the country and is reflective of a general trend .

This is purely down to economics, and what is perceived to be valuable.

It would be terrible if the end result that the trust was able to make money from people who wanted to go to Dartington to attend conferences about the arts, Money is made from conferences. When no new art was being created there anymore….

Music and the way art forms are mixed continues to be innovative

This is not the type of education this government wants in this country. Wimbledon has changed since it was amalgamated. quirky idiosyncrasies have changed to fit the norm.

There are other institutions which are threatened with downsizing

Eg Garner arts centre, B.A.C. If the estate  doesn’t really want D.C.A. on site how can it stay?

Independent thought needs to be respected, push it foreword.

Does this reveal that there is culturally (locally ie with the trust, and nationally) a deep seated lack of  belief in experimental theatre/arts?

Degrees can now be churned out. Artists can’t make it to order. Environment and quality of tutoring vital to aid artists produce innovative work.

Arts courses don’t provide for “the workforce”

 Where in the English speaking world is there anywhere like Dartington?

In the U.K. we do not take pride in our culture /arts. In uk if you spoke out about these closures you could be accused of being elitist.

Suggested points to realise how the place is unique.

There are ripples, not only will the economics and arts in the immediate area of totnes be affected but matthew from Bristol spoke of the different Theatre companies that come  and set up in Bristol from Dartington, that if Dartington was to move this would  directly effect other arts in other cities. The influence was far and wide.



We could go to the website and register our support, following the various ideas on the site to support the lobby government. write letters. Emails. Read the letters from people like Peter Brook, understand why this institution is unique.

Suggest open space to help them clarify the issues. Inform them that this was raised as an issue and copy this breaking news to them.  Produce a list of artists who have visited the college, there is a website :Ivor Stolliday arts list people who have lectured there.

Dartington needs to articulate why it is special. We tried with the following:-

Unique ratio of student /tutors. this will change if site changes.

It is a stand-alone-arts college. 

Aesthetic informed by the environment.

A different type of creative artist is allowed to blossom here. It matters to theatre in the area. Is this the trend for other educational  places?

Once announced,

 Students and tutors will leave. the quality will now DRAIN OUT?

Could what happens at dartington happen anywhere?

Self-contained unit within rural environment, exceptional architectural beauty.

Students thrown together, small community, great student tutor ratio.

High quality of tutors attracted by environment/status/history/access to London.leaders in their field and also practitioners,

Quality of resources, full technical support.

Totnes economy intertwined.Harmony of college and local environment.

Forefront of avante garde music,

Dartington has always and still does encourage experiment and independent thought.

Dartington Artists have very strong principles

It’s deep cultural history has been a source of inspiration to the students

The environment is “rigorous” which allows the students to develop artistically and socially.

There has been a history of liberal living and thinking there since the early 20th century.

Foremost  experimental theatre companies in the U.K. pproduced from Dartington