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Posted by on July 12, 2016 in Most-private |


There are no post-symposium blues. There just hasn’t been time – but nor has there really been time to reflect on what happened here at the end of June. We first held the short course (Transcribing Landscape) with two leaders (myself and Fiona Benson) and with a Schumacher Facilitator (Tilley) and with guest Garry Fabian Miller.


Short Course

The course ran with 9 participants, which from a Schumacher College standpoint made it a financial loss. Although there were 11 people registered, one withdrew and one simply didn’t appear on the day. 3 of the 9 were also registered on the symposium and thus received a discount.

We didn’t really know ahead of time who was coming and what their practice was. Fiona and I both assumed that there would be a preponderance of writers, but this proved not to the case. There was really only one participant who identified as writer although others used writing in their work. The group ranged from the highly experienced (a former member of Goat Island) to the recently-retired and feeling lost (3 of those, one local, one from Canada).

Fiona and I drew up the schedule which felt like a typical arts practice-based short course with plenty of time for making, doing, thinking and one-to-one sessions. Having Tilley as facilitator was fantastic because she was highly experienced in the Schumacher way of doing things but was also somewhat knowledgable about the arts and was a strong participant not just a facilitator. She did not ‘facilitate’ sessions in the normal sense, but was instead the conduit between us and the College. I think I could now do this role.

I learned from Tilley quite quickly that the College were somewhat bemused with our schedule. Clearly this was not the way short courses usually run. This became evident when Fiona was asked to invoice for one day’s teaching when in fact she had been fully present for four out of the five days. The timetable was so unusual to the College that they didn’t read this. It was resolved easily but made the point starkly that a ‘real’ arts offer is something unusual. The Elmhirst Centre was beautiful to be in but only worked because of the time of year when artists could be outside working much of the time. Not sure what I would have done in November or February.

A subsequent conversation with Rachel suggested that were were better off developing our own short courses that used College facilities but were not necessarily ‘Schumacher’ courses. Perhaps our students did not need to subscribe to being part of the community (i.e. doing house chores) and perhaps we could be elsewhere (see below!) but utilise accommodation and catering at the College. She seemed very happy with this suggestion (in fact it came from her I think).

Many commented on the day on Dartmoor with Garry. This was an important breathing space in the intensity of the four days, and was an important albeit expensive contribution to the overall. Garry was a good participant and came for opening and closing sessions as well as his ‘day’.



The symposium seemed to be brilliant. People complained (although not that loudly) about the food at Dartington and a few complained about ‘too many academic sessions’ although an equal number supported the mix of academic papers and ‘other modes of enquiry’. Despite the logistical nightmare, people loved Sharpham as a venue, and in general the second day had a calmer, more relaxed feeling, at both venues.

The evening was not particularly successful. Dinner provided at the Garden Room was not very good and there was confusion (my fault) about payment. A relatively small number – I think largely those who were staying on for the late night poetry event – came for dinner. I counted around 30 when I had paid for 100. I don’t know where everyone else went, but clearly they found food somewhere. Need to approach this differently in future.

Many commented on the interdisciplinary mix. The most notable example I came across was the session with Hal Moggridge on the evening keynote. He spent a lot of time talking about creating parkland or renovating parkland and at the end was gently but firmly attacked for ‘enslaving cows’ and avoiding a ‘new narrative’ about what represents a beautiful landscape. Hal responded with a cogent defence of the grazed landscape to which there was little adequate response. This kind of exchange would never have happened at a ‘normal’ academic conference where people argue about minutiae but are in general agreement about the bigger picture. Here there were some fundamental differences and it made for rich debate.


Other stuff

Previous posts have talked about the struggle to define This now feels much clearer and it feels increasingly important to incorporate.

The work with CCANW has blossomed. We have been invited to apply for an ACE Research Grant with Plymouth University as partner. Strong application, expect outcome in September. CCANW is lead applicant because couldn’t be.

But plenty of other things have blossomed. We just hosted (the week after the symposium!) a week-long visit from Yatoo, and later in the week including Dr Shin, a scientist-researcher from Seoul who has become a passionate supporter of art in the debate around climate change and who sought out Yatoo and then us. He is wanting to establish a national centre for arts and ecology in Seoul. We are now planning the Global Nomadic Art Project for the UK in 2018 and a major exhibition of Art/Nature from Korean and other artists for the same year.



Despite early promises of a space, we have not been given any space to work in other than the Elmhirst Centre Library. Despite an odd blip in April this has worked well, although everything belonging to CCANW is still stored under the Barn stage. It can sometimes be difficult to find stuff and there is still a feeling of camping. Nevertheless we have been grateful for the use of this space which is rarely used otherwise.

In the last week however has come the possibility of occupying High Cross House as sole tenant. Clive Adams has wanted to do this for more than 15 years, I’ve been terrified at the prospect because of the financial implications. However the new CEO Rhodri Samuel is determined to find a proper use for the building. It needs £250k worth of renovations and running costs (including maintenance) are £2,000 per month. A public meeting was called asking for proposals.

We quickly worked up a budget and came to the conclusion that a selling-gallery, and then a mixture of paid residencies and short courses, along with housing the MA, could work. Clive is determined he can raise the money and in return we would ask for 3- 5 years’ of reduced or zero rent.

As of today we seem like the strongest proposal, and are working up a slightly more detailed pitching document. We are asking for a decision by September (Trustees meeting) and then free use of the space for 6-9 months for us to test the space in various ways. Becca Gill and Daniel?? have a parallel but uncosted proposal for extended residency / artist development. We think we can support this and build it into the ultimate proposal. Young blood and all that…

This has changed everything. So we’ll wait to see what transpires…