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Ex-students bring College of Arts back to life!

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Eight years after its controversial closure ex-students are planning a celebratory festival to bring the world famous Dartington College of Arts back to life.

Dartington College of Arts is an internationally renowned progressive arts education institution founded in 1961. The Totnes site closed in 2010 following the merger and relocation to Falmouth University. 

Festival organiser Sarah Gray, Director of Soundart Radio, who was the last Student Union President at the college said: “The closure of the college was heartbreaking and caused a wound that many feels needs healing.  

“Since the college left, the local area has changed a lot. The Dartington Hall Estate and even Totnes town at first felt quiet, grey and ghost-like compared to the lively, vibrant atmosphere created by hundreds of young artists and musicians. There has been a lot of anger and sadness among people who went to the college and even those who didn’t.

“Years later, after an organisational change at Dartington Hall Trust, it felt like the right time for this reunion to happen. There’s a sense that the Trust is more permissive and celebratory of its rich educational heritage”.

The festival, which is supported by Dartington Hall Trust, in September is called Stream - an acronym for - a Series of Transdisciplinary Rituals and Experiments in Art and Music.  

Amy Bere, Executive Director of Arts says: “The Dartington Hall Trust is thrilled to be supporting Stream and honour the incredible creative legacy of the Dartington College of Arts. Many of the artists and alumni returning for this event were deeply impacted by the closure of the art college, and this is a great way to honour their contribution to the estate and Trust. We are inspired on a daily basis by the history of arts at Dartington - and in particular the Arts College - as we develop our current arts programme. Supporting the Stream initiative is a small way of recognising the sadness of the closure and finding ways to move on. Our hope, with the team now in place at Dartington Hall Trust, is that we can build something new and wonderful in the arts, but never forget the great work that came before.”

This festival will provide a platform for alumni’s voices to be heard and the stories of the college to be shared whilst there is opportunity for us all to come together, from the earliest attendees to the final intake. 

Sarah explains: “This is a chance for social celebration, professional networking and community catharsis. I want the alumni, from the very beginning to the end of the College’s history, to gather together and make change. I feel as a graduate and the last Student Union President in those final years of the College that our community has been dispersed and marginalised, even mythologized.” 

Following a call out for works, the Stream festival committee have been excited to receive over 100 proposals from ex-staff and students. With an online Facebook group over 1,500 people and fewer than 500 tickets available, Stream is fast selling out.

The festival is primarily aimed at ex-students and staff, but the invitation to attend is open to anyone who has had a connection with the College of Arts. 

Tickets and information are available now 

And for those who can’t make it along for the weekend, Soundart Radio will broadcast recordings and conversations from the festival throughout on 102.5 fm in the local area and online

The community radio station, which began life as a college project, has remained at Dartington, with support from the Dartington Hall Trust to reach listeners and volunteers in the area.

Soundart’s Artistic Director, Lucinda Guy says, “We launched in November 2006, in the same week that we heard the news about the college’s departure. In the first few years, we broadcast lots of student work, as well as the conversations, anxieties, arguments and protests that defined that time. As the staff and students moved away, we rummaged in skips for headed paper, books, photographs, art materials and other discarded items. Some of these will be on display at Stream, in a pop-up memorial library. The opportunity to reconnect with alumni, broadcast the work they are making today renews our own artistic purpose for the next 12 years.”

As Sarah says “Never before has there been a greater need for art in society.  Equally, never before has there been less art provision. Our shared experience at Dartington College of Arts is bringing us together for this festival. As a community we hope to create new energy around arts education for young people, families and society as a whole.” 

Stream Festival is at Dartington Hall, Totnes, Devon, September 7-9th 2018