Dartington College of Arts

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Coordinates: 50°27′11″N 3°41′31″W / 50.453°N 3.692°W / 50.453; -3.692

Dartington College of Arts
Active 1961–2008
Administrative staff
Undergraduates 500
Postgraduates 60
Location Dartington Hall, Dartington, Devon, England
Campus Rural
Website www.dartington.ac.uk
Lower Close buildings.

Dartington College of Arts was a specialist institution near Totnes in Devon, southwest England, that focused on a performative and multi-disciplinary approach to the arts. It offered tertiary-level courses in postdramatic theatre, music, choreography, visual performance and performance writing and its teaching staff were all active arts practitioners. The college held an international reputation for excellence and aimed to promote a critical self-awareness in contemporary arts practice.

The college was founded in 1961 as a consequence of the original Dartington Hall experiment in rural regeneration. Academic degrees were validated in partnership with the University of Plymouth.

Dartington College of Arts became part of University College Falmouth on 6 April 2008 and, in 2010, relocated to Falmouth, Cornwall.


According to the Dartington website, the college's mission is to "...be a radical, innovative Higher Education learning community for contemporary arts practices in performance:

  • building upon, sustaining and developing the distinctive Dartington legacy as a high-quality specialist learning community in the creative arts, at the leading edge of innovation in practice-based teaching, research, and professional development in contemporary arts practices in performance.
  • providing life-enhancing, or transformational experience in creative practice for all those capable of benefiting from the Dartington experience, and adding value to the social, cultural and economic life of our region.
  • nurturing and sustaining distinctive and dependable partnership, through strategic alliances and collaborative initiatives at regional, national and international levels, for the development of our mission within the rapidly changing context of a global framework for higher education in contemporary arts practice"[citation needed]

One thing that the college is notable for is an interdisciplinary approach to arts practice and to a certain extent students from different courses do not work in isolation from each other. For example, the writing students may write scripts which the theatre students then perform etc. As well as this, the college is very keen on international collaboration and in the 3rd year all students go on the Socrates Erasmus scheme to various institutions across the globe with similarly prestigious institutions.

Dartington and Bloomsbury[edit]

Leonard Elmhirst, the founder of the Dartington estate, was a member of the Bloomsbury group from the 1920s. The college and Hall became a popular arts location for such figures as Julian Bell, George Bernard Shaw and Virginia Woolf. Dartington has also received special attention from Ravi Shankar, Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi, Siegfried Sassoon and the Chinese poet Xu Zhimo.


The college is rural and is divided into four campuses, Higher Close, Lower Close, Aller Park and Foxhole. Higher Close is home to the student bar, the Rat and Emu (commonly shortened to 'the Rat'). Many students find the community life enriches their art, and strong identities develop from the individual halls of residences. Accommodation at Higher Close constitutes Henning, Perry and Albermarle and the old Dartington Hall School at Foxhole is subdivided into the Black, Red, Blue, Orange, Yellow, Green and White Houses.


All BA students embarked on a Contextual Enquiry Project in their third year of study. This was an investigative project and required the student to examine his or her work in a broader social context. The practice was an example of the College's roots in Dartington School and the alternative education movement which developed from the ideas of Rudolf Steiner from the early twentieth century onwards.

Merger with University College Falmouth (now Falmouth University)[edit]

Dartington College of Arts has now merged with Falmouth University[1] and relocated to Cornwall in 2010. This decision was controversial and generated much local protest,[2] including marches and a petition.[citation needed] The official story was that financial problems caused Dartington College of Arts to seek a merger with University College Falmouth, seen as the only way of securing a long-term future for the College. This view was highly contentious at the time, and not generally accepted. The merger with University College Falmouth was seen by some[who?] as bringing increased resources, support and opportunity for arts students and greater opportunities for vocational study and post-graduate support. Others saw it as the death of a noble experiment.[3] University College Falmouth used the merger as a springboard to achieve University status[4] and achieved this in 2012, creating Falmouth University.

Dartington College of Arts was one of the last remaining specialist arts colleges in the UK, with the remainder — apart from a very small holdouts — all now swallowed up by larger institutions. In 2010 the UK government announced the removal of all funding for undergraduates[citation needed][5] in all but a very few, science-based subjects[citation needed], inevitably causing fees to rise significantly, and perhaps further compromising the quality and status of arts education.


  • Cassandra Latham, first person in the UK to have registered her occupation as "village witch" with the Inland Revenue, studied theatre at Dartington College.
  • Craig Fortnam, composer/guitarist, leader of North Sea Radio Orchestra and Arch Garrison.
  • Curtis Roosevelt, eldest grandson of United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, studied theatre, music and fine art at Dartington College.
  • David Llewellyn, Welsh novelist and script writer.
  • Diane Torr, artist, writer and educator, particularly known as a male impersonator and for her drag king, man-for-a-day and gender-as-performance workshops, studied theatre and dance at Dartington College.
  • Deborah Levy (novelist and poet), shortlisted for the Man booker prize in 2012
  • Gilbert Gabriel, film composer, producer, songwriter and lecturer.
  • Gilbert & George, a duo formed by Gilbert Prousch and George Passmore who studied art at Dartington College. Known for their distinctive, highly formal appearance and manner and their brightly coloured graphic-style photo-based artworks.
  • Jessie Gordon, Visual artist, Author (What Gap? - A Communication Tool Box), Managing Director of EPT (Executive Performance Training)
  • Jessica-Jane Clement, model, actress and TV presenter who is best known for starring in the BBC programme The Real Hustle.
  • Josie Lawrence, comedienne and actress.
  • Deana Martin and sister Gail Martin, singers, daughters of American entertainer Dean Martin.
  • Kate Westbrook, painter and musician.
  • Kevin Mallon, classical conductor, violinist and composer. Records for Naxos records.
  • Kevin Finnan, choreographer and director of Motionhouse Dance Company
  • Lindsay Cooper, English bassoon and oboe player, composer and political activist, studied classical music and bassoon at Dartington College.
  • Lionel Grigson, jazz pianist, cornettist, trumpeter, composer and teacher.
  • Lucia Rikaki, Greek film director, documentarist, writer and producer.
  • Matthew Strachan, singer-songwriter, composer, lyricist.
  • Michael Pearce, figurative painter, Chair of The Representational Art Conference.
  • Mick Jackson, writer and film-maker.
  • Neil Harbisson, audiovisual artist, best known for his self-extended ability to "hear" colours. Studied music composition at Dartington College.
  • Patrick Nunn, composer and educator.
  • Philip Jeck, multimedia artist and woodsman.
  • Sam Richards, improviser, composer, writer.
  • Sally Tallant, Director of the Liverpool Biennial.
  • Selwyn Baptiste, pioneer of the British use of the steeldrum. Studied music at Dartington College.
  • Simon Nicholson, artist.
  • Stephen Evans, actor and comedy writer in theatre, film, radio and television.
  • Philip Bennetta poet and artist. Editor artistspress.co.uk. Research student 1968-69 (Interdisciplinary approach to the Arts)



  1. ^ University College Falmouth, UK.
  2. ^ Steven Morris (28 December 2006). "Battle to save celebrated cradle of cutting edge art". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 February 2011. 
  3. ^ Anthea Lipsett (10 March 2008). "Last-ditch attempt to halt Dartington merger". Education Guardian (The Guardian). Retrieved 5 February 2011. 
  4. ^ An international centre for the arts in the South West, Newsletter, University College Falmouth, UK.
  5. ^ Top UK universities warn of damage from budget cuts, BBC News, UK, 12 January 2010.

6. ^ http://www.dartington.org/archive/display/TPH/08/001/035

7. ^ http://www.imratkhan.com/career_p2.html

External links[edit]