Dartington Hall - social justice, sustainability & the arts

It is not often that the 4 of us at Pickwell get away from the Manor all together. It was particularly exciting last week to take a trip together to Dartington Hall near Totnes in South Devon.
In truth we have only recently realised what an incredibly inspiring and influential place we have on our doorstep (well the other side of the county at least!) As we have learnt more of the incredible history of Dartington Hall and its vision for social enterprise and social change we have increasingly recognised what a resource we have here.
Once owned by Henry V111, the 14th Century Dartington Estate had fallen into dereliction until it was bought by Dorothy & Leonard Elmshirst in the 1920’s. They were progressive thinkers with significant wealth to implement their ideas and they established at Dartington a radical experiment in rural living that has helped make Totnes the magnet for creativity and innovation that it remains today.
Today the Dartington Hall Trust is a very broad and stimulating charity with a focus on the arts, social justice and sustainability. What we have found particularly inspiring is the way that it uses its buildings and its commerical enterprises to fund its charitable work in these areas. It also places an exciting emphasis on experimentation, risk and creativity. It is a fascinating social enterprise model!
Some of you may have read that here at Pickwell we hosted our first Social Enterprise week back in November which focused on helping budding social entrepreneurs move their ideas further forward. Dartington Hall is actually the home of the Devon School of Social Enterprise which provides a year long programme to help individuals launch their own social enterprises. Steve and myself were fortunate to attend the graduation of this years students and hear about their exciting enterprises.
Last week’s visit was an opportunity to hear about the amazing range of projects which Dartington nurtures and hosts. This includes the internationally renowned Schumacher College (with its focus on sustainable living); its education and research on social justice; not to mention the incredible music and arts programme which it hosts.
The 1200 acre estate itself is not only vast but genuinely awe inspiring. It has over a million visitors each year and the feel of the grounds, gardens, cafe and shops has some real parallels with Pickwell (if on a much larger scale!).
We were amazed to see that Dartington has the strap line above. With our playeatlaughsleep Pickwell blog we are now concerned that some may think the idea was not entirely original!!
Dartington had a very radical school that was very influential on many liberal / progressive ideas in education and helped establish the small school movement today. Pickwell Manor itself was the venue for a small school under the previous owner which had close links to the small school at Hartland, which was founded by Satish Kumar (who also founded the Schumacher College at Dartington). Small world!
The site of the school at Dartington is currenly being transformed into an exciting residential community for older persons with a vision of what it means to live abundantly in later life.
We are really looking forward to drawing on the inspiration of Dartington as we develop Pickwell..... so I am sure this won't be the last you hear about it!