A couple who had to leave Botton Village Camphill Community in Yorkshire after a six month suspension over safeguarding allegations and who now live in Stroud have written about their plans for a new Steiner or “Camphill” Community near “a town”. (see previous post)
They have approached local Steiner follower Martin Large, the executive director of the Biodynamic Land Trust (BDLT) who supports their plan “in principle”.
The plan, to “find a new way forward with adults with a learning disability and others who need community” , would have to have a “spiritual core”. Any care required would be provided by individuals, so as not to be subject to social care regulations.
The plan seems to be a last ditch attempt by this couple to find somewhere to live an anthroposophical lifestyle as they did undisturbed in Botton until the authorities became involved. If nothing comes of it they say they will be off to the States.
Anthroposophy is a belief system very few people have even heard of, and yet it has tentacles the world over. As highlighted by Pete K on the Waldorf Review, there is usually scope for those who “have to leave” one Steiner school or community to find a home in another, but this does sometimes mean swapping continents. It is difficult for anthroposophists to adapt to life outside; if your working life has been spent teaching eurythmy for example, there is no chance of finding work outside the Steiner movement, so leaving the country is sometimes the only option.
Looking at the enterprise planned, they are quite specific about what they want and have already begun making contacts here.
They have “little personal financial backing” but they want a farm and a garden close to town. The land would be owned by a charitable Trust, there is mention of workshops, a hotel and conference centre and room for expansion. They need “capital support and community support”.
They want to work “with the Fundamental Social Law, by sharing income and expenses”. The income, if Botton is anything to go by, will be mainly from housing benefits.
The Botton newsletter has the following information; “…villagers pay to stay in Botton. We receive housing benefit for most individuals to pay their rent. We also receive money from councils or from people’s private money to pay for their care and support whilst in Botton.”
The learning disabilities of the likely candidates for this plan will need to be of the kind that do not prevent them from working on a biodynamic farm, as at Botton, since their labour will be required to produce the food biodynamically in order for it to be sold to other anthroposophical businesses in the area, as described in an earlier post.
They also want a “warmth body”, and to be close to a town with an “active anthroposophical community”. They are here in Stroud, but perhaps other towns with Steiner institutions should be on their guard too. They may well find a “warmth body” around here, but have we now reached saturation point for Steiner in Stroud?
We reached it some time ago in my opinion, but clearly anthropsophists think there is more to be extracted from this area, as demonstrated by the expansion of existing businesses such as Ruskin Mill and Cotswold Chine, and by the free school initiative, which last week made a second attempt at approval. So perhaps this couple feel encouraged to try their luck here.
Martin Large’s BDLT has funds to acquire land, as highlighted on the BDLT website and clearly he has no scruples about assisting people previously in trouble over safeguarding issues to set up a community with people with learning disabilities. In such a close world as the Steiner movement, it is difficult to imagine he is not aware of their history. Indeed they are open about their transgressions in the past and their intentions for the future.
All the stuff about a “warmth body”, a “spiritual impulse” and “earthly organisations” probably doesn’t ring alarm bells for people like Mr Large at all. It probably seems quite normal to him and to all those in his sphere.
But to the authorities, surely the contents of the document must raise questions about the motives of anthroposophists who are so keen to recruit people with learning difficulties for their purposes.
There has been an assumption, even on my part for a while, that whatever the bizarre nature of the beliefs held with Steiner, their motives were unselfish. But the way forward these people speak of is for themselves, not for the people they seek to recruit. No mention is made of how the “villagers” would benefit.
“Of course, not all would need to carry this inner impulse.” they say. They probably won’t even be informed about anthroposophy at the beginning.
Recruits would however, need to become amenable to rituals and services of the kind mentioned at the end of the Botton Newsletter; religious/spiritual services take place several times a week.
From reading this document it becomes clear that the financial aspect is important, and that there is contempt for the social care legislation they view as an obstacle. They do not see the error of their ways at Botton, but seek instead to sidestep the regulations, seeing the “spiritual impulse” as a priority over the welfare of individuals in their care. This couple may have burnt their bridges at Botton, but they are finding at least some support within Steiner Community here.
I do hope the relevant authorities are alert to the potential dangers of an enterprise such as this.