Huw John’s view of Camphill’s dilemma

Following on from our discussion about just how involved the trustees of the Camphill Village Trust are in anthroposophy, I found a newsletter from a meeting of families and friends of Camphill fom 2011 when problems had started to arise for CVT as a result of changes to regulations.

The group is known as “The Association of parents relatives and friends of Camphill”

The point was made in the newsletter that this was the biggest gathering that had ever taken place, and it was held not far from here.

Meeting with Huw John

Almost a hundred members attended our meeting with Huw John, the new CVT Chief Executive Officer, on 26th November at the Sheiling School Thornbury. It was the largest gathering of Camphill families that we have ever had, all keen to find out more about Huw’s view of Camphill’s current dilemma.

A few excerpts from his presentation;

Initial reflections;

Huw has difficulty representing Camphill to the [learning disability] sector, in which he has played an active part, because Camphill does not have a good reputation there, being regarding as insular and dinosaur-like.

A revealing SWOT analysis

Strengths: a unique and varied care model; wonderful resources in land, assets £90m+) and some phenomenal people.

Weaknesses: very fragmented; lack of a shared vision; poor governance; poor communication; poor relations with the sector.

Opportunities: Big Society and family involvement and support; potential for innovation and change with varied models of care; experience in social enterprise; wealth.

Threats: the revolutionary changes taking place in the sector; poor reputation, especially the reputed lack of accountability and the perceived weakness and paternalism of the co-worker model; Camphill’s inward focus, inertia and denial.

Big questions;

What does the Camphill ethos mean? We must adapt it.

What are the real financial costs? We need to know what these are as we do not know now, having had poor management accounts.

Why are things so challenging? Basically our Camphill ethos is colliding with reality. We know this very seriously from various investigations and inspections. Our governance has been wrong, has not made Camphill adapt and we have lost our way.

And one of the discussion points;

The importance of Christian values and practice

Huw accepted the duty to maintain the Camphill ethos and stressed importance of anthroposophical study for all, including managers.

The conclusion was that among the aspects of camphill families regarded as important were;

A very clear statement of the organisation’s commitment to anthroposophical principles (as in the Camphill Articles)


The importance of spiritual and cultural features, including services, festivals, study, gatherings and other community activities.

Basically, they are not giving up the anthroposophy, but co-workers such as Mark Barber obviously object to changes in their lifestyle.

The most striking point of the presentation was;

If we don’t adapt we won’t exist.

Huw John had certainly recognised the scale of the problems within the CVT and  realised they had no choice but to change in order to survive, and indeed I understand that a local Camphill Community here has already implemented changes, without the ructions, or at least the publicity that Botton has endured.

Maybe as Topaz suggested in a comment, this is just lip-sevice to appease the die-hard anthroposophists, and the anthroposphical elements are not important to him personally, it is difficult to say. Clearly Camphill will remain a conduit and a hub for the creed, even after these changes have been implemented.Without anthroposophy there would be no Camphill..

The “Consecration of Man” for the residents is not going to stop, and nor is the anthroposophical study or the biodynamic farming.




  1. Nick Nakorn

    How depressing. We can assume that for Camphill workers and supporters (those who know about Anthroposophy) Anthro values are not deal breakers. That means every contact with Camphill residents, and others, will be tainted by an underlying lack of basic ethical standards and understanding (as with Steiner Schools and other Anthro organisations). Though people working for Steiner organisations nearly always claim that Anthroposophy is not overt, taught or used day-to-day with pupils, the public, residents or customers – those very same people are quick to point out the effects of (for example) advertising, television, technology and so-on. So if they are happy to accept the subtle (and not so subtle) indoctrination of people’s psyche through the constant exposure – and a certain amount of intended and unintended subliminal influence – to modern life, why not the same for Anthro values that will permeate all the actions of the adherents? Of course, this dilemma is not at all new and has been pointed out by Anthro critics for decades. But what is astonishing to rational people is that no anthro supporter has answered the criticism directly. But not so astonishing when one considers that Steiner built in the deception from the start, knowing that vagueness and secrecy was key to growth and acceptance – just like all other cults and religions and, naturally, the advertising industry. But in the case of Camphill, it is all the more disgusting because of the vulnerability of many of the residents and their unequal and subservient position within the Anthroposophical hierarchy.

    • Helen

      Yes, the point about subliminal influences Is a good one. Reading the link provided above to the Grange Village, the “Ethos” page is going on about the “Fundamental Social Law” (also mentioned by the Adams couple in their appeal for support) where great store is set by sharing income and everyone having equal rights. This clearly isn’t the case at Botton and other camphills, residents seemed to have little choice in their work, and what choice they have is not informed, for example the farm is biodynamic whether they like it or not.
      There are clear distinctions between the villagers and the co-workers.
      The co-workers want this to be their only law, and to be separate from the laws the rest of us live by, but still to be financed by those on the outside.

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