Noel Longhurst, a Steiner supporter from Norfolk wrote a PhD on alternative communities. There were several contenders from the most appropriate town in the UK to study in this context, and he chose Totnes. I have to admit, Totnes’s credentials are excellent, being officially twinned with Narnia makes it an even more suitable subject than Stroud.
Anyway, Noel shared his thoughts on the alternative communities in this part of South Devon in a blog called “Alternative Totnes”. The posts mainly take the form of excerpts from his PhD papers.
There are a few posts of interest. On the “Alternative Mileu” page the author gives five different categories of counterculture;
– Radical politics (i.e. attempts to change the political and economic system itself)
– Social movements (environmentalism, feminism etc)
– Alternative Pathways (attempts to build alternative institutions such as alternative health, education and agriculture).
– Alternative spiritualities (many of the Eastern philosophies which became popular in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as practices associated with the new age
– Alternative lifestyles (back-to-the-land, co-operative living, squatting etc)
Of course any local people will recognise all these categories as prominent features in the Stroud area, and it’s interesting to compare.
In one post Longhurst refers to the term homophily, “the desire to be amongst likeminded or similar people”. Someone apparently objected to the use of this term in another of his posts, about anthroposophy in the Totnes area.
The “Dartington Effect” is examined, and is so-called because the Dartington Hall Trust, set up in the 1930s has been a hub.
I have been visiting Dartington all my life, strolling in the gardens, hiding in the trees as a child, and returning with my own children. It is a beautiful place.
There is a Steiner school in the village, of course, and the progressive, notorious “Dartington Hall School”, closed in the 1980s, lives on to an extent in a nearby independent school.
Our equivalent would be Hawkwood college.
Totnes is the home of Transition Towns, and Stroud is “in transition” too. Local people are devoting themselves to preparing for the apocalypse after peak oil, by shunning industrial food and agriculture and focusing on local initiatives. There are interesting and worthwhile projects going on, but sadly anyone who did not favour using biodynamics, or was not happy paying for the bd veg, would not be taking part.
It is often said that Stroud has a diverse alternative community, but on examination it does not appear diverse. The infiltration of these by the Steiner community is widespread, to the extent that biodynamics is widely used and the produce sold to unsuspecting local people, anthroposophical medicine is used, and places for children and young adults in Steiner kindergartens,schools and colleges are being funded. Adult care is mostly Steiner too.
Perhaps it is the same in Totnes, Forest Row, and other towns in the UK. At least only one town can be twinned with Narnia though.