Future of Dartington summer school hangs in the balance

Michael Pearce
Monday, October 30, 2023

The artistic director and whole summer school team have resigned amid an ongoing review of Dartington Trust’s finances.

Dartington Hall, south Devon
Dartington Hall, south Devon

Adobe Stock / Jenny Thompson

Dartington Music Summer School and Festival has announced that plans for its 2024 edition are ‘on hold’.

Artistic director Sara Mohr-Pietsch has also stepped down, along with the rest of the summer school team.

The resignations come in light of an ongoing review of Dartington Trust’s finances, which Mohr-Pietsch said ‘has made delivering our 2024 plans impossible’.

A petition has been launched calling on Robert Fedder, Dartington Trust’s interim CEO, and Lord David Triesman, Trust chair, to ‘reconsider this devastating and damaging decision on the future of Dartington Summer School that will have a long-term impact on music education in the country’.

The four-week summer school offers a wide-ranging programme for students, young professionals and amateurs, with courses covering classical, folk, gospel and jazz.

A statement from Dartington Trust, which hosts the summer school and festival on the 1,200-acre Dartington Estate in south Devon, said: ‘Normally at this point in the year, Summer School would be taking Priority Bookings for 2024 and offering a preview of next year’s programme, but future plans and bookings for the Music Summer School & Festival are under review.

‘Artistic Director Sara Mohr-Pietsch has decided to step down from her role after a successful four-year tenure, as have the rest of the Summer School team. Dartington Trust is grateful to them for their hard work over the years and wishes them every future success.’

Mohr-Pietsch, a writer and broadcaster best-known for her work on BBC Radio 3, posted on X/Twitter: ‘Time for some sad news: I'm stepping down as artistic director of Dartington Music Summer School and Festival. Dartington Trust’s ongoing financial review has made delivering our 2024 plans impossible. They were great plans, and I'm sorry they won't come to fruition.

‘However, it has been a huge honour and privilege to hold the post since 2020, and I'm so proud of all we achieved. Thank you to everyone who made it so special! And I really hope the Summer School survives – it is an amazing thing, 75 years old and still utter magic.’

The summer school began in 1948 at Bryanston School, Dorset, before moving to Dartington in 1953.

For 75 years, it has attracted some of the leading names in music to teach and perform concerts, including Igor Stravinsky, Jacqueline du Pré, Daniel Barenboim, Arthur Rubinstein, Imogen Holst, Benjamin Britten, Peter Maxwell Davies, Ravi Shankar, Yehudi Menuhin, Simon Rattle, Alfred Brendel, Judith Weir, and the Amadeus, Brodsky and Kronos Quartets.

The 2023 programme featured 86 courses and 85 public events, with 96 bursary places given to emerging talent.

Dartington Trust said anyone wanting an update on plans for 2024 and 2025 should email summerschool@dartington.org and will be contacted after the review.

UPDATE: Dartington summer school saved by move to Norfolk