Sara Mohr-Pietsch appointed artistic director of Dartington Summer School & Festival

Once in a while there are stories which arrive in my inbox which do for a moment take me a little by surprise. This is one of them. 

That’s not to say I think appointing Sara Mohr-Pietsch as artistic director of Dartington Summer School and Festival is a bad decision. Far from it. It is a very good thing.

Rather, the announcement demonstrates how refreshing such an appointment is. There’s an assumption that an artistic director needs to be either someone who has previously been an artistic director elsewhere, or someone who comes from a pure performance background. That the press release leads on Sara as ‘a music broadcaster, curator and writer’ and speaks of her other content facilitation and production work, underlines a break with convention. 

Her appointment also reasserts Dartington’s position in the UK festival scene, aligning it with Aldeburgh, Edinburgh and, given Sara’s involvement in and advocacy for the UK’s new music scene, possibly even the Manchester International and Huddersfield.

It would be easy to assume that we’ll see Dartington embrace more unorthodox programming in its summer school and festival. Maybe that’s my imagination getting a little carried away. Though Dartington Hall Trust Chief Exec Rhodri Samuel’s press release quote might suggest that a new approach is exactly what they’re striving for: “Sara is taking on this role at a pivotal and exciting time in the Trust’s history, as we begin the delivery of a programme of transformation and change.”

Sara Mohr-Pietsch starts her role as Artistic Director at Dartington Summer School and Festival in January 2019. Her first programmed festival will be in 2020. 

Dartington International Summer School and Festival 2018

Dartington launched its 70th summer school and festival programme at a special event in the 1901 Arts Club last week.

The evening included live performances from alumni (due to a double-booking, I was only able to catch the marvellous Alim Beisembayev tackle the fiendish Brahms Paganini Variations).

The month-long residential summer school (next year running from 28th July to 25 August) prides itself on a warm and inclusive feel, something I experienced first-hand at the launch event. Present-day devotees are eager to share stories with one another. They’re also quite happy to explain to those of us who have never been before what its unique qualities are.

I’m not quite sure I’m necessarily ready to fully embrace the on-site camping experience, but with budget accommodation starting at around £400 for a week, and AirBnB vendors selling at similar rates for entire properties, Dartington distinctive mix of amateur and professional music-making and learning makes this a definite for me next year.

Personal highlights include the Woodwind masterclasses in the first week, the historical fiction and landscape creative writing workshops in week two, and former director Gavin Henderson’s talk about the history of the summer school in week three. In addition, my eye is drawn to the conductor workshop with Tim Redmond, the cello masterclass with Adrian Brendel, and the Film Music Improvisation workshop with the marvellous Neil Brand.

Dartington’s 70th anniversary Summer School and Festival runs from 28th July to 25th August 2018. Booking opens in early December 2017, details can be found on Dartington’s Summer School website.