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How a music school and festival became a meeting place for the world’s greatest musicians, in words and pictures

Imagine a place where musicians and composers and writers and artists and thoroughly ordinary people came together to play, to listen, to think. To live and to love.

The International Summer School of Music is still held every summer in the idyllic setting of Dartington Hall. Founded by William Glock in 1948, it has played host to some of the world’s most influential classical musicians over seven decades. There have been quartets with the Amadeus Quartet and the Herbie Flowers All Stars; sonatas with Vladimir Ashkenazy and duos with Daniel Barenboim and Jacqueline Du Pre; composition lessons with Nadia Boulanger and Peter Maxwell Davis, tennis with Benjamin Britten and tea with Stravinsky.

Thanks to the Summer School’s lovingly preserved archive there is a treasure trove of photos, letters, programs and memories. So many pictures, so many stories, just waiting to be told...

Sanctuary is more than a history. It’s an attempt to capture something of the excitement of those times: the hopes for a new beginning after the war; the intoxicating sense of licence and beauty. And it’s a visual diary of the Summer School of Music, from its early years at Bryanston School, to its home at Dartington Hall and on through the wonder years of the 50s, 60s and 70s, accompanied by a lively and accessible text from an acclaimed music writer.

From The Author

I spent every summer from zero to 25 at Dartington Hall with my family. I grew up at the feet of visiting artists. I begged my parents for a violin. I sang in the choir. I fidgeted through concerts. I worked in the kitchens as a teenager, then as an usher, then a trog. I played in the orchestra. I fell in love. I learned how to live. Dartington Summer School made me who I am, as a person, a musician, a critic and a writer.

Now I’m telling its story.

This book is a labour of love – a collaboration between the Summer School archivist, Jeremy Wilson, and his daughter, me. I’m hoping to direct profits from the book towards funding an ongoing bursary for a young musician to experience the Summer School, just like I did.

Harriet Cunningham is a writer best known as the music critic for the Sydney Morning Herald. She hit international arts headlines in 2014 when she was banned from Opera Australia performances for saying what she really thought. Happily, no-one else banned her and she still writes features and reviews for publications in Australia and beyond.

Harriet also helps arts organisations around the world tell their stories. She’s written program notes, brochures, websites and concert blurbs for companies such as the London Symphony Orchestra, the Sydney Opera House, the Australian Chamber Orchestra and the Adelaide Festival. She’s also written more opera synopses than she cares to remember and prides herself on being able to ‘name that tune in one’.

Aside from writing about music, Harriet has been known to play the violin, and is writing her second novel.

What is Dartington Hall?

First of all, it’s a place. The River Dart carries the rain, melted snow and spring water down from Dartmoor to its final destination, the English Channel, via Dartington, Staverton, Totnes and, eventually, Dartmouth. The Dartington Hall Estate is tucked into a series of bends in the river, its banks giving onto deep green water pastures fringed by willows and ash trees. The land rises steeply up from the river, and the clutch of buildings that make up Dartington Hall proper line the winding, precipitous road through the estate. Above the road is the Courtyard, a quadrangle of medieval stone buildings, beautifully restored by the owners since 1925, the Elmhirsts. At one end there is the gatehouse, a great stone tunnel into the courtyard. At the other is the Great Hall, with its clock tower and buttressed stone walls.

Read more of What is Dartington Hall?...

Stravinsky's Lunch


When Igor Stravinsky came to Dartington in 1957 he was, for musicians, ranked somewhere between a rock star and a god. More palatable than the hardcore modernists, more intellectually rigorous than the pastoralists, more downright sexy than his owlishly experimental colleagues, Stravinsky was as close to being a celebrity as classical composers get.

By the 1950s Stravinsky was a naturalised American, living in Los Angeles with his second wife Vera. He fitted right in with the little colony of artists fleeing war-torn Europe, enjoying long lunches with Aldous Huxley, tea with Arnold Schoenberg and dinner with W H Auden. He also graciously assumed the role of living legend, with a string of disciples led by conductor and composer Robert Craft on hand to realise the untrammelled flow of musical invention.

Read more of Stravinsky's Lunch...

On the shoulders of giants

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Charles Davis, the unofficial official photographer from '76 onwards, also took cinefilm. My father, the archivist, has transferred much of it from Super 8 to DVD. In his travels through the images he found this gem from 1969. Can you work out who the various people are? 

The Trog Tales

Friday, 30 June 2017


It's no secret that I owe much of this book to my parents and, in particular, my father. He's been going to the Summer School for more years than seems possible. He valiantly took on the archive a decade ago and has done an amazing job filing and indexing and digitizing many of the resources. But some of the best stuff is in his head, which is why I'm looking forward to another week of music and long…

Women in Music

Friday, 2 June 2017


This is a cross post from a piece just published in Cut Common, which is a great online (and soon to be in print) magazine run out of Tasmania. (Some of the best things come from Tasmania.)

There’s been a great deal of talk – and a bit of action, too – about improving gender equity in the field of composition in the last 12 months. Musica Viva’s Hildegarde Project, Ensemble Offspring’s punchy year…

Mayday, Mayday!

Sunday, 28 May 2017


Hello all! Just a quick heads up. Every so often Unbound goes a bit doolally and starts giving things away. And for the next three days, till the end of May, it's all go. Pledge for any Unbound book, (including Sanctuary) before 1st June and you get 2 ebooks** the next working day absolutely free.

They're also offering 15% off the whole fiction list until the end of May. Just enter the promo code…

Oh no! Nono!

Thursday, 4 May 2017

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A letter from William Glock to John Amis, dated July 1962

Dear Johnny

The worst has happened. I’ve been trying desperately to get in touch with you.

Nono has finished his piece.

I think he stayed away from Darmstadt (‘ill’) in order to finish it, and anyway I feel we must do our best to put it on.

But... It’s for soprano, viola, cello, d.b., celesta, keyboards, 1 tam-tam, 12 crotales…

A Birthday Gift

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Tell me again

Unbound are turning six! Six years ago, three crazy-mixed-up kids came up with an idea. They pitched it to investors. They designed a website. They told their stories. And, lo, it worked. People came. They pledged. They bought books. And Unbound brought out beautiful, special editions, bringing the voices of prize-winnning authors to the world. 

Actually, it was probably rather more unglamorous…


Thursday, 16 March 2017


Digging through an archive is a bit like piecing together a puzzle. Most of the bits are there, but they need putting together, and once you have put them together you realise that something is missing. It's like the yarning, cryptic crosswords and QI (mixed in with a fair amount of drudgery.) But every so often things fit together in new and exciting ways.

I was intrigued to find out more about…

Fundraising: a few dos and don'ts. Mostly don'ts.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

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Hello all,

Welcome to all the new arrivals in the shed! Still plenty of room in here, but determined to get to my target eventually.

I don't want to go on about fundraising, but I have to share with you a letter I found in the Summer School archive from T E Coade, headmaster of Bryanston School, to William Glock. It's dated 1 July 1950. T E Coade was a great supporter of the Summer School but…

Singing in the Choir: more D-cup, please!

Monday, 9 January 2017


One of my favourite sounds in the world is listening to the Summer School choir warm up as I walk across the courtyard. The noise filters through the 500 year old stone walls, taking the edge off the chortle and squeak off early morning voices.

I wasn't always outside. Sometimes I was in there, with them, chortling away myself. In fact, as soon as we could be trusted to sit for an hour without…

Goulash and Macaroni, anyone?

Monday, 28 November 2016

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Greetings, Shedlings,

I've been digging in the archives again. I confess it's very compulsive, and the strangest things grab my attention. This book is all about art and passion and music and people, but it's also about where we've come from, so no apologies for posting this little beauty, a menu from Bryanston 1951.

I am reliably informed that there were slugs in the lettuce, but considering…


Saturday, 19 November 2016

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Hello everyone. Welcome to the shed. Squash up there, please, because it's getting a little crowded. Which is a nice problem to have!  I'm building an extension so that we'll all fit in.

Something like this, perhaps. Or is that just over ambitious?

That was last week, before a performance of "Sydney Opera House: the Opera".

Catchy title, huh?

In fact, the opera in question, with music…

A Telegram

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

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John Amis was the first administrator at the Summer School, working alongside William Glock from 1948 through until 1982. He died in August 2013 at the age of 91. When I heard the news I got in contact with the love of his late life, Isla Baring, and she invited me to visit her at John’s flat in Eccleston Square in London’s Belgravia. The flat is on the very top floor, almost in the eaves of the once…

Welcome to the Shed

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Hello. Welcome. Do come in. Sorry, it's a bit messy. Sort of bat cave meets laundry basket. Yes, of course, feel free to move that pile of books. It might be difficult to sit down otherwise.

When I signed up with Unbound one of the things I was most excited about was having my very own writer's shed. I'd be just like Roald Dahl, with a box full of well-sharpened pencils, reams of virgin paper and…

Katherine Kemp
Katherine Kemp asked:

Is the author's shed a place where authors hang out, or can I store some crap in there?

Harriet Cunningham
Harriet Cunningham replied:

Depends on whether you're an author or not. And what the crap is. I can always use spare words (although please not any more 'spectacular's or 'vivid's.)

Juliet Chaplin
Juliet Chaplin asked:

You refer to a cedar tree which fell in 2009. Do you mean the Monterey pine (as it is described in the official guide book to the gardens) which was still standing in August 2014 but fell shortly after that? I have a photograph which I took on my annual visit to the Summer School that year.

Harriet Cunningham
Harriet Cunningham replied:

Yes, you're right. This one:
Thank you very much - I'll correct it. My memory playing tricks. I thought it was already down when I went in 2014, but it must have been 2015.

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