Soundart Radio station, who are based in Space studio 4, has sometimes been described as the bit of the Dartington College of Arts (DCA) that stayed.
Why? It is defined by its fluidity, its total editorial freedom and its belief that anyone who asks to get involved is an artist. The musical output of the community radio station ranges from Chartwell Dutiro’s African Music Diaspora to women composer showcase Hildegard to Hildegard. Its talk shows cover Quicksmart Comedy to business programme Our Wavelength. And its how-to shows span from Beyond the Veil paranormal investigations to Dick Everett’s Talking Bees.
‘At times we’ve been the rats in Dartington’s cupboard: annoying things getting in the way,’ says Soundart’s co-founder Lucinda Guy. ‘What we do is be open to people really expressing themselves. It can be messy and complicated, noisy and difficult. It’s not smooth and easy all the time. This is the nature of what we’re doing.’
Lucinda and Nell are both DCA graduates (2006) who set up Soundart in the seismic week that DCA announced that it was relocating to Falmouth. ‘I don’t think about blame. It felt like there was a change in society, where beautiful little things were not encouraged to survive,’ says Lucinda.
While DCA left and the estate went from ‘from busy to silent’, Soundart survived and is now blossoming, despite continuing financial uncertainty. Over 40,000 people listen online globally and 8,000 local people tune into to 102.5FM. In late 2015 Lucinda was voted chair of the Community Media Association (CMA)which exists to advocate for the community media sector to government, Ofcom and industry. There her aim is to act on its profoundly social remit ‘to contribute to the democratic process and to a pluralist society’ by increasing the involvement of grass roots media around the UK.
How did Lucinda come to be at Dartington? Her grandad, a self-taught musician, writer and Quaker, used to attend the Summer School in the late 1970s and Lucinda remembers that sometimes the family came along too. There she met Peter Maxwell Davies, who died in March 2016 – a formative experience.
‘All the kids would get together and write a play, write the music, make costumes and perform on the lawn. The experience affected me deeply. It stood out as a very different way of being, away from where I was growing up which was quite conventional. Even when I was small I looked at the houses in our street and I felt like me and my sister didn’t fit in.’
‘It was not until I’d had three children of my own and was working as a music practitioner that I applied to the college. I expected that I’d have to do ‘proper’ music: I’d always learnt instruments and was interested in theory and composition. But at my interview I was asked ‘what do you really like?’, to hear who I was as an artist. Once I started it was like a Buddhist monastery – stripping away all the conventional assumptions and rebuilding to develop a sense of my own arts practice.
‘My experience here was all tied up with the place. There were what we used to call ‘dungeon’ practice rooms, where you’d walk along the corridor and hear all this music around you – the same as when I came here as a child. We were constantly stimulated by new ideas and the history of ideas.
‘We devised things that were quite ugly and difficult, not all pretty and nice. The lecturers would critique them and ask us to look at the work of others doing the same. All staff had really good practice of their own, so you’d learn about what they’d just been doing. Really amazing visiting artists would lead on collaborative projects: a brilliant way of working.
‘There was a point each morning, after I left my home and family, where my walk would affect how I would listen: I’d smell deeper, I’d hear better, ‘stepping out into the sensual world’ of being a better listener. We started a radio station because we wanted to explore this with a lot of people over a long time.’
This is why Soundart is completely open-platform – anyone who comes along with an idea, as long as it’s legal, can get on air. And that includes you, dear reader.
You can get in touch with Soundart Radio by email on firstname.lastname@example.org, connect on Twitter @soundartradio or call in at Space studio 4 to say hello.