It’s the start of a new development for Coombe…partly bringing some of my Dartington, Visiting Arts and British Council worlds into the Coombe Valley…


Whilst we were developing the new Coombe website it seemed a like a good time to think about what Coombe is really about, and what we will be doing over the next few years.

I thought back to five years ago when we were trying to get planning permission for a new building at Coombe. A building that would allow Martin and I to take over the day-to-day running of the studios and secure Coombe’s potential development for decades to come. At that time, as during each moment of change at Coombe, we were overwhelmed by the support from friends, family, the many participants that have attended courses over the years, and our local community.


Coombe is a former pig farm and any planning developments reference back to it’s agricultural ties so when, at a key moment during the decision on the planning permission for the new build, a local farmer stood up in the planning meeting to pass comment, we waited with bated breath. He said simply ‘they might not be farmers as we might see it, but they be farmers of the mind”.


That phrase has stuck with me ever since. In thinking about Coombe since then I believe that growing creativity is central to what we have done and what we will continue to do. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to do that – how do you grow creativity? We know that sharing skills is key and just like growth in the veg patch the right conditions are also vital – the appropriate space, light, food and companions!


So with those things in mind the courses are well placed to grow creativity. They provide a unique week or long weekend for people to come together to learn and share skills. Food is an integral part of the course with creativity and colour a focus of each meal. We are taking the time to revamp and reassess the studio spaces so they work as well as possible for all their functions. We have a great stable of teachers and students who are fantastic company during a course. Increasingly too the courses are proving to be particularly useful for people who are returning to their creativity after a break, often those who originally went to art school but were diverted by families or other careers. Now they are finding they have time to return to it. For them a Coombe course provides time to create new work for their open studios, or gain new skills to progress their work. For others it’s also time to develop their skills, which they then take back home where they teach a regular class.


But what else can we do? We’re looking at showcasing more work, through exhibitions, but also performances and film screenings, so we can provide inspirational moments for our local community and also and bring people to Coombe from outside the region to make new work here, particularly in the pre-production phase which can then go on to be performed elsewhere. Through these events, the courses and by developing an online network I want to build a community of people that are interested in #‎growingcreativity‬, people who can write about it. What is happening to the state of art & craft education in the UK? Why should we grow creativity? etc and those that want to use Coombe to share their own work and to help grow it in others.


So we’ve created a place for this debate and to keep in touch with future opportunities to make and share work, to grow your own creativity and help grow it in others – it’s the Coombe Creatives group https://www.facebook.com/groups/growingcreativity join us x Lara

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