Course Talk: Behind the scenes at The Big Art WeekendListed on October 29, 2013 in Spotlight
We invited Wayne Bennett, Director at Dillington House in Somerset, to give us a sneak preview of what’s in store during “The Big Art Weekend” taking place at Dillington next month.
LC – How long has Dillington been offering arts related residential weekends?
WB – Dillington has been offering art related weekends from the very beginning, which in our case is 1950 – well before I was born or even a twinkle in my father’s eye!
LC – What have been some of the most popular arts events at Dillington over the years?
WB – In my opinion music weekends are at the top of our list. We are very lucky to have a small concert hall which is perfect for chamber music and so we can often organise weekends around a concert given by some pretty amazing musicians. I can well remember a few years ago doing a complete Beethoven string quartet cycle with the Alberni String Quartet and that was truly remarkable for all concerned. Obviously painting courses go done particularly well largely because we are in a wonderful part of the country and Dillington has fantastic grounds in which to paint plus the added bonus of two spectacular art studios in which to work when the weather isn’t too brilliant.
LC – Where did the idea for the ‘Big Art Weekend’ originate?
WB – Phil Grabsky is an old friend of Dillington and one of the UK’s finest documentary filmmakers. It was Phil who mentioned his involvement with Leonardo Live from the National Gallery in London. This was the first time any event had been broadcast live from a major art museum and it was such a great success that others were in the pipeline very soon. This dramatic development in making great art accessible prompted me to suggest that we could get together and have a weekend in which these events specifically and the whole question about the role of art in society more generally could be discussed.
LC – Wayne – you are also one of the lead tutors for The Big Art Weekend – how many other people will be taking part as hosts, speakers or other contributors?
WB – Phil Grabsky is also a key figure and we are very lucky to have the Chief Curator of the Dulwich Picture Gallery, Xavier Bray with us as well. Also taking part will be artists Jenny Graham and David Chandler plus the art historian and writer James Russell. Of course the really interesting contributions will come from the attendees themselves.
LC – Which art movements and/or date periods will be covered during the Weekend?
WB – There will be specific discussions and references to the three films which focus on Vermeer, Manet and Munch. My curtain raiser will deal with the whole of Western Art and the discussion panel session will debate the role of contemporary art today.
LC – During the Weekend what range of activities will be taking place?
WB – The anchor points will be the films but in addition there will be plenty of question and answer sessions as well as discussion. Having Xavier from the Dulwich Picture Gallery with us will enable us to get an insight into the work of a professional curator – that’s a very much behind the scenes session.
LC – To join the event what qualifications or previous arts experience should people have?
WB – The key to this is that people will come with their own experiences and prejudices! My first presentation is to fast track everyone on the great sweep of Western Art and to offer some questions as to the historic relationship between art, the artist, patrons and society. Most people will know what they like and by extension what they don’t like. Across the weekend attendees will be able to discuss their own views with others and throughout they will be encouraged to do this.
LC – What aspects of the Weekend do you think participants will find the most memorable or enlightening?
WB – Given the subject, I am sure each person will both contribute and take away something different. The films shot in high definition will obviously be memorable but hearing from people in the thick of it will be really interesting I’m sure.
LC – You are offering places for both the full weekend or on a single-day basis – what are the advantages of booking for the whole weekend?
WB – The great thing about attending the whole weekend on a residential basis is the total immersion where conversations can take place over breakfast, at dinner or in the bar at the end of each day. The weekend is bound to raise some tricky questions on which many people will not agree, so the opportunity to thrash out the issues outside of the sessions is a great bonus and I am sure will be rewarding.
LC – What supplement do you charge for single occupancy of a bedroom?
WB – We have a number of single bedrooms but once these have gone then taking a double or twin room on a single occupancy basis is the only option. The difference in price is really very modest and the comfort of spreading out in a double bed is well worth the extra.
LC – Dillington’s 2014 brochure has now been released for courses up until the end of June– what events are you particularly looking forward to next year?
WB – I personally am looking forward to our Chamber Music Weekend at the beginning of February when we will be joined by the Brodowski String Quartet and we will hear four concerts at close quarters in the house. Then there are the courses that I am running which include a weekend exploring the subject of landscape and a weekend about the history of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden when we will be joined by the architect, Sir Jeremy Dixon who was responsible for the recent redevelopment.
Later in the year during August we’ll be celebrating twenty years of our Classical Guitar Festival followed immediately by three weeks of the Dillington Summer School. Details of both of these will be published in our new programme available at the beginning of January.
LC – What changes do you foresee to the Dillington course programme over the next 2-3 years ?
WB – The one thing I can be certain of is that there will be changes – there always have been. Together with my colleague, Denise Borer, we are always talking about new ideas and course formats. Popular favourites will always be repeated but we are continually trying to find the new favourites that will take us forward.
We have just installed a 100meg fibre optic internet connection that is so fast and has so much capacity we would be negligent not to explore its potential in supporting new courses. The free wi-fi across the site and the popularity of tablets such as iPads will undoubtedly become something that our guests will use during their stay. Where this will leave tutors and their courses heaven only knows. We have already had instances where students are Googling their own questions and doing their own research during courses!
The Big Art Weekend takes place 29 November – 1 December 2013.
For other information about courses at Dillington read more here or visit website www.dillington.com. The next Dillington course brochure listing events from July 2014 will be available from 9th January – email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to receive a copy.