About this website

The purpose of this website is to share my the findings of research on  how Totnes became an alternative place.

In the spring of 2006 I applied to the University of Liverpool to undertake a PhD in Geography on ‘Alternative Economic Spaces’. The idea was to study a place where there appeared to be a concentration of people trying to do ‘alternative’ economic things. The supervisors had broadly identified a number of possible sites for the research but I was very keen that it should focus on the Totnes area if I was the chosen candidate, for a number of reasons. Firstly, having visited the area a few times there did seem to be  something about it that was different. Secondly, it had a reputation as somewhere which was alternative and which had experimented with alternative economic ideas. Thirdly, I was aware that Transition Town Totnes was due to be launched later in 2006 and this seemed like the latest example of  a number of experiments that had taken place in the area.  I was offered the PhD and having persuaded my supervisors that the research would be best undertaken in situ, my family and I moved to Totnes in August 2006.

I spent the next 2 years trying to get under the skin of the different types of alternative economic activity that exist within the area. Even now I feel like I barely scratched the surface but I had a constant desire to try and retain a breadth of analysis, rather than focusing down on a niche, even though this arguably made the whole process a lot more difficult. Methodologically the research involved some semi-structured interviews, rooting around in various archives, and quite a bit of ‘participatory’ method, most notably by getting heavily involved in one of the most recent alternative economic experiments, the Totnes Pound local currency.

During the research I used this blog as part of my research methods, as a way of testing my ideas and checking some of the details of the narrative that I constructed. Its purpose now is to share some of the findings about key alternative local institutions as there is very little other public record about some of these activities.

You can navigate to the posts through either the Categories or the Tag Cloud on the right hand side. I have loosely divided the posts into those that are about things that happened in Totnes, events that relate to Dartington, plus a few others that don’t quite fall into either category. For those of you who are not familiar with the South Hams area, “Dartington” refers to a utopian experiment which was started in 1925 just outside Totnes and which was, in my humble opinion, the root cause of the emergence of Totnes as an alternative place. Locally there has always been talk of a ‘Dartington effect’ on Totnes and hopefully my work provides one way of explaining what this was.

Finally, I should also add that the various posts on this site are by no means comprehensive. They tend to be the extracts that I posted during the research process. Over time, I will add to them with other material. Plus, the book, when it eventually emerges, will also contain more detail.