The influence of the English Riviera

These days, in many ways, Torbay and Totnes seem to be ‘miles’ apart culturally, despite the relatively close distance between the two. It is therefore interesting to note that Torquay played a role in the development of alternative activities around Totnes and Dartington in the 1970s. Indeed, it was one of the tangible local influences that was definitely outside the scope of Dartington itself. This short extract details a few of the things that were going on in Torquay at that time and I would be interested to hear about any other things that were going on.


Another place which had an influence on Totnes was Torquay. In the 1970s it is arguable that there were more visible manifestations of alternative cultural activity than there was in Totnes. For example, the Theosophical Society has had a presence in Torquay since before 1925 when the Lodge there was left a building in a legacy. Torquay also had a long history of spiritualism which is why Rudolph Steiner was invited to speak there in 1924 by the Anthroposophical Society to warn against the dangers of spiritualism. There was also an alternative bookshop, Cosmic Books which predated the opening of Arcturus in Totnes. Indeed it was actually one of the inspirations for the Arcturus bookshops in Totnes. There was also the Cornucopia, a restaurant where several talks were held in early 1970s. and which had a Trancendental Meditation training centre upstairs. Finally, the Centre for Human Communications was established in Torquay in 1971 by Kevin and Venika Kingsland an Anglo-Indian couple. Whilst Kevin taught yoga in Totnes in 1971 people from the Totnes area also seemingly visited the Torquay centre, which later advertised its courses in the Dartington Hall News.

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