On Sunday July 4th, residents of South Devon were treated to massive images of internationally acclaimed artist and musician, Brian Eno’s,`77 Million Paintings’ in a guerilla projection event which saw Eno’s paintings projection onto the grade II listed Brunel Building roof and chimney at the former Totnes Dairy Crest site.
In what has turned into a battle between David (community-led developers Totnes Community Development Society) and Goliath (Canadian corporate, Saputo Inc, who sold the site, and Essex-based sealants company, FastGlobe, who bought it); the guerilla light show of Eno’s original paintings, accompanied by previously unheard original music, took place as a show of community resistance and protest.
The Eno show was designed to take the community’s fight to secure the site to Saputo Inc, the Canadian parent company of the UK subsidiary that sold the site out from under the community’s feet in January 2020.
Supporting the community with its plans to raise the profile of the Community’s bid to turn the 8 acre brownfield site in to a mixed use community led development, and to highlight the £2.5m of National Heritage Lottery funding it has secured to transform the Brunel building in to a leading South Devon arts and culture venue, Brian Eno said:
“I was hugely disappointed to hear that the Atmos Totnes project has been effectively stopped by the sale of the site to private commercial interests. This is the sort of struggle that is happening everywhere in England. At this critical time in history we need – more than anything else – ways in which people can come together and cooperate creatively and this project represents a sort of beacon for the future, a vision of how things could and should be.
The real strength of Arts Centres such as Atmos Totnes is that they become places where people can do all sorts of things together: where neighbours can become neighbourly, and where towns can become neighbourhoods. After 50 years of everyone-for-themselves, culminating in the still-raw divisiveness of the Brexit campaign, we need this re-consolidation throughout the whole of British society. And we need it much more than we need yet another development driven solely by financial self-interest”.
Sold by Canadian corporate, Saputo Inc – who bought Dairy Crest in April 2019 in a deal worth £95m – to Essex based sealants company, FastGlobe, in January 2021; developers, Totnes Community Development Society, and recently formed campaign group, Atmos for Totnes, used the show to underline what is at risk if the site isn’t secured for the planned community led development.
Discussing the community-led development plans, TCDS Director, Rob Hopkins explains
“The Atmos Totnes 8 acre site was sold out from under the community’s feet by Saputo at the eleventh hour in a deal that just doesn’t stack up. Lighting up the Brunel building with Brian Eno’s original art work is a creative way for us to illuminate what will be lost if the site’s development goes ahead under private ownership after years of community effort to develop the site for community benefit – it’s not just the £2.5m from the National Heritage Lottery, it’s the whole mixed use development, in community ownership, planned for the site. This is our fight for our town’s future and we’re not giving up”.
Fellow TCDS Director and national community-led development advocate, Frances Northrop, said
“As the housing crisis worsens, and as more and more communities feel like development is something done to them rather than done with them, Atmos Totnes is a vital national flagship project, the kind of exemplar of best practice that can show what a community led future looks like in practice. We remain absolutely committed to ensuring that this town gets the scheme it designed and overwhelmingly voted for”.
Atmos for Totnes Campaign Coordinator, Ruth Ben-Tovim, said
“Brian Eno’s support for this scheme is hugely treasured by us all. That an artist of his international reputation believes so strongly that this town deserves the scheme it voted for, and this site transferred into its ownership, is very powerful. This arts centre would be the best music, art and theatre venue west of Bristol. It would put Totnes on the map, and Brian’s support is just one indicator of the caliber of artist we could attract here. The message this sends out is clear and strong. Totnes deserves the scheme it voted for, and nothing else will do”.