School for Tourists: Grizedale, 2011


The School For Tourists is a project by Emma Smith developed with Grizedale Arts as part of her residency in the Lake District. The intention of the project is to examine the ways in which we connect to place and to discuss some possibilities for a new kind of tourism, one that offers more to both the host and guest.

The project was launched this year through a week long programme of activities in and around Grizedale Arts’ home village of Coniston in the English Lake District, one time home of John Ruskin, Victorian artist, social reformer, critic and father of radical environmentalism – an area that has long managed the complexity of being a tourist destination.

The course was based at the Coniston Institute, a historic building created by Ruskin in the 19th century for education, the arts and social cohesion. The building is in the process of being restored both in the fabric but also the ambition and idealism of the original, a building for locals and guests exchanging knowledge skills and vision. In this context the course was collaborative, exploratory and self-critical in line with Ruskin’s assertion that ‘where investigation is necessary teaching is impossible.’

The week-long workshop examined existing tourism, as well as the historical and sociological impact of the tourist, questioning what we might consider good or bad practice. Delegates also made a practical contribution by helping with local projects, in particular the restoration of the village hall) The Coniston Institute). Through a process that is hoped to be rewarding and fruitful the project explores the potential of a more sustainable future that might solve some of the social, cultural and economic problems inherent in the current ‘pay and go’ tourism.

The School aims to create a sincere exchange between host and guest – an exchange of enriching and inspiring value to both parties.