Janet Summerton obituary

Other lives: Teacher and businesswoman dedicated to the world of art and design

My friend Janet Summerton, who has died aged 79, spent much of her working life devoted to primary and then higher education as part of her career in the world of arts and culture.

Born in Solihull, West Midlands, to Edwin Summerton, who worked in insurance, and his wife, Maggie (nee Jones), Janet emigrated with her family to Canada after the end of the second world war when she was seven, settling in Vancouver.

She went to West Vancouver secondary school and then trained as a teacher, initially working in primary education and eventually as principal of an experimental school in the city. After five years in that post, and ready for a change, she left to set up a couple of small business ventures, one designing and manufacturing a portable loom and another running her own catering outlet.

In the mid-1970s she became coordinator of the Circle Craft Arts Co-op in Vancouver and a decade later she moved back to Britain to begin a PhD at City University, London, focusing on designer craft practices.

From the early 90s she taught arts and cultural management at City, as well as at Dartington College of Arts in Devon. From 1994 she led the certificate course in arts management at Sussex University in Brighton, East Sussex, convening the MA in arts and cultural management there until 2004. In “retirement” she continued with freelance work in research, university teaching and training until her 70th year in 2008.

A twinkly, wise woman with a huge capacity for supporting others, her thinking was radical and humane. She also communicated brilliantly in her many papers and publications.

On a night train in France, en route to an opera festival in 1985, Janet met Ken Goodwin, who had just taken early retirement from BT. Their connection was instantaneous and they were a very close couple for 32 years, marrying in 1991. With shared interests in music, food and putting the world to rights, they drew in a wide and eclectic circle of friends. Janet became an important part of Ken’s family. She also remained close to her sister, Ann, and their mother, Maggie, who moved from Vancouver to live with the couple.

Once living in Brighton, Janet became involved with several local cultural organisations. She rediscovered her love of textile work, exhibiting with others, and also opened up her house as part of Brighton Artists’ Open Houses festival.

She is survived by Ken, three stepchildren, Nick, Rod and Caroline, her nieces, Heather and Kim, and her nephew Robert. Ann died last year.

Sue Kay

The GuardianTramp

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