Writers’ Retreat at Wentworth Castle August 2013

I have taught on many writers’ residentials over the years but several things set this one [earlier last week] a little bit apart from similar experiences.

Let me list them:

1: The sheer beauty of the venue, a former stately home, set in rolling parkland and gardens outside Barnsley with distant views, and deer in the park. It felt like walking around in the background of a Gainsborough painting.

2: The accommodation in old farm buildings next to the Castle. It was magical and all our rooms and the workshop space in the Arched Barn, were of a very high standard.

3: Working with novelist Alison Taft, as fellow tutor, with our twenty or so students. We were a great team of two, had lots of fun and found we had completely shared values in our teaching and tutoring.

4: But it was the students who came from all over Yorkshire, who bonded very quickly and took such risks in their writing and sharing their work throughout the time of the retreat, who blew me away.

How quickly we grew fond of each other...

I loved working with them as a group, but I also found the tutorial time, which Alison and I had with them individually, absorbing and inspiring.

Their work was of such a high standard and immensely varied in focus, genre and the way they tackled it. They rose to the challenge of sharing their work on the Tuesday night in St. James Hall, and we heard some lovely performances. I was also totally impressed with how they gave feedback on each others’ writing as part of our final session on the Wednesday, fair, encouraging, and supportive. I could see participants growing in confidence as they received it.

Another high spot was the ‘aspiration’ session where our students made future promises to themselves and each other about their writing

Thanks also must go to the WEA who supported, administered and advertised the course, and who are doing the same for Alison and me in September, and again next April. Details and booking can be found on


But finally the staff at Northern College, Wentworth Castle were unfailingly helpful and made our two nights and three days, in stately splendour, a complete joy.

Roll on September and April 2014, I say.
helpful and made our two nights in stately splendour a complete joy.

Roll on September and April 2014, I say.