Swanwick Writers’ Summer School 2021

Several RWG members have attended ‘Swanwick’ over the years, some of us on free places won in the various competitions. (Always worth a shot!)

Our former Treasurer, Cathy Grimmer, (in the centre of the photo above) first attended in 2008, joined the Swanwick Committee and continues to serve as Chairman.

After the disappointing cancellation of the 2020 School due to Covid19, Lindsay and Maggie attended this year and their personal accounts are below.

Swanwick Writers’ Summer School 7 – 13 August 2021 Lindsay Trenholme

After 18 months of lockdown and isolation, it was a joy to be at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School amongst real people and the stimulation of an endless variety of writing genres in a packed programme – and all in the peaceful surroundings of the Hayes Conference Centre.

It was hard to choose which of the many workshops to attend, but for my 4-part specialist course I opted for“Eliciting the Past, Present and Future Through Poetry” with former Birmingham Poet Laureate, Roy McFarlane. He explained that his inspiration for the theme had come about through his love of Dr Who! His passion for poetry shone through each workshop and inspired all of us, as did his original approach, his encouragement (“everyone’s a poet”) and infectious sense of fun.

There were also different 2-part courses every day and among these I chose:
“Show Stopping Story Telling” by author Bettina von Cosselwith lots of useful tips about how to bring a story to life through showing characters’ behaviours and emotions (I noticed Maggie was on that course too).
“Poetry, Landscapes and Environment” by published poet and climber, Helen Mort – with some beautiful poems illustrating the theme and a thoughtful discussion about reflecting climate change in poetry.
“Honing Your HistFic” by Jennifer Wilson – another workshop with useful tips about how and where to find and check the facts when writing historical fiction.
and “Life-Changing Memoir – A Guide to Getting Started” by Samantha Houghton whose experience and knowledge of her subject was invaluable for any would-be memoir writer.

I also attended 4 fascinating evening talks by guest speakers. Toby Faber on the publishing company Faber and Faber founded by his grandfather, screenwriter Julian Unthank on his career in the capricious world of television, poet Helen Mort,and prolific crime/supernatural novelist Sarah Ward.

It wasn’t of course all work and no play! During free time we could take advantage of the well-stocked bar and either participate in or watch the many evening entertainments on offer.

Chairman and former RWG member, Cathy Grimmer, deserves a huge pat on the back for organising such a successful week, as does our own Maggie Cobbett for being a dedicated Swanwick mentor, guideand adviser forany delegate old or new who needed it.

Maggie Cobbett

‘Swanwick’ was a little muted this year due to the various restrictions imposed by the virus, but they didn’t spoil my enjoyment. One plus was always being able to find a seat in the bar, which is where many of the most interesting discussions take place. Where else would you find a huddle of respectable ladies discussing foolproof ways of committing murder – on paper, of course – and getting away with it? As an ‘old hand’, having attended regularly since 2006, I once again had the honour of helping new Swanwickers to find their feet. Seeing my wares on display in the Book Room is something to which I also always look forward and I’m pleased to report that sales were brisk.

Each year I try to ring the changes with the courses I choose and this time around I went to ‘The Complete Article Writer’ with Simon Whaley and ‘LGBTQ+ Characters’ with Spencer Meakin. At the Prose Open Mic I was handed the job of sanitising the microphone between readers. The Poetry Open Mic, however, saw me reading out a newly written pantoum (inspired by the one included by Philip Barclay in his tribute to his mother Janet.)

Buskers’ Night is always a joy, although I neither sing nor play. Instead, each year the organiser has me seated close to the front with his camera. (Fortunately other keen photographers are on hand to make up for any shortfall in my shots of the proceedings!)

The fancy dress theme for 2021 was The Roaring Twenties and there was even a free Charleston lesson on offer during the disco held at the end of the evening.

In conclusion, ‘Swanwick’ is a great place to meet up with old friends and make new ones. I can’t recommend it highly enough and am counting down the weeks to 13th August 2022 when, all being well, I shall be there again.

Our friendly group meets once a fortnight at the St Wilfred's Community Centre on Trinity Lane and is always open to new members from the Ripon area and beyond. Whether your interest is in poetry or prose, novels, short stories, plays, wacky humour, a more analytical style of writing, or just listening for the time being, you're very welcome.

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