15 March 2019
This year’s February half term Writing Retreat expanded to twice the number of pupils. Thirty-two young writers from Years 5 to 12 travelled to Patterdale Hall in the Lake District for a week of workshops, inspiring experiences and of course plenty of writing.
The mornings were filled with writing workshops with the three tutors: Mandy Coe, an award winning poet whose work has been featured on the BBC and radio and who has inspired generations of writers; novelist Tiffany Murray, author of four highly successful books; and Peter Sansom, who has been named by the Guardian as ‘the best poetry tutor in the world’. In the afternoons, girls enjoyed one-to-one tutorials and time to write.
There were also art activities provided by Mrs Crowther to add images to their stories and poems and Patterdale staff guided everyone on walks in the surrounding area. Catherine Kay from the Wordsworth Trust visited and gave a talk on Wordsworth’s connections with Ullswater, noting that the inspiration for ‘Daffodils’ came while he was staying as a guest in Patterdale Hall! The girls also enjoyed a steamer ride across Ullswater to visit Aira Force. The evenings were spent sharing poetry and reading one another’s work.
During the trip, the Writing Retreat established a permanent library at Patterdale: the tutors kindly donated books as did the English Department. Mrs Kingsford, who organises the trip each year, brought her own collection of contemporary poetry and pupils enjoyed exploring the work of poets such as Helen Dunmore, Caroline Bird, Helen Mort and Ocean Vuong.
The Senior School writers produced an anthology of work at the end of the week to commemorate their trip.
The young writers thoroughly enjoyed stretching their creative muscles during their week at Patterdale Hall, as shown by their many positive comments:
“The tutors are lovely and encouraging, inspiring confidence to read my work aloud. This week has really helped me loosen up and find my creativity again, so thank you very much! Also the food and staff at Patterdale have been lovely as usual.” – Year 12
“This has been a helpful, relaxing trip for me. I’ve become more confident in my writing and made new friends I’d never have met otherwise.” – Year 10
“I enjoyed the writing retreat so much because it was a great opportunity to learn how to write good poetry and stories. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to improve their writing. I would rate it 5*.” – Year 7
“I have had a great week in Patterdale! 5 out of 5.” – Year 5
“I liked how much freedom in our writing we got, and how we had free time to relax and work on our writing.” – Year 9
“I have loved working in such a creative and supportive atmosphere and the tutors have been absolutely phenomenal. It’s been great to get feedback on my work from professionals and to go out into nature and draw inspiration from what is all around us. The food is also a brilliant bonus and I like that there is structured time for us to write and free time to explore our own thoughts and ideas. Thank you so much!” – Year 12