I have just returned from the most blissful week at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School where the magic of Swanwick is legendary. I never fully realised how powerful that magic really was. I’m still on a high from the brilliant workshops and generosity of spirit of the 200-something writers who descend upon Hayes Conference Centre in Derbyshire every year. For anyone who has considered writing, for a hobby, or a career to fit around the family, I can thoroughly recommend this magical place.
The Hayes has a fascinating history as a former POW camp. Thankfully it bears no resemblance to a prison camp now, as delegates wander around the beautiful lakes and historical grounds for inspiration, or writing under a tree in the warm summer breeze.
Every year they have a brilliant selection of speakers, too many to name, but if you’re interested in this year’s, take a look here. In addition, there is a full programme of specialist courses and workshops that leaves you exhausted but exhilarated. I felt like I didn’t want to miss anything, and already I’m counting the days to go back!
Having been simply ‘mummy’ for the past 7 years, it’s hard to justify the expense and time away when you feel you should be spending it on the children. But I returned home a more chilled-out parent, full of love for my family, having had the chance to ‘regroup.’ I’ve started to rediscover the real me – yes, she is still there, somewhere! I also have a much clearer idea of my future – and may have even got myself a new job!
It probably helps to know before you get to Swanwick how friendly everyone will be, because then (most!) people are on their best behaviour. We flit around like butterflies, having the most fascinating conversations and hearing all sorts of interesting stories.
There is a tradition where the delegates going the the train station get waved off as they get on the coach, and tears are shed as goodbyes are said to friends who’ve known each other for just one week a year, for many, many years. I’ve made some wonderful friends, each one special, from the demure to the gloriously bonkers! Since we got home, we’ve been busy tweeting and facebooking, desperate not to lose that feeling of camaraderie.
I’ve put my name down to help out with events next year, and feel highly honoured to have experienced the famous Swanwick magic. If you’re a ‘Swanwick Virgin’ under 40, you can apply for the Top Write Programme, but I say, start saving now (just £10 a week, inc. beer money!) and just go anyway. It really will change your life.
Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick, nr Alfreton, Derbys DE55 1AU