John Hegley, Rommi Smith
29th May – 3rd June 2017
Course Date

With the inspiration of two writers of educational, performing and outreaching experience, this course invites upper primary and secondary teachers/mentors/those working in education to focus on their own writing and develop workshop techniques. We will explore the issue of identity, investigate our senses, use poems to free ideas such as Adrian Mitchell’s Yes and take a look at some myths and legends.  For example, George and the Dragon – could George have tried negotiation? The overall aim is an atmosphere of curiousity, creative play and discovery which will leave participants fuelled up, tooled up and fluid.

john-hegley Tutor: John Hegley – Performance Poet/Songwriter/Comedian

John Hegley was born in North London in 1953 but soon moved with his family to Luton. Before attending Bradford University to study European Literature and Sociology, he worked as a bus conductor and as a civil servant. He began his performing career at Interaction (a tiny campus in North London which specialised in playful participatory theatre out-reach and goat-care), was discovered in 1983 by John Peel as part of the band The Popticians, and now enjoys a cult following among fans of subversive comedy.

His surreal poetry is often heard on BBC radio and widely performed ‘live’, often set to music that is played by the poet himself. Hegley frequently visits classrooms to help teach children – who love his delight in language and offbeat clowning.

He has published ten books, including Glad to Wear Glasses (1990) and other titles of verse, prose and drama, several of which are illustrated with his drawings. He has also published a collection of photographs of potatoes.
Photo: Jackie di Stefano

 rommi-smith Tutor: Rommi Smith – Poet/Playwright/Performer/Teacher

Rommi Smith is a poet and playwright. She has held numerous prestigious international residencies for organisations ranging from the British Council, to the BBC; this includes inaugural writing residencies for Keats’ House and Parliament.

Rommi was Poet in Residence for the Commonwealth Games in Manchester and Poet in Residence for BBC Music Live. She has written for and performed, extensively, on BBC Radio, featuring on programmes such as: From Fact to Fiction, BBC Radio 4’s Afternoon Drama, Poetry Please, Late Junction, The Verb and Woman’s Hour. Rommi’s contribution to a Woman’s Hour feature on Blues-women was a selected for Weekend Woman’s Hour.

Rommi was appointed Parliamentary Writer in Residence – the first such appointment in British and Parliamentary history. Inaugural Poet in Residence at Keats’ House, London [former home, now museum, celebrating the life of Romantic poet, John Keats], Rommi also served as British Council Poet in Residence at California State University in Los Angeles. Whilst in residence, she directed a brand new piece of theatre about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, in collaboration with English MA students and the University’s Jazz Orchestra.

Rommi has taught creative writing for a wealth of organisations and institutions, including: The International Schools Theatre Association; The ARVON Foundation and The Poetry School. She mentored Masters’ students on the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama’s Theatre course.

Rommi features in the documentary We Are Poets. The multi-award-winning film follows the lives of young poets from Leeds Young Authors, whom she mentored to attend the Brave New Voices poetry slam championships in the USA. Brave New Voices is widely recognised as the biggest and most prestigious poetry slam championship in the world.

Rommi is delighted to have acted as a consultant/advisor to Yemeni civil rights campaigner and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Tawakul Karman, during preparations for her speech to Parliament.

Awarded a prestigious Hedgebrook Fellowship in the United States, Rommi is also a recipient of the Elizabeth George Award. Recipient of the John Barnard Scholarship at the University of Leeds, Rommi is in the second year of her full-time interdisciplinary PhD by practice, in celebration of the lives of Jazz and Blues women. | @rommismith
Photo: Kevin Reynolds

PRICES Fee includes all day and evening tutored workshop sessions, readings, accommodation and full board (not including alcohol).

Single – En-suite room £750
Single – Shared bathroom £700
Shared Room (2 Beds) £650
Non-residential (inc. lunch and evening meal) £500

Accommodation Professional Tutor
Meals Sheets & Towels
Boots/outdoor shoes/trainers suitable for walking on rough paths.
A waterproof jacket or coat.
Warm Clothes
Slippers or equivalent for main house.
Writing materials: your personal writing preference – laptop, paper, pens etc.
A USB memory stick: for printing your work or for a copy of the audio anthology (musical theatre/play writing courses).
Musical instruments.
Drawing/painting materials – sketchbook, pens, pencils, watercolours etc.
Cash: for books written by the tutors, alcohol, taxis or sundries. The nearest cash machine is in Hawes, seven miles away.
START TIME Please arrive between 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm on Monday 29th May.
END TIME After breakfast, 10:00 am on Saturday 3rd June.
LOCATION The Garsdale Retreat, Clough View, Garsdale Head, Sedbergh, Cumbria LA10 5PW


The Garsdale Retreat provides an inspiring place to develop as a writer. Our courses offer opportunities for new, emerging and experienced writers. The tutors, all professional writers, lead group work and also give one-to-one tutorials to help the individual student. In the remote and beautiful setting of The Yorkshire Dales, The Garsdale Retreat gives a wonderful opportunity to escape from the daily stresses of life and to draw inspiration from fellow students, tutors and the landscape itself.

All courses start on Monday afternoon, arrival time 4.00 – 5.30pm and finish after breakfast on Saturday, 10.00am

Course Structure

Although there will be slight variations, according to the type of course, students can generally expect the following outline.

Writing Workshops

Each day begins with a morning workshop at 9.30am where students explore particular aspects of the chosen genre and take part in writing exercises to further their understanding and expertise. Tutors also write alongside the students, sharing and developing work with participants. The immediacy of hearing or reading an expert’s emerging work gives invaluable insight and inspiration into the art of writing. All students have opportunities to share their work with the tutor and fellow writers in a safe, supportive and nurturing environment in which individual work is respected and confidence developed.

There is a mid-morning coffee break and the session finishes at lunchtime (1.00pm)

After lunch, participants are free to do whatever they like, such as: relax, go for walks, enjoy The Dales, nap, draw, paint, read or work on individual writing projects.

All students have at least one individual tutorial which usually takes place in the early evening after tea and homemade cake.

Each evening there is an after-dinner event. The precise nature of this vary varies according to the type of course but participants can typically expect a tutor reading on Tuesday followed by a reading from a visiting writer on the Wednesday. There is an informal activity on Thursday such as a student ‘open-mic’ night, or a tutor devised activity. On Friday, students and tutor take part in a reading of their work from the course-produced anthology. This is followed by an informal celebration where participants are welcome to play music or sing etc. The Retreat has a grand piano, key-board and acoustic guitar but students are free to bring any instruments along with them.

After-dinner events for performance style courses will usually involve workshop performances by participants of work accomplished in the day.

All courses will conclude after breakfast on Saturday.

Writing Course Anthology

An integral part of a course, is the production of an anthology of the week’s writing. Tutors and students have an equal allocation of pages (usually two sides ofA4) and select the work they include. These pages can be illustrated or decorated. Each participant takes ownership of their pages and is free to determine the overall look and style which may be hand-written or word-processed. It is, of course, accepted that work may not be completely polished and there is an element of work-in-progress about it. However, the aim of the anthology is to reflect a flavour of the work accomplished on the course by both tutor and participants and to provide them with an attractive record of their time at Garsdale. The Retreat stores copies of anthologies in the library, providing pleasure and inspiration for future students.

Musical Theatre Courses

These are essentially the same as the writing workshops in terms of the structure of the day. The main difference is that the evenings are devoted to performance of work produced each day. An informal concert of work produced over the week is given on the Friday evening.

Musical Theatre Course Recording

For musical theatre and performance poetry based courses, an audio anthology is produced. Each student selects work they’ve produced over the week to be recorded. As with the written anthology, the audio version is not expected to be a complete and polished work but more of a work-in-progress which reflects the week’s endeavours. A copy of the anthology recording is given to each student at the end of the course. The Garsdale Retreat will archive the anthology, providing pleasure and inspiration for future students.