Hamish Wilson – Tutor
John Hegley – Guest Reader
Guest Reader
9th – 14th April 2018
Course Date

This course invites the less experienced or novice writer to engage with the ‘magical transformations’ of metaphor and see the world through a poet’s eye. Using a range of stimuli – the Garsdale landscape, everyday objects, other people’s poems – the course leads students gently by the hand but with joyful trepidation through a range of poetic forms, dipping toes into haiku, cinquains, kennings, riddles, free verse and sonnets. The overall aim, is to inspire participants with the desire and confidence to continue writing poetry long after the course is over.

Tutor: Hamish Wilson – Poet

Hamish Wilson was born in Cheltenham in 1959. Having won a scholarship to Rendcomb College, he went on to take a degree in French Literature at Sussex University before training to be a teacher in London. His formal education finished with an MA in Arts Education at the Central School of Speech and Drama.

Hamish’s teaching career took him to a variety of schools, teaching a variety of subjects: French, German, English and Drama. A constant, however, throughout all this, was an interest in and love of words.

He began writing when looking for a suitable play to produce at his first school, St Peter’s, a comprehensive, in Huntingdon. Resources and facilities being fairly basic, he wrote a tailor made play for the school and its pupils. Something Rotten in the State of Denmark, a parody of Hamlet, marked his writing debut.

However, he became much more interested in the art and craft of writing when he regularly took a group of pupils from Hitchin Boys’ School to a creative writing centre in Wales. He was inspired by the poet, Gerard Benson, who gave him the encouragement and confidence to develop his writing.

Later on in his career, Willy Russell tutored him on a residential musical theatre course, inspiring him to return to and develop his dramatic writing.

Other works include three plays: A Tale Told by an Idiot, Alice and Eros (part of Twisted Willow’s: Seven Words for Love) and a series of sonnet cycles describing: a journey through France – A Baguette in my Sac; an autobiographical account of the Isle of Wight – Ticket to Ryde; travels in India -Tales from Rajasthan; and a narrative poem set in the Maldives – Night Fishing.

His debut book of poetry, ‘Away from the Welsh Speaking Sea’ – a sonnet sequence inspired by the Dylan Thomas birthplace – was launched at the birthplace on ‘Dylan Day,’ May 14th, 2017. ‘Lovely moments of vision and lyricism and surprise….delicate control.’ (Jane Draycott). ‘A warm and accessible collection of sonnets…..(Hannah Ellis, Dylan Thomas’ grand-daughter).

He is currently working on Parallel Lives – a sonnet cycle exploring the lives of Dylan Thomas and John Lennon.


Guest, Wednesday evening: 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

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

Single – En-suite room £760
Single – Shared bathroom £710
Shared Room (2 Beds) £660
Non-residential (inc. lunch and evening meal) £500

TO BOOK £150 deposit payable on booking by PayPal, bank transfer or cheque, to secure place, balance due six weeks before start of course.
Please see Terms and Conditions.
Accommodation Professional Tutor
Meals Sheets & Towels
Boots/outdoor shoes/trainers suitable for walking on rough paths.
A waterproof jacket or coat.
Warm Clothes
Writing materials: your personal writing preference – laptop, paper, pens etc.
USB memory stick: for printing your work. (We do have air printing)
Musical instruments and drawing/painting materials – sketchbook, pens, pencils, watercolours etc. (optional!)
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 9th April 2018.
END TIME After breakfast, 10:00 am on Saturday 14th April 2018.
LOCATION The Garsdale Retreat, Clough View, Garsdale Head, Sedbergh, Cumbria LA10 5PW

Nearest station: Garsdale – direct line from Leeds.


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 workshops 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 – 6.00pm 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:

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, 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 varies according to the type of course but participants can typically expect a tutor reading on Tuesday followed by a reading from a guest writer on the Wednesday evening. 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.

All courses end after breakfast on Saturday.

Poetry Course Anthology

An integral part of poetry courses is the production of an anthology of writing produced in the week. 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.