Willy Russell – Tutor
Nick Stimson – Tutor
Guest Reader
27th August – 1st September 2018
Course Date

This is a Tutored Retreat/ Advanced Course for those with experience in lyric writing and composition but who wish to deepen and extend the range of their writing/composition.  Not everyone on the course will be a master instrumentalist but the ability to efficiently accompany yourself on an instrument will be essential.

The course is suitable for those with the habit of creation, who already have some experience in the craft and art of song making and who take a serious approach to developing and deepening the range of their lyric writing and compositional skills.  Although students will have a large measure of autonomy in the shape and organisation of their work there will also be opportunities for collaboration and co-writing as well as tutorials, workshops and one to one sessions with the tutors. The course will involve a significant element of performance with newly created work being presented and performed each evening after supper. 

The overall aim is for participants to leave the course creatively charged,  with a new body of material and strategies for progressing their individual song making.

To apply for ‘Song Making’ please email a cv outlining song writing experience to date. (garsdaleretreat@gmail.com).

Bursaries are available for this course.

Willy Russell - The Garsdale Retreat

Tutor: Willy Russell – Writer

Willy Russell’s career spans more than four decades; born in Liverpool in 1947, he left school at 15, became a women’s hairdresser, part-time singer/songwriter before returning to education and becoming a teacher.

Russell’s breakthrough work, commissioned by Liverpool Everyman, “John Paul George Ringo…and Bert” transferred to the West End winning Best Musical – Evening Standard and London Theatre Critics Awards.

Two of Willy’s best-known plays have female protagonists, “Educating Rita” (Olivier Award for Best Comedy  and  “Shirley Valentine “ (Olivier Award – Best New Comedy & Best New Actress, Tony Awards, Broadway – Best Actress). Both became successful films  – Julie Walters and Pauline Collins who played the roles on stage received Oscar nominations as did  Willy Russell for  the screenplay of Educating Rita.

Blood Brothers,” (Laurence Olivier Award, Best New Musical, 1983), played for 24 years becoming the 3rd longest running West End musical. Major foreign productions include a 2 year run on Broadway, with recent productions in South Africa and Korea and current productions in  Australia and Japan. The UK tour is still playing to packed houses. 

Our Day Out,” originally written for TV,  about a school outing, has been adapted for the stage as  “Our Day Out  The Musical”. Premiered at Liverpool’s Royal Court in 2010 to rave reviews it was revived a year later for another sell out season.

The critically acclaimed novel, “The Wrong Boy” was published in 2000 and translated worldwide.

For further information please visit willyrussell.com

Photo: paulcoxphotos.co.uk

Nick Stimson - The Garsdale Retreat

Tutor: Nick Stimson – Playwright

Nick Stimson is a freelance playwright and theatre director. He is also Associate Director of The Theatre Royal, Plymouth. He has directed many major productions in the UK and Europe and has written over produced 60 plays including musicals, straight plays, and plays for radio and television.  He has also published three collections of poetry. (‘In Magnet Air’ Phoenix-Springwood; ‘Histories’ Priapus Press; ‘Flying Pigs’ Enitharmon.)

Past productions include: writer and director of ‘A Winter’s Tale’ (with Howard Goodall) at The Sage, Gateshead, The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford and the Landor Theatre, London (winner of Best Off West musical at the Offies 1914); writer and director of ’Sailors and Sweethearts’, a play about the artist Beryl Cook, at the Drum Theatre, Plymouth; writer and director of ‘NHS The Musical’ (with music by Jimmy Jewell) at the Drum Theatre, Plymouth and the The Venue, Leicester Square, London; writer of ‘Hello Mister Capello’ for the Palace Theatre, Watford; co-writer of ‘Promised Land’ (written with Anthony Clavane) for Red Ladder Theatre, The Carriage Works, Leeds; writer of ‘Who Ate All The Pies?’ (with music by Jimmy Jewell) at the Tristan Bates Theatre, London; writer of ‘The Venus Factor’ (with music and lyrics by Annemarie Lewis Thomas) for the MTA at the Bridewell Theatre, London; writer and director of ‘Korczak’ (with music by Chris Williams ) at Theatre Royal, Plymouth, The Rose Theatre, London and Bialystok Opera Poland (international tour); writer and director of ‘The Day We Played Brazil’ (with music by Chris Williams) for the Northcott Theatre, Exeter. 

Forthcoming productions include ‘Inventing Utopia’ a play about Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst and the founding of Dartington for production at Dartington in November 2016;  ‘Gabriel’ (with the composer Andrew Fisher) for production in Southampton in December 2016, and a new production of ‘Korczak’ by Polski Theatre, Wroclaw, also in December 2016.

Current projects include a major rewrite ‘Dangerous Daughters’, a musical about the Pankhursts, for publication and production in London in 2017 and adapting ‘The Time Machine’ (both with music by Annemarie Lewis-Thomas) for production in London in 2018.  He is also working on a new play about the painter Stanley Spencer and a play about the farming industry.  Nick is also working with the singer and composer Seth Lakeman on a major project for the Theatre Royal Plymouth about the Pilgrim Fathers and their coming to the New World. 

He has also recently written his first novel, ‘The Piano Maker’.

Nick Stimson is represented by Kate Weston of Janet Fillingham Associates. www.janetfillingham.com

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

Bursaries are available for this course.

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 27th August 2018.
END TIME After breakfast, 10:00 am on Saturday 1st September 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.

‘Song Making’ - The Garsdale Retreat