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 range 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 were fairly basic in those days so he wrote a play which was tailor made 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 took a group of pupils from Hitchin Boys’ School to Ty Newydd, a creative writing centre in Wales. He was inspired by the poet, Gerard Benson, who gave him the encouragement and confidence to develop his own writing.
There then followed 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 the Maldives – Night Fishing.
Having taught for thirty-one years, he became disillusioned with the increasingly narrow and assessment driven curriculum imposed on pupils and teachers by central government and decided to leave the profession to set up The Garsdale Retreat and devote more of his time to writing.
His debut book of poetry, ‘Away from the Welsh Speaking Sea’ – a sonnet sequence inspired by the Dylan Thomas birthplace in Swansea – 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 has also performed this at Dylan Thomas wreath laying events in London, 2016 and 2017.
In 2018 and 2019, he was short-listed for the WoLF poetry competition and published in the winners’ WoLF Anthologies. He was also published in ‘This Place I Know’ a new anthology of Cumbrian poetry (Handstand Press) and ‘Play’ an anthology celebrating childhood. (Paper Dart Press).
He regularly performs his poetry at Verbalise, at The Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal where, in 2019, he gave his debut performance of ‘Parallel Lives,’ as part of the Scrutinise series. Parallel Lives is a multi-media show exploring the lives of Dylan Thomas and John Lennon. With a sonnet cycle at its heart, it is presented with live music arranged for piano and cello (performed by Hamish and his partner, Rebecca Nouchette) and features film and photographic projections which all serve to enhance the power of the spoken word.
In 2020, he was short-listed for the Write Outloud Poetry Competition (judged by Andrew McMillan) in support of NHS charities and published in their anthology ‘Beyond The Storm.’ His poem ‘The Last Hurrah,’ was published by Culture Matters and The Morning Star.
He also wrote ‘Lockdown Journal,’ a sonnet sequence describing the first three weeks of lockdown which was published by Dempsey and Windle in June, 2021. His online launch included live music and he continues to perform it with a wide range of specially selected songs, accompanying Rebecca’s cello playing on the piano.
‘April 2020 was exceptional for everyone but it springs to vivid, pictorial life in these 14-line chunks of experience where the pandemic is viewed from a background of skylarks, curlews and fells.’ (Fleur Adcock). ‘Both intimate and resonant, these new sonnets from Hamish Wilson are pellucid containers of a nation’s unsettled spirit.’ (Paul Henry). ‘A profoundly moving chronicle of an unprecedented year.’ (Helen Mort).
The Garsdale Retreat represents the realisation of a dream: a return to the countryside and a haven for writing. It’s a dream he hopes many will able to share with him.
Rebecca Nouchette was born and educated in Oxford. She studied the cello at Trinity College of Music, London.
She was a founding member of two string quartets, giving interactive workshops in schools around London and performing at weddings, parties and corporate events.
Having moved out of London in 2000, she taught the cello at King’s College School, Cambridge and St Christopher School, Hertfordshire where she later became the performing arts administrator, organising whole school events such as arts weeks, concerts and drama productions.
Rebecca has always been interested in cooking but became seriously involved with it in 1986 when she became the catering manager at the Ragdale Health Club in Belsize Park where she developed a range of nutritious food. This experience, along with cooking for her family of five, proved invaluable when she had to cook for school groups, camping in the Swiss mountains. Her culinary ingenuity more than met the extreme challenge of working with six gas burners, no fridge and eighty mouths to feed.
Rebecca really loves preparing excellent, locally sourced meals at The Garsdale Retreat. She is well known to the stall holders of the markets in Hawes and Sedbergh where she buys fresh produce, including fish from Fleetwood on the day it is caught.
During lockdown, she produced a series of lino-cuts to illustrate her ever popular recipes. ‘Seven Soups’ (including a bamboo spatula) is now available to buy and ‘Eight Cakes’ will be ready in time for Christmas 2021. She is inspired by the landscape of the Dales and hopes to re-engage in the future with her interests in pottery.