Steve Ely – Tutor
Helen Tookey – Guest Reader
Guest Reader
31st October – 5th November 2022
Course Date

The Climate Crisis, the Sixth Extinction and the ‘End of Nature’; the dislocations of Globalisation, the rise of unaccountable mega-corporations and billionaire plutocrats, and the widening gulf between haves and have-nots; conflict, refugee crises and the movement of peoples; Brexit, the resurgence of populism and fascism; the pandemic; the supplanting of the real world by the virtual, the challenges of artificial intelligence, biotechnology and nano-engineering; the fragmentation of society, the rise of solipsism and consumer narcissism and the erosion of solidarity … there’s no doubt that we live in Apocalyptic times.

How might poets respond to the violence, crises and dislocations of the contemporary world? Do Apocalyptic times demand a new, Apocalyptic poetics? On this course participants will encounter a range of approaches, techniques and methods that might help them explore the turbulence of the times without resorting to the ranter’s soapbox or succumbing to lyric despair.

Steve Ely - The Garsdale Retreat

Tutor: Steve Ely – Poet

Steve Ely has written several acclaimed collections of poetry, most recently Lectio Violant and The European Eel.  His books have won or been nominated for Forward, Ted Hughes, Northern Writers and Michael Marks awards & prizes.  He has also written a novel, Ratmen, and Ted Hughes’s South Yorkshire, a biographical work about the former poet laureate.

He teaches creative writing at the University of Huddersfield, the Poetry School, the Arvon Foundation—and has tutored at the Garsdale Retreat several times.  He is currently organising a symposium focused on the Apocalyptic mode in modern and contemporary English poetry.

Helen Tookey - The Garsdale Retreat

Guest, Wednesday evening: Helen Tookey – Poet

Helen Tookey is a poet based in Liverpool, where she teaches creative writing at Liverpool John Moores University.

Her debut collection Missel-Child (Carcanet, 2014) was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney first collection prize, and her second Carcanet collection, City of Departures, was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection 2019. Her pamphlet In the Glasshouse was published by HappenStance Press in 2016, and the CD/booklet If You Put Out Your Hand, a collaboration with musician Sharron Kraus, came out from Wounded Wolf Press also in 2016.

She also collaborates with composer and sound artist Martin Heslop; in 2019, they were awarded a two-week residency at the Elizabeth Bishop House in Nova Scotia, and have since been developing sound/text work in response to that visit.

Helen is currently working on a third collection for Carcanet, due to be published in 2022.

Photo: Jenny Halse


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

Single – En-suite room £860
Single – Shared bathroom £810
Shared Room (2 Beds) £760pp
Non-residential (inc. lunch and evening meal) £620

TO BOOK £150 deposit payable on booking by bank transfer, PayPal or cheque, to secure place. Balance due four weeks before the start of the course/tutored retreat/untutored retreat.
Please see Terms and Conditions.
Accommodation Professional tutor and mid-week guest
All Meals Sheets & Towels
Boots/outdoor shoes/trainers suitable for walking on rough/wet paths.
A waterproof jacket or coat.
Warm Clothes
Toiletries – we do have one hair dryer available
Writing materials: your personal writing preference – laptop, paper, pens etc.
USB memory stick: for printing your work. (We do have air printing so may not be necessary)
Cash: for books on sale (written by tutors, guest readers etc.), alcohol, sundries. The nearest cash machine is in Hawes, six miles away!

Please arrive between 3:00pm and 4:30pm on Monday 31st October 2022

Tea, cake and housekeeping notes 4.30pm

Introductory Workshop 5.30 – 6.30pm

Dinner 7.00pm


After breakfast, 10:00am on Saturday 5th November 2022

LOCATION The Garsdale Retreat, Clough View, Garsdale Head, Sedbergh, Cumbria LA10 5PW
Nearest railway station: Garsdale, on the Leeds – Carlisle line.
For directions, see Find Us section on the Contact page.


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 3.00 – 4.30pm. On this first day, tea, cake and housekeeping notes are at 4.30pm followed by an introductory/ice-breaking workshop 5.30 – 6.30pm. Dinner is at 7.00pm. All courses end after breakfast on Saturday (10.00am).

Course Structure

Although there will be slight variations, according to the type of course (see below), students can generally expect the following outline:

8.00 – 9.00am: Breakfast

9.30 – 11.00am: First workshop – Students explore particular aspects of the chosen genre and take part in writing exercises to further their understanding and expertise. 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.

11.00 – 11.30am: Coffee break

11.30am – 1.00pm: Second workshop

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.

4.30pm: Tea and cake

5.30 – 6.30pm: Third workshop

7.00pm: Dinner

All students have one individual tutorial of 30 minutes with the tutor in the course of the week which usually takes place at a mutually agreed time, usually in the afternoon.

Each evening, at about 8.30pm, 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 word/literary game. On Friday, there is a reading of work produced during the week.

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 the writing is essentially work-in-progress. However, the aim of the anthology is to reflect a flavour of the work accomplished on the course and to provide participants 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.

Tutored Retreats

These follow the same basic structure as above except there is only one workshop in the morning 9.30 – 11.00am and participants will have a daily 30 minute tutorial, four per week.

Untutored Retreats

The only formal structure of the week is determined by meal-times (see above), allowing participants to concentrate totally on their own writing. After dinner, participants in conjunction with the course director sometimes organise evening read-rounds of their work /open mics/music /word games. However, participation in such events is entirely voluntary and people are free to continue with their writing in the evenings if they prefer.

Poetry- Apocalypse! - The Garsdale Retreat