Hamish Wilson – Tutor
Helen Tookey – Guest Reader
Guest Reader
16th – 21st March 2020
Course Date

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 study of these poetic forms will create a sense of freedom enabling you to take your writing to the next level.

The overall aim, is to inspire participants with the desire and confidence to continue writing poetry long after the course is over. This course is intended for the less experienced writer.

Tutor: Hamish Wilson – Poet

His debut book of poetry, ‘Away from the Welsh Speaking Sea’ – a 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 has also performed this at Dylan Thomas wreath laying events in London, 2016 and 2017.

In 2018, he was short-listed for the WoLF poetry competition and published in the winners’ anthology. He was also published in ‘This Place I Know’ a new anthology of Cumbrian poetry (Handstand Press) and ‘Play’ (Paper Dart Press).

Hamish Wilson has written three plays: ‘Something Rotten in the State of Denmark.’ ‘A Tale Told By An Idiot,’ and ‘Eros’.

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.

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, has been 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, putting text together with electronic soundscapes; see https://martinheslop.wordpress.com/martin-heslop-helen-tookey/  for samples of their work. Helen is currently writing poems that try to address the current moment as a kind of threshold or tipping-point, a place of grief, loss, and possibility – the past seeming to take on new meanings and significances set against the uncertain and unknowable future.

Photo: Jenny Halse

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

Single – En-suite room £805

Single – Shared bathroom £755

Shared Room (2 Beds) £705pp

Non-residential (inc. lunch and evening meal) £565

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 and mid-week guests
All Meals Sheets & Towels
Boots/outdoor shoes/trainers suitable for walking on rough 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)
Musical instruments and drawing/painting materials – sketchbook, pens, pencils, watercolours etc. (optional!)
Cash: for books written by the tutors, alcohol or sundries. The nearest cash machine is in Hawes, six miles away.

Please arrive between 3:00pm and 5:00pm on Monday 16th March 2020

Tea and cake 4.30pm

Introductory Workshop 5.45 – 6.45pm


After breakfast, 10:00am on Saturday 21st March 2020

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 – 5.00pm. On this first day, tea and cake are at 4.30pm followed by an introductory/ice-breaking workshop 5.45 – 6.45pm. 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 and participants will have a daily 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.