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In working with groups of people in communities, institutions, casually convened common interest groups, colleague groups – (what is a group? – classic discussion!) – I always, or at least as far as was possible would look to fit in a residential experience. – This would be a stop/stay over away from base and a chance for the bonding thing but most importantly an opportunity to reinforce how important each group member is to the common cause, the reason the group was meeting, but also a chance to accelerate learning and develop ideas in a sheltered environment.


‘Yes hello, great to see you, welcome,
We’re going to have some good times….’.


This acceleration was always the most striking element – time to enquire, reflect, adjust views, learn new things, have minor – maybe huge – eureka moments. Even one night away, spending time in work and leisure, opens the door to furthering thought on deeper levels than just touching on business once a week.


‘I don’t get it, what does that mean?
When you say are we hearing what’s going on…is it…?.’


These are demanding occasions, before, during and after. The planning stages, recruitment, costings, materials, contributors, outcomes and where it all fits in.
I’ve participated in scores and scores of these both as a learner participant and as convenor and facilitator and presenter. Enjoyed every one.
Personally, since the dynamic of work and learning have changed, there are fewer opportunities and recent times of course have squeezed the openings further still. Seems to have come at the right time though! Virtually!
However I would encourage you to keep a wary eye out for any chances to take part in a residential ‘immersion’ in the topic of your choice. You will explode your learning limits and so importantly meet people that will inspire you for life.


‘See when you said that, man: it was right on the button, I get it now,
That was so personal but it described how I feel, how I am, here and now’.


In the writing scene there are no shortages of opportunities, once we find a ‘normal’ again. Universities and colleges deliver summer schools – it was always a staple of the OU – charitable organisations deliver frequently, independent organisations deliver annual programmes. Get on the mailing lists. Plan ahead. People want you there, they really do!


I know, this can be scary, but your presence will only improve the experience for others.
Yep, it’s not free but keep looking- many have bursary and grant access, worth looking at -and for sure, often the biggest hurdle to overcome, ‘where do I get the time?’. Work, children, care roles and so on.


‘It was so good, amazing even, to be in a different place,
No cooking, no dishes, no shouting, just good people, beautiful words…..!


Contact your local writing groups -speak with local council and leisure trusts
If you ever organise an experience and consider how labour intensive it all is for you, consider what participants had to organise to replace all of the roles they had to cover back at the ranch. This increases the value and critical nature of the experience to them and increases the pressure on you not to waste a second of the time spent together.


‘I headed home with my eyes wide open, raised form the floor, just loving it,
‘They said they liked my work….my work man, they said they liked my work!


Form your own group, start local and see what happens, have your own experience, join a free standing residential.
Beware of the easy alternate – on line training. You will get this these days without question OK, fine in the blend, but some learning just needs people, nose to nose! Don’t let the lazy trainers, tutors, fool you.


Gratuitous mention here of a good Scottish one, which I’ve enjoyed on a number of levels.

Moniack Mhor, near Inverness above Beauly, Scotlands creative writing centre. Beautiful setting. Poets and authors, beginners and others share their work, have Q and A sessions, share meals and laughs. 1 – 1 sessions, look at themes, ideas and hear how long standing writers got their inspiration.
Song writing retreats, personal retreats and a whole pile of online opportunities.
You will leave inspired.


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