I recently returned from the summer Writers’ Holiday 2017 at the Fishguard Bay Hotel in South Wales, sad with the knowledge that this was to be the last of an event I had been attending for many years. The journey home was filled with reflections on what I have gained from being at the summer Writers’ Holiday, first at Caerleon University college and latterly in the beautiful setting of Fishguard Bay.
Writing courses and retreats can seem expensive but I count as good value the writing skills I developed and what is priceless – the friendship and becoming part of an enduring nationwide writing community with all the support that entails.
One of the best things about this event was that it was always fun, never losing sight of the word ‘holiday.’ That was achieved by a relaxed atmosphere, the most helpful, attentive hosts and tutors hand-picked not only for the knowledge of their subject but for the ability to teach and to enable each delegate in the group to feel comfortable and included. In addition to a great variety of courses there were evening talks, pub crawls, open mic poetry nights and quizzes and at Caerleon a half-day trip to places of local interest was included. I really enjoyed visiting Tredegar House, Hay on Wye and Cardiff’s St. Fagan’s museum.
The first Writers’ Holiday I attended would be about 1997. I was still recovering from severe injuries following a motorbike accident that had cost me my career and my self-confidence having been isolated at home for four years in a wheelchair and on crutches. I remember walking into the welcome meeting at Caerleon and being utterly terrified by the huge buzzing crowd. Everyone seemed to know everyone else and my first instinct was to turn and run. I managed to sit down next to someone who started to talk to me and by the the next day I was part of a small group which not only stuck with me all week but which reformed each year for several years after that.
Between then and now I think I only missed one or two years and the network of WH friends grew and solidified. One of the best friends I have now I first met at Writers’ Holiday, and some friends remain stalwarts from the early days. Some friends from those days are no longer around or simply stopped coming but some remain in touch on social media and others are fondly remembered when a few of us get together. And of course new people come and also become treasured friends over time. I took courses in poetry, short stories, novel writing, crime and romance and travel writing to name just a few.
The courses at Writers’ Holiday were always geared towards commercial markets and publication which provided a counterpoint to the academic writing theory I was by this time studying at my local university. When I first went to Writers’ Holiday I was a fledgling writer and it was the interest sparked on their courses that led me to embark on my MA and later, PhD in creative writing.
For the last few years I have been invited to the summer event as a course leader, a role which I have thoroughly enjoyed – such talented participants. I was pleased to be surprised and amazed by some of the work produced.
And so I’d come to feel a part of the Writers’ Holiday ‘family.’ I’ve seen the hard work put in by Anne and Gerry Hobbs and come to feel a deep respect and affection for them, their son Richard (whom I watched grow from a teenager to a lovely man) and all their family.
So it is with deep regret that I say goodbye to the summer Writers’ Holiday but that’s not the end of the story. Those of us who have met up year by year keep in touch on Facebook and continue to support each other in our successes and our doldrums. And fortunately Anne and Gerry will still be running their other annual event the winter Writers’ Holiday at Fishguard Bay. I plan to attend the painting course run by Susan Alison with a couple of extra days at each end for writing and this will be a worthwhile trip and the chance to continue meeting up with friends old and new. And to all those no longer able to make that trip, please keep in touch, you were part of something special which I for one will never forget.
Writers’ Holiday will now be held annually in February. The next date is 23-25th February at the delightful Fishguard Bay hotel. Learn more at Writers Holiday