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Swanwick Writers’ Summer School 2022

As a regular delegate since 2006, I’ve written a great deal about the School but still find it hard to explain succinctly exactly what goes on there.  According to fellow Swanwicker Elizabeth Horrocks, it’s rather like an Edwardian house party but with the focus on writing rather than shooting, and I don’t think I can top that. Much new building has gone on since The Hayes was converted from a gentleman’s residence to a conference centre, but many original features have been retained. The main lounge offers a quiet retreat at most times of day, although the staircase is thought by some to be haunted. I’ve never felt anything untoward there myself, but who knows?

On Saturday 13th August, around 200 of us started to gather mid-afternoon. I was very happy to take on an ‘ambassadorial’ role again, welcoming first-timers before dinner and hosting a table. Thereafter, I kept an eye out all week for anyone looking lost or lonely. 

The drought had taken its toll, but the grounds were still lovely and I took myself off for a walk most mornings before breakfast. 

Although the formal gardens are colourful and well kept, I prefer the area around the two small lakes. There are plenty of places to sit and meditate or think up stories. This year, a red balloon trapped by the water lilies caught my attention and a theme started to develop.

One of the joys of Swanwick is not having to sign up in advance for any of the sessions and thus being able to dip in and out at will. I enjoyed all the courses I chose and have a notebook bulging with ideas for long and short fiction, creative non-fiction, self promotion, designing book covers and improving my chances of success in writing competitions.

This year’s prize winners in the poetry, short story and writing for children competitions organised by Writing Magazine had their own slot in the programme and listening to their entries was also very instructive. I was pleased and proud to see fellow Riponian Ian Gouge among them, seen above receiving his trophy from Chair Cathy Grimmer.

Privileged to be included in the Swanwick Success Stories, I am very grateful to all those who bought copies of my various books. The latest, a memoir of my years as a TV/film ‘extra’, had come out just in time for me to take along a few copies to the Book Room. (I’d also signed up to do some shifts there, which was only fair.) 

Our speakers were novelist Erin Kelly, Wolverhampton poets Emma Purshouse and Steve Pottinger and the inimitable writer/performer Rob Gee. All are excellent in their different fields, but Rob Gee was my particular favourite and had me helpless with laughter at his outrageous anecdotes. As ever, there was plenty of other evening entertainment on offer, including quizzes, prose and poetry open mics, Buskers and the five-minute plays, barely rehearsed, performed in Page to Stage. Time keeping is of the essence in some of these activities and Jen Wilson had brought along a special hook to ‘encourage’ participants not to over run. 

The theme for this year’s fancy dress evening and disco was ‘Another Night at the Movies’.  As ever, Swanwickers had pulled out the stops when it came to their outfits and there was much hilarity. I quite enjoyed looking louche and had to keep reminding myself not to smile for the photographs. In any case, I didn’t want to lose my ‘cigarette’.


Thursday saw Prinks (pre-dinner drinks, I was told) on the lawn, followed by the Swanwick Farewell.

All too soon, it was Friday morning and time to leave The Hayes behind. The Writers’ Summer School will rise again though, Brigadoon-like, in August 2023 and I for one certainly intend to be there. 


20 August, 2022 - There are 2 comments on this story

  1. Interesting piece, Maggie, and great photographs. That’s the magic of Swanwick.

    Madalyn Morgan -

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