In the latest Writers’ Forum magazine (June’s! Can you believe it?!) there’s a feature by the wonderfully-named Solange Hando on ‘Making the Most of Caerleon’. That’s the Writers’ Holiday in Caerleon, which has been running now for 27 years.
I’ve been to Caerleon for the last three years and I’m planning to be there again this year, so when I saw Solange’s article a little voice inside my head said ‘you could have written that’! But, fair dos, I didn’t have the idea, so well done to Solange for pitching her article correctly and making the sale!
But it did give me an idea for this post, as I think Caerleon is worth telling you about and I’m going to give you a few pointers which might help you decide whether it’s for you or not.
Firstly, just to clarify, ‘Writers’ Holiday’ is a 6-day (Sunday – Friday but you can arrive a day earlier, for a small extra charge) residential writing extravaganza, held every July at the Caerleon campus of the University of Wales, not far from Newport.
It’s jam-packed full of writing workshops, evening speakers and events (ahem, not forgetting the fantastic ‘first night Book Quiz’ run by yours truly and my pal Chris, which is a nice ice-breaker, particularly for people who’ve come to Caerleon on their own).
And that, I have to say, is one definite plus for Caerleon – it is the kind of holiday that you can go to on your own and you won’t feel left out or lonely! (Unless you want to be! It’s also a great place for a writers’ retreat. You could just emerge from your room at meal times and disappear back again! I do know a couple of writers who use it as a retreat. It’s cheaper than going to a hotel for 6 nights and the food is fabulous! ).
Other great reasons to go to Caerleon:
* It’s good value for money (all single en-suite rooms but it is a university hall of residence so don’t expect colour TVs or a mini bar! But they do have internet connections in the rooms, so you can take your laptop).
* There’s a really relaxed, friendly atmosphere with no ‘pressure’ to perform or prove yourself as a writer and you can partake in as much or as little of the programme as you like.
* They do attract some very good tutors, writers and speakers. At my time in Caerleon I’ve attended excellent workshops run by Della Galton (womag short story queen), Sophie King (novelist and journalist. She’s there again this year, talking about short stories), Simon Whaley (who tutors for the Writers Bureau and is a freelance writer) and after-dinner talks by Lucy Mangan (Guardian journalist and novelist), novelist Iris Gower and Gaynor Davies, the fiction editor of Woman’s Weekly, to name just a few. (And if that sounds a bit female-orientated, then the male voice choir on the last night, when 60 fine Welshmen pour into the building – and the bar – more than balances things out!)
* You can swap and change your chosen courses if you find they’re not quite what you’d expected.
* There’s a chance for delegates to join in and offer an ‘after tea’ session for an hour one afternoon. Anything goes! Within reason! The ‘after teas’ usually have a writing-bias but not always. My pal Chris gives massages! (She is a qualified sports masseuse, in case you’re getting the wrong idea!)
* Did I mention the food….?! Tons of it and very good. If you’re not careful, you’ll finish the holiday half a stone heavier than when you arrived BUT that’s all part of the fun! Caerleon definitely has the emphasis on ‘holiday’ as much as ‘writing’ and you’ll find that, for many delegates, Caerleon is an unmissable annual treat (some have been coming since it started!) where they meet up with old friends and ..ahem.. the writing is perhaps secondary to having a good old chin wag and a laugh! (and hurrah to that). So if you’re imagining – and hoping for something akin to Arvon (which is great, but takes the writing element of the courses rather seriously!) then Caerleon is probably not for you.
And if that’s whetted your appetite, have a look at the website here for details of this year’s programme.
Oh and one last thing – if you do decide to book up for Caerleon this year (July 24th – 29th) and you mention my name on your booking form, I’ll get £20 knocked off my bill for ‘introducing’ you! Yes, a bit of shameless self-promotion there, but it seems a bit silly not to mention it!
See you in Caerleon!