Swanwick in the Time of COVID.


My 2021 Swanwick programme and notebook.

Normally, my week at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in Derbyshire is the highlight of my summer. But normality is something none of us has seen for the best part of two years. This year, I had my head in the sand, pretending it wasn’t happening until almost the last moment, afraid to either cancel or not cancel.

So let’s just say that when I arrived at The Hayes Conference Centre, my anxiety levels were back to the way they used to be in my earlier Swanwick years. In those days, I spent most of my time lurking around the edges and retreating to my room. This year, I did much the same, for different reasons. Thankfully, the Hayes had wonderful precautions in place (numerous sanitising stations, picnic lunches etc.) Sadly, none of my particular friends were able to attend, which combined with my increased need for distancing to make it a little lonelier than usual. But there were still many happy moments and useful pieces of learning - especially once my 1-hour crowdfunding talk was out of the way!

One of the little goats. My new favourite additions to the site.

Things I Learned

I didn’t go to many courses, but the three I did attend were both entertaining and useful. On the “Writing for Well-being” course, I learned there is an organisation called LAPIDUS, which can give you training and connections in facilitating community writing groups. And on the “Historical Fiction” and “Writing a Series” courses, I finally began to grasp the perspective of publishers and readers. (After all this time!) And to discover that big publishers don’t really offer more benefits than small ones.

My book room book haul. Including course tutor Michael Jecks and friend Andy Roberts.

Things I enjoyed

Actually having enough money to spend in the book room was great. Although, like many, I’ve not used physical money since lockdown, which made buying a raffle ticket more complicated! I loved the “roaring twenties” fancy dress night. Some amazing costumes. And we learnt the Charleston (should that come under “things I learned”?) Although due to precautions, I did a Jo-and-Laurie and danced in the adjoining ante-room. More room to dance, too!

Page to Stage (a selection of short plays rehearsed and performed in one day) was brilliant as always, and our cross-dressing Bertie Wooster a well-deserved winner of a “Swannie’ award on her first Swanwick. The evening speakers were wonderfully entertaining, the first two in particular. (Talking about stuff I’d actually heard of ie. Faber & Faber and Doc Martin).

 I also enjoyed some of the newer things, such as the firepits and picnic tables, which made it easier to do more things outdoors.


Lovely new picnic benches by the lake.


Unfortunately, a very small number of people have tested positive since getting home, but it has not been a negative experience. Different and a bit weird - especially when all the electricity went off! - but still a highlight of the summer.

Farewell to Swanwick. The last night.



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