In August, I was writer in Residence for a week at the Dillington House Summer School (I was also tutor on the Creative Writing - the novel course.) Dillington is Somerset's residential centre for adult education - and it's seriously classy. There were sixty-six students and a dozen courses on offer, ranging from The Joy of Spanish and The Arts and Crafts Movement to my Creative Writing - the novel.
I was the first Writer in Residence they'd had and I wanted to make my mark. I saw myself sitting in the library under the splendid chandelier topped by a pineapple, quill pen in hand, ready to help anyone with sonnet or prose. But I swiftly realized that I had to be more proactive.
I decided to write an article entitled 'A Week at Dillington' and put word round that I'd welcome contributions. There's plenty to inspire: the Jacobean house had a Gothic makeover in the 1830s and the family portraits are still there. The park has magnificent trees and the grounds are beautifully kept.
My course was in the afternoon so, in the morning, I hitched a lift with the minibuses going on The Artisan Trail, The Arts and Crafts Movement and the Exploring Somerset Villages. I wanted to meet as many students as possible and persuade them to write something. I also took photographs.
One visit particularly interested me, to Mark Broadbent, carriage maker. He renovates old carriages, builds them from scratch using traditional methods, and drives them, too. A number of carriages, once owned by Lord Spencer, were waiting to be restored to their former glory. Handsome carriage horses poked their heads out of loose boxes. (But that is for a future blog)
Word spread and some interesting pieces came in. When I got home, I sent the organizer, Roger Priest, my article incorporating the pieces I'd received, plus photographs. I added some thoughts on how the Writer in Residence position might be enhanced, together with a suggestion for a Creative Writing for Pleasure course which I felt would suit the Summer School better.
Last week, I heard from him. 'A Week at Dillington' would be sent to all prospective 2012 students and would I like to come back next year?
Photos by Elizabeth Hawksley. Top: Dillington House; centre: the library; bottom: One of Mark Broadbent’s carriage horses
Labels: Elizabeth Hawksley, Writer in Residence, www.dillington.com