Residential Creative Writing Courses
What makes Arvon stand out from other residential centres?
Since 1968 Arvon has been offering people time and space to write. Described by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy as "the single most important organisation for sharing and exploring creative writing in the UK", Arvon runs 50 courses a year for schools, youth and community groups and arts organisations, tutored by leading authors, as part of our Learning and Participation programme. Our three writing centres, based in historic country houses in scenic locations in Shropshire, Devon and West Yorkshire, are the perfect places to immerse yourself in your imagination and develop a lifelong love of writing. As Arvon tutor (and former schoolteacher) David Almond says, "I know no more focused way for a young writer to begin to explore and expand. It should be part and parcel of every young person’s education. We need several thousand Arvons."
Obviously all students have different levels of skills when it comes to writing, would you say that Arvon is aimed more at the experienced writer rather than the beginner?
We can provide for pupils at any ability level and we work with you to cater to your specific needs. Some schools choose to bring their Gifted & Talented pupils; others bring those who might struggle with writing or need more help, or a group of mixed abilities. We work with primary and secondary, state and independent schools, and our centres have welcomed a wide range of young people, from those with low levels of literacy, to the winners of the annual Foyle Young Poets Competition. Our Writing the Game programme used football as a way to engage young people who wouldn’t normally be interested in writing, and our (M)Other Tongues project gave bilingual pupils the chance to develop their writing both in English and in their mother tongue. It’s all about what works for you and your students, and our experienced tutors are able to tailor their support to any group.
What do teachers say are the key benefits for students of a school trip to Arvon?
"Going on an Arvon course transforms what you do in the classroom", says one English teacher. "I cannot say enough positive things. It changed their lives and mine", says another. Many teachers report a boost in confidence, motivation and emotional literacy among pupils as a result of an Arvon course; others report raised aspirations, and a newfound passion for reading and writing. For many it provides the chance for their students to spend a week in a peaceful rural location, or the sense of group cohesion and personal responsibility that comes with living and cooking together as a team.
Summer is always a great time of year for school residential trips, would you say this is the best time for schools to visit?
The bulk of our schools courses are held from December to March, but we do also have some availability in the May and October half terms, the Easter holidays, the beginning of the summer break, and in late June. Contact our Learning and Participation team to check current availability. Please note our weeks do tend to book up quite far in advance, so if you’re keen to bring a group, it’s best to get in touch as soon as possible.
What types of writing do students participate in when visiting Arvon? For example is it solely story writing?
We can arrange tutors based on your needs and what you’d like your students to cover. A look at our open programme brochure gives a sense of the wide range of genres we cover and writers we work with – everything from fiction and poetry to playwriting, screenwriting, memoir, comedy, songwriting, graphic novels, spoken word, and much more. When you book a course, we ask your suggestions for writers you might like us to programme, both as tutors and as the guest speaker who visits to give a reading on the Wednesday evening.
Whatever the activities may be, it can always be a hard task to keep students interested and engaged on a week long residential. How do you manage to do this at Arvon?
At Arvon, we think we have developed the perfect formula to boost confidence and enthusiasm, as well as developing technique, and schools courses follow exactly the same structure as our open programme for adults – a powerful combination of group workshops, one-to-one tutorials, free writing time, and evening readings. And we have nearly 50 years of positive feedback from delighted teachers and energised students to prove it.
What do you find students enjoy the most during a visit to Arvon?
For some it’s having the chance to discover a passion and a talent for writing that you never knew you had; for others it’s the sense of achievement that comes from reading your first poem to a supportive and appreciative audience. Some just love coming to a peaceful and beautiful place and stepping out of the bustle and rush of their everyday lives; others love the food and learning to cook for themselves and each other, often for the first time. When a pupil writes on their feedback form that they’ve found a new love for writing, a new confidence and self-belief, or that they’re determined to become an Arvon tutor one day, we know we’ve done our job!
What do you feel are the benefits to learning outside the classroom?
In today’s results-driven education system, many schools and teachers feel they don’t have time to give creative writing the attention it deserves. With the focus always on targets and measurable outcomes, creativity and imagination can all too often fall by the wayside. At Arvon we believe that in fact, developing creativity and enjoyment in words has the potential to enhance academic attainment, and that taking the time (even if briefly) to step outside the daily routine and immerse yourself in your creative practice, gives clarity and focus to what follows. Far from being a costly distraction, an Arvon course is a valuable investment in your pupils, and both supplements and enriches the curriculum. Do get in touch if you’d like to know more.