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Arvon believe anyone can become a writer and they are passionate about working with schools to create a residential that will leave you and your students feeling inspired. This month we spoke to Sophie about their residential creative writing courses for schools.

Hi Sophie, Could you start by giving us an overview of Arvon as an organisation?

Our weeks for schools and groups follow the same pattern as our adult course programme – led by two professional writers, with tutorials, group workshops, and time and space to write. Groups live, write and eat together, cooking their evening meal in teams. At the heart of Arvon is the desire to encourage anyone, regardless of background, to find their voice through writing; whether you want to bring talented writers, or individuals who need more support, each week is shaped around the participants’ needs and interests.

arvon writing

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."

Who are your courses ideally suited for?

Each of our centres can accommodate up to 16 students and two teachers to live and write together for a five-day residential. We welcome groups from KS2 – KS4 and run weeks for sixth form students too, we work with you to select suitable writers to lead the week, and we can cater to either high-achieving students, those who might need extra support, or a group of mixed abilities.

There are some obvious advantages to creative writing for the development of imagination and language skills. What are some of the other benefits to schools taking part in a creative writing retreat?

There is definitely more to the experience than these key elements. Cooking for each other in teams, the students build confidence and learn to collaborate; eating together as a group, opportunities to discuss writing and tell stories emerge. Spending time in the countryside and offline, students can unplug from a world of digital distractions, looking instead to themselves and their environment for inspiration. Beyond the intensive focus on reading and writing, literacy and literature, the rhythm of an Arvon week fosters a journey of personal transformation and discovery. For many, whether they hope to be ‘writers’ or not, these few days can be life-changing.

arvon writing courses

How does a creative writing residential trip to one of your centres work? What kind of activities are available?

The weeks run from Monday afternoon to Saturday morning, with group workshops each morning, one-to-one tutorials and free writing time in the afternoons, and readings in the evenings. The group also lives, cooks and eats together in one of our historic writing houses in peaceful countryside settings. We work with you to select suitable writers to lead the week, and we can cater to either high-achieving students, those who might need extra support, or a group of mixed abilities.

We welcomed students from Freebrough Academy, Teeside to stay at our Lumb Bank centre for a week, writing poems and stories under the guidance of writers Nicky Browne and Cliff Yates. They were also visited by guest speaker Ian McMillan, who helped the group to create a collaborative poem. During the week creativity flourished, ideas were brought to life and imaginations allowed to run free. Pupils returned to school with a new enthusiasm for English and writing, which filtered through to their classmates. Staff also reported great leaps in confidence, and increased concentration levels in other subjects.

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.

Do you offer any other sessions for schools?

We’re really open to co designing the programme to meet the needs of the students, from booking writers for the week to running more bespoke projects such as Mother Tongues, working with multilingual young people, and Writing The Game – exploring creative writing with pupils who love football but are less engaged with English and writing we can work with your school to provide the week that will most benefit your students.

How do people contact you to make a booking?

We’re now open to receiving bookings for 2021, so do make an enquiry and we hope we can find a week to welcome you to Arvon soon!

If you are interested in hearing a bit more about how Arvon can help you with planning your next trip then why not get in touch here.

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