Annaghmakerrig Lake, as seen from The Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Co. Monaghan, Ireland.
I’ve just returned from a stay at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annaghmakerrig, Co. Monaghan, Ireland. I was awarded two weeks at the residency, thanks to Waterford County Council who’ve been very supportive of my work down the years.
As often happens on these retreats, I didn’t quite get the work done that I had planned, but a tapped a whole new seam, which I feel is going to bear good fruit in the year to come.
The special aspect about the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, for me at least, is the time spent in discussion with other artists. The cross pollination of ideas inspires, challenges and provokes my imagination and I always leave there with something new in hand.
I’ve had residencies at four institutions (and have returned to Tyrone Guthrie five times). They’ve all been great and interesting and why wouldn’t they be, providing time and distance from routine to concentrate on your art alone or in the company of other creatives. Each institution has provided something unique, whether it be conversation with the other artists, inspiration from the environment, tuition or the calm and stillness that lends itself so well to the creative process. For all these reasons, I’d recommend the following: Tyrone Guthrie Centre (Ireland), Aras Eanna (Ireland), The Hurst (UK) and last year Ginestrelle, (Italy). I’ve also rented friends’ holiday homes in low season, which is a way artists can enjoy a focused way to write, without breaking the bank.
I’m going to reblog below, a list of residencies/retreats I drew up some years ago. I haven’t had time recently to check, expand or prune this list, but please feel free to add your own comments/suggestions. And apologies if some of the links are out of date.
Do note that America is where the writers’ colony was born, hence its dominance of the list. The U.S. still provides the best, the most prestigious and the most difficult colonies to get into. Yes, “get into”. Therein lies the difference between a “residency” and a “retreat” (which I explain below):
Residencies are institutions to which you must apply and demonstrate your professionalism as an artist via a portfolio, and perhaps references and a CV that shows you are considered by your peers to be a practicing artist. Residencies are often funded by an arts and/or educational body and can mean you must also provide a service such as creative writing classes in the locality. Residencies can last from two weeks to a year. In Ireland, prestigious residencies include The Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Cill Rialaig and the Heinrich Boll Cottage, Even if accepted, you may have to pay for your stay. However, attending one of these establishments is an impressive addition to your C.V. Moreover, you may meet artists of international renown.
Then you get Retreats. These are institutions that sometimes offer courses – the UK’s ‘Arvon Foundation’ is a good example which has three properties around England and holds intensive writing courses throughout the year. Other retreats might just offer room and board to writers for a fee, somewhat like a hotel but with an emphasis on creativity and productivity during your stay. Anam Cara and the Molly Keane house are Irish examples. They’re not as prestigious residencies, although such places tend not to attract those at the peak of their career, you might still meet some interesting creative, supportive people and the surrounds are usually very picturesque and perhaps inspiring. Retreats are good for novice or emerging writers who are not yet at the stage in their career where they might gain acceptance on a “residency”, or if you simply want to try the set up out for a week or so, but can’t commit to a residency.
Finally, if all you want is some peace and quiet, why not rent some respite, a holiday cottage in the wilds of Connemara in autumn, or stay in a B&B on Dartmoor or a shack in the Catskills – you may be able to get a ‘low season deal’ and it may provide the inspiration you seek.
Chateau Chaumont in the Loire Valley. I recently took a French friend up on an offer to stay in their charming old water mill, for a week of focused writing, very near here…
A sample (and by no means exhaustive) list:
If you know of more, please feel free to post!