A blog by Zoe Bushby, a sixth-form student who participated in our 'Writing Wrongs' young writers' retreat on 12-14 December 2018

Published Date: 
Tuesday, 8 January 2019
Zoe Bushby, Christ the King College, Isle of Wight

'Writing Wrongs' was an essay writing workshop organised by the University of Southampton in partnership with the University of Warwick, at Cumberland Lodge on 12-14 December 2018, as part of their widening participation and outreach programmes. It supported 22 A-level students with writing about their communities and issues of society and justice, with a view to submitting their work to the Orwell Youth Prize in 2019. 

During the retreat, the students participated in a St Catharine's Session on 'Freedom of Speech' led by our Programme Director, Jan-Jonathan Bock, and in a writing workshop on 'Personal Narratives', led by Cumberland Lodge Scholar, Alexander Blower.

Here is a blog by student participant, Zoe Bushby, about her experience of taking part:

‘Writing Wrongs’ - A retreat for young writers submitting to the Orwell Youth Prize

On a cold December morning, I embarked on an exciting journey from the Isle of Wight to Cumberland Lodge, alongside five other students from my school. After a journey including travel by taxi, boat and coach, we finally arrived at the Lodge just as the sun was setting over Windsor Great Park.

Reaching Cumberland Lodge marked the culmination of several weeks of fevered anticipation of the residential retreat at which I had been fortunate enough to secure a place.

Having started my A-levels only three months prior, I felt that attending this prestigious gathering marked a significant step in my further education and personal development. I was determined to not only contribute to the activities and learning sessions during the retreat, but also use it as an opportunity to strengthen my confidence in engaging in new activities that were outside of my natural comfort zone.

Settling in

The prestige of a location such as Cumberland Lodge – and Windsor Great Park itself – was not lost on me; nor on any of the other delegates. In advance of the retreat, I researched the history of the Lodge, and was delighted to find out even more, first-hand, whilst there. Our first session, led by Dr Jan-Jonathan Bock, focused specifically on the history of the location and the important role it had played over many centuries in British life.

From an educational perspective, being in such a venue certainly helped focus our minds and engender creativity of thinking.

Free speech

From the wide range of invaluable sessions I attended, one that really stood out was the St Catharine’s session.

The debate was focused on the issue of a 'fairer society', both in terms of what constitutes one and how best to achieve it. This topic provoked a lively discussion about the underlying economic and social issues in our society, particularly in the UK and the USA.

Unique perspectives

Another key aspect of the retreat was the insight we were provided with in preparing a submission for the Orwell Youth Prize.

The input from three inspiring representatives was immensely beneficial in guiding us in this preparation. They also kindly provided us with a copy of George Orwell’s 1946 essay Books vs Cigarettes, which offers a unique perspective on issues relating to society – not least on the affordability of reading versus other forms of recreation which are less educational. I felt that this essay provided a good starting point for the type of writing form which could be adopted in preparing our submissions.

Being in the company of like-minded, creative writers was a mutually enlightening experience, hopefully for all of us.

Even though we only spent the best part of three days with each other, the intensity of the retreat and being in shared company throughout this time meant that we were able to draw on our respective strengths and challenges in undertaking creative writing.

'Inspired and motivated'

I would certainly encourage anyone who was presented with the opportunity to attend a future retreat at Cumberland Lodge to embrace it enthusiastically.

The venue alone makes attending worthwhile, and this is only enhanced by the richness of the sessions and activities provided during the time there. I cannot fault the high quality of the catering and hospitality provided, which was far beyond anything I had previously experienced.

But most importantly, I left the Lodge feeling inspired and motivated to further improve my writing style, and I am sure the other attendees felt the same.

My thanks to the University of Southampton for making this opportunity possible and also to the team at Cumberland Lodge.