from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

islands of the heart retreat

Two places have recently unexpectedly become available on this rather special writing retreat on the Hebridean Isle of Iona. If you think it and you might suit each other, please get in touch.

Islands of the Heart 2013
creative writing retreat 
with Roselle Angwin
on the magical Isle of Iona (Argyll Hotel)
Sunday April 14 (eve) – Saturday April 20 (morning)

And we like migrant birds blown in to here
Where all our stories meet…

An island is both a physical point in space and metaphorically a place where we might bring ourselves home. Iona is one of those places where, as the Celts describe it, the veil is thin. It has probably been a place of pilgrimage for 1000s of years; it was a Druidic teaching centre before the arrival of Celtic Christianity.

Here, surrounded by the seas that both connect us and keep us apart, is a good place to start the quest for the heart.

For nine years I led a weeklong retreat on Iona with my friend, fellow author and poet Kenneth Steven. The many people who attended, some of whom return every year, know what a unique, life-affirming and frequently transformative experience these five days offer. This year, I’ve added an extra day, for deepening.

In 2010 I launched the Iona event as a solo adventure for me. I kept the spirit of our shared venture: the ambience and format: the wonderful Argyll Hotel, right on the water; the walks; the warm gatherings; the workshops, discussions, talks, poems and readings; the daylong pilgrimage to St Columba’s Bay gathering silence, green stones, and the voices of the air; looking for seals; the boat trip to Staffa (weather permitting). This is a place to bring your stories and poems, your joys and sorrows, your laughter and your open heart.

In addition, I’ve added an extra focus: the theme of ‘islands’ as a starting point and medium for thought, creative expression, writing, and reflection.

Booking and accommodation arrangements: choose a place to stay to suit your budget: a tent for the truly hardy (farm camping, showers and loo, £7ish a night or so) or six nights in the wonderful Lagandorain hostel (around £20 a night, ditto), to a local B&B. Of course, nothing will beat the Argyll Hotel: a single garden room overlooking the ruined ancient nunnery at the hotel is about £56 a night B&B; the spectacular sea-view doubles are £119 per night for the room (bring a non-participating partner, or share a twin room with a friend?). It does of course make a difference to the experience to be all under the same roof; so if you choose the hotel, I’d advise very early booking.

See http://www[dot]argyllhoteliona[dot]co[dot]uk, and under their ‘essentials’ button you’ll find a link to island accommodation. You will book the course itself with me, and make your own arrangements for accommodation and travel (see details on my website and more info on accommodation on the Argyll Hotel website). We’ll be at the Argyll for all the indoor sessions (morning, late afternoon, and evening) and dinner will need to be taken there, as part of the group. We think you can eat really well, on the fine Argyll fare, for between £15-£25 per day (excluding drinks), assuming you have breakfast wherever you’re staying. Frugal people can of course probably improve on that!

Practical info: please check my website (fire-in-the-head[dot]co[dot]uk 'courses>course details', scroll down) for details on travel, clothing, etc. You need to know we do a lot of walking and outdoor time.

Fee: this is in two parts: my fee, and the accommodation. My fee is £250; you will need to send £100 to me as soon as possible, please (give me a ring/drop an email to check whether there are still places). The balance of my fee is due by March 1st, so if you're signing up now then I'd ideally need the whole fee. Please note that if for any reason I cancel the course, your fee is refundable. If you do, at this stage refunds are not possible. You might want to consider travel insurance.

The Hotel or other accommodation needs to be booked and paid for separately. The hotel needs your bookings immediately, but will tell you about deposits and refunds. Please note that the Hotel and some other places have twin rooms, which will bring the individual cost down if you’re coming with a friend or are willing to share a room with a soon-to-be-friend other participant.

Prices do not include the optional boat trip to Staffa, which will be around £30 – and it’s more than worth it.

Booking: I'll need a deposit asap. Please email me: roselle[at]fire-in-the-head[dot]co[dot]uk

Timing: the course starts at 7pm with dinner on the evening of Sunday 14 April, and finishes late on Friday evening, 19. We leave after breakfast on Saturday 2o.  Please don’t sign up unless you can stay the whole course.

Bring: some writing by another writer that means a lot to you; and/or a story, poem or song…

Poetry will be an important aspect of this course, but this does not in any way exclude prose writing and prose writers. It’s not about being ‘good at’ something, but about exploring the inner and outer worlds, and words, their richness and their edges. I’ll look forward to being with you (again, in some cases).

It’s the glass-blue day
It’s the way light inhabits the creases,
smears colour that steals your breath.

It’s the sand so pale it might be grains of light.
It’s the big Hebridean night that opens its arms
and drops its creels of stars towards our upturned faces.

Roselle Angwin


  1. Dearest Roselle, have just put a note about the one remaining place on my facebook page. Won't be able to join you – huge regrets! – but hope this will fill that one space quickly.
    Ooodles of love and warmest wishes to everyone joining you in Iona! M xoxox

  2. Thanks, dear Margret - bless you. Will email soon viz your generous offer. Much love and Happy Eostre! Rxx


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