07 May 2019 / #Arvon50
When I first arrived at Lumb Bank, the taxi driver who delivered me from Hebden Bridge told me how lucky I was to visit, and how much he liked living there, because it reminded him of Kashmir, where he had grown up. It was February and, as I looked out at the wind squalling through the treetops, it occurred to me that – while it wasn’t quite how I imagined Kashmir – it was certainly a dense, settled landscape and that when you were there you were there – in a world of its own.
The weather during most of the week was very atmospheric; as Storm Doris raged through the valley we battened down the hatches and kept the fires going. It was fascinating to be part of the bomb-proof formula of the Arvon week for the first time. It is such a well-made machine: designed precisely to help the writers overcome their social anxieties and focus on the work at hand. By Tuesday night we were a group – nourished by Jack’s delicious meals – and everyone was prepared to participate in and contribute to the workshops. Setting an exercise and seeing it work was a revelation to me. I found the concentration in the room at such moments palpable, and very moving.
The highlight for me was Friday morning when the sun came out and we went for a ‘paying-attention walk’ down to the river and through the woods. The stroll seemed to loosen up the imagination, resulting in some unexpected descriptive writing. That evening, as they read out sections of their newly-written texts, I believe everyone felt great pride collectively – and, I think, personally. One of the writers stood up at the end of the evening and thanked everyone for ‘showing themselves’. It takes a friendly, supportive organisation and staff, a beautiful, secluded setting, the making and sharing of wonderful food, and a great deal of hard work to achieve a result like this – for people to find the courage and conviction to share their newly-made creative work in such a way. Lumb Bank may not be Kashmir, but it is certainly a magical place.
Arvon turned 50 in 2018 and to celebrate we have collected the stories of writers far and wide who have a tale to tell about Arvon. The collection is published in our anniversary book and featured on our blog. This contribution is by Karin Altenberg.
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