My murderer just isn’t doing what I want him to do,” sighs a weary author as she shuts her laptop down and reaches for a cup of tea, buoyed up by the sympathetic smiles around her. This frustrated crime novelist is just one of a small group of creatives taking part in a writers’ workshop at GCDA’s Made in Greenwich. Run by Clare Barry from Urban Curiosity, these day-long retreats draw together both new and established writers seeking time out to focus on their work.
“As a writer myself, I know only too well how easy it is to get distracted by life,” says Clare. “I thought how wonderful it would be to have a safe space where I could focus on my work in the company of other writers, even if it was just for a few hours. That’s how I conceived of my one-day writers’ retreats. We kick off with a cuppa, then after a brief introduction we all decide on our writing goals for the day and put them up on the wall. We have four hours of writing time in total, with regular breaks during which people can choose to chat with each other or share a thought or two.”
"Some of those who come along to Made in Greenwich are professional writers. Others are simply curious and are trying on their writer’s jacket for size."
“Made in Greenwich is the perfect place for us,” continues Clare, “it’s bright and inspiring and everyone feels very at ease there. I’ve already hosted some great groups, with a mental health nurse, a published novelist, a student and an academic amongst those taking part. I think that’s one of the reasons the retreats work so well – everyone is very different, but they all have their writing in common and that can be enormously encouraging."
"Everyone says they get way more done during a retreat than they would do at home. It's all about accountability.”
Clare’s one day writers’ retreats are amongst a whole series of different events designed to give people opportunities to explore their creativity without having to leave London. Indeed, the urban landscape is something that Clare has come to appreciate even more since quitting her former life in higher education management.
“I had to have major back surgery, and was suffering from burn out,” she explains. “I was forced to detour from the fast lane and take time off. During my (very) slow walks around my local London neighbourhood I began to notice things I’d never seen before, and bit by bit, the shoots of creative recovery began to grow. I’d return from my local walks feeling excited by my ideas and full of inspiration. Research shows that you don’t have to be in a stunning rural location in order to boost your creativity and that’s how I came up with the idea for my company, Urban Curiosity. I now offer short urban writers’ retreats like the ones I run at Made in Greenwich, as well as a range of other mindfulness and creativity interventions for corporate clients. I’ve also started a free ‘walking book group’ in Greenwich Park. It’s a bit like a regular book club except that instead of sitting in a static circle, we walk as we talk, pausing every now and again to share a paragraph or two. It’s wonderful to see how much people enjoy it. Not only do they get to meet other like-minded souls, they also get a physical and mental boost by being out in the open. It’s a win-win formula!”
As part of London Creativity & Wellbeing Week and National Mental Health Week 2023 (15th-21st May) Urban Curiosity will be hosting various events at MIG and in Maritime Greenwich. For full details of all Urban Curiosity's forthcoming events just click here.