Ellie here. So some of us went away on a long weekend for a Rhymes with Orange writing retreat a few days ago. There were 11 of us, some seasoned Rhymes performers, some awesome long term supporters and even a couple of relative newbies. Basically an extremely talented group of some of the loveliest people you will ever meet. It was indescribable amounts of fun.
When you tell people you are going on a poetry retreat they look at you in an odd way like they think you are being pretentious and are about to start quoting things they have never heard of. Thomas describes it to people as a “creative retreat” which to my mind is not better. Rachel M says “we’re going on a retreat! Not a religious one.” When we were shopping for food in Morrison’s on the way there she told this to everyone we saw. If you, like the people of the Maldon Morrison’s, are wondering what the hell happens on a RwO-non-religious-creative-poetry-retreat, here is a blog post to give you an insight into what happened over the weekend. Every word is true. The theme for the retreat was ‘savages’. These brilliant photos were taken by Thom Hoffman and Rachel Malham.
On Friday night we all arrived on Northey Island. It’s an island in Essex with a population of 2 which is cut off at high tide. Some of us got there early to bring the food and decorate the place like a pirate bar. Those who arrived after dark had an altercation with a bald taxi driver with an eye on the back of his head who was too nesh to cross the causeway.
When everyone arrived they went to find their rooms and got their (vague) weekend schedule and murder mystery info and Rhymes Retreat Pencil. We dressed up as pirates, Thom attached a woolly hat to his face. Jon made epaulettes out of tin foil. I had a beard. Aine had no thumbs.
Then we had dinner and then Thomas got murdered. Possibly by Stevie because he was eating spaghetti with his pirate hook and it was going all over everyone. We drew round him with chalk and then everyone got drunk and mostly failed to work out who was the murderer but came up with some excellent pirate puns.
It is good to play a big daft game at the start of the retreat, everyone was great friends by the end of it and not just because we had drunk most of the booze.
Then we wrote our first poems, using pictures of animals and ourselves that we had brought. We swapped them. I wrote a poem about a witch and an aye-aye.
If anyone tried to apologise for their work at any point over the weekend, Stevie made them drink horrible Aldi Limoncino which tastes of toilet duck. #apolocino.
They we all drew pictures of animals for a couple of hours. I went to bed at this point but Aine, Thom and Thomas stayed awake and decided to try to swim in the pond. Swimming in a pond at 4.30am in November is not conducive to a productive writing retreat. They failed.
On Saturday we all got up for breakfast and by 10am we were writing again, this time about our first impressions of the island. So many of these poems were amazing and a couple of the writers worked on them for the cabaret in the evening, making them even more amazing.
Then we had a delicious lunch. Everyone pitched in with cooking and washing up over the weekend but special mention to Stevie who calculated the food and planned menus to feed everyone all weekend which is WITCHCRAFT.
In the afternoon everyone was put into groups of various sizes and we all prepared performances for the evening cabaret, which is secretly my favourite bit of the retreat. Also, Kim taught Sam and Thom to play the cups. In the evening we set the stage, and performed the best cabaret in the whole world, deciding the order by picking pastel pieces of paper from the pitcher of performance. I’m sorry I can’t remember all the performances exactly but they included:
- A sea shanty about cannibalism from Sam Wong
- A poem about the man who leaves those pictures of women in phone boxes from Jon Hoggard
- A ‘bitchy bake off’ performed in the kitchen by Kim Pryor and Rachel Malham
- A performance art piece in which Sam Wong, Thomas Muirhead, Stevie Tylor and Rachel Newton dressed up as the Russian National Dance company and hit kittens with hammers.
- A Rhyming play skit about MPs and spin doctors from Aine Murphy and I
- An immersive and interactive Christmas Dinner experience orchestrated by Thom Hoffman, Jon Hoggard and Georgia Gregory.
- Loads more hilarious and amazing and jaw-droppingly excellent poems.
After the cabaret we played games late into the night.
On Sunday morning we all picked a place on the island out of the hat, wrote a poem about it and then went on a walk and heard the poems in the different areas of the island.
I cocked this up a bit and made Sam write a poem about cows, even though there are no cows on the island in winter. Oops. Blimey, there were some amazing poems though. Rachel Newton made us cry.
Thom put his, Shipwreck, on his website so you can see and hear it! Check it out.
At 12 midday Thom died because he was holding the Black Spot.
Then we had a massive roast dinner and COULDN’T MOVE. Some of us had to leave, which was sad. The rest of us sat about in a comatose state in front of the hot fire and napped. I read some books about Northey Island and read everyone a Just So story by the fire. Jon read all of The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe and drew a sketch of the island. Kim and Thomas played a game about the plague or something. We tried to eat all the rest of the food but it was impossible. It felt like Christmas day. We played bananagrams and the accent game. Rachel M and Sam are good at accents. I am rubbish. Thomas did epic amounts of washing up. We went to bed and in the morning we went home.
Returning to the grey realities of London and work, we were cheered when we looked on the internet and saw that Christmas Rhymes with Orange on Thursday is SOLD OUT. Fully refreshed and buzzing with creativity, we can’t wait to enjoy it with you all.