Archive for category International Arts Tour
Our Seventeenth International Tour was a HUGE Success! Here’s a little diary of what we did, for anyone interested!
After an overnight flight from Toronto, we arrived at Gatwick, London, in a state of exhausted excitement! Our coach was waiting, and took us to our group hostel at Thameside, just a five minute walk from the Tube. It was modern and newly renovated, with glass walls and a brand new reception area. We took a few moments to freshen up, then began our adventure! We took the Tube to Westminster, emerging in the shadow of Big Ben, and crossed Westminster Bridge to the London Eye. Half an hour later we were in the air, slowly revolving over the city in one of the biggest ferris wheels in the world! We were able to pinpoint many of the famous places we’ll see over the next few days – including Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey. We enjoyed some free time on the South Bank, during which the sky clouded and rain came down in bucketloads! We charged back to the Tube and headed to the hostel for a late dinner, and bed. Today was thrilling, but by 10pm our rooms were silent – thanks to jet lag!
Every couple of weeks we receive exciting news of a camper alumni, and what they are doing these days! We try to pass this information along to current campers and parents; it’s inspiring to see that interests, efforts and skills in the arts can and do lead somewhere!
This week, we heard some fantastic news from the mom of Holly Easton. Holly came with us on our International Tour to Scotland a couple of summers ago. In Scotland, our group attended a gorgeous writing writing in the Highlands called Moniack Mhor. At the retreat, our group was taught by two amazing writers – Alan Bisset and Maggie Gibson. While immersed in the inspiring atmosphere of the retreat, Holly wrote a short story. On returning to Canada, she translated this into French, and as a drama it appeared in the Sears Drama Festival and at Theatre Action Ontario. Holly is now at the University of Toronto. She has translated her play into English and submitted it to the Hart House Drama Festival, where it was chosen as one of the festival plays and will be performed on 19th February. Holly will be directing AND playing the lead role! We wish Holly the greatest of success with her play. Interesting to think that all this began with a Centauri writing retreat to Scotland, two summers ago…
We have been uploading some old photos and videos to our International Tour face-book page. Check it out here.
Take a look at our tours… past, present and future! See if you spot any well known camp faces!
This August, we’re off to England again. The tour includes 3 days sightseeing in London, a trip to Oxford, a chance to explore Neolithic remains, a 3 day trip to Stratford-upon-Avon, at least one castle… and 8 days at camp before the trip begins! You can find a detailed itinerary here: http://www.centauriartscamp.com/summer-camps/international-arts-tours.htm
The 2011 England Tour information is now available at
This year’s tour combines an 8 day acting program in session 4 with a 10 day tour to England, exploring London, Stratford upon Avon, Oxford and more! We’ll see live theatre, take backstage tours and workshops, and also visit castles, scenic locations, stately homes, shopping centres and Shakespeare’s Birthplace. Highlights will include Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, the London Eye, Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, hiking the White Horse of Uffington, seeing plays at the newly-completed Royal Shakespeare Theatre, and discovering the unique cultural and theatrical history of England. Check out the application package for a full itinerary, details of our Tour Information Meeting in Toronto, and the booking date!
The information page for the tour
For 12 lucky campers, the summer did not end with the closure of camp! Together with Cheryl, Aaron and Julie, they journeyed to England, to sight-see and to attend our own Centauri writing retreat.
Our 16th International Tour was as thrilling as every tour before it – packed with new experiences, learning opportunities and terrific memories. The focus of this year’s tour was writing and art. We flew to Manchester, in the North of England, and travelled first to Haworth, a gorgeous village nestled in the hills of Yorkshire, and famous as the home of the Bronte sisters, who wrote ‘Wuthering Heights’, ‘Jane Eyre’ and many other novels. We toured their birthplace, read poetry in the location where it was written, explored the cobbled streets of this lovely village, and took two walks in the vicinity. The first walk was a short hike to Penistone Hill, where purple heather stretched across the hills in all directions. The second walk was more intense – a 6 mile hike across hills and open moors, to the famous waterfall where Emily Bronte was said to have written poetry. There, we relaxed in the most gorgeous scenery imaginable, ate a picnic, waded in the clear water of the stream and completed writing projects together.
By the time we left Haworth, all signs of jet lag were gone (the hiking helped with that!) and 15 strangers had become 15 firm friends. Then we moved on to the beautiful old city of York, which has a history stretching back to Roman times. There, we explored the gothic cathedral with its world famous stained glass windows, and journeyed underneath the cathedral to explore remains of the Roman fort it was built on. Some of us even climbed the tower of the cathedral for a terrific view out over the city. We took a trip back into Viking times at the Jorvik Museum, and walked sections of the old city walls. At York, campers also had plenty of time to relax and explore in groups. Some campers spent time in The Shambles, York’s medieval street, while others walked up Clifton Tower and learned of its gruesome medieval history.
By the time we left York, we were well into the swing of our England adventure, and ready to make our way towards the writing retreat for the second part of the trip. We left York by bus at 9am, and called at two places to explore, on the way to Robin Hood’s Bay. The first was the charming village of Hutton-le-Hole, where some of us visited the museum (which operated as a working village) and others sat writing by the stream for a couple of hours, disturbed only occasionally by the curious sheep! From there we headed towards the coast, and our first view of the sea! The afternoon was spent in the lovely seaside town of Whitby, with its Dracula connections and long sea-faring history. Campers explored the quaint shops and the beaches in groups, then climbed the Caedmon Steps (all 199 of them) to meet us at the ruins of Whitby Abbey, high on the cliffs. The views from the abbey were spectacular. This was the point where our writing tutor – Rommi Smith – joined our group. Rommi is a poet, playwright and actor who was also the first ever British Parliamentary writer-in-residence. So for the second half of the tour, there are 16 of us!
At the end of the afternoon we clambered aboard our bus again and headed the short distance down the coast to Robin Hood’s Bay. Perhaps the most beautiful of all the locations we visit on this trip, Robin Hood’s Bay is an ancient settlement of ram-shackle, red-roofed cottages that tumble hap-hazardly down a steep, cobbled hill until, from a distance, they seem to topple into the sea. The village is crammed between two high cliffs. It has a long history of smuggling, and many of the cottages still have underground passages dating from those times.
The tiny streets cannot be accessed by bus so we arrived on foot, carrying our backpacks down the steep hill into the village, then up towards the Old School House on the cliff, which will be our home for the next few days. It has an ideal location, looking down on the village on one side, and out towards the sea on the other. We settled in, unpacked groceries, enjoyed traditional fish ‘n’ chips for dinner, then began our writing adventure with an outdoor workshop, on a sloping patch of grass with the most inspiring view imaginable.
After that, our days took on a creative and very satisfactory pattern. We’d make our own breakfasts in the kitchen, then meet out on the hillside for a writing workshop that usually ran from 9.30am until around 1pm. After that, our campers made their own lunches. Some chose to eat a quick sandwich and spend the afternoon on their own writing, while others got creative in the kitchen, eating gormet lunches and relaxing with friends. We also planned activities in the afternoons. We explored Robin Hood’s Bay, with its lovely craft shops, spent time crabbing in rock pools and writing on the beach, and took short walks. On one afternoon, Julie, Cheryl, Aaron and Rommi offered a guided walk for our campers over the cliffs to Whitby (a total of 6 miles away). It was a walk crammed with spectacular views over the cliffs, ocean and fields.
Our evenings at the writing retreat were equally memorable. Every night, after we’d made dinner in cooking teams and enjoyed it together, we gathered outside or in the main lounge, to share more writing exercises or to read from our work. One night, we heard that Morris Dancers were in the village. Leaving dessert, we ran down to watch. In fact, several of our campers were invited to join the Morris dancers and got to share in a fun local tradition!
Before we knew it, the final day had arrived. On our last evening at the centre, everyone read from the writing we had created. Rommi was a fantastic workshop leader, and our varied creations included poetry, song lyrics, storytelling, novel excerpts, short stories, a radio play and children’s picture books.
Our final night ended in a very memorable way. We placed poetry in bottles, walked together down to the beach as the sun was setting, and slung our message-bottles into the sea. Then we stood in a close circle and Rommi read to us all.
Like camp, the tour this year was a spectacular experience which exceeded all expectations. We’re working, now, on the tour for 2011. If you’re interested in joining us for this, then watch for the information, which will be live on our website by the end of September!
To see more photos, go to http://www.centauriartscamp.com/media/Galleries/2010/index.htm and click on the England Tour album!
Last week was pretty, interesting, since I got to meet and interview half a dozen fantastic writers/writing teachers, all based in the North of England, to figure out who might be the best person to lead the ‘writing retreat’ portion of the international tour. All the writers were amazing, since they were recommended to us by the Arvon Foundation, who ran last year’s retreat for us. In the end we chose the fabulous Rommi Smith! Rommi is an all-round fascinating person… a poet and performer who often works alongside musicians to create exciting multi-media pieces. Music inspires her poetry. She also writes short stories and plays, and has just finished a series of short monologues which were performed on BBC Radio 4. Rommi is Nigerian-British, and the first writer ever to be nominated ‘Parliamentary Writer in Residence’. She has worked extensively with school groups, teaches creative writing at Leeds University and runs retreats for the Arvon Foundation.
Rommi has so many thrilling ideas for our retreat that I can hardly wait! She says: “I like to view writing as an adventure, rather than something you sit down and do.” As well as incorporating music, props and performance into our work, she hopes to make the most of our spectacular location in the atmospheric Robin Hood’s Bay. She mentioned possible writing sessions on the beach, and by moonlight!
If you’d like to find out more about Rommi and read some of her work, you can go to: www.rommi-smith.co.uk . Two spaces still remain on the International Tour. There are THREE group leaders now… Aaron Alviano will be joining us for the tour, as well!
I’m interviewing Writers for the England Tour…
This is going to be a really, really interesting week. We’ve had five amazing writers recommended to us by the Arvon Foundation in Britain, to teach our writing retreat this August in Robin Hood’s Bay, on the North East coast of England. Now, I get to meet with them all via webcam. They all have an impressive track record of writing achievements. They all have a ton of teaching experience. What I have to do is figure out which writer will be the best match for our group. And along the way, I get to chat with them all about writing and literature – huge interests of mine. I LOVE this job!
If you are interested in our international tours, check out
-15 October 2009 – The International Tour Research Trip!
Yesterday I returned from a week of crazy trekking across the North of England, in search of the very best places to take our campers next summer. The first stop was the quaint Yorkshire Village of Hutton-le-Hole, where we hope to stop for a few hours next August, en route to the writing retreat. I haven’t seen this village since the days of family holidays, back when I was a teenager – but it looks just the same. In fact, I’m guessing it hasn’t changed much in more than a century. Set in a valley among the wild moors of Yorkshire, Hutton-le-Hole is about as picturesque as England can be. There are numerous walks in the area, as well as locally-made ice cream, tons of sheep, and a fanstastic new museum-village that consists of original cottages and industries that go back hundreds of years. In fact, the further you walk through the extensive grounds of the museum, the further you go back in time – until the last stop is an Iron Age Round-House.
From Hutton-le-Hole I moved on to Whitby, which also hasn’t changed much since I last saw it, at 12 years old! It’s not hard to see why this place inspired Bram Stoker when he was writing Dracula. The town is steeped in history and myth. It was the home of Captain James Cook, the famous explorer, and many world-transforming voyages have set off from here. The ancient Abbey towers over the harbour, and the long, sandy beach. You can climb up to the abbey – 199 steps. I could lie and say I did it. But no. I drove up in the car. I’l be walking it with our campers next summer, and once is enough! I bought tons of research material in Whitby. With a place as evocative as this to inspire us, there will be no shortage of storytelling material for me next summer.
Lastly, I visited the most important location of all – Robin Hood’s Bay. Located on the East Coast of England, just 6 miles from the ruins of Whitby Abbey, this is the old fishing village where our writing retreat will be held. You have to park in the new part of the village – and then walk down a steep, cobbled hill – which is a bit like walking back into the past. The old village is completely unspoilt. Old stone houses tilt at odd angles down winding alleys. One moment you feel like you’re in a tunnel, and the next you have a stunning view out over the cliffs and the sea. This village was infamous as a centre for smuggling hundreds of years ago, and locals confirmed that many of the old houses are still linked by underground tunnels. There are few places in the world as evocative as this – how can our writers and artists fail to be inspired? At the base of the long, cobbled hill, the road opens up to the small harbour, and the beach of Jurassic stone, where fossils are found daily. The beach is perfect for exploring rock pools, too. This will be a great spot for painting and photography.
Our writing retreat is an old, converted school house, located in the heart of the ancient village. I had Aislyn with me, and while she chased the chickens, I met with Kate, one of the owners of the retreat. From her doorstep, you have a view down over the entire old village with its grey slate roofs, across the cliffs and out to sea. She told me about cliff walks we can do – in one direction, to an abandoned Victorian village. In the other direction, to Whitby Abbey itself. She showed me the bedrooms, with their bunk beds and little desks. Some even have a view over the sea. And she showed me the kitchen where we’ll prepare our meals. I guess we’ll also enjoy eggs still warm from the hens! The retreat is perfect. This will be a very different tour from last year’s. Moniack Mhor, in Scotland, was very isolated. This is, too, in the sense that you seem miles away from the modern world. But Kate spoke of ghosts. Of smuggling history, and folk tales. Of a local woman who gives dramatic presentations as the wife of a smuggler. Of press-gangers, fough off by an army of local women. Of intriguing gravestone inscriptions, and other mysteries. I can already see our writers noseying around for inspiration. And picture our campers sketching on the wide grass bank, looking down to the village.
I didn’t bother visiting York or Haworth, because I already know these places well. But having experienced Hutton-le-Hole, Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay, I can’t wait to share it with our campers next summer!