The Sussex House Party
A Writer's Retreat


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Professional writers and  academics, Gilly Smith and Jed Novick host long weekend writers' retreats, creative dinner parties and a liminal space to think  in a rural idyll near Lewes.

Feast with us or stay for the weekend; either way you'll leave inspired, refreshed and ready to write... 

Contact for more information and on one-on-ones and seminars in the workplace.

Photograph by Guy Feldman

The Retreat

A Bloomsbury set for the 21st century, this is where your muse is begging you to play.
Spend the day unravelling your creativity and developing your sense of self in workshops and inspiring
local trips (Charleston, Lewes, Glyndebourne, Rodmell and Brighton are all nearby).
The evenings
are a feast of local produce shared not just with fellow retreaters but local poets,
authors or artists, and  a firepit under a starry Sussex sky if the weather allows.

 The Dinner Party

"Read the historians, from Heroditus down to our own day, and you'll see that
there has never been a great event, not even excepting conspiracies , which was
not conceived, worked out and organised over a meal."

Jean Anthelme Brillat-Saverin

 Peppered with arty guests, each dinner party focusses on a theme. Sex, Science Fiction and Spirituality are all on the menu this summer as the dinner table heaves with inspiration.

The Summer Season at The Sussex House Party

On Friday June 19th, erotic raconteur, Burlesque queen of the night and TV sexpert,

Emily Dubberley will be calling upon us to help her edit polite pornography and ponder on the nature of creativity when one loosens one's stays  just a little. Emily is the founder of


June 26th is when Pete Owen-Jones, the vicar in a cowboy hat will also be along to discuss religion, philosphy and his TV series Around the World in 80 Faiths.

Cult music writer, Nina Antonia hosts a weekend retreat on Friday July 24th  and Saturday 25th to explore outcast rockn'roll, New York Nihilism and the misadventures of Johnny Thunders. If Johnny Marr thinks she's an inspiration, so do we. 

Friday dinner, accommodation, breakfast,  lunch, and workshops: £200


September 12th begins a retreat weekend with Lynne Charmer who uses a subtle blend of hypnosis, guided meditation, healing and solution focused counselling techniques to help people in need, including children, youth and families. This weekend she will be using this rich mix of sub-conscious triggers to explore our inner writers and to free our focus, creativity and flow.  Workshops on Saturday morning and afternoon are followed by dinner and a cosy night in a tent before breakfast on Sunday and a morning of free writing.  Take a long walk through the leafy lanes after lunch or head off home with head and heart full of fresh air and new ideas. Cost depends on whether you bring your own tent... Contact for info.


Watch out for dates of a summer retreat with Sam Taylor, whose latest novel, The Island at the End of the World is just out through Faber.




Tweet with Gilly Smith on Twitter as we plan the summer...


Dinner party: A startlingly recession-proof £35 per head for a three course meal of sumptous local fayre, with as much wine as you can drink, ideas and new friends thrown in for free.

Retreat costs vary according to length and writer.

A Typical Retreat

Friday evening

Stay in local accommodation, or under the stars in beautiful bell tents - doubles and singles - around a camp fire in our paddock. We're currently sourcing reindeer hide and the most luxurious of duvets.

 Tobyn of , whose photo these are, is talking about chandeliers of tealights by which our writers can scratch their night-time musings.          

It's so rural, you can even hear the grass whispering its approval.

Chill out with your fellow retreaters around the camp fire or  in the warmth of the main house, sampling delicious local delights before retiring to your tent to muse on what you might find tomorrow.


Delve into your creative self: some exercises to warm the soul and get the juices flowing followed by a morning of coaching. After a feast of local produce for lunch, get even more inspired with a guided walk  through the woods or country lanes, or visit one of the many inspiring art houses such as Glyndebourne or Charleston. Or just take time to write in a hamock, tent, conservatory or duck house in the grounds.

Dinner is served at 7pm, with a visiting artist in residence to keep us focussed on creativity and to tell tales of being a writer, poet, musician or painter. Stories are on the table as we discuss our final task for Sunday, looking into each other, ourselves and later, the embers of the firepit for inspiration....  


Write, and then read to your fellow retreaters before toasting our muses over lunch and taking them home mid afternoon.


Allow us to publish your work on this site for all to see. Give us your links and join the expanding network that leaves The Sussex House Party so much more than simply refreshed.

How To Get Here

Do yourself a favour and leave the car at home. We'll pick you up from Lewes, or even better, Glynde and drive you the short distance to Whitesmith. Trains from London and Brighton to Lewes are easy, as is the service to Glynde -although at a more leisurely once an hour.  If you have to drive, we have a nice, crunchy gravel drive to make you feel like Lord or Lady of the Manor.


Weekends from April 2009

An Inspiring Space

The Sussex House Party is also suitable for catered or self catered team building weekends, with a large conservatory for meetings and fabulous food on offer for lunch. Film-makers and creative collaborators may use it to brainstorm projects,  while day-long workshops are available to schools and universities.

Prices on request from

Retreat in Marrakech or Normandy

Join us for a writer's retreat in the eco-dream that is
Peacock Pavilions for a sumptuous weekend of rooftop dinners, peace by the pool and guided tours through the ancient medina that will thrill your muse.
From Spring 2009, fly direct to Marrakech, or travel slowly through Spain and North Africa and allow the trains, buses, mules, clapped out taxis and rides with new friends to inspire your work in the peace of Peacock Pavilions.

Or if you fancy something impossibly  foreign but closer to home, join us for our Bohemian weekends in Normandy  from February 2009.

To find out more about courses and prices, please call 01825 872136 or 07930 400805 or email

Sussex photographs by Guy Feldman

For more information on special interest holidays and retreats, visit

What They Say

 From Easyjet Magazine

"I enjoyed the way that you mixed food for nourishment and food for thought, the Saturday dinner with guest writer being an example of that. I found the discussion really stimulating and relevant to the field of writing I’d like to get into. I was also given advice and tips. Food overall was gorgeous especially sausages and mash on a rainy Sunday afternoon topped off with great company – you can’t get more yummy than that!  And as for the breakfast... mmmmmmmm.


I can’t recommend this weekend retreat enough! So much has come of the weekend. I have now taken up blogging (writing fiction) on Blogit on a daily basis. I am so much more focused and inspired! Thank you!


"Thank you for a lovely weekend! It went far too quickly…"


 It's actually quite terrifying that my blog is now in the hands of people out of my personal circle of friends. But it's online anyway, So I'm just going to let go and not be afraid of what people may think of my writing/rantings.

I am a writer @

"Many thanks for the meal on Friday - lovely vegan food, and fascinating company.  Philip was great, really inspiring, and obviously passionate about life and his beliefs. It was an emormous relief to have a feeling of connection and community that was beyond words! Thank you so much for providing a welcoming and creative atmosphere."

"Just wanted to say what a lovely evening it was. Unlike the other poeple there, I hadn't chosen to come. My ticket was bought as a surprise gift! However, I thoroughly enjoyed the evening. Great to get the opportunity to be in relaxed surroundings with total strangers. And everyone having a keen interest in writing and spirituality. I wish you every success with future dinner parties."

I arrived with no real notion of what to expect from the evening other than dinner with Phillip Carr-Gomm. The evening became so much more than that! A warm welcome, interesting people, scrumptious food and wine. An evening of shared thoughts and ideas that went on into the wee hours."

What They Write

Sussex House Party with Philip Carr-Gomm

 Basking in the glow of the recent Beltane ‘Wild Heart Gathering’, I trawl through Google for inspiration, something different, creative to do with my weekend other than park in the same city bars with the same city friends and have the kinds of conversations which inevitably arise from knowing your friends for too long.  Google guides me to The Sussex House Party- a chance to meet and eat with complete strangers for an evening and discuss the focus of the gathering – writing. My eyes widen. I see that Chief Druid and author, Philip Carr-Gomm is guest speaker for this first event which excites me further and before I can rationalise I have emailed Gilly and booked myself a (last-minute-squeezed-in) place at the table. A sense of self-satisfaction arises from taking action to further my path as a writer and I smile my way through the day, smug in my drive towards self-actualisation.

Friday evening arrives and I’m poking through my wardrobe wondering what exactly one wears to meet a Chief Druid and have dinner with a bunch of random writers. Cravat and flares? Flowing chiffon paisley gown? I’m imagining a group of post ‘70s-freethinking hippies-turned-middle-aged-academics with wild hair and language I struggle to interpret with my bright but Northern ‘say it like it is’ brain. I imagine having nothing to say and even less to be heard. Then again, images of Eyes Wide Shut flash through and I’m considering digging out the goat leggings and blank mask. Or indeed, running away to the safety of the city bars.....

However, the pull of synchronicity and curiosity pour me into a halfway-house frock (pretty and simple, not elaborate and certainly not expensive). Philip C-G had been at the WildHeart too although I hadn’t seen him there- serendipity?  My love of writing coupled with my interest in spirituality, holistic health and paganism manifests invisible hands which slide me into my boots and steer my car down the Sussex lanes towards the venue. A hare stops in the road and I imagine he thinks I’m the one who looks like a rabbit in the headlights behind my wheel.

I chide myself. The last time I had dinner with total strangers was with my parents – how much more uncomfortable could this be?

I needn’t have worried. Within seconds of arriving I feel at home, welcomed and relaxed – a sumptuous, heart-warming house, a pair of beautiful young waitresses serving wine, a collection of interesting-looking fellow ‘rabbits’ and an air of respect hanging in the room for the inspiration we all share and the courage to engage with that and step out of our individual comfort zones. There is an air of the triumphant celebration of Being Here.

Twelve of us eat, drink, talk, listen and share within an atmosphere of feeling fed and nurtured in more ways than one. Our every physical and comfort need attended to, how marvellously freeing to enjoy the opening of hearts and minds and experience the growing swirls and colours and textures emitting from each individual to create a melting dance of creativity and spirit. Interesting how a bunch of writers (budding or otherwise) when placed together around the sharing of food and drink begin to address ‘Themes’ – who’d have thought it? The themes connecting and binding the energy together for me are strikingly of healing, of connecting with spirit – or source- or passion, however one needs to frame it. Of opening up to the ‘creative flow’ – the ‘zone’ or as Philip explained it, the ‘elixir’. The theme of nakedness intrigues me.  How explicitly we bare ourselves to the world through our writing – on this theme the idea of Blogging is discussed, of spurting forth un-edited versions of our lives. Of course, Blogging – like Twittering- offers snapshots of the moment and are therefore beautifully in the present, which as a delighted amateur photographer appeals to me so much I decide on the spot to jump on the Blogwagon as soon as possible. Aside from the magnetism of capturing the moment in writing, the appeal extends to using a Blog for cathartically oozing out all of the personal life experience which inevitably infects my creative writing, hopefully to sharpen my skills and connect me to the elixir in a purer way.

There’s a running theme between many of us of the desire to write to share a message. Every one around the table, from animal therapist to youth counsellor to Buddhist to accountant, is a healer in their own way. Each has a mission to raise consciousness, to support, to help, to encourage growth and health and wellbeing. Soon this very connection purges the room of strangers and replaces it with new friends.

The theme of self-actualisation arises too, that powerful urge to reach our potential in life, the potential to marry our soul with our personality and live in congruence. It’s a beautiful theme, and amongst all the other conversations about tapping into creativity and time management and how to maintain a relationship as a writer – I leave (reluctantly but it’s now 12.30 and everyone is surprised) feeling fuller than when I arrived, and not only due to the fantastic three course meal.

Thanks, Gilly and Jed. Thanks, for plucking the idea out of the universe, looking at it, and making it a reality. Thanks, to you two and your daughter and her friend, for opening up your home and supplying us with enough food and wine to make us feel like kings and queens; to all of your guests that evening- for their honesty and exceptional hearts and minds. Warm thanks too, to you Philip Carr-Gomm. You all poured the elixir into my soul and gave me the gifts of inspiration, aspiration and imagination.  One small step for the Sussex House Party- one giant step for those who shared the experience.


Lynne Charmer Dip.Hyp; Cert. Hol; Reiki Master; Gaian Healer; Solution Focused Therapist; Trainer; LHS

So, what got me inspired to create a WordPress Blog, that I’ve been meaning to do for months?  A Dinner Party!  No deep spiritual or personal development exercises, but sitting round a table with a bunch of people I had never met, eating good food, drinking some wine, and swapping ideas.

Let’s go back to the beginning.  I’ve been on Ecademy for years, but it just hasn’t really worked for me.  I attempted to focus on it more and use it better for a few months, and I just seemed to get more and more contact requests from eastern europe or the far east!  Not that I’m not willing to be friendly to people from there, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for.  So, I had just decided to leave it as more of a ‘gotta have, so that people can find me’ sort of thing, and then I got a message.  She very politely apologised for contacting without us knowing each other, but wondered if I might be interested in her ‘Dinner Party’ with the Chief Druid Philip Carr-Gomm as the guest speaker!  For once, Ecademy had delivered something interesting my way ;o)

So me, the 3yr old, 2 dogs, and later the big hairy husband, turned up in Sussex, to a lovely relaxed atmosphere and beautiful setting.  A little later the guests arrived, with very different backgrounds and interests, but a core thread of writing.  I think that is what worked for me so well, because we all had this love of writing (all sorts of different stuff), it was OK that we were all so different in other ways.  My husband had been very nervous as to what they would think of having someone from the banking industry in their midst, but he was welcomed warmly with no judgement.

Obviously a big plus was meeting Philip, and getting to talk to him – and I’m going to do another post specifically on my thoughts about him.  But there was also Liz Whiter ‘The Animal Healer’, a very direct and inspired woman, the hosts Gilly (a ‘creative writer’) and Jed (a journalist), and 6 other interesting people.

Conversations ranged from twitter, face book, why blog, is blogging good/bad quality writing, websites, lack of time, admin, how to write, where to write, deadlines or no deadlines to karma, can parents make a mistake, different faiths, Philip’s journey, serendipity, success, luck, the environment, the credit crunch and of course Magic …. oooh and so much more!

What got me so inspired?  Hmm, it’s difficult to put my finger on it.  I’ve been going through a transition in my business from focussing on ‘The Dance of Life’ to ‘The Mummy Whisperer’ and it was as though the switch was made half way through dinner.  I went in introducing myself as ‘The 1st and most senior Demartini facilitator in the UK’, but I came out ‘The Mummy Whisperer’.  I always knew I was gradually going to change focus, but I didn’t expect it to be so soon or so large a shift.

So what made the magic of the night, and the ensuing inspiring and buzz filled days?  I do believe that being in a room with inspiring people has a dramatic effect, especially people who are masters in there area e.g. Philip and Liz.  Plus there was the opportunity to brainstorm ideas and consider my introduction and ‘who I really am’.  It wasn’t a ‘networking event’ in the broadest sense (you know where people ‘vomit’ their mission statements!), but connections were made, that I know will make a difference for everyone there.

So a big thankyou to Gilly & Jed for hosting the evening (plus cooking & taking care of us the next morning), to Philip & Liz for their wisdom, and everyone else for being there.  I would totally recommend you attend one of these evenings if you ever get the chance!

Lisa Pearson is


THE THIRD DATE By Lucy RussellSussex House Party


22nd November 2008


For a moment there he’d thought she was it.  Noting this mistake, he knew he would never repeat it.  He laughed out loud ‘Her?’, ‘Perfect?’ ‘As if?’


He looked in the mirror.  Now he was as close to perfection as you could get - strong, fit, handsome – he felt truly honed.  No one in the village could fault him; a kind word for everyone, he’d mastered his authentic smile and had a natural ability of feigning interest in any conversation, while zoning out into his own blissful realm.




The first thing he noticed when they met was that she looked rough.  The earlier rain had pressed her hair against her head and given her long stranded side burns.


She’d been expecting to go out, but he took her to a park bench instead, buying some

tinnies along the way.  Her tights’ elastic had pressed into her stomach so she’d stopped to remove them en route, relieved that she no longer had to put on a charade.




He offered her another beer from the plastic bag.  She was beginning to thoroughly relax now.  Since their last date she’d felt so safe, so secure.  She’d never talked to anyone so frankly about her depression; it’d been a huge release.  And he’d listened so intently.  He’d seemed interested – almost animated; he hadn’t changed the subject or dismissed her as self obsessed, the two reactions she’d come to expect.


‘So,’ he began ‘I’ve been thinking about what you told last week, you know, about ecstasy: how you used it to self medicate.’


‘Ye….e…s…?’ she asked curiously.


‘Well, I’ve got a pill in for you, and I’d like you to take it now.  I’ll stay sober; to look after you.  I just think it’ll help remove the black shadow you were talking about.’


‘But, remember…’ she started.


He cut in: ‘Here you go.’ He pushed the pill firmly into her hand as he looked directly into her eyes.


Washing back the pill with her beer, she was excited at the thought of what would happen next: The liberation!  The sex!  She giggled nervously as she snuggled under his arm. 


She coughed.


‘You OK babe?’


She didn’t answer. 


She convulsed forward, choking and choking as her throat swelled and her face turned a light green colour. 


She started foaming at the mouth. 


The foam turned from white to red and she collapsed on the ground.


‘Excellent’ he thought. 


He was glad he’d been able to help her.  She’d be free now. 


‘These poor people.  When would they learn?’


He got up and continued his path: 


The lonely vigilante - in search of his perfect partner - while helping those lesser beings along his way, of course.


 And then Lucy got serious: 

Check out her new site

Cyber Spaces to Get Inspired

Creating the Brand

Ces at has a different approach to building a brand image. We thought you might be interested in seeing a work in progress.


Questionnaire for The Sussex House Party Brand Image


Creatively Minded

What is the The Sussex House Party brand promise?

The core value proposition of the The Sussex House Party brand and the over all experience your clients will receive from your brand. A summary of your brand personality.

Identify the brand promise elements which apply to your different target market groups.


Sussex House Party

The Sussex House Party is where your muse is begging you to play. Relaxed, informal and aching with inspiration in the middle of really rural Sussex, there’s nothing to do but eat, drink, write and play.

We’re about welcome, wine and whatever comes along.




What is the The Sussex House Party brand mission statement?

The integrity and core character of your brand. What you will achieve and how.



We’ll teach you to relax and to write

We’ll introduce you to people who inspire you

We’ll get your juices flowing

We’ll publish your work on our site and hook you into a community of people you want to be like



List the The Sussex House Party services. Explain the need/desire your client may have and how you can fill that need.



Space, time, good food, writers, arty people.

Life’s too busy, too formulated, too heady for words. We give you the time and the space to remind yourself of who you are, who you were and who you want to be



What is the The Sussex House Party brand strategy?

Regarding your brand position in the market. Tell us how you want the The Sussex House Party brand to be perceived and recognised. Planned applied branding, PR/Marketing to help you achieve the market position you want.



We want to be known as the new Bloomsbury Set, a network of arty people who love to play and to inspire each other. We want to be spread by words -  of mouth and in the press. We want to be associated with new ideas and creative takes on life and business. We want to help business people remember their unique personalities and to take them back to the workplace to make their work and their lives better. We want to be the ones who make people who have fallen asleep at their desk wake up and remember what they can do.
We want them to come to us. We’ll cuddle them back to life.




Who are your target audience? Describe the people you want to help. Their industry genres, character and the specific need/desire you can provide for. Please clarify the industries / job titles / likes / dislikes / feelings of your target market - identified as their separate groups. Think about emotion and what they are lacking that you can provide plus how they will feel having experienced your brand.



Marketing, PR, copywriters, brand managers, creatives, academics, people who write all day but have forgotten how to have fun with words.


Describe your Niche market / specialist angle.



Rural, professional, academic, experience, chilled out, tried and tested, genuinely relaxing, wearing the t-shirt…


Describe your Credibility, why should potential clients come to you?



See above



Any colours, symbols and styles that you want to be considered. For example key words such as Bold, Modern, Simple, Professional, Forward Driven and so on.



Colours: nature – green leaves, berry reds, cherry blossom, apple white, purple skies, firepit orange



Any colours, symbols and styles that you want to avoid?



Black, white, magnolia



How do you want your target audience to feel after looking at your Brand Image?



Refreshed, smiling, inspired



What would be the ideal response and result from your target audience?



Booking a retreat, telling their friends, hiring a party here, spreading the word into their workplace



How do you want your clients to feel after taking up your service?



Inspired, ready to change the way they work, passing it on, inspiring others



 Who do you see as the main competitors for the The Sussex House Party brand?



Arvon Foundation



List any web sites / brand images of main competitors.






Do you have a slogan / tag lines, or a key benefit message you would like to communicate through a new slogan?



See above? ‘Where your muse loves to play’

 The Team

Gilly Smith teaches writing at the University of Brighton. She has written too many books to count, too many articles to keep and more blogs than anyone she knows. Novick lectures in sport journalism at the University of Brighton. He remembers all the books he has written but not necessarily all the articles after more than 20 years on the nationals.   He hasn't got a website. Yet.

Poppy Dog and the Moby and Molly Scamp are your tour guides. They haven't written a word in their lives.