A writing retreat? In term time? Are you kidding me?

Written by Vivienne Neale, Falmouth University

I need time to think

It’s very difficult to step away from the frenetic pace of HE teaching and attend a writing retreat. It almost appears anachronistic when anyone dares to say, ‘I need time to think.’ It’s ridiculous really when this is exactly what we should be having space to do regularly. 

Write, write, write

That aside, I cannot recommend a writing retreat opportunity more highly. The ISBE, EEUK REntEd SIG received funds to set up such an experience at the Edgbaston Park Hotel and Conference Centre within the University of Birmingham during October 2022. The Enterprise Eleven (+1) convened and dedicated two full days to writing. Enterprise and Entrepreneurial practitioners sat in the Grafton building, a warm Arts and Crafts inspired location on campus and pledged their troth to achieve tangible outputs from their ’write, write, write’ sessions.

We all welcome creative and constructive conversations

It was daunting, yes but what was specifically interesting from my perspective was the gender balance. It was 11:1 in favour of women and it created a supportive, humble, and highly professional tenor. There was an extraordinary array of talent and experience around the table that enabled constructive and creative conversations alongside peer mentoring at every stage of the process.

Accountability is everything

It also helped that the accommodation further highlighted the special nature of the retreat and offered space for reflection and plenty of frenetic typing and revisions. Having committed to specific goals that were revisited at the end of the event it felt managed and accountable. Consequently, every delegate, in the main, achieved their aim or were in touching distance at least.

We wrote and watched prime ministers come and go

The opportunity to discuss and chat generally about our institutions, research ambitions, the state of entrepreneurship, the resignation of the prime minster and all points between was a chance to share and create potential future collaborations.

There’s always time to explore entrepreneur education

Certainly, it was a chance to be amongst like-minded individuals that were all delighted to share tips and tricks, observations, and suggestions. I sincerely believe that everyone benefitted, friendships were rekindled and created too. It was also fascinating to reach into other professional lives and begin to understand some aspects of the varied and important work that is being carried out in this field under the guide of entrepreneur education.

To step away and draw breath should not be underestimated

To have the physical and headspace opportunity to write up and think carefully about projects and ideas cannot be underestimated. I know the organisers could see how successful the event was and how fruitful potential collaborations might be. The size of the group was intimate enough but allowed for discussion across fields These included factors that affect high growth companies; how professional modules can be further integrated and embedded into undergraduate provision; refugee remorse as a factor stifling progression; research collaborations and the impact of micro internships on paid work opportunities. This is just a snapshot of the research work output.

It is a significant investment of time, energy, resource, and brain power

Yet, if you can take the opportunity to attend a writing retreat, especially one organised by UKEE and ISBE, I would fight tooth and nail for the chance to attend.  Like any boot camp, things happen, perspectives change, goals are set and most importantly are achieved.  Having a couple of days to talk to other professionals working within enterprise education is also motivational and collegiate. Honestly, such an enterprise is highly recommended, and I thank Dr Emily Beaumont, Dr Breda O Dwyer organisers for their foresight and enthusiasm.

Vivienne Neale lectures in Entrepreneurship on the MSc Programme at Falmouth University.