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Seventy years of the Writers' Summer School at The Hayes

Although many of the groups and organisations that use The Hayes return every year, only a few can boast the longevity and consistency of the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. First organised in 1949, the incredibly popular event has been held at The Hayes for seventy consecutive years. During this time thousands of published and aspiring writers have taken part and the summer school has helped many budding authors to hone their style and achieve their potential. A fantastic week for all of the delegates taking part, this unique event is an important fixture in The Hayes’ calendar.

The Swanwick Writers’ Summer School

The very first Swanwick Writers’ Summer School was held at The Hayes in 1949. The brainchild of Cecil Hunt, chairman of the London Writer Circle, the school was intended to bring together writers from groups all over the country. The idea was that it would give an opportunity for more experienced writers to share their knowledge and their passion with aspiring writers and “To provide a meeting place for writers where, amidst congenial surroundings, they may give and receive help and encouragement in the art of writing.”

During the 50s, 60s and 70s, the summer school played host to a number of notable names including Arthur C. Clarke, Catherine Cookson, PD James and Ruth Rendell. In more recent years, famous authors such as Terry Pratchett, Iain Banks, David Nobbs, Peter James and Deborah Moggach have all taken part in the event.

Swanwick writers' summer school at the Hayes in1951

The Hayes, now and then

The Hayes was chosen as the venue for the very first event and has been home to the summer school ever since. Back in 1949, the venue had only recently been released by the military after being requisitioned during the war. Seventy years ago, The Hayes was very different. The beautiful grounds you see today had been largely neglected during the war and the accommodation the delegates enjoyed was a lot more basic.

Another major difference was accessibility. Today, we take the proximity of the M1 and local train services for granted. However in 1949, the motorway was still years away from being built and few people had their own cars. Organisers arranged special coaches to take delegates from London straight to The Hayes, helping hundreds of people to take part in the event.

Camaraderie and conferences at The Hayes

Over the years, a lot has changed at The Hayes. The success of the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School has grown steadily and we’ve made some major improvements to the grounds, the communal areas, the conference halls, meeting spaces and accommodation at the venue. One thing that hasn’t changed however is the unique sense of camaraderie that events at The Hayes inspire. Meeting new people from around the country was an important part of the summer school and remains integral to many of the events held at The Hayes.

If you’re interested in holding an event at The Hayes or any of our other conference centres get in touch with a member of our team.

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