A week in Gibraltar, the residency
May 2022 welcomed the first Rock Retreat to Gibraltar which was attended by 30 writers and illustrators from across the globe; Barbados to Germany, Glasgow to Harare. All focusing on creating the next generation of books for children and young people
We were especially pleased to have such a strong representation from our fellow British Overseas Territories of Montserrat, Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands and Bermuda. The participants came from varied literary and art practice backgrounds and the mix of interests in the creative groups supported a deeply committed and inspirational output.
The workshops facilitators in May 2022 were Sarah Odedina, Ken Wilson Max, Chris Priestley, Jordan Cook and Eleanor Taylor. This group of children’s publishing industry expert editors, writers, publishers and fine artists are the backbone of The Rock Retreat. Each person fully invested their energy in to making the week a hugely rewarding experience. Publishing commissions are ultimately the aim for everyone attending the residency and I am pleased to learn that discussions with several of the attendees are already happening which is truly the measure of the success of The Rock Retreat. See the testimonials for more information on facilitators and the feedback given to us by the participants.
Each day consisted of mornings spent in small groups with workshop facilitators. Creative goals were outlined and exercises set to structure the week. There were opportunities to discuss one’s work with the group or individually. I know that the illustrators found the group ‘crit’ sessions really rewarding as they encouraged feedback on character and plot that alone takes weeks to come to fruition. It’s worth mentioning here that the groups have continued to discuss their work through the WhatsApp groups. We are also keeping up to date with each other via zoom groups. The later afternoons were dedicated to discovering Gibraltar through locally guided tours and talks. Exploring, sketching and writing enhanced observational technique for the writers and illustrators. These fresh perspectives brought about discussions around the multiple methods of storytelling in response to setting.
I am personally left with a deep sense of gratitude for the the week and what it meant for all of us who joined together in May to explore the brilliance of creating books for children and young people. I have been shown what it means to tell a story from all manner of perspectives, from different histories, different cultural backgrounds, always with common sensibilities at our core. Each attendee left a lasting imprint on us at The Rock Retreat and we are confident that Gibraltar has left a lasting impression on everyone who came to this extraordinary place.
Please read the testimonials and take a look through the beautiful photographs taken during the week by Elaine Livingstone, Alex Menez and Stefano Blanca Scialaluga. Every day was a joyful experience made possible by the generosity of our sponsors and the ministries of culture both in Gibraltar and across the Caribbean who funded flights, venues, accommodation, tuition, boat trips, meals… covid tests, you name it. We couldn’t have done it without the kindness of these brilliant people and organisations.
The next generation, school outreach.
The Rock Retreat has quickly established itself as a supportive, creative, forward looking organisation that aims to build community, nurture talent and encourage expression in writers and illustrators, adult and child. During the May 22 Rock Retreat in Gibraltar the school outreach program reached approximately 400 children and has been nominated for a Cultural Award, Best Education Project.
Each afternoon during the residency, when the adult attendees were absorbing the information of the morning sessions, the facilitators took time to visit school groups around Gibraltar. The children ranged in age from 6 to 16. The delivery of outreach youth workshops is a central pillar to our vision for linking creative storytelling directly from author/artist to the younger generation. We stand by the saying, “you cannot be what do not see”.
Our outreach programme was generously supported by The Kusuma Trust and Masbro Insurance, two institutions that believe education and creative exposure to the arts and literature should be provided in imaginative ways and as early as possible.
Going forward our outreach work will focus on encouraging young writers and illustrators as they embark on their journey, building an international community around a shared writing and visual arts project and helping encourage a culture of storytelling and creative writing for young people. We shall offer young creatives in Gibraltar the opportunity to share their work with a cohort of peers from other British Overseas Territories and around the world, to have access to one another’s stories and to share the creative output of young people in different countries on different continents. Follow our instagram to keep up to date with this exciting project for future story makers…