Space the Final Frontier – ISBE ECR Writers’ Retreat Reflections

John Barker, Simply Do Ideas & Cardiff Metropolitan University

The first ISBE Early Career Researcher Forum writing retreat took place from April the 26th to the 29th 2019 at the Anam Cara Writers and Artists Retreat in Eyeries, County Cork, Ireland. It gave delegates valuable time and space to immerse themselves in their writing, away from the distractions of everyday life. Thank you to John Barker, one of our delegates, for the following reflections…

Space…It’s what we all seek in this world of constant interaction and overstimulation from social media and modern life. Not the furthest reaches of the Milky Way (although nougat-filled confectionery is welcomed), but the intellectual space to reflect on the work that we are trying to complete as scholars in the making. My experience as a student is full of competing priorities; a family, a pressurised job, consultancy, and of course my PhD. I barely have time to breathe, never mind the space to try and improve and focus on my writing.

So thankfully, the ISBE ECR Writers’ Retreat provided me with the perfect space to relax and write. Framed by the beautiful landscape of the Bay of Beara, in the south of the Republic of Ireland, which looks very Game of Thrones/Middle Earth, minus the zombies and orks.

The retreat offered the right balance of directed writing and reflection, alongside a chance to explore the enchanted landscape which in turn enhanced well-being, supercharging this writer’s motivation. This is just part of the reason why it is so important that ISBE continues to support Early Career Researchers with this valuable slice of CPD.

Beyond the location, my cohort of fellow writers was welcoming, and the use of a What’sApp group helped introduce the group before we met in person. It has also given us the means to keep in contact after the weekend.

The venue itself was the Anam Cara Writers Retreat which is a spatial property with lots of interesting nooks and crannies to go and write in. It also has a sauna and hot-tub, which are less conventional spaces to write in, although I’m sure Philip Larkin would have found a way.

The major discovery of the weekend, was actually how important the environment and surroundings are for both productivity and being at relative peace with your study. I am usually trying to fit study around bathtime, ballet, and work with interruptions only avoided by locking myself in the study and noise cancelling headphones!

The retreat produced my “most productive weekend ever” and some useful work around the conceptual framework and the paradigmatic basis for my study, which I excitedly sent off to my Director of Studies on return. In fact, it was this return to urban normality which was the most jarring,  as I longed to be back with my new found space and boldly go (forgive the split infinitive) where no PhD student has gone before…      

To sign up to the ISBE ECR Forum, please visit the ISBE website.


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