Can creativity be taught? I don’t know. But can it seep under your skin and and filter into your mind by sheer osmosis? I think so. Certainly at Tyrone Guthrie it can. The immensity of creative collateral in the air, the sweet sweat of accomplishment the bricks have absorbed, must recirculate into the ever revolving door of creative spirits that step over the threshold. (There is an actual spirit that haunts the rooms, and even sends tweets telling you when it’s your turn to be haunted but that’s another story for another day).
I had the privilege to spend a week here recently, the majestic old house groaning with art, style, and glorious ceramics and sculptures, the air filled with the sensual scent of ink on paper, books in every wall, nooks and crannies a plenty to read them in.
It has been called many things – magical, home from home, and breathtaking but most often it is simply referred to as Annaghmakerrig.
Tyrone Guthrie, in County Monaghan was bequeathed to the State to be used as a retreat for artists of all disciplines, by it’s owner of the same name. He was a theatre director who died in 1971, and since it opened in the early eighties, it has hosted thousands of Irish artists, and others from around the world. During my visit, accents criss crossed from Belfast, Netherlands, Cork, Mayo, England, Achill Island and a native Alaskan. Applications are made, and once accepted you can return as much as you like, provided there is space. I am reliably informed it is already fully booked next summer.
It is like a sweat shop for the soul – soaking up the sweat of others, drinking up other’s toil. There is so much damn creativity in one space, it would take someone wearing thick sheeted armour to deflect the barrage of brilliance that dances and composes and scribbles, and tinkles on piano keys in every room, every week.
The days are long and your own. There is food available in the kitchen but no communal event to mark out the hours. Only you and your own determination and discipline. But like the relief of rain after a humid day, doors fly open at 7pm and authors and artists and musicians and play writes and poets and composers spill down the stairs like ants on a mission, filing into the turf tanged kitchen where food better than your mothers, is served steaming and satisfying at a long table. The conversation is thick with excitement, projects progressing, ideas fermenting, all amidst a hum of satisfaction as warm food heats hearts like chicken soup for the soul. The meals at Anneghmakerrig are legendary. Your waist gains as much as your manuscript.
But for me it was about emersion. I literally emerged myself in it’s freezing waters, but also in the atmosphere. I came away refreshed from both.
The idea of a retreat is not new. But it is special. At Anneghmakerrig, the surroundings just add to it… the glory of autumn played out twice as the lake reflects back the golden and amber trees on its far shore. Woodland walks, and lakeland seats prime locations for uninterrupted thought. But it is the time that the place gives you. The luxury of dedication. The silence of absorption. The space for thought. And the intensity of imaginosity that permeates every room.
There is also the love. It was my first time, and from the moment I arrived I knew it was not my last. Most of the people I met there that week were repeat attenders, like homing pigeons returning again and again, homing their craft. The love of the place, the love for the place, and dare I say, even the love at the place, is special.
This has also been published on the fabulous writing resource www.writing.ie