Elizabeth Chats With…Phil Collins

My guest this month was never, as far as I know, the drummer for a well-known rock band. But he is a musician and singer, a writer, and  someone whose name is recognised across the globe – by the delegates who travel each August from other countries to take part in the Writers’ Summer School at Swanwick. Like me, he has a technical background but has turned in recent years to writing creatively. His contributions to the annual Page to Stage event are legendary. I am delighted to welcome to my blog Phil Collins, current Chairman of Swanwick.

Hello Phil, it’s good to see you here. Let’s start by taking you back to your childhood. What was your favourite subject at school — and which was the lesson you always wanted to avoid?

I enjoyed subjects like history and geography but find it hard to point to a favourite. Much easier to point to the subject I wanted to avoid, which was English! The reason being the teacher was a serious candidate for the world’s worst teacher. His style was to shout, bawl, intimidate and hurl pieces of chalk at pupils with incredible inaccuracy. Unsurprisingly he was universally unpopular and I’d say the hundreds of us who endured several years of his teaching grasped English in spite of, rather than because of, him. This was in the late 60’s so a world away from teachers and schools today.

If you had to escape from a fire, what three things would you take with you?

As it happens I have had to escape from a fire and I had no thoughts of taking any things with me. All that entered my head was making sure my family were out of the house. As I’ve got older things have become much less important and people more so. If I had the time and presence of mind to choose some things then practicality would rule. My phone, so I could call the fire brigade, my car keys, so I’d have transport, and my wallet to save the hassle of getting new bank and credit cards.

Where is your favourite place on earth — and why?

I have no particular favourite place. I like where I live and I’ve been lucky enough to do quite a bit of travelling and working in other countries. Parts of the US are fabulous and in Europe, Switzerland is high on my list. My eldest daughter currently lives in Singapore so I’ve spent time there with her and last year went for the Grand Prix weekend. I’d like to explore more of Asia and still have to get to Australia so my favourite place is very much a work in progress.

How Do You Relax?

I play guitar most weeks with some friends and we hover somewhere between OK and just awful! Not that it matters as the only aim is enjoyment. I’m also a member of a couple of quiz teams which is always a pleasant get together. But I’d say my number one way of relaxing is a long leisurely bath with a book.

Describe your ideal menu — and where would you like to eat it?

Some years ago I had a fantastic dinner one warm September evening on the island of Sardinia at a restaurant right by sea. It was a typical Mediterranean menu with lots of seafood and many more courses than the usual three we are used to. It was a perfect setting, wonderful food and superb wines. So if and when I could afford a return trip that’s where I’d love to go.

If you were a car, what type would you be — and why?

Twenty or so years ago it would have been something sporty but these days I’d be the type of car I drive right now which is an estate car. Practical, adaptable, comfortable, roomy, with roof bars for carrying additional loads, a cruise control to help ease the tedium of motorway driving and, much like me, pretty cheap to run!

Watch a film, go to the theatre, read a book or talk to friends — which would you prefer?

What a difficult question. It depends on the film, the book and the friends. I enjoy all three but if I had to pick one then theatre just has it as I do enjoy live performance.

Would you describe yourself as left-brain (analytical), right-brain (intuitive) or a mix of both?

A mix of both. At times I can be quite analytical and even get excited by a spreadsheet and graphs. But whenever I’m writing something it’s much more intuitive.

Why did you take up the role of Chairman of Swanwick Writers’  Summer School?

I’ve met and made some wonderful friends at Swanwick and felt obligated to give something back, as well as help ensure the school continues so that others can enjoy time there in years to come. During the time I’ve been on the committee I’ve read hundreds of feedback forms and seen first-hand the inspiration as well as the pleasure people get from connecting with fellow writers, regardless of what stage people are at on their writing journey. While it is first and foremost a Writers’ school, the social aspect and supportive environment offers so much more and brings with it a sense of community. To quote someone who came for the first time last year: ‘It’s a wonderful environment to spend a life enhancing week.’

Phil, thank you so much for finding the time to chat to me today. See you next August! Readers, if you would like to find out more about the great institution that is the Writers’ Summer School at Swanwick, just click here.

By Elizabeth Ducie

Elizabeth Ducie was a successful international manufacturing consultant, when she decided to give it all up and start telling lies for a living instead.

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