Who’s In The Garden On Sunday?

As the first day of courses gets underway at The Hayes, our tour heads southwards towards East Sussex and the home of a long-timer Swanwicker. She was my ‘Eagle-Eye’ proofreader in the years I was editing the newsletter; has a wicked sense of humour and a wonderful throaty laugh; and was the 2018 recipient of the Quaich for services to the school. Today’s guest is Diana Wimbs.

Hello Diana and welcome. Tell us a bit about yourself and your writing

I am blissfully retired, shamelessly lazy, love a chilled glass of pinot grigio and am devoted to my four grandchildren (sometimes the other way around in order of importance). Like most writers, I can always find things to do rather than sit at my desk and write … but having spent my professional life as a copywriter, being pursued by deadlines and cranky creative directors, the magic of the written word was often scuppered by exhaustion.

Swanwick changed that completely, in an instant, and continued to do so for 22 years. That magical first week led to a published book, Freelance Copywriting, a regular column in Writing Magazine and annual requests to run courses or give talks. I take life at a slower pace these days but dabble in writing short stories, mainly for competitions, and am also working on ideas for a series of children’s books.

What is your link to Swanwick? Have you been many times in the past?

My enthusiasm for Swanwick has already got the better of me by talking about it and its impact on my life. I discovered the magic in 1997 and attended every year bar one until last year, during which time I saw the School celebrate its 50th, 60th and 70th anniversaries. I’ve worked in the Book Room, taken part in the Chapel service, helped with the newsletter, served on the committee twice, been Vice Chairman twice and, latterly, Chairman. One of my proudest moments was to collaborate with a wonderful designer in the creation of the now familiar Swanwick signature logo in its distinctive aqua.

It’s hard to pinpoint a single memory during all those happy years but I think the magic really came alive when we were herded into the Main Hall during the 50th anniversary week for a ‘mystery guest’ … who turned out to be none other than Norman Wisdom. Already in his 80s, he did a perfect pratfall and held us all spellbound, crying with laughter (and genuine tears at the poignancy of his early life), before he strode off to join in the dancing until the early hours of the morning.

What’s your favourite part of the Swanwick week?

Spending time with old friends and making new ones. Some of my closest and dearest Swanwick friends are no longer with us and I miss them so much. But the joy of seeing, hugging and being with so many people I love and cherish, catching up with their news, reminiscing over happy (and often hilarious) moments from our shared years at Swanwick is pure magic.

The after-dinner speakers are always a highlight of the week. Given an unlimited budget and access to all writers, living or dead, who would you book for next year?

Oh boy … great question … Jane Austen, Lord Byron, Thomas Hardy, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, J. M. Barrie, P.G. Wodehouse, Maeve Binchy, John Sullivan, Bill Bryson, Julia Donaldson and the great Stephen King (after his guest attendance at Virtual Swanwick, of course).

And finally, share with us a picture that illustrates your attendance at VS 2019 and tell us why.

What better way to enjoy Virtual Swanwick than with tea and cakes … one of the many beloved traditions of the Actual Swanwick week. Cheers everyone, see you in the bar later!

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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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