What about a West Sussex Writer’s Retreat?

This January marks 200 years since one of the UK’s best-loved poets, John Keats, visited Chichester. The Eve of St Agnes is said to have been inspired in part by the great architecture of Chichester Cathedral. What’s more, the renowned writer stayed in the city centre in 1819 while he worked on the poem.

On Saturday 19th January, the day before St Agnes’s Eve, there’s an event to commemorate Keats at St Pancras Church, Chichester. The free event, organised by University of Chichester and South Downs Poetry Festival, will include lectures on Keats and history and his locally inspired work. Then, beside Vincent Gray’s stirring statue or the poet situated in Eastgate Square, Town Crier Richard Plowman and South Downs poets will give a dramatic reading of The Eve of St Agnes.

If you don’t make it to the bicentenary celebration, then make sure you visit Keats’ statue when you stay at Quay Quarters on a writer’s retreat or cultural break. Created by celebrated local artist Vincent Gray, the statue of one of our great poets is cast in bronze. It’s part of a bench located in Eastgate Square, where Keats stayed while writing in Chichester, which means you can take a seat next to the writer and peer down East Street towards the Cathedral “through the poet’s eyes.”

Writers inspired by the South Downs and Chichester Harbour

Keats wasn’t the only writer to be beguiled by beautiful Chichester, there are historical links to masters of the pen all over the city and surrounding area of the South Downs National Park. It is said that, that the words of William Blake’s Jerusalem were inspired by the view towards the South Downs from Lavant. The poet and painter, who lived in nearby Felpham, was also trialled in Chichester’s Guildhall (found in Priory Park) for sedition.

Did you know that Kate Mosse lives in Chichester in between trips to Carcassonne in southwest France? In fact, Kate’s spooky masterpiece The Taxidermist’s Daughter was set at Fishbourne Marshes – just a stroll from our holiday cottages – and the author has attributed Chichester Harbour to helping shape her writing.

From where I am now standing on the Bosham side of the creek, I can follow the line of the old sea wall down to Apuldram and Dell Quay, where dinghies and little boats bob in the current. I can catch a glimpse of the old flint-faced church of St Peter & St MAry in the fields framed by yew and poplar and willow trees. My sisters were married in that church, summer brides both. Ancient pilgrims’ marks are scratched into the north wall, crude yet somehow touching marks of devotion. They mean something. Beyond, on the horizon, the spire of Chichester Cathedral soars and boasts of the bustle of the town… This place helped make me the writer I am today

There are wide range of book signings, poetry readings and writing talks and workshops held in Chichester and the surrounding area. Keep your eyes on the Festival of Chichester programme as well as the South Downs Poetry Festival website and check out events at Chichester Library here.

Take a writers’ retreat in a luxury holiday cottage

Why not plan your own West Sussex writer’s retreat and start scribbling pages towards your next novel at one of our private luxury holiday cottages close to Chichester Harbour, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty novel? Alternatively, you could use our five-star B&B accommodation as a breath-taking base while attend local writer talks and book events. Book your writer’s retreat at Quay Quarters today.