Screenwriters reflect on Wordsworth experience

The Inward Eye film festival in Ambleside at Zeffirellis was accompanied by a weekend course for screenwriters, here at Rydal Mount, led by script consultant Vicki Jung.

And we want to share some of the comments from the writers who attended that course.

garden in autumn

  • As a producer venturing out on my first feature, I have learnt a huge amount about story structure during the process of this workshop. Vicki led the workshops brilliantly, giving specific, insightful and practical feedback which will really help our story structures. Each of the mentors had been brilliantly chosen too and were extremely helpful in their feedback. The added value of being able to see films at the festival itself was fantastic too as it meant you were able to network with other creatives at the festival and watch the films made by the mentors who were teaching at the workshop too. The setting was beautiful and apt (being Wordsworth’s home), the food was great and the people were great. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.”

writers workshop 1

  • The location itself couldn’t be bettered. Rydal Mount was the family seat of  William Wordsworth himself, and we spent three fruitful days in it, all gathered around a huge oak table, in front of an open fire in the day-room there.  Our task was to work intensely through each other’s scripts, reading, analysing, feeding back and offering ideas, all of which  was achieved with the minimum of rancour and the maximum of warmth. Much of this was down to Vicki Jung, the presiding script consultant, who was more than impressive with her insights and her ability to frame her ideas swiftly, fully and effectively, for the benefit of each writer. 
  • The title of the festival, Inward Eye, comes from a line in Wordsworth’s famous Daffodils poem and refers to the poet’s capacity to reflect on a moving experience, ie, the sight of the daffodils, and to gain insight and ongoing consolation from it. And that,  in every sense, is what we got.
  • The venue could not be bettered.  The course leader Vicki Jung knew her stuff through and through, and put it across clearly and incisively but fairly.  The mentors were as good as you could  get: busy working professionals – directors, producers and writers – who somehow found the time to give us the benefit of their considerable expertise and experience.
  • A unique, fruitful, and enabling experience in a venue to die for.
  • Thank you all so very much for a tremendous few days full of passion, commitment and talent. It was a true privilege to work alongside you all, and I’m so grateful and glad to have been involved.Extra special thanks to Vicki & Charlotte for creating and dreaming up this workshop and for their generosity and perceptive contribution to our diverse group of projects.
  • Thanks all for a great weekend of peer/professional review plus some great socialising. Hopefully, we can meet up next year and/or share things in-between. I just need to decide what I’m going to work on next!
  • Thank you all for being wonderful people with great advice.

writers workshop 2

Where the poetry of cinema met the beauty of nature

A long weekend of film and poetry marked the first Inward Eye film festival, a collaboration between Rydal Mount, Hopscotch Films, and our wonderful local cinema, Zeffirellis.

the plate

We staged a screenwriting workshop here, with our students enjoying the best advice from industry professionals, while at Zeffirellis cinema-goers had a choice of fascinating new films and old favourites.

The events were attended by members of the Wordsworth family who still own the house here where William Wordsworth lived. Here below are Sally Bennie, Sarah Wordsworth Wontner, Charlotte Wontner (of Hopscotch films) and her daughter Eliza.

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The festival featured many question and answer sessions with producers, directors and actors, and there was a surprise visit from the leading actor Tom Conti, who  talked to an enthusiastic audience.


The plate for the winner of the best feature film went to Born A King; here’s screenwriter Henry Fitzherbert and actor Simon Paisley Day.



Photos by Chris Routledge.



Poet to take up residence in Wordsworth’s home

The first poet in residence at Rydal Mount has been announced. Kieron Winn will spend a week in June here at the home of William Wordsworth, writing and meeting visitors to the house.

Kieron’s first collection of poems, The Mortal Man, was published in 2015. He is a great admirer of the work of Wordsworth, and has twice won the University of Oxford’s most valuable literary award, the English Poem on a Sacred Subject Prize.

Kieron Winn 2019 Black and White

Kieron studied English at Christ Church, Oxford, where he was awarded a doctorate for a thesis on Herbert Read and T. S. Eliot. He lives on Osney Island in Oxford, and is a freelance teacher of creative writing and English literature, including to visiting students from the Stanford University programme in Oxford and from Lady Margaret Hall, where he has recently been poet in residence. Increasingly he visits schools to talk to pupils about form and structure in poetry.

His poems have appeared in British and American magazines, including The London MagazineNew StatesmanOxford Magazine, The Spectator and The Times Literary Supplement. Selections of his poems also appear in anthologies and he has read his poems on BBC TV and radio.

Christopher Ricks, editor of The Oxford Book of English Verse, introduced Kieron at a reading by saying he is “A very good poet indeed…a poet to whom Wordsworth matters a very great deal…”

And the writer and broadcaster Melvyn Bragg said of The Mortal Man: “I have had much pleasure reading the poems. There is a real talent for binding centuries together and there are additions to the great Lake District tradition.”

Ranging from the Lake District to Rome, from the eighteenth century to the twenty-first, the poems in the collection revel in the particularity of people and places, and look for the sources of delight in human consciousness. The poems are relatively unusual now in their use of rhyme and traditional forms.

The appointment falls in the year marking the 250th anniversary of the birth of Wordsworth, which will be celebrated at Rydal Mount and at the poet’s earlier home in Grasmere, Dove Cottage.

Kieron said that he was delighted by the opportunity:  “It would be hard to imagine my life without Wordsworth and the Lake District, which I have been visiting for over 30 years.”

Curator of Rydal Mount, Emily Heath, said that she hoped other poets would also spend some time in residence at the house during the year. “We are very excited about this and looking forward to reading what Kieron produces in the wonderful atmosphere of Rydal Mount.”

Find out more at


Celebrations will mark Wordsworth anniversary

A year of celebration is being planned to mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of William Wordsworth in 2020.

Events include talks, poetry readings, presentations, and a big family reunion when the Wordsworth descendants will gather at Rydal Mount – which will also celebrate 50 years being open to the public.

lovely garden and house

Hailed as one of the greatest English poets ever, William Wordsworth was born on April 7, 1770 in Cockermouth. His homes included Dove Cottage and Allan Bank before he moved to Rydal Mount, near Ambleside, with his wife Mary and sister Dorothy. He died there in April 1850.

The celebrations are being planned by the Wordsworth family who still own Rydal Mount. A family reunion party will be held on April 25, with dinner at the house following a walk across to Grasmere and Dove Cottage. It will mark the birthday of Susan Wordsworth Andrew, the great great great grand-daughter of the poet, and of Antony Wordsworth .

Susan and Chris

Descendants: Susan Wordsworth Andrew and her son Christopher

There will also be a family wreath-laying ceremony at the churchyard in Grasmere where William Wordsworth is buried.

Events at Rydal Mount will accompany the Reimagining Wordsworth project in Grasmere which aims to create new ways of telling the story of Wordsworth’s life and poetry.

The Wordsworth Museum will be expanded and modernised, with stunning views of the surrounding fells, giving visitors the chance to stop and reflect on the landscape that inspired the poet. Dove Cottage is being developed to provide a more authentic and atmospheric experience for visitors.

At Rydal Mount, an artist-in-residence, Helen Johnson, will produce pieces of work which will celebrate Wordsworth not only as a writer but also as an early environmentalist renowned for revolutionising English poetry and celebrating the importance of our relationship with the natural world.

And the annual Wordsworth Prize for Young Poets will invite pupils at schools throughout Cumbria to produce their own work on the theme of “Milestones”. A larger-scale international poetry contest is planned for later in the year.


Christopher Wordsworth Andrew, pictured,  the poet’s great great great great grandson, said that people throughout the world would be able to share in the celebrations. “William was a true was a revolutionary whose work and thoughts are still relevant today. His ideas, and his expression of the beauty of the world around him, have an eternal appeal.”



The life of William Wordsworth’s son

A talk at Rydal Mount will open the pages on the life of William Wordsworth’s oldest child, John Wordsworth.

The world-renowned poet and his wife Mary had five children, two of whom died in infancy. But John, born in 1803, lived to the age of 72, was married four times (after three of his wives died) and was a vicar, latterly at Brigham Church between Keswick and Cockermouth.

It is through John’s line that the current owners of Rydal Mount, Wordsworth’s great-great-great-great grandsons, are descended.

His life has been researched by Muriel Strachan who will present the talk at Rydal Mount on November 14.

garden in autumn

A one-time nurse and midwife who took a degree in later life and graduated at the age of 60, Mrs Strachan developed a fascination with the Wordsworth family when she and her husband Robert, a retired doctor, moved to live in Cumbria.

Her son, Professor John Strachan, the pro-vice-chancellor of Bath Spa university, and a specialist in Romanticism, is working on a book about the Wordsworth family and asked his mother if she would help research the lives of the children.

Mrs Strachan has also researched the lives of the two children who died in childhood, Thomas, and Catherine who, she discovered, is highly likely to have been born with Down’s Syndrome.

“John was a fascinating character,” said Mrs Strachan. “Not a writer, like his father, though he wrote many sermons!

“He married into one of the notable Cumbrian families, Isabel Curwen of Workington Hall, and they had six children. He had a further daughter with his third wife, Mary Dolan.”

The talk is at 2pm on Thursday November 14 at Rydal Mount and entry is free. Booking here:

Rydal Mount joins with Zeffirellis for new film festival

A collaboration between one of the north’s leading independent cinemas and the home of the poet William Wordsworth here at Rydal Mount will bring a new film festival to the Lake District next month.

The Inward Eye festival will be staged at Zeffirellis in Ambleside, with a series of 26 feature films – shorts, new releases and classic movies to be shown over a long weekend.

inward eye 1

The festival has been organised by Zeffirellis MD Dorothy Smith along with film producer Charlotte Wontner of Hopscotch films who is a member of the Wordsworth family – owners of Rydal Mount.

The idea came originally from the actor Brian Cox who visited Rydal Mount three years ago when his film The Carer, produced by Wontner, was given a special screening at Zeffirellis. Cox was so impressed with the award-winning cinema that he offered to be patron of a festival there.

brian cox with chris and lottie

Brian Cox, centre, with Charlotte Wontner and Christopher Wordsworth Andrew

The festival’s title comes from the lines in Wordsworth’s most famous poem, Daffodils

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude

And then my heart with pleasure fills

And dances with the daffodils

“The daffodils are nowhere to be seen at this time of the year but their presence is always with us thanks to Wordsworth, and we wanted to reflect this in our festival,” said Dorothy Smith. “With a nod towards the local artistry of Wordsworth’s works, Inward Eye’s carefully selected films will cover themes of, Love and War, Youth and Fear, and Time and Landscape.”

While some of the films have a nature theme or local location, the festival is aiming to attract a wide audience with an eclectic range of titles. The range from Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet to the Syrian war drama For Sama, and includes the cult favourite Withnail and I which was premiered at Zeffirellis when it was released back in 1987.

Documentaries include Harry Birrell’s Films of Love and War; the most awarded film from this year’s Sundance Festival, Honeyland; and Paul Wright’s Arcadia, a provocative and poetic new film exploring our relationship with the land.

Charlotte Wontner said: “Launching a film festival is like starting an epic journey. We are thrilled to be taking our first Inward Eye steps with the incredible team at Zeffirellis. We have a festival packed with new discoveries and literary and cinematic beauty that will excite and inspire our festival audience. We would love Inward Eye to become an annual event for film fanatics and emerging film talent from near and far.”

The festival runs from November 7 – 9 and full details, and booking, can be found here

Our own artist takes up residence

An artist has taken up “residence” here at Rydal Mount  to help celebrate the life and work of the poet William Wordsworth.

Helen Johnson, from Alston, will work at the house and gardens on a regular basis over the next 12 months, marking the 250th anniversary of the poet’s birth.

artist Helen

A former head teacher who is now a full-time artist, Helen will produce pieces of work on five themes which match the writing and ideas of Wordsworth. They are spirituality, family and relationships, emotions, nature, and excursions.

Helen taught at schools in Canterbury and the north-east before settling in Alston. She has a masters’ degree in art, and was originally an oil painter who now uses a range of materials – including non-recyclable plastic which is melted onto a canvas.

Admitting that Wordsworth’s poetry is a new-found interest, Helen says that she shares his interests in and concerns for the environment and sustainability. She is investigating various sustainable methods of creating works of art including making her own pigments.

Her most recent work shows the trees on the banks of the South Tyne and aims to comment on the crisis we face regarding climate change and the detrimental effects of our consumerism.

Helen said: “This is a wonderful opportunity and the most beautiful place to work.”

The curator of Rydal Mount, Emily Heath, said that she had been attracted initially by Helen’s pictures of red squirrels, which feature on greeting cards sold at the house. “We think that Helen’s work is fascinating, and we are thrilled that she will be working here with us for a year.”

helens squirrels