What to do when everything has changed? We’ve been pondering this. And we have big plans brewing. But now is still the time for the small and intimate (but no less wondrous), so we are excited to present our first Littlegig Retreat.
The hallmark of Littlegig has always been the pairing of inspiring creatives with spectacular, original locations. This remains unchanged. Our first Littlegig Retreat will have Writing as its creative pursuit, and will take place in Lamu, Kenya. Our facilitator is writing coach and literary agent Sarah Bullen of the Writing Room, who has had over 100 books published by writers she has mentored. And the retreat will take place at the famed Peponi Hotel, in the tiny village of Shela, on Lamu Island.
Since the 1960’s, Lamu has attracted artists and nomads, writers and seekers. They have been enchanted by its hundreds of years of invaders and influences, its vast empty beaches, those white sails against that blue sea.
Stand on their shoulders, as you embark on your own creative journey with Sarah, and Littlegig festival owner Georgia Black. While Sarah will make sure that you take your writing to the next level, Georgia has developed a programme of extraordinary events so that you experience the full magic of Lamu, from world-class yoga to moonlight dhow trips.
Come and join a group of 10 writers and creatives for 5 nights on this secret archipelago off the East African coast of Kenya. This is the place to discover your story, to connect, to rest and dream.
The legendary seafront hotel, which has been in the same family for over 50 years, is the epicentre of Shela. It has lovely, airy rooms in whitewashed buildings, and plenty of shady nooks and hammocks, perfect for reading and writing.
Its bougainvillea-shaded terrace overlooking the Lamu Channel is Shela’s famed sundowner spot. And the hotel restaurant has some of the best food in East Africa, including their famous crab linguine and other delicious Italian, Indian, local and vegan food. From the restaurant, down the few steps to the beach, you can keep walking for miles along a deserted beach with palm-covered dunes.
You won’t find a television or telephone in your room, and you won’t miss them either, because the charm of the place lies in that fact that it gives just the right amount of everything – no more, and definitely no less.
You, if you need an adventure, mixed with the gift of time and space to get going on your project, in an extraordinary island setting. You will join an international mix of travellers, memoir writers, novelists, bloggers, Masters students, poets and playwrights. And you don’t need to have a grand project in progress. Some of you may be halfway through a novel, some may come simply to write a special letter, and others may choose to spend the days just dreaming and reflecting before you get started on your writing.
This is our suggested structure, though you are invited to do what you and your retreat most need.
Aside from the daily writing and yoga programme and our evenings together, the following optional excursions will take place during the retreat, for those who want to immerse themselves in the Lamu experience.
Daily Yoga at Banana House, 9am
The owner of Banana House, a dreamy guest house 10 minutes’ walk from the Peponi, started Lamu’s annual Yoga Festival, which attracted more than 300 people. Her guest house has the best yoga venue and teachers in town.
Dhow trip to Manda Toto Island (5-6 hours)
The romance of East Africa is encapsulated by its dhows. Sail slowly up narrow mangrove channels to the tiny Manda Toto island for swimming, snorkelling (conditions permitting) and picnicking on grilled fish caught along the way.
Shela Architecture Walking Tour (1 hour)
The understated elegance of Shela’s hotels and villas (many of which have been painstakingly restored by their owners) is unmatched, and is what has made Shela famous. We visit a few of our favourite private villas, art galleries and best boutiques.
Lamu Old Town Walking Tour (2-3 hours)
Dating back to the 12th century, Lamu Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa. It is here that you will find the most authentic places on the island. We explore the narrow streets, the ancient fort with its wooden carved doors, the bustling markets, museums and cafes. (Remember that Lamu is a Muslim town so please dress modestly when walking the streets.)
Beach at Majlis Hotel
Majlis is a luxury boutique hotel on the Manda Island side of the channel, a short 5-min boat ride from the Peponi. Great swimming, loungers and cocktails – perfect for anyone looking for a different perspective!
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The retreat starts at 6pm on Monday 13 September. Check-in time at the Peponi is 2pm. The retreat ends on Saturday 18 September at 10am. Check-out time at the Peponi is 11am. If you’d like to extend your Peponi hotel booking on either side of the Retreat, please contact the Peponi directly and let them know that you are part of the Lamu Writing Retreat.
There’s a fine art to booking flights to tiny African islands! We have a great travel agent who is familiar with Lamu bookings and can help you figure out the best routing for your needs. Let us know if you’d like her details. If you’re doing the bookings yourself, here’s some helpful information:
Remember, Lamu is an island and getting there is part of the adventure!
We know that it’s a brave time to plan a trip, so we will refund you 90% of your ticket price if you cancel before 13 August (1 month before the event) and 70% if you cancel up until 5 days before the event. Unfortunately no refunds in the 5 days before the event. If there is a COVID-related lockdown in Kenya which makes travel to Lamu impossible over the time of the retreat, you will get a full refund, minus a 5% administration fee.
For more information on COVID travel requirements, please see our Quicket page and click on the tab called Cancellation, COVID, etc.
SARAH BULLEN, WRITING COACH AND FOUNDER OF THE WRITING ROOM
Sarah Bullen is a multi-published author, international writing coach, literary agent and founder of The Writing Room. She has had over 100 books published by writers she has mentored. She also works on smaller, quieter books that are written with love. She is known as a book mentor who gets results, and often publishing deals. As a literary agent she represents authors of non-fiction and celebrity memoir.
Sarah has written three non-fiction books under her own name, the latest of which is Write your Book in 100 Days! Stop Mucking About & Just Write (2020). She has ghostwritten 12 books, and her journalistic writing can be found in magazines that stretch back for over two decades.
Sarah is a regular guest on talk shows, podcasts and writers’ circles, talking about the craft of writing, how to get published and how to build a book. “I believe that writing is both a deeply creative journey, and an investment in your future. It can be a madcap writing adventure, or a slow and steady build to create your brand. I like writers to understand the market into which they are writing, to position their book in a niche and to deliver a world class product.”
Sarah has been leading international writing retreats for the past decade. “There’s a different writing energy when you are away from home and immersed in a creative adventure. All levels of writer, and writing, are welcome and without fail, everyone in the group, whether writing a memoir, business book, poetry or fiction, has a story to share and becomes the learner and the teacher. It is my job to guide this.”
GEORGIA BLACK, PRODUCER AND FOUNDER OF LITTLEGIG
Littlegig was started by Georgia Black in 2013 as a series of concerts in Cape Town featuring music, opera, dance and performance. From 2015, Georgia produced four editions of the Littlegig 24-hour Festival, in a forest in Stellenbosch for 2,000 guests. The festival showcased local and international bands and DJs, and some of the country’s top chefs, winemakers, and designers. It was hailed as ‘by far South Africa’s most luscious, over-the-top boutique festival’ (Sunday Times Lifestyle), ‘the perfect grown-up party’ (Visi), ‘the stuff of legend’ (Taste) and ‘festival nirvana without the grit’ (The Star).
Before she founded Littlegig, Georgia was features editor of Marie Claire magazine, and then a freelance journalist, with work published in The Telegraph, The Guardian, and most South African newspapers and lifestyle magazines. In 2020, the year of no events, she published A to Ziggy: The Alphabet for All Ages, a collaboration with writers and 10 leading young artists, using Japanese Riso printing.
‘My passion is to bring people together to experience creative talent – and therefore unleash their own – in a transportive setting,’ she says. ‘Festivals are not possible for now, but our need to connect, gather and create – of course in much smaller groups – is stronger than ever.’