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Festive Retreat

Monday 9 Dec 4pm — Friday 13 Dec 10am, 2024

To make a booking enquiry please complete the form below. We will contact you to confirm availability and complete your booking.


Full board per person (tuition, activities, all meals & accommodation):

£430– single ensuite room
£390– sharing an ensuite room
£390– single non-ensuite room
£355 – sharing non-ensuite room

Camping per person (tuition, activities, all meals):


Non Resident (tuition, activities, all meals except breakfast):


Are you looking for an opportunity to take some time away from the December hullabaloo? Then look no further than our Festive Retreat – a chance to sing, make music, craft, relax, walk and generally enjoy the festive surroundings of Halsway Manor decked for Christmas.

The flexible programme might include options such as:

  • Sing and play traditional folk carols in harmony
  • Learn some great new folk tunes and creative things to do with them
  • A spot of seasonal crafting with tree decorations to take home
  • An introduction to Dartmoor step dancing and playing for dancing
  • Optional walks in the beautiful Quantock Hills, weather permitting
  • A storytelling session

Each session includes something for instrumentalists and non-instrumentalists, so we’ll keep you entertained – however, if you’re looking for some time out, that’s OK too! We hope to see you there and will light the fire in anticipation!

Who is it for?

All are welcome – guided sessions will mainly cater for singers and instrumentalists, all instruments, all abilities, but you are also welcome to use this time as a getaway if you would prefer.

There will be a range of parts, notation parts in all clefs and keys available. We will work both by ear and with dots. We want this week to be fun for all, with guidance and support to help you develop your musicality, at whatever level you’re at.

The Team

Matt Norman is a performer, teacher, composer, arranger, workshop leader and conductor.

He predominantly works with traditional English music, steeped in the traditions of Devon and Dartmoor. He is also blues and classical musician, and a Dartmoor Step Dance Champion!

As a multi-instrumentalist, Matt plays mandolin, fiddle, mandola, banjos, piano and also sings. He performs solo and in bands including Gadarene and A New Vintage ceilidh band, and regularly deps in other line-ups. He’s also a singer and choir-leader.

Matt’s extensive teaching experience includes working in community and festival settings with all ages and abilities. He has a relaxed, fun and accessible approach to learning, tailored very much to the group. He has a broad expertise embracing mixed-instrument ensembles, choral and voice work, instrument specific tuition (mandolin, fiddle, banjo), and also step dancing.

Laurel Swift is a musician and composer, an inspiring instigator of creative new projects and performances rooted in the folk arts. She plays double bass and clog dances with Gadarene and plays fiddle with The Gloworms among other people. Laurel is currently absorbed in Travelling with Thomas, a project to write a folk musical in public, inviting people to come on the journey and see inside the artistic process!

Laurel co-created and performed ‘Under her Skin’ with Debs Newbold. Laurel loves to dance and has choreographed for theatre and film and directed national touring dance productions for Morris Offspring. She also teaches folk music, with particular focus on helping people find their own ownership of our shared traditions through creative approaches to variation, ensemble skills and simply having a good time!