Course Development Workshops

19 Oct 2017 - 14:58

As part of the development of the project the Trust organised workshops looking at the courses that could be run in the House once the works are completed

A total of six workshops were held with 35 people attending and contribution.  

Key Issues from these workshops were:-


  • Ideas being put forward can be divided into three groups
    • Multi-day residential courses which allow a subject to be explored in depth. For these, the residential aspect is crucial because a major part of the value is the experience of meeting others with a shared interest. Courses include late evening sessions and many will start very early (e.g. photography during the hour following sunrise).  Numbers attending these would range from 6 -12
    • Single-day courses that are highly specialised and appeal to both local and distant audiences.  These do not have the same ‘social component’ and accommodation off site would be acceptable – in this way, we could make use of the local accommodation stock, which would appeal to some of the public sector stakeholders and funders.  Numbers attending may also be limited to 10 - 12
    • Day and half-day courses – often run as a weekly or monthly series.  These would appeal principally to a local audience and no accommodation would be required.  Numbers attending could be up to 40
  • Among the proposals aimed at local people are a range of short courses on skills, crafts, wellness, mindfulness, for local people as a retreat but also building skills
  • More specialist and ‘niche’ courses with recognised local experts would attract students from across the UK and beyond, including explicit ‘master classes’ in a range of disciplines (which may be outside the definition of a ‘special interest holiday’ and so would attract a different set of people – they might be classified as ‘deepeners’, but they are already expert in their particular field, and perhaps are following it professionally)
  • Excitement among prospective tutors that we have a unique potential to create synergies between disciplines: a lot of interest in creating cross-disciplinary courses, maybe with more than one tutor, rather than just more of the same single-discipline courses. E.g. the obvious ones are wildlife and photography, plus painting or drawing; less obvious suggestions have been quilting and photography, tapestry weaving with stone carving or ceramics, creative writing and meditation, writing and photography, writing and illustrating
  • Tutors also saw value in students on two different courses run at the same time mixing and even sharing some activities
  • Exploit what is available locally seasonally, and offer seasonal programming; for example seasonal writers’ events (e.g. the ‘Shambellie Winter Writers’ Festival’), or seasonal wildlife offers
  • A new theme that came up was Shambellie House as a focus for delivery of Scots language writing and performance, which is lacking in the region
  • Another theme is Shambellie House as a venue for training courses in partnership with the RSPB, e.g. on land management, ecology, species identification – organisations like the RSPB struggle to find venues and accommodation in D&G, and are interested in a longer term strategic partnership with the Trust (again this lies outside the definition of a special interest holiday)
  • Ideas for bespoke wildlife holidays, e.g. three days including field trips, again in partnership with the RSPB and other wildlife sites. This would be something that would be explicitly marketed, and probably developed with one or more tutors in partnership with other organisations



  • There is a lot of support for a new extension – the arguments are about extending the range of courses and numbers involved, and therefore an acknowledgment that the space would be constantly programmed and in use most of the time, and therefore be an integral part of the offer and the business plan right from the beginning:
    • Some courses won’t work effectively in the existing spaces (current maximum for courses is c. 10), and require a modern, airy space with lots of room for kinetic movement, to spread out, with a high ceiling, good sound, e.g. wellness, Yoga, Pilates, meditation, choirs, music
    • Some predicted numbers (based on existing courses run by our prospective tutors) are too big for the existing spaces, e.g. 30-40 for drawing, 20 people with sewing machines for quilting
    • Including an accessible stage in the extension would increase its use for performance – we are informed that there is no accessible stage within D&G. There is a lot of call in the area for spaces for choirs: we were told that such a space would be booked up for all of one prospective tutor’s choir work
    • If we wish to extend the use of the house to local schools and colleges, then the extension makes an ideal education suite
    • It is the ideal location for toilets and showers (some of the one-day courses might require showering afterwards…), rather than trying to fit them into the house
    • We should consider integrating a ‘drying room’, where outerwear clothes can dry after a wet day in the field
  • Need for a covered outside area with a hard surface, to allow outdoor courses, e.g. wood-carving, and as a shelter for outdoor painting etc. Extends the range of courses, and provides a better resource for seasonal use of the grounds. This could be attached to the extension
  • Build two or three hides in the grounds for wildlife watching and photography. These might even be pop-up hides, which can be re-sited seasonally



  • Transport is essential: one or two minibuses to transport students on field trips and to pick up from transport hubs.  This needs to be highly flexible as field trips will change depending on weather, interests of students etc.
  • Total agreement across all the potential tutors on how important the accommodation is. The social side of the experience was seen as axiomatic for the residential courses
  • The quality of the food offer was also stressed. This MUST be high quality, and using local ingredients. The first thing people will complain about is the food, if it is not up to scratch…
  • We will almost certainly set up an expert advisory board (tentatively to be called the Curriculum Development Group) with recognised local experts in the different disciplines. Its function would be a) to advise on the programme and tutors, b) to ensure we are plugged into the right contacts and networks, and put people in touch, and c) to encourage cross-disciplinary approaches, to avoid a silo approach. This will help to create a reputation for quality and excellence, which the Trust aims to achieve