What people are saying…

The Buddy Holly Foundation week at Pennard House was a truly inspirational experience.  The generosity of spirit amongst the organisers was incredible!

It was a week that took 40 writers, producers, singers and artists from all over place, out of their normal lives to a beautiful environment that supported, encouraged, taught, inspired and wowed us all. A rare opportunity to live, breathe and virtually eat music without distraction, to immerse oneself into what really counts which is the love and fascination of creating  and performing music.  The enthusiasm and hardwork, talent and fun generated by all on the camp was contagious and immensely stimulating, so much so that I for one barely slept all week, but somehow felt rejuvenated on returning home.

Thanks so much to Chris Difford, Venetia Mills, Peter Bradley and all the organisers and everyone who was there for a really wonderful and unforgettable time.


Emily Phillips (Songwriter)

This was the first time I had done a songwriting retreat so wasn’t sure what to expect. The Chris Difford Songwriting Retreat turned out to be one of the most inspiring and creatively fulfilling weeks I have ever spent. The setting of Pennard house was incredible and provided a restful and beautiful space to get into the frame of mind for writing.

I was constantly amazed by Chris’s ability to match writers together each day and from my own experience I couldn’t have asked for more inspiring people to work with. I ended up writing several songs that I’m planning to record for my next project, and I have kept in touch with a lot of the people I met and worked with.

Chris, Peter, Trudie, and the whole team that put so much work into the retreat were all lovely to work with and created a warm, friendly and calm atmosphere. The legacy that the Buddy Holly Education Foundation has built is truly incredible.

It was a real privilege to be part of such a special event and I hope to be involved again in the future!

Callaghan (Artist – Green Town Music/Absolute)

“4 years ago I was made redundant from a job that I loved and was good at, due to Government financial cuts, along with 800 of my colleagues. I thought it was the only thing I could do, as I had done it for years. Somebody told me about the retreats and it looked really different so I used the £500 training money they had to give me as part of the redundancy package to go on a Chris Difford Song writing Retreat. It should have been used for more boring but worthy things but I thought bollox to that. They thought I was bonkers at work.

My son said “Dad go for it, you don’t owe anybody anything, and stop worrying what might be and go for it. Stop dreaming and do what you want to, I don’t want a dad that looks back in old age wishing he had done this or that” I was scared to death as I could hardly play the guitar and or sing and had only written 4 songs: – one in my youth as a drummer in a New Age band in 1982 and another one just before I went on the retreat, that Chris thought was pants and 2 even ropier ones.

To cut a long story short, I have never looked back. The skills, confidence and connections that a Chris Difford Song writing Retreat gives is you is immeasurable and I have made good friends of all ages some of who will be friends for life. Chris has encouraged me every step of the way and my age has not been an issue or barrier. During the 4 years, I have played all over the UK, the West Coast of America, New England, New Zealand and this summer gigs at Edinburgh Festival and other ones. I’m off to Australia in a few weeks and Nashville next year. I have opened for and supported famous musicians

Some of who were my music heroes. I have never put out a CD because I never felt I was good enough or ready yet but after all the encouragement especially this summer at Pennard House at Glastonbury this summer, I finally feel confident to do it and have a number of songs I am proud of. Meeting one of the inspirational members there has led to a song that will be on my album called JESUS ON CRUTCHES (or JESUS IN SHADES). You may know him, he is a lovely bloke.

I am not one for blowing my own trumpet but working with Chris Difford and the other fantastic people I have met on the retreat has given me confidence to write and play anywhere. So if you need a vertically challenged singer/songwriter with songs about anything from the fear of ballroom dancing to the lives and loves of the aviatrix Amy Johnson to open for you at the Royal Albert Hall, I am your man.

Feel the fear and do it any way as they say”

Johnny Steinberg

“As a career musician and songwriter I can not begin to explain how much my week at Pennard House has changed my life. Looking around the room at the established songwriters and insanely talented young artists it literally felt like I had been dropped, by parachute, into a disney movie where every word was a lyric and every breath a musical Carnival. Ego’s left well behind what ensued was a week of hard work, intense focus, a serous amount of fun and the chance to create, record & perform daily on a platform that would have major labels & music fans itching with excitement. Hard work aside – my favourite moments were the end-of-day wind downs where the guitars came out and people did what they do best…. sing, sing & sing. The Buddy Holly Education Foundation and Chris Difford, combined, have hit upon a winning formula that will place songs in your hearts and minds, bring the most unlikely people together and pretty much ‘teach the world to sing’ ”

Steve Young

“The Chris Difford Songwriting Retreat was a fantastic opportunity to connect and write with new songwriters. I learnt a lot from co-writing with different people and have formed some long-term musical friendships. Very inspiring.”

Emily Barker

“The Chris Difford Songwriting retreat has become an exciting part of our annual calendar and something we really look forward to all year. Having Pennard House full of such inspirational talent and the sound of new songs being created is a real treat, and the evening performances in the Coach House are always outstanding.”

Harry Dearden

“When I was asked along to the Chris Difford Songwriting retreat I jumped at the chance, even though I had never done anything like it before. I was nervous – as I tend to write alone, but I was looking forward to being put in a completely different situation, meet new people and learn. As well as being open to it as something that would maybe make me see songwriting in entirely new way. I’m happy to report that that indeed happened. Meeting so many like-minded songwriters and spending so much time around them in the beautiful setting that isPennard House was truly one of the finest musical experiences I’ve had.

Seeing what Chris and the Buddy Holly Education Foundation do for musicians, whether they are experienced songwriters, established performers or new artists and songwriters is a rare and special thing. Something that will stay with me for a long time.”

Robert Vincent – (Bob Harris’s ‘Emerging Artist’)

“The retreat was thought-provoking in ways I’d never have predicted. An amazing opportunity. Grab it!”

Lail Arad

“Chris Difford’s Songwriting Retreat”… It’s all there in the name! Starting backwards:

Retreat; (verb) – to retire or withdraw as to seclusion and safety… (noun)- a place of refuge, seclusion, privacy.

Pennard House is the quintessential refuge from the din that distracts. There from breakfast through the 4am party, gigantic roses, just born melodies and the aroma of home cooked meals served by delightfully charming hosts mingle in a pastoral setting on the outskirts of the prehistoric vortex of Stonehenge where the muse has gone to hang out since the damn of time.

Chris Difford – The quiet cool musician writer who rules from the heart of his Utopia, anticipating the bounty du jour.

It takes one to know one and a fellow creative understands what happens when artists land in a world that fits perfectly, amongst like-minded others with a common creative goal, not to mention an eight hour deadline!

Put me down for next year, PLEASE!

Love and Happiness!”

Kimmie Rhodes

Back in the early nineties, in the wake of my band Fairground Attraction splitting up, I was somewhat a-drift, not sure of what to do next. My publishers suggested that I attend one of Chris Difford’s songwriting retreats, but I was reluctant. Frankly, the idea of going to the middle of nowhere with a house full of strangers and being expected to write a song everyday sounded like my idea of torture. I had always considered myself as a solitary soul for whom songwriting was a lonely toil to be done in gloomy isolation. It should hurt, shouldn’t it? Perhaps feeling slightly responsible for the time it was taking to pay back a hefty publishing advance, I caved in and headed west, down to Huntsham Court, a very grand old, albeit somewhat tatty, hunting lodge in Devon. It smelled of burning logs and great cooking and there was fabulous wine cellar, perhaps it wasn’t going to be so hellish after all…
The week that followed was life changing. I made friends, I laughed (a lot) and I wrote songs. Songs that could never have come out of my dark lonely room system, and yet, it was more than this, it heralded a new dimension in my creative life and indeed, in my life in general. What occurs at these retreats is something hard to explain to someone who has never been to one.
In June of this year (2015) I was lucky enough to be invited to take part in another CDSR, in Glastonbury, a couple of weeks before the festival. I think it was my 6th one. There were an extraordinary amount of talented writers there and even a few friends who I had met at my first CDSR, 25 years previous. What a thrill to share this journey with these lovely song people. My advice to anyone who is hesitating in the way that I did all those years ago, is this; take a little leap of faith – I am so glad I did – I guarantee, you will be too. “

Mark Nevin

Thank you so much to The Buddy Holly Foundation for allowing me to have the most incredible time at The Chris Difford Songwriting Retreat.
The retreat really did take me out of my comfort zone and I must admit I felt a little intimidated at first; being surrounded by so many creative people. Nevertheless, after deciding to really embrace the experience and jump right in, I left with some fantastic memories, new found friendships and more knowledge on how to write a song! Whether it was creating a song in a day with people I had just met, performing that very song the same evening, or singing around the piano with everyone until the early hours, I had so much fun. Chris, Peter, Venetia and the gang were so pleasant and I was taken aback by their kindness – what special people! It was a pleasure to be a part of this retreat and I am very grateful.

Luke Burr (Artist – Global Entertainment)

‘I was very lucky to be invited to come and photograph during the Cliff Difford Songwriting retreat in Sommerset.  I came in late and already within 24 hours it was obvious that everyone in camp had quickly struck up a bond.  I walked straight into the barn at Pennard House, dimly lit coupled with a comforting atmosphere.  Every group performing seemed like they had known each other for years.  Most of course had only met that day.  What an incredible occasion to not only photograph but to witness.  The energy and camaraderie was palpable. As a non musical outsider I was welcomed within minutes and made new friends instantly.
Over the next few days I was lucky to see everything developing around me.  I was in awe how easy all these artists from all walk of life made everything look.  There was a constant flow of energy between every individual that week and it was magic to watch.  Nashville based song writers, UK based song writers working with new talent fresh out and on their first retreat excursion.  Incredible seeing hit song writers making their very young peers right at home and more importantly interaction on an equal footing.
The last evenings performance was an explosion of emotions, joy and slight heart ache of everyone having to say goodbye.  How lucky to have been there.  Thank you.’

Sonya Jasinski

“Being given the opportunity by the BHEF to attend the CDSR was an awesome experience. I was surrounded by and worked with amazingly gifted and talented artists, writers and producers. The experience gave me the confidence to become a better writer/producer.”

Young @ud!o

“I was very fortunate to take part in the www.chrisdiffordssongwritingretreat.com. Chris Sheehan of Karousel music suggested i should take part. I was slighty unsure of what to expect. It was Taking me completely out of my comfort zone. As a writer one can immersed in ones style and mode of operation. Writing with a complete stranger and having the pressure to perform a fully written song by the end of the day was an incredible learning experience. It makes one aware at how much work one can actually produce in one full day. Someone wise told me that the writing muscle is like any other muscle. The more you work it the stronger it gets. By the end of the week the output of material was averaging 3 songs a day in and outside the writing groups. This was because we were all getting to know each other and then could comfortably throw ideas around.. .. I guess the most important thing i learnt was to never underestimate anyone. The myriad of styles and techniques of all the different writers was very insightful to watch and it was a learning experience to play and write together.

Pat Dam Smyth

“I never do writing camps as the whole concept usually scares the life out of me but I got asked to go to this one by a very good friend of mine . I decided to give it a shot and be sociable and I’m so glad I did . A fabulous assortment of writers from all sorts of musical backgrounds and turned out a lot of my old friends were there too . It made for a fantastic retreat , not only wrote some great songs with new and old friends but also had a great laugh . A really cool supportive vibe for artists and writers and would love to go again.”

Shelly Poole