What people are saying…

Thanks again for an incredible week. I loved every second of it and still wake up every morning wanting to be back at the retreat. I’ve worked as both an artist and a songwriter with so many different people from around the world, but nothing compares to the four amazing days at the Chris Difford songwriting retreat. In 4 days, I learned and evolved more than I have done in in the last couple of years. The vibe is great, Pennard House is absolutely gorgeous and the way you get put together with writers that you never would cross paths with elsewhere, this will create magic!

Lasse Melberg

Stellar songwriter Chris Difford has created a safe haven for artists to shine, thrive, connect and create. There is magic in the air and love in the grounds at the enchanted Pennard House.

I am so grateful that the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation recognizes how important it is to nurture and support both emerging and seasoned talent and how valuable and blessed the musical blend can be when mixing and matching the two.

Julia Fordham

Humbled and inspired by such an amazing experience. Grateful for new friends and songs created.

James House

CDSR was one of the most magical weeks I’ve ever had. To be surrounded by so many talented musicians and to be writing songs with them each day was an experience I’ll never ever forget. Also, getting to hear so much about the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation was so inspiring!

Eleanor Nelly

What an enriching week! Where else do you get to write songs, have a collective summer experience, win the lottery for friends and know you were witness to the earliest rendition of some soon-to-be classic songs? Kudos to CDSR and BHEF for keeping it anchored in the creative process and not about egos or the music business. I thank everyone who took part in the retreat for making it so magical.

Judie Tzuke

As a first-timer on CDSR at Pennard House I was nervous to be around so many talented artists and writers. But, everyone was so supportive, friendly and generous emotionally. I felt I made some future friends and co-writers. Watching everyone perform every night it was wonderful to hear songs that hadn’t existed at breakfast time and I thought the standard of songs were fantastic. All in all, I loved the experience and am missing everyone – so can we do it all again next year please?

Judie Tzuke

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)

“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

I must admit, I was exhausted when I arrived, having been touring non-stop pretty much since early April. And it took me a while to change perspective, to slow down and to try and get into a writing mood. So my thanks to John and Emily on day 1 for their enthusiasm and youthful exuberance.

It was a joy to share the company,  and the music of both old hands and new faces … especially the new faces.

I loved, and agreed whole heartedly with Judith’s words about ‘the hope it gave me for the future of music, seeing and hearing so many brilliant young people shine, with something special to say’. Hear Hear

I don’t know if it is because of its proximity to Glastonbury, or if I am getting too new age about it, but Pennard House felt like a special and creative place. And it was no surprise some great work was done their that week

But creativity and songs aside, the most treasured thing I will take away is the shared time with some old friends and the making of new ones

So, my heartfelt thanks to Chris and Trudie (the James Brown of logistics), to Marc and Miles and Bob, to everyone in ‘the big house’ (what great hosts), and a special honourable mention to Peter Bradley. Indeed, a true “brown eyed handsome man”  What a brilliant thing the BUDDY HOLLY FOUNDATION is. If ever an artist should be associated with such a song writing event , it is surely Buddy.

I hope we all cross paths somewhere down line in the next 12 months…. at a gig, a festival, in a studio, at motorway service station or a truck stop but if not, and if I am fortunate enough to be invited back, I’ll see you in the bar(n) next June.

Michael Weston King

I can’t think of a better way of spending a day of my life, than writing a song… I can’t imagine there can be a cooler bunch of people to spend that day with…….

Chris Neil

I was anxious when I arrived on Sunday evening. Songwriters can be a funny breed: a strange paradox of introspective introverts who desperately want to share their feelings with strangers… What if they’re all a bunch of weirdos who are eager to ‘bare their souls’ (and perhaps their bodies) at campfire singalongs? What if they’re all on an ego trip, ready to turn their noses up at my fragile ideas? It was a wonderful relief to realise that, in fact, they were all a bit like me: they just love writing songs, talking about songs, thinking about songs, playing songs…

The real brilliance of the retreat is the mix of musicians who are taking part. Some have long, successful careers in the industry, and some are just starting out, but everybody’s input is valued, and the week is all the richer for it. It’s a fantastic opportunity for like-minded (or – even better? – differently-minded) people to pursue a shared love of songwriting together, at leisure, in magnificent, becalmed surroundings.

But it’s much, much more than this, too. It’s a group therapy session, albeit without any qualified professionals to spoil with the fun. It’s a religious experience, but without the need to repent. It’s a sumptuous wedding reception, but without the tedious speeches. And, sometimes, it’s like doing a stint in prison, but with a better choice of drinks. And then, every evening, magic drifts through the trees at Pennard House, as a kaleidoscope of beautiful, new music twists before your eyes and ears. Bliss.

I am humbled by the musicians I shared the process with, and grateful to Chris Difford for having the vision. Heartfelt thanks go the The Buddy Holly Educational Foundation, Peter Bradley Jnr, the WBBC crew (Marc, Trudie, Bob, Miles and Dylan), and all of the staff at Pennard House as well. If you genuinely love songwriting, this is an opportunity you cannot afford to miss. You will be transformed. You will be made new. The power of song compels you!

Matt Stevens

This was my first time on CDSR. I’m so pleased I came, wonderful new friends, great new songs and the best gig nights.

John Grimsey

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)

“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

“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

“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

This was my second year being part of the Chris Difford Songwriting Retreat and it was a real pleasure being invited back and getting to write with such wonderful artists and songwriters. As a touring artist it’s such a luxury for me to be in one place for a whole week, in incredibly beautiful and peaceful surroundings, and become completely immersed in songwriting. I always feel like I push myself as a writer and am inspired to explore different avenues writing with people who might have a completely different style to me. Being part of an event supported by the Buddy Holly Education Foundation feels very special – remembering his huge impact on music and seeing brand new songs created and performed every day is a magical thing to be a part of. It’s definitely become a highlight of my year!


Speaking as the honorary Lubbock Texan of the bunch I’d just like to say that I think Buddy Holly would be very proud of the fun loving egoless frolic presented by the foundation that carries his torch under the watchful eye of the mighty Peter Bradley! The calm and fearless leader of “Camp Pennard,” Chris Difford, because he too is a writer and musician, is assuredly hip to what artists truly need to be happy, creative and productive. The Lords and Ladies of the stately manor add a distinguished “string to the love balloon” (not to mention the garden that boasts at least a million roses the size of dinner plates!!!) Add the goddess of organization herself, Trudie Myerscough-Harris, and “Team WBBC” to the mix to get the daily sounds and pictures nailed down just right and you’ve got magic… magic… magic! Put me down for life please!

Kimmie Rhodes

It was a truly inspiring and educational experience and it gave me a yearning for more collaboration. It was such an honest-to-goodness exchange of ideas with talented, genuine, cool people. Kudos, thanks and respect to Chris Difford, The Buddy Holly Educational Foundation, Bob Harris and the UTAT crew and all the people who make the retreat happen.

Brian Johnstone

Would like to say thanks to everyone for being so welcoming. You have all broadened my mind and perspective on songwriting and creativity in general.

Blair Crichton

It was an honour and a pleasure to be a part of the Chris Difford Songwriting Retreat this year at Pennard House. There was such an energy about the place and the people that you couldn’t help but be inspired by your surroundings and the creativity that flowed there. I must also thank the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation for sponsoring the event – Buddy’s legacy is in good hands with them and I’m sure he’d be proud to be associated with such an event and the bringing together of so many musicians and songwriters. I look forward to crossing paths in the future with all the new friends I made at Pennard House.

Al Lewis

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