Network News: The Sense of Place

By Gill James
An interesting place to meet?
I’ve already touched on this little in earlier posts – see particularly my post about the quirky nature of the events room at Waterstones, Deansgate, Manchester. Getting the right place for your meeting or critique group is extremely important. You need somewhere where you can talk undisturbed but where you can feel good about yourselves too.

Here are a few examples:

The IBM Club, Hursley, Winchester 
We used to meet in the beautiful panelled committee room. A couple of us were IBMers or married to someone who worked for IBM. As we met early evening folk coming straight from work could grab a bite to eat in the bar first. We were a group of SCBWIers and graduates of / students on the Winchester MA in Writing for Children. On a warm summer’s evening we have been known to sit on the terrace, with the sound of leather on willow in the background in the cricket season. One time we even worked in the Sunken Garden when the committee room had been double-booked.

Sherlock Holmes Hotel, rear lounge, Baker Street, London 
This is an elegant lounge. You are expected to buy a drink and they’re not cheap. However, it’s a given that people will sit for a couple of hours in creative meetings.

There was a lovely fire in winter and it was always quiet. Handy for the tube as well.

Most of us in the group had a short commute into London and we often ended up in the basement of the nearby Starbucks on our way to the hotel, so we sort of had a pre-meeting over a coffee and a sandwich.

Chester Library 
We’re offered one of two meeting rooms for our meetings: the small one at the back, which looks out over the hills towards North Wales, or the larger one at the front, from where you can look down on the buzz of an historic town on a Saturday morning.

It’s always good to be near books when you’re talking about writing them.

The Refectory, Chester Cathedral 
We’ve used this for social meetings rather than critique groups. It’s a little gloomy and can be quite cool in winter but the drinks are reasonably priced and it’s never crowded, even on a busy Saturday just before Christmas.
It can really feel as if your discussion is adding to history because you know you are in a building that has hosted many other important debates. The wisdom seems to ooze out of the walls.

The Black Swan, York, upstairs room
 Yes, of course this is actually a pub. But recently they offered this upstairs room for free to a group with which I worked as part of the Writing Festival if every member bought at least one drink.

Many places will do this – especially if you pick a time when they’re not likely to be able to hire the room out. Popular times would be:
  • Anytime Monday 
  • After breakfast or late afternoon Saturday. 
  • Early evening most days 

What to consider when looking for a venue for your group 
  •  A space where you can talk in peace and without disturbing others 
  •  Access to refreshments at a reasonable price 
  •  A place that is special and allows you to feel special 
  •  Obtaining the agreement of the owner / manager / landlord 

Over to you 
  • Where does your group meet?
  • What's special about the venue you've chosen?
  • Any more tips for choosing a venue? 

Next week: 
How has being involved in a network has helped you with your writing and/or getting published?
Please let me know at

Gill James writes mainly for young adults. She lectures in creative writing at the University of Salford where she also runs the Creative Café Project which is all about creative spaces for creative practitioners.      



  1. Gill, I remember our critique group meetings at the Sherlock Holmes hotel with great affection - such a lovely place to meet.

  2. Our York group started off in an upstairs room at El Piano but we now meet in the central library. The facilities are great for workshops, there's a choice of rooms and we have access to whiteboards etc. We are able to have it for free too as we're classed as a community group. We have occasionally met upstairs in a pub too, the name of which has gone right out of my mind!

    1. It probably worth us all remembering that term "community group".


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