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Lifelong learning expert speaks at Languedoc retreat in March

From bank clerk to band leader, from RAF corporal to international executive and more than a quarter of a century travelling worldwide as one of the leading experts on lifelong learning.

Not to mention, being professor and advisor at six (6) different universities, manager of international education projects linking companies, schools, cities and regional councils, hundreds of academic papers and a multi-book author, including non-fiction, poetry collections and an autobiography-cum-love story, 'The Boy from the Back Streets of Bolton: And the Girl from Deane.


Meet Englishman Norman Longworth whom we’re delighted to announce will be one of the guest speakers at our upcoming writing retreat amidst the beautiful, bucolic southern French landscape of Languedoc.

Norman with colleagues at a UNESCO conference.

Restrictive class-based English social and educational structures often prevent young talented people ‘from the wrong end of the tracks’ rising to the top professionally.

Not Norman.


Piano player, composer, cricketer, tennis player, golfer, singer, writer, octogenarian, Norman will talk about his colorful, multi-faceted life visiting more than 40 countries in the course of his work with the European Commission, UNESCO and other global bodies, and his views on the concept of lifelong learning based on this vast experience.

In doing so, he’ll take retreat participants on a mesmerising journey involving ‘a belly-dancing exhibition and magic show’ opposite the sphinx in Egypt to his experiences in the Senbikiya Shopping Centre in Japan where an apple ‘the size of a child’s head’ costs 20 dollars and a 50-story hotel with thirty restaurants and ten lifts, where - true to his working-class roots - he preferred to eat egg and bacon in the basement cafeteria.


In his gregarious company, participants will circumnavigate the globe, from Lymington to London, Paris to Brussels, Mecca to Johannesburg, Moscow to Cork, Florida to San Francisco, Tel Aviv to Canberra and onwards to Thailand, Russia, Hungary, New Zealand, China, the Arctic Circle and other places too many to name.


Aged 75, Norman climbed Canigou, a rugged 9,000 feet high mountain peak whose majesty can be admired from the elegant hotel where our writing retreat will take place.

“It’s not necessarily education but the act of seeking new knowledge, understanding, critical judgment. Recognising this will keep your mind fresh, open, active and wide-ranging. Many people settle into a routine lifestyle, allow their brains to atrophy and become prisoners of disinformation, conspiracy, manipulation. Democracy itself relies on lifelong learning to work effectively.”

Aged 79, he won an individual golf award in France.


Aged 81, he embarked on a 32-hour journey to Taipei to speak at a conference and ended up rock n’ roll dancing and performing a rendition of well-known Irish ballad, ’The Rose of Tralee.’


Aged 83, he set off to fulfil a long-held dream: to see what he calls ‘the dancing lady,’ the Aurora Borealis, in freezing northern Finland.


Aged 85, Norman finished his long-awaited autobiography - thus illustrating the fact that it’s never too late to put pen to paper.

Norman and Maggie celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

During our retreat participants will also get to know Norman’s loving wife and soul-mate of more than 60 years, Maggie, a Lancashire lass, who cared for him in hospital as a teenage nurse, whom he describes as having, ‘the energy of ten nuclear plants and an erupting volcano combined.

They’ll also learn of Norman’s close-encounters with death - near drowning after ‘swallowing enough water to sink the Queen’s yacht’ and a cliffside car crash on a lonely mountain road, as well as a bout of EColi.


Norman’s a walking medical odyssey in his own right having survived cardiac problems including a haemorrhaging aorta, peritonitis caused by a ruptured appendix, a severe case of vertigo, cataracts, cystitis and an arthritic back.

Through it all, his unwavering earthy humour shines through.


“Learn something new every day. Challenge yourself. Join a course such as ‘Ireland Writing Retreat’ that enhances your creativity and keeps neurons buzzing. Watch educational programmes on TV. Keep up with changes in politics and local and world affairs. Contribute to your community, your family, your planet. Never lose your sense of humour. Interact with others.”

His views on learning are captured in two phrases: ‘The secret to success is the determination to never stop learning.’ And ‘Once you stop learning, you might as well be dead.’

Norman and Maggie and their adorable Australian sheepdog, Jupiter, reside contentedly in the idyllic French countryside just a few miles from the charming town of Prades, where our writing retreat will take place.


Book your place at this Spring Writing Retreat
in Prades, Pyrénées-Orientales, France

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