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What’s been happening at French House Party this year?

Well, as international travel made a tentative return to people’s post-Covid agendas – quite a bit, actually.


We staged a couple of Gastro Academy residential cookery courses. A new Creative Writing tutor took up her quill and dipped it in the inkwell as she prepared to join the team (this is figurative, of course; Anne Caldwell is not actually Victorian).


But arguably our most exciting brand-new 2023 event was four fun days of songwriting instruction from the incomparable Mike Batt.

Cookery, Magic and Genius

Ten musicians and songsmiths joined the man famous not only for being a multi-platinum recording artist but also one of the UK’s most respected writer-producers whose work spans multiple genres: smash hit pop and rock songs and ballads for artists like Katie Melua, Hawkwind and Art Garfunkel, plus film scores and musicals – and composing for and conducting some of the world’s finest orchestras.


Oh, and of course, there were his 50 or so Wombles’ huge hits in the 1980s which, 30 years on, saw him onstage with the other Wombles at the 2015 Glastonbury Festival, in full Orinoco Wombles suit.



For our 2023 course participants, it was a sublime four days. We had a handful of pianists, some singers, songwriters, guitarists, creators of stage musicals and an Australian composer who had played viola with prestigious Symphony Orchestras in both London and her hometown of Sydney.


‘A great weekend and a brilliant experience’ said one attendee, Colin. ‘Fantastic’ said another – Karen. `It unlocked several mysteries of songwriting especially the enlightenment of melody writing, lyrical evolution … all covered in an entertaining and accessible fashion … the educational content was engaging and of a high standard,’ she said.


As well as guiding the participants during group sessions and one-to-ones, Mike also fitted in an evening supper concert in the garden which was open to the public and it was blissful. Under a warm summer sky with fairy-lights twinkling in the growing darkness, our maestro performed many of his best-known songs, from Bright Eyes to I Feel Like Buddy Holly.


And naturally, a couple of Wombles songs met with great audience enthusiasm. So here’s a fun fact: 2024 is the 50th anniversary of the first Wombles chart hit. Surprised? Well, time (and Womble) wait for no man….


To see a short film of the 2023 songwriting course, check out this French House Party YouTube link:

Next Year’s Dates: Summer Songwriting 2024 with Mike Batt will be Friday 14 to Monday 17 June. The all-inclusive per-person cost sharing a room is £995. (Single occupancy supplement applies).


Places are limited, so songwriters and musicians who would like to attend this amazing event should contact Moira Martingale at as soon as possible.

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8-13 September: Get Starry With Our Stunning Chefs

(And keep reading for an eleventh-hour money-off bargain!)

It’s hard to believe that here in beautiful Carcassonne we have been running our high-end Gastro Academy residential courses for 15 years.


It was 2009 when two local chefs d’excellence – friends Robert Abraham and Jean-Marc Boyer – were inspired by the idea of introducing the sort of superior cookery courses which had never been experienced in this part of southern France.


Oh yes, Paris had Michelin-star tutored sessions – but outside the capital city: zilch.


In 2009 Robert was head chef at a prestigious luxury hotel and had just won Chef of the Year in the region; Jean-Marc was luxuriating in the Michelin-star awarded to his restaurant, Le Puits du Tresor and getting invitations to cook at celebrated New York and international restaurants.


And here these two culinary geniuses were, teaching at French House Party … it was incredible!


A few years ago, Robert retired with his family to his homeland of Brittany, but Jean-Marc remains, fitting our FHP courses into his astonishingly pressured restaurant schedule, together with other external commitments (which include being called up by President Macron to cook for the odd event).


Our second chef is now Gregory LeGros, whose pedigree includes managing kitchens in a string of 5-star international hotels. His last position before he returned to his Languedoc home was as head patisserie chef at the impressive Sandy Lane in Barbados. 


Which is why our upcoming Gourmet Explorer course (8-13 September) will include a ‘3-hour Just Desserts’ session, simply devoted to life’s sweeter things.

May 2023: Jean-Marc with doomed lobster.

May 2023: Jean-Marc with doomed lobster.

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And Greg prepares pâte feuilletée - puff pastry.

And what of the special offer I mentioned?


In this upcoming Gastro Academy course – only a matter of weeks away now – we have a couple of rooms available, which we would like to offer to subscribers of this newsletter at an extraordinarily low price.


The usual price for the 6-day residential course is £1460 per person, but for 8-13 September we are offering a two-for-one price of only £750 each, sharing a room. That includes all meals with wine – whether at home or out at excellent restaurants –  a trip to market, a chocolate-making afternoon plus a further production visit. We also provide first and last-day free transfers from Carcassonne station or airport.


Spontaneity has its rewards, you see!  So what are you waiting for?  Contact Moira on or phone on UK mobile number 07900 322791 to grab this awesome bargain immediately!

Creative Writing 2024:  10-15 May, 2024

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Six days to relax in inspirational rural French surroundings enjoying great food and wine. 


Six days to immerse yourself in your writing in the company of other writers. 


Six days of mentoring and guidance from our outstanding resident tutor, Anne Caldwell.


A published writer and poet, university lecturer, editor and a specialist mentor in poetry, life-writing and short fiction, Dr Caldwell promises to aid the development of your writing regardless of your genre – and to kickstart it if the dreaded block threatens.


Her emphasis will be on building skills and confidence and sharing work with the other participants in daily workshops and one-to-one sessions. She will advise on such things as structure, storytelling, character development and how to use language imaginatively.


Our 2024 all-inclusive price of £1,025 (single supplement of £50 applies) covers everything except for travel costs to Carcassonne, including at least one restaurant meal. We can also provide free transfers from Carcassonne on the first and last days.

Get in touch to reserve places on this course.

Anything else...?

A host of new ideas is swirling around at French House Party, ruffling the sunflowers somewhat.


Future possibilities include tennis coaching for small groups of eight players, weekend jazz workshops with two professional jazz musician-tutors and even ‘Writing Crime’ – which would include a Murder Mystery evening!


Keep in touch with us to get the latest information.  Our website is and our email address is


You can also follow us on our Facebook page:


Or on X, formerly known as Twitter:  @FrenchHousePart

Bye for now,


Moira Martingale

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