Mike & Janie from Chez Castillon

Mike and Janie were our guests back in 2012…

How a chance glimpse of a small photo in a newspaper, left on a train, changed the lives of two actors forever.

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The newspaper was The Independent.

The article was about property prices across Europe and the photograph that changed our lives was of a large 18th century townhouse in south west France.

The area was unknown, similarly the language, yet only a few months later we found ourselves clutching the keys to our new French property.

The house required serious renovation and, as our DIY skills consisted solely of an appearance in a B&Q commercial, it was a daunting prospect!

We had a limited budget and only six months in which to finish the project and commence our new business.

Our new venture was to run short residential courses in painting, creative-writing and photography.

As actors there had been some career highs: a feature film with Demi Moore; a stint in London’s West End; an Olivier award and a tour with Gilbert O’Sullivan. Also, some career lows: Leonardo the Ninja Turtle, Desperate Dan, the worst production of Romeo & Juliet ever to grace the stage and… a tour with Gilbert O’Sullivan!

The idea of us running courses began after attending a writing course run by best-selling novelist Anita Burgh (who is now one of our creative-writing tutors).

It was something we thought we would enjoy; something we hoped would provide an income and something that would still enable us to pursue our two loves of writing and acting.

We spent two years looking at various properties in both Scotland and Suffolk!
We spent two hours looking at the house in France!

It has all been an enormous learning curve! Again, like our acting career some highs and some lows – luckily far more of the former than the latter.

We did finish our project on time – just – and had an extremely successful test run of a painting course in late summer, 2010. Some quotes:

  • “A wonderful five days – Mickey and Janie are fabulous hosts and the tutor was brilliant.”
  • “This surpassed all expectations!”
  • “It is hard to find the words to describe the most wonderful time I have had at Chez-Castillon.”
  • “The hospitality and warmth of our hosts Mike and Janie and the ambience in their beautiful home was truly fantastic.”
  • “In thirty years I have not enjoyed teaching as much as this!”

Now, with the help of our team of skilled, professional, friendly and occasionally flamboyant tutors, we are launching more courses including:

Course Tutors
Painting Lynne Bushell, five times winner of the Prix de Portbail award.
Photography David Lloyd; Howie Taylor; David Graham.
Creative-Writing Veronica Henry; Louise Allen; Jane Wenham Jones.
Crime Writing Adrian Magson.
Cartoon Drawing Simon Pearsall, winner of Joke Cartoonist of the Year award.
Others TBC.

To find out more about Chez Castillon and the courses there, visit their web site: chez-castillon.com.

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