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New venture helps journalist escape the rat race


A former regional press reporter has told how she is escaping the rat race – and helping others do the same – by running creative holidays in the south of France.

Moira Martingale, who has worked for newspapers including the Stockport Express, Bolton Evening News and Lancashire Evening Post, is part of a team which has set up French House Party, offering creative arts workshop holidays in drama, literature, art and painting, pottery and digital photography.

Moira, (53), who is also a qualified teacher, has owned a rural house near Carcassonne in South West France, for a number of years and had been looking for a way to make the house pay for itself when she struck upon the idea of creative holidays.

Also involved in the business is Anne Haworth, a former Blackpool Gazette and Wigan Post journalist who now runs her own ceramics business; art teacher Susan Keverne; Christopher Masters, an actor and theatre director; Maurice Holliday, a retired art teacher; and artist and former languages lecturer Julie Holmes.

  • Moira and Christopher
  • Moira said: “I didn’t want to rent the house out and this seemed like a great way to cover its running costs.

    “In our circle we had talented professionals, artists and actors. We’d all done some teaching. It suddenly seemed that our varied talents could combine into something really special.”

    The group ran a handful of courses last year, and ten more creative breaks are planned this year, with Moira teaching the book exploration course and the combined books and drama workshops.

    Guests so far have included TV and film executives, a retired surgeon, a psychiatric social worker, a stockbroker and journalists, and as well as learning new skills guests can make use of a swimming pool, a tennis court and soak up the scenery and history of the region.

    Moira said: “I used to teach A-Level English but it was a nightmare teaching kids – I used to like the research and the discussions but you also had to do marking and assessments.

    “This is wonderful because you can choose the books or scenes and do all the nice bits of teaching without the nasty bits.”

  • As well as a varied career as a staff journalist in the regional press, Moira also spent time freelancing for the Liverpool Echo, Sunday Times and Today. She was also a TV columnist on The Sun, under the editorship of Kelvin MacKenzie, and was a columnist on the Birmingham Post for ten years.

    For more information about French House Party, visit