Living the Dream in Portugal – Kit and Samantha Jennings
In August 2013, my husband Kit and I embarked on our biggest journey of our life.…we left our native home in Bristol, UK and set up Sozo Arts in Portugal. It had always been our life long dream to host arts holidays in a beautiful and sunny location, but we had no idea how we would realise this dream. Kit and I met at an adults ‘A Level’ evening art class in St Albans in 1991; you could say our eyes met over the top of the easel, fortunately neither of us was the ‘life’ model! We tied the knot three years later, and made one further vow…to run an arts centre somewhere warm and sunny.
As well as creating and exhibiting a fine collection of water colour, acrylic and oil paintings, Kit has worked as a college lecturer in engineering design. He has directed many of the visual arts courses that we have run, amongst others Recovering our Creativity (based on The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron), a popular and well attended children’s art group in Cheltenham and in recent years has been the main instigator and developer of Sozo Arts. I have always taught and choreographed dance (ex-teacher and mentor for the RAD) and I was very fortunate to have that talent handed on to me by my Royal Ballet mum. Together Kit and I have hosted arts courses for SANDS, Axiom arts centre, Gloucs Carers, Greenbelt festival, St Albans and Cheltenham Vineyard. We were both featured on BBC news (South West) for our petition in trying to save the Cheltenham Axiom arts centre from closing down due to fraud.
After a few happy trips to Portugal it dawned on us that this country, with its rich heritage of arts & culture, amazing light and great beaches, presented an ideal place to run arts activity holidays. It was also a happy coincidence that Kit received a voluntary redundancy package in 2000 and together with a rather unusual mortgage agreement (with the original Dutch owners) legally bought our Portuguese property near Sao Martinho do Porto in 2002. Plans to escape to Portugal were spurred on by our frustrated attempts to start a family which ended in bitter disappointment. Using a home exchange facility we went on a personal retreat to discuss whether we would go ahead with the process to adopt a child (as we had been recently assessed and approved) or pack our bags and go and ‘live the dream in Portugal.’ The outcome was that in Aug 2013, Kit left his job, we packed our bags and moved to Portugal, and Sozo Art Holidays was born! Just before we left the UK, we celebrated Kit’s mum’s 80th birthday by producing a skit called Artists Abroad, utilising all the nephews and nieces talents into a comical drama about our perceived exploits here, and naturally we miss all our family and friends in the UK. Incidentally, as we often get asked, the word Sozo derives from the Greek word meaning health and wholeness, which we hope all our guests will experience through a creative holiday.
“The local life, light and colour here in Portugal attracted us to the Silver Coast. There is something wonderful about the charm, measured pace of life and the warm hospitality of the people.”
Artists Abroad relates our adventures and antics; the fun and the laughter and the blood sweat and tears that all can encounter on a life changing move. Perhaps the blog also asks a deeper question ‘surely everyone can be creative if they want to….can’t they?’
Samantha Jennings www.sozoarts.org