Chateau Duffy was more than just a project…

Jo, a first-timer at Chateau Duffy, reflects on her experience:

A holiday..?
Well, kind of, and a great big melting pot of building, sharing, crying, hoping, eating, drinking, laughing, giving, receiving, learning.

Jo ready for anything

Jo was ready for anything on site!

Chateau Duffy was more than just a project, driven by American vision and British compliance. (Ha.) It was an exhausting and exhilarating experience, things shared and gained in the context of community chaos.It was unique, leaving you with a feeling that impossible things can be achieved. Shannon steered it all with attention to people and encouragement. There was a great sense of being in something together, sharing the good, bad, ugly and which in general people embraced with a good sense of humour, even after the odd accident! The spiritual dynamic was a complex pattern, people with many different views and experiences, but times to reflect and encouragement to be open and responsive to God were all a part of it.

The church at St Denis

The church at St Denis des Murs.

Personally, I was blessed to find a church, right next to our gite, on Easter Sunday, open, empty, with a single candle lit, nestled within the setting of rural, meadow swept, silent France. I felt communion in this place and was blessed to be able to have my guitar and sing. Such a massive contrast to my London life!

Also there was the community aspect, where evenings were filled with delicious food, good wines, and cross culture mixing, chatting. Complimented by Gwen and her magic hands, offering massages.

Meeting a group of Dutch guys (also building and renovating in the area) started an interesting dialogue, and they came to our final night BBQ celebration, where one of them said to me how totally amazed he was that we were all doing this. They also got involved in our camp fire prayers..

I faced fears, embraced new challenges, met some incredible people, and saw life through a new lens…

No regrets. Chateau Duffy, is recommended.

We’re back

Just checking in to let you know that the Chateau Duffy crew is back from their latest trip and pretty much in one piece. (There were a couple of injuries, but not hugely serious!) Well, the Brits are back – the Americans are still in transit – but the trip is over.

There’s a huge amount to say about it, not just about the construction that took place, but also the community building and relationships made – especially amongst residents of St Denis des Murs itself. This trip was something of a landmark in terms of our relationships with local residents – culminating in a great party on the site on Friday night, complete with a Chateau Duffy movie screening! (More on that later…)

Chateau Duffy April 2013This is how it looked a year ago. 

Chateau Duffy, Monday April trip

 Hard work during our first proper day on site last week. 

Chateau Duffy Thursday, April 2014Thursday morning, after the concrete flooring had gone into the house.

Chateau Duffy, Friday night, April 2014The site getting ready to party on Friday night. 

Several regulars commented that they felt it was one of the best trips we’ve had and we’ve certainly returned very keen to return this summer. Finally, it looks like the dream of making Chateau Duffy habitable might actually be realised!

Over the next couple of weeks we’ll share with you some of the stories and highlights from the trip, so stay tuned…

Gathering at Chateau Duffy again

It’s been a year since our last trip, but tomorrow sees the start of Chateau Duffy #5! In fact, a few of the crew are there already, but most arrive on Saturday for a week of hard work and good fun.

Chateau Duffy April 2013Chateau Duffy the day we left it last year, complete with new, concrete floor.

This trip has been so highly anticipated that it was fully booked last autumn. (Although, in true Matryoshka Haus fashion, some have dropped out and others have seized their places.)

What’s brilliant about Chateau Duffy is the way in which the team reflects the way in which the community has changed and grown since the last trip. So this year we have people who have only been part of the community for a few months; new partners; a Texan from the Learning Lab (lovely Brendan); and Californians met during Matryoshka Haus’ trips there last year.

The Texan crewEric, Carl & Regina en route from Texas to Paris.

While we’re there, we’ll be celebrating Easter together, which is always a very special experience – it’s up there with Thanksgiving as an important occasion to be together as a community.

There is a plan – there will be more pointing (much more pointing) and work may begin on the house next to the barn – and we’ll let you know how we get on.

In the mean time, if this makes you keen to join in the fun, you can register your interest for the summer trip here.

Good Brunch at Farm Shop!

This Sunday was the last of the spring Good Brunches. For those reading who may not know, the “Good Brunches” is a project where MH hosts a series of community brunches to discuss existing and emerging social issues, for the purpose of deciding what our next big social project is going to be on. This particular Good Brunch was again hosted at Farm Shop, where Rachel, Rich, Sarah, Susan, Cihan, and I gathered to examine the brainstorming process of generating potential projects & solutions. While we did not discuss any specific real issues, Rachel organized “joke” projects in order to get our groups thinking more creatively; “start a fashion trend to bring back top-hats in London”, “Get a law passed that require everyone to break for afternoon tea & cakes”, etc.


After generating many ideas to achieve these goals, Rachel the introduced another random factor we had to include in our solutions; Elephants, children playing games, etc. Personally, I was all for the direct approach – threaten to release a herd of Elephants in the city unless parliament passed our law for tea & cakes. Though we had many different ideas, some practical (like mine) and some not-so-practical, I do feel this “Good Brunch” effectively illustrated the depth of brainstorming and decision making that goes into designing the types of projects we  do at Matryoshka Haus; that is, creatively finding a critical point of systemic impact in society. Even with a completely ridiculous cause, the group was still able to generate some great ideas that really cut to the heart of what we want to achieve. This made me think about how Matryoshka Haus is always attracting & uniting very different groups of people for a common cause. I can’t wait to see what our next big project will bring!


Our next round of Good Brunches will take place after the Chateau Duffy trip, starting the beginning of May. Everyone is invited to attend, and I believe we’ll be sending more information out soon!

Until next time,