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Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Festival Flying!

Director’s Blog has been temporarily discontinued for a good reason. The happy fully-engaged Director simply has no time to write it during the Festival.

But it will be restarted, very soon after the Festival has finished, late May, with a full, frank, and frisky round up of events.

Watch this space, late May. There’s more to say!

Meanwhile, you can always find out what our Festival Chronicler thinks of daily proceedings.

Matt Holland

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Brigid Moss - Thu 17th May - Cancelled

Due to low (no) advance tickets reservations/sales, Brigid Moss has decided to cancel her appearance at the Arts Centre that was scheduled for 6.30pm on Thursday 17th May.

Apologies to those who were planning to attend on the night.

Ali Mcnamara - Tue 15th May - Cancelled

ALI MCNAMARA, who was scheduled to appear at the Arts Centre at 6.30pm on 15th May, sadly cannot appear due to illness. As it is too late to find a suitable replacement, this event has been cancelled.

Apologies from Ali Mcnamara and the Festival.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Ducklings, turkey chick, and the first day of the Festival

On Festival eve, eight ducklings hatched in dairy dining room at Lower Shaw Farm and a solitary turkey chick shell-toothed its way out of a bantam-warmed egg and joined them. They are all, of course, cute beyond belief and an attraction and distraction to Festival authors and workers alike.

But we all managed to tear ourselves away from them to set up for Dawn Chorus at 4am in Lawn Woods. Among the trees, in the early-morning darkness, as the birds’ singing was ending the Festival was beginning. The pipes played, the Samba drummers drummed, the jugglers threw fire, the Scratch Choir threw their voices and the hoola hooper her hoops, the poets and storytellers threw words to the sky, a very nice man with very nice child and a naughty balloon had us in stitches, and light cloud on the horizon parted and the rising sun lit up and warmed the frozen faces of two hundred plus who knew where the action was at dawn on the first spring Bank Holiday in Swindon. It was a great start!

Next, we headed across town to lovely Lydiard Park, story-walked 3k, freedom parkran 5k, and listened to talks on running for life and running for your life. The day ended at the Platform, once a railway workers’ chapel, now a fabulous venue where the Glow Globes played mellow tunes and we had one last story.

Pizza for supper and a great sense of gratitude for a wonderful first day of the nineteenth Swindon Festival of Literature.  And more to come. Yay!


Dawn Piper

Dawn Singers

Dawn Gathering

Jake the Juggler

Bruce Airhead and helper

Thursday, 26 April 2012

New Authors, Winning Poets, and Broody Bantam

Professor Wade AllisonWade Allison
Two new authors have taken the places of two who had to cancel.

On Thursday 10th May at 6.30pm Professor Wade Allison steps into the slot vacated by Mark Lynas and tackles a not dissimilar topic. In his talk, after the title of his book, Radiation and Reason, he will outline a clear, positive, and accessible scientific account of the effect of radiation on life.
John SummersJohn Summers

On Thursday 17th May at midday, John Summers replaces Ian Leslie, honestly. Occasional broadcaster on Radio 4 and former worker at Saatchi & Saatchi, John takes a light-hearted look at the art of complaining.

This week, the results have been announced of the nation-wide Swindon Artswords Battered Moons poetry competition, that is part of this year’s Festival. There were hundreds of entries from all over the British Isles.

The winner comes from London but the runner up is a local poet and member of Swindon’s BlueGate Poets. Also, among the four entries that were highly-commended is another local poet, from Wootton Bassett.

To have two out of seven winners come from our area is terrific and represents a real achievement for local poets.

Chief judge, Professor of Poetry in Manchester and prize-winning poet in his own right, Michael Symmons Roberts said, ‘The final decisions were tough, because the standard was so high and the entries so very varied.’

Fellow judge and London Poetry winner Cristina Newton said, ‘It is a privilege for me to be involved in the Battered Moons Poetry Competition. It really is putting Swindon on the literary map.’

To which I would add this. Not only is it exciting that Swindon Artswords’ first national poetry competition has had so many entries and been so successful but also, that two of its winners are, so to speak, home grown and Festival followers. This is wonderful, that these two local writers have done so well in such a tough competition that includes poets from far and wide. It bears testimony to the way in which Literature and the love of good writing and reading is thriving here.

Come to the Festival and see!

Now, must go. The broody bantam is off the turkey eggs and is calling for a slice of soaked bread. -
Yes, I know, that needs some explaining. Will do, anon.


Sunday, 8 April 2012

Events, eggs, and excitement.

Barely two weeks since launch date, and one event, the Mindfulness Workshop, has already sold out. Hot on its heels for popularity and up-take of tickets are Camila Batmanghellidjh, John Simpson, Mark Williams, Will Hutton, Melissa Ben, Claudia Hammond, Stuart Maconie, John ‘Boycie’ Challis, and the Swindon Think Slam!

Talking of competitions, as I write, final judgements are being made, from hundreds of entries, for our big Battered Moons Poetry Competition. And judging is already complete in the smaller but equally intriguing Young People’s FLIT180 novel-into-a-film competition Talking of competitions, entries are coming in fast for both Swindon Slams, the poetry and the think one. At this rate, final contestants may have to be drawn from a hat.

The pre-Festival warm-up event has happened, in the shape of Paraguay at the Platform. It was great to flex our organisational and technical muscles at a new venue; learn a few more things about the importance of getting it right on the night; and then enjoying the fruits of our labours. The harpists, in costume, excelled themselves, as did the stand-in Mastermind contestant. And the Paraguayan food, chipa and sopa, hand-cooked by two natives of that country, who are better know as composer-conductor and banker-‘ambassador’, hit the spot too. By the end of the interval, it was all gone.

And at the Festival’s HQ, Lower Shaw Farm, spring’s first chicks have hatched, live, in front of our eyes, in the Dairy. It is reckoned that you have not lived till you have seen a chick come out of an egg. If that’s true, then a whole bunch of children and grownups have well and truly lived as they witnessed every dinosaur-like little cheeper shell-tooth its way into the world. Once dried and straightened out, the multi-coloured chicks are cute beyond belief.

On Easter Sunday, at 3pm, residents and visitors from Lower Shaw Farm, plus a good few adventure-seekers from Swindon, will be egg-rolling on the slopes of Avebury. A real tradition and loads of fun. You can come too.

Matt Holland

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Spring and South America come to Swindon

A week is not a long time in Literature. After all, one famous writer reckoned that he spent a morning putting a comma in and the afternoon taking it out again, and considered that a good day’s work.

Since the Festival programme was launched al fresco on that sunny midday in the Central Library courtyard last week, Swindon’s car fuel station’s have had their underground tanks sucked dry by queues of motorists but our helpmates at e-motion (see have still managed to deliver programmes throughout the region.

Alas, with timing to make an organiser’s heart sink, two authors have ‘had to cancel’: Jane Costello 15th May as result of being called up for jury service, and Mark Lynas, 10th May, summoned by the president of Korea. (Didn’t say if it was Lee Myung-bak of the South or Kim Jong-un of the North.)

But spring sunshine is still saying yes to all things to do with life and Literature in  Swindon.

This week saw lots of writing-related action at the Festival’s HQ, Lower Shaw Farm.  The Toothill Long Poem, created by Hilda Sheehan and West Swindon students, got its first run out before a discerning Writers’ Cafe and workshop audience.  On the same night, across the farm yard, busy mums made time to work on their magazine, aiming to launch it at the Festival on 10th May.

Already, on the very first day of April, we warm up for the Festival proper with a little Paraguayan fiesta, this Sunday 1st April.

PARAGUAY at the PLATFORM • The Platform, Faringdon Road, Swindon • Tel 01793 466454 or on the door • 7.30pm • Sunday 1 April • £5

An open mic event for guitarists, violinists, singers, poets, and storytellers from Swindon to meet harpists, musicians, and friends from Paraguay.

Presented in association with the Swindon Festival of Literature and Paraguay’s Sonidos de la Tierra.

Performers will include international music maestro Luis Szarán, harp-playing twins Margaret & Rosemary, Rebecca the Mastermind expert on Paraguay, and Swindon’s newest band Jamocracy, plus cool poets, hot storytellers, and doubtless a surprise or two.

You can come too! Bring your instrument, your ideas, your poem, your story, your song, or just yourself along.

Hope to see you there!

Hasta pronto amigos y amigas.

Matt Holland

Friday, 23 March 2012

The 19th Swindon Festival of Literature was launched. Yay!

At 12 noon yesterday, the spring sun shone on the open-air courtyard of Swindon’s prize-winning Central Library, which was full of the best and keenest of Festival followers, including poets, students, workers, OAPs, and MPs, and the programme for the 19th Swindon Festival of Literature was launched. Yay!

Chatting, nibbling, and reading programmes, hot off the local Acorn press, assembled folk looked lovely, to me anyway, especially the ones wearing Festival T-shirts but in their own choice of colour, like perfect pink and bright orange. And the 5-year old twins in ‘nightgown’ litfest-logoed T-shirts were beautiful beyond belief, even when they played ring-a-roses races round the dignitaries silver chairs.

Last year’s Youth Slam winners PWA (Poets with Attitude) performed their winning poem, which, among other teenage topics, finger-wagged at intolerant parents, but with an appropriate mix of affection, compassion, and humour.
The town’s new Manager for Arts & Libraries spoke freely and positively about the arts in Swindon and sang the Festival’s praises, and called it quirky, but with an appropriate mix of affection, compassion, and humour.

One of the town’s MPs spoke spontaneously, about his love of books, even e ones, and the Festival too, echoing the ‘quirky’ epithet, but of course, with an appropriate mix of affection, compassion, and humour.

And I spoke too, with a thankful mix of affection, compassion, and humour, about local makers, suppliers, and sponsors, without whom the Festival could not happen. And its helpers too, which on this day included a kindly Australian, an elegant grandma, numerous salt-of-the-earth Swindonians, and a terrific teenager from Swindon’s largest family.

The excitement was such, at least for me, that I forgot my peroration, to go through the programme, highlighting highlights and lowlights. Oh dear. I do hope it will be read rather than glanced at. There’s more to this celeb-free prog than meets the casual eye. Read it, on, and see!

By mid afternoon, back at the office, down on the farm by the hen house, and first email from box office comes in. It says that people have come straight from launch, to book tickets. Yay!

Matt Holland

Look out for weekly updates on what's happening in preparation for the Festival.