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Thursday, 9 May 2013

Austen home life, animal wildlife, sacred lands, and comic books

‘The writers I know have always said how wonderful this festival is’ said P D James to a packed Swindon Arts Centre. ‘And I am delighted to be here today.’

‘In fact, I shall have a useful reminder of my visit to Swindon. I have bought a Zimmer frame from the mobility shop across the road’

PDJ not only gave a sparkling talk on her admiration of the work of Jane Austen, answering questions on mother and father characters but was also a splendid example of growing old actively both in mind and body. At the end of her hour on stage, she made her way down the steps, one by one, and on reaching the bottom, got a standing ovation. There was a twinkle in her almost-93 year old eyes as she thanked her fans.

‘That’s the most relaxed I have seen her with an audience’ said Joann, who had flown in for the Festival from Boston, USA.

Another completely relaxed but engaging and informative speaker was Kate Humble, who, though taken by surprise, went for a cuddle with the on-stage caged ducklings as if they were life-long friends. She handled them with the ease of a true lover of wildlife.

And she spoke with passion and in detail about everything from rhinos to badgers, education to farming, and conservation to connecting with poetry.

Across town, in Swindon’s prize-winning Central Library, Martin Palmer had a near full house for his talk on Britain’s history through its rural and urban landscape but not enough of his books as Watertsones had underestimated the popularity of a good speaker with a good book at a groovy festival.

But back at the Arts Centre, Jimmy Pearson, all the way from Oz, was the victim of laptop compatibility equipment failure but manfully proceeded to present his Comic world, sans visuals, describing the process whereby teams of writers and artist produce comic books with words and pictures that ‘deal with serious and important issues.’

Thankfully, he had enough books, even for the select if small audience, sixty percent of whom bought one.

Yet another surprise at the SFL: a little event, an informative talk, and big book sales.
Matt Holland
Photo credits: Richard Wintle – Calyx Multimedia