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Sunday, 19 May 2013

Feminine energy, farm verse, and fabulous Finale!

At midday on the last day of the Festival, Frances Lewis and Adelina Abad Pedrosa took their audience, with words, pictures, and stillness, on a tour of ley lines, human energies, and sacred landscapes, in a lovely indoor landscape at the Swindon Yoga Centre.

Meanwhile, at Lower Shaw Farm, writers met for a writers’ lunch, to fuel and friendly them up for an afternoon of versifying with poet Jo Bell. Apparently, the good company and farm food did its stuff and writing to write home about happened, happily.

And so it was that we came to the final event on the thirteenth day of the twentieth Swindon Festival of Literature, the Festival Finale in the Swindon Dance Studio at the Town Hall.

Martin and the more muscled members of the fabulous Festival crew moved tables, chairs, heaven and earth to give the Studio a cabaret feel. Festival followers, clutching hot tickets (sold out weeks ago) queued patiently to get to their hot seats.

They were duly rewarded when the night kicked off with a terrific live set from Festival favourites, the Glow Globes, aka Laura and John Holmes. We were transported, immediately, to all the sweet places their music takes you. Or, as one member of the audience, Chris Eddy, put it: ‘Completely magical! They capture perfectly that longing with which, despite every sorrow, we embrace life.’ As philosophical Think Slam champion, he should know.

After the musical entree, we switched to a words warm up from Jason Maverick, doing what he had done so well at first light on a chilly morning at the very start of the Festival. Dextrously, he played with his contact balls, taking care to explain that, though they glittered, they were neither crystal nor gold; and was mischievously playful too. ‘Brontosaurus, you were here before us// Herbivorous.’

Next, newly-published Swindon poet Hilda Sheehan took to the mic and, with perfect intros, delivered perfect poems that perfectly captured her unique take on the world of drudge, domesticity, and the darker places of the human psyche. Via her poet’s eye and sharpened sensibilities, she took us into a world that included seals in bathtubs and lines that spoke of ‘lots of love-making//but no love’. Arresting, her poems bristled with life.

To finish the first half, a young man stepped up, smiled, put his flute to his lips, and blew us away. Well, he made me cry, with joy.
Dan Shao played Debussy’s Syrinx; new composer Kristina Arakelyan’s Window to the Street, based on a Franz Kafka poem; and, his two tours de force, The Great Train Race and Zoom Tube. The last two pieces both used the flute in frolicsome ways, with multiphonics, vocal input, and ‘jet-whistling’. This was terrific train stuff, as if written specially for Swindon. We loved it!

We were also rather partial to Jo Bell, as well as her poems. But she did take some members of the audience by surprise when asking, ‘Anyone here had sex?’, which got no hands up but plenty of English titters. Jo, who claimed to put the fun in dysfunctional, went on to read poems that were . . . . well, terrific, scary, delightful, moving, mischievous, and marvellous. You could take your pick.

The final poetic offerings came from Festival favourite (sorry about the alliterative cliche but, quite simply, he is, an SFL ff) Matt Harvey, who, with a stream of tenderly-raised rhetorical questions and kindly innuendo, took us to both intellectual and emotional places we love to go. - On the question of whether or not it’s wrong or right to steal from your employer, even if it’s only a paper clip, he asked, if the self-employed steal from their employer, is that self-harming?

And the final bit of magic came from musical ffs, the Glow Globes, whose encore saw them sing the last note of Dedicated to the Angels with heads tilted, side by side, in complete musical harmony, a closeness and coming together that felt like it spoke for the Festival as a whole.

It was a perfect and musically-eloquent ending. It spoke volumes, and saved me seeking ‘suitable words’ for an extended peroration. So I was happy, brief, and to the point.

From the moment we glimpsed that first slither of sunlight, the top edge of the rising sun, at dawn on 6th May, to the final note from the Glow Globes, this had been quite the most remarkable festival, full of good thought, good words words, and delightful discoveries. It had brought together so many people, had such a buzz, and been a true communion of words. Truly terrific.

And so we ended as we began, with the lonesome wail of the watering can.

If you were part of the twentieth Swindon Festival of Literature, as author, performer, participant, or member of the audience, thank you. I hope it was as good for you as it was for us, for me and my hard-working, hard-playing, life-loving SFL and LSF crew.

Till we meet again, keep well. With thanks, greetings, and best thoughts.

Matt Holland

PS. If you have any requests, suggestions, or ideas for authors, performers, or events for the next Swindon Festival of Literature, 5th – 17th May 2014, please let us know.

Photo credits: Richard Wintle – Calyx Multimedia