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Friday, 10 May 2013

Light, local, and heavy

‘It’s very exposing to write, very self-revelatory’ said a nice if nervous Judy to a vocally-rampant Richard, addressing a real live day-time audience in the intimate auditorium that is the Swindon Arts Centre.

Then they chatted about Judy’s first book, set in Cornwall, with ghostly bits in it. On cue, a gust of good old Wiltshire wind whistled through the back stage window, with a great moaning and whining that almost upstaged the famous duo.

Richard was at pains to declare their writing (he has a book due out in July) ‘not intellectual or literary, like that Orange Prize stuff’.

There was the occasional Richard and Judy moment, when she would chide him with ‘Oh God Richard’. It was fun, I think.

The author and speaker to follow them on stage could not have been more different. A C Grayling may have been questioning much that R & J hold dear. He certainly thought it right to challenge and question, with intellectual rigour, all religious beliefs. ‘Even children should be encouraged to question these things’ he said.

He observed that most inventors of religions or religious movements were men who proceeded to have multiple wives, except for St Paul, founder of Christianity, who was reckoned to travel with a band of boys.

But beliefs are strong, as evidenced by the reply from the Irish woman who, when asked if she believed in fairies, replied, ‘No, I do not but they are there anyway.’

The day got even more challenging when George Monbiot proposed bringing elephants, wolves, and tigers back into our lives and countryside. Re-wilding it’s called and he reckons these and other wild animals can reverse the cycle of ecological degradation.

He went on to slam sheep, for the ‘eco-destruction’ they cause, calling them the scourge of the hillsides, woolly maggots, and the white plague. He did however, in his well-thought out way, explain that getting rid of roaming sheep would not necessarily mean the end of mutton meals.

There is a lot to like about ideas of re-wilding.

There was a lot to like about the other five events on day four of the twentieth Swindon Festival of Literature.

Local writers produced another fabulous edition of their Swindon Heritage Magazine, as did Mum’s the Word for their second edition. And Alison Brackenbury brought fine poems to BlueGate Open Mic night, which had an array of other poets and fine music too. At West Library, Shackleton crossing of the Antarctic was described by Stephen Haddelsey, while at Lydiard House, Dr Hickman enlightened a full house on plants as medicine.

The litfest team’s meal and de-brief at the end of the day left us with more than simply supper to digest. Mmmm.

Matt Holland
Photo credits: Richard Wintle – Calyx Multimedia