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Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Twenty-fourth Festival is over!

Can a good thing keep getting better?

So far, the Swindon Festival of Literature has.

This year’s Festival, from 1st to 13th May 2017, was remarkable, moving, thought-provoking, entertaining, inspiring, memorable, and meaningful.

We - audience, authors, and workers - had a very good fortnight.

The largely simple formula on which the Festival is based, probably as timeless and universal as recorded human history, of men and women talking and listening to one another, hearing one another’s stories, exploring new ideas, being moved, to think, cry, and laugh, has worked, continues to work, and seems to matter more and more as years go by…
Though deep into a highly-technological twenty-first century, it seems that we are still, in one key sense at least, no different to cave men and women, sitting round a fire, scratching our heads, and wondering about the meaning of life.

A brief blog like this can barely capture or record the full Festival experience, of shared events, memorable moments, marvellous meetings of minds, delightful disagreements, connections made, shared laugher, understanding, and the magic of it all. (The Festival Chronicle is more comprehensive. See )

But, since words and ideas are at the heart of the Festival, especially words and ideas from authors, here, by way of memories of the Swindon Festival of Literature 2017, are a few of them.

Solo explorer Benedict Allen said ‘My windows into other worlds are not mountains, oceans, deserts or forests but PEOPLE’.

Solo traveller Hilary Bradt pointed out that travelling alone means you can look at an amazing view without someone beside you saying ‘Look at that amazing view!’

Bearded hurricane on the history of writing, on cuneiform script, Dr Irving Finkel, reminded us that ‘the people who invented writing, on clay tablets, were not poets or philosophers, they were taxmen!’ and then added ‘Writing is more important than putting man on the moon!’

Food blogger Milly Millbank said ‘I’m just going to waffle on a bit’ and did, but with great charm, explaining that she had found a food stylist who said ‘to be healthy, you don’t have to eat food that looks like frogspawn’. Discuss!

Terry Waite, once chained in solitary confinement in Beirut for almost 5 years, said that one of the worst situations for human beings is ‘when law and order breaks down, and all hell breaks loose’.

Oliver James reckoned that ‘schools are warehousing for children…’

At the signing table, a young man asked mathematician Marcus du Sautoy, ‘Do you believe in life after love?’

Scientist Brian Clegg said, ‘We can see 45 billion light years in each direction’ and ‘In the brain, relativity rules’.

Polly Morland reckoned that ‘the possibility to make changes in your life is the very definition of freedom’

Clover Stroud, speaking about her wild side, movingly, said, ‘I’d written about a celebrity’s bottom but I had not written about my mother.’

Catherine Mayer pointed out that ‘there are good people in every political party, and dreadful ones too!’

Ingrid Seward said, ‘The Queen is quite a feminist!’ and quoted Groucho Marx: ‘Anyone can get old. You just have to live long enough.’

On arriving in the UK, from China, Xiaolu Guo said, ‘I was shocked to see how backward Britain was’; and when asked to recite a poem in Chinese, said, ‘That’s a stupid cliché!’

Roman Krznaric claimed that ‘We hate losing about twice as much as we like winning!’

Laurence Rees said that ‘The way people avoid taking responsibility for what they don’t like is to blame a minority.’

Stephen Law said that ‘Holding views that conflict with those around you is very uncomfortable.’

Vanessa Kissule said, ‘Because we do not have a common language, I cannot speak to my own grandmother.’

Chris Redmond said, ‘I like nature, all that big green stuff.’

And the undersigned said, ‘Thank you, authors, performers, audience, helpers, and all.

The next Swindon Festival of Literature is due to take place 7th – 19th May 2018. Till then, keep well, keep reading, keep watching, keep asking questions; and if you have any good Literature-related ideas, suggestions, requests, or want to help in any way, please get in touch, with us, at the Swindon Festival of Literature!’

Matt Holland