Swindon Festival of Literature Launch 2014

21 Mar

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The Death Cafe. “Everyone welcome but not recommended for anyone recently bereaved.” I’m wondering if I should go to this on Monday 12 May as my cat died a few weeks ago.

She was twenty years old and this was, I’m told, a ‘good innings’. But she was part of our family for nearly half my life so our cat-lessness is making us sad.

But what’s this got to do with the launch of the twenty-first Swindon Festival of Literature, yesterday, noon, at Swindon Central Library?

Funny you should ponder. Sandwiched between Nathan Filer (The Shock of the Fall) and Kate Adie (Needs No Introduction), is the Death Cafe, a discussion about death and dying. You may partake of rich tea but perhaps not sympathy. Bring not your raw nerves; bring instead your pragmatism. Continue reading

Swindon Festival of Poetry Finale

12 Oct

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Claire Trevien. A beautifully spoken poet in holey tights. Professionalism stripped when asked to speak in French on stage. She’s been in a Best British Poetry 2013 book, so, class act. I liked Introduction to Love, which was what would happen if the rules of writing a thesis were applied to a romantic relationship. You can probably guess.

(I missed Kim Moore. Soz. Apparently she was rather good.)

Elvis McGonagall. Richly deserved one-time World Slam champion. Hilarious lefty comedic political rantings. Harpooned the Queen, Prince Charles as ‘Prince of Biscuits’, Iain Duncan Antoinette ‘Drowning in debt? Then give us a wave / Sell yourself in Poundland. Try to save / Dance as you dig your own pauper’s grave / On 53 quid a week’, and Margaret Thatcher in A bed at the Ritz. Really doesn’t like Tony Blair either. Continue reading

Bardwell O’Neil are Game – Swindon Festival of Poetry

9 Oct

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Bardwell O’Neil are Game turned out to be the perfect format for a seven year old to write poetry. Basically: a running around game, followed by writing down words about it, followed by another running around game, followed by more words, then poetic genius, followed by more running around games followed by more poetic genius. Wears me out just remembering it.

Yes, I’m probably biased because it’s my seven year old writing the genius poetry. But here’s the evidence: he’s had a story blog since he was four, loves to recount tales (and is addicted to Doctor Who and most other things that happen to be on TV), and going without his bedtime story is the ultimate punishment. However, by the time he’s sat down (what seems like the whole day) at school, and has done his homework (still getting my head around homework at his age) he doesn’t want to concentrate on any more writing.

So Sue Bardwell and Heather O’Neil, both with young sons, embarked on this experiment on Sunday (Broadgreen Community Centre at the Swindon Festival of Poetry) to get kids, boys in particular, writing poetry. So – by way of playground games such as Fruit Salad, Chains, Bulldog and What’s the Time Mr Wolf? – they get kids energised, then thinking about words associated with their actions and emotions, then writing them down into verse and stanzas. Continue reading

Roger McGough – Swindon Festival of Poetry

6 Oct
Roger McGough

Roger McGough

Roger McGough’s Friday event at the Swindon Festival of Poetry, As Far As I Know, was a masterclass in brilliant delivery.

Much of the time I was laughing out loud, which made his more thoughtful pieces hit even harder. What I really like about Roger’s work is that his poems at first seem really straight forward and easily understood, but then Roger plays around with the words like a Wimbledon champion, slicing and top-spinning until they flick a winner over the net when I was expecting a passing shot.

Such as A Fine Romance which is about dementia, Alzheimers and, er, love.

Or in As Far As I Know, where he lists the awful things he hasn’t done, before comically mixing them up: ‘molested a bomb soaked in voicemail.’

Poet Laureate Carol Anne Duffy called Roger the patron saint of poetry, so he wrote a response to her best known anthology, The World’s Wife (see post), by way of, for example, Mr Nightingale (spouse of Florence Nightingale) and Enid Blyton’s husband. Mr Blyton is fed up with his wife’s fictional characters supplanting him in their marriage, so he wishes that a haunted cave would collapse on the Famous Five or ‘five famous skeletons wash up on some distant shore’.

And I think I’m with him on that.

Sliproad Poetry – Up the Junction! at Swindon Festival of Poetry

6 Oct

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Yesterday I went down the M4. Well, physically I crossed the great divide of the M4 from the Marlborough side to the Swindon side. But poetically I travelled from Bristol to London, being a bit late for Swansea and Cardiff.

Up the Junction!, part of the Swindon Festival of Poetry, was the loose theme for sticking a bunch of poets together in a room (at the impressive youth centre The Platform) for a large chunk of the day. And it worked in the same way cabaret works – some you like, some you don’t and some passes you by.

At this point I must share that I took my (almost) six month old along and, as any parent will tell you, things tend to revolve around them. Sometimes because I have to tend to her needs, sometimes because I realise I’ve been stroking her head and not paid much attention to anything else.

Heather, who had her third child a couple of weeks after mine, was there with baby in tow. We are both pretty tired. ‘Are you getting much of this?’ I think she asked me, or I asked her. ‘Sometimes I catch a line I like, or one I don’t. Both good,’ she said. Continue reading

Poetry, prose and Swindon celebrities on vintage bus tour

5 Oct

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You know those coach tours of celebrities houses you can do in L.A.? Today we did the Swindon version.

It was all aboard the vintage Daimler double decker bus for a journey around Swindon’s hidden gems.

Our hosts were “community poet emeritus” Tony Hillier, who promised us “a day of heritage and word juggling,” and Graham Carter, editor of Swindon Heritage magazine and, if not a font of all knowledge, then certainly a bucketful of quite a lot of it.

Our magical mystery tour  – The Beatles only managed one, Swindon Poetry Festival is already on its second – started and ended at the childhood home of Richard Jefferies, now a museum.

For the uninitiated, Jefferies was one of England’s greatest late Victorian writers. Continue reading

Now That I Am in Swindon and Can Think

3 Oct

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Roddy Lumsden at Swindon Arts Centre Studio

Poems aloud, stolen poems, painted poems, Twitter poems, poems for dancing to and a poetic actress from ‘The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover’, Swindon Festival of Poetry is back for its second year and has had an amazing first day. Things kicked off at the Central Library where Hilda Sheehan encouraged all comers to share their favourite poems on the National Poetry Day theme of ‘Water‘ and beyond. Continue reading

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