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Whistle – Martin Figura

21 May

Martin Figura chose the Swindon Festival of Literature for the last performance of his hugely successful show ‘Whistle’. Shortlisted for the ‘Ted Hughes Award’ and winner of the 2013 Saboteur Award for Best Spoken Word Show, ‘Whistle’ tells, through poetry and images, an incredible and compelling story.

Martin’s mother was killed by his father when Martin was just 9 years old.

Expectation could be set for a ‘misery memoir’ style hour of poetry but Figura’s elegant storytelling and engaging stage presence makes sure for a riveting and unique experience instead.

Cleverly used visuals place both the poetry and the narrative in context with 1960’s toys and adverts both used by Figura to add humour to the show.

‘Whistle’ is not about self-pity or dark shadows, it does have its laughs although the overall picture painted by Figura’s poetry is one of pain, disbelief and loss.

Particularly resonant for me were the childhood visits he made to his father in Broadmoor, the mere name conjuring some sort of chill but Figura brings beauty even here with his poem ‘Dad’s Alma Mater’ ending

‘A deer breaks loose from the gorse     shakes rain from yellow flowers, I remember being small.’

Built from fragments of memory, letters, photographs and research ‘Whistle’ is a triumphant and captivating show.

The accompanying collection of poems also called ‘Whistle’ ends with a piece where Figura imagines dancing with his mother in her later years.

Entitled ‘June’s Birthday Waltz’ it is a touching and very personal dream sequence.

Swindon should feel very privileged to have been the location for the final performance of this powerful close reading of lives and death.

Of chickens and beards. Writers Workshop at Swindon Festival of Literature

20 May
Chicken going about her business at Lower Shaw Farm ©Calyx Pictures

Chicken going about her business at Lower Shaw Farm ©Calyx Pictures

Aims of a lit fest:

  1. Meet writers
  2. Hear about writing
  3. Think about what’s been written about
  4. Do your own writing
  5. Work out what to do with your own writing so others can
  6. Go back to number 1.

I’d done numbers one to three (a lot) and written (a lot) about the experience. Now it was time to come up with my own composition. Which was, as it turns out, something to do with chickens and beards. Continue reading

To be or not to be? Do it. Do it! Think Slam at Swindon Festival of Literature

20 May

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So I decided the night before the Think Slam that I was going to do it. Do it. Do it.

That needed to be said several times as the only time I previously entered the Think Slam, I came last. But that’s me. Utterly nail it or completely miss the point. I am not an inbetweeny kind of woman.

So on Thursday I finally had three solid ideas in my head for the three times three minute pieces, and checked on the off chance that there was a place left in the competition. There was. Okay, I now had one chronicler piece to write up that day. Check. Two for Friday. Check. And three think slam talks to hone for Friday evening. Oh gawd. I really don’t like life to be simple.

And to really make it interesting, I woke up on Friday to a nasty headache.

At 1pm, after chronicler Pete shoved some painkillers down my throat, I began to write. I spent three hours on the first talk and an hour on the next two. I work quite well under pressure, fortunately. The chronicler pieces would have to wait.

After Sandrine Berges’s interesting talk on unsung hero Mary Wollstonecraft, it was time for the Think Slam to commence. Continue reading

Festival Finale

19 May

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With a touch of sadness, songs, guitars, words and bicycles that lit up, the Swindon Festival of Literature 2014 came to a typically unique close.

Guitarist Richard Durrant opened proceedings with works by Paraguayan composer Agustin Barrios, his intricate plucking courtesy of a local nail bar. Continue reading

How to get a book on the best seller lists – Carole Blake at Swindon Festival of Literature

18 May

Do your research, says legendary literary agent, Carole Blake.

Carole’s event at Swindon Arts Centre on Thursday night wasn’t appropriate advice for all writers – poets, people happily writing for fun, journalists, non-fiction, niche – but this gem universally rings true, whether you’re writing a CV or pitching your precious first book to an agent.

And it’s easier than ever. Check out most agent’s website and they’ll give you a step-by-step guide of what they do and don’t represent, in which format to submit your work, etc. And, of course, you need a cracking book that they like and think they can sell. Continue reading

An overlooked hero – Wollstonecraft in Swindon Festival of Literature

18 May

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As with many notable historic women, Mary Wollstonecraft is an overlooked hero.

Sandrine Berges, a French professor flown from her home in Turkey for the Swindon Festival of Literature, has a mission to raise Wollstonecraft’s profile.

Wollstonecraft was a British writer and philosopher who wrote what is probably the first feminist tract.

“Wollstonecraft would have been shocked at how slowly things have moved for women today,” said Sandrine, arguing that Wollstonecraft’s values have still not been fully realised.

The eighteenth century writer and philosopher lived a pretty racy life for a women in that age. She did not deliberately set out to provoke society – she came from a respectable family abeit with issues – she simply wanted the freedom to live the life she wanted to lead. She had two lovers, fell pregnant, fell in love with another man and fell pregnant again. She married the father of her second child but lived apart from him so they could both maintain their independence. They shared childcare of the first child. Sadly for her and for early feminism, she died days after the birth of her second child. Continue reading

A night at the museum – Swindon Festival of Literature

18 May

Salvador at museum

 

What could be better?

A night at the museum, a smile and a new book!

Salvador our official Night Time at Museums Correspondent says ‘Jump, the stories that made me jump, I jumped, everybody jumped at the scream, jumped, I did, I jumped.

The stories that made me jump were the best. Continue reading

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