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All good things come to an end – Swindon Festival of Literature Finale

2 Jun

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All good things must come to an end, and this good thing ended with a bunch of crescendos, and some climaxes courtesy of poet Jo Bell.

Swindon Festival of Literature is about authors, and books, and thoughts, but the Festival Finale traditionally throws music and poetry into the mix, allowing the festival faithful a chance to kick back, rest weary brain cells, and wallow in entertainment. Continue reading

A Little thought-provoking thought – Think Slam! at the Swindon Festival of Literature

19 May

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A little thought provokes and a little thought at the Swindon Festival of Literature provokes an event called ‘The Think Slam’ which is now in its sixth year.

Festival Director Matt Holland has often championed Swindon’s Literature extravaganza as a ‘Festival of Thinking’ so it’s easy to think of the ‘Think Slam’ as the thinking man’s cherry on top of the think cake of the festival of thinking (if you think like that).

Seven contestants thought that their thinking could make the judges think enough of their thoughts to crown them ‘Swindon Festival of Literature Think Slam Champion 2015’.

The event itself is less debating society and more poetry slam without the poetry (a nice niche idea I’d have thought), replacing the babbling bards, are of course, the seven ‘thinkers’ who are judged not only by two thoughtful judges, Radio 4’s Matt Harvey and Tedx talker Suzannah Lipscomb but by the reaction of a deeply thinking, thoughtless or thunk out audience. Continue reading

What I Bring

19 May

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Who are often spoken about but have rarely a chance to speak?

It sounds like a riddle but really it’s an observation, one that storyteller Rachel Rose Reid makes in Swindon Festival of Literature’s performance, What I Bring.

Beginning ‘as all good things do,’ said Festival director, Matt Holland, ‘as a conversation between two people’, the idea behind What I Bring grew into a collaboration between Swindon Library, Artwords, The Harbour Project, Swindon Dance and Swerve Dance Company, and woven together by Rachel Rose.

Armed with her own international heritage, Rachel told her collected stories before she introduced the dancers, who performed to a soundtrack of recorded tales of refugees and asylum seekers, newly arrived in Swindon. Continue reading

Staying calm with Linda Blair

17 May
Linda Blair

Linda Blair

Deep breath and OMMMMM….

At least that was what I was expecting during last night’s session with Linda Blair on mindfulness, but that didn’t happen. Linda is a clinical psychologist based in Bath who has written The Key to Calm, a book on how we can bring more calm in our world. Her approach is much more about being aware of yourself and your surroundings rather than finding a way to escape from it. And it seems like the world needs it; I was surrounded by a packed out audience of stressed out men and women, all looking for advice on how to manage their lives better. Linda has really positive energy and a we-can-do-it attitude made better by her Southern American accent and I’ll put my hand up and admit I was one of the first to yawn as I relaxed in her presence. I was also quite anxious as everyone in the audience seemed to have a pine cone in their hand. Why did they all have pine cones and I didn’t? Was there something special about the people with pine cones? Were they the chosen ones? Why wasn’t I offered a pine cone, etc? Continue reading

Damn fine words – writing workshop with Matt Harvey at the Swindon Festival of Literature

17 May
Writing workshop with Matt Harvey

Writing workshop with Matt Harvey

Matt Harvey’s writing workshop yesterday was a lesson, not just in writing, but how to run a writing course. We had three and a half hours to learn. I felt sympathy for Matt when we introduced ourselves, a proper mixed ability class.

There were published poets and Karen, a novelist with an agent. There were also people who hadn’t written since school; for Lucy that was twenty years ago. That’s one diverse crowd to cater for in a single workshop.

But the great thing about writing is that a person becomes a writer when they write. Whatever inspires a person – with a pen, pencil or finger to put it to paper or electronic device and create words – is job done. Continue reading

Public Intellectual is not a dirty name – Suzannah Lipscomb at Swindon Festival of Literature

17 May

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Given the reaction of the tabloid and ‘quality’ press front pages during the election, you may be forgiven for thinking that today’s public intellectuals are Katie Hopkins, Jeremy Clarkson and Russell Brand.

Happily, you’d be wrong on two counts and you can argue the toss with me about Russell. The term ‘public intellectuals’ sit uncomfortably with the British public, too self-congratulatory. The French are fine with it. But, boy, do we need them.

According to historian Susannah Lipscomb at the Swindon Festival of Literature last Friday, public intellectuals are the clever people who emerge from quiet libraries; they don’t endlessly research a particular point that only five other people care about.

They arm themselves with encyclopaedic knowledge, for sure, have a long hard rumination about all of it – then they get out there, tell people what they know and have an opinion about it: “They use knowledge and learning to change our shared world,” says Suzannah. Continue reading

The best PM Britain never had – Alan Johnson at Swindon Festival of Literature

16 May
Mark O'Donnell in conversation with Alan Johnson

Mark O’Donnell in conversation with Alan Johnson

Alan Johnson has had a bad week. Labour lost the election, his beloved Queen’s Park Rangers were relegated, and he discovered that his new next door neighbour in the Houses of Parliament offices is Alex Salmond.

Continue reading

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