Upfest 2018 celebrates The Simpsons and women’s suffrage

30 Jul

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Upfest celebrated its 10th anniversary this weekend with arguably its biggest coup to date.

After teaming up with the Mr Men in 2016 and Morph in 2017, organisers this year announced a collaboration with The Simpsons, and their creator Matt Groening, who handpicked three artists / teams to bring America’s most dysfunctional (until The Trumps came along) family in their own style.

So it was fitting, in a festival that also sought to mark the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, that some of those artists should be female. Continue reading

Festival Chronicle contributor turns spotlight on Swindon for new book

26 Jul
Angela Atkinson with her book Secret Swindon

Angela Atkinson with her book Secret Swindon

A new book revealing Swindon’s hidden gems will be officially launched this weekend by one of our own writers.

Festival Chronicle contributor Angela Atkinson turned her passion for the town into a blog, Born Again Swindonian. And having attracted a following from around the world, the blog has now spawned a book – Secret Swindon.

Continue reading

Black Deer steers family towards Country

13 Jul

Ignoring worries of line dancing and Dolly Parton on repeat, I left the cosy confines of my home with an open mind and an unnecessary amount of camping kit to attend the first Black Deer Festival.

The festival was held in the picturesque setting of Eridge Park, reputed as the oldest enclosed deer park in England. After voicing my concerns about stags massacring the tents, I was reassured that they had been moved for the weekend and were not, as I feared, being prepared for a live fire stage cooking demonstration.

Quicker and cheaper than a flight to Dallas – albeit a long walk from the car park – we were swiftly transported to a new world. The world of Americana and Country. Continue reading

Festival Finale – Things WILL only get better

21 May

SwindonLitFes_2018_0020_Jacob_Hi_Ho&Darine_Flanagan_previewAt the finale of the Finale of the Swindon Festival of Literature, circus performer Darine carried Jake and the festival into a new era – next year it morphs into Spring Swindon Festival of the arts.

One could be forgiven for feeling reflective. Laura, of musical act the Glow Globes, observed, “Is it a little melancholy tonight because it has been 25 years and things are going to change?”

A film showed us the growth of the festival from a programme of twelve events to over fifty. “Who told us festivals to look forward to this week include the Cannes Festival and Swindon Festival of Literature?” festival director Matt Holland asked in a short audience quiz. The answer was Radio 2. Continue reading

Change the pictures, change the world – Kate Raworth and Doughnut Economics

21 May
Kate Raworth

Kate Raworth

Kate Raworth wanted to change the world. She tried it in a village in Zanzibar. She tried it in the UN, and then at Oxfam.

But her days as an economics student came back to haunt her. How could a ‘social science that studies the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services’ (Wikipedia) be so far removed from ‘real-world economic challenges’? In all her forays into social justice, she banged herself against an economic brick wall. It’s impossible to create lasting change when the system itself is wrong.

Kate decided the main problem was the wrong pictures. Surely money, you may ask? But no, pictures – with a glut of blank spaces for people to fall into. University economics 101 uses a series of very memorable diagrams by a young US professor, Paul Samuelson, drawn after the second world war. These pictures, Kate said, sit at the back of visual cortex and influence our thoughts.

Just as memorable (read: creepy) was his aim for them: he wanted to ‘lick the blank slate of the mind’. You may recognise their simplistic black marks – the ones where a line starts at the bottom corner of the graph and zooms off to the top (GDP and unlimited growth); or a toilet door-style man whose only concern is how much things cost and how much he has to spend; or those hump back hill ones where some people lose out at the start before everyone starts to win; or where horrible waste is made, but don’t worry because prosperity will clean it up.  Continue reading

What the kenning? – Matt Harvey, writing workshop

21 May
Matt Harvey at the Festival Finale

Matt Harvey at the Festival Finale

Kenning, according to Matt Harvey, is a way of describing things and their function through creative language and metaphor.

Make sense? No, me neither at first. But, as he explained further it did, with his sharing of work and examples along the way: blood as battle dew, clouds as God’s pocket fluff, and slugs as soft-horned invisigoths.

It is a process that is taught to children. Books are even written about it: Valerie Blooms’  Things to do with Kids Kennings an example of one Matt explained. And, it was to be an important part of our first task. This was a workshop after all; a fact which I had appeared to have forgotten over a leisurely lunch and a spell in the sunshine in the serene surroundings of Lower Shaw Farm. Continue reading

Swindon Think Slam – prompting thought as opposed to answering questions

21 May
Martin Hawes

Martin Hawes

Will Self shared at his talk on Tuesday his fear that some people attend Literature Festivals in lieu of reading – as if an author event will provide a quick literature fix. And at my first Think Slam, I was conscious of doing just that.

I am not well versed in philosophy. An ex-partner who studied a degree in English and philosophy once joked to friends: “she thought that Plato was a ceramics company.” I didn’t – honestly – but it was a low blow to someone uninitiated to the subject.

Therefore, as a way of introduction, I was grateful to hear that the evenings’ second competitor, George Dowling, would be answering the question What is Philosophy? Continue reading