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.

It’s curious events such as these that have made the Swindon Festival of Literature more about ideas, a place to be an intellectual and proud of it.

Swindon has a smoky veneer of industrialisation, chemical lager drinking, shopping for a pound, decrepit postwar developments baying to be put out of their misery and a University free zone that obscures an undercurrent of passion for the arts like the literature festival, a contemporary art collection to die for, and (I’m quoting a Lit Fest person of interest here) a ‘place to try anything out’. Red-brick-and-concrete Swindon might appear to suffer from small town aspirations but not the downside of preciousness that comes for the ride with its prettier, Cotswold stone-covered neighbours.

Talking of pretty neighbours, Anna Saunders, the director of the Cheltenham Poetry Festival was a speaker at the launch, sharing her own compositions, and admiring the attention that Swindon gives its all-grown-up literature festival. The Chelters festival is a mere babe at four years old, starting 28 March and on until 6 April, and cries for your attention with big bright eyes.

And while Anna was reading her poetry (or maybe even during his intro from director Matt Holland), Cllr David Renard, leader of Swindon council, was hastily composing his few words…or that’s how it seemed to me. I think there’s an Attending an Arts Events rule book somewhere for councillors which states that they MUST start a speech with the following: “I’m fed up with hearing Swindon described as a cultural desert…” In some ways it is – move on, says this Savernake-forest based chronicler. And yes, David will be going to Ann Widdecombe’s event (6 May).

Ann Widdecombe. At the time of booking, director Matt Holland asked the right honourable lady if she wouldn’t mind dancing. Of course she said no and would rather talk about penance and penitence. Right. Apparently this was allowed as long as it was as entertaining as her quick step and cha cha. I just want to know how penance will affect me me me.

Couple of other quick mentions. Tracey Thorn, her of Everything but the Girl (“And I miss you/like the deserts miss the rain”) remembered from my 80s and 90s salad days, is in the programme, 15 May, reincarnated as a writer. And the lad and lass of the launch this year – super attenders rewarded with a festival pass – were from Dublin and Oxford respectively, culturally-lush places where ‘they could have all the literature they wanted’. And yet they come to the desert. Perhaps, in all these years, it was a typo: the councillor’s rule book meant dessert.

 Swindon Festival of Literature 5-17 May 2014

5 Responses to “Swindon Festival of Literature Launch 2014”

  1. amaatk123 21st Mar 2014 at 6:04 pm #

    Why oh why oh why do they persist in launching this most marvellous event in the middle of the flipping day?

    • matt holland 21st Mar 2014 at 6:25 pm #

      What a lovely thing to say amaatk123: ‘most marvellous event’. Indeed, it is, was, and always hopes to be.

      As to the question. Here are answers.

      We like daylight, fresh air, and sunshine, so started doing the launch at midday and it’s become a tradition.

      We suppose that, by implication, you meant, ‘why not in the evening?’; or did you mean ‘why not at daybreak, like the Dawn Chorus?’

      Anyway, now that we are 21, and allowed to stay up a bit later, we may well consider doing it all one evening in year or years to come.

      Seriously, shall give it due thought.

      Now, here’s something for the Chronicler. Like your chronicle. It’s sharp.
      Apropos of its start, here is a short poem by Wendy Cope.

      ‘My cat is dead
      But I have decided not to make a tragedy out of it.’


      Matt Holland

      • Festival Chronicler 21st Mar 2014 at 8:19 pm #

        Don’t think she liked her cat as much as I did 😉

      • amaatk123 21st Mar 2014 at 11:50 pm #

        Hello Matt.

        Thanks for the response. I’m certainly old enough to be out after 5pm so an evening launch I think would be good. Ditto for the poetry festival.

        But it is a most marvellous event. As is the poetry festival. I am always immensely impressed with what goes on in Swindon as I think/hope my blog, http://www.swindonian.wordpress.com, testifies.

        Keep up the amazing work.


        Born again Swindonian

  2. amaatk123 21st Mar 2014 at 6:06 pm #

    Reblogged this on Born again Swindonian and commented:
    Just a quick re-blog of Festival Chronicles write up of the launch event of the fabulous festival of literature. Why in God’s name this is always in the middle of the day simply defeats me!

    I probably won’t be able to get to much of it this year what with battling through final coursework and exams to conclude 3 years of degree study so I look forward to reading about the goings on here.

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