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.

And so it was that we were treated to a couple of sets from the Glowglobes, a quirky husband and wife duo musically reminiscent of The Cardigans on a jazz-swing-folk vibe.

It’s probably not the law that band names have to be inspired by great literature to win a place on the festival finale bill, but the name Glowglobes is hoiked straight from Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic Dune, so there you go.

They also have a song in their repertoire called 22, which is the age of the festival. It was a shoo-in, really.

From other worlds to the other side of this world, the audience was treated to opera from tenor Shao Wei, and to classical music – both of the modern spikey variety, and the more sedate with a piece by Christoph Gluck – from his son Daniel Shao, a flautist who has performed at the Royal Albert Hall and Buckingham Palace, and can now cross the theatre at Swindon Dance from his bucket list.

From China to goodness knows where, there was more classical music from Richard Durrant, whose Cycling Music tour takes him from venue to venue (and we’re not talking local; we’re talking 1,500 miles) by bike. Richard treated us to some Bach, performed on acoustic guitar.

From bikes to barges, poetic entertainment came in the form of Jo Bell, the UK’s canal poet laureate, who recited a sexy poem about what men do in the moment of orgasm, and a scary one about crossing the Bristol channel in a canal barge: as perilous as Titanic, but without the iceberg or, thankfully, fatalities.

There was also poetry fun from Matt Harvey, who led a writing workshop earlier in the day and was only just recovering from judging the Think Slam the night before, so it’s fair to say he earned his keep.

Matt was appointed Official Wimbledon Championship Poet 2010, and handed in this gem:

Bounce bounce bounce bounce
Thwackety wackety zingety ping
Hittety backety pingety zang
Wack, thwok, thwack, pok,
Thwikety, thwekity, thwokity, thwakity
Cover the court with alarming alacrity
Smackety dink, smackety dink
Boshety bashity crotchety crashety
Up loops a lob with a teasing temerity
Leaps in the air in defiance of gravity
Puts it away with a savage severity
coupled with suavity

It’s little wonder advertising agencies – when asking him for a poem to promote products like the humble potato or a sperm bank (and my goodness, what genius decided that the perfect art form with which to promote a sperm bank was poetry?) – don’t know what to make of him when he makes his submission.

The festival ended as it began, at sunrise almost a fortnight earlier: with festival director Matt Holland blowing a mournful chord on a watering can.

In the audience, meanwhile, was Swindon’s community poet emeritus Tony Hillier, who offered these words:

Flute, double bass, harmonious duo
Narrow boat butting Bristol Channel
Tienanmen heroic opera tones
Did I mention the breathtaking piccolo?

Next we wipe our brows on the welcome Matt
quantitative easing the sum of his parts
Words meet music meet me
Meet me at Swindon Festival of Literature 2016

We couldn’t have summed it up better ourselves.

Words by Peter Davison, photos (c) Calyx Pictures

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