A Simply Splendid Swindon Affair

8 May

A Swindon Affair

8th April 2016

A  Swindon Affair: a Family Affair and a Love Affair

When posting about this event on social media I accidentally referred to it as a ‘Family Affair’. But that was probably a Freudian slip – or something. Because a family affair is really rather what it felt like. The entire affair: afternoon and evening – was filled with people I know and have great affection for. And it was wonderful.

Loving Swindon: in words, pictures and music – a few words first about the afternoon event. The Platform on Faringdon Rd was overflowing with the astonishing literary output and outpouring there has been, and still is, about Swindon from Swindon people and others who love Swindon.

The whole thing was a collaboration between Swindon Civic Voice, Poetry Swindon and the Swindon Literature Festival. Three most marvellous groups right here in Swindon.

Put together by Martha Parry of Swindon Civic Voice the afternoon was a fitting homage to the wonderful wordsmiths across the years too numerous to mention here.

An aside: Not that this is anything to do with Swindon as such but one of the delights, late in the afternoon, was seeing John Chandler, author of Swindon Decoded, get very excited with a retro orange Ewbank carpet sweeper destined for Hilda’s Lounge at the Richard Jefferies museum. I won’t lie. I’ve got Ewbank envy.

But back to business!

The evening event, billed as a ‘Multi-Media evening of readings and performances’ was an eclectic and electric offering that amply proved – as if proof were needed – what a dazzling and disparate array of talent this town has. The whole evening exuded love for Swindon by everyone present.

Compered by the ever-delightful Hilda Sheehan of Poetry Swindon this section of the affair was a mix of music and poetry with a talk from John Chandler (he of the Ewbank) that was a thoughtful reflection on the breadth of local work published, the many forms it’s taken in Swindon and the importance of recording social and local history. I’m truly delighted to have met John.

John Chandler came to Swindon some 40 years ago to work in the reference library in Swindon. He was only there for a year but it was a year that changed his life. He felt the palpable civic pride in the town and that nurtured in him a deep respect for Swindon. Indeed Swindon does have a way of getting under the skin. I can vouch for that! As too can the people behind this event – Hilda and Martha. Both of them, like me, ‘interlopers’ to Swindon now happily embroiled in a love affair with it.

 Swindon: The World Capital of Poetry: True story. Google it if you don’t believe me.

Up on the platform in The Platform, woven around John’s talk, and preceeded by some wonderful acapella singing from three members of the choir that do their stuff in Central Community Centre, we were treated to a varied menu of poetic offerings.

Tony Hillier, Swindon’s very own community poet, got my saliva glands going (I was getting rather hungry by this time) with his poem The Curry Place and ‘ransack the Dansak’. I liked that.

We had poets FROM Swindon, poets who poetise (I don’t think that’s a word but who cares?) ABOUT Swindon. We had Maurice Spillane, an Irishman now living in Liddington – the only poet in the village I daresay – reading his poem about Liddington Hill.

We had Michael Scott, co-founder with Hilda of the world capital of poetry, himself an actual Swindonian. Here is a man who knows and loves his Swindon and much of his poetic output is concerned with Swindon. There’s ‘nowhere better than Swindon’ he says.  From Trampletown: ‘What we were when civic was a duty not a hatchback’. I wish I could write lines like that.

But where were you Swindon? The audience was enthusiastic but could have been bigger. Oh I wish it had been bigger – you missed so much. I’m really sad that you missed so much.

You turn out for the big names but where are you for your own names?

And as it happens your own names are becoming big names if you look. Michael is a published poet. So too is Hilda Sheehan. On the Huff Post list of 5 British poets to watch in 2016 two of them were at the Platform last night. One of them, the aforementioned Hilda, and the other being Swindon born and bred Emily Harrison. Having seen her perform yesterday I can see why. Hell yes I can see why. It takes talent to perform a poem about one’s own mental health issues and a crush on the doctor and be funny and insightful all at the same time.

She was good. Very good.

And there was more. So much more.

There’s much talk in Swindon about a physical cultural centre to be the ‘heart’ of Swindon. And that would be a wonderful thing for sure. But Swindon – you don’t need a building to have a heart. You have one. A huge one. And it was pumping hard and loud last night. I’m so glad I was there to hear its beat.

‘Swindon, oh Swindon, there’s only thing I can do without – Swindon, oh Swindon, it’s all your funny little roundabouts.’

To conclude: the description of this event in the festival brochure ended with these words: ‘There will also be performances of poetry and music to send us home more in love than ever with Swindon past, present and future.’

Well this Festival Chronicler, this Born Again Swindonian most certainly is! Thank you – all of you that took part.

 The Swindon Affair took place at The Platform, Swindon, 7 May 2016 as part of Swindon Festival of Literature.

Chronicle written by Angela Atkinson AKA Born Again Swindonian AKA AA Editorial Services.

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