Programme launch defies convention with longevity and…fruit

22 Mar
Lit fest launch biscuits

The launch of the 2018 Swindon Festival of Literature in biscuits. ©Calyx Picture Agency

Fruity magic

Fruity magic ©Calyx Picture Agency

Wearing purple

Mayor Cllr. Maureen Penny wears purple © Calyx Picture Agency

Food has always been big with the Swindon Festival of Literature Festival launch. So alongside the festival’s name spelled in aromatic ginger biscuits and other home-made grub which hungry attendees decended upon, there was some magic with a banana.

Since its launch in 1994, over twenty-five years festival director Matt Holland has grown the festival’s pamphlet of ten events into a programme of fifty authors.

And those events have brought people together for the greater good, and sometimes just with books and no food involved. They built bridges and given the controversial a voice – and what better example than founder of the ill-fated Kids Company charity, Camila Batmanghelidjh (16th May). When she last came to the festival in 2012 she was well respected and loved. This time it’s to answer her critics and the effect of the charity’s demise on children’s services.

But we must not fall foul to judgement be it books or people, said Matt with passion, likely to be echoed by broadcaster and prize-winning Author, Afua Hirsch (9th May). Afua will look at the problematic topics of race, identity and belonging as featured in her book Brit(ish).

Diversity runs through the core of the festival programme. Philosophers stand alongside drinking mothers and MP’s precede BAFTA filmmakers. And in 2018, mums rule! This year features ace mothers –  tennis champion mum Judy Murray, mum-who-runs Jo Pavey and mummy-blogger Gill Sims of Peter and Jane fame. Other crowd-pleasers include Will Self, poetry heroes Michael Rosen and Pam Ayres, and MP Harriet Harmon.

We meet, we listen, and we share. We are drawn back each year with not only like-minded friends but conflicting company compelling us to question and go against the grain.

And we are moved by both literature in its many guises, including the edible. Such as today’s musical interlude from the singer Linda Leigh, covering a classic from featured author Peggy Seeger, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. Or Warning by the late Jenny Joseph read by Swindon’s mayor, chosen in the last moments before an address inspired by a last-minute clothing change (I shall wear purple) and the unexpected outdoor setting.

And what of that fruity magic? Matt took a banana out of a sealed packet, peeled it and revealed it already cut in five pieces, one for every five years of the festival.

There are some things in life you can predict. However, when it comes to the weather and the Swindon Festival of Literature, it is everything but what you would expect.

The launch took place 22 March 2018 at Swindon Central Library. The festival runs 7-9 May 2018.

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