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.

But as with the bulbs planted in poet Matt Harvey’s time-lapse story, Say it with flowers, it was time to take action, expand the message and explore new pastures with the seeds that had already been cultivated, expanding into a general arts festival.

It was not the end. It was as simple as Chris Parks’ story – a tale of two parts. In the Festival’s case, the first of literature and the second of the arts.  The arts mix of the finale shows the potential diversity of next year’s festival: music, storytelling, poetry, circus and film.

And a big part of the festival’s longstanding success has been its supporters and home grown talent, usually both at the same time. One such talented friend who appeared tonight was Hilda Sheehan and her abstract, moving poetry from The God Baby.

In closing, Matt reassured the room that the Festival would be back. But was it the festival’s return as usual that the audience looked for, an exciting new version, or a hope that the growth of the festival will not ruin what has made it a success up until now?

At the top of the stairs, Matt said, “I am going to stand on the balcony like a vicar so that I can say goodbye to you all.” Is the new Swindon Spring Festival of the arts a call to cultural prayer for Swindon’s congregation of the arts or just an expansion of the church that we know as the Swindon Festival of Literature? Either way, I am in.

The Festival Finale took place at Swindon Town Hall (Swindon Dance), 19 May 2018. Photos © Fernando Bagué.

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