Swindon Sainthood Found on Ferndale Road

8 May
Writer Alice Jolly

Tony Hillier writes about the prologue event of Swindon Spring Festival, with Alice Jolly, which, given these unpres-(stop!) times and that it has gone online, he has renamed the ‘Lockdown’ festival.

In these Virus Days, no book could be more timely. In these corporate days, no book could be more community; community in the making and community in its people-powered storyline.

But it’s a story with characters and clues, suspense and reveals; it is not a standard community activity with agenda items and AOB:

“Just because some committee says so? They’re not the government.”
“They are now.”

Award-winning writer and creative writing tutor at Oxford University, Alice Jolly, was brave enough to mix it with long-established book reading group members in Swindon. You know – that Swindon with its 25 year Festival of Literature and its thriving poetry and writing groups as well.

What happened next, the exchange of ideas and feedback on first drafts is explained well in the ensuing novel, A Saint in Swindon.

The 80 small page novella is scarily packed with contemporaneous issues and activities. How could Alice have known during the unique nascence of this project, months ago, that Covid-19 would bring society-wide Lockdown? Astonishingly, one can read: “The police officer … hoped he did not have to remind Phil, that the consequences could be dire for those who put their own interests above those of the country in this moment of crisis.”

Reading between the lines, it seemed a romantic book. I had to drink a lot of lemonade to cool myself down. Within this delightful and suspenseful short read I was reminded, amongst other things, of John and Yoko’s Bagism from their bed, of religious enthusiasts, gender roles, the paparazzi and of married relationships.

The B&B landlady, (I did wonder why she was not an Air B&B interloper) who is herself not all that society might expect, makes a memorable observation: “Retirement – twice as much husband and half as much money.”

This poignant and jolly read gives Swindon readers an extra thrill to see Ferndale Road and Stratton St Margaret mentioned in despatches. I am reminded of Swindon’s starring role in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time whose author, Mark Haddon, debuted at the aforementioned Swindon Festival of Literature.

The Saint in Swindon encapsulates much Lockdown food for thought in these bookish yet enlightening words:

“We were so busy reading between the lines that we forgot to read the lines themselves. We were a generation loaded with knowledge, dying of ignorance.”

A Saint in Swindon by Alice Jolly in the Lockdown Swindon Spring Festival 5 May 7pm. Written by Tony Hillier, Swindon’s Community Poet 25/4/20

You can see Alice Jolly’s event on YouTube, here:

A Saint in Swindon

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