Archive by Author

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. Continue reading

What the kenning? – Matt Harvey, writing workshop

21 May
Matt Harvey at the Festival Finale

Matt Harvey at the Festival Finale

Kenning, according to Matt Harvey, is a way of describing things and their function through creative language and metaphor.

Make sense? No, me neither at first. But, as he explained further it did, with his sharing of work and examples along the way: blood as battle dew, clouds as God’s pocket fluff, and slugs as soft-horned invisigoths.

It is a process that is taught to children. Books are even written about it: Valerie Blooms’  Things to do with Kids Kennings an example of one Matt explained. And, it was to be an important part of our first task. This was a workshop after all; a fact which I had appeared to have forgotten over a leisurely lunch and a spell in the sunshine in the serene surroundings of Lower Shaw Farm. Continue reading

Swindon Think Slam – prompting thought as opposed to answering questions

21 May
Martin Hawes

Martin Hawes

Will Self shared at his talk on Tuesday his fear that some people attend Literature Festivals in lieu of reading – as if an author event will provide a quick literature fix. And at my first Think Slam, I was conscious of doing just that.

I am not well versed in philosophy. An ex-partner who studied a degree in English and philosophy once joked to friends: “she thought that Plato was a ceramics company.” I didn’t – honestly – but it was a low blow to someone uninitiated to the subject.

Therefore, as a way of introduction, I was grateful to hear that the evenings’ second competitor, George Dowling, would be answering the question What is Philosophy? Continue reading

Pam Ayres – My night with Auntie Pam

15 May
Pam Ayres recites 'But Don't Kiss Me' to Chronicler, Emma Smith 

Pam Ayres recites ‘But Don’t Kiss Me’ to Chronicler, Emma Smith

At the risk of sounding gushing before my evening with Pam – well, mine and the two hundred and nineteen others in the audience – I was prepared.

She was, I had been told, incredibly nice and funny. A fellow Lit Fest author, Gill Sims, referred to her as Auntie Pam even though she had never met her. And, it appeared all of sundry wished to claim her as their Patron.

All I knew was that she was a Patron of the Arts Centre and a funny poet, much loved by my now passed father in law. Therefore, it seemed only fitting that my mother in law and I came to see the poet that her husband had once repeatedly and loudly played from their stereo.

However, I clearly underestimated Pam Ayres’ legacy: she is instilled in both people’s psyche and hearts; a scene I witnessed and experienced first-hand with its fit to bursting, excited audience. Continue reading

Swindon Slam – the real elephant in the room

14 May
Swindon Slam winner Joy-Amy Wigman

Swindon Slam winner Joy-Amy Wigman

“Poems are no longer dangerous enough; risk-averse…” shouts Brenda Reed Brown, Swindon Slam contestant. And, as the evening comes to an end, I must agree she may have a point.

For the 25th anniversary of the Festival of Literature (and the 22nd Swindon Slam) previous winners – normally excluded from entering – were invited back.

That was good news for 2017 winner, Joy-Amy Wigman, who took the 2018 trophy with her poem, Hell Is Empty; a political poem documenting an encounter that Joy had with a Tory MP who advised ‘disability cuts will not affect you’. This statement promoted her pennings and sign off – it will affect you, maybe not, you are a Tory.

Fellow finalist Chris Osman, meanwhile, competed with his poem, Even Daily Mail Readers Die. Continue reading

A Humble Champion – Jo Pavey at Swindon Festival of Literature

8 May

LitFest_18050701_Jo_Pavany_Running_0008If ever anyone was able to brag about their achievements it would be Jo Pavey: World Champion, mother of two children, and author.

Instead she is Jo, an honest down-to-earth individual who admitted to only raising her arms halfway up in 2014 at the 10,000m World Championships, due to her disbelief in having won and her fear of being judged when wearing running gear on the school run.

Jo speaks as freely as she runs, her responses and stories at times emerging at the same pace but absorbing nonetheless. A runner since she was 13 years old, Jo never voiced her desire to pursue athletics professionally. Born into an active but not sporting family she was recommended to an Athletics Club by her PE teacher, with a neighbour assisting with the transport due to her parents caring for younger siblings.

Love, irrespective of discipline and circumstance, never leaves. Jo continued to run throughout her studies in Physiotherapy at Bristol University and a six-month backpacking trip around the world with her future husband, Gavin. Silently continuing her training and pursuing her desire to become a professional athlete, Jo ran through the sights as opposed to walking: ascending volcanoes, passing through fields of kangaroos, and stopping at sports fields in New Zealand for impromptu training sessions. Continue reading

Sunrise, stones and stardust

7 May

Rising before dawn prompts many questions; why am I awake again, whose idea was this, and will there be coffee?  Fortunately for me and the hundred or so early risers in attendance, the impressive line-up of entertainment and presence of a coffee van in the Lawn Woods served as a welcome reminder of why we were there. For, it was, of course, the launch of the twenty-fifth Swindon Festival of Literature, and the Dawn Chorus is an integral part of the carefully curated programme, as are the authors who attend.

As newcomers, to this longstanding event, I, and Millie (9) did not know what to expect; layered up, cashed up, and blanket laded we approached in the manner that life should be; open but prepared. However, our warm coverings were not necessary due to our fortunate timing of attending the hottest Dawn Chorus on record. Continue reading