Archive by Author

Conflicts, but not the one you were expecting – Nigel Jones on Britain in 1914 at Swindon Festival of Literature

7 May

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It’s 100 years, near enough, since Europe was plunged into the most terrible war the world has ever seen, so you’d expect a ‘thinking festival’ like Swindon Festival of Literature to thoroughly explore the subject, which it is – as part of the official Swindon in the Great War commemorations.

Historian Nigel Jones’ discussion around his book Peace and War: Britain in 1914 is the first of three on the topic – the entrée to Kate Adie’s main course of the legacy of women in the Great War (May 12), with dessert coming in the form of Richard Van Emden on boy soldiers (May 15).

It’s fitting that Jones goes first, because his book isn’t really about the war at all, it’s about all the other stuff that was happening at the time – events that were making headlines before Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot in Sarajevo; before Germany’s blank cheque assurance to Austria, or Austria’s ultimatum to Serbia; and before the Rape of Belgium.

Jones’ book reminds us there were three conflicts troubling the British government in the run-up to the Great War, and none of them had very much at all to do with European politics. Continue reading

Running and walking with writers at Swindon Festival of Literature

6 May

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Life’s all about choices, and on a warm bank holiday Monday afternoon I faced a dilemma – take a 5km run through Swindon’s Lydiard Park with some Lycra-clad literature lovers, or enjoy a gentle stroll around the ornamental lake of the Georgian stately home with storyteller Rachel Rose Reid.

Continue reading

It’s Sacrilege, but is Stonehenge really the inspiration…?

29 Jun

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One of the greatest mysteries of the prehistoric world is why Stonehenge was built. But the thinking behind a life-sized inflatable version of the world-famous monument is easier to ascertain – and it might have more to do with nearby Avebury than its younger but better-known cousin.

This morning Festival Chronicle was lucky enough to catch up with Jeremy Deller, the Turner Prize-winning artist behind art-installation-cum-bouncy-castle Sacrilege. Continue reading

God Spray the Queen – Chivitz at Salisbury International Art Festival

30 May

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’ll bet when the Queen visited Salisbury back on May 1 (International Workers’ Day, not that the UK ever recognises it) she never thought her jaunt would be immortalised in graffiti art.

But that’s exactly what happened at the weekend, when Brazilian street artist Chivitz created new works at Salisbury Arts Centre as part of the Salisbury International Arts Festival.

The Queen, who is quite used to having portraits done, although probably never like this, is pictured in the outfit she wore when she visited the city, although the cheeky graffiti artist has her brandishing a spray can. Continue reading

From Beatles to Bassett: the journey of a rock-turned-travel writer

19 May

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Every music fan has a cool answer to the questions ‘what was the first record you bought?’ and ‘what was the first band you saw live?’ Often these answers are subject to some level of historical revisionism.

For rock critic turned radio presenter Stuart Maconie there is no need to distort the facts: the first band he saw live was The Beatles. Continue reading

Get on the blog!, say Marcus and Hilda

17 May
Marcus Moore

Marcus Moore

There’s no doubt that blogging has democratised publishing. Writers – including authors and poets – have been freed from the financial shackles of publishing their material in print, or establishing an expensive website.

During Blog Standard, writer Marcus Moore and poet Hilda Sheehan were on hand to show the audience just how easy it is to start a blog. In fact, within a few minutes of the event starting, the fledgling blog was already taking shape. Continue reading

A life of dodging bullets and bombs

16 May
John Simpson

John Simpson

“My life isn’t all dodging bullets and bombs,” says veteran BBC correspondent John Simpson, before telling tales of derring-do, which include dodging bombs, bullets, and Afghan border control (dressed in a burqa, hijab and niqab face veil).

For someone who grew up wanting to be a journalist (and eventually becoming one) John Simpson was something of an inspiration, so I was delighted that he was as affable and interesting as I hoped he might be. Continue reading

A little bit of politics at LitFest

14 May
Newspaper pundit and author Will Hutton

Newspaper pundit and author Will Hutton

Mid-festival Monday at the Swindon Festival of Literature, and the punters are getting antsy. They had their fun in the sun at Lower Shaw Farm on Sunday, now they’re ready to have a moan about the government. Continue reading

Death of a comedian at standup event

14 May
Nat Luurtsema

Nat Luurtsema

I’ve never seen a comedian die on stage before last night. It wasn’t pleasant, and it’s something I’d rather never see again.

Putting on an alternative standup comedy night as part of the Swindon Festival of Literature wasn’t, in itself, such a far-out idea. The festival has a proud history of showcasing comedic talent: Julian Clary in 2009, Milton Jones in 2010, Harry Hill in 2011, Alex Horne last week…

This was a new venture though – little known comedians performing club-style routines, as opposed to household names talking about their books, and cracking some gags along the way. Continue reading

Well cool and wicked wildlife

13 May
Hugh Warwick at the Lower Shaw Family Fun Day, a Swindon Festival of Literature event

Hugh Warwick at the Lower Shaw Family Fun Day, a Swindon Festival of Literature event

I wonder if there’s any point during my life at which I’ll stop thinking ‘cooool’ when someone tells me something, well, cool?

Hugh Warwick’s Swindon Festival of Literature talk about his new book, The Beauty in the Beast, is pitched at an aged 10-plus audience, by which I assume the organisers mean 10, and those whose appreciation of what constitutes cool has failed to mature past the level of, say, your average Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. Continue reading