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If only I could write like Eye Can Write – Jonathan Bryan

13 May

Before committing my words to the page on Jonathan Bryan’s Spring Festival appearance, I felt trepidation. After spending an hour in the company of him and his family, I, like many others in the room, including our host, Matt, had been moved from tears to laughter to awe, as a result of his command of language and beauty of his prose.

Jonathan has severe cerebral palsy, a condition that makes him incapable of voluntary movement or speech. This disorder, until recently, blighted Jonathan’s ability to communicate subjecting him to a world of silence, where teachers and alike spoke to him loudly and simply in a tone that, in his words, is usually reserved for babies and foreigners.

It was not until the discovery of a life-changing eye-gaze spelling board that Jonathan was able to unlock the silence and close the void between him and the outside world. His first independently-spelled word was ‘myriad’, a word which ‘heralded the silence of those around him and the ending of his.’ Continue reading

If you want to know about greed, pride and lust, ask a politician

11 May

Having served as a politician for more than half a century, you’d expect Kenneth Baker to know a little about sin.

His reflections on The Seven Deadly Sins combines a number of his passions: his faith, art, satire – particularly the work of 17th century social critic and artist Hogarth – and politics.

Continue reading

A man for our time, naturally

10 May Will Abberley, photo © Fernando Bagué

Fittingly, this inaugural Festival Richard Jefferies Lecture focused entirely on Richard Jefferies himself, with the presenter, Will Abberley, introducing the talk with a quote from Jefferies in which he appeals to us: “To find health, happiness and wisdom in natural landscapes. Let us always be outdoors.”

This statement perhaps sums up the underlying message of everything that Jefferies left to us: nature is the answer; the colours, the vistas and the sounds, and the hope and joy that they fill us with, helping us to discover hidden depths within ourselves, through an unnameable ‘divine’ something. Continue reading

The Rising: Fijian-inspired dance

9 May The Rising, photo © Fernando Bagué

This amazing piece of work really did put the Spring into Swindon Spring Festival. With powerful dance moves and great music, The Rising delved into the Fijian Culture.

The group made it clear it was a tribal piece by the way they moved, the sounds they made and the music. The dance moves gave the feeling of a war like battle playing out, a whole story made without a single syllable of English. The story consisted of fights, love and a feeling of a community. Continue reading

Why do so many of us believe in angels – and what does it say about us?

8 May

Why do so many of us believe in angels?

In this post-truth age, I wasn’t all that surprised when I read that a third of people in the UK believe in angels, and that one in ten say they’ve experienced ‘the presence of angels’.

The findings, so far as I can tell, come from a YouGov poll conducted in March 2016 – just a few months before the referendum that delivered us Brexit.

It was published at a time when the then-justice secretary Michael Gove was trying to persuade us that “people in this country have had enough of experts” – those analytical and methodical enemies of the people. It was feelings, not facts, that mattered.

So yes, angels, why not?

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Goodbye lit fest, hello to the all-new Swindon Spring Festival

21 Mar

Spring Festival Launch

Darine Flanagan, Matt Holland, Sara Jane Arbury, Casey Jane, Rahman Khatibi, Tony Hiller, Swindon mayor Junab Ali Image courtesy of Fernando Bagué

More than 175 years of Swindon’s rich cultural heritage has inspired a new festival of arts and culture, which was launched in the town today (Thursday) before a crowd of enthusiastic supporters.

The Swindon Spring Festival is an extension of the popular Festival of Literature, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year.

Twelve months ago, festival director Matt Holland told us of his desire to expand the lit fest into “an all-encompassing combined arts festival.” Continue reading

Upfest 2018 celebrates The Simpsons and women’s suffrage

30 Jul

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Upfest celebrated its 10th anniversary this weekend with arguably its biggest coup to date.

After teaming up with the Mr Men in 2016 and Morph in 2017, organisers this year announced a collaboration with The Simpsons, and their creator Matt Groening, who handpicked three artists / teams to bring America’s most dysfunctional (until The Trumps came along) family in their own style.

So it was fitting, in a festival that also sought to mark the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, that some of those artists should be female. Continue reading