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What I did last summer part 2

25 Sep

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Devizes Festival. A brilliant example of how a market town comes alive with a well-run two week set of events. This is where I encountered the iron man and became a spider minion.

I’m very into carnivals, always have been. Loved making slightly rubbish fancy dress outfits and strutting my stuff in the parade. Now I’ve got kids to make costumes for and fortunately they love it.

This year we took part in the Devizes Festival makers workshops. Me and Milo (aged eight) made our colourful feather head dresses then went back a couple of days later to work on a giant spider. Continue reading

An overlooked hero – Wollstonecraft in Swindon Festival of Literature

18 May

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As with many notable historic women, Mary Wollstonecraft is an overlooked hero.

Sandrine Berges, a French professor flown from her home in Turkey for the Swindon Festival of Literature, has a mission to raise Wollstonecraft’s profile.

Wollstonecraft was a British writer and philosopher who wrote what is probably the first feminist tract.

“Wollstonecraft would have been shocked at how slowly things have moved for women today,” said Sandrine, arguing that Wollstonecraft’s values have still not been fully realised.

The eighteenth century writer and philosopher lived a pretty racy life for a women in that age. She did not deliberately set out to provoke society – she came from a respectable family abeit with issues – she simply wanted the freedom to live the life she wanted to lead. She had two lovers, fell pregnant, fell in love with another man and fell pregnant again. She married the father of her second child but lived apart from him so they could both maintain their independence. They shared childcare of the first child. Sadly for her and for early feminism, she died days after the birth of her second child. Continue reading

Dawn Chorus, Swindon Festival of Literature

5 May

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Apparently there are plenty of morning people in Swindon. Or maybe, like me, they like the Dawn Chorus so much that they forgive the early rise. Or maybe, just once in a while, it’s great to make the effort and see the early May mist, hear the joy of the birds as they wake and see the day slowly easing in with a beautiful red, stretching across the line of artfully arranged clouds. And then think, wow, Swindon can be really quite picturesque. Continue reading

Exciting poetry coming down a slip road – Swindon Festival of Poetry launch

5 Sep

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The great thing about being a chronicler is that on the one hand I can write whatever I like (as long as it isn’t defamatory and all the words are wrote proper) but on the other I feel part of the team.

So going to the Swindon Festival of Poetry launch today at Swindon Arts Centre was a chance to catch up with wordsmithing friends. Continue reading

Glastonbury Festival in 100 bin bags Day 5

30 Jun

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1970’s labour relations came to Glastonbury at the end of my final shift. After 24 hours of straining the discarded delights of drunken revelers and with a jacket potato cooling in a tent ten minutes walk away our supervisor decided it was time for a full on capitalist crackdown. Continue reading

Glastonbury Festival in 100 bin bags Day 4

29 Jun


4. White bags

As anyone who has ever tried to slip a paper plate into a cheap condom will tell you, ‘it’s a thankless task’. The white biodegradable bags we have are similarly exempt from gracias. A mere look the wrong way and the bags slash open to spew soggy chips and mushy peas over a hardworking bin man’s wellies. Continue reading

Glastonbury Festival in 100 bin bags on Day 3

28 Jun


3. Michael Eavis’ bin

Two brilliant things happened in the last five minutes of my shift today. Firstly we got chatting to a security guard and he let us take a sneaky cut through Worthy Farm itself, so I got a wonky photo of Michael Eavis’ bin which probably had a bin bag in it so it counts. Continue reading

Graffiti artists aim high at multi-storey See No Evil festival, Bristol

21 Aug

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Bristol’s Nelson Street is, without a doubt, the arse-end of the city’s historic centre. The once-elegant Georgian thoroughfare, named after Admiral Lord Nelson (Bristol has a great seafaring heritage), was destroyed by German bombs during the Bristol Blitz and, like much of the city centre, was rebuilt in concrete in the 1950s and 60s.

But unlike its neighbouring districts – the redeveloped harbourside, the mercantile Old City, the modern cathedral to retail therapy that is Cabot’s Circus – Nelson Street has yet to benefit from the merciful release of the wrecker’s ball.

Of all the architectural forms to be found in Bristol, the brutalist municipal buildings and car parks of the postwar Age of Austerity are the most reviled. Just the spot for an international arts festival, then. Continue reading

We Are Collective celebrates micro-publishing

20 Aug

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In the week that publishing house DC Thomson announced it was to end the printed edition of The Dandy  – home of Desperate Dan and chums – after 75 years, a tiny contemporary art studio in Andover was celebrating the thriving culture of small-scale publishing.

Chapel Arts Studios – based in a converted chapel in the graveyard of Andover’s St Mary’s Church – is a cultural oasis in the centre of the town’s otherwise uninspiring centre: sadly more Basingstoke that Winchester.

Home to several artists’ studios and a small gallery space, Chapel Arts is like a mini version of Bristol’s Spike Island, and a real hive of creativity.

And over the weekend of August 11 to 13, We Are Collective gave members of the public the chance to see – and have a go at creating – small press comics, limited edition ‘zines, video and sound art and print-makers.

Apparently the place was heaving on the Sunday, so we’re glad we took the opportunity to visit on rainy Monday, giving us the chance to meet artists in a relaxed atmosphere.

And so we met people like art student Andy Reaney, who was helping visitors to make lino printing blocks with craft knives.

These were then used to create prints on his home-made bottle jack press, all of the parts for which – with the exception of the compressed air jack itself – were found in a skip.

We also met freelance illustrator Murray Somerville, the publisher of the ‘zine Macro Shrub.

Last year one of Murray’s designs was chosen to illustrate eight million bottles of Becks beer, as part of the Art Crawl initiative.

If he’d been given a quid for every bottle (or even 10p, come to think of it) he’d be a rich man but, I suspect, still pouring his heart and soul into Macro Shrub, printed in mega-limited editions and sold for £4 each. The covers are quality prints of works of art in themselves.

Meanwhile event curator Tom Mortimer – who was spending his 25th birthday entertaining visitors, such was his dedication – helped six-year-old junior chronicler Milo to create his own comic, using cut-out pen and ink photocopies and a packet of felt tips.

Needless to say Is the Lost Land Real? Is a work of genius. And Chronicler Milo’s verdict of We Are Collective? “That was brilliant!”

There you go then. For more information about Chapel Arts, and forthcoming events, log on to

Larmer Tree Festival – a bit muddy…

17 Jul

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So…why didn’t we put our six year old in a wet suit?

Saturday (day three of the Larmer Tree Festival near Salisbury /Shaftesbury) was the ‘All at Sea’ themed fancy dress day. So: tons of mud, sea theme and an aquarian outfit which keeps a body warm and one which can be hosed down at the end of the day. I saw one clever parent who’d thought of this which made me slap my hand on my forehead, accompanied by ‘oweeeee.’

I’d been at the festival since Thursday and my son turned up Friday afternoon. And immediately jumped up and down in the muddy gunk before scooping it up in his fingers. Sigh.

On the whole the kids loved the mud. Usually accompanied by resigned looking parents, desperately trying to keep the mud on their wellies and nowhere else.

Okay, I realise I’ve nearly got to the end and haven’t mentioned music, comedy, art or even toilets. But the mud is all pervasive. It splats and slops and it’s really hard work to walk through. Whine, whine, whine.

That’s it, enough about mud. It won’t pollute the other posts.