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From Spain to Swindon via Stockholm and Saskatchewan: protest and love are the themes of Festival Finale

19 May

At around the same time that a protest song by the Ukrainian singer Jamala was winning the Eurovision Song Contest in Stockholm on Saturday night, the Spanish duo La Heidi Bèlika were performing their own protest song on the stage of Swindon Town Hall. Continue reading

Spoke and word

18 May

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Part of the attentive Poetry Swindon audience at The Sun Inn, Coate.

 

Swindon Literary Festival this is not, this is Swindon Festival of Literature.

As Matt Holland made clear in the inaugural Kaye Franklin Memorial Lecture, Literary Festivals are all about books; a Literature Festival is about writing, good writing.

Continue reading

Wild writing

18 May
Isn't Lower Shaw Farm pretty?

Isn’t Lower Shaw Farm pretty? Photo (C) Festival Chronicle.

Us chroniclers love an event leader who gives good quote.

Bridget Holding’s workshop was one of well-honed analogies, thoughtful phrases and stimulating prompts.

Her writing hook is wild. “Nature is a brilliant resource – it’s very living, it helps writing to become alive. It grounds ourselves,” said Bridget. And ‘new’ nature writing is very now – such as Amy Liptrot and The Outrun, as featured earlier in the Swindon Festival of Literature.

She explained what she meant: ‘writing is like tracking a wild animal’. An animal exists in its environment; it uses its senses. It has a physical bodily reaction with broad body sensations which intensify into emotions. Emotion is there to deal with a threat, leading to action. This will create powerful writing, lighting up the brain’s neurons, helping the reader live in your world, not simply look at it. Continue reading

Character and values with Cristina Odone

18 May

“I hate many American things, but I admire their confidence. America has something we don’t. They know their values. But they also know how to assimilate,” said Cristina Odone at Swindon Festival of Literature.

Cristina is a professional thinker (director of the new Centre for Character and Values at the Legatum Institute, former editor of the Catholic Herald and deputy editor of the New Statesman) who’s fed up with us British being all wishy-washy and apologetic about our values.

“I’m not saying we have to judge. I’m not saying Western values are the best; we are shaped by Judaeo-Christian values. But they are ours and we should stand by them.”

The values in question are Aristotelian in origin, Christianised by saints Aquinas and Augustine: courage, obedience, charity and scholarship. (It is interesting that Cristina chooses to interpret ‘agape’ as ‘charity’ over ‘love’, and misses out ‘faith’ and ‘hope’ completely from the Christian triplet.)

The talk begins with a tale of two men, two Muslims, both British. Asad Shah, a community-minded Scottish-Pakistani shopkeeper, was murdered ostensibly in extremist retaliation for Easter goodwill messages on social media. The other was Mohammed Emwazi or ‘Jihadi John’, the British-Arab ISIS terrorist. Cristina believes Shah was in possession of good character and strong values, while Emwazi was rootless and felt no connection to his community. Continue reading

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Creativity in and out of the 70’s at Hilda’s Lounge

18 May

Hilda’s Lounge took place at the Richard Jefferies Museum as part of Swindon Festival of Literature, 13 May 2016. Guests Robert Vas Dias, Sophie Duffy, Caroline Day and Barry Andrews were each in conversation for an hour.

First, confession: I was not around for the ’70s (or, for that matter, a large amount of the ’80s). I am therefore reliant on Hilda Sheehan’s ’70s lounge (located deep in the Richard Jefferies Museum) conforming to stereotypes found in BBC ’70s shows and themed nightclubs.

The result is one that I can believe: the wallpaper seems to be have been lifted straight from Abigail’s Party; a grand-looking record player, lava lamp and copious amounts of Babycham contributing to an atmosphere one can one only describe as ‘locked in time’. I’m told that Babycham is a typical part of this environment: after watching a few people enjoying it a little too much, I can see arguments for and against it.

Having been allowed time to take in this fragment of the past, we are thrown into our first guest talent. One might assume that Hilda’s guests would be there to similarly impart memories of the ’70s. This would not necessarily be the case. Continue reading

Detective novelist returns to the scene of the crime

16 May

It all for started in Swindon’s Town Hall for Alison Bruce – then Lansdown – at a film-writing course.

“I like the idea, but you need to write a book first,” was the tutor’s instructions.

So Alison went away and wrote her third book; well, her first, but it was like Star Wars where the first turned into the third in the seven book series.

I knew Alison in the 1980s when she was a presenter on local radio, presenting a rock and roll show.

I have photographed her with her Ford Zodiac car as a mechanic, as a model, and recently I ventured into her now home town of Cambridge, to interview her about the first book in the Detective Goodhew series of crime novels. Continue reading

Swindon’s greatest intellects clash at Think Slam

15 May

Swindon’s greatest intellects clashed on Friday night, at the seventh annual Think Slam.

(Full disclosure: Chronicler Louisa was one of the competitors, and I am contractually obliged to describe her as one of Swindon’s greatest intellects.)

Over three gruelling rounds, seven competitors did mental battle in the Swindon Festival of Literature competition run in association with the Swindon Philosophical Society.

Swindon, by the way, is unique in having this kind of philosophical thrown-down. Until another town or city picks up the gauntlet, the competition winner is, by default, the UK’s – and possibly the planet’s – greatest living philosopher (just think the USA and the baseball World Series). Continue reading

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