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Frog on Water Steal the Bricks – Wild Whispers

6 Oct

Wild Whispers, poetry film project, began with Frog on Water, a poem by producer Chaucer Cameron about connectivity/disconnect, with the backdrop of the personal – a house move – and the political – Brexit.

She had this simple but ambitious idea (the best kind): send it out to her poetry collaborators across the globe one-by-one, to translate it, turn it into a film, and pass it on. Whispered.

I used to walk through woodland and wild garlic,
watch leap of frog, gold-green on water.

Would it be lost in translation? Well yes and no. Continue reading

On the Petticoat Front

14 May
Louise Jordan

Louise Jordan

Sunday night was not “All Quiet on the Swindon Arts Centre Front”. It was all over, not by Christmas, but by 9pm, but we craved more. Audience members had been transported back into the lives of hitherto, but no longer, forgotten heroines: women of the First World War.

Amongst others, we were evocatively introduced to these women: a scientist who designed a fan to save soldiers in trenches from enemy gas, a journalist who made it to the Front Line disguised as a man involving scouring her face to imitate shaving, munitions factory, charity-raising football teams, and spies. Continue reading

Thursday Afternoon and Revving …

5 Oct

The journey from London was uneventful and mainly punctuated by sheep, the Tent of the Delicious Air (aka performance space) is magical, the volunteers are lovely and I can even vouch for the baked potatoes at the Holiday Inn.

I was met at the station by the wonderful Tony Hillier, long term member and founder of the Swindon Community Poetry group, who was wearing a fez and offered me a strawberry starburst – my favourite flavour. He also took me on a quite unnecessary and exhilarating tour of The Magic Roundabout in his car – it is actually five roundabouts in one and resembles the teapot twirly ride at a funfair. Feels like poetry already.

I’ve just spent a delightful couple of hours with my poetry partner in crime Tania Hershman who’s got me all excited about her workshop tomorrow on Liberation and Constraint, two of my favourite juxtapositions in poetry. We were briefly joined by Hilda Sheehan, head honcho and brilliant poet, who looked well excited. She is especially happy to be able to offer bursaries to people who would otherwise be unable to come to the festival, and also warned us not to get run over when crossing the dual carriageway between the Holiday Inn and the Richard Jeffries Museum.

Tonight I’m looking forward to hearing the V Press poets and I’m so excited to be reading with Tania Hershman and Daljit Nagra, the festival poets in residence. I know how great they are. See you on the other side!

All fun and games at Lit Fest Families Day

7 May

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Today was World Laughter Day. Apparently, wherever you were in the world, you were supposed to laugh when the clock struck noon. The idea was to create a continuous chain of merriment around the globe. My family and I were supposed to do it, but we forgot – we were too busy having fun.

Today was also Children and Families Day at Lower Shaw Farm, at the very uncorporate headquarters of the Swindon Festival of Literature. At or around noon, children and adults piled out of a presentation by author Jack Cooke to climb one of the tallest trees on the farm.

The kids loved it, and – once they’d recovered from the initial shock of seeing their precious moppets clamber from limb to limb up a huge horse chestnut – the adults were having fun too. Continue reading

You’re going to reap just what you sow

5 Oct


Photograph © Jennifer Berry

The omens were good for Children’s Day -Word Twisting a Fine Falerie at The Richard Jefferies Museum as a dramatic jamboree of Dada ended the day before with a library dance to Lou Reed’s Perfect Day.

Things were set fair,  a beautiful setting,  amazing weather and an audience of over a hundred fun-seekers eager to find out just who Mildred, Henry and Harriet the eccentric tour-guides were.

With The Goblin Circus in residence too, a memorable day at Coate Farm seemed guaranteed.

The aforementioned eccentric tour guides were on fine form as they promenaded the museum bringing artefacts to life through words and movement.

It was jaw-dropping stuff!

‘The toilets are here here here here and here!’ they helpfully cried.

Playful, funny narration saw them tell the life of Jefferies on Long Pond in the attic before ending things in the future on the back lawn.

Past, present and future, not a bad day out so far!

But here come The Goblin Circus to tell stories and teach children to make their own goblins!

A big ladybird and ring-master engaged audiences all day.


There were faeries, goblins, humans, elves and shapeshifters, and misfits , all just a little bit weird.

The monsters and dreamers of the circus were certainly on hand to inspire and entertain!

Then Robbie came with his drums, juggling stuff and parachute fun.

The lawn was falerie full of families trying things out.

There was also a poetry corner where children could write their own and read poems.

Beth made delicious cupcakes that all but disappeared -people were goblin them up all day for sure!


The Spirit of Keats

4 Oct

Great idea. Keats poetry set to music, threaded through with ghostly story.

The first drama was how my friend Tess could avoid the rustling of a bag of Haribos during the performance. We didn’t think they’d appreciate this added sound effect. She solved the problem by emptying the sweets into her handbag. (I hope she found all of them. Few things worse at the bottom of a handbag than old sticky sweets; perhaps bruised pears and spare toddler’s pants that fly out in a meeting when trying to find a pen – but that might just be me.)

If you know anything about poetry or remember it from school, Keats is almost certainly in the running order, so this came at it from a fresh angle.

The singing was impassioned, the piano beautiful but the story left me a little cold. Continue reading

The hottest ticket in town – Family Day at the Literature Festival

8 May

On the hottest day of the year so far, we sent Chronicler Milo (9) to report from Swindon’s Festival of Literature’s Children & Families Day. Continue reading

There can be only one – Swindon Slam!

8 May

First off, a massive congratulations to all who took part in the Swindon Slam! this year (and every year). Everyone who took part wrote a credible piece of poetry and for some it was pouring their souls out on stage. In competitions if you win, or come in the top three, it’s the best feeling in the world, but if you lose it can be very demotivating. So I’m going to say, keep going! You are fantastic, want to hear more!

There were 15 amazing competitors this year, which equalled 29 diverse poems under three minutes or less – including those by comperes – mostly performed with aplomb.

Yes there were poems about beverages and love and references to dead famous poets, and poems about poems or not writing poems or taking part in competitions with poems (like this one).

There were also poems about war, bombings, addiction, the environment and Professor Brian Cox (of course). Continue reading

Serious and deliberate, Sir Vince surveys the aftermath of The Storm

3 May
DSC_5436  Vince Cable Swindon festival of Literature

©Calyx Vince Cable at the Swindon Festival of Literature

There are two kinds of politicians: the quiet, steady-hand-on-the-rudder type, and the charismatic ones, who can seem appealing, but whose run-away mouths can often get them into trouble.

Serious and deliberate in his delivery, Vince Cable – who certainly falls into the former camp – nonetheless allows himself a joke at the expense of the latter.

“I see I am one of two speakers with a political background,” he tells the Swindon Festival of Literature tonight (Tuesday). “At least I don’t need to be looking around the audience to see where the Mossad people are.”

Ken Livingstone will be appearing next Tuesday.

Continue reading

Foxes are the champions

2 May

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On a night when the ‘Foxes’ of Leicester City won the Premier League at the expense of the cockerel crested Spurs, debating the fox and his many guises seemed appropriate, especially as the event took place at Lower Shaw Farm.

Chickens were conspicuous by their absence, perhaps taking the hint from the signage chalked across their usual pecking ground.

So, Fantastic Mr. Fox or ginger vermin?

Lucy Jones explores every side of this complex creature in her book Foxes Unearthed – A story of love and loathing in modern Britain.

Speaking in a former cowshed on an award-winning urban farm, Jones was in the perfect place to expand on the countryside vs. city paradox which sees foxes fed at back-doors by ‘townies’ but shot or hunted in the countryside.

Jones made it clear that Mr. Fox is both hero and the villain, and has been so since he slunk into mankind’s chicken cave centuries ago.

A keen audience of first-night festival-goers heard the wildly differing points of view of the hunting fraternity, angry saboteurs, curly haired pomp-rock guitarists and chicken-less farmers. Continue reading