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Take back meal times, says Bee Wilson

14 May

Seasoned food writer, award-winning author and journalist Bee Wilson declared Swindon Spring Festival her favourite of all the literary events she has attended globally, not least because it links words to spring and nature.

Our food speaker, back in Swindon from the Big Apple for a lunchtime festival slot, discussed the demise of mealtimes.

Author of four other food books, Bee Wilson is a foodie passionate about the impact of our modern lifestyles on our eating habits and the so-called food we consume, which she shares in her new book, The Way We Eat Now.

The act of eating, according to Bee, was once an opportunity to stop. Today, meal breaks are seen as a disruption to learning and living. A case in point is China, where chairs were taken out of school canteens to reduce the time spent at lunch and increase the overall periods in the classroom.

However, no matter how busy we feel, we have one thousand hours more free time a year than those of previous generations; we use time differently, said Bee, choosing leisure activities like Twitter and online shopping instead of a long lunch break.

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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

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

Books, babies and blogging with Slummy Mummy, Jo Middleton, and Young Adult author, Karen Gregory

8 May Jo Middleton

Jo Middleton is much like her writing: instantly likeable, witty and fun. A former marketing employee, Jo quit and followed her dream of becoming a freelance journalist. With little to no experience, she noted down editors’ names from magazines and asked them what they would like her to write.

Her first writing break came writing for South West Holiday Parks and shortly after she started a blog to increase her portfolio. As a single mother of two, she embraced the adage write what you know and wrote on the subject of parenting. And so Slummy Mummy was born.

Talking about her writing journey, Jo acknowledges apologetically that for many it is not easy, but ten years on from her choosing to start a blog it is understandable why she has been successful.

Jo’s writing is honest, on receiving her first free product of hand cream to review she wrote, “keeps my hands soft and moisturised, but smells like cabbages and old peoples homes.” Continue reading

Love Factually – an honest assessment of love or an antidote for the sickness?

8 May

When Laura Mucha, author of Love Factually, The science of Who, How and Why We Love, was asked why she wrote a book about love, she answered: “because I just didn’t understand love.” And in honesty, who does?

Raised from a young age in an all-woman household (by her mother and grandmother), Laura was not privy to relationships and took to quizzing those around her to help develop her understanding. As an adult, after a cardiac arrest which caused her to face her own mortality, she chose to return to the question of love and write a book about it.

Love, according to Laura comes in different forms: lust, romantic love and companionship. And partners, too, can be secure, avoidant or anxious in relationships – a state which is heavily influenced by our upbringing. Continue reading

Let’s Go Wild – Isabella Tree

8 May Isabella Tree © Fernando Bagué

Isabella Tree’s event, on her book Wilding, was all set for a cosy evening at Lower Shaw Farm’s ‘centre’, with forty or so people, cups of tea and talk of restoring a bit of balance back to the countryside.

However, the allocated tickets sold out. More were made available, and they sold too. There was no choice but shift the venue to the cowshed, with seating for a hundred. Still the tickets sold… benches were added, and more chairs dragged from all corners. By the time the talk was about to start, the cowshed was packed tighter than a, well, than a cowshed. An intensively farmed cowshed. And that’s where Isabella Tree comes in.

Isabella Tree in the Lowers Shaw Farm cowshed © Fernando Bagué
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