Swindon should get knitted

17 May
Charles Landry

Charles Landry

Swindon should get knitted. It’s a sentiment that Swindon’s Stitch N Bitch ladies would no doubt agree with.  Charles Landry, author of The Civic City in a Nomadic World,didn’t exactly say that of course. But he did say, when asked his feelings on Swindon, that it is:

  1. The most difficult place to navigate he’s come across and
  2. It somehow doesn’t feel quite knitted together – that it lacks cohesion.

I reckon he’s got a point.  #SwindonIsAwesome – lots of fabulous things and fabulous people. But I can see what he meant. Continue reading

Will Self ponders anti-Semitism, punctuation, and whether flowers are the souls of bunny rabbits

17 May
Will Self

Will Self

Will Self has been described in many ways, but perhaps not often in the way he introduced himself, as a sunshine-filled Jeeves and Wooster character who believes, with a warm heart, that “flowers are the souls of bunny rabbits”.

Luckily, most of us in the audience were long enough in the tooth to see the sardonic humour bristling away, and not for a minute about to fall for such a feeble attempt at dislodging us from our understanding of the blunt nature of Will Self: author, raconteur, journalist, one-time stand-up-comedian, reviewer, and as he himself puts it, opinion monger.
Continue reading

Wouldn’t politics be better if women were in charge?

16 May
Dan O'Brien and Harriet Harman

Dan O’Brien and Harriet Harman

Wouldn’t politics be better if women were in charge? I mean, not the present woman in charge – she’s awful. Or the one off of the eighties – not least because, in practical terms, that would involve a zombie leading a zombie party. But other women.

Think back to the 2015 general election, and the televised Leaders’ Debate.

David Cameron in an act of hubris didn’t even bother to turn up. (This hinted at the arrogance he’d display once he’d called an EU referendum rather than tackle disquiet in his own party which turned the country’s citizens against each other, and set the UK on a course for economic disaster, before announcing he didn’t want to clear up the giant can of racist worms in shit sauce he’d opened and strolled off to spent time in a £25,000 shed on wheels.)

Nigel Farage was there, because it was television and he’d been invited, and so was Ed Miliband, still in recovery from being hauled over the coals by political heavyweight and mansion tax opposer, Myleene Klass.

But it was the performance of the three female party leaders that gave me a warm glow. The Green Party’s Natalie Bennett, Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood and Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP managed to debate the NHS, the deficit, affordable housing, immigration, and Trident without going red in the face and getting spittle over each other. Continue reading

Pam Ayres – My night with Auntie Pam

15 May
Pam Ayres recites 'But Don't Kiss Me' to Chronicler, Emma Smith 

Pam Ayres recites ‘But Don’t Kiss Me’ to Chronicler, Emma Smith

At the risk of sounding gushing before my evening with Pam – well, mine and the two hundred and nineteen others in the audience – I was prepared.

She was, I had been told, incredibly nice and funny. A fellow Lit Fest author, Gill Sims, referred to her as Auntie Pam even though she had never met her. And, it appeared all of sundry wished to claim her as their Patron.

All I knew was that she was a Patron of the Arts Centre and a funny poet, much loved by my now passed father in law. Therefore, it seemed only fitting that my mother in law and I came to see the poet that her husband had once repeatedly and loudly played from their stereo.

However, I clearly underestimated Pam Ayres’ legacy: she is instilled in both people’s psyche and hearts; a scene I witnessed and experienced first-hand with its fit to bursting, excited audience. Continue reading

Life without poetry… poetry without life

14 May
Hilary Davies

Hilary Davies

An event that starts with Anna Wickham’s words is going to have a head start in my world. I can always rely on festival director Matt Holland for this. Matt walks around with her words in his breast pocket, and in his head.

I married a man of the Croydon class
When I was twenty-two.
And I vex him, and he bores me
Till we don’t know what to do!
It isn’t good form in the Croydon class
To say you love your wife,
So I spend my days with the tradesmen’s books
And pray for the end of life.

From Nervous Prostration

This is the measure of a great festival director who not only last night celebrated his first ever guest of 25 years ago, Sebastian Barker, he also celebrated women and their contribution to arts, war, and life. 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

Sunny children’s event features a flood story that predates Noah’s

14 May

So it started like every year my family parking as far away as possible from are actual destination (we might as well have walked to the farm) and as I walk past the sign saying Lower Shaw Farm in big letters and the same philosophical question passes my mind: where is the Higher Shaw Farm? If anyone knows then please inform me in a comment down below (somewhere over the rainbow is not a valid answer!)

Anyway I walk in to see Tony Hillier sitting at the desk asking for tickets. And I suddenly think: “Oh no, will he only let my mum in? Will I have to be a loner standing outside the gate? How will I get the ten pounds for writing up this piece? Goodbye Thanos Battle Lego set, it was nice to think of having you.”

But luckily we were all VIPs so we were allowed in for free and I breathed a sigh of relief! My dream was saved. But this isn’t all about me and my problems: this is an interesting readable post and everyone likes these. If not then you can leave this site immediately and spend the rest of the day not reading this. We’ve gone way off track and most of the passengers in the train have died, so let’s get on with it. Continue reading