Tag Archives: author

On dresses, wigs and still being human

15 May Leslie Tate and Sue Hampton, photo © Fernando Bagué

Every time I drag myself away from social media and engage with real human beings, I feel a buzz. With community events over the years, and especially with the Literature – turned Spring – Festival the buzz of attending events is palpable.

Even if, or often especially if, the speaker is not a ‘celebrity’, listening to a person who is knowledgeable and passionate about their subject is almost universally rewarding – heart-warming, brain-stimulating, thought-provoking and fun. I can make a comment or ask a question afterwards. What’s not to like?

No more so was this illustrated than at Sunday night’s event, Ways to be Equally Human. We were privileged to hear two people who, from the start, exuded that they were ‘comfortable in their own skin’ – no pun intended – as one speaker spoke of her alopecia and the other of his ‘cross-dressing’.

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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

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

Porritt sends a strangely familiar stand-in – Jonathon Porritt at Swindon Festival of Literature

15 May

Jonathon Porritt...or is it Alex McKay? ©Calyx Pictures

Jonathon Porritt…or is it Alex McKay? ©Calyx Pictures

So, Jonathon Porritt couldn’t make today’s event. In his stead was Alex McKay from 2050.

Alex looked a lot like Jonathon and sounded a lot like Jonathon and we were all giggling at the shared joke.

Festival Director Matt Holland confided afterwards that Jonathon arrived at Swindon Arts Centre with minutes to spare having arrived that day from some far flung place. Festival attenders arrived at the venue and saw an anxious director fretting at the lack of an author so Matt and Jonathon decided to cook up a little performance to defuse the anxiety. Continue reading

War correspondent recalls the achievements of the Great War women – Kate Adie at Swindon Festival of Literature

13 May

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Ask anyone to name a woman associated with the battlefield and you’ll get one of three answers – Joan of Arc, Florence Nightingale, or former BBC chief news correspondent Kate Adie – a veteran of Tiananmen Square, the first Gulf War, and the war in the former Yugoslavia.

Apt, then, that Kate has written a book about the women of the first world war. It’s called Fighting on the Home Front, but if the title suggests that women never made it across the Channel, let alone to the front line, then that’s far from the truth – as the author will explain later. Continue reading

We live in a story shaped world – CS Lewis

13 May

C.S.Lewis - a life by Alister McGrath

C.S.Lewis – a life by Alister McGrath

A week of the Swindon Festival of Literature has gone by and it’s at about this time that frazzled Festival types starting running out of sleep and clothes to wear, today the search for a clean T-shirt brought a lengthy, fruitless search in the bedroom, it wasn’t there of course, maybe my tired brain was lying about which wardrobe. Continue reading

Swindon Festival of Poetry – Annie Freud and Tamar Yoseloff

9 Oct

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Internet dating, talking to furniture and works of art were the poetic subjects of last night’s event, at Swindon Central Library’s poetry space.

Sylvia Novak sang and read from her book, Love in the Age of Technology, inspired by internet dating: “It haunted me so much that I wrote an anthology on the experience,” she said. Sylvia sometimes sang with her guitar, and sometimes talked alongside Gavin Daniels performing with flute and guitar.

It’s interesting to hear performers such as Sylvia say they’ve put poetry to music or arranged music to the words. Other people might call it a song, or a rap. Well not quite rap which is riffed off the beat. A dance piece where the dance is created and music arranged to it is still ‘dance’, not movement set to music. Or perhaps I’m wrong here. Does it matter? Are these delineations helpful to poetry reaching a greater audience? Comments at the bottom… Continue reading

Swindon Festival of Poetry – poetry darrlin’ Pam Ayres

6 Oct

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It’s fair to say that last night Swindon Festival of Poetry hosted one of Britain’s most popular poets, at The Platform, Swindon.

As well as enjoying some of Pam Ayres’s poetry, we heard anecdotes about her life and the inspiration behind some of the audience’s favourite poems, documented in her 2011 autobiography ‘The Necessary Aptitude: a Memoir’.

Pam never had aspirations to write ‘deep’ poetry – ‘other people could do it so much better’. But it’s to poetry’s benefit that she developed her own style and wrote in a way that anyone could relate to and enjoy. Continue reading

Roman Krznaric – life inspired by history

19 May

Roman Krznaric

Roman Krznaric

Oxfam and UN advisor, tennis player, gardener and furniture-making fanatic, Roman Krznaric is the Brian Cox of philosophy, making it fun and relevant.

In the first part of his event at the Swindon Festival of Literature yesterday on the curious histories of how we live, I was reminded of my first year of my degree studies. This was about the Ancient Greeks and their various types of love. How ‘love’ didn’t necessarily mean passion, and how the Greeks actually felt wary of erotic love.

Which made me think that just because we (in the English language) don’t give different types of love their own names, does this mean we don’t have similar concepts? Or does giving them their own names raise awareness, legitimise them? Raise their importance? Or is the multitasking of one word just as good? Hmmm.

And here’s a ‘did you know’: the Eros statue in London’s Piccadilly Square is not the god of romance at all. Nope, it was erected (snigger) as a monument to his twin brother Anteros, the god of requited love and also known as the Angel of Christian Charity.

Ahha! I see what you’re doing there, Swindon Festival of Literature. I’m founding out things and getting a bit of mental exercise. Mission accomplished. Continue reading

When did you stop dancing?

12 May

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Yesterday at Swindon Festival of Literature began with a sleep at the Mark Williams Mindfulness events.

Now before you start thinking badly of Mark Williams, I’ll quickly explain that he led the Swindon Arts Centre audience in a meditation or ‘body scan’. Continue reading