Tag Archives: Hilda Sheehan

Saturday: Carrie Etter reading

7 Oct
Carrie Etter

Carrie Etter

Saturday: after a tea break the rain was abating and a packed tent was treated to a wonderfully strong reading from Carrie Etter, who’s something of a darling with the Poetry Swindon audience. Hardly surprising given all that she does for the local/regional poetry scene. The Tent Palace was aglow with love!

Before the reading there was a lovely speech/farewell from Festival Founder/Director Hilda Sheehan. Hilda has relocated to Belgium, but she wanted to not only thank everyone who had worked hard for and supported the Festival, but also reassure us that it would continue, and get better and better. There was a special thank you to Helen Dewbery for taking on the organisation late in the day, and bringing the festival to fruition. We love Hilda!

And so to Carrie. She read from her collection The Weather in Normal (Seren), (so-named for Carrie’s original home town of Normal, Illinois.)

After opening with ‘Night Ode’, she told us how her father had been obsessed with watching weather reports, and even after she had moved away he would call her up to tell her the weather forecast for where she was.

Carrie calls the book ‘a eulogy to my Illinois’, and told us about her journey from Normal to California aged 19, and from there to England… although she still ‘returns to Normal once a year’.

A sense of loss – for her parents, her home, but also the effects of climate change on the landscape she grew up in – pervade the book. But she told us it’s also ‘a celebration of the place and the people.’

Here’s the last poem she read, ‘Trying to Say’:

Festival Finale – Things WILL only get better

21 May

SwindonLitFes_2018_0020_Jacob_Hi_Ho&Darine_Flanagan_previewAt the finale of the Finale of the Swindon Festival of Literature, circus performer Darine carried Jake and the festival into a new era – next year it morphs into Spring Swindon Festival of the arts.

One could be forgiven for feeling reflective. Laura, of musical act the Glow Globes, observed, “Is it a little melancholy tonight because it has been 25 years and things are going to change?”

A film showed us the growth of the festival from a programme of twelve events to over fifty. “Who told us festivals to look forward to this week include the Cannes Festival and Swindon Festival of Literature?” festival director Matt Holland asked in a short audience quiz. The answer was Radio 2. Continue reading

We are all nurses – Christie Watson

12 May
Photo of Matt Holland and Christie Watson

Matt Holland and Christie Watson ©Fernando Bagué

I’m drawn to kindness, and I was pleased to see an event on this subject at this year’s festival. We live in a country of increasing homelessness and poverty (again) – to hear/read about kindness feels more important than ever. 

I’ve also been a psychiatric nurse myself during the 1980’s and 1990’s, in one of those old asylums, and sometimes kindness was not part of care: lack of time and lack of resources always pushed kindness to the outer edges in those cold enormous wards, and people were dehumanised by this. 

Christie Watson’s book is impressive. She raises the awareness of the quality of good nurses through stories that highlight her own twenty years of kindness and dedication: “Sympathy, compassion, empathy: this is what history tells us makes a good nurse.” (p.8).  Continue reading

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

STICK IT IN YOUR PANTS!

7 Oct

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The night before at the Ruth Stone House Party – also featuring lots of poets – the intros seem to go on f.o.r.e.v.e.r. and basically a long list of publications.

Thankfully the point of Quiet Compere was for the audience to decide if the 10 poets x 10 minutes were any good by listening to their poems. And so our first half host, Sarah L Dixon, read a couple of her poems and introduced poets by way of their name only.

Sarah’s The Source was probably the muckiest poem I’ve heard about a marriage breakup – a horrid smell leading to a cloth in drawer for a collection of, ahem, male excretions. Continue reading

Alone unwatched?

30 Sep

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Those China eyes are staring at you again, well one of them is, the other gazes sideways at someone on the other side of the room, an admirable bit of ocular multi-tasking for an inanimate object.

A China paw gloved by a China shoe pokes from the folds of a China robe as if this Swindon Sphinx has once more lost the straightforward pathway.

But this is not a straightforward place, nor is it a dark wood, it is Poetry Swindon Festival being five years old.

You had an unusually hectic Wednesday night, you left your phone charger on the train, you feel washed out and tired, your mood dial is flicking its eyelash in and out of grumpy.

Like the shopkeeper in Mr Benn, a great friend appears at your side, you met her through poetry, and she has held you up when the mood dial mires in the red.

She offers you the clothes of a poet and you put them on, you don’t want to be a Spaceman or a Medieval Knight today, you want to be a poet.

You wonder where these clothes will take you? 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

A Simply Splendid Swindon Affair

8 May

A Swindon Affair

8th April 2016

A  Swindon Affair: a Family Affair and a Love Affair

When posting about this event on social media I accidentally referred to it as a ‘Family Affair’. But that was probably a Freudian slip – or something. Because a family affair is really rather what it felt like. The entire affair: afternoon and evening – was filled with people I know and have great affection for. And it was wonderful.

Loving Swindon: in words, pictures and music – a few words first about the afternoon event. The Platform on Faringdon Rd was overflowing with the astonishing literary output and outpouring there has been, and still is, about Swindon from Swindon people and others who love Swindon.

The whole thing was a collaboration between Swindon Civic Voice, Poetry Swindon and the Swindon Literature Festival. Three most marvellous groups right here in Swindon. Continue reading

Waltzing with Frances and Martine at the Swindon Festival of Literature

5 May
Paul and Hilda and Frances and Martine

Paul and Hilda and Frances and Martine

A piano dominates the stage, a very cosy looking sheepskin or polyesterpelt rug is thrown casually, but accurately, beside it. The Teasmade is on and the knitting has been put to one side …. Just for now.

Frances and Martine, dark, humorous and adventurous creations of Hilda Sheehan, are waltzing tonight and who knows where that glide and swish will take them?

Spotted late but somehow menacing is a metal chair with a seat of words and a back made from the steel of Salvador Dali’s shaven moustache, what will these two opinionated women make of that?
Timing was the key to the performance, with Paul Turner’s piano fracturing the language and creating darker, deeper impressions. Continue reading

High Wire Act: Poems in Flight at the Swindon Festival of Poetry

2 Oct

Three woman poets – Claire Dyer, Susan Utting and Lesley Saunders – today gave a collaborative reading High Wire Act: Poems of Flight, a project of coming together over mutual respect of each others’ work. Sharing their work spread out on a table, they realised they had a common theme of birds and escape.

Their work ranged from the descriptive to the metaphorical, meanings deep within the verse or a story easily grasped; all beautifully read. About the first moon landing, love, the life balancing act performed by women, inspired by art, deceased mothers and the sadness of a stuffed bird. (One beleaguered male audience member commented, ‘With three woman poets I was worried it would be yucky, it wasn’t’. Perhaps he was expecting Jo Brand-style pieces about periods?)

Inspired by Lesley Saunders’ poem, A Sheep, a Duck and a Cockerel, I thought I’d pen my own piece. Lesley’s poem is about the development of flight, from those first animals who – in test dummy fashion – took to the sky in a balloon, to the casual, routine journey of flight today.

I really liked the line: ‘looking is always an act of desire.’

Lesley describes Kittenger’s record-breaking fall from the sky back in the 1960s and I remembered how fascinated I was with Felix Baumgartner’s stratospheric fall in 2012 which set new records.

Yes, perhaps the money invested in setting up Felix’s stunt could have been better used on feeding starving orphans, but here was a hero we could look up to (I know, pun) who tested the limits of the human body and psyche on our behalf. And who was a man driven, obsessed, not with being a new record holder, but just with falling that far.

For him, looking was not just an act of desire but of looking into the very heart of fear.

The Descent

He strove for years.
Loved the freedom of falling;
The atmosphere like a storm
Resistance versus mass like the friend of my friend.

Continue reading