Tag Archives: Lower Shaw Farm

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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Crowded with letters – writing workshop

13 May

In the Festival Writing Workshop, Alice Jolly shares the elements of a compelling story: detail, viewpoint, structure and editing.

It is an excellent introduction to fiction and memoir writing on the last day of Swindon Festival of Literature. Usually by this point, winter has moved to summer and Lower Shaw Farm is the first to trap the rays. Sun on the Sunday previous baked both kids and adults at the Children and Family Day, but today a chilly wind is on the menu.

No matter. Inside the converted shed, teachers, civil servants, retired people, mums and dad warm up with homemade soup and flapjacks and hone our prose. Some have never written before, some are already published, so it will be a challenge for Alice to teach to that range.

DETAILS are introduced with two poems: Handbag by Ruth Fainlight (‘My mother’s old leather handbag / crowded with letters she carried / all through the war‘) and Death of a Peasant by Welsh poet, R. S. Thomas (‘Lonely as an ewe that is sick to lamb‘). The key is picking ‘one detail which will create a much wider world,’ says Alice. Both poems engage all five senses – it is so easy to linger on the observations of sight and forget the other ways we absorb a scene, a story and make memories. ‘Show not tell’. Make the reader feel the sadness of the character, don’t tell the reader a character is sad. Continue reading

Crick-Crack – whose streets are these? OUR STREETS!

8 May

Three Acres and a Cow

Three Acres and a Cow

The evolution of capitalism in England and resulting land grabs both here and abroad can be arguably simplified to sheep, slavery and fossil fuels… 

I’m in a barn, there’s a ukulele playing (‘like a waterfall,’ says Linda Lee). It’s a beautiful scene: magic piled high to the ceiling on shelves, on string and mesh, on top of chairs, on top of tables – birdcages, bottles, boxes, a microwave! This is the magic of Lower Shaw Farm. The lighting is warm, and people are gathering on the enclave of chairs set around a stage – the bunting is themed – three blank squares to every cow (clever). There’s a washing line.

“Singing together is good for your health – so you will have had at least five of your folk songs a day by the end of the evening,” explains Robin, one of our three performers of Three Acres and a Cow, this part TED talk, part history lecture, part folk club sing-a-long, part poetry slam, part storytelling session.

The washing line is explained – ‘This is the washing line of history’ – that makes sense, I’m now rather excited to see how history can unfurl on a washing line. The line will show the gaps in what they learned (or didn’t learn) in history at school. 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

Wild writing

18 May

Isn't Lower Shaw Farm pretty?

Isn’t Lower Shaw Farm pretty? Photo (C) Festival Chronicle.

Us chroniclers love an event leader who gives good quote.

Bridget Holding’s workshop was one of well-honed analogies, thoughtful phrases and stimulating prompts.

Her writing hook is wild. “Nature is a brilliant resource – it’s very living, it helps writing to become alive. It grounds ourselves,” said Bridget. And ‘new’ nature writing is very now – such as Amy Liptrot and The Outrun, as featured earlier in the Swindon Festival of Literature.

She explained what she meant: ‘writing is like tracking a wild animal’. An animal exists in its environment; it uses its senses. It has a physical bodily reaction with broad body sensations which intensify into emotions. Emotion is there to deal with a threat, leading to action. This will create powerful writing, lighting up the brain’s neurons, helping the reader live in your world, not simply look at it. 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

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