Tag Archives: Swindon Arts Centre

Boxing Handsome at the Swindon Festival of Literature

8 May
Matt Holland, Anna Whitwham and Paddy Fitzpatrick

Matt Holland, Anna Whitwham and Paddy Fitzpatrick

For me, this was the most fascinating event of the Festival so far.

A lecturer in Masculinity at Royal Holloway University. A boxing trainer.

One with a refined accent, defined cheekbones and flowing clothes.
The other, dapper in a pork pie hat, glittering wrist watch, Irish.

Both were considered.

While I won’t necessarily watch a boxing match, I’m drawn to trained fighting; the Muhammad Ali ideal of ‘dance like a butterfly, sting like a bee’, the marriage of grace and intelligence with brutality. Blood and brains.

The eye-opener about boxing, as seen by trainer Paddy Fitzpatrick, is the universality of successful boxing – the rules can be applied to anything. I’ve heard the same said about dancing, mindfulness, overcoming anxiety, virtuoso musicianship, performance and success in any walk of life. Politics, especially politics. Continue reading

Patrick Gale, Eve McBride and truth at the Swindon Festival of Literature

7 May

Patrick Gale and Eve McBride

Patrick Gale and Eve McBride

“I come from a long line of priests. I owe a huge debt to the King James Bible. The language got under my skin. My Father spoke like a King James Bible. Today, I’m a doubter,” said novelist Patrick Gale.

“Mental illness overshadowed my life growing up. Our characters can go just like that from mental illness. I think that’s why I became a writer. I could escape into other people by writing.”

He was in conversation, yesterday, with novelist Eve McBride, fellow truth teller and lover of dogs.

“I suspect we both want to talk about dogs,” said Patrick earlier on Twitter; Eve’s Twitter name is 2bluedanes. “I have a dog in all my books,” said Patrick. Eve’s book, No Worst, There is None, explores the healing of grief from all angles, including by dog. Continue reading

Writing Motherhood at the Swindon Festival of Literature

6 May
Writing Motherhood

From left: Rowan Coleman, Carolyn Jess-Cooke, C L Taylor

The mostly forgotten writer Cyril Connolly thought the pram in the hall ‘the sombre enemy of good art’.

On the face of it I’d agree: good motherhood is generally the enemy of good sleep, good sanity, good brain cells and good bank account. Children come first; not least because they scream louder.

But did Cyril mean this the same as me? Or did he comment with an inherent sexism born of early twentieth century attitudes, implying that the women’s place was in the home with the hallway pram? Hormones and responsibilities meant that women could never aspire to good art? Or was he commiserating with women because the relentlessness of motherhood (especially pre-washing machine era) left little room for anything else? 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

The Roof of the World at Swindon Festival of Poetry

7 Oct

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As an English white woman, I wouldn’t describe Saturday’s event – The Evening News and The Roof of the World – as a culture shock (far too gentle for that) but it was a beautifully different experience.

The spoken poetry on Saturday was in Hindi by Mohan Rana. There were no English subtitles, but this didn’t matter. I opened my mind to it like I would music or dance; a different way of understanding, enjoying the musicality of the language.

To emphasis this and compliment the poetry, Mohan had invited his friend, ‘cellist Jo Quail, to perform alongside him. Jo had previously interpreted his poem The Colour of Water (From the Sea).

Continue reading

To be or not to be? Do it. Do it! Think Slam at Swindon Festival of Literature

20 May

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So I decided the night before the Think Slam that I was going to do it. Do it. Do it.

That needed to be said several times as the only time I previously entered the Think Slam, I came last. But that’s me. Utterly nail it or completely miss the point. I am not an inbetweeny kind of woman.

So on Thursday I finally had three solid ideas in my head for the three times three minute pieces, and checked on the off chance that there was a place left in the competition. There was. Okay, I now had one chronicler piece to write up that day. Check. Two for Friday. Check. And three think slam talks to hone for Friday evening. Oh gawd. I really don’t like life to be simple.

And to really make it interesting, I woke up on Friday to a nasty headache.

At 1pm, after chronicler Pete shoved some painkillers down my throat, I began to write. I spent three hours on the first talk and an hour on the next two. I work quite well under pressure, fortunately. The chronicler pieces would have to wait.

After Sandrine Berges’s interesting talk on unsung hero Mary Wollstonecraft, it was time for the Think Slam to commence. Continue reading

How to get a book on the best seller lists – Carole Blake at Swindon Festival of Literature

18 May

Do your research, says legendary literary agent, Carole Blake.

Carole’s event at Swindon Arts Centre on Thursday night wasn’t appropriate advice for all writers – poets, people happily writing for fun, journalists, non-fiction, niche – but this gem universally rings true, whether you’re writing a CV or pitching your precious first book to an agent.

And it’s easier than ever. Check out most agent’s website and they’ll give you a step-by-step guide of what they do and don’t represent, in which format to submit your work, etc. And, of course, you need a cracking book that they like and think they can sell. Continue reading

Filer nails it – Nathan Filer at Swindon Festival of Literature

16 May
Nathan Filer (centre) ©Calyx Pictures

Nathan Filer (centre) ©Calyx Pictures

Luckily ‘The Shock of the Fall’ is not a kiss and tell memoir by Mark E. Smith’s dentist, but an award-winning jewel of a book by first time novelist Nathan Filer.

Written completely from the point of view of nine-year old Matthew, the book has an implied darkness from the very start.

Filer was an enlightening guest, as he described the process of writing his novel from the very first moment the phrase ‘I had no intention of putting up a fight but these guys weren’t taking any chances’ entered his head and wouldn’t stop repeating. 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

Disconnect from what makes life faster – Frederic Gros at the Swindon Festival of Literature

15 May
Frederic Gros © Calyx Pictures

Frederic Gros © Calyx Pictures

At 12:15, Wednesday 14 May. I was walking in the Brunel Centre. I had bought mangoes and rice noodles from the tented market. I had walked to pay money into the bank. I thought nothing of it. I have never thought to differentiate between my types of walking in life.

My phone rang. It was Festival Director Matt Holland. “You must come and listen to Frederic Gros!” he said. ”Hear what he has to say about Rimbaud. It is wonderful!”

So, instead of walking, I ran to my car and in 20 minutes was sitting in the Arts Centre. Continue reading