Tag Archives: Swindon Spring Festival

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

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

Swindon Slam – the real elephant in the room

14 May
Swindon Slam winner Joy-Amy Wigman

Swindon Slam winner Joy-Amy Wigman

“Poems are no longer dangerous enough; risk-averse…” shouts Brenda Reed Brown, Swindon Slam contestant. And, as the evening comes to an end, I must agree she may have a point.

For the 25th anniversary of the Festival of Literature (and the 22nd Swindon Slam) previous winners – normally excluded from entering – were invited back.

That was good news for 2017 winner, Joy-Amy Wigman, who took the 2018 trophy with her poem, Hell Is Empty; a political poem documenting an encounter that Joy had with a Tory MP who advised ‘disability cuts will not affect you’. This statement promoted her pennings and sign off – it will affect you, maybe not, you are a Tory.

Fellow finalist Chris Osman, meanwhile, competed with his poem, Even Daily Mail Readers Die. Continue reading

‘Where did all the anger come from?’ ponders former punk guitarist

11 May
Viv Albertine

Viv Albertine

“Where did all the anger come from?!” asks Viv Albertine, the former guitarist with punk group The Slits, who discussed her memoir To Throw Away Unopened at Swindon Festival of Literature.

Although a majority of the discussion was based around Viv’s bubbling anger, she carries a very calming presence with her, as she sat comfortably on stage resting one leg over the other, sharing her story. Continue reading

The Life of Michael (not Brian) by Milo, aged 11 3/4s

10 May

When Milo met Michael

First thing I have to say about this man is… he is quite possibly the funniest and ‘niciest’ person I have ever met. And oh yes I have met him, and got to perform some of his poem Chocolate Cake to him which was a real honour.

So his performance was great and he made it very engaging. It is guaranteed that when you listen to Michael you will have hiccups from laughing so much.

His performance was about his memoirs. But even the titles of his books have back stories and the story behind this one is that he wanted to call his book an autobiography but the publishers wanted it to be called a memoir so there was an epic battle and the publishers won so it is now called the silly French-sounding word ‘memoir.’ Continue reading

From XTC to FML – two DIY publishers turned professional writers share their stories

9 May
Gill Sims in conversation with Emma Smith of Mum's the Word

Gill Sims in conversation with Emma Smith of Mum’s the Word

As the creator and editor of several publications covering an array of subjects over several decades, from a photocopied magazine about 1990s indie and dance music, to a blog about arts festivals (this ‘un), and a grown-up business news publication with actual advertising on it, I was excited to hear how two authors had embraced the DIY ethos to carve a career in writing.

My first stop was the Reading Room at Swindon Library, where Mark Fisher was talking to an enthusiastic crowd of XTC fans.

For 10 years Mark and his friend Paul Badger wrote and published the band’s fanzine, Limelight.

Surprisingly, the idea for a fanzine came before the idea of writing about XTC.

“Fanzine culture was in the air,” said Mark. “Kids were speaking for themselves rather than relying on the inkies [Sounds / NME / Melody Maker] and you either formed a band, or formed a fanzine about one.

“So the idea of writing a fanzine came first. After that we asked ourselves: who about?” Continue reading

Democracy and its Crisis

9 May
A. C. Grayling at Swindon festival of Literature

A. C. Grayling at Swindon Festival of Literature

A. C. Grayling took a packed and attentive audience right back to Plato when explaining about democracy.

The country was originally controlled by the aristocracy, where the King had absolute power given to him by divine right. Giving power to an ill informed public would result in anarchy and mob rule.

When Charles I was beheaded in 1649, a great change began in the idea of where authority lies and its source. The Levellers wanted the poorest in England to have as much right to a voice as the richest, with each individual (man) able to play a part in having a good enough government.

Over the next 200 years, thinkers such as John Locke and John Mills considered how to ensure a good enough government. i.e. vote someone competent to work on your behalf, listen to the facts and work in the best interests of the country..

However as more people got the vote, political parties emerged with their own agenda. MPs now had to obey the Whip, rebel and the party withdraws support for further re-election and the MPs career would be over. The tight control of the parties results in the institution being manipulated.

Continue reading

A Humble Champion – Jo Pavey at Swindon Festival of Literature

8 May

LitFest_18050701_Jo_Pavany_Running_0008If ever anyone was able to brag about their achievements it would be Jo Pavey: World Champion, mother of two children, and author.

Instead she is Jo, an honest down-to-earth individual who admitted to only raising her arms halfway up in 2014 at the 10,000m World Championships, due to her disbelief in having won and her fear of being judged when wearing running gear on the school run.

Jo speaks as freely as she runs, her responses and stories at times emerging at the same pace but absorbing nonetheless. A runner since she was 13 years old, Jo never voiced her desire to pursue athletics professionally. Born into an active but not sporting family she was recommended to an Athletics Club by her PE teacher, with a neighbour assisting with the transport due to her parents caring for younger siblings.

Love, irrespective of discipline and circumstance, never leaves. Jo continued to run throughout her studies in Physiotherapy at Bristol University and a six-month backpacking trip around the world with her future husband, Gavin. Silently continuing her training and pursuing her desire to become a professional athlete, Jo ran through the sights as opposed to walking: ascending volcanoes, passing through fields of kangaroos, and stopping at sports fields in New Zealand for impromptu training sessions. Continue reading

Who’s Telling Me What? – All the action from the Festival Finale

14 May

Our extraordinary night kicked off with a crescendo. Dancing out from the wings, with high verbal drop-kicks and punchy music, the Tongue Fu Band lit the gig, lit the Swindon Festival of Literature Finale. I hadn’t noticed him last night at the Think Slam, yet Fu frontman Chris Redmond, must have heard my Think Slam three minutes as he threw out at us “There is only here. There is only now” Continue reading