Tag Archives: Swindon

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

Let them work out cake – Alex Bellos at Swindon Festival of Literature

14 May

Too much thinking and heat reminded me of English A Level. I would prop my A4 folder between lap and desk (to look like I was taking notes) and then nod off for a while. I really could have done with those Homer Simpson’s glasses which have wide eyes printed on the front to disguise the closed eyes behind them.

But here’s the problem with chronicling. Sometimes one is in the minority of one. The rest of the audience of young and old seemed very much awake through Alex Bellos’s talk at Swindon Arts Centre yesterday about the maths covered in his book, Alex Through the Looking Glass. Continue reading

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

13 May

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

Erotic cupcakes – Swindon Slam! in Swindon Festival of Literature

12 May

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So it was Swindon versus love tokens in the final of the 19th Swindon Slam!, on Saturday night.

Bit of a brave decision, dissing the hosting town in your bid to be crowned King of Slam. I’ll admit I quite liked Robert Garnham’s* rhyming of ‘Billie Piper’ and ‘hyper’ and comparison of Swindon to Philip Scofield. I can see where he’s coming from. But whether this counted against him or whether Tina Saderhome’s* domestic tale of love tokens was better, I’m not sure. In case you were wondering, love tokens are those things which really test a relationship – not when your spouse/daughter is kidnapped to ensure you commit a presidential assassination**, no we’re talking about leaving the toilet uncleaned after, ahem, a bowel movement: ‘I didn’t realise you’d literally leave your shit lying around’.***

And – in the bit I was there for anyway – there was *breaking news* no poetry about sex. Unless you count the erotic way cupcakes were described in one stanza, and Fozzie Bear in another (‘Wear the Hat!’). Okay, these were the two poets that slammed in the final. So, actually, if you do want to win a slam, make sure your poetry is loaded with smut.

*This spelling is probably utterly wrong.
**Sorry, been watching all eight series of 24 again.
***This is an appalling paraphrase.

Words by Louisa Davison. Photos by Calyx Pictures.

Dawn Chorus, Swindon Festival of Literature

5 May

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Apparently there are plenty of morning people in Swindon. Or maybe, like me, they like the Dawn Chorus so much that they forgive the early rise. Or maybe, just once in a while, it’s great to make the effort and see the early May mist, hear the joy of the birds as they wake and see the day slowly easing in with a beautiful red, stretching across the line of artfully arranged clouds. And then think, wow, Swindon can be really quite picturesque. Continue reading

Swindon Festival of Literature Launch 2014

21 Mar

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Death Cafe. “Everyone welcome but not recommended for anyone recently bereaved.” I’m wondering if I should go to this on Monday 12 May as my cat died a few weeks ago.

She was twenty years old and this was, I’m told, a ‘good innings’. But she was part of our family for nearly half my life so our cat-lessness is making us sad.

But what’s this got to do with the launch of the twenty-first Swindon Festival of Literature, yesterday, noon, at Swindon Central Library?

Funny you should ponder. Sandwiched between Nathan Filer (The Shock of the Fall) and Kate Adie (Needs No Introduction), is the Death Cafe, a discussion about death and dying. You may partake of rich tea but perhaps not sympathy. Bring not your raw nerves; bring instead your pragmatism. Continue reading

Swindon Festival of Poetry Finale

12 Oct

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Claire Trevien. A beautifully spoken poet in holey tights. Professionalism stripped when asked to speak in French on stage. She’s been in a Best British Poetry 2013 book, so, class act. I liked Introduction to Love, which was what would happen if the rules of writing a thesis were applied to a romantic relationship. You can probably guess.

(I missed Kim Moore. Soz. Apparently she was rather good.)

Elvis McGonagall. Richly deserved one-time World Slam champion. Hilarious lefty comedic political rantings. Harpooned the Queen, Prince Charles as ‘Prince of Biscuits’, Iain Duncan Antoinette ‘Drowning in debt? Then give us a wave / Sell yourself in Poundland. Try to save / Dance as you dig your own pauper’s grave / On 53 quid a week’, and Margaret Thatcher in A bed at the Ritz. Really doesn’t like Tony Blair either. Continue reading

Bardwell O’Neil are Game – Swindon Festival of Poetry

9 Oct

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Bardwell O’Neil are Game turned out to be the perfect format for a seven year old to write poetry. Basically: a running around game, followed by writing down words about it, followed by another running around game, followed by more words, then poetic genius, followed by more running around games followed by more poetic genius. Wears me out just remembering it.

Yes, I’m probably biased because it’s my seven year old writing the genius poetry. But here’s the evidence: he’s had a story blog since he was four, loves to recount tales (and is addicted to Doctor Who and most other things that happen to be on TV), and going without his bedtime story is the ultimate punishment. However, by the time he’s sat down (what seems like the whole day) at school, and has done his homework (still getting my head around homework at his age) he doesn’t want to concentrate on any more writing.

So Sue Bardwell and Heather O’Neil, both with young sons, embarked on this experiment on Sunday (Broadgreen Community Centre at the Swindon Festival of Poetry) to get kids, boys in particular, writing poetry. So – by way of playground games such as Fruit Salad, Chains, Bulldog and What’s the Time Mr Wolf? – they get kids energised, then thinking about words associated with their actions and emotions, then writing them down into verse and stanzas. Continue reading

Roger McGough – Swindon Festival of Poetry

6 Oct
Roger McGough

Roger McGough

Roger McGough’s Friday event at the Swindon Festival of Poetry, As Far As I Know, was a masterclass in brilliant delivery.

Much of the time I was laughing out loud, which made his more thoughtful pieces hit even harder. What I really like about Roger’s work is that his poems at first seem really straight forward and easily understood, but then Roger plays around with the words like a Wimbledon champion, slicing and top-spinning until they flick a winner over the net when I was expecting a passing shot.

Such as A Fine Romance which is about dementia, Alzheimers and, er, love.

Or in As Far As I Know, where he lists the awful things he hasn’t done, before comically mixing them up: ‘molested a bomb soaked in voicemail.’

Poet Laureate Carol Anne Duffy called Roger the patron saint of poetry, so he wrote a response to her best known anthology, The World’s Wife (see post), by way of, for example, Mr Nightingale (spouse of Florence Nightingale) and Enid Blyton’s husband. Mr Blyton is fed up with his wife’s fictional characters supplanting him in their marriage, so he wishes that a haunted cave would collapse on the Famous Five or ‘five famous skeletons wash up on some distant shore’.

And I think I’m with him on that.

Sliproad Poetry – Up the Junction! at Swindon Festival of Poetry

6 Oct

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Yesterday I went down the M4. Well, physically I crossed the great divide of the M4 from the Marlborough side to the Swindon side. But poetically I travelled from Bristol to London, being a bit late for Swansea and Cardiff.

Up the Junction!, part of the Swindon Festival of Poetry, was the loose theme for sticking a bunch of poets together in a room (at the impressive youth centre The Platform) for a large chunk of the day. And it worked in the same way cabaret works – some you like, some you don’t and some passes you by.

At this point I must share that I took my (almost) six month old along and, as any parent will tell you, things tend to revolve around them. Sometimes because I have to tend to her needs, sometimes because I realise I’ve been stroking her head and not paid much attention to anything else.

Heather, who had her third child a couple of weeks after mine, was there with baby in tow. We are both pretty tired. ‘Are you getting much of this?’ I think she asked me, or I asked her. ‘Sometimes I catch a line I like, or one I don’t. Both good,’ she said. Continue reading