So, here I am with the penultimate post in my series of 10 things to celebrate about Swindon. It’s not a definitive list of course – it’s merely the first 10 things that popped into my head of the things that Swindon has that I consider to be worthy of a particular mention. There are many, more of course. I don’t doubt that everyone of you out there can compile your own list – which is as it should be. Anyway, being as this post is a snapshot of Swindon’s theatre and arts scene let’s get on with the show…
I’ve written before, in a previous post about the 2012 poetry bus, to refute the claim one sometimes hears that there’s no culture in Swindon. It’s absolutely not true. There is theatre and arts of all kinds in Swindon.
In no particular order, because all of it is amazing, we have:
1) The Wyvern Theatre – an absolutely lovely theatre, with not a bad seat in the house and great acoustics. I’ve had many very enjoyable evenings here over the years. The theatre is named after the mythical wyvern which was once the emblem of the Kings of Wessex. The theatre was opened on 7 September 1971 by Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness Prince Philip. A lovely, lovely theatre.
2) The Arts Centre – in Old Town, this 212 seater theatre has a modern studio for workshops and events, a cafe with a courtyard seating area and a lovely bit of public art in the shape of the ‘Applause’ sculpture. Here again, I’ve enjoyed many a fab evening’s entertainment.
3) Amateur dramatics: There are numerous dramatic and musical societies in Swindon: Swindon Light Opera Society (SALOS), the Swindon Gilbert & Sullivan Society, The Phoenix Players, Old Town Theatre Company (OTTC), Highworth Amateur Dramatic Society (HADS) The Western Players – another long standing organization according to their website: “The Western Players originated as “The Great Western Railway(Swindon) Mechanics Institute Amateur Theatrical Society” in the early 1900’s (the first production was of “Checkmate” by A Halliday on April 25th 1904) and celebrated its 100 year anniversary in 2004. It has performed over 240 plays at the last count (although research is still ongoing!)” And these are the just the ones I know about.
5) Swindon Festival of Literature – now 20 years old, Swindon’s literature festival goes from strength to strength. As the website says: ‘Even though we are now twenty, a properly grown up festival, our founding passion remains rooted, in love of the word, good reading, exploratory talk, finding out about things, making connections, and the notion that life is for learning, and, where possible, pleasure.’
6) Artiste and the Post Modern – as described on Swindon Web: ‘A group of artists have now turned The Old Post Office, Theatre Square, into The Post Modern Gallery and Studios … Drop in and make your mark, learn a new skill, or simply soak up the work from some of Swindon’s best artists. At the very least, you will see The Old Post Office transformed into a hub of creative excitement.’ There was a lovely mosaic lady outside the Post Modern but she is currently in for repair as she was vandalised. Seriously – why? I hope to see her again soon.
7) Public art all over the place – I’ve written at length, in various places on this blog, about the vast array of public art we have in Swindon. There’s the West Swindon Sculpture tour, then there’s the wheels on the old railway path, The Great Blondinis, the Lion in the town centre, the cow at the hospital and many, many more that I’ve not yet got round to blogging about. All in good time.
8) The live streamings at Wharf Green – I’ve seen a few of these now – opera from Covent Garden amongst other things – it’s just fantastic. Though it has to be said a bit more notice of these would be good. I got the e-mail about Tosca only a week before it was due to be streamed. So I had to miss that as I’d already got plans. I was fizzing!
9) Swindon Film Society – a group that showcases world cinema. Again, I’ve seen a couple of their offerings over the years and was thoroughly enthralled by them. A long-standing society they were formed in 1947! “The first film shown on Thursday, 6 March 1947 was Robert Wiene’s ‘The Cabinet of Dr Caligari’ (1919). This film in its visual representation and acting is a work of German Expressionism. It is also the first horror film which was to be a great influence on future examples of the genre. Hitchcock’s ‘The Lady Vanishes’ (1938) was shown in April that year.”
10) Ken White – our very own mural man! Ken White’s murals and art works have been an integral part of the Swindon landscape for many years now. As I said in a previous blog post about him, if you think you don’t know his work you very probably do as he is the creator of Virgin airline’s famous red lady emblem.
So that’s 10 areas of arts and theatre in Swindon. Then there’s also the Swindon Shuffle, Swindon Viewpoint, and of course the Mela – that amazing melting pot of Asian arts that has been a key part of Swindon’s cultural and artistic calendar for 11 years now. And not forgetting of course the Museum and Art Gallery in Old Town!
This is just the stuff that I know about. There’s more – I’m sure there’s more. Swindon is that sort of town. And if there is please let me know – I’d love to hear about it.
So no culture in Swindon? I don’t bloody think so! Swindon DOES arts – and you can find out more here.
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