Out of the centre

Guest posts it seems are like buses. You wait ages for one and then two come at once! Yesterday I published a guest post from Councillor Jim Robbins concerning his visit, in an official capacity, to STEAM museum.   Today, and this diversity is what I absolutely LOVE about the guest posts on #BAS, we have something completely different. I have banged on ad nauseam to anyone that will listen – or be unable to escape, I’m not proud – about how there absolutely IS a thriving arts and culture scene here in Swindon. To those people who don’t buy into the notion that there’s culture in Swindon – what are you looking for exactly that you think isn’t here? We have a literature festival, a poetry festival, there’s Artsite and the Postmodern, we have public art galore and a very fine art collection. There’s the Wyvern and the Arts Centre , amateur dramatics, SALOS and the Gilbert and Sullivan society. On top of that there’s all manner of art groups and performers of all kinds. Anyone who sees Born again Swindonian’s Facebook page can’t have failed to miss all the stuff I share from the Old Town Garden’s artists group. And I bet there’s more. There’s bound to be more.

A couple of weekends back I popped into the Museum and Art Gallery to take a look at the new ‘About Face’ exhibition.  Whilst there I fell into conversation with a delightful young lady, Beatrice, and the Creative Copies team about the perception widely held – mostly by people IN Swindon it transpires – that the only culture to found in Swindon is the kind that comes in a yoghurt pot. However it seems that people outside of Swindon are very well aware of the arts and culture scene in Swindon. In fact, I have it on good authority,  there’s a lady selling up and moving from Reading to Swindon for that very reason. To be part of, and close to, Swindon’s art scene.

Hence I was simply delighted to read Beatrice’s post. Beatrice has come to Swindon from Athens, via Sydney – yes as in Australia – so now here, in her own words is why she came here and why she is, I reckon it’s fair to say, pretty impressed with Swindon’s art scene. Thank you Beatrice. Vindication is mine!

This blog post was initiated from a conversation with Anjelica about Swindon. We were discussing how Swindon is regarded artistically from other towns or from within. Questions such as ‘Is there an art scene?’ or ‘Have things been changing?’ were brought up.

As a newcomer to this town, I appreciate only having lived in Swindon for a short while, my personal point of view may or may not touch upon these questions or contribute to the complexity of this town’s identity.

Last September I enrolled to do the Masters degree in Fine Art at Swindon College. Originally from Athens in Greece but I was living and studying in Sydney for five years. I completed the Bachelor degree in Visual Art at the University of Sydney and simultaneously completed a three year course in painting under the artist Charlie Sheard.

When I first moved here I was asked by a number of people why did I choose Swindon and what brought me to here, many of whom had a smile flickering when they enquired.

I wanted to move here because I was curious. Until now I had only lived in capital cities and wanted to experience something different. Sydney is a hive of activity, bumping into someone you know one way or another. On the other hand I could not stay in Athens, which lead me to chose England as it seemed to hold many opportunities. It also seemed challenging, in the way that I did not know what to expect.

As soon as I started the course I was exposed to many events that took place in Swindon. For example, the philosophy society hosted ‘ if androids dreamed of electric sheep’, a thought provoking talk at Cakes and Ale based on the movie ‘Blade Runner’ or Jean Abreu performing ‘Blood’ at Swindon Dance inspired largely from the work of Gilbert and George. In addition, I was invited to participate in a drawing project called ‘Semantic Archive’ to work with archivists at the Wiltshire History Centre. I could continue listing happenings, note places I have not yet had the pleasure to go yet such as the poetry festival. All these little outgoings lead me to discover a few things about Swindon:

There are a lot of artists. It became apparent to me when we put together the Pop-Up Gallery ‘Second Mouth’ at the Brunel Plaza. Until that point I had only met student artists at the college. When the ‘open call’ exhibitions were advertised, artists with completely different practices were submitting work. Photographers, graphic designers, illustrators, sculptors, painters, sound art performers, experimental drawers, printmakers, and so on. We exhibited with multi-media artists and practitioners, some even lived out of town, others had studied at Swindon College years ago.

Many members of the public would walk past the entrance with a genuine expression of curiosity. Some came bravely through, others were slightly hesitant to step inside and look around. On occasion, children raced inside as their parents rushed behind them to take them back to the playground. Acquaintances were made with writers that painted, gamers that printed 3-D artworks, book-binders, curators, musicians and performers.

What I have been enjoying the most is being surrounded by people who work hard. Noticed across a variety of people, within a range of disciplines. Living in an environment where people really care about what they do, is striking in Swindon. Regardless of it being significantly smaller than Sydney, I have already met over a handful of people that are incredibly focused in their practice and their everyday jobs. Perhaps the reason for this sense of development lately is because the town is intuitively aiming to gain more acknowledgement.

Before I left Sydney I was having a conversation with a lecturer of the painting department. Shane and I were talking about the ‘art world’ and what artists do to get ‘out there’. Shane turned the conversation around by saying to me ‘Don’t go to the centre’. What he meant was don’t go to New York or Berlin. I sort of laughed and didn’t think much of it.

But it makes sense now.’

 

#swindon #wiltshire #swindonblog  #thingstodoinswindon #thingstoseeinswindon #whattodoinswindon #swindonia #swindoniablog #hiddenswindon #swindonian #swindonia #BAS #bornagainswindonian #creativecopies #secondmouth #art #culture