When I first conceived this blog I needed a starting point. So I came up with the idea of 10 things to celebrate about Swindon. This post is No 2: Arts and Culture
I have often heard it said that there is no culture in Swindon. Of the arts sort that is rather than the bacteria type. I daresay there’s a lot of the latter around but I know for certain that there’s plenty of the former.
It might be well hidden, one might have to root it out – but it is there nevertheless. For starters Swindon hosted, for 25 years, a literature festival – thanks to the efforts of Matt Holland. That literature festival has now moved into a spring arts festival.
Poetry in Swindon
Back in 2012 I went on a journey on a Vintage Poetry bus – an actual embodiment of a magical mystery tour. I’ve never done drugs, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that an acid trip is similar to my experience on that bus. It was, quite simply, the most stupendously, superbly surreal experience of my entire life!
Collecting its passengers at the bus station, the tour had two guides: Barry Dicks (aka Michael Scott) and Mabel Watson (aka Hilda Sheehan) who between them provided hysterical commentary, banter and badinage interspersed with poetry readings.
The journey took us around corners of Swindon that we might rarely see and highlighted some surprises – the view of the Marlborough downs from Penhill for one of many.
We stopped for refreshments and a comfort break at Lower Shaw Farm, http://www.lowershawfarm.co.uk, in West Swindon before returning to the bus station where, somewhat dazed (well I was anyway!), our journey ended. A truly fabulous and fun experience.
As far as I’m aware Poetry Swindon is alive and well. But possibly in some form other than this website.
Covered arts and culture in my published writings
As with so many things, Swindon’s arts and culture got as much coverage as I could squeeze into Secret Swindon. In that book I wrote about the museum and art gallery in Old Town, the Richard Jefferies museum at Coate, public art – including the West Swindon sculpture walk, and many of Swindon’s artists. Not to mention the Wyvern Theatre and the Arts Centre and many more.
Not forgetting of course 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 only the ones I know about.