17th June 2023
Swindon Create Studios Celebrates. So earlier this week I had the pleasure/honour/delight and all such adjectives, to attend a brilliant bash to celebrate CREATE Studios move to a fabulous new home in the equally fabulous carriage works – in the GWR railway village. They began life, I think, in an attic room in the town hall. Then to space in the Wyvern Theatre. And now to the carriage works.
Billed as a launch, that’s a wee bit misleading as CREATE studios have been around for forty years or thereabouts. But more of the backstory in a bit. First – who and what are CREATE studios?
From their website:
We’re a team of passionate filmmakers, digital creators, and storytellers. We’re dedicated to producing impactful productions through film, photography, and animation.
As a Community Interest Company, we pride ourselves in making a positive impact on the communities we live in. We reinvest our profits into creating opportunities for the next generation of diverse talent in the digital industry. Through our groundbreaking mentoring programme, we empower young people to find their voice, independence, and confidence to break into the digital world.
Why not Meet the Team here: https://createstudios.org.uk/about/team/
*Images courtesy of Kris Talikowski
David Yates – seen in the photos here – is well known for, amongst other things, involvement with some of the Harry Potter films. Back in the 1980s David lived in Swindon for a while and worked as a freelancer for CREATE. They helped him to make his first serious film. Staying with Harry Potter, the train that does duty as the Hogwarts’ Express is a product of the Swindon Works. It started life as The Hall-class locomotive GWR 5972, known as Olton Hall, built in April 1937.
So we have a cool bit of circularity here. The man that made the Harry Potter films (some of them), that featured a train made in Swindon, was, we can argue, made in Swindon himself. Well – in a manner of speaking -and up to a point of course. All of which proves, yet again (it happens a lot – stuff pointing to/connecting with Swindon) that #SwindonIsTheCentreOfTheUniverse
*Clegg Bamber and his friend on the far left have involvement with Swindon independent film festival.
In the beginning
Once upon a time there was an arts scene in Swindon. Well – point of fact there still is – as the main topic of the post demonstrates. But anyway …
… It thrilled me no end to hear David Yates’ wife (name escapes me -fantastic outfit) mention Terry Court – erstwhile arts officer for the then Thamesdown Borough Council- arguably the granddad of it all.
Terry Court is something of an unsung arts hero. I did give him some mention in my book about Ken White. TC made Swindon the envy of the Greater London Council such was the level of arts engagement he achieved in Swindon. Ken Livingston tried to poach him but he wouldn’t go. I get the impression, from sooooo many people, that Swindon was the most amazing place to be back then – 70s/80s. – because of the arts activities. But it does continue folks! CREATE are the living proof of that. And Artsite. Swindon Paintfest too. And the Redcliffe Collective. Etc, etc, etc. And oh so much more. Just bloody look for it!!
I reckon at this point, the simplest and likely the most effective way to demonstrate the vibe in Swindon back then – and what led to the beginnings of CREATE – is to share some comments on a Facebook post of mine.
Vox pop – or something
In 1979, the powerhouse that was Terry Court raised a BFI grant for a years funding of a ‘filmmaker in residence’. – and I applied for the post. I had just come from work with the National Film Board of Canada, where my last film had won an international award – so I guess that helped me secure it.
It wasn’t my job to start up Media Arts (later named Create). My role was to make films and involve local filmmakers; but I conceived the idea of a public media centre as an asset for Swindon and took it to Terry, who supported me. I then put together a partnership with Swindon Viewpoint (who equipped the centre), and lobbied the Council and Southern Arts for startup support. The Council agreed to provide accommodation in the near-derelict Town Hall.
Media Arts / Create was well underway by 1981 and absolutely humming by the mid 80s. I became its director and no longer had much time for my own films. We earnt our own way from commissions and used excess income to support aspiring filmmakers. We had a long ladder providing access for the very disadvantaged right up to fairly developed aspirants like David Yates. (I remember approving the grant for David’s first film with us).
BBC 1 came and made a film about us in 1987. The producer said they had researched across the country and considered we were the most successful and exciting film workshop in Britain.
Here is that film: https://vimeo.com/17202155
From Alex Coppock-Bunce:
Terry Court and Tony Huzzy did indeed create a brilliant arts scene in Swindon before I moved here in the 80s but from which I still benefitted. Tony was my friend and I met him at a creative writing group. His autobiography about living with type 1 diabetes and the rest of his life was very interesting. He wrote as he thought. He was the leader of Swindon Council-serving rather than ruling the people, and a true socialist bringing art to everyone with the very memorable Terry Court with whom I had a couple of conversations when he was retired at the coast.
I often remember Tony from the writing group … and that he (and presumably Terry Court) were instrumental in Swindon having a poet in residence in 1987(?) – one Carol Ann Duffy… and it was wonderful when she returned to the Lit Festival and they met again. Happy days.
I used to be Community Centres Officer for Swindon Borough Council and worked closely with Terry Court and Tony Hazel ensuring the arts and music figured prominently in all Swindon Borough Council buildings. In particular if they had physical facilities such as stages built in. In fact that was one of the criteria I ensured was featured in as many community buildings in village halls as possible. That way any touring artists could go down to the smallest communities.