Swindon Soup

Swindon Soup

4 December 2015

What a souper idea

TV screen with image of soup bowl

So last night, more in nosiness then anything, I toddled along to the HQ of Excalibur (and The Positive Media Group) for the very first Swindon Soup. Now – I won’t lie – I’m immensely disappointed that a company called Excalibur doesn’t have a giant polystyrene stone in the middle of its office with a sword stuck in it. I mean – come on! Okay – I feel better for getting that off my chest – let’s get to the point.




Swindon Soup – what is it?

As the Swindon Soup website explains:

“Originating in Detroit, Swindon Soup is a crowd-funding event for community projects. Sponsored by Excalibur Communications, the inaugural event will take place at their Head Office on Thursday 3rd December 2015.

The concept is simple, it’s a minimum of £5 to attend for everyone (you can donate more if you wish) and the purpose of the evening is watch around three people pitch an idea to improve their local community.

Once the ideas have been pitched everyone gets a bowl of soup to eat plus a chance to chat and mull over which pitch they want to vote for. When the votes have been counted the winner will receive all the cash raised on the night to go ahead and start their project.

This bi-monthly event aims to bring together people who share a desire for a better community. The added advantage is they also get to meet people and share ideas and resources. New connections are made and it brings the community closer together.”

Now isn’t that a souper idea? And a positive American import too.

What’s really kind of nice about it I think is that there’s something in it for everyone. The attendees get to donate to a good local cause so get the ‘feel-good’ factor – plus a bowl of soup. The pitchees get, at the very least, exposure for their cause/organization and a chance to network.

There are slips on the table for attendees to offer other types of support to each group pitching aside from fiscal. So even if they don’t succeed in getting the pot on the evening they may well find support in other ways.

This surely has to be a win-win situation for everyone? Well done to Swindon and to Exaclibur for making this happen. Even if you don’t have a sword stuck in a stone … *sigh*

I thought these first pitchees were really very brave – after all they’d no idea what they were pitching into this being a the first of its kind. I wouldn’t like to have to do it so well done to them.

The Pitchees 

So last night’s pitchees were:

  1. Meet – Eat- Learn: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1483984988352589/?fref=ts

They are a new ( I think) group in Swindon created with the aim of building friendships between cultures in Swindon. And goodness there are plenty. They share meal and recipes and learn English. Meeting fortnightly they are just starting out and could really use your support.

2) The Wrong Shoes Theatre Company:




“Wrong Shoes is the resident theatre company at the Shoebox Theatre in Swindon. Our aim is to provide opportunities for people in Swindon and the surrounding areas to engage in original and contemporary theatre, both as performance makers and as audiences.

We want more people engaged in the arts and believe that performances and education should be affordable, and accessible to everyone.

As well as creating theatre, we also provide educational services and manage the Shoebox Theatre space and programming.”

3) Inner Flame


“Inner Flame helps people aged 16-25 to build confidence and achieve their goals.

We help young people from Swindon and North Wiltshire to develop their potential through inspiring training, coaching and challenging experiences. We deliver The Prince’s Trust Team Programme in Swindon, for 16-25 year olds who want to move towards employment.”


The winning pitch last night was that of the Wrong Shoes Theatre company. So very well done to them. I’m sure they’ll make very good use of it.

Now – more soup anyone?



Mince Pie mania at Broadgreen Community Centre

Mince Pie mania at Broadgreen Community Centre

26th November 2015

Making Mince Pies: Broadgreen Community Centre

poster advertising mince pie event

With the help of Helen Akiyama and Frances Barrone, Broadgreen community centre is encouraging you to come along and make mince pies on TUESDAY 10TH DECEMBER. 10am – 12pm.

They are looking forward to welcoming friendly people to help celebrate UK culture, with the theme of making mince pies.

Broadgreen community centre is an ideal venue as it’s right in the heart of the community and celebrates the diversity of people living in Swindon.

Most people know that mince pies taste better fresh from the oven, homemade and in the company of friends.

During the time from 10-12pm we’ll have a chance to mingle, meet new people while making the traditional food of the season. Mince pies are easy to make and delicious – you can enjoy making them for your family.

All ingredients are included and the £3 entrance fee will be shared and donated to Broadgreen community centre fund & International Women’s Day Swindon fundraising.

Many thanks

Helen Akiyama

077 88 77 8001

Japanese – English language & cultural specialist: www.helenakiyama.co.uk

‘Celebrate culture with Helen Akiyama’ events coordinator

Money saving enthusiast, partnered with The Utility Warehouse Discount Club
Surprising Swindon – Past & Present Explorers’ Guide

Surprising Swindon – Past & Present Explorers’ Guide

21 November 2015

‘New Swindon’ 1840 – 2015 – Swindon Civic Voice Walker’s Guide

Swindon – this is Swindon

Though not intentionally planned that way, it turned out to be rather timely that Jess (@swindondriver) and I should go on an EXPOTITION and go exploring the New Swindon ‘trail’ put together by Swindon Civic voice just a few days ago. How so? Well because just last week there was a launch event to announce and to kick off the 2016 events that will happen in celebration of ‘New Swindon’ being 175 years old. Read more of that here: https://swindonian.me/2015/11/19/made-in-swindon-celebrating-175-years/

Loving a bit of urban exploration and discovery as we do, Jess and I – and Daisy the dog –  set out on a blustery day last week to photograph a few elements of the explorers’ guide. It’s a wonderfully detailed leaflet that lists 100 points of interest/interesting facts all related to New Swindon.

If you wanted to follow the whole thing round it could very easily take a day – maybe even more- what with coffee stops and lunch breaks etc. Not having that much time to spare we simply selected bits of it and took some photos of things marked on the trial and a few that aren’t – and you can see those below.  But really the best thing to do is to get a copy of the leaflet from the library and check it out. It’s only a £1! It really is a mine of information. For instance, and in no particular order:

  1. I hadn’t previously noticed the flying pig gargoyle adorning Radnor Street chapel.
  2. The Brunel Centre was an award winner in 1975 being the first mall in the UK. Who knew?
  3. The 1843 brick built market was demolished in the 1970s because it was ‘out of character’ with the new Brunel Centre. *sigh* – not that Swindon is the only town guilty of such crimes! And old and new can exist perfectly well together – UTC being a fabulous example.
  4. The Cenotaph erected in 1920, replaced an earlier wooden one burned down by protestors in 1919 who felt that a wood structure was not sufficiently respectful to the dead servicemen. Prior to that there’d been a horse trough on the site. Clearly there used to be a radical element in Swindon, what with this and the flagpole riots: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01qb45n  –  a really amazing story.

Photos here from Swindon Local collection of the Cenotaph being unveiled: http://www.flickriver.com/photos/swindonlocal/tags/cenotaph/

I can really see this thing as an app for mobile devices – we had terrible trouble controlling the leaflet on such a windy day!  It would be great to have it mapped out properly so you could know the distance and how long it would take to do the whole thing.

The trail starts and ends at Swindon Station. Swindon – this is Swindon:

Made in Swindon: Celebrating 175 years

Made in Swindon: Celebrating 175 years




The year 2016 marks 175 years since the birth of Swindon as a railway town…

I am going to design… a Station after my own fancy; that is, with engineering roofs, etc. Isambard Kingdom Brunel

And he did rather didn’t he?



It’s rather fitting I think, that this multicultural town of Swindon – the new Swindon –  was made possible by a man of French descent. Though born in England, Isambard was sent to school in France for a time before returning to work with his father, Sir Marc Isambard Brunel.

logo swindon 175

Last night I was fortunate enough to attend the launch ‘do’ for a year of celebrations to mark 175 years of the birth of Swindon as a railway town. And a very splendidly done affair it was too.

Not only was the event a fabulous platform (brace yourselves now – railway related word play is likely to puther out as thickly as when the City of Truro was getting up a full head of steam!) to launch the events of 2016, it was also a reminder of just how proud of Swindon we really should be. Yes – because of Brunel and God’s Wonderful railway. But not just because of that.

Made in Swindon can be described as ‘Trains, planes and automobiles’ – but gosh there’s so much more besides! YES THERE IS. Don’t doubt it.

Indeed Graham Carter of Swindon Heritage gave a fantastic presentation listing tons of reasons why we should be proud of Swindon. Yup. Tons of fantastic, wonderful amazing ‘things’ that were made in Swindon.

Here – taken at random – are six of them.

  1. The King George V – the most powerful and beautiful loco from the golden age of steam. Made in Swindon in 1927.
  2. The GWR medical fund: this was the forerunner of the NHS and that didn’t come about for another 101 years. Made in Swindon in 1847.
  3. The Magic Roundabout. Made in Swindon in 1972.
  4. Garrard record decks –  Swindon-based inventors of the record changes.
  5. Spitfire – the world’s most iconic aircraft. Made in Swindon since 1943
  6. Cars – from the 1950s Swindon has designed and built cars, including over 2,000,000 Hondas.

So toot the whistle people of Swindon. Get behind the train of events ( I told ya!) – it’s gonna be an awesome, eclectic ride through 2016. You surely don’t want to be the wrong side of the tracks?! 😉

Read about the return of the King here: http://www.swindonheritage.com/category/blog/


Small Business Saturday UK: 2015

Small Business Saturday UK: 2015

11 November 2015


Remember, Remember the 5th of December!

The Christmas songs are already on a loop in the shops, driving the shop assistants potty I daresay, and the mince pies have been on the shelves since August – and that can mean only one thing: Christmas is hurtling towards us at warp speed and it’s time to get the sprouts on.

But there’s another event, a little earlier in December, that’s important for a particular sector of the economy.  I refer to Small Business Saturday UK – a movement I’ve only become aware of since becoming self-employed myself with AA Editorial Services, my proofreading and copywriting business.

So what is Small Business Saturday UK? Well, nver mind supporting your local sheriff – Small Business Saturday is about supporting local small businesses and shopping locally.

According to the website (https://www.smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com) it’s a ‘grassroots, non-commercial campaign’ that came into being to support and promote small businesses. Not just on the first Saturday in December but beyond. Because a small business is not just for December!

The Small Business Saturday campaign was born in 2013. Following last year’s event research suggested that 64% of consumers were aware of the campaign and spent in the region of £504m at small businesses. That’s not small beer.

The aim of the campaign is to encourage businesses to promote themselves and to work with other small businesses, and to encourage consumers to ‘shop local’ and support small businesses in their communities. And there are many powerful reasons for doing just that. As a 2013 article from The Guardian pointed out:

  • Your spending boosts the local economy. For every £1 spent with a small or medium sized business 63p stays in the local economy – compared to 40p with a larger business. Isn’t that a good reason alone? Never mind that:
  • It’s the ethical choice.
  • Independent shops often sell quirky, one-off gifts.
  • You support British entrepreneurs.
  • You help build communities.
  • You might get a better deal or some good advice.
  • You can sometimes try before you buy.

In recent times I’ve made more effort to ‘shop local’. Partly this is a response to the discovery that so many big retail concerns are wriggling out of their taxation responsibilities in such spectacular fashion! A few hundred – well fair enough. Y’know. But when it’s billions? Hmmm…

Aside from that it’s an effort to support Swindon businesses that I’ve met through business networking – after all I want businesses and consumers to support me in my AA Editorial Services venture so it’s only right that I do the same is it not?


Whether you’re a small business or a consumer your first port of call is the Small Business Saturday Website: https://www.smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com

From there consumers can look up listings of small businesses close to them on the ‘My Small Business Finder’ gizmo. And small businesses that want to be involved can download information packs, posters and logos.


The role of social media is not forgotten. Businesses and consumers alike can Tweet and post on facebook and Instagram with photographs of themselves supporting their local businesses using #SmallBizSatUK




One can hear a lot of moaning from the Vox Pop that Swindon doesn’t benefit from the independent shopping experience that one might find in Bristol, Bath and Cheltenham. Well … while maybe not on the same level, but Swindon is not without some fabulous independent businesses.

I can’t possibly name them all here and there’s bound to be ones I don’t know of but just to highlight a few:

And many more that aren’t bricks and mortar –people like me for instance – but also people making and selling online only. I’ve met several of these via business networking and posted about them here:

and there’s more. Many, many more.

No-one wants a depressed High Street. Everyone wants a vibrant High Street that’s a pleasant and safe place to shop and socialise. Well – eschewing the global giants where and when we can, supporting small businesses and shopping locally are positive steps towards achieving just that.

And then we might have more actual shops on Swindon’s streets rather than pretend ones like these.