Rapper launches Festival of Tomorrow Challenge

Rapper launches Festival of Tomorrow Challenge

Rapper launches Festival of Tomorrow Online Challenge  - screenshot from YouTube

January 2021

Rapper launches Festival of Tomorrow Online Challenge

Science rapper, Jon Chase, launched a challenge to young people across social media this week, in the lead up to next month’s Festival of Tomorrow. Some of the best entries will have the chance to get streamed alongside Jon’s own RAP science show, during next month’s festival.

The science rapper launched the challenge on Science Swindon’s social media channels including:

  • TikTok
  • Twitter
  • Facebook and Instagram with a chorus from his own rap A Better View. That came with a challenge to youngsters to create their own performance.

Our challenge

“We’re challenging Swindon students to tell us what you want science to do for your future. Upload your videos to any social media. Use the hashtag #FestivalOfTomorrow and tag Science Swindon, by 8 February.

Science Swindon on Twitter
Science Swindon on Twitter

You can rap, sing, present, perform a demo or tell a story, on your own or in a group! No Powerpoint allowed! Only you and something you’re passionate about!” explained the Science Rapper.

“Make sure you get permission to upload to social media. And I’ll be selecting some of my favourites to stream at the festival on 20 February.”

Jon is the UK’s foremost proponent of Science Raps. He’s performed them at:

  • The Science Museum
  • The Royal Society
  • The Royal Institution …
  • … and at many theatres, libraries and science festivals across the UK.

His raps have featured on CBeebies’ Rhyme Rocket, CBBC’s Space Hoppers and Channel 4 Learning. They’ve also seen inclusion the Bitesize science online learning resources.

The south west branch of the Institute of Physics will also be exhibiting at the virtual festival.

The Festival of Tomorrow

February 2020 saw the first Festival of Tomorrow held at STEAM – Museum of the Great Western Railway – in partnership with New Elements. It’s returning this year in a format to fit our current Covid circumstances. There’ll be over two months of exciting online challenges and activities along with a schools’ programme. All focused around a two-day virtual festival on 19th and 20th of February.

Festival information is available at scienceswindon.com Tickets will go live later this month.

Companies and organisations interested in getting involved should contact: info@scienceswindon.com

See the launch video here:

Purton Road Bridge Frieze

Purton Road Bridge Frieze

30th December 2020

Purton Road Bridge Frieze Swindon
Photograph of Purton Road Bridge by D and M Ball. Taken from their website.

Purton Road Bridge Frieze

Purton Road Bridge Swindon – something I’ve seen often but have never thought too much about until Roger Ogle posted the photograph below on Facebook. That prompted me to ask him for more information about it.

Purton Road Bridge Swindon - photo by Roger Ogle
Purton Road Bridge Swindon – photo by Roger Ogle
Map location of Purton Road bridge

West and north joined

Newspaper clipping from 1993 edition of Swindon Link magazine

Back in 1993 the Link Magazine, created by Roger Ogle, covered the building of the new bridge.

The extract reads – paraphrased

‘A new bridge, marrying art and engineering and making access easier between west and north Swindon opened five months ahead of schedule.

The £1.25 million structure spans the Swindon to Glocs railway line and is the town’s biggest piece of public art.

The bridge parapets form a 140ft long relief sculpture frieze created by artist Richard Perry. The frieze incorporates motifs of transport, industry and environment.

The then Thamesdown District council and Wiltshire County Council joined together to commission the project. It formed part of plans made 15 years ago. At that point the two councils agreed on the building of Roughmoor and Shaw. The project included:

a. A smaller bridge over the nearby River Ray and …
b. … 700 metres of new road joining Moredon with Sparcells.

The then mayor of Thamesdown, Doreen Dart, observed that the bridge was a milestone in the town’s development. She went on to say that it represented a link between the western expansion and future development in the north of the town …

… Although the old northern road will at length become a footpath/cycle route from which you can see the artwork, there’s no obvious pedestrian route to allow viewing.’

newspaper clipping - Swindon Link magazine showing Doreen Dart
Link Magazine January 1994

Other posts about public art

This blog holds a great number of posts about public art in Swindon. I must have written about most of it at some time or another. Depending on how well I’ve organised and categorised my posts you should find most of them in this blog category here: https://swindonian.me/category/public-art-sculpture/

Last Orders Gets Gold Award

Last Orders Gets Gold Award

Last Orders gets gold. This monster compendium of lost locals written by John Stooke has scooped the top prize at the annual awards held by the Guild of British Beer Writers. John’s gold award is for the best ‘not for profit’ piece of writing in 2020.

The substantial prize, sponsored by iconic Sussex brewery, Harvey’s, is named the Tom Paine Award after 17th Century Tom Paine. Locals hold the belief that Mr Paine, a writer local to Lewes, Excise Officer and radical helped draft the American Declaration of Independence.

Judges commented on the endeavour, the degree of detailed research and the warmth that shone through on every page.

Writer John Stooke said, “This is a huge achievement to get national recognition in this way, for what is, in essence, a local history book”. He added, “the first and only print run is beginning to run out. So if you still don’t have a copy the STEAM Museum have stock. It’s also in WH Smith in Regent Street and the Hop Inn, although it can only open at weekends at the moment.

“Due to Covid, the normal rather lavish dinner and award ceremony in a top London hotel, saw relegation to Zoom. Not quite as good, but a great honour all the same”.

John's gold award certicate
Last Orders gets gold!

Said Angela Atkinson …

Fellow Swindon author Angela Atkinson said “I so enjoyed the talk that John presented to Swindon Civic Voice about his book Last Orders in January – a lifetime ago now. He gave such a funny, informative and entertaining talk. His book is a thing of wonder that I urge you all to buy and support John and his charity. I offer my hugest congratulations to John on getting this book written and now winning this award. I couldn’t be more delighted.”.

Last Orders Gets Gold - John Stooke with this book at STEAM museum.
John Stooke with his book Last Orders at STEAM museum in Swindon
Last Orders by John Stooke

See also my original post about this book:

The Wiltshire Mummers’ Play

The Wiltshire Mummers’ Play

December 2020

The Mummers’ Play – an Old Wiltshire Tradition.

By Rebecca Davies BSc (Hons)


The Wiltshire Mummers’ Play: Mummers plays are an old Christmas tradition in many parts of the country. A group of friends would dress up, and go round the neighbourhood performing a little play. This had a set script. But, thanks to oral transmission, this would have varied from district to district. In return they received money and food, and, no doubt, drink.

They also (a bit like the traditional Punch and Judy shows) would have contained topical references. F. A. Carrington tells us that the version he recorded mentioned Napoleon Bonaparte. But he cut this out.

Today these interesting tradition have seen revival. In Wiltshire, a group called the Potterne Christmas Boys perform the play.

The Wiltshire Mummers' Play - image from The Pottterne Boys' Facebook page.

Their Facebook page, from where the above image is taken, says:

Guardians of the traditional Potterne Mummers Play, we tour the pubs round the Devizes area in the week before Christmas, to present our version of the traditional folk play, and collect a few quid for local charities and the Wiltshire Air Ambulance.

Wiltshire folk arts

An extract from the Wiltshire Folk Arts website:

‘Key characters in the plays include the heroes, who vary somewhat, and are usually King or St.George and father Christmas. The adversaries include Valiant Soldier, Turkey Snipe (Turkish Knight) and there are usually several others that drop in that include Little Man Jack, Little Man John and old Almanac and there is always a Quack Doctor, who carries the reviving elixir brought in to revive the loser of the sword fight between a hero and an adversary.

Local schoolteacher, Bernard Baker revived The Potterne Play back in 1953. Mick Hiscock, the Moonraker Morris and others subsequently kept it going.’

Sadly, they are unlikely to take place this year, but maybe, now you have the script shown below you can put your own on?

The Wiltshire Mummers' Play - screenshot from the YouTube video of the Potterne Boys
Screenshot from the YouTube video linked to above

The script

The cast of characters in the Wiltshire drama are:

3. A TURKISH (evidently a Saracen) KNIGHT.
6. A character called LITTLE JACK.

The Wiltshire Mummers’ playfrom around 1838

(Slightly Adapted from the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, Volume 1, 1853).


FATHER CHRISTMAS; (Merrily). Oh! Here come I, old Father Christmas, welcome, or welcome not,
I hope old Father Christmas will never be forgot.
Make room! Room! I say!
That I may lead Mince Pie this way.
Walk in Mince Pie, and act thy part,
And show the gentles thy valiant heart.

Enter Mince Pie
MINCE PIE; (Joyful). Room! Room! You gallant souls give me room to rhyme,
I’ll show you some festivity this Christmas time.

Enter a TURKISH KNIGHT, with a wooden sword.
TURKISH KNIGHT; (Boldly belligerent). I am a valiant Turkish Knight,
And dare with any man to fight;
Bring me the man that bids me stand,
Who says he’ll cut me down with audacious hand,
I’ll cut him and hew him as small as a fly,
And send him to Satan to make mince pie.

Enter ST. GEORGE with a wooden sword.
ST GEORGE; (Belligerently bold). Oh! In come I, St. George, the man of courage bold,
With my sword and buckler I’ve won three crowns of gold;
I fought the fiery dragon and brought him to the slaughter;
I won a beauteous Queen a King of Egypt’s daughter:
If thy mind is high, my mind is bold,
If thy blood is hot, I will make it cold.

[ST. GEORGE and the TURKISH KNIGHT fight; the latter falls).

TURKISH KNIGHT; (Squealing like a sissy).Oh! St. George spare my life!
FATHER CHRISTMAS; (Vaguely concerned). Is no Doctor to be found
To cure this man who’s bleeding on the ground?

Enter the DOCTOR.

THE DOCTOR; (Improperly enthusiastic). Yes! An Italian Doctor’s to be found
To cure the Knight who’s bleeding on the ground:
I cure the sick of every pain,
And raise the dead to life again.

FATHER CHRISTMAS; (Glumly). Doctor, what is thy fee?
THE DOCTOR; (To business).Ten pounds is my fee,
But fifteen I must take of thee
Before I set this gallant free.

FATHER CHRISTMAS; (Sighing). Work thy will, Doctor.

THE DOCTOR; (prideful). I have a little bottle by my side
The fame of which spreads far and wide,
I drop a drop on this poor man’s nose.

[THE DOCTOR touches the TURKISH KNIGHT’S nose and he instantly springs on his feet quite recovered.]

Enter LITTLE JACK, a small man, with several dolls strapped at his back.

LITTLE JACK; (Cheekily). Oh! In come I, little saucy Jack
With all my family at my back.
Christmas comes but once a year
And when it comes it brings good cheer:
Roast beef, plum pudding, and mince pie,
Who likes that any better than I?

FATHER CHRISTMAS; (Loudly and heartfelt). Me!
[He gestures to the audience to join in].

MINCE PIE; (Sums up). Christmas ale makes us dance and sing;
Money in purse is a very fine thing.
Ladies and gentlemen give us what you please


Potterne Christmas Boys The Potterne Christmas Boys or The Potterne Mummers – Home | Facebook (Accessed 4thDecember 2020).

Carrington, F. A. (1853) On Certain Wiltshire Customs, Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, Volume 1, 1853. (p. 79-86).

And now for some mincemeat

If you’re wondering what that’s got to do with Mummers the answer is: nothing at all. Except that Rebecca likes to make her own so is sharing her recipe!

As she says: ‘Pretty every much everyone loves mince pies, and some people love making mince pies, me, I make the mincemeat. Shop bought mincemeat consists of pureed apple, palm oil and the odd raisin.  I can do better than that!

I was told by a person who makes home preserves for the market that good mincemeat is not cost effective to make for retail. Hence the uninspired products on the market.  So by making your own you get the chance to experience truly wonderful mince pies.’

mince pies

Now in the immortal words of Jimmy Young – Google him:

This is what you do!


Ingredients for mince pies

Put lemon and apples though mincer (or finely chop or grate), add to other ingredients in bowl, mix well and jar up. If a little dry, add more water/sherry.

Another Picture – Another Story

Another Picture – Another Story

2 December 2020

Another Picture – Another Story … the continuing trawl through a press photographer’s archive

I’ve heard it said, more than once, that just about anything you can think of will have some connection somewhere to Swindon. Well, the briefest of trawls through Another Picture – Another Story, demonstrates how true that is. Swindon IS the centre of the universe!

They say that every picture tells a story. Well that’s certainly true of this offering from Richard Wintle of the Calyx Picture Agency. And the book we’re talking about here is part two of a series. Richard published part one: A picture is only the start of the story last year, via Hobnob Press.

(NB: Hobnob Press are also the kind publishers of my latest publication. #justsaying)

Another Picture - Another Story - the front cover

About the book

The best way to describe the book itself is to use some of Richard’s own words from the inside cover:

‘As a press photographer, I take pictures of life. And, as an archivist of pictures, I store life’s stories. Stories that quite often a theme. Some are happy and some are sad … Most stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. And with many picture stories the start is a long way from the end – sometimes it’s years. In wading through my archive, I have found links between stories that never existed at the time.’

So the structure of this book then is, as you’d imagine, stacks of great photographs linked together by Richard’s recollections of the events they belong to.

For Dr Who fans it’s something of a wibbly wobbly, timey wimey hop, skip and jump through different times and events in Swindon’s history. And that’s an appropriate analogy given that the book features Dr Who and the Daleks. Obey! Obey! Resistance is futile!

Note though, the contents of the book are not entirely Swindon-centric. There’s world events too. But you need to buy the book to see why.

So what’s in it then?

Well – Lydiard looms large of course. As you’d expect Lydiard House and Park are more than bit players in this production. As too are the Queen and other members of the Royal Family. Indeed as you can see, the front cover features the Princess of Wales herself. All as apposite as it can be given that The Crown is running on Netflix at the moment.

Returning to Lydiard – at the very start of the book we see images of events at Lydiard with The Queen. Hard to conceive though it may be, there was a time when the importance of that house and park was not so well appreciated as it is now. Richard describes how, when scanning in some pictures from the 1980s/early 1990s, he had only one negative. And the legend on this negative was a simple: ‘house in Lydiard Park’. An indication of the lack of that aforementioned lack of appreciation.

Right – I haven’t yet finished the book, I’m about halfway. And so far I’ve encountered snow, stations, shopping and snakes. Also bricks, bears and brass bands. And I know there’s trains, planes and automobiles. You get the idea – everything you can think of and more.

Why buy it?

Well – if you have only the most passing of interests in Swindon you – or someone you know – is sure to get something from this book – if only looking at the pictures! Plus – it’s not ‘history’ as such. If the very mention of that word brings you out in a hive then you need have no fears with this book. You can put the anti-histamines away. It’s chock full of all manner of ‘well I never knew that’ moments. It’s a brilliant gift for that ‘hard-to-buy-for’ friend or family member – or a treat for yourself.

And besides all that – Richard will donate £1 from every book sold to the Neuroendocrine Cancer UK – a charity that Richard has good reason thank. Isn’t that a good reason too?

The book costs £14.95 and is published by Hobnob Press.

To shop locally you can get the book from the library shop in Swindon central library.

Anglo Saxon Art in Wiltshire

Anglo Saxon Art in Wiltshire

26 November 2020

by Rebecca Davies BSc (Hons).

We call it Celtic. Though it’s also Pictish, Viking, or Anglo Saxon. We call it Interlaced though it can be freeform, zoomorphic, spirals or tessellated. What am I talking about? I’m referring to the genre known as Insular art. (Some of which comes from the Mainland…) (Bain 1977).

But, whatever it is – we know it when we see it.

Man and Monster - Anglo Saxon Art in Wiltshire
Man and Monster

I don’t have a speciality subject in archaeology but for many years now I’ve had an interest in Early Medieval Christianity. I’ve travelled all over Britain to see antiquities of that period. Thus, I’m now particularly familiar with the collection on the Isle of Man, doubly interesting as it consists of Viking as well as Celtic examples. (Kermode 1994).

In which your scribe enters the Early Medieval Scriptorium

Celtic art is ideal for someone like me who is no artist but can do technical drawing. Yet it requires consistency and an awful lot of patience. Some examples are infamously intricate.

Recently I went on a course to further my knowledge of this art form. On the course I learned about parchment and how to cut quill pens. It also covered marking out the geometry using a compass and straight edge, and the traditional pigments. This was as close to texts such as the Book of Kells and the Lindisfarne Gospels as anyone is going to get these days.

The course was in Cromarty (a little north of Inverness) so this was a rather long journey – worth it though.

Table with pencils, papers etc on it

This art form is often associated with the West of Britain and so I wanted to know if there were any examples of it here in Wiltshire. (Wiltshire is only in the West Country if the inhabitants feel like it). Well, as it turns out, there are quite a lot of pieces, all produced in the Anglo-Saxon period (Circa 500-1066 A.D.)

The Anglo-Saxons were skilled in many different media, though not enthusiastic builders in stone. Thus they’d have made most buildings from timber. That said, there are stone churches. We’re so fortunate in Wiltshire to have one of the finest and most unaltered Saxon churches – that of St Lawrence in Bradford upon Avon. And a great many more contain elements of Anglo-Saxon carvings.

Artistic cues for Anglo Saxon Art in Wiltshire

The artists took their cues from both Celtic knotwork and Norse gripping beasts. Athough a favourite design element of their own was the foliate element, and so we see examples of all these concepts in Wiltshire. (Meehan 1995). Countering that are more classical figures and tessellated design elements.

Some examples of Anglo Saxon Art in Wiltshire now follow – Not an exhaustive list!


St Lawrence’s church is famed for this magnificent pair of angels. (St Lawrence’s church website).


Britford 1 - drawing of Anglo Saxon art - Anglo Saxon Art in Wiltshire
Britford 2 - King Solomon's knot
Anglo Saxon Art in Wiltshire


Broad Chalke anglo saxon art
Broad Chalk 1 (JC)


Much has been made of this fellow’s posture. I reckon it’s a mere ploy to get him into the space in a tidy fashion.

Codford St Peter - Anglo Saxon Art in Wiltshire


I’m much more sympathetic to the monsters found in churches, rather than the angels – being a monster myself. Here are two Norse dragons.

Drawing of Colerne Norse dragons - Anglo Saxon Art in Wiltshire


Cricklade church is famous for its tower – visible for miles around. In the north porch are two much older carvings – part of a cross shaft and a grave cover respectively.


Eysey is a deserted village north of the Thames at Cricklade with its church demolished in 1953. Found in the river, these pieces are now in the museum. (Cricklade Museum website).

Eysey piece - Anglo Saxon Art in Wiltshire


Knook has this grand example of a knotwork border and a Norse style tympanum.


According to the very helpful website `Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture`, there are no less than nine examples of this art in Ramsbury church. Here are three of them.


St Mary’s church at Rodbourne Cheney church is old and indeed has a couple of carving fragments.

My conclusion

To begin with I assumed that examples of this art were only found in the Celtic (i.e. western) parts of the country. I was very wrong, as you can see. Which goes to show how important research is. But, I enjoy researching new things very much…

About the images

All photos and drawings © Rebecca Davies November 2020. That is except the B/W Photos which were kindly supplied by the Corpus of Anglo Saxon Stone Sculpture Website – though not those marked JC (Broad Chalk 1 and Ramsbury 5a). They were taken by Dr John Crook (Dr John Crook website).
Big thank you to everyone.

See also by Rebecca: https://swindonian.me/2020/10/24/wiltshires-sarsen-stones/


There are many books written about Insular art and its creation. Some are easy to follow – others are more impenetrable.

BBC, History of the World; Thorwalds Cross. http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/objects/lK4EapVHRgKV_DyFGeDeIQ (Accessed 16th November 2020).

Bain, G. (1977) Celtic Art; the Methods of Construction, Constable, London.

(Iain Bain wrote books on Celtic art too).

Corpus of Anglo Saxon Stone Sculpture website http://www.ascorpus.ac.uk/ (Accessed 16th November 2020). 

Cricklade Museum https://www.cricklademuseum.co.uk/ (Accessed 18th November 2020).

Dr John Crook. http://www.john-crook.com/ (Accessed 16th November 2020).

Groam House Museum https://groamhouse.org.uk/ (Accessed 18th November 2020).

Kermode, P. M. C. (1994) Manx Crosses, Pinkfoot press, Forfar.

Meehan, A. (1995) The Tree of Life, Thames and Hudson, London.

(All of Aidan Meehan’s books are useful).

St Lawrence church website http://www.saxonchurch.org.uk/guide.htm (Accessed 16th November 2020).