John Stooke’s new book, Last Orders, is launching at Swindon Central Library at 11am on Saturday 19th October. You’ll be able to buy the book in the library shop after the launch.
About Last Orders
Last Orders is the result of four years of meticulous research by John – and hours spent writing in The Blunsdon Arms. Well it would have to be a pub where John worked wouldn’t it?
Some of the book’s proceeds are going to support Swindon Women’s Aid.The charity will receive a direct donation of £3 from each £10 selling price.
The book runs to 400 pages, includes 800 images and is an impressive heritage record of Swindon’s best known disappeared alehouses.
Natasha Moyles, spokesman for SWA said, “We at Swindon Domestic Abuse Support Service are delighted to have been chosen as the beneficiary of this fascinating project. It is a continuing challenge to raise adequate funds for the essential work we do locally. Initiatives such as John’s enable us to continue to help more victims of domestic abuse within Swindon”
The train is a perfect vehicle ( sorry!) around which to build a thriller. So it’s not surprising that Agatha Christie (the queen of crime herself) made brilliant use of it it Murder on the Orient Express. Also, Ethel Lina White’s 1936 novel The Wheel Spins – better known as The Lady Vanishes – uses the conceit of a mystery centred around a train. I don’t want to say too much about the plot of The Girl on the Train but there are resonances between the two – in that each features a young woman who has seen something on/from a train but is persuaded by others that she hasn’t. In this play the central character, Rachel Watson, has doubt planted in her mind by her ex-husband.
How is he able to achieve that? Because Rachel is a drunk on a downward emotional spiral. One of several themes running through this play is that of domestic abuse – in this case gaslighting.
In this central role, Samantha Womack ( of Eastender’s fame) is entirely believable as a young woman depressed by her infertility and the loss of her marriage, her husband to another woman who IS fertile and has produced a child. She gives a strong performance in what must be a challenging role.
It’s always interesting to see how a book is adapted for the stage. I thought this was rather nicely done. The passing of the days and the changes of location in this production are smoothly executed. My companion for the evening, who as it happens, had recently finished the novel, thought the adaptation was rather good.
All the elements of a good thriller are there. There’s the requisite number of red herrings for a start. All in all a cracking play.
The play is running at the Wyvern Theatre until Saturday 12th October – so if you’ve got a free evening get your tickets and get on board!
At the ripe old age of 76, Swindon-born, mural painting legend, Ken White at last has a a solo exhibition. Called Railways and Landscapes, the exhibition is on at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery until the 30th November 2019.
I’m not the best photographer and I took these in a bit of a rush so these are not the best. Better by far to go and see them for yourself. It is a gorgeous exhibition.
A Mural Man
Ken is of course well-known as a muralist – both here in Swindon, in the UK and abroad. During his years as Richard Branson’s personal artist, Ken travelled the world painting airport lounges, record shops, car parks restaurants and more. Of his Swindon murals only one now remains – The Golden Lion mural. You can read more about that in both the new book and also in my first volume, Secret Swindon.
To return to the Advertiser article:
Sophie Cummings, curator at the Swindon museum, said: “I think the exhibition is a real celebration of Ken’s art and the response we’ve had to it from visitors already just shows in what high regard the people of Swindon hold him.”
Swindon in 50 Buildings goes to school – Well this has been a wonderful development. A week or two back I received a contact from Sally Clarke, the head teacher at Nythe Primary school. She’d seen my posts on LinkedInabout my most recent book, Swindon in 50 Buildings.
But back to Nythe and Swindon in 50 Buildings Going to School
The ever-so-lovely head, Sally Clarke, at Nythe contacted me asking me to meet her. The upshot of that meeting was myself, a barrow-load (well eight) of copies of Swindon in 50 Buildings and my ex-teacher friend, Jo Garton heading over to Nythe school to speak to Sally and her lovely staff about this blog and my books and how they might be used as a teaching resource to teach the children about Swindon and having pride in where they live. And there’s SUCH a lot to be proud of.
I’m so delighted that Sally spotted my book and make contact. It’s great to sell some books of course – I won’t lie to you. But it’s also lovely to see their potential recognised. Thank you Nythe!
All three of these books, in their own way, constitute good resources for schools as well as excellent general interest – though I say it myself.
It’s quite a tale about how this blog came into being – one which I won’t go into here. Suffice to say if you’re interested enough, the Born again Swindonian backstory is here. The main thing is that this blog is here. It’s free. And it’s a resource for all of you to use. I’ve been writing it for six years now (I think) and I’ve covered a lot of stuff. The image below gives you some indication of the topics covered.
The GWR railway village is one of many, many things that Swindon and its people should cherish and be proud. Winning that award played a big part in the railway village being awarded a Historic England action Zone.
I’ve been to several of them now and they do seem to get better each year. They do a damn good job – all them. On stage and off – the standard is VERY high. All kudos to the Wyvern, to the foundation and to the kids themselves.
I said it then – and I’ll say it again. That young man has ‘it’. So when, in a few year’s time, you see his name in lights remember: you saw him here first.
Here again, in the Wyvern’s Summer Youth Project 2019, in the lead role as Caractacus Potts, the still-only-17-year-old Archie gives a credible performance as as father to two young mother-less children.
A host of memorable performances
But I can’t only talk about Archie Fisher. The production boasts a full complement of super performances. There are not one but two lovely comic duos. Michael Kerr gives a good turn as the infantile Bulgarian Baron – one feels apologies are owed to Bulgaria – and so does Rae Alexander as his long-suffering, indulgent wife.
Amy Gordon made a fitting Truly Scrumptious with her sweet singing voice fitting the role well.
Also deserving a particular mention are Maddy Stimpson-Duffy and Marcellus Hill as Cloris and Goran, the Baron’s bumbling spies sent to get hold of Pott’s car. Lots of laughs from all four! Super stuff.
Both the youngsters playing Pott’s children were scene stealers of course. But I have to give a special word about Mollie Avenell – I felt she too had a notable stage presence.
I, like many other people I daresay, had formed the impression that the only piece of Ken’s Swindon work, still in existence, isthe Golden Lion mural.
So imagine my surprise when, just t’other day, a tweet appeared on my Twitterfeed from the friends of Lydiard Park with an image of a painting of Lydiard House, that Ken did in 2005. I rather get the impression it’s been in storage or something. Certainly, I’ve been in that house more than a few times and never seen it. Even now it’s leaning against the wall in a tucked away corner of the rooms that are open.
Which rather begs the question Lydiard House management, WHY in God’s name do you not have this artwork on permanent display and shout it from the room tops?With Ken’s story due to be published soon you’re missing one heck of a marketing opportunity. #justsaying
Ken created the triptych as a joint project between Ken and Intel. Some Intel staff did some of the painting. The idea of the artwork was, according to Ken, for children to find things in the painting around the house.
Indeed, hidden in the bottom right hand corner is the image of a very famous Swindon figure.
What else is there to see at Lydiard House?
Well. Quite rather a lot actually. The member of staff on duty, Adrian Smith, gave me a bit of a tour explaining some of the paintings etc. He’s really very knowledgeable – as you’d expect – and I must seek him out again and pay more attention. Why? Because, TBH, I was too stunned about the Ken White triptych to concentrate fully. That and thinking, as Adrian spoke, that small in number as the available rooms at Lydiard might be – there’s a heck of a lot of stuff that is simply not shouted about enough. WHY is Swindon so bad at this?