Where many creatives that I speak to have a shared tale of, if not parental antagonism to them pursuing art, then at least apathy and lack of support. But not so for Marilyn Trew artist. For her dad was a creative chap – so it’s in the blood as it were. A sign-writer, for a pastime, Marilyn’s dad cut shapes from linoleum to frame and Marilyn would help him with that.
Failing her 11+, aged 13 Marilyn got the chance of a grammar scholarship studying art. Twenty-eight places were available and Marilyn’s painting of Hull fish wives won her one of them. So off to study art she went. She had one English lesson and one maths lesson per week – the rest of her school hours she spent studying all the artistic disciplines. Through all this Marilyn had her parent’s support and encouragement. Marilyn says she had the great good fortune to have parents that only wanted for her to be happy so gave her their blessing.
Since making a full-time return to art five years ago, Marilyn has been super active in Swindon’s super active art scene.
Asked to start an art group by by Stratton Parish council at Grange leisure centre, the group is now thirty people strong. Marilyn told me how she loves working with this group because it uses so much of her experience. Well – maybe not designing floors. With a grant to get it off the ground, this group is now self-funding.
Savernake Street Hall – Eastcott Community
Together with fellow artist Ruth Wintle, another super lady, Marilyn runs a further art group at Savernake Street Hall – a great community centre run by a bunch of gorgeous community minded people for whom Marilyn is full of praise. And quite right too. They’re great. Marilyn explains that many people come to the group purely for the companionship. They learn about art, go on trips and they make friends. And that’s what it’s all about.
Being the wonderful community minded individual that she is, a year or so back Marilyn drew the most beautiful map for the Peatmoor Community woodland.
In the image below you see the gorgeous Marilyn, her husband Chris and the map.
I happened to see that map on social media. #Obvs And a bell clanged in my head. ‘Ooh’ I thought, ‘I could ask Marilyn if she’d do a map of the Richard https://swindonian.me/2015/03/29/richard-jefferies-old-town-walk-part-1/Jefferies Old Town walk for a project I’m trying to get to!’ She did – and it’s amazing. And since then the whole map painting malarkey has grown like topsy, with maps of the garden at the Richard Jefferies museum, the Twigs garden that you see above and more. I’d really love for her to do one of the railway village conservation area. She has produced one for me to go in Swindon in 50 Buildings – hitting bookshelves near you in a few weeks’ time.
When not running art groups and mapping Swindon she’s busy with her own thing – mostly nature and wildlife.
Marilyn is a wonderful person. She’s warm and kind and community minded. And, she not only draws maps for me but she brings me sweeties. So y’know … 😉 Long may she continue mapping Swindon and painting in it.
How wonderful it is to be writing about Eastcott window wanderland – yet another brilliant community ‘thing’ organised by the better than brilliant Eastcott community group – based at Savernake Street Community Hall. They’re jolly good at ‘things’ it has to be said.
The Window Wanderland is the latest, super fab initiative from the Eastcott group. I’m ever in awe of what they achieve there. They are such a vibrant, imaginative and well-organised group – what they achieve leaves me impressed, breathless and exhausted in equal measure!
During the two nights of 2nd and 3rd of March, over 130 window makers dressed windows in well over fifty of Swindon’s streets and transformed them into an illuminated art gallery. Images of a small few in the gallery below.
But where did this wonderful idea come from?
The window wanderland concept began in in Bristol. Eastcott resident, Helen Ganberg spotted it there and approached the Eastcott community group to sound them out about bringing it to Eastcott.
Eastcott realised the project in Swindon with the help of a £6,500 grant from the National Lottery Community Fund. The chairman of Eastcott group, Caroline Davis-Khan told the Swindon Advertiser, that they’d worked on the project for six-seven months.
As group trustee Laura Holmes said, it’s a nice creative way to bring people together, that showed how many artistic and creative people there are around. And she’s right – there’s a staggering amount of creativity in Swindon.
To make the exhibition more inclusive, the group used the grant to set up workshops.
Mayor of Swindon Junab Ali, who was at the launch, said: “It’s a fantastic idea, this is just bringing the whole community of the area together. In some places, neighbours don’t talk to neighbours and there is no activity in the community, so this event is fantastic.
As some of you will know, I’m right now embroiled in writing my second publication for Amberley Books, Swindon in 50 Buildings. You can imagine I’m sure, how much material I’m amassing. All of it fascinating and entertaining but not necessarily suitable for the book. So it’s great to have this blog as a vehicle to share some of what I can’t put in the book.
Obviously I’m not going to reveal too much here about the building. #spoilers But I simply loved learning that, when the new art gallery annexe opened in 1964, it was furnished with tables and chairs from none other than Conran Associates. Yep – THE Conran of Habitat, the Conran Shop and more. Before ever Ikea invaded our shores we had Conran. This was the bees knees. The last word in interior design.
These days that gallery annexe might look of its time – on the outside at least. Indeed I’m never sure how I feel about its exterior. Some days I like it and some days I don’t. But of course what matters most of all is what goes in the building. Which, as it happens, is lots. Lunchtime talks, childrens’ activities and trails, evening talks etc. You can find out what’s on at the museum here.
But the point here being that, in its day, Swindon evidently created a chic and stylish venue for its art collection.
And on the subject of the gharial …
The Museum’s Inspiration: Charles Henry Gore F.G.S
The first honorary curator, for thirty-one years, and the man behind the setting up of the museum was one Charles Henry Gore.
Gore developed an interest in archaeology as a child. Over time he built up a collection of specimens, becoming a well-respected geologist and a fellow of the Geological Society.
Gore was awarded the Freedom of the Borough of Swindon in October 1933 – only the fourth person in the town’s history to receive such an honour. Moreover the first museum curator to be so honoured.
Charles Henry Gore dies in 1951 aged 84. He’d held an ambition to be curator at the museum until he was 90. He almost managed it.
This post is by way of sharing a blog on the Creative Wiltshire website.
The blog began life as a series of Facebook posts by Carole Bent, partner in the David Bent Studio. Carole set out, in the lull following Open Studios in September, to use Facebook to celebrate some of Swindon’s artists and to showcase ‘what an artist’s wife and partner bought’.
‘The possibility of exhibiting these with a friend in a similar position was discussed, but time flew by.
In 2018, Carole decided that a positive and accessible way to share the work would be virtually, on Facebook. Her personal and positive approach aimed to brighten up the dark month of November and to help to shine a light on some of the great talent close to home.’
So the lovely blog put together by Creative Wiltshire brings Carole’s posts together with some context about Carole herself.
Of course I’ve written about some of the artists Carole showcased on this blog – often several times over the years. So what follows is merely a list of quick links to those posts. But DO, DO, DO check out the full blog linked above to read about others that I’ve not covered.
I have long admired Dona’s work. So when she expressed interest in having a feature in this ‘Made in Wiltshire’ section on the blog, thrilled didn’t cover it because I love her iconic Swindon images. #Obvs
It’s a b*gger that I’m out of wall space – fridge magnets it is then!
Dona at the drawing board. Photo credit: Stephen McGrath
Talk to many creatives of certain generations and you meet a recurring theme: that of parents discouraging their offspring from pursuing their artistic talents and aspirations. And Dona is no exception to this. She told me how, when she hit 40, she realised that the great keyboard of life had a lost chord. And that chord was her creativity, her art. So she set about rediscovering it.
From then until now, Dona’s pursued her art part-time. But January 2019 marks a new, exciting, yet scary era: that of pursuing her work full-time. She’ll be doing lots more live events, getting out and about with her art and meeting people. I think it’s safe to say the lost chord is well and truly found.
Art for Architecture’s Sake
Dona confesses to be being a closet architect. ‘If I had my time again, I’d train to be an architect’, she said. But instead, at the life point she was at when she realised how much she missed being creative, she opted to go to Bristol college and do a course in spatial design.The discipline takes into account the architectural aspects of a building and is much less about pretty colours, soft furnishings and the like.
All of Dona’s artwork now is a happy compromise for her. Specializing in buildings, her work fulfils both her interest in architecture and her desire to create. With Dona’s work, everything is about the building. What she loves is marrying a building’s beauty with the significance it holds for an individual.
The Feel Good Factor
Dona’s clients tell her stories about their experiences of a building or place – so her work helps people to feel good about where they live. Swindon is a great subject for Dona for this reason.
There’s no escaping that Swindon gets more than its share of put downs and knocks – goodness only knows why. Yet, Swindon has some wonderful, iconic buildings and structures that Dona has used in her work to great effect. For a start, my favourite David Murray John Tower has had theDona Bradley treatment, as has the iconic (albeit neglected) diving platform at Coate Water. Aren’t they both gorgeous?!
Dona’s had wonderful reactions to her Swindon pieces and endless support from lots of Swindon bodies.
There’s a list of places that stock Dona’s work at the bottom of this post.
Swindon Artist’s Forum and Other Support Networks
Freelancers of all kinds need support networks and, in the case of artists in particular, somewhere to try out their work in a safe environment. Dona cites Swindon Artist’s Forum as one such place. Says Dona: ‘It’s a non-judgemental gallery for all comers.’ She is also a keen participant in Swindon Open Studios, displaying her work in Swindon’s central library. Yet another group that Dona is involved in is Swindon Urban Sketchers – looking them up I find that the Urban Sketchers are an international thing with chapters all over the place – including Swindon. I rather like that.
A Swindon urban sketchbook on its way to the art library in Brooklyn, New York. Should you visit you can go take it off the shelves there and view it. How FAB is that?
Down the Motorway to Bristol
It’s obvious enough that Dona finds suitable subjects for her illustrations beyond Swindon’s undoubted charms! These are many but notably – Bristol. When she has stalls, and participates in markets in Bristol, Dona accepts their local currency the Bristol pound. Over the 2018 festive season, Dona had a blast trading in Brizzle’s own currency and collaborating with seventy other traders at the Bristol Bazaar – a fabulous pop-up shop.
In the Ether
By now you’re surely keen to see more of Dona’s work and follow her on social media. So:
Shop local. Shop Independent. It’s Just a Card – or fridge magnet … !
There’s a growing appetite for shopping locally and supporting independents. Witness the diaspora of the coffee shop for a start. And the rise of artisan everything – now there’s an overused and wrongly used word – anyway! Anyone who’s paid any attention at all to this blog will know that I’ve written ad nauseam about the importance of shopping locally and supporting small businesses. I am one after all.
And so are artists! They have bills to pay just like the rest of us. Which is why there’s a thing, a campaign, called ‘Just a Card‘. From the website: ‘The JUST A CARD campaign aims to encourage people to buy from Designer/Makers and Independent Galleries and Shops by reinforcing the message that all purchases, however small, even ‘just a card‘ are so vital to the prosperity and survival of small businesses.
The campaign came about when Artist & Designer Sarah Hamilton saw the quote “If everyone who’d complimented our beautiful gallery had bought ‘just a card‘ we’d still be open” by store keepers who’d recently closed their gallery.’ That makes you think doesn’t it? It’s an important message – one applicable to any small business and *ahem* blog owner. So Dona, of course, subscribes to the ‘Just a Card’ campaign.
Where you can get Dona’s work – aside from her website:
Hello lovely listeners. On the heels of Secret Swindon, I’m now in full flow with research and writing for my second book from Amberley Books, Swindon in 50 Buildings. It’s come as no surprise at all to me that there’s a cornucopia of potentials for this book. For every building I’ve put on the list, I could quite easily have selected several more. So I’ve had to make choices. And it’s been tough I tell ya! There’s no shortage of interesting material in Swindon as we all know.
For instance, I’m definitely featuring Swindon’s County Ground in the book. After all – a tale of any town or city couldn’t call itself complete without mentioning the town’s sporting life. A natural complement to that listing then is theCounty Ground Hotel. But do I have room for it? No I do not. For now it’s on the reserve bench – and in this blog.
The Swindon County Ground Hotel is a mere few yards from the stadium of the home team – Swindon Town football club. Hence its name. It’s a popular watering hole for fans whenever Swindon Town are playing at home. And, according the website, a down-to-earth ‘local’ when they are not.
Curiously, for a watering hole associated with a football ground, the pub has strong associations with pugilism. ‘In fact, the pub’s favourite sport in modern times has been boxing, having been equipped with a gymnasium and former licensee Pete Neal a well-known former boxer. Who knew? Well not I!
A bit of County Ground Hotel History
Taken from the pub’s website:
‘Regulars in the County Ground Hotel celebrated a special anniversary on 2nd November, 1997 when this grand old pub notched up a century of service to Swindon drinkers.
Commemorating its opening year is a terracotta plaque on side of the building. The plaque include a portrait of Queen Victoria who happened to be celebrating her Diamond Jubilee that year.
Arkell’s bought the land from C Williams the year before and had a ready-made licence thanks to the demise of a pub in Highworth. The Rampant Cat was closed by a relieved James Arkell – son of John Arkell – who lived nearby at Redlands and was annoyed by the rowdy behaviour of some of the regulars. So the County Ground got the licence and one of the town’s landmarks was born.
Outwardly, The County Ground Hotel is largely unchanged from how it looked a hundred years ago, though alterations and extensions in 1921 and 1954 mean that it is not wholly Victorian.’