Well this has been a wonderful development. A week or two back I received a contact from 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.
So. My first book, Secret Swindon, had a gorgeous launch event at Swindon central library on the 28th July. I’ve been meaning to post about it since then but stuff got in the way. Namely some security stuff being done on the blog which was affecting access. So I figured I’d hold on until that was done. And now the lovely Linda Kasmaty has beaten me to it with her super blog on Gardens, Galleries and Walking Around. So I reckon I might as well share that, a few photos and one or two rather lovely reviews and job done.
First up is Linda’s lovely blog post here. She has thoughtfully included a photo of me having a sip of wine so now you’ve all got exactly the right impression of me!
Now for a few photographs:
Secret Swindon in the library shop – Secret Swindon Book Launch
Cutters made by SED developments
biscuits on baking tray
Me, Sam Whittingham and Kris Allen
Me with Mariadele Boccardi – UWE
David Bent, Chris Barry and Pradeep Bhadwari
The Swindon-building shaped biscuits were super scrummy. Baked by Sam Whittingham with cutters created by SED Developments. The cutters are on sale in the library shop in the central library. You can choose from: the Locarno, the town hall, the Mechanics’ Institution and the David Murray John Tower.
‘I thoroughly enjoyed this read, gaining knowledge of many aspects and artistic properties of Swindon I could’ve driven past and only causally pondered their history. From the wonderful mural on the side of the house near Lion Bridge, which I pass, like, but seldom aspire to seek any knowledge of its artist or background, to the thought process of the contemporary architecture which Swindon holds, with all its 1970s futurism; the Meccano-fashioned “Renault” building, or the curvaceous landmark David John Murray tower. All of these popular sites of Swindon are featured and detailed, with fascinating facts you never thought to ask about. And yeah, the Magic Roundabout is covered too!’
Hello listeners! I can’t lie. I can barely sit still for the excitement! The reason? I’m soon to be a published author for the first time. ‘Secret Swindon’, via Amberley Publishing, is due for release in the middle of July 2018.
But the story of how I got to this point has its roots 25 years ago – which is when I came to Swindon.
A new life in Swindon
Now, prior to moving to Swindon I’d visited the place several times and found it to be a perfectly pleasant place. So, when the opportunity arrived to move here I arrived with no negative perceptions. In fact, the converse was true. By the time I moved here my part of the world on the Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire border had been devastated by the wholesale pit closures of the 1980s. My family were at the heart of that – indeed my daughter’s first word was ‘Picket’. By the time I came to Swindon in the early 1990s I left behind nothing. And I mean – NOTHING. A pretty enough part of the country for sure – the village I lived in featured in the Domesday book. It was attractive and in the middle of a rural area. Albeit the atmosphere was akin to a very thick gravy. What with the pit muck and the quarry dust.
A visit to a C&A required two buses and a tortuous trip across two counties. We had no good transport connections, no work, no prospects, no nowt. Well slag heaps, emphysema and mass unemployment. We had that.
So! I came to Swindon. Within days I found work. Actual proper, full-time work. This one thing was little short of a miracle. I bought a house in Grange Park – a fifteen-minute walk from Shaw Ridge leisure park. Here we (my then 12-year-old daughter and I) found:
A swimming pool
An ice rink
A bowling alley
A cinema and oh joy of joys to a pre-teen daughter:
I truly felt I’d pitched up in the land of milk and honey. And y’know what? I still think that. I still think Swindon is the land of milk and honey. The southwest equivalent of the Klondike for opportunity.
So that listeners is my arrival in Swindon. I settle into full-time employment and building a life. I’m content with where I’m living, I like it perfectly well, it becomes home. But the real love affair with Swindon doesn’t begin then. To get to the igniting of that flickering fire of fondness into a truly, madly, deeply red hot love we have to go all Dr Who (the David Tennant incarnation) and do some wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff and fast forward about 16 years to when I’m in my early 50s. When compulsory early retirement comes my way. AAAAAARGGGHHHH!!!!
Fast Forward two more years. I’m now approaching the end of my second year at university and selecting modules for my final year. A travel writing module called “Moving Words’ piques my interest.
I have a conversation with the module leader Professor Robin Jarvis:
‘Me: Robin, I’m interested in taking the Moving Words module but, at risk of sounding a bit daft, I don’t do any travelling.
Robin: Angela, the last thing I want landing on my desk is yet another account of a gap year in Thailand. Tell me what you see when you walk to your Tesco Express.
Me: PING – classic lightbulb moment. Why? Because what I see on my walk to my Tesco Express is a piece of public art. Not that I knew that term then. Nor did I know that it formed part of a ‘thing’ called the West Swindon Sculpture Trail. I knew of one or two other sculptures but not the entire collection. So I decided that, over that summer, I’d start blogging about Swindon with a view to amassing material that might – just might – make useful source material for portfolio pieces for this module.’
And that listeners is how Born again Swindonian became to be …well … born. And, as I progressed with what largely started as a means to an end, and as I learnt more and more about Swindon and all it has to offer – that’s when I truly fell in love with the place.
I often liken Swindon to a stripper. Take the time to get to know her, make the effort to cultivate a relationship with her, and she will draw back those layers. Slowly but surely, she will reveal herself and she’ll get under your skin. She’s got under mine.
It’s now around five years and 600 posts since I started blogging as Born again Swindonian. I’m still at it because there’s so much to tell.
Late last year (2017) someone left a message on my blog. That someone was a commissioning editor for a Gloucestershire based publishing house called Amberley. They have a series of local history books called Secret XXXXXX. Would I be interested in writing Secret Swindon?
Which brings us bang up to date and me about to be a published author and flogging a book. Wow!
Secret Swindon is due for publication in mid-July 2018.
Where can you get it?
After it’s been launched at the end of July it will be available in the library shop in the central library. You’ll also be able to buy it directly from Amberley and even, maybe, in local bookshops.
Okay listeners. I know – there’s an argument that this one is a bit of a cheat being as how it’s not Swindon based. BUT despite what some people in Salisbury might think (don’t ask), Swindon is full of literature lovers and writers too. Heck, we happen to have a 25-year-old literature festival do we not?! And, aside from that one of my old lecturers from UWE (University of the West of England) is involved in it. So – y’know …. If you’re into literature you might be interested in this.
Writing the West: Literature & Place:
Is a free online course on some major poets and novelists associated with Bristol, Bath, and the West of England. Learn how Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey, Jane Austen, Mary Shelley and Thomas Hardy found inspiration in the West Country, and how they contribute to the culture and economy of the region today. You’ll explore their lives, gain insight into their writing, and see the places that influenced them.
Open to all; starts June; 4 weeks duration; 3-4 hours study per week
This free online course offers learners the opportunity to explore the work of four writers or groups of writers from the Romantic & Victorian era with strong links to Bristol and the South West.
What has been the importance of place to writers in the South West?
What is the importance of writers to places in the South West today?
The course invites learners to consider how the featured writers were inspired by the landscapes and cityscapes of Bristol, Bath, and the West of England and how they engaged in a local or regional context with social and political issues of national importance. Learners will also consider how these same writers are remembered today and how they contribute to the cultural economy of the region; here in particular there will be scope for learners to share their own knowledge and experiences in an interactive learning environment.
The 25th Swindon festival of Literature is launched!
It’s hard to believe it, But the Swindon festival of literature is 25!! Blimey! That means I’ve been coming to literature festival events almost from its outset. I moved to Swindon in 1993. I can’t imagine I knew about it when I first got here. But I suspect I’ve been attending from it’s 2nd/3rd year. As Charlie Brown says: ‘Good grief!’
Running from 7th to 19th May the Swindon festival of literature programme includes:
sesquipedalian novelist and broadcaster Will Self; the longest-serving female MP Harriet Harman with her book A Woman’s Work; author of best-selling Why Mummy Drinks Gill Sims; philosopher A C Grayling, who will talk about the nature of democracy today; oldest gold medal-winning runner Jo Pavey with her book This Mum Runs; popular poet Pam Ayres; great granddaughter of Emily, Dr Helen Pankhurst; tennis coach and mother of Wimbledon champions Judy Murray, with her book Knowing the Score; songwriter and queen of folksingers, who is indirectly responsible for one of the greatest love songs ever written, Peggy Seeger, with her book First Time Ever; children’s author and broadcaster Michael Rosen; artificial intelligence expert Professor Alan Winfield; outspoken broadcaster and writer Afua Hirsch; international authority on making something of your town or city, Charles Landry; Chief Executive of Arts Council England Darren Heaney with his book on why it makes sense to invest in the Arts and Culture; poets Jacquline Saphra and HilaryDavies; controversial carer Camila Batmanghelidjh; former Punk musician and now brilliant writer Viv Albertine; Booker Prize-winning novelist, and poet,Ben Okri; and Oxford relationships researcher Dr Anna Machin with her book on the role of dads today!
As well as these named authors, there are also numerous others, plus talks, discussions, readings, and storytelling, at theatres, arts venues, libraries, parks, historic houses, and even an old ex-cowshed, in Swindon!
Festival standing dishes also include the early-morning Dawn Chorus; the ninth and unique Swindon Think Slam; a Children & Families Day; the twenty-second Swindon Poetry Slam; and the fabulous Poems, Pints, and Music Finale!
In lovely Lydiard Park, on the very first day of the Festival, there will be a freedom run, a health walk, and a fascinating talk!
Eastcott community book launch: Legacy of a rag and bone man
Well listeners! Yesterday was what I call a good Swindon day. The being cold, yet bright and sunny I walked into town from Grange Park. My first stop when I do that is always Paolo’s deli on Commercial Rd for a delicious coffee.
If you’ve not been there yet why not? All I hear, all the time, is ‘what Swindon needs is independent businesses’. Well, I’ve mentioned two of them here. So y’know what to do right? Paul has got some fab festive goodies so take a peek.
From there it was a nip across Theatre Square to the Artsite Christmas Fair. I love Artsite and the Post Modern. It’s a fantastic collective of artists working together in their studios. I like to get to their Christmas fair when I can because their’s always something to catch your eye. And they’re such fantastic people too. I LOVE that Swindon has got Artsite.
Talking of fantastic people the next thing on my agenda was the launch, in Swindon central library, of a super book put together by Eastcott Community Organisation. Caroline Davis-Khan and Anna Smart do a brilliant job up there – always lots of stuff going on up at Savernake Street hall.
Anyroad up – with funding support from the Heritage Lottery Fund they’ve put together a great little book called ‘Legacy of a Rag and Bone man’ – a century of community life in Eastcott.
Alderman James ‘Raggy’ Powell is not a character I’ve heard of but many actual born Swindonians most certainly will have. So it’s an education for someone like me and a trip down memory line for many others.
There’s a quote in the book from the lovely Frances Bevan, local historian, who comments that Powell is one of ‘Swindon’s forgotten heroes’. ‘Despite his philanthropic contribution to the town, no street, or building has been named after him’. And, judging by what I’ve read so far, she’s right. But this book surely goes some way to address that?
So a hearty well done and congratulations to everyone involved in it. It’s a super addition to a Swindon-lover’s bookcase.