The Milton Road baths are an historic and unique Victorian health facility, a heritage asset right in the middle of Swindon and an integral part of our proud Railway history. And of course the central community centre, managed by the Mechanics’ Institution trust, was once the GWR community fund hospital.
Were you aware that?
The Health Hydro and Swimming baths have been serving the community for 125 years.
The GWR Medical Fund Society, an entity that influenced the formation of the NHS, was already 100 years old when it was handed to the NHS.
2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the NHS
The Victorian Turkish Baths at Milton Road are now the oldest, extant of their kind in the world.
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.
What’s so exciting about this innovative event is that it maps the entirety of Swindon’s cultural landscape. Just as the landscape of our beautiful country is more varied and rich than one can comprehend so too is Swindon’s cultural scene. It’s simply astonishing. What’s more it’s being brought together to tell Alfred’s story. And that story is as fascinating as that of Swindon itself.
‘The evening, full of specially commissioned pieces of music and dance seek to illustrate Williams’ amazingly varied life. Not only was he a factory worker and poet, he also served in the First World War as a Gunner and travelled to India.’
Alfred educated himself to an astonishing level: he taught himself Greek and Latin so he could read the Classics. His literary output was huge though largely – though not entirely – unrecognised in his lifetime. Alfred – THIS is your moment.
Swindon is a cultural oasis
For those of you unaware of how much Swindon has to offer culturally, here’s a round-up of some of it that you can experience at this event. These are the ones I’ve covered on this blog at various times.
Swindon Open Studios (SOS) has become a much loved annual event on the Swindon Calendar. It is a fabulous opportunity for Swindon’s creative talent to display, demonstrate and discuss their artwork.
Artists are invited to sign up now for 2018. Closing date for applications is 31st May 2018. This year’s event will be on the 22nd / 23rd & 29th / 30th of September.
It’s great that a diverse range of artists are involved already, with many different art forms. However, it is always good to see new talent emerging – or longer established artists trying it for the first time. Here are some stories from existing participants:
2018 will be the fifth time Swindon artist Caroline Day’s has registered to open her studio for SOS. Caroline believes that it has been a real benefit to her. She describes it as “a real boost for emerging artists taking part.”
Painter Mary Parsons took part for the first time last year, and found that it opened up several other opportunities. She enjoyed it so much that she has already joined the committee!
Mixed media artist Ann Parker- Griffiths registered for the first time last year and was initially cautious about taking part. On reflection she says now that “everyone I have met within SOS has been encouraging and helpful in so many ways that I wish I had started years ago”.
Fine artist Hannah Dosanji points out the numerous advantages of participating – professionally and socially: “hearing about other local artists, your own profile being shared on a brilliant website and social media, plus the opportunity to meet SOS participants and how interesting (not intimidating!) meeting the public can be… it’s hard work but fun”
There is no right or wrong way for an artist to hold an Open Studio; it’s the variety that makes it a special and unique scheme. Many artists don’t have a studio as such but still open their house to show where they create their work – often on the kitchen table! Ideally it is not just an exhibition but a chance for people to see artist’s work in progress.
It doesn’t have to be in your own house if that’s not appropriate – many make use of community venues, often grouping together.
There is also an opportunity for participants to exhibit in an Old Town Art Trail in August. During this introduction trail Old Town businesses kindly offer to host a piece of SOS artwork within their shop window to advertised the September SOS event.
Artists and the motivational Swindon following are also invited to a SOS launch evening on Friday the 14th of September at the Central Community Centre, Swindon. More information will be available about this soon on our website.
Take a look at our brand new website created by Waddell Digital to see artists that have already registered – maybe you’ll be inspired be a part of this vibrant pop-up community.
The event is widely advertised with brochures available at many local venues. To keep in touch and enable the committee to support artists before and during the event, please follow SOS on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Artists benefit more if they spend a bit of time promoting themselves as well.
Artists have until the 31st May to register online. Cost of registration is £40. Terms and conditions are on the website. Please feel free to ask for advice or join our SOS Artists Forum group on Facebook. We hope you consider taking part and enjoy the experience if you do!
Swindon Philosophical society – image from their websit
Well listeners. As you know, on the odd occasion I’m known to demonstrate frustration at the suggestion that there’s nothing of cultural value in Swindon. One has to question how hard these people look! Anyway – the suggestion that Swindon has no culture is a risable one.
Now I’m pretty sure the subject of this post has passed onto my radar before but I’ve been looking the other way or something. Whatever – I’ve not, until today, registered that Swindon has a Philosophical Society. But it does! What’s more it’s been here since 1963! Interesting! Radio 4 do intermittent light drama plays around the Ferryhill Philosopher’s club and Alexander Mcall Smith, writes novels about Isabel Dalhousie and the Sunday Philosopher’s club. All of which I’ve enjoyed. It’s a rich vein it seems.
The Swindon Philosophical Society meets in term-time, on Fridays from 7.40 to 9.40, at the Friends’ Meeting House, Eastcott Hill, Swindon SN1 3JF.
A typical evening’s format is a one hour talk, followed by an hour’s discussion – which generally continues in a nearby pub. Everyone is welcome – we’re a friendly bunch – just turn up on the night.
We first met in 1963 – over 50 years of great thinking!
There’s a charge of £2.00 (students free) to cover expenses.
Here’s the schedule for the summer term:
13 April Equitable Water Sharing in the Blue Nile
20 April Fundamentalism
27 April Post Work
4 May Warfare and Welfare
11 May Swindon Festival of Literature
18 May Swindon Festival of Literature
25 May The Jordan Peterson Phenomenon
The Society meets on Fridays from 7.40 to 9.40 at the
Friends’ Meeting House, Eastcott Hill, Swindon SN1 3JF.
At its simplest, philosophy (from the Greek or phílosophía, meaning ‘the love of wisdom’) is the study of knowledge, or “thinking about thinking”, although the breadth of what it covers is perhaps best illustrated by a selection of other alternative definitions:
the discipline concerned with questions of how one should live (ethics); what sorts of things exist and what are their essential natures (metaphysics); what counts as genuine knowledge (epistemology); and what are the correct principles of reasoning (logic) (Wikipedia)
investigation of the nature, causes, or principles of reality, knowledge, or values, based on logical reasoning rather than empirical methods (American Heritage Dictionary)
the study of the ultimate nature of existence, reality, knowledge and goodness, as discoverable by human reasoning (Penguin English Dictionary)
the rational investigation of questions about existence and knowledge and ethics (WordNet)
the search for knowledge and truth, especially about the nature of man and his behaviour and beliefs (Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary)
the rational and critical inquiry into basic principles (Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia)
the study of the most general and abstract features of the world and categories with which we think: mind, matter, reason, proof, truth, etc. (Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy)
careful thought about the fundamental nature of the world, the grounds for human knowledge, and the evaluation of human conduct (The Philosophy Pages)