Idly scrolling through Facebook as you do, I came across a video. It’s made by CREATE studios and features Swindon Community poet, Tony Hillier and his poem ‘Swindon Diamonds’. I somehow managed to miss it – never mind, I’ve found it now.
It’s wonderful! Share it far and wide. It needs to be seen!
‘A new poem celebrating Swindon in its 175th year as a railway town has been released with an accompanying video.
Swindon Diamonds is read by its creator, community poet Tony Hillier, who performed at many of the key locations mentioned in the poem.
The poem, a celebration of Swindon and its achievements, was commissioned by Swindon and Cirencester-based motor dealer, Pebley Beach as part of the firm’s support of Swindon 175, which marks 175 years since the railway arrived in the town.
It was first performed as part of Swindon Festival of Literature back in September.
The video was filmed and edited by Swindon-based Create Studios.’
Well done to Tony and to CREATE studios. Super, fab, stirring stuff.
“John Richard Jefferies (6 November 1848 – 14 August 1887) was an English nature writer, noted for his depiction of English rural life in essays, books of natural history, and novels. His childhood on a small Wiltshire farm had a great influence on him and provides the background to all his major works of fiction.
For much of his adult life, he suffered from tuberculosis, and his struggles with the illness and with poverty also play a role in his writing. Jefferies valued and cultivated an intensity of feeling in his experience of the world around him, a cultivation that he describes in detail in The Story of My Heart (1883).
This work, an introspective depiction of his thoughts and feelings on the world, gained him the reputation of a nature mystic at the time. But it is his success in conveying his awareness of nature and people within it, both in his fiction and in essay collections such as The Amateur Poacher(1879) and Round About a Great Estate (1880), that has drawn most admirers.
Walter Besantwrote of his reaction on first reading Jefferies: “Why, we must have been blind all our lives; here were the most wonderful things possible going on under our very noses, but we saw them not.”
The good people at the Richard Jefferies Museum have been involved with a community action project and were in the running for an award. Read about that here:
The Community Action Project
‘The aims of the project: to rescue the site so that it would be available to future generations and not lost through financial need or resource limitations of the Local Authority; to reach a point of development where we could sign a lease with the Local Authority, and take charge of the site, thus taking its future into the hands of the community; to achieve a standard of museum care that would warrant ACE Accreditation, developing a strong and sustainable business plan, and a firm focus on creating a community asset that builds on and promotes the often unknown, but rich, heritage of Swindon.’
Here’s a link to a You Tube film explaining all about it.
Organized by the lovely people involved in Poetry Swindon: Hilda Sheehan, Michael Scott, Maurice Spillane, Mike Pringle et al this was a perfectly punny poetic presentation. Okay – I’ll try and stop with the alliteration now.
Incidentally, Mike Pringle has an alter ego as Lady Dada – who knew?
Now – in case you’re wondering what all the DaDa stuff is about – read on:
According to that fount of all knowledge Wikipeadia, Dadaism is:
The term anti-art, a precursor to Dada, was coined by Marcel Duchamp around 1913 when he created his first readymades, Dada, in addition to being anti-war, had political affinities with the radical left and was also anti-bourgeois.”
‘Associated with the Dada, Surrealist, Cubist, and Futurist movements, Marcel Duchamp radically subverted conventional practices of artmaking and display, challenging such weighty notions as the hand of the artist and the sanctity of the art object.’
Being as Dadaism is a thread running through the festival we were treated to a Dadaist reading from Micheal Scott. Different.
There were also readings from Hilda Sheehan, the terrific Tony Hiller and the young Sophie Daniels amongst others. Sophie is the delightful daughter of Stephen Daniels – another doyenne of Poetry Swindon – is a budding poet herself. She did a super reading for us at the July Penny Reading event and did a splendid job yesterday. I am, frankly, in awe.
The entire event was brilliant fun and gives the lie to any notion that poetry automatically is dull and stuffy. You’ve only to see Lady DaDa (aka Mike Pringle) and Hilda Sheehan enact the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet (allegedly) waving Blue Gate/Poetry Swindon plaques as cunningly designed cue cards to see that.
The 2013 poetry bus and community poet Tony Hillier – Picture courtesy of Festival Chronicles
The moment I saw the double-decker bus in the car park of The Sun Inn at Coate, I was transported back to my formative years. The colours were different, this bus being blue and cream, whilst the Retford 1 and the Sheffield 3 (I think that was the number) were red – ‘proper’ bus colours in my opinion. But all the other features were pretty much the same: the long strip along the ceiling that was the bell, the anything-but-ergonomic vinyl upholstered seats with chromium handles across the back of them; the steep steps to climb onto the bus – no wheel-chair friendly, push-chair friendly, hydraulic platforms lowering to pavement level in those days I can tell you. Something I am quite bitter about actually…
So what was this double-decker TARDIS then? This, dear readers, was the 2013 poetry bus and surely a fixture now on the Swindon Poetry Festival timetable as it takes its annual venture into versification?
We were a mixed bunch of passengers waiting to board Thamesdown Transport’s vintage Daimler double-decker bus, ranging in age from dotage to babyhood. Rather than a peaked cap the ‘conductor’ on this journey, community poet Tony Hillier, wore a Panama hat and, instead of a ticket-machine, was equipped with boundless enthusiasm with which he guided us passengers through two hours of word juggling and heritage. Aiding and abetting, like a modern-day ‘Mr Memory‘, with his wealth of historical knowledge of Swindon was Graham Carter, editor of the splendid Swindon Heritage magazine.
The time-machine analogy is an appropriate one. Not only were we treated to, and participated in, songs and poems as we majestically motored along – causing some fabulous traffic chaos to boot – Graham Carter’s knowledge of Swindon past took us on a figurative if not literal, journey back in time.
So as the bus pulled out of the Sun Inn car park and we began our mystery tour we were treated, by one of the older passengers, to a comic song bewailing the desire to travel and the pleasures of staying on the farm. Following swiftly on from that, the conductor got everyone involved in the first of several ’rounds’ of ‘The Wheels on the bus’. Well, what else could it be?
With a great deal of historical information being shared as we made our way, one of the first physical places we stopped at was 210 Marlborough Road which was the home of one Diana Fluck – later to be transformed into Britain’s own blonde bombshell, Diana Dors. From there we were soon in Swindon’s Old Town where we took a look at the statue of a ram standing where the cattle market used to be. It’s a curious thing that the name ‘Swindon’ essentially means ‘pig hill’ from the Anglo-Saxon ‘Swine’ and ‘Dun’, yet most of the livestock trade was actually cattle. This stopping point led to much reminiscing from passengers old enough to remember, about how, on market days, the pubs opened at 4am for the drovers. And yet binge drinking is apparently a new thing? I think not.
The ram sculpture on the site of the cattle market
So on we went, past the ruins of a once lovely building that has, at various times in its history been a corn exchange, a town hall, the Locarno ballroom, a cinema and a roller-rink: a place where many great names have played in years past. Similarly in the much-missed McIlroy’s dept store. The historical information was flowing fast on this Thamesdown Transport time-machine.
I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog how rich Swindon is in parks and green spaces but I didn’t realize just how rich; I learned that there are 200 green spaces in the town and moreover, we are never further than one street away from a green space. So if nothing else smashes they myth that Swindon is a soulless urban conurbation that fact should. On the subject of green spaces, as we drove past such a one at Mannington we were all quite excited to hear that none other than Buffalo Bill Cody took his show there in 1903. Imagine that? From the Wild West to West Swindon!
And so we went on. Learning and singing ‘We’re all going on a Summer Holiday’ – well it had to happen didn’t it? A ride on a vintage double-decker bus without that is unthinkable. In between songs and poems we were fed a varied diet of all things Swindon related. We heard about Alfred Williams the ‘Hammerman’ poet; the unpleasant odour that some of GWR staff carried round with them from working on the upholstery; that in 1860 the first UFO was spotted in Taunton Street and how 1819 saw a flag-pole riot when: ‘…..A mob of disgruntled ex-soldiers burned the flagpole down and at one stage were seen marching down Regent Street, intent on using the remains of it as a battering ram……’I won’t lie – I rather like the idea of that. Then there was The Magic Roundabout, Steam Museum; Heelis, the HQ of the National Trust; a song about Arkell’s beer and a story and a nursery rhyme from young Milo.
As our journey ended and we pulled back into the Sun Inn car park we were treated to a final song, with audience participation of course, called Grandfather’s Ale which went to the tune of ‘My Grandfather’s Clock’.
I have it on good authority that there will be another poetry bus in Swindon’s 2014 poetry festival so, for the ride of your life, in the immortal words of Sir Fred Pontin: ‘book early’!
Any readers out there who listen to R4 will be familiar with ‘Jeremy Hardy speaks to the nation’. Well here I’m delighted to present ‘Salvador speaks to Swindon’. It’s a view of Swindon and the museum and art gallery in Old Town from 8 year-old Salvador Scott. This is entirely his own work and I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.
Salvador’s dad is Swindon poet and doyenne of Swindon’s poetry scene, Michael Scott. Michael thinks he is lucky to have met Salvador. And y’know what? I’m inclined to agree with him. I think he is.
“It’s good to be living in Swindon because it’s so quiet I can write books and films without a lot of busy noises. There are also so many fields I can run in. Did you see that? I’m a bridge, a wobbly one. Have you done that? I’ve got more. There are so many playgrounds where I can practice my gymnastic skills when I need them. (Silence, Salvador is on a broken zip wire in Witney). I like the museum where I can examine things closer I have seen on the television and heard of with pictures. Like the Badger for example when I didn’t know it had a little bit of white in its eye and very long claws. I like the gallery because when I’ve seen them in picture books I always get a closer look and see how big it is and my Daddy always points out where the paintbrush has stroked. My favourite one is the one with the bull falling and the lady in the corner who is turning the thing that looks like Salvador Dali’s clocks. Oh and the lady who looks like Ann Darrow with the leaf over her face. I also love Swindon for its unique logo with the robin which I don’t know where it comes from …. I think it’s because of the winter.”
NB: Salvador is standing by a Lucien Freud painting ‘Girl with fig leaf’ created in 1947. I’ve written about the community television service, Swindon Viewpoint elsewhere in this blog and am mentioning them again because, interestingly enough, they have a short film on their website’s Artpoint series about this very painting.