Swindon Arts blog

Swindon Arts blog

This post is just by way of highlighting a lovely blog called ‘Swindon Arts Blog‘: https://swindonartsblog.wordpress.com

I love the strapline on it:

SWINDONARTSBLOG: Living in an unexpected creative hotspot…  

Image of text and buildings

Swindon Arts Blog

because we do – and the author of this blog, Benjamin, Twitter: @swindonartsblog – is not alone in having noticed that Swindon is a steaming cauldron of creativity of all kinds: dance, art, music – you name it really – it’s all here. I’ve written about lots of it here on this blog as does Benjamin on his. And he has some great photographs on it too.

Indeed the unexpected hotspot aspect is something that was highlighted in one of the guest posts on this blog, Out of the Centre, in which the author expresses this:

“Before I left Sydney I was having a conversation with a lecturer of the painting department. Shane and I were talking about the ‘art world’ and what artists do to get ‘out there’. Shane turned the conversation around by saying to me ‘Don’t go to the centre’. What he meant was don’t go to New York or Berlin. I sort of laughed and didn’t think much of it. 

But it makes sense now.”  I rather think that echoes Benjamin’s tagline.  And really rather gives the lie to the all too common perception that the only kind of culture to be found in Swindon is that in a yoghurt pot. 

2014 Programme of Swindon poetry festival

2014 Programme of Swindon poetry festival

Swindon festival of Poetry

Swindon festival of Poetry

Just a quick press of the programme for the 2014 Swindon festival of poetry.

I’ve enjoyed events from the last two festivals very much – the poetry bus of previous years in particular was a blast.  So if you haven’t been to any of these events before then try and go because of course – Swindon IS the world capital of poetry. 

So, without further ado, here is the 2014 Programme.

Domestic Cherry: Swindon Poetry Capital of the world

I’ve mentioned on this blog more than once that Swindon IS the world capital of poetry.  I’m sure you’ve all been wondering just how that can be so. And if you haven’t – why on earth not? Anyway – follow the link to the blogpsot of Domestic Cherry and find out: Domestic Cherry: Poetry Capital. To whet your appetite here’s an extract:

Poetry Capital

Swindon is twinned with Ocotal but it is also tenuously half-rhymed with Chicago.
Swindon is challenging global poetry inequality.
Swindon Zoo contains the last known thesaurus in captivity.
All our pavements rhyme.
There is irony in our skyscrapers.
Swindon has more imaginary buildings than anywhere else in the world.
Work will soon commence on the Oasis Leisure Centre to create the Swindon Poetry Dome.

Domestic Cherry is: “a pair of Swindon writers, Hilda Sheehan & Michael Scott. They seek to fuse poetry, music and art to transform the Swindon townscape (and anywhere else they might get invited) with all kinds of culture; blurring them into everyday life. They believe the creativity of most people can be accessed via their roving interactive revolution; seizing a power through poetry, conversation and general messing about. Bravo! they declare. To hell with convention and the Kingdom of Dullness! They aim to create and construct an eternal festival of poetic foolery and fun on buses, in town centres and anywhere the unsuspecting public might be caught unawares.”

See also:

Swindon Poetry bus

Swindon Festival of Poetry Gallery

Swindon Festival of Poetry Gallery

Swindon poetry festival road sign

Swindon poetry festival road sign

I’ve mentioned here once or twice before that Swindon is the World capital of poetry.  I wrote only recently about the poetry bus time machine.

So, if there was every any doubt in your mind on this matter, see below a link to a splendid set of picture galleries covering all the events that comprised the Swindon Festival of Poetry 2013 – photos taken by the charming Sabine Coe.

Swindon Festival of Poetry Gallery.

Poetry bus or time machine?

Poetry bus or time machine?

The 2013 poetry bus and community poet Tony Hillier

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

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’!

NB: You can read much more about the  Swindon of yesteryear on ‘Swindon in the Past Lane’ and ‘Goodgentlewoman’ – two excellent historical blogs as well as, of course, the Swindon Heritage Magazine.

For an alternative account of this event and for reviews of other events of the 2013 Swindon festival of poetry check out the fab Festival Chronicle.

Go here for Sabine Coe’s picture gallery of the trip.

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