4th December 2016
‘Today I went to a field in Wiltshire to witness the unveiling of a life-sized plaster elephant.’ A sentence I expected to utter never.
But life is full of surprises huh? So. We have an elephant. in Swindon – well Liddington. But that’s close enough for government work. Sadly not called Nellie – what’s the world coming to? 😉
Created by yet another Swindonian – well Swindon area resident at least – that I’ve never heard of: David Lomax – this ‘ere elephant is the Hoarusib elephant bull.
Once you get over the incongruity of an elephant in Liddington it does, as you can see from the pictures below, look rather magnificent. It was most splendid to see and I’m so glad I got the chance – via trunk call! (see what I did there?)
I do hope it’ll be warm enough. It was a tidy nippy in that there Coombe today. Thank goodness for the mulled wine and hot soup that’s what I say! A cold day it was but it was sunny and bright so that was a big bonus for sure. And what a great opportunity this was. Amazing.
David Lomax: the sculptor
A bit about the sculptor
‘David Lomax is married with four children and lives near Swindon in Wiltshire, U.K.
He was brought up in the horse racing world on a farm, and now works from Bishopstone, Wiltshire. Over the years his work has been quite varied in subject matter and in the use of materials.
Whether exploring the individuality of a particular animal in the portrait sculpture “Hoarusib Bull” or working more freely in “Plant Torso” , his work is underpinned by an interest in the continuities between species and an attempt to understand and celebrate the natural world.’
A bit about the elephant
The Hoarusib Elephant Bull
On Sunday 4 December Robert Buckland MP unveiled the Hoarusib Elephant Bull, a tour de force sculpted by the talented Swindon sculptor David Lomax.
David was commissioned in 1992 by the UK zoo owner John Aspinall to go to Namibia to observe and photograph this elephant, and then on return to the UK to sculpt a full-size portrait in the Pangolin Foundry in Gloucestershire.
The four ton sculpture was then cast in bronze, three copies of which were acquired by millionaire collectors in Los Angeles, Australia and Mexico. Imagine the logistics of the transport!
The elephant is now sited overlooking a green meadow in Swindon, where it gazes at a flock of Wiltshire sheep. (Goodness only knows what they make of it – ‘what the flock?! I shouldn’t wonder…)
The purpose of the event was to honour David Lomax the sculptor and to raise funds for the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation.
elephant article 3
A bit about David Shepherd
David Shepherd – artist: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Shepherd_(artist)
‘Richard David Shepherd CBE FRSA FGRA (born 25 April 1931) is a British artist and one of the world’s most outspoken conservationists.
He is most famous for his paintings of steam locomotives(he owns a number of them) and wildlife, although he also often paints aircraft, portraits (notably The Queen Mother) and landscapes.
His work has been extremely popular since the 1960s in limited edition print reproduction and poster form, as well as other media such as Wedgwood limited edition plates.
He has written five books about his art, including an autobiography.’
26th June 2016
It’s the rail thing
Swindon Town Hall Railings
Oh listeners. I AM ashamed. All the years I’ve been in Swindon and have walked past the town hall – now the home of Swindon Dance – I’ve never noticed the Swindon town hall railings and how beautiful they are. How on EARTH have I missed them until now? It’s shocking!
And I can’t actually lay claim to ‘noticing’ them even now. I’m only aware of them because my good friend Carole Bent mentioned them on Facebook so I made a point of going to see them.
And very splendid they are.
A relatively new addition to the town hall, they were installed in 1997 and are the creation of Avril Wilson: http://arts.brighton.ac.uk/staff/avril-wilson
“Avril Wilson’s studio practice and research interests explores how the interplay between image, material and process affect interpretation of place and notions of identity. “
These wonderful railings were it seems designed to detail hand gestures and dance movements.
See the railings on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nkw/9662004855
“Avril Wilson is a craftsperson, designer and artist, whose specialism is in blacksmithing and steel fabrication.
Avril Wilson was the first female artist-blacksmith to be awarded a bronze medal by The Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths in recognition for her contribution to architectural metalwork. Her work explores identity of place through commissioned work in the public realm and gallery exhibitions.”
NB: Swindon town hall is now the home of Swindon Dance. The building also houses the sculpture of Charlotte Corday and a mural by Carleton Atwood creator of The Watchers at Toothill village centre – part of the West Swindon Sculpture trail.
Read about Carleton Atwood in this article by Barry Leighton: http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/13489921.Swindon_sculptor_Carleton_Attwood_was_an_artist_and_a_gentleman___/
Charlotte Corday: https://swindonian.me/2015/08/19/charlotte-corday-statue-swindon-town-hall/ with link to Barry Leighton’s article about the statue: https://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/13612747.how-swindon-almost-lost-treasured-marble/?ref=fbshr
Swindon Dance: http://www.swindondance.org.uk
Not being a driver I don’t generally get to the Royal Mail sorting office out at Dorcan. But recently I was there with someone else and was pleasantly surprised to see this artwork on the perimeter fence.
Now I’ve searched and searched on Google for some more information about this artwork and its creators but I’ve drawn a blank. So all I have to offer is what’s on the signage:
“This design depicts the four horses of the first mail coach racing over the Downland surrounding Swindon. It is based on the ancient chalk horse cut above Uffington and is made up from a postman’s footprints”
I like it. I think it’s interesting and rather clever. And it definitely brightens up a dull, utilitarian perimeter fence.
And a couple of pictures courtesy of Debs Donkersley:
Origins and the first mail coach:
“When a public postal service was first introduced in 1635, letters were carried between ‘posts’ by mounted post-boys and delivered to the local postmaster. The postmaster would then take out the letters for his area and hand the rest to another post-boy to carry them on to the next ‘post’. This was a slow process and the post-boys were an easy target for robbers, but the system remained unchanged for almost 150 years.
John Palmer, a theatre owner from Bath, had organised a rapid carriage service to transport actors and props between theatres and he believed that a similar scheme could improve the postal service. In 1782, Palmer sold his theatre interests, and went to London to lobby The Post Office. Despite resistance from senior Post Office staff, who believed the speed of the mail could not be improved, William Pitt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, accepted the idea. An experimental mail coach journey, undertaken at Palmer’s expense, started from Bristol on 2 August 1784, at 4pm. It reached London at 8am the next day, exactly on schedule. A journey that had taken up to 38 hours now took just 16.”
Read more here: http://www.postalheritage.org.uk/explore/history/mail-coaches/
14th May 2016
Not having got any small children I’m not au fait with the town’s play parks. However, I have a friend with a small daughter and sometimes visit a play park with them- and a few weeks ago we went to the Angel Ridge play park. It’s taken me weeks to get round to posting on it!
The who, the what, the where
You’ll find the Angel Ridge play area on the site of Swindon’s original NHS hospital, Princess Margaret Hospital, now redeveloped as a residential housing site.
According to Building Construction Design – http://www.buildingconstructiondesign.co.uk/news/angel-ridge-play-area-swindon/ – ‘Swindon Council had the task of creating a challenging and exciting play area that referenced the rich heritage of the site, keeping the local residents on side and also improving links with the surrounding communities. They worked with Timberplay, selecting the best products to suit the site and its heritage.’
As the article goes on to say: “Angel Ridge is a linear development, situated along a ridge, hence the name. When embarking on research for the site, Swindon Council Landscape Architect, Andrew Norris found that the bones of an Ichthyosaur (marine dinosaur) were discovered nearby, which then went on to find fame on Blue Peter. This pre-historic relic inspired the use of fossils throughout the site, with hidden replica fossils secreted in the sand area and a giant ammonite heralding the start of the play site. “
Angel Ridge Play area 1
The turning stone
Detail on the turning stone
One of the key features of the site is the weighty Turning Stone, a huge 5 tonne boulder which even small children can easily rotate. This is personalised with an inscription, a poem by Jane Evans that summed up the overarching themes of the scheme:
Nudging the sky,
You’re no more
Than a pinprick
On the timeline
By lynchet and tumulus
And the tremendous
Secrets of the rock
Time out of mind
Under turf and furz”
18th March 2016
GWR Workers’ Tunnel
Public art with a railway theme
As I’ve mentioned on here just once or twice before dear listeners, Swindon enjoys a great deal of public art – much of which I’ve written about here: https://swindonian.me/category/public-art-sculpture/
So I was really quite delighted when I chanced upon the light pictures/sculptures featured in this post.
They are in the GWR Workers’ tunnel which links the town with the Outlet Centre. See also: https://swindonian.me/2014/11/14/swindon-designer-outlet-village-revisited/
I first noticed this public art installation a while back – though not as far back as their actual installation which was 2012. It’s not a route I take overly frequently so it was some time before I ‘discovered’ them.
I think they’re rather cool and do add some interest to an otherwise rather dingy and unprepossessing underpass.
When I look at them I think of the men and women across the years who used that tunnel to get to and from their work ‘inside’ as working in the GWR Works was referred to. And as the Swindon Advertiser article says – they don’t half add some interest to a dark passage. Ooh er missus!
‘RAILWAY workers past and present are lighting up a dark underpass as part of artwork unveiled yesterday.’
Ten workers are pictured in the green metal light sculptures, which are in the Great Western underpass between the Railway Village and Swindon Designer Outlet.’
As you walk through the tunnel towards the town centre this is the order in which they appear – I think …
The artist responsible, Bruce Williams, said:
‘The characters you can see would probably have used the route under the tracks themselves on their way to and from work.
“These are regular men and women, who worked on the trains in war and in peace time, come rain or shine. There are riveters, train drivers and look-out people.
“On the opposite walls in gleaming letters read the words Swindon Works, which is the name of the site but could also read as a hopeful slogan for the future.’
Light the lamp not the rat!
2 August 2015
10 things to celebrate about Swindon
Back in 2013, when I conceived this blog, my starting point was 10 things to celebrate about Swindon.
This was a non-definitive list, in no particular order, of things that I felt worth shouting about. The list encompassed parks, public art, artists, museums and even the buses.
Over the last two years I’ve learned lots about Swindon and met some great people and I sometimes wonder if, were I starting the blog now and with that knowledge, would I make a different list? On the whole it would stay the same I reckon. But I could easily write a list of another 10, and another 10 after that…Anyway here it is – my starting point for Born again Swindonian. The top ten of the Swindon charts:
1) Parks, gardens and green spaces. Swindon is teeming with green spaces and is packed with park life. It’s wonderful. There’s Queen’s Park, and the Secret Garden, there’s Town Gardens and Lydiard Park to name some of the ‘biggies’ but there seems to a green area of some description practically at every turn – Hagbourne Copse being a recent-ish discovery. We are very, very lucky to live in such a green town. In that aspect at least.
2) Number 2 on my list was the arts, culture and creativity that you can find in abundance in Swindon. In the initial list I focused on the poetry bus but now, two years on, I know of so much more – it’s pretty much endless. Off the top of my head there’s Artsite and the Post Modern, the literature festival, the poetry festival, the Town Gardens artists’s group – but tons and tons more!
3) The buses – well okay – this isn’t entirely positive but anyway: https://swindonian.me/2013/05/18/ten-things-to-celebrate-about-swindon-number-3-the-buses/ (As of 2017 Thamesdown Transport is under new ownership. Already the loathsome fast fare system that wasn’t fast and wasn’t fair has been removed. So we’ll see … )
4) The Public Art: I LOVE that Swindon has so much public art. Okay some of it could be better cared for but it’s none the less interesting for all that. Hats off to the then Thamesdown Council who were responsible for installing much of it – notably the West Swindon sculpture trail. Read more posts about Swindon’s public art here: https://swindonian.me/category/public-art-sculpture/
You tell me?
5) Number 5 on my list had to be Swindon treasure Ken White. Of course back then I’d heard nothing of David Bent and his fabulous work. If you think you don’t know Ken’s work – his murals aside – you absolutely do because he created Virgin’s famed red lady emblem. Banksy? Who’s he? But now I know about Tim Carroll and more besides.
6) The Museum of Computing: small but perfectly formed this is a little gem tucked away on Theatre Square. Always riding high on Trip Advisor it’s well worth a peek – geek or not.
7) The leisure facilities: I left a small village in Derbyshire to come to Swindon. It was a bus ride to the nearest town – Worksop – and then a long trek across the town simply to access a swimming pool. Everything else was Sheffield. And that, without a car, was an EXPOTITION. So imagine my delight at pitching up somewhere with a swimming pool, an ICE RINK, and a multiplex cinema just up the road! Died and gone to heaven didn’t cover it.
8) The Magic Roundabout – come on – it’s gotta be in the list! It’s featured on the blog so much it even has its own category: https://swindonian.me/category/the-magic-roundabout/ Writing about the Marmite of roundabouts for a travel writing module for my degree course helped me to a 1st – so I LOVE it.
9) Theatre and the Arts: encompassing the Wyvern Theatre and the Arts Centre, Am-Dram, Gilbert and Sullivan, literature and poetry. What’s NOT to like? (Now in 2017 there’s the Shoebox Theatre, Bohemian Balcony and more I’m sure.)
10) This final entry in the Swindon top ten was a guest post from Brian Carter of Carter Collectables which was a celebration of the multi-cultural community we have in Swindon: https://swindonian.me/2013/09/17/10-things-to-celebrate-about-swindon-no-10-multicultural-swindon-much-to-be-proud-of/
So – all of this in a town where there’s nothing to do, nothing to see, nothing goes on, nothing happens and so on. Odd then that I’ve managed to fill a blog with all that nothingness.