Swindon Spring Festival Update

Swindon Spring Festival Update


Swindon Spring Festival update. Organisers of the Swindon Spring Festival take seriously the present Coronavirus situation and their responsibilities to festival followers. And, of course, the public at large, and the importance of heeding Government advice.

Swindon Spring Festival Update

In the light of all this, plans for the Festival are proceeding as follows:

We’ll launch the Festival programme, in hardcopy and on our website as planned at midday on Thursday 26th March. But not, as intended, in a theatre, indoors, with food, drink, lots of Festival followers crowded together, and even hugging and kissing one another. No, absolutely not. 

Instead, hot off the press, we’ll launch this year’s Festival programme in the open air, in a field, with a backdrop of birch tree and birdsong, at Lower Shaw Farm.

Festival banners will mark the spot. From there, for two hours, from 12midday to 2pm on Thursday 26th March, you can get a programme, or even a bundle to share with neighbours and friends, from a table in the middle of a field, far from the madding crowd. 

Come one by one, or two by two, keeping far apart, as you like, making the right decisions for your own wellbeing and that of all others. 

That way you can get a festival programme and read about more than twenty books and their authors who are or were due to appear live at the Festival in May.

Live appearances? Probably not?

The likelihood that many of the programmed visitors may now not appear live is a real one. Yet, there are other ways of enjoying the fruits of their labours and those of the festival organisers. As this Swindon spring festival update explains.

Festival followers:  buy or borrow books described in the programme and read them. In particular if you’re in enforced isolation. What better companion, to lift the spirits, than a good book?!

And, in these tricky and troubling times, there is still more good news from the festival.

Watch the Festival website, Facebook, and twitter accounts for details of these virtual Festival events as they emerge.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SwindonSpringFestival/

Twitter: @SwinSpringFest

A new Swindon book

Last but by no means least, the most exciting news, is that on 5th May, the Festival will launch and mark the publication, by a prizewinning author, of a brand new book titled A Saint in Swindon!

It’s brilliant, topical, wise, entertaining, serious, funny, set in Swindon, and a fabulously-good read. 

If anyone needs to know more, at any time, please contact the Festival at www.swindonspringfest@lowershawfarm.co.uk or call 01793 771080.

A film of the 2019 Swindon Spring Festival: https://youtu.be/IqoT06NHd4

Swindon Spring Festival Update

For more posts about arts, culture and heritage go here.

Billboard Opportunity from Mortgage Company

Billboard Opportunity from Mortgage Company

Aspirations of Swindon children to be displayed on poster billboard

A billboard opportunity from a mortgage company is aimed at getting Swindon’s schoolchildren to Dream Big about their future homes and careers. The campaign will display their hopes and dreams on a poster billboard.

Mortgage specialists, South-West Mortgages, are asking children between the ages of eight and twelve about their dream jobs and homes.

The family-friendly business, based on both Commercial Rd and Old Town, wants parents to submit their children’s aspirations online.

Billboard Opportunity from Mortgage Company - boy in football gear on lawn in front of large house.
William Dobbin as a footballer in front of his dream home

They’ll choose six children from all the entries to front the campaign, showing a cross-section of childhood ambition.


A photoshoot will dress them for their dream job, with their dream home as a backdrop.

Those selected will tower above their friends from a three-metre tall billboard on Old Town’s Newport Street. Also, the campaign organisers will arrange for the children to spend an ‘experience’ day in their dream job. That way they can learn more about the career they want to persue.

Billboard Opportunity from Mortgage Company - boy with football in front of house
How the billboard will look – Billboard Opportunity from Mortgage Company

David Dobbin, MD of South-West Mortgages explained: I’ve got two sons and their aspirations change as the world around them influences them. I want to showcase the great stories of some of Swindon’s children to inspire their peers to dream big.

Swindon attracted the graduate David, in 1998, by its abundance of well-paid work and affordable housing.

He gained industry experience with Portman Building Society then Legal & General, Zurich and other financial services powerhouses. He went on to establish South-West Mortgages 19 years ago. The company’s ethos is to offer house-hunters and homeowners renewing their mortgage, better access to help and advice. Thus, helping adults to fulfil their own home-life and career ambitions.

The plentiful supply of good jobs and affordable housing remain a big draw for young professionals. Compared to Bristol, Bath and Oxford, Swindon benefits from a good mix of housing stock. There’s new-builds and conversion apartments to historic railway terraces and smart townhouses. And post-war semis with good sized gardens are also a draw for young professionals.

Switch on to Swindon

Recent research commissioned by Nationwide Building Society for the place marketing board, Switch on to Swindon, found Swindon a big draw for aspirational homeowners. They’re attracted to a lively town surrounded by beautiful countryside and within easy reach of London and the South-West.

For more Switch on to Swindon related posts go here.

How to apply

Parents can submit their child’s entry into the Dream Big campaign at www.dreambigswindon.com before Friday, April 10.

James Raggy Powell Plaque

James Raggy Powell Plaque

March 9th 2020

So yesterday afternoon, I spent the most delightful time at Eastcott community centre, in readiness for the unveiling of the James ‘Raggy’ Powell plaque.

Eastcott community centre is truly one of Swindon’s gems. Not only is it a place and site with tons of historical and social history, it’s a thriving and well-run community centre.

There’s an art group run by Marilyn Trew. Then there’s repair cafes, Sunday afternoon music and all the other activities you associate with a community centre. In recent years they’ve done so much fab stuff up there and by them.

They put on a heritage exhibition at the museum and art gallery. And not long back published a book: The Legacy of a Rag and Bone Man. And listeners, that rag and bone man is what yesterday’s events were all about.

Who was James ‘Raggy’ Powell?

You do well to ask. And to answer that question, I point you to Graham Carter’s column in the Swindon Advertiser.

As Graham says: ‘If you don’t know his story: he was nicknamed Raggy because he was a rag-and-bone man. Yet, he was good enough at it to become rich and obtain various artworks, which he was only too happy to share with the people of Swindon.’

He gave a large statue of Charlotte Corday, which still stands in the foyer of the Town Hall. And many other objects that eventually formed the basis of Swindon Museum. No wonder he was made a Freeman of the Borough.

During his lifetime this extraordinary man even gave a plot of land on which Eastcott Community Centre now stands – which is where you will find the new plaque, posthumously thanking him for his immense generosity.’

James Powell: Rag and bone man turned Alderman.

Biographical info of James Raggy Powell
James Raggy Powell Plaque
The James’ Raggy’ Powell Plaque at Eastecott Community Centre

The recycled metal mentioned on the plaque came from old fryng pans donated by Ash Mistry of Eggelicious. No finer material!

Group photo taken at Eastcott community centre
From left: Andy Binks (Swindon Society, Cllr Kevin Parry (Mayor), Caroline David-Khan, Graham Carter, Noel Beauchamp, Angela Atkinson (Born again Swindonian) and Toby Robson – he who made the plaque!
Toby Robson and the Mayor cut the plaque
Toby Robson and the Mayor, Cllr. Kevin Parry, cut the ribbon on the plaque

Congratulations to Eastcott Community Centre on doing this. Well done guys! Great work as ever! A more fabulous and fitting to Raggy Powell it’s impossible to conceive.

Swindon and your community were so lucky to have first him, and now you.

Beat the Street gets Swindon moving!

Beat the Street gets Swindon moving!

Between September and November 2019, the popular Beat the Street game returned to Swindon. And a new report shows improvements in activity levels for adults and children across the borough. Beat the Street gets Swindon moving!

This was the second time the town’s residents had played the game. And this time, almost 26,000 people walked, ran and cycled 252,127 miles. Sixty-nine schools got involved with the initiative, with six out of 10 primary school children taking part.

Intelligent Health is the company that funding from Sport England, Swindon Borough Council and Wiltshire and Swindon Sport Partnership have produced a report. They surveyed participants and results show that participants became more physically active as a result of taking part.

Our Survey Says

They surveyed participants at the start of the game and immediately after, to see if their activity habits had changed. Key results show a decrease in the number of adults reporting less than 30 minutes of activity per week. While almost one in ten did more. There was also an increase in the number of adults reporting that they are doing the government’s guideline of 150 or more minutes of activity per week. With almost three in 20 people doing more.

As with the first Beat the Street game in 2018, the game helped encourage them to walk or cycle more often, visit new places and spend more time with their friends and family. One participant said: “I recently lost my job and spent a lot of time inside and was becoming very annoyed by being in the same four walls. Doing Beat the Street got me out the house. The exercise made me tired so I slept better. It also gave me quality time with my boys and something we could bond over. I don’t get involved with computers or football so it made me happier.”

And I will walk 500 Miles … or more …

The player who travelled the furthest in 2018, went one better in 2019 and ran, walked and cycled more than 2,500 miles. Greg Wells, a passionate parkrunner, clocked an amazing tally of 80,000 points, three times more than he achieved in 2018.

He has travelled further than anyone else who has played Beat the Street in the UK and beyond, and his score is higher than many team totals.

Greg said: ‘I loved Beat the Street. I like a physical challenge and I did go around other areas of Swindon and discovered new parts of the town. Anything that gets people off the sofa, people who don’t tend to exercise, is great. And it was good to see people getting out there and being active with their children.’

Beat the Street gets Swindon moving!

Beat the Street gets Swindon moving!

Councillor Brian Ford, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Adults and Health added: “We’re delighted at the findings in this report and the legacy left by Beat the Street. The scheme was the talk of the town. It continues to encourage local residents to get more active and improve the health and wellbeing for everyone across the borough.”

Now, Beat the Street Swindon is back for one day with a Street Orienteering event. It’s taking place on Saturday, 1st February at the Link Centre in West Swindon from 10.30am to 1.30pm. Registrations are open from 10.30-12.00. Visit the North Wiltshire Orienteers website for full details – www.northwilts.org.uk.  

About Intelligent Health

Intelligent Health’s mission is to build active communities. Created by Dr William Bird MBE, we embed understanding on the impact of the social determinants of health in programmes including health workforce training, social prescription, the development of city-wide strategies and Beat the Street.

Swindon Folk Club

Swindon Folk Club

So Friday 6th December saw me at the Swindon RAFA club in Old Town for a Swindon Folk Club evening.

Now, before I go much further I have to confess that folk music is not particularly my ‘thing’. I’m more than happy to confess that my tastes are middlebrow in all things: music, art, literature, theatre. There’ll be odds and sods that I like from other genres – but for the most part I remain middlebrow.

But ages back now, Bryony Gramont messaged me on my Born again Swindonian Facebook page asking me to come along. And because Born again Swindonian aims to be all things to all people I was delighted to agree. But then life got in the way as life does. And then I got ill – for ages ….but at length I managed to get it together.

Thus, thanks to the kindness of club member Alan Rothwell who gave me a lift, I made a visit to the club.

Swindon folk music - black and white graphic of musical instruments.

Swindon Folk Club: Traditional, modern and accoustic folk music in Swindon.

About Swindon Folk Club

I was somewhat surprised to discover from the club’s website, that it came into being in 1960! Who knew?! Not me. As the website says, ‘Founded by Ted & Ivy Poole and friends in 1960, the club (formerly Swindon Folksingers’ Club) has a long history of keeping traditional music alive in this busy town in north-west Wiltshire.’

Anyhow, off I went with eyes peeled for beards and fingers and ears!

So what did I find?

Well listeners, there was a noticeable and, slightly disappointing, lack of fingers in ears. But, you’ll be pleased to hear, good news on the beards front. Phew!

Aside from beards though, the other thing I found was a warm and welcoming atmosphere. The night I attended was an open mic affair with a guest band. It being an open-mic-everyone-that-wants-to-having-a-go evening some of the voices were not – how shall I put this – recording contract quality. Not that I can talk mind you – my three year old granddaughter tells me to stop when I sing!

Anyway! That didn’t matter at all. Because what shone through was what a wonderful, welcoming, inclusive and safe environment Swindon Folk Club offers. This group is a wonderful place for anyone with an interest in folk music to have a go. And that’s a wonderful thing wouldn’t you say?

So if having an interest in folk music – whether listening or participating – I’d urge you to pay a visit to this lovely bunch of people.

Taken from the group’s Facebook page is their own write-up of the evening which will give you a good flavour of one of their events:

‘On Friday 6th December at Swindon Folk Club, we welcomed The Marsh Starlings, a folk/bluegrass trio performing a range of songs as well as their own material. A great mix of laid back and up-beat folk tunes. Singer & guitarist Lynn Marie Bateman, Banjo player Kevin Starling and Guitarist & singer Ian Marsh. Thank you, we really enjoyed your two sets, and are still chuckling at Kev’s solo singing spot, ‘In the Morning!’

The evening started with the usual singaround from club members, starting with Dave our MC for the evening. It was nice to have one of our youngest members Lucien (12) singing for us whilst his older brother was at home ill. Great to see Trevor back again to play and sing for us now that his hand is healing well. Che gave us a couple of numbers and was joined by Lynn and Kevin for an impromptu session for his second one. 

The dreaded lurgy was still playing havoc with some of our singers but Steve Anderson managed a couple of beautiful instrumentals on his guitar and a vocalzone for Chris Turpin helped him give us a rousing song in the second half. 

Bryony, who usually prepares this write-up, is also still under the weather so this one is much shorter than usual. Despite the inclement weather the turnout was quite high and an enjoyable evening was had by all, even those that just came into the RAFA club for a drink, paid, stayed and enjoyed, made favourable noises about returning.’

A few photographs of the night

When and where and all that stuff

Swindon Folk club meets on the FIRST and THIRD FRIDAY of every month from 8:00 pm to 11:00 pm.

The venue is the RAFA Club, 41-43 Belle Vue Rd, Swindon SN1 3HN. The club has a licensed bar, car parking (at the rear) and level access.

You can e-mail the club at swindonfolkclub@gmail.com

And now a few short video clips

Alan Rothwell at Swindon Folk club

Alan Rothwell does a much-loved blast from my childhood past, Messing about on the River:

And Goodnight Irene

Alfred Williams

If you’re not aware, Swindon polymath Alfred Williams took it upon himself to cycle around Wiltshire transcribing Wiltshire folk songs before they were lost. They’re all on stored on this database.

I wrote about Alfred’s life in Secret Swindon. And Ranikhet featured in Swindon in 50 Buildings.

More on Alfred Williams here in this petition opposing proposed development in front of Ranikhet.

We Are Swindon: Positive Swindon

We Are Swindon: Positive Swindon

It’s so fabulous to meet another Swindon enthusiast. Which is why, the other week, I enjoyed having a good chat with Michelle Jones – the power behind the Positive Swindon social media campaign, over coffee in DaPaolo’s on Commercial Road.

Michelle Jones - We are Swindon in front of the bandstand in Swindon's Town Gardens.
©Calyx Picture Agency Michelle Jones who has run Positive Swindon twitter account for last three years Michelle runs this twitter account Positive Swindon for people to share photos and positive things about Swindon. She gets a lot of photos sent in from Coate Water and places at the Lawns.

Four years ago, in 2015, Michelle wanted to do something to help local people to speak in positive terms about Swindon. She also wanted to encourage more pride within the town.

 At the time Michelle had two young daughters and she didn’t want them to feel embarrassed about the town of their birth. She also felt the need to reduce the amount of negative press the town received.

From living in Portsmouth and London for a few years, Michelle realised that most of the negativity was actually aimed at Swindon came from some Swindonians. But then working on Swindon economic development marketing campaigns showed Michelle the opposite side of the coin. People that want to combat the negative perceptions by being positive about the town.

The We Are Swindon Instagram account was born and the hashtag #we_are_swindon became tagged on more and more positive photos. By sharing local people’s own positive photographs of Swindon, Michelle has been able to share over 1,000 photos. The #we_are_swindon hashtag has now been used over 5,000. 

Michelle said “I remember when I first started #we_are_swindon on Instagram and got stuck on 17 followers. In the main my friends. I felt so frustrated and almost gave up. 

In the end though, my determination and belief in Swindon kept me going. I’d like to thank all the 2,415 followers we now have. The campaign would be nothing without them and I’m so proud that it is giving people with positive things to say and photography to share a platform”.

Some of Michelle’s photographs

Find Michelle’s work in the ether

Instagram: www.instagram.com/we_are_swindon/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/We-Are-Swindon
Twitter: https://twitter.com/We_Are_Swindon