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

A Kannada Celebration

A Kannada Celebration

12th November 2019

Last week I was both surprised and delighted to receive an invitation from Cllr Ravi Venkatesh, Haydon Wick Parish Council, to attend an event he’d organised in Pinehurst. The event’s purpose was something of a literary celebration – in fact a Kannada celebration. Let me explain.

Cllr Venkatesh hails from an Indian state by the name of Karnataka. The language of Karnataka is Kannada. No – I’d not heard of it either. Nor of the Kannada community either. But more on that in a bit.


For some years now, when relatives were visiting from India, they’d bring with them books in their mother tongue – Kannada. Seeking to make easier access to books in the Kannada language, Cllr Venkatesh and his wife approached Swindon’s library system to get Kannada-language books integrated into the library system. This the library service agreed to. So the event last Friday evening was to celebrate the integration of fifty Kannada-language books into the library system.

As well as myself and Tony Hillier (Swindon’s community poet!) the visiting Karnataka Govt Secretary for Kannada Development also graced this lovely occasion full of delightful people.

Kannada Celebration - Asian lady singing

The Kannada Language

Swindon is, as we know, a multi-cultural town. It’s a city of sanctuary and home of the Harbour Project.

I’ve heard it said that there’s around 120 first languages in Swindon. At a push I could name half a dozen or so – and Kannada would not have been included. So before I went to this event I thought it provident to do a smidge of research.

Also known as Kanarese, Kannada is an ancient language. According to Brittanica.Com, early 21st-century data indicates some 38 million individuals speak Kannada as their first language. Further, it’s likely another 9 to 10 million speak it as a secondary language. In 2008, the Indian government granted Kannada classical-language status.

Kannada Literature

To give you an idea of this language’s literary credentials, Kannada literature began in the 9th century CE with the Kavirajamarga of Nripatunga. Brittanica.com goes on to tell us that the earliest extant grammar dates from the 12th century and is by Nagavarma. In short – the Kannada language is around 1,000 years old. English is around 1.400 years old. So it’s not so far behind in the scheme of things.

The Kannadan Community

So there’s little else to say now, aside from what a pleasure and an honour it was to meet Ravi (Cllr Venkatesh) properly – having bumped into him at community events – and his Kannada community. All of whom could not have been more charming and delightful.

Sharing Swindon’s Story

Sharing Swindon’s Story

Over the past year, in a project coordinated by the Mechanics’ Institution Trust, thirty-five young Swindonians learnt lots of amazing things about our town. What they learned is on this Sharing Swindon’s Story website.

sharing swindon's story
The project participants outside Central Community Centre – once the Medical Fund Society Hospital

NB: Both Secret Secret Swindon and Swindon in 50 Buildings between them tell of the Medical Fund Society, the Mechanics’ Institution, the GWR Railway Village and central community centre.

Funding partners

The organisations that enabled this project to take place are:

The National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon.

Some of what the youngsters did

On the Sharing Swindon’s Story website here, you can find out more about what they got up to.

‘Starting in Summer 2018, 35 young people based at Central Community Centre in Swindon’s historic and award-winning Railway Village began a project to create artworks inspired by the heritage around them and share these with the local community.

‘Sharing Swindon’s Story’ focused on the community and cultural heritage of our town, linked to the first generations of ‘New Swindonians’ and the Mechanics’ Institution.’

A group of 11-16 year olds from the local youth club designed and led the project.

sharing swindons story

See this YouTube film to hear the youngsters talking about their activities: https://youtu.be/MVAsKZtMTfU

Read the rest of the story and see loads of photographs on the website here: https://swindonstory.uk/the-project/

Their social media

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SwindonStory

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/swindonstory/

Artwork on the hoardings around the Mechanics’ Institute

I think I’ve got them in the right order!

Swindon celebrates Beat the Street success once again!

Swindon celebrates Beat the Street success once again!

Swindon celebrates Beat the Street success as the town’s Beat the Street challenge 2019 ends with a massive total of 252,157 miles.

Swindon celebrates Beat the Street success - leaderboard

More than 25,979 people signed up and walked, cycled and ran during the six-week challenge which took place from 25 September to 6 November.

This year, the game expanded, with more Beat Boxes around the town, new locations and more leader boards. 

There are winners from across the 16 leaderboards, with Haydonleigh Primary School travelling the furthest distance throughout the game. Their 964 members walked, ran and cycled a total of 14,467 miles.

Celebration Event as Swindon Celebrates Beat the Street Success

Everyone who took part in this year’s Beat the Street game will attend a celebration event at Lydiard Park on Saturday, 16 November from 12pm to 3pm. The event will feature presentations and a ‘Have a Go’ activities.

Intelligent Health and the National Lottery, on behalf of Sport England and Swindon Borough Council, delivered Beat the Street to our town. The intention of the game is increasing levels of walking and cycling in Swindon.

Speaking about the success of the initiative Stuart Arthur, local co-ordinator for Beat the Street said: “It has been another fantastic game and we’ve loved hearing stories from people while we were out and about. 

Participants tell us that:

  • They love playing Beat the Street and getting fitter
  • Families are spending more time together
  • They’ve discovered new parts of Swindon
  • It brings communities together

“Although the game has finished, we will continue to work with local groups, schools and residents to encourage people to maintain those lifestyle changes that they have made during the game.”

See also: https://swindonian.me/2019/10/31/final-push-for-beat-the-street-in-swindon/ and https://swindonian.me/2019/09/13/beat-the-street-is-back/

For ideas to get outside in Swindon check out these posts on parks, gardens and open spaces: https://swindonian.me/category/parks-and-open-spaces/ and also https://swindonian.me/category/walks-and-cycle-paths/

Library Shop Christmas Shopping Evening

Library Shop Christmas Shopping Evening

The Library Shop, in Swindon Central Library, invites you to a special Library Shop Christmas Shopping Evening. Here’s your opportunity to buy unique and locally made gifts this Christmas for your family and friends.

Featuring artists in residence, local authors and face painting and much, much more besides.

Library Shop Christmas Shopping Evening

When is it?

Tuesday, 26 November 2019 from 18:00-20:30

Here’s the event on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/697342314116882/

I’m giving this event a brilliant Born again Swindonian shout-out because I’m going to be there in support and signing the books that I’ve penned in recent months and that the library shop sell.

Published in 2018 there’s Secret Swindon. Then I have two further books in the shop, both published this year:

  1. Swindon in 50 Buildings: https://swindonian.me/my-publications/swindonin50buildings/
  2. The Ken White retrospective – the book written by me about Ken and his rather interesting career. More information on the Ken White Retrospective here.

And there’s more

Other Swindon creatives with stock in the library shop will also be joining in the jingling festive fun.

Dona Bradley, who has lots of wonderful items from her artistic output for sale in the library will be there. Read more about Dona Bradley architectural illustrator here.

So too will my chum Simon Webb – AKA His Nibs – he who makes wonderful pens and cufflinks from historic timbers. Read more about Simon and his hand-turned pens and cufflinks here.

Library Shop Christmas Shopping Evening
Library Shop Christmas Shopping Evening
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