A Swindon Affair

A Swindon Affair

9th May 2016


It was such a lovely affair!

Saturday the 7th of May saw an event at The Platform in Swindon. As part of the 23rd Swindon Literature Festival and organized by Martha Parry and Hilda Sheenan this event was a family affair and a love affair with Swindon – it was a super Swindon Affair.

Read my Festival Chronicle about it here: https://festivalchronicle.com/2016/05/08/a-simply-splendid-swindon-affair/

Designed to be a celebration of the staggering literary output there has been over the years about Swindon – from Swindonians and others besides – the day and evening featured books, writers, painters, music, poetry, drums and songs.

Here’s a few photographs:

Groups and organisations at the event – well some of them:

Swindon Civic Voice: http://www.swindoncivicvoice.org.uk

Mechanics’ Institute Trust: http://mechanics-trust.org.uk

Poetry Swindon: http://www.poetryswindon.org

Swindon Festival of Literature: http://www.swindonfestivalofliterature.co.uk

Richard Jefferies Museum: http://www.greenrook.co.uk/RichardJefferies/museum.php

Swindon Viewpoint: http://www.swindonviewpoint.com

Swindon Heritage Magazine: http://www.swindonheritage.com


News from the (Mechanics’) Trust: Spring 2016

News from the (Mechanics’) Trust: Spring 2016

3rd May 2016


The Mechanics’ Institute Trust Newsletter

“The Time Has Come for Swindon’s Mechanics’ Institution”

Text box

Hello dear listeners

I know many of you out there are interested in our Mechanics’ Institute and its future. Anyone that saw Martin Parry’s inspiring and wonderful film ‘Railway Town’ will know just how pivotal to Swindon this building and the people that created it has been.

So here we have a share of the latest newsletter from the Mechanics’ Institute Trust for your edification and delectation. It’s in two sections. One being the outer section and the other being the inner section. Hopefully it will make sense.


NEWS FROM THE TRUST Inside of the newsletter

Both the Mechanic’s Institute Trust and Swindon Civic Voice are organisations that need your support to carry out their work supporting your town. Both of them are membership organisations and rely on membership subscriptions. They are both really cheap – a lot cheaper than certain high street coffee shops. A year’s membership of either of them will cost you less than a latte! Y’know you want to! 😉 

The MIT: http://mechanics-trust.org.uk

Swindon Civic Voice: http://www.swindoncivicvoice.org.uk


Railway Town and other video footage

Railway Town and other video footage

2nd May 2016


It’s only a few days since Martin Parry’s pièce de résistance ‘Railway Town’ was premiered at the Wyvern Theatre to a sell out crowd. I was privileged to be on the Q&A panel after the film – and what a great film it was. SUCH a wonderful testament to its maker and its subject matter: Swindon and its people.

It really was very moving and inspirational. It drove home just how much Swindon has to be proud of in its history and makes clear just how VERY special the Mechanics’ Institute is – make no mistake – that place is about SO much more than the building. It’s about the very heart and soul of New Swindon.

Here’s an article in the Swindon Advertiser: http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/14459071.Film_maker_overwhelmed_at_response_to_Railway_Town_screening/  and the DVD of the film is available here: https://viewpointcommunitymedia.org.uk/shop/

All of which makes a neat enough segue into other video footage about Swindon’s railway workers collected together by a chap I’ve come into contact with via Instagram.

His name is Mark Keen – known on Instagram as Sharpbluepix and he has YouTube and Vimeo channels that are worth taking a look at.

Mark was the first person in Swindon to get Instragramming I believe. He beta tested the app in 2010 before it got sold to Facebook and when it was only on Apple devices. So scrolling back through the #Swindon hashtag his are the first pictures.

He’s got some films online form the now defunct Swindon Cable (see below) – many featuring the GWR works.

Swindon Cable channel on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLNzjx-HdKydKj3W6M_D0FmD9q0NE3LyyT

And here is Mark’s Channel dedicated to Swindon Cable on Vimeo –  https://vimeo.com/channels/swindon

God's Wonderful Railway

Then there’s this one – God’s Wonderful Railway – 27 mins long

For Swindon Viewpoint: http://www.swindonviewpoint.com

Swindon Viewpoint

I’ve posted recently about the Mechanic’s Institute Trust and Swindon Civic Voice.

See also:

The Mechanics’ Institute Trust : Its time has come

Swindon Civic Voice: The Civic Society Movement and Swindon


The Westrin Study Centre

The Westrin Study Centre

5th August 2016: AN OLYMPIAN OFFER: Book your first lesson during the Olympic Games and receive 10% off if your country wins a gold medal!

May 2016


The Westrin Study Centre

Westrin Study Centre

When I did my recent (ish) English degree studies I undertook a TESOL module (Teaching English to speakers of other languages). Oh boy! I felt like I’d been hit by a steam roller. Having not been taught English grammar when I was at school I wouldn’t have known the present participle if it jumped up and hit me on the nose! So being faced with all of that stuff was one heck of a shock I can tell you.

For my coursework for this module I had to work with a non-native English speaker. I had the pleasure of doing my project with a Portuguese guy who fully understand that in order to get on in his new country he had to get a good grasp of the English language and worked very hard to do exactly that.

So it’s been really lovely and interesting to meet Odile from the Westrin Study Centre on Swindon’s Victoria Hill: http://www.westrinstudycentreswindon.com

If you’re an L2 speaker and you’re looking for a job or applying to university then the Westrin Study Centre is for you.

The centre is a lovely warm and welcoming place and the ‘school-room’ has an agreeable cosy feel to it.

Hailing from France, Odile herself understands the importance of knowing the language when in another country. Something that we monoglot English are really rather bad at. I have a few words of French and can read a menu in a few languages but that’s the extent of it so I include myself in that.

It must be so frustrating to have worked as a doctor or an engineer or whatever it might be back in one’s homeland and be unable to do that elsewhere due to a lack of language skills and have to get through the IETLS : ‘the high-stakes English test for study, migration or work’.

Swindon is, as we know, richly multi-cultural and always has been so there’s a demand here for the services of the Westrin Study Centre. Indeed I’ve heard it said that there’s 105 different languages spoken in Swindon. That’s amazing don’t you think?

Classes at the study centre are available on a flexible basis so can be fitted around work commitments if they have to be. This means that lessons are available:

  • In the day time
  • Evenings
  • Weekends

Lessons on Skype are also available along with intensive courses if needed.

What makes Odile and her language school different to the colleges?

  • Individual attention or small groups
  • Private lessons are available 
  • Each lesson tailored to the student’s individual needs – not a ‘one size fits all’ class. Much like Harrod’s – ‘Whatever you want – you can have!”
  • Flexible timetable rather than fixed class times
  • Can practice interview skills at the centre

Moreover – because Odile has had to learn English herself she knows what it’s like! She understands from first hand experience the difficulties in learning English and can anticipate them.

Also – as a non-native speaker she understands about intercultural communications. And I remember that from university.

Contact the Westrin Study Centre:

Tel: 07921 540475
Email: omwestrin@yahoo.co.uk


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


Swindon’s tented market: a response

Swindon’s tented market: a response

15th April 2016


I wrote on here not so long ago about Swindon’s tented market and shopping locally, blah blah blah.

SCV logo screen shot

Join Swindon Civic Voice here: http://www.swindoncivicvoice.org.uk/membership-2/

Swindon Civic Voice – your voice – http://www.swindoncivicvoice.org.uk – carrying out their remit of ‘talking civic sense’ have submitted a document calling for the rejection of the application to demolish the tented market and rebuild with a changed use.

Here’s a link to the full documentre the application for demolition of the tented market

And here’s a couple of extracts:

‘This opportunistic application has come forward ahead of any exploration of the ‘best’ uses and potential configuration of this site, which is identified for ‘regeneration’ in the adopted Local Plan and Masterplan. A Development Brief should be required for this site; the Brief should be written based upon wide consultation with the many stakeholders, including the market traders.

This application has not been widely enough discussed to warrant the demolition and new build for such inappropriate uses on this key historic and ‘doorstep’ site.  It is also inconsistent with the Local Plan and Masterplan policies for ‘regeneration’, and with the policies demanding high quality design in the town centre.’

‘As an organisation which strives to be thoughtful and cautious in the opinions it expresses, Swindon Civic Voice has read all the local social and print media responses to this proposal, and our response is 3-fold:

1)      We note and agree with the widespread dismay at this surprising, opportunistic proposal to alter the site usage without proper study of potential requirements. We note the success of Market Halls elsewhere and the lack of ‘start up’ trading units in the town centre, where high rates and rents and low footfall prevail.

2)      We note and agree with the widespread dismay at the proposal to install restaurants in this location, which is considered unsuitable in location, but also in the context of new and planned restaurants/food courts at nearby Brunel Centre, Regent Circus and the Corn Exchange.  These existing and well-advanced proposals (the latter approved in outline form and approaching final stage of application) should more than satisfy any perceived need for restaurants in the Town Centre for the foreseeable future.

The balance of uses in the town centre must meet the needs of a wide range of shoppers, and not be driven by land values and commercial market only; this is the whole point of planning – that it secures a balance between owners’ wishes and community needs.

3)     We note and agree with the widespread dis-like of the design and the lack of maintenance of the existing Market Hall, and agree that the proposed new building would look no less like a public convenience than the existing building with its ‘toilet-block’ glazing. This proposal does not begin to deliver the ‘high quality’ design Swindon needs, and which town centre policy requires.

We propose the rejection of this application. We also call for an appropriate public consultation seeking future proposals for this site, with respect to both use and design.  

As an appropriate organisation, Swindon Civic Voice offers to collaborate in such a public consultation, using plans and perhaps modelling, within the Market Hall and nearby in Wharf Green in the coming summer, and with the cooperation of the Market Traders. ‘

Join Swindon Civic Voice here: http://www.swindoncivicvoice.org.uk/membership-2/


The Civic Society Movement & Swindon

The Civic Society Movement & Swindon

10th April 2016


The Civic Society Movement – Talking Civic Sense

Hello listeners

Okay! If you’ve been paying attention at all you’ll know by now that here in Swindon we have an organisation by the name of Swindon Civic Voice. But what you might not know – and I didn’t until relatively recently – is that the civic society movement is a national one and there’s civic voices and civic societies all over the shop.

National civic voice logoThis here is the umbrella website for the civic voice organisations up and down the land: http://www.civicvoice.org.uk:  ‘Civic Voice is the national charity for the civic movement in England. We make places more attractive, enjoyable and distinctive. We promote civic pride.’

Twitter: @civic_voice

The Civic Movement

The civic movement is 167 years old and from the Swindon Civic Voice website – http://www.swindoncivicvoice.org.uk/news/ – you can download and read a Brief History of the Civic Society Movement’ by Lucy E.Hewitt – in which she traces the development of ‘civic virtue’ in England.

The president of Civic Voice (national) is (or was) none other than Griff Rhys-Jones. In the forward to the aforementioned book he says:

‘… I have met Civic Societies, local societies, that are part of Civic Voice, that manage alms houses, that own and control green belt land, that look after parks, that have produced extensive reports on the transport systems of their boroughs, and investigated and reported on living conditions and plans for growth.

There is a lot more than conservation here and, yet, the preservation of heritage is at the forefront of a modern Civic Society’s concerns because it is part of the current democratic pressure for civic responsibility. In other words we are the same citizens. We are continuing the work recorded in this study. We have to do so.

The commentator I quoted at the beginning, a good Conservative, with a capital C, possibly thinks of local amenity societies as “busy bodies”. Well I say let’s get busy. He possibly thinks of them as Nimbys. Well I say let’s look out of the window and get involved in our places. It is thanks to the involvement of Civic Societies that the best of Britain look the way it does and not like a “yard”.

This is timely history that helps us to understand why more than ever we need to stand up and be counted today.’

Join your local Civic Voice

image from SCV website

With so much going on in the town at the moment a strong civic society is vital to even have a hope of holding to account and challenging controversial planning proposals and decisions. 

Like the ‘Mothership’, Swindon Civic Voice is a charity and needs membership subscriptions to survive. ERGO – New members are always welcome and you can find out about that here: http://www.swindoncivicvoice.org.uk/membership-2/

SCV logo screen shot

The group organises some great talks that they hold at the Central Community Centre. The next one is soon – the 28th April 2016 and is all about the proposed Locarno development.

Swindon Civic Voice is now on the Twittersphere: @SwindonV