10 things to celebrate about Swindon

10 things to celebrate about Swindon

2 August 2015

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10 things to celebrate about Swindon

 

canvas bags saying I read a blog and I liked it - 10 things to celebrate about SwindonBack 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.

Queen's Park

Queen’s Park

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/

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.

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It’s a kinda magic!

Mosaic homage to the Magic Roundabout

Swindon’s Magic Roundabout is the stuff of traffic legend and lore and Swindonians are very proud of it. Whether, like Marmite, you love it or hate it – well you certainly can’t ignore it.

As an adopted Swindonian I share this affection for the Magic Roundabout and why wouldn’t I? It has been a rich seam of material for this blog, so much so that it has its own section on Born again Swindonian, and it even helped me to a 1st class English degree via the imagined guide-book entry I wrote about it for a travel writing module I did at university.

It’s been celebrated by many people in many different ways. Swindon-grown band XTC featured it in their 1981 track ‘English Roundabout’:

‘ … all the horns go ‘beep! beep!’

All the people follow like sheep,

I’m full of light and sound,

Making my head go round, round.’

It’s been immortalised in tart form by Mike Pringle and in cake form by Little Miss Cakemaker and has been used as the symbol of Swindon’s poetry festival. For more on that see here: https://swindonian.me/2014/02/16/a-cake-a-tart-and-an-xtc-song/

But now this traffic guzzling behemoth has another incarnation. Lynette Thomas of Artkore Mosaics has created a really fabulous mosaic homage to the Magic Roundabout which beautifully nods at the TV programme from which it takes its name. I’m a fan of Lynette’s work and have bought a couple of her small pieces from Artsite and the Post Modern at No 9 Theatre Square so I absolutely love this piece. I like it, I want it, don’t give me any other.

The mosaic Magic Roundabout is currently on display on the 2nd floor of the Central Library at Regent Circus so do go and have a look at it as my photos are not amazing – it was a bit tricky with the lights reflecting on the glass cabinet.

A rough guide to Swindon: The Magic Roundabout

A rough guide to Swindon: The Magic Roundabout

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The Magic Roundabout Swindon

Dare you navigate yourself across the infamous & world-famous counter-flow ‘Magic-Roundabout’ – the ‘white-knuckle’ ride of traffic?

Swindon magic roundabout road sign

The Magic Roundabout Swindon signage

Postcard picture of the road roundabout system

The Magic Roundabout

You’d be forgiven for being perplexed at the notion of a traffic roundabout being of any interest to anyone other than traffic-system aficionados. But you couldn’t be more wrong. This fabled entity is known the world over.

Created in 1972, Swindon’s Magic Roundabout was originally named the County Islands roundabout due to its location in close proximity to the town’s County Ground football stadium, home of Swindon Town FC. But the locals were not long in bestowing upon it the nickname ‘The Magic Roundabout’ after the TV programme of that name. Eventually the local authority submitted to the popular consensus and officially re-named the roundabout and gave it appropriate signage.

Swindon is famous, even infamous, for its roundabouts. But this legendary one surely has to be the jewel in the town’s roundabout crown? Situated on a junction where five roads meet, the traffic-consuming monster vexes native visitors and utterly baffles those from across the pond. For all this though Swindonians love it and generally find their passage across it to be smooth and fluid, even at peak times.

The roundabout was created by the Road Research Laboratory (RRL) to deal with an area that was a motorist’s nightmare, being routinely unable to handle the sheer volume of traffic converging on it from five directions. Like many of the best ideas their solution was stunning in its simplicity. They simply combined two roundabouts in one. The first being of the conventional clockwise type and the second, revolving inside the first, sending traffic anti-clockwise.  This counter-flow roundabout solved the congestion problems back in the 1970s and is still, despite the ensuing increase in traffic volume over the last 40 years, processing it all as quickly and as smoothly as a giant Magimix.

Traffic keeps moving almost all the time, waiting only a few seconds to join each mini-roundabout and thus steadily travelling at low speed across the junction. A normal roundabout would involve long waits to join; signals would involve bursts of movement and long enforced stoppages. As a result, it has been calculated that the Magic Roundabout has a greater throughput of traffic than anything else that it would be possible to install in the same space. Magic indeed! Moreover, it has an excellent safety record.

Although voted the seventh worst junction in the UK, the roundabout’s bark is worse than its bite. Though appearing difficult to negotiate, all it asks of the driver is to be observant and to always give priority to traffic coming from the right.

One approach to the roundabout is to drive down Drove Road from Swindon’s Old Town. If you don’t fancy manoeuvring it in a car it’s possible to stand and observe the carefully controlled mayhem from the safety of the pavement – you can even consume fish and chips from the chippy on the corner while you do.

Swindonians are very proud of their Magic Roundabout and the tourist information desk, situated in the town’s central library on Regent Circus, sells a wide range of Magic Roundabout memorabilia that runs the range from key-rings to mugs to tea-towels and even T-shirts. So, if you’ve braved this colossal contraption of a road system you can celebrate your feat of derring-do with a suitable souvenir or two.

Whether you love it, hate it or are indifferent to it one thing is for sure: visit Swindon and you can’t ignore it.  Swindon-grown band XTC effectively and poetically, whether directly intentionally or not, capture the dizzying assault on the senses this behemoth can induce in their 1981 song: ‘English Roundabout’:

‘ … all the horns go ‘beep! beep!’

All the people follow like sheep,

I’m full of light and sound,

Making my head go round, round.’

 

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#swindon #wiltshire #magicroundabout #swindonmagicroundabout #swindonblog #swindon blog #thingstodoinswindon #thingstoseeinswindon #swindonia #swindoniablog #hiddenswindon #swindonian #xtc #magicroundabout #swindonmagicroundabout #contraflowroundabout #travel #writing #travelwriting #guidebook

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A cake, a tart and an XTC song

A cake, a tart and an XTC song

Sunday 16th February

A cake, a tart and an XTC song. A diverse set of articles is it not? Yet surprisingly perhaps there is a thematic link between them. Well two really. In the first place all three have been inspired by Swindon’s iconic Magic Roundabout, of which Swindon is very proud.

Back in 1981, Swindon band XTC wonderfully conveyed the carefully controlled chaos of this car chomping contraption in their song ‘English Roundabout’. And recently my good friend Sam (@LMCakemaker on Twitter) of Little Miss Cakemaker created a Magic Roundabout cake for the Faringdon bake-off. And thirdly, the picture of the tart below, made by Mike Pringle ‘just because’ was posted in some social media interactions today regarding another link to the Magic Roundabout, the Swindon Festival of Poetry, which uses the roundabout as an emblem – well what else could it be? Well that and the pot dog – check out the profile picture on this Facebook page to see what I mean.

News is out that funding is found for the 2014 Swindon Festival of Poetry. So we can relax in the knowledge that the poetic palaver will be here again later this year – because of course Swindon IS the world capital of poetry. As someone said on Facebook today: ‘No doubt about it: Swindon is the king of roundabouts and has one of the coolest poetry festivals in the whole of Poetryfestivalland.’

I’ve been a passenger on the poetry bus twice now and both trips could be likened to a trip of another kind – so surreal were they. Here’s a link to the poetry festival’s own website  and then there’s Domestic Cherry – which speaks for itself really.

#swindonpoetry festival #magicroundabout #domesticcherry #xtc #music #newwave #littlemisscakemaker #cake

The Magic Roundabout: a guide book entry

The Magic Roundabout: a guide book entry

I wrote this in the final year of my English/Eng Lang studies at UWE when one of my literature modules was on travel writing. For my coursework portfolio I wrote, amongst other things, some stuff about Swindon: a travelogue on the West Swindon Sculpture walk, when I did it with a friend in the summer of 2014, and this guide-book entry for the Magic Roundabout. I also wrote a guide-book entry for the West Swindon sculpture walk – but it was this one that I submitted for my portfolio and for which I got a 1st. Indeed a 1st for the degree as a whole. 🙂

I’ve written about the Magic Roundabout elsewhere on this blog. However this piece is written from the viewpoint of a dispassionate observer producing something as if for a guide-book – something in the style of Fodors.  And why not? Is that such a fanciful idea? I don’t know about you but I think it’s something of a shame we don’t have such a guide-book. Or do we and I don’t know about it?

With thanks to Swindon Web for letting me use material from their website.

‘English Roundabout’ is a track from the XTC album ‘English Settlement’ published by Virgin Music (Publishers) Ltd and recorded at The Manor. Copyright © – Virgin Records Ltd. Written and composed by Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding.

The Magic Roundabout 

Dare you navigate yourself across the infamous & world-famous counter-flow ‘Magic-Roundabout’ – the ‘white-knuckle’ ride of traffic?

The Magic Roundabout

The Magic Roundabout

You’d be forgiven for being perplexed at the notion of a traffic roundabout being of any interest to anyone other than traffic-system aficionados. But you couldn’t be more wrong. This fabled entity is known the world over.

Created in 1972, Swindon’s Magic Roundabout was originally named the County Islands roundabout due to its location in close proximity to the town’s County Ground football stadium, home of Swindon Town FC. But the locals were not long in bestowing upon it the nickname ‘The Magic Roundabout’ after the TV programme of that name. Eventually the local authority submitted to the popular consensus and officially re-named the roundabout and gave it appropriate signage.

Swindon is famous, even infamous, for its roundabouts. But this legendary one surely has to be the jewel in the town’s roundabout crown? Situated on a junction where five roads meet, the traffic-consuming monster vexes native visitors and utterly baffles those from across the pond. For all this though Swindonians love it and generally find their passage across it to be smooth and fluid, even at peak times.

The roundabout was created by the Road Research Laboratory (RRL) to deal with an area that was a motorist’s nightmare, being routinely unable to handle the sheer volume of traffic converging on it from five directions. Like many of the best ideas their solution was stunning in its simplicity. They simply combined two roundabouts in one. The first being of the conventional clockwise type and the second, revolving inside the first, sending traffic anti-clockwise.  This counter-flow roundabout solved the congestion problems back in the 1970s and is still, despite the ensuing increase in traffic volume over the last 40 years, processing it all as quickly and as smoothly as a giant Magimix.

Traffic keeps moving almost all the time, waiting only a few seconds to join each mini-roundabout and thus steadily travelling at low speed across the junction. A normal roundabout would involve long waits to join; signals would involve bursts of movement and long enforced stoppages. As a result, it has been calculated that the Magic Roundabout has a greater throughput of traffic than anything else that it would be possible to install in the same space. Magic indeed! Moreover, it has an excellent safety record.

Although voted the seventh worst junction in the UK, the roundabout’s bark is worse than its bite. Though appearing difficult to negotiate, all it asks of the driver is to be observant and to always give priority to traffic coming from the right.

One approach to the roundabout is to drive down Drove Road from Swindon’s Old Town. If you don’t fancy manoeuvring it in a car it’s possible to stand and observe the carefully controlled mayhem from the safety of the pavement – you can even consume fish and chips from the chippy on the corner while you do.

Swindonians are very proud of their Magic Roundabout and the tourist information desk, situated in the town’s central library on Regent Circus, sells a wide range of Magic Roundabout memorabilia that runs the range from key-rings to mugs to tea-towels and even T-shirts. So, if you’ve braved this colossal contraption of a road system you can celebrate your feat of derring-do with a suitable souvenir or two.

Whether you love it, hate it or are indifferent to it one thing is for sure: visit Swindon and you can’t ignore it.  Swindon-grown band XTC effectively and poetically capture the dizzying assault on the senses this behemoth can induce in their 1981 song: ‘English Roundabout’:

‘ … all the horns go ‘beep! beep!’

All the people follow like sheep,

I’m full of light and sound,

Making my head go round, round.’

#swindon #wiltshire #magicroundabout #swindonmagicroundabout #swindonblog #swindon blog #thingstodoinswindon #thingstoseeinswindon #swindonia #swindoniablog #hiddenswindon #swindonian #xtc #magicroundabout #swindonmagicroundabout #contraflowroundabout #travel #writing #travelwriting #guidebook

Swindon’s Magic Roundabout | Swindon Viewpoint

Swindon’s Magic Roundabout | Swindon Viewpoint.

Wow! I just came across this fabulous piece of film made in 2008 from Swindon Viewpoint about the Magic Roundabout which I recently blogged about.

I absolutely love it. The disjointed, unsettling soundtrack is very clever. And it, the roundabout that is, inspired the XTC song. ‘English Roundabout’ How cool is that?

“… The film is intended as a homage to the late Frank Blackmore, of the British Transport and Road Research Laboratory, inventor of the mini roundabout. Swindon’s famous example was constructed in 1972 according to the design of Frank Blackmore, under the control of Highways engineer Jeff Maycock of Swindon Council. The official name of the roundabout used to be ‘County Islands’ but was changed in the late 1980s to match its popular name ‘The Magic Roundabout’. It inspired the song ‘English Roundabout’, a Pop song by the Swindon band XTC, which was recorded for their 1982 album ‘English Settlement’ … “

Just for interest here’s another nice, one of many, write up about the roundabout on BBC Wiltshire. Here’s an extract:

“The junction known as the Magic Roundabout, located near the County Ground football stadium, opened in September 1972. Its unusual design consists of five mini-roundabouts arranged around a sixth central, anti-clockwise roundabout. Roundabout fan Kevin Beresford said the junction was a “white knuckle ride”.

Mr Beresford, who runs the roundabout appreciation society, Roundabouts of Great Britain, said: “Swindonians should beam with pride with this fantastic feat of road engineering, which it has to be stated has now achieved iconic status around the world.” The local authority officially named the junction County Islands Roundabout, but it became commonly known as the Magic Roundabout due to its unique design…”

#swindonblog #swindon blog #thingstodoinswindon #thingstoseeinswindon #swindonia #swindoniablog #hiddenswindon #swindonian #magicroundabout #swindon #extrememotoring #contraflowroundabout