Director Matt Holland launches the 23d Swindon Festival of LiteratureLiterature lovers of Swindon beware – the book-readers of Birmingham are after your Festival tickets.
Swindon’s 23rd annual Festival of Literature was launched in the courtyard of Swindon Library yesterday (Thursday) – the day that tickets went on sale.
And by 8.30am, revealed Festival organiser Matt Holland, the box office had already received ticket enquiries – some from as far afield as the Midlands and Home Counties. “Don’t be beaten by people from Birmingham and Basingstoke in getting tickets,” was his dire warning.
The launch itself was a celebration of Swindon’s vibrant art scene. In a break from tradition, the brochure’s front cover is a painting – the winning entry in a competition organised by Swindon Open Studios.
Tim Carroll’s Woman Reading graces the brochure, posters and postcards, the latter produced in the hope that Swindonians will revive the pre-digital tradition of writing to friends by mail (and urging them to come to the Festival).
Over 100 Festival supporters were treated to verse by community poet Tony Hillier, and entertained by top classical guitarist Richard Durrant, whose book – The 26 Bus to Paraguay – charts his journey from Brighton housing estate to South America… via Swindon. He’ll be talking about it on May 9.
Richard also led the assembly, in Pied Piper style, to the children’s section of the library, where an Artswords project, curated by No Added Sugar’s Gordon and Toni Dickinson alongside poet Hilda Sheehan, was unveiled. The Butterfly Wall was created by Swindon people, young and old, who over the course of three days decorated 600 butterflies with paints and verse.
Swindon Festival of Literature runs from May 2 to 14, and features dozens of international, national, and local authors, entertainers, historians, philosophers, and politicians.
Highlights of this year’s programme include former Lib Dem business secretary Vince Cable (May 3) and former Labour mayor of London, Ken Livingstone (May 10).
Mr Cable’s book, billed as a carefully-considered perspective on how the economy should be managed over the next decade, is called After the Storm. Perhaps Ken Livingstone, whose new book is called Being Red, will question whether the storm is actually over, when so many citizens are still getting wet.
Austrian academic, ethical economist and contemporary dancer Christian Felber – author of Change Everything – will certainly have a view – or maybe a dance – about it.
Felber has designed what has been described as an ‘economy for the common good’ which is attracting the attention of leaders from the worlds of business and politics. In a festival rarity, Felber is getting a double bill to himself on May 11.
Actor Brian Blessed will be bringing Absolute Pandemonium – both his book and sense of being – to the Arts Centre on May 12, after Festival organisers convinced his agent Swindon ‘could handle him’. Rows A to W are suitable for the hard of hearing.
Another shouty performer – Dom Joly, he of the over-sized mobile phone – will be walking his audience through Here Comes the Clown: a Stumble Through Show Business (May 5) while, earlier the same day, fellow TV comedian Isy Suttie will discuss her book, The Actual One, which charts her very real struggle to remain a twenty-something forever.
As always, Festival-goers will be encouraged to think, rather than simply sit back and be entertained. Author and cultural historian A N Wilson (May 4) will discuss The Bible as a philosophical work of literature for a secular age, while later that day philosopher Roger Scruton will be asking the big questions – who are we, and why are we here? – as explored in his latest work The Soul of the World.
The festival will also pay tribute to Kaye Franklin, a long-time supporter of the Festival and a ‘force for good’ in Swindon, who died last year. In the first Kaye Franklin Memorial Lecture (May 3), Festival director Matt Holland will ask ‘why do we read, write, and listen to stories?’
That’s not an exhaustive list, and doesn’t even touch on the Dawn Chorus, the Swindon Slam poetry competition, the Think Slam philosophy throwdown, the children and families day, the Swindon Affair, and the eclectic Festival Finale with music, poetry and watering cans. For a full festival programme, log on to www.swindonfestivalofliterature.co.uk
Four of the members' ruby squares [Click to enlarge]Here I am sorting through my stash of red fabrics and threads - some so precious that I have never used them while other scraps drift in and out of my magpie collection. We have been challenged by our chairman to each make a ruby square. The square is to be ten inches by ten inches, we are free to use any materials, any techniques, any design.
The squares' colour is to be predominantly red - ruby red - but to include touches of other colours. Yes you’ve guessed it, our Marlborough and District Embroiderers’ Guild is forty years old next month (April 2016.) We are celebrating with an exhibition of members’ work and, centre stage we are planning to show a block of ruby squares.
There are so many decisions to make when starting a piece of work. We are able to explore, invent and be excited by a whole range of products and materials. Our workbox is as likely to contain a soldering iron as a needle case.
We may have fabric paints and printing blocks, brushes and rollers. We may hand stitch with the most astonishing range of threads or use a sewing machine as a drawing tool, employ soluble fabrics to create lacey structures, or work with a whole range of non-woven materials.
Embroiderers nowadays are bombarded with so much choice. Styles of embroidery come and go and change frequently over the years. Embroidery worked an age ago dates alarmingly. Such pieces can end up in a charity shop only to be reclaimed by a new generation searching for vintage items.
As our April anniversary and its exhibition approaches, we have been wondering what our branch was like forty years ago. Thanks to one of our members we have a copy of the branch programme for 1976/77 and we read that meetings were held in Marlborough Public Library.
Monthly talks and workshops laid the foundation for the way our branch works today. In this old programme we see that Miss Kaye Norris gave a series of talks about the history of embroidery.
Kaye Norris had been taught by Constance Howard at Goldsmith’s College of Art, they remained life long friends. Some examples of Kay Norris’s work can be seen in “Inspiration for Embroidery” by Constance Howard published by Batsford in 1966.
Constance Howard had an enormous influence on contemporary embroidery, urging that the design side of embroidery should not be overlooked and was as important as the craftsmanship. Another book by Constance Howard “Embroidery and Colour” was published in 1976, which is as relevant now as it was forty years ago, but it appears strange to us that a book about colour has so few coloured illustrations.
Nowadays modern technology means that we have easy access to wonderfully produced books full of enticing colour, not to mention CD’s and YouTube with its instant access to the world of “how to do it range of crafts”. Followers of Pinterest and blogging embroiderers abound.
Our own branch now communicates with members online and we have published a newsletter since 2001. One of our members designed our website and another writes a regular blog showing photos of talks, workshops and outings.
Lorrain Lockwood's woodpecker designIn 1977 Mrs Vilma Wells gave a design workshop with an exercise based on black and white counter-change. The results of this can be seen in the woodpecker box top designed by Lorrain Lockwood who also made the box. Lorrain was a founder member of the Marlborough and District Embroiderers Guild
Lorrain’s embroidered Cockerel was part of the branch challenge of 1977. Then members were given a preprinted picture of the cockerel and told that they could use any method excluding gold work or canvas work. Both of these pieces were in the 1978 July exhibition.
Early meetings of the Guild moved from Marlborough Library, to the Scout Hut, and then to the Bowls Club. Now our Branch meets in Kennet Valley Hall in Lockeridge and we currently have a membership of sixty-five. As well as monthly talks with regular and exciting workshops, we run a stitch day for members who want to come and do their own work.
We run a six-session course, Design to Stitch, which covers machine techniques with a chance to experiment with design. Young Embroiderers began in 2003 and continues to thrive, meeting regularly during school holidays.
The ruby squares are now complete and they will form a very exciting display. We do hope that you will come and visit our exhibition in Lockeridge, in April 2016 and see for yourself – details of the exhibition can be found here.