A 500 line poem about Toothill was premiered in front of 50 people on 12 May as part of the Swindon Festival of Literature.
Called The Watchers, after the sculpture of three figures and a dog at Toothill Village Centre, the poem was woven together by Hilda Sheehan of Swindon Artswords from lines written by 11 youngsters who were allowed by Toothill, Oliver Tomkins and Westlea Primary Schools and Lydiard Park Academy to attend workshops in February and March.
The verse is both mysterious and complex, but full of references to the area’s ancient and more recent history as the community has evolved.
The children also visited Toothill Lunch Club and were able to incorporate comments from older people about the first arrivals to West Swindon thirty five years ago.
Kiera Grisley said the poem had turned out how she hoped. “I’ve enjoyed being part of the Long Poem because I like poetry. I was definitely nervous about the performance but it came together really well.”
Toothill Primary School headteacher Martyn Cowell, who was part of the 1998 West Swindon Long Poem, was impressed. “The stories and images captured by a new set of eyes was fantastic; you could see how proud the children were to present their work. And the link-up with the Festival of Literature really put Toothill on the map for all the right reasons.”
Lead poet Hilda Sheehan said she enjoyed working with the children. “They worked so hard to come up with imaginative lines for the poem and really focussed on the spirit of the community. It was also lovely to involve members of Toothill Lunch Club who gave us so many interesting stories.”
The project was funded by the Toothill Big Local committee which is administering the £1 million lottery money awarded to the area for community development. Committee member Jason Byefield said: “It was absolutely fantastic to see the children come together, grow in confidence and put on a performance of the work in front of an audience.”
The Toothillians, as they call themselves, will read the long poem at the Toothill Festival on 30 June.
Read the project background and the long poem at toothilllongpoem.blogspot.co.uk
The 1998 West Swindon Long Poem can be found at www.swindonlink.com