Books can be delightful and dangerous; there is no telling what’s in them, and by the time you find out, it’s too late, writes Matt Holland, director of the Swindon Festival of Literature.
That is why many grownups and children love books, or at least like reading. It’s why libraries are treasure troves. And also why, in countries that are less free than ours, certain books are banned or burned.
May Day celebrations across the generations at Lower Shaw Farm, home of the festival of literature. Pictured, Veronica, Gabriel and Diane Bryant.
The Swindon Festival of Literature is an opportunity to experience a little delight and discovery, with the authors of books appearing live, in our own home town.
With over 60 events from 7 to 20 May, picking highlights and choosing what to go to is not easy, even for a festival organiser. But what about these?
On Bank Holiday Monday 7 May, 5.30pm join us for the Dawn Chorus. See the sun rise, hear stories told, dance round a maypole, eat hot breakfast to the sound of birdsong, and enjoy doing something completely different with other people. Later, If you like gardens, poetry, and phenomenal illustrations of both, don’t miss Patrick Harding at Lydiard House.
If the history and plight of poultry interests you, or all things English, or life on a smallholding, then don’t miss anything on 8 May.
On 9 May, no fewer than seven literary events take place in the town, not least of which is the appearance of an author who reckons that we should let our children go back to nature, and another who chose to leave her secure BBC job and ride a motorbike across two continents. That day, well know broadcasterGeorge Alagiah is also here to talk about his childhood in Ghana where his family immigrated from Ceylon, to reporting from conflict zones around the world.
To end the first week, television’s Apprentice winner Michelle Dewberry appears at the Arts Centre with her optimistic book that declares Anything is Possible. Come and ask her what she means.
On Sunday 13 May, almost the entire day is devoted to matters related to climate change. There will be authors, talks, and activities for all ages at Lower Shaw Farm, plus lunch from an earth oven.
The second week begins with a big debate on the role of art and culture in 21st Century life – and in Swindon. What are the arts? Who needs them? What good do they do? Any other questions?
Charles Landry, international culture consultant, will be confronting Swindon's culture, or alleged lack of it Midweek sees former Prime Minister John Major talking about cricket, though he is also likely to get questions about what is not cricket.
On the same day, a Bagdhad poet gives his account of surviving dropped bombs, a British fighter pilot presents his story of dropping them, and a very English writer unravels some of the mysteries of crop circles.
The next day, from remarkable formations on the ground we go to beautiful shapes in the sky, with the author of the bestselling Cloud-spotter’s Guide. And in the evening there’s an opportunity for Read Dating, a chance to meet a new love through books.
Right, American novelist Lionel Shriver, talks on 15 May
The last week day sees a medical author and a philosopher in town. Check out your health at midday, and see what you think about it in the evening. If neither takes your fancy, there’s Poems & Pints at the Town Hall with the inimitable Matt Harvey and others.
The Festival ends with two days devoted largely to children and families. On Saturday 19 May, Lydiard Park is the centre of literary attention, with mystery tours, puppet theatre, writing in a tent, a mobile library and free Bookstart packs for all. It ends with Campfire Storytelling at Lower Shaw Farm, where there will be more good things for families and children on Sunday 20th.
This year’s Festival Finale takes place at the Arts Centre with a fitting feast of words and music: Much Ado About Shakespeare!
Programmes are available from libraries, information and other centres, or call 01793 530328. It’s all at: