During its twenty years, the Swindon Festival of Literature has gone from strength.
Pictured by Richard Wintle of calyxpix.com at the festival launch on 21 March, Matt Holland, with council leader Rod Bluh, Amy Goodbehere and Danielle Mackemsley
Each year it attracts new writers, terrific speakers, and a larger following. At every level, it has become a splendid celebration for Swindon of things well written and things well said.
Authors due to appear in May are varied and many.
They include award-winning broadcaster and writer Clare Balding right;
founder of Childline Esther Rantzen;
television impressionist and wordsmith Alistair McGowan;
controversial philosopher A C Grayling;
environmentalist, activist, and author George Monbiot;
television’s Crimewatch presenter Nick Ross;
former head of MI5 Stella Rimington, left;
comedian and film maker Tony Hawks;
historian Tom Holland;
Booker Prize winner Ben Okri, right;
editor of Resurgence Satish Kumar;
cathedrals historian Jon Cannon;
wildlife presenter and writer Kate Humble;
geneticist Steve Jones;
television Book Club presenter and novelist Judy Finnigan;
comic novelist and film maker Tony Hawks;
explorer Benedict Allen;
former Controller of BBC Radio 4 Mark Damazer;
veteran best-selling crime writer P D James below;
former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, bottom;
newly-published Swindon writer Hilda Sheehan;
and former Chairman and Chief Executive of Sainsburys Lord Sainsbury of Turville!
As well as these, there are also numerous other talks, discussions, and readings at main theatres, arts venues, libraries, parks, museums, galleries, and even an ex-cowshed, in Swindon!
Festival standing dishes in Swindon also include the national Battered Moons Poetry Competition, the fourth Swindon Think Slam, a Children & Families Day; the all-comers’ BlueGate Open Mic; the ninth Youth Poetry Slam and the seventeenth Swindon Slam; celebrations and launches of local magazines Swindon Heritage and Domestic Cherry; multi-tasking Mum’s the Word evening; and the fabulous Poems, Pints, and Music Finale!
In lovely Lydiard Park, on the very first day of the Festival, there will be a health walk and a gentle run; followed by an illustrated talk by an author who circumnavigated the globe under his own power, walking, running, and pedalling.
The Festival is now firmly established on Swindon and Wiltshire’s cultural calendar. It is loved locally and held in high regard nationally.
The Swindon Festival of Literature has been described by John Carey as ‘terrific’, by Joan Bakewell as ‘delightful’, by John Major as ‘punctual’, by Jon Snow as ‘a real surprise’, by John and Mary as ‘the reason we moved to Swindon’, and by Shaun B as ‘comparable to sex’.
Festival Director Matt Holland said: “Our twentieth Festival is something to get excited about. And we are. It promises to be both fantastic feast and fabulous frolic. We will have adventurous authors, terrific talks, delightful discussion, wonderful workshops, and excellent entertainment.
"The Festival will offer experiences that make life memorable, for everyone. People of all ages and backgrounds will be able to have a very good time. They’ll get together, meet authors, join in lively talk, explore new ideas, and even have a laugh. It is all very exciting.”
Tickets are now at sale at Swindon Information Centre in the Central Library and online at Swindon Tickets
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Jon Snow hailed the festival ‘remarkable and a real surprise’; John Major, ‘perfect and punctual’; Joan Bakewell, ‘delightful’; John Carey ‘terrific’; Melvyn Bragg ‘down to earth’; Will Self ‘sans spelling mistakes’; Shaun B ‘comparable to love’; and John & Mary D ‘one of the main reasons we moved to Swindon!’
The Festival of Literature continues to thrive thanks to funding from Arts Council England, whose support represents recognition of the growth, value and popularity of literature-related activities in Swindon.
Other main partners and loyal sponsors of the Festival are Dominic Winter Book Auctions, Swindon Borough Council, Swindon Artswords, Swindon Libraries, Adult Community Learning, Prior Park Preparatory School, and Lower Shaw Farm.
Further assistance comes from Waterstones, Pen & Paper Bookshop, Swindon Visitor Information Centre, Acorn Press, Pink Handbag, Swindon Advertiser, Link Magazine, Wiltshire Magazine, BBC Radio Wiltshire, Total Swindon, Swindon Community Radio 105.5, Swindon parkrun, Christ Church, plus a host of other local organisations and individuals.