Those of us who live or work in Swindon and actively take part in the arts scene know that despite how it’s sometimes portrayed, Swindon is not a cultural desert.
Helen Miah, Swindon Council Commissioner Leisure, Libraries & Culture, responds to the view of Swindon The Opera writer and producer Matt Fox that the council is not supporting arts activity
Swindon has a rich cultural history and thriving community arts scene and there are any number of organisations and individuals who contribute – or who have contributed – to the development of the arts community in Swindon.
It would be wrong to single any out but for starters there’s nature writer and novelist Richard Jefferies, Harold Jolliffe who oversaw the opening of the country’s first dedicated municipal Arts Centre, mural artist Ken White, award-winning Swindon Film Society, world renowned XTC, nationally recognised Swindon Dance, artists collective Artsite, current media darling Jahmene Douglas, and of course many, many more.
Defining what is meant by ‘arts’ is always going to be tricky. If you take The Arts Council’s broad definition it includes activities that some may not even consider an art form, such as embroidery, pottery, crochet, jewellery-making, carnivals, design and digital arts. 99 per cent of the population engage with the arts in some way, whether that’s watching a child in a school play, singing in a community choir, listening to some great music or reading an inspiring book.
Art is part of our daily lives; it enriches and nourishes us. Without it… well, it doesn’t bear thinking about, does it?
The Swindon Does Arts (SDA) network and brand was established in 2008 by a partnership of arts organisations and individuals all of whom are passionate about the arts and Swindon. The aim was to raise the profile of all things artistic and creative in our town, to challenge the cultural desert perception and demonstrate just how much arts activity there really is in Swindon.
The SDA logo was created by local designer Mark Pepperall and anyone and everyone who shares the belief that Swindon Does Arts is welcome to download and use it. Whilst the Swindon Borough Council Arts team help provide some admin for SDA it really isn’t a ‘council’ project.
Over the last few years the Swindon Does Arts partnership has worked on several projects, including the Big Arts Day, which built on the success of Radio 1’s Big Weekend back in 2009.
The aim of the Big Arts Day was to celebrate and showcase all things artistic and creative in Swindon, providing a free platform for all community artists, organisations and those engaged in the sector to share their art.
While it is with regret and sadness that the curtain has had to be pulled down on this festival, the work continues to promote the arts in Swindon. In these extremely challenging economic times it’s going to be even more important that the arts sector works collectively to promote the array of activities in the town.
The newly upgraded Swindon Does Arts website is just the place to do this. The content is user driven and everyone involved in the arts is encouraged to join, upload a profile, news, images, events and even videos.