The world comes to Swindn to celebrate the man of the moment.
Saturday’s celebrations will begin at 10.45am with a spectacular and colourful Carnival Parade which starts from the Town Hall and continues right through the town centre. The theme is ‘Brunel – Engineer of the Imagination’ and the Parade will involve nearly 200 young people from Swindon schools and community groups as well as professional street theatre groups.
Visitors from afar will include a gigantona from Swindon’s twin town Ocotal in Nicaragua. The towering effigy of Queen Isabella II of Spain will be looking for an equally tall Isambard Kingdom Brunel who has been specially created by members of the Swindon Ocotal Link (SOL).
SOL chairman Bruce Clarke explained the role of the gigantona in Central American culture. “They take the form of dignatories and are traditionally paraded at festivals. Isabella has a special place as she was Queen of Spain who sent the conquistadors to South America to look for gold.
“She?s accompanied by a cabazon, who represents the small, stubborn but clever native Indian population.”
He added that traditionally people use the opportunity to express their anger and frustration with local issues when the gigantona passes. So here?s your chance to have a moan, i.e. provide more litter bins; sort out the menace of mini-motos; why did the Swindon Council?s cabinet get a 30 per cent pay rise?
During Brunel festival week SOL are hosting the Mayor of Ocotal, Se?or Marciano Berrios Sevilla and two dancers who will accompany Isabella through the town.
The carnival parade will be followed by a day of inventive and fun performances in the town centre, with more than 30 performances from 15 international acts. Performances will take place at programmed intervals between 11.30 pm and 3.30 pm at The Parade (outside Debenhams), Regent Street, the Jubilee Clock and The Brunel Showcase Stage (outside The House of Fraser).
At 1.15pm, Swindon Dance is leading a giant conga dance through the town centre and everyone is invited to join in. Those wanting to take part should gather outside the Town Hall from 12.45pm for a fun warm up. At 1.30pm the conga will dance around the Town Hall and wind its way down Regent Street. At 2.15pm there will be a two-minute dance-a-thon for everyone on Canal Walk.
A dazzling display of local performing talent will take place on the Brunel Showcase Stage, ranging from hip hop dance from Banxy and the Swindon Crew (and Spanish hip hopper friends), a Swindon Dance Showcase and the Maloney Irish Dancers to the Swindon Juggling Club, the Scratch Choir and the Wroughton Silver Band.
On Sunday 16 July in true celebration of Swindon’s wonderful railway heritage, Sunday will see the festival move to the Park (Faringdon Road) and the Railway Village for a day of entertainment and exploration. There will be a Children’s Fete between 12.00noon – 8.30pm continuing the revival a tradition that goes back to 1866, including the amazing Blondin walking his tightrope, fairground rides, stalls and games.
The Park (Faringdon Road) will also host performances from top acts such as the Gandini Jugglers, Railroad Bill, the UK’s hottest skiffle band; Scarecrows 2 (Swindon street dancer Banxy and his crew) with their New York inspired street dance and hip hop; Bongo Bolero acrobatics; thunderous Brazilian rhythms from Samba Galez and Paka – the incredible full-size fire breathing horse with his gothic Don Quixote master. There will also be performances by the Excelsior Jazz Band (New Orleans), the Wroughton Silver Band, Folk South West and the Wessex Mail Voice Choir.
Closeby in Swindon’s beautiful Railway Village, there’s the chance to have fun with the Boredbrand Digital Funfair – interactive games using technology, dance, music and film; visit STEAM’s unique Railway Cottage Museum at 34 Faringdon Road and step into the past, plus there will be live music, street performances and interactive tours with ‘Brunel’. There’s even a land train where you can hop on and off outside various activities around the festival.
Further exploration of Swindon’s railway history can be made through the GWR Works Tunnel, transformed into a Time Tunnel – an enthralling environment of light and sound. On the other side, you can get the land train to visit STEAM – Museum of the Great Western Railway, the National Trust and National Monuments Records Centre and the Rodbourne Living History Project.
The Finale of the Festival will take place between 8.30pm – 10.15pm in the Park (Faringdon Road) with a steam and fire spectacular, including a fire sculpture of the North Star and a spellbinding figure suspended from a helium balloon.
Festival programmes are available around the town and at Swindon Information Centre, Regent Street. All the details are at: www.swindonbrunel200.co.uk