A full length film plotting how the Great Western Railway Company turned a sleepy market town into an industrial powerhouse and what we know as Swindon today will be screened at the Wyvern Theatre on 25 April.
Carefully researched and professionally produced by film maker Martin Parry, Railway Town brings together previously unseen archive film and photographs, as well as key insights from astute historians.
The film charts the remarkable story of Swindon from its ‘wild west’ beginnings, through problems and triumphs, and then conveys the mood when the great GWR factory (by then British Rail) closed in March 1986.
Martin, who came to the town in early 1980 as a British FiIm Institute funded film-maker in residence, said he conceived the idea of Railway Town soon after he arrived. “Even though Swindon had moved a long way from railways in the post-war period, the legacy of the works was deeply embedded in the town, yet there was a sense that closure was on the cards.
“I started to document the railway heritage by interviewing scores of factory workers, filming inside the works and collecting archive material.”
Martin’s work came together in Fire & Steel, a highly regarded DVD telling the story of life ‘inside’ the works. But the seeds for a much more comprehensive account of the town’s history had been sown.
He said: “I wanted to show how much the Swindon of today is underpinned by its history and how this frames the future, through archive and previously unseen material.”
The screening on Monday 25 April, 7pm, at the Wyvern Theatre, will be followed by a panel discussion on Swindon’s past and future.
Tickets at £7 (+£1.50 booking fee) are available from the Wyvern or the online ticket office
View the Railway Town trailer at www.swindonviewpoint.com
• Martin, although hailing from Herefordshire, came to Swindon from Canada’s National Film Board. After the BFI funding ended, Thamesdown Council appointed him as media arts officer where he set up Thamesdown Media Arts, later renamed Create Studios, and continued a leading role with pioneering community TV station Swindon Viewpoint.