More than 175 years of Swindon’s rich cultural heritage has inspired a new festival of arts and culture.
The Swindon Spring Festival is an extension of the popular Festival of Literature, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year.
Twelve months ago, festival director Matt Holland revealed his desire to expand the lit fest into “an all-encompassing combined arts festival.”
And at Swindon Town Hall last month, festival supporters were given their first glimpse of a programme that includes dance, drama, music, film, art, and circus skills alongside literature, as well as enjoying Irish dancing from Casey Jane and Darine Flanagan, and a poem about the first day of spring.
Sixty events across 14 days are bookended by two events that will be familiar to fans of the literature festival, beginning with the unique Dawn Chorus launch of bank holiday Monday, May 6 where hundreds of supporters watch the sunrise over Lawn Woods to a soundtrack of poetry and music, and reaching its climax with the Festival Finale - a feast of music, dance, poetry, theatre, magic, and acrobatics - on Sunday, May 19.
Other events unique to Swindon’s quirky literature festival, including a 5k run followed by a talk by an author on all things running - this year it’s Bella Mackie, author of Jog On - and the Think Slam, where philosophers do battle to out-think each other, make a welcome return.
More braincell-engagement comes in the form of the Spring Festival Quiz, hosted by TV Egghead and six times world quiz champion Kevin Ashman.
Also new for this year is Festival in the Park, a free day of family fun at Lydiard Park, replacing the popular Family Day which has outgrown its Lower Shaw Farm home. Families will be treated to circus skills, a poetry jukebox, puppetry, and live music.
And BBC Wiltshire listeners will be invited to contribute lines and phrases to A Festival Poem for Swindon, which will be curated by performance poet and festival regular Sara Jane Arbury.
Swindon’s most celebrated author gets an event in his honour - 132 years after his death. The first annual Richard Jefferies Lecture will be presented by broadcaster and Victorian literature expert Will Abberley. Appearances from living authors include former education minister and home secretary Lord Kenneth Baker, Mike Berners-Lee on climate change, and mathematician Marcus Du Sautoy, on whether computers will ever replace artists.
Swindon Arts Centre will host a number of film screenings, among which is Life is Wonderful, a documentary about the legal team who defended Nelson Mandela - a team led by Joel Joffe, a longtime supporter of Swindon Festival of Literature, who died in 2017.
In dance, Swindon Dance will mark its 40th anniversary with The Rising, where dancers and musicians will explore what makes people feel alive, while in theatre, Everybody - a play written and performed by young Swindon actors - will explore what it means to be a teenager today.
The brochure is online and tickets are on sale now at www.swindonspringfestival.co.uk