The good, the bad and the ugly – Swindon author celebrates town in 50 buildings

By Claire Dukes - 6 July 2019

CommunityArts and CultureHeritage
  • Angela Atkinson outside The Spectrum Building

    Angela Atkinson outside The Spectrum Building

From the author of Secret Swindon comes a second instalment of delving into the town's gems, but this time focusing on its buildings.

  • Swindon in 50 Buildings will be released 3 August

    Swindon in 50 Buildings will be released 3 August

  • Secret Swindon by Angela Atkinson

    Secret Swindon by Angela Atkinson

The Born Again Swindonian blogger has been an advocate for her adopted town since moving from a Derbyshire mining village to Grange Park, West Swindon, 26 years ago. Speaking to Angela about Swindon she says, “Coming here was truly like coming to the land of milk and honey. The town has a fascinating, many layered, multifaceted history. It also has work, facilities, green spaces aplenty and great transport connections – and, above all, wonderful people.”

Following on from Secret Swindon, Miss Atkinson, 62, was approached again by Gloucestershire-based Amberley Publishing – as part of its ‘50 Buildings’ series - to pen Swindon in 50 Buildings. But, she says, the project is not as easy as it might sound.

Angela said, “When I was choosing these buildings it’s a bit like when you’re drawing up a guest list for a wedding – you draw up a big list, and then you’ve got to take a whole load out!

“What I’ve taken from it is to try and tell – not the whole of Swindon’s story, that would be impossible – aspects of Swindon’s story in a selection of its buildings. I want to offer a sideways view of the building, even if it’s not pretty but it’s got a story to tell.”

Many people, like Angela, champion Swindon’s heritage as a railway town but she also wants to highlight how the town has expanded over the years where many lesser known buildings are tucked away so has thrown in some ‘curve balls’.

She adds, “I expect it to contentious. You can expect some obvious suspects – the Railway Village, Lydiard, The Spectrum Building and David Murray John Tower– but hopefully some surprises.

“You could without any difficulty take a big chunk of Old Town, everything in the Railway Conservation Area and the Outlet and Railway Village and you’d easily get to 50 buildings. But that wouldn’t make a very balanced book, and probably wouldn’t make a terribly interesting one either. I’ve tried to represent as many as areas of Swindon as I reasonably can.”

Miss Atkinson hopes that the book will enable Swindonians alike to celebrate the town’s heritage, as well as offer up insights for those who don't think of the town as a place of creativity and culture. “A lot of people from outside of Swindon moving into the town that won’t be aware of the heritage and historical value within a lot of the town’s buildings,” she says. “And, those people don’t come into the town centre and that is part of the problem.

“I happen to know people who don’t know that Swindon has a museum and art gallery and who don’t think that Swindon has a cultural offering at all - which we do! It’s miserable to suggest that we don’t. I’m not saying Swindon is the same as a city, but nevertheless there is a very vibrant, cultural offering here.”

With the book launch around the corner, Angela is hoping history buffs and book worms will join her in The Baker’s Café for a glass of wine to celebrate its release. Asking what her favourite building in Swindon is Angela says, “It’s not as straight-forward as you might think.

“I do love the David Murray John Tower just in terms of the look of a building, and I’d have to say for the social side – or for the story – for me is the Railway Village but aside from that – the obvious suspects – if you ignore what the ‘givens’ are my then favourite one would have to be The Crumpled Horn at Eldene. It’s just so out there and quirky. It’s a shame it’s closed, because you really need to go inside it.”

Within the book readers can expect illustrative maps of Swindon, images of buildings accompanied by Angela’s short biographies and hopefully, despite the town’s ever-expanding developments, provide an opportunity to build disconnects between the town’s communities as, “we are all Swindon” she says.

Angela Atkinson will be officially releasing Swindon in 50 Buildings at a book launch event in The Baker’s Café, Saturday 3 August, from 12pm. For further information visit www.swindonian.me/my-publications/swindonin50buildings/

For further information about Secret Swindon visit www.swindonlink.com/blogger-turns-spotlight-on-swindons-secrets-for-new-book/

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