Packed venue for launch of book chronicling Swindon lives in lockdown

By Barrie Hudson - 3 February 2023

CommunityArts and Culture
  • AJ Stone with a copy of her book

    AJ Stone with a copy of her book

Old Town pub The Tuppenny was the venue for the successful launch of a new book by Swindon author AJ Stone.

The author with Tuppenny co-owner Ed Dyer, one of the interviewees
Unlocked: Portraits of a Pandemic is a collection of interviews with 33 people, conducted during and after lockdown.
Subjects range in age from 11 to 88 and include an array of people including an ICU nurse, a funeral director, a head teacher, people in charge of places of worship, a boxing promoter and the mother of a child with autism.
The author had just launched a series of children's reading books before the pandemic struck.
She said: "From the moment Boris Johnson announced on that day in March 2020 that we should stay at home, I think we all had a sense that something extraordinary was unfolding, and I wanted to capture that as people were living their day-to-day experiences of living through lockdown. 
"That was what gave me the idea for it and I kept going through lockdown and after lockdown, just seeing whether the pandemic had changed people's lives and in what way.
"I decided first of all that to give the project parameters I needed a geographical area, so I chose Swindon. Swindon is obviously a great place with lots going on. Also, as the events manager at Steam, one of the people I interviewed, said, Swindon is often regarded as the barometer for the national mood, and that's why it gets a lot of attention at election time.
"I discovered from the Office of National Statistics that Swindon is often considered a place which is as representative as any one place can be for the whole country."
The launch event included three readings from the book by interviewees. One was given by Ed Dyer, co-owner of The Tuppenny, who recalled his fears that the pandemic would spell the end of the business he loved, and how the team launched a home delivery service during the period when all pubs were ordered to close.
A reading was given by 82-year-old Marilyn Somers, also known as Mazza, who lives in one of a complex of retirement flats in Old Town.
Mazza and her friends were forbidden to socialise, but managed to keep in touch by sitting in their front doorways with a cup of tea.
The other reading was delivered on behalf of a young woman whose GCSE year coincided with the lockdown, and who was torn between happiness at school ending and sadness at no longer being able to see her friends. 
In her interview, she mentions the prom dress which had to remain in her wardrobe.
Unlocked: Portraits of a Pandemic is published by Kettle Press and priced at £9.99 in paperback and £4.99 for the Kindle edition.
The Tuppenny host regular arts events, quizzes and other gatherings, and full details can be found at

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