Swindon Festival of Literature is one of the UK’s unmissable events for book lovers
Twenty-five years ago, two men were introduced to one another. Over a pint, the late antiquarian book auctioneer Dominic Winter said, “It would be nice to have something bookish in Swindon.’” His new friend, Matt Holland, replied, ‘Indeed it would. In fact, a Festival of Literature!’
And so it was that on Friday 6th May 1994, the first Swindon Festival of Literature began, at Lower Shaw Farm, with a poetry reading and residential writing weekend led by the late Sebastian Barker.
The rest, as they say, is history, twenty-five festivals of it! And the aforementioned Mr Holland is still running the show with an army of book-loving volunteers from around the globe.
A list of the names that have graced the festival over the last 25 years is a veritable ‘Who’s Who’ of English literature, ideas, politics and comedy, among them David Attenborough, Margaret Drabble, Michael Morpurgo, Lionel Shriver, AN Wilson, Alan Johnson, Ken Livingstone, Polly Toynbee, Tony Parsons, Harry Hill, Bonnie Greer and an et cetera that is longer than ‘War and Peace’!
The 2018 edition takes place from May 7th to May 19th at some great venues across Swindon ranging from The Wyvern Theatre and The Arts Centre to picturesque Lydiard Park and Lower Shaw Farm. Needless to say, this year’s festival hosts a typically dazzling line-up of novelists, poets, scientists, philosophers, politicians, performers, athletes, artists, adventurers, storytellers, and plain speakers.
As Matt Holland puts it: “We like to share new ideas, hear old and new stories, listen to good readings, have dangerous discussions, discover new writing, flutter certain dovecotes, pursue a little pleasure, meet new faces, and see familiar ones too.”
The 2018 edition of the much-loved festival certainly has something for all literary tastes - highbrow, lowbrow and something in between.
Among the star turns visiting Swindon this year are Booker Prize winning novelist and poet Ben Okri, former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen, revered philosopher AC Grayling, Britain’s longest-serving female MP Harriet Harman, prize-winning man of letters Will Self, tennis guru and Strictly Come Dancing star Judy Murray, and punk legend turned diarist Viv Albertine.
From small acorns the Swindon Festival of Literature has grown to rival the likes of Hay, Cheltenham and Edinburgh as an unmissable event on the literary calendar. If you love books and you love stimulating conversation, make sure to pencil Swindon into your diary this May.
Click here to see a full at-a-glance Festival Diary