Archive | September 2014

Kiln Park: a hidden gem that reminds of Swindon past

Originally posted on Born Again Swindonian:
Tree with tiles round – West Swindon 28th Septenber 2014: Old post updated It’s interesting how, since starting this blog, I’ve begun noticing things more. Apropos the subject of this post it’s less a case of noticing and more a case of paying some actual attention. I live in…

David Bent: choosing Swindon

Long time and regular listeners will know that when I first began this blog I conceived my personal list of ‘Ten things to celebrate about Swindon’.  I’m actually not at all sure I ever got that list finished – so much is there here in Swindon that is blog worthy. As 205 posts and 26, 000 hits can testify. Anyway, in these earlier posts, one of my 10 things was/is the Swindon-born artist Ken White.  And, as an actual son of Swindon (as opposed to being an adopted daughter like me 🙂 ), and an internationally known and acclaimed artist by everyone apart from the powers that be in Swindon it seems – his place on that list is eminently well-deserved. However, what I didn’t know then and have slowly learnt as Born again Swindonian has tottered along, is that this town is home to a whole Guggenheim of artistic talent of all types most – or at least much – of which is now happily represented on this blog. But there is still one really glaring omission to this ‘set’, now being rectified, and that is David Bent.

It says much about the movers and shakers of  Swindon, and sadly it’s not good, that I hadn’t – until earlier this year – heard of David and his work. Like I hadn’t heard of Ralph Bates, like it’s only relatively recently I heard about the Richard Jefferies museum  and so on. You get the idea. It was only when ‘Katie-gate’ kicked off earlier this year that David and his work came onto my radar and I realised that he too should be featured on this blog.  And that was only because David’s lovely wife Carole is involved with Better Swindon who, along with your very own blogger extraordinaire, was invited onto BBC Wiltshire to respond to Ms Hopkin’s verbal diarrhoea. So I guess we have something to thank her for eh?  So anyway, life being as it is it’s taken until now for Carole and I to meet. I wasn’t able to get to their recent open studio weekend as I was busy gallivanting around London having breakfast at The Wolsley and dinner at The Savoy Grill – as you do. So Carole kindly invited me to their home to have a chat, meet David and look round the studio.

Image from Art of flight website

Image from Art of flight website

David is known as an aviation artist but there is much more to his work than that as his website will tell you. His wife Carole has given me lots of really interesting information about David, his work and his support of, and contribution to, our less-than-perfect but much-loved Swindon – so the rest of this post will be taken from that.

I mentioned above the Open Studios event – something that David has supported for the last ten years. One year there was just him and two other artists doing it to keep the event alive.

As alluded to above, and as Carole says:

His work is diverse – covering social issues , landscape geometry and more – but his niche interest in aviation is the strand that he is best known for”. She goes on to say that: ‘Having first shown this work in a B&Q tent at the far edge of the airfield at Fairford, his work in the aviation sector has spread far and wide over the past decade & he is credited with leading a new movement in modern aviation art. (See artists bio in for endorsements etc). 

Solo exhibitions over the past 10 years have been held at the Royal International Air Tattoo ( Dave’s artwork appearing on the giant billboards from Paddington station to sites across the country )

Farnborough International , the Cotswolds VIP , the Dubai International Air Show & the Royal Tent @ the Al Ain Aerobatics Air Show , UAE. 

Supporters of  Dave’s work include the Red Arrows who invited him to collaborate as artist in residence in 2007 . A celebratory book – a collaboration between Dave , the Red Arrows & Breitling was presented by Red 1 to HRH Prince Charles at RIAT 2014

 In 2012/ 2013 the RAF Museum hosted ” Fresh Air ” a year long retrospective of Dave’s work – the first of its kind for a living artist”.

But even an internationally renowned painter likes to do other things. So while his relationship with the Red Arrows is well known an oft talked about it’s worth mentioning at this point that David gives significant support and commitment to the creativity of other people. This isn’t always easy to do when one is self-funded but both David and Carole believe in the importance of being part of the community and doing something for that community.  To that end they are both member’s of PaRa the local resident’s association and actively take part in the spring and autumn clean. Laudable for sure. Indeed, I myself often go Wombling when I go to the shops at Freshbrook. The litter is disgraceful. Time to bring back the Keep Britain Tidy campaign surely?!

Anyway, back to topic:

“Children from Churchfields school were hosted by Dave for a tour of his Old Town studio & a private view of this exhibition. They enjoyed spending time with the Red Arrows who we had arranged for them to meet. In 2013, we attended an Art Auction at Churchfields school , buying childrens artworks in support of their creativity .

Other children have also been involved in Dave’s work – 800 taking part in the Big Draw created their own artworks based on his exhibition at the Museum – their work was then displayed beneath the wings of a Mosquito.  

If you find yourself in the Xray dept of the Great Western Hospital – look out for two of Dave’s photo collages. A good surprise during his recent stay at the GWH was a visit by the Red Arrows team leader , Squadron leader Ruth Shackleton & PR Manager Andy Morton who wanted to check on his progress. 

Over the past decade , Dave & I have also collected a significant number of artworks created by local artists as we seek to support talent. During this time , we’ve also donated 5 of Dave’s artworks pieces / year to charities –  mainly aviation but also to local & national beneficiaries.”

So there you have it. HAD I known about David and his work he would most certainly have gone on my ‘Ten things to celebrate about Swindon’ list. But now at last his work is here, on Born again Swindonian, alongside all the other fantastic artist talent in this town. An adopted Son-of-Swindon for sure.


Extra info and links:

Volunteered a day / week for 3 months gratis at RAF Museum , painting in central areas as part of ” Fresh Air Exhibition ” *

Invited and hosted  60 children from local Churchfields School & Highworth to a private view of his exhibition at the RAF Museum, London & special visit with RAF Red Arrows *

Red Arrows – Relationship began in 2007 – team saw Dave’s painting  ” Red Arrows flying through the Bluebell woods ” &  invited him to collaborate  ( quotes in bio section) *

Artwork for Air Tattoo 2011/12/13/14

Artwork donated to local Air Cadets , Stratton , Swindon

350 + signed in 2013 –   donated back to RAFCTE / great beneficiaries

Collaboration with Breitling & the Red Arrows to celebrate 50th Anniversary Presented to HRH Prince Charles

Confirmed Invitation as Bournemouth Air Festival’s first Artist in Residence, August / September 2014 –  Exhibition to follow at Russell Cotes Museum

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Wraptastic Eggelicious hatches expansion!

Tuesday 23rd September

I popped into Eggelicious today, as is my wont,  and fell into conversation with an interesting chap who works at the royal commission for hysterical monuments over near STEAM and the Outlet Centre – and there may well be a blog post in there somewhere – but to return to the raison d’être of this particular blog post… Sharing the counter and ‘breaking bread’ with your neighbour is very much what Eggelicious and its new sister ship E2, soon to open in Wood Street, is all about. If you haven’t yet eaten at this establishment and you are more of a frequenter of Old Town than the town centre then you will soon get the Eggelicous experience up there.  If you can’t wait till then – get down to the covered market. You’re unlikely to regret it.

There was a printout of a recent Trip Advisor review of the establishment left on the counter and this very insightful reviewer described the food in Eggelicious as, and I quote, “great fresh soulfull street food priced accordingly, not heartless cheap fast food prepared by robots from a soul-less conglomerate served by zombies who really don’t want to be there”.  Awesome. And so true. Bogbadger you have a great way with words. I salute you!

I’m not going to quote the review word for word – you can find it on Trip Advisor if you’re interested – but suffice to say that it was very well written, insightful and even entertaining.  He/she even brilliantly addressed a couple of previous reviewers, who had, shall we say, been a little less than flattering in their observations about Eggelicious. I particularly liked the cutting riposte to the reviewer who had clearly complained that Ash (the owner) and his staff weren’t wearing gloves to prepare and serve the food. Co-incidentally, wearing my other hat as AA Editorial Services*, I’ve recently been doing some research on food related quotations and who do I find that wrote something oh so very appropriate for this situation? None other than R Will of course:

Romeo and Juliet: Act 4, Scene 2: Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers.

NOT that Ash and his crew lick their fingers! Heaven forfend that anyone think I’m suggesting they do or that they should.  The point being that it’s not a crime against humanity of epic proportions to cook food with bare hands. Does anyone think that, when receiving a plate of exquisitely arranged food in a smart restaurant, it’s been acheived with utensils? Clearly the reviewer in question leaned to that train of thought.

Anyway, the news that we can enjoy Ash’s wraptastic street-food fayre at either end of town has to be good. His garam masala chicken is, quite simply, Ambrosia. I love all his food but that one is my absolute fave flavour. It’s worthy of a last meal for a condemned man.

So all best wishes to Ash and his team with the opening of E2. It will be eggstraordinary I have no doubt. 😉

*Okay, brace yourselves listeners, shameless plug coming up: As I totter around the town visiting and passing by cafes, pubs and what-not I come across – with all-too-depressing frequency – on menus, leaflets, blackboards and the like – apostrophe atrocities, grammar gremlins and punctuation paucity.  Now these may be typos or it  may be that English is not the originator’s first language – there may be all sorts of perfectly good reasons for the errors. But whatever the reasons might be – it doesn’t look good and it really doesn’t give the best impression. So before you send that leaflet to the printer why don’t you get it proofread? It’ll be cheaper in the long-run. Have a look at my website ––  for more information on how I might help you with my proofreading services. Don’t be the restaurant that describes themselves as a ‘dinning experience like no other’. And yes, I’ve actually seen that.


#swindon #wiltshire #magicroundabout #swindonmagicroundabout #swindonblog #swindon blog #thingstodoinswindon #thingstoseeinswindon #swindonia #swindoniablog #hiddenswindon #aaedits #aaeditorialservices #proofread #proofreading #proofreadingservices #eggelicious #e2 #streetfoodswindon #eggeliciouscoveredmarket #slowfoodfast


Christ Church Swindon

Christ church Swindon

Christ church Swindon


Sunday 21st September 2014

Yesterday I paid my first visit to Christ Church, the lady on the hill, in Swindon’s Old Town for the occasion of the Autumn fair. It was a really smashing event and, I have to admit, a notch or two up from the autumn/summer/Christmas fairs I used to attend back in little old Whitwell when my daughter was small.

The stalls and the activities were spread in and around the church and its community centre. I had a lovely hour or two chatting to some great people from Swindon Heritage, Friends of Lydiard Park, the Swindon Society and the bunnies from the Wilts and Berks Canal trust. I was persuaded by a very confident young lad, who will surely go far, to take him on in a five-penalty shoot out – much to my surprise and no doubt his, I managed to beat him! David Beckham? Who’s he?

As I was strolling round I was struck by how wonderful it was to see not just the community centre and the grounds – graveyard really – but the church itself also opened up with stalls and displays.  Just as libraries have now recognised the need to have facilities and events that engage current readers and the readers of the future – children in other words – yesterday’s autumn fair was a great example of the church being opened up to the community. I daresay Christ Church has been doing this for ages – I wouldn’t know – but anyway I thought it was really great.

It’s a lovely church with some stunning stained glass windows in it. Designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott in Midlands Decorated Style it was opened in 1851 and was built to replace the old medieval church of Holy Rood. Located on The Lawns, this church was, by the 1850s becoming woefully inadequate for Swindon’s growing population. There’s lots more information about Christ church in the visitor’s guide leaflet I picked up in there.

Like several things/places in Swindon and its environs, the church was celebrated by John Betjeman in ‘On hearing the full peal of ten bells from Christ Church, Swindon’, Wilts:

“Your peal of ten ring over then this town,

Ring on my men nor ever ring them down…”  and “Oh still white headstones on these fields of sound, Hear you the wedding joy-bells wheeling round?”


February 1st 2015: –  a couple of new photographs sent to me by Maureen Iles, a reader of Born again Swindonian. Thanks Maureen.


#swindon #wiltshire #magicroundabout #swindonmagicroundabout #swindonblog #swindon blog #thingstodoinswindon #thingstoseeinswindon #swindonia #swindoniablog #hiddenswindon #christchurchswindon #betejeman

Dark Room Espresso gaining ground

I have previously mentioned Dark Room Espresso in a recent overview of coffee in Swindon so this post is mainly by way of photos and a shout-out – I know it’s gaining a good reputation. There’s certainly much to delight the coffee lover here and in the plethora of coffee shops around Swindon generally. As they promote themselves as a speciality coffee shop here for the unenlightened – me – is a definition of speciality coffee from SCAE (Speciality coffee association of Europe): “Speciality coffee is defined as a crafted quality coffee-based beverage, which is judged by the consumer (in a limited marketplace at a given time) to have a unique quality, a distinct taste and personality different from, and superior to, the common coffee beverages offered. The beverage is based on beans that have been grown in an accurately defined area, and which meet the highest standards for green coffee and for its roasting, storage and brewing.” 

The coffee shop is located down on Faringdon Rd. It’s a sizeable place having plenty of room for a pushchair or a bike. I really like the style of the place – it’s sort of pared back and stripped down yet still has a cosy feel to it with clever use of lighting and plants. No mean feat that.

The young couple who own and run it are very lovely and friendly. I went in with a friend on their first day of opening and they gave us a particular kind of coffee to sample. Now I rejected this sample immediately as it had liquorice notes to it – and liquorice is one of the few things I absolutely can’t abide. Along with aniseed. *shudders*.  Years ago I recall seeing boiled sweets made of both those things. Really? Why? Anyway, interestingly my friend could not detect the liquorice at all. Andy (I think that’s his name) was telling us they hope to get some papers in (kind of litmus papers I suppose but for tasting) that one puts on the tongue so see what sort of taste buds one has and what flavours one is most likely to pick up. Which would be interesting. I’m sure they could explain the concept much better.

Beyond a croissant I haven’t eaten anything in here as yet so can’t comment personally on the sandwiches and what not on offer but I see favourable comments on social media. Nor do I drink anything other than black coffee – and that’s good – so again can’t comment on any of the other varieties of hot drinks.

The only gripe I have about this cafe, and it’s an age and a personal thing, is that all the seats are hard – and I’m a big fan of some cushioning in a place. 😉  As uber cool as old church pews and wooden stools and all the rest of it are – they aren’t very comfortable. 😦   The cafe has this fab white-painted table in the window and I love that spot cos it’s light and airy and you can watch the world go by. But oh those stools are hard on the posterior and the spine!  But hey – this is just my personal view and other than that I like it very much.  So all power to their coffee cup! But if they could see their way to installing a comfy chair or two….

Prompted by a comment left on this blog post I asked Darkroom Espresso how they came by the rather intriguing name. Here’s what they said: “we were thinking about the “developing” of various things: community, flavour, ideas. Darkroom cropped up and seemed to stick.”  So there you have it – straight from the Barista’s machine as it were.  I rather like it. The name and the notion behind it. So here’s to their development – preferably with some cushions and comfy chairs for the not so young and not-at-all-cool that still appreciate a good cup of coffee.  😉

But lack of cushions and comfy chairs apart at least I didn’t notice any unfortunate grammatical/spelling/punctuation errors around the place as happens all too often. I’ve always been a tad irritated by such things but, since leaving university and starting my proofreading business, AA Editorial Services, I’ve started to get even more attuned to erroneous apostrophes or even worse, missing apostrophes! It’s enough to put one off one’s Cafe Noir for sure.

#coffee #swindon #coffeeshops #darkroomespresso  #cafeculture # cafelife #swindon #scae #wiltshire #magicroundabout #swindonmagicroundabout #swindonblog #swindon blog #thingstodoinswindon #thingstoseeinswindon #swindonia #swindoniablog #hiddenswindon #aaedits #proofreading #aaeditorialservices

2014 Programme of Swindon poetry festival

Swindon festival of Poetry

Swindon festival of Poetry

Just a quick press of the programme for the 2014 Swindon festival of poetry.

I’ve enjoyed events from the last two festivals very much – the poetry bus of previous years in particular was a blast.  So if you haven’t been to any of these events before then try and go because of course – Swindon IS the world capital of poetry. 

So, without further ado, here is the 2014 Programme.

There’s an awful lot of coffee …

… not in Brazil but here in Swindon it seems. There’s bean (see what I did there?) a fair amount of coverage in the local media recently about the number of coffee shops appearing in Swindon. There’s certainly a plethora of Costa outlets. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve nothing against Costa and do use them – though I don’t think the coffee is as good as it was when they first appeared on our High Streets – but they’ve sure as hell become ubiquitous. I’m even partial to a McDonald’s coffee if that’s what’s on offer – it’s really not at all bad. But wherever possible I’d rather support an independent. And in such establishments Swindon is especially blessed.

My absolute fave in the town centre for years now has been the Piri Piri on Havelock Street. Now this place has recently changed hands and name and is now called Luso Cafe. It’s still Portuguese and the coffee is still damn good but I’m not entirely sure it’s quite as good as it was. But don’t take my word for it – do try it yourself. I’m also sad that the wonderful Portuguese tapas are no longer available. It seems to be more main meals at lunchtime and that’s it. 😦   However, everything is a trade-off is it not and the place has had a lovely piff-up and I won’t deny it needed it. It now looks so much smarter. AND there’s a bigger choice of cakes available – not just the Natas – AND they do the Portuguese bread roll thing stuffed with chorizo which I love. Plus the prices are very reasonable. A large black Americano is £1.80 and a Natas is £1.20. Jolly good value indeed methinks.

Another favourite of mine when I’m over near the Outlet Centre is the 2Wins on Rodbourne Road. Another Portuguese establishment, this place has a wonderful selection of home-made (not bought in) Portugues baked goods. It’s worth making the effort to get to.

Currently creating a stir in Old Town is the groovy and hipster Baila Coffee and Vinyl and now we have the newest kid on the block Dark Room Espresso on Faringdon Rd. I haven’t as yet done a proper blog post about them but below are a few photos to give you a flavour. The couple running it are very lovely and I wish them every success.

But of course there are many,many more. Cafe Gusto and Cafe Art in Old Town both have their charms. As do them all and no doubt you’ve all got your own favourites. So here’s to  your coffee cup! May they all flourish and keep Swindon’s ever growing coffee scene full of beans!

Sunday 21st September – Bargain of the week

Yesterday I was out and about roaming around town and Old Town . I’d walked into town from home, a good hour’s walk, so was ready for a cup of coffee by the time I got there. Having heard from a friend that da Paolo Italian delicatessen on Commercial Rd did a good coffee I decided to head there and give it a go. She wasn’t wrong. Now as the name implies this place isn’t a cafe or a coffee shop but an Italian delicatessen selling all sorts of wonderful things. I bought a lovely roll there to take away with me which was stuffed with Parma ham and sun dried tomatoes and lots of splendid things. But as an extra service they do coffee. There’s a little table out on the pavement – okay it’s Commercial Rd not Brussesls but hey – so I sat there with a VERY nice coffee and two delicious little pastry things – see the pictures below – for £1.70. For everything. Yes listeners you heard that correctly. £1.70. So that was £1 for the coffee and £0.70 for the two sweet titbits. Is that great value or is that great value? I am in awe.

 May 2015: and now there’s another new kid on the coffee block in the form of @TheHub  – also clients of Outset Swindon these guys offer a different experience as they are also a cycle repair and retail ship. You’ll find them down on Fleet Street. putting pedal power into your cup:

#coffee, #coffeeshopsswindon #dapaolo #italiandeicatessen

The purpose of art …

… is washing the dust of daily life off our souls. So said Pablo Picasso. Well listeners, if we stretch that analogy a little further and consider the wealth of art of all kinds that goes on here in Swindon we can find ourselves washing the dust off our souls in a veritable ocean of creativity – much of which has featured at various times on Born again Swindonian. I’ve posted about Ken White and Second Mouth. We’ve had guest posts from Beatrice about being Out of the Centre and the fantastic Free Art Fridays. Not forgetting of course Artsite and the Postmodern. I popped in there today too and met Lynette Thomas who works with mosaics. I ended up buying a piece of her work and having a good old natter with the lovely people in Artsite. Lynette has created a wonderful mosaic homage to the Magic Roundabout a couple of pictures of which are in the gallery below. I like it. I want it. Don’t give me any other… I find myself drawn to mosaics. Earlier this year I bought a mosaic piece from another of the artists at Artsite which now has pride of place in my garden. Maybe I was a Roman in a past life? Anyway…

This year too I’ve learnt of the existence of David Bent about whom I really need a blog post. And of course there’s the small but perfectly formed Museum and Art gallery in Old Town with its terrific art collection. So who needs the Guggenheim?

A few months or so ago art work by Caroline Day started appearing on my Facebook timeline. I started sharing it on the Facebook page for Born again Swindonian – an act that resulted in a lovely guest blog post from Caroline in which she explained all about the work of the Old Town Garden’s art work.  So today it was a great pleasure to finally get to meet Caroline, up in the town gardens and to see some of her lovely works first-hand as part of the Old Town Garden’s Little Big festival and Swindon Open Studios art event. I like her work very much. Many of her prints have interesting juxtapositions of photographs of the band stand and even her children set against drawings of flowers.

Two artists I also had the pleasure to meet today were Terry Humphries and Susan M Carr. Susan is, amongst other things, a ‘Plein Air’ artist.  A little bit of internet research reveals that ‘En plein air’ is a French expression meaning ‘in the open air’. It’s used particularly to describe the act of painting outdoors. “Artists have long painted outdoors, but in the mid-19th century working in natural light became increasingly important to multiple schools of art.

The Barbizon school of France was of particular influence on the Realists, who focused their work on everyday subjects versus prominent figures.  These Realists inspired the Impressionists, whose style included visible brush strokes, ordinary subject matter, and an emphasis on light in its changing qualities.

The popularity of painting en plein air increased in the 1870s with the introduction of paint in tubes, which replaced the task of grinding and mixing dry pigment powders with linseed oil.  It was also during this period that the “Box Easle “, typically known as the French Box Easel, was invented. This development increased the ease and portability of art supplies, making treks into the forest and up the hillsides less intimidating and more appealing to those looking to paint new landscapes.” Read more here:  Their work also was lovely and I purchased a couple of lovely large postcards featuring the bowl in the gardens and the bandstand and cafe.

So listeners, the Swindon Open Studios weekends might be over now but all these artists (and there are more I’m sure) are here – living and working in Swindon. An artist isn’t just for Christmas – they are here all year round. And you don’t have to walk and de-flea them.  So if any of their work attracts you then seek them out! 🙂

#swindon #wiltshire #magicroundabout #swindonmagicroundabout #swindonblog #swindon blog #thingstodoinswindon #thingstoseeinswindon #swindonia #swindoniablog #hiddenswindon #swindonian #art #swindonartists #kenwhite #davidbent #oldtowngardensartwork

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