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Bites and Bottles

May 2015

Food and drink are two things very close to my heart. Indeed I’ve written about my favourite coffee shops, restaurants etc on this blog. See more of that here:

Thus I’m more than happy to give a shout-out to a new blog that is concerned with both those things: Bites & Bottles.  The owner of the blog is @ThomasLittleUK on Twitter and he is looking for appropriate contributions to it. TWITTER HANDLE FOR THE BLOG: @BitesnBottles

The content of the blog is not necessarily Swindon-focused but of course it can be – and when I send some contributions to it – then it will be! 🙂

But as the blog is ‘owned’ in Swindon and can be about Swindon eateries and drinkeries I reckon it merits a slot on Born again Swindonian. So below is some information from Thomas about his new blog. He’s absolutely right that great food and drink doesn’t necessarily have to be fine dining. That very sentiment is the ethos behind Eggelicious and E2. Indeed, painted on the wall in E2 is a quote that sums up this very notion: “You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food.” (Paul Prudhomme) And, in the case of E2 and Eggelicious, never was a truer word spoken.

Bites and Bottles blog - picture from website

Bites and Bottles blog @BitesnBottles

Bites & Bottles is a brand new blog dedicated to everything food and drink. Great food and drink might come from fine dining or out the side of a van, it doesn’t need to have a label or price tag, what it does need to do is to pass the lips and deliver amazing flavours that you won’t forget in a hurry.


 Whether it’s world food, craft beer, fine wine or just a combination of food and drink that you would never have thought of, Bites & Bottles aims to cover it all. Glossy magazine and TV chefs are great at making people feel like they can’t cook or that certain ingredients only belong in pricey restaurants or are reserved for high days and holidays, Bites & Bottles is here to help dispel those assumptions. We’re actively looking for people to contribute to the blog on anything from restaurant reviews, recipes, articles on producers, photos and more! Just drop a line to:

 If you have something to submit please get in touch, if you love food and drink and want to know more or share what you’ve learned then Bites & Bottles is the place for you.’


Tune up for Swindon Community Choir

As my regular listeners know, the guest blog posts on Born again Swindonian often occur as a result of interactions on social media. This post though is the exception that proves the rule as I met Mandy, it’s author, via Outset Swindon both of us having been through their programme. Me of course for the setting up of my business, AA Editorial Services. 

In the course of conversation with Mandy and her husband I discovered their involvement with a community choir and felt it was something that should be shared on here. And I absolutely can’t sing – I only wish I could. My daughter once offered to buy me singing lessons suggesting I look at it as a service to the community. Harrumph!

Anyway, here now is Mandy’s post about the community choir and teaching Swindon, if not the world, to sing:

” ‘I can’t sing’ – the most common reaction received when I suggest singing to people who want fun, more social life and to raise their happiness quotient!

My name’s Mandy.  I have always loved singing with other people – I am a willing and enthusiastic enjoyer of the shared results.   In an interesting twist of fate, my first awareness that a community choir existed in Swindon occurred in 2002.  Lots of wonderful, new things started that year….  At the time, my husband Pete and I were keeping an African Drumming Group ticking along in Wroughton.  On the particular week in discussion, I happened to be away.

 After the session, Pete (who had always laughed at me because I can hardly hear a song without adding a harmony) said that I would have loved the events of that Wednesday evening.  A young Polish man, doing some “WWOOFing” (Working Weekends on Organic Farms) at Lower Shaw Farm, had joined in for the evening, asking at the end of it if the group would like to learn a harmony song.  Being the agreeable types, they did exactly that.  I was very glad that the following week, Pawol turned up again, drummed a smile onto his face and went on to share a song with us.  ‘You like harmony sing?’ he asked. Oh boy, did I.  “You know there is a choir at Lower Shaw Farm?”   How on earth did I not know that?  It’s on my doorstep.  I love the farm.  Yet, this young man came all the way from Poland to an African drumming group to tell us that a local lady called Linda and her husband, Martin, not finding the desired choir, started one up themselves.  Funny how it works, sometimes, isn’t it?  The group has grown and grown, moving from place to larger place and branching out to a Tuesday afternoon group at Lower Shaw Farm as well, singing eclectic songs old and new and from the world over.

Well, we are still there with the group – and extending the reach of the joy of A’cappella (voices-only) singing.  Linda and Martin have shown us the ropes of leading groups and we love it.  Repeatedly, we see people come in, looking for an outlet for their voice – and often wondering if they will be ‘good enough’ (everyone is; this is for fun, fun, fun!) and going away smiling. They are invigorated and usually more energetic than when they arrived.  There is a crazy idea around that a ‘singer’ is already publicly renowned or has to be good enough to be so.  One idea suitably scuppered, then!

Swindon Community Choir has over forty smiley singers turning up on a term-time Monday night.  (  We meet at the Central Community hall, in Emlyn Square, in the famous Railway Village.  The free car park is very well-used and the art of triple-parking has become the group’s knack!  The bus stops just at the corner. We have had singers as young as 9 and well into their 90s.  Let’s have some centenarians!

Singtastic website

Singtastic website

I love meeting people and discovering their loves, their ambitions and drives – and the amazing richness of past experiences.  The Monday morning drop-in, facilitated by our Community Engagement Worker, Kati Wood, is a great place to indulge that love.  In discussing my own, people asked us about what we do (‘we’ being Pete and I).  “Can you run a choir here, for us?”   Well, all things are possible if you really want them to be….

Singtastic on YouTube:

Kati stepped in quickly and told us about the ‘New Shoots” grant that’s available for local group activities.  Our local Swindon Councillors waved the magic wand.  Today, I am glad to announce that in April, on Thursdays 23rd and 30th, there are opportunities to experience this for oneself, free of charge, between 10am and 12pm.

As we are holding this in the Haydon Wick Parish Council offices, adjacent to the Haydon Centre, there will also be disabled facilities and outside, free parking.  (Just in case you might consider that I meant inside…)   If a song stirs you to join in at times, why not come along and experience the fun of group singing, too?  If you need more information about it, you can contact me on 07736 314912 or by email;” 

Mandy (Parsons)


Catherine Jay: artisan jewellery

21st February 2015

Greetings listeners. Here we are with another Swindon in Business post. We recently had one from Carol Alpin, founder and owner of the Pink & Green range of organic skin care products. Now, in a natural link to that post, we have a post about Catherine Attewell and her business brand Catherine Jay.

Like me, Catherine is a product of Outset Swindon but we actually met independently of Outset at another business networking group. Catherine made for me a pair of fab earrings to go with a necklace I already had. And I truly absolutely love them and wear them loads so I can well believe that when she was making and selling earrings in her student days they proved to be popular. Catherine is co-operating with Carol Alpin of Pink & Green  to showcase their products together at The Works hair salon in Redhouse. Like Catherine, I too am a delighted user of the Pink & Green organic skin care products.

Catherine Jay was created in 2014 by designer/owner Catherine who, having made and sold jewellery locally for several years, had a desire to create a beautiful, quality handmade jewellery brand.

Back in 2011 and feeling the need to make some life changes, Catherine worked with a life coach – a process that was instrumental in helping her to identify those aspects that she most connected with – one of which was her passion for jewellery making.

 “I had successfully made and sold earrings when I was a student back in the early 90s. I didn’t realise back then that my love of that activity would end up being my self-employment! I recall people loving the earrings I made and being keen to buy them. The buzz I got from this lay dormant until I recently re-discovered it.”

In recent years Catherine made and sold her jewellery in and around Swindon at craft fairs, local events, the Outlet Centre and the West Swindon shopping centre. Her designs were popular and she recognised that there was a market for elegant, well made jewellery for ladies who appreciate something unique and the polar opposite of mass-produced high street products – something made by hand with loving care and attention.

In November 2014, Catherine committed herself to building her Catherine Jay jewellery brand by holding a formal launch event at Stanton House Hotel. Catherine worked hard to make the event special. It certainly showcased her work beautifully as these photographs show I think.

As well as some very nice canapés and a glass of fizz we were treated to luscious jewellery themed cupcakes – or buns as I prefer to call them –  from the kitchen of Little Miss Cakemaker.

Catherine Jay makes one-off pieces and limited editions. When you buy a piece of her jewellery you are buying something special, something made with her passion for design. Catherine says “it is the gorgeous look and texture of the beads and the infinite possibilities for unique designs that inspires me. Quality beads and materials are fundamental to my work. I use freshwater pearl, crystal, gemstones and quality glass beads because these natural products have a luxurious texture and look that is an essential part of every Catherine Jay piece.”

The Catherine Jay range includes bridal, everyday and gift pieces, and she is going to expand to offer further designs and ranges during 2015.

In December 2014 Catherine Jay was delighted to receive approval from The White Wed Directory, “the ultimate directory for savvy Wiltshire brides”. Catherine’s first choice for a copy expert to help her with the directory entry was me – AA Editorial Services! A savvy choice though I say it myself. 😉

Catherine goes on to say that: ‘One of the amazing things about being self-employed is the other interesting people you meet who also have a passion and have taken that big step to make it their livelihood. For instance, I really admire Carol Alpin and her Pink&Green brand for wonderful, ethical, skincare products. I am personally a customer for her facial oil for sensitive skin and am feeling the benefits of moisturised skin. So it was an absolute pleasure to find that Carol and I were given the opportunity to showcase our products alongside each other at The Works. We are looking at further opportunities to work together to offer some truly special quality gift products!’

Catherine on Facebook: – and her website:


Pink & Green

14th February 2015

Hello listeners and welcome to the latest post in this Swindon in Business section of Born again Swindonian. As is my wont, since entering the world of self-employment with my own business AA Editorial Services: via the support of Outset Swindon, I like to give a shout-out to some of the businesses I’ve come across via Outset Swindon. So this post then is about Carol Alpin – the founder and owner of Pink & Green – creator and purveyor of delicious organic skin care for women. If reading this makes you want to know more about Carol’s lovely products you can do so in these ways:

The Pink & Green website:


Twitter: @AplinCarol

Pink & Green: affordable, ethical, natural

Pink & Green products

Pink & Green products

Pink & Green came into being in April 2014 when holistic therapist Carol Aplin, from Swindon in Wiltshire, UK, decided to create a range of natural, organic oil-based skin care products.

Carol had been an holistic therapist for seven years when she identified that many of her clients were becoming increasingly stress. A stress which led to a physical effect on their skin. Some years earlier she’d learned how to formulate skin care products when she completed a course on using natural ingredients for the skin and body. At that time she toyed with the idea of creating her own skin care brand but didn’t take it any further at that stage.

At the beginning of 2014 she began running workshops showing people how to enjoy the benefits of essential oils and carrier oils. She identified the fact that many people simply didn’t know plants had benefits for the skin – something Carol had known and taken for granted throughout her life.

Carol also realised that people didn’t understand that oils can be used to clean your face nor that there are lots of chemicals and alcohols in facial cleansing which strips the skin and can actually lead to more skin problems. Natural oils cleanse the skin and provide balance. So, in 2014, she came up with the idea of providing high quality, ethical, natural and organic skin care products by post. Overnight the idea for Pink & Green came into being. Pink was chosen to represent women and green for the environment.

Carol then conducted extensive market research including surveying women, creating focus groups and sending out samples for people to try the products and test the look and feel of the brand Pink & Green. It was officially launched in November 2014.

Today, the products on offer include a range of five facial oils suitable for most skin types, a rose floral water for toning and refreshing the skin and the hair, and a peach kernel oil cleanser. Currently Carol is researching and preparing new body elixirs and bath oils for launch in March 2015. Later in the year she will be launching an eye serum and hand and foot oils.

Listen to Carol talking about her products:

The current best seller is the peach kernel oil cleanser. Many customers have found that this oil quickly makes their skin feel smoother, more plumped and radiant. It removes the tightness which can occur when using chemicals on a daily basis.

The raw ingredients for Pink & Green’s product range come from UK-based wholesalers certified by the Soil Association as being organic in their practices. The ethics of the supply chain is important to this brand – suppliers must care about the environment, their people and their products.

Behind the business today are Carol Aplin and her partner Steve Wells. Carol is the creator and founder of the business concentrating on the marketing and development of the products. Steve manages the day-to-day production and IT support.


Carol has recently collaborated with another Outset Swindon client, Catherine Attewell who is the power behind the Catherine Jay brand of artisanal jewellery – and there will be a blog post about her business soon. They’ve been working together to increase awareness of their brands locally and to support each other as budding entrepreneurs. They currently have a display of some of their products in The Works hair salon at Redhouse in Swindon.

I’m currently trying Carol’s products and can happily vouch for them. And I’m the proud owner of a fab pair of bespoke earrings designed and made by Catherine that I totally love and wear loads.

Catherine Jay:





International Women’s Day: global and local

29th January 2015

Hello listeners. This post is by way of a  guest post from Francis Barrone about International Women’s Day and how it is marked here in Swindon. You can read more about the movement itself on the IWD website here: Follow @womensday on Twitter using #womensday

Frances and Karen are looking for volunteers so if you’d like to get involved then get in touch! Contact details at the bottom of the post.

“International Women’s Day Swindon 2015

International Women’s Day is celebrated globally on 8th March. This year we will hold the event on Saturday 7th March at Central Library from 10am until 4pm. In addition to Central Library we will encourage you to visit a pop up arts and culture café at the Post Modern Gallery – affectionately known as the Pomo.

International Women’s Day, (IWD for short) has been running for a number of years in Swindon and originally started in the Broadgreen area due to its diverse multi-cultural population.  The event is growing year on year and is supported by various charitable, philanthropic, business, arts, community, voluntary and support agencies including Swindon Borough Council. Last year the event was organised by Rosa Matheson, a local author and charity fundraiser from Highworth.

 The planning of this year’s event was kick-started at a meeting in early January. Rosa requested volunteers to take on the further planning and coordination of the event in her place due to writing and charity commitments, these will take her away from the country on the day of the celebrations.

 Rosa handed over the coordination of the event to the two who offered to take on this task, namely Karen Roswell and myself, Frances Barrone. Karen and I met only once before, a year ago at the previous year’s planning meeting but I knew I wanted to work with her and it seems we are united in raising the notion of sisterhood.

The theme last year “Respect not Violence” helped to raise the profile of men’s voices in saying no to violence in support of Women’s Aid. This year the theme is Equality for Women is Equality for All. According to some world leaders equality is deemed to be the most defining challenge of our time. Many believe that women who support other women have a far- reaching influence in shaping world ideologies and how we live for the betterment of all and also affect how we care for our planet.

 International Women’s Day is intended to be a celebration of all that is great about women in the attempt to empower, inform and inspire other women who may not have the same access, choices, rights or information that many of us enjoy. It is very much a multi-cultural fun family day out which doesn’t exclude men but puts women very much at the forefront and in the driving seat on the day. It will be entertaining, informative, interesting, joyful friendly, healthy and fun for all who attend. It will also provide opportunities for women who want to expand their own sense of belonging, ambition, wellbeing and creativity.

An event like this helps us to see the richness of Swindon’s culture, heritage and pioneering spirit and puts us on the map as somewhere that is a great place to live, love and develop.

My hope is that as many women as possible from all walks of life will join in the celebrations on the day. We aim to have a true representation of all Swindon women and invite you all to participate either in the free talks and workshops, exhibits and stalls or to simply enjoy refreshments in the arts and culture café or library.

The programme is shaping up nicely and includes talks, poetry, performances, crafts, free health and business advice and even a little bit of pampering. We hope that as many women as possible will wear traditional clothing. Guests will also include notable professional, business and community leaders . 

To make the day an amazing success we could also use about 20 volunteers for 2 hours starting at 8 – 10 am, 10am – 12noon, 12noon – 2pm and 2pm – 4pm.

Please visit share and like International Women’s Day Swindon Facebook page and keep checking in to see updates and the programme for the event. Feel free to get in touch with us by email: or call Frances Barrone on 07731 693082 or Karen Rosswell on 07545 243 246.”

Some photographs of IWD Swindon 2014:


Some recollections of an “old” Swindonian

Tuesday 6th January

Happy new year listeners! I hope that the festive season was kind to you and that 2015 will bring you some good things.

So here we are at the start of a new blogging year for Born again Swindonian. Last year was a successful one for this Swindon-centric blog, amassing 30,000 views in 2014 and 40,000 since it began. I’m kicking off this new blogging season with a guest post from Gill Thomas of Contemporary Botanicals. I met Gill at the German style Christmas market at Freshbrook Evangelical church – and a very lovely event it was too. Anyway, I was chatting to Gill at her stall and telling her all about the blog etc and she agreed to do a guest post for me. As an actual Swindonian she has written a delightful ‘memoir’ of some of her recollections of growing up in Swindon. I love the idea of the GWR hooter going off at New Year’s Eve. I’ve long thought it would be wonderful to have that sounded again for special occasions. And how sweet that there used to be illuminations in Queen’s Park – back in the day before fairy lights and garden lights were commonplace. That sounds just so delightful.  I really enjoyed reading this and I’m sure you will too. Thanks Gill.

‘Genuine Cockneys are said to be born within the sound of Bow Bells and I believe that genuine Swindonians are born within the sound of the Great Western hooter! I was. I put in my first appearance in the Kingshill Maternity Home and from the top of that hill you could see the machine sheds of the works all along the far end of Wootton Bassett Road behind the rec’. Every day, over a wide area (even in Lydiard), you could hear the hooter; it summoned men to work in the mornings, declared the dinner break and return, then finally the end of working day at 4:30. At 12:30 my grandfather, who was a boilermaker, walked briskly from the works through the alley from Dean Street and up Kingshill where his cooked dinner was waiting for him. Just before the hooter went again just after 1:00 for the return to work, he’d put on his cap, tuck a mint called a Long Tom in his mouth and walk briskly back to work. He did this without fail every day until he retired at 65.

 The other unique thing about the hooter was that on New Year’s Eve it would sound at midnight and there were detonators placed on the line at the works which would explode. Weather permitting, all the house doors would be opened to hear this – wonderfully exciting big bangs for a child who was allowed to stay up late for that one night! Then Dad would Act as First Foot, letting out the old year and inviting in the New Year.

 As a child growing up in the town in the 50s and early 60s, virtually everyone you knew had a family member “inside”. This didn’t mean that the town was a centre of criminality – “inside” was shorthand for the Great Western works. You kept clear of Sheppard Street, Rodbourne Road and Park Lane when the hooter went otherwise you’d have been mown down by thousands of bikes as the men left work.

 Our summer holidays started earlier than most other English schools because of “Trip”. We broke up on the first Friday in July because “Trip” was the annual factory shut down which began then. A lot of works’ employees received free passes or “privs” – rail tickets they used for their holidays. My grandparents went to stay in far off locations (ha!) such as Blackpool and Llandudno and I remember vividly meeting them on the station when they returned when there was always a stick of rock for me. Despite all the changes to the town in the years since then, walking through the tunnel at the station to get up to the platforms remains exactly the same experience – it even smells the same.

 During the summer holidays we played out all day, every day. We had trikes, bikes, roller skates, home-made stilts and lots of trees to climb along the old canal which, of course, is now Fleming Way from Jury’s Hotel to the Magic Roundabout. I once got stuck up a tree and was humiliated when my mother had to come and rescue me. I drove past that tree for many years often thinking of that little six year old tomboy. By the way, there was a small farm where the fire station is now – can you imagine!

I had a wonderfully happy childhood. Marvellous teachers in our local schools gave me a classical academic education that has stood me in good stead ever since. The town itself was bustling with a variety of shops –the old Regent Street was a world away from the current one – such memories! I was an avid member of the Junior Library which was situated at the top of Regent Street behind Martins bank and I have the dubious claim of being asked to leave on one occasion when I was found guilty of having a mouthful of Black Jacks! The Reference Library situated in the Town Hall was highly revered and way beyond a child’s reach. Saturday morning pictures at either the Gaumont or the Savoy were an absolute must, lustily belting out Land of Hope and Glory every week!

 Then there was the Queens Park. Every September, it staged illuminations which were simply lights among the plants, something which a great many have in their gardens these days but back then it was a real event. We would dress smartly – best clothes – and walk around with our parents at dusk, quite entranced by this spectacle.

 In terms of history, these years are merely a heartbeat away but these recollections read like something from the “olden days” and I suppose to the younger generation that’s exactly what they are and long gone. Some things, however, do remain from my childhood and I’m very happy to report that the specimen that was a must-see is still in residence in the Museum – the stuffed crocodile! It’s nice to know he and I are still here.’

ADHD Inspiration Day …

… Bringing inspiration to families of children with special needs

Hello listeners, you may have got the impression that business, events and the business world are dominating my thoughts at the moment. And you’d be right – with good reason though. I wrote recently about how I came to be venturing into self-employment with my post about AA Editorial Services. And this guest post from Alison Thompson – aka ‘The Proof Fairy’  also has connections with Swindon’s business community in that she has been supported in this event by Ant Hodges of the Business Success Academy and by the Athena Network in Highworth. It’s also by way of a comment on what many of us know – which is just how many great people there are in Swindon. Something I’ve always known but am constantly having reinforced as I attend business networking.

So now to Alison’s words about this special day for the parents of children with ADHD:

“A few months ago, my friend and business mentor Ant Hodges (of the Business Success Academy Swindon) suggested I put on a “little event” to launch my new business. I was about to qualify as a life coach and NLP Practitioner and wanted to work with parents of children who have ADHD. Being the parent of such a child myself, it’s the area I know best, the area I’ve written a book about (The Boy From Hell: Life with a Child with ADHD) and the area I feel passionate about. But put on an event? I wasn’t so sure …

Five days later I’d booked a venue – Lydiard House Conference Centre – and six speakers. This “little event” wasn’t quite so little any more!

Living in Faringdon, I had my pick of major towns to host the event – Oxford, Reading, Newbury … but for some reason Swindon seemed the natural choice. For a start, it’s the town I visit most, whether that’s for shopping, entertainment or business. I’m also a member of several Facebook groups for Swindon parents, so I knew plenty of mums who were likely to attend the event. And then there was the venue itself – I’ve visited Lydiard House on many an occasion and always been impressed by the building, the staff and the catering – mmm yummy! I wanted to give “my” parents a fun day out, a bit of a treat – and Lydiard House seemed to fit the bill.

Plans for my ADHD Inspiration Day (not a conference – that sounds far too boring!) got underway. But ticket sales were slow – non-existent, almost – and I got the feeling the very reasonable price was considered too expensive. And then, all of a sudden, people started whispering about Swindon. “Hmmm, tried to run an event in Swindon last year. Couldn’t get anyone interested,” I heard from more than one person. “I’d never even attempt to do anything in Swindon,” someone else said. “Why don’t you think about moving it to Oxford or Bristol instead?”

Poor old Swindon. What has the town, or its people, done to deserve such a reputation? I have no idea. But I persevered. I was determined my event was going to work, and I booked more speakers, and ran a crowd-funding project to create funds to give away some tickets. That raised over £2000 – helped in no small part by a Swindon business group, the Athena Network at Highworth. Applications poured in for the funded places, word got around that something was going on and slowly but surely ticket sales increased too.

As I write this there ‘s just over a week to go to the big event. I’ve been in the Advertiser and Link magazine, on Jack FM and Swindon 105.5. A dozen expert speakers will be descending on Lydiard House next week to inspire 75 people – mainly parents and carers, but a few teachers too – to support children with ADHD in new and effective ways. And I will be launching my coaching business at the event too, closely followed by a six-week support programme for parents at Sanford House in November. It’s going to be an incredible day, and I’ve already been asked about running similar events in different locations. Who knows, maybe this could become an annual, twice annual, regular event on a national basis!

But it started in Swindon. I made it happen, despite the reputation … and I’ll never regret that.”


ADHD Inspiration Day:

ADHD Kids:

The Boy From Hell book:

Business Success Academy:

Athena Highworth (East Swindon):

Incredible edible Swindon

I’ve recently come across some fab new groups on Facebook, that beloved of social media platforms.  As a result we recently had a guest post from Sarah Harris telling us all about the fabulous Free Art Friday movement and now we have Amanda writing about the Incredible Edible movement which has now taken root – geddit?! – in Swindon.

Before we get into the post ‘proper’ here’s some housekeeping:

If you wish to contact the group you can e-mail them on: Alternatively find the Incredible Edible Swindon on Facebook  or Twitter: @edibleswindon. The Incredible Edible Network is here:

Mechanics Institution Trust: and @mechanics_trust and and the Central Community Centre: and @Swindon_CCC

Okay listeners – now, as the newspaper sellers used to cry, ‘read all about it’:

“The Incredible Edible movement has arrived in Swindon! But what’s it all about?

 The Incredible Edible Network is now a UK-wide phenomenon, which started in Todmorden. They started a growing revolution that has been so successful and now even has the support of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Prince Charles. We want to replicate in Swindon those positive changes, which are happening in Todmorden and all over the country.

 At its core, Incredible Edible Swindon, is about getting the community involved in planting edibles (veg, fruit trees, herbs etc.) throughout the town centre and surrounding areas. The produce is available for anyone to pick and enjoy. By making healthy food accessible, we also hope to promote healthy eating. As individuals, communities and local businesses come together to plant and maintain the beds we are also collectively revitalising our cherished public spaces.

The group started in June of this year after a conversation with my friend Anna who had listened to Pam Warhurst, a co-founder of the initiative, speak about what had been achieved in Todmorden. Despite my lack of gardening knowledge I just knew I had to get involved – Anna’s enthusiasm is infectious – and after Anna wrote a blog on the Incredible Edible Network’s webpage (while slightly tipsy 🙂 ), there was no going back! Kathryn our mutual friend, who already knew about Incredible Edibles, came back from holiday to find we’d been busy, and was involved immediately as someone with great experience as Vice-chair of The Secret Garden, Swindon and a background in community regeneration. Anna also had a like-minded work colleague, Stan who soon joined and after a small advert in the Swindon Link for new recruits, we were introduced to Lisa, whose enthusiasm for the group matched ours.

As our first project we have been given a great opportunity to team up with the Mechanics Institution Trust at the Central Community Centre, which they run in the Railway Village. With the support from Swindon Borough Council, in particular Frances Barrone and Mark Walker, we have been working with Sean Haines (Community development co-ordinator), to create a vegetable patch that can be used for the residents of the Railway Village, especially at their luncheon club, and hopefully, in time, cookery classes. It really is fitting that we should have our first edible patch at the centre, as this building was the Railway Village hospital and, when in the 1940s, the government needed a model for the founding of the NHS, they turned to the Swindon Works and its pioneering local healthcare.

Here’s a few photographs of the group working on their first patch at the Central Community centre:

 We have only been going for three months but already we have met some incredible and passionate people who also care about Swindon and its communities and want to see them thrive. We are keen to get many people from across the town involved and would love anyone who has any ideas or who can help, in whatever form that may be, to get in touch with us. 

What a delight it was to be asked to be a guest blogger here on Born Again Swindonian. Thanks Angela from all at Incredible Edible Swindon!”


#swindon #wiltshire #swindonblog  #thingstodoinswindon #thingstoseeinswindon #whattodoinswindon #swindonia #swindoniablog #hiddenswindon #swindonian #swindonia #BAS #bornagainswindonian #incredibleedibleswindon #incredibleedible #produce #homegrown


Free art Fridays

As regular listeners will know, here on Born again Swindonian I’m keen to get ‘out there’ anything ‘arty’ that’s going. Even when a ‘thing’ isn’t my thing I like to give it a shout-out. And as I’ve discovered since I set this blog up there’s so much arty stuff happening in Swindon it’s quite amazing. Indeed that very sentiment was expressed in a recent guest post from Beatrice, part of the Second Mouth group.  So the latest addition to the arts scene in Swindon is Free Art Friday which, apparently, is a global movement. So isn’t that fine thing – Swindon being part of a global movement?

I really like this idea and would love to chance upon a piece but the chances are slim as I’d never get myself organised enough. I’m not sure why but it vaguely brings to mind the art boxes one used to be able to get in the Arts Centre.  There was an old wooden condom vending machine on the wall into which you stuck a pound coin and out popped a little box of out. I absolutely LOVED it. It was like some sort of lucky dip. I still have all the pieces I collected artfully (Ha!) arranged in a 3D box with a perspex front. Can someone not bring that scheme back? It was great!  Anway, here to tell us more about Free Art Fridays is Sarah Harris who describes herself thus: ‘ A mum of 4 boys aged 12 to 24  that works as a statistician . An enthusiastic amateur artist in my spare time. My favourite artists are Francis Bacon, Robert Rauschenberg and various street artists including Borondo, Alexis Diaz and Herakut.  Other hobbies  are Sci Fi , comics, ice hockey (Swindon wildcats season ticket holder of many years). I’m the main point of contact for FAF Swindon but there are lots of other peeps involved too.’ So now you know. Actually, that’s interesting about the ice-hockey interest. A guest post about that would be good! Okay – that’s enough waffle and twaddle from me. Now over to Sarah:

Free Art Friday Swindon

Free Art Friday is a global movement, originated by My Dog Sighs, a street and gallery artist from Portsmouth – who in turn was inspired by a number of other artists who have been happily distributing their work for free for many years.

In essence – it relates to pieces of art made to give away, which are left out on the street or any other public place (usually, but not always, on a Friday) for any passer by who takes a fancy to it to pick up and take home. For free.

The finder has the thrill of the hunt or the excitement of an unexpected gift – and it is just as exciting for the artist: leaving the artwork out in public, guerrilla style; wondering who will pick it up; getting an acknowledgement and a thank you if they are lucky; and new exposure to a whole new audience.

This short video from the BBC’s Culture Show explains the whole concept pretty well:

The Swindon Launch

We launched the Swindon branch of Free Art Friday with a major event in late July – over two days (the last Friday and Saturday in the month) 200 pieces of art made by over 50 artists were distributed all around the town:

Free Art Friday pictures

Free Art Friday pictures

On the Saturday in particular, one of the hottest days of the year, we were out dropping art in the town centre, Old Town, Coate Water, Lydiard Park, Queens Park, and many other well-trodden local spots for 13 hours straight! But it was totally worth all the effort as we had plenty of delighted finders:

Free art Fridays

Free art Fridays

Ongoing weekly activity: 

Now that the big launch is out of the way, we have settled into a regular routine of smaller drops every Friday – we are currently putting out 4 pieces a week in various spots around town, and will continue to do so while we still have art to give (so let’s hope the contributions keep coming in from our wonderful artists….)

For the finders, we hope they are finding it a really fun experience, because who doesn’t love a treasure hunt??

We post “hint” photos to the Free Art Friday Swindon Facebook page as each item is dropped, to give a clue to where it is, and then the race is on to see who can find each piece first! We always hope that the finders will complete the circle by taking photos of themselves with the pieces they have claimed and post them back up to the Facebook page along with a message to the artist – after all, everyone likes to get some feedback 🙂

And as for the artists, for the professional artists this gives an opportunity to create anything they like, free from the constraints of commerce, try out new ideas, and just have fun! And for the keen amateurs, it’s a way to get their artwork out into the world, and enjoy the reactions of the strangers who claim it for their own, and it makes a nice change from giving stuff to family and friends

The artists can make any type of work that they like, the only rules: 1) make sure that the work is easily removable and does no damage to its environment,

2) nothing too adult in theme, as these items are going to be left in a public place where anyone could pick them up, including kiddies and

3) probably best to stay away from anything edible as we don’t want to be attracting the local wildlife (unless they are art fans!)

For further details, please see our Facebook page:


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The Five Ways Project

Since I began writing this blog I’ve encountered many great people via social media. Some of whom I’ve also met in the ‘real-world’ and some of whom have remained as virtual contacts, But whichever camp they are in, I can honestly say that communicating with them has enhanced my life.  I recently made contact on Twitter with the account for the Five Ways Project who were looking for people to give a little voluntary help here and there.

As many of you listeners will know, I have recently graduated from university. In order to support myself I’m now setting up a business offering editorial services. But I’m very fortunate in that I don’t need to work full-time thus am able to give some time elsewhere. To that end I’ve been helping out a bit at the Richard Jefferies Museum and have volunteered some help to the Five Ways Project  (search for  Five Ways Project on Twitter) using my capabilities with the English language. So by now you might be wondering what The Five Ways Project is all about – fear not listeners! Belinda Platt who is part of the project, has written a lovely guest post to tell us all more about it.  First here’s some context from Belinda about herself in her own words:

I have Bipolar and OCD and have suffered with an eating disorder. How does this relate to the 5 Ways and Swindon, you ask? Swindon was the home of my recovery. Swindon was the home of hope. Swindon was the home of Me.

In 2011 I was referred to TWIGS (Therapeutic Work In Gardening Swindon) in Cheney Manor, where I took part in the Arts and Crafts activities. I was terrible but I tried my best. It was there that I learned of the Five Ways to Wellbeing. It wasn’t in our everyday programme but it was always there in the background. Suddenly – for me – things seemed a lot clearer. I looked at which of the five I had in my life at that time.

I had always felt something was missing in my life – but could never put my finger on it – I just never felt “whole”. I scored extremely low out of the five. So I decided I’d try this out – “Give it a chance” I said to myself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” Well I’m here to tell you the BEST happened.

This is what I’m hoping to tell people through the Project. And at the same time give back to that much-maligned town I love: SWINDON. As well as putting all our efforts into helping the Swindon community, we are going to use purely local Swindon businesses, volunteers, organisations to create it. We have website designers, printers, distributors all from our very own town. It is by Swindon, for Swindon, with Swindon at its very heart.

We want Swindon to become the HUB OF WELLBEING. People look at us all and go: this is what we want to be. They visit and they feel our community spirit, the town’s own wellbeing.

We want Swindon to be happy and healthy. It deserves to be, and so do you.’

At this point I should say that, as a previous sufferer of depression, I’ve some personal experience of what this is all about and when I came to Swindon I was able to access mental health services that were simply unavailable to me back in Derbyshire. Similarly when my mother developed Alzheimer’s disease the help she got here in Swindon was fantastic. All of which, combined with complicated pragmatic reasons, is a big part of why I feel so strongly about Swindon. That and the fact that it has lots of great facilities and public art of course!  🙂

So now to Belinda’s post about the project itself – much of it is common sense really – and I’m certainly doing the ‘keep learning’ bit but it never hurts to be made to consciously think of these things I feel. So thank you Belinda for this and very best wishes for the success of the project.


Fiveways Project Logo

Fiveways Project Logo

 The Five Ways Project – a new initiative for Swindon

‘How happy are you? Really? Why do you think that? Happiness is such a tricky subject – and means different things to different people. For one it might be family – to others their health – to others a big bar of Dairy Milk!

 Well, we have just started a new initiative for Swindon called “The Five Ways Project” and I’m here to tell you what WE feel is the route to happiness and, more importantly, personal well-being.

Wellbeing is defined as the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy.”

  In 2008, a group called the New Economics Foundation devised their theory of the Five Ways to Well-being. In case you haven’t heard of them, these are five methods that the NEF say all intertwine to create a happy and healthy wellbeing: CONNECT, TAKE NOTICE, GIVE, KEEP LEARNING and BE ACTIVE.

Connect with those around you – family, friends, even strangers. Build on your relationships with people, create new ones.

Take Notice of everything around you – your surroundings, a scent of a flower, the way the sunshine hits the grass.

Give – to others, to yourself – money to your favourite charity, time to another person – perhaps that elderly lady who lives across the hall from you that no-one ever visits – listen to her, talk to her, be with her.

Be Active – this is obvious – your body is extremely important for your wellbeing – physical and mental health should be, and are, equals. Many see physically active people as “healthy” – yes they are and it’s extremely necessary – but ARE they healthy? Wholly?

Keep Learning – as just mentioned we are constantly told to keep fit physically and that is correct – well your brain is just as important as your heart – they are linked as people say – it needs exercise – go to that evening class – read a book you’ve not heard of before – go to a cookery demonstration – the world is full of things we don’t know (despite many people thinking they DO!!)

I asked above whether you would think a physically healthy person – someone who eats the right number of calories, goes to the gym 3 times a week, is the right weight for their height – has a healthy well-being?

We feel not so – we believe well-being is a combination of all five different factors.

That physically healthy person – have you seen them away from that “exercise regime”. Do they have friends? Maybe they’re extremely lonely people behind closed doors. Do they ever give their time to someone else? Or are they completely self-involved – have the “Me, Me, Me” syndrome? Yes their heart may be fit and working to the best of its ability – but that doesn’t necessarily make them have a healthy well-being.

We say ALL the aforementioned five qualities should be present to feel truly balanced, healthy and well.’


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