Some of our younger readers might not believe this, but before the invention of Google we used to use maps printed on paper.  Actual tangible maps that we used to get lost and start angry spousal arguments about on the hard shoulder of the M4.

Comedy performer Helen Wood loves real paper maps; Ordnance Survey “one inch” maps to be precise.  She owns a t-shirt made out of Ordnance Survey map tea towels, which shows a certain degree of dedication.   She loves them so much, in fact, that she wrote a show about them that appeared, to much acclaim, at the 2017 Edinburgh Festival.  And last night, as part of the Swindon Fringe, she brought it to the Victoria in Old Town (which she presumably found thanks to her trusty Ordnance Survey map).

I was a little unsure at first.  Is it possible to sustain an hour long comedy show about Ordnance Survey maps?  It turns out that you can.  There was the potted history of Ordnance Survey maps (including why they’re called that), Ordnance Survey map poetry, a ‘virtual tour’ of the Cotswolds using Ordnance Survey maps and even some Ordnance Survey map origami.  And some free Kendal Mint Cake.

In this tour through the minutiae of Ordnance Survey cartography is a warm, yet quirky guide.  She has a genuine passion for the subject and this adds just a hint of borderline mania to her engaging persona.  This is true whether she’s juggling wigs playing a host of characters from the history of Ordnance Survey or recounting her circuitous tour of the Cotswolds with long-suffering husband in tow.

By the end of the show I was converted.  I’m a Ordnance Survey map fan (or a “Tim” as they seem to be known.  There were some serious “Tims” in the audience.)  I will be deleting my Google Maps forthwith and be spending my spare time yomping around, Ordnance Survey map in hand.

The Swindon Fringe continues until 15th April


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