Pam Ayres, the Swindon Slam! and a tribute to the very first author to sign up to the very first Swindon Festival of Literature, twenty-five years ago, are some of the poetic events this year.

The ‘brilliant’ and ‘loveable’* Sebastian Barker opened the Festival with his poetry in May 1994 and believed that a successful literature festival in Swindon was possible. These were the times when there were some doubters, people in high places, who did not believe that a festival of Literature would be welcome, or even thrive, in Swindon.

     Each life’s a glass that’s rubbed enough to sing
     – Lines of My Unborn Son, by Sebastian Barker

Hilary Davies, Sebastian’s widow and also a poet, will present pieces from Sebastian’s last book, Land of Gold, and from her own collections. Alongside Hilary, Jacqueline Saphra will read from her tribute to Lee Miller, wartime woman photojournalist, Bargain with the Light. Lee is pictured above in Hitler’s bath the day he died, captured by David E. Scherman.

Popular poet Pam Ayres is back with The Last Hedgehog a week after its publication date. Be one of the first with a signed copy and a bitter-sweet reminder to conserve this beloved member of our native wildlife.

Later that night, T. S. Eliot’s interlinked meditations, Four Quartets, will be performed by singer Flora Pethybridge and storyteller Ashley Ramsden. The performers treat the learning and reciting of Four Quartets as a compass for life, promising an uplifting experience. (You can buy a discounted double ticket for both this and Pam Ayres.)

Another poet and novelist who views the written word as a somewhat mystical experience is Ben Okri. The Booker Prize-winner will discuss how fairytales inspired the paintings of Rosemary Clunie and his accompanying stories in The Magic Lamp, and how our dreams shape the world.

From coffee to war, mental health to rapping grannies, Swindon’s flagship poetry competition, the Swindon Slam!, is well-versed in life, the universe and everything. What better Saturday night’s fun for audiences, poets and audience-poets? If you want to compete, contact the compere, Sara-Jane Arbury.

Other poetic opportunities include the Writing Workshop and Writers’ Lunch with poet and broadcaster Matt Harvey – who will also perform alongside the delightfully disturbing Hilda Sheehan and other acts at the Festival Finale – and the Wonderwords open mic.

To book tickets, click on the event or author’s name, or visit


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