I’ve lived in Swindon, on and off, for most of my life and if there’s one thing you learn growing up in this town, it’s that when we talk about Swindon, we tend to do so with just a pinch of negativity, describing it as this grey cultureless wasteland, because that’s what we’ve grown up hearing. Negativity has long been the zeitgeist but, it only serves to perpetuate a depressing and quite frankly false and destructive image of the town.
I’m lucky enough to work in the arts, and 7 years ago I made a decision to focus my creative energies here, in Swindon. Naively, I began this journey from a position of negativity, assuming a lack of quality cultural activity… after all, everyone knows there’s nothing going on in Swindon, right? Well no, wrong…. very wrong. Far from being the cultural wilderness some would have you believe, you barely need to scratch the surface in Swindon and you’ll find a veritable bounty of creative gems.
It took no time at all to realise the truth. This town is bursting with creativity, from the home grown schools of performing arts, to the amazing bands, musicians and artists who share their work across the town and beyond. Swindon is home to professional poets, actors, artists, musicians, dancers, directors, lighting designers, playwrights, clowns and practitioners of all manner of artistic disciplines. Yet, the myth prevails.
So, I’m asking you now to stop judging a book by its cover. In fact, let’s peel back the cover, and see beneath the grey brutalist architecture, which has served so well, for so long, as a blank canvas for creativity. Let’s embrace and support the many talented people in the town who continue to create and share their work. It’s up to us to change the story. So tell your friends, your children, shout it out to strangers on the street (maybe not actually but, in a metaphorical sense), Swindon is awash with culture. Get out there and visit exhibitions, bands, dances, theatre, poetry recitals… pick up a paintbrush, dust off those ballet shoes, and join a community class. Because, if we start telling stories about the exciting things that are happening, have happened and might still happen, if we change the language we use when referring to our town, eventually this tale of Swindon the cultural wasteland fades into myth, and a new altogether more positive story emerges. But it isn’t one person who can make this change for the better, it’s up to all of us, it is our collective responsibility to change the rhetoric and shape the future of Swindon’s cultural landscape together.
Remember people, unicorns can only exist if we’re brave enough to believe in them!