*Note: Yes, this does sound boring, but it was seriously interesting.
I’ve lived in Swindon all my life and apart from the fact that during the industrial revolution we made a load of trains here, I knew nothing of the town’s history. In part, that’s due to the town planners of the 1960s and 70s tearing down all the nice, old buildings and chucking up cheap tat to try and tempt new business in to the town. So in terms of our architectural history, there is little left.
I won’t give you the whole 90-minute story, but I found out that when GWR brought a load of highly skilled workers in to work on the railway they built them some houses. And that’s it. No shops. No schools. No amenities whatsoever. It was essentially a railway factory and houses and everything else was fields. What followed was the people of Swindon getting together and helping each other out with activities to do while socialising, ideas to make quality of life there better and things like taking a little bit of their wages every month to pay for a doctor.
TURNS OUT, SWINDON INVENTED* THE NHS AND THE PUBLIC LIBRARY!
*Or at least these things were heavily influenced by what the people of Swindon had created
So before you make up your mind about Swindon being a dive, just bear in mind that we DO have a rich history of world renowned craftsmanship, the celebrating of multiculturalism, the ongoing thirst for cultural and artistic expression and education and above all else: People Power.
The evening ended with a quote – which I’ve subsequently forgotten – but it went something like this:
If you’re bored of your surroundings, take a look at yourself. Everywhere else in the world the sun rises and the sun sets in the same way. If you want to do something different, make it happen where you are.