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LINK No 5 February 2018


Delivered door to door to 50,000 households across Swindon with Est. overall readership of 125,000

Your Community Magazine

The Service Sector p28

East Edition

Swindon Life p19

Swindon Lives: Award for Inspirational teenager Phoebe p23

The Puzzle Page p31

Corbyn talks to Swindon health workers amid NHS crisis p8 Community: P2-20

Swindon Wide: P21 - 29

Leisure: P30-39

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Helping the less fortunate

Funding secured for all-weather pitch at New College

By Group Editor Jamie Hill

The festive season might seem like a million years ago now but we celebrate the success of this year's Christmas Care campaign in the magazine this month. The annual drive to help the homeless at what is one of the coldest times of the year was a massive success. It even managed to provide Christmas lunch to 50 vulnerable people from across Swindon And it is now up to all of us in Swindon to make sure that we help the less fortunate throughout the whole of 2018 and continue the good work that Christmas Cares has done. There are several organisations in the town who help with our most vulnerable from Threshold, Big Breakfast Plus, Booth House, Culveray Court, The Filling Station, Nightshelter, and Carfax Street, which is currently part of an eleven week project to see if a permanent shelter would be possible. And each and every one of us can help by volunteering or donating to the causes. Read all about it in our special report on page 17.

Director: James Phipps Group Editor: Jamie Hill Deputy Editor: Ben Fitzgerald Associate: Roger Ogle Reporter: Claire Dukes Sales Admin Manager: Sue Roberts Sales: Dave Stewart & Rosy Presley Office Manager: Karen Randall Photography: Richard Wintle & Rachel Davis -

New College has secured funding and planning permission to develop an all weather pitch. Work on building the new pitch started last month and is estimated to be complete by April 2018. The new facility, on the Buckhurst Fields behind New College, will maximise opportunities for students and community groups to play sports in all weather conditions. Once open, the 3G pitch will host full size matches or can be split so that four games can be played at once. Football will be the core sport played on the pitch, which will also have a spectators’ area. Ian Howell, Football Academy Coach said: “This new Facility will enable the New College Football Academy to develop

their training and games programme. "Giving the students a state of the art 3G training facility will help them develop for the future years. "It will also help with winter training and games and help to expand our programme to support the local community and students joining New College. "Soccer Excellence who run Football and Multi Sport courses at New College, in line with running the Football Academy, will be able to expand and develop further courses as well.” Key partner, Swindon Town Ladies F.C. will also be benefitting from the facility, using the pitch for training purposes. The club said: “We as a club are looking forward to seeing

the new All Weather Pitch at New College. "As a football club it will allow us to train in the heart of Swindon, just down the road from the football club, on what will be an excellent surface. "It will help the club to move forward and enhance the current offer to the club’s players.” The pitch is set to open in the next few months, ahead of training for the 18/19 football season. There are plans for the pitch to be open for public use Mon-Fri 4:30pm – 9:30pm and 10am – 9:30pm over the weekend, providing 45 hours and 180 bookable sessions per week for local teams and community groups. For further information please contact the Sports Centre at New College 01793 732847.

ADVERTISING Call 01793 781502 or email: Closing date for March adverts and editorial: 9 February March edition published: 23 February Our Statistics Est. Readership of 125,000 in print & c.25,000 monthly online visitors. Swindon’s largest free publication. Advertising starts from just £51.

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Got a community story or feature? Contact newsdesk at or 01793 744677 n February 2018

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Fundraisers invited to splash out to raise money for range of good causes Fancy making a splash for cash? Swindon fundraisers are being invited to raise money for good causes by taking part in a charity swimathon. The event, taking place at the Link Centre on Sunday April 22, is organised by Swindon North Rotary Club. The event is open to groups of friends, colleagues or club members to boost the coffers of a charity of their own choice as well as Wiltshire based charity Inner Flame. Participants are asked to sign up with a team of

four to eight people. Team members will swim in relay for 55 minutes with all those taking part receiving a medal and a certificate to verify how many lengths they have done. Swimmers will be responsible for handing their sponsorship money to the Rotary Club which will then be split fifty fifty to Inner Flame and the team's chosen charity. Entry forms and sponsorship forms are available at www.

Fundraiser to support town’s homeless By Claire Dukes

Homeless people in Swindon will benefit from a fundraising event organised by Swindon Helping Hands on Saturday 17 March. The black tie event will be held at Swindon’s Meca for an evening of live entertainment, an auction and fundraiser, live music, and prosecco. Swindon Helping Hands is a local organisation which provides provisions, such as clothes and sleeping bags, and food to Swindon’s homeless whilst working alongside other charities – The Big Breakfast Club, Alternative Angels and Threshold. March’s fundraiser is being organised by Helping Hands members Gemma George and her mother, Rachel George Tucker. Although the group does not work explicitly with mental health, Miss George has experienced first-hand encounters that combine both 4

issues Gemma explained: “In 2013 I had a call from a hospital in Reading to let me know that my brother, who I hadn’t seen for years, had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act. “There was nothing available in line with his medical needs, my brother ended up on the streets for the second time in his life, sadly resulting in drug addiction, and of course prison shortly followed. In 2017, after again being in prison, my brother was released but the same thing happened again." Gemma praises the local groups that work to tackle the crisis, but believes there is a lack of a permanent bases for Swindon’s homeless to use which is why they set up in car parks and shop doorways. All the money raised at the event will go towards the group’s upcoming projects in a bid to secure supported accommodation for the homeless. Tickets: n February 2018

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Brewers celebrate 175th birthday with visit from Duchess of Cornwall

By Ben Fitzgerald

Arkell’s Brewery, Swindon’s oldest business and one of just 29 old family breweries left in the UK, is celebrating 175 years in business this year. The brewery anounced in January that HRH The Duchess of Cornwall will tour Arkell's Brewery to mark the celebration. The visit, scheduled for Tuesday 30 January, forms part of a year of celebrations,

HRH The Duchess of Cornwall

Nick, Alex, George and James Arkell

including a Beer Festival at its Kingsdown Brewery, Saturday 15 September. The brewery was established in 1843 as an offshoot to the family farm near Swindon, at the same time as Isambard Kingdom Brunel was building the Great Western Railway. Arkell’s beers helped quench the thirst of workers in the hot locomotive works. Swindon’s historic railway

works may have closed in the 1980s, but Arkell’s Brewery continues to thrive, with four members of the Arkell’s family currently at the helm: Chairman James Arkell; his cousin Nick Arkell, Head of Wines and Spirits, and James’ sons George and Alex Arkell are Managing Director and Head Brewer respectively. Arkell’s Chairman James Arkell, said: “We are honoured

to be welcoming The Duchess of Cornwall to our family brewery. It is a marvellous way to mark the start of our 175th anniversary year. It’s an incredible achievement for everyone involved in the brewery and in our pubs. “Arkell’s pubs sit at the heart of our local communities and we thrive on maintaining that close link with our customers." n February 2018

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Mayor hosts tea to thank volunteers from Swindon City of Sanctuary By Claire Dukes

The Mayor of Swindon, Cllr Maureen Penny, hosted tea at the Civic Offices to thank staff and volunteers from Swindon City of Sanctuary for their on-going work. Swindon City of Sanctuary is a local charity which works with and support refugees in Swindon. This includes running community events, and their latest initiative 'Room for All' whereby local residents with room to spare can house refugees for a period of time. The Mayor hosted the event to bring pledgees together to network, connect, and watch the charity's latest promotional film. She welcomed guests and said: "It's important you're all here and to acknowledge all the hard work that you're doing within the community - you all do such a wonderful job. "There are millions of refugees worldwide, and it's so

Swindon City of Sanctuary staff and volunteers

lovely to see Swindon doing their part." Shareen Campbell, Swindon City of Sanctuary's Chair, explained how the Mayor has been keen to engage with the charity and refugees coming into Swindon. "As chair, and owner of local restaurant Los Gatos, Shareen hosts communal events which bring various cultures from within Swindon together to cook, share and sell dishes. As part of the evening the charity previewed their latest promotional film Our Blood is as red as Yours. The film allows refugees to share their experiences and express their gratitude for the help they've received,

whilst also enabling Swindon residents to understand the work the Swindon City of Sanctuary do and how they help better the lives of those less fortunate. Development worker, Nicola Johnson, finalised: "I believe we live in a global community, and that we should extend a hand of friendship to those who have to start all over again. "Swindon City of Sanctuary aim to help people understand that refugees are not a threat, but are members of the community who need support." For further information about Swindon City of Sanctuary, visit www. swindon.cityofsanctuary. org

Excalibur staff take to the outdoors for charity sleep out By Claire Dukes

Staff from Excalibur Communications particpated in an overnight sleep out to raise funds for Threshold and Wiltshire Air Ambulance. So far Excalibur have raised £2,219 (including gift aid) for the charities. Threshold is a local charity which provides emergency support for homeless people in Swindon. They supply vital provisions including short and long term accommodation, as well as a drop-in breakfast club and soup kitchen. Wiltshire Air Ambulance has been a well established charity since 1990, which raises integral funds to maintain operation of air ambulances across Wiltshire. Excalibur staff slept out overnight in the office car park last month, using only sleeping bags and cardboard shelters. Excalibur Sales Manager Darren Harper explained:

“Sleeping rough is a true hardship even more so through the winter months. People who have taken part in previous years have said how it has highlighted some of the challenges and has made them much more aware of the widespread homeless crisis." Executive Chairman of Excalibur James Phipps added: “These two organisations, Threshold and Wiltshire Air Ambulance, are doing an incredibly important and

Dental surgery plans Plans have been lodged to build a new dental practice in East Wichel. The Dental Practice, at Unit A, Staldon Court, will provide services to both NHS and private patients and comprises a three-surgery practice along with a waiting area for patients. It is proposed that the practice would employ three dentists together with a hygienist and receptionist. The plans can be viewed on Swindon Council's planning site using application number S/17/2027. Old Town & East Wichel Councillor, Nadine Watts, welcomed the application: “There is a huge demand in the local area for dental places and this will help many residents."

Town website revamp Town centre management company inSwindon Town Centre BID has launched a new website for the town centre www. The website features events and information about Swindon town centre including a directory for shopping, leisure and business, latest news, job vacancies, what’s on, and Loyalty Card offers. It has been designed to be more user friendly, engaging and interactive to attract visitors to the website to find out more about Swindon Town Centre.

From stage to screen

challenging job and it is a pleasure to support them in any way we can.” To support Excalibur’s fundraising, people can donate via their Virgin Money page at www.virginmoneygiving. com/Team/Excalibur3

Swindon's Shoebox Theatre are holding a one day masterclass: An Introduction to Screen Acting. In this one-day workshop led by Matt Cross, you will be introduced to the technical demands of acting for film, explore the differences between stage and screen acting. The course, which costs £45, is held on Saturday 17 February, 10am-4pm Suitable for ages 18+ n February 2018

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Jeremy Corbyn visits Swindon to discuss NHS 'crisis'

By Jamie Hill

“It’s not just a winter crisis any more, it’s a 12 month long NHS crisis. A permanent state of crisis.” This is the description of the current state of the NHS given by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as he chaired a round table discussion with Swindon health workers during a visit to Park South Community Centre in Cranmore Avenue. The Labour leader took questions and listened to the concerns of the various people gathered at the event including representatives from frontline Great Western Hospital nursing staff, care staff, mental health professionals and auxiliary staff. The event was organised by Labour’s newly voted in Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for South Swindon, Sarah Church. Concerns raised included the massive strains that the Great

Labour parliamentary candidate for South Swindon Sarah Church

Western Hospital is facing in every department as it faces crippling bed and staffing shortages with people having to stand in corridors on drips and waiting times getting longer. Jeremy Corbyn, who was born in Chippenham, said: “We believe that the NHS is not being properly funded or managed and the purpose of this visit is to talk to people 8

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn paid a visit to Park South Community Centre in Swindon to chair a discussion with health workers

on the ground as to what very real problems they are facing. “We would make the NHS a funding priority. We would take these huge PFI payouts back in-house. You wouldn’t buy a house on a credit card so why would you buy a hospital in that way? The interest payments alone are astronomical and are putting an unsustainable strain on our hospital budgets. By taking them over we would be able to have a measure of control and be able to funnel funding to where it is really needed. “One of our other proposals is to create a National Care Service. Up and down the country there is a massive disparity in levels of care and we would like this to be properly managed and governed so that there aren’t these geographical differences. Care provision is essential to free up beds in hospitals. “There are so many issues that need to be addressed and it is round table discussions like this that help us shape the way these are dealt with. One of the points raised in the discussion that is particularly worrying was mental health especially when it comes to young people. The

biggest killer of young men nowadays is suicide and that needs to be addressed properly.” Other issues raised included the lack of help for people wanting to get into nursing especially since the Nursing Bursary was cut. This was something Mr Corbyn said that a Labour Government would reintroduce to head off the skills shortage that the NHS is currently facing. He said: “Getting the right people into the profession is essential. We need to address the fact that hospitals are relying too much on agency staff and put in place proper pay structures so that nurses aren’t being forced to go to food banks. “I have come to Swindon to show my support for the amazing work these frontline health professionals do in the area as well as show my support for Sarah Church who has just been announced as the PPC. “This is my third visit to the town in the last 12 months and I’m sure you’ll be seeing me again very very soon as there’s still so much to do.” Sarah Church was announced as Labour’s candidate for the South Swindon constituency

to stand at the next general election earlier this week. Sarah, a former Army Major, has been an active campaigner in Swindon heading up the Save Swindon Libraries campaign. She stood for Labour in South Swindon at the 2017 general election, achieving a 9% swing to Labour and more than halving the Conservative majority making the seat a genuine marginal. She said: “I am honoured to have been selected again as the prospective parliamentary candidate and to have Jeremy visit only a few days later is fantastic. “This morning’s discussion shows that Labour listens to people. The Conservatives have not listened to the experts: the doctors, headteachers and business leaders. Making policy in the face of overwhelming opposition from expert voices, and the public, is not the right way to govern.” n February 2018

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Staff will still be paid

Swindon's Great Western Hospital has moved to reassure patients following the collapse of Carillion, which pays the wages of almost 400 cleaners and catering staff at GWH. A spokesman for Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “We fully expect services at GWH to continue as normal. "There will be minimal disruption to patients or visitors. “We remain in close contact with our PFI provider, which holds the contract with Carillion, and have been given assurances that all staff will continue to be paid.”

Long running club

Swindon’s largest running club has celebrated 10 years of encouraging runners of all abilities. Slinn Allstars boasts 260 members, ranging in age from 18 to 81. Mike Wakefield, an original member of the club and its current chairman, said: “Ten years ago Swindon didn’t have a non-competitive running club that embraced all abilities so a few like-minded friends decided to start one. It's gone from strength to strength."

North Wilts TKD to hold action-packed charity event for Uplands School By Claire Dukes

On Sunday 25 March local Tae Kwon Do group, North Wilts TKD, will be holding a charity event to raise funds for Uplands School. The 100 Rounds of Sparring is an open event which invites anyone with martial arts experience to get involved, as well as residents who would like to understand more about Tae Kwon Do and Uplands School. Uplands is a specialist school, based in Tadpole Lane, which provides support and educational facilities for children with complex learning difficulties including autism and Down syndrome. North Wilts TKD are hoping to raise awareness about the vital work that staff at Uplands do for their pupils. Chief Instructor Leanne Lolly explained: "The reason we got involved with Uplands School is because my husband Paul, who is also a Chief

Instructor, has a son Zac who is a student there. Zac has Down Syndrome and the school has been nothing but an amazing support for him - always encouraging him to achieve his best. Zac also trains in TKD and is now a Yellow belt and very much striving for Black Belt already. "We are asking any martial arts students to join us for 100 1 minute rounds of sparring to raise money for this amazing school which helps children from all across Swindon with a huge variety of different learning difficulties. "It will be a fun relaxed afternoon with lots of breaks and refreshments. All we ask is for people to raise a minimum of £5 sponsorship, but it would be amazing if we can raise more! There are also really good prizes for top adult and junior fundraisers." The event will take place at Uplands School from 11.30am. For further information email

Jobs saved as local company is sold out of administration

Watch your waste WILTSHIRE Wildlife Trust is challenging people to go waste free for February. The initiative is aimed at encouraging householders to ensure every piece of waste their homes produce can be recycled, reused or composted in some form or another rather than ending up in black bins and heading for landfill sites. Anyone wanting to join in or looking for ways to reduce waste from the home can follow WiltsWasteWatch on Facebook or SlimBinsWilts on Twitter. 10

Forty eight jobs have been saved at a long-established Swindon company which has been making high quality furniture since the middle of the last century. WJ White Ltd appointed business recovery specialists Begbies Traynor to handle its administration after trading was hit hard by the decision on Brexit. The administrators completed the sale of the company and its assets out of administration.

Joint administrators Julie Palmer and Sally Richards, from Begbies Traynor’s Swindon office, sold the company out of administration to WJ White Contract Furniture Ltd. Julie Palmer, who is Regional Managing Partner for Begbies Traynor in the South West, said: “The company began to experience financial difficulties following the Brexit vote, and suffered a subsequent fall in demand. Furthermore, the high

fixed costs associated with the business, such as its production factory, made its variable demand difficult to manage. However, the company has a bank of highly skilled craftsmen. “Working closely with the management team within a tight timeframe, we were able to ensure the business now has a firm footing, and we are optimistic that it can now look to 2018 with optimism.” n February 2018

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Swap your seeds with Incredible Edible

Our family service caring for you By Claire Dukes

John Pearce (left), Belinda, Tracy and David. Here for you when needed most

A truly personal and compassionate service available 24 hours a day, every day of the year Included in The Good Funeral Guide since 2011 in recognition of our high standards of service

Pre-paid funeral plans

• Home visits available

Providing peace of mind for you and your loved ones Our Prepaid Funeral Plans provide a 100% Guarantee of our funeral director services and fees required for cremation at today’s costs, whilst also enabling you to record your funeral wishes in full.

Local group Incredible Edible are hosting thier annual Seed Swap event Saturday 17 February from 2pm to 4pm at Central Community Centre SN1 5BP. Incredible Edible aim to connect the local community and budding gardeners, through creating edible plots using vacant spaces across Swindon. Seed Swap is open to anyone who would like to see what the organisation do, or join in with one of their many community projects. All that is required are seeds to swap, or a recommended charitable donation from 50p per visitor.

Incredible Edible's treasurer, Lisa, said: "It is designed to raise awareness of what we do and also to allow gardeners to come together, and maybe try their hand at something different." The annual Seed Swap also includes a selection of soft drinks and food throughout the day, giving guests the opportunity to socialise and understand more about biodiversity schemes throughout Swindon -

Our Fully Guaranteed Prepaid Funeral Plans start from £3,350* For extra peace of mind, a complimentary, professionally written Will can be provided (if required). The option of paying by monthly instalments is also available. To receive a £75 discount on these fees please contact us, quoting the reference ‘Link1’ Town Office 1 Groundwell Road, Swindon SN1 2LT

01793 422422 Chapel of Rest 92 Ermin Street, Stratton St Margaret SN3 4NN

01793 832072 * for the option of burial a contribution of £1250 will be made towards third party costs. Valid until 31st March 2018

12 n February 2018

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Up close and personal with Oak and Furrows

Ben Fitzgerald paid a visit to the Oak and Furrows Wildlife Rescue Centre to see first-hand the incredible work being carried out by staff and volunteers to care for wild animals. I’m sharing a room with approximately 150 sleep-deprived hedgehogs. The little spiky bundles are snuggled in nests of shredded newspaper in a series of individual boxes, each with carefully recorded medical notes. The majority have been brought in to the Oak and Furrows wildlife rescue centre by concerned members of the public – who have found them wandering about in a confused state when most sensible hedgehogs should be hibernating. The centre’s founder Serena Stevens explained: “These hedgehogs are too underweight to survive hibernation, so we will look after them over the winter period until we can release them into the wild again. We try to return them to the gardens where they were found because this is the best place for them. Gardeners welcome them because they are a great way of controlling pests, much better than using pesticides all over the place.” Standing at the end of an anonymous track off the B4040, a collection of buildings houses all manner of recuperating creatures brought to the

rescue centre by the RSPCA, the police, members of the public and vets. And in any given year, the centre can expect to take in more than 3,000 wildlife casualties and field more than 7,000 telephone calls from all over Wiltshire and further afield. Staff member Emma Hickey introduces me to another of the centre’s temporary guests, a female Roe deer, which is being cared for in a clean and spacious hut in the grounds of the centre. She said: “We think that she may have suffered a head injury, she has most likely been hit by a car and run off into the woods. Often when a deer receives a head injury its eyesight suffers and it takes a while for this to return.” She added that the deer, which had been brought in to the centre a week ago was showing encouraging signs of recovery, thanks to the devoted care of Oak and Furrows staff. Among the other animals being cared for at the centre during my brief visit were a badger who was found entangled by barbed wire, a fox who had been suffering from an infection and a kestrel with a broken wing. The vital work of the centre costs £30,000 a month to run and the service was facing potential closure before Christmas. Serena explained: “We are

desperately in need of support to maintain our service. It would be a shame if we were to close after all these years. We are calling for any support that people can give.” The Oak and Furrows Rescue Centre was inspired by Serena’s daughter Melissa who found the energy to care for injured animals despite having cystic fibrosis. Melissa sadly died at the age of eight and the charity continues its work as a wonderful legacy for her passion for wildlife. The centre urgently needs your help to continue its important work Individuals can support the work of Oak and Furrows by volunteering their time or by making a regular donation or one off payment to the charity by logging on to their website www.oandf. The charity, which has poet Pam Ayres MBE and author Daphne Neville OBE as patrons, can also be supported by booking a lecture for schools or community groups in return for a small donation. Oak and Furrows would also welcome corporate sponsorship or donations. Contact the charity (registered number 1115926) on their 24-hour landline 01793 751412 and become a friend on facebook ‘Oak and Furrows Wildlife Rescue’. n February 2018

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Opportunities at JobFest 2018 On behalf of Swindon Borough Council, Education Business Partnership (EBP), will be delivering the JobFest 2018, at Steam on 6 March 2018. Now in its 4th year, JobFest 2018 will bring together Swindon employers who are offering apprenticeships and employment opportunities to 16-24 year olds in the local area. JobFest has evolved year on year and has fast become known as an important platform for employers to reach out to local young people and meet their future workforce. In 2017, 95% of young people attending said they would recommend this event to a friend. This Education Business Partnership event, assisted by Business West, will be promoting, informing and engaging young people about the career options available


to them in the Swindon area. JobFest 2018 is on target to involve over 50 businesses from a wide range of industries from Engineering to Social Care, plus national and local apprenticeship training providers promoting a variety of opportunities in and around Swindon. Cllr Oliver Donachie, Swindon Borough Council Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills, said: “The Council has made it a priority to offer education opportunities that lead to the right skills and right jobs in the right places. �To help young people gain an understanding on what is on offer in Swindon the council is bringing businesses and training providers together at JobFest for a fourth time. There has been some marked success in previous years and last year 30 candidates were identified for posts." n February 2018

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Staff at Lydiard Park Conference Centre face redundancy Staff at Lydiard Park Conference Centre are to be made redundant after employer, The Chartridge Conference Company Ltd, announced that it plans to cease operating at the end of March. And the trustees of Lydiard Park Heritage Trust have warned that the move could pose a risk to the continued running of Lydiard House with the loss of income vital to support the running of the venue. In a statement, the trustees of the Lydiard Park Heritage Trust said they were “saddened” by the news. “These are worrying times for the hardworking and loyal members of staff and we feel for them. “All relevant parties have known that the Chartridge Conference Centre business has been on a downward trend for some time. Indeed the

spokesman said: “We are aware that Chartridge will stop operating the Lydiard conference centre at the end of March. We are in discussions with Chartridge to minimise the impact on any bookings and will be considering options for the future of the conference centre. In the meantime, the due diligence period with the Lydiard Park Heritage Trust will continue.”

extension of the due diligence period, between ourselves and Swindon Borough Council, is in part due to uncertainty regarding the future of the conference centre. “We fear that Lydiard House itself would be at grave risk if the conference centre were to be left unoccupied for even a short period of time. The conference centre should

be providing vital income to support the running of the House and Park. "We therefore trust that Swindon Council has a contingency plan in place and that they, as owners of the building, will take steps to ensure that a way is found to keep the conference centre open for business.” A Swindon Borough Council n February 2018

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The Pear Tree at Purton to close after 30 years One of Wiltshire most highly regarded country house hotels, the Pear Tree at Purton, is set to close after 30 years. Anne Young, managing director has decided to retire and her daughter and hotel manager husbad will be moving with her family to begin a new life in the north of England. Anne explained: “I have given 30 years of my life to this business and while I look forward to retirement I will miss the hotel, staff and my friends in the community very much. “Overheads have continued to rise, especially utilities, repairs and food. Last year we moved from a seven day to a five and a half day operation but we still have struggled as a business to balance the books. “We made every effort to continue as a going concern but this just wasn’t possible. We wanted to do what was fairest for our staff and customers.” The hotel has won numerous accolades over the years and was featured in the Good Hotel Guide for 14 years. The Pear Tree is in the process of being sold and should re-open as a different business in due course.

The Pear Tree at Purton which has gathered a reputation for excellence over the years

Agency launches satellite data competition

The Swindon-based UK Space Agency is inviting young people to suggest ways of using satellite data to benefit health, the economy or the environment. The SatelLife Challenge, now in its second year, is open to those aged 11 to 22. Ideas from last year’s competition ranged from solutions to help increase the survival rate of heart attack victims by using GPS trackers in fitness devices, to an app that warns people about impending natural disasters, guides them safely away and alerts emergency services. Satellites support the economy and everyday life, and this competition gives young people the chance to test their ideas with industry experts and perhaps one day become part of the fastest growing sector of the UK economy. The UK space industry builds 40% of the world’s small 16 n February 2018 E February Master pages.indd 16

satellites and 25% of the world’s telecommunications satellites. It supports 40,000 jobs and generates £14 billion in revenue across the country. Science minister Jo Johnson said: “Satellites are shaping our society and increasingly important for our economy. “We need to ensure the potential benefits of space are felt across the whole economy and encourage young British entrepreneurs to develop ideas that rival the best in the world.” The competition, which aims to support the development of science, data handling and technological skills, is split into three age groups, with overall prizes of £7,500 for the best individual and best team. A further seven entries from across the age categories will win £5,000, making a total prize fund of £50,000. The judging panel will be made up of experts including representatives from the UK

Space Agency, the European Space Agency, the Satellite Applications Catapult in Harwell and industry. Adina Gillespie, Head of Applications for Earth Observation and Science, at Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL), one of the expert judges, said: “The SatelLife competition is a great initiative to encourage young people to think about satellite applications and

consider future careers in the space industry – and we have a lot of fun along the way.” Entries can be as teams or individuals and all prize winners will be able to pitch their idea to a panel of ‘dragons’ from the space sector who will offer prizes. The competition closes on 25th February. Visit the SatelLife Challenge entry page for information at

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Swindon homeless charities work together to help those in need

Swindon has multiple charities supporting homeless people within the community. Christmas Care has been providing support for homeless and vulnerable people in Swindon over the Christmas season since 1998. At Christmas the charity took residence at Buckhurst Park Community Centre in Walcot. From Christmas Eve to 28 December guests were provided with food, donated provisions such as clothes and toiletries, shower facilities and a secure overnight shelter. Organisers of Christmas Care said they were pleasently

overwhelmed by the amount of generous donations which they received. Christmas Care Chairman, Diane Killick, said: "Christmas Care 2017 was busy, with old and new faces. We achieved what we set out to do, which was provide food (which was very good) shelter, and hospitality.



By Claire Dukes

This is what humanity is all about.

"We saw an average of 25 folk each day, with more on Christmas Day when over 50 dinners were served. "Volunteer meetings were

very well attended, and all the volunteers were brilliant. All the remaining donations were distributed to Big Breakfast Plus, Booth House, Culveray Court, The Filling Station, Nightshelter, and Carfax Street - all of which are local agencies that support the homeless throughout the year." On top of Christmas Care's organisers and volunteers, support and charitable donations were also provided by the Bible Life Fellowship Church at Gorse Hill and Swindon Hindu Temple Trust. Pradeep Bhardwaj, of Swindon Hindu Temple commented: "There is no bigger joy than to serve the people who need help. The first part of our day was

dedicated to preparing and serving a hot Indian food buffet and distributing clothes to the homeless people at the Christmas Care homeless shelter. "It was so inspiring to meet and talk to all the kind volunteers at Christmas Care. Our sincere gratitude to all who helped make this happen. This is what humanity is all about." Every volunteer had their own reasons for participating. There were those who have personal experiences with homelessness, others understood the need for community support, and some just wanted to play their part, which in the long run will hopefully help alleviate homelessness in Swindon.

Diane Killick, Cllr Junab Ali and John Davidson

Swindon Hindu Temple cook up a storm

As part of an 11 week project from January to March, up to 18 homeless individuals will be working alongside Swindon Borough Council at Carfax Street. Guests who cooperate with the council and charities involved will be given a housing offer at the end of the 11 weeks The council will then also evaluate the outcome for logistics towards future schemes. Cllr Cathy Martyn, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing

Christmas Care's second donation day

and Public Safety, and Mike Ash, Acting Corporate Director of Communities and Housing, said: “The Temporary Winter Housing Provision that has been set up at Carfax Street is a new and innovative approach to supporting Swindon’s population of rough sleepers. "The project is being supported by health services including GPs, Mental Health professionals as well as the Substance and Alcohol misuse advisors at CGL. We hope to radically improve the health, housing

and wider opportunities for as many of these individuals as possible. “None of this would be possible without the overwhelming support of our committed volunteer base, so we’d like to thank those involved for giving up their time to help some of the most vulnerable members of our community. "We’re still looking for more volunteers. Anyone interested in volunteering please contact Rachel Holly via" n February 2018

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It’s a Love Revolution at The Brunel Shopping Centre Once just about romantic love, Valentine’s Day is now seen as the perfect opportunity to show appreciation for all the people you love and adore. The Brunel Shopping Centre’s Love Revolution has something for everyone this year. On 14 February children will be able to make Valentine’s Day cards in the craft area in the Arcade (near to That’s Entertainment). Just drop in between 10.30am and 4pm. Activities are free but an adult must accompany children. For those hoping to find romantic love the centre is holding its very first speeddating event on the evenings of 14 and 15 February. Tickets cost £15 including a supper. It has to be worth a just never know! And for those who have already found the love of their lives, there’s a chance to win a romantic city break for two,


worth £500 with our Valentine’s competition. To enter go to www. Leave your very own messages on our Love board – can you imagine how good it would feel for your loved one to spot a message that has been left just for them. Or how about tweeting on the centre’s Live Twitter Wall. The most romantic tweet could win a £100 gift voucher. Don’t be shy! For those short of inspiration on what to get your loved one The Brunel have put together a handy gift guide and have filled the centre’s display cabinets with Valentine’s Day gift ideas to help you. For details of all activities, opening times and gift guide go to n February 2018

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Swindon Life Celebrating town living

New Steam exhibition focuses on 'The Art of Publicity' A number of striking publicity materials produced by the GWR will form the basis of a new exhibition at Steam – Museum of the Great Western Railway. Entitled The Art of Publicity, this special exhibition opened last month and focuses on the artwork used to publicise tourist destinations along the GWR’s routes. Visitors to Steam can discover the ways in which the Great Western Railway’s publicity department worked hard to advertise the company’s service

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and encourage holiday makers to travel by rail. This included employing some of the finest graphic designers of the time to produce the artwork for its posters. The exhibition includes railway posters and carriage prints from the Steam collection. Cllr Garry Perkins, Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet member responsible for Steam, said: “This is a fascinating exhibition and is a real must for anyone with an interest in the history of the GWR." Steam is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm and on Sundays from 11am to 4pm.

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Valentine's day - how you can find true love By Ben Fitzgerald

When it comes to matters of the heart, it is widely acknowledged that my understanding is second to none. So, with Valentine’s Day approaching, let me take you by your trembling hand and lead you gingerly through the minefield of love towards the sun dappled grove of togetherness. Firstly, don’t be fooled into thinking that Valentine’s Day is in any way romantic. If you are in a relationship, Valentine's is a time when you are under huge pressure to demonstrate how much in love you are… to everyone else. That leaves little time for staring deep into each other’s eyes; because there are Instagram posts to organise, the carefree ‘you-caughtme-off-guard' photographs to choreograph and the all important ‘hygge candles and Nordic slippers’ picture to stick up on Facebook. By the time you’ve finished fooling around with all that, you will have no time for any actual fooling around. And if you’re not in a relationship... even if you’re happy that way, it’s a time when apparently you should be attempting to find ‘the one’. I’ll admit, the last time I was

‘in the market’ was so long ago that people routinely used things called books to look up information. It was all very different back then. These days looking for a partner has never been easier, and as a result, much more difficult. It’s so easy to arrange a date now that I could easily set up an awkward Nando’s liaison with a stranger with just a few swipes of my thumb, not once moving out of my chair. But to subsequently form any kind of meaningful connection with that person, no matter how good the fried chicken is, would be like rolling a boulder

Pen a romantic poem to a loved one Poetry column by Poetry Swindon’s Maurice Spillane

This is the month to write a poem. Not any poem, a love poem for Valentine’s Day. No matter how good or bad it is, you know one person who’ll love it. My recommendation is to pick an event that was precious or funny for you both. Write around ten lines and don’t bother about rhyming. Don’t complicate it with fancy or obtuse words. The first part 20

of the poem should recount the event and the second part its importance to your partner. Soppy is good. The first draft will be rubbish but you’ll soon find yourself in the zone. A rewrite, followed by another rewrite, a word change here and there, and you’ll be smiling. Leave it for a few days. Read it out loud to make sure it sounds great. If you stumble, change the word. Every poem goes through the same metamorphosis no matter

up a hill… using just your nose. You see dear reader, Cupid lies in ambush, preferring to shoot his arrows of desire when you are least expecting - it could be when you are putting the bins out or falling up the stairs on your way into work. Or it could be at that party that you reluctantly drag yourself out to - even though you might have to miss out on watching Celebrity Pointless. Perhaps you will meet 'the one' when you are pondering which colour toothbrush to buy in Boots on a dull Tuesday afternoon or taking your cat to the vets to be put down. In fact the one thing you

can be sure of is that it will happen when you are least expecting. For what it’s worth, if you want my well informed opinion (and I know you do) don’t go chasing love, because it will slip out of your hands like an anxious eel; just go around being a decent person and it will probably happen to you - and if it doesn’t, at least you can be content in the knowledge that you haven’t wasted too much of your time doing things that you think might impress other people but are actually quite tedious - like doing press-ups or learning how to dance the American Smooth.

how experienced the poet. Stick “I Love You” at the bottom and you’re done. A real romantic would frame it. You can buy a small frame in Next for £6. Here’s one from my book “Love and Other Distractions.” The poem is called Dreams. Using dreams as a catalyst gives you lots of options. My wife loves this poem. And what are dreams? Bits and pieces of flotsam washing up on the beach, dancing in time to the motion of waves; forever in touch,

forever in line. Catch my fingers and dance with me. Or go wild. Take your partner to Dublin to visit the remains of St. Valentine in Whitefriar Street Church. Read your poem afterwards over a pint of Guinness in McDaid’s. • Open Mic - Monday 12 February, 6pm at Richard Jefferies Museum • Beehive Pub – Tuesday 13 February from 7pm Maurice Spillane www. n February 2018

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Swindon Spotlight

YOUR GUIDE TO THE MONTH AHEAD In the community l Swindon Helping Hands are holding a fundraiser Saturday 17 March. The group are a local organisation which provides provisions and food to Swindon’s homeless whilst working alongside other charities. All donations recieved will go towards their upcoming projects. For tickets visit


Ant Middleton, adventurer, survival expert, TV presenter, ex elite forces soldier, will be coming to Swindon’s Wyvern Theatre Tuesday 27 February. Ant’s appetite for adventure and extremes has no limit and has led him to take on some amazing challenges both in the military and in his TV roles “SAS (Who Dares Wins)”, “Mutiny” and “Escape” (Channel 4). In this adventure filled one-man show, Ant recounts his extraordinary life in the military – having achieved the elite forces holy trinity serving in the paras, marines and SBS – with tales that will defy belief for their sheer bravery and danger. The tour also includes further tales and behind the scenes moments, revelations and gossip from his TV shows; and will give us an exclusive insight into his life and exciting future TV projects.


Enjoy an evening of conversation with Frank Bruno MBE, Monday 12 February. Frank talks about mental health, his recent book, and boxing career, from starting out to becoming one of Britain’s most loved sports personality. Meet and greet tickets also available. Tickets at £32


Improvised scenes, verbatim testimony and top mathematical research combine to create a unique theatrical experience for every audience that offers a glimpse of a life lived with epilepsy, Tuesday 6 February. Tickets at £13


Arts Centre, Devizes Road SN1 4BJ. Tel: 01793 524481 Central Community Centre, Emlyn Square SN1 5BP. Tel: 01793 420649 The Platform, Faringdon Road, Swindon SN1 5BJ Phoenix Theatre, New College Drive, Swindon, SN3 1AH. Tel: 01793 732889 The Rolleston, 73 Commercial Road, Swindon SN1 5NX. Tel: 01793 534238 Shoebox Theatre, Theatre Square, Swindon SN1 1QN. Tel: 07340 758497 St Michael’s Hall Lechlade Road, Highworth, SN6 7HQ. Tel: 01793 763907


Joe Pasquale is starring as the loveable accident-prone Frank Spencer from 21 to 24 Feb. From roller skating mishaps to chicken chases, Some Mothers do ‘Ave ‘Em has unquestionably been one of the most memorable sitcoms of its decade. Tickets from £28.50 to £38

Roves Farm, Sevenhampton, Nr Highworth SN6 7QG. Tel: 01793 763939 Shoebox Theatre, Theatre Square, Swindon SN1 1QN. Email: Swindon Information Centre, Central Library SN1 1QG. Tel: 01793 530328 Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, Bath Road SN1 4BA. Tel: 01793 466556 The Victoria, 88 Victoria Road, SN1 3BD. Tel: 01793 535713 Wyvern Theatre, Theatre Square SN1 1QN. Tel: 01793 524481 - Confirm date, time & price with venue

l On Saturday 3 February Younite are holding a Charity Ball at the Hilton Double Tree, Raising funds for Younite Foundation. Younite is a charity that has been set up to support disadvantaged children and young people. This event is specifically raising funds for two schools in Kenya. l On Sunday 25 March local Tae Kwon Do group, North Wilts TKD, will be holding an open charity event to raise funds for Uplands School from 11.30am. For further information contact l Incredible Edible Swindon will be holding their annual Seed Swap Saturday 17 February, from 2pm to 4pm at Central Community Centre. l Lloyd and Rose Buck 'Our Life With Birds', Monday 26 February. 'Our Life with Birds' gives audiences a rare opportunity to meet Golden Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, hawks, owls, starlings and many more - all raised and trained by bird handlers Lloyd and Rose Buck. They are frequent guests on BBC programmes such as The One Show, Springwatch and Countryfile. n February 2018

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Plans in place for 25th Swindon Festival of Literature Plans are being put in place for the 25th Swindon Festival of Literature.

Already booked to appear at the silver anniversary festival next May are the longest-serving female MP Harriet Harman who will be talking about her book A Woman’s Work; philosopher A C Grayling, who will talk about the nature of democracy; tennis coach Judy Murray, songwriter Peggy Seeger; international authority on urban change Charles Landry, with his book on how a town or city can be both creative and civic; kind but controversial carer Camila Batmanghelidjh; former punk musician and now brilliant writer Viv Albertine and poet Matt Harvey. The festival boasts more than fifty events spread over two weeks, including the Dawn Chorus in Lawn Woods with performers, poets, and storytellers; a health and story-walk walk, a freedom run, and circus fun in Lydiard Park; the unique Swindon Think Slam; a Children & Families Weekend; the twenty-second Swindon Poetry Slam; and the fabulous Poems, Pints, and Music Finale.

Clockwise from left, Camilla Batmanghelidjh, Judy Murray, community poet Tony Hillier and philosopher A.C. Grayling

A full line up will be announced at Swindon Central Library on 22 March.

Swindon director premieres ‘Follow the Crows’ at Cineworld Countless years after a devastating apocalyptic event humanity has been reduced to a few wanderers searching the Earth for something to live for. February 1 will see Swindon-based director Alex Secker premier his first feature film Follow The Crows at Cineworld in Shaw Ridge, which will be entered into film festival across the globe. Having spent years working as a freelance camera operator before turning his attention to directing, Alex Secker has a lot of experience in the film-making industry. He has written and directed several short films, some of which have gone on to national film festivals, and he won the People’s Choice Award for his debut stage play, The Door, a psychological thriller and a political allegory which received critically acclaimed reviews. Working on Follow the Crows, Alex explained: “The idea for Follow The Crows was born mostly from necessities. Who did we have cast wise who would likely be willing to come on board? What kind of a story would lend itself to broken shoots, taking place over evenings and weekends. How could we best utilise the scenery and locations available to us in Wiltshire (such as along the Ridgeway or Savernake Forest). “The cast and crew were entirely local people and everyone worked really hard to pull it off, in many ways we became the very thing the film warns us not to lose, a team. It was a fantastic experience and it feels strange now watching it reach its conclusion, with the showing on February 1. “The film was shot on next to nothing, entirely self-financed and shot over evenings and weekends. Everyone who worked on it did so for free and for nothing more than the love of the project. We all believed that we were making something special and I think that comes across on the screen." For further information about the film visit 22 n February 2018

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Swindon Lives IN CONVERSATION WITH: Phoebe Maddison By Ben Fitzgerald


“I am determined not to let diabetes hold me back.” Phoebe is a hugely self-assured 13-year-old who has attracted attention for her relentless efforts to change the perception of the condition she has lived with for such a long time. “I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 4, so I have been living with it for as long as I can remember. But I’m keen to show that I don’t let it control me and I hope that other young people who have just been diagnosed with diabetes will see that it doesn’t have to be a barrier. I don’t really think of it in that way and I want other people with diabetes feel as positive about their condition as I do.” Phoebe, who is also a talented singer, is a keen supporter of the JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Charity), singing at their annual ball in Bournemouth and also the Diabetes UK charity. She was supported this year by her 10-year-old brother who collected more than £100 from donations. Her efforts to boost fundraising and raise awareness have been recognised - recently being presented with a British Citizen Youth Award. “I went to the Houses of Parliament on October 19 to be presented with the award. It’s such an honour and it was amazing to be there with other young people who were also receiving the award. It was fantastic to hear their stories and really humbling.” “It was amazing to meet Theresa May -

I am determined not to let diabetes hold me back


she also has diabetes but shows that the condition does not have to be a barrier. She was really friendly and she has great style, she was wearing some brilliant shoes!” In addition to this, Phoebe also starred in a short film entitled ‘What do you really know?’ in which she interviewed other youngsters her age at Abbey Park School

about their understanding of diabetes. The film was awarded a BAFTA for best short film in 2015. And in 2016 she was awarded the Pride of Swindon Award for her work after being nominated by members of the public and selected by the awards judging panel. The inspirational youngster is also in the process of recording a charity single ‘I am the hero’ to raise funds for diabetes research. “I’m not sure what I want to do when I get older - but I’m pretty sure that I want to do something that involves performing. I would love to get into TV and film work, that would be brilliant.”

Diabetes Factfile Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person's blood sugar (glucose) level to become too high. The hormone insulin, produced by the pancreas, is responsible for controlling the amount of glucose in the blood. There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 – where the pancreas doesn't

produce any insulin type 2 – where the pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin or the body's cells don't react to insulin. There's no cure for diabetes, so treatment aims to keep your blood glucose levels as normal as possible and to control your symptoms to prevent

health problems developing later in life. l For more information about the condition, log on to the NHS Choices website For information about the JDRF see or Diabetes UK at www. n February 2018

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Swindon Arts Centre presents the complete Beethoven works Come February 25, Swindon Recital Series will host an evening of the complete Beethoven works for cello and piano over two concerts on the same day. This is an exclusive opportunity to hear Beethoven’s entire output for cello and piano in one day. The five sonatas and three sets of variations will be played over two concerts in order of composition, exploring Beethoven’s musical development. The charismatic cellist Julian Metzger, already known to SRS audiences, is often praised for giving both technically and musically exciting performances. Drawing on a rare depth of emotions he delivers exhilarating and inspired interpretations whilst faithfully communicating the composer’s message. Wherever he plays he delights audiences with his rich palate of sound colours, treating the listener

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Julian Metzger

to masterworks played with absolute conviction. Julian is joined for these performances by SRS’ Founder and Artistic Director Paul Turner. Julian and Paul appeared together at the Arts

Centre in November 2016 when they formed two-thirds of the Enigma 14 trio. These concerts will be a true tourde-force for both performers, presenting extraordinary, dramatic, humorous, violent and

beautiful music. Whilst still studying he made his debut at the Purcell Room and performed recitals in Hong Kong. Since graduating Julian has performed regularly at concerts both in the UK and across the world, his repertoire including not only the works of the most famous of composers but also lesser-known works. Paul Turner is an Honours graduate and an elected Associate of the Royal Academy of Music where his many prizes and awards culminated in the Queen’s Commendation for Excellence and the Peter Pears Accompaniment Prize. An experienced recitalist he has appeared at London’s leading venues and major UK festivals. He has given concerts in Europe and South America and worked with eminent singers and instrumentalists. For further information, visit www.

Katherine Jones

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Swindon Fringe Festival announces all-star line up

El Diablo Of The Cards - NOS Three Theatre

From April 6 to April 15 the Swindon Fringe Festival will once again explode across our fair borough, bringing with it a tornado of talented artists performing a rich diversity of shows across a broad spectrum of the performing arts world. Yes once again the Swinge will represent a perfect marriage of local with global, traditional with modern, funny with frank, Swindon with… Fringe. Some of their best loved (and award winning) performers from previous years are back including Tony Cowards – Punderdog, Rob Gee - Fruitcake – Ten Commandments from the Psych Ward and Brave Bold Drama - George and the Flight of the Imaginees. As always, the festival is teeming with brand new writing and superb Swinge newcomers such as Radio 4’s Kyle D Evans - Born To Sum, The O.S Map Fan Club and Instant Wit. Swindon's latest venue, The Crossing, is an exciting new space in The Brunel Shopping Centre which will be hosting several shows this year. As well as new writing there is also modern interpretations and reimaginings of classics such as Brontë and Sealfie. The Groovy Pig Music Festival is back again this year and as well as a veritable deluge of musical genres, Damon T + Luke Philbrick will once more be bringing their soulful Americana Blues to The Vic along with a host of other artists including local favourites SexJazz and the intriguingly named Spunking Octochoke. For further information

The O.S. Map Fan Club - Helen Wood

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Review: Tiffin Indian Buffet By Ben Fitzgerald

If I were stuck on a desert island and a genie suddenly appeared from a washed up bottle and granted me the traditional three wishes, first on my list would be unlimited supplies of curry, closely followed by a constantly replenishing cup of tea and then perhaps some form of rudimentary raft as an afterthought. So the chance to try everything on the menu at the newly opened Tiffin buffet restaurant in Regent Circus was too tempting to resist. First impressions were just great - whoever was employed to sort out Tiffin’s interior design has done a cracking job, with over-the-top fountains, reflective surfaces, and even a Tuk-Tuk (a motorised rickshaw

since you ask!) creating a kitsch atmosphere that celebrates the restaurant’s Indian heritage. We (editor Jamie Hill, reporter Claire Dukes and I) decided to cheer up a Wednesday lunchtime by descending on the restaurant. On arrival, we stood awkwardly in the reception area kicking our heels, before deciding to seat ourselves as the manager appeared to be busy with other customers. Ideally, even on an overcast Wednesday, you want to be welcomed to a restaurant like a long-lost friend. But on this occasion I couldn’t shake the feeling that we were a slight inconvenience for the other staff members who seemed more interested in polishing and stirring things. Admittedly it’s important that things are polished and stirred… but you know… customers? Unable to

wait any longer I asked for help - and am happy to report that we were given a great introduction to the restaurant by the duty manager - and the initial glitch in proceedings were soon put behind us by her excellent service. For the highly reasonable price of £8.95 we had the run of the place - and grabbing my plate I surveyed the range of steaming curry options and loaded up my plate. The food was excellent in every regard, the poppadoms crisp, the

Korma punchy and the Dahl comforting. Vegetarians are also well catered for, with the staff able to whip up a range of extra dishes on request. We were also offered cocktails - which was an odd thing to consider drinking with a curry - especially at lunchtime, but it was three for £10 so we agreed. It was probably a mistake - you see making a good cocktail is a work of art whereas my Long Island Iced Tea was more of a lazy child’s drawing. No ice, a knackered looking slice of lemon, and a mix that tasted a bit like windscreen washer fluid. But who cares, because the curry was amazing. Please don’t go there for the cocktails - but do… and I mean really do go there for the food which was excellent and endless! I would not hesitate go again.

Delicious beetroot and pink peppercorn gratin Comforting and colourful, this hearty gratin gets its mild warmth and fruity, spiced edge from the pink peppercorns. A food processor or mandolin will make quick work of the prep, otherwise settle down with a very sharp knife. 2 large garlic cloves, peeled 400ml double cream 800g beetroot, peeled & cut into 2mm slices 175g sourdough bread, sliced (best if slightly stale) 20g cold butter, diced 1 tsp sunflower, rapeseed or olive oil 1 tbsp pink peppercorns, finely ground 1 tbsp red wine vinegar salt & black pepper Heat the oven to 180°C/ Gas 4. Lightly crush the garlic cloves with the flat of a knife and put them into a small pan with the cream. Slowly bring


to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Strain the cream through a sieve, pressing the garlic with the back of a spoon to extract its flavour. Season generously with salt and mix well. Pack the beetroot flat into a roasting dish and pour over the cream. Cover tightly with foil and bake for about 1 hour, until the beetroot is just tender. Meanwhile, pulse the bread in a food processor or blender until reduced to coarse crumbs. Add the butter and oil and pulse again until the butter is evenly distributed. Remove the foil from the roasting dish, then stir in the ground peppercorns and red wine vinegar. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Cover with the breadcrumbs and return to the oven for 25 minutes or so, until golden brown on top. n February 2018

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Talking politics South Swindon MP Robert Buckland (Con) The manufacturing sector plays an important role here in Swindon and has helped our local economy to grow, so the recent news that manufacturing output is expanding at its fastest rate since early 2008 is welcome. Figures from the National Office of Statistics have revealed that Britain’s factories are enjoying a healthy growth and manufacturers’ expectations for the year ahead point to output and export growth being maintained through this year. The Conservative government is committed to delivering on its industrial strategy, which will help propel the manufacturing sector further forward and create conditions where successful

businesses can emerge and grow, backing them to invest in the long-term future of our country. I have fought hard to maintain and grow a strong local economy that is supportive of businesses and creates jobs and I am very interested in ways in which we can strengthen local employment opportunities. I will continue to support campaigns such as “Made in Swindon” who showcase the success of local, regional and international businesses based or founded in Swindon. We all get deeply annoyed about fly-tipping in and around our town, and fellow residents frequently get in touch with me to get it sorted out, so I am very

Swindon Borough Council Leader Cllr David Renard (Con) As we move into the New Year all you will see the countdown to May’s Borough elections. This year one third of the councillors across Swindon will be up for election on 3 May and in all those wards it will be your chance as residents to use your democratic right to vote for the candidate you feel best represents you. This year will be slightly different because the Council will be one of five local authorities across the country who will be requiring residents to show a form of ID when voting in a polling station. We agreed to do this and we are supporting the Cabinet Office’s pilot scheme and the Minister for Constitution Chris Skidmore MP. This modernisation follows a report into electoral fraud elsewhere in England, and we feel that extra precautions may be needed to ensure that only those entitled to vote can do so. To me it feels right that if we have to show ID to pick up a parcel or open a bank account that our democratic process is protected in at least the same way. Although we do not have an issue with electoral fraud in Swindon, we will be leading the way on this change to voting and the results of what happens here in May will help inform the Government and Electoral Commission on whether they want to make the requirement of voter ID a national policy. For our pilot, residents will be required to show their new, secure poll card which will be sent to them in April. We will be rolling out a communications campaign over the coming months to inform everyone in Swindon about the changes to voting but we cannot underestimate how much word of mouth plays its part so please do tell everyone you know to bring their poll card to vote.


pleased that new measures have been announced to tackle the issue. A consultation has been launched on fighting fly-tipping, which reached an eight-year high last year with more than a million incidents in England. Two-thirds of these involved household waste. Under the new plans, households could be fined up to £400 if they pay an unauthorised man in a van to take away rubbish. The government will also tell local authorities to stop charging people to dispose of DIY waste at council tips. I am glad that hidden charges when paying with your credit or debit card have been banned.

North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson (Con) One of the most pressing issues at the moment is the threat to our ocean from plastic pollution. The scale of the problem was made stark in David Attenborough’s Blue Planet 2, and it became apparent that something had to be done urgently. I am glad to say that the Government has heeded the warning, and announced an ambitious 25 Year Plan to protect the environment. The centre piece of the plan was the government’s commitment to eliminating all avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042, and it has announced a raft of proposals to fulfil this commitment. The Government has already brought in the 5p plastic bag tax, which has resulted in 9 billion fewer plastic bags being used, as well as the recent ban on manufacturing products with microbeads, which are tiny beads of plastic which were harming marine life. The Prime Minister has also called on retailers to take action on plastic pollution, encouraging them to introduce plastic-free aisles where all the food is sold loose. I was delighted to see Iceland get on board, and vow to eliminate all plastic from its own brand products. I have joined other MPs in Parliament in writing to all of the other major supermarkets to follow suit. We are also keen to get children more engaged with wildlife and aware of our environment. We have made £10m available for school visits and a Nature Friendly Schools programme. Of course we can all play our part. The importance of recycling is something I have been aware of for a long time, and while serving as a Cabinet Member on Swindon Borough Council, I helped to introduce our free plastic recycling collections. It is our collective responsibility to leave the environment in a better state for future generations.

So-called ‘surcharging’ had become commonplace, particularly online, with many retailers hitting people with surprise charges just before they were about to make a purchase. Some retailers were also adding charges which were far higher than it cost them to process a payment. It is estimated that surcharging cost Brits £166 million in 2015. It is now unlawful for retailers to charge additional fees when someone uses a particular credit or debit card, or other payment systems like PayPal, to make a purchase. This will ensure consumers can be confident that there won’t be any nasty surprises, and they won’t be penalised for wanting to pay in a particular way.

Cllr Jim Grant, Swindon Labour Group Leader At the Conservative Party Conference last year, the government stated their intention of bringing about a rebirth of council housing. Sadly the rhetoric is not matching reality as a recent government report highlighted that only 9% of all homes built in Swindon over the last 3 years were affordable. A key reason why Swindon has dramatically reduced the number of affordable homes built is because the government has made it easier for housebuilders to shirk their responsibilities. Greater profits for shareholders have been prioritised over building as many affordable homes as possible for the people that need them. And there can be no question that affordable homes are needed in Swindon as private rents in Swindon have risen faster than the national average- over 3% last year, the number of House of Multiple Occupation have doubled and spare room rents have rocketed by 13% on average last year. Labour locally have committed to doubling the number of Council Houses built in Swindon. We also think the Tory-run Council has been too lenient with housebuilders who have asked for permission to reduce the number of affordable homes from the stated 30% affordable homes target in the Council’s Local Plan. If Labour were to take control of Swindon Borough Council after May’s Local Elections we would make it tougher for housebuilders to shirk their commitments to build affordable homes. We will reject requests from housebuilders to reduce affordable housing numbers. If residents want homes with affordable rents, they need to vote Labour. n February 2018

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East Swindon Link February 2018  
East Swindon Link February 2018