Swindon's one of those place-names beloved of British comedians. Not because it's intrinsically funny (like, say, Nether Wallop, or Pratt's Bottom), but because (oh, and Penistone, of course) it's somehow seen as a byword for dull, red-brick provincialism. Thinking about it, Birmingham has suffered in the same way over the years, and just as unfairly.
I've always had a very large soft spot for both, the former not least because it was the home town of XTC, a neglected national treasure if ever there was one. The proximity of White Horse Hill, one of my very favourite spots in these islands, also helps. After last night, I have another reason.
The Bluegate Poets Open Mic was held at Lower Shaw Farm, which by day is a city farm sort of affair, but which by night provides a thoroughly relaxed and creative atmosphere for reading poetry.
An open mic night stands or falls by the quality of its audience and readers, though, and Bluegate scores highly there. There was great variety and quality in the open mic readers, and if I pick out Michael Scott and Hilda Sheehan's work as highlights, that's not to say that there wasn't a lot of other really fine work. I particularly enjoyed the sky lark poem from James (sorry, didn't catch the last name), and the excellent poem on apartheid-era South Africa by another gentleman whose name I didn't catch (it was authentically angry, yet measured).
I read a couple of 10-minute sets, sold plenty of books, and had a thoroughly good time. It's always great, too, to finally come face to face with people who you 'know' through Facebook or Twitter, so meeting the likes of Stephen Payne and Hilda was lovely.
As if all that wasn't enough, there were cupcakes, and a poetry quiz to finish the night (I started promisingly, but fell away badly). I headed home up the Fosse Way with a smile on my face and a head full of poetry.