Swindon can often receive a bad rap for the local culture of the area, but this is certainly unfair. Despite what the shortsighted amongst us might say, there are plenty of interesting things to see and do in Swindon and the surrounding locality, and it’s far more diverse than a ‘glorified train network’.
At Terence Lett, we are very invested in the championing of the local area, so we’re going to run you through some of the most interesting things within an hour radius of the large town, Swindon, in order to get the best experience of the local culture.
First up, we have something that may come as a surprise to many: Swindon is actually home to one of the ‘most important 20th Century British art collections outside of the Tate.’ Started in the 1940s by a local businessman, the collection includes a range of renowned British artists including Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, and Maggi Hambling.
Although only ⅕ of the collection will fit inside the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, this spot is ideal for absorbing the local culture of Britain in the past. There are even works from local artists such as Hubert Cook. The collection includes a range of paintings, works on paper, editioned works and ceramics.
As the name suggests, there are also articles from history that tell the stories of Swindon in days past within the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, which is located within the ‘old town’ and includes archaeological artefacts from the borough of Swindon and social history material that depicts the lives of past generations.
One thing that all Swindonians know is that the music scene in this town is extremely diverse, interesting and available. There are live music events almost every night of the year and there truly is something for everyone to enjoy.
The ‘Vic’ (Victorian) is great for live bands and even comedy events. Then there is Riffs Bar, which is an award-winning venue having been voted ‘Best Swindon Venue’ by NME. Finally, we have Level III, which is another great space for live music and a great night.
Are you not interested in these places? How does a music festival designed to provide a platform for amateur musicians sound? Swindon Music Festival at the Arts Centre – founded in 1909 – is held on the first Friday of September each year, and draws in thousands of contestants each year, and is a great way for contribution and appreciation toward local musical talents.
Cinema heritage is an area that Swindon has covered, too, with Diana Dors being ‘England’s answer to Marilyn Monroe’ and succeeding in cinema both in England and abroad. Dors, who began acting at a young age, starred in the original Oliver Twist alongside 99 other film credits. Diana Dors was adored by Britons, which also led to a feature on the famous Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover from The Beatles, and later being immortalised with a statue in front of the cinema in Shaw Ridge, Swindon.
What’s more, if you’re looking to view a film, you’re pretty spoilt for choice. There are a variety of chain cinemas in Swindon itself, which are likely to showcase the latest flicks. However, there is also an eclectic mix of independent and arthouse cinemas in Bath, Bristol and Oxford, which are all within an hours drive.
Is theatre more your speed? Well, you’re in luck, with the Wyvern Theatre being right here in the centre of town. Further afield, you have The Wardrobe Theatre in Bristol that is renowned for taking risks and showcasing a diverse range of shows.
Fashion history is not necessarily a string Swindon can add to its bow of local culture, but there is no need to worry if this is your interest. Bath is less than an hour away and is home to the Fashion Museum of Bath, which has a range of exhibitions that cover historical and contemporary fashion.
Coming up at the Fashion Museum of Bath is an exhibition into the personal style of Royal Women, which opens in February of 2018. There will be a range of exhibits from the wardrobes of Her Majesty Queen Alexandra, Her Majesty Queen Mary, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret. This showcase promises to be an insight into the classical, lavish style of our Royal Women.
Shopping, on the other hand, is something that Swindon has covered. The Swindon Shopping Outlet is a fantastic example of offering a range of brands and stores that truly cover every budget and the entire spectrum of taste. You are truly spoilt for choice, so this is a great trip as a day out or to take care of some Christmas shopping.
If you’re looking to venture a little further, Marlborough is the place-to-be in terms of shopping in the South West. Recently voted within the top ten of shopping centres in the United Kingdom, Marlborough is home to an impressive range of stores set within characterful facades and wide, inviting streets.
Perhaps the greatest of all the facets of local culture, the food industry in the South West is one of the most exciting in the UK. There are eateries cropping up that can accommodate any taste, budget and preference, all while representing an array of diverse cuisines.
If you’re looking for local eats, you certainly can’t go wrong with Greek Olive. A family-run business, they put together Mediterranean and greek food that is a revelation, all at a reasonable price that you’ll be more than happy to pay.
If you’re really looking to treat yourself, there are some fantastic options in Bristol and Bath, with Bristol itself truly forging the way for brilliant food in the South West, and England in general for that matter.
First and foremost, we have to mention Casamia in Bristol, which was voted as being the second best restaurant in the UK in Harden’s Best Restaurant Guide 2017, and is a Michelin-star establishment driven by the unique and multicultural influence of the chef’s hometown – Bristol.
Other great places to eat for a special evening would be Bulrush, Bristol – specialising in innovative, British food with a seasonal menu utilising many local ingredients, drawing from recipes embedded in local culture. Then there is Menu Gordon Jones, Bath – a restaurant with a Michelin-trained chef and a menu that changes from day-to-day.
Sometimes it’s nice to get out of the town and visit someplace new, but where should you go for the best local culture in the South West? As you may have guessed by now, Bristol is a city burgeoning with an interesting mix of large-city accessibility, and a small town feel, but Witney is another great location with something for everyone.
Bristol has been a recurring theme thus far, and so it comes as no surprise that Bristol is a great place to experience the local culture of a variety of different walks of life and is within an hours drive of Swindon. Very popular for embodying a cool, cosmopolitan aura and converging a variety of different, interesting influences from its original and creative residents. Not only is there the previously mentioned, exciting food scene, there is an eclectic blend of architecture that means you can view medieval, brutalist and Georgian influences all within the same area.
Witney is a place that hasn’t been mentioned thus far, but is a very pleasant change of pace from the large town-life. Witney is idyllic and peaceful, conveniently located within an hour of Swindon with plenty of local culture to soak up. Whether you’re looking for casual shopping to make the most of the independent, family-run businesses and stylish stores, or to experience the traditional market. Once again, though, the architecture of this small town is something to behold. There is a pretty mix of traditional homes and classic facades, and then the Church of England parish church of St. Mary the Virgin, which (somehow) manages to combine the influence of a range of different, English Gothic architectural styles from various renovations and is topped with an impressive, 150ft spire.
You may also be inclined to make the most of the annual festivals of Witney, which include the Witney Carnival, Witney Feast and Wychwood Forest Fair, which all represent a different branch of the local culture of Witney and provide a real insight into the character, history and originality of the town and its residents.
Over to You
In conclusion, there is plenty of local culture to soak up in Swindon and then plenty more to do in the local area. With rich history, tasteful preferences and multicultural influences that work together to offer diverse and interesting experiences for the whole family, the South West is ideal for the appreciation and adoration of local and tourists alike.
Now it’s time for you to take on board our suggestions and get to better grips with the charm of Swindon and the wider South West, both historic and modern, by experiencing the local culture within an hour of Swindon.
Terence Lett are located in Witney with two impressive showrooms on the high street. If we’ve convinced you to explore the area, come in and take a look at our impressive jewellery brands that include Links of London, Pandora and TAG Heuer among many more.
If you’d like to contact us, then you can call on 01993 779769 or email us via firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our professional and informed team members will be able to handle your query with a friendly demeanour.