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Thursday, 16 February 2023

Update on the Opening of SM&AG in the Civic Offices

It is almost 3 years since Swindon Museum and Art Gallery closed, firstly because of Covid, and then because a decision was made to not reopen Apsley House, but wait until an Art Pavilion was built in the Cultural Quarter. In the meantime, the council decided to convert the first floor of the Civic Offices into a museum and art gallery, which we are looking forward to being able to visit. 

However, last week, Councillor Matty Courtliff, Cabinet Member for Culture, Heritage, Leisure and Town Centre Experience, gave a cabinet report to the Scrutiny Committee last week, which can be read here. He said that the launch of the new galleries in the Civic Offices was likely to be later in 2023.

In today's Swindon Advertiser, this information was shared with their readership, including an exchange with Councillor Marina Strinkovsky who asked for clarification about reasons for closing of Apsley House permanently.

Monday, 6 February 2023

Pictish Stones

 Our January talk was by deputy chair, Dr Barbara Swann who gave an illustrated talk about Pictish Stones; these carved stones, found in the north east of Scotland are remarkable in their depiction of life 300-900AD and show great skill in stone carving.

Here's one of my favourite stones:

It appears to combine someone riding a horse, some animals and some of the symbols which appear on many of the carvings. The stone has been shaped and a border has been carved around it. Barbara gave us lots of information on the Picts:
A great map showing where to find some of the 350 Pictish stones in Scotland
These symbols appear in many of the carvings, and once you look them up, there are many more, with their apparent meanings here
The Vanora Stone seen below is found on Vanora's Mound, more details here
A couple more photos of stones, this one has a duck and fish carved into it:
Below, the Dupplin Cross is a carved, monumental Pictish stone, which dates from around 800 AD. It was first recorded by Thomas Pennant in 1769, on a hillside in Strathearn, a little to the north (and on the opposite bank of the river Earn from) Forteviot and Dunning.
And finally more information about the stones; what is so fascinating about them is that any of us can make interpretations of what we think they mean, and why they were carved. We don't necessarily know why The Picts carved these stones depicting their life, but we can make suggestions.

If you'd like to see the recording of the talk, it's here.

Sunday, 5 February 2023

Talks for 2023

 I'm pleased to say we have almost booked our speakers for this years talks' programme, with thanks to all those who have agreed to share their knowledge and expertise with us via Zoom.

We have had our January talk on Pictish Stones given by our deputy chair, Dr Barbara Swann. A video of this talk will appear on our website soon. You will find quite a few videos of our talks on the website, although not everyone agrees to be videoed for a variety of reasons.

These are the rest of the talks planned for this year, more details about each talk will appear on our website:

22 Feb The Making of the Museum of Making with Eilish Clohessy-Dennis, below is a photo of the Silk Mill in Derby where the Museum of Making is housed.

29 March British Heritage in Antarctica with Camilla Johns

26 April Architecture of Lydiard House with Michael Gray

24 May Chippenham Museum Collection of Prints with Mark Golder

28 June The Ken Stradling Collection with Cleo Saunders

26 July Ideally a talk about Sonia Boyce's work tbc

23 August 40 years as an artist with Anne Desmet

27 September St Barbe Museum women artist's ex with Dr Gill Clarke

25 October Operation Nightingale with Richard Osgood

29 November The Modern Story of an Ancient Monument; Stonehenge with Dr Susan Greanery

6 December Christmas meal

We are planning to run some trips, details coming soon via email. 

Friday, 3 February 2023

Committee Lunch at the Red Lion, Avebury

Once a year, we try and arrange a Friends' committee lunch, traditionally at the Red Lion in Avebury; this hasn't happened for the past couple of years because of Covid, but this year we met, and invited two special guests, former committee members who have had a long association with the Friends, Ray Ward and Paul Ricketts. They were invited because it seemed like a nice idea; we haven't seen them for almost 3 years, and also we wanted to see what they had in mind for our Pearl Anniversary celebrations on 6 July.

There were some very interesting conversations around what the format of the event would be, where it would be held and what we would do. It would also be great if we could have as many people who were there at the beginning of the Friends organisation as possible in 1993; Paul said he coincidentally arrived at Apsley House while the opening speeches were taking place, but he didn't join until later.

If you have any ideas for how we might celebrate the 30 years of the Friends, and where, please let me know. I had intended to take photos of those at the meal, but sadly forgot, and the previous week had taken photos of the wallpaper in the front bar, so two of those will have to do!!

Wednesday, 1 February 2023

Top Ten Posts of 2022

 This is one of the things I like to do, look back at the page views for the posts published the previous year. There were 31 posts published in 2022, and by far the most popular were those concerning the plans for the new Museum and Art Gallery in the Civic Offices, and also the future of Apsley House, the former home of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery. I think we could all have predicted that as we eagerly await the opening of the Museum and Art Gallery, and fervently hope that Apsley House does not face further dilapidation before entering its next incarnation. 

I'll list the posts in order of popularity with links to the posts. Coming in at number one was the post about the public engagement exercise at the Civic Offices held on 19 October:

Friends of Swindon Museum & Art Gallery: Public Engagement Event 19 October to Share Plans (

Followed by: What is Happening with our museum?

Friends of Swindon Museum & Art Gallery: What's happening with our museum? (

At third a piece in the Advertiser entitled 'Work Starts on New Home for Swindon Museum and Art Gallery'

Friends of Swindon Museum & Art Gallery: Work Starts on New Home for Swindon Museum and Art Gallery (

Next marking the 2 year anniversary of closure of SM&AG:

Friends of Swindon Museum & Art Gallery: Two Year Anniversary of Closure Marked (

In fifth place:

Friends of Swindon Museum & Art Gallery: A Celebration of Colour: A Display of Artworks and Ceramics in the Civic Offices (

Sixth place:

Friends of Swindon Museum & Art Gallery: Art on Tour Exhibitions and Talks (

Seventh place:

Friends of Swindon Museum & Art Gallery: Questions and Answers (

Eighth place:

Friends of Swindon Museum & Art Gallery: August 2022 (


Friends of Swindon Museum & Art Gallery: Christmas meal (

and lastly a piece about Ken Stradling:

Friends of Swindon Museum & Art Gallery: Remembering Ken Stradling (