THE town was transformed into the fantasy world of Jasper Fforde when fans descended on Swindon for a tour with a difference.
About 100 people from across the globe met for the fourth Fforde Ffiesta celebrations – a weekend long convention to celebrate the author’s Thursday Next series, which is set in Swindon.
People from across the UK, as well as America and Holland, flocked to meet the writer and take part in the fun and games, as well as going on a tour of the alternative version of Swindon on a green vintage bus, which was narrated by Jasper himself.
The sites of specific interest on the tour included the Civic Offices – otherwise known as the Special Operation headquarters – the Oasis leisure centre (aka the National Roundabout Construction Centre), as well as several trips around the Magic Roundabout.
Speaking before the tour, Jasper said he was pleased to see so many people coming together because of his books.
“It is wonderful there are so many people here. This is just a gathering of people with a similar sense of humour and the linking factor is my books, but it is not totally about me,” he said.
“We have a very international flavour. I have seen some American visitors who came last year who make it a regular pilgrimage.”
The convention was held at the De Vere Village Hotel, known as the Finis Hotel in the Thursday Next novels, which was the scene of a kidnapping involving Jane Eyre and a Dickens character in one of the books.
“The reason Swindon is ideal is because nobody has ever set a book here. Most books are set in London, Paris or Hong Kong,” said Jasper.
“Everyone says ‘ha ha, you have done Swindon as a joke’ but I haven’t, it’s not for laughs. Swindon is better than that. It is the jewel on the M4.”
Jasper has just finished his 11th book, The Song Of The Quarkbeast, which will be out in November and he read an extract of it to his fans at the weekend.
Geoff Elliott-Howell, 37, of Liden, who works in a post room, was taking part in the celebrations for the third time. “Jasper is so accessible, he will talk to you and talk to anybody and read from his books. It is unusual to meet an author who is so willing to talk to his fans, it is real dedication from him,” he said.
“I enjoyed the tour because it is good to have his take on Swindon and get his twist on it. It is strange because you see bits and pieces and it gives you a different perspective.”
Events across the weekend included a quiz on Friday night, extreme croquet, Dodo whispering, speed soliloquy reading and even a pantomime.