The story of Swindon and the life of Alfred Williams, the town’s Hammerman Poet, will be brought to life in a spectacular one-off performance called Uncelebrated Journey, at the Wyvern Theatre next week.

The production was initiated by the High Sheriff of Wiltshire Nicky Alberry, to instil pride in the heritage of our diverse town, and to bring the talent of its artistic and creative performing communities to a wider audience.

The story of Swindon, and Swindon folk, is told through the eyes of Alfred Williams, a poet and author born into rural poverty in 1877. Self-educated, a worker in the Great Western Railway works, Alfred composed poetry, collected songs and wrote books.

The performance features an eclectic mix of dance, music and film, illustrating the journey from the early days of Alfred’s life in Victorian England, to a grand celebration of the diverse 21st century town we know today.

Jill Hodge, director of singing group Ten in a Bar and a member of the artistic committee, along with Nicky and Marie McCluskey, said they had been meeting and planning the event for the past 18 months.

"This will show the creative force in this town, and that we can do something really artistic and thought through," she said.

Significant in the line-up of Swindon talent are the singing groups: Ten in a Bar is joined by the Janice Thompson Singers, Wessex Male Choir, the Swindon Choral Society and the Commonweal School Choir.

Ten in a Bar has been running for 25 years, and is well known for its eclectic mix of music and quirky arrangements, from serious contemporary works to popular modern classics. Their pianist Kirstie Smith has prepared a new arrangement of the Elbow song One Day Like This and the Proclaimers classic I'm Gonna Be, for a spectacular finale involving Ten in a Bar, the Janet Thompson Concert Choir, the Janet Thompson Adult Choir, the Wessex Male Choir and the Commonweal School Choir.

"Uncelebrated Journey is a very big project and very interesting and exciting to do," Jill said. "Nothing like this has been done before. We have had gala events when groups came along and performed a piece, but this is a real collaboration. We wanted it to have a narrative, which ran through the show, and the groups involved had to fit with this. That was a big ask. It was a slightly risky but exciting idea."

The artistic committee wanted to connect with the centenary of the end of World War I, and to personalise it to Swindon - which led to Alfred Williams, a talented but uncelebrated person.

The Swindon Choral Society has a long history in the town – next year it will be celebrating its 90th anniversary. It was set up in 1929, a year before the death of Alfred Williams.

It is a society of amateur singers who stage around four choral concerts in the Swindon area each year, with a repertoire covering the major choral works, such as the Passions of Bach, requiems from Brahms to Verdi, as well as contemporary works such as Robin Nelson’s Atlantic Odyssey.

“We were kindly invited by Nicky Alberry to take part in the event, which looks absolutely super,” said society chairman Angela de Saram. “Our piece is the first after the interval. The song is part of a work by a modern composer, the Kyrie from Howard Goodall’s Eternal Light.”

The choral society is made up of about 50 members, both men and women. They rehearse on Thursday evenings at Freshbrook church in west Swindon. For their performance in Uncelebrated Journey they will be accompanied by soprano soloist Natalie Chequer, and the strings section of the Swindon Symphony Orchestra.

The Wessex Male Choir, established in 2001, is also a part of Uncelebrated Journey.

“Nicky Alberry invited us along to represent male singing, and as a part of the history of the town,” said Stuart Allinson, the choir’s event manager.

“We will be singing a song called Io Resto Qui, and we’re the first male choir in the UK to sing this. The composer is Giorgio Susana, and he gifted it to our choir. We saw an Italian choir performing it when we were on tour in Italy. We loved it and contacted the composer. We recorded it on our most recent CD.”

The Wessex Male Choir is a multi-award-winning choir based in Swindon, which aims to raise the profile of male singing, which included a Real Men Sing campaign in 2016. The choir has performed at Wembley Stadium and at Twickenham and holds a concert at Steam in Swindon every summer.

“We are renowned for our entertaining and heartfelt performances, at home and abroad, major London venues, choral competitions, on Tyrolean mountaintops or in the local pub,” said Stuart.

Members of the Commonweal School Choir were selected for their strong vocal skills and reliability.

“There are around 17 of them that have been chosen to take part in this event and they range in age from year 8 to year 12. So far we have rehearsed a couple of times a week since the beginning of this term in order to get the music committed to memory and will continue to rehearse once a week up to the show weekend,” said head of expressive arts Ali Sutcliffe.

She said Jill Hodge, who is conducting the song they are involved in, invited them to be part of the show.

“As a Performing Arts school, we jumped at the chance and agreed straight away,” Ali said.

“Commonweal prides itself on its commitment to the Performing Arts alongside academic excellence and we enjoy taking our students out of the school and into the community to share our talent and dedication with new audiences.”

Each of the choirs has been working independently on their own part in the song and they begin piecing it together at the weekend.

“Our students take things like this in their stride as they are seasoned performers and always very professional,” she said. “They have learnt their part already and are looking forward to hearing how all the other parts fit with us and also the live band!”

Tickets for the show on Saturday October 6, at 7.30pm, are £26. To book, call 01793 524481 or visit