Robert's Weekly Article - 12th April 2016

This week Parliament has returned after the Easter recess. It has been a busy few weeks and a very welcome opportunity to spend time at home here in Swindon talking to fellow residents, meeting community groups and attending local events.

It was a pleasure to meet with staff at the Walcot Community Shop and Library at their new shop in Sussex Place last week. The Walcot Community Shop opened back in 2000 and is run solely by volunteers from the local area with all of the money raised going back to the community. The shop has been described as a lifeline by many local residents and has helped those looking to get back into the work place, residents who have moved to the area, elderly people living at a local sheltered housing complex and helped fund a holiday for a poorly five-year-old Walcot boy with a muscle weakening condition before he loses his mobility.  

In 2009, when the Walcot library was faced with closure, the community shop stepped in and saved the library and it was amalgamated with the shop.  The shop has also regularly donated money to other organisations in East Walcot, as well as further afield and recently supported a local homeless appeal by passing on donations of warm clothing, bedding and backpacks. 

The volunteers who have helped to run this shop over the past 16 years have quietly but effectively made a huge difference to our quality of life in Swindon and the shop is a wonderful example of the strong sense of community spirit that exists in our town.

As April marks Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, I am supporting a call by leading research charity Bowel Cancer UK, urging more people to take part in bowel cancer screening and help save lives.

Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in the UK, affecting both men and women. Every year over 41,000 people (one every 15 minutes) are diagnosed with bowel cancer and 16,200 people die of the disease.

Bowel cancer screening can save lives but only around a third of those who receive a test complete it. Thousands of people are missing out on the chance to detect bowel cancer early when it is easier to treat.

I would urge my constituents who are sent a bowel screening test to use it.  Taking part in bowel cancer screening is the best way to get diagnosed early.  If you are over 60, take the test when you receive it in the post. If you are younger, tell the people over 60 in your life to take the test. Early diagnosis really can save lives.

As we continue to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of Swindon New Town 175 years ago, I am delighted to see that there are several events taking place in the town which will showcase rarely seen images from our vast art collection.

Swindon’s art collection has the reputation of being one of the best of British 20th Century Art outside of London. It was established by local benefactor, H J P Bomford, during 1944 from a generous donation of works.

An exhibition by artist, Eileen Cooper will see her own remarkable body of work on display at the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery in Old Town and to compliment this, a number of drawings from the Swindon Collection spanning over 40 years will also be on display.

In addition to this, a Swindon in 175 images exhibition will see 175 rarely seen images from our local art, photographic and postcard collections also showcased at the Museum and Art Gallery in Bath Road.

A Swindon Arts Trail, also organised as part of Swindon 175, will feature some of the very best art made in Swindon, displayed at venues across the town. The trail has been organised by two local artists and venues include Steam Museum, Swindon Dance, The Beehive and the Central Library. Work featured includes ceramics, textile art, a new community mural, fine art drawing and painting – all of which have a close link with Swindon.

I hold regular surgeries at my constituency office on Wood Street. If you would like to make an appointment to raise a local or national issue with me, please do not hesitate to contact my office on 01793 533393 or send an email to