Swindon was adopted as the base for the Great Western Railway's main workshops, and Brunel was responsible for constructing a complex that would support a new community of railway workers. The historic site is of national and international significance. The complex now includes England's National Monuments Record Centre, English Heritage offices, STEAM: museum of the Great Western Railway, Railway Village Museum and National Trust offices.
The site provided the main focus for much of the Swindon Festival held on the weekend 15-16 July 2006. Events over the weekend included performances of the show Building Bridges at the Wyvern Theatre; the opening of the exhibition The Railway Comes to Town, also at the Wyvern; a schools' science event at Ridgeway School, Wroughton; The Big Town Centre Street Festival! featuring the Brunel Conga Line; the Rodbourne Walking Trail; the Crossing the Great Divide Railway Village Festival and Children's Fete; and a finale of fireworks and pyrotechnic displays. There were also excerpts from Janice Thompson Performance Trust's newly commissioned Swindon youth opera Brunel: the little man in the tall hat which was performed at St Mark's Church in the Railway Village in September.
Fireworks at Swindon Brunel Festival.
Crossing the Great Divide, which was partly funded through the South West HLF grant, was devised to link the Swindon community's past, present and future in the celebration of the impact Brunel had had upon the town. Local workshops and preparatory projects were set up in June and July 2006 and involved over 200 local residents, school children, youth groups and creative organisations undertaking local heritage research. This project was led by Cirque Bijou, a leading performance company based in Bristol, working in partnership with Swindon Borough Council and the Mechanics Institute.
Mural painting at Swindon Brunel Festival.
Among the feedback from residents of the Railway Village was the following quote:
“It made residents feel proud to live in
the area. My whole family was here, it was absolutely fabulous. It was
wonderful to see the elderly and all residents out on the streets. A big,
big thank you from the bottom of our hearts, from the two year old up.
The atmosphere was fantastic. It gave us back The Park and gave people
back the Village. Let's hope it happens next year."