Los Palmas 6 Sold Lavington’s Heat, With a Rock Steady Beat

For recession-infested Britain, tribute bands have fast become a popular evening for everyday folk. With downloading strangling the music industry, touring and festivals are the bread and butter for pop artists, but unfortunately seeing your idols live comes with a price-tag.


Much to my delight then that I spotted Los Palmas 6, a tribute to my era’s legends, Madness, were to shake up the sleepy village of Market Lavington; I’d have crawled there if needs be.


Tribute acts are plentiful and range through the eras, but can be a gamble. It’s like throwing the selection menu away and dipping your hand into the chocolate box, you’re never sure what you’re going to get. Disappointment can avoided though by checking website reviews, or just attending a place you can trust will book something special; the Market Lavington Music & Comedy Club are about as trustworthy as you’re going to get; Los Palmas 6 sold the heat, with a rock steady beat.


To be fair, the whole two-tone period is akin to tribute bands, when you think about it; the basis for the ska sound predating the era by twenty years in the tenement yards of West Kingston, and the Specials, Madness, et-al were not adverse to covering the original classics of Studio One. Madness even coined its name from the Prince Buster anthem.


But you’re not here for a history of reggae; if you were I’d only chew your ears off, got a bit of an everlasting love affair with the music see, a healthy one though, reggae hasn’t put a restraining order on me yet. Still, it suits me not to trek the world following some aging guys who were once a pop band, when locally there’s such a selection of these tribute acts and many project the raw, early periods of an act, as opposed to a blown-out rocker going through the motions rather than cashing their pension.


Now Madness is one band I’ve shamefully never caught live, though I’ve heard only awesome tales, so while I cannot compare them to the real McCoy, the blisters on my feet and perspiring brow afterwards should indicate I had a blinding time and Los Palmas 6 were everything they set out be, and a lot more.


Saturday’s night air had a nip, a chilling reminder winter is around the corner, but the glowing Community Hall warmed me. Unlike many village halls which resemble a 1970s scout hut, Market Lavington proudly have constructed a mega high-ceilinged ballroom, clean, contemporary and functional by design; I was impressed.


Diehard skinheads and mods surrounded the entrance, always a welcoming sight, and the man on the door informed me how busy it gets, “there’s always something going on here.” The hall had side rooms, with bar and reasonably priced kitchen selling pork baps and gourmet burgers; both bookmarked.


With the great support band finishing, and mates propping the bar up, I manged to sneak a chat with the organiser of the event, the endearingly enthusiastic character of Ted Osborn. Since making the village his home, Ted runs the Market Lavington Music & Comedy Club, bringing the village a colossal variety of performances. Being so cut-off from nearby towns by distance, it can only be a necessity for inhabitants.


Ted was keen about this event, trusting it to attract. Still I observed; it can be no simple feat to fill this hall similar to a Viking Valhalla. Ted confessed it’s not always so easy. As we discussed on No Surprises Sunday, getting punters through the door of a rural event is tricky, but all it needs is the support of Lavington, its surrounding villages and prosperity in the form of townsfolk willing to make the trip. I confirm to you Ted puts on a great show and it’s well worth the effort.


The band looked the part; Saxophonist in his Crombie, the Suggs-a-like donned a trademark blue bowler hat and the sound, well the music was parallel to the original fairground ska of Madness. With members of the band having played in Madness, and some of the original musicians having played with them too, Los Palmas 6 are the closest thing you’ll get to Madness without it actually being Madness, if you see what I mean. I did explain all this in the preview, please try to keep up.


Normally on a monthly basis, The Market Lavington Music & Comedy Club has hosted everything from Rolling Stones and Amy Winehouse tributes to a Take That one or comedy nights with comedians John Moloney, Sean Meo, Dave Thompson and Tim O’Conner. Events finish this year with a three course meal, black tie Winter Ball on 2nd December, where Simply Swing, who have played on Jools Holland and Strictly Come Dancing, will take the stage, and a New Year’s Eve party with covers band, The Magic Tones, a disco and buffet; what’s not to like?


Without hanging around for spring, it’s the third return of the popular Abba tribute, Swede Dreamz on Saturday February 10th.  Ted is confident tickets will sell out for this, so check the Website or Facebook to get yours.


The Market Lavington Music & Comedy Club Needs Your Support!




Seend Bags World Famous, Award-Winning Folk duo for Night of High-Class Entertainment!

By Zoe McMillan

Rural Arts brings to the village of Seend in November, an internationally acclaimed act in the form of folk duo, Sean Lakeman and Kathryn Roberts.

Bonfire Night in or around Devizes

Remember, remember, the, oh when was it again?

The 5th of November being Sunday this year, and the Devizes Football Club not holding their usual quality do, where, you may ask, can you catch some firework displays?

1: Friday the 3rd has one at Nursteed Community School for £3 tickets from Devizes Books or Brittox News, or £3.50 on the door. Doors open at 6pm and the show kicks off at 7.


2: Bishops Cannings School also have one organised for Friday, by Distant Thunder, with fire performers too, it’s £2.50 for grownups and kids go free. They promise snacks, BBQ and hot chocolate, and note the Crown is open for business.


3: Saturday the New Inn at Coate have their ever-popular FREE fireworks event with inside and outside bars, the bonfire will be lit at 6:30 and display starts at 7pm. They do have a no obligation charity collection. All monies collected go to two nominated charities.


4: Rowdefield Farm are also having an event on Saturday, described as a mini-firework display, they’ve also a bonfire. With a variety of stalls, Rowde Toddlers Pick & Mix Sweets, live music from Tom Miller, fire poi and hula hoop entertainer De Valentine, glitter makeup by Courtney Ball, Younique, hand knitted gifts and glow sticks, there are refreshments and a pedal tractor course as well as the machinery display, it promises to be quite alternative to the norm. It starts at 6pm and fireworks at 7. Tickets in advance only for this one guys, and it’s a fiver.


‘Cause baby I be a West-Country firewerrrk,
Be comin’ ter shows yer hows I twerk,
Makes ’em go “Oo, arr, oo!” an art,
As I shoots acrass yer sky lioke a gurt lush far-arr-arr-t.

If you know of one we’ve not listed, let us know and we’ll add it before the big night, whenever it is again. At least it’ll stop me from my Katy Perry impressions, which I should’ve saved exclusively for Halloween instead.


Christmas Cards by Elly Shaw



These stunning, collectable cards are from the ‘Christmas Cats’ collection by South West artist Elly Shaw and each card is hand made and unique.


FB_IMG_1509287833771Signed by the artist, they can be framed or sent as Christmas cards to your special people. Oil on silk with trimmings. They will be available at the trade price of £2.50 each or 5 for £10 only at the Craft Fair on November 25th at The Cross Keys, Rowde. 12pm onwards.



No Surprises Living in Devizes: Ode to Tea and Showbiz

I like tea, full stop. You pamper to taste; a “milky builder,” others like it as black as the ace of spades, or some like the teabag to stew for exactly one minute, twenty-seven seconds. No, don’t dare add milk before taking out the teabag or they’ll spoon your eyeballs and wear them as earrings; that kinda subtle specification.


Me, I’m impartial; I’ll drink any tea made any way. As long as it is tea and not warmed mud from the farmer’s welly, I’ll drink it; desperate enough I’d even consider the mud.


I’m eclectic in my taste for most things, treat food, books and music just like tea; provided it’s of quality. I don’t worship any particular genre, pigeonhole or dedicate my life to one style. Some do, s’alright, that’s fine, but it’s not my cup of tea, so to speak.


City life can be diverse; you wander a street to find a-la-carte Benin vegan cuisine next door to a Tasmanian tarantula burger stall, you could host a night of minimalist Cambodian folk synth-pop techno and still fill the Albert Hall. But here in deepest darkest Wiltshire, often you have to make do with the conventional; a Chinese takeaway considered exotic.


When someone dedicates themselves to bringing us diversity it deserves our full support, but it comes at a cost; the rural event promoter’s dilemma. Example; country & western music, not really my cup of tea, but what exactly is my cup of tea anyhoo?


Give it, I’ll drink it, ta; where we left off last week, I’m at the doors to the Conservative Club on a Sunday evening, to check out Devizes diversity in action. Hand it to them, the Cons Club offers variety, last Saturday it was skanking to the sounds of Swindon’s two-tone band The Killertones, courtesy of the Scooter Club, and this Saturday it turned all Blues as the Long Street Blues Club bought us Carvin Jones.


Alternative Sundays are the turn of the Devizes CMC; it’s going country & western all the way. There are elements to this genre I do love; the creative plots of songs, and twangy banjos and the whole Americana atmosphere; however there’s a clear label of “Achy Breaky Hearts” and line dancing which, well, puts me off to be Frank.


Sheriff of the CMC, Dean Czerwionka is keen to highlight his efforts to break this stereotype, and brings diversity in the genre to local venues. His Dead Kool Country Promotions operate not only in Devizes, but at the Owl in Bromham and Trowbridge too. He explained to me that while some bands he books are traditional Country styles, he often books ones which are more experimental and assorted in styles.


So, generally American theme occurs in the Club, Dean tipped his Stetson at the bar where we chat, but there’s also something quintessentially English about the event; I order a cider rather than a bourbon, there’s no hog-roast but ham and cheese rolls sold on the bar, and while within the crowd are a sprinkling of those dressed the part, there’s others dressed more conventionally, it’s informal.


There are no cowboys having a farting contest around a campfire, but a fun and friendly atmosphere, which is endearing. Even the performer Trey Jackson, who was booked last minute due to a cancelation, speaks with a Geordie accent.


I felt comfortable and not out of place, a surprise in Devizes; I reckoned I needed to cast my labels aside and enjoy the music and atmosphere, for it was homely and warming; I like it here, you would too.


Dean explained to me that specialist magazines cater towards the American scene and the big names when they visit, rather than focus on home-grown talent. Here then is the dilemma, can he wipe the stereotype and bring people through the door when it’s Sunday in a narrow-minded market town like Devizes?


No easy task, Dean tells me many local C&W clubs have closed, there’s no club like this left in Swindon, and punters willingly travel to visit his Dead Kool nights; this doesn’t surprise me, they’re clearly worth the effort.


We break off our conversation for a moment, while Dean sells raffle tickets. The marvellous thing about these nights is each one is dedicated to raising funds for local schools.


Everything Dean tells me is spritely, an enthusiasm dedicated to his passion for Country and bringing it to the good folk of Wiltshire. On 12th November, for example, when Peter Donegan, son of the ‘Godfather of British Rock n Roll’ and ‘King of Skiffle’, the late Lonnie Donegan, visits the club.


So we chat about Johnny Cash and Dolly, of the movie Oh Brother Where Art Thou, and my love for the music of Woody Guthrie. We talk about bluegrass and the various styles of country music, which Dean celebrates and books artists who cross those borders and fuse said styles. So there really isn’t anything to dislike about these nights, no matter how much you care for the music.


There’s a good mixture of age here, yeah there’s older folk but there’s girls in short skirts (it’s the little things I notice) and while we chat, people get up and start dancing the night away. Trey has an authentic voice and the whole scene is entertaining. It’s this kind of diversity which keeps Devizes from being so narrow-minded.


Similarly Saturday night when I shipped out to Market Lavington to see Los Palmas 6, the Madness tribute band, these events are endearingly good but it’s often difficult for promoters like Dean and the delightful character of Ted Osborn of the Market Lavington Music & Comedy Club to continue, bands don’t come cheap, bums need to be on seats and in a village or small town it’s no easy task, unless we support them.


So I highly recommend these nights to you, without compromise and pray these decent guys will persevere so we’re never in doubt that #nothingeverhappensindevizes and the surrounding villages, is ironic banter.


So, yeah, Saturday at the Market Lavington Music and Comedy Club was a top, top night, but I’m running out of space here, I’ll write a separate review of the night, and of Ted’s hard work, equal to Dean’s, in hope you’ll take heed and support these guys in their quest.


For Dead Kool Country Promotion’s future dates, check Devizine’s event calendar, or visit their website here, and like their Facebook page here.

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There’s a Coffee for the Emergency Services at the Food Gallery

Resident or just passing through, The Food Gallery is the premier café in Wiltshire. Standing proud on Marlborough High Street and voted Best Café in Wiltshire this year, its owner, Bob Holman announced there’s a free coffee for the emergency services at his family business, whilst also raising funds for SWIFT Medics, a support charity for the emergency services across Wiltshire and beyond.


Mr Holman, also a Trustee of SWIFT Medics, plans to offer a free coffee to any member of the emergency services; ambulance, fire brigade or police, by asking his customers to make a voluntary donation of £1 every time they buy a coffee at his shop.


In return, The Food Gallery will donate 50 pence to SWIFT Medics, who, although they are a Wiltshire-based charity and entirely funded by the public, are regularly called out by the Emergency Services to assist them and work alongside them saving lives and helping to prevent more serious injury.


Bob, who runs The Food Gallery with his wife Nikki and children Rich and Kat, said: “This is a win-win situation; we are a community coffee shop with valued local customers, so it makes sense to ask them to help us support our vital emergency services, which too often we all take for granted.”


“We think it will give a boost to those unsung heroes in the Emergency Services to know that the public value them enough to donate money for a coffee. We all like to know we are appreciated and it is particularly important for the Emergency Services to realise that. It is a small gesture but we think it is an important one.”


All members of the Emergency Services have to do is show their ID at The Food Gallery for a regular coffee, from 7:00am on 27th October 2017. Although, Devizine points out, they also do a superb brownie!


The volunteers of SWIFT Medics are trained Pre-hospital Emergency Care Doctors who attend road traffic accidents and medical emergencies in Wiltshire and surrounding counties when an incident is so serious that the NHS ambulance team need an appropriately qualified Doctor at the scene.


Approximately once a week, these volunteer Doctors either save a life or prevent a life-changing injury in Wiltshire. SWIFT Medics is a registered charity and are 100% reliant on voluntary donations for our funding.






Anna Simmons on Wine Street

I don’t know with all these “arty types,” I mean, remember the gallery on Vine Street? Well, change one letter and they shift the whole shebang to the White Horse Business Centre on Hopton, but it’s worth a trip down London Road. The new space at number 10 is airy, bright and awash with friendly atmosphere.


The Wine Street Gallery is never without interesting contemporary art, and hosts exhibits regularly. This November it’s the turn of local oil painter Anna Simmons, who creates figures within a sense of space and light in architectural backgrounds. The importance of the figures stressed, adding extra dimension, a kind of “bridge between worlds.”


Former teacher, Anna had always painted, but only received formal training later in life. She studied at St. Martin’s, which shaped the particular direction her work continues on today. She has exhibited in London, Bath and even America, and her work has sold worldwide.


This has to be a great excuse, if you need one, to visit the gallery. Join the private view, from 6-9pm on Friday 17th November, and you’ll aptly get a glass of wine too! And the Recent works by Anna Simmons show continues until Saturday 18th November.



Normal opening hours are 11am – 4pm, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or by appointment.


Wine St Gallery @ No 10, White Horse Business Centre, Unit 10, Hopton Road, Devizes SN10 2HJ.  facebook.com/winestreetgallery Instagram: dawngalbraith10

No Surprises Living in Devizes: The Return of Sabbatical Slangander


Why hello there, I’m back. Did you miss me?


You don’t have to answer that.


A-polo-gees, but due to a family issue I’ve been back and forth from Southend-on-Sea, a place which makes Swindon look like Monte Carlo, with bells on. Hoping we can start back where we left off? Unless, of course, you’ve found a new causerie, a kind of prose rebound, no doubt, a Daily Mail column. I understand really I do, does it do what No Surprises used to do for you, only grammatically; you literate hussy, you.


Southend is quite different from Devizes, maybe it’s the sea air but there’s a “salt of the Earth” spirit in the majority, a kind of cockney-pride of an East-End, retired now to the nostalgic littoral illusion of “South-Enders.”


So, despite the constant race to construct glass façades to ersatz castles, larger than that of their neighbours, allowing their view to pass over pink and white panelled beach huts with star-shaped fairy-lights tacked on, to a murky estuary and its heavyweight industrial dock horizon, there appears to be minimal snobbery there; one significant difference.


The sight of Essex’s arch-nemesis Kent, with burning chimneys and industrial plants, seems to dissuade no one, as they saunter a hectic coastal highway of ramshackle Tropicana and neon amusement arcades, with disregard to seasonal change and gale forces blowing along the Thames, in search of a polystyrene cup of jellied eels or a boggy whippy ice cream.


The entire inlet from London to the south-end is one analogous sprawling suburb of pleasant and generous mediocre folk, unfortunately with a princely sprinkling of avaricious braggers, voluble tattooed hoodies swapping beard-trimming techniques, and hordes of overdressed Billericay girls all called Anastasia, with earrings larger than their boobs, yapping bargain hauls and neighing through whitened teeth at their own jokes; inappropriately, they bulk the laughable Essex stereotype we love to encourage here.


You’d love it, if you pretend you never witnessed the dank arches outbound from Liverpool Street station, where if you gaze past train lights, you can see occupants huddled under filthy duvets and rotting sleeping bags.


I admit, it feels like everything is bloated folly there, a neon phoney philosophy forged into residents, blinding them from the certain doom this government is sailing us into, and it takes an individual from a Tory-infested affluent zone to explain it? Yeah, right on. Still I adhere, snobbery is absent; no one looks down their nose and scoffs, which is a pleasant change.


If this week has taught me one thing, it’s that life is too short to whinge and rant, so I planned a nice column today. Then I returned home and read some local news.


Say what you will, but Southend is functional; they allow a freedom of street art, they’ve frequent and affordable buses, and they get both bins and recycling done weekly, with a far more extensive recycling process. As opposed to our maggot-infested fortnightly collected bins which you’re expected to climb inside to squash last week’s rubbish.


So as the train returns me to the beautiful West Country downs, the first local post I see on Facebook is photos of the aftermath of some prick clearing out for the season of goodwill, and fly-tipping the garbage they couldn’t fit in their overflowing bin, over our idyllic rural landscape.




Ha, it’s like they just shoved the mountain of dead badgers aside and dumped their crap there, as if recycling centres are only in the imagination. How is this lesser a crime than Swindon’s window-licking Noel Gallagher lookie-likie, if not far less amusing? They need to be named and shamed in the local rag.


Honestly, what was going on there with the window licker, or has the Oasis star fallen on hard times? I mean licking windows is one thing, but in Swindon? It’s equally as unhygienic as making candy floss in a rugby club’s stag-do toilet bowl, which no doubt you think happens in Southend? Least they put their rubbish in the bin, cos they’ve the facilities to do so.


So Wiltshire Council jump on the bandwagon, groaning it costs two and a half million quid picking up litter in the county, omitting the opportunity of finding an old five pound note. They’re campaigning for volunteers to tidy up a bit, taking credit for the idea; as if it hasn’t already been in existence in Devizes for many a year. Thank you CUDs, it’s a big society success story that’d make Cameron oink and blush.


This tomfoolery is seriously biting into the Council budget, which needed to raise their councillor’s expense allowances again, just to have a meeting about it; pass the caviar hors d’oeuvres while we discuss it. Parking tariffs in the Market Place simply will not cover it, maybe because the ticket-machines they do have malfunction more than HAL 9000 with a Morris Worm bought from Curry’s.


“Take your litter home,” the council says; I agree, even though my bin is full. I’m not paying £1.70 an hour to sift through your litter, just to get a loaf. Still we feel it imperative to groan about people in other places, like how shallow Essex is, for example.


I withdraw the cliquey rant about Southend; Essex is Constable Country don’t forget it mate. Go sleep in a railway arch you idiot fly-tippers, oh and Councillors who make it awkward to make alternative options practical too. Stick a cold tin of beans and dirty mattress on your expense forms and kip with the dossers; see what some folks endure.


We need a rodeo roundup, a cowboy style lynch mob to march into county hall all guns blazing.


So, before I fled town, I went in search of some able-bodied men; but where could I find some West Country rouges, larger than the Council’s for a showdown at high noon?


Hold on, every other Sunday at the Conservative Club is Devizes Country Music Club. So I busted through the saloon doors, nodded to Sheriff Dean Czerwionka, who tipped his Stetson. I scanned the tavern, are there cowboys here, would it be best to try Kwik-Fit, or is it another of those uncharacteristic surprises in Devizes?



Tune in next episode to find out…. cue the sunset.





Johnathan Pie Writer Andrew Doyle to get Moonrakers Giggling

I had to walk back to Rowde last time I attended a Moonraker Comedy night at the Bear Hotel’s Cellar Bar, I tried to hitch a lift but had to be honest with myself, no one about to pick me up in the dark with the insane giggling smirk awash my boat race. I was still sniggering at Mark Felgate and supporting comedians into the following week.


Thursday 2nd November sees another tsunami of laughter with Andrew Doyle headlining the evening. Writer and comedian, Andrew is the co-writer of the spoof news reporter, created by Tom Walker, Jonathan Pie who has become an internet sensation.


Andrew started writing for Pie in December 2015, and has since collaborated with Tom on weekly online videos, and a live tour culminating a sell-out performance at the London Palladium. Their online video responding to the US election result has had in excess of 130 million views.


Andrew recently appeared at the Soho Theatre, London, in his fifth solo stand-up show “Future Tense.” All five of his solo shows have run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Johann Hari of The Independent had this to say, “One of the funniest, sharpest, cruellest comedians out there. Prepare for all your internal organs to burst with laughter.”


Andrew is supported by award winning comedian Nathan Cassidy who’ll open the show, fresh from The Comedy Store, Bearcat and Mirth, Nathan has performed full-length shows at comedy festivals for several years. And Quick-witted Tim O’Connor, who has “been making people laugh since forever,” but has only recently taken to comedy club stages as it allows people to laugh at him in a more appropriate setting. Recently recruited to present a monthly radio show for Frome FM, Tim is a published comedy writer.


Doors open at 8:00pm, it’s definitely for 18 and over, and its ten notes for a ticket (from The Bear Hotel, Devizes Books, The British Lion, The Vaults, The Southgate Inn, or on-line at “We Got Tickets” and also some availability on the door on night; if you need a giggle, this performance-on-your-doorstep comes highly recommended.



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Larkin to be Set Free

Probably the youngest and freshest duo on the Devizes music scene, Larkin, retain the classic combination of guitar and keyboards; a modern answer to Simon & Garfunkel, with a slice of Bastille thrown in for good measure. Even the cover of their forthcoming album, Set You Free, has a strong resemblance to that of The Sounds of Silence.


We’re eagerly anticipating this release, which is due in December. I probed Sam Bishop for what we can expect, being I know they’ve been working so hard on this crowdfunded project.


Set You Free will be all original material, generally conceived by Sam and written in collaboration with guitarist Finley Trusler. “The album is called Set You Free,” he explained, “because that was the first song as a duo we wrote together and everything that has transpired because of this!”


Working on tracks for over a year now, Sam described, “The songs are about a variety of things, whether it be ex-girlfriends, events that have happened in my life, how crazy the world is, and even the plot of a film.”


With a totally DIY approach, they’ve played all the instruments on the album; Sam reasoned it’d be “a more personal feel!” There’s also old films sampled in the tunes, “to give more context and a vibrant feel, as I’m a fan of old cinema and it adds more layers to the tracks.”


These young guys are confident of their goals and exceptionally enthusiastic and motivated. “The album means a lot to us,” Sam continued, “it’s always been ‘a dream to release a debut album and thanks to kind donations while busking and gigging, we’ve finally be able to get into the studio and nail tracks.”


Larkin have been working with fantastic producer Martin Spencer at the Badger Set in Potterne, and tell me he, “has been amazing; works tirelessly to get good results. Not only is he local, so we can keep the album linked to Devizes, but he is a good mate of ours and knew he’d give his best.”


I’d like to congratulate the duo, Martin and the team behind this project as it pertains to a bright future for music in Devizes and sets a goalpost for others to attain. If you’d like to witness them in their comfort zone, Larkin are appearing at the Moonrakers in Devizes on the 21st October, and they’re making Great Cheverall that bit greater, appearing at the Bell, there on 28th October.


But the big cheese here is their album release gig on a risky December 30th at an unconfirmed venue in Devizes. “The release gig will be amazing,” Sam explained with enthusiasm, “It’ll be in Devizes, with easy access from the town centre, and depending on how many emails, to let us know they want to come, the venue size will change accordingly. We’ll have a support band, and all our songs will be played as a live band, with saxophone, drums, bass and synth, as well as our keys, vocals and guitar.”


Tickets will be a mere three quid, which entitles you to a half price copy of the CD; I mean, what else are you going to be doing on that date, cabbaged on the sofa stuffing dry turkey sandwiches and watching the Enders Christmas special?


“It’d be great to see so many familiar and new faces turn up to support us!” Sam finished with, “We’ve put so much into the album and would love people to turn up and chat about it.

Let Larkin know you’re up for it, by clicking here!

More info on Larkin






Emma Langford and the Quiet Giant

Ever had the awkward scenario where a acquaintance posts a song with a caption, “this is my daughter singing,” you feel obliged to listen, humour their parental pride and bend the truth that you reckon it’s awesome?! This was NOT one of those occasions.


I’ve been an online friend with Des for many-a-year; we share a love of comics and cartoons. He’s an exceptionally talented artist and sign-writer; his cartoon frescos adorn his hometown of Limerick, in school playgrounds and on shop windows. I was honoured when Des contributed a cover for my charity-based anthology book, “I am not Frazzle;” it became an iconic image in Devizes.


Never more apparent that creative talent filters through the generations; from the moment I clicked on that link and heard Emma’s voice, I was in love with her music. Renowned in Limerick, I’m dedicated to switching as many as I can onto this, I’d shout it from the highest mountain, if we had any here; the folk-rock pop of Emma Langford is simply sublime.


So while I could’ve approached this by hiding our friendship to promote Emma’s latest album, Quiet Giant, and try to find a tenacious link between her and Wiltshire, not to unhinge the tenet this website is of locally produced talent, I’d rather be honest. Plus, in this era of YouTube, you can judge for yourself from the couple of videos below; I ain’t a fibber.




Akin to Andrea Corr or a young Kirsty McColl, Quiet Giant is Emma Langford, refined to perfection; nothing here is left to chance. Released on the 18th October, I confirm a crashing symbol and delicate piano opens ten tracks of absolute gorgeousness. All songs are written by Emma with a sophisticated, evocative narrative. It eases you in with certain grace, a couple of earnest mellow songs; the folky title track and smooth jazzy Sandman insure you’ve made the right choice for your listening pleasure.


Then Peter Hanagan’s Double bass and fiddles by Tadhg Murphy up the tempo for Closed Book, a storming tune skilfully separating honourable people from the general, ostensibly an effective running theme throughout Quiet Giant which makes its hauntingly nimble quality so endearing.

Emma Langford and her accomplished collective, aforementioned Peter and Tadhg, plus particular prestige for Cellist Alec Brown and pianist Hannah Nic Gearailt, insightfully have produced something special; Quiet Giant is a suave survey of dignity and passionate despondency with uplifting string arrangements and traditional Irish folk values, all wrapped in the wonderful cover art of Jacob Stack; you’d be sorry to have missed it.


When I heard Emma had a gig in Bristol and was looking for another date in London a few months ago, I attempted to hassle known local music promoters into booking her for a gig in Devizes, hoping it’d be a halfway house. But Emma explained she only had two days here, still she seemed keen to visit us. The promoters were in awe, told me she really needs to head for London for maximum exposure, “she’s too darn good for Devizes,” I was told!

So then I worried I was being selfish, trying to hook her into our tiny market town just so I can hear her live when they were right, she needs, and she did play a gig in London. Next time it’s bookmarked; I’m bunking the next day off work!


Order the pre-release of Quiet Giant here on Bandcamp; out on 18th October.

Like her Facebook page for more information and updates.




Daniella Faircloth in a Shoebox; Unbinding Halloween Chills

It’s been about a year since the editor of Index:Wiltshire sent me to Swindon for the press screening of a new, homemade film. Slightly anxious at the prospect of being among “real” journalists, thought I was in over my head. Instead, I was welcomed by a family atmosphere, with more cakes than journalists (turned out it was the producer’s birthday too.)


Immediately I threw off those fears, this isn’t a pretentious Hollywood charade, this is Swindon for crying out loud; only provoking a new concern, how good could a locally made movie really be, would I need to humour wild Swindonian thespians?


Turned out I was pleasantly surprised, the film, Follow the Crows, was superb, but my bag of nerves not through yet. An unidentified apocalyptic event threw an oddball bunch of survivors into a baron wilderness, each with their own vicious agenda; the plot of the film unnerving when surreally, you’re sitting amidst the actors playing these fruitcakes.



At the movie’s close I stumbled up in awe, cake crumbs scattered the floor; this was an awesome film and I felt honoured, as if I was initiated into a secret gang with this exclusive preview. But meeting the actors and one actress, Danielle Faircloth, who I’d just seen at daggers with each other on the screen, I had to acknowledge it was just an act; that’s what these guys do, and very realistically too. This exceptionally talented bunch weren’t about to carve me up over a tin of spam. No, we just shook hands and chatted amicably.


I have maximum respect for those who can so convincingly act, my personal performing career peaked when my Shakin’ Stevens impression gained me first place at the Cub Scout pack holiday talent show, the rest has been downhill since (I probably didn’t need to mention that.)


The Producer of Follow the Crows, Marcus Starr, explained a lot more work was needed to perfect the sound, and as I write this I’m pleased to announce the team claim a release date is imminent. More on this news as and when, but today I wanted to make a point, and introduce Swindon’s cosy, Shoebox Theatre.


The Shoebox Theatre is a space in Theatre Square for talented performers, writers, musicians and directors to develop, train, and showcase their work, in hope of bringing something different and exciting to audiences of Swindon. And with the talents of Danielle heading a mature themed horror play, by resident theatre company, the Wrong Shoes, called The Unbinding, I’m rest assured this will be a supreme Halloween indulgence.


With a local component, The Unbinding devised from historical accounts of witches from Wiltshire; the play explores mob-mentality and our insatiable need to punish those who are different. Accused of witchcraft, four women are locked together, to await their sentence in the shadows. Scared and hungry they don’t know who they can trust, or who will survive.


It promises to be an intense performance, featuring stark realism, horror, physical theatre, strobe lights, and containing scenes of a sexual nature, with violence, and strong language some viewers may find disturbing; has to be scarier than wandering the streets collecting Haribo.


Book your tickets for The Unbinding, opening on Halloween (31st Oct) and running until 4th November at the Shoebox Theatre via www.theunbinding.co.uk


The only thing not scary is the price; tickets at a tenner. Plus, you’ll be supporting the Wrong Shoes at the Shoebox Theatre, who, as well as creating theatre, the registered charity since 2015, also provides educational opportunities for people in Swindon and the surrounding areas to engage in original, contemporary theatre, both as performance makers and as audiences.


Look out for ingeniously titled, Much Ado About Puffin too, a performance for the children. Using skilful puppetry, beautiful music, and good old fashioned storytelling, Much Ado About Puffin is about old habits, new friendships and stepping out into the unknown, and runs this Saturday, 14th October.


For more information and other performances by the Shoebox Theatre: https://www.shoeboxtheatre.org.uk/


But don’t take my word for it; listen to Billie!


Introducing The Errant Stage, in a Bus!

The Errant Stage is a new​ ​mobile​ ​performance​ ​venue​ ​in​ ​a​ ​van, it​ ​offers​ ​affordable
space​ ​for​ ​artists​ ​and​ ​accessible​ ​theatre​ ​for​ ​the​ ​masses; sounds cute eh? Yeah, that’s what I thought too, that’s why I’m here, telling you about it!


The travelling venue, a big red van, is off exploring the West for an affordable
and sustainable future of the performing arts.

​”An​ ​initiative​ ​like​ ​this,​ ​which​ ​places​ ​accessibility​ ​and​ ​sustainability​ ​at​ ​its​ ​core,
nurturing​ ​new​ ​talent​ ​and​ ​enabling​ ​artists​ ​to​ ​tour​ ​their​ ​work​ ​successfully,​ ​merits​ ​all​ ​the
support​ ​the​ ​UK​ ​theatre​ ​sector​ ​can​ ​give​ ​it.​” -Simon Hart, Puppet Animation Scotland.


This alternative, professional platform launched at the beginning of August and is
currently​ ​crowdfunding​ to raise enough money to complete the conversion to an
eco-friendly venue and get on the road. The stage has been created to offer artists an
affordable space to perform and create work, whilst allowing new audiences access to a quality of performance they may not have seen before.


The girls at the Errant Stage want to provide affordable​ ​performance​ ​space​ ​for​ ​artists,​ ​and accessible​ ​theatre​ ​for​ ​the​ ​masses​; from puppetry to performance art. What with Arts funding cuts greatly affecting the amount of new performances, the restrictive cost of venue hire and production for emerging companies, it’s a fresh and exciting project.
The alternative off-grid travelling stage has an audience capacity of 20+ inside, creating a
“welcoming and accessible,” “magical” and “wonderfully intimate” performance space.




For larger shows and spectacles the van can swing open it’s doors and serve an unlimited outside audience. The venue offers artists an affordable professional platform to perform their work in front of an audience, whilst enabling that audience to be anyone, anywhere.

“Theatre​ ​and​ ​the​ ​arts​ ​is​ ​more​ ​than​ ​just​ ​an​ ​industry;​ ​It​ ​is​ ​a​ ​community.​ ​A
community​ ​that​ ​we​ ​want​ ​to​ ​continue​ ​growing,​ ​to​ ​keep​ ​putting​ ​new​ ​work​ ​in​ ​front​ ​of
new​ ​audiences.​ ​A​ ​community​ ​that​ ​is​ ​fuelled​ ​by​ ​passion​ ​and​ ​belief​ ​that​ ​the​ ​arts​ ​and
performance​ ​are​ ​essential​ ​to​ ​our​ ​human​ ​connections​ ​with​ ​each​ ​other​ ​and​ ​the​ ​world
around​ ​us;​ ​The​ ​Errant​ ​is​ ​our​ ​contribution​ ​to​ ​that,” said Wiltshire’s Kate Powell, and with  Jonna Nummela  from Helsinki, has had this vision for an alternative performance venue since they first met in drama school in 2011.


The pair lived together on a canal boat in London.​ ​Then, when Kate bought the van from Kilter Theatre in January 2017, and The Errant Stage concept began to take physical form, she quickly joined forces. Growing increasingly frustrated with the current restrictive funding climate, Nummela jumped on the chance to make space for artists and their audiences through a more accessible venue.

“The​ ​Errant​ ​Stage​ ​is​ ​our​ ​vision​ ​for​ ​the​ ​future​ ​of​ ​the​ ​performing​ ​arts.​ ​It​ ​is​ ​a
future​ ​of​ ​empathy​ ​and​ ​community​ ​instead​ ​of​ ​egoism​ ​and​ ​competitive​ ​industry,” Kate continued.

Support for the van is already evident, the team launched their crowdfunding
campaign and has raised​ ​over​ ​40%​ ​from​ ​70+​ ​backers​ ​in​ ​the​ ​first​ ​three​ ​weeks.​ The
Indiegogo campaign is looking to raise funds to enable ongoing maintenance and further conversion of the van into a more accessible​ ​and sustainable​ ​venue​ ​and will continue until the 21st October, 2017.​


Work started on the van back in January with structural repairs and insulation; Now attention turns to the inside of the van and its transformation into a multi-use performance space with high quality technical resources and a new, lighter stage design. They’re also researching sustainable power sources, from solar to wind, aiming to make The Errant Stage a trailblazer of sustainable off-grid venues.


The Errant Stage embarked on it’s maiden voyage when it was invited to the Ventnor
Fringe Festival (www.vfringe.co.uk) on the Isle of Wight in August 2017. Following the
success of this soft launch, the venue continued to travel the UK, hosting performances and scratch events at Puppet Place’s Bristol​ ​Festival​ ​of​ ​Puppetry​ and Skipton International Puppet​ ​Festival​.

With interest and return invites from various puppet and theatre festivals across the
UK in 2018, including new Moving​ ​Parts​ puppet festival in Newcastle and Manipulate
Festival​ ​in Scotland, it’s looking to be a busy and successful first season for The Errant


Support the Errant Stage’s Crowdfunding campaign, running from 8th September – 21st October 2017.  https://igg.me/at/errant-stage-fundraiser


Next appearing at:
– Isle of Wight 23rd-28th October 2017, tour collaboration with Ventnor Exchange and
Isle of Wight Museums.

Mike and the Local Area Invasion Descend Upon The Swan

It was over a couple of years ago I stepped cautiously into the Black Swan, only to receive the pleasant surprise at its renovation and complete change of style. Since this time Devizes takes the alteration as red, and it thrives with eccentricity, vintage chic, quality tucker and music. However, its future is now uncertain as it closes its doors for a refurb and Waddies bring new landlords in.

We hold out for a silver lining, but for the time being, the Black Swan’s current incarnation ends next week. To celebrate its time at the helm of all things unconventional in town, the landlord has requested the presence of the big man, Mike Barham, whose prolific raw dynamism currently reverbs throughout our great county.


His giant steps certainly get him around, playing the London Road Inn in Calne on Saturday 7th, he’s at the Hare & Hounds in Corsham on the 12th and on the 14th he crosses the border to Frome. In between though, he returns to his hometown for this closing gig at the Black Swan, but he’s inviting a self-labelled “Local Area Invasion,” with him, an amalgamation of our finest local musicians who’ll get to play a couple of songs each, prior to Mike blasting the place with oomph.


Yeah, save the date, Wednesday 11th October, where you’ll find at the very least, Jamie R Hawkins, Vince Bell, Larkin, Jack Moore, George Wilding, Jordan Whatley and Tamsin Quin; incredible line-up, for a school night, a virtual who’s who of the Devizes pub music scene sampler; Free!

Here are the details, the rest up to you: https://www.facebook.com/events/282938928863398/



No Surprises Living in Devizes: What’s the Emergency?


“Hello and welcome to another episode of 999: What’s Your Emergency?” (Cue soothing countryside harmony.) “Today we’re in Wiltshire, where local Bobbie, Hugh Janus cycles into the village to inquire about Mrs Bun’s lost tart.” The creaking of an old bicycle on cobblestone pauses.


“Good afternoon Mrs Bun, I understand you’ve had a tart go missing from your bakery?”


“Oh, thank goodness you’re here PC Janus!”


“Do you think it’s been stolen Mrs Bun?”


“Oh bless, not at all, one of the puppies pinched it. No, it’s just I have these lovely cupcakes left over from the village fete.”


PC Janus smiles at the baker, “Never mind Mrs Bun, officer Dweeb and I’ll guarantee they don’t go to waste.” The baker smiles gratefully.


“Well, that’s the end of this week’s show; next week police in less conservative areas of the country will be tackling drug dealers, thieves and burglars.” (Pan across a sunset scene of downs, with cows grazing and a hummingbird fluttering, to a squad car parked in a layby with two officers admiring the view, while enjoying tea and cupcakes.


There you go Wiltshire Councillors; sounds better doesn’t it? Realism has no place in a reality TV show anyway; drama has never been less enthralling.


Councillors wanting the episode of a police action reality show set in Wiltshire to be akin to an episode of Heartbeat, were shocked to see edited results, and complained it’d have a detrimental effect on investment in the county.


In the same week I drove to Trow-Vegas for a new pair of work boots. Simple job, you park free, pick up a cheap pair of boots, and leave as fast as you came. You can’t do this in Devizes, shoe shops thinner than the soles of 70’s market-bought plimsoll, but I’d rather it not be a parade of hackneyed, chain-store trite, for our peace of mind and abject infrastructure.


The need to park without fee in the county town vital to its consumer attraction, I’m certain the Council will retain the idea. But parking free in Devizes, for tourism, those who need a few items without the hassle of large towns, and others who merely like to browse or saunter our town, will be a thing of the past.



Face it, Trowbridge has no aesthetic value, it’s pure functional I’m afraid, which is sad but why I’m in and out of Dodge faster than you could say “shall we pop in Wilkos?”


Some, it seems, crave for something other than a pleasant tranquil Devizes, arguing on social media we need a McDonalds, and we need a Matalan and a Tesco the size of Wales too. They overlook a larger shopping centre needs a larger town to fund it, which brings larger social issues.


You could drive to Trow-Vegas, Chips-n-ham; spoiled for choice. But we can’t have our cake and eat it; you really want Devizes to be another Trowbridge? I rest my case.


You’d sacrifice the pleasantness of wandering relatively safely through our dwelling, our serene backdrop, and friendly tenet, for the chance to grab a discounted pair of shoes and stop for a Chicken McSandwich? Go on, get off with yer; Trowbridge bus leaves in ten.


Anyway, attracting chain stores to Devizes is about to get trickier, as while the county-town’s rarity of free car parking lingers, our suspicions a fortnight ago, that Wiltshire Council will focus parking tariffs on our Market Place came true. Kaboom, it’s now going to cost a quid per hour, £1:70 for two; more expensive than other similar towns. Who rattled their cage?


It’s a forbidding tax we’ve no choice but to accept, doubtlessly not reducing traffic as people’s needs remain the same; suck it up. Using an environmental excuse, as they did, was a smokescreen. As a town we’ve thrown our political opinions aside and upon a post on the Devizes Debate Facebook page, are in agreeance, it’s farcical, and as Andy Fawthrop summed it, “totally bonkers.”


To rub salt in the wound, the post by Our Wiltshire headlined: “Have your say…” when as we explained in a previous week, the whole consultation was veiled unless you enquired, even then I couldn’t locate the online file I was directed to. Akin to this obscurity, it was absent of a section in which to indeed, “have your say.” The questions, as Rosalind pointed out, were skewered. Even Iain Wallis and I were united in its injustice; I love it when we agree Iain, got my blue tie out and everything mate!


He rightfully pointed out its prohibited to fund other failing services with revenues from parking, and that it will have an effect on local business; of course it will, until such a time we cave under pressure and allow our town to explode with sprawling repetitive housing estates, tawdry commercial hypermarkets, gigantic billboards advertising the latest Nike trainers and, of course, overpriced parking meters.


The Council won’t be able to brush anything under the carpet when the cameras switch on then; hell in a town. Yep, this is the same council who were worried a flimsy TV show, of the variety no one really recollects its setting seconds after it’s over anyway, might have an damaging effect on local business; hypocrisy. Now I’m no economist, but I’d reckon racking up parking fees would be worse.


You ever think while you remain sane, the rest of the world has flipped? A world where it was suggested Dr Suess books were racist when given out in schools in US by Melania Trump, wife of the most bigoted man in the free world.


A world where we believe a tabloid that dogging is depicted in a children’s book, when they simply omitted pages to make it look like it. Where judges spared a criminal from a jail sentence, who unprovoked, stabbed her boyfriend, simply because she has a pretty face and good career opportunities.


Oh whatever Wiltshire Council, charge us a quid to stop in our own town; justice a farce anyway.

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