Sheer Music Presents Frank Turner; in their own words.

Sheer Music welcome back Frank Turner to Level III at the end of January. Here’s the story in their own words.


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Sound Affects at the Crown, Devizes: Tonight!

If you’ve been to the Devizes Scooter Club gigs where Swindon’s Killertones ripped the roof off the Cons Club, or even if you didn’t, Devizine recommends a evening with two of it’s members, Catherine York and Iggy Gould, as they play alternative acoustic as the unique and highly experienced and skilled duo, Sound Affects.

Trouble is it’s happening tonight at the Crown, Devizes, so hurry up and eat your dinner and if you need  hand call me (what you got, wotszit, chicken?)


Sound Affects performs both original and covered material, arranged in a classical acoustic format with a multitude of instruments; violin, flute, melodica, guitar, banjo, ukulele, and viola.

Cath and Iggy are classically trained , they’ve worked with notable artists over the years, including Rick Buckler and Bruce Foxton, The Killertones, The English Beat, DreadZone, Kingmaker, King Kurt, Dodgy, Pope (The Chords), Inspiral Carpets, The Gift, Tommy Hudson, Terry Hemming, Roddy Radiation and the Skabilly Rebels, B-Side Players, Billy in the Lowground and The Champions Inc.

Website: here.

Like ’em on the old Facebook thing: here.

Send your leftover chicken: here.

Smeg; The Craig Charles Funk & Soul Show in Swindon!

Poet, lead role in the undoubtedly funniest sci-fi comedy this side to Titan and always groovy on the radio, Craig Charles is the epiphany of cool, a lovable cool, AND he’s coming to Swindon’s Mecca in Regent Circus on the 20th January to play his funk and soul show live with special guests. So, dust off your glad-rags, zip up your boots, grab your tickets here and well, nuff said.



Christmas Lantern Parade & Light Switch-on in Devizes


The evening was dry with only a subtle nip in the air, it wouldn’t be a Christmas lantern parade and light switch on if it was thirty degrees in the shade.

Traffic and parking had minimal issues and was surprisingly smooth. We parked in Station Road and were wandering to the Market Place sooner than I’d have imagined.

The place was bustling with no shortage of craft, food and clothes stalls. The smell of doughnuts blended with mulled wine and noodles with kangaroo burgers.

Christmas decoration stalls were reasonably priced and crowds built up rapidly. There was the usual aura of anticipation in the air and a welcoming scent of yule.

DOCA need to be praised for this year’s lantern parade, Devizes Town Band built the excitement with renditions of Christmas classics. I’m particularly partial to Jona Lewie’s “Stop The Cavalry,” and refuse to accept Christmas has begun until I hear it. As we marched out of the  busy Shambles to find our place, sure enough trumpets blew the riff.

Excited to see Father Christmas the wait was not long, in fact I feel a lesson could be learnt with new arrangements. Yes the people gathering close to Bear, where he traditionally stumbles out of the window got the short end of the stick. Perhaps though it’s their own fault for failing to notice the controls for the lights were absent from the balcony!


Was this a H&S regulation? It must be said it’s not particularly PC for kids to witness the superhero of folklore to climb through windows. Whatever the reason, Santa accended a ladder of a scaffolding tower disguised a chimney by the market cross to switch on the lights this year.

At this point, a technical hitch which no one could be blamed for, unfortunately failed us and the tree lights flickered but didn’t want to play ball. A second countdown still didn’t bring luck but boos from the crowds were the real spoiler; it was simply one of those unpreventable things.

Not to worry, as the other lights worked, the Little Brittox looking particularly fabulous, and fireworks lit up the clear night sky.

DOCA put a heck of a lot of work into this show and we have to tip our hats to them for a job well done. Perhaps some lessons for next year could be the power source, but mainly the overzealous Father Christmas who had upped the ladder and begun the countdown long before the entire lantern parade had arrived in the square.

This was surely unfortunate for the children taking part and, even if the young ones are getting impatient in the crowds, those walking the parade deserve closest dips on the finale.

C’est last vie, a grand start to the yule anyway, and thanks DOCA for your brilliant show!

No Surprises Living in Devizes: Opening Doors

While I postponed my midmorning nap on Wednesday and made my way to St John’s Parish Rooms, a dweeb in London held a little red case to snapping cameras. I do not fear his pale red cases, with no reasonable strategy inside them. Families under financial pressure, Hammond said he understands, and chose “a balanced approach;” he said, and said those words, he said them, but he lied them.


Instead the fix-it-up chappie waved £3bn off to ensure Brexit runs smoothly, and hey, just ask if you need more stars on thars. In a week where a government free of Europe pathetically announced legal recognition of animals as “sentient beings” will not be incorporated into UK law, anyone with a heart sunk and begun to digest what England will really be like when we leave, under the, apparently, regime of current savages.

Meanwhile he joshed the deputy speaker a Merry Christmas, announced he was freezing taxes on alcohol, trimming a quid off a bottle of whiskey, but under the same breath, whacked the price up of cider; discounted alcohol, habitually bought by people on low-income; a shameful reflection on the entire budget.

So despite convalescing from last week’s backlash of scornful comments from Tory-loving hypocrites, I find myself no option but to “bash” again.

I cannot stop, they’re squeezing the poor and rewarding the rich, when will basic humanity kick in? If animals are beyond hope, humans ought to at least be treated with dignity and respect, no matter what their circumstances.

Yet councils continue issuing fines to homeless for sleeping in doorways or pitching tents. Winter looming, you can’t camp, can’t afford a cheap bottle of plonk to warm you and numb the stress. The solution isn’t whacking up the price; it’s support, it’s giving them a light at the end of the tunnel.

Recent reports estimate 300,000 people now sleep rough on Britain’s streets, and if you’re not a people-person, consider the cost of preventing and cracking homelessness is far less than the cost of doing nothing.

In Devizes we have minor homeless issues. Still I stand like a loose lemon while Angie Carpenter, the coordinator of Devizes Opendoors potters about, juggling counselling a person with a pending court case, putting marigolds on to clean and also, talks to me about the work they do here.

For more information on Devizes OpenDoors click here

Now I beg, don’t run away with the presumption I’m aiming guns at you, just because you’re Conservative, I’m aware some locally  support and actively engage with this worthy cause, I’m merely pointing the finger at a system which leaves people vulnerable. The wonderful thing about Devizes is, apolitically, many assist and support this group, and that it is, by comparison, a small-time operation.

Still, as I observe a young girl sort through a pile of donated clothes and beam when she finds a warm hat which meets her approval, I note Devizes Opendoor is a necessity for these few.

I’m there towards the end of the session; there’s usually about fifteen to thirty people coming in, they’ve finished breakfast; a cooked meal and cereals or fruit. I asked Angie if this number has increased recently, as National Audit Office stats show a 134% rise in rough sleepers and a 60% for households living in temporary accommodation since 2010. But she clarified it was quite stable. In the summer they get more, as travellers pass through, “you might only see them once or twice a year,” she explained.


For the people here today there was a calm community spirt, no harassment, no cross-words and no pestering of any kind.

There are books to take along with clothes, fresh bread, fruit, biscuits and tinned food, plus the tea urn is constantly boiling. There’s washing facilities and advice leaflets. Lidal, Morrisons and M&S all donated food, people genuinely only took what they needed and much was left, to be collected by passing Michelle of the Food Bank.

For more info about the Food Bank, click here

Angie has volunteered here for two-and-a-half years out of the six Opendoor has had its doors open, and she has ambitious plans to create a hostel. The Parish Rooms are open on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for only a few hours, and on Thursday for more one-to-one sessions. Ideally, longer periods daily would benefit the people.

Angie was delighted the concert on Saturday had raised over a thousand pounds and the sponsored sleep-outs allow people to come to terms with the realities faced; still this operation needs exposure, and needs more volunteers. The hostel project needs backing, she told me how Anzac House would’ve suited, but it wasn’t to be. For more information about OpenDoors and how you can get involved: click here.


In conclusion then, am I Bam-Bam Rubble, overzealous with “bashing?” I noted Claire Perry voted for this crazy non-recognition of animals as “sentient beings” and dispatched my concerns. I think Claire now acknowledges she need respond asap; here’s her reply:

“To be clear: the idea that my colleagues and I somehow do not accept that animals are sentient beings is quite honestly ludicrous. This vote was on a very specific amendment about EU regulations, and whilst we support the sentiment of the amendment, there were concerns about some specifics, and we thought it much better to use our own legal system to continue to deliver strong animal welfare protection – we have among the strongest animal protections in Europe and intend to keep them that way. As you will know, we have high welfare standards on farms, do not allow cockfighting or bull fighting and have a proud tradition of animal protection.

You may know that there are already provisions in UK law, such as the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which recognise that if an animal is capable of experiencing pain and suffering, then it is sentient and afforded protection under that Act, and the Minister assured the House during the debate that “Animals will continue to be recognised as sentient beings under domestic law”.

I have made clear a number of times that I myself am a huge animal lover, and I can assure you that the UK Government has a proud history of protecting animal rights, which will not be affected by our departure from the EU. Indeed, based on the Animal Welfare Act, the Animal Protection Index rates the UK’s formal recognition of animal sentience as grade A, whereas other EU countries such as France, Italy and Spain have a much lower rating of grade C.


But that is not what the vote on Wednesday was about. The vote was a question not of ends, but means. The amendment proposed would have limited practical impact, and ran the risk of creating legal uncertainty. However, the Minister made clear that the Government supports the sentiment of the proposed amendment, and he reassured the House that: “One way or another, we need it [animal sentience] to be present in UK law at the end of this.” He went on to make clear that we intend not only to retain our existing standards of animal welfare once we have left the EU, but to enhance them by having the freedom to develop our own gold-standard protections on animal welfare.

Don’t be fooled by the trouble-making SNP party on something as important as animal welfare!”

Perhaps it’s media hysteria; I’ll take Claire’s word and leave you aghast; has that Worrow bloke turned blue, has he metamorphosed from basher to conservative partisan, by one nice letter? Don’t hold your breath.

The Homelessness Reduction Bill has been in place since April, obliging councils to begin the assessment of people at risk of losing their home sooner. Rebuking claims it takes a light-touch approach to dealing with the issue, the government promised to invest £550m by 2020. Homeless charity, Shelter wants the government to end the freeze on housing benefit and pledge affordable home building.

All I know is, while they squabble over preventing the causes of homelessness, they cleared ours from Dews Pond Wood, and benefits are still being slashed more than victims of Michael Myers. People still need help, and whilst they do we should be thankful for these hard-working volunteers as they plan a Christmas Dinner at OpenDoors. So I urge you, if you can donate, offer a few hours a week of your time to help, please do.


new white space van


No Shortage of Christmas Fayres in Devizes

With lots of people asking me about Christmas Fayres in town this year, many in need of stallholders and in turn, stallholders looking for fayres, here’s the all that I’ve listed on the Devizine calendar to date in one handy package!

If I’ve missed one then it’s cos you didn’t tell me about it! Tell me now and if you’re still on the good list, I’ll add it!


Thursday 23rd November:

Christmas Shopping Night @ The Giving Tree, Ginnel

giving tree.png

Friday 24th November:

Christmas Light Switch on & Lantern Parade 


Christmas Shopping Event @ Seend Playgroup


Saturday 24th November:

Christmas Craft Fayre @ Cross Keys, Rowde


Monday 27th:

Police HQ Christmas Fayre


Friday 1st December:

Rowde Academy Christmas Fayre


German Style Market @ Southbroom Infants


Wharf Tea Rooms Christmas Market


Saturday 2nd December

St Josephs Christmas Fayre

0001Lion’s Club Christmas Fayre @ Corn Exchange  


Friday 8th December

Seend School Christmas Fayre


Saturday 9th/Sunday 10th December

Caen Hill Cafe Christmas Market


The Farm Cookery School Christmas Fayre

Friday 15th December

Southbroom St James Academy Christmas Fayre


Saturday 16th December

Breakfast with Father Christmas @ The Fire Station


No Surprises Living in Devizes: Rising to Debate

While other towns seem to have the odd Facebook group or two, Devizes has more than its population; they’re the new pubs. The reason boils to rage caused by the popular page admin’s desire to maintain order, which in its own significant way projects a reality on the approaches of the Facebook-using populace of Devizes.

If you want to post impertinent witticisms there’s a page for that, I was soon kicked off as “No Surprises” is officially no longer funny. If you’re hosting an event, there’s a page for this. If you photograph a car which appears to have been parked by a legless Jim Henson creation, there’s even a page for that too.

One of the better pages for messing with people’s minds and enraging the status quo is the Devizes Debate, all members prepped to give their tuppence as if they’ve been in Jeremy Paxman’s nose-bag, on any issue, be it local or worldwide, as if anyone in a position of power to change it is reading.

Naturally politics dominate the feed, seems to offer an alternative view is considered “unproductive” and being Devizes is as top-heavy Tory as Katie Hopkin’s birthday bash (and let’s face it, she deserves a good bash,) it’s only fair those with views slightly leftfield get their comments scrutinised, affronted, and the more rage-driven ones are even saved for a later date, when they can be used against them more effectively; I love it!

The socket of the “debate” page under analysis, members don’t like debating, maybe we call it the “heil Theresa May and all who sail in her” page?

A mere mention the Conservative party could be slightly unfair or harsh, such as, oh I don’t know, off the top of my head; selling off the silly old NHS maybe, blindly continuing to frack perhaps, denying climate change, getting into bed with terrorist organisations, slashing benefits for the most vulnerable, cutting funding for schools, charities and councils, and a variety of petty issues like that, will evoke a temper-tantrum from conformist right-wing cohorts as if the Daily Mail comment section was never invented.

They overuse the ironic term, “Tory bashing,” as if posting an alternative viewpoint is akin to physical violence; truly believing nothing the government do should be criticised. Surely it’s the underprivileged that are really being bashed? Take one for the team guys, or sit it out on the bench.

So I adopted the “can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” ethos and posted thus: “Can we have a debate group without all these lefty-types? It’s just not right; poor people, voicing their opinions. Whatever next? They’ll want feeding, you’ll see.” Alas it was still met with antagonistic comments; they had little faith in my conversion to the dark side, assuming I was being ironic. Ironic, moi? Us ill-educated don’t even know what the word means.

Here then is what really bolts their goat out of its pen I ponder, they’d rather us be illiterate, unable to express concern. I’ll just cut the crusts off my son’s sandwich, have that for my lunch and say no more about it, while MP’s whinge like babies; the porridge with their daily free breakfast isn’t particularly as tasty as that from Waitrose.

I suspect it bugs them I articulate, despite my education being shat on by a Tory regime of yore with school budget cuts causing teacher strikes, as well as taking my milk; I will never forgive milk snatchers; candy from a baby, the baby matured.

It’s this dire antiquated British attitude of tipping your cap to the hierarchy and pushing on with your job which is the sole reason we’re up the creek, this isn’t 1940; these are not the MPs you are looking for. They’ve purposely lost the paddle, lined their pockets from your diligence.

Think for a second the government care about you? Despite the credit I give the members of the group for their intellect, I’m sorry, they’re fooling themselves. The moment they’re unable to put a cross in a box is the moment they wouldn’t piss on you if you were to catch fire. Look closely at the dementia tax; they’ll take everything you worked towards, unless you own a multinational corporation. You. Know. This. You know they lie, they write them on a flipping big red bus for crying out loud. How much more evidence do you need?

Pushing those on the Devizes Debate enough, many confess they don’t truly believe this government is doing things correctly; HELLO? ANYBODY HOME? Still they blindly voted blue, perhaps they didn’t like Jeremy Corbyn’s charity shop suit.

Other parties are available, vote down the middle (sold their votes to the blues last time anyway,) be radical, vote Green. Or simply don’t vote, or vote UKIP, which is the same thing.

It’s not the converted I want to preach to, the usual suspects will “like” this piece; it’s those who blatantly stated this, that’s why I was on the dammed group, send your party your message of dissatisfaction, let them know. Let your local MP know you’re unhappy rather than whinge at people affected by their austerity who are beginning to anger and stress so.

Tory bashing, honestly, have you ever heard of anything quite so pathetic aside Donald Trump’s Twitter Feed?


The Devizes Blues

I woke up this morning, I was living in Devizes; oooh yeah. 2017 was the year our humble dwelling got the blues. S’ okay, I’m not here to discuss parking charges in the Market Place, oooh no mannish boy, don’t dust your broom yet, because I’m-a-talking about da summer’s successful Saddleback Blues Festival at Devizes Rugby Club, remember? Well Elwood, they’re putting the band back together for another year.


There’s no hanging about at the crossroads here, tickets are now on sale for 2018’s Saddleback Blues Festival and it looks to be a stonker. While other acts are still to be confirmed, a Saddleback All-Stars Jam, and a special guest all hush-hush, let’s have a peek at what we do know shall we?


Reckless and raw, Southern Californian rock band Well Hung Heart sound worth the ticket stub alone. Headed by fiery front-girl Greta Valenti, they’re a four-piece and, if I’ve read this right, Robin Davey plays simultaneous guitar and bass. LA’s Deli Magazine praised them thus:  “Packed with youthful arrogance at a blues-laced crossroads between The Kills & early Stooges.”


Deriving from rock n roll, they promise a high-energy performance of new-rock, mashed with blistering blues and punk. They’ve played alongside Linkin Park, ZZ Top, Motley Crue, and Alice Cooper, appearing at London’s O2 Academy, the Paradiso in Amsterdam and oodles of festivals.

Then there’s Innes Sibun, who began playing guitar after hearing B.B King at age twelve. His first band the “Blues Explosion” recorded with legendary Eric Clapton producer Mike Vernon, gaining critical acclaim. By 1993 he joined Robert Plant’s band for his “Fate of Nations” world tour. Following this, Innes recorded several albums for Viceroy Records with his new band; they toured, opening for Peter Green in New York and touring Europe with Roger Chapman & Chris Farlowe.


Yorkshireman John Verity is also confirmed. John’s prolific career begins in the early sixties, with pro-band The Richard Kent Style, who prestigiously supported Jimi Hendrix (yes, I did say Jimi Hendrix) Canned Heat, and Janis Joplin. Spotted by Rod Argent in 73, John became lead vocalist for his band following the departure of Russ Ballard. Still an active artist, with a number of records to his name and busy touring schedule, his experience is sure to bring panache to the festival.


Indigenous Jon Amor, returns to the festival, last year as part of the Boom Band, this year with his own. After developing a reputation as awesome live, they were recently described as, “The Allman Bros meets Little Feat meets The Beatles,” which reflects not only their melodic approach to blues and roots music, but their abilities as songwriters too. After the Booms backed him, Van Morrison described them succinctly when he stated, “this band is great; they’re on the money!”


Prior to all the excitement, Rick and the Saddleback team have arranged two free Battle of the Bands nights in which the winners gain a spot on stage at the festival. Both at Devizes Sports Club, the first on the 17th Feb, boast local upcoming stars Jamie Hawkins, Tom & Clair, Kirsty Clinch, and my personal fav, Tamsin Quinn.

battle-of-the-bands (1)

The second showdown is for bands with members under 21, and it’s on 3rd March. Both events are FREE, and I’m certain will act as a great taster for the main event. I have to say, the organisers seem to have their mojo working towards bringing Devizes something rather special, which also supports both Julia House and the Wiltshire Air Ambulance.


There may be a few details in need of ironing at this early stage; the organisers are looking into camping possibilities, and arranging a variety of food stands, but priced at £25 for an adult ticket and £13 for the kids, it’ll be well worth bookmarking Saturday 14th July as a day for doing nothing other than jiving hoochie coochie at the juke-joint rugby club roadhouse out on Highway 361!

Addition: It’s come to my attention there were a few errors in this preview, my apologies; it’s updated now and I hope it fits the bill better. It should also be noted that although the festival last year was titled a blues festival, this year it’s been redefined as a music festival. I’ve opted to keep the theme of this article as it’d spoil the blues jokes!

More details, if you’ve not succumbed yet, at



Lest We Forget

“Tell them the one about the time you fell asleep while marching Reg,” my Nan would roar with laughter at the mere thought of it. My Grandad, assigned night watch over a tank-storage marched up and down past them, until the point fatigue got the better of him and he dozed while continuing to march. He wandered unwillingly to a similar storage facility which held no tanks. When he awoke he turned around to see the empty hold, he panicked, believing the tanks had been stolen and he was in serious dire straits!

It’s one of many stories told to us kids, the most amusing part was that while my Nan requested the story, as usual, before he completed the first paragraph of the tale in all its finer detail, which was his way, my Nan would interrupt him and blather out the story her way.

After my Nan passed, he’d have a free run of storytelling without interruptions, and if you prompted him he’d tell this one, and many others. Stories I will pass down, but will never be quite the same, coming direct from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. It’s a wonder to imagine if the tales I tell them now will filter down to their children, being of a Great Grandad they vaguely recall themselves.

It’s a concern these, often amusing, but always light-hearted tales of war will be lost in time, that people will forget what these young men done, and all the tribulations of surviving the era on the home front too. Despite the slogan, “least we forget,” time wears these events thinner, as the population able to tell them first-hand sadly do too.

However, check this here photo montage of great images of Remembrance Services and tributes locally happening Sunday, I think it’s wonderful to see how popular it still is.

Thank you all, for allowing me to share them here, Alan Carter of Devizes Heritage, Amanda Attwood (Devizes Issue) Melksham FC, Marlborough Town Council, Southbroom School, Moonraker Bears, Devizes Scooter Club, and Gail Foster the beautiful poem below.

If you’ve some you like me to add to this, let me know!


Lest we Forget

Photo used by permission from Alan Carter of Devizes Heritage


Gail Foster


They never went to war; they stayed at home

The young, the old, the unwell and the dead

The women who were not allowed to roam

The men who tilled the fields and baked the bread

Those sat in darkness waiting for the rap

Of letterbox, and soft white feather fall

The silence broken by a dripping tap

Dark shadows cast by street lamps on the wall

The little lads who ran behind the train

That took their fathers off to certain death

Who waved until their arms ached in the rain

Who ran until their lungs ran out of breath

Old men who yearned for youth; just one more chance

To feel the blood flow, hear the battle cry

To wear the uniform and take a stance

To stand with other men, to fight and die

The crippled and the mad, the deaf, the blind

Escaped the fate of many thousand men

Some angry that they had been left behind

Some thankful that they’d never fight again

 Women, who with their sleeves rolled ploughed the land

Lit candles, raised the children, hid their tears

Made ammunitions with a careful hand

Kept watch and saved the night time for their fears

So many stayed at home, and stayed alive

And suffered pain and loss, regret and guilt

That they were left, that they were to survive

Within the house such sacrifice had built

Their many names are not inscribed on stone

Those sorrowed souls, so haunted by war’s ghost

Were left to stand and mourn the dead alone

Listening to the trumpet sound the post


by Gail

No Surprises Living in Devizes; The Lonely C Word

Well we made it without skidding on fallen leaves, it’s November and yep, I’m going have to mention the C word. Sorry everyone, I know, don’t want to think about that senseless rush; hoping you’ve enough wrapping-paper, wishing it’d be the relaxing Christmas you’d like it to be as opposed to endlessly shoving AA batteries into toys, trying to keep the cat out of the tree, forgetting to take the pigs in blankets out the oven and racing around the house restricting energetic nipper’s access to the Quality Street tin.

Kids make Christmas, least I’m told, and I’m reminded that I’ll miss it when it’s over. Ever so gradually this sad notion is becoming reality; the kids now roll out of their cribs later than us, rather than bounce enthusiastically on our bed at four-thirty. They’ll amuse themselves with electronic devises, hide in their room listening to atrocious pop (who is Little Mix anyway and what happened to Bananarama?) and complain when I bring out a classic board game only to find the dice missing and the money moulded into papier-mâché since granny spilt her snowball on it while dancing to Slade, three years ago.

If all this does become just a fond memory I’d like to think I’d be prepared. I’d hope to be the grandpa with the crepe paper hat gradually slipping over my face as I orally catch flies on the sofa after a hefty dinner, as harassing grandkids position items around my slumbering frame, you know, empty bottles and beer cans to make it look like I’ve had too many, marbles beneath my slippers awaiting my wee break, and balloons over my face to find them rising with my perpetual snore, a continuous moment of hilarity.

However, there’s always a fear, there’s always a worry that you’ll be alone on Christmas Day, as many are, and let’s face it, no one should be. About four years ago people in this situation met daily in the café at the Shambles in good old Devizes, but it closed on that special day, as do most places of business, and quite rightly so, we all need a break.

Witnessing them expressing their concerns, wondering where they could go, was Jeannette Von Berg, tirelessly collecting funds for the Air Ambulance, as she still does today. Now if you recall a No Surprises Living in Devizes column of yore, we talked of heroes in our town, of those doing great things for the welfare of others, without return.

Jeanette’s name came up on top for her work for the Air Ambulance and many other charities, but we just have to give her another mention here, along with Pam Sloan and her team; of whom Margaret & Chris Stone, Pamela & Bob Hanney, Gladys Cobbert, Michael and Vicki Messam, Ian & Becky Phillis and others have all contributed in past years. They’ll be cooking a whopping Christmas dinner for around about fifty this year, as they do every year since, for people who are alone on Christmas Day.


In a world which seems to be getting perpetually crueller, how absolutely wonderful is this? I’ll tell you shall I? It’s off the scale generous and kind, the sort of thing Christmas should really be about, not Black bleeding Friday riots and driving home tipsy from the office party where you failed you get off with the floosy in HR.

Now you should know me well enough by now to know I can, occasionally when the mood sets, do “nice,” despite this being a rant column. Still I find myself stumbling on my words when I called Jeanette for some more information about this cause, as she humbly explains how the others do most of the cooking and she does the organising, telling me how generous everyone is and how the shops like Sainsburys, Morrisons and Wilkos  kindly give, along with the Lions and Town Council. Healthy Life in the Little Brittox owner, Justina Pettifer, commented on Jeanette’s post on the Devizes Issue Facebook page, offering nut roasts for vegetarians attending, while many others expressed their willingness to help out on the day.

Seems there isn’t a criterion for being eligible to join the dinner, so long as you’re alone, Jeanette expressed it’s not only for the elderly, single parents are among the welcomed for the mass meal at the Baptist Church  on Sheep Street which begins at noon, doesn’t end until four, and includes musical entertainment too.

If you would like to help, or attend the meal then you should contact Jeanette, if you’re having trouble with this, please do not hesitate to message Devizine or Index and I’ll gladly put you in touch.

I’ve still outstanding a visit to Opendoor, the homeless charity of Devizes, hoping to check out the wonderful work they do there and report my findings to you, but it all boils down to the same thing, no, not Brussel sprouts, it boils down to the simple fact that while there’s local people in need, there are wonderful people to help; that, for me, is a convivial motive to reference the C word so early and a spirit in Devizes which makes it special.

SP 1 2017-02-page-001


The Great Western Reggae Soundclash

Trains have an emblematic relationship with reggae and its predecessor ska.


The chugging offbeat imitating a steam engine has been a running theme throughout its history. From choo-choo vocals of the Ethiopian’s classic “Train to Skaville,” to Keith & Tex’s rock steady anthem, “Stop that Train,” and The Wailer’s song of the same title, reggae is awash with train themes; it’s only apt there’s such thing as “Great Western Reggae,” and a substantial scene in the historic railway town of Swindon.


Pop-a-Top Records is Swindon’s label dedicated to its reggae homebrew. It’s headed by the ex-Skanxter, Erin Bardwell and his Collective who’ve just released “Great Western Reggae Soundclash,”a double-album which serves as a prodigious sampler for Pop-a-Top’s Great Western Reggae style.



In those ravey daze, the Skanxters were a local archaic blessing, harking to an era when life was less Altern 8 and more, well, Specials. I fondly recall heady nights following the Skanxters, at the Queen’s Tap, The Vic, and the Lamb in Marlborough, and remember the disheartening revelation a gig at Level III in 98 would be their last. I reminisce how, during their comical, “I’ll never know (who nicked my bike),” lead singer Andy Paton would ask the dodgiest looking audience member, “Oi, was it you?” and how once I was selected for the honour!


Imagine my delight at catching up with Erin, who played keyboards in the band and hasn’t stopped since. “Not all the artists (on Pop-a-Top) are from Swindon,” Erin explained, “but most are, or have links to it.” With countless projects under his belt, such as dub production duo Subject A’s “Sleepwalkers” release with ex-Skanxter bass player Dean Sartain, and nostalgic two-tone reunion gigs for the Skanxters, Erin is exceptionally prolific.


Though meticulous effort has been refined into “Great Western Reggae Soundclash,” and while not astoundingly lyrical, despite the opening track “Rock Steady Rub,” with vocals parallel to Johnny Cash popping into Studio One, GWR concentrates more-so on keyboards akin to Jackie Mitto.


The Collective glide steadily through a plethora of traditional rock steady, which while wouldn’t sound out of place on a Trojan “Tighten Up” compilation, also has a sprinkle of reflections on Swindon. Again, in the aforementioned running train theme, the tongue-in-cheek “Night Bus to Highworth,” and a nod to Edith New, the Swindonian suffragette first to campaign in an aggressive manner.


Fans of Jamaican music in Britain tend to separate into two trends, echoing dub and skinhead ska; the transitional stage is often overlooked. When really, developed through hard times in 1960s Kingston, where curfews set by the government to curb “rude boy” culture, it consequently mellowed the mood for the following era, and was Jamaica’s most creative period musically.


To hark back to this rock steady/boss reggae period is tried and tested in this album, a rarity left to groups like New York’s Frightnrs, who in turn add a little New Yorker panache to their sound. The Eric Bardwell Collective do similar, plus, while fundamentally inspired by rock steady they’re not afraid to explore techniques usually saved for ska or reggae, from chugging choo-choo vocals to nyabinghi drums and one drops, the tune “Why Why,” being a grand example of this, and along with both male and female vocals, the latter supplied by Dominican-born Sandra Bell, it makes the sound wholly unique and excitingly refreshing.

Erin Solarise

With rich history including backing reggae star Dennis Bovell, and a trip to Jamaica in 2003, to record at Byron Lee’s legendary Dynamic Sounds with Studio One engineer Sylvan Morris, Erin Bardwell has the contacts to add a plethora of talent to feature within the Collective. On this release you’ll find Selecter Guitarist Neol Davies, drummer Matty Bane of the Neville Staple Band, Pat Powell of the Melbourne Ska Orchestra alongside Swindon’s finest line-up, such as, among others, horns from the SN Dubstation.


There’s much here to impress and delight the reggae enthusiasts, my personal favourite being “Change,” where the Byron Lee influences shine, reminding of the frequently sampled piano riff of “My Conversation,” by the Uniques. Although there’s equally as much inspiration external to reggae, at times the soundscape took me to contemplate early Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett days, and a sprinkling of Sgt Pepper towards the album’s close. So, I figure there’s as much here to enjoy for the occasional reggae listener.


There’s an album launch at the Thomas Hughes Memorial Hall in Uffington on December 1st, the Erin Bardwell Collective are also live at The Castle in Swindon on Friday 8th and Zed Alley in Bristol 15th December. If that’s too close to the big C, I’d highly recommend you keep warm and treat yourself to an early yule pressie; grab yourself a CD or download of this outstanding local riddim redeemer here at Bandcamp.


For more info on Erin Bardwell Collective and the Top-a-Pop label, click here.


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The Undisputed Heavyweight Title for Best Breakfast in Devizes

It’s gone up a quid, but what hasn’t these days? Things that only were a quid have gone up a quid.

Still though, at £7 for a colossal breakfast even I struggle to finish, cooked to perfection, with Water Rose bangers, Sandridge Farm bacon, free tea and toast and all within a clean, friendly, down-to-earth cafe which is happy to swap items you don’t like, Jeffersons still holds the gold belt, (which is near to popping) for the best breakfast in Devizes.


I neglected to check the price of the slightly smaller breakie because, well, to be honest, I believe uttering the words “small” and “breakfast” in the same sentence should be illegal. Still, lightweights, whatever you order at Jeffersons, it’s a spankingly good deal and easy on your purse.

Unless you know different, are willing to take up the gauntlet and invite me to sample your pitch for the title belt (it’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it,) the undefeated title remains on Monday Market Street; pass the ketchup there’s a good fellow.


Jeffersons, Monday Market Street, Devizes. Open 8am – 4pm. Call: 01380 698060


The Quartet at the Wharf

By Zoe McMillan


Quartet – a four piece ensemble, as the name would suggest, written by Ronald Harwood and directed by Tess Richards.


The play draws us unapologetically into the world of four veteran opera singers, all previously known to each both professionally & intimately, who have been brought together once more in a retirement home for aging musicians of calibre & success.


An unashamed – no shameless vehicle for four feisty old troupers whose task is to make us laugh a little, sigh a little & cry a little as they lead us into the bittersweet world of facing up to age & mortality. For an audience plucked largely from a culture & society preoccupied with delaying aging & staying younger for longer, a society in which death is probably the last real taboo, Quartet made for uncomfortable viewing at times as the themes of death and mortality were explored in all their guises. “I used to be somebody once” said Jean…”I think I still am aren’t I?” asked Cissy.


Whether they’re making you laugh, cry or contemplate, the players of Quartet definitely make you feel and that is where its strength lies. It touches a chord; it pulls at your strings & examines your own insecurities about aging & mortality. It’s good art right there, as art is meaningless if it doesn’t make you feel.


Richards makes some clever set design decisions, setting the scene simply & sparsely, alluding to the surroundings of a retirement home with dated furniture that has seen better days (just like it’s inhabitants). This benefits the play two-fold. It keeps scene changes and prop shifting to an unobtrusive minimum and allows the audience to focus on the real stars of the piece, the actors.


It is the four thespians that grab and hold your attention, both together & each in turn with laughs echoing around the theatre from the delivery of the opening line & throughout.


Wilf, played by Martin Turner endears himself to the audience immediately with his cheeky nuances & racy one liners but it’s in his quiet moments of musing and retrospective that he really holds the audience; you could hear a pin drop.


Cissy played by Jax Brady, a long-time supporter of the Wharf theatre also captivated the audience and commanded the stage, even managing to steal your attention from the background with no dialogue. She captures the warmth and innocence of Fussy so convincingly that you feel defensive of her when others are misguiding her or mean to her.


Lewis Cowan as Reggie and Louise Peak as the notorious Jean also deserve mention for the light, shade & depth they bring to their roles and to the play as a whole. In short, it’s impossible to pick out any one character or actor from the four that steals the show; superbly cast by Tess Richards, Quartet is an ensemble in its truest sense as the four protagonists come together to make beautiful music that strikes a chord and resonates on a fundamental level with the audience and leaves you wanting more as the finale leaves you wanting more.


I thoroughly recommend a trip to the Wharf theatre this week if you have an evening free. The show runs from Friday 3rd Nov – Saturday 11th November. Performances start at 19.30. For tickets click here.


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Laughter; best medicine – pick up your prescription from the Moonraker’s Comedy Club

HELPGUIDE.ORG Trusted guide to mental & emotional health, check it out here; science proves laughter is the best medicine; fact. Now try this, Google most depressing day of the week; you’ll see the traditional Monday suggested, then others opting for Tuesday, but now, according to psychologists, midweek is the worst; Wednesday.  No one thinks Thursday, but after so many depressing days prior, how can you suddenly liven up, just like that?




There’s a lot of giggles to be had some Thursdays in Devizes and I’m telling you, you’re missing out on them. For Thursday can be twiddling your thumbs day, awaiting the weekend to arrive, but there’s the occasional one, like this week just gone, when Dr Martin Brown prescribes a healthy dose to our humble town at the Cellar Bar of the Bear.


Oh yeah, The Moonrakers Comedy Club has just set the agenda for its next evening of hilarity, on 7th December.  Paul Savage is headlining, he started performing comedy in 2007 and has performed all over Britain, and a 2013 tour of English speaking venues in Norway, Sweden and Denmark.


With over 1700 gigs under his belt, including six runs at the Edinburgh Festival, starting with the Free Tea and Biscuits Show, which set a record for having the most genuinely homeless people in one audience front row, it has to be said this guy knows his way around a joke or three.


Paul is joined by some sharp wit and Irish charm from the opening act, Belfast’s Ryan McDonnell, who is no stranger to laughs in his home town with his observations of everyday life. Sometimes bizarre, often dark he’s building up quite a reputation for himself on the UK comedy circuit.


Johnny Emmet is to be the host MC, a comedian and actor, famously sharing the screen with Nicholas Cage for 17 seconds and currently resident MC at ‘Corkers’ Comedy Club, Byfleet’ ‘Criminal Intent Comedy, West End and runs the bi- weekly ‘Bunking Off @ The Old Schoolyard in Borough.


Tickets are a tenner, here.


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