No Surprises Living in Devizes: On Your Bike 2017!

Last Christmas I gave you my heart. Still got it, cos I could do with it back? Let’s face it valiantly, 2017 can be summed up in a word; “crap.”

Just another year of government mendacities, spending cuts, and tyrannical deviations to make Britain as great as our new passports. Blue is the colour of cold and remoteness, just saying.

Another year where bulletins of worldwide terrorist attacks, terrible environmental tragedies and threats of internal conflict and war dwindle fast, to make room for the next horror story, and the poorest writhe under misguided pronouncements from bigoted world leaders, while ladies cut holes in their Christmas jumpers to make their boobs look like reindeers; we took the rough with the smooth.

Locally, pubs close faster than you can finish your drink in them, while Facebook pages spawn like rabbits. Everything feels as fake and plastic as Donald Trump’s suntan, and the world as spiteful as his Twitter profile. All’s well that ends well working the other way, even this No Surprises is nothing more than a clip-show; what a rip off.

I opened the year after the Boxing Day massacre, and sided with the fox: I’m on a wind up because, despite its illegality, thousands gathered on Boxing Day to blatantly flaunt the law and, just like they do to their children, they rub the blood in the face of anyone who might feel it slightly unfair on the fox by unveiling their crime in the native newspaper, as if what they did was acceptable behaviour; shame on the Gazette for passing such conceited pugnacious dribble off as an innocuous pageant.

This one, I’m sure you’ll appreciate, went down like a lead balloon at a ban lead-balloon-popping protest. Still not much changes, this Boxing Day they gathered in Pewsey, among other locations across the country. The only difference now is the ones claiming no harm is done seem to have found a novel activity; beat the protester with a horsewhip.

Our hate for foxes came to an apex when some idiot nicked the Basil Brush RNL collection box from the Little Brittox, but I’d already turned my attention to the A303 at Stonehenge: dodgy as an atomic-powered milk-float on a mountain footpath, used like an ultramodern autobahn by selfie-taking headless chickens, the proposed 1.4 billion squid to entomb traffic in a carbon monoxide tube for 1.8 miles, and campaigners complained, it’s not long enough; as if it was bound to happen when the council can’t even repair a pothole.

Then scaremongering weather warnings that were never to be sparked a trip down memory lane when Paul Baker, Sue Linsley, Patricia Besant, Ron Bridewell, Caroline Hubbard Reid and a chap with the unfortunate name of OAP Kev recollected snowy days of yore in Devizes. The column was getting nice again, until teenagers were caught uttering naughty words in Morrisons by Facebook PC philanthropists.

So I flipped open Pandora’s Box, asking The Devises Issue group, not for their reaction to the criticism teenagers received, but to prove the stereotype wrong. We covered many decent activities local youth do, from Arthur Plumb fire-juggling on a unicycle to the Bratton Silver Band and Phoenix Brass, the Cadets to Devizes Youth Club, and highlighted MACs and Centre Stage Academy of Dance.

Rubbing salt into whinger’s wounds, we heard a most memorable guest; the fantastic Freya Pigott, who talked about the Wiltshire Assembly of Youth and the UK Youth Parliament: “we find ourselves conflicting with Wiltshire Council,” she told us, “as we often stand up against cuts to public transport and youth services, while calling for more funding for mental health services.”  Shame it doesn’t feel like they listened, cutting more than Mary Whitehouse editing Debbie Does Dallas.

I reckon we did justice for youth though, showed up pigeonholing “grownups,” while our own MP unleashed some serious drivel, comparing hysterical Brexiteers to jihadists: It was more irrational outburst than a cheap-shot rebellious kvetch, her only intention seemingly to earn a permit to appear on the tele-box.” And she did, where she proceeded to ignore Billy Bragg and over-shout senior obnoxious cow, Anne Widdecombe: “Did you catch “the World According to Claire Perry Show,” with guests including David Dimbleby, incorrectly scheduled by the BBC as Question Time? She fumbled humble pie but it fell on the floor before she had the opportunity to eat it. Her annoyance with Brexiteers soon dissolved to mindless obedience to the Tory line.

After winter, came….yeah, potholes. I fell into Potterne’s craters, slightly more filled in than the A360 upon asking Wiltshire Council the procedures for pothole repairs. The vagueness of their response was a contributing factor to the path No Surprises would take; when dealing with the Council I found it best to just make stuff up rather than ask. The ethos peaked over the hysteria of parking charges to punish local business.

Attempts to hop back to the good foot, including chatting to Devizes-born Chris Astill-Smith, on his mission to swim the channel. I thanked the Great Western Hospital Foundation, providing space for the Devizes Foodbank and was even nice about Claire Perry’s assistance with it. Also, it was cool talking to Wadworth’s sign-painter David Young, after he rubbed shoulders with Prince Charles.

Seemed spring was brightening up, but then Peter Blockley of the Devizes Lions announced the club was unable to comply with Wiltshire Council’s interpretation of regulations: “We’re very sorry for any disappointment felt by the public, who have always supported this event.” Tradition couldn’t save the May Fair this year for fear of terrorist attack: Maybe the Council has a point, I’m angered by all the terrorist attacks at events in Devizes; Christmas light switch on I saw a bearded foreigner, probably one of those Lapland extremists, on the roof of the Bear Hotel with some kind of electrical devise. The next thing, I heard explosions.

A surge in annoyance developed, being Wiltshire, with the lowest crime rates in the country, but peculiarly, police Taser usage above national average, celebrated the incongruity with Chief Constable Mike Veale handing out Tasers to: any old PC Tom, Dick, or Dirty Harry. And even more frustrating, his reasoning: It’s all these darn terrorist attacks happening in our God forsaken county.

So with staying in being the new going out, fear of being Tasered, I created a poll to find the best takeaway in town: it’s more important than the EU referendum. Bit naff, but the following week I did a prodigious piece on gender equality at the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race, and the inspiring tale of Sheila Burnett, who disguised her gender to enter. Similarly I advocated the virtue of girl’s football; Things I do to get out of doghouse. I even, like a premonition of Devizine, previewed the summer festivities, moaning “what do I look like now, some kind of event guide?” Pleasant topics; if I knew then what I……oh, forget it.

But with spanners dressing as Muslims to protest about the cancelation of the May Fair, a new pub landlord trying to paint over ceiling murals sacred to crop-circlers, a surge in dog owners tying poo-bags to trees, and not forgetting, of course, our trustworthy Prime Minister nobody voted for, who clearly stated she wouldn’t call a snap election, suddenly calling a snap election, it was reasonable to suggest all hell would break loose. Who’d have flunked it?

We managed a tenacious link from doggy-poo bags to the current state of Parliament, which wasn’t tricky: Better still; train your pooch to poo in your own garden rather than leave it to the heroic CUDS and Green Party’s Geoff Brewer, who have been tidying discarded poo sacks in Drew’s Pond Wood, the worst affected area of Devizes. At last, here’s a councillor cleaning poo rather than dishing it out.

One way forward; interview prospective local candidates, as if they had a chance. We started with the most radical, Dr Emma Dawnay of the Green Party: “We are not a single issue party!” Emma assured, “we have policies across the board which will increase wellbeing and give people the financial motivation to live in a more sustainable manner. For me our economic policies, on tax, investment and the monetary system – are more important than rules on, for instance, plastic bags, as they will have a far wider impact. I’m a political economist, and it is the Green Party’s economic policies that convinced me to become Green.”

Then Labour’s Imtiyaz Shaikh under the spotlight: who is surprisingly optimistic in his attempt to gain against the bigger kids in this game of musical chairs. It was becoming clear with my notion: Least we can be sure; the Conservative Party will remain callous organisms, unreliable as Charles Ponzi at the My Little Pony Friendship Club AGM. No apologies, this is not the Beeb. The chance of impartiality here equals the chance of Tories sticking to their manifesto, the furnace was warming.

Now, expectedly a few obnoxious right-wing fanatics, too thick to see the satire through their hateful agenda tried laughably to verbally attack me personally, so we took a fortnight away from politics where I dressed as Wilber, the Air Ambulance bear at the brilliant Calne-Fest, had an adventure on the wheels of steel at the Devizes Scooter Club Family Fun Day and chatted to Sam Bishop of Devizes-own pop band Larkin, all the time never really believing Claire Perry would take the No Surprises podium.

But she did, and I interviewed the key person to all the shenanigans. Like a true politician, she avoided answering every question, and not one Tory sympathiser appreciated my unbiased effort anyway: Claire was keen to contradict herself, “We’re not entering a coalition with the DUP. The Conservative party is the only party forming the UK Government. We are entering talks with the DUP to ask if they will be willing to support us in those key votes on a confidence and supply basis. This does not mean we are entering into a relationship with the DUP, or that we support them.” Sake!

Despite a naked cyclist and phantom adolescent bum slapper at large, I insisted on a group huggle. We yakked to clothed Seend cyclist and pork pie lover, Jennifer Dalton, who with her friend John Whalley took part in the Deloitte Ride across Britain, and Poulshot farmer Nicole Pegg, who sadly had her livestock attacked by a dog. That though was the tip of the iceberg of bad news in Devizes, with the sabotage of the Jubilee woods and two paedophile arrests made, things too bleak to mention. So I proposed we look to carnival as revitalisation, until a dog bit me and I spent the parade slouching in Swindon’s A&E eating Wotzits. DOCA though have done us proud, with an excellent Hillworth Picnic and awesome street festival, forgotten by the public when new arrangements for the Christmas Parade needed ironing, and an electrical issue saw Santa booed.

Celebrations afoot, below Ian Diddams’ hashtag #nothingeverhappensindevizes I set to prove, despite the filthy top-heavy Tory ethos, Devizes is great, and there’s plenty to do. Since Facebookers lamented there was no single what’s-on guide, although there was, but updated as often as the Doomsday Book, I hit upon a revelation. The moisture of the Earth, the powers of the sun and moon, all worked upon a certain writer, old as creation, and he became magically fertile!

Yeah, whatever, that first egg was named, “No Surprises Living in Devizes.” The father Bud said, “With No Surprises, we make fun of Devizes.” Elemental forces caused the egg to hatch. From it came a stone cold website.

The nature of Devizine was irresponsible!

It certainly kept my mind preoccupied from the terrible cause of events in my personal life. My Dad suffered a stroke at the beginning of the year and never recovered. It left that inspiring, kind man severely physically and mentally disabled. Tuesdays when I usually wrote my column I’d spend driving to London after work to see him. The column therefore became sporadic, not as polished and often the satire was lost. To the point where some thought they’d kick me when I was down, and No Surprises downgraded from amusing causerie to “spam,” worthy of blocking and reporting to Facebook; nothing to do with the convenient reawakening of the official town website, obviously.

There were times I found it hard to be humorous, returning from a hospital where ninety-five percent Caucasian patients were nursed day and night by kindly foreign faces only to read the posts of xenophobic yokels claiming immigrants were choking the NHS by taking all the beds. Yeah, they’re taking the beds and cleaning our shit off them. Fancy doing this job when you scare them into Europe you moron?

Oh my years; you love it really! Truly, I want Devizine and No Surprises be something for the real people of Devizes, and beyond, to enjoy and share; not certain why some are against this; is it cos I is as common as muck dropped from the mudguards of Nigel Farage’s Land Rover, or cos I sway leftward like Jeremy’s vest on the washing line during Hurricane Harvey? I know it’s illegal to have alternative opinions over this state border. Like a dogmatic Footloose Kevin Bacon, I’ll kick Sunday shoes off to new avenues in the coming year, regardless of rubrics.

Between folds of crisis then, my father sadly passing in October, I managed bashing out a few No Surprises columns, verbally attacking fly-tippers, attending the Devizes Country Music Club, praising Jeannette Von Berg and her team who insure no one is alone at Christmas and I visited The St Johns Parish Rooms to see the amazing work of Devizes Opendoor. I consider these worthy.

So, I thank everyone who has been featured in No Surprises this year, especially Ms Perry for being a good sport. And I dedicate this final feature to the fond memories of my Dad. Here’s to a better year; 2018, I wish you all the best.

Devizine and No Surprises will live long and prosper, it’d be illogical not to support them Captain.

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New Year’s Eve, in this Neck of the Woods…..

2017? Yeah, bye then, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. 2018 you know is gonna be shinier, funnier and darn right saucy; it’s just got that ring to it, innit tho?

So where are YOU going to be, mediating in a field of leftover Quality Street wrappers, wallowing in self-pity and taking blotto selfies with the dog, weeping into a giant bag of Twiglets on your Jack Jones? Or is there, maybe, a party with your name drunkenly etched all over it in fantabulous glitter-pen?

Well, here are all the events I’ve got down for New Year’s Eve on Devizine so far. If you know of something better and want to keep it to yourself, like the solo Twiglet eating championships happening on your sofa, then keep it to yourself, but if perchance, you know something we don’t and really, really, really-really, really want to share your occasion  (I would call it part-ay, but I’m told by cool people it’s no more a ‘cool’ term than the original ‘party’ and should  never be used in cool circles, in actual fact, party is now considered cooler than part-ay,) then, where the jumping jeepers was I?

Oh yeah, tell us all about it and I’ll, eventually, get around to mentioning it on here, probably be new year’s eve 2019, but there you go.

So it now leaves me to tell you the options, stop babbling and wish you all a very happy 2018!

Option One: Find Surprises in Devizes

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The Three Crowns has the excellent People Like Us: Ticket Only, £7 from the pub in advance.

and Funked Up play The Black Horse, Devizes to be followed by a disco.

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The popular Burbank are live at the Crown: Free entry for this one.

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There’s a Masquerade Ball at the Exchange Nightclub, £7 for the night, with spot prizes and confetti shower.

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Victoria returns to the Conservative Club with a disco too, £10 members, £13 others

DJ Ramon spins party tunes at the Southgate; free.

DJ Eddy is at the Cross Keys in Rowde; free.

Option Two: Go a tad further

Party covers band, The Magic Tones head the party at the Market Lavington Community Hall, with the stamp of the Market Lavington Music and Comedy Club, should be a good one: Tickets  £25, under 18’s £10 but includes a buffet.

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Stealth’s Roadshow head a child-friendly New Year’s Eve party with music and karaoke, at the Woodborough Social Club: £10 Members, £15 Non-Members, Children £5, Includes a Ploughman’s Supper; Tickets from the club.

Bath’s The Blue Moon Band will be a safe bet at the Mallard, Lynham

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Our very own Larkin boys are at The Swan in Great Shefford

Or try The Granary at The George in Frome with Lloyd Edwards live

Option Three: Head for Marlborough

The Wellington Arms on the High Street host Skanga’s sound system New Year’s Eve party for ravers, and it’s free!

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Option Four: Get yourself over to Swindon town

Peloton’ play Mod, punk, sixties and seventies soul and RnB at the Victoria; free (I think.)

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The Britpop Boys play the Grove’s Company Inn, £10 ticket for this one.

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Marlborough’s Onyx Duo play the Rat Trap

 

Last Option other than the field of Quality Street wrappers: Go West

How about an unforgettable funk, soul and retro grooves takeover with Craig Charles and the  James Taylor Quartet, The Correspondents  and Don Letts @ at Colston Hall, Bristol?

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Failing this, Zion have a ‘Battle of the DJs’, a live set from ‘The Road Zombies’ and a disco until the early hours. 

 

Whatever happens, let us know how it went and have a great new year! The first gig of 2018 is at the Red Lion Lacock on News Years Day; check out the brilliant Sound Affects.

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Larkin in-between Christmas and New Year

Nine more sleeps. Yeah, you read it right; I’m talking about the release date of Larkin’s debut album, “Set You Free.” What did you think I was on about?

We’ve chatted to Sam Bishop while still in the studio some months ago (here.) We covered their thoughts and longings for this recording; we discussed the crowdfunding aspect, revealed their creative influences and writing practises.

Now we get to hear the results, and I hand it to the Devizes domestic duo, working with Martin Spencer at the Badger Set in Potterne, they’re sounding astoundingly polished and proficient, with a maturity which sets this release as a firm turning point.

The positive up-tempo “Never Too Late” kicks off the all new eight tracks with a catchy guitar riff and chorus of fiddles; it’s fresh but retains the definitive principle of a classic Brit-pop anthem.

Then, when Larkin show us their shadier side with “Solace in the Dark,” a plodding and moodier tune with echoes of The Verve’s Bitter Sweet Symphony, you know this album is going somewhere, somewhere deeply mindful and expressive. However, “Talk” rolls me back to the clear, lighter-sided Simon & Garfunkel influence.

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It’s a progressive journey from there, “Final Hour,” being the finest example of their topmost vocal expression with spine-tingling melancholic reverberations, and melodic “For You,” being the foot-tapper which keeps jolting my laptop as I write.

While “Walk Away” continues on the causal buoyancy tone, the last tune, “Where to Run,” gets even more upbeat and blithe, and makes a great finale to a darn fine album. Devizes should be proud of these guys; it has the finger-marks and expressive vocals of a very promising career.

To celebrate this release, shoved in-between Christmas and New Year, on the 30th December, Larkin invite all to hear them perform the album, with promises of some covers slipped in and support band, at Cons Club. Tickets just a fiver will include a 50% off voucher for a CD copy of the album. Doors open at 7.30pm, with the support band starting at 8pm.

“We want this to be a special night,” Sam and Fin say, “Hear the album before anyone else!!” 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?

The Larkin lads go on to explain how hard they’ve worked towards this, and when you hear the album you’ll know it’s true.

30th December at the Cons Club: https://www.facebook.com/events/1950236541902178/

Pre-order Set you Free on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/set-you-free/1326890936

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The must-have board game this Christmas; FREE to Devizine readers!

The Devizes Dash is the must-have board game this Christmas and it’s FREE to all Devizine Readers.

“It’s a fun game for all the Family,”

Wiltshire Council, Department of Neighbourhood and Planning

 

Christmas; time for relaxing with the family, caving into commercialisation, wrapping sausages with bacon, and perhaps, playing some games.

Here then is Devizine’s gift to you this yuletide; an entertaining game with local appeal, which’ll soon make you forget all the rushing around, traffic jams and stress of the build up to this profitmaking shenanigan.

Before you begin; take some Evening Primrose Oil, along with a shot of vodka or four, then, print out the two images below and stick them together to make the game board. You need to source some counters to act as vehicles, and dice. Yeah, you do have to sort them out yourselves; do I look like flipping Waddingtons to you?

Object of the game; to make your way through a town centre and be the first to finish; sounds simple eh?  Not when I tell you the town is good ol’ Devizes, a place where infrastructure is a swear word and town planning is just something other towns, somewhere else, do.

Yep, it’s 5PM on a Friday in our modest settlement. Your mission: to make it along the A361 from Beckhamton, through town, and back onto the A361 to Trowbridge. You can take any route (the outcome will be the same anyway,) to accomplish the incredible. Throw a six to start and try not to get stuck in traffic for too long or you’ll be slapped with a parking ticket.

Note: Potholes and road-works have been omitted from the board game to save space, just take it for red that you’ll encounter them on nearly every square.

You have fun now, y’hear.

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Devizes to get a warm spell of Northern Soul in February, via DJ Terry Hendrick

After a series of successful ska nights, The Devizes Scooter Club plans to diversify their Conservative Club evenings for the forthcoming year. With parallel commitment to retrospective panache, the 31st March offers an optional fancy-dress 70s-80s disco; get your legwarmers and deely-boppers out the loft.

But they kick off 2018 on the 24th February, when renowned DJ Terry Hendrick graces Devizes for a Northern Soul – Motown extravaganza, and tickets have gone on sale this weekend.

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I confess, of the genres combined into this rebirth of mod culture of yore, I’ve an enigmatic relationship with Northern Soul. For starters, the music is no more indigenous to Northern England than the Cornish pasty, rather US rare groove soul and RnB. But it was the choicest category for Mods of Northern towns that flocked to Covent Garden record stores in the sixties hunting rarities before football games.

In fact, the brand “Northern Soul” wasn’t even coined by some high-kicking Yorkshire lad in a tank-top, rather by London record shop owners to distinguish the archaic variety of soul hailed by these Northern vinyl predators, as opposed to upcoming funk and disco welcomed more by Londoners.

However, upon really listening to these rare grooves I’ve taken them under my eclectic wing, considering Motown’s restraints to a definite commercial style isn’t evident in these jumbles. Dynamic, raw energy and experimentation defines the sound. To insure there’s little doubt, I caught up with Terry Hendrick, for a chat prior to his visit.

Due to the record collection Terry amassed in the mid-eighties, he volunteered to DJ for his scooter club. “We decided to hold a do,” he told me, “and invite the local scooter clubs. A couple of other club members and I hired turntables, etc. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and other scooter clubs asked if I could DJ their club do’s as well, that’s when I got hooked.”

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Being from Coventry, Two-Tone homeland, Terry was soon being booked to support the likes or The Selecter, The Beat, Bad Manners and Neville Staple. His name grew from there, supporting late, great singers like Prince Buster, Desmond Dekker, Judge Dread and Laurel Aitken, and from reggae group Misty in Roots, right up to modern bands; Dreadzone, The Dualers, The Skints and Skabilly Rebels.

But the conversion to Northern Soul, I had to ask.  “Alongside playing a lot of ska and reggae events,” Terry continued, “the scooter club do’s liked to hear Motown and Northern Soul, which I’d been buying steadily since my first scooter rally in 1985. I was finding, by the late 80’s, friends were asking me to play more Northern Soul, to the point that 75% of my gigs were purely based around this genre.”

So, out of his vast vinyl collection, I asked Terry for his favourite. “If I had to choose one genre, then it would probably be roots reggae, as that’s what I was brought up listening to in Coventry before the 2-Tone explosion happened. But there’s nothing quite like playing great Northern Soul tracks and seeing the passion within the dancers faces; it’s a great scene to be a part of.”

Here’s its niche then, it’s a positive, fluctuating scene, with unique and competitive dances moves, a love affair with the pursuit of rare records which would otherwise be lost in the midst of time.

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Indisputably cool to witness authentic vinyl DJs these days, I wondered how Terry felt about CD and computer mixers, though I predicted his response! “As I was brought up on an era way before CDs, the only choice was Vinyl, and that’s where my pocket money went as a youngster,” he explained.

“I do believe the sound quality of vinyl is far superior to any digital sound, and I think depending on the genre of music you’re playing and venue, then CD’s have their place, but, unfortunately there are too many out there, that download free off YouTube onto a 10 pence blank CD, and all of a sudden think they’re a DJ. Using Vinyl requires a lot of concentration and skill in not only searching through your box of singles for what to play, but the setting up correctly of the turntables and in the cueing of the track to be played.”

Terry operates under the banner, “Soul Pressure Sound System.” I asked if this was a solo affair, or a network of DJs? “It’s something I started back in the early 90’s, and has been a mainly solo venture until recently,” Terry answered, telling me how he taught his partner Hayley Cuell, and friend, Paul Arnold, who now fly the flag, regularly guesting alongside him.

Most importantly for us, I wanted to know what Devizes can expect to hear on 24th Feb; does Terry play to the crowd, or favour to introduce them to rare grooves. “The tracks I’ll be playing will be a mixture of the classics we all love, also some up tempo RnB,” he convinced me hook, line and sinker. “The beginning will be a lot of the lesser well known tracks, hopefully introducing some great new tunes to people’s ears.”

Just think; they could be your lovely little lobes Terry’s on about! You can get tickets, (£7 advance/£8 on door) from the Cons Club, join the Devizes Scooter Club and ask, or if push comes to shove, contact Devizine and I’ll sort them for you; can’t say fairer than that soul-boy.

More info on the event: https://www.facebook.com/events/192832917940007/

Check Terry’s Mixcloud: https://www.mixcloud.com/terryhendrick3/

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