March On! This Weekend: Devizes Rocks

Winter may be taking its final assault, but after a few quiet post-Christmas weekends, some awesome events have been heating up Devizes. How do you following recent ones, with Battle of Bands, a Winter Ale Festival, Madness the Musical, Tribute of Gershwin & Bernstein and Terry Hendrick at the Scooter Club?

Well, Devizes event promoters are stepping up their games, providing us with more choice than a Sky TV HD box. So, as an example, let’s have a butcher’s hook at what’s going down this weekend alone, shall we? Get your snowshoes out.

Marching onto Thursday the first doesn’t matter if you’re the “arty” type, because The Wine Street Gallery’s latest exhibit, “Unrest,” will enthral all. I know, I’ve been to see the works and meet with the artist Clifton Powell for this preview here.


Thursday and Devizes also welcomes back The Moonraker’s Comedy Club at the Cellar Bar, when MC Sal Monello introduces West Country based comedian, Sandi Smith who reached the semi-final of Funny Women 2013 and the heats of the BBC New Comedy Awards, and headliner Danny Buckler.


Danny made his TV debut on Channel 4’s “Danny Does Tricks,” has toured with Victoria Wood, opened for Paul Anka, Ricky Gervais and Bob Monkhouse, and hosted the BBC1 Saturday night prime time show “The Secrets of Magic.” Tickets a snip at a tenner, from The Bear Hotel, Devizes Books, The British Lion, The Southgate Inn and The Vaults. Also available at We Got Tickets.



Friday Night and Hull’s Madness Tribute, Badness appear at the Exchange, tickets are also a tenner from Devizes Books, Light & Sound, thirteen on the door.


Meanwhile, an engaging and dynamic live bluegrass act with a fascinatingly different sound, The Often Herd, make their debut at The Cellar Bar, as part of their debut EP release tour. I like the sound of this; check the vid below.

The Often Herd reach beyond what is expected of a bluegrass band, marrying wistful sunshine harmonies of Southern California with the striking industrial allure of their home in the North East of England. Doors open at 8PM, tickets apparently £9 but only £8 on the door(???)


The Lamb also has an interesting line up Friday, Sheer Music present Swedish indie folk pop band, Sun & The Rain Men. Described as a wonderful mix of folk, soul, and indie, with a classic Swedish touch, they’re supported by musician, comedian, radio presenter, charity challenger and motivational speaker, Shaun Buswell, and Devizes’ very own Tamsin Quin….and all for absolutely nothing, just turn up!



Wake at a decent time Saturday and catch the monthly Farmer’s Market, an archaeology conference at Wiltshire Museum and the Lions Club Swimathon at the Leisure Centre. But music lovers need only wander to St Johns, where you’ve bagged yourself a brand new record shop (Google “record shop” kids.) Yep, it’s the grand opening day of Vinyl Realm where Mike Barham plans to entertain the crowds. More details here.



Over at Devizes Sports Club that evening, The Blue Mercenaries, featuring Jon Amor and Innus Sibun are live at the RnB Bar. Doors at 8Pm, tickets a tenner; there can be no finer way to polish your weekend off.



Failing this though, The Crown sees the welcomed return of Lloyd Edwards; see what I mean you lucky, lucky lot? Spoiled for choice. And if there’s something I missed it’s because you didn’t tell me about it, silly. Check Devizine’s home page for all the info you need.


Stop the Press! Update on this article as it looks like the weather has delivered a fatal blow: The Farmer’s Market and Moonraker’s Comedy Club have both been cancelled. Roll on spring…….






Devizes Secret Agent, Shagger Bond, stars in Dr No Free Parking Here






Ah, Mr Bond, Devizes businessman I understand? I appreciate you taking the time to visit us here at Wiltshire Council. 
Being I intend to have you pushed into a shark pool situated underneath Wagamama, I can reveal our evil plan.
You see Mr Bond, our extortionate parking charges increase has become somewhat of a heated debate locally. So I have proposed lots of free parking right here in our county town.
Your people will now be able to take full advantage of our facilities, they will flock here Mr Bond, and shop till they drop, watch movies at our plush new plastic multiplex and fill the surrounding commercialised chain restaurants; after all, development doesn’t come cheap.
As for your pathetic little market town, alas it is doomed, no one will pay to park, business will wither and die, just like you! Goodbye Mr Bond; mwha hahaha!

Try a Little Freddie

Whatever happened to Mika? You recall, the guy who wanted to be like Grace Kelly but his looks were too sad? Back at the dawning of 2007 he was tipped to be the next big thing on the BBC’s annual Sound Of poll. He certainly had an amazing vocal range and when he burst into “Freddie,” within the song, well, it was sublimely accurate.

But there never was, and unquestionably will never be another Freddie Mercury; don’t even attempt it. The decline in sales botched Mika’s intention of a comeback and he was reduced to a judge on the Italian version of X-Factor.

Caught in the time of glam, big hair and experimentation in rock that’ll never be mirrored, we live now with only the memories of Queen, the odd appearance of Brian May atop Buckingham Palace, the many tribute acts and stage show, We Will Rock You. Bradford-on-Avon’s Character Stage School are planning to perform this, with auditions for ages seven – fourteen on March 1st at St. Brendan’s Performing Arts Academy. See here for details.

Meanwhile, here in Devizes tickets for The Invitation Theatre’s next show, “TITCO Does Queen,” are diminishing at an average rate of ten per day, and with only two dates: 29th and 30th June, you’d better want to ride your bicycle over to Devizes Books before they bite the dust. But what’s it all about? I asked Jemma Brown.

Being Jemma manages publicity for TITCO as well as performing, and husband Anthony conducts the Full Tone Orchestra, it comes as no surprise to hear the TITCO and The Full Tone would unite one day, but nevertheless, it’s a thoroughly welcomed one.

So, is this the first time they’re collaborating? Jemma explained although they had TITCO singers at the Full Tone concert in February, this is the first time the whole of TITCO will feature alongside the full Full Tone, thirty-seven piece orchestra. “On a big scale,” ever-enthusiastic Jemma added, “the sound will be immense!!”

Interesting then that TITCO will host original material as apposed to performing set Queen-inspired stage shows, but is there a narrative to their extravaganza?

“Yes,” Jemma informed me, “there will be clever stuff linking it all together; in true TITCO style!”

I gulped with visions of Ian Diddams straddling a half-microphone stand garbed in harlequin leotard, “No Freddie looky-likey then?!”

“No!” Jemma thankfully confirmed. No matter how accomplished the Didds and remaining TITCO team are, as I said, trying to be like Freddie will only see you judging Italian X-Factor! “Although there is talk of inviting the audience to come as their favourite Freddie!!” Jemma supplemented.

Now there’s a piece of audience participation which will go down a treat, even afterwards in the chip shop queue. Queen is a mash of rock and opera/classical though, and here we are with an orchestra performing their songs, is it going to have the rock element too?

“It certainly is,” Jemma explained, “We’ll have four guitars…!!!”

Well, that’s mud on my face, I’m a big disgrace. Don’t mind me, kicking my can all over the place, but if TITCO want to sing, “We will, we will rock you,” and the plethora of other timeless Queen classics at the Corn Exchange 29th and 30th June, don’t stop them now.

Tickets from Devizes Books or here.

Devizes Scooter Club in Full Fling

Northern Soul aficionados from far and wide mingled with Devizes natives for an evening of cheongsam dresses, two-tone suits and quality northern soul on the talcum powdered dancefloor of the overflowing Conservative Club last night.


Trilby hats off to the Devizes Scooter Club for, yet again, hosting a soultastic gala and bringing musical diversity to the town. With eminent countrywide DJ Terry Hendrick and assistant Paul at the controls, attendees were treated to a plethora of sixties archetypal soul, ranging from the rare groove of northern soul to Motown and Atlantic classics, momentarily bordering on rock steady and garage, but winding back to soul swiftly.




There were some interesting records spun from Terry’s vast vinyl assortment, but definitive sounds of the genre mandatorily stirred bar hanger-on to seated individual to chance the dancefloor by the evening’s peak. Only leaving one burning question, what other tricks have the Scooter Club got up their sleeve?


Perhaps not so specialised, but favourably blithe, the forthcoming event is a 70s & 80s Disco, with optional fancy dress. Again it’s at The Cons Club, on the 31st March. There’s also a fundraising barbeque on 21st July, but in the middle of these I’m eager to catch Bad Manners tribute, The Special Brew on 28th April.


Nice poster guys, whoever designed that surely deserves a pint!

Other than another hairdryer attendance at Carnival, and frequent scooter rides outs for club members, impending dates further in time than these have yet to be confirmed, but it looks like we’re heading full steam towards the anticipated Devizes Scooter Rally in next summer; more details on that coming very soon, for now, I need a little lie down!


No Surprises Living in Devizes: Whacky Races

Would you Adam and Eve it? Two years ago today the first No Surprises Living in Devizes column was published on Index:Wiltshire. At the time I’d never have believed I would still be here typing these whinges out, let alone you wonderful lot still reading them!

So, I tried being nice with the last one, knowing this was coming, but this week…. Well, put it this way, I try to keep the column under eight-hundred words, which doesn’t always happen when I go off on a tangent (who? Moi?) I also refrain from using naughty words. This time let it be known, as it may be understandably edited, I’m going to use the F word.

I use it because I believe no other word in the English language has quite the same impact. There’s a message I want to convey in the wake of Tuesday’s pathetic attempt at rush hour, when three, if you didn’t hear, three crashes in our insignificant town happened within said hour, and apparently, another life was sadly lost.

So, keeping it under eight hundred words I can do, adding an unnecessary expletive for good measure, I’ll sure give it my best shot. I can get the message out in four words, including the F one, it really is this simple. I’ll even Caps-lock and full stop after each of them, as it makes it look like I’m a patronising old git:



We know our infrastructure is poor, Wiltshire Council could do more to improve it. We know about cuts to Council and police budgets, speed restrictions need reviewing and to be monitored. We know all these things, but only you can make this change, you are solely responsible for your driving.

Try to get it into your cranium, you’re in charge of a dangerous weapon. The road is my workplace, I don’t bust into your office with an AK-57 and start gunning the ceiling and floor, thinking everyone should dive under the desks and if they don’t that’s their mistake.

No one is perfect, some older with slower reflexes; doesn’t mean they should be bullied off the road, by people who fail to comprehend, they’ll one day be in the same boat (provided they’re not victims of their own poor driving.)

People make mistakes, there’s no logic in the presumption everything will go according to plan, that everyone can comprehend your intentions in the split-second it takes you to execute it. Face it, the ethos “it’s their fault,” won’t bring back a human life.

What was worse, after our Black Tuesday, the next morning, roads cleared, everyone was off again, driving like idiots; as if nothing happened. Yesterday’s news; you’d think people might stop and think for once, but no, that’d be foolish. You are not Han Solo about to break into hyperspace, you are not Penelope Pitstop.


Cutting your speed is not the be-all-and-end-all of cutting road traffic accidents but it goes a long way from preventing them and lessening the consequences. I’m no saint, I loved the thrill of driving fast, I’ve been gone done foolish things whilst driving, but last year I spent a lot of time at the Royal Hospital of Neuro-Disability in Putney, where I watched a twenty-something with half his head missing, raise his left arm sporadically and randomly, and that was about all he did, all day. I’ll leave that thought with you.


Now I propose what would seem the impossible, to many a parish council; a suggestion that we limit the dual carriageway from Devizes down Caen Hill to a fifty. I put a poll on the Devizes Issue, and do you know what? Last count 159 agree, but a staggering 573 disagree. Adding comments like, “it’s our drag strip,” incriminating themselves with, “I do 130 down there,” and in the wake of having three crashes in the space of one rush hour and one life taken in our small town, “what a stupid post.”

Just maybe it is a stupid post. At random I’ll pick a few posts not classed as stupid from this Facebook page; stop, think and rate them according to stupidity. Don’t forget to add the one in where I attempt a discussion to prevent people dying and we’ll regroup next week.


1- Does anyone know what the price would be to have my hamsters claws trimmed at the vet please?
2- Any rowde parents no what week the menu is on please
3- clients needed for Friday the 23ed to come in to body tonic salon please
4- Rollover hotdogs are back, with a can of coke for only £2.29


Love is a Battlefield

To top off a busy Saturday in Devizes, the Sports Club hosted the Battle of the Bands, as we previewed last week(ish.)

Ambiguous name, for “bands” consisted of solo performers, and despite it being a “battle,” competition, judged by a panel to win a place on the impressive Saddleback Festival line-up, a close-knit group of optimum local acts cuddled, and celebrated each other’s performances with mutual respect and friendship, without throwing so much as a packet of pickled onion Monster Munch at one another, (least I didn’t notice.)

Alas, Battle of the Bands is commonly an apt slogan, which kind of sums up the events last night at the Sports Club. More importantly though, what you need to note; the evening absolutely, totally and unquestionably rocked. For not only did the dazzling and varied acoustic music make this night, it also gave the performers the rare chance to get together. As the mighty Mike Barham told organiser Rick, with me earwigging, they’re always performing at different venues on any given night.

Alex Cash

Asked to play three songs each, things moved swiftly, acting like a sampler for each performer’s showcase. It was time for me to hear and meet, not only the ones I’m aware of, but others who I’ve been pre-warned about the excellence of.

And excellent it was from the opening; if this was Alex Cash’s first solo outing he didn’t look lonely there, and Calne’s Jack Moore amusingly continued the fashion with a final song inspired by the Pixar movie Finding Nemo. Even accidentally head-butting the microphone as a finale wouldn’t have lost full marks if I was judging.

Jack Moore

Just as soon as I returned from the bar, the lovely Clair Kearley from Devizes post-punk band Browfort replaced Jack and was merrily singing away. It all went so fast, next thing I knew, an honoured chance few words with proficient music organiser, Mirko Pangrazzi, and the Salamander, Pewsey’s Sally Dobson was firing on all cylinders.

Clair Kearley 

I’m losing it now, the notes on my phone abandoned for some great conversation about the Saddleback Festival with Rick on prospective expansions for the event, including camping, and with snapping legend Nick Padmore, who’s so enthusiastic about our local music scene he’s kindly allowed me pinch these fine photos to show you. He had a grand idea that I should interview this crazy bunch, and if you’d have heard them, you’d agree; watch this space, if they’ll honour me.

Sally Dobson

Meanwhile, if I recall correctly, Melksham’s alternative rock wildcard, The Hound on Mountain blew the audience away. In the preview I mentioned influences of Talking Heads and The White Stripes, but I’m damned if his vocal range and passion didn’t deliver unto me reflections of Jim Morrison, especially leaping off stage and polishing off his song on his knees central in the hall.

Hound on the Mountain

Jamie R Hawkins followed, one I was keen to catch up with, such brilliant strumming and acutely written words. Poignant and witty, Jamie delivered the goods, checked them off and handed them over to George Wilding with a professional ease.

Jamie R Hawkins

For those in the know, George would make this look like a walk in the park; I was wowed, he makes it look like child’s-play, owning a cover of House of the Rising Sun, but somehow he retains modesty and is the most admirable guys you’d ever care to meet; my reason for saying this footnoted.

George Wilding

Fresh from supporting at the Long Street Blues Club, Tamsin Quin awaited her turn in trademark white Doc Martins and magnificent smile. Something irresistible about Tamsin’s appetite for music and drive in her motivation shines through without compromise with every performance. Tonight was of no exception and gained her place in the final showdown with George.

Tamsin Quin

Not before the mighty, I keep calling him mighty, despite he’s such a friendly, approachable guy, yeah, so, the mighty Mike gave us a dose of his loud and entertaining show. Never without an ingenious and humorous angle, Mike Barham fresh from operating the sound at Macs Theatre School’s production of Our House, would’ve won a real battle hands down. But he carried out his hattrick without concern for competition, his only mission to strum Top Gun anthem “Danger Zone,” with impeccable comic timing.

Mike Barham

So, with all left but for George and Tamsin to playoff for the winning place, George did his seriously awesome thing, leaving me pondering how Tamsin could comeback from the ropes. I guess she figured covering the Jungle Book’s King Louie song, “I wan’na be like you,” would do the trick, and for me it best did.

I’d have been scratching my chin if I’d been on the judges table and referred the entire to be played again next week. But they came to a unanimous decision; George Wilding won. But in an authentically honourable and sporting twist, not because this was the Sports Club, but because as we said, George is that kind of guy, he offered he’d play the Saddleback provided the others could join him on a song.

What a wonderful culmination to what was labelled a “battle,” proving our local music scene is bonded with a supportive and welcoming ethos. I’m grateful to them for making me feel welcomed and ardent about what we’re trying to do here at Devizine.

Long live our local music scene; support it now. That is an order direct from the passive battlefield!

All Photographs used with kind permission of Nick Padmore Photography


Our House in Our Town

Twas a busy weekend in ye olde Devizes town, no matter what your cup of tea. The Full Tone Orchestra held tribute to Bernstein and Gershwin, Bouncers looks great at The Wharf Theatre too and a plethora of homegrown musicians battled in friendly manner for a place at the Saddleback Festival over in the Sports Club.

But if there was an earthquake Saturday afternoon, all at Devizes School were oblivious, we only heard the sound of Madness music intertwined with a heart-breaking tale of romance and the consequences of life’s choices, for it was the matinee of Our House and boy, did MACS Theatre School really bring our house down.

An intriguing plot with a twist, Our House tracked the path of a young man caught in tough decisions which played out two conflicting timelines, presenting maybe the path you consider correct is not necessarily the right choice. Played brilliantly by Franky Holdsworth as protagonist Joe Casey, and Rosie Boother as his love, Sarah, alternating the roles with John Cook and Lauren Maslen Stevens for other showtimes.

Enlightening the stage with amusing and genuine supporting roles was the of dopey Emmo, played with refined comical expression by Harvey Schorah, the sidekick of anxious Lewis, by the wonderful Joe McMillian and the convincing promiscuous girls, Angie and Billie, by talented couple, Kizzy Wylie and Imogen Kelly, also changing shows with Charlotte Bennett and Verity Shah respectively. Credit also has to be awarded to Maia Burgess for the downright criminal Reecey.

Other roles, the dancers and particularly the band who executed the music of Madness to the notch of professional tribute band, and of course the director Stuart MacFarlane and assistant and main choreographer Emily Marsh. Together this team’s superb performance is proving MAC’s Theatre School is refining local drama and putting Devizes on the map. I only wait with baited breath as to what they’ll do next.

Do remember though, Macs is open to new budding actors and actresses, from ages five to twenty-one and there’s Mini-Macs for five to ten year-olds.




No Surprises Living in Devizes, In the Hedges

Devizes, oh Devizes; with plans so exuberant and bold but without a greater populace or infrastructure to support them; it’s a recurring theme.

Oh no, off he marches in the wake of debate, and the enticements of Wiltshire Council, he’s going to feed us his wonky whinge on the parking charges deliberation.

Quite the contrary friends, I’ve said my piece. As much as I’d like to see cars in the Market Place replaced by a bustling market of brightness, fresh aromas and the sound of jollity, I fear the reality it’ll become barren, with only the odd tumbleweed blowing through, as we simply don’t have the population, or attraction to support such an idea.


Besides, tis but a smear to convince us WC are our friends. If whacking up parking charges is how they can pay for the failing pubic transport, services and their new conservatories, they will.

I’m leaving it to the experts. I’m on the other side of town Thursday evening instead, chatting to a guy in his garage while his wife is inside. He tells me there’s a lot of blondes in Rowde.

Now, whoa, I know what you’re thinking; typical, two married guys pretending they’re God’s gift, acting like a pair of smutty teenagers or Viz contributors, well let me stop you right there, we were talking hedgehogs.

Did you know they do hedgehogs in blonde now? I was stunned. But what this guy, Ian Hunt and his wife Joy don’t know about hedgehogs you could write on the back of a matchbox in supersized font.

As a milkman hedgehogs are my work buddies. But, you know how it goes, how well do you really know your colleagues, have you taken the time to chat on a personal level? I tend not to talk to hedgehogs too often, save yelping “jeepers where did you spring from?” or words to that effect, when they magically appear millimetres away from my boots.

It occurred my appointed first aid certificate is void in a close encounter of the hedgehog kind, and I had not a Scooby-Doo of the appropriate action I’d take should a near miss result in injury to the spiky creature.

I noticed a shared post upon a social network, apparently we have a hedgehog rehabilitation centre right here in old Devizes. Blissfully unaware, I was intrigued and thought some exposure of the good work they do would assist them gaining attention. However, I was wrong. For Devizes being Devizes, it’s less “centre” and more household/garage hobby of Ian and Joy, who both work full time on top of caring for some 30+ hedgehogs.

They’ve been up to this over five years now, after Joy spotted one of these wonderful creatures in distress in her garden. Rather than promoting this brilliant facility, as it seems it gets more than it can handle, and sometimes has to refuse hedgehogs advising them to be sent to vets or larger facilities in places like Thatcham.


A lot of the calls they receive from caring people are unnecessary though, Ian explained, so the angle I’m taking is how to relieve Joy and Ian of the workload by identifying exactly when a hedgehog needs attention, and when it’s fine trundling on, going about its business.


Hedgehogs don’t hibernate like bears, they’re prone to waking in the winter, but when I arrived they were all fast-o. If you see one out in the night, hurrying to the bushes, do not panic, often they can be disturbed by noise. If you perchance to see a mother with babies rustling about, it’s foraging in training, no need for concern. Only take action if the hedgehog is out in the day, or wandering sluggishly. They could be injured or unwell.

Ian explained badgers are the only creature strong and bonkers enough to try take a hedgehog, but they’re prone to traffic incidents and parasite infection. Best thing, if certain it’s troubled, is pick it up (with gardening gloves) and place it in a large box, they climb so insure it has high sides. Wrap a hot-water-bottle in a tea-towel and slip it close, allowing enough space for it to move away or closer at will. You should give it water, but not milk. Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant, but will still lap milk until sick. You can try feed it meat-based pet food, but fish is rarely in their diet.

Once settled, if concerned you need to call the experts, Joy, or a vet who’ll advise you. Check them for flystrike; myiasis is a parasitic infestation by fly larvae. They’ll appear like tiny grains of rice under the folds of their legs or bottom. Should you see these signs it’s important to call the experts urgently.

For Ian explained our affection for hedgehogs can be damaging, I noted a video off Facebook where an American guy had taken one on as a pet. He enlightened some countries have slacker laws where the African Pygmy breed are traded as pets; they don’t make for good pets. “They can be decidedly grumpy,” Ian tells me, “and live separately.” Seems though hedgehogs aren’t territorial, they take an organised routes around their fairly large neighbourhoods avoiding bumping into each other.”


I was beginning to consider similarities to hedgehogs and myself, nocturnal, keep themselves to themselves, cute but spiky on the edges, but when he mentioned they were grumpy by their nature, well, c’est la vie!

So petting is not good for them, or your fingertips. Ian said people ask if they can take one home, they have large walled gardens. Only with kind intentions, it’s not acceptable, as a hedgehog needs to make his own space, they need to be wild. If you don’t see hedgehogs in your area, it’s for good reason. Attempting to attract a hedgehog to your garden is one thing, leave water out for them, cat food will only get pinched by cats, but always insure the hedgehog has clear access to and from your garden; otherwise it’s bordering on captivity.

Seems a shame a fulltime charitable facility is not available here for hedgehog rescue, but the work and effort Joy and Ian put in is indisputable and remarkable. They have a dining room full, all in need of medical attention and the garage is rehab, ones nearly ready for release back to the wild, which next to 100% will happen in springtime.

Keen to add taking care of hedgehogs is very specialised and you shouldn’t attempt to take on such an activity. Joy and Ian have undergone much study and courses to be equipped to cater for these bizarre and beautiful little mounds of spikes. But the biggest respect for the patience and time they serve them. I certainly came away from there more enlightened.

Hedgehogs are endangered to the degree there’s far less of them now as when I was younger, Ian continued, but although the likelihood of them becoming extinct is low, still we have a duty to protect these fascinating spiky fellows and insure we’re doing them alright.

Phew, a nice column this week for a change; normal service will be resumed!


More info at Hedgehog Street

Joy’s local Facebook group

Devizes Shopping Future Bright; Devizes Shopping Future is Vinyl

It’s been an age and half, so long some too young or else too new to town to recall Devizes ever having a record shop. Some might even have to Google “record shop” to discover what one is.


My youth was spent in these places, as much as an online search can open you to a multiverse of buying options and downloads and rarities and marketplaces, I miss the days of fumbling through those thin cardboard-covered slabs, bargain hunting, checking for scratches and fried chicken thumbprints. Oh, the conversation between warring fractions of varying youth cultures and battles of pop masters, wise in the ways of contemporary shifts in pop charts.


I recall “Pop-in” in Chelmsford with fondness, actively seeking a 7″ of Rio by Duran Duran, which had recently dropped off the top forty and was now tricky to locate. Amazon was still a rainforest kiddo, I had to train it to my nearest metropolis and search the racks for the only Duran Duran single the cutest girl in my class didn’t own; but presenting it to her at her birthday party scored me my first kiss. That’s how important record shops were back then, even Our Price.


Vinyl Realm, who have been an online specialist in vinyl based in Devizes has a bold and most welcome announcement; it’s to open a record shop. Talk of the town, here’s a brief post about this groovy news and a positive awakening for high street shopping in Devizes.
The shop opens on Saturday March 3rd, stocking a huge range of original vinyl along with new vinyl. They’re also an approved stockist for GPO and official band merchandise. With a fantastic range of gifts and goodies, including Bluetooth devices and incense, this is exciting times for Devizes and Vinyl Realm; Devizine wishes them all the best for this venture.


Update: Mike Barham will be in attendance, giving us a few tunes.


The location is still top secret due to a Facebook competition, vinyl junkies have been slain with the sharp edge of a cracked CD boxset for merely mumbling their suspicions! It’s due to be publicised on Saturday 24th February,  until then you can guess the forthcoming address of the new shop in Devizes, details on their Facebook page.


Devizine will be covering more on the eve of the shop officially launching, I just wanted to mention it now to get hysteria bubbling and general excitement reverberating like the foundations of my adolescent bedroom when I discovered Pink Floyd’s The Wall gatefold.



Thoughts and Observations of Phil Cooper

In “Get up Stand Up” Bob Marley proclaimed “you can’t fool all the people all of the time,” quite rightly referring to modified history books.

Music is like this, usually it’s assertive and orders instruction; but in Phil Cooper’s “Fear Factory,” a track from his forthcoming album “Thoughts and Observations,” he proses about bias media, and sings, “you can fool the people all of the time.”

I beg to differ somewhat, as the freedom of social media exemplifies public awareness and exposes the wrongdoings of the mainstream press. Herein lies the running theme throughout this damn fine album, the introduction title-track clarifies these are merely Phil’s thoughts and observations, “don’t take them as red,” he states he’d prefer it if, “you found your own verdict instead.”

So, absent of Lennon-styled orders to make love and not war, Phil Cooper breezes an air of liberalism and invites you to use your head to make your own mind up. Deep morality from this Trowbridge singer, songwriter and I’d imagine a guitarist who was born with a guitar at his waist. The ethos not only gives this album uniqueness, but also creates a gentle air with no pushy overtones. To the point where on first listen I was drawn to think of Bryan Adam’s Cuts Like a Knife, certainly the upbeat “Shake it up,” personifies this, but it’s provisional.

That initial association was during the washing-up, with kids harassing me to play video games and the tele on in the background. In reassessment of this moreish masterpiece, it bought me round to comparison with Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever or George Harrison’s Cloud Nine, it’s polished to perfection, it’s blustery and easy-on-the-ear rock; definitive driving music. There’s even a song titled “Road Songs;” Phil’s got it covered.

What we have here is local music at its very best. While Road Songs has romantic connotations it’s a rarity on the album, the cliché love theme doesn’t rear its head often, less it remains as one’s personal interruption. “Citizen” offers thoughts on the slyness of human nature, whereas “Face Doesn’t Fit,” relies on finding alternative avenues when things don’t go planned, rather than quitting.

It does what it says on the tin, a bundle of thoughts and observations, but wrapped in sublime melody. Perhaps the wiliest being the gentle “Smokescreen,” observing we “hide the world with our own smokescreen and never face the challenge in between.”

Alternating between acoustic and electric guitars, Phil seems to handle the instrument like it was his baby, owning a plethora of amazing riffs and melody structures that wows once you’re in the album’s realm; and what a enjoyable and graceful place to be it is too!

Thoughts and Observations is released on April 13th, as a download, on CD, vinyl and also has it’s own fanzine with Phil’s doodles and explains some of the thinking behind the song writing, pre-order on Bandcamp and get a bonus tune while you wait.

Prolific, Phil has a selection of previous material on his Bandcamp page or website. Or you can catch him and the Slight Band live, hopefully in his trademark pork pie hat, launching the album at the Lamb in Devizes April 6th, Village Pump in Trowbridge on 7th. Then the 8th sees him down at the seaside, in Portsmouth and Bournemouth, and back here for a gig at the Tupenny in Swindon on 19th and Bath’s St James Street Vaults on the 20th.

Ever Wanted to be a Professional Comic Creator?

Have you ever wanted to be a professional comics creator? Or are you a professional looking to take your career to the next level? Perhaps you’d like to be working for a major publisher, or publishing your own comics?

This could be the event for you. It’s called Comics Uncovered and it’s at the Birmingham Conference and Events Centre on 7th-8th July 2018. It’s just the sort of thing I’d have needed many years ago, as dreams of becoming a cartoonist and comic creator were generally given a cold stare by frumpy career officers.

“In the UK there are limited paths to careers for you,” Comics Uncovered state. They know this, because they’ve trodden the same road themselves.

Their mission is to help you take those first steps, or perhaps even the most important steps, on that path and Comics Uncovered features over a dozen seminars, workshops, demos and master-classes conducted by top professionals, all aimed at creative people like you.

Guest Speakers include influential professionals from across the world of Comics and over the two days you will have the opportunity to join both short two hour workshops and full weekend courses plus everything in between.

Some events are for beginners, whilst some are for more advanced creators.

There are also ones to one portfolio reviews with editors, meetings with distributors for self publishers and a catered networking party in the evenings to help you secure those valuable connections made during the day.


This year they are also hosting a Self Publishing Summit for independent creators and self publishers to discuss ideas for producing and promoting their work, and to learn more about branding and marketing their own intellectual properties.

If you are serious about a career in comics and graphic novels then Comics Uncovered is the one essential event on the calendar for you every other year!

Learn more and book tickets at:

Battle of Local Bands to rock Devizes Sports Club

Such a nice looking morning, went to vacuum the car. Frozen fingertips; the cruel-but-gentle reminder we’re not in spring yet, then it started with the damn hailstones.


So much to look forward to when summer arrives, without a Glastonbury other festivals are sure to be upping their game. We rapped about the second Saddleback Festival at Devizes Sports Club on 14th July, but here’s a reminder that this Saturday, 17th February, the Sports Club are holding a Battle of the Bands contest which will warm us up better than vacuuming any old motor.

Now, should you get the opportunity, I’d highly recommend any of these home-grown talents: George Wilding, Clair, Tamsin Quin, Jamie R Hawkins, Michael J Barham, Sally Dobson, The Hound On The Mountain, Alex Cash or Jack Moore. Yes, catch any of these playing live around or about and you’re sure for a good evening, but witnessing all of them, in one big do, battling for a place at the Saddleback Festival, totally and utterly FREE……. Well, not to be sniffed at.


George Wilding

Avebury’s George Wilding is one I’ve been advised to watch, self-taught guitarist and writing his own songs, which he describes as “abstract stories,” from age twelve. Rather reserved he shied away from talent shows, favouring open mic nights. Nick Harper asked him to perform at Avebury Rocks in 2011. This brought him to the attention of musician and songwriter Gary Saunders; producing George’s celebrated EP “Being Ragdollian.”


Tamsin Quin (Nick Padmore Photography)

Now Devizes based Tamsin Quin we’ve talked a lot about on Devizine, but I can’t hype her enough. Such an exultant and charismatic singer-songwriter, Tamsin is squeezing in a highly anticipated forthcoming album between plentiful gigs; I understand she’s also supporting Lindsay Lou at the Long Street Blues Club prior to dropping in here.


Jamie R Hawkins

Critically acclaimed around the world, but right here in the Vizes, Jamie R Hawkins is an award winning singer songwriter and one I’ve been meaning to catch live. Poignant and witty, he’s described as “a powerful mixture of storyteller, philosopher and poet”, with “emotive and captivating” lyrics.


Mike Barham

The mighty Mike Barham, renowned for wit and charm behind the mic, booms vocally diverse rocky influences with inescapable pop references, with grating bluesy overdrive or ridiculous falsetto sparkles. Again from Devizes, Mike draws influence from artists like City and Colour, Frank Turner and Corey Taylor. He’s supported brilliant performers, Jonah Matranga, Dave McPherson, Danny and the Champions of the World, Gaz Brookfield and Nick Parker, and has an EP, “Attitude with Attitude,” recorded and mastered by Guy Britton of Riverbank Studios in Chippenham.


The Hound on the Mountain

Melksham’s alternative rock project, The Hound on the Mountain, distort sounds and fantasy lyrics to blend a miss-match of influences, from Talking Heads to The White Stripes. Currently recording an album, “Cernunnos,” since the success of their EP, “Ghosts of Your Past,” these Hounds played the local circuit, including the Village Pump Festival and Bradford Roots Festival, and the EP got plugged by Steve Lamacq on Radio 6.



Jack Moore

One of Wiltshire’s most promising young musicians, Jack Moore from Calne, a multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter is a versatile and ‘out-of-the-box’ performer. Striving to create music which is fresh and free from the shackles and influence of trend, Jack has a charming stage demeanour, unique and on-the-edge-of-awkward, but he’s keen to add, friendly.


Sally Dobson


Acoustic eccentricity in a punk baroque fashion is the best way to describe Pewsey’s Sally Dobson, aka Salamander. She combines simple strumming with sweeping melodies and lyrical intrigue.


Alex Cash


A chance meeting with great musicians from Calne, and being encouraged to share his song ideas, Alex Cash helped form blues/rock band One Last Stand. This is first solo venture. “It’s all about rhythm,” he stated, “if you’re tapping your foot then it’s mission accomplished!” Influenced from a variety from Fink to The Clash. “I write songs that just come to me, and don’t force it,” Alex continued, “they are what they are. I’m always hopeful that someone else might like them too!”


Unfortunately, I’ve no info on neither Clair, at this stage, but you’ve got to have some surprises or it wouldn’t be Devizes now would it?
This awesome show of Wiltshire’s crème of upcoming legends will be put before a panel of judges on the night, not in a Simon Cowell fashion I’d wager. All in all, I’ll see this evening as a sampler for all these talented musicians. Whoever wins I’m sure it doesn’t matter, I know there’s a close network here and everyone are friends and assist each other; making this event so special.
Now, let me get on with vacuuming the car, if you please, there’s rock hard leftover chips lodged in-between the seats and sticky sweets stuck on the upholstery.


Battle of the Bands: Saturday 17th Feb 2018: FREE ENTRY @ Devizes Sports Club


Gimme Gimme Gimme: Abba Tribute in Seend

By Zoe McMillan

Gimme Gimme Gimme one good reason why you wouldn’t want to head to Seend on Friday 13th April? No need to take a chance – you’re guaranteed to enjoy a top night out with the popular Abba tribute band ‘Sensation’ who are taking the stage at the Community Centre from 7.30pm.


Whether you’re a fan of Abba or just fancy a trip down memory lane there’s something to get everyone’s toes tapping & bootys shaking as you join Seends dancing queens and party animals on the dance floor.

Tickets are £15.00 & are available from Seend Community Centre and Seend Post Office. You know you want to…Don’t change your mind…book those tickets and dust off your bodysuits, flares & glitter. Tickets are selling quickly so don’t be shy. See you there!!!



Day Break

I’ve a message for all those teary-eyed about the Killertones and Going Undeground split; do not despair. It was obvious this Swindon team wouldn’t stay quiet and while Gouldy and Cath have been acoustically gigging as Sound Affects, they’ve another trick up their sleeves.
Teaming with Steely and Stig from the One Chord Wonders, they’ve formed “The Daybreakers,” who’ll be making their debut at the Swiss Chalet on 17th February. Playing covers in their own unique fashion, we can expect known tunes from Dexy’s Midnight Runners, The Clash, The Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Violent Femmes, The Dead Kennedys, The Undertones, The Ruts, The Smiths, Blur, Oasis, The Stone Roses, The Waterboys, The Pogues and they’re keen for you to note, of course, The Levellers. Damn, if that doesn’t read like the ultimate “Now that’s what I call Music” compilation, if Virgin/EMI pulled their finger out of Simon Cowell.

With all singing, Iggy Gould on guitars and banjo, Cath York playing accordion, violin, viola and flute, drummer Chris Steel and bass by Dave Renton, it’s going to be one interesting, and particularly loud development. An edgy philosophy against inequality, corruption, elitism and greed, the Daybreakers blend traditional acoustic instruments with an electric back line, their key to creating a unique sound influenced by the classic UK scooter, alternative and indie scenes.

The Daybreakers formed towards the end of last year, but commitments to the Killertones/Going Underground and their own acoustic Sound Affects, caused them to put a hold on the Daybreakers setup. Cath was keen to inform me The Daybreakers is more of a progression from the alternative namesake Going Underground, so it seems the Killertones label has not been quashed completely and may yet play the occasional gig. I don’t know, there’s so many incarnations of this team it’s hard keeping track, but what I am sure of is these guys are thoroughly dedicated to reverberating some quality nights.

So I’ve nicked this great quote from Cliff Keith Dixon, about the original embodiment of the Daybreakers; I reckon it explains all: “I went to see the first official gig of ‘The Daybreakers’ at the Carters Rest in Wroughton, the band made up of Goldy, Cathy and Steely from the killertones and Stig from the One chord wonders. I witnessed the birth of a monster, this band is going to hit Swindon for six. The sound of the music they play is so distinct it is beyond compare to any other local bands. I have been watching bands for years and this band is going to be massive. Watch out for their future gigs you will be stunned at what these musicians will deliver.”

I’d like to wish them best of luck with their new project and warn them to play in Devizes soon, or else! You can catch Sound Affects live at the Crown in Lechlade tonight (Sat 10th)

Daybreakers : 17th Feb @ Swiss Chalet.

Daybreakers Website





Bentley’s Gym Row for Julia’s House

Bentleys Gym on Hopton Industrial estate in Devizes is fundraising for Julia’s house children’s hospice and the Royal Marines charity.

This Saturday (10th) at 5pm, 12 members are attempting to row 1’000’000 metres in under 24hrs. I had to ask if this was 1,000,000 metres each or together, being everything I know about gyms could be written on the back of a matchbox!

Turns out four rowing machines will be used over the twelve brave participants; I’m tried just typing about it.

So, best of luck to all of you!

Bentleys is run by mum Mary and her son Adam, both fitness instructors and is proudly a iQniter heart rate installed facility, which uses interactive live feed technology to offer a unique fitness experience and classes to suit all.

Even me, a mere couch potato?

Anyway, there’s a raffle with some amazing prizes; a 32inch TV, weekend away, vouchers, and much more. Tickets are just £1;  pop into Bentleys to grab a ticket.

Please spare a few pounds and donate to this here: link:





Name of The Game; Abba Tributes turn Devizes’ villages into a Disco Frenzy!

Abba are not like Marmite, we have a love-hate relationship with the Swedish pop divinities; you know you shouldn’t, because you’re an old punk, a hardcore raver, or into thrash metal, but one aperitif at the family wedding and you hear those immortal opening lines, “Friday night and the lights are low……” Resistance is futile, you’ll succumb, assimilate into the disco-Borg collective and spin the plastic chair around only to strut like Travolta to the dancefloor, taking granny’s hand and pirouetting her to a frenzy.



It’s so addictive, so catchy, despite any abhorrence of manufactured pop, there’s something deific, irresistible, about the music of Abba, and it beguiles one and all into its euphoric magic. Abba’s music could turn Johnny Rotten into Pete Waterman in one flash of a disco ball, it’s the epiphany of pop. Unfortunately, alas the real thing is something lost in time, you had to have been there, and worn bellbottoms. Unless you’re lucky enough to pick up the last few tickets to Swede Dreamz, the UK’s top Abba Tribute act, at The Market Lavington Community Hall on Saturday (10th Feb.)





Formed in 2004, and with numerous local sell-out gigs and shows, Swede Dreamz plays to packed audiences across the UK and beyond. With such attention to detail both vocally and visually, Swede Dreamz beseeches the closest thing you’ll get to reality; you’re sure to be having the time of your life.



Cheery organiser of the Market Lavington Music & Comedy Club, Ted Osborn, is certain this will be a sell-out, that’s why I’m here, because you need to get to Devizes Books, the Lavy post office pronto, or pray there’s still a few left on the door (£12 or £15 OTD.) If all else fails you can try Ted at this number: 07399591101 (tell him Devizine sent you and thank him for the music!)



I’m sorry, I should’ve put this article out there long ago; but don’t put your platform shoes back in loft, there’s an Abba alternative if all else fails, it simply means waiting until the spring day of April 13th, and heading out the other side of town to the Seend Community Centre, where another Abba tribute, Abba Sensations, are appearing. With a wealth of significant clients, and many years’ experience, the Sensation also boasts to be the UK’s most sensational and authentic Abba tribute,  “with stunning harmonies, costumes, choreography and a sprinkling of light-hearted humour.”





£15 Tickets for this one are on sale now, from the Seend Community Centre and Seend Post Office. I’d advise you get in quick here too, it’ll be a race where the winner takes it all; you’ll end up just singing the swaggering in your kitchen, humming Fernando into a tear-sodden handkerchief!


Swede Dreamz, Feb 10th @ Market Lavington

Abba Sensations April 13th @ Seend

Where’s best to go for Valentine’s Day in Devizes? Don’t get over-excited.

Roses are red, violets are blue, I love my website, if that’s possible to do.

Going on recent positive stats, the good people of Wiltshire are feeling the love for Devizine too. We’re growing at a superfast rate, so as it’s the season of love, and I thought there was a lot of it going around, I planned to write a piece on the best restaurants to take your Valentine.

Seriously figured it’d make an informative post, and helpful to those romantic-at-hearts simply too busy with the stresses of life to get around to locating the ideal place. Created a Facebook post, messaged as many local great places to eat as I could possibly think of, and sat back and waited for the list to compile.

Unfortunately the result was appallingly slim and the whole shebang is a bit of an anti-climax! (Yeah, that’s what she said.) Seems many pubs and restaurants either haven’t anything organised in particular, don’t read Facebook messages, would rather not associate with my pitiable website, or are just overbooked already. To merge all those possibilities let’s assume for ease they don’t want free publicity. C’est la vie, see I talk French too; can’t be so common not to warrant a reply, you would’ve thought?!

What the heck, a couple of donner meat and chips will do the trick on the 14th February, no expense spared. Jokes aside, since the Kebab House on Northgate Street reopened with new management, there’s actually some tasty kebabs to be had there. Don’t knock it, it’s an option and that’s all I’m saying.

However if you insist, here is the ultimate list of restaurants as compiled from the huge response from our appeal:

The Moonrakers Bar & Grill in Devizes always does a special menu on top of the grill menu for Valentines, and to top it off they give all the ladies a heart balloon and heart chocolates too. Which is one away from flirting with your chick eh?! Still, the Moonrakers is such a superb eatery I’d let them off. Yeah, whatever, take her to the cinema, I’m staying here to finish this steak!

The Bistro in Devizes have the last few tables still available for their Nuit D’amour menu; this one could be the most romantic Valentines, like, ever.

But get in touch quickly if you’d like to reserve a table at either, or you’ll be disappointed and end up meeting me at the chippy. I’ll be the one under the Pukka Pies poster with a haddock on my head, wearing a battered sausage for a tie and nervously holding a beautiful bouquet of pickled gherkins.

That’s all folks, hope it all goes well! And if so, Jefferson’s would like to remind you studs, they’ll be open for their best breakfasts in town the morning after!

Goodnight Mr Tom at the Wharf

Michelle Magorian’s delightful novel about the experiences of young evacuee has been through a number of incarnations, most notably the TV film starring John Thaw. However David Wood’s stage version is enjoying great success, and directed by Kim Pearce, it’s the latest performance at The Wharf Theatre, Devizes.


Running from Friday 9th to Saturday 17th March 2018, 7.30pm each evening with a 2.30pm matinee on Saturday 10th March, this sounds like a heart-warming prose (please note: there are no performances on Sunday11th and Monday 12th March.)


Willie Beech is a boy from the slums of south east London who finds himself unloved and unwanted when he is evacuated to the countryside as Britain finds itself on the brink of World War II. Widower Tom Oakley takes the shy young lad under his wing. The aging recluses’ stony heart is gradually softened and the experience poignantly changes both, in this heart-warming tale.

Tickets £12/£10 concessions can be purchased from: The Devizes Community Hub and Library, Sheep Street, Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm. The website Or by ringing 03336 663 366.

To find out what else is on at the Wharf pick up the new Spring Summer brochure which is now available from the Community Hub and Library and many other outlets around Devizes.

Belvedere Woods Needs You!

Your woodland areas need you!

Devizes Town Council has taken on the lease for Belvedere Woods, which stretches between Dyehouse Lane and Quakers Walk, to allow all local residents to use it as a new link path between Quaker’s Walk and the canal.

In taking on these woods, the Town Council hopes to replicate the type of area enjoyed by those who live close to Drew’s Pond Wood to the South of the Town.

They are currently working on improving the wood and access and are looking to create natural pathways before the area is officially opened on Friday 2nd March.

There will be an open day on Saturday 24th February from 10am until 2pm to work on the paths and to carry out a general clear up. If you are keen to help, please come along to the Cemetery Chapel at 10am and get set to work!

Tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided through the day to keep morale high!

No Surprises Living in Devizes Train Station LOL; Slight Return

It’s the same nauseating Conservative ethos which finds a hundred-billion quid for a nuclear weapon system, despite a cold war since 1947 without major incident, and with the same purse, neglects education, cuts housing and abandons a celebrated healthcare system, which locally ramps up parking charges over 12% to pay for a failing transport system, in the wake of a proposed Devizes train station.

Yeah, no trip down memory lane intro on today’s column, just a full-frontal, futile unadulterated bombast; that’s why you’re here isn’t it?!

Good, good, hate to think I’m getting like a stuck record taking pot-shots at Wiltshire Council, but if they glanced off their Tory plinth and smelt the overboiled hypocrisy once a while, they might slither off the No Surprises hitlist. As if it bothers them; hardly likely to slice into their stout wallets.

Raising charges, taking away free parking on Sundays and Bank Holidays, crucifying Town Council’s allowance to free event parking in November and December, yep the only decoration on this year’s town Christmas tree, if we get one, will be a tinselly parking ticket. Will it matter if no one can afford to park and it’s just the few stragglers fallen out of Spoons who turn up?

You think I’m kidding? Once charges are introduced you won’t be able to even traditionally verbally abuse the traffic warden; body video cameras will be introduced to “protect civil enforcement officers.” What’s this world coming to when you can’t even take out your frustrations with a duplicitous regime on an innocent guy working to put food on the table? For crying out loud; We. Are. Not. Savages. How much does a blinking body-video suit cost? If WC wasn’t so stringent people wouldn’t get annoyed, pester wardens, and haven’t need for body-video suits; small-time, Trident-style niggle.

Cabinet member for highways and transport, Cllr Bridget Wayman waffled, “If we are to continue providing public transport services we need additional income from parking,” the Gazette stressed the £4.143m excess between income from car parking charges and public transport expenditure. But hello, is it tricky for a councillor to comprehend huge parking increases in market towns will cripple already struggling businesses and shops will close, thus leaving little point in taking a frigging bus to town anyway?

City folk enrage if the LCD tells of a one minute tube delay, would find our perspective amusing, to hear how we take a tent to the bus stop, just in case. But whoa there, just a cotton-picking minute…our future bus journey may be a shuttle-bus to an all-new shiny train station, which, with a couple of jackpot lottery wins you might just be able to afford a train to get you out of this God forsaken county!

Oh yeah, the Gazette released whispers within the walls that the newly formed Devizes Development Partnership are keen as mustard to lobby Network Rail and the Department of Transport for the Devizes Parkway station to be “a thing” by 2022, provided Trump hasn’t triggered a world war by then.


Artist’s impression of the New Devizes Station

Cast your mind back to an original episode of No Surprises, back when it was funny, and recall I polled for one thing you’d like to see return to Devizes, yeah, that’s right; here it is: and if you can’t be bothered to read this, the result was unanimously a station.

So chairman of the partnership, Peter Lay, isn’t wrong when he told the paper, “Devizes is the largest town in Wiltshire that does not have access to rail transport and we want to change that as soon as possible.” The town will back this idea.


But I’m not so sure when he continues, “Our group believes we have found the perfect location for our station.” The Clock Inn park on the A342 is three and a half miles from the town centre, can anyone see an issue here? You’re going to have to take a bus, or pay to park at the station. Rowde is half a mile less than this to the town centre and that costs approximately £3.60 bus fare, given this the bus is going to be at least £4, or £8 return. Let’s say a family of four would be £32, not governing inflation by 2022, it’s going to burn £32 from your wallet just to get to the train station, just to wait to be ripped off by Network Rail. But to drive and park at the station…….well, given current rises as discussed, it doesn’t bear thinking about does it?



actual image of new
Futuristic example of Devizes Train Station

Someone, favourably with a brain, needs to sit down and explain to WC that it doesn’t matter if you raise parking charges, the result will be less people will park, not because they’re rebelling but they simply cannot afford to (online shopping ring a bell?) It doesn’t matter if you build a train station, backing the need to improve dire public transport, if no one has the cash for a ticket. It doesn’t matter if you build a flipping space-station with a direct shuttle-link from the Trowvegas Gateway Shopping Centre. What needs to happen is so simple, but so fair it’s transparent to the Tory understanding; equalise the economy, ensure lower classes can afford to pay for parking and transport tickets; abracadabra.

Nice as a choo-choo calling at Devizes after a fifty year absence may sound, we need to consider improving the existing infrastructure first; fix the potholes, reduce speed limits at blackspots, give police funds to monitor speeding idiots. You know though senior councillors will only respond by giving it the old, “but how do we afford all this stuff if we don’t raise parking charges?” These are, after all, not the same senior councillors who awarded themselves at 16% pay rise, over £19,000 PA, in the wake of 252 junior staff posts being axed in a voluntary redundancy programme – (source: Marlborough News.) Oh, hold on, yeah, yeah they are.

Doughnuts; need I say more?


Follow the Crows to Swindon

Ah, goodbye January, hello Feb; that lengthy cold month full of let-downs. To add to my extensive list my car was seriously ill, so much so I was gutted not to have made it to the Follow the Crows premiere at Shaw Ridge. Not for the want of trying, I ranted it as far as Calne with all the power of a milk-float climbing Everest, but figured it just wasn’t going to happen, turned around and headed for home, via the shop for a Twirl, which was no compromise.

You may recall I was privileged to review this brilliant Swindon-made flick over a year ago; it was my first real journalist outing for Index:Wiltshire, if not here’s the link. Interested to hear what others thought, I’ve nicked this great review from Mark O’Donnell, may having blagged a new contributor to Devizine in the process!

Follow the Crows Review
By Mark O’Donnell

It’s usual to qualify any review of an amateur film with the prefix: “For an amateur production….” It helps the reader lower their expectations as though they were appraising a three year old’s first attempt at a self-portrait. For Follow the Crows there is no need for such context. From the understated charisma of the actors, the deft, unpretentious direction and the minimalist screenplay right through to the production and presentation of last night’s preview everything about this film screams professional integrity and dedication.

Set in the muddy hills and menacing woodlands of a post-apocalypse Britain, it is the story of an unnamed couple thrown together by their mutual need for survival and, ultimately, forgiveness. Filmed on location on a Neolithic path known as The Ridgeway in Wiltshire, the already sodden landscape is washed through a grey filter that provides a beautiful, if stark, backdrop to lives stripped of all but a basic humanity. Only the small log fires illuminating the endless cold nights provide any real colour, any real comfort for the characters that roam the film’s bleak setting.

Follow the Crows has a touch of Ben Wheatley about it in tone as well as look. Director Alex Secker spares his audience any exposition and we join the characters on their never ending search rather than watch them from a distance. Like them, you work it out as you go along. When the anonymous figure of the hunter begins stalking the former members of a gang escaping from their past and themselves across the hills and through the woodlands, it is up to us, along with them, to work out why they are being picked off.


The Hunter (played with consummate understatement by co-script writer and producer Mark Starr) is satisfyingly enigmatic and straightforward at the same time. He is clearly seeking revenge and, once satisfied, can die in peace. Such is the intelligence of the screenplay, he barely needs to speak for us to hear his pain, and it is never certain if he will achieve his aim.

Every character, no matter how briefly they appear, is created in full and from scratch. There’s the fool-in-motley sidekick to a sadistic and malevolent trapper uncomfortably thrown into moral and actual wilderness that he cannot survive. The middle-aged rapists whose bickering and banal sadism underpins society’s slide toward complacent barbarism. The two middle class professionals thrown together in a world they are equpped to do nothing but abandon themselves to. Even the five second appearance of the brooding Roger (the only character given a name in the end credits) has a narrative and moral purpose.

At the heart of the film are the stand out performances of the two main characters. First there is The Man – who is essentially good but forced to live with the memory of the evil he has been party to – played with clinical restraint by Max Curtis. Even in the courageous silences through which Secker allows his audience to become part of his landscape, Curtis wears his pain and conviction like the mark of Cain. What vestige of humanity he has managed to save is nurtured and kindled like a camp fire on a rain-soaked hillside by The Woman. Played by a disarmingly natural Daniella Faircloth who skilfully manages to inhabit her character more than portray her, she is a hymn to innocence and experience: victim, killer, vulnerable, powerful, decisive and lost.

Dialogue is sparse, exposition is minimal but the story is rich and well told.

Making any film is difficult. Producing a full-length feature on a small budget is especially hard. Creating an intelligent film that never flags, rejects cliché and looks this good takes a superhuman form of dedication. It is clear that everyone involved in this production deserves the highest possible praise and should be justifiably proud of their work. I look forward to their next project, because there surely must be one.



Thanks to Mark for permission to republish this; does he know what he’s letting himself in for?!
But as for Follow the Crows, it’s pretty much as I expected and not just me gratifying the cast and crew because I was sat among them at the cosy press screening, this really is an impressive and poignant movie. So asked director Marc Starr what comes next for the film, pondering where the process goes from here.
“From the preview we’re tweaking it,” Marc informed me, “Then, next week entering it into a few film festivals, where, if selected, it has a better chance of getting distribution.”


Have to wish the team all the best with this, and look forward to a day when Follow the Crows is rightfully screened across the globe.

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