From Street Food to 1940’s Cuisine; Devizine Sneaks a Peek at the Dumplings on Offer at The Devizes Food & Drink Festival.

There’s few “reality” TV programs which wind me up more than Come Dine With Me, but I shudder to think of them. Conflicting egotistical posers who long for nothing more than everyone in daytime TV-land to wow at their chic mansion, be in awe of their exotic pants, and discover they fantasise about being an eminent drag queen at Blackpool Tower, via a secretly hidden photo in a wide open drawer; American Wrestling never looks this staged.

There’s a grand on offer to the one who can be the most conceited but retain entertainment value, as the others huddle, pissed with cheap plonk on their sofa pretending to enjoy the company, and a camp passive-aggressive narrator insults them with a voice-over which makes Rab C Nesbit sound graceful.


The Devizes Food & Drink Festival rightly encourage us to forget this diabolical show, but with the other hand organise an exclusive meal in a mysterious location as the opening of the festival on Saturday 5th May, and, tongue-in-cheek call it Come Dine With Me!

This is Devizes, we got panache, and I’m certain the event would differ greatly. “It’s a great night out in a local home,” they say, “where your host will produce a menu of their own choice for six to ten guests. Expect a welcome cocktail and a splendid three or four course meal served up with conversation and good-humour in a welcoming atmosphere.”

They propose “there will be no nosing around the bedrooms and knicker drawers between courses,” but I have to ponder what they’d do to stop me should I flaunt the rule; slap me round the face with a wet kipper? Because, despite this humorous offering, The Devizes Food & Drink Festival think only of bringing us quality food and drink, hence the name see?


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So let’s have a sneaky peak at their program of events, see if I cant crawl this preview back to good in blag of pork belly Hirata buns at the Street Food Festival event at the Crown; (tee-hee, you said “buns.”) For this one, on Thursday 10th sounds like a highlight to me.

Ticket stub is £11.50 and you get three taster dishes from these choices: miso noodle soup, katsu cod cheek curry, oriental prawn rolls, aforementioned pork belly Hirata buns, Pickled vegetable Hirata buns, BBQ duck wings, Lou min crispy chicken, polenta chips, or crispy stuffed gnocchi, and a free drink; why did I write this before dinnertime, my mouth is watering?

Between these events, there’s a talk by Aldetha Raymond of Little Foxes Farm in Seend at the Sports Club on Monday 7th May. “From Plot to Pot,” will inspire you to “bring out your forks, spades and gardening gloves,” and “after growing the next set of tools you will need are in the kitchen, to get the best out of your home-grown ingredients.” Aldetha teaches horticulture and small holding courses from Little Foxes Farm. At Bristol University’s Botanical Gardens she teaches biological sciences and is a full time lecturer in horticulture at Lackham College.

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Next day, there’s the Wadworth Brewery Tour…. with pie! Need I say more?
Wednesday and there’s a glass of fizz on arrival at the Bear, where wine expert and TV presenter, Joe Fattorini hosts a food and wine tasting evening, and shares his knowledge of wine.

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Friday you get the day off; have a Pot Noodle or something! Then Saturday is the free Grand Market, in none other than the Market Place; lots of stalls, street food & snacks, bars with singers, and various family entertainment from balloon modelling, face painting and, hopefully, the inimitable Human Fruit Machine!

Test your grub knowledge on Sunday with the Food & Drink Quiz at the Wharf Tearooms. How many eggs do you have to crack to make an omelette, that kinda thing I guess!

As of last year, Erlestoke Prison will hold a pop-up restaurant, possibly on the Tuesday but has yet to be announced fully. How about a three course dinner themed around John Preston’s book on the Jeremy Thorpe murder trial, “A Vey English Scandal?” That’s at Devizes Books on Wednesday 16th and is usually the first event to sell out.

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Vaughn’s Bistro takes us back to the 1940s on Wednesday 17th; War-time Devizes, when people were listening to the music of Glenn Miller, the town played an incredibly important role as the site of a German POW camp and the home of the Wiltshire regiment. In celebration of the sort of food being enjoyed at the time, even at the height of rationing, when eating locally and in season was the only option. It promises homemade bread, bacon pudding, corn-beef hash, steamed sponge pudding, and more. I think my Grandad was stuck in Tripoli with a tin of bully-beef those days, but hopefully you won’t get served that! Saying this, I don’t know what Bully-Beef tasted like but never liked to ask.

Right hold on now, I’m going to have finish this article after dinner, all sounds so good it’s making my stomach rumble! Oh, it’s only the finale to this awesome food and drink jamboree; Friday’s ‘Glitz and Glamour’ Cocktail Evening at the Town Hall Assembly Rooms. Come dressed to impress and expect fantastic cocktails and canapes, live music with singer-songwriter-pianist Archie Coombe, and a casino table entertainment.

Well, I’m stuffed just thinking about it, The Devizes Food & Drink Festival certainly put out the dishes this year and I reckon there’s something for everyone. Me, I’m happy with beans on toast!


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click here for more info, as if this isn’t enough greedy, oh, and to book too!


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Elvis has Left that Building, you know the one, in Lavington

Performed for the Queen and Royal Family on three separate occasions, Paul Larcombe could perform for you too, if you can make it to the Market Lavington Music & Comedy night on May 19th. Paul might as well be Elvis Presley, least it’s the best tribute you’re going to get of him in the UK.

Not sitting on his laurels with the weekend’s Stone Roses and Oasis tributes, Organiser Ted Osborn will be walking in Memphis, probably via The Muddle. Yeah tickets are a purple one, but Larcombe earned an official ranking in the world’s Top Ten Elvis Tribute Artists by Elvis Presley Enterprises, USA.

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The outright winner of the largest Elvis Contest held in Europe, he was also the first Elvis Tribute in the UK to reach the Final Ten in Elvis Presley Enterprises Official Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest Graceland, Memphis; which must be pretty breath-taking experience in itself, uh-huh? Imagine all those Elvis impersonators in one place, perhaps with one Buddy Holly at the wrong show!

The guy has been on BBC1, ITV, GMTV, Good Morning America, ABC, CNN, and Sky News, in fact the only place he’s not been is The Market Lavington Community Hall, until now. He arrives in the building with full live band and backing singers; thank you, thank you very much Ted.


The evening is completed with support by  Laura Jayne, the stunning local young singer’s first time performing at the club.

Book here, or miss out and end up in Heartbreak Hotel.

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Swindon not Stirred; Ukrainian Olya and her Bond Girls

The name’s Worrow, Darren Worrow. Throwing spies on the news aside, let’s chat about the tribute act with a difference I’ve discovered, over a Martini, shaken not stirred.

Think of Ukrainians when mentioning fictional spy 007, Olga Kurylenko springs to mind for more reasons than one. Equally as gorgeous as The Quantum of Solace Bond girl, with one letter change and a voice of energetic range and dimension, Olya Lambourne now resides in Swindon and has formed Olya & The Bond Girls there.

They sing classic Bond themes with conviction, depth and an eloquent Eastern European accent. Yeah I know right, I was sceptical about the whole shebang, until I took advantage of their free downloadable EP and listened. Four tunes, the first a palpable version of Diamonds are Forever which at first you nod approval, apt for Olya’s enunciation. But the girls adapt the not so popular Bassey song, Moonraker and move onto Skyfall, a theme to prove a challenge to any singer, but Olga does it justice and leaves a lump in the throat.


Keeping up to date, the final track is Sam Smith Writing’s on the Wall from Quantum of Solace which I hadn’t taken much notice of, until hearing Olya’s polished performance.

Now I’d have thought Goldfinger would’ve been appropriate for their repertoire, but I guess you’d have to catch them live for this. If nothing else, the download acts as a great sampler for the girls, looking out for bookings. They’ve played private functions, weddings and a plethora of events including the Old Town festival, Swindon PRIDE and Bristol’s Off-Beat, as well as clubs and pubs locally.

One evening Pilates instructor, the next singer, Olya Lambourne (previously Morozyuk) was born in Carpathian, a mountain region of Ukraine, where she realised at a young age music was her life. Frequenting her showcase around her local town, she was noted for her dynamic range and volume.

Now residing in Swindon, Olya formed Olya and the Bond Girls in 2016 with the help of local musician Roger Mepstead, two Polish and one Russian “Bond girl;” Agnieszka Wojcik, Monika Szczygiel and Karine Danielyan.

Karine Danielyan

I asked if they sang songs other than Bond themes, Olya replied “at the moment it’s just Bond Themes,” but she continued to express a love of pop and a song she is working on called “Wicked Game.” Having asked this it’s irrelevant, as the Bond Themes suit her style to a T and would make a welcome addition to any variety or cabaret.


Download the EP and to book Olya and the Bond Girls, see here.


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A Funny Thing Happened on the way to The Wharf

Having just received news of the next production at the Wharf Theatre “A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum,” I thought I’d share it with you guys, because I’m nice like that.

Described as a “raucous musical comedy,” it pays tribute to Roman playwright Plautus, with a vaudevillian delivery.

Set in Ancient Rome, the plot revolves around three neighbouring houses. Pseudolus schemes to win the heart of the beautiful virgin, Philia, for his young master Hero who, in return, has promised to grant him his freedom.

However chaos ensues with puns, hair-brained schemes, cases of mistaken identity and the slamming of doors along with satirical comments on social class.
Ever since the original 1962 Broadway production won several Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Author, Forum has proved itself to be one of the funniest musicals ever written. As in the words of one of its most popular songs, there is truly ‘something for everyone – a comedy tonight!’

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 a copy of the 2018 Spring Summer brochure from the Community Hub and Library and many other outlets around Devizes.




Ya Freshness is Knockout


I could chew your ears off about why I adore jazz; the intricate patterns, the varied styles. I could lecture hours on rock; its everchanging trends, the power and emotion, connotations and evocative song writing. But I can wrap up why I love ska most in a nutshell; it’s the offbeat, that little bounce which forces you to your feet. It really is that simple, but its simplicity is its niche.


Knockout, the forthcoming album by Ya Freshness and the Big Boss Band exemplifies that simplicity, for it doesn’t come across in riddles, it doesn’t attempt to shove a philosophy down your throat, neither does it push boundaries and experiment with the genre, hardly. This album just does what the performer and band clearly relish; it blasts fun-loving, unadulterated ska, boss reggae and a sprinkling of rock steady at you with sublime panache and jollity.


In that respect, the name Ya Freshness is the only conundrum, as freshness implies something new and modern, whereas the fashion here is strictly retrospective, but once the tempi sets in, who cares? Akin to the Opel Fruit challenge, I bet you can’t put this album on your player without dancing!


For me there’s nothing here to dislike; Ya Freshness puts Bristol on the ska map, if there is a ska map. From humble beginnings in Kingston, through to migrant Jamaicans influencing British youth of the sixties and seventies, its third generation’s map is global. There’s a few adroit nods to these developments in Knockout, but mostly it relates to traditional ska and English two-tone. Take the brisk track “Back in Town,” for example, which claims, “rude-boys are back in town, all you gotta do is put your ska-head on.” I’d like to tell Ya Freshness, that’s the head I’ve used as standard since ‘79, the others collect dust on a shelf!


Momentarily cast aside ska orchestras in Toyoko and Melbourne, the budding ska scene in Montreal, also pause considering ska is the root of reggae, and through this its humongous influence on pop, because through the development of Jamaica’s musical export, and despite its persuasions to progress melodiously, nothing beats a good old knees-up to the original ingredients of brass, up-tempo rhythms and choo-choo vocals; Knockout does this, with bells on.


Vocally Ya Freshness has a relaxed chatty style, with excitement in his voice indicating he’s undoubtedly in his comfort zone. There’s a colossal eighteen tunes on offer, traditionally averaged at three minutes a piece. Rare for its tracks, the opening tune is rock steady, aptly titled thus.


The subsequent two tunes pure boss reggae, but its at the fourth tune where diversity sways; Rebell Yell thrashes a distinctly punk intro and swiftly switches to ska. There follows perhaps the most interesting tune; Ridim Fire is the exception to the aforementioned nonexperimental rule, it offers a governmental satirical stab, “they never tell you the truth anyway,” notes Johnny Rotten’s warning of Jimmy Saville, and to add to its anarchistic overtones, Ya Freshness virtually impersonates the Sex Pistol.


Regime annotations end there though, and it’s back on with the fun. Ska Mouth is marvellously upbeat, making the perfect advertisement for the Great Yarmouth Ska Festival, introducing a cameo by Neville Staple indeed twitches your finger to “buy your ticket online.” Legendary trombonist Rico Rodriguez is also featured on this musical marathon.


No Skylarking continues the upbeat ska trend, probably my fav if I was forced to pick, it has echoes of both The Specials’ Gangsters and appropriately, Horace Andy’s Skylarking. Who Goes There rings justifiable self-praise, and Reggae Skins returns to boss reggae with a super homage to the skinheads.


Welcome to my Ska World, does what it says on the tin, and four ska tunes play this marvellous album out, including with YaYaYa, a comical nod to European’s positive reactions to his music and finally Skin Deep, another nod to bluebeat, two-tone scooter culture, The Beat in particular and it polishes this ska holiday off agreeably.


31st of March sees the album launched at the Two-Tone Yard in Coventry and it’s due to be released shortly afterwards. The Crowdfunding campaign is still underway, so check them out and like the Ya Freshness Facebook page for more info. Ya Freshness is produced on Strictly Rockers Records, click here for info.




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Snow Joke Day

Moonrakers Comedy Club Returns with Steve Day


Still shivering into March then, what the blazers is going on? Seems now we’re leaving the EU we have proper English spring back. Oh, touchy subject; I know, snow joke. Loads of events have had to be cancelled, people still waiting in line for bread and milk. Akin to Ant McPartlin, this just isn’t funny anymore.

Now looks like Declan Donnelly will be having a set meal for one on Saturday Night Takeaway, the last of our worries as rumour abound the Beast from the East will metamorphize into a beastly Easter bunny. Still not laughing? I know, comedy isn’t my stronger subject at the best of times, let alone the storm from hell; call in the cavalry Martin Brown.

Really though, I may write but it takes some bollocks to do stand-up. Well, I could do the standing up bit; odd name for it really, when the standing up bit is the easiest. My bag of nerves is big, like one of those bags building materials arrive in, I’d hear less laughs from the audience then Steve Day, and he’s Britain’s only deaf comedian, or that’s what he claims, adding “if there are any others I haven’t heard.”


It’s funny we should mention Mr Martin Brown, as his Moonraker’s Comedy Club was one event which had to be cancelled in March, but far funnier to announce it’s back down the Cellar Bar on the 5th April, with Sutton Coldfield’s Steve Day headlining, the very same.

A finalist in the Daily Telegraph “Open Mic Award in 2000,” and a finalist in the Hackney Empire New Act of the Year in 2002, Day writes a popular blog and several BBC Radio 4 shows. A familiar voice there, appearing on “You and Yours,” “All Fingers and Thumbs” with Bill Nighy, whom he punched dramatically, and “Sound Barriers,” with Patricia Routledge and Caroline Quentin, both of whom he was prevented from punching.


With a plethora of solo shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Steve also performed as part of “Abnormally Funny People,” with Steve Best, Liz Carr, Tanyalee Davis, Chris McCausland and Simon Minty, and more recently creating a promotional video for the Disability Rights Commission. Married with five children, a fact he tells has nothing to do with not being able to hear the word “No,” Steve Day is sure to tickle your funny-bone; heaven knows we need a good laugh.


Opening for him is one liner and pun spinner, Rob Coleman. Noted as ranging from dark to plain ridiculous, he’s self-accredited with the one of the finest heads of hair on the UK comedy circuit.

And compering is Ed Pownall, who after testing material in the brutal cauldron of The Comedy Store’s Gong Show in 2014, is now a professional act and has played gigs all over the UK. Tickets are a tenner from The Bear Hotel, Devizes Books, The British Lion, The Vaults, and online at We Got Tickets.

Always a cracking night, I’m convinced this will see spring in; hoping if you wet your pants with laughter they won’t freeze on the way home. Is this what they call a yellow weather warning?

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The Space Between Mitch Underwood and I

I never understand some people who dedicate themselves to one particular musical genre, especially a single artist or group. I respect their loyalty, it’s personal preference, I remain eclectic. Provided the music is raw, inspiring or just darn loud, I’m usually in.

There are some genres I favour over others though, but always there’s exceptions to the rule. In fact it’d be easier to tell you the ones I usually steer away from rather than the ones I like. I say I’ve never been one for easy listening, but to hear the echoing vocals Frank Sinatra or the charm of Perry Como’s Magic Moments, I go all tingly.

Similarly with heavy metal, although I’m an aficionado of rock, in awe of Hendrix, moved by Zeppelin and shivery at Jim Morrison, I even confess to a spate of soft metal when popular in the eighties, oh Heart, how will I get them alone?

I don’t know, I say this because I’ve no desire to wear a black t-shirt with some band logo of death and suffering depicted on it, to be outcast from classmates by slouching alone in a corner whimpering about Anthrax. I’ve never even made Satan finger signage, save when playing the ready salted Hula-Hoops game. However, when Motorhead blast out The Ace of Spades my predilections burn in hell and I can’t help but rock out like I’m Ozzy reliving his misspent youth.



That said, am I hunting for some pathetic reason not to like Devizes guitarist Mitch Underwood’s album “The Space Between,” simply because “heavy metal” isn’t really my cup of tea? Mitch tells me he’s been in and out of bands in the past, who’ve played clubs and venues over the UK and Europe. “Burnthru, my last band, gigged almost constantly throughout the UK,” he explained, “playing a host of venues and festivals, supporting such bands as Grim Reaper, Breed 77 and Diamond Head.” I’m out of my comfort zone here, admittedly not heard of them.

We discussed eclecticism and our differences calmly, “I’m the same in some respects,” Mitch told me, “as it’s easier to say what I don’t like. I used to be very close minded when I was fifteen, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve opened up to lots of music that possibly wouldn’t of years ago.” Although he wouldn’t “open” up to rave music, I confirmed it’s okay, you had to have been there at the time, we did agree with jazz; Mitch considered if he had the time to learn it, he’d consider it.

But bands aside, and jazz way off on another moon, Mitch likes his singly energies. “Instrumental guitar music is my focus now and my debut album ‘The Space Between’ is out now.” Yep, that’s what we’re reviewing here today, for they really are quality pieces of guitar solo. Mitch is a very accomplished guitarist; damn my pigeonholing The Space Between is growing on me!


“Too Many Worlds” takes no prisoners, the fast and furious opening track booms. “All Bark and no Bite” continues the ethos, substantial slid guitar rocks the rhythm; Mitch sure has mind-blowing skills. These are the ideal air guitar tunes, I couldn’t keep up with a tennis racket.

Like film-scoring, three tunes in and “Pearl” mellows, bringing the subtle calming ambience like the dramatic end of an eighties John Hughes movie; you’ll find love again Molly Ringwald, call me.

Then it’s back off again, rocking steady, “What Remains,” plods nicely, while “Danger De Mort,” develops even more depth, with an ominous riff. Unsure what the initials NRP stand for, but this tune returns us to mellow, prior to rocking out again with the title track and Burn.

There are elements here which make me plead for some vocals, the breezy tune Soldier an example; you do yearn for a brazen rock chick in Daisy-Dukes to holler from an Arizonian mountain, and I can’t deny, it’s all that’s missing; Mitch would breathe life into any rock band. Then a tune like “Gigi” comes along, simplistic by comparison with the others and it just works as it is; a beautiful melody generates smooth overtones. There, my “heavy metal,” classification has been utterly demolished; this is mood music for the soul.

There’s another two tunes on offer here to finish us off, they both blend the dividing factions of Mitch’s style; the rapid thriving thrashes of brilliance which make ultimate driving tunes and this more delicate and considerate style alluring nonchalant riffs. Put this CD on and drive, dude!



CD available from:

No Surprises Living in Devizes: Deliberations and Publications

I admit, I’m having deliberations about the future of my No Surprises Living in Devizes column upon this, it’s second birthday. How much is there really to whinge about in Devizes, haven’t we got it fairly nice after all said and done?

Sometimes then I swerve off on a tangent, I comment on worldwide issues, which I think, being all eyes are set on our nearest city, there’s a tenacious link; though the whole thing’s beyond satire and is now just plain petrifying.

Yes toxic gases worry me, the major concern being the toxic gas coming out of Theresa May’s gapping bullshit dispenser she calls a mouth. When she is all over and done with fucking up this once proud nation and, just like Thatcher, doctors diagnose dementia, which she’s had for some years, don’t say I didn’t tell you so.

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Like a little yappy Terrier in cute pink doggie-coat picking on a Rottweiler, this scrap with Russia has two possible scenarios; one that we get all get nuked, the second we finally see the light that this current government has abandoned this country in favour for multinationals lining their purses, as opposed to “building the better Britain,” they vomited at the time; you gullible idiots. Here’s hoping for the latter.

If Salisbury’s to be the epicentre, Devizes is wiped off the map; what time is Lidl opening Sunday? Tia.

The point of arguing over free school meals if we’re all dead? You tell me, still we head on into a situation akin to events which started The Great War, on a fucking whim. It pales Blair’s acts of a whim by comparison. This is the big one folks yay; Queen and country, over the top lads, what-o; it’s a long way to Tipperary.

Media tell us the world, the UN and every Tom, Dickhead and Harry from the EU are with us, but I fail to see that’s fact; we’ve hardly been uniting Europe recently, ha-ha. Our nearest neighbours France said, hold on, let’s gather at least one scrap of evidence prior to moving into battle.

Whereas the only man to question the gung-ho attitude of the Tory party is held up as a Russian sympathiser and mocked on Newsnight, a supposedly unbiased show from media we all pay into by law; how utterly pathetic BBC; I liked Red Dwarf, but this is comical tragedy. Even Have I got News For You would’ve stopped to consider this gag, and they’re intentionally satirical. Stop this damn unamusing propaganda and get real for a minute; Putin is not Stan Laurel.

That’s it, I’ve said my rant this week; don’t why I doubted myself at the beginning; that is to say, I think No Surprises has lost its way slightly. Over the year I questioned the very nature of it, after the wonky snap election where we went hammer and tongs, I mellowed it. We’ve had some amazing guests though, who I thank for being such good sports, particularly Claire Perry.

It was Jemma Brown who suggested on a Facebook post, where I asked for suggestions for subjects, that I covered all the great events happening in Devizes, and this in turn led to the development of Devizine. In the episode “Hashtag the Town,” I said, “we need a central what’s-on guide, not distributed across a zillion feuding Facebook pages.” And again in the episode “Musical Madness,” where, after covering upcoming events, I wailed, “What am I, some kind of human event calendar now?” So blame Jemma, not me! Now Devizine does the what’s-on bit, there’s only one way forward for No Surprises and that’s untainted, opinionated ranting; problem with that?

So it only leaves me to conclude with a whopping gurt plug, cos just as last year, it’s time to reveal the compilation where you can find all my whinges you’ve already read online for fuck-all, in one big, nightmare manuscript. Yeah! Just two quid will keep you wound up for eons, till the next nuclear war at the very least. Unless of course this is all a smokescreen to bodge out a super-hard Brexit while we worry about death and silly matters like that.

It’s only out as an eBook at the moment: download it off Amazon, for Kindle or the free kindle app on your devise, here. Alternatively, other formats and options are here at Smashwords; who will distribute it to iTunes and Kobo etc through the following weeks….at least until they discover how shit it is!
Thanks, enjoy and long live No Surprises; god bless you all.



7th July; Save the (hic!) Date….for Beer

Beer; yep, like that. Festival; like that too. Devizes; ah, it be alright. 7th July 2018; save date, but be warned, buy advance tickets for The Devizes Beer Festival at the Wharf, it’s more organised these days, I think, and more popular, still plenty of beer though I hope. When are tickets available? Full of valid questions today aren’t you? Chill out and have a beer dude.


This is Devizes CAMRA we’re talking about, the campaign for real ale. Answer: right after the Seend Beer Festival, obviously. Seems the guys at CAMRA’s body clocks operate according to beer festivals, and why not? It’s what they’re good at. Seend’s Beer Festival is on 5th May, just so you know and tickets for this are available from the CAMRA website now.

I’ll be honest here, as always, I don’t know what else to say. I could bore you silly with a personal anecdote of a Devizes Beer Festival of yore, but such tales are vague and second-hand. Apparently neighbours were unimpressed when, after rolling down Dunkirk Hill on Shank’s pony, empty souvenir beer mug in hand, I serenaded my love from below the window; don’t believe a word of it.

So despite it always being an overwhelming day, information on the Devizes Beer Festival is ambiguous at the best of times; they usually have live music, they normally have a massive selection of locally sourced beers, ciders and ales. Perhaps I’ll update this if and when more information is released, but, there’s beer; what else do you need to know?

One thing which sprung to light via a Facebook post by CAMRA organiser Don Jones, who must be said has an uncanny resemblance to Windy Miller. It seems previous years has seen people smuggling their own drinks into the festival and this is simply not cricket.   “We used to turn a blind eye to the odd person in a group of ticket holders but the situation has got out of hand,” Don explained, even having gate-crashers setting up a gazebo last year and drinking cans of lager.

“Ticket holders have paid for the entertainment whilst they’d contributed SFA,” Don continued. Now I know how it goes after a bevy or three, rules tend to flake. I confess, I do recall retaining my glass while nipping to the loo across no-man’s land, (the sprint across the alcohol-free zone car park to the public bogs,) when the law was to leave your mug on a table provided, but my rebellious nature stopped at the urinal! Besides there’s a sense of irony in having the alcohol-free zone in a town built on beer production, let alone allowing a beer festival, surely?

Still, there’s going for a piss and then there’s taking the piss. Please respect the wishes of CAMRA, who make huge efforts to put this event on, and only drink beer bought at the beer festival; that’s the whole flipping idea of it for crying out loud into a tankard.

“This year we’re planning to beef up the security and not allow anyone at all to consume any alcohol on site that wasn’t bought at the festival,” Don finished, probably not as fast as he downs a half of Devitera, “We’ll make sure wine or something is available for those who want to accompany beer drinkers and are happy to contribute to the costs. This might sound draconian,” (sounds reasonable to me Don) “but things have been getting out of hand and we have to sort it out now.”

For more information on CAMRA and the Beer Festivals please contact them direct, rather than commenting here, I know nothing more and besides, my beer is getting warm.

Devizes CAMRA

Swindon Skanx a Blast From the Past

Being a teenager in the 90s meant you were likely to succumb to electronic music, or else you were outcasted to “indie kid.” Rave swept up masses, electronic music had come of age, shaken off hit factories which crucified the creative early 80s and commercialised it into one neat “Now” double-album.

Living in Swindon rave promoters Extos was tribal; teeth-chattering teens wrapped in blankets in the carpark of Hardings nightclub awaiting word-of-mouth directions to an illegal party. Underground music would never be the same, bands didn’t matter; it was DJ culture. Listening to bands antiquated, ravers didn’t respond to “indie,” after Britpop watered-down Madchester.

I’d have been drawing a comic strip for a local zine called De-Railer, which combined Swindon’s traditional band scene with upcoming rave culture, so I wasn’t adverse to throwing “ravers” caution to wind and attending a few gigs in 92.

One local band who shoved the contemporary aside I’d follow, reminiscent of the two-tone ska period. The Skanxters relived those carefree childhood memories of baggy trousers, dirty shirts, of skinheads hanging around playgrounds, fat bald singers with huge tongues and a day prior to electronica. But now, some twenty-eight years later, Saturday night at the Vic was time for those devotes of the Skanxters to reminisce, about the band who revived two-tone in 1990.

Of recent surge in merged mod/two-tone/northern soul I chatted to Steve Powell about this time last year, booked by the Devizes Scooter Club under the Killertones banner. Excited to hear of a Swindon ska band I was keen to ask him if he remembered The Skanxters. “Yeah,” he mumbled, “playing at the Vic next week ain’t they?”

Aghast at this revelation and in disbelief I responded, “no, they broke up, eons ago.” It was fact, a night at Level III in 98 when my posse were excited to be invited to the bands afterparty, only to find frustrated musicians in a house in Old Town, deciding the setup was through. But Steve reassured me twas true, they had a reunion gig. I spotted it online, liked their page, dug out their CD “Call it a Crime,” and made it concrete if it happened again by hook or by crook I had to make it to Swindon.

This Saturday it did, so despite many gigs around Devizes I could’ve checked out I found myself wandering through that dirty Old Town, eternally the hive of Swindon’s nightlife. Although areas of Swindon have changed so much I’d get lost, Old Town relics yore, aside a few façade changes, there’s more flashy bars and restaurants sprung up, there it was, like a beacon of all that is champion about music in Swindon, The Vic.

Traditional town pub, The Vic plays host to bands nearly every night, it’s lively, rough and ready. In the pit below the band’s old PA/sound man Preston Steel DJs boss reggae and rocksteady as the varied crowd gather; curious youngsters and the old ska boys of Swindon, anticipating a tsunami of fond memories to wash over them. Prior to the band bursting onstage Doc Martins are moonstomping and Herrington jackets are placed on chairs.

I caught up with the keyboardist Erin Bardwell, and chewed the fat about old times, about getting back together sporadically for gigs. Erin was never static behind the keys, akin to Tow-Tone’s Jerry Lee Lewis, he bobbed up and down, harmonised vocals and gave it all he had. Much the same, he did just that, telling me aside his newer projects, experimental dub outfit Subject A, and rocksteady fashioned, The Erin Bardwell Collective (who are booked for the Devizes Scooter Rally next summer,) he still loved playing the two-tone catalogue of the Skanxters of yore, musical differences which may have drawn the band apart back then have reunited them.

And what a reunion it was, lead Carl, now of the NoMarks, a little larger around the waist, and a few expected wrinkles from band members, but blasting out the sounds of their very beginnings; Mr Hate Me, Ska Beat and the legendary floor-filler King Arthur, they covered Woolly Bully and Pressure Drop with ease, and bought back a forgotten memory with their customary up-tempo ska cover of Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight.

There wasn’t the lengthy rambling of a Springsteen show, but short sweet introductions and memories sparked songs, hoisting Erin’s mum on stage and Carl’s banter between the musicians gave the show wit. “Funny to think that back in 1990,” Erin states, “when myself, Marc (drums) and Carl (vocals) were 16, and practicing up at Groundwell Farm, that all these years later in 2018 we could rack up in a rehearsal room and still bash out the old tunes.”

Erin continues with the fable, “Vinny Hill soon joined on bass (who I had gone to same school with but didn’t know him at the time), followed by Rowena on sax. Then another face from my old school, Jase Hill, came into it early 1991, on guitar. Sax player Nina came into the band in 1993; what a great thing that we can all still meet up and do occasional gigs together, have a good laugh, brush the old cobwebs off, and blast through the songs, and people actually want to come and watch us!”

When the crowds bawled for encore, and I’ll Never Know, the amusing classic inspired by Erin’s failure to keep a bike for more than a few weeks before being thieved, polished off the night, it was crystal Swindonites did indeed want to come and watch; as they did the 90s. What a blinder!




Devizes Arts Festival Line-up Announced

Well blow me down and call me Arthur Scargill if it ain’t true; the Devizes Arts Festival’s recently announced line-up looks superb, with one major flaw.

But let’s start with the good news. Toyah and her Full Electric Band and the Corn Exchange on 16th tipped to shine musically, while The Chaser, Paul Sinha doing a comedy show is perhaps the most intriguing.

Organist at Eton College, David Goode is doing an organ recital at St Johns on the 2nd, perhaps more Latino and lively for that day though is at the Corn Exchange where Son Yambu play authentic Cuban-Son, the intoxicating fusion of Spanish and African rhythms that gave rise to salsa.

It’s good to see the festival prompting some local acts, such as singer-songwriter Laura Greaves at the Black Swan for a free fringe event on the 3rd June. Devizes Books also hosts some poetry same day with Jemima Foxtrot, a writer, performer, musician and theatre-maker who blends powerful, sonic-heavy words with snippets of song in her distinctive voice. Or you could take a historical festival walk across the training ground of Salisbury Plain.

Eyes are on the Cellar bar that evening when the intelligent posh boy humour of Andrew Watts takes stage for a free fringe event, or the Corn Exchange with solo percussionist Evelyn Glennie.

The following Monday evening, 4th June The Bath Bach Choir perform at St Marys, while Tuesday lunchtime its over at St Andrews for a recital with Olivia Gomez and Ben Pinnow. The Town Hall though sees something interesting for the computer geeks and historians alike, as Dr Mark Baldwin lectures about the Story of the Enigma machine and the codebreakers.

Awarding winning biographer Victoria Glendinning at The Bear on Wednesday, and there’s New Orleans Jazz with Doolally Tap at the Merchants Suite. Elias String Quartet on Thursday at Town Hall, a Dickens-themed afternoon tea with Lucinda Hawksley, a double bill of soul sessions with Apphia Campbell paying tribute to her father and inspiration, Nina Simone.

Southbroom School seem to host the only children’s event listed on the 9th, when Explorer Dome’s pop-up planetarium explores the universe, and a C.S.I. styled Crime Scene Improvisation at The Merchants Suite wraps up Saturday.

Sunday has free fringe music at the Three Crowns with a roots, rattle & roll trio from Hampshire, The Mantic Muddlers. While actors Robert Powell and Liza Goddard present A Passionate Life which celebrates the extraordinary life and times of the composer Claude Debussy at the Town Hall.

If Robin Maynard is “an experienced communicator and campaigner on a broad range of environmental issues, an articulate and proven public speaker, writer and broadcaster,” then perhaps he could have devised a snappier title of this event, “Café Sci : The Seven Deadly Things we’re doing to trash the planet – & the one nobody wants to talk about… Human Population,” although it sounds apt. Meanwhile the Palace offer a matinee movie, Brief Encounter.

Posting Letters To The Moon at the Town Hall on the Tuesday is a recount of life during the early 1940s with readings of wartime letters between actress Celia Johnson, Oscar nominated for ‘Brief Encounter’ and her explorer and writer husband Peter Fleming, brother of James Bond creator Ian Fleming.

Thursday 14th June sees the Merchant Suite host the show Lovehard: Murdered By Murder, while St Mary’s has the Embassy Brass Quintet.

Friday it’s all jazz-hands with Sarah Jane Morris and Antonio Forcion at the Town Hall, flowing into Saturday 16th when The Gaulois Brothers play Gypsy Jazz at Pizza Express and Sunday there’s a free fringe event at the Merchant’s Suite with the Flamenco Thief, Craig Sutton. And the festival finishes with the traditional Devizes Film Festival, also a free fringe event.

It all sounds varied and there’s something to interest everyone, but who ordered the spanner in the works, and even gave them top billing? Senior homophobic, racist Tory scumbag Ann Widdecombe is intending to grace our town, and steal sixteen quid, plus book signing fees from punters willing to endure her dribble defined by the Devizes Arts Festival as “engaging, entertaining and refreshingly down to earth.”

I’m sorry to the organisers but this needs to be said; when, why, what in the heavens bought you to decide that this was even entertainment, let alone “arts?” Are we expecting an amusing anecdote about how she submitted a mileage claim for a 50-mile journey for a member of her staff to attend a funeral, or perhaps how she wangled a hundred and forty quid expenses for a pair of glasses for one of her assistants? I want to hear the ever-witty tale of her claims of £522, for newspaper cuttings; can’t she do her own vain scrapbook?

I’d like to hear that funny gag, you know the one, how she voted against gay rights on every count, or how she opted to shackle pregnant prisoners in labour. Why Devizes Arts Festival, would you book a politician with such a formidable track record, who makes Claire Perry look like Ramsay MacDonald, to an Arts Festival? Still, the rest looks fab!



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The Bell is on the Green again

Flipperdy-fuckeredly I can’t be forty-five, that can’t be right; doesn’t even sound right. Still, being as it was my birthday I felt obliged to pop out on a school night yesterday and it would’ve been rude not to check out the reopening of the Bell on the Green in old Devizes town; older than me I hasten to add.

Forget my archaic whinges, I like a pub to be a pub, traditional, wooden and authentic. The Bell on the Green has had more than a lick of paint, it’s positively transformed, maybe not to my cup of tea, but I have to hand it to them, it’s certainly spruced up the place and seeks to be an anchorage for twenty-somethings; a clientele prone to spending more than me, being ancient now half a shandy and I’m anyone’s, (actually that’s a tiny fib, no lonely emails please!)

The Bell on the Green has been suitably transformed to sports bar, with great enthusiasm to the punters, Wadworth have pulled it out of the bag and provided Devizes youth and sports fans with something they can treasure.


It was bustling in there from an early hour, adorned in contemporary chic décor, shiny new pool table and plasmas and even a foot-pool pitch out back, The opening of the Bell on the Green was lively and exhilarating. The fantastic People Like Us took time to tune but never failed to bring the house down with their unique take on popular covers; you can’t help but love them.

I wish them all the best, intend to park up my Zimmer-frame and drop in again soon, for it truly is a valuable asset to our fine collection of public houses, and in such a prime location; long may it live!


The Return of Massimo

Down in a basement beneath the 16th century buildings of Old Swan Yard in the heart of Devizes, used to lie a little but delightful taste of Italy.

Known as Franco’s Ristorante, for over twenty-seven years it was a renowned haven of quality Italian food and drink; locally the prime romantic location, from first date to wedding anniversary, I’d wager many a relationship started, blossomed or rekindled at those authentically Mediterranean tables.


However, last time the wife and I endeavoured to re-enact our first date, disappointment was all we found after descending those steps to Francos. Although the staff were still friendly, there was an underlying desperation in their tone, echoing through the vacant dank cellar. The food didn’t live up to its prior reputation, the atmosphere misplaced, but with price-tag the same, we felt gloomy and a tad ripped off.

Turned out its kingpin, head chef Massimo Pipitone had left. But now he’s returned, and he’s not messing around. With wife Shanai they’ve signed the lease, reopened it as Massimos, and word on the street is that it’s back to its former glory, if not better.


Dedicated to fulfilling a dream to own his own restaurant, Sicilian born Massimo repairs the broken repute by reintroducing the dishes he created at Francos, based on authentic recipes he’d have eaten back in Sicily. I’d be crazy not to try it again.

First impressions last, particularly in restaurants; I crave the anticipation of a good meal upon entering a premises. With Asian restaurants it’s the manners and warm hospitality, opening the door to a good English pub to hear the sounds of clinking glasses and jollity, but with Italian it has to be the fresh aroma of basil, garlic and red wine escaping from the kitchen. From the very moment of swinging that heavy black door to Massimo’s it’s noticeable, the musky smell replaced with said wonderful fragrances; just as it should be.

It’s busy, on a Thursday, but with a fond smile we are seated. A quick Facebook message confirmed our table and the welcoming was warm. Massimo’s is charmingly diminutive, booking is advisable. We chatted prior to being seated, Shania enthusiastic about the relaunch and positive about the feedback thus far.

Immediately it feels as if nothing has changed, like the last few months was just a nightmare. The traditional decor remains, but a tidy-up and fresh aromas breathe new life into this wonderful haven. The wine list caters for all tastes and wallets, the menu invites, be it a pasta dish or pizza, or full Italian courses from antipasti to an attractive selection of Dolce or Caffè.


With tomato and red onion salad, I ordered my longstanding favourite, lasagna, which sizzled at me from its dish and coiling the strings of mozzarella, it tasted sublime. Meanwhile the pizza of kings arrived at the other side of the table which couldn’t be finished along the side-order of sweet potato fries; I had to take a bite purely from the scent of that freshly baked dough.

Throughout the meal we were catered for with warmth, with no stone left unturned to insure the experience was everything we dreamed and that we were contented. Darn right we were; fantastico!

Massimo and Shanai are proudly declaring all dietary requirements are catered for; vegetarian, gluten-free, and a kid’s menu has been added. There’s now a takeaway service and talk of Massimo creating his own burger.

If you can get booked in Sunday, take your Mum for the set Mother’s Day menu, (see event here,) if not, be sure to try it out asap; you’ll not be disappointed.

Massimo’s Facebook page:


No Surprises Living in Devizes Pruning or Putin?

Somewhere in the job description of “spy” must be the fortuitous clause that someone might try knock you off; James Bond lived for it. I reckon such occurrences as which happened in Salisbury are best left to intelligence bureaus, not local Bobby, and especially not blubbering buffoon Boris who hardly defines the term “intelligence.” Still he pursues revenge on accused Russia with that trigger-happy psychopathic President giggling at him.

How does he suggest we retaliate? Boycott the World Cup; that’ll show ‘em. Oh my years, at least give us a chance to fail the group stages Boris, or you’ll have patriotic football nutters cursing your name and giving it, “this was the year we could’ve won too!” Good, you go for it Boris.

boris meme
As the eyes of the world stage rest upon our nearest city, makes one wonder that living in our humble little town isn’t so bad; the only thing fuelling our bleats is the mass clearing of trees and vegetation from the banks around the pounds of the Caen Hill Flight, which contractors of the Canal River Trust were instructed to undergo this week.

Mind you, they’ve certainly swept the place to the point it now resembles the Suez Canal running through the Sahara. Has Putin dropped the big one on lock 23? Chris Greenwood asked bods of The Devizes Debate Facebook page if, “this the correct time of year for such a drastic measure to be taken, regarding wildlife habitat?” and so became a plethora of sad and sorrow-filled comments.

Chris himself took to stating, “To completely remove a huge tranche of cover like this is little short of vandalism.”

Was this necessary, I asked, I mean to remove everything, and why? I messaged the Kennet & Avon Construction team. They replied, no they really did. They said, “we are booked in to repair the bank in this location [the offside bank between locks 23 and 24.] The water in this pound is overtopping and we have been tasked to raise the bank to prevent the water washing out over the footpath.”

So there we have it, I responded with another question; “So in order to do this it needs to be stripped of all the bramble and trees first?” wondering if perhaps they could work around the odd tree or two. Obviously our conversation ended there, that is after all, what they were told to do.

Or were they? Waterways Manager, Mark Evans emailed me thus: “I appreciate that any work we do around vegetation management causes concerns and I can assure you we are doing everything we can to manage our estate in the best possible way for all to use, whether you are enjoying the towpath as a walker or cyclist, enjoying the water as a boater or taking in the wildlife.”

“Canal & River Trust is passionate about protecting both the built and natural heritage of our canals. What makes the canals so special is that these two aspects can complement each other. However there has to be a balance to ensure both are adequately protected. Our heritage advisers and ecologists always work together on managing the projects and maintenance programmes, we have very robust processes to ensure there is proper consultation between all the professionals involved.”

“The Caen Hill Flight of locks is an outstanding engineering achievement and one of the Modern Waterway Wonders of the World. It is over two hundred years old and designated as a scheduled monument which is the highest class of heritage protection in the UK. This gives it legal protection and also places an obligation on us to maintain and repair the site appropriately. All work within the scheduled monument including tree felling requires approval from Historic England.”

“Historically there were no trees around the side ponds or locks – the old photos show it completely clear of large vegetation. One of the spectacular attractions of the site was being able to look up from Marsh Bridge at Lock 28 or down from the lock cottage at lock 44 and see the whole flight in all its glory. However, since the restoration sapling growth has not been adequately controlled, resulting now in some substantial groups of trees. These are threatening the monument in several ways. Firstly, they obstruct the wonderful long views of the locks and side ponds. Secondly tree roots near the locks have penetrated their approach walls causing severe damage to the masonry. Thirdly tree growth along the spine road embankments is so dense in places that it is destroying the shape of the side ponds.”

“The recent tree felling does appear rather drastic but this is only because they had been allowed to get so dense in recent years. In fact we are just returning the site to a properly balanced state where both the structures and the environment can work in harmony for a sustainable future. We want people to be able to go on visiting and enjoying the Caen Flight for the next two hundred years.”


Kennet & Avon Canal, yesterday

Oh I don’t know, maybe we had to be brutal to be kind here. But two things about this longwinded response don’t add up; historically the canal was a working artery, purely functional, whereas today it’s a leisurely pursuit and a tourist attraction, which surely needs to be aesthetic as well as functional. Despite the amazing feat of engineering involved in this “Modern Waterway Wonder of the World,” I think some wildlife and vegetation kind of suits the place. To return it to its original use would mean, by today’s standards, we tarmac the darn thing and allow McDonalds and Little Chef’s to sprig up rather than bramble, bunnies and kingfishers.

The other issue I have with the response is that nowhere in it does it explain about the repair to the pound’s bank. They’re not singing with the same song-sheet, leading me to think Putin maybe in charge of communication; “could you clear a few trees from the banks of the Canal please?”

Putin rubs his hands together, “What’s that you say? Trump has a longboat moored there? Okay, I will see to it.”


Honestly, I feel something has gone amiss here, it’ll take decades for the wildlife to recover. I expected Art Garfunkel to be singing “Bright Eyes” on the edge of the towpath, not forgoing anything about the effect on the wildlife residing there, like I asked; seems it’s their property and people come see it for the awesome feat of engineering rather than it’s simply “a nice country walk.” You, the user decide.

Urban Lions Help The Barge


The Urban Lions of Lionheart Records, a touring band and sound system currently rising up through the underground UK roots and dub scene, have joined forces with Malfunktion Soundsystem, Earth’s Radicals and The Barge Co-operative, to bring us an evening of music, fun and frolics, in order to raise funds for The Barge at Honey-Street.





Urban Lions are firing up the dance with headline sets at festivals and venues all over the UK and overseas with a feisty fusion of bashment roots, dub, ska, dancehall, funk, rocksteady beats, filthy horns, skanking rhythms and conscious rhymes. They’ve secured a record deal with Amsterdam based label ‘Earth Works Records’ and released their debut live EP, “Urban Lions In Amsterdam.”


I’m sure you’re familiar with The Barge Inn, Honey-Street, and know it’s history. Made famous by the international crop circle community, the bands that have played there, the campsite’s mini festival vibe, the canal dwelling boating and music loving communities, The Barge Inn was a very special venue in a truly magical setting in the heart of the Pewsey Vale and became a unique imprint in the culture of Wiltshire and beyond.


People came from all over the world to experience the magical vale vibe, to dance to the bands, to sample the beer, to camp in the field and tell stories around the fire pit. But the Barge is under threat. The current owners have closed the pub and are selling it on.


The Barge Co-Operative now have the option to buy the pub, but first they need to raise enough funds for a survey and legal fees to assess whether it’s feasible to do so.


So the Urban Lions and collective are to put a gig  on at the Bouverie Hall, Pewsey, on 31st March; doors open at 6pm, with a minimum fiver donation on the door. There will be live music from them, and the Boothill Allstars, Tripolar, the Malfunktion Sound System and the Earth’s Radicals.

Info here:





Help DOCA Ignite the Night and Let it Shine

What does DOCA mean to you? Talking backpacks and singing maps, Swipper no swiping?

No, that’s Dora, idiot! The Devizes Outdoor Celebratory Arts is a whole lot of good, with a sprinkling of bad. Bad only in letting locals know they need their help, which says to me they’d earnestly rather not, they’d rather just do what they can to provide us with free entertainment to the best of their ability; a street festival, the carnival, oh yeah, plus the Christmas light switch on and lantern parade. But with the cutting of arts funds, we owe it to them to give a little back, if you want it.


The most original and curious of these has to be August’s Confetti Battle, it’s archetypally Devizes; you know it, I reckon you’ve been at least once. Each year, thousands crowd the Devizes Market Place for an hour of complete madness at the Confetti Battle; it’s bonkers with full-beam headlights.

Last year was one of the best attendances in many years; everyone had a ball, but there was a lack of funding for fireworks and they were unable to give the battle the customary finale.


The 2017 Confetti Battle. Image used with Permission from Gail Foster

Bods gathered at their online devises, as they do, to whinge and complain about the lack of fireworks on Facebook groups. DOCA responded with the statement, “we know a few of you were disappointed as there were no fireworks, so how about helping us to bring them back this year?”

They’re asking for donations, anything you can offer in order to stage a spectacular firework display. There are collection boxes, at The Vaults, Tundra Jewellers and Luna For You. Alternatively, here’s a link to donate online; just click it dude/dudette!

I’m not about to fib, and I’ll put it in a way DOCA probably wouldn’t, but the online stats looks rather awful; just 9% raised last look and only twenty-seven days remaining on the campaign. 150 notes is going to provide everyone with a sparkler, and yes, I know the majority attending are young families, probably the worst affected by this financial slump, but what if you consider yourself past all that? Surely you a recall a time when you did go, and you did have fun? Maybe you’d like to continue the magic for the next generation?



Yeah okay, that’s the Christmas Lantern Parade fireworks, but that’s cos there wasn’t any at Confetti Battle was there, huh?

It’s a classic conundrum; if everyone gave a couple of pounds….. it could ignite the light and let it shine. Just think, you’d own the night better than Katie Perry; ’cause baby if you want a firework, show DOCA what you’re worth, and if you can, make ’em go “oh, oh, oh!” I’m sure they’d like that.

If not, don’t go whinging on Facebook about not having fireworks at the Confetti Battle, just stay at home and watch Dora the Explorer and Boots have more fun than you!




Outlaws and their Orchestras at Devizes CMC

I know, you try to blot out the insane blethering which is No Surprises Living in Devizes; I don’t blame you. I would too, but being as I write the damn column, it’s not so easy for me to forget them. So I guess when I say, “hey remember that one when…blah, blah, blah,” you guys sarcastically reply under your breath, “yeah right, course I do…..”

I’m not going to nuisance your sarcasm impulse this time, only to say there was one week where I ventured to the Conservative Club to meet Dean during his Devizes Country Music Club night, believe me it’s true.

I carried a bag of preconceived ideas about what to expect upon arrival, about what Country Music is and how it rolls. Unsurprisingly, much of it is true; line dancing, Stetson hats, etc. However Dean was keen to point out the Devizes CMC is so much more than this cliché and he attempts to break stereotypes surrounding the music he loves, by booking bands which do just this, in order to attract a wider audience.

So I could spend another few hundred words trying to convince you his efforts are earnest and true, that the CMC is not always what you think it is, but I’d rather take this ideal opportunity to preview Sunday 14th October’s planned event as a prime example of what we’re trying to get through to the local community; there’s a more universal appeal to this music then you might think.



So, on this date, the Conservative Club host the Devizes CMC with a Southampton outfit called The Outlaw Orchestra, hard Southern country rock, merging bluegrass fashioned traditional banjo with raw rock n roll and Cajun, Dixie and Flamenco, and, and, and well, watch the clip; it’s tough, wild and energetic, verging on punk – everything you thought country music isn’t, I’ll guarantee. Try line-dancing to this and you’ll snap a limb!

This powerhouse four-piece formed in 2016, and comprise of drums, banjo, guitar and double bass. With their debut ten track CD, Dirty Diesel, they have drawn comparisons with Humble Pie and The Black Crowes, through to the Cosmic American country genre.


Recent accomplishments include a home territory sold out show at the Portsmouth Guildhall, packing the indoor stage at Bristol’s Grillstock Festival alongside Hayseed Dixie and The Darkness.

Just last year the band secured an endorsement from Swedish Rock‘n’Roll craft beer company Pistonhead lager, who added them to their artist roster of “bands to watch out for.” They also gained endorsement from ‘Cloven Hoof’ spiced rum, who’ll be booking them for various festivals and events this year.



Yeah, you have to wait till October for their arrival here and your Sundays to never be the same again, but it’s advised you book early to avoid disappointment. Tickets for the extremely popular The Outlaw Orchestra are out now from:

Until then, you should check the website for closer events; although please note this Sunday 4th March, the CMC has had to be cancelled due to weather, like so many events this weekend.

Still, Dean is one of many dedicated to bring Wiltshire something different, catering to the customary Country fans but hiding in the agenda is a faithful desire to widen the lure and attract a new audience. For this, you have to tip your Stestson, especially for these outlaws:



Opening of a New Realm of Vinyl

Without this sounding like a dull diary type blog, it’s been one of those days. The weather of planet Hoth grinds the country to near standby, I perched at the window contemplating taking my milk-float out for as long as I could bear. I got quarter of the run done, albeit very late.

Oh the look on people’s faces, who wouldn’t normally witness such a spectacle as an eighties milk-float daring to venture where most cars were stuck. Still, that’s the beauty of Devizes, content in a time of yore.

Rather than brave my car to town later, with more snowfall forecast, I took the opportunity when passing the corner of St Johns and Long Street to drop in and see Pete and Jacki Bennett who were busy preparing Vinyl Realm for tomorrow’s launch; their brand new record shop. Yeah, the one we mentioned here a week ago (see article.)



Bustling Shop Window, Photo used with kind permission of Nick Padmore Photography

So here it is, a sneak preview of this soon-to-be marvellous musical haven, for just like the vintage milk-float parked randomly outside, upon sauntering into Vinyl Realm you feel transported back to a time of yore, when people gathered in record shops to browse, share gossip and sometimes even buy an album. Surely it’s another diamond for the traditional ethos of Devizes.

I’ll confirm now, before you see it for yourself, it’s everything you think it should be, the décor stripped back to beams and bricks adorn pop memorabilia from a Buddy Holly picture disc and a Two-Tone tour poster. The centre of the shop embraces an island of classic vinyl albums, divided A-Z and into genres, just how you remember them being prior to shopping on a dull website named after a rainforest.



Jacki, Pete wait for Richard Benham to cut the ribbon: Photo used with kind permission of Nick Padmore Photography

You can’t flick through those artistic cardboard covers like you used to on a website, or dare I say it, skin up on an MP3. Here then is Vinyl Realm’s niche, through assortments of incense, CD’s, high quality cables at decent prices, pop memorabilia and more, lies old vinyl albums in abundance. Under the island there’s bargain bins, there’s stacks of 7” singles, rave 12”’s, there’s prize shelves alluring you in with the a heave of excitement, “Hey wow, Madness Absolutely; my first ever album.”



Shoppers start browsing: Photo used with kind permission of Nick Padmore Photography




“What about cassette tapes?” I rapped, thinking I’d got the better of them, but no, they’ll be stocked too, just hadn’t been bought up the shop yet. The best thing was, Pete and Jacki were pleased to see me, discussing their plans with enthusiasm. It’s clear they’re passionate about this project, after years of producing an online vinyl service. Pete tells me how he wants it to be a hub, somewhere to hang out, discuss and debate music, and they’ll also be selling gig tickets.



Found a treasure while Mike plays in the background: Photo used with kind permission of Nick Padmore Photography

Will they have a deck for customers to try before they buy? I had to ask, recalling days of queuing with prospective purchase in hand, waiting for the would-be DJ to filter his stack, muttering, “shit, this record will be out of the charts by the time this Joey has finished on there!” Oh yes, of course, they replied. I’m damned if this isn’t like stepping back to the good old days of record shops, the fair prices, I do not lie, even match.

You could be looking at paying £15-18 for a brand new album, but the second-hand racks are priced akin to 1990; at £3-£10. So cool; I predict this to be awesome for our little town, as far as shopping goes, and making good use of such a lovely corner store too.
But it doesn’t end there, Pete, who has experience with the local music scene is keen, not so much to bring in big names to meet and greet, but to support our burgeoning music scene.



Mike Barham entertains customers: Photo used with kind permission of Nick Padmore Photography

For example, you’ll catch Mike Barham at tomorrow’s grand opening; snowdrifts only peeking over the soul of his shoe. Local musicians, you know who you are, approach the place and enquire if they’ll flog your CD; they promise not to bite.

So, here at snowy Devizine Towers, I’m so pleased to see something like this happening in Devizes, fair-play to Jacki and Pete and I wish them all the best for their grand opening tomorrow (Saturday 3rd March) Get down there and check it out!

All photos have been used with kind permission of Nick Padmore Photography, copyright Nick Padmore; please ask before use, thank you!




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