PLEASE NOTE THIS AMENDMENT TO THE ORGINAL ARTICLE:
Okay, while I favour to leave this article as it was originally intended, for the sake of the way the piece flows, certain information which has come to light. I would like to correct statements made here, concerning the previous management of the Southgate Inn, Devizes. It is with poor research that the reasons given here for the couple leaving is inaccurate and I bid you read our full apology here.
The eminence and forte of a pub hinges on the name above the door, but habitually retains a reputation long after the previous proprietors have departed. A meagre repute can be problematic to turn around; find a niche, cross fingers and toes, and prey the previous owners haven’t made a lasting, irrevocable impression.
So we find trends in popularity of our pubs phasing and fluctuating as Old Father Time marches. What may have been a no-go zone a year or so ago may not be the case now. I revealed this notion with the Black Swan in Devizes some years ago, an ample makeover completely changed the style, ethos and ambience from a rather dull affair to a lively, eccentric vibe with one dedicated landlord at its helm and more than a handful of antique curiosities. The question now the pub has changed hands again, is whether the input of its newbies and the modifications they’ve decided upon will adjust its attraction; it remains to be seen and is currently open to debate.
Not so at the Southgate Inn, stuck out on a limb with a slightly tarnished reputation of recent, it appears all hands are on deck to turn this ship around and repair its dented status. With new, unconventional landlords Dave and Deborah, it looks like its darker days are over. All it takes is for people to realise and warm to it once more.
I wonder what did go wrong with the pub, is it the short walk from the town centre? Hum, I timed it. Five minutes and fourteen seconds to take a causal summer stroll from the Market Place to the Southgate. Pretty sure you couldn’t sober up in that short time. It’s certainly not its lack of charm; a modest but attractive watering hole, with sufficient space and traditional décor, but I understand the last owners kind of lost interest and after arguments with the Brewery, sadly left a sinking ship.
So, what is the new niche? Usually at this point I describe a glitzy transformation with neon lights, alternative coloured pool tables and trendy bottled alcopops; seems to be the fashion. But my timing perfect, I sauntered up to the door as Dave unlocked it and I was warmly was greeted, albeit the décor remained the same. I favoured this though; tired of attempts to turn traditional taverns into contemporary sports bars.
Are they now serving delicate and chic cuisine, another cliched turnaround? No, was the answer from Deborah as we took up a seat in the sun drenched beer garden, “I might knock a bowl of chilli up for the skittle club, but that’s about it!”
The appeal here is while Dave manages the taps, Deborah has dedicated herself to bringing Devizes a live music venue as diverse as her own tastes, and judging by the line-ups, mostly for Saturday nights, its gone off with an almighty bang.
In a short top-hat decorated with dice, folkloric jewellery and alternative attire, Deborah is proudly of the barge community. She is concerned the band booked for Saturday has cancelled, and worries about finding another at short notice on a bank holiday weekend, breaking the promise to guarantee live music every Saturday. In a short time though, this was sorted. “No one else in Devizes does this every Saturday,” she tells me, and I struggle to think of one too.
Despite being open to genres and booking a variety, she holds an ethos that bands and singers with original material is key and local performers are ideal. This surely transcribes as a positive move for our burgeoning live music scene, and Deborah is keen to hear from artists willing to perform.
We discussed the pros and cons of tribute acts and of cover bands, and while she would consider these, The Southgate attempts to satisfy with quality live music, and a DJ was off the cards. Although Deborah recently acquired a turntable and week nights invited punters to bring their old vinyl down; a novel idea which highlights the welcoming DIY atmosphere the place will encourage. We pondered an open mic night, and she confirmed her intention that all acts will be free of charge; ticketed events was not something she wished for.
All in all then, it’s a friendly new approach, one well worth the wander, and judging by the line-up below, our musicians are keen to get onboard. “We’re taking booking for December,” she delightfully informed. All it takes is for you to take heed and make the leap, if you’ve not already. So check this lot out; all FREE! I’d be surprised if there’s nothing you’d want to attend in the coming months.
This Saturday Christopher Wynn and Victor Salt play a mix of folk, rock, country and Americana as Limpley Stoke. And Kirsty Clinch arrives Sunday at 6PM with her acoustic folk.
On the 9th June it’s the incredible Tamsin Quin, who needs no introduction. Again the band who bought Tamsin’s launch gig to life and accomplished in their own right, Its Complicated are live at the Southgate on 16th.
23rd June has Salisbury based acoustic duo, Fret n Keyz. While 30th sees Tim Madden & The Struggle blend bluegrass, blues and Irish folk.
Into July then, it’s Hip Route live on the 7th, RockHoppaz on the 14th. Then people, George Wilding arrives on the 21st, oh yeah. It’s a local fest from there, with Devizes based Jamie R Hawkins on 28th, Andrew Hurst 4th August, and watch out for the incredible Phil Cooper at the Southgate on 11th August.
With Dr Zebo’s Wheezy Club on the 18th and Ollie Back & Sam on the Fiddle on the Sunday. The list goes on, with Wilton Sleeper, Nuages Trio and RedRoss also booked into September, the inn is surely a forced to be reckoned with. Devizine wishes them all the best for the future and encourages one and all to return to the Southgate; see you there (when they let me out!)