Argh, seen one Wiltshire village, seen ‘em all, so they say.
Who be “they” anyway? Course they all seem the bleedin’ same from the angle of a flippin’ Costa Coffee cup, while belting through at eighty miles per bleedin’ hour, texting about the far more important place they be pretending to be? Who do they fink they arrre? Sum kinda superstarrr?
Yous an me knows each individual village is actually quite unique really, with their own folklore, customs, and weird faces. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it. Although, welcoming visitors is often accomplished with a cold stare. For the outsider it feels alienating, but it’s done in want of gossip and not malice; “ooh art be rand ere den?”
Certainly not the way I felt when I smuggled myself across the border; St Edith’s Marsh on Saturday. Despite being from a neighbouring village, and initially weary of possible gazing, I was met by Adam, the organiser of the event I’m here to participate in. The things I do for a story; “pop over and check out the Owl’s Music and Cider Fest,” it’s a dirty job….
Handed a plastic logoed cup, wristband and some tokens we briefly discussed; this was the first of its kind, previous cider festivals not being so musically based and The Owl, a section of the Bromham Sports & Social Club dedicated to bringing the village quality live music, has never combined with the cider festival.
Seems it’s a welcomed merger, with a modest but enthusiastic local crowd. In scarlet dress and spectrum shades, Jezilyn Martyn was just finishing her set as I perused the program’s sublime cider menu and decided to chronologically work my way through; when in Rome. Upon request they even supplied a pencil so I could mark the tried and tested ones, should later, it all become a bit much.
Perhaps there was a bigger local festival happening on the other side of the Vale of Vizes; no one here cared. This was cosy, friendly and typically Bromham. I asked if they expected many from the town, or other places. They hoped so, but didn’t seem particularly concerned about it, for while Bromham may be a just village, plentiful loyal supporters hung out in the garden.
Picking a face from the unknown crowd, I made a beeline for the superbly talented George Wilding. Unsure the weather would hold up till six, when he was booked to perform, or else concerned people might be more interested in the football final, George can come across shy, until he’s in the spotlight. Still, enjoyed getting to know this local legend.
Next up though was the mighty Mike Barham, who after stopping for a brief word and responding to my request for his ever-amusing cover of Danger Zone from the Top Gun soundtrack, towered over the marquee and blasted good vibes. An hour passed until, bang on cue, Tamsin, opens a mini-case containing her new CD, whips on her guitar and takes over with songs and smiles.
I’d worked my way halfway through the cider selection when George Wilding added to the line-up of indigenous aptitude, for me what a local festival should be about. With ease he continued the sound vibes, a few originals and making covers his own. House of the Rising Sun as red, but most interesting was the Ronettes “Be My Baby,” how one can acoustically convert it to a sombre ballad is nothing short of genius. He performed the set with Tamsin’s case still open to punters in front of him!
With sizzling barbecue and dependable punters propping up the bar, Owl Fest was humble, typically Bromham, and so warm and welcoming it’d be the envy of other villages. Well done to all, but for the months after this fest the music continues, as the Owl and Bromham’s social club in general dedicate themselves to sporadically bringing a wealth of talent to the village, to the point it challenges any entertainment establishments you’ll get in its nearby towns. Check out their future evenings and open mic events to see where I’m coming from.
Next up is the The Hoot on the 2nd June, their acoustic night in The Owl with Phil King from Bristol, Ian O’Regan and Frome’s Al O’Kane. But with horse racing nights, charity quizzes, a week-long carnival celebration and popular local acts such as Larkin (25th Aug), Jamie R Hawkins (7th July) booked, there’s loads going on up here, including names you may not have heard of.
Appearing after George, prime example was Corky, a singer/songwriter creating what he dubs “agricultural hip hop.” I was intrigued; how does this work? Very amusingly is the short answer, when in the able hands of this Malmesbury yokel, whose naturally hilarious adaptions of classic rap tunes are parodied for the ears of rural West Country folk, as if the Wu-Tang Clan were in an MC battle with the Wurzels. Rural poverty lined subjects apt for our area, such as escaping Devizes and using red diesel, converted from hip hop’s usual themes of bling, guns and hoes, and delivered with audience participation and heckling was nothing short of dazzling.
Gradually the event was hoisted inside, with the Surfin’ Turnips and Bilbo Baggins & The Bargain Hunters preparing to take them into the night. Unfortunately, I had to go, I’d worked my way through the ciders till the lead of the pencil snapped, and was getting wobbly. For a free event and only six pounds for the wristband and first token, this was an outstanding little do; long live the Owl – twit-ta-hooooo!