Traders in Devizes were slightly miffed that the hardcore fascist regime of Wiltshire Council shoved their fingers in their ears and blew raspberries at them when they attempted to discuss their ideas at a Devizes Parking Working Group and Devizes Town Council meeting on Wednesday, for car parking in the town.
“We’re not listening, so na-na na-na-na,” mocked Wiltshire Council cabinet member Philip Whitehead, demanding an extra £95,000 be raised every year, or else he’ll get his mates round to, “sort you lot out. They’re green beret ninja warriors, so you better watch out.”
Basically, the only way Wiltshire Council say they’re going to budge on the hefty increased parking fees would be to have “a mixed use scheme for the Market Place which prioritised public space but could include a small amount of parking provision.” In other words, you might have a small area with a stall selling mobile phone covers, the rest will be high priced parking spaces.
The only other options are to either remove parking entirely from the Market Place or introduce extortionate paid parking; because removing parking entirely is going to be a popular and functional idea, solve all congestion issues in the town, and is not, in any manner, a threat.
The idea the market place could be a vibrant arts and entertainment space has been put forward by Council members, while they turned their faces away and giggled into handkerchiefs.
Wiltshire Council have already expressed their need to raise the extra revenue. “We are nearly all out of Green & Blacks Velvet Edition organic dark chocolate bars at County Hall’s vending machine,” expressed Mr Whitehead, “and Laura gets real mad when we ran out last time, threatened she’d close down children’s education centres if we didn’t nip down Waitrose and buy some.”
Part of that extra £95,000 has been already been spent by the Council to employ a graphic artist to visualise how wonderful the Market Place in Devizes could look if the vibrant arts and entertainment space went ahead, and another depicting what the Market Place might look like should higher parking charges be introduced. “There’s always Trow-Vegas,” suggested Mr Whitehead, “and they have a Wagamamas.”
Here are the well spent pictures to persuade you to succumb without protest.
After his exhibit on Wine Street, it’s good to see local artist Clifton Powell’s dynamic and striking urban images back on display in Devizes, at the wonderful Bluestone Gallery in the Old Swan Yard.
If you don’t recall we featured Clifton back in March on Devizine, when I was glad to be invited to pay him a visit at his home, prior to his exhibit (read it here.) Whist Clifton’s range of themes are diverse, from realistic wildlife to captivating still life and from African scenes to local landscapes, it’s his series titled “Unrest,” which appears to have captivated an audience.
The revolutionary paintings in Unrest are urban by nature, depict scenes of civil unrest, social snags that beset city life, riots, and an affiliation for haunting gasmask images. Orwellian dark portrayals of masked faces rings likeness to David Lloyd’s drawings for V For Vendetta, the mask of which has become synonymous with revolution, used by the hacktivist group Anonymous.
Perhaps a peculiarity placed within a gallery in Devizes, but Bluestone has a vast and varied assortment. It’s an emporium of the unusual and unique, offering a fine taste of British contemporary art and crafts. Guy opened his boutique of art eighteen years ago, and despite a plethora of gift shops, Bluestone is quite unique to Devizes. I asked Guy if he saw his place as a gallery or a shop. Being it sells “gift,” items, greetings card prints, sculpted bowls, quality knitted scarves and such like, I feel Guy is slightly conflicted between answering the question. With a clear fixation with art, he wants to see it as a gallery, but that’s it’s niche; it’s the best of both worlds.
Personally I was drawn to a series of screen-prints specialising in classic British comic characters, little pop-art reproductions from the likes of Dudley Watkins and Leo Baxendale. I’ve fallen in arty-love with the inimitable, almost graphical techniques of local landscape artist Anna Dillon, Caroline le Bourgeois with her vivid pastel street scenes, Helen Theobald’s pastel and oil mixed media local landscapes, and the endearing cartoony pet lino or woodcuts of Alison Reed. But with over a hundred individual artists, photographers, sculptors and jewellery-makers on display, it’s a hive which you could swallow a day in; best find a free parking space before you enter!
There are fine individual sculptures, assortments of curious jewellery, there’s an amusing clay representation of a half-opened tin of sardines on the wall, as I talk to Guy, and the cartoonish fish poking out distract me from what we were discussing! There’s so much going in there, a feast for your eyes over two stories.
As I browse I spot some wonderful prints of Quinten Blake’s Roald Dahl characters, with a passage of text from the respective book, I figured “my daughter would love these,” and I guess in that notion it’s easy to view Bluestone as the kind of “art-shop,” where there is something for everyone; “oh look at that adorable model of a canal long-boat by Frances Noon, my mum would love that!” Shut up Guy and take my money! If, for even if not, “arty-type stuff” isn’t your thing, but urban street art of Banksy et all has caught your attention, Clifton Powell’s addition back into Bluestone just tops the whole experience off; are we still in Devizes?!
Ray Charles covering Frank Snow’s “I’m Moving On,” was one thing, but the concept of working on an album of country music during the period of racial segregation was not met fondly with Atlantic; they’d rather he stuck to pop-orientated RnB. But, a swift move to ABC in 1961 and “Modern Sounds In Country & Western Music,” promptly became the most radical album of American music, twisting ethnic barricades amid the Civil Rights Movement. Ray Charles began with this genre, his hillbilly roots the only method to get noticed in Georgia, but ask him what he adored about country music and he’d reply, “it’s the stories.”
What the greatest American singer/songwriters, like Springsteen and Dylan owe to anecdotes weaved into country is paramount. With this in mind I was keen to hear what stories a band called “The Stories” from our own West Country would tell on their new EP, “Short Stories,” released this week.
Perhaps their name not as apt as I considered though, as there isn’t such a strong concentration of narrative in these tracks, no emotional roller-coasters of Johnny Cash, and not really the melancholic but astute intertwined chronicle of Tammy Wynette’s “Ode to Billy-Joe,” for example. The second tune of the EP, “Never Walk Away,” prime, where the rather washy metaphor, “I need you like a flower needs the sun,” is scarcely the helm of innovative song-writing.
That said, lyrically it’s far beyond Achy Breaky Heart and the plethora of line-dancing anthems which bleed all authenticity from the roots of country music, from its native land. In fact, like Stevie Nicks with twang, I’ve got time for The Stories as it sticks to the country formula with rhythms to appease pop.
So, there is, however, five feel-good country-inspired pop songs with instant appeal and something immensely uplifting about their sound. No raw edge, just joyful immaculate riffs and amiable vocals that will not only appease country fans, but with cross-over pop sounds akin to Sheryl Crow and the panache of Shania Twain at a barn dance, I reckon this has a much wider appeal. The opening and subsequent tune, “What if,” and “Never Walk Away” being prime examples.
The theme of “What If” kind of reminds me of Stevie Wonder’s “As,” take elements malfunctioning, the sun sinking into the ocean, stars not shining at night, then proclaim “none of it matters as long as you love me.” It unfastens the group’s kingpin, their wonderfully composed vocal harmonies. Whereas the second song in concentrates on the group’s female vocalist, Teri Souter as she takes the lead, continuing with romantic prose.
Third tune, “He’ll Drive Me Crazy,” becomes less quixotic and, with wit borders pop with a catchy Shania Twain-fashioned slant on the unattractiveness of a well behaved man.
“Ghost on my Trail,” next, the most astutely written and expressed. Like a true country classic it’s the most beautifully crafted on the EP. I’m unsure which male member takes the duet with Teri, David Griffin or Jason Allen, but their strong Segar-like vocals traditionalises the Nashville sound with a heart-warming, sentimentalised country formula.
This is equally followed by the gorgeously executed finale, “Roses Outside My Door.” The writing upgrades as the EP progresses, and I’ve taken a leap of faith; The Stories may’ve questioned my preconceived inkling that their debut EP would herald the traditional killer narrative of Guthrie or Wynette, but it rolls with conventional country in such a catchy and likeable fashion, there’s nothing here to dislike.
I’d certainly recommend booking these guys and gals for your barn dance, country music club or any gathering where some good ol’ boys will be drinking whisky and rye. In fact, that’s how I heard about them; they’re performing for the Devizes Country Music Club at the Conservative Club on the 2nd February. Yeah I know, ages away, that’s why you need to check out the EP, or attend Fairfest Music Festival in Fairford on 18th August, where they’ll also play.
The Cellar Bar of the Bear Hotel in Devizes received an illustriously fervent awakening last night when three-piece Welsh alternative rock band Holoson crossed the border, came, saw, and kicked ass. In checking notes made of this evening for this review I find I managed a sentence: “Saturday night down the Cellar Bar: F****** Loud!”
Kind of sums it up in a word, but to expand would also include words like passionate and accomplished, for Holoson certainly pushed all the right buttons, very hard.
With members made up from Blacksphere, hugely popular on the Welsh rock scene, Holoson merged popular covers from the likes of Muse with equally storming original material. Nods to tough blues and verging on metal, Holoson are a force to be reckoned with.
Like Jon Bon Jovi in his prime, as if the self-styled bandana-attired frontman wasn’t apt and raw enough, Blacksphere’s female lead singer Gayn joined him on the cobblestone corner to blast out proficient and energetic vocals, ensuring this conglomerate has fire and appetite, which protruded onto Devizes’ otherwise silent Market Place.
If you like your rock hard, raw and energetic then I’m certain our area hasn’t heard the last of Holoson and Blacksphere, as their expert drummer, Luke actually resides in Devizes, constantly travelling back over the bridge with keen dedication to this band.
I had the time to catch up with Luke prior to drumming like Animal from the Muppets, as original organiser of musical extravaganzas down the Cellar Bar, Mirko, is handing the baton to Luke. “He’s the new face here now,” Mirko explained, “and has my full support.”
Mirko strongly believes he has the drive and head to organise some cracking nights at the lively and ascetically-pleasing cavern which is the Bear’s Cellar Bar, and from just the quick word I had with Luke, I too have equal faith in him. Opening up from Fridays to cover Saturdays and eventually weeknights only the tip of the iceberg. Luke will draw on his own contacts, discover the best of our local music scene and host them for a new, youthful chapter in the Cellar Bar’s history book.
But don’t run away with the concept The Cellar Bar is to be Devizes answer to a Hard Rock Café, just because of Luke’s band; he was adamant to explain he wished for a variety of genes. “What about non-musical events?” I asked, nodding a note to Martin’s successful and always hilarious “Moonraker Comedy Nights.” Again Luke was positive he’d be interested in booking acts of anything arty and creative, highlighting theatrical performances too.
So observe this space as The Cellar Bar enters a new realm of entertaining Devizes, as Devizine will be watching this with a keen eye and advises you to do the same.
Angle left a bit, then hard lock right and hope you’ve managed to avoid craters akin to a Halley’s comet impact site. That was my technique for getting the kids to football practise at Green Lane’s Playing Field in Devizes; would be highly surprised if it’s changed much, if only for a few more exhaust-crunching potholes. That though is set to change.
If you’ve survived the carpark, it’s a lovely large space, used for archery, the skateboard park and other leisure pursuits as well as the beautiful game, but let’s face it; it isn’t about to convince FIFA to host the next world cup there; might need a few luxuries added, like a toilet! Oh, not forgetting you need to be gone by sunset, lights are for big town’s facilities like Beaversbrook, Calne and Stanley Park, Chippenham.
However, plans to improve the site were met with some criticism online, from the fate of the Archery Club to a rare species of bat in the area, it’s likened to objections to a crusade to build another Wembley Stadium on holy land. The most inane being that some like to walk their dogs there. Hello? It’s called Green Lane for a reason, there’s ample for this and still plentiful space to walk a dog, hold archery and even create space to maintain wildlife is protected.
This may’ve developed from an article in the Gazette from 8th May, which stated, “Ambitious plans to turn neglected playing fields in Devizes into a football hub for the whole of Wiltshire have moved forward.”
I spoke to Tom Scott-Kelly of the burgeoning Bishops Canning’s Youth FC, who’ve used the facilities for many years and are keen to push the project forward. “Funding is in place from the Council and the FA to replace the car park, install a full size 3G pitch, along with changing rooms and toilet facilities. Planning permission is submitted and we hope for building to commence January 2019.”
“I think there have been some misconceptions about what’s going there,” Tom explained, “This is why the council are coming down to our open day to let people know the truth. The building will only be big enough to house 4-6 changing rooms, some toilets, storage areas and an office or two. And, the floodlights will be timed, and only on when the pitch is used.”
Modern floodlights project downwards and do not protrude far from the pitch anyway, I figured. This should be a most welcomed development.
The open day is on Saturday 30th June, Wiltshire Council Football Association, and Bishops Cannings Youth FC invite all to discuss it, air thoughts to the council organisers driving this wonderful project.
Modernising the Green Lane Playing Fields, you know, is long overdue. How can a town support youth sports without this move? How can we promote girls in football, for instance, when there’s no changing rooms and toilets? Not forgetting reconditioning the car park, road going onto the site, and your exhaust pipe!
Show your support, and enrol your next Harry Kanes and Lucy Bronzes to Bishops Cannings Youth FC while you’re there! Reception to Year 5: 10.30am-12.30pm and Year 6 – 8: 13.30pm-15.30pm.
When I was sauntering through early morning mist, wearing the half-demented-smirk-half-gurn of a madman on a day out of the funny farm, a dreadlocked ragamuffin lounging at the wheel-arch of his van, perpetually waving one hand from fist to flat palm, appeared like magic through the haze. He greeted me with a wide smile, asked me how it was going. Between concentrating on my breathing, I told him it was going very well, save I’d mislaid my “posse.”
I complemented him for his wheels, a high-sided second-hand post office van, as I circled it for further investigation. I found at the rear a ladder and asked if I may climb it, in order to get my bearings. He nodded his approval and so I scaled.
On top of the van I could see above the low lying mist to the beautiful sunrise, below it the hats and scraggly ponytails of ravers bobbing like buoys on a temperate ocean. Overcome with the desire to dance, I shouted down, “can I have a little dance up here?!” and again the crusty was only too kind to permit my request.
I was at a disused airfield near Enstone in Oxfordshire, dancing adolescent cares away on top of a total stranger’s van. Other grounded ravers, pointed and joined the dance, until one of the congregation visible attempted to climb the ladder. The owner stood and I suspected he wouldn’t wish for this to become a trend, so I took the opportunity to decend before the girl could reach the top, stating we shouldn’t all clamber on the guy’s home. She agreed and we gathered in a circle, dancing, smiling and trading chewing gum for water.
In today’s age you’d be forgiven for suggesting I made this up, but really, this is just another insignificant happening from 1991, when rave was in its infancy and everyone partied together in peace, illegally. I guess you’d have to have been there to understand, but we danced, we danced harder, faster and a heck of a lot longer than any previous generation.
We danced in fields, in warehouses, on boats, beaches, service station carparks, and even the occasional nightclub. So much so, if you had to label the decade under one united musical genre, “dance” would be most apt. Dancing wasn’t compulsory, more essential; you’d only chew your bottom lip off if you didn’t boogie.
Musically it was pioneering, the first not to lend itself to individual artists and bands, rather a DJ culture where a mesh of tastes merged into melting pot. An era when a child could gather a TV cartoon sample, slam a breakbeat loop over it and make a record twenty-thousand tranced nutters would dance all night to. Almost punk in nature, skill caved into creative urge, like rock it experimented until it developed into a million branches, but like folk music, it was the united music of a people, an epoch.
Despite not having a “king,” as reggae had Marley and rock had Elvis, though many tried, the concentration of record sales, and creating albums thwarted; a “white label” more sought than a picture disc.
The hit factories exhausted albums in the previous decade, now compilations of hits, rather than the “concept album” of the seventies. As the underground surged into mainstream, and everyman and his dog took up white gloves, plastic horns and whistles to join a burgeoning revolution, albums battled “rave tapes,” to find a home again.
Despite this, albums did quite rightly resurface, many influencing the next decade. This then is my definitive top thirty dance albums of the nineties, let the arguments commence. I complied this list from fond but fragile memories, rather than online researched, so it was personal. Feel free to comment with ones I missed, which in your judgement needed to appear.
But why, I hear you cry, why now; you crazy old sausage?
I theorise trends return in blocks of twenty years, whence the youth inspire their offspring. Think about it, since pop music begun, in the 1950s, when it was supposed to be wild, rock n roll, there was more jazz than the 1930s. The 1960s we accept as the time of mods, merging into flower power, great experiments in music abound, but listen to the charts back then, full of crooners akin to the 1940s.
Ah, but when rock came of age in the 1970s, it stretched to new avenues, glam and punk. Yeah but no but, the 1970s was also jammed with teddy boys; caricatured rock n rollers from the 1950’s with bands like Matchbox, Darts and Showaddywaddy for crying out loud!
The 1980s, again a golden age of musical experimentation, with electronics. But hear the charts, note classic soul from the sixties blessed by adverts for jeans, and rock n roll merged into one excruciating “megamix” by a cartoon rabbit who should’ve been shot at birth and boiled in a stew.
So through all eras we seem to hark back twenty years, the nineties may have been my age of dance, but as the hardcore chilled into clubs, house and garage tunes lent themselves to the disco of the seventies, and indie kids revitalised seventies rock, well, they were just indie kids and ravers were having too much fun to pick them up on their radar. The noughties, if they were naughty at all, rather a cultureless of bombardment of naff, so-called R&B; cliché musical technology found solace in the sounds of electronic eighties, and the fashion matched too.
So, by my reckoning, before this decade is through we’re due a flashback to the rave scene, and with the Tory government treating working class like vermin, it’s not so hard to foresee something major slapping them in the face with a Vic’s Vapour-rub smeared dust-mask and blowing a whistle in their ears; least I cross my fingers and hope.
30- Monkey Mafia – Shoot the Boss (Heavenly Records 1998)
If you thought Damon Albarn was pushing limits with The Gorillaz at the turn of the millennium, or if you thought Death in Vegas made blended cutthroat techno, Jon Carter’s Monkey Mafia outdated and outstripped them both. This is funk, punk-reggae, ragga and sparse beats fused into a frenzy of techno. It’s a dark, nasty and rambunctious clatter which wobbles the mind. It now lives on my CD rack dusty, too scared to dip into again.
29- Black Star Liner – Bengali Bantam Youth Experience! (Warner Music – 1999)
If you missed this one, it’s never too late; it’s timeless. Imagine Massive Attack making an album for Indian restaurants, fuse it with haunting epic movie themes and you’re partly the way to the dub/Bhaṅgṛā sublime crossover experience of the Black Star Liner. This is so gorgeous I couldn’t swallow it, not even with mango chutney. Savour tracks like Swimmer on the tip of your tongue, as the hair on the back of your neck stand on end.
28- Moby – Play (Mute – 1999)
Play signifies an end to the most mental decade ever, the fact advertisers, TV producers and filmmakers flocked to acquire every track meant the masses were taking heed of what we knew ten years previous, electronic was music’s destiny. Moby, mild-mannered for an American (he didn’t write a book about his dick,) and modest of his creative output, had been known to us since the word, or track “Go,” something we never thought he’d surpass; if I only could’ve heard “Porcelain,” in 1991.
27- Morcheeba – Who Can You Trust? (Indochina 1996)
A hefty night’s clubbing saw us washed up on Brighton beach. My mate hopped over to the little chill-out café to ask what the tune was that they were playing; been a Morcheeba fan since. Breezy trip-hop, sublime vocals, it mellows the soul. There seemed to be a plethora of similar styled artists arise to chart after Big Calm, their second album; Dido for instance, M People et-al, while Morcheeba remained in the underground, like an old raver’s secret.
26- Jamiroquai – Emergency on Planet Earth (Columbia 1993)
With the Criminal Justice Act taking hold, the free rave scene lay wounded, and I was open to new avenues. Imagine today, recording stuff off the radio to cassette! I was recording the SoundCity on Radio 1 in 1993 when I heard something awesome, something which bent my conceptions of dance and blistered it with unadulterated retrospective funk. I imagined the vocals were supplied via a large afro-Caribbean lady, visualise my surprise when I saw a skinny honky smaller than his hat, the super-cool Jay K. By the following year I’d seen him perform at Glastonbury, bought a gaudy cap and submerged myself in acid jazz. My peers didn’t favour this move as much as I; popularity of the genre remained exclusive. While Jamiroquai made it through to mainstream, groups like Corduroy, JTQ and Children of Judah went on to produce a few too many albums of similar formula and the movement was short lived. Still, this debut album was earthy-jazz with a conscious and a didgeridoo, and never surpassed by Jay-K.
25 – Photex – Modus Operandi – (EMI 1997)
Well-worn by 97, drum n bass for me had seen better days. But where Goldie and LTJ Bukem’s pioneering albums wasn’t without their flaws, Modus, with peerless Photek drums colluded with the superior jazzy atmospherics of a thriller movie, and melded dystopian synth arrangements, to make it quite simply, perfection. It was a drum n bass awakening for rural techno-heads too, who so far had considered the genre too urban for their tastes. I recall listening to it on the way our first rain-drenched Glastonbury, prior years being clement; it felt apt as we took shelter wherever we could, and wrapped our feet in plastic bags before our putting boots back on.
24 – The Orb – UF Orb – (Mercury Records 1992)
Glastonbury, 1992, maybe, scampering like crafty felons through a maze of tents in the dark, deciphering guide-ropes from hallucinogenic wavy lines and somehow magically avoiding tripping, over the guide ropes I mean. There was a noise, it was not music, it was waves, a soundscape dangling in the air; The Orb were on stage some distance away. Ambient house has no place today, face it, but at the time it wowed. It broke all the rules, hardly strokes of melody, more drifts of resonances and echoes of bass. It was the sort of music to either be awake or asleep to, or drift between them blissfully. While the KLF pioneered this from an ice cream van, the mysterious Orb championed it and their second album UF-Orb was the masterpiece of its genre. There were tracks forty minutes long, which would take twenty five of those minutes before a beat came in. Imagine having to cut Blue Room to three minutes for Top of the Pops!
23 – Deee-Lite World Clique – (Elektra Records 1990)
I bought this on cassette, why you cry, when you had vinyl? Convenience is the simple answer. Witness the confused expression on a millennium kid’s face when you show him a “tape,” but it was the digital download of the era, you could share easier than vinyl. Plus, the American funky sounds of Deee-Lite, which would accompany me on bus journeys to art college, would’ve been viewed as second place during the early “hardcore,” section of the dance revolution. Who’d have imagined in only a few years, DJs like Sasha would take the helm and garage and funky house would be at the forefront. But as we matured it did, for us; the hardcore split into “jungle” and “happy hardcore,” as younger, fresher faces adopted it.
So back in 1990, Deee-Lite was a refreshing break, it was psychedelic enough to satisfy, and Lady Miss Kier had legs which went on forever, should you be lucky enough to climb those platform shoes to the beanstalks of tie-dye leggings. I think, however, the timing wasn’t quite there, and in the UK they never made it far past “Groove is in the Heart.” That said, it’s still a floor-filler today.
22 – Daft Punk – Homework – (Parlophone 1997)
Unsure why on earth anyone would call an album this, the last thing you want to be thinking about when partying full force, but that’s the French for you. Also unusual for a video to attract me to a song, but when I saw that guy with the dog’s head, wandering the streets considered obnoxious for not turning down the volume on his beatbox, well, I rode right into that enormous plodding bassline and figured here was something solid and timeless. I was right, for though my journey into French house was short-lived, Étienne de Crécy’s Super Discount and Air’s Moon Safari coming close to inclusion on this list, Daft Punk are still strong today and still pushing the boundaries of the genre.
21- Rebel MC – Black Meaning Good (Desire 1991)
Over the oceans, and apparently, over the seas, you know when we come it’s just reality. This “jungle” antecedent wasn’t originally on my list, but when it suddenly sprang to mind I wondered how I could’ve missed it out. I replaced The Ragga Twins’ Reggae Owes Me Money album for it, because in reality, it surely worked the other way around for both the Ragga Twins and Rebel MC; they owed reggae money.
Rebel MC though gave credit, even cameos to his reggae influences, and while he may have been aiming for commercial success in the 1980s, when he fired back with Black Meaning Good, he had a powerful message of which hadn’t been tackled from this angle in hip hop previously.
“No,’ some say, ‘that’s not the way, Chat like that, your tracks won’t get played, Stick to the formula ya had before, Fame and money and a whole lot more’, Cha! Wheel out ah dat, seh dat can’t be, I gotta true-speak intelligently, Maybe for that I might sacrifice sales, but I’ll put more weight on the justice scales.”
Plus he done it in a breakbeat style which whipped ravers into a frenzy; sounds a bit dated now, but a pioneering album the drum n bass scene wouldn’t be the same without; nuff said.
20 – Eat Static – Implant (Planet Dog 1995)
Frome’s space-rock the Ozric Tentacles were always a popular band, but once the crusty techno scene took hold, their new outfit was sublime trance, and was the West Country answer to Orbital and Underworld. Oh, attire me with glowsticks and take me back to The Berkely Suite of Longleat, when the whole Universe was compressed into a much smaller Tribal Gathering and despite stern thumps protruding, the crowd were amalgamated, approachable, and hardcore.
This third album from Eat Static was, for me, their pinnacle, but although times were a changin’ in 1995, clubland getting wise, it couldn’t replace getting down and dirty in a forest where police helicopter search lights scanning through trees were treated as visual effects far beyond a nightclub’s glitter ball!
Oh, I’m going to have to leave it there for now, and return next week with 19-11; anyone got any Veras?
Provided it’s large enough, I’ve been known to lose all track of time in an art gallery, and miss the last train home! But a gallery is one thing, this is another. July is Marlborough Open Studios month, the name of which in itself is quite misleading.
Although transport will help, a train to London is not needed, this is bang on your doorstep. The Open Studio concept transforms our beautiful landscape of the North Wessex Chalk Downs, which you know is breath-taking enough, into one massive interactive art exhibit, and something, well, quite unique.
Beyond Marlborough, engulfing Calne to Hungerford, Wroughton to Chirton, a staggering forty-three of our finest artists open their studios and let you visit, to view their work in their own surroundings. You can meet them, perhaps their pets too, but I wouldn’t advise going through their pants draw like it was some tacky reality TV cooking show.
This is as far from a gallery as you can get and still remain in the world of art, but this is not a festival where you’ll be crammed into a tiny space with a million sweating, novelty back-pack-wearing young sybarites clutching bottles of water, all trying to dribble clichés over one painting. No, no, no; circulate at your own pace, use the website to check which studios are open, and visit at your leisure. There is no charge, just drop in when the studios are open; hence the name Open Studio, see?!
I guess you assess how formal you need to be by the greeting of each individual artist, but generally I’d imagine they’d be pleased to meet you. Artists, writers and creative people in general work in relatively solitude, twist their arm they might even put the kettle on; I might have to test this myself and get back to you on that!
So yes, Open Studios – July weekends: 7th-8th, 14th-15th, 21th-22th, 28th-29th. Check out the website here for browsing exhibiting artist as there’s too many to list here! The ones caught my eye are; beachcombing Kareen Jackson from Baydon, who transforms beach junk into unique hand-crafted driftwood boats, cottages and animals; so cute!
Also, Mary Wilkinson in Minal, for her Turneresque local landscapes, Hungerford’s Jane Corbett’s other-worldly glass sculptures, stunning Devizes photographer Steven Davis, in Chirton Diana Neale’s dreamy mixtures of photographs and watercolours, or Jenny Pape’s beautiful oil landscapes, Sally Osborne’s crazy fish glazes in All Cannings, and there’s so many more, just browse the website to see!
Artists I’m well aware of but up for popping in to see too, are Bryony Cox, last year’s Bursary Award winner, who exhibits her paintings of vast skies over the Wiltshire landscape, Upstairs at Jacks in Devizes, and Anne Swan in Rowde who, with just colour pencils makes botanical studies you’d think you could reach in to the picture and take a bite out of!
What a refreshing alternative to galleries, which you could take a whole month to peruse, at your own leisure, and not worry about missing the last train!
The sun sets at 21:26 on Wednesday folks, and rises for the longest day at 04:52 Thursday. On their website, English Heritage are keen to point out, “Stonehenge is a significant World Heritage Site and to many it is sacred, please respect the stones and all those who are attending.” I appreciate this, the first section, as I’m certain the druids do too, but there’s a shadow of irony in the latter, as those who are attending will only be respected by EH itself, it seems, once they’ve parted with fifteen quid to park.
Being that the BBC reported 13,000 people in attendance at summer solstice last year, that’s whole lot of fifteen quids.
In block capitals come the details, access to the stones and the car park opens at 7PM, last admission at 6AM Thursday, or when it’s full. By eight o’clock in the morning you’re being asked politely to “bugger off” for want of a more abrupt word, there’ll be tourists waiting to part with cash. The car parks are to be vacated by midday. Then in lower case, hiding at the bottom, “please note parking charges apply,” and herein lies the issue for this year’s solstice.
Determine to fleece everyone driving to Stonehenge, English Heritage has fought campaigner and king of the druids, Arthur Uther Pendragon at the High Courts, and won. In an interview with “inews,” where journalist Richard Jinman prioritises ridiculing Arthur for his reincarnation claims, biker gang past and authenticity of his Excalibur, over debating the fairness of the parking charges, Arthur stated he’ll, “either be parked illegally somewhere or in the car park refusing to pay, but I’ll be there.”
A Quest Knight of the Loyal Arthurian Warband, singer-songwriter Steve Andrews, has been a supporter of Arthur and all his battles. “Unlike so many people in the world today, he does not give up,” blue-bearded Steve, who you may recall for his crowd-pleasing adaption of “Stand by Me,” on Britain’s Got Talent, explained, “he cannot be beaten down by whatever is thrown his way. As a modern King Arthur he is doing what King Arthur should be doing.”
It begs the question, at the eve of the busiest day on the roads surrounding the monument, how stopping every car to blag cash will affect it. Which answers itself, unless of course, its intention to dissuade works, and they’ll not attend. Or worse still, in a sad reflection of Stonehenge festivals of yore, is this move provoking attendees to frustration and even anger?
If I’m totally honest, in a move akin to what, in nearby towns, we’re experiencing with Wiltshire Council over new hiked-up parking fees, where even our once free-parking days for much-loved events will be cruelly enforced, it seems EH is damned to ensure it creates chaos and aggravation in its pursuit to make as much money as it can from this scared night. If it’s intentions are not to incite negativity and wrath, and as its website claims, “we wish you a peaceful and celebratory solstice,” then it’s certainly going the wrong way about it.
To understand the issue is to understand the most plausible theory of the stones existence. You’d have to put yourself back to a time before parking meters, before beliefs in God and Jesus, to a time when folk were starting out on the road to farming. All their generations knew was hunting and gathering. The sun, moon and Earth; divinities vital to those lives. They’d be apprehensive of the Neolithic era, which basically translates to “farming.” They’d have feared betraying the sun, moon and earth and had probably experienced friction when they attempted to become “civilised,” as farming needs ownership of possessions, property and land.
Solstice; the dreaded longer nights due, without yielding crops and maintaining livestock your life was at risk, you couldn’t cash a giro. So Stonehenge was erected by the elders to show the sun, moon and earth was still relevant in their changing lives, as through the rectangles created by the central and top stones, they could see the moon, and then the sun appear too, united, at peace with each other.
It was a simple an understanding, no complicated myths and tales of modern organised religions. Around here signs of this are still visible; Silbury Hill, resembles the belly of a pregnant woman for instance; symbolising we return to where we came from, back to nature. Science is proving it was, more or less, correct. From Darwin to humans sharing 96% of DNA with chimpanzees, demonstrates we’re products of this planet; fact we seem to deny. For now climate change is an accepted issue, we spend money and time trying to find out if it was us, or nature; it’s one and same bloody thing! Perhaps we’d be better finding a doable solution, just saying. What are we to do if we find it is nature, sue? I’ll see you in court Mother Earth!
You see, now we’ve abandoned worshipping the moon, sun and respecting the planet, our ancestor’s fears were right; possessions, land, property, money are the root of friction, from “oi did you spill MY pint?” to brutal world wars. The very principles the elders, their want of peace, and later, what the druids took as their ethos, were idealistic, therefore, if there’s one place in this country we should uphold and abide by them, it’s where they were first preached; Stonehenge.
It’s sacrilege and disrespectful to our entire heritage to force people to cough up, extortionate fees in the very place which tried to warn us of our fate. If it is a necessity, you could ask for an affordable sum; a fiver maximum, to cover the cost. Although Arthur tells me, “They do not charge tourists parking in ‘normal hours,’ however they reserve the right to, and if you go there now as a tourist, they may charge you a fiver; go at Solstice as a pilgrim and it’s thrice that.”
I understand and appreciate there’s a cost to the maintain the stones, and I agree with charging tourists, as we expect and don’t mind paying when visiting landmarks across the globe. But for one day a year, is all the druids and revellers ask, for just one day, they may be able to enter their temple to pray and celebrate what is, fundamentally, the essential seasonal change, the very backbone of the original faith of our ancestors. Nevertheless it’s treated as some kind of “favour,” gifted to an eccentric cult, and deemed suitable to overcharge for the honour of permitting what’s been happening since the dawn of humans in these lands. A time before this obsession with capitalism. Oh the irony.
I ponder if these stealth taxes are to ensure we are thoroughly put off gathering and celebrating, that we confine ourselves to our homes, watch mind-numbing TV and be content. Ah shit, I’ll be working on solstice anyway; never tire of seeing sunrise every day; happy solstice one and all.
Someone said to me a few weeks ago that I shouldn’t always flatter subjects in my reviews. I agreed, while I feel anyone engaged in DIY, homemade creative projects deserve a big medal for their efforts, if something is a big bag of spanners then I’m your man to tell it thus; you know that!
Mind you, when you’re alone at an exclusive film press showing, for an apocalyptic film where all the actors, who onscreen are killing each other, are sitting next to you, it makes you think, maybe I shouldn’t slag it off too much. But I couldn’t if I tried, for I thought Swindon filmmakers Alex Secker and Marcus Starr done an absolute superb job with “Follow the Crows.”
The second notion is that amidst the social gathering, the prestige of being invited being I was so new to journalism (we’re going back a few years when asked to attend for Index:Wiltshire) and even the birthday cake, can one get enthralled with the ambience, and can that obscure negativity about the thing one is supposed to be reviewing? I pondered if it was such as a good film as I perceived it as at the time, couldn’t wait for the premiere to get a second opinion from the crowd….until my car broke down on the way and I only got as far as a field near Calne.
I’m no film critic, there’s nothing Barry Norman about me, but any deliberations have been thwarted, all apprehension that I had mechanically flattered the film have vanished when bods of far more expertise then me, namely The Global Film Festival Awards in LA, sponsored by IMDb bestowed our Swindon-made film Follow the Crows with winner of the best indie film category this week!
So, that makes it official, I was right; bloody spot on film guys, a massive congratulations to the cast; Max Curtis, Daniella Faircloth, Marcus Starr, Craig Fox, Matthew Mordak, Tony Manders, Stu Jackson, Alex Pitcher, Mark O’Donnell, Martha O’Donnell and Ashley Robsonand and the crew, 22six Productions, Rrats Kram Films and Infinite 8 Productions.
I look forward to hear where this will take the film, how it will push the guys for their next project, and if this will truly put Swindon on the map of movie makers.
Devizine asks you, what kind of person would use the front end of their hometown name as part of their corporate identity, especially when their hometown is Devizes?! Glen Upward is man after my own heart; we stand around the old bakery in Rowde, now his microbrewery, as he devotedly enlightens the science behind beer-making.
I scratch my dome, fascinating as it is, I only ever drink the stuff, never gave thought to the complicated merger of chemistry and physics which goes into its production; least it’s way over my head. If I knew at school that chemistry and physics would help me brew my own beer, I might have listened. I asked Glen if science was an interest in school, he told it wasn’t for him either.
Now though, he’s given up fifteen “nine-to-five” years of IT and digital marketing to get hands-on with his home-brewing hobby; the result, after a slog of trial and error is Devitera. It’s something to be proud of, and by his positive demeanour I can tell he is.
I was walked through the process in great detail, from its origins as Maris Otter Barley in Wiltshire fields, to the floors of malt, bagged and sent to the microbrewery. Through delicately balanced water temperatures, and precise quantities of loose-leaf hops we marched, pausing to cover “friendly” yeast as I pondered what “unfriendly” yeast was capable of (in a kind of 1950s B-Movie thriller style naturally.)
The beer is bottled, with a pinch of yeast to create natural CO2. We covered it all from sterilisation, and assessing their alcohol volume and best before dates, to the exceptionally manual production line and logistics. It’s a gradual process; Glen stands the beer for a month, to develop the flavour before it’s ready to sell.
We check out some labelled bottles displayed on a windowsill, seems the working title “Gunslinger,” was hastily met with an American brewer of a similar name, and abandoned for liable reasons. Contradicting names for the darker and pale ales also fallen into obscurity, such as Dusk and Dawn, Jekyll and Hyde, “everyone bought the Jekyll rather than the Hyde,” he told me. Nonetheless that’s how Glen operates, slowly but surely he tweaks the entire process from malt to marketing until he’s perfected it, and moves onto the next issue. He describes in detail the daily conundrums he faces as I observe a cask on the floor he’s practising to tap, but he’s extraordinarily at peace with it. “You love it though, don’t you?!” I laugh; he nods.
It must be frustrating, the big boys of the industry price the small businessman out of the market, making it impossible to meet the requirements of supermarket chains and be cost effective. So Glen fumbles more on a computer, searching for potential customers and promoting his efforts than he devotes to brewing. “Bristol has opened up,” he tells me, aiming his pitch at high-end theatres and bars.
Gradually then, Glen is building a renowned reputation, a cult following; Crumbs Magazine wrote back in January, “This Wiltshire microbrewery is knocking out some cracking beers.” Locally, outlets such as The Rowdey Cow and CW Butchers stock it and it’s served at the British Lion, Wharf Theatre and Upstairs at Jacks; an image of Glen, lugging his beer on a hand-cart a hundred yards to the George & Dragon springs to mind, as if he was another brand’s Shire horse!
Food and drink festivals are the conventions he must adhere to, for product recognition; you’ll find him at Taste of Corsham on Saturday and, keeping even more local, Rowdefield’s “Summer Fun on the Farm,” event on 7th July.
Glen suggested holding social events, German bierkeller style, at his premises and we discussed possibilities of organising a mini festival there in August. For this is just the sort of enterprise we need to support, as Devitera does its namesake; Devi – as in Devizes, tera as in terra, or “land,” (although “terra” usually refers to mountainous zones of other planets, which, believe it or not, Rowde really isn’t.) This is strictly Devizes-based beer, and he’s comfortable with the native arrangement, despite online sales allowing worldwide distribution.
What’s super-special about this place is the individuality, the-one-man army, the DIY setup, logistically and productively, from his wife’s homemade lino-cut stamps for the labels and boxes to the very ethos of Devitera. How he finds enough hours in the day is beyond me. A keen blogger, he updates fans with his activities too.
“I want to make a totally unique product,” he elucidates as I exclusively sample cloudy pale ale he’s currently perfecting. It tastes quite bitter to my cider preferential palate, still flavoursome and wholesome. “No,” he tells me, akin to Willy Wonka, “it’s not quite right,” and he dismisses the cask and informs me it needs more work.
Am I to turn into a giant hop here, or fall into a river of beer? It’s a pitfall I’m willing to take for the sake of the article. But there’s no Oompa Loompas here, just Glen endeavouring to perfect draught and bottled beer, to bring something unique and really, doing what he loves, and getting the word out about his project.
One such promotion currently running is a wide Father’s Day selection, from a baseball shirt bearing the logo, and beer boxes to History of Beer experience day, where your dad will sample fifteen beers from around the world, in the comfort of the microbrewery, with lunch included, or an all-day, hands-on brewing course, with beer and food! Dads could be brewing from the raw ingredients with a small group of fellow enthusiasts, and naturally, drinking it too. Lucky Dads, me too, I had a great time and wish Glen all the best with Devitera!
For a change his Sunday, I thought we’d talk ABOUT bollocks, as apposed to just talking bollocks. Or, more precisely, we’re talking about that walnut-sized gland just above them. Ode to your prostate, without which the acidity of a lady’s special passageway would neutralise all your little fishes and none of us would be here today, talking about it…..oh grow up, this is serious.
Sadly, cancer of this gland is nothing but serious, unless you like your doctor prodding his mid-digit where the sun doesn’t shine. While you can check yourself for testicular cancer, can even be a superb excuse if you’re caught by the missus bashing the bishop, you don’t know what’s-what in that prostate thingy-me-jig. And face it, we’re men for crying out loud, we stuffed a few burgers at last night’s barbeque, love our cheesy chips with pizza, aren’t too keen on eating greens, and consider there’s no need to bother a doctor unless we’ve physically dismembered all of our limbs.
It only takes a couple of seconds to check for testicular cancer, according to the limerick, only half the time if you’re Hitler. So, grasp each beauty in your nadsack separately, between your thumbs and fingers of both hands and roll that beastly meatball gently between your fingers. Find any hard lumps, or smooth rounded bumps, or any change in the size, shape, or consistency of the testicle, get over yourself and call the flipping quack for crying out loud.
So the simple bit done, but a check for prostate cancer is nothing more than a PSA blood test; no coughing with a cold spoon on your gollies, no probing your Bournville boulevard, nothing to be sacred of, for peace of mind. Now, I know, about 99% of cases of prostate cancer occur in males over the age of 50. But fifty creeps up on you like a cheetah on a promise, it’s advisable to get checked if you’re in your forties.
So, in conjunction with The Loganberry Trust and Wiltshire Freemasons, all men aged 40 or over are welcome to be tested, free, although a donation to the cost will be gratefully received. It’s on Saturday 29th September, from 10:30 AM – 1PM, at The Conservative Club, 30 Long Street, Devizes SN10 1NW. You don’t even need to book an appointment, just turn up guys, and help raise awareness of prostate health, even if show no symptoms; early prostate cancer shows no symptoms.
So, let’s get it out there now; if you find yourself getting up for a wee in the night more often than normal, and not just to check your Facebook, if you’ve trouble starting or maintaining a constant stream of piss, have any pain, or see blood in it, or in your gentleman’s relish, you really need to get a test done, and if you’re busy on 29th September and can’t make it, phone, for fucks sake don’t ignore it, it won’t go away like a bought of green apple splatters or a paper-cut on your thumb; call your doctor.
Being the Trust and Freemasons haven’t created a Facebook event of this, I have, so you can click you’re interested and it’ll remind you to come along, no excuses. I’d kind of imagined our first Devizine event would be a knockout musical extravaganza, but needs must. Check that out here.
Galivanting Devizes Scooter Club return to town all proud for winning “the best turned out club,” at an Isle of Wight scooter rally. Meanwhile I stayed in, adding Bad Manners tribute act The Special Brew’s logo to their own rally poster; where’s the justice in that?!
So yeah, a hit with Devizes last month, The Special Brew has been booked and added to the fine selection of other mod and ska bands due to play next year’s rally at the New Inn, Coate. This aside for now, I thought it due time to highlight the next couple of events for the Scooter Club.
I know, last post I wrote about them said the All That Soul band was to be their next event, on 25th August, but I hold my hands up, that was wrong. Genuine mistake, I’m not a rocker or nothing, but there’s a couple of summer dates for your diary before this.
Spinning favourite mod, soul and ska tunes, DJ Shaun is welcomed back to the Conservative Club on the 30th June, for Suited & Booted, tickets are a fiver from the club, Jeffersons, Vinyl Realm, or seven quid on the door.
After this, The Scooter Club invite one and all to their Charity Barbeque Day, also at the Cons Club on Saturday 21st July. There promises to be lots to keep the young-uns happy, and perhaps a few older ones too, given enough Tizer; a bouncy castle, Gladiator soft play, and a variety of games. Obviously there’s a barbeque, least it’d defeat the object, there’ll be trophies awarded for those furthest travelled, the best Lambretta, best Vespa and the best turned out club!
If there’s not the compulsory raffle too, I’ll eat my trilby.
Local rock cover band, Eazilyled will play, as they rocked the Scooter Club’s Family Fun Day last year, and include classics from The Clash, Beatles, The Who, Monkees and the Buzzcocks in their repertoire, to name but a few.
I’ll also be down there playing some tunes, as soon as it starts at midday, or when they’ve dragged me from the bar and let me loose at the very least. Come down and say hello, meet the club, see some awesome scooters, have a beer, have fun, have a beer, etc! Oh, and grab something from the barbie too, as the profits will be handed over to the Devizes & District Opportunity Centre, a preschool for children with disabilities and learning difficulties. Mine is a cheeseburger, onions and relish, TIA.
So yeah, I don’t know why, I’m rambling a bit now, you’ve probably seen the rather smashing posters about it all anyway, this is just a little push to come and join in, scooterist or not. Did you like the BBQ one? Adam, the Colonel of the Scooter Club, suggested “a skinhead in club top behind a BBQ with hat on, etc?”
Negatively I replied, “I’ve sketched a hotdog on a scooter,” and I did, and it came out surprisingly alright(ish!) After all, who wouldn’t want to come to an event with a hotdog riding a scooter on its flyer, I ask you?!
It’s the weekend, it’s time to party, so get up, come on everybody; that’s what Byron Stingily said in his high falsetto tones and lime roll-neck jersey; he should know, he’s Byron Stingily. Whatever happened to old Byron I wonder…… Oh well, here’s what’s going on around these parts this weekend.
I usually make a similar post on Facebook, but our event calendar is so chocker-block it’s easier to make it a weekly post every Friday; if that’s alright with you lot? What that’s you say? Yeah alright Byron, calm down. Check out the event page for clickable links, ain’t nobody got time for all dat adding links right now, it’s the weekend, it’s time to….. oh heck, you get the picture.
Friday 8th June:
Roughcut Rebels @ The Lamb, Devizes
Devizes Arts Festival: Lucinda Hawksley : Tea with the Dickens @ Town Hall
Devizes Arts Festival – Black is the Color of My Voice @ Merchants Suite
Resonance by Shapeshifter @ Pound Arts, Corsham
The Secret Police @ The Vic, Swindon
Lost in Vagueness @ 23 Bath St, Frome
The Skids @ Cheese & Grain
Saturday 9th June
Songs for a Summer’s Day, FREE @ St Johns Church, Devizes
Family Fun Day 2018 hosted by Chippenham Town Council
Dr Dolittle @ Melksham Assembly Hall
Tamsin Quin live at The Southgate, Devizes
Jamie Hawkins @ The Crown, Devizes
Devizes Arts Festival – Explorer Dome : Disgusting Digestion & The Wonder of Space @ Southbroom School
People Like Us @ Woodborough Social Club
Miles & Margaret @ Ragged Old Flag CMC, Calne
Cadley Garage at Wiltshire Steam & Vintage Rally
Eddie Cochran Memorial Fundraising Gig @ Consti Club, Chippenham
Britpop Boys at the Vic, Swindon
Roots Sessions – Chris Jagger Trio @ Cheese & Grain
Download Festival @ Donnington Park with Guns & Roses
Sunday 10th June:
Visit Five Lanes Farm, 10am-5pm
Family Fun Cupcake Day @ Beversbrook, Calne
Open Farm Sunday at Temple Farm, Marlborough
Car Boot Sale @ Bromham
Lacock Fun Run
Devizes Town Cycling Club: Moonraker Sportive
Ian Calford & his acoustic Preachers @ Devizes CMC, Cons Club
Devizes Arts Festival – Debussy: A Passionate Life @ Town Hall
Devizes Arts Festival – The Mantic Muddlers FREE FRINGE @ Three Crowns
That’s yer bleedin’ lart, now clear off and have fun. Oh, and if yer event didn’t get posted here that be because yer didn’t tell me about it shagger.
Fest West is Wiltshire Creative’s annual celebration of contemporary live performance made in the South West, in partnership with Pound Arts and Town Hall Arts.
2018’s Fest West saw performances from fantastic companies from all corners of the South West including Theatre Ad Infinitum, Platform 4, bgroup and Publick Transport which took place across Salisbury Arts Centre, Salisbury Playhouse, Town Hall Arts (Trowbridge) and The Pound (Corsham). They kicked off the festival with South West Theatre Symposium, where artists and industry professionals from across the region came together to have meaningful conversations about practical ways to drive change in the sector.
The focus of the 2019 festival will be pan arts, and we’re really keen to hear from artists working in all disciplines of live performance including theatre/music/dance/spoken word/circus/inter-disciplinary performance/ work in non-theatre spaces.
Call for submissions for Fest West 2019
There are loads of opportunities for South West* artists to take part in the festival, whether you have a small-scale touring show, are making work in non-theatre spaces, or are looking for a space to develop a new idea. The festival will take place across Salisbury Playhouse, Salisbury Arts Centre, Town Hall Arts, The Pound and Rural Arts Wiltshire Venues from 14 February to 2 March 2019.
The aim of the day is to provide FREE entertainment and information to the over 55’s in the Devizes Community Area. Visitors will have a great day discovering what activities and services are available to them, and will enable the organisations, charities and clubs that provide those services to promote what they do.
So, if you are over 55, or know or care for someone who is, why not come down to The Green and find out what is happening locally? There are so many activities in the Devizes area that you may not realise are available, so it will definitely be worth a visit.
Devizes Rotary, working in partnership with Devizes Communty Area Wellbeing Group, is hosting the inaugural Devizes Community Area Wellbeing Day on Saturday 23 June 2018 on the small green in Devizes. On this website you’ll find all of the information you need to know about the day, including the Venue Layout and timetable for… Continue reading About
I’ve been thinking recently about how good the sitcom Cheers was back in its heyday, it broke the perception that going down the boozer was something typically English and in the US you don’t get the same community spirit. Similar with Moe’s bar in the Simpsons, the US has a parallel ethos, your local watering hole is a fundamental asset in modern life, a community hub; social media just doesn’t compare I’m afraid. Fair to presume it’s the same whatever part of the world you are, sometimes you want to go “where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.” Steady, it must be called Rowde for a reason!
From the moment I moved here I’ve loved the Cross Keys, standing on the site of the original timber-framed, thatched pub which burnt down in 1938, it’s a spacious tavern which was bulging with punters when I first stepped in, the 2006 World Cup being broadcast from Germany and plates of sausages and of chips were shared.
“We’re doing a lot for the World Cup this year,” Kelly tells me as I prop up the bar. Her name’s been above the door for the past couple of years, and she and her team are thoroughly dedicated to amend any chequered reputation it once may have had. Winner of Wadworth’s Best Neighbourhood Pub contest last year, and a runner up in Claire Perry’s quest to find the best local pub, it’s easy to see why.
There’s a varied timetable of events and happenings, the August bank holiday sees the return of the popular Splat the Rat, but Kelly, in contrast is holding a “Ladies Night,” on the 29th June, where a DJ, a Drag Queen and something called “Hunks in Trunks” do, erm, whatever it is they do. Not for me I’m afraid, but that’s our point; a village pub needs to be for all, and that’s exactly what the Cross Keys is achieving, for it’s villagers, and it’s well worth the mere couple of miles travel for those in Devizes; come on over, we don’t bite.
On the subject of biting, the Cross Key’s grub is most alluring for visitors, and it’s spot on for a fair price. Continuing from the previous owners rep for an awesome carvery, the Sunday carvery is still popular. It’s the everyday menu of homecooked, locally sourced (G&W Butchers, Poulshot Lodge and Fine Food Company) pub classics which Kelly is most pleased with, adding the attention to wider vegetation and glutton-free options.
“We had a build-a-burger night, which was popular,” she told me, planning on returning the occasion. That said, checking out the skyscraper styled burgers already on the menu, I wonder if there’s need!
Once you’ve had your fill, it’s good to know the pub also runs a fitness class (!), and here’s exactly what I mean about being the hub of village life. While it’s one thing for a town pub to put on great live music, a village or community pub needs to be so much more. Kelly, still open to music events, with free hire of the function room, but from aforementioned fitness classes, to the cup cake night and from the popular craft fayres and workshops with wonderful crafters Twiggy Owl Designs and others, to bingo and quiz nights, notwithstanding a fine gin menu, the Cross Keys has everything you could want from a village pub, and continues to strive to impress.
Bringing the community in is what it’s all about, such as the amazing idea of “Dementia Friends,” on 2nd July, which will be a fun, hour session learning more about the condition and what how to make life ‘friendlier’ for those affected by it. You can’t knock that, just welcoming the elders of Rowde for tea or coffee is brilliant in itself.
We held our wedding reception there back in ermmm, whenever it was again, and the kid’s christenings, so I’m overjoyed to see it still running efficiently in these hard times. Hats off to Kelly then, for maintaining our hub; I wish her all the best and hope there’s many more happy years with her name above the door.
Your creative sorts usually appreciate music, but, stereotypically, entertainment for “sporty-types” would rather be waving fists and hurling abuse at a team projected to them via a widescreen TV, seemingly oblivious; television is a one-way communication devise. It’s not until someone puts “Eye of the Tiger,” on a jukebox, or Bonnie Tyler croaks she’s holding out for a hero, that they get all sweaty, and start flexing biceps in a dance comprising of getting friends in a headlock and rubbing knuckles atop their cranium.
It couldn’t be further from the truth for the Devizes Sports Club, and anyway, my generalising just a witticism in hope the lady’s rugby team might fulfil my daydream and chase me down the street! The Sports Club, enthusiastic for the remaining month before their Saddleback Festival, are serious about presenting the town with an exciting and professionally organised festival.
It’s the music festival’s second innings, after the sun-drenched blues event last year, and they’re determined to up their game…..not a lot, no point in running before they can walk, but enough to make this, in my opinion, our most anticipated event of the year.
For starters, they’ve dropped the “blues” tag from its title, making it less specialised. While the concentration on blues music still sturdy, it’ll be joined predominantly with rock, acoustic and folk.
Certain other moves are to be introduced, I’m at the British Lion, having a pint with organiser, Mirko Pangrazzi, to find out what they might be.
I suggest they could drop the “music” label too, add a comedy tent, or possibly street theatre. Mirko considers, but stops at the idea of a “dance” tent. Their chosen genres equate to a family-styled event. A mass of fledgling “ravers” descending brings its own issues.
There’s an air about the conversation which leads me to believe the organisers value quality over quantity, with no intentions of expanding to Glasto proportions. We laugh as Mirko recalls people last year leaving, only to return with chairs in which they would switch the angle of to face their chosen stage; that is sooo Devizes and surely associates this family ethos.
Mirko is keen to show me a list of activities they’ve organised for children; a fun bus, inflatables, face painting, a bungee run, Striker game, slot machines and of course, a sweet stall, to name but a few. Plus, it goes without saying it’s at a sports club with abundant space to kick a football till you drop.
For here’s a thing, I’m convinced no one is to get fleeced at Saddleback, the food stalls enter freely, organisers only asking for a donation to chosen charities; Julia’s House, Wiltshire Air Ambulance and others, while punters get value with a wealth of talented acts for a reasonable twenty-five quid, and their kids under 13, well, they get in for FREE and for 13-17 it’s just a fiver.
Mirko introduces me to John, a newcomer to the committee but with a wealth of experience on the festival scene. What John doesn’t know about coordinating a festival could be written on the back of a matchbox, with diagrams, pie charts and a few dirty doodles on the bottom.
Having worked on littler-known events like, say, Glastonbury and Boomtown, John is a welcomed asset to provide a fully professional team, determined to make this work wonders. There’s more than meets the eye to arranging such an event, a note others need take heed of in these cliché days of any Tom, Dick, Harry, or Harry’s pet dog attempting to hold one. They’re delighted to have halted construction plans for a new pipeline running through the site, due bang on the 14th July when Saddleback takes place. For when music promoter Mirko and Sports Club owner Rick get going on a project, they’re the sort who work tirelessly to make it the very best they can.
It didn’t matter of the success of last year’s, though Mirko was pleased with the result, they’ve assigned themselves to this ongoing project and intend to make it an annual event.
So, the second major change is camping. People will be able to set up a tent this year, from Friday to Sunday, for a tenner, or just fifteen smackers to bring their campervan on site. This will add an extra dimension to the ambience, with visitors able to mingle with locals. Add this to the real ale and cider bars, prosecco, Pimms, wines, soft drinks, and craft beer from Devitera, merge it with a wide assortment of food stalls, such as Happy Hog Catering, Asian cuisine, obligatory barbeque and a tea/coffee and crepe bus, I think they’re building the perfect recipe for a blinding day which will go down in Devizes history and will firmly put our town on the festival map.
Notwithstanding an unforgettable line-up, with blues singer, songwriter and guitarist, Marcus Bonfanti, rockers Bad Touch, ballad-esque pop-rockette, Mollie Marriott, daughter of Small Faces and Humble Pie singer and guitarist Steve Marriott, Devizes-own blues/alternate rock deities The Jon Amor Band, Bradford’s legendary John Verity, Blues/Rock guitarist Innes Sibun and Avebury’s own George Wilding.
If you need further proof of the authenticity of my recommendation, bear in mind it was a great thing when George Wilding won his place at the festival at the Battle of the Bands earlier this year and said he’d do it, if the other contestants could have the opportunity to play too. But it’s an even greater thing when Rick and Mirko took heed, and before we knew what was what, a third “acoustic” stage was added, introducing local heroes and heroines Mike Barham, Jamie R Hawkins, Alex Cash, Sally Dobson and Clare, who was coincidently serving at the British Lion at the time!
She smiled when we chatted, not realising who I was she said, “but I’ve known you for years!” That is what’s special about Devizes, that is what Saddleback will adhere, and that is also what’ll make Saddleback a knockout.
So, don’t miss out, leave a comment on a local Facebook group, giving it, “whats that wonderful music I can hear from my garden?” – there’s tickets on the gate, or in advance, here.
Just because my acting resume ended with my Shakin’ Stevens impersonation at my Cub Scout pack holiday talent show, that’s no excuse for you. You can discover your talent at the wonderful Shoebox Theatre in Swindon. Young people interested in performing arts, from thirteen to fifteen year olds, can enrol now for acting classes.
With a focus on contemporary theatre practice, students will be introduced to a range of drama techniques and theatrical forms including physical theatre, comedy, devising, improvisation and working with text.
These classes are challenging, educational and enjoyable – with a focus on building confidence and exploring acting technique in a fun and accessible way. There is no audition to join and no previous experience is needed to take part, just commitment and enthusiasm! The next course starts on Monday the 25th of September.
When: Mondays, from 5.00pm until 6.30pm, 24th September- 26th November 2018.
How much is all this gonna set you back? Not three bad actually; £60 for a 10 week course. Book your place at www.shoeboxtheatre.org