Big Inflatable Stage!

Images used with permission of Gail Foster

And an assortment of others, thank you to all!


Did you see that, a big inflatable stage, wasn’t it something else?

No, it was a big inflatable stage, pretty cool though; much like the rest of the Bank Holiday Monday, when the belated sun finally put its hat on and people gathered in the market place of Devizes for the all-round most awesome show you’ll catch this year in our humbling abode; DOCA’s Street Festival, or as others have nicknamed it to the point of selling T-shirts embodied with the slogan, “Black Rat Monday.”

Call it what you will, as it was a street festival of divine magnitude, and yeah, those British Lion mob did sell copious amounts of Black Rat cider, while at the other end of the monument, The Stealth Brewery rushed around to supply their own brews of ale; everybody was happy. That then is it, in a word; happy.


As a smokescreen to pry us away from the idea Wiltshire Council are out to fleece us for parking charges, their suggestion the Market Place could be a daily bustling hub of festivities and lively market was met with much scepticism this year. We’re not the country bumpkins they take us for, we know it wouldn’t be like that in reality; this isn’t Camden, Brighton or Las bleedin’ Vegas, not even Trow; this is Devizes after all.


For one summer weekend though, let us have such an occasion, and when we do, make it something special. DOCA, the volunteers, the side stalls, the acts and everyone working behind the scenes to put this event on must be praised to the highest heights. However, it’s not just all these hard-working crew, but also hats off to you, and your mate, and his mate’s mate. For what makes the Street Festival the Street Festival is the crowd, and everyone came out to ring the bells.


It truly was magical, to the point you have to take a second every now and then to check your surroundings, confirm in your mind that you’re still in Devizes. “Yeah, there’s the bus stop where I’m normally standing waiting for the 49 in the rain,” or “there’s the empty bay where I usually park, to nip out for a Greggs sausage and bean melt and hide back in my car to stuff it down my fat gullet.”


Here is something they can never take away, never quash with overpriced parking fees; blinking futile money-grabbers. Raising the daily tariffs is one thing, but to tax our fun, I shudder to think of the audacity.


It will never work, let’s not make it work; no bank holiday parking charges; by Christmas Light Switch on, it could be reality. If we protest, if we come up with a solution like throwing the traffic warden in a bath of cold baked beans, or even start a charity fund to ensure those who need to park can afford to; because what DOCA put on yesterday means more than just a bit of fun, it means we are capable of binding, and overcoming, and celebrating all that is good about Devizes…..yeah, okay sorry, still a tad wobbly, yeah. Huh? I dunno, only about four Black Rats and three off Stealth!


So, where was I? Big inflatable stage, surrounded by stuff, stuff going on everywhere, like a mini corner of Glasto. I can’t be going through it all, I’d imagine most of you went, don’t make me type every last detail of it; I’ve nicked a montage of photos, as everyone who I usually nick photos off were there, and everyone else filmed it on phones.

From miming Pinto Y outside the Town Hall, Jack Mac’s Funk Pack kicking off the main stage and the dancing frenzy of Ramshakalicious, to Swindon’s Sweet Stall, the Wiltshire Museum stand, the Scrapstore table, and the chance for kids to present a show on BBC Wiltshire Radio, there was so much going on you barely had time to stop for a crocodile burger.

And didn’t the Didds do well, standing proud up there, he introduced three of the finest acts to complete the extravaganza? Firstly the 12-piece Bristol band Matuki, with a funky Afrobeat fused with urban jazz with wobbly psychedelic edges, were fantastic. Seems DOCA are dedicated to bring us our own little Womad of world music and fusions we don’t normally get here. The best thing about which is, the crowd loved it.


All set then for the Carny Villains to follow, also Bristol-based and on the circuit for over ten years, these guys where bonkers. Bonkers in a good way, in ska-in-the air way. Flabbergasted I was impelled to gate-crash the Town Hall VIP zone, to snatch a quick word with them. “What do you even call that?” I pondered aloud, “gypsy -ska?”


“Yeah,” one supposed, although seemingly not content to confine their sound to any label, “with a bit of swing thrown in.” As the double bass guy swanned in I noted, was he trying to mount that thing? The others laughed. What an awesome blinding show, lively, the icing on the cake for me.


Upon their departure even more brass came on stage. “Brass is class,” I told my son and my lift home! Poor kid, stayed sober and tended to shrug my comment off. True as I sit here typing crap though, brass is class; if Don Drummond and others proved that, the Carny Villains keep the faith and the following act, The Destroyers, well they threw the kitchen sink at it too.


Dammit though if a hurdy-gurdy, and tubas weren’t arriving on stage. A nod to quality, I dunno, like Balkan, even Greek folk, lively, a tad brash, crazy, what they deem Mega-Folk! I thought they were going to start spinning plates on spikes. Just as dancey as the previous, these Birmingham rogues and misfits surfed a tidal wave of horns, fiddles and guitars to produce a totally inimitable sound.


What a fine finale, three ensembles of variance, what a grand and glorious day.



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