Blinkin’ buggery, it’s near the end of the first full year on Devizine. I do hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as I have creating it. We’ve certainly grown, like a wart on the butt of Wiltshire. Originally some wanted to pop it, comments like “who wrote this crap?” came thick and fast, replaced now by a constant stream of praise and respect; 2018, has the county gone bananas?!
I’ll never forget the sensation of seeing kids reading my first comic strip, published in my school magazine in 1985, it’s a joy which though you grow immune to, the thrill never completely wanes. I still get a buzz when people come tell me they love reading Devizine, all two of them. So, let’s have a butcher’s hook at what the year bought us.
The first article of the year was a preview of Oscar Wilde’s Ideal Husband at the Wharf Theatre. It opened with: “What makes the ideal husband you might ask; what’s that honey, you woke me up? One made of chocolate and praline perhaps, one who can fix the broken drain in just cut-off jeans and still smells like rosewood and patchouli, one who folds his socks in pairs might be adequate; I don’t know, maybe Oscar Wilde has a better answer than me.” Poor Karen Ellis, in charge of promotion at the Wharf, must’ve wondered the heck she’d led herself in to; it was a relationship we’d work on! We continued to preview performances at the Wharf, from Goodnight Mr Tom, to Kidnap in Pantoland, and by autumn they bit the bullet and invited down to review the fantastic Little Shop of Horrors.
Two days later I previewed Bad Manners tribute act Special Brew at the Devizes Scooter Club, due to happen in April; happy days, the band were tight, the frontman mimicked Buster Bloodvessel with all the outrage and hilarity of the real McCoy, and we reviewed it too. It’s been a great year for the scooter club, Terry Hendrick arriving for super-cool night in Feb, All That Soul and Gimmie Some Lovin’ soul bands to name but a few, but announcing an ambitious Devizes Scooter Rally was the icing, which I dedicated a whole page on Devizine for, and also suggested local acts, The Tribe and Erin Bardwell Collective.
January, I was still publishing No Surprises Living in Devizes column, despite the joke wearing thin. In “Christmas has Bin and Gone,” I passed comment on the environmentally unfriendly post-Chrimbo tradition of disposing of all the unnecessary packaging, composing my rant from the depths of my wheelie bin which I climbed in to crush said rubbish down, ranting about the Flat Earth Society as I went, for some tenacious link or other. The following No Surprises Living in Devizes, “Aesthetic or Artistic; similar thing isn’t it?” spotlighted the red tape surrounding a Conservation Management Plan for an arts space at the Church of St Mary the Virgin in New Park Street. I questioned the need for arts spaces and we looked at a similar pursuit for an Arts Centre in Calne, under discussion with town councillor Terry Couchman. In Feb the column for once in its pathetic life did actually bring a news item, the plans for Devizes Parkway Station; believe it when you see it!
We mentioned Pagan High Priest, Arthur Uther Pendragon’s campaign against English Heritage when they announced entry price to Stonehenge is set to rise in April, and mentioned it again at Solstice. We looked into a growing trend of events where ex-ravers-turned-parents took their offspring to a family friendly rave. We previewed February’s Festival of Winter Ales, a fundraising event for DOCA. This annual event returns on Feb 15th and 16th 2019.
I visited the home of local artist Clifton Powell ahead of his exhibit at Wine Street Gallery. I was mightily impressed with Clifton’s range of paintings, and was glad to meet him after some years away from the reggae parties he used to host. By December, in a bid to bring Devizes more reggae, I put Clifton, aka Knati P, in touch with Deborah at the Southgate, for a reggae xmas bash I couldn’t actually attend!
I previewed the Horrible Histories Tour which came to Chippenham’s Neeld. Then, my car broke down on the way to the premiere of Swindon-made film, Follow the Crows. Luckily, I had already seen it at an intimate press screening, so shared Mark O’Donnell’s online review. Later, we reported on its success at the Global Film Award.
For comic artists I recommended Comics Uncovered in Birmingham, reported on Devizes Town Council taking on the lease for Belvedere Woods, Bentleys Gym attempting to row 1’000’000 metres in under 24hrs for Julia’s House and the Royal Marines charity, previewed a village Abba Tributes trend, and attempted to list good places to visit on valentine’s day, yet hardly any pubs and restaurants bothered to get in touch and let me know what they had planned, like some big secret, or least they didn’t trust old Devizine not to invade their romantic setup!
After a split for Swindon based ska band The Killertones, we introduced you to the newly formed Day Breakers, and I broke the back off slotting myself into Devizes music scene, at the Saddleback’s Battle of the Bands contest. Meeting Jack Moore, George Wilding, Jamie Hawkins, Sally Dobson and Jordan Whatley, all for the first time. With Mike Barham, Tamsin Quin and Alex Cash this was quite something special, but greater things were afoot for the Saddleback. I previewed the festival, meeting with Mirko and John at the Lion, to discuss the improvements they planned.
It was also around this time I received the album Thoughts and Observations from Phil Cooper for a brilliant review, and announced the opening of a record shop in town. A historic moment for Devizes High Street shopping and music scene alike, as Vinyl Realm was born. By a snow-filled March, I parked my milk-float outside and sneaked a peek. Talking milk-floats, we ploughed through the snow; who recalls our fun snow maze? And who recalls our spoof secret agent, Shagger Bond, in our photo story, Dr No Free Parking Here? Might’ve had a bee in my bonnet about the Council’s parking fees threat, anyone else?
Meanwhile I previewed the Devizes Food Festival, the Return of the Moonrakers Comedy Club, with Steve Day, The Beer Festival, “TITCO Does Queen,” and Macs Theatre School gave us a brilliant show, Our House, of which I returned the favour with a well-deserved great review. We featured new albums by guitar soloist Mitch Underwood, Bristol’s Ya Freshness and the Big Boss Band, and checked out Swindon’s Bond girl tribute, Olya & The Bond Girls. There was the time Elvis tribute Paul Larcombe was announced at the Market Laving Music & Comedy Club, and looked at the diverse acts being booked there.
I previewed the Outlaws Orchestras at Devizes CMC, which was unfortunately cancelled. People Like Us performed at the refurbished Bell on the Green, we covered the DOCA campaign to raise funds for fireworks at the confetti battle, the Urban Lions gig to save the Barge, but the most popular article was the rebranding of Francos by Massimo Pipitone, and the amazing food he’s serving there.
For me the highlight of March though, was venturing out of town to check out Swindon’s Skanxters reunion gig at the Victoria.
In No Surprises Living in Devizes I visited Joy and Ian’s hedgehog rescue centre in Devizes, to talk about how to spot hedgehogs in need of help. Then I ranted about our inability to drive sensibly. I suggested reducing the speed limit on our dual carriageways; that went down like a bacon sarnie at Ramadan. Straight onto ranting about the deforestation by the Canal & River Trust, which was followed by the release of the second collected volume of the column in eBook format. If you fancied a rant outside the column, I tried to be nice when previewing the Devizes Arts Festival, but with Anne Widdecombe booked, I couldn’t resist being a tad critical.
I announced a tribute act to the Bootleg Beatles, “the Bootlegged Bootleg Beatles,” playing “a mock version of the Exchange nightclub made out of old shoe boxes and blu-tac in the shed of Liam James, nightclub promoter Ian James’ lesser known looky-likey!” Yep, it was 1st April, and people still bought it! The month was kicked off with some great reviews, Phil Brady’s Save the Barge gig with the Urban Lions, who, in April we’d review their singles, Forward and See Me Rise, Sound Affects who played at my old watering hole, the Lamb in Marlborough, the first night of music at Upstairs at Jacks, where Hayley, Jack Moore and Bryony Cox, appeared, with a finale from George Wilding.
One particularly awesome moment came when local eleven-year old Will Foulstone played piano with The Script.
I wrote a piece on the importance of Bob Marley being signed for Island Records, but that it was not the be-all-and-end-all of reggae, ahead of Legend, a tribute to Bob Marley & The Wailers playing the Melksham Assembly Hall and Wyvern Theatre. The Legend crew liked the article so much they invited the wife and I along, and wow, any reservations I may have had about tribute acts melted right there, it was a fantastic show.
Previews in April were The DOCA Street Festival, focussing on the new Colour Rush, James Hurn’s tribute to Hancock’s Half Hour at the Wharf, Avebury Rocks, All That Soul at the Devizes Scooter Club, who were so simply brilliant they’re coming back to Devizes for more this April. We mentioned friendly weekly art group, the Devizes Art Space, featured pop surrealist Si Griffiths.
I worried about the outbreak of war in No Surprises, what with the incidents in Salisbury, but in the same piece worried for the Council’s open threats to close of Breaside and Oxenwood, amidst a barrage of other rants. However, when I was caught short at the Old Potato Yard and was ripped into with a barrage of obscenities and idle threats, just for using their public loo, I had to lambast the situation. To update, I never did receive an apology, so, effectively, the protest is still active despite laying dormant. More importantly though, it caused me to tire of the whole idea of writing the column, feeling that there was simply enough negative bullshit about, and it wasn’t funny anymore. It was the end to an era. Well, kind of, I did knock up a Royal Wedding special, and a reasoning piece about why I dropped it, naturally, but other than that……
If signs of spring didn’t brighten me up, Gypsy Blood did. Tamsin Quin’s album release really made a massive impact on our local music scene, and though I missed the launch gig, an intimate afternoon session at Vinyl Realm made a great condolence. Reviews also took the shape of a CD of poetry by Gail Foster.
May previewed Devizes Well-Being Day, Swindon Shuffle, The Calne Music, Arts and Crafts Extravaganza in a bid by Terry Couchman for an arts space in the town. A Play in a Day, at the Wharf, where children were asked to devise and perform their own play, and Broken Wing, the Searchers at Melksham Assembly Hall, The Civ-Pop Festival at Lynham with Peter Andre, summer events at the Wiltshire Museum, and acting courses at The Shoebox.
We also featured the new menu at The Cross Keys, Rowde, Kennet & Avon Brewery’s corporate rebranding to Stealth, as part of the Devizes Food Festival, which I absolutely loved. But if one article made us chuckle, it was the Borrill family of Chirton’s Harcourt hamsters, which has to be seen to be believed. The highlight for me though, was at the end of May I claimed how proud and grateful we should be to the Devizes Clean-Up Squad, and suggested we clubbed in and got them a thank you present. In July we ended the campaign, offering the CUDs £300 we raised, which they’ll spend the lot of on pudding at their Christmas party!
The downside to the month was the moment I tried to big-up the new owners of the Southgate, the point being they were dedicated to bringing live music weekly to Devizes, but due to misinformation, the subject was obscured by one sentence concerning the previous owners. Yeah, that sure backfired, and while the people affected were content with a sincere apology, others thought it’d be amusing to put me on a witch-hunt. A lesson learned, yet you have to admit, the original intention of the article was correct, The Southgate fast becoming a legendary venue for our town.
The end of May n summer was peeking, and I was thrown some tokens and a glass at OwlFest in Bromham, where I proceeded to try all ciders on show, and try again. This was a great warm up to summer, with Mike Barham, Tamsin Quin, George Wilding, and I was introduced to the hilarious Corky.
June, I mentioned the opportunity for performance artists at Fest West 2019, Marlborough’s Open Studios, The Loganberry Trust and Wiltshire Freemasons raising awareness of prostate health with checks in Devizes, the modernisation of football pitches at Green Lane, with Bishops Cannings Youth FC, and I had a great day discovering the art of brewing at Rowde’s microbrewery, Devitera.
Reviews of Welsh alt-rock band Holoson, which opened a new chapter for the Cellar Bar, a new EP from country-rock band The Stories, and The Bluestone Gallery. I did two parts of a three-part series about my favourite dance albums of the nineties; just an excuse to relive my misspent youth. Unfortunately, the computer broke down, leaving the final part lost. We may/may not have made up a story that a graphic artist was employed by Wiltshire Council to depict the future Devizes Market Place.
July saw Sunday afternoon’s at Hillworth Park with Fantasy Radio, Vince Bell performed with daughter Evie Smith, and Tamsin Quin, followed the next week by People Like Us.
I reviewed Secret Swindon, a marvellous history book by Angela Atkinson, chatted to artist Bryony Cox at her exhibit Upstairs at Jacks, looked at Dean Czerwionka’s Dead Kool Promotions, which expanded to start a “Devizes Family Club,” Jack Moore popping into Vinyl Realm, and a meal at the Moonrakers, with added Kirsty Clinch; cor!
Previewed school holiday activities at the Wiltshire Museum, Rowde’s “Party in Barn” for a new leisure facility, White Horse Opera’s Magic Flute, which was reviewed by Andy, (more of his valid contributions further on,) PSG Choir’s county tour for Plastic Oceans Foundation, MAC’s future performances of DNA and Blood Brothers, Emily Lockett coming to Devizes CMC, Seend’s Big Breakfast, Moonrakers Comedy Club, and the return of the annual Female of the Species gig in September, which I attended in Melksham and reported about this awesome show, in aid of Young Melksham.
Highlights of July, undoubtably, The Saddleback Festival, where, not without a few lessons to be learned, the event was total magic, and will hopefully build on the rep to an even better show next year. The following week was the turn of The Devizes Scooter Club, who held a grand barbeque party, with The Day Breakers, Blondie & Ska, and a lesser known DJ! It was fantastic, raising £1333 for the Opportunity Centre; ah, summer days seem so long ago now.
August, and I started to plan our Birthday Bash, previewed the Taste of Wiltshire at the Farm Cookery School in Bromham, the autumn line-up at the Wharf Theatre, the DOCA street festival and carnival celebrations, which was topped off with an invite to the surreal circus show My Lakita’s Popcorn Machine. But they were topped by Saddleback’s Beaux Gris Gris gig, which was awesome, and I went all squidgy interviewing Californian rock chick Greta!
August, as well as The Turkish Barbers, I also finally got around to reviewing two EP’s from our own Jamie R Hawkins, and the Larkin single, “Falling.” We were introduced to The Wiltshire Boy, I reminisced about the horror of the school roller-disco, as Melksham Assembly Hall was turned into one. Something a bit different though, was my meeting with local street magician, Raj Bhanot, when he performed a few tricks on unsuspecting punters of Café Nero.
The Street Festival was something special indeed, particularly enjoyed The Carny Villains’ blend of gypsy, Balkan folk and ska, on the big inflatable stage. This was followed by easy-to-make articles of stealing photos of the Devizes and Pewsey carnivals; always a popular post when I don’t write much; must be trying to tell me something!
September, we previewed the Brick Show at Steam, where I stole to opportunity to recollect my love of Lego, The Day Breakers at Devizes Scooter Club, The McMillian Coffee Mornings in our area, Seend’s Oktoberfest, Trowbridge’s Town Hall Arts celebration of Black History Month and The Smiles Club, Wiltshire’s Operation shoebox, a Devizes-based arm of a group who send much needed Morale boxes out to our military deployed on active duties.
Reviewed Strange Tales album, “Unknown to Science,” Cracked Machine’s “I, Cosmonaut,” of whom Andy reviewed their night at the Southgate, Nightlights’ “Different Pathway,” and managed to catch part of Vinyl Realm’s Fold takeover, with The Compact Pussycat, their final gig with Jordan Whatley.
I tried out an e-bike, chatted about environmental issues and Green Drinks events with Sustainable Devizes chairman, John Schofield. October, and I was joined by brilliant writer Andy Fawthrop, who reviewed Joe Hicks at the Three Crowns, and continued to review Malone Sibun Band, Ryan McGarvey and Groundhogs & Del Bromham, all at The Long Street Blues Club, the Sultans of Swingers at The Bell by The Green, and despite I had a chat with Steve Maggiora, Andy reviewed his night at the Cellar Bar too. I’m so grateful for Andy’s great contributions; can’t be in two places at once!
In November I got all trainspotter with a review of a book called Traction, and pondered the return of the illegal rave, or not. The carnival date was moved, the location of the Scooter Rally changed to Rowde, I amalgamated all Halloween events, for young and old, Poldark met the Wiltshire Boy, or visa-versa. We previewed Hymns for Robots at the Shoebox, Devizes Lions Children in Need collections, Elles Bailey due to appear at the Cellar Bar, and my own birthday bash, which was for me the greatest high-point of the year. We squeezed in suburb performances from Lottie J, Larkin, Phil Cooper, Jamie Hawkins, Tamsin Quin, George Wilding, Sound Affects and the Day Breakers into one boomtastic night, raising over £480 for Cancer Research.
I previewed It’s Complicated and Kirsty Clinch’s Christmas party to improve Easterton Village Hall, and finally caught up with It’s Complicated at an unforgettable Southgate Sunday session, with Vince Bell and Tamsin Quin. Hopping onto these Sunday sessions, I also made it down for Sound Affects the following weekend.
All went rather quiet after the birthday bash, I covered Mike Barham’s new band Nerve Endings, who debuted at the Southgate on our night, so I missed it, also his DevMas night for Julia’s House, and took Kieran Moore for a trip down memory lane highlighting the history of Sheer Music. We even mentioned an all-female Beatles tribute act, The Beatelles.
As well as Gail Foster’s new book, “Mischievous Spring,” to review, I was overcome with new musical releases, to keep me busy; starting with “Roads Vol 1” by Sunset Service, George Wilding’s “Soul Sucker” EP, Sound Affect’s “Everyday Escapism,” Jon Amor’s brand-new album, “Colour in the Sky,” Phil Cooper and Jamie Hawkins live download album, and, not forgetting Larkin’s EP Live By Night, of which I made to the fantastic launch gig just last night at the Cons Club.
I focussed on the spirit of Christmas, mentioning both Jeannette Von Berg, Pam Sloane, the team at Sheep Street Baptist Church, with their Christmas dinner for people alone, and Devizes Opendoor’s fantastic efforts to ensure our homeless and vulnerable get a meal too.
Meanwhile I deliberated there’s not enough reggae in Wiltshire, ahead of Asa Murphy’s highly anticipated show, “Buddy Holly Lives,” coming to Devizes, I contemplated the fateful day Don McLean claimed “when music died,” and asked, “can music really die?” I even published spoof articles, “Say no to Maria Carey this Christmas; and other festive songs which need to be banned!” and, creating some Devizine Awards, then, realising I could create polls on the site, I made a real voting awards system, the results coming next folks!
All in all, it’s been a fantastic year for Devizine, I think you’ll agree, we packed as much as we could in. I have to thank everyone who has been involved, our contributors, everyone who I’ve stolen photos from, the musicians and organisers of the birthday bash, and also, to you, for reading it, sharing the articles and spreading the word: Happy New Year, here’s to 2019!
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