The Future of Parking in the Market Place Fumes Debate….

And who better to query on the issue than Mr Iain Wallis, I ask you? Take a deep breath…

 

As I sit in my car doing up the windows this extraordinarily fine February afternoon, I look around at our notable Market Place where I’ve parked. It’s a beautiful centre of town, it could look even better if it wasn’t a carpark. Yet needs must, in busy market towns, parking is thorny at the best of times, not forgoing pressure on local business to attract shoppers. The Market Place has historically been functional firstly, before ascetically pleasing; for whatever the need be at the time. In times of yore the market would spawn here, still does, social events and fairs came and went, and no doubt will again, no matter what the outcome of the current issue.

 
Yet I’m only planning to nip into the bank, only wish to be five-ten minutes. I wonder what would become of this convenience if these changes take place, I’d have to find on-street parking, tricky now, without all these other cars parked here trying to do likewise. Or I could use a pay-carpark, minimum one hour at 80p. Secretly, that’s what Wiltshire Council want me to do.

 
If you think they’d like to see our town centre a thriving, festive place, as they’ve suggested, then you’re very much mistaken, caved no doubt, into the fabrications. I labelled all this to “Devizes own Brexit,” but retract this lambast, for I fail to see why anyone would really want to reduce parking options, no matter what Councillors may be attempting to convince us of.

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Artists impression of how the Market Place may look in the near future!

The environmental angle is a no-brainer, as it’d surely be chaos trying to find on street parking; cars moving slowly in jammed traffic far worse than cars parked.

 
We’ve done a few spoof articles on this fiasco, my serious attempt at communicating with Town Clerk Simon Fisher probably more amusing than the spoof one. His failure to deal with the questions, and “this is going to happen, the population of Devizes agrees,” brashness only fed the feeling of locals that The Devizes Town Council, and in particular the majority party, Devizes Guardians, are sadly and seriously out of touch on this decision; whatcha gonna do?

 
Two things, one: we’re going to rap with Mr Iain Wallis, lord help me, as a local businessman who is fiercely crusading against the proposal, making it the focal point of his independent campaign for a seat on the council. And two: let you know, if you didn’t already, there’s a rumble in the jungle, as far as local politics will endure, in the Market Place on Saturday.

 
The Town Council host a “drop in” session, despite expressing they didn’t wish to, outside Greggs between 10am and 2pm. Campaigners Devizes Future Market Place Group, plan to gather at Times Square to gather findings and collate “alternative concepts for the Market Place.”

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“It’s so important the council listen on this issue, as they still claim the public are on their side, which is just bonkers,” Iain explains. “We’re not just a group of grumpy shopkeepers…” Ahem, “well, okay, perhaps a little grumpy! We’re really concerned that this move could lead to closures and a real loss to the community.” Iain has taken a backseat in hosting campaigns due to election rules. “As it happens the whole election thing went well, we kept this issue in the news cycle for a month and the Devizes Guardians got a wakeup call; if Karen and I hadn’t made such a fuss they probably would have walked the election once again.”

 
But this must be what Wiltshire Council wants; desperate to rake back cash from Government cuts, they’ve reduced their workload by parring off certain powers to town councils, as a “transfer of assets and services,” but not without ultimatums. Maintaining control of car parking, their position must be to obliviate free car parking, and being the public outcry about doing thus in the Devizes Market Place was prevalent, they proposed it be pedestrianised, for the sake of hosting events.

 
It sounds more threat than progressive change to me, because despite in an ideal world, a lively bustling Market Place with regular events and festivities is something Devizine, as an entertainment guide would support, as would most of us, the reality is that the Market Place can be, and has been, closed for special occasions and events, if and when the need be. The remaining time, being as you can’t have Christmas every day, it currently serves its best purpose as a car park. On a cold Tuesday morning, it’s hardly likely to attract a mob of crazy revellers, hot on partying like it was Glastonbury Festival 1975, now is it?

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“We just want the town council to admit there are flaws in their plan and to sit down with us and Wiltshire Council to sort something out that works better for all.” Continues Mr Wallis. “If Wiltshire Council is the problem, then DTC needs to stop acting like their bulletproof-vest and stand behind us, so as a town, we can hammer something out. The more they declare they’re doing the best for the town the more WC can hide behind them and let them take all the flack.”

 
Melksham has already suffered with a lonely, vacant space in its centre, only occasionally occupied by something of interest. Townsfolk comment on our online debates about it, tell us it was a mistake to allow this to happen. Often laughing at our difference of opinions, Iain takes a joke well, yet I find myself strongly agreeing with him on this. “Would the campaign groups then,” I must ask, “rather DC refuse the transfer deal, if it means we keep free parking in the Market Place?”

 
“So, this is a really complex point,” Iain tells me. Glutton for punishment me! “Basically, almost two years ago Philip Whitehead made a demand for an extra £95k from Devizes, which he thinks he could make from charging in the Market Place. To make it clear he has no legal basis to make this demand and carried out no impact assessments. He even said in a meeting that he wanted to charge because he could get the money that way, not that it was best for Devizes. He then suggested that by removing parking completely he thought he would also get the money as he would displace free parking to the paid for car parks – he could be wrong on this as studies suggest people will just go elsewhere.”

 
“Cue many meetings where DTC were obsessed with the Market Place and the businesses wanted to look at parking as a whole. We felt we may be able to get a deal that makes people want to use the parking whether it was free or paid for. This could mean losing free parking but getting cheaper parking overall, or something like that. Basically, we were open to anything that meant: a, people visited the town more, and b, have the flexibility the market place currently offer.”

 
“To cut a long story short, DTC gave away their bargaining power with WC and started to give in. I then brought Philip back to the table by going to the press, which annoyed him hugely but in that meeting he said ‘okay, what do you want?’ He then agreed to consider what we were asking for – including a free parking period. After that meeting however, I was told that the working group would have to be suspended whilst the asset transfer went through as that may ‘sort out’ the Market Place issue. I and others asked to input during this process and were told that we couldn’t as it was secret so we stepped aside assuming that if there was an issue we would be called back to help.”

 
“Instead the council, almost none of whom want parking removed, agreed to this deal in order to take ownership of the market place. They say they don’t like it but had no choice. They did have a choice. They could have walked away from the table, come back to the town, and told us WC were trying to force their arm. If they had done that, we would have all supported them and for the last month I would have been a thorn in the side of WC instead!”

 
“What we want, essentially, is for DTC to say that they won’t accept removal of parking and go back to the table with proposals for mixed use. At the moment that probably looks like losing 30 spaces to community space, keeping 40 and making them chargeable for up to two hours with 30 minutes free. We would also want x number of free parking days for the main events each year so events don’t have to fork out £20 a space just to use the Market Place.”

 
Tell you what, it all seems fair enough to me, an opinion piece here; I don’t stand on convention, it never stood on me. Yet, how easy is this to pull off?

 
“We don’t think it will be easy,” continued Mr Wallis, who I have to salute for his passion on this issue, just don’t ask him his life story! No, he loves me really, of that I’m certain! “But if they did do the above then the pressure would be on WC and I believe they would cave as it’s a small price to pay to shut us up.”

 
Please, Devizes Town Council, just do as he says! All in all, though, the convenience of parking free, for just a few moments to fulfil a simple chore like nipping into the bank seems like a small favour to ask, the idea it could be a thing of the past is something of an urban nightmare, lets hope it doesn’t come true in our pleasant little town.

 

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A Funky Sensation in Devizes

Devizes set to party like it’s 1999; zipping up my boots with Funky Sensation.

 

Normally, if there’s a funky sensation in Devizes it means it’s been foggy post-harvest and the aroma of manure has filtered into town. In a similar light, I confess, I’ve been critical in the past about our only nightclub, events hosted tend to mimic what’s on elsewhere, and I really feel tribute acts have a home in hire venues and pubs, but not necessarily in a night club. It’s an age thing perhaps, usual nights too commercialised for me, recalling the clubbing scene of the eighties, how it assisted in spawning a decade of raves. To me, a night in a nightclub should be concentrated on DJ culture, be dissident dance music, and most importantly, should be banging, mate.

 
Here then is something that lacks in Devizes, flourishing with original music a trend I adore, though surely there’s a place for dance music too? A glitch set to change; with the potential to be a grand night at the Funky Sensation launch in the Exchange on the 5th April, I caught up with the hosting DJ, George Penny, to find out more about this Funky Sensation event doing the rounds on Facebook.

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“Basically, I used to DJ about twenty years ago, free parties, private parties and a club residency,” explains George, who goes by the DJ tag George G-Force. “But then work, life, mortgage, wife, child came along.” It’s not so uncommon, for many the desire to create, artistically or musically though will return to bite them, and George started mixing again about four years ago. “I’ve been trying to get back out on the circuit, but it’s a lot harder now, a lot more competition.”

 
He’s been DJing in Frome and Bristol, with appearances for the ‘House of Disco’ collective and Input2 Promotions, but explains, “I always wanted to try and put on my own party a bit closer to home (Melksham) but had really been struggling trying to find a venue. I only heard about The Exchange three weeks ago and I think it’s perfect in terms of location; hoping to pull people from Melksham, Trowbridge, Calne and Chippenham.”

 
So, busting out of retirement, and ready to bring the heat with his unique blend of nu-disco and classic-vocal-funky house vibes, G-Force is set to take Devizes back to an era when clubbing meant clubbing. “We want to bring the fun back, with good old uplifting, hands in the air, sing-a-long music. That could be a classic disco track/re-edit, house anthem or a modern-day club banger!”

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He brings along special guest DJ, Nina LoVe and DJ Stach. Akin to George, Nina took a decade away from the scene to concentrate on family and studies. But with a childhood filled with classical music and musical theatre, and discovering dance music and raving in the nineties, she couldn’t hold the bug in much longer than 2012, as with the discovery of Disclosure and Gorgon City, that led to a new energy for House music, vinyl junkie Nina started learning to mix.

 
Bath-based Stach has been playing to enthralled crowds since 1990, kicking off his career within the techno scene on the Isle of Wight. Since those halcyon days, DJ Stach has played many genres and has a wide repertoire; pleasing audiences with epic sets featuring nu-disco, classic and tech-house.

 
He can be found on the set lists of some of the UK’s best boutique festivals and coolest club nights, as well as elite private parties. Previous sets include: Shindig Weekender, Grinagog Festival, Love Summer Festival, The Backroom, and The Nest in Bath.

 
I gulp when my chat with George raises Shindig, as organiser Slim Goodgroove and I go back to art college days, the dawning of the breakbeat rave explosion and through to the fluffy house days of his Stardust Collective. Time to get all fuzzy and waffle off a parable or three, Uncle Albert style. Think I’m boring George now, I’ve a tendency to do that, but in hindsight, I really think a decent dance night is missing from the variety of things to do in Devizes, and welcome this prospect.

 
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” George tells, “but thought I’d give it a shot. Obviously, if we get enough people the aim would be to do it, maybe, three times a year.”
So, from old raver to young house music aficionado, take note; it may be time to dust off your old white gloves and relight the glowsticks. I never thought I’d see the day! Tickets for this launch party, at a fiver, are available from today.

 

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Simply Devizes Family Club Best

Milli Munro pays Tribute to Tina Turner at Devizes Conservative Club on March 16th.

 

While original music from performing artists is currently flourishing in our little scene, everyone loves a pop tribute act now and then; go on admit it.

 
We’ve always tussled over their worth against original acts, but more and more we see tributes popping up, The Saddleback headlines a Whole Lotta Led this year, while the Scooter Club welcomes back Special Brew for their rally. I confess since watching Special Brew and, especially the Legend Live, a tribute to Bob Marley & The Wailers, I’ve warmed to the concept.

 
In retrospective splendour, even if a star like Tina Turner was miraculously to do a gig in Devizes, would you be catching the performer in their prime? Arguably, there’s little point in paying a fortune to see The Rolling Stones and attending with an expectance they’ll be skipping around the stage like it was 1964. But, do we need another hero? (see what I did there?)

 
Calling on the Devizes Family Club, sporadically hosted at The Conservative Club on Long Street. With the ethos of creating a club akin to the family-friendly Northern working-class club environment, they’re accommodating a plethora of variety tribute acts. From Thin Lizzy to Little Mix, Green Day to Alfie Boe, you cannot deny the assortment for all tastes.

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Who then, could resist a Tina Turner? That soul diva, controversially trapped by her illicit partner determine to cash in on her talent and take the credit, who broke free and transformed herself into an eighties pop-rock icon. What’s Love Got to Do About it, not nearly as poignant and prevalent without knowing the story behind it.

 
Tina could perform, stylistically unique, her soul background against her rock image gave her that stomping posture and powerful female stance, can Milli Munro, who portrays the legend possibly re-enact that commanding routine while maintaining a decade-spanning blistering voice when she pays the Devizes Family Club a visit on 16th March?

 
Well, let’s just say she has had over twenty-five years in the entertainment business. Her career begun in a female trio called The Variations, as soon as leaving school. They won the Search for A Star competition on the Baileys nightclub circuit, and a recording contract with EMI. After a second group called Bad Girls, Milli begun on a tribute/look-a-like profession, impersonating Tina Turner.

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From the holiday camp circuit, to British Forces in Gibraltar, Ireland, United Kingdom and Germany, Milli’s act has gone worldwide, from Dubai to Los Angeles, Richard Branson Virgin Mega-Stores Europe, Emirates; Qatar, the Ritz and Plaza hotels, among her glossy array of clients.

 
It is said, Milli has a personality that captivates her audience as soon as she appears on stage, with unforgettable performances throughout her career, she is still a top performer. You have the opportunity to be the judge of that. Tickets are out for her performance on the 16th March at the Devizes Conservative Club, and are tagged at just a fiver, under 16’s go free. Available online here, at the Devizes Conservative Club or Vinyl Realm. There will also be a disco and raffle; simply the best, just like the northern working-man’s clubs they’re replicating.

 

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Shakespeare Back at the Wharf Theatre

Aye, heareth this, mine own cater-cousins, Shakey is backeth at the Wharf Theatre in Marcheth; timeth to beest did enlighten and amus’d.

 
Liz Sharman, who directed the incredibly successful, “A Funny Thing Happened on The Way to The Forum” last year, is taking the helm again for William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It;” it promises to be a strong show.

 
Showing from Monday 11th to Saturday 16th March at 7.30pm, this 1599 pastoral comedy has remained an audience favourite for over four hundred years.

 
Duke Senior has been usurped by his younger brother Duke Frederick and is now exiled from the controlling confines of court. His daughter Rosalind and her cousin Celia have also run away and arrive in the forest with Rosalind now dressed as a young man in order to avoid detection. Others taking refuge amongst the country folk of the Forest of Arden include Rosalind’s admirer Orlando, the court fool, Touchstone and melancholy traveller, Jaques, who gives many of Shakespeare’s most famous speeches including “All the world’s a stage”, “Too much of a good thing” and “A fool! A fool! I met a fool in the forest!”

 
As with all good comedies much confusion ensues amongst the wooing as society’s rules are overthrown. As You Like It remains an exuberant theatrical journey featuring several songs, a wrestling match, a joyful quadruple wedding and no funeral!

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Tickets (£12/under 16s £10) can be purchased from Ticketsource at: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/the-wharf-theatre/events or at the Devizes Community Hub and Library on Sheep Street, Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm or by ringing 03336 663 366.

 
To find out what else is on at the Wharf pick up a new Spring/Summer brochure which is now available from the Community Hub and Library and many other outlets around Devizes.

 
For further information contact Karen Ellis: http://www.publicity@wharftheatre.co.uk

 

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My Kind of Science Fair!

 

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Throw on your lab coats and grab your goggles: My Science Fair 2019 is here!

 
For the eighth year running, on Sunday 3rd March from 10am-3pm, the Wiltshire Music Centre in Bradford on Avon will host the free family event My Science Fair. The annual Fair, which attracted over 400 visitors last year, promises a jam-packed programme, full of activities, presentations and performances designed to engage young people aged 5+ years in the amazing worlds of music, movements and science.

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The day will begin with a bang as Bath-based Fun Science and presenter Cressida Bullock (known by her scientist alter-ego ‘Chemical Cress’) take to the Centre’s Auditorium stage for an interactive experiment with colour, excitement and fire. The Fun Science team will also be conducting roaming experiments throughout the day around the Centre!

 

This opening performance will be followed by a percussion workshop exploring the fast-paced rhythms of samba music with music leader David Garcia, who will be putting a scientific twist on the vibrant dance music genre. Later, electro-acoustic composer Duncan Chapman will be recording soundbites from My Science Fair attendees to create an enthralling lullaby, complete with the swooping and ethereal sounds of the Theremin and the haunting vocals of an Indian raga singer.

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Elsewhere around the Centre, children can look forward to creating their own plastic models with a 3D printer from the University of Bath or blast off with water powered rockets out on the field. Explore the exciting world of electricity with a Van de Graaf generator in a hair-raising experience, or discover the science behind the music we hear with sonic crystals. Experience a Colourscape installation where you are able to create sounds and digital imagery using your body movements or explore far-off worlds using a virtual reality headset. Budding engineers can check out the LEGO robotics stand, as well as Bot Club, where you can create your own mini-robots, and find out how to use ultrasound to levitate solid objects with University of Bath students.

 

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The Fair also marks the culmination of the My Science Fair competition, for which students from 14 primary schools across Wiltshire and Bath have been devising their own exciting experiments exploring music, movement and science. Experiments will be exhibited throughout the day and will be judged by an expert panel, including scientists from the University of Bath, University of Bristol and the University of the West of England, as well as automotive-test specialists AB Dynamics, the Ministry of Defence and Unilever.

 
As you make your way around the Centre make sure to visit the experiment stands to find out about their investigations, which explore questions such as “Which ingredients are important in a cake?”, “Is it possible to make butter using a bike?” and “Classical or funky music – which is best for sleeping?”

Duncan Chapman Lullaby
My Science Fair is being generously supported by the Bradford on Avon Area Board, the Jack Lane Charitable Trust, NFU Mutual and Wiltshire Music Connect, as well as Wiltshire Music Centre Season Sponsor AB Dynamics. Entrance is free and there is no need to book tickets. Simply bring your enquiring minds and join in on Sunday 3rd March to investigate, discover and create!

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SUN 3 MARCH 10AM-3PM
Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon, BA15 1DZ
TICKETS: This event is FREE to attend. There is no need to book, simply bring inquiring minds on the day and get ready to discover something amazing!

TIMETABLE:
10am-12pm: Fun Science Experiment, Samba Science with David Garcia
12.15pm-2.30pm: Lullaby Recording and Performance with Duncan Chapman
2.30pm: Prize Giving for Young Scientists
All Day: LEGO Robotics Workshops, roaming experiments, Colourscape, virtual reality, Bot Club, water-powered rockets, Young Scientists’ Experiment tables.

 

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FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Visit http://www.wiltshiremusic.org.uk/mysciencefair

or call the Wiltshire Music Centre Box Office on:
01225 860 100

Colourscape

FOLLOW, LIKE AND SHARE:
Using the hashtag: #MyScienceFair2019
Twitter @wiltshiremusic
Instagram @wiltshiremusic
Facebook @WiltshireMusicCentre

 

 

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Stone Mountain, Devizes

Previewing the appearance of the Stone Mountain Sinners at The Devizes Ameripolitan Club on March 9th today; Americana meets homegrown talent.

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It’s been a couple of years since I first met country music aficionado Dean Czerwionka at the Conservative Club during one of his events. Back then he called it Devizes Country Music Club, today it’s the Ameripolitan Club. The name change, I deduce, is a bid to amend preconceived ideas of what country music is about, similarly was the angle of the article.

 
If you go running off with ideas of line-dancing and achy-breaky hearts you’re only skimming a stereotypical surface, for Dean is keen to promote bands which break this pigeonhole. Leaning at the bar in his Stetson, I recall the tête-à-tête moving onto the notion both media and other country clubs thrive on the arrival of US touring bands, when a homegrown scene is perhaps equally as poignant.

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On following this advice, I confess I’ve cringed at some, and tumbleweeds passed by, where there’s cliché subject matter of Americana; homages to the gold rush, box-cars and jumping railroads yodel “pack it in, you’re from Slough!” But song’s subject matter of one band Dean tipped me to, The Stone Mountain Sinners, are adequately general and could be applied to either home or the Harpeth River. While their melodies nod to Nashville, there’s hints of English blues harmonies and strokes of a young Rod Stewart.

 
Well-worn territory perhaps, where UK country music caresses it’s rock n roll offspring, but Worcester’s Stone Mountain Sinners do it with panache and professionalism. It’s toe-tapping goodness with familiarity aplenty to woe those with only a passing interest in the genre, while still appeasing devotees. Subsequently, under a trail of blazing reviews, their debut album, Tones of Home is currently teetering at #5 on the iTunes Country Chart, since it’s October release.

 
Working as a touring guitar tech, it was in the Californian desert, beside the 29 Palms Highway on a US tour, where Neil Ivison had his epiphany to return to the UK to labour on new music, inspired by the regular jaunts to the southern States. So even if there’s a heap of Americana in the sound, it’s justified.

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And what’s in a name I asked Neil, being Stone Mountain is a Georgia city and gateway to Stone Mountain Park, is there a connection? Evidence that the US influence is not exclusively the theme in his answer, “no connection to Georgia, we basically wrote a load of words down and then pieced them together until we came up with something that sounded good!”

 
After the conclusion of his first band, Neil found similar ground to Sarah Warren’s social media posts of her culminating group. One email was all it took before they were collaborating, bringing in Sarah’s musical cohort, and Nick Lyndon.

 
“What was immediately striking was that our voices complimented each other so well,” Sarah explains, “we both have strong vocals but we each have our own tonality, so it’s not like we are battling each other for space in a song.” Indeed, it works, try this video if you don’t trust my word on it!

They headhunted pianist Roger Roberts, bassist Adam Hood and drummer Duke Delight and formed Stone Mountain Sinners, attracting Robert Plant who pitched up to check them out after only their second gig. Straight into the legendary Rockfield Studios in Monmouth they marched, a year ago, to record the debut album with The Waterboys, Pogues and Hawkwind producer, Paul Cobbold.

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They’ll appear at the Devizes Conservative Club on Saturday March 9th with trusty Devizes favourite Jamie R Hawkins as support. Tickets online here, at £7. Not their first appearance in town, but they’re given the red-carpet treatment with an exclusive sample performance at Vinyl Realm that afternoon, after a morning stint with Sue Davies on BBC Wiltshire from 11am.

 

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The Candy Man Can: Jerry Bradley’s New Book

Forthcoming novel, The Candy Man has been doing the rounds on Facebook, it’s author, Jerry Bradley, a former Devizes resident, has done a marvellous job of promoting it’s release despite a date remains unconfirmed as of yet. But does it live up to the hype you may ask? Well, I’ve had a sneaky read. But I’m guessing you knew that I would!

 
The project is in memory of Jerry’s late wife, who passed away four years ago, after a twelve-year battle with Dementia. Therefore, Jerry will make a voluntary donation to Dementia UK for each book sold.

 
The story behind the book is perhaps more moving than the book itself; amateur author, Jerry, started writing the day she was diagnosed. “It was fear that got me writing,” he explained, “I wrote my memoirs. At the time I thought, if I got Dementia, I could read my life story over and over again to remember. Then, when I became a full-time carer the last three years of her life, I started to write stories.”

 
A pause after the fateful day, it took Jerry two years before he began writing The Candy Man. “I believe in my humble opinion, you have to have a WHY, a reason to do anything. That is my reason, to use my crazy imagination to its full potential and raise a pile of money to help as many people as I can.”

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It’s a humbling reason to embark on a creative career, and I salute Jerry, as I would anyone who takes a stab at writing a story; first-hand experience, I’ll tell you it’s not as simple as it looks. Yet, with modern methods of self-publishing, writing a book is now counteractive against the confines of the custom; educated, skilled authors being the only ones able to express themselves through mainstream publishers; this has come crashing down.

 
A double-edged sword, this new availability, as the untutored can bash out an illiterate or such badly constructed story that it’s illegible or misconceived, yet freedom of expression for all must be welcomed, as it opens enlightenment of the commonplace, it gives scope to literature the like has never been seen before.

 
Grammar and language aside, as what I hold is an unedited copy and not yet proofread, The Candy Man’s narrative is not without faults, yet by far not the worst book I’ve read, both self and mainstream published. Written first person, it follows the life of young man struggling with working class deprivation, and extreme belligerent conditions, and through honour, commitment and with a tremendously violent attitude, elevates himself to a master of the criminal underworld.

 
No spoilers, I’ll reveal an uncensored fable of corruption and ferocity only, through the drugs trade in an international gangland realm, akin to popcorn-munching Hollywood movie stature. It’s certainly exciting and a monster of a run. Yet, I confess the protagonist is a person I couldn’t identify with. At no point was I in the backseat of his life, rooting for him or condoning the decisions he made. That said, I detested the characters of Humbert in Lolita, or Alex in A Clockwork Orange, yet both are fascinating cult classics.

 
It’s as if The Candy Man is perched on a barstool, obligatorily reciting his tale to anyone willing to listen, precisely it’s unusual magnetism. It’s so full of bravado and arrogance it virtually defies reality. Trapped in an invented action movie-land, clichés abound, the finale is somewhat predictable, and there’s a lack of tension, because the character never once comes up against a nemesis, or valid opponent. He brutally murders anyone who crosses his path, in his boxing career every challenger snuffs it, in his felonious business dealings he takes no prisoners.

 
Consistency and continuity, it works on many levels, which is what kept me marching on through to the end. Yet I held out for him to learn the error of his ways and overturn them; The Candy Man doesn’t follow the rules any more than its central character.

 
It’s a thrilling read, if not a literature masterpiece. Written in simple English, excused in the first person, the protagonist unlikely to recite Keates. The author writes as the protagonist contemplates, merely and direct, with an archaic attitude towards women; even the most powerful female character swoons at his egotistical mannerisms, in an Ian Fleming fashion, the pornographic elements perhaps the most nauseatingly grafted portions.

 
Aside this, poignant sections remain in the action, whereas descriptive text of locations, or emotions of the Candy Man are slight; a year can go past in a single paragraph. Least, this makes it fast-paced. But there were parts I felt I needed greater input to satisfy, the character passed comment that he had “voices in his head,” for example, yet treated it as a passing issue, it did nothing to express the mental torture of schizophrenia.

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Book worms may shiver, but for the mild to average reader though, it entertains. I tended to be aggravated by the repeated usage of “I” as an opening of nearly every sentence, “I went here,” “I did this,” etc. Whimsical complaint though, perhaps needs a little ironing out, and with that, it’d be an exciting and intense novel. Nevertheless, The Candy Man is an outrageous car-chase of a read, it kept me reading, and I tip my hat for a first attempt at a novel, it rocks.

 

I must also say, it’s been interesting following Jerry’s progress with the Candy Man, and I wish him all the best with this project: Like his Facebook page and follow too!

 

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A Get Together with Arts Together

“What we have learned is that simply offering support or information is sometimes not enough,” states Age UK, “older people who are in the worst place often feel there is no hope, leading to a vicious circle of low self-esteem, lack of motivation and reluctance sometimes to ask for, or accept help.”

 
What sounds bad on paper, is often not as the eye perceives. While undoubtedly this is fact, I’m visiting Kestrel Court in Bowerhill, sheltered accommodation for elderly. I bear witness to a lively group, not just engaged in an art class, but merrily lapping up every minute of it. There’re cakes in abundance, tea, and some Mozart as background music. At one-point Gerald gets up to strum a guitar, and once the class is all but ended, the artist Clifton Powell slipped on some reggae; despite hard-of-hearing and cataract, Gladys, from Paraguay, is up dancing.

 
This is the doing of a charity group called Arts Together.

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“I’ve never been a person who joins groups,” Sue tells me as we sit together admiring her still life watercolour, “always been on the edge looking in. I really feel part of this group; that’s so unusual.” Arts Together is perhaps a slightly misleading name for this local charity, as while indeed it provides members with tutorials and equipment to engage in a wide variety of art projects, it also acts as wellbeing, and an invaluable social group.

 
I asked Sue about the community side to it, did she balance it’s worth with the actual art as half-and-half. She agreed it was equally vital, describing her battle with depression. “But this kind of thing really addresses it. There’s so many of the things they say you should do, going to your doctor, behaviour training and what have you, which has never helped me. And then you get something like this, which has been a real help. If this was on prescription, I’d be asking my doctor for it!”

 

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Sue reveals a creative nature, she’s written poems and performed them. Other members of the group, such as Carol, who proudly holds up her painting to show me, has no previous artistic calling. There’s a varied degree of skill, but Clifton commends and encourages all, a reason they all sing his praises. He was joined last minute by Rachel Heard, a Wiltshire artist, known for her “explorations of natural forms,” painting.

 
Arts Together have thirteen accomplished artists, and many group volunteers. In the last year they’ve delivered 180 art sessions, over their six locations across the county. Arts Together meet, in Bradford, Trowbridge, Devizes, Pewsey, Marlborough and here, in Melksham. Projects are as wide as wire and clay sculptures, mosaics and textiles. Sue particularly warmed to the puppet making workshop. I’ve invaded the final meet of this still life project, frames are scattered over the table, once completed a windowsill becomes a makeshift gallery, presenting their work.

 


Arts Together works to support older people who have become physically and socially isolated. I did ponder if they catered for dementia patients and such like, but was informed care homes and hospices organise their own activities, while the elderly in sheltered accommodation are often left out. “There’s nothing like this around here,” I’m told. So, while I didn’t class this as “art therapy” in similar light, it’s indubitably therapeutic, it stimulates and actively encourages the participants to try new things, to be creative and social. In a word, it’s wonderful.

 

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But I’m moved by Arts Together manager, Karolyne’s announcement, “We are on the brink of closure and desperately help.” While this is not the first time the charity has been under financial pressure, they assure me it’s the worst. “Any statutory funding from public money disappeared years ago and it has been our supporters and some enlightened Trusts that have helped us survive.” I find myself shrugging; sad sign of the times.

 
This isn’t some large charity with a whole department dedicated to fundraising, managers balancing campiagns with sessions. It’s lunchtime as I get my coat, I’m invited to stay but cannot. Agreeably I attended for some media exposure, but so welcomed I left with sensation of making real friends. I imagine life for these newfound friends without Arts Together, and shudder.

 
Without Arts Together members return to a solitary, empty week, consequently effecting their health and wellbeing. Wellbeing was a word passed around a lot today, the charity take pride in their achievement, help them maintain it.

 

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There’s a coffee morning at Rick Stein’s on the High Street in Marlborough, on 1st March. Admission by £5 minimum donation, includes coffee tea and cake.

 

I’d like to thank the members I met today, it truly was fun and an inspiration to meet you, and the team behind it. I was enlightened, and think Devizine should stage a fundraising event too, as soon as possible. Anyone interested in helping with me on that please get in touch.

 
Until then, you can donate on the website; please, please, if you can, do. If you’re an artist consider volunteering some time. Any donation from you will help around 80 very frail older people to rediscover their zest for life. Arts Together enables them to rebuild their confidence, self-esteem and resilience and remain living independently in the community for as long as possible.

 

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Half Term Fill: Local Things To Do For Kids

Big gulp of wine Mums, it’s half term next week. Okay, that’s quite enough, don’t panic. From daffodil picking, cooking and first aid, to football, driving tanks and having a go at being a DJ, here’s some things to keep little soldiers and princesses of all ages at bay, and smiling!

 
Sure thing is a movie; “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” is at the Palace Cinema, from today until Thursday 21st. “The Lego Movie 2” is a must, from Friday 15th also until Thursday 21st.

 

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From Thursday 14th through to Friday 22nd there’s a funfair at The County Ground in Swindon, from 2pm. Scream if you want me to go faster, or you’re running low on wine.

 
There will be the usual free swimming at the Leisure Centres, but check ahead, as some timetables have changed.

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You could take them for a trip down the Kennet & Avon, The Admiral is free on Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th, find it at the Caen Hill Café, below the bridge at lock 44, at 11am. There will be trial sheets to explore the Jubilee Woods, and, back on board there will be a history of the canal and its restoration.

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Starting Saturday 16th, you can pick your own daffodils at Woodborough’s Whitehall Garden Centre, available daily until 31st March. £4.99 per bag. Both centres, at Woodbrough and Lacock, have a Gardening Nature Trail until Thursday 21st. Claim a lollipop at customer services for every completed entry.

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Saturday (16th) The Devizes Family Club have at Children’s Disco at the Conservative Club. 6:30-8pm, all are welcome but only above 9 years should be left. There’s an adult creche for you, with bar! £3 on the door, lucky dip 50p, tbc face painting and optional princess and superhero fancy dress. Proceeds are going to Rowde Academy.

 
Starting Sunday and running through the week, The Wyvern Theatre in Swindon has a roadshow at The Brunel Centre, inviting children to join in at The Crossing, to make dinosaurs or dragons to celebrate the arrival of Dinosaur World Live and Julia Donaldson’s Zog in April.

 
In Melksham there’s activities all week long at Young Melksham’s The Canberra Club. These clubs are for all young people in Year 5 and above (aged 8 to 16) and will run from 2pm till 5pm Monday to Friday, with entry costing £2.50 per session or a week-long pass for just £10. There will be a plenty of activities on offer including pool, table tennis, table football, arts and crafts, karaoke, cooking and baking, games and sports and much more. There are also computers and consoles available for use and a chill out room where you can watch tv or a film together.

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The Canberra Centre is amazing building with lots of space to run around and have fun and play games with your friends. There is also an outside courtyard for football, basketball and just burning off some energy! A variety of hot and cold food and snacks will be available to purchase as well as free squash.

 
How about teaching your nipper some line dancing on Monday? All ages and abilities welcome at The Town Hall, Devizes. Early Bird Session: 6.30-7.30pm £5 Beginners: 7-8pm £5. Improvers 7.30-9.30pm £6.

 
For footballers ages three to six, Devizes Town Youth has free coaching in their Little Kickers sessions from 9.30am to 11am on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the Football Club. Kid receive a free t-shirt and football. To sign your child up contact Mr Sheridan on 07860232052 or Raymond King on 07917787903 or Jon Wozencraft on 07767851332

 
Tuesday and Wednesday with two sessions per day: 11.00am – 12.30pm & 1.30pm – 3.00pm, there’s Wildlife in Wiltshire at The Wiltshire Museum, Devizes. Art and Craft activities linked to their Natural History Exhibition. You can make animal masks, create animal models and pictures. These sessions are very popular, so booking is essential. It’s suitable for age 11 and under. Age 8 and under to be accompanied. £5 per child. Accompanying adults free.

 
Or maybe try your hand at being a DJ? Trowbridge’s Community Area Future has a Free Half Term DJ Workshop at Studley Green People’s Place on Tuesday 19th. DJ Nina LoVe will show you how to mix the Old Skool way, using vinyl records! There will be a few different types of music available – House, UK Garage or Drum and Bass. Come and check it out, book yourself some time on the decks or get on the microphone! For ages 13-18. Please feel free to drop in or call to book a place on 07765371051/tcaf@trowbridge.gov.uk

 
Have a go at a soldier-led assault course, plus Tank-themed fun family activities, at the REME Museum, Lyneham. Make your own tank with parachute and see if your engineering skills are up to scratch by dropping your tank “into battle” in one piece. On the artistic side, you can design and colour-in tanks. There’re model tanks which you can drive on a special course. Drop in from 11 am to 3 pm, any day from Tuesday until Friday. Special soldier run kid’s assault course will be running, plus fun tank-based kids trails, activities and craft in the museum. All children to be accompanied by an adult. All activities are included in the admission fee. Assault Course suitable for 5 – 12-year olds. The Museum is open from 10 am to 4.30 pm (last entry at 3.30 pm), some activities run from 11 am to 3 pm. Museum admission required to take part in activities. No pre-booking required for this activity, just turn up and enjoy.

 
Wednesday 20th is time to get fit in Hillworth Park, free event, in association with Boot Camp UK, it’s going to be all Sprint, Slide, Shake, Scamper, Scurry, Swing and Stomp!

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For arts and crafts, Fired Thoughts at the Old Potato Yard, Devizes, has Half Term Lino Workshops, from Wednesday to Friday. A two-hour workshop to design, cut and print using Lino and inks. All ages and abilities welcome. All materials included, but please book: Tel:01380 840666 email: info@firedthoughts.co.uk

 
At the Court Street Gallery in Trowbridge, there’s a Children’s Silk Sun Catchers Workshop on Wednesday at 10am. £15 per person including materials. To learn more and book, visit: www.nicoladaviscrafts.co.uk/workshops.html

 
How about some first aid training for your children? Louise Worsley, a qualified trainer is at Marlborough Rugby Club on Thursday, 21st, 09:30 – 15:30 with an essential First Aid Training for Children. Sessions are tailored to age groups and are full of practical to make them fun and memorable: 9:30-11am – Mini Life-Savers course for 5-8-year olds – £18 (£15 for a sibling.) 11:30am-1pm – Mini Life-Savers course for 8-12-year olds – £18 (£15 for a sibling) and 1:30-3:30pm – Teen-Aiders course for 12-16-year olds – £24 (£20 for a sibling)

 
Thursday is the opening night for MACS Theatre School’s “The Addams Family” at Devizes School. It runs until Sunday. Tickets at Devizes Books or online here. Doors open at 6:30pm for a curtain up at 7:30. There’s also a mini Macs matinee performance on Saturday at 2:30pm.

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From Thursday until Saturday 23rd The Seend Village Pantomime presents “Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs.” It takes place at Seend Community Centre, it’s the Fawlty Players 40th Anniversary, and there’s three of the cast were in the first Snow White in 1981! Tickets at the Post Office and Community Centre.

 
At Bradford on Avon’s St Margaret’s Hall, two of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes will be performed by local theatre group, the multi award-winning Bradfordians Dramatic Society. A take on Dahl’s retelling of the classic fairy tales, Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk. Following their success with The Twits last year, the group will bring Dahl’s honest, often vicious wit and humour to the stage in this production. Show times: Thursday 21st February – 6.30PM, Friday 22nd February – 6.30PM, Saturday 23rd February – 11AM, Saturday 23rd February – 2.30PM, Sunday 24th February – 2.30PM. Head to the Bradfordian’s website to see the full cast and more information here: http://www.thebradfordians.com/

 
Learn some street dance with a taster class at Charlotte’s School of Dance, Bath Rd Business Centre, Devizes, at 7:30pm on Friday with Jacinta Childs. To book this £5 session text: 07903812364.

 
Aspiring chefs, Saturday 23rd is for you; Margaret Bryant hosts Middle Eastern at Vaughan’s Kitchen Cookery School, Devizes. Spicy (but not hot) Falafels; Hummus; Baklava. Designed to give your youngster a firm foundation that will provide them with the techniques and knowledge they need to grow into competent and confident cook, it is also lots of FUN and they will bring home the results of the session to share with the family.

 

That enough?! Still bored?

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Sean McGowan at Level III, and beyond

Swindon, next week (21st Feb) a bright young punk wordsmith will visit Level III. The talented Sean McGowan signed to the Xtra Mile label, and frequently tours with buddy, Billy Bragg, as well as The Levellers, Skinny Lister, Frank Turner. Louder Than War Mag praisied Sean as a ‘unique talent’ when reviewing his debut album ’Son of The Smith’ last year.

 
Sean McGowan cruises into a headlining UK tour with “Auto Pilot,” his new single (HERE.) You can catch him with a full live band during Feb and March.

 
This title track taken from Sean’s warmly-received debut album of last year, “Auto Pilot” is another prime example of the perfectly preened and poetic indie-pop that made ‘Son of The Smith’ such a rewarding listen.

 
Brim-full of Sean’s distinctly wry social observations and set in vividly relatable situations, “Auto Pilot” tells a tale to lost loves and the pitfall-strewn pathway that lies beyond a bitter break up.

 
“And I can’t hack it any more, I smash up the wall… yet it doesn’t cure, the shame, the guilt, regret and all the dread in the morning and the next few days,” sings Sean, in a track that stands as one of the singer’s most emotionally complex and endearingly confessional outings to date.

 
Weaving interloping guitar lines around a driving motoric beat, “Auto Pilot” is an adrenaline-racing rush that testifies to the tight-knit musical mentality of his trusty backing band, who, fittingly join him on the road for this extensive run of UK shows.

 
It kicked off at Brighton’s The Hope & Ruin on the 7th. Sean and band will be travelling the length and breadth of England and Wales for a whopping 21 live dates that culminate in Bournemouth’s The Anvil on 3rd March 2019. Full dates and details, as follows.

 
The upcoming UK tour directly follows Sean’s biggest headline show to date, a Christmas homecoming in Southampton at the 1865 as supported by friend and labelmate Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly; the cherry on top of what was a monumental year for the ascending singer-songwriter.

 

SEAN McGOWAN LIVE DATES sean2

 

FEBRUARY 2019

 

07 Brighton @ Hope & Ruin
08 Bristol @ Louisiana
09 Manchester @ Star & Garter
10 Birmingham @ Sunflower Lounge
13 Leicester @ Soundhouse
14 Cardiff @ Clwb Ifor Bach
15 Hastings @ Blackmarket
16 Oxford @ Jericho Tavern
17 Guildford @ Boiler Room
19 Norwich @ Bermuda Bob’s Rum Shack & HiFi
20 Cambridge @ Portland Arms
21 Swindon @ Level 3
22 Leeds @ Hyde Park Book Club
23 Newcastle @ Underground
24 Glasgow @ Hug & Pint
25 Edinburgh, Sneaky Pete’s
27 St Albans @ The Horn
28 Nottingham @ The Bodega

March 2019

01 Bedford @ Esquires
02 London @ Borderline
03 Bournemouth @ Anvil

TICKETS ON SALE NOW:
www.musicglue.com/seanmcgowan

SEAN McGOWAN – ‘SON OF THE SMITH’

– ALBUM OUT NOW ON XTRA MILE RECORDINGS –
Order the album on CD, LP and digital here:
https://Seánmcgowan.lnk.to/sonofthesmith

FOR MORE INFORMATION

https://www.facebook.com/seanmcgowanmusicuk/

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Talk in Code Announce Tour Dates

Beginning of January, I reviewed Swindon indie popsters, Talk in Code’s second album, Resolve; blinking catchy it is too. Now, they’ve announced they’re heading out on the road for a RESOLVE Tour.

“Talk in Code write throwaway pop songs you’ll want to listen to forever – how cool is that?”
-Dave Franklin, Swindon Advertiser

The February and March tour to promote Resolve will be stopping off at The Cellar Bar in Devizes on Friday 1st March.

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The four-piece, who have supported names such as Catfish & The Bottlemen, Jesus Jones, Embrace, My Life Story and Toploader, are making waves in the indie music scene, having been featured on BBC Introducing, BBC 6 Music, Q Magazine Track of The Day, The Premium Blend Radio Show, and BBC Radio Wiltshire, with a session booked on Swindon 105.5FM later this month.

Talk in Code released Resolve in December 2018, with a homecoming show at Swindon’s Victoria. Now the band are talking their own unique blend of shimmering synth-led indie pop out on the road with a string of dates in the South, and a number of festival bookings throughout the summer all over the UK:

 
RESOLVE Tour Dates:

Thursday 28 February – JAGS Bar, Southsea, Portsmouth
Friday 1 March – Cellar Bar, Devizes
Saturday 2 March – Spice of Life, Soho, London
Thursday 14 March – Facebar, Reading
Friday 15 March – University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham
Saturday 16 March – The Horn, St Albans
Saturday 30 March – Level III, Swindon (with The Britpop Boys)

RESOLVE album link:
https://soundcloud.com/talkincode/sets/talk-in-code-resolve/s-shw7Z

 

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Fund-Raising Female of The Species up for Community Civic Award

Knicker incidents, gaffer tape and award ceremonies, I chat with the Female of the Species; defo deadlier than the male!

 

Last year was full of highlights for me, perks of the job. Despite downsides; attending on my Jack Jones, not finding a single person I knew and having to stay sober to drive home, one particularly memorable evening was at the packed Melksham Assembly Hall in September, for the annual get-together of an explosive all-female local supergroup, The Female of The Species, in September.

 
The annual gig has run for three consecutive years, the first raising money for the mental health awareness charity, Mind. 2017 was donated to the Wiltshire Air Ambulance. The girl’s raised just over £3,000 last year for the fantastic youth community project, Young Melksham, and for all their efforts, the Female of the Species have been selected for a Community Civic Award. They attend an award ceremony, at the Mayor’s Reception on 22nd March, at the Assembly Hall.

A huge congratulations to the supergroup, constructed of female leads in local groups: Claire Perry of Big Mama’s Banned, Nicky Davis of the Reason, and People Like Us, Julia Greenland from Soulville Express, solo artist Charmaigne Andrews, Jules Moreton of Train to Skaville, and of course, their backing band, including Train to Skaville’s saxophonist Karen Potter. I thought I’d create a group chat with Nicky, Jules, Claire and Julia in order to send my congrats and have a chat about how they feel about receiving the award; glutting for punishment?!

 
I decided to open with, “afternoon ladies, sorry for a group chat but it is just you girls and me, please be gentle,” but consider I may’ve been asking too much.

 
A moderate reminder from Jules, “Gentle is not in our vocabulary Darren.”

 
I asked for confirmation, “deadlier than the male, eh?”

 
“You know it,” Jules replied, “and thanks, we’re delighted about the award.”

 
“I guess the first question is, where does this take the FOTS next, I know you were thinking about more than the annual gig?”

 
Nicky replied with emoji, “London O2, then America, then world domination!”

 
“Yes,” Jules bought it down a peg, “we’re looking at doing two, one in Devizes and one in Melksham, or what Nicky just said!”

 
Prior to the interview going completely off on one, as I suspected it would, I asked, “do you see this more as a get-together, being it’s an amalgamation of groups, or could it become a gigging group?”

 
“We’re working towards gigging group!” Jules informed.

 
Nicky added, “we think we’d all love for it to become a regular gigging band, if we could make it work!”

 
The girl’s certainly bounce off each other, verbally mind, steady on. Banter ensues, and from recalling the noise in the green room of the Melksham Assembly Hall, equally as loud as the gig, I’m fully aware they get on like a house, or even, residential estate on fire. But, what about their respective bands, are they jealous of the accolade?!

 
“No jealousy at all from my lot,” Nicky confirmed.

 
“Some gigs will be for personal revenue,” I asked, “rather than charity?”

 
Perfectly understandably, “yes,” Jules confirmed, “after 5 years of us paying for rehearsal rooms, travel expenses etc, it’s about time we earned ourselves a few quid!”

 

Will they do an annual fund-raiser this year too, though?
“Every year!” Jules exclaimed, “We won’t forget our roots.” We chatted on ideal venues in Devizes, which is never simple, Female of the Species draws crowd, and being there’s five divas here, they’d need a lot of room. I’d have to be careful how I put that to them though!

 
“Yes,” Claire Perry finally entered the chatroom; when all hell is due to break lose, “…need lots of room to shake our thangggsss!”

 

Cor blimey!

 
“Will you be doing a song or two at the mayor’s reception,” I asked, in an attempt to keep it refined, “or just getting a badge and certificate?”

 
“I’m going for the champagne!” Nicky laughed.

 
“Haaa!!” Claire, stuck on the previous subject responded, “be warned…some of us have ‘thannnngggs’ that need a wide-angle lens!?”

 
That’s simply not true, it’s all about the bass, no treble. “It’s a beautiful thang,” I pay compliment, “am I quoting you on that Claire?!” I reiterated, “let me rephrase: I am quoting you that!”

 
To Claire, it’s all meat and no gravy, considering she should ask for extra gravy on the menu choice, I guess the girls get fed at this award ceremony. “That’s fine Darren, but I’m the naughty one! – the girls might have to bring a roll of gaffer tape to keep me schtum!”

 
Jules finally answers the actual question, “We won’t be performing at the awards ceremony, this will be the only time that we can all get together and enjoy a drink or two! I’ve got the gaffer tape, Claire. We also thought we would make a little video entitled ‘a girl’s guide to gigging’. Between us we have some of the most hilarious gig stories.”

 
I guess it’s good to trade off on other’s gigging experiences, “what of gigging for girls, how does it differ than gigging for boys?” I’ll probably regret asking.

 
“I don’t think a gigging boy has ever had to ask a total stranger to help them out of their dress because it’s totally stuck to them and they can’t do it themselves!” Jules replied. Boy George, Jules?

 
“Do the knickers show through the dress?” Nicky added, “Can I get away with performing in my hoodie or do I really have to make an effort? One plus side- if the voice isn’t on form, I can wear a low-cut top and distract the audience from my crap singing by wobbling the boobs around a bit!”

 
Taken with a pinch, when recalling how Nicky sublimely covered “Heard it through the Grapevine,” at September’s gig. Still, I’m getting a tad hot under the collar. Meanwhile, Claire belts in with caps lock stuck on, “THE FRONT ROW HAVE TO HOLD ON TO THEIR BEVERAGES IF I HAVE VOICE PROBLEMS NICK!! Back stage stories; we were toying with one of the chapters entitled: Is that meant to be hanging out? Oh, wait…I’ve got an industrial safety pin in my sponge bag that should hold it?! … followed by the chapter…. NO IT WON’T!”

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I can see where this is heading, consider making my excuses; Nicky advised I make a run for it. But at this point, Julia Greenland joined the conversation, “Geez how do I even start cutting in on this one?! It’s a closely guarded secret that a few of the band went on stage ‘commando’ as they had got the wrong knickers for their outfits; no names!”
Suspect Jules gave the game away, “I know Julia has a couple of wardrobe malfunction stories,” she mused.

 
“You’re still on record,” I felt the need to remind them, “things will be taken down.”

 
“Can you see why we we’re deadlier than the male?!” Claire asked me. Feared answering, I’m asking the questions!

 
“For once I’m speechless,” Julie admitted, “either that or holding back. Once I get started there’s no stopping me…. us girls have a lot of stories to tell….”

 
Lo-and-behold a selection of those stories were relayed to me; you don’t need hear of them! “Have you considered a gig/festival with all your respective bands playing?” Not to change the subject or anything like that.

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“Many times!” Nicky clarified, “It’s just getting all our band members available on the same date.”

 
“Yes,” Julia approved, “but it’s a mammoth task to organise something on that scale.”
“Darren,” Nicky checked I was still awake, “these girls need a lot of steering… it’s like herding cats at rehearsals!”

 
They all agreed, and it was high time to least attempt to bring this rabble of an interview to a close; being as they make the Spice Girls look like the St Winifred’s Choir, I contemplated, “one idea; what about recording a charity single?”

 
“There’s no one quite like Grandma?” Claire pondered.

 
“Do They Know it’s a Knicker-less Gig at all?” I considered.

 
“…. only if you tell ‘em!” Jules added, despite the fact I explained I’ll print whatever they say!

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“Don’t you dare!” Julie said, “Spinal Tap have nothing on us.”

 
“I meant as opposed to; Do they know it’s Christmas,” I explained. “That’s it; I’m sooo out of here!”

 
“Coward!” Julie joked, as Jules advised I did leave, to save myself. The only thing really becoming clear, The Female of the Species is a tightknit girl gang, with seamless talent, precariously hilarious banter, and hearts of gold; well done to them for this amazing award.

 

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Storm in a Teacup; Concerns Over DOCA’s Carnival Change….

Images by Gail Foster

 

It’s easy to make a storm in a teacup in this hurtling era of social media: put one slightly erroneous newspaper article into a mug, brew some pretty strong local feelings on the issue, add a poll to a Facebook group as required; best served boiling.

 
Face it, it’s a lot harder to motivate yourself into actually helping out.

 
It’s clear the Front page in this week’s Gazette and Herald has been wrongly perceived as scaremongering, and failed to focus on the relevant points. Perhaps a slow news-week, but the intention to highlight the Devizes Outside Celebratory Arts (DOCA) need for funding has exploded into a social media frenzy over its date change, and employment of its key manager, Loz Samuels.

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If you felt like the article “was more concerned with one job loss than possibly losing an historic carnival,” consider without someone in Loz’s position, there would be no carnival at all. Besides, Loz expressed she only breezed over the fact her contract runs out with reporter, Joanne Moore, it was not supposed to be the key angle of the piece.

 
When a newspaper decides to run an article, it’s their prerogative which images they place, not the subject’s. Loz was as much surprised to see her own face on the front page as you, and is keen to point out, while funding for carnival, and the plethora of other events DOCA arrange is getting harder each year, it’s much the same as any year.

 
Loz herself works tirelessly with a team of volunteers to provide us with these fantastic, and mostly free events in Devizes, for what my tuppence is worth, she needs to be saluted and thanked, rather than dismally criticised for changes the committee as a whole have decided upon, and in their expert judgement, for good reasons.

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I ask Loz if she feels some people simply don’t like change, being the poll revealed a huge majority feel the date for the carnival should remain the same, in September, as opposed to being shifted forward to July. “More sceptical than not liking I think, until they see it, they’re afraid of the change.” She points out that Weymouth carnival has had to be stopped, expressing her concerns about the number of volunteers, and fund-raising needing to raise over half the cost, after the Town Council’s contributions. The Arts Funding Council require twenty-percent of costs secured before paying out, and in struggling times, local businesses and organisations find it hard to sponsor as much.

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I ponder if popular opinion has not considered every tiny element which makes up DOCA events, every factor which needs to be taken into consideration. The Arts Funding doesn’t cover anything non-art, such as road closures and insurance, the availability and commitment volunteers are able to contribute thins, and yes, while Loz has concerns, and with less time now to arrange the carnival procession, she also confirmed she’s feeling far more optimistic than the newspaper article conveys. “In March,” she elucidates, “we should know.”

 

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Loz pointed towards the school’s eminent participation in the Christmas Lantern Parade and its workshops, to highlight the potential of the carnival’s date change. There is hope local schools will be able to organise themselves better, given the procession is within term-time, that the Confetti Battle and Colour Rush, the latter a vital fund-raising event, can be popularised shifted from midweek to a Saturday, but most of all, Loz stressed on the fatigue of the volunteers after a fortnight’s full schedule of activities, by the time the actual carnival arrives “they’re shattered!”

 

I find this very easy to believe, as a punter, I confess I overdo it at the Street Festival and by the following week, when carnival moves through town, I’m like “really? Can I be bothered?!” Given the choice I’d take the Street Festival over the carnival any day, but I think both are as vital as each other. A reply suggesting organising positions should be unpaid infuriated me, considering how much work is necessary to stage such events; could you do that as a hobby, my friend?

 

In fact, go against popular opinion as I may, I fully support the change of date, seeing it as a great decision which although must’ve been tricky to call, will benefit the town as a whole. Many a comment on this Facebook poll incensed me, truth be told; a stab at why DOCA paid for outside bands to play at the festival, when this year, as previous, I’ve felt the bookings have been justified and welcomed; didn’t see anyone complaining when we danced in the Market Place, a place usually reserved for wandering across from the shops to catch the bus.

 

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I did stress to Loz I’d like to see the wealth of local musical talent represented too, though she pointed out timeslots and the need for breaks in performances on the main stage, so that the circus side acts and street theatre could be heard. I offered the idea of a second stage for our local heroes, and Loz remarked it’d be another grand for a PA, and we’re back to stage one with the lack of funding.

 
Giving more clout to the need to support and attend the year’s fund-raising events, such as the impending Devizes Festival of Winter Ales at The Corn Exchange on the 15th and 16th of Feb. With a beer and cider selection curated by local Stealth Brew Co, it does indeed host local musical talent, such as George Wilding who will be playing this year, “and a cabaret too!” Loz enthusiastically added.

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We breezed over successful city carnivals, such as Bath, whose sponsorship from local business are obviously more plentiful, attraction much wider, and solely concentrate on carnival, unlike DOCA who take the Street Festival, Picnic in the Park, The Confetti Battle, Colour Rush, Christmas Lantern Parade, and Winter Ales Festival under their wings; forgive me if I’ve missed one out, but that’s a truckload of things to arrange.

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In an area as affluent as this, Arts Funding will always give with one eyed squinted, it really is up to us support and fund DOCA. So please treat this bulletin as cautionary, consider damage done by taking our major events for granted and do whatever you can to help DOCA. One phone call with Loz, confirmed my already concrete notion that she is thoroughly dedicated to this position, is worthy and capable of the task. Think, while we have other great events in our wonderful town, they usually come with a price tag.

 
You know what? I blame the bad weather, yeah, the stresses over national politics and so on; understandably tetchy in February, but decent summer entertainment is that one time to put cares aside, let your hair down; don’t let austerity take it away.

Devizes Outside Celebratory Arts (DOCA)

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New Band, Old Roots: Little Geneva

If Devizes folk have a love of blues, with a slash to rock, and all this I find a beautiful thing; Long Street Blues Club, the origins of Saddleback and of course our own legend Jon Amor, there have been occasions when a portion of visiting bands I take with a pinch. There’s cliché, whereas roots of blues are strictly raw, these convey the conventional, an earnest shot to commercialise to a middle-aged tolerable market, which in a way is fine and dandy, there’s clearly a thirst for it and historically such progress is natural.

 
You see where I’m coming from? At a time, Elvis was unacceptable, was edgy, now the rock n roll audience is pensioner age, consider it classic. Marlborough’s popular Jazz Festival fills with hoity-toity yet the rags of Scott Joplin at the time of their conception could only be heard in bawdy New York brothels. Similarly, I hear a once subversive, outrageous noise of nineties rave as a children’s TV cartoon theme tune.

 
From the crashing drums and thrumming guitar opening blast of “Key to Love,” there’s no doubt barriers have been stripped back. Echoes of raw energy from a time of yore rip through you, its two and a half minutes of screeching harmonica and growling vocals place you in 1967, under a blanket at an LA love-in. Little Geneva maybe newly constructed, but resonance images of The Animals, of Steppenwolf and the Stones with a truly proficient edge.

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Putting my point to them, they agreed, “we feel very similar to you mate, very similar indeed… which is why we made those recordings, and, in the stripped back/vintage way we did.”

This EP satisfies retrospective mod-culture and beatniks more-so than contemporary indie fans, I’d say; imagine punk didn’t happen. “All Your Love” slides you into the smooth classical/jazz stimulus of The Doors, yet “Yer Blues” harks the blues which would’ve inspired these aforementioned legends. “Someday After a While,” again breezy melancholic blues sound of Cream or The Animals. Five tracks on this EP, but from the first note I was hooked.

 

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Bristol-based, Little Geneva, name coined from a Muddy Waters track, only formed on the eve before 2019, conceived during a conversation between the Doherty brothers, Dave and Chris. Partisans of the UK contemporary blues scene for over a decade, they felt a need to get back on stage together, as part of a truly great live band; thus, Little Geneva spawned. Once the seed was sown, recruiting additional members didn’t prove a problem.

 
Chris, 32, and Dave Doherty, 36; both gifted guitarists, holding players such as B.B King, Albert King, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton in high regard, headhunted Rags Russell, 32, (vocals/harmonica) who fronts the youthful and energetic band with an emotive and soulful vocal style. Zak Ranyard, 27, (bass guitar) and Simon Small, 33, (drums) provide the rhythm section’s high level of energy and power, driving the band.

 
Having completed this blinding EP, the band is set to record their first album at the beginning of March, as they look for clubs and festivals dates across Europe. But the bestest part of it all, the album launch gig is based right here, in Devizes. I had to ask them, the connection.

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You may know already, you see that’s where Devizine differs from being our town’s Time Out magazine, it’s a learning curve for me. There’s history behind this band, as individuals, Little Geneva members have opened shows for Ray Davies (The Kinks), John Fogerty (Creedence Clearwater Revival), Mud Morganfield and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Also sharing festival bills with The Red Devils, Jimmie Vaughan, The Hoax, B.B King and many others. But three members of the band began their musical relationship in Devizes, back in 2004. Chris, Simon and Dave went to Lavington Comprehensive.

 

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“We all lived in Devizes at the time our first band formed,” explained Dave, “and we were quickly recruited by other older stalwarts of the scene. We helped create a thriving music scene at The Bell by The Green around this time and it was, for a time, a great little scene.”

 
“They go right back to the beginning of Sheer,” Sheer’s creator Kieran Moore informed, “Check out a band called Hitchmo; that’s where it started.”

 
“That early band came to an end around 2008,” Dave continued, “and the three of us went our separate ways, musically speaking. We all met other musicians, worked with other producers in different genres and countries. Chris now lives in Cornwall, as does Zak. Rags lives in Bristol, as did I when I met him. Simon and I now live in Devizes, where we feel rooted. Bristol is the hub of our activities; it’s obviously a more connected place than Devizes. Devizes is our home though, and all three of want to come back here for our first show, and smash it out of the park!”

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It’s Little Geneva’s deep respect for, and knowledge of what made those early British blues recordings so energised, and exhilarating, coupled with the soulful spirit with which all members express themselves, that will make an unmissable launch date at The Cellar Bar on Saturday 23rd March. Initial reaction to this retrospective goodness was wow, great booking Kieran, but I see now, what’s news to me is a reunion, to a degree, for Sheer and aforementioned scene; indisputably making the gig even more poignant than simply this absolutely rocking sound.

 

I shit you not, it’s like being bought up with Neil Sedaka and suddenly discovering The Faces. Oh, and if you need more convincing, Jon Amor supports…. supports, I know, right!

Website www.littlegenevaband.co.uk
Email: bookings@littlegenevaband.co.uk

Facebook Event Page

 

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Who you Gonna Call? Spirit Team!

Dark night in the early nineties, abandoned airfield near Ramsbury, a couple of crazy kids getting up to no good, that’s all I’m going to say; you don’t want me to waffle with another abstruse reminiscence, but just to say, we both saw something that night, I swear; something I couldn’t explain and still cannot until this day.

 
If I contemplate doubt about ghosts, this memory will wobble my conscious, make me reconsider my scepticism. As many, I’m sure, I figure best not be concerned until Halloween, yet a thrill runs through as all at the thought of chasing ghosts, and this week I was talking to Kelly Chalke who heads a local team who do.

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The Spirit Team, based in Easterton, investigate spiritual paranormal occurrences all over the UK, and they’re are on the hunt for locations to film investigations. Potentially some great free publicity for businesses, they usually require two-day filming set at a mutually convenient time. Not necessarily consecutive days as one will be for main production filming, e.g. interviews, and general filming while the second for the actual filmed investigation.

 
“We do like to have at least two people happy to be interviewed for the show if possible,” Kelly explained, “people willing to participate must sign a talent release form and we will require a location permit from venue owner or whoever else may have permission to grant us filming.”

 
Fully insured and happy to provide references of previous locations they’ve filmed, if required; what better way, other than calling Spengler, Stantz and Venkman, then to explain baffling goings on in your home or place of work? My kitchen cupboards mysteriously empty overnight, although I do have one of those teenager things.

 
This sounds fun, I asked Kelly, “has any TV production companies been interested?”

 
“We’ve had some TV companies looking but not yet got a deal, but obviously we are already on Amazon Prime, we are producing our next series and will not put on Amazon until pilots have been sent to relevant TV channels.”

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So, the first series of films, titled “Ghost Response – Haunted UK,” is available on Amazon Prime, where the team are joined by fellow investigators, in search of paranormal existence using various methods and techniques to aid in their quest for the truth. The Spirit Team website explains, “we aim to seek proof of paranormal existence by using modern technology including EVP recorders, EMF detectors, Full spectrum camcorders and more.” But it’s like discovering the Loch Ness Monster isn’t it, wouldn’t proving ghosts be the end to mystery, which is surely the exciting part of it?

 
The first episode is with Ray Jorden from Haunting Australia, on location at a 16th century mill in Wiltshire. The series of ten takes us through a Bristol gothic mansion, to The Radstock Hotel and from Derby Gaols, to, of course, The Bear Hotel in Devizes.
“The Spirit team has been running almost two years,” Kelly continued, “we are a group of five, each with different beliefs and views of the paranormal.”

 

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“Cool,” I replied, “is one of you a Great Dane, perchance?”
“No,” she giggled, “but we have a team member that looks like Shaggy!” Now I’m on the website, does she mean Dave, Frazer or Sammy?! Not sure but I have spoken to the other female of the team in the past, Selina Wright of Paranormal Wiltshire. I am sorry Selina, you’ve mentioned The Spirit Team and Paranormal Wiltshire to me in past, but it’s kind of vanished from my inbox; is there a mystery there, or just procrastination?!

 
I think I was awaiting Halloween, and intended to write a piece then; my “to-do-list” is like a lost scroll. Anyway, now is a good to bring it up as along with regular sell-out ghost walks, The Spirit Team, with locally renowned ghost expert, John Griven of The Wiltshire Museum present an evening with Richard Felix of TV’s Most Haunted, right here at Devizes Town Hall on 13th July. Tickets are a purple one, and from the team’s website.

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While I’m here, plugging other things, if the paranormal interests you, I did knock out a short story called “Blindfold,” a while ago, an eBook to download here, tells the story of a scientist who attempts to prove ghosts are a figment of the imagination, but discovers more than he bargained for. Have a read, knock yourself out!

 

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Seems there’s a lot of local interest in the paranormal recently though, the Facebook group Haunted Devizes notched up over 400 members, and may be a good place to start your own ghostly quest. But one thing is for sure, ghosts aren’t safe here; who you gonna call?

 

 

 

 

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Zines and I

The announcement of a second Swindon Zine Fest this July leaves me pondering my zine-making past, with edge.

 

Her triangular-cornered glasses slunk down her vaulted snout as those elderly eyes gawked at me. “Something in graphic design then?” she muttered after an unending awkward silence. No, I felt like screeching, “I want to be a cartoonist!” It was a safe bet to fluster any careers officer, not less one as antiquated as this hag; they had no clue, no guidance for me.

 
I figured examining hairs sprouting from her facial wart was getting me nowhere, other than a strong desire to caricature her, if she didn’t do that herself. I’d obtain advice by writing letters, one to the chairman of the Cartoonist Club of GB, and to a professional cartoonist, Sally Artz, who invited me to her home. A stark warning from both recipients though; perseverance was necessary to pursue a career as a cartoonist. I was too keen to be the next Charles Schutz, refusing to accept any more rejection slips from the newspaper houses; only fifteen, had to look up the word perseverance.

 
Zip on a few psychedelic years, subject matter warped into something publishers would go to jail for printing. Yet I’d found an avenue in which to unleash my labour of love, despite the payment was swapsies, a pint or pull of a bong, if anything at all. Discovering the free press was an eyeopener, a sensation I was not alone. Finally, a world unfastened before me, a world of gunky Pritt-Stick, wonky Letterset and stolen photocopiers; I was a zine-maker.

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I’d go out without a penny to my name, hoarding a bag of self-published comix in hope someone would be drunk enough to buy one. I’d park in a city carpark, drop into head and comic shops to pick up three quid of earnings, only to return to discover a twenty-quid parking ticket. I spent eons scribing my zine, by hand, and writing letters stuffed with flyers for zines and cassette tapes from others. It was a shareware ethos, zines; you plugged others and they plugged you. It was a community of nutcases, across the world, distributing free information via Royal Mail, unaware of what dot.com would one day mean.

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Therefore, imagine my surprise upon discovering Swindon has an annual “Zine Fest,” a thing I thought the internet would’ve extinguished, or moulded into digital media. In some ways I guess it has, the freedom to publish whatever you like on social media, though, abducted by non-creative types, out to post a picture of their manky dinner, or have a barney with the other half. Yet while the internet heralded a new-age in self-publishing, and web-comics rapidly became common, there’s something missing from digital; the feel, smell and individuality of solitary printed exertion; blood, sweat, tears, your little art piece. It’s an ethos mainstream media cannot touch, yet a secret, niche market of charm and personalisation.

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It’s only their second year, happening on the 27th July 2019, at the Central Community Centre in Swindon from 12pm to 4pm. But there’s a deadline of Friday 31st of May, for stallholder submissions. Accepting applications from zine makers, zine distros, illustrators and small press comics, tables are reasonably tagged at £5 for a half, and £10 for a whole table.

 
They also have a communal table where people unable to attend or take a table, can sell their zine at the fest, and are interested in hearing from those able to hold a workshop. Workshops can be either a relief for the usually solitary hobby, or pandemonium in a fun way!

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@dogsnotdietsshop at the first #swindonzinefest

A part of zines remains with me, thankfully not flattened staples or paper jams. To think, people ask what the “zine” part of Devizine means. Devizine is not a zine, not really, but I endeavour to run it with similar ethos; creative, community-spirited, and anything goes. Zines can be any shape, any size, can be simple photocopies, quality printed or hand-decorated for complete uniqueness. They often start as sole efforts, but extend to anthologies, as the creator trades and befriends a cluster of likeminded souls; zigzactly what a zine fest provides!

 
Zines tend to end abruptly though, money or motivation drops, the slog rarely worth the output, the shyness of creator to distribute and market themselves as effectively as their dreams, and those who offer such services seldom paying out. It’s a labour of love. Me? Life moved on, marriage, kids; once I sat on the top-table, with comic legends, but a chain of disillusionments slowly deflated hope, reality sucked the air from it. The truth was it would never be anything more than the sum of its parts; effort to achieve more is often when a zine sadly folds.

 
That said, historic triumphs have developed from a zine; Superman, Viz Comic, 50 Shades of Grey, even Monty Python, all owe self-publishing for their fame. But it’s such a vast, diverse market, impossible to make a comprehensive list, though many tried. Subjects range from 1930s sci-fi fandom and rock n roll fanzines, through to underground comix and punk-paste, pop stars and sport clubs to poetry or radical essays, cult religions to FINs (Free Information Network.) I was once handed a zine about a revolutionary design for a female urinal with detailed diagrams of how women can pee standing.

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Forever Incomplete & Purple Sense at #swindonzinefest

If there’s one thing which springs my attentiveness to The Swindon Zine Fest it’s intrigue, to know there’s a new generation of zine-makers keeping the spirit alive, but fear I may be out of touch with current trends! Swindon Zine Fest gives priority to women/non-binary/poc/LGBT makers, suggesting they, “want to make sure we have zines that represent a diverse selection of people.” My own comic, perhaps archaic even for its era, which tended to be “Riot Grrrl,” in the nineties, instead harked back to punk-paste of the seventies and underground comix of the sixties; may have to await a stoner comeback, but that’s the beauty of zines; your creation, your prerogative!

 

For more info on July’s Swindon Zine Fest click here.

 

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