I’m standing on the stage of the Melksham Assembly Hall…. have no fear people of the Sham, I’m not about to burst in song, leave that to the professionals. On Friday, direct from London’s West End the UK’s biggest George Michael tribute, Fast Love, will take my place. Right now, a Tuesday afternoon, the hall is being used as exercise for stroke patients, an indication to the diversity of events at this Council facility, a range Deputy Facilities Manager, Bruce Burry is proud to express; that’s why I’m here.
Bruce worries about space, the tribute act requesting four dressing rooms when they’ve only two, and a video wall which may not fit, yet the hall is grand on scale for a market town with a capacity of 450, and I cannot help but feel, unlike some prestigious venues, it’s being used to it’s full potential, thanks to the team behind the scenes. And while it’s contemporary design may not aesthetically topple a Bath theatre, with a central location, free car parking and excellent disabled access, it is functional and practical.
Yet surely, it’s the quality of event which maketh the night, and while I note there’s a preponderance of tribute acts, they’re all eminent, first-rate, tried and tested. Bruce informed me the Fast Love tour is taking around the original George Michael saxophone player; always a good emblem to take a former original in a tribute act.
“Tim will vet them,” Bruce explained, “and possibly go see them. We try to get original bands too,” he stated, “we’ve had loads here.”
“You recently had the Searchers?” I rudely interrupted.
“Yes, I think they come once a year,” Bruce continued, and was keen to point towards comedy too. “I mean, we’ve had Des O’Connor, Lee Evans, and Rich Hall, most recently.” Bruce provides an anecdote on Rich Hall, wandering through the town, getting a feel for the place; inspirational for local observational comedy methinks. The current pamphlet displays Cornish favourite, Jethro on the cover, who is here Friday May 3rd.
As well as Fast Love, in just the forthcoming months, There’s tributes like Bon Jovi Forever on 13th April, The Ultimate Stone Roses on the 4th May and Kast Off Kinks on the 9th May. Yet I must remind myself, I’ve been here on a handful of occasions, recently for the Legend, Bob Marley tribute, which was dazzling, it flipped any qualms of tribute acts I had clean on their head.
Bruce was keen to point out the full kitchen, “we do dinner clubs and Sunday lunches when there’s nothing on, or on really big events it’s a bottle bar, taking the strain off the main bar.” The hall is often converted into a cinema, a roller disco, and is home to regular events like the Melksham Rock n Roll Club, West Wilts Model Car Club, The Arts Society, Historical Association, and 55+ senior forums. The annual charity fundraising Female of the Species gig is another memorable gig I attended here, and it’s one of many fundraising events held here. With all this variety and the future development of the old Football club as recreation grounds, it’s simple to see how the Assembly Hall is a community hub we should envy here in Devizes.
I remind Bruce about the Melksham Comic Con, hitting a high point when although another comic con is doubtful in the near future, he expresses a love of sci-fi and ponders the chance of such a convention. Newly appointed events apprentice, Alex excuses herself while the subject digresses to Daleks temporarily, then we’re onto scanning posters of former events.
My tour finishes with a cup of tea in the lounge, and this aforementioned mountain of posters of previous shows which adorn a table; there’s great variety, from male strippers to big bands, and pudding clubs, Only Fools and Horses styled meal where the character lookalikes serve you, to beer festivals and significant and impressive acts of past, which shows no sign of declining.
The Assembly Hall goes beyond the reach of its town, and deserves to attract from Trowbridge, Chippenham, Devizes and beyond. But while experienced Tim Cross is head Facilities Manager here, Bruce also coordinates The Melksham Party in Park and has been doing so for ten years, before joining the team. The event spans two days, July 19th and 20th. Saturday being the Party in the Park, a pop-orientated family festival at King George Park, which alongside Take That tribute, Take @ That, Kirsty Clinch, and Six O’clock Circus are confirmed this year. I ask of the importance of booking local acts. “I try to keep it local actually,” Bruce nodded, “until about half-past ten when we have a main act.”
ParkFest is the Friday evening, which started as a warm-up, but has equalled in importance now, “if not taken over it,” Bruce expressed. AND, with live PA tribute FunBoy 2, brilliant local ska band, Train to Skaville, and The Neville Staple Band headlining, it’s easy to see how this event is the more mature option, and is tickling my taste buds!
While I’ve been kept busy exploring the delights Devizes has to offer, entertainment wise, it’s great to hear how well our nearest neighbour does too. Only a stone-throw away, The Melksham Assembly Hall is worthy of a visit, providing great variety. Devizine will continue to add their events to our calendar and notify you of them, but you can check the website here, Facebook here.
And as for the Party in the Park and Parkfest, more info here.
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