Whilst it’s not strictly in Devizes, it’s an easy enough bus-ride away to The Sham to merit a mention in your esteemed entertainment guide. (Quite the contrary, we cover the Sham too Andy; Ed!)
If you like music, beer (and/ or cider) and pizza, then you need to get yourself across to The Sham on either Friday or Saturday and fill your boots. Featuring a range of craft ales on cask and keg (including a cinder toffee stout, a tea-spiced pale ale a peach milkshake IPA amongst several others), several types of craft cider, Ian Timbers’ Pop-up Pizza Station (as regularly featured at The Hiding Place in Melksham) and live acoustic music – what’s not to like?
• Friday evening 4pm till 10pm
• Saturday afternoon 11am to 4.30pm
• Saturday evening 5pm to 10pm
For music fans, Friday evening’s session will feature the blues pocket-rocket that is Ian O’Regan (recently featured in one of the Sunday Sessions at The White Bear), and the Saturday evening session will feature the talented and ubiquitous George Wilding.
Between sets, and on the Saturday afternoon session, it’ll be just background music.
The event is presented by Stealth Brew Co, your friendly local brewery, based in Melksham. Entry is by e-ticket only. Tickets are £8.50 per session, which includes a glass to take away and tokens for your first pint. www.stealthbrew.co/beer-festival
Dust off your Lederhosen and dirndls, tune your alpenhorns, Seend Community Centre annually hosts an Oktoberfest to make King Ludwig envious. It’s next week volks, Saturday 5th October. They invite you to “join us for another fabulous night of fun and entertainment, in true Bavarian style.”
Traditional games include Holz Sägen (Log Sawing) Kuh Melken (Cow Milking) Nagelbalken (Nail Beam) Bier Stemmen (Beer Holding) and Bier Trinken. Tickets are £12.50 available now from the Community Centre or the Post Office, Seend, and include a hot buffet supper and disco.
Parking in the Market Place today yes I did, parked my butt on a Muck & Dunder Chair and took in a great Devizes Food & Drink Festival Street Food & Artisan Market, thank you!
Yo-ho-ho, an unpredictable drizzle didnâ stop th’ Devizes Food & Drink Festival settin’ thar grand Street Food & Artisan Market sail today, launchin’ into a chockful week o’ various foody events. ‘Twas me first attendance last year, and not for want, I’ve nah other grub festival t’ compare it to. Nevertheless, thought ’twas great, ‘n I’d been lookin’ fore t’ saunterin’ th’ Market Place once more, landlubber, testin’ ‘n tastin’ th’ wide variety o’ grub ‘n drinks, even tried t’ starve meself beforehand!
This isn’t the Sun tabloid, usually don’t fib here, I did say “try;” truth be told, I loaded up on a cooked breakfast earlier; still, I’m a bottomless pit. They say that though, don’t they? Don’t go to a supermarket on an empty stomach or you’ll end up overspending, guess the same applies to a food fest. That’s the excuse I’m sticking with. With all homemade or small business enterprises, the stalls here aren’t Lidl-cheap, but you know your taste buds are in for a treat. The reason for the pirate-translated opening paragraph? Between all these great stands, our beloved Muck & Dunder Rum Bar stole my show……cos, they like, sell rum, see?!
Perhaps to their advantage, they were located by a seating area and the music marquee, this year supplied by Wadworth. All it takes is a little reggae during the band’s breaks to entice me, and many others, over. They really know their rum, better than Uncle Albert, and if this review is slightly jiggered, blame them! Not entirely though, I also sampled Majorcan gin, from Gin Eva, which I liked despite gin not being mi ting, mon. Back to suspiciously loiter the square where Shelly from the abovementioned Muck & Dunder swung around with a trayful of pina colada, and Frome’s eclectic-influenced folk four-piece, The Decades entertained the masticating crowd.
I butted in to introduce myself, as although this was the only band booked, they were more than apt. With a pleasant folk angle and generous banter their style was offbeat, comical and proficient. Covers such as Pulp’s Common People and the finale of The Fun Boy Three’s Lunatics Have Taken over the Asylum particularly adroit and amusing. Vaunted our humble Southgate in hope they’ll pass our way again, and much to my delight Deborah and Dave magically appeared like Mr Ben’s shopkeeper and exchanged contacts.
Spoiled for choice when it came to a street food lunch; The Notorious Pig, Cantina El Burrito, Japanese food with a Filipino fusion from De la cuisine, Bath’s varied White Heat, Dorset’s Fanny Annie grilled cheese butties, Salisbury’s The Tasty Tapas, vegan Firmly Planted, Greek-inspired Cosy Kitchen, and the Gourmet Goat Farmer with everything goat, even soap, which I guess is to wash your goat, or goatie beard, or even, possibly, soap made from goat’s milk; didn’t like to investigate further. No, I went to Take a Bao, it was new to me, and lush, like Asiany stuffed dumpling balls.
Here’s the thing though, the portions are served quite large, I mean, I like large, don’t get me wrong, but with so much to choose from, a little half-size, half-priced dish would enable a little more experimentation from the punters, rather than having to select one for lunch. Opposite is the scale of the event, due to the powers of perspective a passer-by may wrongly perceive the event as quite petite, but once among it, there’s a copious amount to take in. And that copious was excellent, a variety of splendour; can we do it again next week?
If you’re stuffed there’s stuff to take home too, and it was abundant; both Harry’s and Rutt’s Lane Cider, The Incredible Brewing Company, Plenty Pies, The Leafy Tea Company, Glastonbury Cheeses, Olives ‘n’ Stuff, Stainswick Farm Oil, those wicked chutneys from The Cherry Tree and Calne’s own Waitey’s, with their exclusive range of Chilli Jam, ah, I could go on. My arm was twisted into trying Blood Orange Liqueur from The Wiltshire Liqueur Company Ltd, and Harry’s Mango & Lime cider.
I mean, cripes, I haven’t even mentioned pudding; Purbeck Ice Cream, may’ve won a slightly warmer day, the variety of vintage sweeties from The Sherbet Piglet was overwhelming, my arm near twisted by the stupendous brownies of the Welsh Ridiculously Rich by Alana, but I ended up back on the bus with a doggy bag of Malteser brownies from the wonderful Gourmet Brownie Kitchen based over at Poulshot Lodge. Word on our streets are these are the best brownies around, and even as a connoisseur of the brownie, I was not disappointed.
Award for the most novel though, goes to Butternut Box. Without a show of samples, without much of an ascetically pleasing display, this innovative company freshly prepare and deliver homemade dog food. Now, I’m not a dog owner, just thought it different, that here’s some dog food which looks edible for human consumption, and if it wasn’t for all these brilliant and wonderful food stalls, given perhaps a few more rum samples, yeah, I reckoned I’d have tucked in!
A delightful opening to this year’s Food Festival then, and with a new thing, the World Food Lunch at The Corn Exchange tomorrow, (Sunday 29th September from 12.30) where admission is free, and taster portions allowing you to explore the globe on a plate, are just 50p, it just gets better.
If you drop into the old Tourist Information centre in the Market Place these days, you’ll get much more than a leaflet on the Caen Hill Locks.
The owner, Steve, greeted the better half and I by the stairs, outgoing but with a shattered expression. The word on the street is out, in an unmissable location, cafe-lounge-bar New Society puts the old building to exceptional good use. It talked the talk, receiving rave posts on social media, and as passing by I witnessed it bustling on Saturday night, I’d be fool not to give it a lunchtime stab and see if walks the walk.
Anything new in Devizes attracts initial attention, the issue is maintaining interest. Staff at New Society have been working tirelessly for the past fortnight to ensure it lives up to first impressions, yet they show no sign of tetchiness when it comes to serving you. Combine this family-styled friendliness with an extensive menu, reasonable prices and this beautiful bespoke setting, New Society is everything they say it is, and more.
It sits somewhere between high-end restaurant and archetypal pub, matching the restaurants for quality but the latter for worth, but does so enthusiastically and cordially. It’s also extremely diverse; tapas on the menu, and coffee bubbling, there’s an element of Mediterranean in ethos, but open for a cooked breakfast, decor decidedly quaint pub, plus the bar resembles a wine bar running through to the evening, it’s fundamentally local too.
Yet you’ll see no noses in the air, or sawdust under a ragged pool table, it’s as if New Society has melded the pros of all these types of establishments and scrapped the cons.
I could’ve randomly stuck a pin in the menu, between said tapas, burger menu and omelette bar, it consists largely of every pub grub classic you could hope for, but refined; sandwiches and toasties, fish n chips, ribeye steaks, mac & cheese, Caesar salad, etc. Coupled with a similar desert selection, and from beers, ciders, cocktails and wine to tea, coffee and milkshakes, there’s something for all, including vegans and children. Mrs Devizine is often impatient to my lengthy menu browsing, and worried I’d spend an eon or three interrogating this varied one, I opted for a pub classic, chicken tikka masala, post-haste. She went for an omelette.
But where the menu isn’t exactly exotic, hot dang (can I say hot dang in a serious food review; who cares?) if it didn’t taste far beyond that of standard pub grub. The tucker was presented nicely, to match the surroundings, and tasted equally as mouth-watering. Ingredients of excellent quality, my curry served with pilau rice was simply gorgeous, fresh pulled chicken, spiced beautifully and with a naan toasted to perfection. Home-cooked, these guys don’t know what a microwave is. The wife agreed, her omelette was fluffy, and chips to die for. To take two rather standard pub grub dishes and make them something rather special makes this alone the perfect lunch location.
Not to mention we were sat next to a brilliant stained-glass window depicting the Devizes crest; the advantages of taking over the tourist information centre, I guess, but without the need to go in there, I’d never seen it before, had to take a snap! There’s a selection of comfy sofa seated areas, and traditional tables spread over a ground floor and two smaller rooms upstairs, all exceptionally welcoming and easy-going, just like the atmosphere. There was a sense in the air that New Society is excitingly innovative, interestingly middle-ground, and will become a standard for others to aspire to. It’s quickly become a hub in town, now I know why.
First to The Southgate, where Dave & Debs continue to provide a platform for acts of class entertainment. Today it was 5-piece folk-rockers Hadrian’s Union, a band completely new to me. Except that their fiddle-player Penny wasn’t actually with them, so they just carried on as a four-piece, on their Penny-less tour. Geddit? Oh, never mind.
The line-up included Saul Rose on drums, Brian Bell on 5-string bass, Robin Jowett on melodeon and keyboards, and founding member Stew Simpson on guitar and vocals. Saul Rose, who produced their last album, is as good as folk royalty, having played with a wide range of famous folk bands (Faustus, Mawkin, Eliza Carthy’s Wayward Band). Normally he plays accordion, but had decided, just for the hell of it, to get back to his first love the drum-kit.
They hail from the debatable northern lands of the English and Scottish borders, and had had a very early start that morning in order to make this gig. Their name originates from the locality and mindset of the band, since their separate members are based along various points of Hadrian’s Wall. They come to the band from various music genres – folk, punk, rock, blues, Celtic, ska etc – which reflects in the music they create together. They quote their musical references as Lindisfarne, Jethro Tull, Stackridge, and The Bonzo Dog Dooh Dah Band.
I quickly discovered that this meant an eclectic and varied set of self-penned songs, but paying musical dues to all those traditions. One minute we were in full rock mode, the next minute we were in a folk club, listening to traditional morris tunes. If they are rockers, they were very folky, and if they were folkies, they had a mean line in driving blues/ rock. Great stuff, and the packed crowd really lapped it up, whooping and dancing to just about every number. The sound was relaxed, yet tight, and every number was delivered with confidence and impeccable timing.
Upcoming gigs at The Southgate are:
• Friday 27th Sept Pink Tribute (Beautiful Trauma)
• Saturday 28th September Phase Rotate & Cobalt Fire
• Friday 4th October James Hollingsworth
• Saturday 5th Oct ober Jon Walsh
Then back into town to the White Bear, for the latest of Marc & Georgie’s Sunday Sessions, this week featuring local favourite and all-round good egg Jamie R Hawkins. It’s a sign of the level of esteem in which Jamie is held that this was probably the best crowd these Sunday Sessions have attracted so far. This time not surrounded by & supported by his musical friends, but playing the whole of his two sets on his own, Jamie delivered (as ever) a superb performance of self-penned and very personal songs. Those of us who have been following him for a while are obviously familiar with much of his material, but we never tire of hearing those songs again, especially when each performance (like this one) is delivered with such intensity and feeling. And of course, we liked the way he works in the new songs. The atmosphere was great, the crowd loved it, and we had a great afternoon all round.
Next week’s Sunday Session (29th Sept) @ The White Bear @ 5pm features Fraser Tilley.
A cracking night for our blues club last night, which I managed to finally appear at!
After publishing a run of awesome reviews from our man Andy, and with a flimsy hunch he wasn’t going to make it Saturday night (though he did,) I figured it high time and a good opportunity to break my Long Street Blues Club cherry; can’t let him have all the fun.
If I only popped my head around the door towards the end on a previous occasion, it was plentiful to note in our preview of their new season that, “there’s a lack of background noise at Long Street, the audience don’t chitter-chatter through the act like the backroom of a pub, it’s a fully entrancing appreciation society.” In fact, upon entry I was thanking Ian Hopkins the organiser, only to be shushed by a member. Who shushes at a gig? At least one in a hall chockful of blues aficionados captivated by the music, that’s who!
After pondering out loud, feasibly too loudly for this attendee, if this blues club needs a review at all, being it’s marked with exceptionally high-regard on our music scene and the hall of the Cons Club is bustling, I took heed of Ian’s reply, “any publicity is good publicity,” and tiptoed to the bar as if in a Christian Science Reading Room.
With family ties to Devizes, we’ve mentioned the support act on Devizine in the past, and it was good to finally meet him, even better to hear him perform live. Newbury-based answer to David Gray, Joe Hicks is wonderful, simple as. At ease with his surroundings he chats enough only to tune and give a modest synopsis of the following song, or to praise Livewired, for his last gig at the Electric Bear in Bath. He delivers his original songs with appetite but no strain, and aptitude which he makes look like child’s play. Among others, we were treated to his new single, Swim and another spellbinding comfort song called Rest Your Head. Mildly dreamy rather than sombre, his chants sublime, making a perfect cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Everywhere so apt for a finale.
Now for the main act, you know how levels of cool range? I mean, there’s that mate in the pub with the amusing party-trick, he’s pretty cool, right, but compared to someone like Hendrix, he’s a total nerd. Smoothly Detroit’s Marcus Malone frontstages, oozing cool from his gaze to his fingertips like the lovechild of aforementioned Hendrix and Lenny Kravitz. His talent replicates his persona, and combined with a tight band, and Devizes-own electric blues guitar-legend, Innes Sibun, this is loud, proud and quite simply, mesmerising.
I realise now, witnessing the brilliant Beaux Gris & The Apocalypse, and Mr Amor, I was only a fraction engulfed into my epiphany of contemporary blues, the Malone Sibun Band completes it. Innes may appear more like that air-guitar playing headbanger at school who was asking for bullies to pick on him, drawing metal band logos on his army surplus bag in biro and all, but this guy wows and visually loves that he’s wowing, probably sighting a said school tormenter in the crowd, rocking out! The quality of this duo, this collective, is second-to-none, and their music takes no prisoners.
It was rock, harking back to times of yore, when the blues influence was prevalent, yet more refined than psychedelic sixties, edging more towards traditional Delta or jump-blues than even Cream and Hendrix did. In contrast it was gritty, persistent and never waived from its ethos. Whether leisurelier tempo or all-out detonation, it was not experimental, rather a tried and tested formula. It neither clichéd or borrowed from previous works, it never waited for you to compare it, it was entirely unique, and it was full on in your face. There was no sing-a-long section, popular covers, there was no idle chatter; they came, they saw, they blasted their labour and treasured every minute of it.
I was left entranced, my jaw hanging low and my mind whisked away, as said noise restrictions of the club crumbled, and its preconceived barriers collapsed, there was no associating the Long Street Blues Club to a library any longer. In all, this club may attract an older majority, but if you’re thinking fuddy-duddies you’d better think again! Next up, Jon Amor, his full band, on the 12th October, but you’d have known that if your read our preview! Yep, in it I did speculate The Long Street Blues is “simply addictive. Hook line and sinker,” I feared, “they’d have me in the palm of their hands.” It’s confirmed now.
First up was Canadian born Tanyalee Davis, described in the publicity as “Joan Rivers meets a pile driver”. She has a form of dwarfism called diastrophic dysplasia. At only 3 foot 6 inches tall, this presents a few challenges and misconceptions in her daily life, but this also provides a rich vein of material for her stand-up routine. Her material, like her, is low to the ground, quite blue and racy in places, evoking laughs both from the inherent humour, but also from the shock value. A highly entertaining opener.
Next up was more normal sized Irishman Keith Farnan. Here was a comic very comfortable in his own skin, and very confident with his material. He delivered an absolute master-class in how to play an audience, feeding on minor and polite heckling, and casually eliciting and provoking clues and local information to mould his script. A lot of it felt extremely-well improvised, and he took great delight in holding up a mirror to the Devizes crowd’s lack of diversity. He successfully took the piss out of being middle class, being Irish, his own name, being Jewish (he’s not, but his wife is), homophobia, Ryannair and many other topics. Not topics that were exactly bleeding edge, but he wrung some absolute belly-laughs out of such thin gruel. For my money – the best comic of the night.
After the interval, another two acts. First of these was Tom Lucy – young, slightly camp and with a mother he described as a MILF. He tried the same trick as Keith Farnan, trying to use the audience to provide clues and prompts to direct his material, but far less successfully. A number of times he ended up, by his own admission, up a comedy cul-de-sac, having to cut routines short because they just weren’t going anywhere. Better material was on modern technology – smartphones, emojis, dating apps and dick-pics. But to my mind he never really got going, and the big laughs just weren’t there.
And finally, top of the bill, was Mike Osman. We were all asked to stand, face to the rear of the room, and put hand on heart, to allow the entrance of this Donald Trump impersonator to the strains of Hail To The Chief. A showy entrance, but to my mind, one that felt a bit flat. Once up on the stage we had the White House lectern (later revealed to contain a Kim Jong-Un lookalike) and a pair of US flags. The whole act was an extended riff on “DT comes to Devizes”, occasionally side-stepping into a (very poor) musical number, and a range of old & new impressions (I don’t think Rory Bremner or Jon Culshaw have anything to worry about). Osman had DT’s looks, mannerisms and voice, and did a fairly good impression of The Orange One, but (to me at least) failed to convince. Most of the audience found him hilarious most of the time, but the material was frankly tedious and thin, and the jokes fairly old/ poor/ standard. If this is what you have to do to earn a living…..
This’ll make you repel; Red Dwarf first aired thirty-two years ago! Sci-fi comedy would never be the same again after Lister roamed his empty mining vessel asking the ship’s computer where the crew were and curiously licking piles of dust he randomly found. There was an irresistible contrast between Rob Grant and Doug Naylor’s protagonist and his antagonist, Arnold J Rimmer, elevated by the brilliance the two actors bought to the roles. Dave Lister was an endearing anti-hero, a cool but lovable ragamuffin.
Corrie aside, everything Craig Charles has done since is cool; undoubtedly, he’s not typecast, as his Funk & Soul Show surely proves; he really is this cool. A decade of broadcasting on BBC 6 Music with a primetime Saturday night show, I’d prey in the absence of a Radio 2 presenter, Craig would be the one drafted in as relief. The show frequently goes on the road, locally playing the Cheese & Grain, Meca Swindon, and some of that magic he brings to Salisbury City Hall on 11th October 2019.
“When BBC 6Music asked me to do a radio show I only had one condition,” Craig explained, “it has to be a funk and soul show, otherwise I wasn’t interested.” Live every Saturday night with an assortment of classic gems and emerging artists, Craig has garnered global support as one of the UK’s foremost Funk and Soul commentators, DJ’s and promoters of new music. The only quality soul classics he hasn’t played yet, are by Rastabilly Skank!
“Since its inception I have been interested in all varieties of soul and funk music, without imposing any barriers and I am just as enthusiastic about fresh new talent as I am about the classic artists from the golden age of the 60s and 70s,” he continued.
Guest-listed legends have been on The Funk and Soul Show; Gil-Scott Heron, James Brown, Roy Ayers, Cymande, Marlena Shaw, Paul Weller, Primal Scream, Terry Callier, Candi Staton, and Marva Whitney. Hip hops acts included, The Roots and the Jungle Brothers, as well as the leading players of the new school Kokolo, Cut Chemist, Sharon Jones, Osaka Monaurail, Amp Fiddler, Amy Winehouse, The New Mastersounds, Smoove and Turrell, Quantic, The Apples, The Grits, JTQ, and The Fusion Experience.
Craig Charles has captivated crowds throughout the UK, playing a plethora of festivals, and a monthly residency at Manchester’s Band on The Wall. Him, and his trunk of funk DJs, present a night of soul-hitting funk, ‘can-you-dig-it’ attitude and dance-floor jivin’. The monthly is currently one of the most anticipated nights in Manchester’s scene.
Winner of the 2018 Smirnoff Equalizing Music DJ competition, DJ Emma supports Craig at The City Hall, so arrive early to get the full flavour of the biggest funk & Soul party to hit Salisbury this Autumn!
If all products are carefully marketed towards a specific target audience, none I feel, are as precise as boxes of chocolates. The whole idea of taking an everyday item, the sort you might shout to your driver as he approaches the garage, “and get us a Twix,” when stuck in a box suddenly becomes a rare treat, gifted by an acquaintance for a special occasion. It’s vital you pick the correct box to suit the message; while a Dairy Box says “happy birthday, Gran,” Milk Tray says “get your kit off love!”
Connotations all in the packaging and advertising, push comes to shove, they’re the same bloody thing, but last thing you want is to hand your gran some Milk Tray. Often, it’s fallacious, a Flake is the most unsuitable chocolate bar to eat in the tub, no matter what the telly might tell you. That’s why you have to hand it to the Cadbury’s Roses ad campaign, for while it’s not the best box of chocolates, it is somewhere in the top five. But it’s the across-the-board implications; anyone can buy a box for anyone, for any reason; it’s choco impartial. Buy Roses if you don’t want the receiver to assume you see them like your grandparent, or you want to snog their face off until sore. “It’s just to say thank you;” yeah, yeah, clever bastards.
New single out from Jamie R Hawkins then, unless you’d rather me waffle about chocolate? It’s like Roses though, it’s a universal thank you, for friendship, and while it may not the best Jamie R Hawkins song, it just rocked up somewhere in the top five. Though Jamie has pre-set his bar high, and if his May single, Welcome to the Family was quirkily agreeable, Thank You, Friend harks back to the classic sentiments we love Mr Hawkins for. Diluted, this song is more general and will infectiously touch all who hear it, as concentrate it profoundly assesses what a friend is, and how they’re capable of helping, in a manner The Beatles only skimmed the surface of.
Another perfect production for Phil Cooper; Jamie is on top form. “I never fail to be amazed,” he sings, “That what defeats me leaves you totally unfazed, it’s almost like I’m lacking in, the thing that makes you so alive, and it’s so good to know you’re always on my side.” Just one of the beautifully rendered verses of this fantastic song which undoubtedly showcases Jamie’s brilliance of song-writing, and with conviction he chants his own words of a song dedicated to his brother with unequalled passion.
It made me think of a time he was supporting a gig at the Cons Club; I drove out of the carpark to see him perched on the wall. Offered him a lift, he was only heading for the British, but jumped in. A handshake would’ve sufficed, but Jamie gave us a man-hug; one of the marvellous reasons why I love writing Devizine, I’ll locally praise what needs to be praised, slag off what needs to be slagged, but it’s also clear most recipients don’t view me as “the evil press,” but as a friend. And it’d be virtually impossible, I’d wager, to deliberately make yourself an enemy of Jamie, unless you’re the jealous sort of song-writer, struggling to compose a song a quarter as good as this one.
He’s here, he’s there, he’s at the White Bear this Sunday afternoon, catch him when you can, it never gets tiresome despite the fact Jamie does our circuit regularly, like a J S Lowry painting, the songs he weaves always have something different you may not have picked up on before, and his new ones, well, get better and better. This new track is available today through all the music sites. iTunes is too Thornton’s for me, spotty-thigh or whatchamacallit is too, well, Haribo; here’s the Bandcamp link, it’s this old timer’s Dairy Box!
With the dependability our gallant roving reporter, Andy will attend The Long Street Blues Club and send us a review to make me jealous, I ponder if I’ll ever make have to make it down there. Thing is, the Club which is about to launch into its incredible twelfth season at the Devizes Conservative Club this Saturday, is simply addictive. Hook line and sinker, they’d have me in the palm of their hands.
Yet there’s good reason to succumb, I did pop my head around the door once, to find a hall chockful of blues aficionados captivated by the act. This is nothing rare, there’s a lack of background noise at Long Street, the audience don’t chitter-chatter through the act like the backroom of a pub, it’s a fully entrancing appreciation society.
Enough said to state, these guys know their blues, claiming for their opening night on Saturday 21st September with the merger of two forces of nature Marcus Malone and Innes Sibun, “we’ve been inundated with requests to get them back.” Coveted by Motown records, Detroit-born Marcus worked on demos with some of the biggest names in the business, before being moved to LA by Ike Turner’s management team and signing with United Artists Records.
He opened for Bob Seger and Iggy Pop, now adding BB King at the Albert Hall to his impressive résumé. Marcus has written, produced and recorded seven albums on the Redline Music Label since relocating to the UK, the magnum opus being “A Better Man.” In all, it was hearing BB King which inspired the twelve-year-old Innes Sibun to pick a guitar. Legendary producer Mike Vernon produced his first band, Blues Explosion’s debut album. By 1993 he joined Robert Plant’s band for his “Fate of nations” tour, spurring a prolific musical career.
I’m glad to hear incredible Newbury singer-songwriter, Joe Hicks will be supporting, blending his pop, blues and folk influences which Linda Serck at BBC Introducing critiques as “absolutely smashing it!”
If I needed to bio these musicians, you’ve not been indoctrinated into the contemporary blues scene, something Mr Hopkins and his crew will be able to help you with. But the name of the second night at Long Street needs no introduction. You can source blues on an international market, as they do, but Saturday 12th October is owned by the man who put Devizes on that map, Jon Amor.
He brings the group; Mark Barrett of the Hoax, the Doherty Brothers, who’ve been enjoying a successful run as the band I can’t get enough of, Little Geneva, and keyboard genius Johnny Henderson. The Jon Amor Band, out to promote the critically-acclaimed album Colour in the Sky, will be a homecoming gig after his national tour, and you can rest assured they’ll be on top form.
Like Jumping Jack Flash, the blues club steps on the gas with a duo of gigs within a week. Saturday 2nd November Larry Miller band’s bassist Derek White joins the Cinelli Brothers, a project born form of a common passion for the electric Chicago and Texas blues from the sixties. It comprises of brothers Marco and Alessandro, Music Republic Magazine nominated Marco Cinelli as Best Guitar Player of 2018.
The following Friday, 8th November the club presents a solo, unplugged show from Ian Siegal, who Mojo credited as “one of the most gifted singers & writers in contemporary blues,” and Long Street claim it’s “simply a must.” The date unfortunately squashes a huge blues-related clash in our bustling town, with Chippenham’s Triple JD Rock Band playing the Southgate, The London Philharmonic Skiffle Orchestra at The Wharf Theatre, and the highly-anticipated arrival of Georgie Fame as a special Devizes Arts Festival evening at The Corn Exchange. While it’s clear, Devizes has an appetite for the blues, and the choice we have of live music is astounding for a town our size, this is one overloading Friday night. I only hope the best for all these great bookings, and that we have the capacity to fill them.
But business as usual for the Long Street Blues Club, it has a truly dedicated following, and this season’s line-up of shows confirm it’s standing as a benchmark for our county’s blues scene.
With my ribs near fully recovered from giggling injuries caused by the one Ed Byrne, it’s nice to note if you missed him at the rescheduled Devizes Arts Festival evening, he’s playing Trowbridge’s Civic Centre on the 26th September, March 13th at the Wyvern, Swindon and Bath’s Forum on March 19th.
Here’s an interview with the man himself, to tempt your taste buds….
A household name teetering on the brink of national treasure status, award-winning comedian Ed Byrne enjoys worldwide acclaim for his stand-up. With 25 years under his belt, Ed has parlayed his on-stage success into a variety of notable television appearances. A regular on Mock The Week and The Graham Norton Show, Ed has recently co-presented Dara & Ed’s Big Adventure and its follow-up Dara & Ed’s Road To Mandalay, and managed not to disgrace himself on Top Gear or whilst tackling one of The World’s Most Dangerous Roads. As a semi-professional hill-walker himself and fully paid-up humanist, he also brought a refreshing warmth and honesty to BBC2’s recent hit The Pilgrimage.
But the Irishman is still best-known and best appreciated for his stand-up performances. A quarter of a century at the comedic coal-face has equipped Ed with a highly evolved story-telling ability and a silky mastery of his craft. Yet his wit, charm and self-deprecatory observational humour is often underpinned by a consistently hilarious vitriol and sense of injustice at a world that seems to be spinning ever more rapidly out of control.
Having recently hit a new peak with shows such as the sublime Spoiler Alert and reflective Outside, Looking In, which explored the minefield that is modern parenting and a generational sense of entitlement, Ed’s new show If I’m Honest digs ever deeper into a father’s sense of responsibility, what it means to be a man in 2019, and whether he possesses any qualities whatsoever worth passing on to his two sons. Occasionally accused of whimsy, If I’m Honest is a show with a seriously steely core.
Gender politics, for example, is something Ed readily engages with – deploying his customary comedic zeal. ‘I’ll admit that there are things where men get a raw deal,’ he says. ‘We have higher suicide rates, and we tend not to do well in divorces, but representation in action movies is not something we have an issue with. It was Mad Max: Fury Road that kicked it all off, even though nobody complained about Ripley in Alien or Sarah Connor in Terminator 2. Of course, social media means this stuff gets broadcast far and wide in an instant, which emboldens people.
‘The problem with men’s rights activists is that it’s not about speaking up for men’s rights, it’s about hating women. If you’re a men’s rights activist, you’re not going to care about the fact that there’s an all-female Ghostbusters remake. That’s nothing to do with men’s rights or female entitlement. That’s everything to do with being, well, a whiny baby.’
As ever, Ed manages to provoke without being overly polemical, a balancing act that only someone of his huge experience can really pull off.
‘I did stuff about Trump and the Pizzagate right wing conspiracy,’ he says, ‘and a couple of the reviewers said, “Oh, I would have liked to have watched a whole show of this”. And I think, ‘well you might have, but the average person who comes to see me would not like to see that’. I like to make a point or get something off my chest, or perhaps I’m talking about something that’s been on my mind, but the majority of stuff is just to get laughs.
‘People who come to see me are not political activists necessarily, they’re regular folk. If you can make a point to them, in between talking about your struggles with aging, or discussing your hernia operation or whatever it is, you can toss in something that does give people pause as regards to how men should share the household chores.’
He continues, ‘It’s not that I feel a responsibility, I think it just feels more satisfying when you’re doing it, and it feels more satisfying when people hear it. When a joke makes a good point, I think people enjoy it. It’s the difference between having a steak and eating a chocolate bar.’
Ed, who broke through in the mid-1990s when the New Lad became a genuine cultural phenomenon, doesn’t want to submit to any unnecessary revisionism, but admits that if the times have changed, he has changed with them. He reflects a little ruefully on one of his most famous jokes. ‘There’s an attitude towards Alanis Morrisette in the opening of that routine that I’m no longer comfortable with, where I call her a moaning cow and a whiny bint… slagging off the lyrics of the song is fine, but there’s a tone in the preamble that I wouldn’t write today.’
The new show also takes his natural tendency towards self-deprecation to unexpected extremes. ‘I do genuinely annoy myself,’ Ed concedes. ‘But the thing of your children being a reflection of you, gives you an opportunity to build something out of the best of yourself only for you to then see flashes of the worst of yourself in them. It’s a wake-up call about your own behaviour.’
When I challenge him over the degree of self-loathing he displays, he disagrees. ‘Self-aggrandising humour is a lot harder to pull off than self-deprecating humour,’ he insists. ‘A lot of people get really annoyed when Ricky Gervais is self-congratulatory. I always find it very funny when he accepts awards and does so in the most big-headed way possible. I think it’s a trickier type of humour to pull off, talking yourself up in that way.
‘So no, I don’t think I’m being massively hard on myself. The fact is when you’re the bloke who is standing on the stage with the microphone, commanding an audience’s attention, you’re in a very elevated position anyway.’
That said, If I’m Honest brilliantly elucidates the frustration that arrives in middle age – and lives up to its title. ‘I’m bored looking for things, I’m bored of trying to find stuff, because I can never find it, and it is entirely my fault,’ Ed says. ‘Nobody’s hiding my stuff from me. Although my wife did actually move my passport on one occasion’.
He insists that, while the show might have mordant and occasionally morbid aspects, it’s also not without its quietly triumphant moments. ‘I thought I was being quite upbeat talking about the small victories,’ he says. ‘You know, finding positivity in being able to spot when a cramp was about to happen in your leg and dealing with it before it does. I was very happy with myself about that.’
Age, it seems, has not withered him. Especially now that he’s figured out how to head off ailments before they become a problem. ‘You see comics who are my age and older but are still retaining a level of “cool” and drawing a young crowd. I can’t deny that I’m quite envious of that. But there’s also something very satisfying about your audience growing old with you.’
Ed Byrne is touring nationwide, appearing at Trowbridge’s Civic Centre on the 26th September, March 13th at the Wyvern, Swindon and Bath’s Forum on March 19th. For more information, please visit http://edbyrne.com/
Another great afternoon in The Vize for free music. Be rude not to enjoy it!
After listening to Proms In The Park with the Devizes Town Band (see report elsewhere in Devizine) I headed back into town, and to the White Bear to catch Andrew Bazeley.
Andrew is, quite simply, a Blues fanatic – Delta Blues, Country Blues, Traditional Blues, Bottleneck Blues, Acoustic Blues – whatever you want to call it, this is your man for playing it, singing it, learning about it, teaching it, writing about it, and even giving all-day lectures about it! What Andrew doesn’t know about the history of the Blues, the US Deep South, and the history of guitars, is simply not worth knowing.
Andrew cuts a distinctive figure, balding and sporting an impressive grey-white beard, and it’s fairly obvious that he’s a child of the sixties. That’s when he acquired his first guitar, and he’s been singing the Blues ever since.
On Sunday afternoon, he kept the talking to a minimum and just let the songs flow out. Swapping between his two guitars (one 101 years old, the other a mere 82 years old), the music just kept coming. Most of his set was traditional material from the likes of Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, Blind Willie Johnson and others, but there was also a few of his own self-penned numbers seamlessly worked into the set.
His sets were assured, well played and well sung, to the obvious enjoyment of the audience as it built up during the early evening.
Another very pleasant afternoon spent in the White Bear, and another tribute to our great little down for providing a whole afternoon of free musical entertainment. Happy Days!
Coming up at The White Bear on future Sunday Sessions @ 5pm are:
• 22nd September Jamie R Hawkins
• 29th September Fraser Tilley
When apathetic to galivant to a gig, and not for want of staying in my village, there’s always the Cross Keys in Rowde. Hum, been a while, historically had its ups and downs. Last report I did here things were looking up; food-wise, a few craft fairs and various goings-on. But it’s changed hands again, and the one thing it lacked other than the sporadic Splat of the Rat, live music, has returned to the agenda by the new landlord.
Arm twisted, I’m back in the watering hole where I had my wedding reception and the kid’s christening parties. Little visually has changed, punters included. No bad thing, village hub. The landlord tells me they’ll be renovating the restaurant area, but if it isn’t broken. For the functional the main pub is perfect, aesthetically it’s apt. Although the change for the evening is the pool table area, where guitars and drums swim amidst wires and foot pedals. Devizes band Rockhoppaz are due to kick off a season of performances here. This is good, heard of but not seen these guys yet.
Holding a preconceived idea, largely based upon the name, I was mistaken to assume I’d be knocked over by rock verging on metal, which though not my cuppa, I’ll endure to support live music in my village for sure. Pleasantly surprised then to hear this matured four-piece’s repertories, though while varied, were largely based on rock and punk-mod classics.
Tuning teaser being Johnny B Goode, the age range of songs went from contemporary back to rock n roll. Commencing with the Kaiser Chiefs, we heard Dandy Warhols and Primal Scream covers, we were cast rearward to Buzzcocks and The Jam, and plopped into a pinnacle of Rolling Stones and Kinks. It was this era where I thought the band reigned, with an awesome Brown Sugar. Yet the range was achieved in its entirety with equal passion and skill, but when lead singer, Jim Smith rolled out an adroit version of Neil Young’s Rockin in the Free World, I changed my mind.
I questioned this namesake preconceived idea to the band during their beer-break, pointing out drummer, Ian “Tef” Martin’s AC/DC tee-shirt. Oh yes, I was told, they’ll be playing an AC/DC cover in the second half. What ensued was a potentially everlasting musical trivia conversation, indicting their passion was their motivation, and herein lies the spirit of Rockhoppaz, I feel.
They’re not the next big thing, just a bunch of guys satisfying an appetite on the pub circuit, but as far that notion travels, lead Jim Smith, aforementioned drummer Ian Martin, guitarist Chris Downing and “Big” Ben Robinson bassist pull to its bumper, and would do your function a huge favour, for their thirst and talent rubs off on the audience; punching above the average pub circuit band’s weight.
In various incarnations they’ve been around for a while, previous band names being more profane, they say, causing me to think they once had a punk vibe about them. They’ve played the Opportunity Centre charity fundraiser at Wadworth Brewery, The Yeoman, The George in Frome, Melksham’s Pig & Whistle and our trusty Southgate, they’ve gigged the Midlands, Windsor and Bath. The Cavalier, Devizes has them on November 2nd, their next local gig.
As for the Cross Keys, I hope it’s the first of many, and with the great pub-grub and Sunday roast menu retained, I wish them all the best. The landlord calls for more, monthly, with local mod-rockers, Cover Up appearing next. I’d like to see some local heroes with some original acoustic booked too, happy to recommend the usual suspects. There is a notion cover bands will undoubtedly satisfy the regulars at The Cross Keys, but said originals will bring others in. It’s not a long walk from Devizes, I do it the other way many weekends, and that’s uphill, pal! That said though, getting a bit autumny innit, so nice to know live music has extended out to Rowde.
White Horse Opera will be performing Bizet’s Carmen at Lavington School Wed 30th Oct, Fri 1st & Sat 2nd Nov at 7.30pm.
The secret of Carmen’s success is its excitingly exotic setting in and around magical Seville, its devastatingly passionate story charting the downfall of two people pole-axed by love, and the ravishing music whose impact is both immediate and lasting.
Paula Boyagis plays the fiery, seductive gypsy Carmen, Don José is being played by Phillip Borge who is flying in specially from Gibraltar! Barbara Gompels plays Micaela, his childhood sweetheart. The dashing bullfighter Escamillo will be played by Jon Paget.
Fully staged sung in English with an excellent professional orchestra.
Si Griffiths teams up with Mike Long and Emma Sally for an all-together different art show…..in Chippenham!
If, like me, you like your art with edge, and you don’t stand on convention, a trio of Chippenham artists have a DIY exhibition at the Yelde Hall you really need to see.
With a poster akin to the cover of Never Mind the Bollocks, Never Mind The Heritage, Here’s Our Art Show show does just that, it grabs the conventional art world where it hurts and hurls it away, but in a satirical manner rather than all-out anarchy.
We’ve had a few moments with Si Griffiths online in the past, it was a great opportunity to meet him in person, but more so, see his paintings for real. It’s an argument I try convey to many non-art-lovers; it’s one thing to see a 72dpi Google image, even a print in a book, but something all together different to view the original in a gallery.
Part-psychedelic-part-punker painter with a penchant for clowns, there’s always narrative to Si’s work, hidden meanings, repeated symbolism and a counter-culture ethos. With a dark satirical edge, his paintings often reflect underground comix of yore. Think Rick Griffin rather than Vaughn Bode, and principally pre-Fredrick Wertham’s censorship assault on US comic books in the fifties, such as the daring EC line. A couple even have hand painted text in a similar font to EC comic books.
While it’s the comic influence which initially drew me in his work, others show a proficient hand at life drawing, but all are psychedelia, explosive with colour and hold disturbing undertones. Tattoo-like devils, skeletons, but particularly misplaced clowns, often in unusual or dangerous predicaments, say with hookers and guns, or sitting alongside a table depicting disciples in Da Vinci’s Last Supper, with Jesus as a jester. There’s a slight element to pop art and surrealism, with a plethora of cultural references, Freddy Kruger and that guy with the pins in his head! Yet Si’s work is highly unique and stylised, accurately rendered, with running symbolism such as yin and yan, and Edvard Munch’s the Scream seems to hang on the walls of many scenes.
We talked over many influences, I mentioned Pieter Bruegel, but in turning a corner to the second artist, Mike Long, I noted he had an even greater influence to Bruegal, and L. S. Lowry too, with some pleasing busy scenes you could examine for an age and still discover something new. I feel this similar element brings both artists together, yet this is a varied show, and Mike’s take is different from Si’s angle.
I breezed past some still life, something faithfully enlightening in concept, and onto some scenes which defied the laws of perspective. This took me to mention Hogarth, for his play on perspective, but from a larger scenic painting Mike pointed to a group of fairground attendees in a pose akin to Goya’s classic The Third of May 1808; again, I see why these two artists complement each other perfectly, Goya had a cartoony style, of sorts, yet both Si and Mike retain their individualism. Mike expressed the scenes are real, with alternative angles to various parts, like the cubist approach.
I loved a painting on the end of the board, of a steampunk airship, and Mike elucidated his inspiration came from the frame he used. This then was an entirely new approach to me, not fathoming the frame is anything more than the sum of its parts, a frame, a border to the end of the piece. With this notion I looked back at his still life paintings, and across the board there was a definite relationship to the frame in each painting. While in some the frame matched the style or theme, in others the painting extended out across the frame in an inimitable fashion.
Between the two, Emma Sally’s work displayed some beautiful still life with expressive attention to reflection, but as I progressed to the other side of the wall, I witnessed a move to veiled meanings, of freedom, of love and passion. These are highly skilled paintings, breath-taking photographic renditions, and a series of oriental fashioned female poses, they were absolutely awesome, I demanded our lady of the lens, Gail, takes a snap of this one, as I think it alone will lure you in to this wonderful and friendly little exhibit.
It’s free folks, the works are extremely fair-priced, and I could think of three billion ways less productive and interesting to kill an hour in Chippenham! What is more, The Yelde Hall is a lovely space for it, central in Chippenham and I hope it inspires more artistic happenings in the town. It’s on until Thursday 26th September, open daily from 10am until 4pm, except Sunday.
As an inexorable drunken dancer, have to steer clear of musical events on a school night at my age. I figured this wouldn’t be so bad; sit in the Corn Exchange, listen to Ed Byrne telling a joke or three. I didn’t weigh in the chance my ribs would be hurting in the morning and I’d still be grinning like a madman at the intricate weaving of observation comedy, yet they were, and I was, during my dark morning shift. This was, simply 250% side-splitting.
I had psychologically amassed hype in my mind, feeling like I’d been sitting in our grand hall since June waiting for this guy to show. Undoubtedly the only disappointment at this summer’s Devizes Arts Festival, Margaret announcing Ed’s car had broken down and he wasn’t going to make it, turned into a bogof for the punters. If we chuckled at the proficient two support acts in June, and we sniggered at Canadian comedian Paul Myrehaug on this occasion, there’s a clear distinction between the support comedian and a name like Ed Byrne. I have to hand it to Devizes Arts Festival for bringing such big names to our little town.
Ed compered the show, popping on first to run a few annotations surrounding the unfortunate circumstances for his truancy in June, which although I’d anticipated, did it in such a hilarious manner it served as the perfect taster for what was to come. He introduced Paul Myrehaug with negative banter. A winner of the 2007 Yuk Yuk’s Great Canadian Laugh In, and second place in the Seattle International Comedy Competition in 2006, Paul is now a regular on the UK circuit and supports Ed on this “If I’m Honest” tour. He delivered amusing anecdotes with natural flair, verging somewhat on crude, but executed courteously. Taunting one member of the audience, and effortlessly treating testing gags on us as part of his act, distinctively he owned the stage with magnetism.
Aptly titled, Ed Byrne’s If I’m Honest never ventured into politics or current affairs, matter-of-factually threatening to bore with Brexit at one point remained but a one-liner. This was an elaborate interlacing of observational comedy and rumination, topics relating to family life and its subsequent cultures. With frank veracity that his children aggravate him a in manner others are unqualified of equalling, he concluded the inaugural with the unpretentious reason for this; their traits remind him of himself.
From here he jests his self-esteem, expresses contempt for his own character, progressing into pondering precisely what qualities he has which he would like to pass on to them. At its pinnacle the routine examines his own liabilities, laying into copious cultural references from his past. This worked wonders for me, being only a year younger, I identified with his thoughts on the eighties Superman movie and like him, I wished for a Big Trac, which, thankfully looking back on it, never appeared under a Christmas Tree.
With spellbindingly funny narrative, it moves swiftly, to contemporary culture engulfing his kid’s life, his abhorrence for online irritations and the interminable enticement to sabotage his career by daring himself to yell inappropriate language on Facebook or The One Show. If the great Billy Connolly mastered returning to previous points the audience may’ve forgotten about in the constant stream of bullet points, Ed Byrne nurtures this skill proficiently, and projects an non-stop laugh-out-loud show.
Far from being the end to this year’s Devizes Arts Festival though, as their gallant effort to bring us big named stars continues into November, with a highly-anticipated one-off show from legendary R&B singer and keyboardist, Georgie Fame, I will not hold my breath for next year’s line-up until I’m done dancing to Yeah, Yeah; so I’d advise you grab tickets for that asap!
Commencing with a captivating piano which takes me back to the swashed soft metal surge of eighty-seven, and Heart’s Alone, I’ve Sam Bishop’s new single “Cry for Help” rolling. Sam hasn’t the big hair for soft metal, neither was around to swagger in the school disco, slurping the drunkest floosy to this endearing power-ballad finale, praying the teacher doesn’t notice the bottle of Cinzano hanging from his back pocket. This meagre comparison stops at the opening, it doesn’t explode with wailing guitar, no hairband needed. Suffice it to say though, this release of passion has a similar craving in its narrative, and the comparison itself perhaps just an excuse to relive my school disco days!
The heartache of saying goodbye to a summer romance is a theme used before in Sam’s songs, particularly in his duo Larkin, though Sam claims this to be “the most heartfelt and vulnerable song I’ve ever penned.” In line with this, skip a decade to the boybands of the nineties, and you have yourself a more justified assessment, yet lyrically is one of Sam’s best to date.
Talking of goodbyes, it’s a shame to hear Larkin’s gig last Saturday at the Pilot was the last for some foreseeable time. Sam and Finley announced this week they’ve a “multitude of other projects and focuses that means keeping the band going at the minute is something of a struggle.” While Fin is enjoying local gigs as one-half of his family duo, The Truzzy Boys, Sam is studying music at college and exploring and pushing the confines of his talent as recorded music.
We spoke to Sam exclusively on the dawn of his previous single, A Thousand Times, in which I described it as, “a breezy indie-pop affair, dour and atmospheric with that theme of heartbroken youth so apt for Sam’s hauntingly distinctive vocals.” Cry for Help is similar in said atmosphere, even theme, however reigns more pop ballad than perhaps indie. I wonder if it’s harking back to 98 Reasons, his school boyband days, adding maturity but aiming for emotive commercial pop. Given the choice, I’d favour A Thousand Times, but I appreciate I’m not within the target audience of this new single, and if I cringe at pop mush overkilled on Heart FM, this single has much more clout than the archetype.
Upon hearing this, I consider many teenagers swaying to it at an under-18 holiday camp, saddened by the parting of weeklong friendship made, and fading memories of a sugar-coated snog behind the laundrette block. Yet without the cliché of Careless Whisper, without the slush of Wet Wet Wet, Sam, I reckon has made a brave and bold attempt to cross this border, a genre which sells like a bucketload of hot cakes.
Cry For Help by Sam Bishop is out this Friday, 13th September.
“What a FANTASTIC afternoon!” writes Sarah Tyler of Devizes Town Band.
“It was perfect weather for sitting in a park with a picnic, and over 1,000 people came along to Hillworth Park to hear Devizes Town Band’s fifth Children’s Prom today!”
“Adults and children alike sang, danced, and clapped along to a variety of film and TV themes, including The Greatest Showman, Jungle Book, The Incredibles and Strauss’s Thunder and Lightening Polka.”
“Many children entered into the spirit of the afternoon, by joining band members in dressing up and they also had the chance to hear other children perform, when some of the young students from CJ School of Music sang some wonderful songs.”
“There was also a chance for children, (and adults!) to try out a number of instruments that band members had brought – who knows, in a few years time, some of them may be playing in a future Prom!”
“Thank you to everyone who came to the concert today and we hope that we will see you all in Hillworth Park again next Sunday, for Proms in the Park, starting at 3pm!”
Now a trail of leisurely pursuits, remnants of an industrial thoroughfare are still visible on The Kennet and Avon Canal. While some lay dormant and dilapidated since its decline in the 1850s, many have been put to good use. Enhancing the tourist attraction, cafes and inns make use of warehouses and wharfs, but none perhaps as much as the small, 18th century warehouse, adjacent to the Kennet & Avon Canal Museum at the Devizes Wharf.
It’s been home for The Wharf Theatre for the past forty years, officially opening on the 16th May 1980 with a production of J B Priestley’s When We Are Married. Prior to purpose-built arts centres, Devizes was the only local town with its own theatre, and it remains the only dedicated theatre in East Wiltshire.
Formed in 1947, The Devizes and District Amateur Dramatic Society, were never happy using the Palace Cinema or Corn Exchange, and though it gave them the name Wharf Theatre in ‘73, even the first premises in Couch Lane was unsuitable. It’d take another six years before Kennet District Council redeveloped the Wharf, and the site as we know it today was reserved.
Handy, perhaps that the then treasurer, John Hurley, was former assistant chief executive at Kennet District Council, but the fact we have our own theatre is largely due to him and wife Beryl. However, if you think the theatre is all a bit hoity-toity for you, consider it was renovated with labour provided by youth, under a Job Creation Scheme, and part-funded by the Manpower Services Commission, a quango addressing unemployment. It’s said all members chipped in to help, working alongside offenders on community service!
If you’re still not convinced, thinking this is all before my time, (me too, honest!) stick around as Devizine wishes the Wharf a happy 40th birthday, and with their autumn-winter season brochure out, highlight what’s happening over the coming season. With an incorrigible womaniser, ghostly horror, an amateur boxer and a pimp, skiffle and comedy songs, flap-tastic family comedy and pantomime, oh, and Boycie, there may be something for you.
It starts 23rd -28th September with a ghost story, and everyone loves a ghost story. The Turn of the Screw, which we previewed here.
On Friday 4th October they trace back a plethora of comedy songs. Probably The best Comedy Songs in the World Ever…. Maybe! covers a history of comedy songs, from Noel Coward and Lonnie Donegan to Monty Python and The Goons. Bernie Cribbins is in there, and of course, if they need any props for the customary Benny Hill song, I’ve a milk bottle or twenty.
Also note I can do a cracking impression of both Boycie and Marlene, but not to order. John Challis has an audience with on 12th October, revealing on-set secrets from Only Fools and Horses and the actors Sir David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst. You know this one makes sense, Rodders.
Comedy a running theme for the early autumn, Alan Ayckbourn’s Living Together runs from 21st to 26th October, introducing us to the incorrigible womaniser, Norman, and his family of recognisable middle-class types whose personalities are never quite as predictable as they seem.
One of the UK’s beloved comedians and impressionists, Duncan Norvelle and award-winning singer and entertainer, Maggie Regan visit the Wharf Theatre on November 1st. Combing eccentric humour with high energy roots music, it’s all funny songs, crazy costumes and virtuoso music with The London Philharmonic Skiffle Orchestra on Friday 8th November.
In residence at Pound Arts, Corsham, but taking their show internationally, expect flap-tastic family comedy, when The Last Baguette Theatre Company presents The Bird Show on the 9th. Suitable for the “whole brood,” including fledglings from three plus, this madcap and touching show about birds facing changes to their habitat uses live music, puppetry and lots of silly bird jokes.
Now, I don’t wanna think about it just yet, sure you don’t either, not while the sun is still shining, but the big C wouldn’t be the big C without pantomime, and the Wharf has Cinderella running from Friday 6th to Saturday 14th December.
New decade, 2020 then, and nobel laureate Harold Pinter’s Tony Award-winning 1964 two-act play, The Homecoming runs from Monday 27th January to Saturday 1st February. Directed by Lewis Cowen, this is vintage Pinter, but its twists are worthy of Alfred Hitchcock.
When Teddy, an expatriate American philosophy professor, brings his wife Ruth to visit his old home in London, he finds his eccentric family still living in the house; his father, a retired butcher, his uncle, a chauffeur and his brothers, an amateur boxer and a pimp. In the conflict that follows, it is Ruth who becomes the focus of the family’s struggle for supremacy.
“No more Claire Perry,” was all I posted on Devizine’s Facebook status when I awoke to the news. 710 people reached, 9 likes/loves to date, and a handful of comments, speculating I have some abhorrence for our MP. Whoa there Nellie, I made no such political statement, whatever gave you this irrational impression?!
While local rags and news websites report Claire Perry tweeted, she would not run for the next election, you can trust I’ll carve something alternative to their platitude bulletins. Why? Don’t ask me. Seems I get accused these days of unwelcomed political opinion here, when actually only guilty of sharing the efforts of a local group campaigning against Brexit as it constitutes a happening, and happenings is what we report. Plus, it was only a Facebook share. Thank heavens for Facebook groups and grammatically unbecoming, blatantly lying memes, else it’d be war on our streets.
But I like to think Devizine is more than reporting events, remember it started with my rant causerie? Times like these I contemplate the return of No Surprises Living in Devizes; certainly, ammo is plentiful.
Yeah, I know, right, satirically it laid into Claire. Yet, those who remarked I’d be gutted, in ironic jest, you’re closer to the truth then you may think. Our April fools about Devizes Town Council erecting a statue of Claire Perry in the Market Place was our most popular article of the year, I owe her for that, at least!
In all actual fact, better the devil you know. This news is not something I’ll be doing a song and dance about. This is still Tory town, we’ll only get another, most likely worse. But as I plan this piece, which I do, sometimes, roughly, a letter lands on my doormat. It’s like they know, infiltrated my cookies, the biscuit-pinching Conservative disciplinarians; the envelope says its from the House of Commons.
Last time I got one of these, it was the answers to my interview questions, which professionally avoided actually answering any of them, and to my shock, others had similarly worded letters. Yet I contrived a column from it, which I thought was firm and fair, while a few uncompromising Tory disciples felt the need to cry about it. Funny thing is, they cried more than Claire Perry did.
So, I salute her for being an inadvertent sport, and on the whole, there were times through her decade regime I thought we saw a kinder side to Ms Perry, just poking through, on a local level. My issue is when she boarded the train to Whitehall. To disregard her local promises, to turn Sith in Parliament and the telebox, for her atrocious decisions in her ministerial roles, her offensive tweets, and her abomination of a voting record, leaves me with the sad conclusion she neglected her own ethos, if it were ever true, in pursuit of a career, no matter what the cost to others and the environment. Typical crooked politician really.
Even if the letter was an application form though, it’s not a job I’d want! I ponder how much their hands are driven, and they’re scapegoat from a higher persuasion, usually billionaire businessman backhanding their campaign fund. Signing off fracking for example, was an abysmal and unforgettable move I simply cannot abide by. But greater than this, her flamboyant charade of parading, pitifully endeavouring to convince us her influence over environmental issues had been positive was nothing short of criminal, and makes me ponder if alone on dark nights she shed a tear for the lies she knows she asserted.
If she does, she doesn’t show it, the hypothetical remainer writing, “I remain in full support of our PM and his brave Brexit strategy, as I can see no alternative if we want to honour the Referendum result.” Obviously bagged enough savings for an offshore account.
Maybe the pressure of arse-licking whoever’s at number ten was too much, and for that I cannot blame her; dropping like flies, aren’t they? The Gazette, who, surprisingly, recently grew critical of some of Ms Perry’s decisions, reported she’s snared a suiter, yeah, lucky university professor, and is off to Cambridge to shack up with the dude; ah, our loss is his…. or maybe, the other way around!
In this thought though, I celebrate, this is a “love conquers hate,” story, like the Return of Jedi’s closing scene, whip off that imperialistic helmet, there was some good in her, and through it all, I wish her all the best, honestly, I do; we had some laughs, well, I did. I do think it’s time to drop the politics all together though Ms Perry, maybe try being a dinner lady.
And the letter, well, it was congratulating us for the money we raised for Carmela, which was nice of her secretary to write (!) Seriously though, thank you for your support Claire, and for retweeting our campaign. Yet, the Gazette does go on to say she will be keeping her Wiltshire home. It would be terribly common not to have a secondary country retreat wouldn’t it? Ak, I fear her reappearing, like Nick Cotton to Dot when the cash runs low, giving it; “’ello, ma….ma constituency!”
Ah, nuts, it’s all over. Get your winter coat, hats and snow shovels and bolt down the hatches; it’s September. “We know that in September, we will wander through the warm winds of summer’s wreckage.” Back to school though, summer usually kicks in around now. So, gig-wise, here’s what we’ve got to warm your soul.
Note, this is for musical gigs, please keep up. Last month I did this people were arguing I forgot their flower pressing show, foot healing festival and stuff like that. Please consult our homepage for it’s THE most comprehensive event guide in these dark waters, even if I do say so myself. Yeah, no, yeah-no, there’s all kinds of stuff listed to do, family stuff, sporty stuff, arty stuff, stuff with stuff in it and all the stuff between. And what is more, it’s updated nearly every day, so keep your eye on it, ‘n’ stay in the know.
Thursday 5th – Sunday 8th
Starting midweek, as I’ve procrastinated this weekend; man cut lawn. Regular acoustic nights on Wednesdays at our dependable Southgate, Devizes, and there’s an open Mic at The New Inn, Semington.
Thursday 5th then, and all I have to date is that American singer-songwriter and one third of acclaimed Americana harmony trio Applewood Road, Amy Speace will be returning to Sound Knowledge, Marlborough to promote her new solo album. Me And The Ghost Of Charlemagne is produced by long-time collaborator Neilson Hubbard and recorded during the final weeks of pregnancy with her first son, capturing Amy at her most honest, with sparsely-decorated songs which double down on her larger-than-life voice and detail-rich song writing. Amy will be playing a short set in the shop and signing copies of her album from 7pm on Thursday 5th September.
Friday, and aside the popular karaoke nights, we’re glad to see The Pelican in Devizes opening up for live music, this should become a regular free venue, and bands are encouraged to get in touch with them. What better way to kick off the proceedings than with Devizes-own Funked Up?
Now, I know my boss at work has a hand in this one, and going on the thought I’ve never seen anyone more dedicated to one particular band than him, I mean it’s an obsession to the point he talks of little else, I have total faith if you like Thin Lizzy, this will be the ultimate tribute band to catch. 4-piece, Twin Lizzy play The Cavalier on Friday, with all the classics that you would expect, but also, they claim to “mix it up with some key album tracks for good measure.” Including a genre-related disco, this is the ideal opportunity to check out the Cavy. It’s booking get evermore diverse, with country and rock, to kid’s discos and a plethora of top pop tributes.
Meanwhile in Swindon, those old-time musical hall, sixties psychedelia and new world country blenders, The Astral Ponies storm the Castle. Least they say “the Astral Ponies politely asking if people would like to come along and enjoy some fine and joyous music with them,” is more suitable. If vintage punk-rock is more your thing, try The One Chord Wonders at the Rolly. Metallers think The Queen’s Tap, with Rorkes Drift, or the Vic where Ion Maiden play; stop head-banging for a second a re-read that, yeah, s’ a tribute.
But if you’re still hunting for festivals, Crash the Festival is in Andover direction, KV Brass are followed by Humdinger on the Friday and Kova Me Badd on the Saturday, roundup the Burbage Beer Festival, on the Red Lion field. The other way, Saturday 7th sees a one-dayer at Marshfield; Marshfest brings together popular Hip-Hop act, Stay Hungry, five-piece rhythm & blues combo Haney’s Big House, indie rock with The Temple Keys and Falling Fish, blues band Antalya, soul-funk with Eden, rock with The Clones, to name but a few. If this doesn’t convince you, Devizine favourites, Train to Skaville are also booked.
Devizes, make your way to the Southgate, Dry White Bones accompanied those Boot Hill Allstars last time I saw them, and it wasn’t nearly for long enough. After a stint at Glasto, it’ll be good to see this duo headlining. Larkin play Melksham’s Pilot, and for folky pop songs, Scratchy Black Cat at Stallards, Trowbridge is recommended.
There’s a Big Get Together at the Neeld, which aims to bring over 50 local clubs and organisations together in one place, to provide a showcase of activities that will encourage people to participate, get involved and expand their social life. Free event. Staying in Chippenham, soprano, Susan Coates, Mezzo- Soprano, Marie Elliott and Concert Pianist, Nick Goodall presents a mix of famous solos and duets from the world of Opera, Broadway and The All-American Songbook at the Cause. Or, rock out with Homer at the Black Horse.
Ska-punk in Swindon, as Operation 77 play Level III, or Led-Into-Zeppelin are at The Victoria.
Sunday, Devizes Town Band takeover Hillworth for the Children’s Proms in the Park, or maybe catch The Everly Brothers and Friends Tribute Show at The Neeld.
Wednesday 11th – Sunday 15th
Acoustic jam down the Southgate Wednesday, Thursday in Devizes is all about Mirko’s band, 10p Mix-Up, playing the Cellar Bar from 8pm. In aid of Liam’s fund, please support this one if you can. I interviewed Mirko recently, which covers the gig fully, so check here.
Meanwhile George Wilding and Plummie Racket support Johnny Lloyd, at The Vic, and Chris Webb does an acoustic set at The Tuppenny, Swindon.
Friday 13th has a good variety of local music, that danceable duo, The Truzzy Boys play The Crown, while our other own indie upcomers, Clock Radio are welcomed by The Southgate. People Like Us nip over to The Seven Stars at Bottlesford, the Chaos Brothers at The Three Horseshoes in Bradford, and The Skandals play The Vic in Swindon.
For an evening of classical music, try the Corn Exchange on Saturday, where two fabulous local musicians, guitarist Andrew Hurst and soprano Chloe Jordan will take you on a journey through a range of music from the medieval to now. There’s a unique original melodic rock band from Glastonbury at the Southgate called The Truthseekers, and favourite rock cover band, the Rockhoppaz play The Cross Keys, Rowde.
While the 2Tone All Ska’s are at The Woodlands Edge, and Level III Punk the Club, there’s a beer, cider and music festival at Wichelstowe, in aid of Wiltshire Air Ambulance, still awaiting the lowdown on this, but rumour has it Lottie J and other Marland favs will be playing. Vinyl Realm is at the helm of this one, and after the amazing show at the Street Festival, I’m expecting this to be a good one.
Wow, The Human League are playing Bath Racecourse on Saturday, but Reggae though? Check those Urban Lions at the Woodbridge Inn, Pewsey, or Train to Skaville at Warminster’s Prestbury Sports Bar.
Ah, we’ve reached the end of the first fortnight, I’ll update this with the following one later, best get this out now so you can plan ahead. Round it up, Sunday the 15th in Devizes where George Wilding supports The Strays at The Cavalier, or The White Bear continues its Sunday sessions with Andrew Bazeley.
Treat this as a guide, though, not a bible; more gigs and events of all kinds are updated on our homepage and Facebook page too.