Devizine’s Review of 2019

Memories are made of Facebook reminders! Ah, the trusty book of face pings a notification of yore, leading me to contemplate, “did I write that crap?!” For us 2019 has been a magical year; reviews, previews, silliness and seriousness on equal pegging. From Mark Thomas’ Comedy Project to Eric Ravilious’ The Downland Man, from MACS Theatre School’s performance at Disneyland to the bizarre occasion when Peppa Pig, Mickey Mouse and Tigger were kicked out of The Brunel Shopping Plaza, Devizine mentioned ‘em all, least as many as we could without sustaining writer’s elbow or facing a lawsuit. 2019 has blessed us with great memories, so many I needed to scavenge the archives to recall them.

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MACS at Disneyland!

While some made me think, oh yeah, I’d forgotten about that, many will remain with me forever. If I had to pick just one, well, that’s easy. My son’s friend said to him at school, “your Dad is famous for dressing up as Spiderman to deliver milk!” Typical, after years of comics, novels, posters and endless other stuff, and that’s how I’ll be remembered; the milkman in his Spiderman onesie! But you know what? When I think of the wheelchair AND new Petra race-runner Carmela’s parents managed to buy with all the wonderful donations you guys gave, I think, so be it.

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Towards the end of the run Carmela, dressed as Wonder Woman helped me deliver a few bottles. The job is a solitary one at the best of times, but after they left, I’d never felt lonelier on my milk run. I realised, I’d never make a journalist. The job of working a story, meeting people involved, but after it’s published, it’s cheerio. Decided then, I can’t let this happen. Carmela is instantly lovable, but every person I interview, every band I review, I come away making a new friend. That’s how I see it, they’re not subjects, they’re friends. That’s the difference between Devizine and a newspaper, it’s personal.

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There were many other occasions this year I’ll never forget. Such as in February when I joined a session with Clifton Powell at the fantastic Arts Together, such a wonderful charity. At the beginning of the year, when I handed a cheque to Sue Tovey and Treasurer, Frank Marshall of The Devizes Area Committee for Cancer Research. The money raised at our first birthday bash in November. In June we slipped another cheque to the homeless charity Devizes Open Doors, from the two Devizine Presents nights at the Cellar Bar, featuring the Roughcut Rebels, The Truzzy Boys and The Hound on the Mountain. The second I owe to Razah and Knati P for a brilliant night of reggae. I’ve slacked off holding events recently, but think it’s time for another come spring, what do you reckon?

August, we featured Swindon charity Doing it for Dan, who fund our future sports legends, ahead of a fundraising Casino Night. Plus, we shouldn’t forget the commendable effort by two Bromham year-six girls, Greg and Al, who gave goodie bags to the homeless this Christmas.

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Well Done Greg and Al!

Funniest interview had to be when I attempted to chat online with all the girls of the Female of the Species supergroup, that got saucy! But a massive well done to them all, when they picked up a Community Civic Award for their charity work. We also covered the campaign to get six-year-old Liam Pangrazzi to Egypt for vital surgery. August saw the formation of 10p Mix Up, and I talked to Mirko Pangrazzi about his love of Irish folk, and though the band has reduced to him and Bran Kerdhynen they continue as the Celtic Roots Collective. This was to promote a fundraiser at the Cellar Bar for Liam, with George Wilding, which Andy kindly reviewed; school night wasn’t it!

To the beginning of the year though, when our mocking another local website’s awards led to actually holding our own. Bit silly really, not going there again. But you know, the puerile articles and spoofs seem to be the ones with the highest hits, that and food reviews; greedy munchkins!

It’s true, our most popular article this year was in September when I was invited to try out New Society, the new restaurant in Devizes. Interesting while cafes and restaurants don’t feature often on Devizine, it was extremely popular. Others restaurants should take heed, it’s a worthy venture to invite me, or Andy, to review your tucker, and I’m not just after a free lunch; well, I might be, but honestly, he who dares, Rodney, he who dares!

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The New Society piece was closely followed in popularity by our April fool’s joke announcing Devizes Town Council planned to erect a statue of Claire Perry in the Market Place! Other silly stuff included a signpost campaign, when a Wiltshire Council highway engineer advised Devizes Town Council that a sign at the High Street junction with Long Street was not big enough. A Romance Story, upon news of Claire Perry standing down in September. But rather fondly received, was our Top Twenty Best Vids of the Vizes article in October; check it out, see if you’re in it!

Serious stuff though; stats. I aimed to better last year’s hits, which was 30,588 and I’m delighted to say we did: 39,356 hits, and counting! That’s awesome, and I thank you all for the support and encouragement. Further thanks to our many sporadic contributors and photographers, but none so much as Mr Andy Fawthrop, his many contributions have been a valid and vital element to Devizine. Thank you, Andy.

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In January I nipped to the old Palace Cinema to report on the new owners, Picture-Drome and their plans to renovate this wonderful building. Chatted with Devizes Town Clerk, Simon Fisher about the transfer deal from Wiltshire Council to Devizes Town Council, and the future usage of the Market Place. Both in February and August I spoke with businessman Iain Wallis, heading the campaign against it; why do I get myself into these things?! For a spoof on the same theme I wrote a short “Godfather” parody on the parking in the Market Place fiasco. Oh, so long ago now, but still a great loss for accessibility in town. Traffic issues also came to a head in Calne when Labour were campaigning to urgently secure funding for an independent traffic study, to investigate practical options for Curzon Street, the bottle-neck in Calne; still the same I believe.

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Last Year’s Prediction of How The Market Place May Look in The Future

Not trying to overshadow the opening of Melksham’s £236,000 Splashpad in August, I ranted about the state of the Wiltshire Council owned playpark in Silverlands Road, Rowde. Much as I’d like to announce it a success, and despite it having thousands of hits, absolutely nothing has been done and no correspondence has been made in reply by Wiltshire Council or our local councillor Anna Cuthbert. If you repeatedly say it doesn’t exist hopefully it’ll be true WC; I think not, Devizes may now be getting a splashpad, to replace the slashpad, but I will be kicking up a fuss again soon, and urge you to let me know of other playparks left in such a terrible and unsafe state.

August also saw Devizes part fund a zero-waste system at The Healthy Life Café. However, the best news for zero-waste shopping came to Devizes when I paid a visit to the all-new Little Eco Shop at the Wharfside, on Couch Street. April, I was pleased to talk with Wiltshire Police’s PC Paul Woodbridge about knife crime in the local area. July saw the amazing Gerry Watkins bring his Big Yellow Bus project to Swindon.

February met controversy when DOCA changed the date of the carnival; first world problem, eh? I had a natter with key manager, Loz Samuels. We also talked in June, ahead of the festival, and discussed the ambitious plans for confetti battle and the colour rush. One of my favourite articles to research this year was DOCA related, in a way, when, in July, I penned: How Does Devizes Confetti Battle Compare to the World’s Most Bizarre Festivals?

All quiet for DOCA through Autumn, but Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the spectacular Lantern Parade, which I dragged my daughter to with the promise of a brownie. We all look forward to February’s Festival of Winter Ales, which I previewed recently.

Unsure what happened to May’s newly formed duo De Novo with Claire Gilchrist and Mark Povey, interviewed Claire at the time. Also interviewed Jordan Whatley ahead of our Open Doors gig. One band which shook the rafters this year was Little Geneva, we spoke to them about their EP, ahead of their launch at the Cellar Bar in March, which was an absolutely mind-blowing gig.

Summer days though, one of my favourite gigs in Devizes had to be in August, when People Like Us came to the Three Crowns with support by Tamsin Quin and Vince Bell in aid of Julia’s House. Steady though, more gig memories to follow.

We reviewed a wide range of great music this year, starting with Swindon’s dub project, Subject A’s album Writer’s Eyes. Talk in Code’s Resolve album was next. August, I featured the Easy Chairs’ EP “Devil’s Music,” chatted to Lottie J for her single “You,” with Tamsin Quin about the single “Scandal,” and Mike Barham’s “Relevance.” September saw Jamie R Hawkins, “Thank you Friend,” and an absolutely brilliant authentically vintage soul/blues album, Numb Tongues, from Bristol’s The King Dukes, we’ve simply got to get these guys a gig in Devizes this year. It was also great to hear our reggae aficionados; Urban Lions return with the single “Champion Sound.”

Phil Cooper got a feature in October, reviewing the “Falling at your Feet” single, but also catching up on the many other releases I was supposed to review but slipped to the back burner! The article doubled-up as an apology to Phil. Premonition time though, I suggested “Phil’s song writing ability is first rate and, with or without the trio of aspiring local musicians; Jamie and Tamsin Quin….” Whoa! Did I predict the start of The Lost Trades here? Call me Nostrildamus, or whatchamacallit! We broke news of the Lost Trades in December, and look forward to this formal trio grouping.

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Another star album, we reviewed in November but is due for release this February is Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue’s Live at the Louisiana, and it was great to follow this up by meeting the man himself at the Southgate the following month. Yeah, more about Devizes answer to the O2 arena to follow; we love you, Southgate!

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If I had to pick a favourite album which we reviewed this year, I’d scratch my stubble until sore. Through possible aforementioned albums by Subject A, Ruzz, and the King Dukes, I’d have to pick “Mutiny” by Mr Tea & The Minions, which I reviewed in October; gorgeous meowing folky-Balkan ska shenanigans that it is.

May introduced us to promising new group, who I’d argue is our local scene’s best newcomer, Daydream Runaways, in a review of their debut single, “Light the Spark.” The band went from strength to strength, reviewing “Fairy-tale Scene” in June, which was followed by their astounding performance at the Vinyl Realm Stage at DOCA’s Street Festival. The pinnacle, recording-wise, was October’s release of “Closing the Line,” with the dejected subject of the closing of the Honda works in Swindon.

It was in June when I blew the story that Vinyl Realm would host and fund a second, localised stage, and they did such a fantastic job. August saw the grandest event in Devizes, our festive week, which begun for me inside the petite yurt on the Green. When DOCA gave us Los Galindos’ Udel, it must’ve been the weirdest night of the year, amazing though it was. While the intention was to review the entire “black rat Monday,” it’s hard with so much going on. Still, as a website dedicated to our local scene, the highlight was Vinyl Realm’s stage where Daydream Runaways, Ben Borrill, Strange Folk and Cracked Machine unconditionally rocked.

Britpop trio, Billy Green 3 begun recording some tracks, we reviewed “I should be moved,” in June, and followed in November with “Soul,” I look forward to the forthcoming album. So too did Sam Bishop, coming to ahead in December with release of Cold Kingdom EP, but it was sad to hear of the split with Finely and breakup of Larkin. Though good to hear both of them progressing well. In July I reviewed, Same Days, a twenty-year-old London born Swindon performer, whose real name, David Whelpdale is cousins with Fin, and let’s not forget those Truzzy Boys! Not just music though, I review anything, like local author Jerry Bradley’s debut novel, Candy Man and when I chatted to Kelly of Haunted UK Spirit Team about our local ghosts.

I previewed the beginnings of Funky Sensations at the Exchange, spoke with DJ G-Force. And I pondered drum n bass, as Vinyl Realm staged such nights at the Lamb; managed one in April, danced my ass off, despite feeling a tad elderly! The Stone Mountain Sinners at The Devizes Ameripolitan Club was another of many previews which I followed up by attending; enjoyed that, with Jamie R Hawkins, the last night for Dean at the Cons Club before transforming the Cavalier Community Hall. I did manage to drop into see them for October’s Devizes in the Round with Tamsin Quin, Zenne, Josh Beddis and Danny McMahon.

I reminisced about my rave days upon the sad news of Keith Flint’s passing, and my zine making days when The Swindon Zine Fest announced its second annual event. Ryan West kindly reviewed My Science Fair in Bradford, and I covered the snakes in a museum display at Wiltshire Museum. We do like to have some guest posts; Jemma Brown poured some emotion into a review of Things I Know to be True at The Wharf Theatre in April. The same month when Jemma revealed the ambitious plans for The Full Tone Festival in July; a very successful day, Andy reviewed it. Thanks also to Sarah Tyler of Devizes Town Band, for telling us how the Children’s Proms in Hillworth Park went in September. One I had to miss but previewed, was Purple Fish’s Dark Side of the Moon tribute at Lavington, yet I’m sure there’s so much I missed. Let’s focus on the stuff we did catch!

April saw me in the Sham, meeting Bruce Bury at the Assembly Hall, and also the organiser of their Party in the Park. Great then, to be invited along to huddle in the rain with Train to Skaville at Parkfest when they supported Neville Staple; had to be a highlight of my year. You know I love a bit of ska, and after befriending Bristol ska legend, Ya Freshness by reviewing his album last year, he asked me to do a radio show for a new internet station, Boot Boy Radio. Yeah, I know, nothing to do with Devizine, but without this website I’d never have got the opportunity to cross it off my bucket list, and Ska-ing West Country has also become somewhat of a “thing” now too.

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awful selfie time with Jools of Train to Skaville!

June and I wrote about Solstice, commenting on English Heritage’s conditions of entry to Stonehenge, and Arthur Pendragon’s reaction. Talked to cycle enthusiast, Sharon Crabbe who planned to ride the Costa Rica Cycle Challenge in November to raise funds for Woman V Cancer, ahead of her gin night at the Cons Club. Also, in June we detailed the Marlborough Opens Studios. I was pleased to hear the event raised funds for Arts Together, and also, Clifton Powell was included in the event; this had a heart-warming finale you’d have to read about here.

It’d be laborious if I simply listed all the fantastic gigs and events we’ve reviewed, yet there’s too many to detail. Andy reviewed Rick Wakeman’s KGB at the Corn Exchange in Jan, I loved Larkin’s EP launch gig at the Cons Club. April I was invited to Devizes Musical Theatre’s production of Made in Dagenham, and loved Asa Murphy’s tribute to Buddy Holly, something I could drag my mum to!

I think it goes without saying, The Southgate has been a lifeline in providing regular free gigs in Devizes. Unsure about Andy, who gave us reviews of Thompson Smurthwaite, Jamie Williams, Hadrian’s Union, The Bone Chapel, Kimberley Rew and Paul Cowley, but my most memorable gigs were Jon Amor, The Boot Hill Allstars, Sophia & The Soul Rebels, Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue, Back Wood Redeemers, Six O’clock Circus, Tamsin Quin, Soapbox and Patrick Goodenough, Alabaster Queen and of course, Phil Cooper & The Slight Band.

It was also great news to see the Barge at Honeystreet back in the swing of things, and I ventured over when Knati and Razah held the first of their Reggae Nights in July.

You can always find Andy at the Long Street Blues Club, he’s not only part of the furniture but also reviewed Jon Amor, Ian Siegel, Rick Estrin & The Wildcats, Kyla Brox Band, Kossoff, Skinny Molly, Watermelon Slim, Big Dez Blues Band and to finish in apt style, John Coughlan’s Quo. In September I popped in myself, and was wowed. It’s clear where your ticket price goes, The Malone-Sibun Band and support by Joe Hicks knocked me for six. Another new adventure for me was the Cellar Bar’s monthly Open Mic, this one a Halloween Special, and quite horrific it was too, in a nice way!

Around July, new owners of The White Bear opened up for Sunday live sessions, and Andy became part of the furniture there too. Vince Bell kicked it off, Ian O’Regan followed, and Eddie Witcomb, Andrew Bazeley, Jamie R Hawkins, Phil King, Cutsmith, Wade Merritt all followed. I joined the fun to catch George Wilding play. The Cross Keys in Rowde also started a live music programme in September, I managed to catch Rockhoppaz there. But a new year’s resolution is to get out of town and see some other venues, the notion spurred on by October’s trip to Melksham’s brilliant boozer, The Foresters Arms, when Train to Skaville called in there.

July is Fantasy Radio’s Month of Sundays, Andy covered Tamsin Quin and Andrew Hurst, then the Rockin’ Bandits. Then Lark in the Park the following month. Along with events such as Devizes Comedy Festival at the Corn Exchange in September, Chippenham Folk Festival, The Yirdbards at Bradford Folk Club, Henry Priestman & Loved-Up Les Glover at the Rachel Fowler Centre, Melksham, The Full Tone’s Big, Bold and Russian concert at St Johns, PSG Choir at the Neeld, Sheer Music’s Second Subterranean gig at the Cellar Bar with Falling Fish, Larkin and Clock Radio, Sunjay at the Royal Oak, Corsham, White Horse Opera’s Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Mikado,” and Bizet’s Carmen and the Acoustic Strawbs at Melksham Assembly Hall; he never comes up for air.

My last gig of the year was Devmas in the Cellar Bar, a most memorable occasion, particularly when organiser Mike Barham was hoisted up with Luke by Jon Amor to perform Wham’s Last Christmas! Despite nipping out to catch the Roughcut Rebels blow the roof off the Black Swan, which was bloody great too.

In March the Devizes Arts Festival announced their line-up and we were on the ball this year, previewing the great events they held. Starting with an interview with Ian Ashpitel and Jonty Stephens, a tribute to Morcombe and Wise. Sara McGuiness too, manager and keyboardist with Cuban-Congolese fusion band, Grupo Lokito; I managed to attend this, it was awesome. My favourite, and definitely one of the best gigs of the year was Coventry’s ska-reggae band Barb’d Wire.

For the Arts Festival, Andy took on reviews of Josephine Corcoran and the poetry slam at the Vaults, The String Sisters at St Andrew’s Church, Moscow Drug Club, and The Hot Club at the Three Crowns. Out of all the fringe events, I enjoyed She-Robot the best, which we both attended and had a good natter while Gail Foster snapped us in a rare conference! The most unfortunate part of the festival, was when headliner Ed Byrne’s car broke down and the support comedians covered for him. Though Chris Stokes and David Hadingham patched the gap wonderfully, it was September before Ed could reschedule, but when he did it was well worth the wait, although my ribcage may not agree.

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Immediately after the Arts Festival we held our breath for November, when Georgie Fame was due to appear, alas, after a terrible accident, he was unable to make it. Had to be the biggest disappointment of the year, but we wish Georgie a speedy recovery. I’m in the process of leaking this year’s line-up, especially happy to report award-winning Limerick folk artist, Emma Langford, is to appear; not to be missed!

Talking festivals, while I’m getting past it for puking in tent, I ventured to Bromham’s brilliant Owlfest, chilling with George Wilding, Kirsty Clinch, and her Dad. July, I attended Devizes Scooter Club’s first rally in Rowde; great event, brilliant music, Particularly, The Erin Bardwell Collective and Orange Street; the sound did bodge up towards the end, but lessons hopefully learned for this year.

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On the eve of Devizes Food Festival announcing their events, in July I contemplated what attributes taste, be it class, culture or trends, which led onto some hints of what to expect in September. Not to outdo September’s Taste of Wiltshire at the Farm Cookery School at Netherstreet, Bromham, which I previewed but couldn’t attend; must try harder this year! I did waddle to the Market Place in September for the Devizes Food Festival grand market, and had a memorable fill, stopping for far too long at the Gourmet Brownie Kitchen based over at Poulshot Lodge, and Muck & Dunder rum bar, to be introduced to Frome’s wonderful folk four-piece, The Decades.

Straight after Andy previewed Melksham’s Craft Beer & Cider Festival, and I previewed more Bier stuff at Seend’s Oktoberfest, which I still haven’t made it to, anyone would think Seend was in Dusseldorf! I did, however, love meeting artists Si Griffiths, Mike Long and Emma Sally for an all-together different art show in Chippenham in September. Another arty thing was gate-crashing The Lawrence Society of Art’s Annual Exhibition in November.

At the Wharf Theatre we previewed Legally Blonde Jnr, The Turn of the Screw, Alan Ayckbourn’s Living Together, and I’m sure a few more, as well aa a super feature, looking both back, and forward for their 40th birthday. Sometimes though you preview something which sounds so good, such as the interactive performance/drama workshop Spectacular Space-Bots at the Shoebox, and also their intriguing drama-thriller work, At This Stage, but with hardly any hits. I’m determine to take a visit to the Shoebox this year, see if I can muster some attention from Devizions.

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Election time came in November, and using New Society as a base, I interviewed our prospective candidates. Not without some annoyance from our readers asking if Devizine has become political. Not at all, Devizine is mine, and yours, so I’ll write on any subject I feel driven to explore, so there! If it’s not for you, then scroll on, as we do feature stuff, I’m sure you will enjoy. Just felt Tory Town overreacted, as if having an alternative opinion is now illegal. Get over yourself!

Fact is, these interviews were popular and necessary; it was great to meet them all. Rachael Schneider Ross was first up, Emma Dawnay next. Labour heading an event at the Cellar Bar in aid of Devizes Open Doors with George Wilding, Vince Bell and The Celtic Roots Collective was rather special. I caught up with Jo Waltham too, early in December, but my emails to Danny Kruger were left unanswered, my response wrapped up an election conclusion I labelled as a one-off return to my satirical rant column, No Surprises Living in Devizes; sorry, won’t happen again. No one took heed anyway, and the inevitable happened. Devizes is Devizes, sadly, it never changes.

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Yet we make the most of it, we have a great entertainment scene, with theatre, arts and live music and this year has seen it all blossom. We should be proud. There may be some points I need to make on this, and a few disusing the future of Devizine. It’s okay, nothing bad, but still, don’t want to go out this New Year on any of those notions, so, we’ll save it for next year and I’d like to finish by thanking everyone for their support, and wishing you all a Happy New Year!

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© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
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