They always remind me of an occasion, at a festival in Andalusia. I watched this great French reggae band. The slighty rotound frontman looked rather like the late, great Jacob Miller. After the performance I noted he was standing close to me, watching the following act. I went over in hope of telling him how much I enjoyed their music, praying they spoke English.
I momentarily regretted my school French lessons, which I spent making homemade comics out of text books, as he replied with an adamant no upon asking if he spoke English.
All the vocabulary my intoxicated mind could conjour was “tres bien,” so I repeated it perpetually in true Del-Boy fashion!
Otherwise the meeting was the awkward silence of communication breakdown, in which I suspected they thought I was completely nuts. Not so far from the truth.
So, I namedropped Jacob Miller and suddenly we had understanding and mutual respect for the man. My point is, sometimes the Emertarians sing in Spanish and sometimes English, often the Spanish ones more emotive, but reggae has no language barriers, because it’s spiritual meaning and uplifting ambiance is universal. As with the French Jacob Miller-alike, we were on the same song sheet….
Naturally at that conjunction, I rolled a joint.
And that’s my song for the day. Very good. Carry on….
Wonderful Trowbridge-based music charity, Wiltshire Rural Music revealed an online programme project, Live at Town Hall, today.
In collaboration with Trowbridge Town Hall, they plan to stream full concerts of our outstanding local musicians, starting in February. I hope to have more information for you, when dates and acts are announced.
Wiltshire Rural Music do an outstanding job supporting and enabling local communities and individuals to realise their musical potentials and fullfilling their ambitions. They provide room hire, give bursaries and work closely with Alzheimer’s Support, taking music into care homes and schools across the county.
More info on the work they do here. Follow them on Facebook for details of the streamed gigs.
You can give it to me straight and agree, I’m old. Though as much as I hold dear the hours browsing record shops for a seven-inch slither of vinyl, the stream’s advantage is manyfold. Perhaps none more than the increased availability and distribution of home-made wares.
Vinyl junkies were restricted to what the music industry decided. While DIY music was around then, it was a needle in an underground haystack, obscured by a lack of prior knowledge of counter culture distribution, and even if you were aware, still they cost post and packaging.
Send a SAE in good faith, and when the musician finally finished his last bong, made it off his scabby sofa to the post office, you’d receive your cassette, only to find out it wasn’t as good as you’d been convinced it was by the crazy fractal advert in a punk-paste zine. We’ve come a long way, folks.
Local independent, country, singer songwriter, Kirsty Clinch posts on Facebook, one of the many social media platforms she tweaks to promote her music. Her latest single, Around and Around has reached a staggering 2K Spotify streams in just five days, managing to peak at number four in the iTunes country chart. It’s an achievement made mostly on her own, but does it prove the value of DIY rather than aiming to be signed by a label, can anyone with social media savvy achieve it, or is simply that it’s a great song from an exceptionally talented musician?
It’s certainly that much. Dreamy and evoking, Around and Around sees the ever-enlightening Kirsty at the ultimate perch in her career, in line for the forthcoming album, it leaves you dripping in anticipation for more. “Around & Around is all about catching your dreams,” she explained, “taking chances and not getting stuck in ruts; that’s just what I’m doing right now.”
A smidgen punchier than her previous release, Fit the Shoe, and perhaps even more beguiling than that beauty. To hear it is to engrossed in its pensive narrative, as all classic country should. But its Americana influences are subtle, it never references peripheral subject, as much UK country artists feel impelled to mention boxcars, dustbowls, and things you wouldn’t expect to find in their English suburban hometowns. No, Around and Around, like, Fit the Shoe is romantically topsy-turvy themed, flexible for a wider, international audience and contemporary sounding.
That said, Kirsty is no stranger to authenticity, travelling and performing in Nashville at venues such as the Blue Bird. Aside the clear influence of country’s leading ladies, the likes of Parton and Wynette and modern folk-rock artists, KT Tunstall and KD Lang spring to mind, Around and Around evoked memories of Kate Bush more than any other tune I’ve heard of Kirsty’s, in its haunting atmosphere rather than vocal arrangement. I put this to her.
“I don’t get the Kate Bush thing; my voice is not as squeaky!” she laughed, “I’m not a big fan of hers, which is weird as you’re not the first person to say it either. She’s huge though and loved for what’s she does, so I won’t complain!” I had to explain I meant more the whole ambience of the sound rather than squeakiness of her voice, but we needed to move onto the immediate success of this particular tune, and where she hope it will lead.
“It won’t go higher,” Kirsty predicts, and I hope she’s wrong. “Only slowly hides away after that, the famous people take over sooner or later! But songs can always come back, so [I’ve] just got to keep hustling.”
I took Kirsty back a couple of years, sitting chatting on the lawn at BromFest, we discussed the hopes of an album then; best things come to those who wait. Aside her nonchalant social media persona, I perceive Kirsty to be a perfectionist on the quiet, certainly shows with these two singles. “Yes, I have one more coming out hopefully before May, and then I’ll drop the 14-track album,” she announced, “That’s why it’s taken so long, it’s a big one, but for a first timer in online sales, I had to do it to catch up!”
I’m aware Peter Lamb had a hand in this remarkable achievement, so I name-dropped the local legend, “all produced by Pete?”
“I did the whole thing in my bedroom studio by myself,” Kirsty replied, adding an angel emoji. “Pete added the bass, and then corrected my mixing and mastering mistakes at the end, as I got frustrated on the last bit! So, I’m pretty proud of it for that reason.”
It must be a relief to get an album complete, but the hard work is only halfway there, getting out and promoting it follows. Which part does Kirsty favour, despite psychically getting out and launching is impossible at the moment?
“I like all of the process,” she chuckled. “Gigs will come back, I’m just making the most of the situation and working with what I’ve got for now, there is always a way around things when you’re creative.”
Returning to my opening notion, due to developments in tech and a motivation for independence, a professional sound can be achieved at home. Kirsty furthered that she did the artwork and music video for this track all by herself too, due to lockdown.
“The album launch is not so essential,” she pondered, “when I can promote it just as good online anyway now.” As I said, Kirsty has a sturdy online presence, accomplished at building a YouTube audience, but is that more important to her than an album?
“It’s equal. All my fans are excited for the album! But the social media side of things mean they get to know you more, which is essential for selling music in the first place. Loads of people sell music, the marketing is the part that makes them what to listen to yours.”
And her secret?
“Get to know your story etc,” Kirsty elucidated, “and connect with the music; if you just say ‘buy my single’ and that’s all your social media is about, you won’t get many results.”
For the end of our chat, we dithered and pondered if the angle of this piece should focus on the song or herself. I’m of the opinion, when the creative open themselves up to releasing art, a part of creator is revealed through it, so practically, they’re similar. You are the song; the song is you; be one with the song! It’s why naïve teenage fans really believe they know a popstar enough to fall in love with them, and perhaps is augmented with homemade product. There’s a huge connection between the singer and the song, though, I put to Kirsty.
“Yah, subscribe to my YouTube channel, and they would have all the details anyway!” I suggest you do, as the interconnection is all-encompassing, the song is awesome, and likewise, so is Kirsty Clinch.
A huge congratulations to Carmela and the Chillery-Watson family of Lavington, who knew nothing about the Points of Light awards until Carmela was rewarded with one this week. “We are absolutely bowled over with pure happiness at this surprise award,” mum Lucy said.
First established in the USA by President George Bush in 1990, UK Points of Light was developed in partnership with the US programme and launched at Downing Street in 2014. Since then, hundreds have been named Points of Light by the Prime Minister, highlighting an enormous array of innovative and inspirational volunteering across the length and breadth of Britain.
Points of Light are outstanding individual volunteers; people making a change in their community, and after her 300km challenge last year, we couldn’t think of anyone more suitable and deserving than our lovable Carmela.
Diagnosed at the age of three with L-CMD, a progressive muscle-wasting disease which weakens every muscle over time, Carmela is now six and has come a colossal way in raising awareness and funds for Muscular Dystrophy, and continues to be an inspiration to us all.
“Thank you, Boris,” Carmela said, “this is awesome news, I can’t believe it, it’s so amazing. Thank you so much.” Although the prime minister is just another celebrity notched on Carmela’s campaign trail, meeting with the likes of Beverly Knight, Frank Bruno, Jimmy Carr, and even Harry Duke of Sussex. Oh, and not forgetting last September when Wonder Woman actress, Gal Gadot, donated over £3K to Carmela’s fund. Face it, between Boris and Gal, I know which one I’d rather meet!
It’s a wonder, excuse the pun, if Carmela remembers the morning when she helped me on my milk round at all. I hope so, as it was a pleasure to meet her, Lucy and dad, Darren, and an occasion, I’ll always hold dear; even if I was a little tired and smelly!
CEO of Muscular Dystrophy UK Catherine Woodhead congratulated Carmela, and added, “everyone at MDUK is thrilled that Carmela’s outstanding fundraising efforts for the charity have been recognised by the Prime Minister. To date, Carmela and her family have raised nearly £50,000 for MDUK.” Which is simply, amazing. Well done Carmela.
Is it campaign point-scoring, as the authorities seem to presume, or concern for health which encouraged Wiltshire PCC candidate, Mike Rees to volunteer to administer lateral flow tests? Whatever, the bottom line is discouraging anyone from attempting to help out during this crisis is bureaucratic nonsense.
And besides, just a brief chat with Mike recently, throughly convinced me his motives are genuine. He’s an open minded, authentic and down-to-earth guy, with experience in the field and a passion for the role.
Mike explains: “It’s with great surprise and disappointment that I have to let you know that I have been stopped, and apparently barred, from becoming a volunteer in the police effort to combat Covid19.
As a retired police officer I put my name forward for volunteer duties last year when the pandemic struck.
This month I answered another call to volunteer to administer lateral flow tests to police officers and staff. I had a training session earlier this week and completed the online NHS assessment and passed to certificate my competency for the task.
Today I was expecting to attend a ‘dry run’ session however I’ve now been told I cannot attend as they have to investigate the ‘rules’ as allowing me to volunteer may suggest bias on their part because I’m a candidate for the role of Wiltshire Police Crime Commissioner.
I’m disappointed and dismayed to be denied the opportunity to volunteer to support the police, a force I worked in for 30 years.
I’ve asked for the ‘rules’ to be clarified as I see no possible concerns.
For your information, I do not agree with this decision to bar me from volunteering.
I’m standing as an independent candidate, not aligned to any political party and volunteering was a personal decision.”
Mike is fast becoming the outside chance of becoming our PCC, and we’re backing him fully here on Devizine after his Malmesbury boxing club recently helped out the homeless, appealing for donations of sleeping bags , food and clothes from locals and delivering them to the OpenDoors support agency in Devizes.
Plus, this is, by far, not the first charitable thing Mike has engaged in.
Great things about ska are many fold, but a topper most one has to be collaboration. Rather than set groups, as with most mainstream music, musicians uniting for projects is common and has always been the ethos of ska and reggae since day dot. Perhaps being the very reason it’s so lively and communal.
Another great thing about our song of the day, where Islington’s ska legend Nick Welsh, aka King Hammond, teams up with that crazy Essex duo Death of Guitar Pop, is the ska style displayed, near enough mimics the jump blues “shuffle” on which ska is originally based.
But history aside, let’s just enjoy this new track for all it’s worth. DoGP are fast rising in rank on the UK ska scene, with a carefree “Nutty Boys” fashion, it’s easy to see why.
And that’s my song for the day. Very good. Carry on….
Congratulations go to folk duo Antonie & Owena for winning the G.S.M.C award for Best Album this year. Yet it’s not their first award, winning best duo at last year’s GSMC, and others. Here’s Something Out of Nothing, which I think explains all you need to know about how and why they won it!
And that’s my song for the day. Very good. Carry on….
Ladies and gents, this is the moment you’ve waited for…. or maybe not. This isn’t the Greatest Showman, this is the greatest SNOWman!Yes, we held a little snowman competition, and here’s how it went…..
Two things didn’t occur to me upon posting a picture of our snowman on our Facebook page, offering others to do likewise in a competition fashion. Firstly, the colossal response, but I guess Sunday’s snowfall was a golden opportunity to get out of houses and have a little social distanced fun. Alas, now the power of the sun and rain has reduced the white blanket to the odd splatter here and there. We will always have photographic memories of our once proud sculptures, and a carrot on the front lawn. Here comes some now……
Secondly, how to actually go about judging a snowman competition, never having judged anything of the sort before. I gathered some thoughts to criteria, I Googled and found some rather serious rules from other such competitions.
Certain I wasn’t intending to make it half as serious as these, their judgements were much as I anticipated. There are factors to consider. Creativity for starters. Originality, tradition, competence, and dedication are equally important. Size is good, but it’s, as you know, not everything, when building a snowman that is.
Many were divided into age groups, which I figured awkward. Building a snowman is usually a group activity, it’s about families, all ages contribute. Kids run around trying to construct the starting ball, dads get the backbreaking task of rolling it up and taking half the grass and autumn leaves with it, while mums usually stay in the warm sourcing carrots and hats; it’s a communal experience for sure! Okay, I’m generalising for artistic license and know it’s not really like that, trying to be funny, when really, judging a snowman competition is snow joke (see what I did there?) But making a snowman has no boundaries or conditions, any age, and race and gender, everyone together, getting creative….
He made snow chicks, cats and dogs….
But part of the beauty of creating a snowman is the feeling of togetherness. Here is an art where anyone can be the artist, provided they’re willing to get wet gloves. And in that notion, where some strive to be original, often the traditional method is tried and tested. A good snowman doesn’t need to be carved by Henry Moore with flawless features; he needs a carrot for a nose, he needs two pebbles for eyes, twigs for arms and an old hat and scarf. We live in a traditional county, after all.
Then again, there’s something striking when creative genius gets to work and original ideas bend the theme. Some can be topical, facemasks a common theme this year, or culture based, whereas some can be funny, others damn-right rude….
Rudeness I can take, live by it; but at least drag yourself away from Babestation for a few minutes to get out and actually build a snowman, rather than, as some did, Google “rude snowman” and share the first image which pops up. Sad, but true, spoils it for the kids, of all ages.
Can I pick a winner?
Drum roll…… Tricky. I’ve narrowed it down to my ten favourites, and here they are. I apologise, I tried to source a snowman type of prize, but they’re a tad out of season and this was a spontaneous idea. I think a bit of future planning, for next year’s snow storm, being the idea was so popular, and we could have prizes. For now, winners can print off my certificate here, and a colour-me-in sheet, if they like that sort of thing! Thank you all so much for letting me see your brilliant snowmen, I loved looking at them all, having a penchant for snowmen, I admit unashamedly!
Oh, and if you do colour them, I’d love to see your fine colouring skills!
Even portions of expressive contemporary pop, the ambience of post-goth and downtempo electric blues of trip hop makes this Staffordshire singer, Darla Jade really someone to watch. With a haunting uniqueness about her voice and style, there’s shards of Evanescence fused with Beth Orton. It’s somehow individually chartable but would also appease alternative rock or goth aficionados alike.
Subscribe to her YouTube channel, hear her own stamp on Radiohead’s Creep, and realise, her talent is so very special.
And that’s my song for the day. Very good. Carry on….
No video to this one. Do we need visuals? Not when it’s this good; my favourite track of Brighton-based contemporary ska heads, Dakka Skanks.
They’re lively, diverse, lots of fun, and I think we’ll be hearing a lot more from them in the near future.
If the Duallers have reached a pivotal point akin to the Specials, and Death of Guitar Pop are providing the tongue-in-cheek Madness equivalent, I believe these guys could be The Beat of this era, as there was a band unafraid to experiment.
Dakka Skanks are majorly ska, but throw a lovable but carefree punk attitude, and a wide range of other influences, such as soul, into the melting pot, and concoct something uniquely entertaining.
If I’d one criticism of Britpop, during its heyday, least that which the pop charts threw at us, was, in an era of progressing technological electronica, embedded deep in my psyche, Britpop, to me felt regressive. I argued at the time, if The Beatles were still together, in their prime, they’d be producing techno or drum n bass, for they were trailblazing, innovative and progressive. Whereas, picking on Oasis, particularly, being they seemed to strive to be a Beatles tribute as far as I could see, were relapsing to a previous generation.
Then the crossover crossed back over. If waning was a heady dawn of the nineties where rock fused electronica on the Madchester scene, towards the end of the decade The Prodigy were advancing with an almost punk slant, and Noel Gallagher was lending his vocals to the Chemical Brothers. To pick the era apart now is futile, no one remembers what the fuck was going on most of the time!
Let’s agree to disagree, put it in the past and note today, retrospection is big business, and there’s nothing wrong with songs which hark back to the sixties, for it was pioneering but more importantly, divine and inspiring. Particularly when, rather than regenerating cover songs, but acting as a base of inspiration. We see a lot of this; from the sixty’s British blues scene to bubble-gum pop, but perhaps not produced with as much passion as Skates & Wagons.
They sent me a link to their album, Path of Condieon Boxing Day, so apologies it was put on the backburner but I had Scrabble tiles to lay and Quality Street to puke. The EP I reviewed previously appears to be taken down, and I’m unsure why. The album, is akin to all I mentioned about the EP, only more so. If regenerating Britpop is tiresome and monotonous to you, you need to check this Oxford duo, because they manage it with the precision, innovation and splendour of classic pop-rock and blues of that sixties period, with bells on.
I mean sure, it opens with an interesting approach, Chevron Waltz proves this is going to be no everyday indie-Britpop ride, it is indeed as the name suggests, a waltz. If we’re going to revel in compassions, I’ll cite The Kinks or Small Faces, The Spencer Davis Group, The Troggs, but predominantly the Beatles, more than Oasis. Plus, we’d need to break it down with the fab-four’s individual preferences. Opening then is experimental, merging traditional styles of music is certainly McCartney, yet the majority, like Indian Summer rolls smooth, like the later Beatles, Sane Again is anthemically mellowed; very George Harrison.
But this is an album which builds progressively, just like the sixties did. The earlier tunes, initiate sixties pop, and sit at radio-friendly three-to-four-minute timings. Mr Wake Up, for example, explains how it’s going to roll for the time being, beat-based shards of classic pop-rock. But things liven up at Conversation with God, the walt reprise towards the end nuances the album is progressing the entire decade and we’re midway. Waste of the Sky is subtly psychedelia, like the opening to the beatnik period.
It’s this equidistant section where Skates and Wagons really shine, it’s as if we didn’t need the 1980s, we were fine where we were. Catchy tracks like The Man Who Never Sleeps and All the Love mirror the advancing changes of the middle of the decade, and bring us in line with classic seventies rock bands like Genesis and ELO.
It leaves you dripping for the concentrated, lengthier compositions the trend which followed via Floyd and Hendrix et all, and Skates and Wagons deliver. As Path of Condie develops it builds to more ending with a beautiful eight-minute composition, Yesterday’s Love. It’s beguiling and timeless splendour, catchy as pop, definitive as classic rock.
If we’ve seen a relived trend with scooterists and mod culture recently, these guys are a hot contender to front such a movement, as opposed to a Britpop throwback band going through archaic motions. Though there’s often a dispelling, or more, overlooked aspect with the current trend, in the interesting and natural progress to the late-sixties beatnik and flower-power movements; scooterists don’t go for that, and while there’s nothing so “way-out” as Zappa on offer through Skates & Wagons, it does reflect those initial, optimistic changes of the mid-sixties. And in this notion, is what divides the duo from the bulk standard; yeah, fab, love it!
Join the GSMC on Friday 22nd January at 8pm for a celebration of grassroots music as they present this year’s GSMC Music Awards Live Online on YouTube, where they will announce the Winners of all 12 categories and will include live and pre recorded music from some of the nominees as well as a look back at the year and celebrate all those people that helped keep the grassroots music scene alive in 2020.
GSMC Music Awards Night will be streamed live from YouTube on Friday 22nd January at 8pm, the link for this is below:
Funkin’ for Devizes. This lockdown project from Tom Harris, Dan and Ross Allen and Rich, Summit 9 Studios has just been given a funky lift with this blinder, Change Change Change, bang on cue for me hunting for a song of the day.
Facebook memories posts a year ago this week we rocked up in the Celler Bar raising money for the Waiblingen Way Fire fund, and makes me stops and think about the years I’ve been smashing out articles on Devizine. So many artists and bands we’ve mentioned, I rarely forget about them, this one I admit I nearly did. Most likely because I didn’t get the opportunity to attend Stoke-on-Trent’s teenage country sensation Emily Lockett’s gig at Dean’s Country Club, then operating at Devizes Cons Club, later at the Cavalier.
So, nice as it is to discover new talent, equally important is to recap. Emily must be nearing her twenties now, and as a musical prodigy from aged 5, her expertise shines through in a matured sense now. This track, Front Porch says it all.
The deeper I delve into Afrobeat the more gorgeous it gets, and I’m discovering bands closer to home. Nubiyan Twist, for example, who are from Oxford rather than the Sudan as it might sound. I’m loving this sound, and got to get a review down of their forthcoming album.
Today though, check Leeds ten-piece behemoth, bone-shaking afrobeat collective, Mansion of Snakes. These devil-funk and cosmic jazz serpents give it their all, and there’s stuff, cool stuff to download as name your price on their Bandcamp page. Say no more.
Have a lovely rest of your day. Very good. Carry on….
Sunday off, broke my promise to post a song of the day, everyday. Allow me to make up for it. Bristol’s Mr Tea & the Minions with a lockdown themed song. See how sublimely they fire a frenzy of folk and Balkan styled ska-punk into festival proportions. I think they’re the hottest bands around these parts, and fondly reviewed the album, Mutiny a while ago. Just a reminder today then, these kids have it.
I made enquiries, wanting to bring them to Devizes. It’s no cheap option and obviously currently off the cards.
The reservation is that just because I’m loving this style, it might too radical for a Devizes audience. So, I’d appreciate some feedback; would you have paid a purple one to see them play in our town?
Fingers crossed, we live for a better day. But I believe lobbying a large Devizes venue to bring contemporary music direct to us, just occasionally, is crucial to the culture diversity we should be delving into.
Have a lovely rest of your day. Very good. Carry on….
Busy day, chatting to Wiltshire Police Crime Commissioner candidates and The Wilts Hunt Sabs; something is conflicting…
In 2012 five members of the Avon Vale Hunt, including the master huntsman and Wiltshire councillor, Jonathon Seed appeared in court charged with breaching the Hunting Act 2004. Though they all denied the breach before magistrates in Chippenham, Seed made a statement released to the Wiltshire Times,“This is a private prosecution by the RSPCA and I believe that it has been commenced for political reasons, as their stance against hunting is well known and it is of great significance that Wiltshire Police, after advice from the Crown Prosecution Service, declined to take this case forward. These proceedings are an abuse of the private prosecution system, which needs to be addressed in due course.”
And how best to address said abuse? Elect to become Police Crime Commissioner, that’s how. Perhaps it’s an episode the councillor wishes would disappear, going on the rather defensive attitude he put up when I chatted with him about his campaign this morning. And for what’s it’s worth, he provided some great ideas and valid points on subjects he attempted to divert me onto, but I was wondering where he actually stood on hunting, being, you know, it’s illegal, and he’s wants to be Police Crime Commissioner, just felt, well, a tad conflicting.
“Okay, so, not about the campaign then,” he started.
But I think it’s relevant. “Hunting is illegal,” I pointed to the seemingly obvious, “surely we would want a PCC who upholds the law?”
“Are you suggesting that I wouldn’t want the law upheld?” came Jonathon’s reply. Had to say, far from suggesting anything, the question was built behind the datum the huntsmaster for the Avon Vale hunt appeared in court with allegations he broke the law. And upon experts in the field, Wiltshire Hunt Sabs, who seemed convinced laws had been broken that day. “The badger sett incident,” they confirmed, “it’s clear evidence they were illegally hunting. It’s illegal to use terriers underground (the exemption is in relation to birds, which isn’t relevant on a hunt.) There can only be one reason for sending terriers to ground and that is to flush a fox.”
“You were,” I checked, “huntsmaster for the Avon Vale hunt at the time?”
“You will already know that I was,” Johnathon stated, “the allegation against me that was unfounded was dropped and is covered in the blog.”
Wiltshire Hunt Sabs claimed, “it wasn’t unfounded at all, the current Huntmaster (Stuart Radborne) was found guilty of interfering with the sett. The fact they couldn’t prove hunting act charges is yet more evidence that the law around hunting needs tightening.”
“Do you have anything to ask about the campaign,” Johnathon inquired, “or are you just interested in the Avon Vale Hunt?”
Yes, I do. So, I asked him, “if successful in the post, would you therefore discourage police to act against hunting offences? I mean, I understand, because they’d be personal friends engaged in something you firmly believe in. Also, would you support a turnaround of the law to allow hunting?”
And thus, came the jaw-dropper.
“I have spoken to thousands of people about policing over the last four years,” he said, “residents, officers, volunteers, victims of crime and nobody has wanted to talk about hunting other than trolls online.” Rather than be labelled a “troll,” by Tory boss-cop I allowed myself to be side-tracked. Jonathon was keen to lobby government for further funding, “Wiltshire is the third poorest funded force per head of population in the country, it needs overhauling and I will work with government to achieve this.”
“I have spoken to thousands of people about policing over the last four years,” he said, “residents, officers, volunteers, victims of crime and nobody has wanted to talk about hunting other than trolls online.”
Funds would put more officers in our communities, and offer better support for training and officers and staff’s mental health, and I cannot argue with this, though I pondered why it should be; are we all so better behaved in rural Wiltshire, so we don’t need as much policing as an urban area? I know I am!
“Historic underfunding of the force will continue to be an issue due to the way the funding formula is weighted towards some areas,” Johnathon explained, “The current PCC has done nothing to improve the situation and I believe the public deserve a PCC who will lobby the heart of government for better funding.”
I overlooked the oxymoron; “heart of government.”
In true Conservative fashion he blamed Labour, because fourteen years isn’t enough to up a budget. “The formula was created under Blair so naturally favoured labour voting areas,” he reckoned. “Getting the central government funding addressed has to be a priority. Just because we are a rural county doesn’t mean we don’t have sophisticated criminals operating in our towns and villages; domestic abuse, child sexual exploitation, modern day slavery, county drugs lines all affect our communities….”
“And fox hunters?” I added!
“It’s a shame that without knowing me or talking to me you would assume I would actively seek to have the law overlooked,” Johnathon asserted. “I do not and would not want our police to do this for any crime. The Chief Constable has my full backing to ensure that the law is upheld. There is no picking and choosing who the police ‘police.’ Operational policing isn’t the responsibility of the PCC.”
On the front seems Johnathon has good policies, but they’re undoubtably all politically motivated. Do we need a local councillor in the role, or someone who has been actively in the field, policing? I also spoke to independent candidate Mike Rees, passionate about delivering a quality police service for the people. And have to admit, it was akin to chatting to eager musicians when interviewing them. In fact, if there’s irony in voting for a police candidate suspected of breaking the law, the only similarity is that Mike is in a heavy rock band called “the Lawless!”
He told me of annual fundraising gigs at Level III with a plethora of other bands, which has raised £13K for his own charity “Fatboy’s Cancer Charity,” which aims to bring a smile to children who are suffering from cancer or have other life-threatening illnesses. He was also adamant he loved animals, and aside his respect for traditional aspects of rural life, more needed to be done to enforce the Hunting Act. Mike went as far as telling me he’d like to set up a hedgehog rescue centre in his retirement.
“I know there’s a difference between what the boss says and what the police see,I’d like to see a happy workforce, not demoralised.” He expressed a want to improve the service, the relationship between officers and the bosses, and the public, as he’s been on the beat in Swindon, working up through surveillance and CID to counter-terrorism, called in to help during the London bombing. “No wool pulled over my eyes,” Mike added.
“We’ve seen year on year increases to the policing precept, yet no tangible changes or improvements to the service the public of Wiltshire receive,” Mike stated, “seems evident to me and the many people who I speak with, that the Police sometimes do not have the resources to deal with many of the basic responsibilities that we expect; and all too often we see the cracks of struggling service delivery being papered over with a slick marketing campaign, or dare I say it, a social media post!”
“I know that savings can be made, and I also know how tax-payers money is sometimes squandered by Police managers,” he continued. “A politician who doesn’t understand policing can be told that something is required or best value, and will just accept what they are told. I know whether it is actually nice to have or need to have. Spending needs to be scrutinised very closely and I would look to do that to ensure money is diverted to the right resources and needs.”
Though Mike said Jonathon Seed was “very critical of Independent Candidates on his Facebook page recently. To my knowledge, I am the only independent candidate for Wiltshire so his comments are clearly directed to me!” But “the last thing I want to do is get involved in a continual slanging match with any of the other candidates.” Which is just as well for them, as an amateur boxer, I wouldn’t argue!
Jonathon Seed was “very critical of Independent Candidates on his Facebook page recently.”
He compared his own campaign budget to Johnathon’s on the precept he doesn’t mind if he doesn’t get the job, estimating Seed has “about £50k to spend on campaigning, I’ve got about £50, and I begrudge paying that! Money is squandered when it should be to improve services.”
The hunting issue will always be a touchy subject in any rural settings with opinions so divided. But the law is the law, and if anyone upholds it, it should be Police Crime Commissioner. Though while Mr Seed’s blogposts call for his innocence, they also state: “Millions of people in this country engage in perfectly legal fishing, hunting and shooting pastimes and should not be demonised and bullied by a small but vocal minority who do not approve of these pastimes,” and “It is utterly irrelevant to the vast majority of the electorate whether or not a political candidate had a lawful interest in country sports along with millions of other law-abiding people.” Left me wondering how defending wild animals under lawful methods, could possibly deemed demonising and bullying.
“If you wanted to ask me something sensible about fox hunting,” Johnathon said, “rather than the usual stuff that has been well rehearsed and I know doesn’t resonate with rural voters, ask me my views on the change to trespass and who it will apply to.”
But I didn’t like to ask, changing rules to trespass blatantly is there to halt operations from protesters. The Wiltshire Hunt Sabs said, “we’d love to know if he still hunts, we haven’t seen him out with the AVH, but there was a rumour he may go out with the Tedworth. I suspect he has paused for the election. It’s interesting he calls concerned members of the public “trolls”. How arrogant do you have to be to think that regular members of the public aren’t interested in his background as a fox hunter!”
I’ll let the hits on this article decide, and leave it there. I’m all for deciding the next Police Crime Commissioner based purely on a doughnut eating contest, might be easier, might even win myself! Then you’d all be buggered!
It’s getting late now and I’ve only just got around to posting our song of the day. Had a piece to write and the obligatory family Scrabble game. Nearly missed the deadline, meaning my promise to post a song each day didn’t quite last a week, but alas, I’m here last minute to seal the deal.
What better then, than the pride of Devon, The Simmertones. They’ve fast made it to a lead name in the UK ska scene, and with their lively shows and crazy ska cover of the Dr Who theme, a personal favourite, it’s easy to see why. A tad more tender, here they are…..
Have a lovely rest of your day. Very good. Carry on….
I know what you’re thinking, I’m a naughty boy; why hasn’t Devizine shared news of the survey about the Devizes Park/Gate/Safe-Way railway station proposal yet, the one on the “official” Devizes website? Well, I’ve been deliberating. But before you judge me, I ask you hear me out.
When I took a bus from the Leigh end of Southend-on-Sea to Shoeburyness, at the other end, which I’d estimate being the equivalent of Devizes to Melksham, it cost one pound. The bus was bustling with a wide demographic, it cost the same across the entire city.
Live in a village just two miles out of Devizes and it’s £2.50 for a single on the bus. Given Devizes Parkway would be a similar distance out on the other side of town, I’d wager it’d be much the same price. Let’s take a family of four from their village for a nice day out to London; a tenner to get town, a purple one just to get to this imaginary station for an overpriced train ticket; not including inflation.
Okay, I’m playing devil’s advocate. Everyone wants a station, including me. Back, long before Devizine, and Danny Kruger could pinpoint Devizes on a map, I put a poll on Facebook for my satirical rant column on Index:Wiltshire, asking what, if you could have anything which was once in Devizes but no longer, would you like to see returned. The top answer was unanimously, a railway station. And I agree. I agree with you all, from young and old, fat and thin, from Tory to leftie and beyond, everyone would like to catch a train from Devizes, even if only to escape!
The argument of education, getting students to colleges, and employment, getting them to work, rather than relying on a rural bus service and of course lessening the environmental impact of commuting are, of course, valid and ample justification. The idea it will attract visitors, helping our local businesses and economy is slightly more dubious, an untested valuation. Simply because they can get here doesn’t mean they will, especially if there’s nothing here to entice them. A view of Monument Hill and the Clock Inn Park are nice, but are hardly an exciting hive of activity.
I cannot help but feel, just as Brexit, and these grand and glorious schemes, a futurism-fashioned Festival of Britain, money saved from being in the EU to help the NHS, vaccinations for everyone by March, a high-speed train to gain three and a half minutes off the journey time from London to Birmingham, or a tunnel under Stonehenge to prevent erosion and people from seeing it without paying, the right-wing majority are suffering delusions of grandeur in a country potentially at it’s knees by the time these under-budgeted dreams will become anywhere near reality. I’m sorry to have to see it this way, but the system is crumbling under our feet because our leaders are only in it for themselves.
Oh, need a relevant example? Boris Johnson only proposed this £500m fund to reopen some of the passenger rail services axed in the Beeching review to win seats from Labour prior to the 2019 general election.
To bring it back to local affairs, feels to me like the potential railway station is only on the cards because Danny Kruger wants to get to Westminster quicker, and Hornby enthusiasts are rallying to kiss his ring. And yeah, as I said, it’s a great idea, for all the reasons stated. But given there’s surely far more important things we could spend the money on in this dilapidating town to improve it for everyone, you know what I’d like to see first and foremost? If we have spare cash to build a Lego station, I’d like to see our poorest, our youngest, eldest and people in care being supported.
I don’t want to see homeless being cleared out from camping in the woods so dog walkers can be free to roam and tie poo-bags to trees. I want to see projects being put into reality which would cost far less than a station, give them a hostel. I’d like to see our playparks and green spaces maintained better, youth clubs and facilities reopened, providing activities which kids actually want to go to.
At the beginning of year, when Melksham got a splashpad, Devizes said yeah, we could that too, but, as I forecast at the time, it was brushed aside. I’d like to drive on flat local roads, rather than negotiating potholes like it’s a lunar landscape. I’d like better road planning, infrastructure and affordable public transport, to avoid congestion. I want to park somewhere without taking out a bank loan. I want to see markets and The Shambles bustling with life, smells of street food and music. I want a free-thinking, flatpack and proactive council, funding sporting events and arts, and not idly watching as so-called charities throw folk with learning disabilities out of their homes.
And once we have achieved these, yes, I’d like a railway station, ta muchly. Not asking for much is it? Tee-hee, yeah, I’m hearing you, life isn’t so simple, this is Devizes, not Shangri-La. That said, I’m uncertain if Shangri-La has a railway station, still, it manages, as we have done since Beeching waved his wand, to get by without one. My family of four, twenty quid down just getting to the station, now they’re looking at train ticket prices. Have you seen train ticket prices recently? Remain calm, but they do often come in triple figure sums. I’ve seen aeroplane tickets to Barcelona cheaper than a return to Paddington.
The big question is, then, how much will it all cost and who is footing the bill? Did we get this grant, and what was that for? I asked Tamara of Devizes Gateway Railway Station steering group.
“The Restoring Your Railway grant from the DfT is for the cost of the Strategic Outline Business Case only and is being supplemented by Wiltshire Council,” she informed me. So already we’ve all put some cost into it through our council tax. “Thereafter, funding would need to be secured for the rest of the Business Case process (Outline Business Case and Full Business Case) and then for the capital costs to build the station.” Tamara added, “we are at the beginning of the process, but the fact that we have secure the grant monies from the DfT puts us in a good place. We now need to prove the business case.”
From there I was directed to a presentation made to the Devizes Area Board in November, which doesn’t explain where the dosh is coming from. I’m only opting for a station if they promise I can drive the train! Just once. But more importantly, I honestly look forward to a time, if I make it to 2025 without Thomas the Tank Engine shooting me, when we could smash my piggy bank for a train ticket, I really do, but the bottom line is, it has to be affordable, for all, especially if the public is footing the bill to build the thing.
Answer the survey, with your thoughts, if you wish. But the jury is still out with me. It’s on the site where a certain member, who shall remain nameless, accused me of spamming when I first launched Devizine, and mysteriously moments later I was in Facebook jail. Of which, such general pettiness is neither here nor there, but I feel worthy of mentioning. I know what you’re thinking, I’m still such a naughty boy!
Okay, so I’ll be brief; we’ve mentioned Gecko quite a lot recently and I wouldn’t want him to get big-headed! Can you imagine? That was a joke by the way, because in some light one could describe what Gecko does as rap, and could you imagine, in your wildest dreams Gecko being conceited? He’s got to be the most unpretentious rapper ever, though that’s not saying much; narcissistic is the occupational hazard of the average rap star.
If you ain’t got something nice to say, rapper…… Ah, that’s why Gecko is a breath of fresh air. if you need any more proof of how good he is, here’s yesterday’s released video of the title track of his album. Over and out. Have a good rest of the day. Carry on….
Concern mounts after a petition was launched claiming vital flood equipment and training is being planned to be moved from fire stations from Chippenham and Trowbridge to Dorset, and Stratton in Swindon. You know me, usually I jumped at the chance to expose a transgression by authority, but on this occasion, as a response from Assistant Chief Fire Officer James Mahoney suggests the service is merely aligning the way in which all stations operate interchangeably, the jury is out on this one. I know right, impartiality; is this the new me?!
Not really. It gets rather technical, and I don’t do technical. The last thing I will do is belittle the fire service for the grand job they do. So, as I’ve been asked to share news of the petition, like a real reporter, I’ll give you the low down from both sides of the argument, and it’s up to if you choose to sign it; righty then?
Becky Montague, who started the petition argues, “members of the public will have to wait an hour to be rescued safely, instead of eight minutes in the River Avon area, because Chief Fire Officer Ben Ansell has decided to remove vital equipment from Chippenham and Trowbridge stationsto Dorset, and Stratton in Swindon. This will put the lives at risk of people caught in flooding in an area Mr Ansell knows to be of high risk.”
“Removing equipment and training from the firefighters means that they will respond but be unable to rescue people quickly and with the right tools. Rather than watch people die, they will be forced to carry out dangerous rescues without the vital safety equipment they need.”
“There is no flood risk in Swindon like there is in the Chippenham, Bradford-on-Avon and Trowbridge areas. Mr Ansell will put residents of Wiltshire at risk and put firefighters in danger.”
This sounds like cause for alarm, and I’m grateful for our reader bringing to my attention. They’re concerned and angered, “We don’t distribute emergency equipment based on geography we do it based on risk otherwise we would have a fire station in the middle of Salisbury plain, we don’t do that because there’s no risk there,” they informed, “The flooding risk is in the river Avon area not in Stratton in Swindon. They’re going to put the council tax precept up again this year, what are Wiltshire residents going to get for that, other than the grateful thanks of Dorset residents for part-funding the service that they provide from the fire service?”
However, Assistant Chief Fire Officer James Mahoney had this response; “A strategic review of the technical rescue provision of Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service has been carried out. This considered risk and demand across the whole Service area; evidence from historical incident data; geographical station locations; and neighbouring Service capability. A decision on the placement of these facilities is now being considered internally.”
“Technical rescue includes technical search, rescue from swift water, rescue from height, bariatric rescue, confined space rescue and large animal rescue capability. There are currently six stations providing differing aspects of technical rescue across the two counties of Dorset and Wiltshire. In addition to these technical rescue stations, all fire stations have initial water safety equipment and training, and a large number of our stations also have wading team capability. The provisions at these six stations are not consistent, and most stations do not provide all of the capabilities listed above. As a combined Service, this is neither effective, efficient or resilient.”
“Whilst technical rescue is not a funded statutory duty for the Fire and Rescue Service, we recognise the importance of having this capability commensurate with the risks faced within our communities across the whole of Dorset and Wiltshire. We are looking to enhance, not diminish, our capability, allowing us a more strategic approach to the positioning of the key elements of technical rescue – which will also add greater resilience by aligning the way in which all stations operate interchangeably.
“Staff and representative bodies have been briefed, and given the opportunity to contribute their views throughout and engage in this process, and we will be carrying out public consultation on our draft Community Safety Plan for 2021-25 from 17 February to 13 May 2021.”
If I remember rightly, when our estate flooded some years ago, a fire service came from Yeovil to help, stating Wiltshire forces were preoccupied elsewhere. Understandably, this took some time for them arrive, but had it not been for the fire services to be integrated, it may not have happened at all. On the other hand, the dubious line from the Assistant Chief Fire Officer’s statement, “technical rescue is not a funded statutory duty for the Fire and Rescue Service,” concerns me. What constitutes a technical rescue? And if it’s not a statutory duty, why call yourself Fire and Rescue Service?
And, as the Gazette reports, “Summerham and Seend Wiltshire councillor Jonathon Seed, who is also running for the Police and Crime Commissioner post, has pledged to take the case up with MPs saying the decision is outrageous,” well, something is iffy with it; deffo.
Being a man of the people, who I’d like to hear the views of is an actual local firefighter. Your anonymity will be respected if you contact us; but we need the opinion of the men on the ground. In general, I’m at my tether’s end with bureaucratic nonsense from pen-pushers, and I urge any firefighter concerned to please do let us know.
Hi, yeah s’me, keeping up the Song of the Day feature like dedication was as word I know the definition of!
No excuses not to, I mean I am of the generation when Roy Castle clasped his trumpet weekly, ready for the signing off of “Record Breakers.” No, it’s not a euthanasim, Google it whippersnappers.
Might also explain my fondness for brass. Brass is class, and a vital element of ska. Yep, four tunes in and I couldn’t resist sharing some ska with you.
It’s a commonly misguided notion that ska is a retrospective cult here in England. It tends to convey a bygone era of Two-Tone records, boots and braces.
Yet today, while said stereotype has a grounding, ska is an international phenomenon, particularly in South America. I did write a piece about this region’s love for ska, and how it’s roots out of Jamaica bare a different tale from our own.
To show you how fresh it can be elsewhere in the world, and it’s not a reminiscence for a load of overweight balding pensioners as perceived in the UK, here’s all-female bar one Mexican band, Girls Go Ska, who I’m secretly in love with, (so secret they don’t even know themselves….until they use Google translate!) doing an instrumental jam.
Girls and ska; what’s not to like? Have a lovely rest of your day. Very good. Carry on….
26th and 27th May 2023 Wharf Theatre, Devizes Performed and written by Lou Cox
Review by Helen Edwards
I will start this review with a trigger warning. The proceeds from this, Lou Cox’s hilarious and devastating show, are being donated to The Grand Appeal, the official Bristol Children’s Hospital charity. Whilst the audience laughed loudly at the very funny and clever one liners we also cried our sincerest tears for Lou, for her and partner Jason’s baby girl, Hattie, and for the mistakes that were made during her delivery….
When I sat down a kind person to my right, noting that I was on my own started chatting to me. She explained that Lou is her daughter’s teacher at Stagecoach Performing Arts and that she is brilliant. My seat neighbour then told me the ending of the play. She did this to protect me. I spent moments during the show, in between laughs, wondering if knowing was a good thing. My conclusion has been that thank goodness I did; I had made a huge assumption from the title of the play that it would be a chuckle-a-minute nodding in recognition kind of thing. But it was so much more.
With knowledge of what was to come, my laughter was a notch quieter but it still erupted unchecked. It just had a different dimension; one of pure admiration that the woman in front of me had found the strength and courage to write, devise and perform this show within a year of her baby’s death.
The stage was simple, a sofa to the left, chair in the middle and a screen behind. It opened with Lou sat in the chair, black leggings on and a pair of pants around her ankles. She proceeded to talk us through top-tips of sanitary protection placement, ensuring that the multi-padded creation would be enough to catch her first period post birth. Her wit was evident from the start; recognition-fuelled laughter came from every woman who had ever had a baby with chuckles from all else. The pace and punchiness of the jokes picked up with Lou, pants discarded now, sharing her experience of the advice that she received whilst pregnant. Judging by the raucous roars in the auditorium there were many identifying with her journey from pregnancy to birth.
Lou described the uncomfortable telling of people that ‘I’m pregnant’ as akin to shouting, ‘I’VE HAD SEX’, the first of many embarrassing personal disclosures that can accompany being an expectant mother. She then ripped through well-intentioned but unsolicited nuggets of advice that she had been given with a sharp, shrewd humour. We were taken on a tour of Lou and Jason’s comical antics at antenatal hypnotherapy classes, given a blow-by-blow account of morning sickness, told of her migration from ‘sexy’ to ‘big’ pants and the work involved in getting her private area ready for public (midwife) viewing. It was packed with funny anecdotes.
A few lines that stood out in the first half:
‘My biological clock is ticking. It’s not ticking it’s Big Ben bonging’
‘Perhaps some of us have wizards sleeves down there and the baby will fly out?’
Whilst teaching a class of year 9’s: ‘I would simply turn my back on the student’s mid-sentence to yak my guts up and turn around after like nothing had happened to complete my sentence’
And then came the reality of what happened next. The posts that Lou shared on Facebook after giving birth were shown on the screen. We saw hope turn to despair as Hattie’s life support was turned off. Hattie breathed unaided for 36 hours and Lou allowed us to be with her and Jason as they took their baby girl for a walk in the sunshine through a park off St Michael’s Hill in Bristol. This was where Hattie took her last breaths, five days after her birth, on the 19th May 2022.
The courage that Lou displayed whilst reliving this personal trauma was like nothing I’d seen on stage before. It was raw, generous and insightful. The entire audience was in tears with many, like me, crying to the point of back racking sobs. If the play was transferred to other theatres I think it could very easily become a catalyst for change. To see the people behind the labouring women in delivery suites and to view the emotional impact of avoidable newborn deaths is an eye opening and heart crushing experience.
Lou explained that the hospital where Hattie was born (not Bristol Children’s Hospital) sent a letter that included the line: “The trust would like to send their sincere apologies for the mistakes that were made”. She went on to tell us that an investigation report clarified that Hattie would still be alive if it wasn’t for these mistakes. Lou believes that accountability has been lacking and her anger towards this is evident throughout the latter part of the play. She talked of her post-birth and trauma care; which included receiving a call from a health visitor four days after Hattie’s death to ask how they were getting on with the baby and being told that she didn’t qualify for NHS-funded counselling because she was not suicidal.
Lou told me afterwards that the objective of the show was to raise money to support Bristol Children’s hospital. So far she’s raised over £21,000 for The Grand Appeal. She was recently asked by the hospital if they could buy 29 new nebulisers, out of the donations. Her face lit up as she told me this with the knowledge that other newborns will benefit from the money raised in Hattie’s memory.
Lou – the final words in your performance were ‘Hattie McConnell you are beyond special’. I’d like to add to that. I’m sure I speak for all those in the audiences over the weekend when I say: Lou Cox, you are very talented and very special. Thank you for the laughter with your brilliant comic timing and delivery, and thank you for courageously sharing your story.
First time for me in the barn venue, it’s a great space. Alex is no stranger to this place, and it feels like a really relaxed gig among friends. Alex played a good bit of material from his most recent release for us, Meridians and superpowers, the title track among the very best. And a mix of older songs and the odd cover.
I love One More Miracle, inspired by terrorist legislation changes a little way back and how Jesus, should he of come back at that time, could have been mistaken for a terrorist.. as usual some deeper thinking with wry humour infused to keep it positive and the lyrics flowing.
“He said he couldn’t walk on water, I said he should learn to surf like me..!?” Understated and reflective as we have come to expect.
Hacking back to the wild – about the peregrine falcon, words reflecting on the beauty and majesty of wild birds of prey.
Love too strong, a sincere note of adulation to his wife. Sharing such a heartfelt song whilst his muse is in the room is a wonderfully inclusive thing to offer the rest of us, and always feels special somehow.
I have highlighted but a few of the wonderful songs in this set, enough for any curious mind to look into this incredible musician, an artist I share with many looking for music that’s meaningful and well considered.
Gorgeous harmonious three piece tonight, Fly Yeti Fly, with a cello alongside. Relatively new to me, but well known in the folk scene, and playing some great venues. A light hearted and delicate touch with the audience, some great songs with a running thread of nostalgia and positivity.
They sang songs about his dad, his old man a hippy soul, who they quipped if he had visited Honeystreet would most likely never of left, and Blue yonder – a fun ode to the thoughts of our dogs… rousing and I think accurate musing in the mindset of dogs and their wanderlust and passion for adventure and new friends. Something reflected in the lives of many folk fans I think.
Songs of mischievous mermaids luring Cornish choir boys to the icy depths in an incredibly harmonious manner …
Firewood – about the harder aspects of life on the cut. The cold and the worries of being iced in.
Thankfully most of us will not experience tough times on the water, that result in burning our furniture for warmth.
But it makes for a bloody good folk song.
I could ramble on about this lovely band, but this is just a snapshot of a good evenings live music, a fix of the kind of music that helps balance all our daily concerns and strife with some free thinking and perspective often with an historical context. Surely that’s a definition of the folk tradition? And one pleasingly well upheld by these artists and this well established venue. Thank you all.
If I can, which I think is best after one too many visits to the Stealth bar, sum today in Devizes up in a word, the word would be “balanced.” Perfectly balanced….
DOCA smashed day one of the 2023 street festival, the sun shone and a brilliant day was had on the Green. We see our town turned into a festival of colour, circus, street theatre, music and dance annually and it never fails to impress and inspire, we’re accustomed to how great this event is. Today in particular, though, managed to pitch that perfect balance in supplying enough for everyone of all ages.
Myself, I bussed it in to find brass nutters Tuba Libres in their civvies busking in the Brittox, making for a grand teaser. The remaining wander to the Green buzzed with anticipation as Devizes was already bustling.
Enter the Green to see folk preparing to be Pac-Man while kids dressed as chaser ghosts and other dads were hit with sponge hammers purely for popping their heads from holes, and other curious video game related shenanigans, but in reality. If there is one thing to distract gamer kids from screens, this was it, and it worked, and it highlighted my point about the perfect balance as others gathered between the willows of a sustainable architectural stroke of genius to hear fantastic upbeat folk duo, Bonnie and Pete encapsulate the audience as Manchester-based Good Habits; they simply charmed and were so apt for chilling in the sanctuary.
With a witty finale folk-disco medley of Those Were the Days and I Will Survive, which worked a billion and one times better than it might sound, Good Habits habitually joined the crowds, while Sustainable Devizes took the mic for a environmental chat, and I sauntered around the site.
Behind us trapeze equipment was proudy erected, but rather than wait for the performance at the end of the day, was being used as a trapeze workshop where revellers queued to give it their best shot. Ten out of ten for interaction, obviously I’d have given it a go, but a food van operated with a virtual queue, and if the mobile device was to vibarate while I was up there my cheeseburger would’ve gone to waste; priorities, see?!
Tuck options aplenty, I confess to a rather splendid cake from the Devizes for Ukraine stall, who had a lovely selection of pastries and cakes you’re unlikely to have seen before.
Jealous because I forgot my sunhat, Welsh-queer mesh dancers plodded to ambient a soundscape, eerily building to a high energy folk dance, here presenting the wild card and receiving mixed verbal reviews from the crowd; certainly had impact.
I say wildcard, I mean, look, there’s a tricycle ridden around by a giant octopus, while its tabletop presents two aquabatic fish-dancers; this isn’t the usual day out in Devizes. But amidst the bizarre Lucid Acid’s Cat Sith was perhaps the most mesmerising, taking the pantomime horse to a whole new level. If it was a botheration to distract my eyes from the genius method of making this acrobatic puppetry appear genuinely feline, it was only to note the toddler next to me completely captivated by it, and my vision circled the crowd to note every person young and old watching in awe.
Miraculous changed into eighties keep fit attire The Tuba Libres blasted their brass at the Willow Sanctuary, and cockney sounding upbeat folk collective The Great Malarkey were as the name suggests, great with a two-tone twist, only to be followed by a spectacular display on the trapeze and now we await day two, which, by the time you read this it will be underway, in the Market Place this time; get your crocs!
Marlborough’s darkwave-goth duo, Deadlight Dance push their boundaries to new limits with their second single, Innocent Beginnings this week, and it’s a corker of goth perilous poignancy…..
Echoes of Human League synth prowess rain from this sombre tune, with foreboding warning vocals of Joy Division, yet the theme is environmental, something though historically consistent in pop, generally, surprisingly overlooked by the alternative subgenre of post-punk gothic of the eighties. You’d have thought with the stereotypical gloomy disposition of the genre, climate change was a missed opportunity for electronica, and/or post-punk goth subject matter; though maybe you know different, I’m no expert.
While it has been done, eighties misconceptions of the subject often obscure the severity of the topic, and place them subtly irreverent by today’s standards. Best I can conjure from memory is The Pixies’ track Monkey Gone to Heaven, of which the context of pollution and the depleting ozone layer is missed amidst the screeching vocals of Black Francis, A Forest by the Cure, which always felt more Little Red Riding Hood than eco-warrior, Talking Heads’ (Nothing but) The Flowers which is all too satirical art-pop, experimentally awash with soukous, for some bizarre reason, and even to endure ten minutes of Giorio Moroder’s less-inspiring disco synth moment in Cerrone’s Supernature only to discover elements of environmental concerns conclude with humankind obliterated by some kind of “creature from below!”
It makes this single of an interesting composition, sounding so retrospective; precision with environmental subject matter came much later than this track imitates, therefore musical trends had changed by the time it’s more astutely covered. Ethereal nineties and noughties alternative rock certainly made full use of the topic, from Mors Syphilitica to All About Eve, but Innocent Beginnings, asis Deadlight’s design, it seems, is to recreate the sound of alternative eighties, leaving you pondering if Joy Division were at their peak now, climate change would have been the theme of Atmosphere, and might have come out sounding akin to this. Not forgoing, environmental groups would clasp hold of it, rather than just the creators of Stranger Things!
Though, having said all of the gloomy irreversible theme of Innocent Beginnings which basically suggests it’s all too late to do something about it now, the video is contradictorily recorded in the setting of the pretty village of Aldbourne; hardly the dystopian landscape of a post-apocalyptic earth wrecked by our own hand! And in turn, makes me come over all Greta Thunberg and contemplate at least if we try, we can say we tried; put that in your pipe and smoke it, Nick Fletcher and Tim Emery of Deadlight Dance! Damn good track though, guys, and produced by Nick Beere at Mooncalf Studios, we look forward to hearing more from these guys.
If Lidl Shoes, April’s blast from our aspiring homegrown four-piece indie-punkers, Nothing Rhymes With Orange certainty raised the rafters with energetic enthusiasm, I held subtle solicitude, despite the amusing name, it did only a smidgen to progress the band any further than their mind-blowing debut EP Midsummer. By contrast today’s new single, Butterflies, is a Neil Armstrong sized leap in the maturing direction they need to be heading to attain a mass appeal.
With an infatuation theme, the band express a continuation of narrative relating to Lidl Shoes, yet while maintaining their archetypal jab of youthfulness, Butterflies ventures into a pensive mood, it’s dreamier, swapping guitar distortion and resounding choruses for a softer emotional sound. Don’t run off with Coldplay connotations, it remains punchy enough to warrant influences they cite, like Arctic Monkeys, The Killers and The Wombats, and it lies equally as beguiling as their most celebrated tune to-date, Manipulation.
If the chorus of Manipulation is hailed back at them by fans, Butterflies is clearly in the making to evoke the same effect. It’s instantly loveable, their best work so far, proving as I said since day dot, Nothing Rhymes With Orange are going places.
With this interesting development, I wonder how their predominantly teenage fanbase have responded to this, as they will mature in-line with the band, and should, in theory, relate. Idolised acts of teenage years always rely on this familiarity with the path their fanbase are personally on, and their songs become stories of their own life. Butterflies identifies definitively, calls out to them, it’s an anthem, I tell you!
Frontman guitarist Elijah Easton, drummer Lui Venables, guitarist Fin Anderson-Farquhar and bassist Sam Briggs have cracked it again, furthering a natural development in their sound, and in conglomeration have penned another standout masterpiece; you’d be a fool to yourself for failing to make it down to the mainstage of Devizes Street Festival on Sunday by 2:30pm, where we should join in celebration at the remarkable achievement this young Devizes-based band has made, amidst the selection of international acts on show.
I’ve a mildly interesting word origin urban myth to bore you with before we begin on an opinion piece about the latest petty squabbling at Devizes Town Council, which, beggar belief, causes no consequence or botheration to proceedings of the town’s affairs, but stands to illustrate how pathetic and time wasting it’s all become; a council supposed to diplomatically decide necessary changes to better improve facilities in a town yet cannot even concur which hall to hold meetings in without toys being thrown from prams; so, back ofthe class, pay attention!
Word of the day is “text,” as in a body of words most commonly used in “text message.” Obviously, there’s a derivation from the term textiles, but how it came to be was pre-industrial revolution when weavers worked outside as the cloth was too large to manage in small houses. Being outside, they got to hear the word on the street, a bygone equivalent of taxi drivers and hairdressers! As public opinion mattered to early politicians they would gage and take notes from the weavers as they cast their opinion on current affairs, to take to parliament. The annotations, words from textiles, ergo, came to pass text would mean any body of words.
But it illustrates a point, as to read the recent lone ramblings of one rouge councillor’s renownedly biassed Facebook group, that Devizes Town Council aims to bar the public from attending meetings by switching back to a meeting room though historically used and deemed by a majority of councillors more suitable from another used only recently to insure social distancing during the pandemic, that really, upstanding politicians and councillors alike both want and need to gage public opinion, therefore, logically would encourage public interaction.
The Marketplace this weekend might be for street festival, but next Saturday, 27th May, is a bit of a letdown by comparison as the Devizes Town Council have their roadshow, unless they intend to break into a cover of Wonderwall, which is, fortunately, unlikely! But it is a regular occurence, the purpose of which is for the public to meet the councillors and pour out their concerns to them. In turn, it goes to prove the majority of councillors welcome public opinion. Which begs the question, why go to all that trouble, if this rant is genuine and to be believed, that the council doesn’t care for public interest?! It simply doesn’t make sense.
Two other town councillors have independently taken to other local Facebook groups to elucidate the reasons for the room switch, but being like many members of the public who dared to offer a differing opinion to the admin and town councillor of the page that the rant was posted on, the Devizes Issues, their pledge lies separate from the original post and they are unable to comment upon it. This leaves the admin, again, with the final say on the matter there, that other councillors are according to him, switching rooms in order to bar the public from attending meetings.
Longstanding councillor and former mayor Judy Rose was the one who proposed the move from the Town Hall Assembly Room back to the Council Chamber. “The reasons for wishing to return there have been suggested by a Conservative Cllr, Iain Wallis, is in order to keep the public out,” she explained, “I can state clearly that this proposal has nothing to do with keeping the public out, nor the spurious idea of ‘returning home’.”
She continued to outline the reasons for the move,”the acoustics of the Assembly Room are poor for the spoken word, even with mics. At our last Council meeting, an invited speaker used the mic, but still remained inaudible to many of us, and frequently, the same thing happens with councillor’s contributions. The arrangement of tables facing each other does not, at times, make for co-operative, civilised debate or behaviour.”
The public have always been able to attend meetings in the Council Chamber since the Town Hall was built. Prior to Covid, the meetings were moved to the Assembly Room when a larger contingent of the public was expected, a move which was relatively easy to anticipate from the contents of the agenda.
Judy expressed, “the public never have, nor will they ever be excluded from meetings, save under GDPR for certain exempt items concerning staff matters and commercial information about the properties owned by the Town Council. To suggest otherwise is completely mistaken, and to imply such a hidden agenda is not constructive and indeed very unhelpful in aiding the knowledge and understanding of how the Town Council operates.”
Guardian leader Jonathan Hunter also expressed his concerns, “this move is not about excluding any members of the public; it’s about promoting a more positive and cohesive environment. Councillors do not want to exclude members of the public and to suggest that this is the case is completely false.”
“Whilst the super-sized venues of the Corn Exchange and Assembly Room were appropriate for Covid protocols, the Assembly Room has become a venue that promotes distance between councillors and the public. Regular difficulties with communication and, at times, an adversarial and confrontational atmosphere all make the Assembly room a poor choice environment and a venue that isn’t fit for purpose. Councillors should be working together, and the environment should be positive, focused, and non confrontational.”
“Members of the public that were also present last night were asked for their views. Their conclusions were that the Assembly Room was confrontational. In an attempt to sway opinion, it was unfortunate that one or two councillors stated that the public would be sat behind the backs of councillors within the council chamber in future meetings, even though the room layout hasn’t been set up for future meetings. Councillors do not want to have their backs towards members of the public.”
Devizes Guardians, along with the Labour councillor, the Independent councillor and the newly elected Mayor all voted in favour. Three Conservative councillors abstained. The proposal was approved with a majority vote. But with these facts obscured from the more popular Facebook group the readers are faced with a one-sided evaluation of the issue and will likely believe what’s said because no one has come forward to challenge it; ministry of truth type stuff.
The very fact this has happened, and is of no rare occasion, implies more generally, that these accusations made against opposing councillors are in fact, nothing more than the power tripping ramblings of a particular councillor who’s only intentions are to belittle their fellow councillors and create the illusion he is the superhero of hour here to bound in wearing his spandex and restore public access to council meetings; is it a bird? Is it a plane?!
Yet, being a majority of residents, and councillors have been banned from the group, and/or are silenced by comments deleted, alternatively implies otherwise.
Now, I stand accused myself of “bullying and harrassing” this councillor, by none other than him, on an occasion where he posted a request for people to advertise upcoming events consequently causing a number of people to mention that Devizine was a good place to find such information. I didn’t encourage them to do this, and have no access to the group yet sonehow this constituted “bullying.”
Every comment which stated this simple fact was deleted, and many were banned from the group. Suggesting there appears to be a personal vendetta against us, when really, as we cover discrepancies and problematic issues arising from local politics, it so unduly seems to be near every time such a happening occurs within Devizes Town Council it seems the same councillor is at the heart of the squabble. This doesn’t mean we have deliberately targeted anyone in particular, and we certainly haven’t bullied or harassed anyone.
I could go out on a whim and suppose, on this occasion the councillor in question is right, and all the other town councillors intend to bar the public from meetings, but unfortunately for him, there’s simply no logical explanation as to why they would want to do this, and furthermore, if it is the truth, has he never read The Boy Who Cried Wolf?!
Ask yourself this question, who would you believe, the individual town councillor who has lied, maliciously exaggerated and skewered facts, censored anyone opposing him then plays the victim, or a majority of councillors simply motivated by the notion of doing what’s best for our town?
Just remember all this come local council elections, boi, I did say pay attention; it’s petty, I know, but makes one wonder how they fair on bigger issues when they throw their toys out of pram over what room to hold a meeting in to solve said bigger issues! Mind you, if I was mayor the council would be Playboy bunnies and meetings would held in a hotub, so no one’s perfect!
Swindon’s acoustic Celtic folk duo Canute’s Plastic Army played the Southgate in Devizes last Saturday; though firmly on my never-ending must-see-list, even just the name alone is enticing, until cloning technology is readily affordable and can be found in Lidl next to the Portable Car Air Compressors and 30-in-1 Screwdriver Sets, I cannot be everywhere at the same time!
To rub salt into said wound, they’ve a new single out this week, Anglo Saxon Song, with the passionate vocals of Anish Harrison harking beautiful Celtic song and intricately subtle guitar work of Neil Mercer, here’s a taste of something different for you; timeless, enchanting, and hanging around Avebury at solstice type stuff, and it drips with authenticity and charm.
Their first EP, Building Walls, was released in summer 2017 on Secret Chord Records. Find some interesting previous singles on Bandcamp, for a quid a piece, and then you, like, me will be aiming not to miss them next time around!
OMG, OMG, another bank holiday weekend coming up, who’s excited, who’s coming out to play?! Here’s what we’ve found this week, find the info and links, and for planning ahead, here, on our event calendar. No prizes for guessing Editor’s Pick of the Week this week!
Obviously more stuff will be added to our event calendar as and when it comes to our attention, this is not comprehensive, so do check in later in the week, and let us know what we missed, we charge one cupcake to add an event, but it must be a chocolate one!
Don’t forget to check out Hail the Curious, the debut exhibit at The Forbidden Carnival in Chippenham, running until 30th June.
Regular acoustic jam at The Southgate in Devizes.
Skimpy & The Triniti Band at The Bell Inn, Bath, where Little Shop of Horrors runs until Saturday at The Rondo Theatre.
Emmanuel Sonubi’s Emancipated at Swindon Arts Centre, and Gretchen Peters at The Wyvern Theatre, Swindon.
The Mead Community Primary School presents Forever Treasure Island at Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon.
Pierre Novellie and Huge Davies, Comedy Previews at Pound Arts in Corsham.
Shindig Festival opens its doors, have a great weekend to all at Shindig, you lucky lot; have a boogie for me!
Open Mic at Stallards in Trowbridge.
Lady Maisery at Pound Arts, Corsham.
The Soap Girls play The Vic in Swindon, I say, ding-dong! Reverend Ferriday is at The Tuppenny, Jen Brister’s The Optimist at Swindon Arts Centre, and it’s all soul at The Wyvern Theatre with the Luther show.
Octopus Dream Theatre presents I Love You, Mum, I Promise I Won’t Die at The Merlin Theatre, Frome.
Lou Cox’s n o holds barred one-woman show, Having a Baby and the S**t They Don’t Tell You, at The Wharf Theatre, Devizes for Friday and Saturday; highly recommended from us, but not for the faint hearted!
Meanwhile, 12 Bars Later make a welcomed return to The Three Crowns, Devizes, with the incredible Mark Colton’s solo show at The Pelican.
John Watterson’s celebrated tribute to Jake Thackray, An Evening Without Jake Thackray comes to The Bouverie Hall in Pewsey. Billy & Louie at The Castle & Ball, Marlborough.
Running until the 29th, it’s the opening of Chippenham Folk Festival, while the fantastic Triple JD Band plays The Old Road Tavern.
Find Castro at The Wheatsheaf, Calne.
The most amazing young soul singer I’ve heard for an era or four, Franki Soul is at Trowbridge Town Hall. While Fly Yeti Fly have a double-bill at The Pump with Alex Roberts and Graeme Ross.
The Karport Collective are the Seven Stars, Winsley, Bradford-on-Avon; fantastic these guys are. Dervish, legends of the Irish folk scene at Wiltshire Music Centre.
Break Cover are at Brown Street in Salisbury.
Tapped at the Theatre Royal, Bath, and The Lynne and McCartney Story Theatre Show at Chapel Arts.
We Were Promised Honey at Pound Arts, Corsham.
Here Come The Crows at The Vic in Swindon, while Rosie Jones’ Triple Threat is at Swindon Arts Centre, and The Roy Orbison Experience comes to The Wyvern Theatre.
Ultimate Coldplay at The Cheese & Grain, Frome, and The Urban Voodoo Machine at The Tree House.
You know it has to be Editor’s Pick of the Week, The Devizes International Street Festival is free, it’s the best weekend in Devizes, and it starts on the Green on Saturday and continues on the Sunday in the Market Place; see you there!
Street Festival after parties, then, find Jonah Hitchens Band at the Southgate, Devizes, Ben Borrill plays at The Moonrakers, and Gerry Jablonski Band plays at the Long Street Blues Club. The Snuff Box has an International Craft Beer Festival, and The Exchange hosts guest DJ, Castro.
Direct from the Pump, Fly Yeti Fly, Alex Roberts and Graeme Ross fly over to The Barge on HoneyStreet, while the Chaos Brothers are at The Lamb in Marlborough.
Be Like Will & Band Of Pilgrims are at The Pump in Trowbridge.
End of Story at The Talbot, Calne, while Band-X play The Wheatsheaf.
A fundraiser for Swindon’s Ukrainian community at Swindon Hub, Rave Against The Regime at The Vic, The Black Hole Sons at the New Inn, Walk Right Back at The Wyvern Theatre, and Tom Davis’ Work in Progress at Swindon Arts Centre.
Ma Bessie and her Pigfoot Band at Chapel Arts, Bath, with You Are The Sun at Theatre Royal, running until 29th May, and A Shining Intimacy at The Egg.
Triple JD are at the Sun in Frome, the Cheese & Grain have Lindisfarne while The Burning Hell are at The Tree House.
Devizes International Street Festival continues, in the Market Place this time, too much to mention here, but do look out for our homegrown upcoming talent Nothing Rhymes With Orange on the main stage at 2:30pm.
The Barge, Honey-Street are Celebrating 50 years of Dark Side of the Moon with Atom Heart Floyd.
Jon Amor Trio at The New Inn, Bath, Jolie Blon at The Bell Inn.
Last Call at The Vic, Swindon.
Frome’s Spring Vegan Fair at the Cheese & Grain.
Bank holiday goodness then, arty kids will be pottery painting at Hilworth Park, find Kate and The Unpredictables at The Three Crowns, Devizes.
Swindon’s famous duck race, see poster below.
Mono at the Cheese & Grain, Tryani Collective at The Bell in Bath.
Tuesday 30th I got nought, unless you know better; always tell us if we’ve missed something! Mind you, I think that’s enough for one week, have a day off, stay home and make beans on toast; you can add a little chilli powder to fully clear your system if you so choose! Have a great weekend, stop me and give me grief if you spot me at the Street Festival, I don’t bite…..not on the nipple at any rate!
For eight years on the trot, minus the lockdown year no one needs reminding of, local all-female supergroup, The Female of the Species have performed a one-off gig raising funds for various local charities; 2023 is no different as they announce this year’s will be on 21st October at Seend Community Hall….
It’s an amalgamation made in heaven. Five frontwomen of various local bands join in celebration, which is the sum of all their individual talent and a whole lot more. Nicky Davis from People Like Us and The Reason, Julia Greenland from Soulville Express & Delta Swing, Claire Perry from Big Mamma’s Banned & The Misfitz, Charmaigne Andrews from Siren, and Julie Moreton from Train to Skaville and Jules & The Odd Men make the line up, and if you’ve seen these any of these girls in action solo or with their own bands, you’ll know they’re all 100% dynamite; imagine this times five, forget the maths, the result is greater than 500%, an atomic detonation of wonderful!
I’ll see your examples of legends upstaging each other when on the same stage at the same time, as it’s fair to wonder how on earth something so right like Mike Jagger and David Bowie recording Dancing in the Street could’ve gone so utterly wrong, but raise you my assurance this is not the same ballpark here. The girls of Female of the Species work together in unison, back each other’s solos with such gusto, skill and friendship, it’s a sight to behold.
From Teen Talk to Young Melksham, and even once for Carmela’s Fight Against Muscular Dystrophy, Female of the Species must have raised tens of thousands of pounds by now, and received a civic award three years ago. Last year was a Halloween theme, this time the girls cover “the MTV years.” And will raise funds for Alzheimers Support.
I mean, yeah, it’s an assortment of sing-a-long covers, but with the adjoining of so much talent, it’s the unmissable cover show bursting with energy and fun you must see for yourself; the likes you only know if you know. Because of this ever growing need to know basis, it will sell out super fast, so….
The Female of the Species throw absolutely everything they have at this annual event. With great support acts and on stage banter, it’s something to behold. Here at Devizine we congratulate and thank the girls and all involved in this annual event which has become as special on our local event calendar as Christmas day!
Finally crawled out of my Hobbit-hole this weekend after a shilly-shallying period of making do with BGT on the telebox, and what better way to kick my sorry-ass back into gear than to finally pop my Cheese and Grain cherry?
Hold your gasp, I know, mate, inspecting the South West’s flagship venue was still surprisingly on my Devizine roadshow to-do-list, and a little tour of Frome’s back streets on a Saturday night with a former resident to direct me off the tourist track was also on the cards. For I’ve mindfully put Frome, particularly the Cheese, on a pedestal, and was eager to see if it lived up to expectations.
Firstly, the invite was for a sellout night with eighties premier Scottish rockers, Big Country, of whom I could only cite one hit from memory, conveniently self-titled, but if far from their biggest fan, the support came from another eighties band, who had minor chart success with a post-punk synth type style, Spear of Destiny, and I’d never heard of them. Neither, I confess, were my cuppa, but the opportunity to cross the border and see Frome in all its heavenly glory was my motivation.
Frome conveys a happening liberal, alternative arty and counterculture reputation, its hipster value far outweighing any Wiltshire market town, something which has developed fairly recently, and can be likened to Somerset’s own Brighton, pebbly beach converts to cobbled streets, and the Cheese effectively their Pavilion. But should we bow in envy at its proud accomplishments? Perhaps.
Our initial pitstop was a necessity burrito calling, placing me with pleasant first impressions. As a train pulled into Frome Station and people offloaded, we took to a renovated hanger nearby, called the Station, where various street food outlets surrounded an alternative art gallery. It was no issue Burrito Boi was the only one open, as per guide’s recommendation, it was what we were here for.
Even with a view of the gigantic B&M sign, your gaze is ever-easily diverted from commercialisation in Frome, it’s colourfully aesthetic. We met a chatty musician type, of the acoustic punk covers band Raggedy Men, a Frome band, it was told, which rarely gigs further than they can effectively crawl home from, amidst folk gathered alfresco on benches, under a casual reggae beat! Burrito Boi’s bar and eatery wasn’t exactly cheap, but damn, that was one tasty burrito, as worthy of your attention as any beef and rice wrap can possibly be.
And there it is with a general nutshell of Frome, like Italy, to suggest it’s cool and hip is no fib, but whatever you do is hefty on the wallet; shrug, sign of the times.
The ticket stub for The Cheese and Grain tonight stood at a sizable thirty-five notes, a pint has reached the inevitable fiver as standard, but dammit, it bears its wires as to where your dollar goes, and you have to hand it to the place, it’s the kind of wonderful to leave you contemplating if every town needs a Cheese and Grain.
While immersed in an adequate free overnight car park, one vocal regular with khaki shorts and floppy pink and silver mohican informed me she had never seen it so full, only to be further confirmed Big Country attained a devoted fanbase in meeting a couple who’d travelled from London, and delighted to shock us that there’s “nothing quite like this in the capital.”
Such is the reputation of this big cheese, the kind of venue to host the Foo Fighters, or a spontaneous pitstop for Sir Paul McCartney to drop in for a gig on his way to Glasto, and frequently too, The Pretenders graced this grand hall last Friday. It is a comparable rural answer to a city venue, such as Bristol’s O2. Though you may find a ticket stub at a smidgen less at the latter, supposing because it has a larger capacity, the further fuel and parking fees will far tipple over the price for the Cheese.
So, if you like your live music bold and with celebrity or legendary status, The Cheese and Grain is the choicest thirty-five minute drive away, as it’s the only venue here so majestically respected to host such big names. As at an eight hundred capacity, the mechanics of any larger venue are unavoidably bound by regulations, to make you feel like herded cattle, at the Cheese you’re relatively of the organic free-range variety. The hall is a huge open space with a grand purpose-built stage and marvellous acoustics, as the sound reverberates like a bass bin, the effect is awesome. But the surroundings are equally appeasing, the outside area is bustling, with an aroma of freshly-cooked pizza; it is, just, nice.
The slim age demographic inside reflected the double bill of acts popularised in the eighties, and thus an older crowd appeared spaciously divided, so late comers were standing watching beyond the fire doors for want not to be ageing sardines, and thus I felt little atmosphere developing. Both bands accomplished yet hardly groundbreaking now, and with little knowledge of their works for me it lacked the retrospective appeal it clearly did for the fans; I was a tender thirteen in 1983, and favoured Grandmaster Flash!
Though I will say, if a post-punk support felt unmatched for the aficionados of this harder rock band, even if of the same era, Spear of Destiny where equally as great, expressively vocal and perhaps closer to the general rock sound of Big Country than I’d bargained they would be.
Big Country though, were only partially the real McCoy. With former Skids original frontman Stuart Adamson passed away in 2001, Simon Hough made for a great alternative, as they worked through their magnum opus album, The Crossing, on its forty anniversary. As for the fans, well, they lapped it up.
Of course, on another evening, with a different line-up I’m gathering The Cheese & Grain converts to suit the punters, ergo given when Ruzz Guitar plays there, or when Dreadzone pays a visit, the crowd will relate appropriately to the tenet of the act. See, to me, June 16th-17th’s Frome ska and reggae weekender has my name all over it, and you should browse their website or our event calendar to find something to fill your boots too, because I know you will!
With the pull of acts to play the Cheese, such as Big Country far greater than our humble blog, it’s futile to provide you with a detailed analysis of them, as also as suggested, I appreciate they played well to the fans but it wasn’t my cuppa. I ask myself, would I have preferred to be in one of our cosier, grassroots venues, backing an upcoming act, like at The Pump, or down the trusty Southgate back in Devizes? Actually, being not one to chase the big names, yeah, I believe I would have.
With that box ticked then, it was decided to do a bunk; I was keen to see what else was on offer in Frome on an typical night. Yet, it was surprisingly quiet elsewhere, as if the Cheese has the gravitational pull of Jupiter and anything else surrounding it was merely a moon.
I didn’t think at this point to check the sister venue, the Tree House, who had a Muse tribute, rather we sauntered the town, mostly upwards cobbly streets. While told to avoid The Blue Boar, and some class and glass fronted wine bar, Eight Stony Street, which looked city-like and not within the character of the town, we wandered through the partial club-bar 32 Bath Street, which catered for a younger, perhaps less affluent, and with drum n bass playing out, young at heart, I loved it there!
Of course, the busiest was a taste of home, Wadworth’s grand George Hotel, and we passed by The Sun, which appeared welcoming, and had some locally sourced live music on, to the cobbled legendary Lamb & Fountain, which I was told was the best pub in town. Yet it was an acquired taste, uniquely appropriate, akin to said Southgate, or Swindon’s Beehive, it has its independent feel which wouldn’t change on request, a local of locals, it was sawdust-on-the-floor welcoming. Nought Wetherspoons about any of them!
I left feeling sometimes, perhaps, less is more. Clearly Frome attracts more lively characters, bohemians and oddities than any neighbouring towns, but overloaded with options of things to do, I fear, aside the outside pull of The Cheese, if it has the population to sustain them all, as the biggest niggler was, unlike cities like Brighton, the streets felt comparatively void of activity.
Maybe we could attribute this to being a weekend before a bank holiday, or a general sign of these hard times which all towns are experiencing. I don’t know, just felt, though it was an adventurous evening exploring a town I know little about, and only had time to scratch the surface of, while Frome has this city-sized event programme feel to it, it only weighs in approximately eight thousand larger in population to Devizes, and less than half the size of Chippenham.
I’m kinda thinking, if I lived there, with all this on my doorstep, would I simply take it for granted and rarely engage as much as I assume I would? And would my wallet allow me to?
Ah, it’s debatable for sure, but take Devizes on a Saturday night, where options are comparably limited, at least plenty will gather at what beauties we do have, I’d wager great nights were had, as ever, at the Three Crowns and The Southgate. So even without a regular Cheese and Grain on our doorstep, we make do with what we do have, and use them more regularly. And on those special occasions like next week’s Street Festival, Devizes will put on the amazingly colourful parade we know it to be, and all will join and rejoice there, freely.
Or I could just be on a grumpy Sunday rant cos you can’t get a burrito that tasty for love nor money in Devizes; you decide, but yeah, Frome, don’t go changing just to please me!
Look, right, I’m not at the top yet, but it’s in clear sight. A round number, of the half century kind, awaits me atop the hill, and there’s no stopping the ride to get off.
I guess reaching these milestone ages causes you to analyse your life somewhat, and if there’s one thing I do know in all my years, it’s that I’ve told some colossal pork pies. Some real stinkers. I don’t know why, other than occupational hazard as a journalist, I’ve no excuses, not one which will wash with you clever lot.
Whether it be for the prestige, the glory, or, sometimes just for the sheer hell of it, just because the golden opportunity arose and I couldn’t stop myself, they just slipped out.
I’m not proud, just saying, you know, get it off my chest. Not compulsively, though, I’d go as far to say the majority of what I say is true.
Why do people say, “I’ll be honest with you…” ? Well duh, I sincerely hope you do anyway, it should go without saying. But the phrase immediately raises the alarm; I’m guessing a whopper is on its way. I never use that phrase on principle. The principle I don’t trust myself to keep to it.
See, what with the whopper, the real damaging kind of fib. I consider my track record on that quite good, I tend to lie to big myself up, but not to put others down. I tend to lie to make light of a situation, rather than darken the notion. I tend not to lie to anyone I trust not to lie to me, and I’ve seen too many of them backfire anyway, so, I’m done with lies, filled my quota but retain decency in not being overly destructive with them; quantity not quality!
And anyway, I don’t lie here, cos I trust you all, I really do. This isnt a tabloid, this is me. Clearly you get what you see, which might be a waffling clown but, hey.
So, Harmony, from Chippenham, on the subject of liars; she’s not singing about me, no sir, not when I say with all the honesty left in me, this young singer-songwriter I’ve discovered via Sheer music, has got something really special. And even if I was lying, which I’m not, I’ve shared the video, to prove it.
And that’s Song of the Day, for the third day. It’s become a popular feature, overnight, honest.
Should you choose to believe that!
Have a lovely rest of your day. Very good. Carry on….
I’ve said it before, said lots of what I’m going to say before, in fact, but I reserve the right to say it again. And you can’t blame me, it’s this Groundhog Day thing, this exasperating lockdown. I perpetually revert my mind back to the last night of live music I attended, Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue at Devizes Sports Club with Peter Gage, Jon Amor and Innes Sibun. How I suspected walls could come crashing down, but didn’t want accept it, neither at the time acknowledge it would be so soon. Still, optimistically, what a blinding night; least we went out with a bang.
I mean, I know and I’m eternally grateful to everyone who acted to do what they could immediately after the first lockdown, the afternoon sessions at the Southgate, and our own outing for Devizes;IndieDay, but as good as they were, as Ray Charles said, the night time is the right time. Ode to the gig, the gathering and the celebration, how we miss it so. Are you with me? You are, right?
Faced with the unwelcome likelihood of the first anniversary of the occasion coming around and still, no live music, I have to ponder how far to the light at the end of this gloomy tunnel. And to rub salt into the wound, Ruzz has released a new track, featuring the very same blues legend Peter Gage! But as far as salt goes, upon hearing this tune I’m like a halophile (a salt-loving organism; look it up, people) living on the back of a saltwater crocodile, basking at the shore of the Dead Sea.
A cover of Jimmy Witherspoon’s tune Ain’t Nobody’s Business, Ruzz explains, “we’ve taken the B.B. King and Freddie King versions, mashed them together and added an RGBR flavour into the mix! We’ve been working hard on this track since Christmas and we’re all very excited to release it.”
And so, they should be, it’s sublime, as ever. Habitually, I favour Ruzz and the Blues Revue when they work up a frenzy, but this is smooth, this is blues, the kind of blues you need contemplating the anniversary of the gig ban, and if you attended, it will remind you of it too. If not, it doesn’t matter, it just breezes over you, as all virtuous blues should.
I mean, right, the guy was from The Sloane Squares, headhunted by Shadows bassist Jet Harris upon them supporting Hendrix, and that’s just the beginning of his extensive profession. Pete’s proficient vocals, gives it that edge of aforementioned BB King influence, the arrangement and tightness of this collaboration are like the chimes of seamless bellringing, here’s the Blues Revue on top form, adding guests of calibre and concluding as perfection; quid well spent.
The last thing Robert Hardie wants is to be portrayed as villainous, or condoning mass trespass, though he accepts some might interpret breaking over the fence at Stonehenge as such. Chatting to this veteran on the phone this morning, he described the exhilaration and sensation of wellbeing, wandering between Wiltshire’s legendary stone pillars, but expressed he doesn’t wish to encourage others to follow his example, only to raise awareness of his crusade.
Frustration with English Heritage was the prime motive for taking the leap, displayed in his video doing the rounds on social media. But one half of Salisbury folk-rock indie duo, Duck n Cuvver has been fundraising for over three years to be able to shoot the final part of a music video inside the stone circle. “Initially,” he said, “English Heritage said it would cost £750, then they suddenly upped it to £4,500.” I asked Rob if they gave an explanation, a breakdown of what the costs involved to them would be. He replied they hadn’t.
My musing wandered over the occasion two years ago when local reggae band, Brother from Another pulled a publicity stunt recording themselves atop Silbury Hill, to wide criticism, but how The Lost Trades recently played around Avebury stone circle without trouble. Rob and Ian cannot call a compromise though, being the subject of the song, Henge of Stone, is as it says on the tin. As he explained to the Salisbury Journal back in 2019, “This video will make history – singing about Stonehenge in Stonehenge.”
Clearly enthusiastic about covering our ancient local landmarks as song themes, Rob told me he’d written about Avebury too, and how he played them to the solstice crowd there. This part of our conversation ended with him reciting a few verses in song, and expressing the feeling of joy as the crowds sang them back to him.
While he didn’t rule out this was a publicity stunt too, we discussed the necessities of the project. Rather than being a colossal movie production, with the atypical entourage, trailers and crew, all that’s needed is his partner in crime, Ian Lawes, and possibly the accompanying musicians, Chris Lawes, Jamez Williams, Louis Sellers and Paul Loveridge, a cameraman and a few instruments. The mechanics of shooting the footage would be simple, it’s unplugged, being there’s no electricity on site, and Rob explained how mats would be provided to protect the grass. Besides, if EH’s concerns were for the welfare of the site they’d simply say no, surely, not put a price on it.
There’s therefore no justice, in my mind, really, on the exceptionally high price tag. Only to assume English Heritage is out to profit. Contemplating on recent outcries concerning activities around Stonehenge; the solstice parking debacle, closing for winter solstice and of course the tunnel, which we mutually dismissed as ludicrous on the grounds excavating there would obviously turn up some ancient findings and archaeological digs, and protection rights would whack the project way over budget, it feels the quango run agency is not the best method to protect our heritage sites, if the conservative ethos is revenue driven rather than insuring it’s splendour is for all to enjoy and savour. As Rob points out in the film, “Stonehenge belongs to fucking us!”
Ah, story checks out; even English Heritage states similar on their website, if not quite so sw