Blue Sky Festival returns to Corsham’s Pound Arts this July. The thriving arts centre will be filled with music, dance, film, family entertainment and workshops, plus outdoor theatre. There really is something for everyone, including Claymation model-making workshops with Aardman Animations, music from upcoming Americana soulstress Lady Nade, and the breath-taking folky ambiance of Emily Barker, and comedy from Lucy Porter, who you’ll know from Live At The Apollo, Would I Lie To You and QI.
Kicking off on the 5th and continuing throughout until 11th, there’s theatre for the very youngest, check out the The Bug Hotel and there’s even a Bug Making Workshop. Fly in/Drive in Cinemas, pre-school workshops where you will create your very own broomstick and hat before flying into the auditorium to watch a free, short family film, on 7th and 8th July.
Absurdist-fiction author and New York Times Bestseller Jasper Fforde does an author’s talk on the 9th July, and the 10th is the All Day Aardman Filmathon with an Aardman Model Making Workshop aimed at children aged 6 and above.
And it’s the 8th July, at 8:00pm when the wonderful Lady Nade takes the stage, Emily Barker on the Saturday the 10th. Sunday polishes off the festival with Lucy Porter, after Apocalyptic Circus return to The Pound with a visually striking, highly skilled circus and comedy show for all the family called My House.
Other events planned throughout the festival include a Blue-Sky Mural project, a Silent Disco, Fun Community Singalong Workshop, Jimmy Jams Breakfast Storytime with Gav Cross, work in progress from the Debut Dance Company.
As a nipper I’d spend days, entire school holidays, making mixtapes as if I worked for Now, That’s What I Call Music! In the era before hi-fi, I’d sit holding a microphone to the radio’s speaker, adventurously attempting to anticipate when Tony Blackburn was going to talk over the tune, and just when In the Air Tonight peaked with Phil’s crashing drums, my dad would shout up the stairs that my tea was ready; eternally caught on tape, at least until my Walkman screwed up the cassette.
Crude to look back, even when I advanced to tape-to-tape, I discovered if I pressed the pause button very slowly on the recording cassette deck, it would slide into the next song, and with a second of grinding squeal Howard Jones glided into Yazoo!! Always the DJ, just never with the tech! Rest assured; this doesn’t happen on this, our Various Artists compilation album, 4 Julia’s House. And oh, have I got some news about that?!
Huh? Yes, I have, and here it is….
We did it! Thanks once again to all our fabulous contributing artists, our third instalment of detailed sleeve notes will follow shortly, but for now, I couldn’t wait another day, therefore, I’ve released it half a day early, this afternoon!
Now all that needs to happen is to get promoting it, and you can help by sharing news of this on your social media pages, thank you. Bloggers and media please get in touch, and help me raise some funds for Julia’s House.
I’ve embedded a player, in which you should be able to get a full try before you buy, I believe you get three listens before it’ll default and tell you to buy it. I hope you enjoy, it has been a mission and half, but one I’d gladly do again.
Please note: there are many artists giving it, “oh no, I was going to send you a track!” Fear not, there is still time, as I’ll causally start collecting tunes for a volume 2, and when the time is ready and we have enough songs, we will do it. It might be for another charity, I’d personally like to do another raising funds for The Devizes & District Opportunity Centre, but that’s unconfirmed as of yet.
You know, sometimes I think I could raise more money with less effort by trekking down through the Market Place in a bath of cold baked beans, but I wanted to bring you a treasured item comprising of so many great artists we’ve featured, or will be featuring in the near future on Devizine. Never before has all these artists been on one huge album like this, and look, even if you don’t care for a particular tune, there’s 46 of them, check my maths as I pride myself on being exceptionally rubbish at it, but I make that 22p a track, and all for such a worthy cause!
“We are so grateful to Devizine and all of the local artists who are taking part in the charity album to raise funds for Julia’s House. We don’t receive any government funding for the care we give to families in Wiltshire, so the support we receive from our local community is so important.”
Claudia Hickin, Community Fundraiser at Julia’s House
I have been a busy bee, trying to get the truckload of info we need to cover to get a full perspective on just how great this album is and all the fabulous artists and bands have thankfully got behind it. So, find below another bout of the extensive track listings with a brief bio and links to the artists. I’m dividing it into three sections, this is the second, the final piece of the puzzle will be here shortly. It would be simply too much information to digest if were all the tracks in one article, and I really need you to check out the acts you like the sound of, like them up on social media, send them love, and buy their music, as they’ve so generously given to this worthy project.
Through reading blogposts and case studies on the Julia’s House website, it’s only becoming clear how outstanding the charity is, and how much amazing and often heart-breaking work they do. I was honoured to meet with Claudia Hickin, Community Fundraiser at Julia’s House, who said, “we are so grateful to Devizine and all of the local artists who are taking part in the charity album to raise funds for Julia’s House. We don’t receive any government funding for the care we give to families in Wiltshire, so the support we receive from our local community is so important.”
Stuart Whant of the band Barrelhouse also turned up, and Gazette & Herald reporter Kirsten Robertson, who should be penning an article this coming week, which is our official release date; finally, as of Tuesday 29th June, it should be live and ready to download. You can, by the way, pre-order it, as many have already done, and we’ve raised around about £75 already, and it’s not even out yet! But we still need you to not only buy, but share your shopping hoard with the world, let them know they need this album in their life, to help save other lives.
Aware you cannot sample the songs, probably due to something I’ve messed up in the BandCamp settings, I put together a YouTube video, which took an age, but has a clip of every song on the album.
There’s also a change, as we welcome Urban Lions late to the party. Entirely my fault, juggling conversing to so many musicians in different chat windows I lost track waffling about cover versions and Rupert Bear to recall where we were in asking them to donate a tune. Corrected now, track 44 will be Urban Lions – We Say I. Our most amazing Big Ship Alliance track, All in this Thing Together, should’ve also added the info it features Johnny2Bad, Robbie Levi & Stones too, so I’ve corrected this. More on those tunes in the next instalment, when we detail the finale of the track listing; not enough hours in the day! Here’s 21 to 33, and I’m going to have a little lie down!
21. Sam Bishop – Wild Heart (Live Acoustic)
Member of Devizes School boy band, 98 Reasons in the noughties, Sam partnered with another bandmate, Finley Trusler to create the popular Larkin duo. Now he’s studying music at Winchester, and releasing solo singles and the recent EP Lost Promises. This really shows experimentation into some amazing vocal arrangements, and we’re delighted to have a live acoustic version of one track, Wild Heart.
Steve Cox is frontman of this Swindon-based 21st Century Anglicana, acoustic guitar-driven folk/pop collective. A contemporary English take on the west coast cross-over sound of the late 1960s, Mr Love & Justice are a Swindon-based, fronted by singer/songwriter Steve Cox. Since 1992, they’ve four albums under their belts and handful of EPs. This track is an out-take from the 2003 album Homeground, available as a download only single from the forthcoming album Memory Box, and it’s wonderful.
Southampton-based five-piece mod band, Barmy Park, consists of bassist Paul Smith, Chris White on lead guitar, Martin Ford on keys, drummer Terry Goulding and guitarist and lead vocals Jeff Worrow. Yes, you read that right, another one with the palindrome surname Worrow, and yes, somewhere along the line we are related; that’s how I got to hear about this awesome band!
One half of this cousin duo we’ve already mentioned, Finley Trusler partnered with Sam Bishop to form Larkin from the ashes of their school boyband 98 Reasons. Finely now partners with Harvey Trusler to form this beguiling, usually covers duo The Truzzy Boys. Like many live bands, during lockdown the boys worked on some singles, releasing this one in March 2020, and Not the One more recently. Finely also recently joined fantastic local mod group, The Roughcut Rebels, as frontman; no doubt to lower the group’s age demographic!
25. Daydream Runaways – Light the Spark
Here’s a shining example of why I love doing Devizine; I’ve tracked the progress of this promising young indie-pop band since day dot, and like a fine wine, they get better with age! Hailing half from Swindon, half from Devizes, Daydream Runaways restored my faith in the genre, with a feelgood eighties sound, they rock. They raised the roof at our fundraising gig in Devizes Cellar bar, after a tragic fire devastated some local residents. They rocked Vinyl Realm’s second stage at our town’s street festival, and they’ve continued to wow with every single release, compiling them onto an EP called Dreamlands. I’m proud to offer you this revamped version of their debut single, Light the Spark. June sees the release of a new track, Curtains.
26. Talk in Code – Talk Like That
It was January 2019 when I reviewed Resolve, and album of indie-pop by Swindon band Talk in Code, and akin to Daydream Runaways, they’ve gone from strength to strength since. Locally they’ve created a huge fanbase, they call “talkers,” and festival bookings have been widespread. Talk Like That was released in January last year, and was the beginnings of this crisp eighties pop-rock style we’ve now come to love them for. Last month saw the release of Face to Face.
27. Longcoats – Pretty in Pink
More indie-pop with an eighties twist, from Bath’s latest sensation, Longcoats. Here’s their penultimate single, Pretty in Pink, and it rocks. We reviewed it, we love it here at Devizine, in fact, we’ve loved their sound since we joined frontman Ollie’s Facebook group The Indie Network in May last year. Another young band going from strength to strength.
28. Atari Pilot – When We Were Children
Wrapping up our upcoming indie-pop bands section, sonically, Swindon’s Atari Pilot are massively prolific. I discovered them early last year, and reviewed Wrong Captain, been loving their sound since. Supporting Talk in Code recently at Swindon’s Level III, there’s a community of comparable bands on the same circuit, the aforementioned Daydreamers and Longcoats, creating a great, flourishing scene. I’m delighted to be able to create a compilation with all of them featured.
29. Andy J Williams – Post Nup
During lockdown I kicked off an idea which caught on, save a concentrated review where I tend of waffle off on a tangent, I could quickly turnaround a Song of the Day post, on my phone usually. This allows me to find new artists to plug, and a funky track called Something to Believe in, by Bristol’s Andy J Williams had me hook, line and sinker, leading to a full review of his album Buy all the $tuff!
30. The Dirty Smooth – Seed to the Spark
Did everyone know Malmsbury’s The Dirty Smooth, except me, I asked back in November last year, when they sent me this absolutely blinding track for a mention. Since their debut single six years ago, The Dirty Smooth are no strangers to the festival circuit, gaining a reputation for playing original, anthemic pop songs. On top of numerous live appearances, they helped organise the Minety Music Festival in 2017. Shortlisted at the UK Festival Awards it has become a well-established festival, hosting acts like Toploader, Republica and Chesney Hawkes. Over the past two years, but setback by lockdown, they’ve been working towards a forthcoming album, Running From The Radar.
31. SexJazz – Metallic Blue
What can I say? The name grabbed me, right off the poster for this September’s Swindon Shuffle. Additional information on this alternative electronica/funky-punk, highly-fluorescently branded Swindon outfit Facebook page reads, “Don’t worry, it will be alright. Kind Regards, SexJazz.” The latest single in their prolific discography is titled, “Time is a Twat,” so I’ll leave it up to you to decide how seriously they take themselves. This, Metallic Blue, is a dynamite tune, completely original, in-your-face and addictive.
32. Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue – Hammer Down
Ah, it wouldn’t be a complete compilation without Ruzz Guitar and his Blues Revue. Bristol-based rock n roll like you’ve never heard before, I’m not having a 50th birthday party unless I can book these guys! Frenzied rock n roll fused blues with panache, extended from what would usually exhaust a musician in over three-minutes, to epic proportions, probably the reason with he’s endorsed by Gretsch Guitars and worked with legends. This track is taken from a wholly instrumental album, aptly called “The Instrumental Sounds Of…” and it’s wonderful with bells on and a double-bass.
33. The Boot Hill All Stars – Monkey in the Hold
Ah, those crazy Boot Hill All Stars from Frome, favourites of the west country festival circuit for over 12 years, present this frenzied ska-related riff over their scrumpy & western style. As writing this I’ve returned from The Barge at Honeystreet where they blew the roof off the marquee. So pleased to be able to blast a track of theirs in your general direction, but you’ll have to provide your own feather dusters and girdles.
And that’s quite enough to digest for one Sunday; I’ll get to last 13 tracks as soon as my sausage-fingers will allow, hopefully by Tuesday, when the album is launched.
If there’s one business to be in during this period of paced easing of lockdown, it must be the marquee business, it’s another for pubs to adequately comprehend what to put inside them. Establishments erect a tent and furnish it with tables so punters can eat and drink alfresco, and some might have an acoustic singer compliment it, but supplying entertainment to suit a crowd eager to get social lives up and running again is the tricky part.
For the Barge at Honeystreet, with its unique combo of a pub, wharf and campsite, historically it created a perpetual mini-festival atmosphere, ergo they’re no strangers to understanding how to accommodate restrictions and still throw a mind-blowing party.
What the now-owners have done is nothing short of miraculous; to enhance this ethos, and create an apt space to house the original concept.
With fields-worth of camping pitches, tipi glamping zone, the derelict barn transformed into a tremendously decorated arts and performance space, a brilliant children’s playpark, suitable showers and washroom facilities, the many vast improvements have made the Barge something folk could only dream of in years gone by. And for which they should be extremely proud.
Naturally, I had to check this out myself, improvements already underway prior to lockdown when I last paid a visit, for Knati P and Nick’s Skanga sound system. Of course, back then we danced inside the pub, and given when I booked tickets for this Boot Hill All Stars extravaganza, we were under the impression restrictions would be fully lifted.
To maintain decorum and keep everyone seated while hosting a gig from a scrumpy and western, Wurzels-meets-the Specials in a kind of frenzied gypsy-folk-punk band of misfits, eagerly anticipating their first performance since lockdown, was never going to be easy. Yet through sheer respect for what the owners of the Barge have achieved, restrictions were adhered to and the best made of a bad situation.
Crowds remained seated, within the huge airy marquee, though were aching to break out in dance fever, as the celebrated Boot Hill All Stars did their thing, with bells on, corsets, fluffy dusters and frontman Flounder wearing a testicles necklace and sporting a new twin-tooth Ripsaw Resonator made from recycled and renovated material from Junksville Guitars. All revealed as they disrobed from their “lockdown attire” dressing gowns!
But this was not before support came from the bizarrely unique jack-hammered blues duo, Dry White Bones. Unique I say by way of a Dave on harmonica, and a washboard dangling from his neck, with metallic camping mug, and a variety of homemade percussion features attached, to compliment his other half’s rusty but powerful blues vocals plus acoustic guitar. The pair make quite a show, with entertaining banter and an improbably unpredicted sound; Dave breaking into a sublime harmonica solo of Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald’s Summertime, only as an intro to their own composition, for example, is nothing short of genius. Yet, if you feel a guy tapping a camping mug sounds a bit silly, this is something you really have to witness yourself to fully appreciate.
To the main event of the show, and it is a show, rather than a gig; think vaudeville in a gypsy caravan, circus at Madstock to just go part of the way. It’s an expression of unabashed folly, where Toots & the Maytals’ Monkey Man, can befittingly follow a frantic cover of Dolly Parton’s Jolene. Props such as chairs for Cossack dancing, and handheld signs, one reading “tiny Jesus,” the other, “on a hot cross bun” correspond to their original and humorous song titles. A gig where if dancing is not allowed the gang encourage items of clothing be waved around instead, ending with a pair of bloomers landing on Flounder’s guitar headstock.
Classics known to Boot Hill fans, the comical female masturbatory subject of Devil’s Doorbell to ska-fuelled Night Bus and Monkey in the Hold and were accomplished, (the latter I plug is on our 4 Julia’s House compilation,) but not before a few new, lockdown-related tunes were presented; one of the NHS, the second concerning the Homer Simpson practise of drinking alone in your underpants. With twelve years of doing this under their belt, though they confessed nerves to me prior to going on, it seemed like riding a bike to the punters, stimulated by the epic routine.
There could be no act more apt for The Barge at Honeystreet, yet with a restaurant, and passing activities along the canal or campsite like paddle boating, The Record Deck longboat record store, and Stephanie and Simon’s traditional printing press from a pink milkfloat to name but a few, there’s always something happening, and it’s usually bonkers. As for gigs, the show must go on, and for a mere fiver ticket stub, next Friday sees the arrival of Grizzley and the Grasshoppers, Saturday night will go off with local legendary resident DJ and producer Rich the Ditch and friends on the wheels of steel, and Somerset hip hop outfit, Monkey Bizzle’s album launch on the following Friday 9th July, in this pocket of resistance from our affluent conservative corner of the universe.
Me? I got out of the rut and had a blinder, thanks for asking.
Venturing over to the Barge tonight to catch crazy corsets and getars shenanigans with the Boot Hill All Stars. So, to get me in the mood, supporting act Dry White Bones gets our song of the day…. yee-ha!
And that’s my song of the day!! Very good, carry on…..
The flags of Israel and Palestine halved with a swish and a white dove stencilled over the top, was the starting point for a painting by Chippenham artist, Mike Long. We discussed his method, almost making it up as he went along, the original idea extends outwards as he progresses with a painting, rather like his unique tendency to continue the painting over the actual frame. Underneath the flags, a scene of a football game, with goalposts painted on tanks, in Mike’s sketchy Chagall style; this element developed while painting it.
We’re at Chippenham’s Yelde Hall in the Market Place, Mike’s turn on the rota to hold the fort. The alternative art show, Breakout is running for another week, until Saturday 3rd July. Open everyday except Sunday from 10am to 4pm, I call it “an art show” to break the preconceptions of words like “gallery” or “exhibit,” because here’s a display which finds an even ground between an often seen as tedious fine art gallery of standard landscapes or portraits, and the outright “arty” kind of off-putting “weird.” For this concept, it’s the sort of exhibit to appease anyone with only a passing interest in art; a contemporary pop art show.
Unlike two years past, when, teamed with two other artists, Si Griffiths and Emma Sally, they put on Never Mind The Heritage, Here’s Our Art Show, in the same venue, the three are joined by five other locally-based artists, each taking a panel, making for variety and a fuller experience. It’s a dazzling show, well worth paying a visit.
To start at the beginning, an artist I know only too well, Devizes-based Clifton Powell, takes the first panel. Recently commissioned to paint Abbot Hadrian for an English Heritage exhibition, The African Diaspora in England, in Canterbury, closer to home Clifton shows a few works from his ongoing “Unrest” series. They’re striking images, poignantly painted with realism, and take the subject of modern civil turbulence.
Works from the other artists exhibiting here are new to me. Jimmer Willmott, a pop surrealist from Bristol takes the next panel, describes his work as a “chaotic love affair of the cute and weird, running naked hand-in-hand with a bright, fun blend of humour and juxtaposition.” Indeed, words found in some excellently crafted Alphabetti Spaghetti, or American cops with donuts for heads in a more colourful vein than René Magritte’s The Son of Man, fits the bill.
Meanwhile, photographer Daniel Carmichael takes inspiration from patterns in small objects and the effects of time and the elements upon them. With a keen eye for a snap, autumn leaves covering a discarded men at work road sign, for example, captures a mood of manufactured versus nature.
Next is Mike Long’s varied styles, of expressionism, often Lowry-like scenes or steampunk imaginings which extends into the frame, involving it and creating the notion the subject continues after the confines of the image you’re looking at, these are ingenious works in which you’ll spot something different in each time you look at them. Also, I was surprised to see some graphical pieces too.
With environmental, often sombre themes, the ever-expressive Emma Sally is up next, she states her artwork this year has arisen from “feelings of frustration,” aptly. A new direction, she says, “in articulating visceral emotions,” and the solemnity of a graveyard with woman dressed in black gazing at headstone is poignantly effective. Others are more sardonically abstract, the Earth ripped apart, rolled into sausage-shapes and knotted back together again being particularly adroit and stirring.
Mixed-media artist Helen Osborne Swan, creates a series of striking papier-mâché 3D masks, “open to the beholder’s interpretation,” but started with the Colston statue being toppled and daubed with paint. “There is a lot more behind the face we present to the world,” is a notion which could take us back to Clifton’s Unrest series, there’s a murky conception in these inventive faces protruding from the canvas at you, some obvious, but others, like the “too cool for skool” one of a younger with baseball cap and shades, you’re left uncertain as to the reason for their underhandedness.
Whereas Montague Tott leaves nothing to the imagination, trained as an illustrator “having to follow other people’s artistic direction,” given the freedom to express himself through his own work was “too great a temptation to ignore,” so he embarked on a more esoteric path. Inspired by classic oil paintings, Montague adds elements of horror movies, comics and popular culture into what would otherwise be a classic portrait. One of whom I suspect as silent-film actress Mabel Normand, painted with a child Freddy Kruger is particularly disconcerting, yet equally are the family portraits of half-man-half goat characters, as if trapped in a mansion of a fantasy novel.
And last up is the amazing, highly-skilled underground comix style of Si Griffiths, with his penchant for putting clowns or Frankenstein’s monster into unusual and inexplicable settings. Comically disturbing at times, in psychedelic visions or thriller movie surroundings, they bring an awkward smile.
If lockdown for the solitude profession of an artist hasn’t been so impacting on ability to work, it’s certainly had an impression on their subjects, but more so, producing a painting is only half the job; getting them out there is crucial financially. Do check this exhibit out if you can, it has Covid regulations in place, and is an airy hall. Importantly though, I feel here’s an art show you don’t need to be well-versed in art or an “arty sort” to enjoy and be entertained by. Neither will take up your entire day to browse, but with its less-is-more policy, there’s a varied bunch of alternative art on show, of which the standard is outstanding.
Have you seen this, at the Euros? When in defence of a freekick they have a guy lying on the ground behind the wall like a human draft excluder. That’d be me, about as much use as a chocolate fireguard, finally a position I could play. Imagine the scenario; I’d be like “where do you want me to be?” The captain’s response would be, “tell you what, why don’t you take a load off, and lie down there on the grass, take as long as you need!”
The crowds thinking; that guy came to the wrong event, he wants to be at the solstice celebrations, maxin’-relaxin’, awaiting sunrise…. now there’s a confliction; while Wembley play host to 60,000 foreign media and dignitaries, exempt from quarantine, Wiltshire bans access to its world-famous Neolithic monument for significant less thousands of revellers whose only wish is to see in the solstice in a manner done centuries prior to the notion a bunch of lads kicking a pig’s bladder around a park might be fun.
Last year was understandable, and well reported, solstice at the henge would be via live stream only. Hardly the same, but adhered too. This year it looked set to go ahead, and was poorly publicised that it had been pulled last minute due to the pushing back of our Clown Minister’s so-called, “Freedom Day.”
Take a deep breath, refrain from calling it “Freedom Day,” please. Freedom Day in the USA remembers the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery and involuntary servitude, rather than being able to drunkenly hug your best mate down the pub. The only thing slightly comparable to it would be the day this government, intent on regurgitating and condoning the traditional hypocrisies and philosophies of prejudices, collapses, and a freer society which adopts the tenet live and let others live, replaces it.
A prime example this weekend, in my honest opinion, and here’s why; constraining a populace’s desire to celebrate a religious rite whilst allowing lucrative sporting events is nothing less than cultural appropriation. Far from Pope Gregory I’s era, who banged out a letter to Saxon Bishop of London, Mellitus, legitimately approving the reformatting of pagan cultural activities and beliefs into a Christianised form, (hence bunnies and chocolate eggs presented to mark Jesus’s crucifixion, and Santa Claus jingling bells on his birthday) but be certain, it’s the same ballpark; Interpretatio Christiana lite.
As I sift through social media commentary and local news reports, I find nothing but support and positive stories from those who either attended Solstice at our county’s heritage sites, or tried to, couped only by downright insolence from authorities to accept its importance to so many people, and made concentrated efforts to prevent it.
In this pandemic era, restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus is logical, we’ve had over a year to come to terms and implement these. Social distancing, basic hygiene, and the wearing of facemasks when in close proximity to another have all become second nature. These can be used to create a safer environment in which to gather, and we have done, but it seems only when it suits. A celebration at Stonehenge could have been policed properly, the standard model for Covid prevention could have be implemented, but to outright ban it, when it’s bleeding obvious there will be resistance, and people will attempt to gate-crash, is counter-productive to preventing the spread of the virus, compared to allowing it to go ahead with aforementioned restrictions. Ever been to Stonehenge? Hardly a confined and enclosed space!
If we put measures into Royal Ascot and made it a “pilot,” for Queenie and her affluent chums, we could have done the same with Stonehenge. But we only need to look at the controversial history of retribution by authorities to suspect there’s far more to the reasons for preventing solstice celebrations than the pandemic.
I need not reflect back-to-square-one, the Battle of the Beanfield, rather consider, through the Iron Age, the Roman Empire, and the early Mediaeval periods, while the meaning and significance of Avebury’s stone circle had been lost through the passage of time, people largely let it be, ignoring it, using as a fortified site or even, during Roman times, seeing it as a tourist attraction, much as we do today. It wasn’t until the early 14th century, Late Mediaeval, when England had been wholly transformed to Christianity, the circle was associated with the devil, and villagers ripped down the stones with such anger, one poor chap was killed attempting to topple them.
Imagine the fate, insanely yelling at an eight-foot stone monolith that it was the work of the devil, until it falls and crushes you to death, and your mate is like; yeah, story checks out; that’s gonna hurt in the morning! And why anyone would want to build their church out of stones considered the Devil’s Chair, or the Devil’s Quoits is beyond reasoning.
The irony is, if it wasn’t for Black Death in 1349, halving the village population, when manpower was focussed on agricultural obligations rather than taking their aggression out on a pagan monument, it’s likely there would be no remains for Alexander Keiller to have renovated.
And now, 672 years later, we’ve got our own plague, and on a rain-drenched, dull sunrise anyway, Wiltshire Police waffle, “We have taken the difficult decision to prevent further access to part of the Ridgeway, near Avebury, to maintain public safety and prevent potential damage to nearby farmland. This is in response to large numbers of people and vehicles in the area.” When really, it’s common knowledge locally, Avebury is a far less popular solstice celebration site than Stonehenge and would’ve only risked being inundated with vehicles because they closed Stonehenge; swings and roundabouts!
I spoke to a friend, heading to Avebury on motorbike, so able to take the byways across Hackpen Hill to avoid roadblocks. The point being; where there’s a will, there’s a way, folk are prepared to take a hike because, and here’s the thing the authorities fail to grasp, even if solstice is not your cup of tea, it’s time to accept that to thousands of British people, it clearly is.
Yet English Heritage pull their live stream of sunrise at Stonehenge, due to invasion, host Ed Shires announced, “I must say we have been disappointed that a number of people have chosen to disregard our request to not travel to the stones this morning and that is the reason why we haven’t been able to bring you the pictures that we would have liked to have done.” The pictures that they would have liked, is the image of solitude and splendour, as the sun rises over the stones, to promote the site as a lucrative attraction to tourists, rather than their attempts curb the real connotations it has for the indigenous folk, on what was a dull and rainy morning without much sunrise, anyway! Run the film, I say, show the world what is really happening at Stonehenge, and that it means so much to so many, they’re willing to break the law and lockdown restrictions to be there, and perhaps only then, the embarrassment might make them consider, perhaps, you know, we could have organised an event, with restrictions and made far safer environment than the inevitable invasion; give me strength!
By 1994 the Criminal Justice Bill had become an act. Attempts to enforce it were either greatly exaggerated, such as riot vans and police helicopters crashing a birthday barbeque, or were disregarded as an unnecessary government enforcement from the police on the ground. Though we may never have had another Castlemorton, the mid-nineties and even into the millennium, free raves struck back from the body-blow.
Urbanised parties took over railway arches, disused warehouses and squats, the people fought tooth and nail to preserve the culture, and in a way, they did. Rural parties continued, localised and smaller, but communal and friendly. Albeit any forces resisting against them, caused many larger ones to become more viciously anarchistic over time. There were attempts to party in aid of a greater cause, environmental issues for example, such as the Reclaim the Streets protests.
Yet in turn, rave bore an impact on culture and society, which outreached the free party scene. We spoke of musical genres breaking apart, so that large pay-raves erected multiple tents of differing sounds; house, drum n bass, techno, happy hardcore, speed garage, the list continued to get more diverse, until at Universe’s Tribal Gathering 1997, where originators of computer-generated music, Kraftwerk played a main stage, and everyone from each individual subgenre tent came out to pay respects to the roots.
Likewise, Liverpool super-club Cream wanted in on the large festival rave, and created Creamfields, where the likes of Run DMC played. And the scene redeveloped in many avenues, Acid Jazz was popularised, and if it was only short-lived, it birthed incredibly successful Jamiroquai. It also returned hip hop to the forefront, as breakbeat, chemical and big beat were the sounds of the later nineties. The indie and rave divide, parted dramatically since the days of Madchester, the Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, and Primal Scream’s Screamadeleica had realigned, with the punk nature of the Prodigy’s new look. The crossover blended once again, as indie kids accepted electronica wasn’t intending to lay down and die.
Clubs rocked to The Dust Brothers, later to be the Chemical Brothers. Mo-Wax, Skint and Wall of Sound roared a big beat, hip hop melting pot ethos, rooted by rave parties, and everyone flooded to Brighton beach to see Norman Cook “large it” as Fatboy Slim.
What was clear, by this conjunction, while the movement had altered, and divided, rave was now embedded in our culture, and was spreading globally. The paid peanuts DJs who once rocked up to an illegal rave now jetsetters, playing clubs worldwide.
Clubland never had it so good, buy a MixMag, relish in a party, legally, without the need of convoys, service station coups and risks of police brutality. I bought a silk shirt, wore it at Lakota in Bristol, but headed there after a free party in the forest of Longleat, the night before, and without care for basic hygiene, my paisley chic was ruined by the sweat marks of a boxer. I was oblivious ‘til presented with embarrassing photographic evidence afterwards.
But commercialisation of the culture had always loomed. In the race to become the “king of rave,” as rock n roll had Elvis and reggae had Marley, they failed to note this plastic throwaway ethos I’ve previously mentioned. In 1992, thousands of twenty-somethings blissfully unaware of the references, sang ‘Eezer Goode ‘Eezer Goode He’s Ebeneezer Goode, simply because the Shamen reached number one in the pop charts, in just the same way thirty years previously, no-hopers sang “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” oblivious to its blatant LSD connotations. I’d argue if we have to have a “king of rave” it’d would have been the ever-progressive Prodigy, but they never cared to call for the title.
The point is, commercialisation got the better of us eventually, as it did for every previous outrageous youth culture. It would be difficult to imagine in the days of Scott Joplin, that his rags would be considered conforming for a hoity-toity jazz festival in market towns like Marlborough, as in the 1910s, he played to lewd degenerates and desperate sailors in New York’s underworld and bawdy brothels. In a short few years after the peak of rave culture, Leftfield’s Release the Pressure will be used in an advert for Cheese Strings. And don’t get me started on Yo Gabba Gabba.
And now we live in a time when reflections of nostalgia from forty-somethings comply with Albert Trotter moments, and a misunderstanding of what happened is ingrained in our culture. I cringe at how the tragic Wonder Woman sequel depicted the eighties, in an almost caricatured version of the fashion, and foresee bearded twenty-somethings attending wistful “rave” nights dressed in glow sticks like tourists on planet Mars. I never waved a fucking glowstick in the nineties, any more than I wore legwarmers in the eighties!
A van speeds past me, a youngster wears his hood up while driving. Why? Is there a leak in the van’s roof? Yes, we ravers popularised the hooded top in the UK long before the “hoody” culture, and if we wore the hood up, it was because we came out from a sweatbox into the cool night air with perspiration evaporating off of us. We did it to prevent dehydration from precipitation, rather than cos it made us look well ‘ard.
And then Ollie Murs’ heart skips a beat, with a drum loop the Ratpack would’ve rejected in 91, and I yell, NO! Get your own youth culture kids, nicking ours is disillusioned by commercialisation, unless you’re standing chilly at Peartree services at 3am, teeth masticating the life out of a slice of Wrigleys, eyes like saucers, and waving your arms about like a broken robot with a hundred others, surrounded by cars beeping their horn and playing a chewed up Easygroove cassette, then you are not a raver. And don’t you even let me see you asking Alexa to search the word cassette!
Last thing I want to do is end this series on a sour note, but duty calls. I read an article about how the days of the illegal rave had returned in all its former glory. “It was just like 1992,” they quoted in a story about a warehouse takeover, then informed partygoers discovered the happening via a Tweet. Eh? Have a word with yourself, Tweets were a novelty eighties band who rehashed an oom-pah so your granny could do a little bit of this and a little bit of that and shake her bum at some family disco of yore. We went raving without a clue what a pager was, while scare-story spreading tabloids suggested we all had mobile phones, in an era where mobile phones were thought of as the devil’s business. They couldn’t comprehend how an entire generation could all descend onto one field simply by word-of-mouth.
“…and if you tell that to the young people today, they won’t believe you…”
The Four Yorkshire Men sketch, Monty Python.
In conclusion; as we say farewell to my little series reflecting back on those heady ravey dayz, I’ll confirm, there was numerous amazing times, the best times of my life, times evoking stories I could bore you into an early grave with. And by the thankful response to this series and the masses of posts of stories from so many old skool ravers in the variety of Facebook groups, it is clear I’m not alone in this theory. Although, my rose-tinted specs were large enough to engulf those dilated pupils throughout most of the examination.
Probably the most active of those groups, aforementioned DOCU FREE PARTY ERA 1990-1994 – WERE YOU THERE?was originally set up as a research project by one Aaron Trinder a filmmaker on a mission to document the era in a film. We wish him all the best of luck with this monumental task. And it is a monumental task, as unlike most previous youth cultures which borrowed from various trends and cultures, say the teddy boys borrowed extensively from rock-n-roll, mods borrowed from jazz, Italian suits and scooters, and so on, rave borrowed from everything and anything.
United, the melting pot came from any source, we electrified it and, even if it was relatively short-lived, what exhausted out inspired everything that went hereafter; modern pop, multiple dance music subgenres, fashion, video technology, literature, children’s entertainment, and most importantly, despite the authorises misunderstanding us and their traditionist values causing hateful vengeance upon us, a wealth of people power; the notion that masses can make a difference to life, society and politics. Evident by politicians consistently doing what our Iron Lady wouldn’t do at the time, make a U-turn to save their popularity and votes. For this, we should all be proud.
I would reward myself with one last disco biscuit, but I’m unsure if my ticker would take it. Slapped with a finale date though, it would be on my bucket list, and what a way to go, reaching for the skies in one last sweet harmony…..
Americana folk singer-songwriter Lady Nade beautifully attributes her granddad for her traits, in the song Peace and Calm, citing his love of gardening as his mellowed happy place. Wonderfully sentimental, the boot fits, as is this stunningly crafted new album, Willing, released yesterday, and undoubtedly the reason why she plays to a sold-out audience tonight at St George’s in her hometown of Bristol.
Reviewing after just the one listen is usually dodgy ground, but when an album engrosses you as Willing does, it’s all that’s necessary to reverberate the news to you just how fabulous this is.
If Lady Nade has a physical resemblance to Heather Small, she certainly has the deep and soulful voice to match, but any musical comparisons have to end there, unless either Mike Pickering is taken out of the equation or the nineties electronica inclination was mysteriously replaced by Nashville country. For pigeonholing this, it is soulful country, in sound and subject matter.
Written during the pandemic, there’s a secluded ambience echoing through these eleven sublime three-minute plus stories of friendship, love and loneliness lost and found, reflecting the fact it was recorded in multiple studios and engineered by all the musicians in isolation. Yet to hear it will hold you spellbound in a single place, till its conclusion.
With a folk tinge the title track kicks us off, and sucks you in with a romantic notion of loyalty. The slide-guitar fills a tale of faith against missing someone follows, and, lighter, You’re my Number One, trickles euphoria, warmly.
Indeed, mellow is the key throughout, Josette being breezily romantic, while Wild Fire offers a darker, moodier tenet. Whimsically spoken, One-Sided is perhaps the most beguilingly pop-like with a cannonball despondency you cannot help but be touched by. But if identification is what you’re after, Call Yourself a Friend has the sorrowful, trust vs cheating friendship, and accompanied by pedal-steel guitar-picking, traditional country music is honoured.
By Rock Bottom, as the title suggests, there’s a slight rock breeze to it without defiling its roots, Tom Petty style. Then we have the aforementioned, Peace and Calm, an upbeat, jollily ironic Many Ways to Sink This Ship, and Ain’t One Thing makes for a perfect finale, by summing up the perfect person to be in love with. What a gorgeous sentiment to seamlessly end a captivating album from start to finish.
It often perplexes me, how Ray Charles deviating from the jazz-laden soul ABC Records necessitated as the key to his achievement, to release the double-album, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music was considered so shocking, when artists such as Nashville’s DeFord Bailey was fusing harmonica blues into the more acceptable country style forty years prior. Still, some may be surprised by Lady Nade’s affection for Americana folk, but after one listen the surprise will turn into amazement.
As a form of healing from grief, Lady Nade started writing poems and songs, and performing locally, learning loss and sorrow isn’t something one can recover from alone, and with her music and recipes she creates a communal experience, a calling to connect with her fans on a deeper level. This shows in the sublime dedication she transfers to this, her third album.
Blagging biros and stationery from banks and post offices, we’ve all been there, but few driven to pen a song about it. It’s one valid reason to love the righteous but riotous simplicity of Bristol-based anarchistic vegan folky-ska-punk misfits, Boom Boom Racoon.
Those aware, who thought 2018’s album by the trio, Now That’s What I Call Boom Boom Racoon vol1 was off the head, newly released Songs From The Before Times & Some More takes it to a whole other level. Lockdown raw, rougher and more in your arrogant, fat consumerist face than ever before; put that sausage roll down and prepare to be barked at with a charming slice of satire and counterculture commentary.
Now reading that paragraph back makes it all seem so terrible, but under a blanket punk term, which only goes some way to pigeonhole the unpigeonholeable, irony is abound and Boom Boom Racoon are quite the opposite. This is nine three-minute plus enthrallingly exciting rides, and is undoubtedly entertaining to say the least.
Mixing rum and coffee, ie. turbo mocha time, Covid19-related Public Service Announcement 2020, are the lighter, comical subjects.
Whereas tightening border control in States and Nations, laboratory animal testing in Cages, human unecological practices compared to dinosaur extinction, and another anti-capitalist rant on how difficult it is to be sustainable in the modern era, are the more sombre and acute subjects, setting the world to rights.
And the way they work it, the words they’ve planned go against the homemade rawness of the sound. This isn’t off-the-cuff, there’s ingenious wordplay and poignant messages hidden beneath the fun attitude. The abolition, against the psychological effect of imprisonment and a need to sustain numbers by reforming laws to create criminals, for example, Boom Boom Racoon touch on radical notions or campaigns, and are fearless to state their core values.
Anthropocene it, Say it, Sorted probably carries the most poignant message, and is also the only track which has an amusing sample, unlike the previous aforementioned more polished album which has more, from The Simpsons to Harry Potter. And it comes in the shape of a rather stumblingly polite call from Kent Police regarding an animal rights protest, which is highly amusing.
The album ends hilariously on the most brilliant retort from taunts by your average knuckle-dragging homophobic bigot, I’m certain you know the sort, completing the overall contemporary leftism and reformist ethos which, if you tag the piffle term “snowflake” onto, beware, the unity here is compounded into a masterfully literate snowball, and it’s a brown one, and it’s aiming at your face!
Myself, I’d love for these raccoon pests to come trash the bins of our narrowminded community and welcome the opportunity of our more daring venues to book them for a live performance on the theory, well, on the theory, they’d steal the show.
As a new local Facebook page for the LGBTQ+ community, Devizes Lgbtq+ springs to life, I’m left wondering exactly what social and counsel interactions are readily available in Devizes today. So, I’m chatting with the page’s admin, Oberon, about his group’s aims and goals.
What I think was most interesting about it, while I dug for negativity, I’d suspect will be evident in our local community towards LGBTQ+, Oberon simply didn’t take the bait, and remained positive throughout our friendly chinwag. Sorry if you came here looking for controversy, this is just a plug for the page and hope it’ll strength both the community and opinions of others towards it.
Firstly, someone shared an already existing Facebook group for LGBTQ+ in Devizes. I supposed having a page rather than a group is less exclusive and not as restricted being it can make looser, more general connections. “I agree,” Oberon started, “a page is much broader and will be easier to reach out to a wider range of people, which will make it easier to advertise, make connections and get the word out.”
As I understand it, Devizes School has an excellent program to deal with the issue, but suppose once pupils leave, there’s little else in town, no real places to feel like a community. “I’m very glad Devizes School have a good programme to help their pupils!” he continued. “As far as when they leave goes, as the LGBTQ+ community grows I’d be happy to say that there will be a place to be a community online and, once the community has found its feet, offline and in person too. The sooner the better I say!”
But is a group like this is more important in a smaller town like Devizes, than say, a city, where there’s already more in place to bring together like-minded people? “I do think an LGBTQ+ community is very important in small towns,” Oberon expressed, “just as much as a city. Many people don’t live in cities or grow up in them, myself included. For a small town to be just as proud and just as accepting is important because it helps to reach everyone. Even if there are a smaller group of LGBTQ+ residents in Devizes it helps to create a safe, inclusive space for us and stops the feeling that small towns don’t ‘understand’ or ‘accept’ as much as larger places do. Furthermore, it can show people that aren’t LGBTQ+ what we’re all about and hopefully help them get a greater understanding of who we are.”
And there’s a thing, causing me to mention Pride. Pride is supported by many people outside the LGBTQ+ community, and that’s probably more important than just being there for those who are, because it’s about casting negative opinions of yore aside, especially in a smaller community like here. Because, and here’s the crunch, being honest, I do think there’s a number of insular people here who simply refuse to shake off the old stereotypes, maybe more so than urban environments.
We’ve come a long way even in my own lifetime, I suggested to him, flagrantly showing my age by citing the awareness in the eighties by singers like Boy George, Jimmy Somerville et all! As while they made it a recognisable subject and broke the taboos we now see in our society, at the time people were still hiding in shame, you still wouldn’t have same sex couples on tv shows like you do today.
The fear is, I do however think we’re in danger of letting that progress slip backwards, as all prejudices seem to be at the forefront and a right wing, or far right-wing gains popularity. I mean we only have look at the onslaught of negative comments when Wiltshire Police added a rainbow flag back in February.
Oberon replied admirably, I must say! “Every human being is an individual with their own beliefs and views, my aim isn’t to change people, it’s just to show them a greater understanding of things, and be who we are. I agree, we have come a very long way and, as with everything, there will always be a negative and a positive side of things. I choose to focus on the positive and that’s the light I aim to share.”
Okay, given that, let’s go for it; imagine, a Devizes Pride! At least, some smaller events, or a physical club would be a great start.
“A Devizes Pride would be fantastic and of course that wouldn’t happen overnight,” he replied, which is just as well, as it’s past my bedtime already!
“I aim to start off with smaller events,” Oberon suggested, “community outreach and fundraisers. Physical clubs, meet-ups and youth groups are also something I’d like to get started, as I think they’ll help LGBTQ+ people find one another, in a safe space, and grow a strong community together.”
Still, he didn’t rule out the possibility of a Devizes Pride. “Devizes having its own Pride celebration is an avid goal of mine, amongst others! I believe that the stronger the representation of LGBTQ+ people in Devizes the more that people will have a greater understanding of who we are and what we’re all about. Devizes is a town with a strong community and I am for the LGBTQ+ community to have a ‘louder voice’ as it were.”
But, like any new venture, it would need the support behind it, and all this costs, at this stage is to “like” the page on the Book of Face, and join the separate entity group too, if you wished. It was nice chatting to Oberon, on what can be a touchy subject we need to open up to and address.
Now, I know what you’re asking; aren’t you in someway affiliated with Planks’ Dairies, in which case isn’t this a shameless advertorial? Yes, and no, respectively. The historical truth behind the former is next-door neighbours would knock at my door when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, to return our half-filled milk bottles, which I took from our own fridge and delivered to their doors in want to be a milkman! And now, well, ask me again when it’s snowing for a slightly differing opinion, but I’m living the dream!
The answer to the latter is not really, no, you get paid for advertorials, I’m doing it out of the kindness of my heart, the circulation of news and the slim possibility they’ll chuck a yogurt at me, most likely at the head!
If Planks have been delivering milk and products around the area since 1936, you’d be fooled into thinking nothing has changed. Agreeably not much has changed, and they pride themselves in upholding the traditional door-to-door milk delivery services, which is something of an obscurity in other areas of the UK. So much so, tourists tend to take photos when the milk-floats pass through town, and I’m likely having a bad hair day!
However, just like the eighties when Stewart Plank introduced the electric fleet we know, love and occasionally get stuck behind today, times are changing at the legendary dairy. Hold the front page, we have a website! Click here, if you don’t believe such an oddity is possible!
But the really great news is, in line with current trends, a new, locally sourced from Berkley Farm in Wroughton, organic range is heading our way. Delivered to your door in larger, returnable glass bottles, as is the sustainable living ethos Planks adopt, what with electric milk-floats and all, organic milk has never been this good; you don’t even have to change out of your jimmy-jams!
Other than the PJs part, there are many benefits to buying organic, including higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids and CLA, more antioxidants, and more vitamins than regular milk. We’ve even got organic, or regular milkshakes. There’s a half price offer on your first order of the new organic range, whether you are a new customer or just changing your regular order.
The delivery areas are Devizes, Melksham, Corsham, and Pewsey, and most surrounding villages from Poulshot, Potterne, Rowde, All Cannings, Urchfont, Chirton, Woodborough, Wilcot, Seend Cleeve, Bromham, Box, Colerne, Easterton Market Lavington, Great Cheverell and many others.
By the way, as well as soya and lactose free milk, bread, butter, eggs, yogurts, juices (including a fine bottle of a’Becketts apple juice), seasonal potatoes, and yes, those broken biscuits you used to love as a kid, can be delivered too!
And that’s it, contact the dairy-ologists and you’re one step closer to opening your door in the morning to find milk on the step, the way it has always been, prior to supermarkets undercutting dairy farmers, and the way it will continue at Planks. There’s nothing more for me to say, other than perhaps a milkman joke; why don’t cows wear flip-flops?
Despite the gloomy pushback to the 19th July for step four of the roadmap to reopen venues, government announced plans to pilot test live theatrical performances with increased capacities, as it has already done for music festivals and sports events.
While this will delight larger city venues, our Wharf Theatre in Devizes must continue with a limited socially distanced capacity for its reopening performance of The Brothers Grimm. All the more reason to book early for this delightful sounding family-orientated presentation!
Collected Grimm Tales runs from Tuesday 13th to Saturday 17th July, with doors opening at 7.30pm. It’s adapted by Carol Ann Duffy of the Young Vic Company, dramatized by Tim Supple and directed by Debby Wilkinson.
In this acclaimed adaptation of Hansel and Gretel, Ashputtel, Rumpelstiltskin and more are bought to life by a small adult cast using a physical and non-natural style of performance. It will take you on a journey into the world of imagination, as you discover the elusive paths that wind through the dark woods of fairy tales and invite you to experience again the living power of theatre.
Tickets can be purchased by ringing 03336 663 366; from the website Wharftheatre.co.uk and at the Devizes Community Hub and Library on Sheep Street.
I don’t know where the ingenious pub name The Chocolate Poodle came from, or why it had to sadly close, but it always sounds like it should be the name of an East End pub to me, so, for fun, here’s a preview today written in cockney rhyming slang, (although there will be no jellied eels) with translation in brackets so not to ganderflank the yokels!
Allwhite me ol China (mate)? Thee know those gorgeous lads with their gourmet Lilian Gish n jockey whips (fish n chips) slice (van) The Fiesty Fish, right? Well, usually they’re up at the ol’ Chocolate Poodle bath (pub) in West Lavington on a poet’s day (friday) evening, right?
Well ave a Butcher’s (look) at this;
This Saturday, June 19th, they’ll be driving a few yards up the Jack n Jill (hill), at a’ Becketts vineyard where you can try their fantastic sparkling Calvin (wine) while you get your laughing gear around yer tucker in the picturesque surroundings!
Pre-order from their website and join them from 11am-2.30pm. That sounds sugar (nice), innit?! Roll out the barrel.
Best way to locate these travelling fish n chips virtuosoes is to like their Facebook page.
Though for trade description purposes, there were no actual lions on the Green, (not this time, it’s not 1980) if I had to sum up The Lions on the Green in a word today it would be; blooming marvellous, which I know is two words, but allow me thus, the heat is getting to me.
Under a scorching 30-degree sun, Devizes came out in full colour for something we’ve truly missed. Any kind of gathering right now is a blessing, but I have to commend and thank the amazing effort at creating a bonza family-orientated occasion. Devizes Lions pulled out all the stops with a car show plus.
Fantasy Radio provided the soundtrack, there was a great selection of hot food and a bar with seating half in the shade of the trees, doughnut and ice cream vans, kids fairground rides, and a variety of stalls from Julia’s House tombola, Jeanette Von Berg’s Wiltshire Air Ambulance toy stall, local crafts, Rutts Lane Cider (I swear that guy is following me around!) Wiltshire Museum with their jack-in-the-box, and lots more to see and do for everyone.
People flocked, to browse the vintage cars, and oh yes, Bertie the Bus, in the glorious sunshine. I’m not one for bragging my infinite knowledge of the mechanics of motor vehicles, but I appreciate perusing their splendour, imagine myself donning leather gloves and racing goggles, and revving them for a burn-out, or pondering the backseat space of, in particular, those American beauties; “take me home, Charles, I’m not that kind of girl!” Ah yes, that kind of ye oldie face-slapping scenario.
In true community spirit Devizes should be honoured today, and glad to have the dedicated organisation Devizes Lions at hand. A town where even our post boxes wear knitted tams, there’s a buzz in the air, a pride we can’t hide. Well done to all!
“If you’re hanging on to a rising balloon, you’re presented with a difficult decision – let go before it’s too late or hang on and keep getting higher, posing the question: how long can you keep a grip on the rope? They’re selling hippie wigs in Woolworth’s, man. The greatest decade in the history of mankind is over. And as Presuming Ed here has so consistently pointed out, we have failed to paint it black.”
Danny from Withnail and I.
I could read back on last week’s part of this series; definitely donning my designer rose-tinted specs. For it was our rave honeymoon, and we had not a care in the world. We partied, that was it. Ignoring the government ousted their iron lady, the first war for oil had escalated from Operation Desert Shield, and tensions were raging in Northern Ireland, we partied. We partied until the cows come home, and if they did come home, to find twenty thousand madcap ravers gyrating in their field, well, we’d have worked around them, and carried on the party.
If I recounted the incident at the Banbury rave, with the careless driver taking heed of a crusty and significantly slowing down, someone on a Facebook group, DOCU FREE PARTY ERA 1990-1994 – WERE YOU THERE? reminded me of a tragic 1991 rave on Roundway Hill, near to my now hometown of Devizes. A young girl was seriously injured when a car run her over as she laid in long grass. An aide-memoire, not everything that glitters is gold.
Myself, I didn’t attend it. So myopic, my vision extended no further than my own perception of the movement, naïvely assuming because I saw no issue, I could freely wheel-off my illicit activities to my old folks, and they’d be content. Unfortunately, they didn’t see it the same way, family tensions reached a peak, so I steered clear of the party that particular weekend; mates filled me in on the upsetting details.
To push aside the parties, and think back to 1991 with clarity, it was a terrible year for me. I went into it with a girlfriend, a part-time job and place in art college. By the end of it I was filled with teenage anguish, lost girlfriend, job and was kicked out of college. The only truly fond memories were the parties, but Autumn was settling, raves continued, but as winter fell it waned.
A party on New Year’s Eve would, in later years be my only winter cert, the rest fell into hibernation. But I’m struggling to recall what I did for it in 1991. We awaited 1992, assuming it will be the same, but bigger, better, and at the beginning, you’d have been fooled into thinking it would be so. 1992 vastly differed.
Schemes to detect and prevent raves had stepped up a notch, as police waivered serious crime to focus on averting people having illegal fun. They put their foot down at the prospect of Hungerford common being invaded, but as sure as the Belthane came, the only thing they achieved was to move the party north, to Lechlade.
Just as today, life in the Cotswold gateway was filled with conservative thinkers and powerful politicians, bombarded with complaints as the quarry was conquered and the party went on for days. For us, inside the compound, it was a magical moment, proof of strength in numbers. The media pounced more than ever, but, like all other things, be they current affairs, our own personal issues, none of it mattered.
In fact, I, and I don’t think many others did either, contemplate the significance of the next bank holiday bash on Castlemorton common, near Malvern in Worcestershire, until the point we climbed a hillside and looked down on how much it had grown. An estimated forty thousand, so they reckoned. A fear shuddered over me; they were not going to let us get away with this.
Only now, as they bashed the idea of the Criminal Justice Act around parliament in Castlemorton’s aftermath, did we become political, fighting for the right to party. But for the large-scale rave, it was the last. The government smashed the last nail in its coffin, and quashed an upcoming generation of rebellious, potential travelling folk.
You see, raves were organised by sound systems, and folk from all walks of life flocked to attend, but whenever something went wrong at an illegal rave, the travellers took the blame from the media. At Romsey’s regular Torpedo Town not long after Castlemorton, the police were not playing ball, and consequently there was an aura of anarchy in the air. Under instruction, they set up road blocks, which ravers simply parked alongside and walked to the site. This moved the commotion from the site to the town, and ITV News invited everyone to join in, including troublemakers, who torched a rubbish incinerator.
Outright, TV news teams blamed the travellers, and only a small report without apology followed some weeks later when they arrested two men from Birmingham, who had homes, and were not really defined as “ravers,” or “travellers” at all.
Many sound systems jumped the sinking ship, trekking across Europe and further, which, in turn, spread the culture, but for us, we were just kids, I don’t think I even had a passport! But life did get better, I passed my driving test fortunately the week before Castlemorton, and I’d eventually flee the family nest. But as my facilities to attend raves improved, the free party scene drowned in its own popularity.
The problem for authorities, was despite killing the physical party, they couldn’t cure the bug; the desire to carry on regardless. We only had to source other avenues. The first was the pay-rave, large-scale organised events saw a sudden influx.
By the end of the year 92, not one for the officialness the epoch had become with pay raves, one on our doorstep seemed viable, a nice, easy ticket to see in 1993 seemed like a good idea. Fantazia had a good rep, but little did we know it had been swallowed by big businessmen. At Littlecote House they promised free parking, but made us cough up a fiver; should have been a clue. A number of broken promises let it down, but if disillusioning the punters, they aimed for, dumping the contents of the port-a-loos on a farmer’s track nearby was a step too far.
Why did it matter to anyone other than the farmer? Because it projected bad on the scene, via media, it cast a shadow over our moral standards, all of us. Did Littlecote ever host another rave?
For the most part, though, the pay raves dedicated loyally to the raver. The scene grew stronger for this, against the businessman capitalising on the trend, those pay events with morals could erect stages and effects which took on concert and festival proportions, and was largely responsible for the compatible atmosphere of today’s festival scene.
But for the demise of the freedom, the self-determination of do-it-yourself counterculture and autonomy of the society it created within it, we paid the cost.
For the record, while any specific event can not be singled out, many illegal events were indeed well, if not better, organised than the pay ones, they were policed in their own special way, i.e.; one respected the travellers for being on their site, or the sound systems for their efforts, else risk an almost mediaeval punishment.
And for what it is worth, there was always an effort to clean up afterwards. Hard to imagine, after a heady night, these illegal ravers were handed bin bags, and they got onto the task without persuasion or wages, rather for the genuine want to return the land to how it was before their arrival, but it did. I can assure you; this didn’t happen at pay raves.
Other avenues worthy of exploring was Glastonbury, bunk the fence and you were in a whole new world, a city of tents, but it took some years for the Eavis family to accept an incursion of ravers, with their electronic bleeps. Prior to a time when The Prodigy would headline, ravers were a lost entity at the festival, wandering miles with only the rumour of an apt party to hand. Being they too had driven the travellers off with riotous consequences, a rave remained a rumour, and most made do standing outside a stall selling blankets, marching to their small sound system.
As we progressed through the nineties, smaller localised raves would break out. These were great, communal and friendly, and local police, while casting a beady eye, bypassed the Justice Bill rulings, acknowledging making a fuss about them was far more destructive than effective.
The safest bet to party though, was the club. Prepared to travel some distance to go clubbing, we’d eventually explore London and Brighton, but for the beginnings we stayed closer. The UFO Club at Longleat’s Berkley Suite would be a fluorescent trancey techno ball, Swindon’s Brunel Rooms presented hardcore, with a side order of house, whereas the hall of Golddiggers in Chippenham blew full-on hardcore out of the arena and into the carpark, and it was free with a little flyer.
It was in that same carpark, in conversation with an unknown straggler I had an epiphany. We asked him if he was having a good night, but he was negative. “I’m not going back in there,” he whined, “it’s all that jungle music.”
It occurred to me then, the hardcore was splitting. The solemn shadowy drum n bass was dividing from the merry hi-hats, crashing pianos and squeaky female vocals of what the younger raver deemed “happy hardcore.” If it tended to be racially motivated, or just socially, I couldn’t pick a side, appreciating them both for their dividing differences. Now considered a more mature raver, we shipped into the steady house and let the factions pull apart into the thousands of subgenres electronic music now finds itself with.
As we come to our final part of the series next week, I’m contemplating the effect and impact the free rave scene had, but lest we remember, for us it was over, and whatever avenue we did explore to satisfy our craving, it would never be the same.
Sometimes, and quite a number of times I might add, nothing fits the bill quite like a bout of pounding bibulous Celtic punk, by a band with a girl donning a cow’s head as a mascot. But how far would you expect to trek to find such a group of misfits, Wales, Ireland?
Suggested in the name, Liddington Hill, the beautiful down overlooking Swindon, with the Ridgeway traversing and its iron age hillfort, is local enough. Not since the days of the Blitz, when the area was used as a “Starfish” decoy bombing bunker, has it been so explosive.
What’s the link to Liddington with this scorching five-piece band, who have just released their debut EP, Cow after a few singles, I felt imperative to ask? “We all lived in Swindon at the time we started,” fiddle and vocalist Matt told, “our singer grew up around the area and went up to Liddington Castle a lot as a child. It seemed to be a bit of a landmark and with the Ridgway close by had great links to the past, so I guess it just seemed like a good name.”
Two members remain in Swindon, the other two now live in Oxford, and drummer Chris hails from Chippenham. With fiddles and a bodhrán meshed with electric guitars, the line between punk and traditional Celtic folk cannot be yanked apart, not that there’s any good reason to try to.
The bobbing theme of a band drinking excursion to Oxford, Pub Crawl, follows a dynamic and unique slide-guitar take of the folk sea shanty, Whip Jamboree.
An almost new-wave post-punk feel is implemented into the melting pot with the third tune, Marshlands, an original song about lead guitarist Liam’s Grandfather in Ireland, “who wouldn’t ride a horse,” Matt explained, “but insisted on riding a cow!” Hence the cow symbolism, I’m best guessing.
The EP ends traditionally, with Joseph B. Geoghegan’s anti-war music hall classic, Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye, and Liddington Hill bless the folk feel with their brand of punk, making for a perfect finale. While it might not be as authentic as The Pouges, or as aggressive as The Levellers, with bands like Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys storming success in the US, there’s a huge market for this beguiling genre, yet a scarcity on the local scene, and Liddington Hill pack a punch.
It’s a grower, and I’m loving this, anticipating possibility of an album to greater extend their scope, but as far as energetic presence is concerned, it’s kick-ass. Branded subtly, though, to suit a pub environment, so a live show, fingers crossed for their definite return, would be something highly memorable and I’d recommend landlords book them in; certainly, it’d push up the beer sales!
Now lockdown restrictions are looking to be eased, you might be considering hosting a party.
Given the last thing you need is for a conservative supporter to gate-crash and ruin the atmosphere, we’ve ten handy top tips on how to discourage a tory from attending your bash.
History proves conservative thinkers wouldn’t know a party if it came up to them holding balloons, cracking party poppers and wearing a large and loud T-shirt with “hello, I’m a party,” written on it in bold, unmistakable letters, unless it’s holding a bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothschild.
Incredibly thick-skinned at the best of times, if we remember what the best of times was once like, they’re renowned for failing to comprehend exactly how repugnant and deplorable their ethos generally is. If they sniff a party going on, they might want to attend, if a new series of Game of Thrones hasn’t started on Netflix, blind to the notion they’re as much wanted there as a touchy-feely leper, or a starved sabre-toothed tiger.
You know they’ll eat all but one vol-a-vaunt and flaunt about how they’re allowing that one to trickle down. You understand they’ll be loudly scoffing and chortling at anyone unable to afford a tux, or anyone who might arrive in anything less than a seventy-plate Chelsea tractor. You can take it as red, they’ll boast about their luxurious holidays, and why everyone needs to go to Hilltop Villa, for the sake of the indigenous people of Fiji, and waffle on tedious random tangents about their charity donations are tax deductible, how the footsie 100 is bearing up against their shares, or why everyone should invest in a tax-free wine collection.
They’ll gush piffle phrases of management speak and hypocritical twaddle until your other guests excuse themselves and leave, or are physically ill. At its basic level, the majority of Tories are killjoys, fact. You don’t need that, your guests don’t need that either, so we’ve produced a list of budget ideas and accessories to dissuade tory scum from infiltrating your party.
Perhaps you could think of some more; join the tory-bashing fun until they Tweet how they’re not as wealthy some might think, and were tormented so much they had to book an emergency flight to their Caribbean beach condo for rehab. We can at least hope, but don’t overdo it, lockdown has been hard on them too, furloughed on only eighty percent of their £80K salary, some with only the single tennis court and a regular sized heated swimming pool and sauna.
Of course, not every Conservative supporter is so wealthy to afford a luxury villa on an exotic island, and many are simply insentiently transformed working-class patriots who digested too much Daily Fail bullshit and think the Queen loves them, and there’s no better alternative than voting for a party which hates them with a passion, but hides it behind the fat aging arse of a pitiful clown prime minister; there is no hope for them. You could try the tips below, but it’s not guaranteed they will be intelligent enough to take the hint.
1- In preparation for your party….
Capture and hold captive a small number of pheasant prior to your party. If a tory is loitering on your lawn, blagging something along the lines of “Tarquin said we were invited, Ho-ha,” secretly release the pheasants and point to them shouting, “I think I just saw some game!” Hey presto, while it may be animal torture, it’s a small price to pay to see your unwanted guests gathering their shooting rifles and not bothering you again.
2- Put a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Jeremy Corbyn by the door.
Infallible this one; cardboard cut-outs of the tory nemesis, grand-wizard JC can be found online. No matter what you think of the dude personally, this will scare the bejesus out of the most lenient tory. Even if you suppose the most lenient, middle-of-the-road kind of tory might be just about acceptable to allow in, a word of warning; once you’ve let one in, they’ll all want to follow, and behind every half-decent tory, there will unfortunately be a thousand insane bastards behind them.
3- Tell your guests to pretend the cakes were made by Diana Abbott, should a tory ask.
To the average tory, Diana Abbott is the socialist equivalent of Typhoid Mary, who should be deported, and the thought of her afro-Caribbean-rooted fingers kneading dough will sicken them to the core; job done.
4- Tell unwanted tory guests you’re just popping out to Lidl for more gin.
Tories hate affordable supermarkets; Tories are narcissists, and will assume you are a peasant and waddle off muttering something about how much better Tarquin’s, or their own party was, because they used an online Waitrose delivery service and even tipped the driver 20p.
5- Ensure you have invited some Europeans, eastern ones if possible. Failing that, encourage your guests to chat among themselves in French accents.
The last thing a Tory needs to notice is Johnny Foreigner breaking through the toughened border control, and Brexit is a sham. Encourage your guests to discuss how they came for summer fruit-picking jobs, and Tories will automatically find the door.
6- Play music defined as ‘Merseybeat.’
Playing music such as the Beatles, Gerry & the Pacemakers and the Searchers, at least until suspicions you might be scousers creep in and they bugger off, is a failsafe. Tories have something against natives of Liverpool, which we need not get into the details of, but suffice it to say, this will work a treat, particularly if you hire a DJ of the LGBT community.
7- Announce the first party game will be truth or dare.
The thought of telling the truth will crumble the even most central-standing tory, and they’ll be making excuses about having to go home to feed the horses. Have their coats ready.
8 – Tell your guests they can camp the night in your garden.
Without official glamping facilities such as electrical hook-up, room service or even four poster beds, the average tory will assume your guests will overstay their invite and you’re effectively setting up a gypsy traveller encampment. They’ll be off to complain to your parish councillor in no time at all, safe in the knowledge racist slurs towards travellers is the last nationwide acceptable form of prejudice other than red-heads.
9- If you spot a Tory gate-crasher, introduce your them to your frontline doctor friend.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve not got a frontline doctor as a friend, beat them at their own game and lie; pretend they are. Initiate a conversation about the NHS, and the gate-crasher will flee the scene because they know a doctor will fact-check from personal experience and their “clapping” fiasco cover will be blown. Many Tories even unbelievably blag that the Conservative government created the health service, to smokescreen the irrepressible desire to privatise it to US companies.
10 – If all else fails, tell anti-Semitic jokes.
It may go against all your stable moral judgements, I know, but you could try this desperate measure as a last resort. Most Tories have the bizarre concept that criticising the actions of an oppressive government committing genocide is somehow racist, possibly to overshadow their own unmerited prejudges. To hear an anti-Semitic joke will misleadingly convince them they were right. Note; it is very simple to convince a tory they are right. With any hope, they will be heading for the door in no time at all, mumbling double standards like, “I told you so, Harry, they’re all the same these intolerant lefties, just like Hitler,” and you can return to your politically correct and balanced banter as soon as they’ve driven off in their Range Rover Discovery.
Coordinating an event in Devizes fundraising for the Ukraine has fallen wayside at the moment, I need a rethink. Meanwhile there’s lots of ways to help in Wiltshire and I thought I’d see if we can’t amalgamate them into one article…. Wiltshire Council has provided some FAQs on all aspects of fundraising, donating and housing … Continue reading “Helping Ukraine in Wiltshire”
Oh, for the rolling years since Devizes Sixth Form-Hardenhuish collaborated boy band 98 Reasons, time cannot stand still, we know this, we still see the bassist of which, Finely, on the local circuit with cousin Harvey as the Truzzy Boys, and as frontman of astounding mod-rock covers band The Roughcut Rebels. And occasionally we hear … Continue reading “The Dark Horizon of Sam Bishop”
Devizes Town Council announced the result of an assessment by the Environment Agency yesterday, following last week’s outbreak of pollution in Crammar, a spillage from a van fire on the road aside it. Their advise was simply that a sheen “on the surface of the water usually looks worse than it is and although unsightly … Continue reading “Update on the Crammer”
You know that millennial movie, Almost Famous, set mid-seventies, where Rolling Stone Magazine mistake a nerdy teenager for a music journalist and send him on the road with an outrageous prog-rock band? It was nothing like that. Neither did it resemble 200 Motels, where a man dressed as a vacuum cleaner convinces you Ringo Starr … Continue reading “On The Road With Talk in Code!”
A proud moment for Devizes-based artist Clifton Powell as he poses for a photo next to his amazing portrait of Abbot Hadrian, in Canterbury.
Clifton joins Elena Onwochei-Garcia, Glory Samjolly, Mikéla Henry-Lowe, Hannah Uzor and Chloe Cox in a project by English Heritage. EH has commissioned a series of portraits depicting six historic figures from the African diaspora whose stories have contributed to England’s rich history. Each artist has been supported by their curators and historians to creatively portray their subject. Each painting will be hung at the English Heritage site connected to its subject this summer.
St Hadrian of Canterbury played a pivotal role in the early history of the English Church. He was born in North Africa and travelled to Italy, most likely as a refugee, before making the journey to Canterbury. He was abbot of the monastery of St Peter and St Paul (later St Augustine’s) in Canterbury, between 670 and 710.
During his time in Canterbury, he became an influential teacher and scholar, and helped shape the theology and rites of worship of the English Church.
Clifton Powell studied at the Jamaica School of Art in Kingston, Jamaica, and moved to the UK in the late 1980s. A versatile and skilled painter, Clifton is influenced by the places he has travelled to and the people he’s met. He has taken part in numerous exhibitions and art fairs in London, Bath, Stroud and the West Country including the International Black Art Fair, The House of Emperor Haile Selassie, Bluestone Gallery and Diaspora at Salisbury Arts Centre.
You may also remember me reporting on the day I attended the charity-run art group for the elderly, Arts Together, in Melksham way back in February 2019, where I met with Clifton, who is a mentor and volunteer.
Recent areas of exploration in his work include the Wiltshire countryside, wildlife, birds, still life and his remarkable series of paintings depicting unrest in the world. He is currently working on a painting project titled African Art. You can catch his work closer to home, from 21st June to 3rd July at The Yelde Hall in Chippenham when he exhibits as part of Breakout, the Alternative Art Show.
A follow-up to the 2019 exhibit Never Mind The Heritage, Here’s an Art Show, in which three local artists, Si Griffiths, Mike Long and Emma Sally exhibited their “alternative art,” Breakout extends the concept, with additional artists Clifton, Daniel Carmichael, Helen Osborne-Swan, Jimmer Willmott and Montague Tott, as well as Si, Mike and Sally. I’m looking forward to this one.
While I’m on the subject of art, don’t forget we have an online art gallery on Devizine, yes we do! Each artist gets a page to show off their work, Clifton’s is here, and if you’d like to be featured with links to your website, just drop us a line, there is no fee.
Have you any young budding actors in your family? Drama kings and queens?! You might like to know Devizes Wharf Theatre have just launched a Youth Theatre. See I could have done with this when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, as I liked to act. Okay, you got me, that was act the fool. I’d think myself lucky if I got the rear-end role of the pantomime horse!
In the past, The Wharf Theatre has produced some amazing youth productions, if you remember the hugely successful Legally Blonde Junior in the summer of 2019, for example.
“We have long felt and recognised that to safeguard the future of the world of theatre it is vital to inspire and encourage the next generation and have been working, behind the scenes, to create a group especially dedicated to them,” they say, announcing two youth theatre directors now in a position to officially launch The Wharf Youth Theatre, ready for September. Here are the details:
Senior Actors Company
Friday 6-8pm. Sept 24th – Oct 22nd/Nov 5th – Dec 3rd
For school years 10-13 (as of September ‘21)
This group will be led by Lou Cox. Lou’s career highlights include theatre tours, The Edinburgh Festival, singing professionally at Glastonbury festival and stand-up comedy. Lou is now a freelance drama teacher at various schools in the area and is a LAMDA examiner. She also directs and has recently started exciting projects with Barnardo’s adoption agency, using drama as a training tool for adoptive parents and a refugee charity in Swindon.
This Company bridges the gap between school drama offering you further practitioner knowledge, a chance to develop your performance skills and many opportunities to perform in our very own theatre. It is a chance to work with like-minded people once a week who share the same passion for drama. You will explore theatre through the ages, engage in practitioner acting theories, work with text and devise your own work. There will be opportunities for students to compete in performance festivals, perform a live play to a paid audience and most importantly have fun!
10-week term £90. (Concessionary places available – please contact; email@example.com)
If you have any questions, please feel free to email Lou at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Junior Actors Company
Thursdays 4.30-6pm Sept 23rd – Oct 21st/Nov 4th – Dec 2nd
This group is for school years 6-9 (as of September ‘21)
This group will be led by Lucia Pupilli. Lucia studied at The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and has worked professionally in various theatre and film productions including ‘White collar hooligans’ directed by Paul Tanter in Rio de Janeiro and ‘His and Hers’ directed by Lisa Spirling at The Egg theatre in Bath. Lucia has performed in clubs and restaurants as a cabaret singer and has also worked as a Primary School teacher for five years in Wiltshire. She founded ‘Music with Lucia’ teaching instrumental lessons on Piano, Flute and Voice and, in addition, enjoys performing with ‘The Invitation Theatre Company’ and The Fulltone Orchestra.
10-week term £75. (Concessionary places available – please contact:email@example.com)
If you have any questions, please feel free to email Lucia at:
Bookings for Autumn Term Opening Soon
In order to book please find details of the membership system on their website: wharftheatre.co.uk
Look under ‘get involved’ and click on ‘wharf youth theatre’
The concentration will be on fun at the junior actor’s school workshops, building confidence and gaining skills through drama, games and improvisations. They’ll be rehearsing and performing scenes from plays and devising their own. The aim is to put on an annual show as they progress.
The workshops are not only an opportunity to develop acting and drama skills but also to make friends and become confident young adults. The Wharf encourage all children to reach their full potential in a safe and inclusive environment.
In addition to the fuller workshops of these new youth companies, the Wharf are also offering two Summer Workshops this year. These will offer an opportunity to have fun and participate in various drama activities. Whilst they will give you a flavour of the work you could be exploring over the forthcoming terms these are stand-alone sessions and are open to all.
Senior Actors with Lou
Wednesday July 28th 10am-1pm
Wednesday August 11th 10am-1pm
Junior Actors with Lucia
Wednesday August 4th 2-5pm
Wednesday August 11th 2-5pm.
Each 3-hour workshop costs £15.
Bookings can be made on Ticketsource via their website wharftheatre.co.uk . Look under ‘get involved’ and click on ‘wharf youth theatre.’ Places are limited but they will be operating a wait list system if groups are full.
Me? I’m passed it now, I’m afraid, but I’ll always have my moment in the spotlight, my Shakin’ Stevens impression on my cub scout pack-holiday. You had to have been there…..or not!
In a press release dated 24th September 2020, MP Danny Kruger claimed Boris Johnson had called upon him to report for government calls for a new era of ‘community power.’ This included “proposals to sustain the community spirit we saw during the lockdown.” He christened his paper, “Levelling up our communities,” a vision for “a more local, more human, less bureaucratic, less centralised society in which people are supported and empowered to play an active role in their neighbourhoods.”
As shpil it sounds a-okay, a far cry from a Conservative Party of yore set against the people it’s supposed to serve, a Conservative Party which, on 1st June 1985, ordered police to viciously attack a Peace Convoy, setting up the 1985 Stonehenge Free Festival. History recalls it “The Battle of the Beanfields,” any witness could better perceive it as a politicide massacre. Its aim, to eliminate categories of people who either chose to live their life on the road, happened to stumble across this way of life by unpreventable circumstance, or grew up nurtured in such an environment, for political advantages. As a blanket term we call them travellers.
But that’s all it is, a blanket term, there is no organised grouping anymore than people who own a home are assembled, therefore there is no reason to presume any individual classed as such is part of a joint ethos, a collective philosophy or tenet. Attitudes and opinions of such a grouping differ as vastly as those who live in a house, or a bungalow, or a flat. To note someone who lives in a flat breaking the law, is ludicrous for bungalow dwellers to make a sweeping generalisation that, ergo everyone who lives in a flat is therefore a law-breaker. Yet prejudge typecasting seems to be systematically accepted, ingrained and encouraged when focussed on travellers.
Hard to define exactly as an ethnic group, as while Romany Gypsies are bound into the stereotype, not all are such, so, calling the racist card is unwarranted, but it is a definite form of prejudice, which aimed at other groupings would be frowned upon. Yet how does Danny Kruger remember the Battle of the Beanfields on its anniversary this week? His office, fronted by, I might add, Rebecca Hudson, the journalist who first broke the news of the Salisbury poisonings and therefore a far more articulate professional than the mere meanderings of a milkman, put out a Facebook post condemning the actions of a traveller site in Bromham. Despite Bromham isn’t his jurisdiction, it is in the division of Wiltshire councillor Laura Mayes, though.
I asked Laura why it’s necessary for Danny Kruger to get involved with, what seems to me, to be a simple planning permission issue. After all, planning permission disputes must be a regular occurrence in the county, and there’s never a need to involve an MP. Laura responded, “the problem is that the planning activity is illegal – there is an Enforcement Notice and an Emergency Stop Notice and the owners have ignored them.”
Danny’s post included the explanation, “deliveries of hardcore were made to the field, breaching the Enforcement Notice. The clear expectation is that an illegal Traveller encampment is being created and an influx of caravans is now expected.” Hardly an “expectation,” rather speculation; a big difference. A speculation driven by the aforementioned ingrained prejudge, is my “expectation.” Fair game by his own criteria?
In discussion with Gazette & Herald reporter Kirsten Robertson, The Ward family say the delivery of hardcore is to form a bund, an embankment to control the flow of water. Face it, evidence that it’s not a plan to expand the site or allow more travellers onto it. In a heartfelt plea for peace Bridget Ward, 21, told the Gazette, “We just want to live in peace and become part of the community.”
Yet negative, often offensive comments and name-calling slurs flood social media coverage of the simple planning dispute. It doesn’t help bridge the divide when the council “recommends the public stay away from the site.” Neither does it help when an MP lashes out, the post calculatedly shared on only one local Facebook group, known for an absence of admin regulations and therefore being a highly opinionated group.
We should note, they are not residing illegally, the land was bought in 2014, with an article 4 direction on it, which makes it unsuitable for development anyway. Any attempt to improve the site has been refused permission, the adding of fences, planting of trees and creation of an equestrian area. Constant refusal of simple improvement plans, the hostility against them verbally, constitutes the notion they’re simply not wanted there. Where in Wiltshire would they be welcome?
Wiltshire Council own and manage just three residential Gypsy and Traveller sites, with a total capacity to accommodate fifty-one families, who, in contrary to popular belief, are subject to rent charges, Council tax and service charges for site, water and electricity. Across a whole county, it’s a failure compared with Essex, with twelve sites accommodating 188 families, Somerset has eighteen sites, seven sites in Berkshire, the list continues not forgoing Wiltshire Council looks to possibly sell the three sites they do own under part of the recently concluded Regulation 18 consultation to prepare a Gypsy and Traveller Development Plan Document.
While we should respect permissions for planning need to be made, and upheld, little is done to provide a legal alternative for travellers in the county. Coupled with the ramifications of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which could see travellers facing a fine or prison if they set up unauthorised encampments rather than currently being a civil offence, Danny Kruger’s “levelling up our communities,” constitutes of the eradication of a way of life which has operated for centuries. In fact, pre-Neolithic age, we were all nomadic. Chew on that fat for a moment.
One comment added, “we don’t live in a lawless country,” yet when Danny illegally posted his campaign posters around polling stations, when he ignored lockdown regulations by failing to wear a mask on the train, when he allowed his dog to attack deer on Richmond Common, we brushed them under the carpet, I even defended the latter as an accident.
What about when the High Court said government acted unlawfully by failing to publish details of more than 500 Covid contracts, or abolishing the permit-free training scheme for doctors who qualified outside the United Kingdom or the rest of the European Union without proper consultation, or the case where it departed from the UK’s longstanding policy on opposing the death penalty in all circumstances? Need I continue? Why then, can we not give a little leeway here? Is a delivery of some hardcore to create a bund somehow more damaging to society as the examples given above?
The fact Danny’s offending Facebook post had a grammatical error I’d forgive a primary school pupil to overlook, “and a influx of caravans,” suggests this was not the calculated penning of a skilled journalist, rather a knee-jerk reaction handsome-faced Danny K needs to take a chill pill from before the silver spoon launches from his mouth.
And I say this because, the issue at hand is clearly overexposed by our prejudice, a presuppose striking fear into a family with a young child, for crying out loud, take a look at yourself! I plead you put the political matter aside for just a moment and think outside the box, would you try defend yourself given such hostilities towards you? Is it any different from Afrikaans erecting steel gates and barbed wire to protect their property in apartheid-era Johannesburg? How you can expect travellers not to be slightly anarchic when faced with such exacerbation against them?
Especially in this, quite honestly, trivial instant, far from the given stereotype, where we have a local family simply pleading to blend in and be part of a community. Bridget tells me, “I asked him [Danny Kruger] to stand up for us, against the hate and racism, and to sign the pledge card, but he has just ignored that. We just feel helpless.” This isn’t about hardcore delivery at all, is it?
What do you get out of this Danny, a permit to touch Pritti’s petticoat?! Hardly the “proposals to sustain the community spirit we saw during the lockdown,” is it, mucker?!