REVIEW – Climax Blues Band @ Long Street Blues Club, Devizes – Saturday 30th October 2021

New Music For Old Favourites

by Andy Fawthrop

Another trip up the hill to the Con Club for the latest pop-up session of Long Street Blues Club, and another great night with a busy and enthusiastic audience.

Support act for the night was Bristol-based Damian Arketta, a new name for me, but I’m always happy to listen to new talent.  Damian played a lot of his own stuff, which I found generally unremarkable, and a rather awkward cover of Heard It Thru’ The Grapevine.  To be honest I found his singing style a little strident and shouty, and there was nothing special in his playing – no subtlety or nuance.  To me the applause sounded polite and supportive, rather than genuinely enthusiastic, but I’m aware that views may differ.  Thinking that I was perhaps being a little harsh on the guy, I asked around a bit and found a somewhat Marmite response – some folks thought he was really good, whilst others (like me) were far less enthusiastic.  Overall, however, you simply can’t like everyone, and I’ll just say that he didn’t really float my boat.

Main act for the night were the legendary Climax Blues Band.  The band were originally formed way back in 1968 by Colin Cooper who led the band with Pete Haycock through great success and recognition through the 1970s and 1980s.  The current 6-piece line-up, however, are a different set of guys now, but that’s not to say they don’t have plenty of track record between them.

George Glover has been on the keyboards since 1981, Lester Hunton on guitar since 1986, and Roy Adams (drums) and Neil Simpson (bass) joined the band on a permanent basis around 1990.  The current line-up was completed by Graham Dee on vocals, and Chris ‘Beebe’ Aldridge on saxes.

Why am I telling you all this?  Well there was much chat from frontman Graham Dee about the journey the band was undertaking in trying to blend the music from their historic roots, the material they’ve inherited, with the songs they’re writing and delivering today, the completely new material.  The band, quite rightly, want to move forward and to develop.  And the result, to my mind, was a complete success.  They delivered two good long sets of blended soulful, boogie-woogie, funky, bluesy music.  There was also a jazzy feel at times, as the musicians took their solos, then blending easily back into the groove.  The band looked and sounded comfortable, giving the music the space to breathe.  Dee’s gravelly vocals, combined with Alridge’s seductive sax notes, added superb subtlety and tone to the driving rhythm section.

Dee was a terrific frontman, looking and sounding the part of the band’s MC, coaxing and encouraging all the musicians in turn as they took flight.  His rapport with the audience was spot-on – confidential, cheeky, honest, down-to-earth.  And, yes, he did mention from time to time that the band had a new album out (Hands Of Time)!  He also led the audience in a great call-and-response treatment of “It’s A Family Affair” – exhausting, but great fun.  It was infectious, it was engaging, it was a great performance

Overall another great night at the club – great value to listen to world-class musicians in our own back yard.  Well done to Ian Hopkins and his team!  And there’s loads more good stuff in the pipeline too – see the listings below.

So – you know what you’ve got to do – get out there and support live music!

Future Long Street Blues Club gigs:

Saturday 13th November 2021                   Gerry Jablonski Band

Saturday 20th November 2021                   Focus (Corn Exchange, Devizes)

Saturday 27th November 2021                   Antonio Forcione Quartet

Saturday 18th December 2021-                  KOSSOFF…The Band Plays On

Friday 14th January 2022                               Chicago Living Legends

Saturday 5th February 2022                         Tinsley Ellis

Saturday 19th February 2022                       Mike Zito Band

Saturday 26th February 2022                       Mark Flanagan Band

Friday 4th March 2022                                    Black Sabbitch (Corn Exchange)

Saturday 19th March 2022                            Soft Machine

Saturday 2nd April 2022                                 Alastair Greene Band

Friday 8th April 2022                                       Billy Bremner’s Rockfile (Devizes Town Hall

Saturday 9th April 2022                                  Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy (Corn Exchange)

Saturday 16th April 2022                               Billy Walton Band

Friday 6th May 2022                                        Birdmens

Saturday 17 September 2022                      CSN Express (New Rescheduled Date)


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It’s Beginning to Look a DOCA Like Christmas

Devizes Outdoor Celebratory Arts are in the thick of planning for the Lantern Parade and Winter Festival, set to take place at the Market Place on Friday the 26th and Saturday 27th of November, but it looks doubtful the usual mass-gathering to see Santa Claus switching on the Christmas lights will be possible this year.

Divided in opinion on controlling the pandemic and vaccinations we may be, but I’m certain, though disappointed, it would be an understandable move to spread the festival out for safety reasons, as it did so well with the town’s celebrated International Street Festival in the summer. Not forgoing, we’ll all agree, the last person we need to test positive at this time of year, is Santa!

“Traditionally Devizes Lantern Parade,” DOCA announced, “a huge magical community event comes to our streets on the last Friday of November, it is usually part of the Town Councils Light Switch on.  Things may be a little different this year.”

 But, let’s look forward for the positives; posters are going up around town this coming week, lantern making workshops in schools and at the Wiltshire Museum will take place on the 7th and 21st of November, and DOCA is gearing up to present the town with a wonderful parade and market. “We can confirm that we will have an amazing festive market,” they delight to inform, “with carefully selected sellers and makers bringing unique gifts, tasty food, and drinks to our Market Place.”

“The Makery” in the Corn Exchange will hold independent crafter stalls on both days, where you’ll find beautiful handmade gifts. Fantasy Radio will be playing festival tunes in the Market Place, Devizes Town Band will bring class brass to the Market Place, from 6-7pm each evening, with fireworks straight afterwards, and the highlight lantern parade starting off at 6:30pm.

There is a revised route for the parade, DOCA advises checking maps on lampposts around the town. Collect your lanterns from St. John’s Church between 5pm until 6pm. Leave unwanted lanterns under the Christmas Tree in the Market Place for recycling.

Other first-time things to look out for include the Air Giants, outside the Corn Exchange and the Town Hall at 5:30pm and 8:30pm. Amazing gentle giants, Triffid and Luma are huge illuminated, emotionally expressive, soft robotic creatures. “You may think the wind is blowing them, but they can actually sense you and will interact with you as you approach them,” DOCA claim. This I have to see for myself; who knows, by the end of the evening we’ll be best buddies and probably stop off for a pint at the British!

Also look out for Ghost Caribou; part caribou, part spirit, roam a mystical world after dark. That being outside the Mayflower on Long Street at 5:30pm and 7:10pm, and they’ll go walkabout along the High Street and Long Street afterwards. Join them as they clear a space to perform their other-worldly ceremony, with music, song and shadow puppets they tell stories of lost homes, impossible migrations and seeds of hope before continuing the journey into their hauntingly beautiful dream-world of the night.

Spooky! Hope to catch you there, with mulled wine and mittens! Find out more, HERE.


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REVIEW – White Horse Opera’s Top Of The Ops @Town Hall, Devizes – Friday 29th October 2021

Love Potions & Family Curses

by Andy Fawthrop

Another sign that things are slowly getting back to normal was the re-emergence on Friday night of the rarely-seen, but very talented, White Horse Opera with their first post-Covid presentation of the dodgily-titled show “Top Of The Ops” in the splendid surroundings of Devizes Town Hall.  I think the title was meant to be a play on words involving the word “opera”, but never mind.

The two-hour-plus show featured excerpts from two comic operas – Donizetti’s “L’Elisir D’Amore” (the Elixir of Love) and Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Ruddigore”, together with several other pieces.  The purpose in selecting these two particular operas was to highlight the fact that the company are planning to perform them both in full in 2022 – the Donizetti next October, and the G&S as a bookable touring production for local venues from Spring onwards.

But on Friday night (also reprised on Saturday night), the emphasis was on presenting a rich selection of items, and to get singing once more in front of a paying audience.  We kicked off with guest tenor Carlos Alonso leading the charge into the Donizetti, with strong support from in-house principals Lisa House and Stephen Grimshaw.  And before we reached the interval we had highlights from Mozart, Saint-Saens, Bizet, Gounod, and Borodin amongst others.  Paula Boyagis and Barbara Gompels were the stand-out performers here.

The Town Hall is a splendid venue for this sort of music, with its high ceiling, great acoustics, and plush formal decoration.  The only minor problem is the chandelier-based lighting, which makes it difficult to dim the lights in the audience whilst leaving the action on stage well-illuminated.  But this is a tiny quibble when compared to the overall glory of the historic surroundings.

On to the second half, which took more of a sideways step in its selection of items.  A particular highlight for me was Lewis Cowen’s rendition of Tom Lehrer’s “Masochism Tango”, which I discovered I was still nearly word-perfect on, but that’s just my particular perversion.  We also had pieces from Flanders & Swann, Kismet, West Side Story, and Little Shop of Horrors.  But the key pieces were from Gilbert & Sullivan’s fantastical comic opera “Ruddigore”, a particular favourite of mine.  This featured some nice solos from Chrissie Higgs and Jess Phillips, but with strong and fulsome support from the whole company.  Pianist Tony James, the sole musician, was impeccable in providing bright and upbeat accompaniment.

So by the end of the evening we were all au fait (and very well-acquainted!) with such musical technical terms as glissando (sliding from one note to another) and colatura (elaborate ornamentation).  I’m no expert, and couldn’t carry a tune if you gave me a large bucket, but I know what I like when I hear it, and I definitely liked all of tonight’s performance.  Not only did it sound good, but it was obvious that the performers were enjoying themselves, and the packed audience certainly appreciated it.  Great night out & amazingly good value for a tenner!

Future WHO events:

18th December                                 Fauré ‘s Requiem/ Christmas Concert7.30pm St John’s Church Devizes

Sat 8th Jan 2022                               Top of the Ops                                   7.30pm West Lavington Village Hall

Spring 2022                                        Ruddigore                                           7.30pm Venues TBA

26th, 28th & 29th Oct 2022          L’elisir d’amore                                 7.30pm Lavington School

More information on WHO is available at www.whitehorseopera.co.uk


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The Life of Brian, in Rowde

So, it’s finally come to pass, beginning to look a lot like autumn and a Halloween weekend crammed with events I feel I should attend conflict against the general drizzle looming outside. Having a soaking every morning at work I’m dubious to continue past summery wanders up the hill to Devizes, coupled with my newfound knowledge it’s actually easier to get to the Sham from Rowde via public transport and I really felt like a cider or five.

While I appreciate the killons (that’s a zillon zillions) of invitations I get per weekend, I opted for the easy route and headed for The Cross Keys in Rowde, a local I neglect in pursuit of trekking the county gig hunting, yet which holds many fond memories, including my own wedding reception!

A grand open-plan Waddies, The Keys served the village community with historically a mixed bunch of landlords, some, it must be said, far more dedicated to the task than others. Given an interior paint job complete with retro movie and rock n roll stencils the new owners have recreated the friendly and down-to-earth welcoming atmosphere. They boast a new chef and the continuation of an affordable Sunday carvery, the legacy of the previous owner.

But I’m not here on chance, or for a roast potato; the Rowde landmark opens itself back up for a live music event, and I’ve not heard of the billed “Life of Brian Band.” Promising pop-rock from the sixties to the noughties and boasting the frontman, conveniently called Brian to avoid any Monty Python quips, as a former guitarist for Kate Bush. Okay, I’m game.

Usual wobbly photo from yours truly; always the mark of a good night!

Took a while to kick off, as best things to come to those who wait, plus with their usual drummer absent, Jim from Rowde band Eazilyled made an outstanding adlib performance between this couple of, shall we say, matured and proficient gents, on lead and bass guitars. Eventually cracking open with The Temptations’ My Girl, and following with a plethora of well-defined Beatles, Rolling Stones and Kinks classics, including a wonderfully delivered Waterloo Sunset, Brain and his bass player skilfully executed a grand show of anthemic rock n roll and blues pop covers.

Though there was nothing ground-breaking going on here, it was a rousing and professional sporadic pub band clearly and nostalgically loving every minute of the spotlight. That makes it for me, the sheer expression of bliss and fun, particularly from the bassist. It gives the impression they’re in their element, and they were, rocking out. The couple bouncing off each other with slight banter and dexterous guitarwork, with drummer Jim challenged to improv the next moves from this refined double act, blessed the Cross Keys with an exhilarant evening; here’s hoping for more.

Arguably the noughties where underrepresented, but I don’t believe this mattered one iota to the punters, as Beatles and Stones works for every generation. Plus, alongside we had guaranteed crowd-pleasers from Cream, Free, even the Travelling Wilburys, at times soul with Wilson Pickett and Sam & Dave covers, an especially adroit couple of flashes of the Police’s Roxanne and Message in a Bottle, and some memorable moments with the Who’s Squeeze Box and Tom Petty’s Learning to Fly. What they did they do with charm, professionalism and enjoyment, and one can’t ask for more than this.

A blessing to know the Cross Keys is on top form, and I’d welcome more live music nights, encourage Paul, the landlord to get in touch with some recommendations, if he so wishes. Because while one might trek to towns and cities in want of live music, our villages need some love and attention too, saving stranded people some taxi fees or steps on their FitBits!


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PREVIEW – White Horse Opera’s Production of Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amour”@ Lavington School, Devizes – Wednesday 26th, Friday 28th, and Saturday 29th October 2022

Opera Is Back! – The Elixir Of Love! – Go See This Show! by Andy Fawthrop We’ve said it before, and we feel no shame … Continue readingPREVIEW – White Horse Opera’s Production of Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amour”@ Lavington School, Devizes – Wednesday 26th, Friday 28th, and Saturday 29th October 2022

Countywide Halloween Pranksters and General Crime Rates Sets “Wiltshire Live” to Unfairly Roast Devizes

Who in Devizes has been upsetting the local gutter press now?! Detached from a relatively good idea, Wiltshire 999’s, a blog which once reported current crimes and police matters, a tabloid version called Wiltshire Live has risen like a phoenix from the ashes, most likely to prove more profitable.

With their Facebook page constantly phishing for personal info, it publishes regular slapdash magazine style articles gaining popularity as it trundles. Unlike the historically founded Newsquest group which publishes newspapers such as the Swindon Advertiser and Gazette & Herald, without the restraints of mainstream journalism it is able to deliver some shock tactical pieces, it seems with a penchant for highlighting Devizes as a pretty dire place to live.

Reactionary it maybe, every angry click appeases its advertisers, I’m sure many Devizes residents have seen yesterday’s posts on local Facebook pages by the journalist herself, which states out of 22 areas of Wiltshire, measured by a crime-rate map, designed by an independent website, Devizes has the “greatest spread of crime out of all of the Wiltshire’s areas included in this database.”

Gut reaction to this is understandably to deny it, be shocked and exasperated, because we live here and we love it, and we walk around feeling relatively safe. Those who have lived elsewhere perhaps even more aware Devizes is not Wiltshire’s answer to Mexico’s Tijuana, where approximately seven people are murdered daily, yet neither is Wiltshire Live making it out to be. It does clearly state the county is in the top ten safest places in the country, already knocking some severity off the claim.

Originally then I determined to scrutinise this “crime-map,” ready to criticise the website for defamatory claims on Devizes, but hey-ho, story checks out; miserably, Devizes does score highest, but only in the way the reporter was reading it. Starter for ten, the “crime map” runs on quantity against population percentage, so effectively an all-out bloodthirsty massacre scores a point, equally does a Parkinson’s sufferer caught with a spliff in his own garden, or a chancing teenager pinching a porkpie from Morrisons.

Tranquil Devizes, photographed yesterday!

There is no judgement on the severity of the crime, then, only that it was reported. Again, in Wiltshire Live’s defence, it does say it’s, “vital to consider, is that many crimes sadly go unreported, making statistics like these never 100% accurate,” ergo, if Devizes currently has the greatest spread of crime out of all of the Wiltshire’s areas included in this database, something failed to mention is that Devizes also has a knack of reporting incidents, and that’s surely the mainstay to solving and counteracting them, rather then, ha, you know, just reporting scare stories for hits; correct me if I’m wrong.

So, reading the data differently, Devizes has 988 reported crimes, against Swindon’s 11,503, Salisbury’s 3,177 and even Melksham, with a similar population, weighs in greater than Devizes, with 1,064. Much as I’d liked to have changed my angle on this story, and defend Wiltshire Live, today I find another, separate story, saying “police are investigating a new TikTok trend called ‘heartbeat challenge’ – where kids play loud music outside a house and kick the front door in time to the beat.” While this is obviously happening nationally if not internationally, Wiltshire Live informs “houses in Wiltshire have been targeted,” and then adds the cliff-hanger, “including a home in Devizes.” One has to wonder why Devizes has been singled out, named and shamed, when homes across the county have been hit by the appalling prank.

The issue I have is, running scare stories for clickbait like this is counterproductive against suggesting methods to help reduce crime, it only exists to sensationalise, in my honest opinion. Because an article like this is followed by many not bothered to read it fully, consequently resulting in a bombardment of social media comments like Chinese whispers. The article is shabby, given another six months another small town could top our terrible statistic, in journalistic jargon “it’s got legs,” yet not through content, rather the social media storm in a teacup it’ll no doubt cause.

Firstly, to face the blame game is the young, obviously. Too wrapped up with other social media sites to defend themselves on “fogie” Facebook, it’s fair to say many a petty crime is caused by younger people, bored with nothing better to be doing, because playgrounds are in state of disrepair, activities and social clubs have been axed or underfunded, and they’re set an example by a lying, lawbreaking government set to increase the rate of criminal activity in order to make themselves look better. In times of discontent crime rates rise as a consequence, history proves this.

Let’s look at the most serious of crimes, taking another’s life. In Devizes last year we had an arson attack, police arrested a man on suspicion of murder, who was twenty. Karl Quincey was 35 when he was convicted of killing Barry Cooper in 2008. Michael Chudley was 63 when he shot James Ward in the head with a sawn-off shotgun in 2013. None of them best described as “young,” unless you’re Bill Wyman. Even ancient murderers in Devizes disproves this banal theory, The Devizes Petticoat Murder, Benjamin Purnell was 51 when he was charged with the wilful murder of his wife, Emily, in 1889.

Devizes at its best; proper job fantastic!

One commenter duly noted out of the 988 reported crimes, 978 were bike theft, to receive a plethora of amused emojis in response, although according to the crimerate website, and despite a known spate of bike theft, it’s not true. Rather, more shockingly “The most common crimes in Devizes are violence and sexual offences, with 457 offences during 2020, giving a crime rate of 39. This is 10% higher than 2019’s figure of 411 offences and a difference of 3.95 from 2019’s crime rate of 35. Devizes’s least common crime is robbery, with 5 offences recorded in 2020, a decrease of 80% from 2019’s figure of 9 crimes.”

So, there is a decrease in there, failed to be mentioned in the article. But whoa, sexual offences are on the increase, in all parts of the county. This, in a week when scare stories about drink “spiking” in clubland rolled mainstream media, young girls suggesting they don’t bother going out anymore due to the danger of drugs being either put in drinks or even injected when in close proximity. In running an entertainment guide, I want to encourage people to go out, but to enjoy themselves, yet I’m in the dark here, not been “clubbing” since……well, I’m not intending to disclose how long!

Therefore, it was deeply concerning to of read this trend, and I’ve contacted both Devizes Police and The Exchange nightclub in Devizes for their thoughts, on what they’re doing to best prevent this, and what to do if you think you’ve been spiked. Most of all, I was interested to know how common this was in Devizes, because, and I even said this, even though incidents have been reported in Salisbury and Swindon, I felt clubbers here were less likely to be victims, because Devizes was far safer. And I still believe it is, despite this damming report.

Should I change my angle on this too, I wonder, and go with on premise set out by Wiltshire Live, that you’re statistically more likely to be a victim in Devizes than any other small town in Wiltshire, as I would hate to think I’ve projected the notion it’s not something to worry too much about, provided you take the precautions set out by those organisations I contacted? Who knows, because I’m still awaiting replies from both the Exchange and Police. A shame if they feel it superfluous to respond, when you’d think it’s a message in their benefit to get out.

Hold the front page, I plead with both organisations to reply, so we can advise how to avoid such terrible incidents, because I’m not writing this shit for prestige or cold cash, I’m writing from the heart, and care not if you wish to advertise your business here, or if this gets sufficient hits for Word Ads.

Furthermore, if you’ve been affected by a sexual offence like being spiked, in Devizes, and feel you’ve some advice to give others, please do contact us, your anonymity will be respected.

I’ll say it how it is, thank you, and it is that Devizes is no more dangerous than any other Wiltshire market town, in my opinion, based on wandering around at night hunting gigs and cider! It is disheartening to hear crime is on the increase, yet I strongly suspect this is true nationwide, and I bid while you take care out there, not to rise to the bait and fear for your safety in such a great place to live.

There, given my tuppence, for what it’s worth, can I have my tea now?!


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A Grumpy Old Git Guide to The Future of Television

Not that I’m the ideal candidate to provide an assessment on modern trends in television, being it infuriates me as much as it entertains me. Therefore, as I can do grumpy, please accept I’ve titled this a “grumpy old git guide,” and act accordingly; i.e., don’t read this if you wholeheartedly adore every program every television company has ever unashamedly lobbed in your direction, but continue if you’ve ever considered they could’ve done something a tad better. If I submit Strictly Come Dancing, I believe you’ll wish to read on.

In fairness, it would be unfair to rant on Strictly, being I’ve watched more Dale Winterton’s Supermarket Sweep than it, and that equates best in seconds; write about what you know, they say. The bare fact remains, for decades television changed little, save graphical improvements via technology, better presenting skills, and the axing of Crossroads in 1988.

But research, which, though limited, I do do, I note ITV revived this unbelievably dire soap in 2001, and this, in a large part, is symbolic of my first concern. The fact an entire board sat around a table and not one of them thought reviving Crossroads was imprudent, and for want of a more abrasive word, a fucking dumb-ass idea, least they never bravely stood up and said so; twats. The typicality of this coincides with my imagining, that it must be the twentieth anniversary of the day Hollywood officially ran out of ideas.

For here is an era where decisions to control the pandemic slammed the final nail in the coffin for cinemas, crucified going out in general, yet massive advances in home technology was needed, but clearly, and proudly too, an accomplice to the murder. We had no choice but to cave.

There’s an element of self-harm in the movie business, technology governed, it seems. CGI is so overwhelmingly dazzling, having a plot doesn’t appear to be important. But herald in a new era, where we take computer graphics ability to project anything a director could possibly dream onto the screen, as red, and we’ll demand narrative; least that’s the future I hoping, but doubting.

One website suggested TVs of the future will be paper thin, to match the plotlines of the content on them, I’m guessing.

They scramble, clutch straws, despite a blossoming movement of self-publishing, where incredible authors bypass publishers yet are invisible to movie studios. There are millions of new and ingenious plotlines, if you hunt past big publishing houses only content to unleash Stacy Solomon’s ghost-written autobiography, or another infamous disreputable celeb. Too much like effort when money can be raked in with the frightful rehash. Yep, the only conclusion the misers arrive at, is to trash the reputation of a known classic with a remake. And young, naive to the original, and elders revelled in retrospection, amass.

Up to 1937 approximately 750 artists drew over 2 million sketches for Disney’s first full-length cartoon, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The film contains more than 250,000 separate pictures, and in June this year, the company announced it would produce a live-action remake, ergo, the monumental task, not to mention the writer’s cramp, of these incredible and unrecognised artists will be binned to a lost archive, forever. That, to me, is a crying shame. And what is above this sacrilege, billions will flock to its side.

So, I’ve discovered the future of visual entertainment, far later than everyone else, and it’s not movies. If you think Devizine is lacking content recently, it’s because I’m going through a lethargic phase, succumbing to television; if you can’t beat ’em, join ‘em. I’ve begun the compulsory mind-numbing practice of modern television viewing, hopeful this era, where despite 999 channels, 99% of it is total crap; Babestation to QVC Shopping, whatever is next? The Tree Channel, the Paint Drying Channel, there’s simply too much choice of shite, the needle in the haystack must be somewhere.

I firmly believe what is next under threat, now cinemas have taken a hit, is the television channel as we know it. Streaming is the new method, and if it leaves one man standing it will be a channel deigned personally to suit you, through recommendations based on previous watching habits. My issue with this is the “series,” a trend hardly original, as like me I’d imagine you grew up with an unmissable series; Trumpton, The Magic Roundabout, I could revel on.

My complaint with this trend, is unlike a movie, no longer does anything ever conclude, unless ratings plummet. A perpetual cycle of endless hour episodes, which, like soap operas of yore, demand you watch tele indefinitely. They glue you to the sofa like nothing before; a success Dallas, Eastenders and Home & Away could’ve only dreamed of. Just how much fucking TV does Cobra Kai, expect me to have to watch, just to find out what happened to the doughnut Danny Larusso kicked the arse of?

I can’t watch that much TV, least dedicate myself to one particular series, no one can, I cry, surely? But of course, they do, they must do. Begging the question, just how much TV do others endure, and in turn, when do they hoover, wash the dishes, etc. I’m gonna need a Fasttrack to Domino’s Pizza if I’m to complete one of these drawn-out series.

What is more, you’ve no outside conversation unless you’re up to date with series eight hundred of Game of Thrones, unless you’re obsessed by some tacky Korean sci-fi series, as if Phillip K Dick was never born. Discuss the current political crisis and you only anger, mention Squid Game and you’re in with the in crowd, despite the uncanny similarities. Why watch Squid Game, when we’ve already got our fair share of cephalopod invertebrates, mostly single-celled, playing games with our lives and projecting their ink sacks over a majority, in our government?

And the bottom line is, no matter what you select on your big screen, work-from-home Dad’s playing catchup on the PC, mum is gossiping on Facebook, son lives inside a Minecraft realm, and with the attention span of a goldfish, daughter flicks furiously through trending homemade disasters on Tick-Tok; no one is actually watching the dammed TV! Maybe the reason why plotlines are inconsequential.

So, my bittersweet honeymoon with the modern TV series begun a few years ago, when they stretched the plot of Westworld to its death. The 1973 movie with Yul Brynner, where a western theme park’s robots malfunction had a plot which took director Michael Crichton under an hour-and-half to conclude, and while exceptionally well produced and enjoyable at first, the series dragged on like a conversation with Uncle Albert. I endured it through season one, but by the end, knowing the synopsis anyway, I grew tiresome of the trifling twists and turns. It never came to a natural finale, concluding I only continued to watch it for the nudie bits.

If Westworld put me off the whole shebang of the seemingly endless series, Manifest reinforced this notion. Intrigued by extra-terrestrial themes since ET, it came with a mystery one couldn’t help but be eager to know the reasoning for a plane’s disappearance and reappearance some years later. It was clear as time went on, though I suspected alien abduction, and many clues suggested thus, it wouldn’t explain itself until an insurmountable number of episodes, which by the first few my patience worn as thin as my diminishing fringe.

It was when the family randomly picked a series called Resident Alien, my enthusiasm elevated to the stars. Finally, here was something which engaged the whole family, laughing, at sci-fi, together, like Futurama had never been created. The difference here though, I assess, is we started at the premiere, so impatiently await the second series, rather than others where I tend to play catchup and maybe, I fear, it’s not the series itself, but me, and my viewing habits, bad viewing habits. Because while my daughter can effectively “binge” watch, I begin the process in good faith and promptly abandon the idea, like being forced against my will to run a marathon; I’d be cool with it for the first twenty metres, then I’m out by the sight of the first pub I pass.

Destined to find the right series to engage my dwarfed attention span, I tried Peaky Blinders, but peaked too soon; aborted on episode one. Engaging the Trekkie within, I assimilated myself into Star Trek Discovery at warp speed, and it managed to boldly go where no modern TV series had gone before, resistance to the entire three seasons was successful, though it reduced me to tears, to watch a promising retro series dwindle to some future so sadly farfetched and predicable, a little piece of Dilithium popped into my mouth and went back down.

Herein lies my newfound faith in TV, at the dawn of a family decision to get the Disney+ app, I’d begun The Crown just a week prior, gulp and confess I’m loving it. Rich in British history, portrayed ingeniously and eloquently, debatably accurate as it maybe, it’s nearly converted me, once antimonarchist into an ardent royalist; I said nearly, and only from my respect of the eleventh doctor, Matt Smith and by a fascination with secretly snogging lead actress, Claire Foy wrapped in nothing but a Union Jack on the grasslands of Sandringham; have I got a crush on the Queen now? How devilishly patriotic of me.

But with access to Star Wars’ Mandalorian, you see, I sworn to myself I’d finish the first series before starting this, but the greatest of temptations perverted the promise, a Jedi mind-trick no doubt, and now I’m in galaxy far, far away, with baby Yoda(!), as well as part of Buckingham Palace’s furniture. That’s why I’m writing this now, proud to be balancing two series at once, which I fully intend to complete both, even if I brain haemorrhage; as if men really could multitask. 

Though it’ll be hard to confuse the two, the lives of our royal family are similarly as far away from my own as that of the Mandalorian. It seems to me, whenever times get hard for the royals, which inevitably they do, I’ll admit there’s some real tough decisions and stressful situations, larger and more concerning than anything I’d ever have to overcome, at least they can, as they tend to do, ride across their vast green and pleasant private land on a gallant white stud. The economic equivalent for me would be to hire a pig and bare-back ride it in circles around the back garden, which simply doesn’t have quite the same impact.

Television is the convenient escapism for vegetables, unlike the internet being a reality-driven fingertip encyclopaedia for prospective nerds, and for this reason the merger of the two will undoubtedly change them both. Whether Hollywood steps up its game, the TV series trend continues, nothing can alter the DIY ethos of the very thing which threatens them both. For I really fear none of this makes one iota when considering the affluence of homemade videos, and how this attracts the youth more than the definitive CGI explosion, which is old hat by comparison. And that’s something I simply don’t get, I’m afraid, something so far-flung from my expectations of normal and decent viewing.

Hey, don’t get me wrong, I’m a self-publisher, always been washed up on the banks of an underworld of DIY creativity, be it vanity, I don’t know why, but I genuinely understand the desire of every kid to be a “YouTuber,” I just don’t get the content. Tick-Tok is no-man’s-land for anyone over twenty, yet a glimpse of what they do appears on YouTube and Facebook, enough for me to shudder at its true horror. It saddens me when an amazing band are live streaming, playing the music they worked so hard to create, to an audience of six, meanwhile some brat is streaming his screen playing Grand Theft Auto, consisting of running around a city as a female avatar, punching random strangers in the street, to an audience of 99K+. Philosophical argument aside, I’d play devil’s advocate and suggest perhaps it’s better them act violently virtually than really, but more so, my mind boggles, why the bloody hell would anyone want to watch someone play a videogame, when the whole concept of videogames are a universe away from watching TV, rather about immersing oneself into the game?

That said, Minecraft YouTubers have made a mint, advising gameplay to younger disciples, and some do it in such a way it’s as entertaining as a TV presenter, Graham Norton at the very least. And if it’s not this, it’s titillating trending videos on sites like Tick-Tock, a phishing so-called magician turned prankster, with an abundance of micro-bikini-clad girls, more bikini-clad girls swapping their outfits in the street without exposing themselves, or where the latest trend seems to be young girls wearing a baggy tee, which is a t-shirt to you and I, and over a backdrop of bass, suddenly pulling their top tight around their stomach and boobs. If you ask why, I really haven’t a clue, but hundreds upon hundreds of girls are queuing to get hits for their lightly covered tits; would you even know about it if was your kid? Whop-bang, I’m suddenly aged and completely out of touch with modern viewing, perplexed and mystified, other than to assume it’s the lowest common denominator of soft porn.

And that is the terror of the future of television, endless blipverts of insane youngsters doing whatever they feel like, and videoing it, incriminating themselves via peer pressure.

A mile away from sending your toddler off the shed roof to obtain £250 from Harry Hill, for that’d be relatively sane compared to some of the complete codswallop I see passing my social media newsfeed every second of everyday. It leaves me suspended in an era I’m lost with, and with great worry, this reality piffle is the future of television, rather than an extended series of fictional mush. Bring back Crossroads, for fuck’s sake; all is forgiven!


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REVIEW – Jack Grace Band @ The Southgate, Devizes – Sunday 24th October 2021

Another Cracking Show

by Andy Fawthrop

It was February 2020, pre-pandemic, pre-Lockdown, that the New York-based Jack Grace Band last performed at The Southgate.  I remember that show as being a cracking night out, so I wasn’t going to miss a second bite at this rather luscious cherry.  Jack is on a short UK tour, before heading back to the US for a few more gigs.

With an eye on the weather forecast, Dave & Debs had moved the gig indoors – a smaller space to see the band, but a much better intimate atmosphere.  Getting back to old times almost.

Appearing previously as a trio, this time the “band” consisted of only one other musician, drummer Ian Griffith.  Yet this didn’t appear to slow Jack down one little bit.  We got two great sets, packed with songs, stories and great audience banter.  The songs were punchy, often short and to the point, with witty whip-smart lyrics and some spot-on guitar picking.  Each one was introduced with the story behind it, often featuring booze, love, women and the life as a musician.  The music was full of hooks, foot-tapping riffs and catchy lyrics.  We even had audience participation, with Jack managing to poke fun at what he referred to as Britain’s “warm” beer.  But we’ll let him off that little insult.

https://fb.watch/8TLBXzgiFv/

Jack is not just a song-writer and a musician, he’s also a born raconteur and a great all-round entertainer.  Using harmonica, guitar and vocals he was able to quickly conjure up vivid pictures of past scenarios, memories, jokes and his occasional brushes with fame.  Only one number in and the audience were completely onside.  This was what live music is all about – a man who wants to play and get close to his audience, and a crowd who were absolutely out to enjoy themselves whilst having a few beers.  Great gig.

Future gigs at The Southgate:

  • Friday 29th October – Grizzly Rhys Morgan 9pm
  • Saturday 30th October – Celtic Roots Collective
  • Fri/ Sat/ Sun 29th – 31st October – Beer & Cider Festival

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Plastic Free Devizes?

I’m guilty, I admit, I think many of us are, driven by a hurtling civilisation, an archaic method of consumer comfort, but 38.5 million plastic bottles are bought in the UK every day, taking hundreds of years to break down, and yet we use it to store products that we consume within minutes. It doesn’t make sense. Sustainable Devizes say “there’s a better way than throwaway.”

I need a big loud label, to spell out the bottle is made from recycled plastics, and I will choose that over another, but is this enough? Only 9% of plastic ever produced globally has actually been recycled.

Me, from a generation dragged unwillingly along to household Tupperware parties as a nipper, to watch my mother replace old metal tins passed down generations in favour of hard plastic containers. A cohort wrapped in clingfilm, disposable plastic bags, and grandmother’s whining ignored; that “we didn’t have this when we were young,” they returned the pop bottle for a penny, put the milk bottle on the doorstep, they took a butter dish to the shop and the shopkeeper plonked a new knob of butter on it.

As my daughter frowns, labels me “gen x,” or wrongly, “boomer,” jumping Greta’s bandwagon and blaming me personally, I try to justify my actions by whimpering “we knew no better.” But we do now; Nan was right all along, and she didn’t even know it, she just done what everyone else did, no difference than me trapped in this pressured, mass-consumer superstore modern era, have we the time and resources for every customer to queue, each grasping a butter dish? Have we the time left to causally pass off the notion our common practises need to change?

The plastic crisis is part of the climate crisis. 99% of plastics are made from fossil fuels. One in every ten barrels of oil is being used to manufacture new plastic. It’s a no-brainer, we need to drastically reduce the amount of plastic we produce. We need to ditch disposable plastic and embrace reusable products wherever possible. We can free where we live from single-use plastic.

Sustainable Devizes is on a mission to help Devizes become a Plastic Free Community, possible? Only if we all rally to change our habits. Talking to local businesses, working with local schools, engaging with the Council and organising community events, such as this one, with soup and cake, to twist my arm!

Sustainable Devizes will be at St Andrew’s Church on Wednesday 3rd November, presenting a free community film screening of the award-winning 2019 documentary The Story of Plastic. Stating, “plastic pollution is a global crisis, but one that can have local solutions.” Sustainable Devizes invites you to join them, their newly-formed Plastic Free Devizes group, to arrive at 7pm, when a bowl of homemade and plant-based soup and a slice of cake will be served, and the film to start at 7:30.

This screening is timed to coincide with the first week of COP26, so will also give us a chance to discuss our hopes and fears for what that might bring, for those that want to stay for a conversation after the film.

Tickets for the event are free, but booking is required, follow this link, so they know how much soup and cake to make! There will be a small charge (£3.50) for food to cover costs. Donations welcome if you’d like to see more events like this in future. As this is in an indoor event, St Andrew’s would ask that you please wear a facemask (whilst not eating) if you are able.


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Does Wiltshire Council’s Climate Strategy Lack Ambition and Commitment?

A month after Wiltshire Council’s Climate Strategy was criticised by the Wiltshire Climate Alliance for lacking “ambition and commitment to achieving its goal of seeking to make Wiltshire carbon neutral by 2030,” I’m horrified, yet not surprised to see social media pages still maintaining climate change is a hoax, when I thought all was pretty much conclusive, and a majority, aside political opinion, accepted that climate change is real, and is happening.

I was checking out a Facebook page called “Climate Change is a Hoax,” because, for the same reason I occasionally click on the fascist GB News site, I enjoy deliberately annoying myself with the stupidity of far-right illogic! With a laughable forty-one “likes,” it hardly carries much clout, neither many of its shared articles remained live after factchecking algorithms stripped them bare. But one YouTube video by Canadian conspiracy theorists, The Climate Discussion Nexus does give sensible argument against climate change, just when I tarnished them with the same brush as flat-earth theorists.

The content of the video portrays Michael Mann akin to a narcissistic nerdy schoolkid, who assumes his homework is superior to everyone else’s, simply because he did it, and claims other researcher’s papers have been poo-pooed by the IPCC in favour for Mann’s. While I shrug, the United Nations owns the IPCC, and is an intergovernmental body, it’s not completely impossible climate change has been exaggerated for this supposed purpose of “controlling the masses,” or for any other bizarre reasoning they invent, I have to question, what if they are wrong? Furthermore, quotes from the “about” section of the Facebook page such as “don’t let the globalists and socialists destroy our lives,” is so chockful of falsehoods and propaganda I don’t know where to begin. Least not when the majority of the world today seems to politically side on the right, who commonly seem to debunk climate change, and so-called globalists and socialists are not in power anyway. Hence the reason the world spins on its axis and nothing much appears to get done to tackle the issue.

Come in, let’s squabble, oh, apologies, just step over that cataclysmic natural disaster someone left out asking to be tripped over, there’s a good fellow.

So, what if either side of the argument is wrong? If those who believe in climate change are wrong, we’ve been duped and possibly even burdened by a bunch of passive reformist lefties, which sounds far better than previous historic oppressing by purists and conservative philosophies, which always seems to result in bloodthirsty wars. So, we dust ourselves off, mix plastics with household waste again, break out our diesel Chelsea tractors and drive to the abattoir for steak pie.

However, if those who believe climate change is a hoax are wrong, we’ve either caused the extinction of all life on earth, including ourselves, or least ignored the chance to slow or prevent it from happening. Seriously, you have to ask yourself which possible outcome you’d prefer. Personally, I’m thinking being oppressed by lefties, which equates to eating lentils and maybe listening to Buffalo Springfield, then allowing everyone to die in catastrophic disasters, is the better option of the two, but hey, that’s just me.

Therefore, it goes without saying, on a local level, I’m keen to hear what climate change specialists think of our county council’s climate strategy, being they’ve a majority conservative seating, and by my reckoning, seems while not every conservative is a climate change denier, all climate change deniers seem to have a conservative ethos. Suspicious some lurk in Bythesea Road, I asked the Wiltshire Climate Alliance, who formed from a meeting of over twenty interest groups from across Wiltshire a year after the moment Wiltshire Council acknowledged that there was a climate emergency and set themselves a target to make Wiltshire carbon neutral by 2030. Which was in 2019, even though a seminal paper by Swedish scientist, Svante Arrhenius first predicted changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, and noted they could substantially alter the surface temperature through the greenhouse effect, in 1896, you know, these things take time.

Wiltshire Climate Alliance (WCA) welcomes the fact that Wiltshire Council is developing a Climate Strategy but laments its lack of ambition and commitment to achieving its goal of seeking to make Wiltshire carbon neutral by 2030. Bill Jarvis of WCA’s Steering Group described it as, “recognising that major changes are needed but lacking any commitment or timescale for reducing emissions outside of the Council’s own operations,” adding that “there is little sense of the urgency needed for taking action, and a dependency on future plans and policies that may take us in the opposite direction.”

And there was me thinking they didn’t bother trimming the hedgerows of the A361 because of “reforestation,” our minute contribution to a worldwide area the size of China which needs to be restored to forest before it having much effect. The WCA continue, about the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, predicting the world is likely to exceed 2C between the early 2040s and 50s, and while UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, “the alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable,” The WCA extends this locally by saying, “this renewed urgency doesn’t come across in Wiltshire Council’s Strategy, which speaks of ‘exploring’ and ‘investigating’ the kinds of policies and actions that should by now be in place and well underway.”

The Tyndall Centre calculated, in 2019, that “with no change to current emissions Wiltshire would use up all its budget [to 2050] within seven years.” Ergo, I have to agree, if it seems there will be no significant change to policy or action for at least another two years, where is there any sense of urgency? Apply this ludicrous lucidity to a did I leave the kettle on moment, and your house is potentially toast, my friend.

‘Future delivery plans’ are the order of the Council, yet the WCA explain, “stabilising the climate requires rapid, deep and sustained emissions reductions. It is particularly concerning that the Strategy provides no detail of how its objectives will be delivered.”

They worry Wiltshire Council’s decarbonisation objectives will be no more than a ‘wish list’ in the Local Plan, Local Transport Plan and other plans, most of which have completely contrary objectives and will not be in place for at least two years. WCA would like to see the Strategy go further, and recommend a moratorium on implementing climate destructive, high emission plans and policies until such time as detailed carbon reduction delivery plans have been adopted, and it has set out its concerns.

Wiltshire Climate Alliance is keen to continue to support Wiltshire Council and its councillors in taking the urgent action that is now required. “The solutions are clear,” they say, “achievable and a large number are touched on in this document. However, they require political will to make them happen. There is limited need for more evidence gathering, investigations and assessments. But there is an urgent need for more ambition and immediate action in areas in which others are already showing leadership.”

Okay look, I’m no tree hugger, love a bacon butty, and, I’m willing to admit, my presumptions climate change deniers lurk at county hall is a scare story evolved from the content of worldwide keyboard warriors, adamant on spreading myths. But it is exasperating, becoming tiresome, and dreadfully perilous to assume they’ve no influence at any level of politics. Here’s hoping the WCA can urge Wiltshire’s residents and its elected representatives to join in demanding better, as the steering group say, “climate denial must not be replaced by delaying climate action.”

Their website is here, Facebook page here, there’s a petition; Wiltshire Council should make Carbon Reduction a top priority in every Council decision, a Facebook discussion group too, and a demonstration this Tuesday (19th October) at Trowbridge Civic Centre.


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Female of the Species Blow the Roof of The Assembly Hall, for Carmela

Entertainment events in the county blossoming out of lockdown came to a pinnacle this weekend. We were spoiled for choice, and without cloning technology the decision would’ve been a toughy for me, if it hadn’t had been for the no-brainer; the sixth annual outing of local supergroup, The Female of the Species at Melksham’s brilliant Assembly Hall.

From the moment I was pinged the lowdown on this event my heartstrings spasmed, five band’s fantastic frontwomen in their own right united for the rare, Community Civic award-winning, fundraising bonanza which has become somewhat equal in legend around these parts as a Spice Girls reunion. And perhaps what is more, the proceeds this year were directed at another personal superheroine, Carmela Chillery-Watson.

Super-heroic is a term I don’t use lightly, and not out of sympathy for Carmela’s rare strain of muscular dystrophy. Over the past two years I’ve followed the progress of Carmela and her family’s fight against this muscle-wasting condition, since mum, Lucy sent Devizine a fundraising event poster and I figured I could do more, which consequently saw me take to my milk-round dressed in my Spiderman onesie! For, now at seven years old, Carmela’s zest for life and amiable charisma is an inspiration to everyone she meets. I found it rubs off on you with immediate effect, something hordes of international celebrities have also now discovered.

Bringing this celebrity herself now back home to Wiltshire for a fundraising event, I was not only delighted to meet her and her family again, but mightily impressed with her handling of fame. Carmela responds accordingly to mounting attention, never excluding or shunning any individual yet finding the time to address them all equally; a skill many a celeb could learn from.  

With a bombardment of unfortunate planning episodes, Jools of the reggae-ska band Train to Skaville confessed, “it was a nightmare trying to get this event off the ground,” it truly became a sense of it’ll be alright on the night, and the party went off with an explosive boom. The amalgamated wealth of experience, proficiency and professionalism of The Female of the Species shone through; they are deadlier than the male.

Dedication too, to overcome obstacles, apexed by performer and musical director, Nicky Davis of bands People Like Us and the Reason, who took a fall during rehearsals to personify the performance idiom, break a leg. Frustrated by her vocal restrictions slouched at the keyboard, the second half of the show proved too tempting, and Nicky manged to make it onto her feet to sing behind the keys, rather more like Jerry Lee Lewis than Elton John in style!

But we are getting ahead of ourselves now, for full credits have to be awarded to support act, Melksham-based Plan of Action. Unbeknown to me, this male trio with a female bassist took me by surprise. Based on previous FOTS supports, I was expecting soothing acoustics, yet Plan of Action done what it suggested on the tin, and executed said plan in a hard rock fashion akin to the Foo-Fighters covers they blasted with certain precision. They then beseeched their benchmark, rather than redefined their style, to cover Wilson Pickett’s Mustang Sally in hard-edged blues fashion, and finished more retro than they started with rock classics such as Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell.

Not only did they fire up the audience superbly in preparation, but their fanbase also resolved the terror of who would be first to break the dancefloor reservations. Now there was no stopping the crowd, as Female of the Species drummer, Pip Phillips of People Like Us was first to appear, foot-peddling the bass drum to build anticipation while the girls came onstage under an impressive light show.

Second tune in, Nicky Davis led them in an accomplished cover of Hotel California, and solo soul singer Julia Hanratty followed lead on Stevie Wonder’s Superstition, as is the Female of the Species code of conduct; memorable pop covers ranging the spectrums of their individual tastes. That said, we had none of the two-tone of Jools’ Train to Skaville, although she did an outstanding lead on Deacon Blue’s Real Gone Kid.

With affections towards uncompromising rock, Charmaigne Andrews’ AC/DC Highway to Hell boosted the crowd, but not before an early highlight for me; Julia’s absolutely outstanding cover of Aretha Franklin’s Respect, something I’d not advise any singer to attempt, as with Nicky last time, who gorgeously portrayed Heard it Through the Grapevine, Julia clearly knocked this one clear out of the park.

Claire Perry of Big Mama’s Banned not only brings range to the repertoire, but witty if saucy repartee to the show, unsurpassed during the break where Carmela joined her to announce raffle prize-winners. Sporting Wonder Woman headgear for the second half, they raised the roof of the Assembly Hall, as much as they raised serious funds for the cause.

Aforementioned, Nicky stood for the second half despite her plastered leg, as they played through memorable covers, dancefloor fillers, and perfected songs you’d be excused from thinking, oh my, they’re covering that? Bohemian Rhapsody, Grease Lightening, Oh, Sweet Child of Mine, and Jacko’s Beat It for examples. Jool’s cover of Kirsty MacColl’s New England, Claire’s I’ll Put a Spell on You, Charmaigne leading on Republica’s Ready to Go, the show continued past my bus time, but I could faintly hear Mr Blue Skies while I waited!

Yeah, here’s a thing I hadn’t thought of before; escaping the Devizes westwards for the evening is surprisingly possible via public transport, and it wasn’t a drunken fallout zone, like the Boot Hill All Star’s hilarious song, Night Bus, which I imagined, rather a mediocre and tranquil bus journey!

The last bus on the 273 route leaves Bath at 11:30, and gets to the Sham at ten-to-midnight; blooming marvellous, for Melksham have a real gem with the Assembly Hall. Drinks are affordable, the service well-staffed, the atmosphere is hospitable and they’re continuing to bring outstanding shows and events to the Sham.

All in all, this show was professional yet communal, absolutely fantastic and spellbindingly electric; if another comes along, I suggest you don’t miss out. But I must finish in thanking the Female of the Species and all involved for supporting such an amazing cause, and local girl; and to Carmela, you are a superstar.


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Boo! Spooky Halloween Happenings for Everyone!

Fantastic and spooky image of St Johns, Devizes, used with permission from Simon Folkard Photography

I say everyone, but it’s the inbetweenies always at a loss during Halloween, I tend to find. Too old for patronising trick or treating, only a handful of idiots, sulking at their lack of Harbio, who opt for the terrorising old folk kind, which spoils it for them, and for younger kids too, when everyone under the age of eighteen is tarnished with the same witch’s broom.

Yet too young to attend adult Halloween parties, which we all know, generally end up as mindless drunken satanic orgies, full of naked chicks pouring the blood of scarified male counterparts over themselves in a hellfire pit of inequity to the sound of evil giggling, and thrash metal roaring from the rafters…. at least, in my mind it does.

What?! I’m speculating, I wouldn’t know whether they break out the leather, or not. I grew up in a household where the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain was considered American commercialisation, and since escaping the nest I built my own, whereby on All Hallows’ Eve I don a beanie and wander aimlessly in the background, as “protector” parent of hyperactive children, getting ecstatic about being out under street light.

I awkwardly grimaced at housekeepers like a vagabond, as neighbours loaded their pumpkin-shaped buckets with cheap confectionary they don’t like anyway. We’d join chains of other trick or treaters, my watchful duties waning with each grouping; safety in numbers I’d suppose perfunctorily, as I tire and they run off in merriment and sugar-fuelled frenzy. Responsibility is a bitch.

I’ve got cheap, Wilkos luminous paint on my jersey from a leaking zombie, whose mask is sagging where they broke the elastic, otherwise I blur into the background and children organise themselves, until one genuinely gets scared, and I get to return home, ignore door-knocking and slope on the sofa, groaning like a headless horseman, wishing one day they’ll grow out of it.

And before you know what’s what, they do, and you pity the complaining, realise you miss the thrill in their eyes, and await the welcomed subsequent phase, grandchildren, when you hope them to provide the perfect excuse to get back out trick or treating again; by this age you need no mask or makeup, but you can return them sugar-bursting; mwahahaha!

Anyway, enough of my problems, you came here wanting to hear about all the spooky events and monster mashes going down over the Samhain, and that’s what I’m about to do, just, you know, had to get that off my chest.

Although if I’ve missed yours, I can always add them, if you liked, just message, email or howl under the full moon when the wind is blowing my direction, but the first “halloweeny” type event we’ve found, is All Cannings’ Pre-School Half term Halloween Trail, starting on 23rd October and running until the 30th. Take your little ones to All Cannings, buy a trail map from the village shop and walk the village looking for clues to spell a spooky word! Put your completed maps into our box at the back of the village hall for your chance to win a Halloween prize.

Leading up to the Halloween weekend, Crazy P’s Ron Basejam brings some Halloween disco to Komedia on Thursday 28th, but Saturday is when the spookiness really comes out to play….

In Devizes, the trusty Cavalier have a children’s Halloween fancy dress disco, with prizes for the best dressed boy and girl. You’ll need a £3 ticket, available here.

Forgive me if I’m wrong but I believe wonderful DJ, Holz Stone will be on the spooky wheels of steel for the Halloween fancy dress disco at the Wyvern Club. There’ll be hot dogs, burgers and sweet bags, a novel hook-a-skull game, guess the weight of the pumpkin and what’s in the box, as well as best dressed prizes. This one’s £2 per child, on the door.

For Devizes grownups, over 21s, there’s a DJ set from Houses of Joy Soundsystem at The Muck & Dundar’s Zombie Cocktail Special night. Free entry, walk-ins, favourably like a zombie, and feel free to dress up or down. I think they’ll need an exorcist like me, to purify those spirits!

And of course, the traditional Krazee Devil Halloween Karaoke Disco will be down the The Pelican, Devizes. Only numbers are limited this year, so if you want to Party Pelicano style this Samhain then shout Sarah-Jane on (01380) 723909.

The Truzzy Boys welcome fancy dress at their Halloween Party at the Churchill Arms in West Lavington, also on Saturday. Honey-Street’s Barge have a monster mash rock ‘n’ roll Halloween party, with Little Miss Blue Bass, Mutley and Rockin Rich. Best dressed wins a £20 bar tab, which beats a bucket of Freddos. They want only £6 off you for the pleasure, tickets here.

Meanwhile, over misty graveyards and ancient burial mounds to Bradford-on-Avon, where the Three Horseshoes host Strange Folk for a Halloween party. If you checked them out last weekend at the Southgate, or read our review, you’ll know this will be a great, and very apt Halloween venture. It should go without saying by now, its fancy dress, with a prize for best dressed.

In spooky Swindon, The Swiss Chalet have one hell of a show from 2pm onwards. Train to Skaville, The DayBreakers, Hip Replacements and Mark Colton bring the skalloween tunes, all in aid of the fantastic Big Yellow Bus Project. Door tax is just a quid, with mac n cheese and a chance to win a Nintendo Switch!

Vampires and zombies of Frome only need head to The Cornerhouse, where they’ll find the highly recommended Back Wood Redeemers, with a dark country, twisted blues and religious fervor eve of Halloween. Expect special guests and they’ll be introducing the MagiGant Ska Sound System. There will be dancing afoot! Bring your relevant body parts and dress up should the whim arise… you’ll be in good company.

But not everyone wants dancing afoot, and for a relaxed meal-type Halloween event, Rowde’s legendary George & Dragon have a Rocky Horror Tunnel Party, in, as the name suggests, their secret, aptly spooky, tunnel. Dress up in your favourite horror costumes for a three-course BMF supper, and a party to follow.

And on the Sunday, the 31st, The Roebuck Inn, Marlborough, has a Halloween Open mic Night, while over in Market Lavington’s Green Dragon, there will be all sorts of spooky bonkers things going on all day, perfect for kids and grown up kids alike; with the fantastic People Like Us playing from 8pm.

I’m sure that list isn’t exhaustive, and I’ll add your event if you tell me about it. Otherwise have a grand Halloween, and as I say, I’ll be maxing relaxing, safe in the knowledge my kids now consider themselves too old for the trick or treating fiasco. I mean, I’m not naming and shaming, but one of my nippers must be the only person who can lose a tooth bobbing for apples, for crying out loud into the cold night air!


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The Devizes Eisteddfod for November; Closing date for Entries is Tuesday

Closing date for Entries is Tuesday 12th October, for The Devizes Eisteddfod, a five-day competitive festival of music, drama, speech, dance, writing, art and photography for people of all ages, who may enter individually or through a school or group. Entries are still open for the Music, Speech, Drama and Pre-adjudicated classes at the 2021 Eisteddfod, Thursday – Saturday 18th – 20th November 2021. Entries to made on their website: https://www.devizes-eisteddfod.org.uk/

The Devizes Eisteddfod In its 75th year, and is back for November 2021, the program of events looks like this:

Thursday – Saturday, 18-20 November

2021 DEVIZES EISTEDDFOD

Music, Speech & Drama Classes

Devizes Town Hall

*

Saturday, 4 December 2021 at 7pm

2021 FESTIVAL CONCERT

Devizes Town Hall

Admission Free – Retiring collection

*

Sunday, 30 January 2022 at 3pm

CLASS WINNERS CONCERT

Devizes Town Hall

Admission Free – Retiring collection

*

Saturday/Sunday, 5/6 February 2022

2022 EISTEDDFOD DANCE FESTIVAL

Lavington School

Admission £5 (students £2) per day

(Dance Entries open 25 October 2021)

*

Saturday 19 March 2022 at 7.30pm

SHOWCASE CONCERT

Bishops Cannings Church

Admission Free – Retiring Collection

in aid of the church

*

Saturday 9 July 2022 at 7.30pm

SHOWCASE CONCERT

Seend Church

Admission Free – Retiring Collection

in aid of the church


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Barry Reviews Strange Folk at The Southgate!

Well, what can I say? They might lose a couple of brownie points for the singer continuously referring to me as “Barry,” but Somerset-Hampshire psych-folk rock four-piece, Strange Folk, who graced Devizes’ Southgate’s little magic box last night can afford to!

Aside an acoustic set in Crewkerne, it was their first electric gig post-lockdown, and the first time they’d played at Devizes answer to the O2, though some may cast their minds back to a brighter sunny day when they showed us what they’re made of at Pete & Jackie of Vinyl Realm’s alternative stage at DOCA’s street festival. It was on the grounds of this outstanding performance which summon me to the Gate, not forgoing the awe-inspiring tune they sent us for the Julia’s House compilation. Which, in turn would’ve substituted any lost gold stars for the Barry banter!

A small price to pay to ensure they played Glitter the very song they kindly contributed, a request which took them by surprise, being recorded during lockdown, they were unprepared, and hadn’t yet played it live. Still, as was the entire gig, they made a grand job of it, and I’m about explain why.

It’s David Setterfield’s sublime electric and acoustic guitarwork coupled with the awe-inspiring power of Annalise’s voice, which bounds their sound beyond the confounds of the usual gothic-folk rock genre. So soulfully captivating is this voice, and is the gifted guitar, at times there’s a natural nod to electric blues, particularly of the late psychedelic sixties sort. In fact, I was praising them to someone, Bran Kerdhynen, I believe, one half of the Celtic Roots Collective, by suggesting they remind me of “White Rabbit,” which they indeed later covered, along with the other Jefferson Airplane anthem “Somebody to Love.”

If I could think of no other cover so apt for their particular and inimitable sound, covers of T-Rex’s 20th Century Boy, Gold Dust Woman by Fleetwood Mac, and the Stones at their most enchanting with Gimmie Shelter, also fit the bill perfectly. Tainted Love being perhaps the outside chance, but very much based on Soft Cell’s version, I’ll give them that too, for the goth perspective.

Similarly, though, as I said about Frey’s Beer’s Beast album a few days ago, the professional finish and hauntingly alluring female voice, rather than the gritty vocals common with said genre, despite not being the black hair dyed and leather friendship bands type, I devoured, because Strange Folk sweep the arena of All About Eve, into System of a Down and Blind Melon, to blend Fairport Convention with Jethro Tull and Hendrix. And I was born out of time, loving to have hitchhiked to San Francisco with a flower in my hair.

Yet at times covers at the Gate last night felt pushed, as to appease a perceived audience, compared to their own original compositions; they were the icing on the cake and truly ushered you away on a petite mind-trip. The coupling of David and Annalise would be bare without the proficient bassist, Ian and drummer, Steve tucked in the back of the skittle ally, and they rocked through their own songs more so. For future reference, unlike many a pub gig, originals are encouraged here.

Talking of here, it was lovely to be back at the Southgate after gallivanting somewhat to bring news of other venues in our rural precinct, for while they do exist, for me, just like Norm Peterson and Cliff Clavin, sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name, except, it seems for the lead singer on this occasion! I mean, Barry, for crying out loud; do I really look like a Barry to you?! Rhetorical, you don’t have to answer that.

The canopies over the beer garden have become locally legendary, a testament in our town, to upholding live music throughout this era, and Deborah and Dave have created this haven, where you’ll see no drunken squabbles and feel no bad vibes.

Nice to hear their communal acoustic jams have respawned on Wednesday evenings, and next Saturday is the time for The Blind Lemon Experience, Billy and the Low Ground following on the 23rd October.

Meanwhile Strange Folk have three singles, an EP from 2014 called Hollow Part 1, and a debut promo EP from 2004, which are very worthy of your attention. Around our way again at B-O-A’s Three Horseshoes for Halloween, their sound is a gorgeous gothic-folk crossover professional enough to captivate even those with a passing interest in the genre.


Nought to 60 with the Near Jazz Experience

Fooled by my own fool proof system must make me more of a fool than I give myself credit for. It’s an elderly memory malfunction thing, becoming commonplace. Like my lockdown skinhead idea. Skinheads fair as well as a bobcat on us elderly, what with hair sprouting from ears.

The ingenious strategy to create a word document called “albums which need reviewing” botched by forgetting I’d previous had the same plan and executed it, leaving me with two documents of the same idea differing information. So it goes, like a historic homework excuse, on the previous version I’d simply typed “NJE,” without the usual brief explanation, thinking that’ll warrant me not forgetting this. Rather, I’d forget the whole document and started from scratch, leaving me oblivious to what NJE was supposed to mean upon rediscovering it.

Abbreviation resolved, ‘twas the Near Jazz Experience mini-album “Nought to 60,” overlooked since June; I stated my defence and I’m sticking by it. Annoying thing is, as anything with the name Terry Edwards attached to it, it’s smoothing right up my street and blowing a saxophone loudly at my front door.

Near Jazz Experience sees Terry team up with Higsons bandmate Simon Charterton and Mark Bedford from Madness. Names on the tin, you get four lengthy modern jazz pieces of rapture, reminding me somewhat of Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters, in a mod style. Remember throughout; brass is class.

The opening ten minute-plus master-jam of cool, Spirit of Indo, pays homage to the London pub birthplace of the NJE, where they played a monthly residency for nine years. Like ambient afro-funk or cumbia it’s got that deep loop running through it, Bedders programmed, Simon embellished the groove, and Terry added the toplines, sliding effortlessly from one horn to another, as is his wont. There’s a real sense of improv here, and it spellbinds you to groove, man.

The second tune is a moving tribute to David Bowie, an instrumental cover of Five Years, and Simon’s minimalist cymbal-work sustains this fragile melodica melody, it tingles the very innermost of your soul.

The tempo moves up one notch, for the third track, Tizita, and I immediately call in the spirit of New Mexico jazz with this almost tin solider drum, rolling over the top, yet a little research reveals this is inspired by Ethiopian jazz-legend Mulatu Astatke, who Terry had the pleasure of working with a few years back.

Shows you how much I know, but I do know what I like, and me causing to ponder the wonder of Miles Davis’ influence, as the finale title track builds in layers to funk, seventies cop show score fashion, with Terry’s sax just freestyling over Teutonic beats on electronic Wave drum, and a Motorik bassline, it’s some seriously cool jazz; very nice indeed, though expected, just annoyed with myself it got mislaid in my inbox till now. Ah well, better late than never.


Freya Beer’s Beast

Driving my inner-goth, I’m comfortable with this, because London-based Freya Beer’s voice is hauntingly alluring, similar to Nina Persson of The Cardigans, or more obviously, Siouxsie Sioux, rather than the gritty vocals common with arch art-rock. So, despite not being the black hair dyed and leather friendship bands type, I devoured this long-awaited debut album, Beast, with the emotive response it evokes, and thoroughly deserves cathedral-sized praise.

Beast is out today, 7th October 2021, via her own Sisterhood label. I’m going to nail it to a few words after only an initial listen prior to this review, lyrically it needs time to fully digest with the clarity it warrants, but I can appreciate the echoing expression and exceptionally grafted narrative of disheartening passion. Savour it, this is a keeper.

It’s perhaps the crashing drums, almost the Burundi style slued upon eighties post punk pop by Malcolm McLaren, through Bow Wow Wow and Adam & The Ants, added with Fuzzbox frenzy, which gives it this welcoming retrospective tangent, or the mainstay All About Eve feel of the aforementioned sublime vocals, like Kate Bush at her darkest moment.

Yes, Beast is all these things, yet a contemporary, calculated record of primal power and animalistic instinct, carnal; hence its name, I guess!

Expressing her joy at finally setting her first collection of songs free, Freya Beer said, “it feels really exciting that I’ve released my debut album. I would never have been able to achieve the album without the incredibly talented people I met and worked with along the way. At my upcoming live shows, you can expect everything you hear on the album because my band is bigger now.”

Recorded between studios in Manchester and London, ‘Beast’ features longstanding drummer Owain Hanford on percussion, Arnoldas Daunys on bass, and lead guitars from Peter Hobbs (The Boy Least Likely To), who also produced the album. Additional contributions come from Dave Fidler and Andy Hargreaves. The album artwork was photographed by Paul Johnson (Say Goodnight Films), accompanied by Jupiter – the Sphinx cat.

Swiftly following the album’s release, Freya will be embarking on a major UK tour throughout November and December 2021. Full dates and details on the website. Closest to us is The Lanes, Bristol on Wednesday 10th November, or on Sunday 5th December at The 1865 in Southampton.

It conjures visually like Hieronymus Bosch, literate, a tangle of Edgar Allan Poe, but through sensual masochism, felinely elegant but eerie, all unpromising, like goblins will materialise out of inimical misty woods to corrupt your most emotive moment, or, something like that!

Website: http://www.freyabeer.com

Facebook: @freyabeerofficial

Twitter: @freyabeer

Instagram: @freya_beer


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And the Winner of our Gary Delaney Competition is….

And there we have it, our competition to win two tickets to Gary Delaney at the Corn Exchange has come to closing date for entries; don’t say I didn’t warn you, cos I did.

I must say I was disappointed more people didn’t respond, somewhat more than the standard of the one liner jokes! I sent the one liner jokes to Gary himself, and asked him to judge. It makes us look bad, Devizes, honest it does. Given the strength of the quality of the jokes, he is going to think he’s in for an easy ride!

I’m horrified to inform you; Gary’s response was a shocker. Mr Lee Bennett, sir, Gary duly points out your entry may not have been entirely from your own catalogue of wit. Be honest now, Lee, how do you plead to the crime of property theft?! You don’t need to reply, you’ve been tried and convicted already, as Gary wrote that the winner is “your” joke, “for having the chutzpah to submit my old jokes into a joke competition in order to win tickets to see me perform new ones!”

Well done, mate, you won on default, supposing I’d didn’t stress the joke had to be original, because, you know, thought that’d be obvious. Whoever did write the masterpiece though, it did make me chuckle;

My mate had a penis extension…

Now his house looks really stupid

And that’s the best medicine. See you all at Gary Delaney’s gig in May; tickets are still up for grabs but selling like hot cakes: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/devizes-comedy

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CSF Professional Wrestling celebrate 23 years of live events as the Corn Exchange

23 years of wrestling, is a lot of wrestling, I’ve got to wonder if I’d manage 23 seconds in the ring. Because if you know me, you’ll know dangerous sports just isn’t my bag. If I went on the school skiing holiday, I’d be the one, because there’s always one, who comes home with their leg in a cast.

I mean, words like high flying, body slamming and bone crunching simply don’t compute, if they threw the chair at me, like they do though, don’t they though, I’d probably take it with me and go find a nice quiet place in the corner with a good book, if there is such a thing as a quiet corner of a wrestling event. And if there was, you’d probably want your money back.

No, think I’d just spectate, if it’s all the same with you; you’d want more than your money back if you saw me attired in a leopard-skin leotard anyway, you’d need compensation.

Because it’s a loud and proud show, isn’t it, and like Marmite, men tousling in a leotard is something you even love or hate. Yet for Devizes Corn Exchange to host CSF Professional Wrestling for 23 years is something of a great achievement, ergo I have to tip my hat at the organisers for bringing something different to town and helping create the diverse program of events we have for a town our size.

So, help to celebrate 23 years of CSF Professional Wrestling live events as the Corn Exchange in Devizes, at their ‘Saturday Night Slam!’ on October 23rd!

Twelve top wrestling stars will do battle in five professional bouts of high flying, body slamming, bone crunching, action packed family entertainment. International star, multiple time Heavyweight and TNA / IWGP World Tag team Champion Doug Williams will be live and in action, as will All Nations Champion: ‘English Lion’ Eddie Ryan, JD Knight, Lance Cole, White Tiger, Karl Atlas, Big Country, Kian Enderby, ‘Professor’ Gilligan Gordon, Bane ‘n’ Bronson and Dan Splash.

Tickets are limited, available directly from http://www.csfwrestling.co.uk. Devizes Books (Devizes Town Centre) also have tickets to purchase in person.

For full event line up and information, please visit www.csfwrestling.co.uk or www.facebook.com/csfprofessionalwrestling

Tickets are priced at £12 each – General Admission. Other options available by visiting http://www.csfwrestling.co.uk

Doors 6pm / Showtime 6:30pm / Finish 9pm. All ages welcome.


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George Floyd Statue, Defaced, Because, of Course, That’s the First Time Anyone Made a Statue of Someone Who Committed a Crime…..?!

The media reports the bust statue of George Floyd in New York has been vandalised for a second time since its erection, and eager after a day of downtime, keyboard warriors take to Facebook careful not to expose their hypocrisy and racism, with comments along the lines of “they build statues of criminals now, whatever next?!” Because, of course, that’s the first time anyone made a statue of someone who committed a crime. Really? Wind your neck in.

True George Floyd had some petty convictions, but I wonder if he was involved with the Royal African Company, and transported over 84,000 Africans to the Americas, of whom 19,000 died on the journey, and in turn, if they said the same when Edward Colston’s statue was torn down in Bristol.

One man’s martyr can be another’s terrorist, one man’s revolutionary is another’s extremist, consequently thousands of statues are controversially questionable, and historically suffered damaging attacks against them. Though President Trump lapped up his brutal methods of dealing with terrorists, we all recall Firdos Square’s Saddam Hussain’s statue coming down, and no one in the western world battered an eyelid, because he was the baddie of the moment, weapons of mass destruction, or not, or whatever, America, fuck yeah! In fact, just like Lenin’s statutes being brought down across Ukraine in 2014, conservative thinkers saw it as symbolic, and celebrated. Yet when the emphasis is on statues of Confederates and slaveholders, the tables were turned and knickers get in a twist. Stone Mountain depicts leaders of the Confederacy, how far should we take this?

I’ve always loved Westminster Bridge’s Boudiccan Rebellion statue, and I’d probably been rooting for her revolt against Roman rule, but if I were a Roman, I’d probably be slightly narked by it, being her army showed no mercy when brutally razing London, Colchester and St Albans, slaying 70,000 Romans. Similarly, if I was Fatty Fudge, (which isn’t so far from the truth as it may sound) I’d be offended by Minnie Minx’s statue in Dundee.

Despite his passive hippy perception, it’s reported John Lennon was violent, he kicked a fan in the face when he tried to jump the stage. It’s common knowledge he almost beat Bob Wooler the deejay at the Cavern Club to death at Paul McCartney’s 21st birthday party; imagine, still, they made a statue of him.

Mount Rushmore was built on seized land, and designed by a sculptor who allegedly had ties to the Ku Klux Klan. Statues are never impartial, they commemorate a person trapped in time, but our response to them isn’t, it moves with current popular opinion and attitudes. Our feelings towards a statute depends on who they were, what they did, who erected them, and in turn, who pulls them down.

Tokyo’s Yakusuni Shrine was established to “commemorate and honour the achievement of those who dedicated their precious lives for their country.” Included among the names inscribed inside the shrine there’s reported at least fourteen known criminals. The architects of Japan’s alliance with Germany and Italy during World War II are on there, there’s a general directly responsible for the attack on the US fleet at Pearl Harbour, and another who ordered a battle that resulted in a massacre that killed 200,000 civilians in 1937.

“Anti-doggers” had a whole different meaning in 1906 London, they were hordes of rioting medical students, condoners of vivisection who police held back from destroying Battersea’s Brown Dog statue, erected to memorialize the infamous brown dog and the many other sacrificed animals. In the end the protests were too much and Battersea Council removed it under cover of darkness.

In reverse to the vandalism of the George Floyd statue, the Haymarket statues commemorating of the “robust policeman, in his countenance frank, kind, and resolute,” who were bombed by a raging mob in Illinois in 1886 was frequently damaged and marred by both bombs and even a streetcar rammed it. The reason? The bomb was thrown in retaliation to a previous protest in Chicago where, feeling threatened by the crowd, the policemen in question fired into it, killing six people.

And there’s my point, through the acquirement of all the facts over time, judgements will change, and justifications for tearing down a statue, or not, differ. For the people of Bristol of largely of Afro-Caribbean origin to have to walk past a statue of someone who factually oppressed, flogged and murdered their forefathers, overlooking them as a constant reminder of the horrors of our colonial past, every day, is prejudicial, and their peaceful campaign to have it removed was ignored for decades.

Boris Johnson said tearing down statues amounts to “lying about our history” and that it is “absurd and shameful.” Yet the Colston statue is a lie, a monumental historic fib, symbolic of the cover-up and deception of an unashamed industry, and to want to keep it absurd and shameful. But this all-seeing eye, a permanent fixture of an ancient bastard staring down at them from its plinth is a testament to racism, and that is a whole different ballpark from a simple bust of victim of police brutality over in the USA, which is vandalised while his body is still warm, while the movement is still in swing and youth of the era are still inspired by the occurrence.

If in a hundred- and twenty-seven-years attitudes have changed, or further facts about Floyd have been uncovered, and it seems justified to tear it down, so be it, but at least wait for time to heal the wounds of those effected by the movement.

Return of Comic Cons

With the recent announcement of two Comic Conventions both hopeful for a date in September 2022, I’m wondering how the comic industry has been affected by the pandemic and what the future of these crucial events for the industry might look like.

Pre-lockdown comic cons became quite the trend, with elements of cosplay aside workshops and talks, it’s both fun and an essential business enterprise for all involved in the industry, from big publishers to those self-publishing “small pressers.” Yet as the tendency boomed out of its niche market, lots of smaller localised events popped up, many without equal knowledge of the subject as they’d let on, often organised by town councils and local libraries. The other side of the coin saw big event businesses cashing in, creating huge events which concentrated on the best method to collect as much money as possible, which is bringing TV and movie franchises with little relation to comics.

Of course, these attract a wider audience, but swamp the attention of real comics, and naturally, those movies and TV shows which relate to comic counterparts. Of the two recently announced events, as a wandering fruitcake once on the verge of the industry, I know the organisers of both are thoroughly and wholly dedicated to the subject, and will create the kind of large-scale events to bless comics with the attention they deserve.

Hopeful the conventions will re-breathe excitement into actual comics as a medium and not just movie spin-offs, wondering if the pandemic and lockdown have created the opportunity of returning to the basics with a clean sheet, perhaps to start again creating comic cons in the true spirit of the industry.

Firstly, ICE, the International Comic Expo, held annually in Birmingham since 2014 is an independently run comic convention which fast became the UK’s flagship convention, our own San Diego. After the fathomable year off, ICE announced its return for September 10th 2022, at a new venue, Edgbaston Stadium. 

Event Director, Shane Chebsey, who previously helped to organise events like BICS and Comics Launchpad has been a lifelong enthusiast and devoted comic fan keen on promoting and marketing the small press in particular. Shane said, “we believe in exposing our visitors to a wide variety of comics from the most exciting new superheroes to the coolest indy and small press books. Our guest list reflects this too with guests from both the big publishing companies and the smallest publishers. When you visit our events, you can also expect to see a wide variety of exhibitors, from those selling collectables to creators selling their own work.”

“You can expect to meet some of your favourite creators at special signings and maybe even walk away with a unique sketch from your favourite artist.” Not forgoing the astonishing program of panels, talks and interviews running through the day featuring many guests, this expo is the true comic fanboy’s calling, yet equally the kind of eye-opener to the wealth and quality of the comic market every hopeful artist, writer or simply just follower of comics has to see for themselves.

And, for me, that’s the nutshell, creating an environment to appease those with a mere fleeting interest in comics as well as devotees of the niche, inspiring budding creative types and in general, causing attendees to appreciate what the French call “the ninth art,” is far from the excessive polarized stereotype of superheroes alone, and as diverse a media as film and books.

“From what I can tell,” Shane enlightened me to the situation of larger comic cons, “most of the big media shows are resuming business as usual now that they are out of hibernation. I have not really seen any change in their approach towards comics related guests and events at their shows.

“Of course, some of the medium sized media events seems to have disappeared altogether, unable to survive the lock downs. I personally know a couple of organisers who had to go and get a day job to feed their families and had to wind up their events businesses. But for every one of those we lost, their are new organisers starting up now who think they can give it a shot. So I suspect we will soon return tot he saturation point we were at before lockdown.”

“But right now we have the big shows who could weather the storm and the small shows who could just stop without a problem as they don’t organise events as their main business. So I foresee a slow start followed by a huge rise in events in Spring text year.”

“However, just before lock down there were certainly rumblings among fans and guests that convention fatigue was starting to set in, which multiple shows happening pretty much every week of the year in 2019 attendance was really starting to diminish at many events and I think fans are starting to look for unique conventions and festivals that offer something a bit different. Whether that’s more online content, more overseas guests or more carefully produced panels and workshops etc.”

“I think the days of just hiring a venue and getting a few cosplayers in, a few movie props, z-list soap actors and a load of Funko sellers isn’t going to cut it any more.

“Comics fans want to see actual comics for sale at comic conventions and they want to meet artists and writers who they’ve never met before. They want that memorable sense of occasion that we used to get conventions before this huge increase in events. So it’s up to me and my contemporaries to deliver what they want in 2022.”

I feel my team and I are up to the task and we’ll be pulling out all of the stops to bring the fans the best event experience they can possibly have within our budget.

ICE happens under one roof in the vibrant city centre of Birmingham and costs just £10.00 when you book in advance. But for one closer to us, the trade magazine Tripwire announced they’ll be hosting a comic convention in Bristol, the weekend before ICE, on the 3rd to 4th September 2022.

Bristol always had a great convention throughout the nineties and noughties, which fell into disrepair, so it’s great to hear Joel Meadows of Tripwire will celebrate the magazine’s thirty-year anniversary by bringing a whole new convention to the city. Again, Joel’s experience and dedication to comics will ensure nothing but greatness for this event.

Guests are yet to be announced, when the website goes live, but it will feature the best in UK, US and European talent as well as editors from major US comic companies and film and TV artists as well. “We are very excited about this event,” Tripwire says, “and can’t wait to tell everyone more when we can.”

As restrictions lift, plentiful comic conventions are popping up again, this month sees MCM Comic Cons in London and Birmingham, November has the London Film and Comic Con and Liverpool Comic Con, and many more. While they’re all great fun, the connoisseur of all thing’s comics will tell you the place to head for is Kendal, for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival which is happening from 15th to the 17th of October. Though for the local of passing interest it’s a trek to Cumbria, these two in Birmingham and Bristol I’ve mentioned will be the crème-de-la-crème, take it from me, yeah kapow!

For information about ICE: https://internationlcomicexpo.wordpress.com/

And Tripwire’s announcement about Bristol: https://tripwiremagazine.co.uk/headlines/tripwire-presents-bristol-comic-con-is-coming/


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REVIEW – Jon Amor/ King Street Turnaround – Southgate – Sunday 3rd October 2021

Busy Day For The Hometown Boy

Andy Fawthrop

Sunday saw me drifting up Long Street once again to The Southgate.  Dave & Debs have been doing a fantastic job to make everybody welcome over the last few weeks since Lockdown ended, not only by getting their garden into shape with umbrellas, gazebos, and marquees, tables and chairs, but by opening up the front of the skittle alley to accommodate a wide range of performers.  Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays have variously been used to field an eclectic programme of live music, including Tim Manning, Lewis Clark, Howlin’ Mat, Daydream Runaways, Eddie Martin, Innes Sibun, Barrelhouse, The Hoodoos and The Celtic Roots Collective.

I try to get up there as often as possible, but I definitely wasn’t going to miss this one.  Today it was a hometown gig for local hero Jon Amor with his band King Street Turnaround.  Normally a four-piece, they were shorn of their keyboard player due to Covid isolation restrictions, so they simply cracked on as a trio.   It was their second gig of the day, having played earlier in the afternoon at The Bell Inn in Bath.  And for drummer Tom Gilkes and bassist Jerry Soffe however it wasn’t even over yet, as there was to be a third gig later in the day at The Old Duke in Bristol with Eddie Martin.  Busy day!

Jon was in his usual ebullient and inspired form, cracking out some splendid guitar work, his vocals sparse and to the point.  Once he’d conquered drooping mike syndrome, there was no stopping him.  Two powerful sets of soulful, bluesy rock ensued, with the large crowd absolutely loving lapping it up.  The band display that wonderful quality of being at times loose and relaxed, giving each other the time and space to play their solos and improvisations, and then tightening it right up when they need to, in order to close out each song with a flourish.  Highlight for me, again, was Juggernaut, a song and a riff that I can’t get out of my head, and one which seems to be heading towards becoming a worthy always-there number in the set list.

The band played for as long as they possibly could, but finally it was all over, and that quick sprint out to Bristol lay ahead.  Another superb gig, and a pleasure to be there.

So if you want to support live music, be part of a great atmosphere, and have a few drinks with friends, get yourself up The Gate one of these coming weekends!

Future Gigs @ The Southgate:

  • Saturday 9th October – Strange Folk 9pm
  • Saturday 16th October – Blind Lemon Experience 9pm
  • Saturday 23rd October – Billy In The Lowground 9pm
  • Sunday 24th October – Jack Grace Band 5pm
  • Friday 29th October – Grizzly Rhys Morgan 9pm
  • Saturday 30th October – Celtic Roots Collective
  • Fri/ Sat/ Sun 29th – 31st October – Beer & Cider Festival

Win 2 Tickets HERE!

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REVIEW – Jimmy Carpenter – Long Street Blues Club – Saturday 2nd October 2021

Long, slow sax in the evening

Andy Fawthrop

I think we’re all partial to some casual sax when it’s on offer, so it didn’t take much persuasion to get me back up Long Street to the Con Club for the next date of Long Street Blues Club’s winter season.  Tonight it was the turn of Las Vegas-based Jimmy Carpenter and his band, and the Devizes date was the first night of their UK tour…..

But first things first.  Acoustic support act for the night was Lewis Clark, shorn of his Essentials for the evening – just the man, his voice and his guitar.  Lewis played mostly his own material, and a lot of the songs were new.  These were often raw in emotion, but still strong on melody, with some intricate guitar playing and soaring vocal work.  He did play one cover – John Martyn’s I Don’t Wanna Know, and a damned fine job he made of it too.  Lewis is a talented guy, and the crowd clearly appreciated it as a great start to the evening’s entertainment.

Then it was onto the main man – Jimmy Carpenter.  The man came highly recommended on the back of his new album (Soul Doctor) and his Blues Foundation 2021 award for Best Instrumentalist.  The guy is a saxophonist, singer-songwriter, and arranger and has been in the music business for over 35 years – and it showed.  I was new to the guy’s music, but was totally won over by the end of the night.

The 5-piece band played two 50-minute sets and it was the mark of how darned good it was that it seemed to slip by in half that time.  Jimmy was in total control of his band (including a bassist brought in at the last minute due to a possible Covid scare) and, after a few numbers, in control of the crowd.  The sets featured several original tracks from the album, including a really superb rendition of the eponymous Soul Doctor, together with a seamless leavening of carefully selected covers.  Just as I was beginning to think of comparisons – Van Morrison, Southside Johnny, Junior Walker – up came the latter’s Shotgun.  We also journeyed through Peter Green’s Need Your Love So Bad, Otis Clay’s Trying To Live My Life Without You, the Rolling Stones’ Shine A Light, Freddy King’s Surf Monkey and Eddie Hinton’s (of Muscle Shoals fame) Yeah Man. 

All of this was played with enormous panache and great energy, effortlessly working through Memphis soul, boogie-woogie, rock & roll, and blues.  And not content with blowing some wicked sax and putting out a great line in gravelly vocals, the man kept flipping over to lead guitar “just for a rest”.  What a performer!  Needless to say the crowd lapped it up.

Great night’s entertainment, and what good quality live music is all about!  Best sax I’ve had in ages!

Future Long Street Blues Club gigs:

  • Saturday 30th October – Climax Blues Band (at Devizes Town Hall)
  • Saturday 20th November – Focus (at Devizes Corn Exchange)
  • Saturday 27th November – Antonio Forcione Quartet
  • Saturday 18th December – Kossoff: The Band Plays On
  • Friday 14th January 2022 – Chicago Blues Allstars

WIN 2 FREE TICKETS HERE!

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