A Right Christmas Carry-Con at The Vaults

Sunday saw Ian Diddams reading his Christmassy self-penned yarn at The Vaults, which over the past few years has become something of a decidedly anticipated yuletide tradition among Devizes socialites, not to mention raising wonga for local charities.

Directed downwards to, what is fittingly described as a vault, within the Vaults, a communal gathering amassed. With the ethos of a “quiet bar,” the welcoming and cosy Vaults is the perfect place for the art of conversation, and in turn, the superlative place for an event of the spoken word in town. It has hosted sporadic poetry slams, including Devizes Arts Festival ones with poet, Josephine Corcoran.

Previous readings from the amusing and talented writer Ian Diddams have mostly been parody, usually taking a recognised fictional serial, such as last year’s Sherlock Holmes, and placing it within an unsubtle comparison to Devizes, sprinkled with characters suspiciously resembling a variety of known locals. Combined with a truckload of locally-related gags, the effect is laugh-out-loud funny for its audience. This time, while still lampooning, the signage underneath his microphone resembling the florescent warning logos of the government’s national TV pandemic announcements, but reading “Taking the Piss,” gave a clue this one would be somewhat different.

Ideal to prevent things from getting samey, Ian took an alternative angle; a satirical stab at national politics, this time, sardonically capturing the current mood of the country and distaste for the cabinet. This was convenient for me, I pondered during the first interval, being I was subject to one his character assassinations in last year’s online version, and didn’t see how references to a toothless Cockney milkman would quite fit in with this synopsis. Ian, however saw opportunity to sprinkle the tale with a few local caricatures, and did so; I was not left out, something one should see as an honour, I guess!

Taking the viral Handforth Parish Council Zoom meetings, where the toxic Jackie Weaver became the unlikeliest of reality tv stars, as a base, Ian worked a story read through a year’s worth of minutes taken of meetings by an imaginary village, Little Twittington’s Christmas Club. Deliberately badly disguised characters bore remarkable resemblances to MPs, the most obvious and well-placed being a Pritti Patel-a-like, taking the role of Weaver, with her conceited habit of banning and blocking anyone who disagreed with her.

Chaos ensued, gradually building from the bureaucratic nonsense and general pomposity of village or small-town politics, thus partially retaining Ian’s trademark reflection on local affairs, but soaked in an undercurrent of Brexit, handling of the pandemic, perpetual scandals, mishandling and unashamedly backhanding of government.

Taking a subject out of its usual context to display how utterly preposterous it is, is possibly the hardest form of satire to perfect and convey convincingly to an audience, and Sir Ian of the Diddams knocked it out of the park. It must be noted, to mock something so meticulously is partly to recreate the style of it, so if the performance felt drawn-out, it only was so as it reflected the subject it was ridiculing; ever been exhilarated by a village parish council meeting? I rest my case.

Though this meant belly-laughs from the crowd were perhaps lesser than his previous stories, the overall impact was greater. I’ve no doubt this was both the trickiest one to pen, and in so much, the finest one to date; a stroke of genius.

As usual, the reading was separated by poetry, read by our own man in the field, Andy Fawthrop, who also manned the bar, and Devizes own poet Laurette, or laundrette at least, the absolutely brilliant Gail Foster. The multi-skilled master, Andy, gave us some particularly adroit and amusing poems with thoughtful seasonal prose, as is his style. The apex of which was a hilarious recollection of appearing in a school nativity.

Meanwhile Gail gave us a partial seasonal selection, with an amusing personification of the fairy at the top of the Christmas tree, a sombre and powerful pagan reflection of yule, and then she preceded to bring the house down by airing her dirty washing in public, the one of which if you’ve not heard, and are not an unsuspecting and lesser-endowed pipe-fitter from Grimsby, I’ll leave no spoiler.

All this spoken word madness made for my most entertaining Sunday for the longest, which might not be the most fitting accolade it deserves, being I spend most Sunday afternoon’s snoozing on the sofa in front of a Disney-Pixar classic not of my choosing, yet it is doubly satisfying to note a substantial contribution to local homeless charity, Devizes OpenDoors was raised. And if you missed it, I believe photographer Stephen McGrath captured it on film, which will be available to view soon, for a small contribution to OpenDoors. Send us the link, Steve, and we’ll share it here, as this was something you’d be sorry you missed, if you did, bookmark the occasion for a possible next year’s must-do.

A Right Christmas Carry-Con The Movie!

And here it is. Thanks to Steve McGrath for video production. All we ask is that you please donate to Devizes OpenDoors after viewing; there’s a link on the YouTube page, or donate directly HERE, thank you.


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