Glamping and other plush extras add to the allure of a modern-day festival, but how far are you willing to go to make your festie experience that bit more luxurious? Established dance festival Shindig, which takes place 26th-29th May in the glorious grounds of the Dillington Estate in Somerset, boasts the only festival in the UK with a hotel on site, and I don’t mean slumming in a Travelodge!
“You can either stay in the beautiful main 18th Century Dillington House,” they announced, “or in the incredible contemporary Hyde complex.” The Superior Rooms are the largest and most luxurious, which are mostly found in the Hyde. Many come with their own private decking or balconies with views over the stunning Somerset countryside. Plus, hotel guests have their very own entrance straight into the festival, so you won’t miss any of the action.
And that action is headliners De La Soul and Roy Ayers, with a massive host of live acts and DJs, including Nightmares on Wax, and Don Letts with Terry Hall, its own after-hours nightclub with Goldie playing among others, and a general good vibes atmosphere where the entire family is catered for. There’s the Kids Kingdom, which will be fully programmed with activities to keep them busy during the day, and performance shows and cinema for kids.
Okay, big question, yeah, hotel rooms start from £1,000 for four nights bed & breakfast, but this includes secure parking, room service, bar and restaurant. Other boutique camping options are bell tents, yurts and squirts, airstreams, or bring your own camper with a £70 in advance ticket.
All this wows me, how far the festival scene has come, and Shindig truly is a testament, for the glitzy side of dance music. But in this, it got me reminiscing of the downside to festivals of yore, lying flat in the cheapest prism one-man tent money could buy, with a burnt-out tealight, a little pond of muddy Special Brew and grass blades, telling myself it was all part of the festival experience!
Once, camping halfway up the side of an Andalusian Mountain, graduated to a dome tent, yet having to anchor my feet in the sleeping bag in a bottom corner and fasten myself diagonally across, supported either side by my rucksack and other paraphernalia, in order to prevent waking to find myself, and all my gear too, slumped into the bottom corner like I did on the first morning!
I find myself thinking back to people-watching at a bygone murky Glasto, where within the mud-drenched surrounding akin to an apocalyptic movie, I perchance to spot a glamorous young girl dressed totally in white, white leggings, white top and trainers. She was just standing there, in the midst of it all, spotless and looking horrified at the desolation around her. With frazzled mind I had to ponder how she’d even got that far, I mean, without resembling everyone else, who were covered head-to-toe in mud and shit.
The only conclusion I could muster was teleportation, but I’m now certain of one thing, that chick needed Shindig, possibly more than anyone! Phew, if I were her, or you, I’d get my ticket here, forget the past and relish in the festival indulgence of a new era!
Nationwide hunt saboteurs and animal rights activists have inspired those gypsy-folk misfits, Mobius Loop to create this righteous tune, the Foxtrot Tally Hoedown; and we love it here at Devizine.….
I love it because despite social and political injustices linger, as it ever did, rarely does the mainstream music industry reflect this, whereas topical songs of protest and political commentary were the backbone of subject matter in times of yore; and yeah, I’m old enough to remember, just!
From the Clash and Linton Kwesi Johnson to The Levellers, songs of freedom which were once commonplace are reduced to the underground, and one has to ask if returning to an era where mainstream musicians speak out is needed now more than ever before. All we can do is encourage them, and this is indeed encouraging.
We’ve seen the trend back on the agenda, through folk, punk and ska genres; hats off to bands like Five Iron Frenzy, Boom Boom Racoon and Mobius Loop, the latter of whom say they’re “on a mission to raise positive vibrations, projecting an organic co-operative voice for humanist spirituality, vegan philosophy, grassroots philanthropy, true democracy and alchemical magic, in the name of Hemp Redemption and the infinite unknown.” Boom-shankar to you, guys!
The penetratingly energetic folk blended with conscious rap gives this tune serious clout, as it meanders onto all forms of animal cruelty and veganism. Whatever your view of vegans, you’ll remain toe-tapping through Veganuary! The song comes from their album 2020 Vi5on, which you can buy from their website, here, or stream here.
Using national footage of hunts and protests, they’ve produced a no-holds-barred video to prompt the tune, which includes scenes from our own county’s Boxing Day bash-a-sab fest in Lacock. It’s received applause from local hunt sab groups, but again that’s preaching to the converted when its those sitting on the fence it needs to reach. This symbolises my agony at the current music industry and how it operates; what’s the point in singing cliche boy-meets-girl slush when there’s injustices and transgressions happening across our green and pleasant land?
All we can do is share and publish as much as possible, to raise awareness there remains positive and rebellious vibrations through contemporary music, and praise that this Preston band of nonconformists are truly kicking up a storm nationwide with their eruptions of free-form dance, charged with intimately powerful live performances, and I say, good on ‘em, hunting must end, now.
Ticketholders for the hugely publicised Bath Reggae Festival still awaiting a refund after the festival was cancelled in August last year are getting understandably disgruntled, as the organisers are reportedly unresponsive to emails and messages….
Like many others, I jumped on this when first announced in November 2020. With a real community feel to their reggae scene, and Fairfield House, where Emperor Haile Selassie I spent five years in exile, what location in the southwest could be more apt to hold a reggae festival than Bath?
Wowed but slightly dubious when I saw the inaugural festival announce their line-up later in the month, for a first-time festival it seemed too good to be true. Legends of reggae were billed; Maxi Priest, Aswad, Big Mountain, Dawn Penn, Hollie Cook, Sister Nancy and more. Due to Covid restrictions the event was postponed from June to August, but over 2,000 reggae fans were disappointed to learn, due to the organisers being unable to source port-a-loos, the festival at Kensington Meadows in the city was again called off.
Spokesperson for event organisers, VIP Productions, Jack Wilkinson told the BBC at the time, “there has been a mention of September but again that can’t be guaranteed.” VIP put out a plea on their Facebook page, encouraging ticketholders to retain their tickets as they would be honoured once a future date was arranged, but promised a full refund if not. This was the last post published on their Facebook page in August, as punters rally to inquire to their refund, and receive no response.
Some managed to obtain a part-reimbursement from their bank or PayPal, but I’ve yet to find anyone who actually received a refund direct from the organisers. I emailed the festival’s website and the messaged VIP Productions, to no reply either, but since discovered, according to the .gov site, the company dissolved in October. VIP also presented another similar reggae festival, same month, in Huddersfield, called Sunup, of which I can find no evidence of it happening either. Going on this, I’m sad to say, I wouldn’t hold out much hope, guys.
I would not go as far to suggest the whole shebang was a scam; the festival industry is not a swindlers’ market, as it is not enormously profit-making. An event of this scale takes hard work, dedication, experience and a huge pot of funds long before stages are erected, and folk are downing cider and chewing on falafels. Admin, marketing, council permissions and insurance are just some of the mountains of red tape you need to get through just to get your foot on the first run of the ladder, therefore there’s far easier methods of defrauding people.
Just one day prior to the event in August, Somerset Live reported VIP were “criticised for their last-minute approach and lacking basic information in the application, making it ‘extremely difficult’ for Bath and North East Somerset Council.” Somerset Live also spoke to a senior environmental health officer, Sara Chiffers, who expressed concerns, “we’ve had extensive dialogue with the organisers about elements of the event management plan that were unclear, contradictory.”
This would suggest my initial hesitancy was justified; perhaps their intentions were honourable, but they tried to run before they could walk. For to have one of these big names booked would have been enough for an inaugural festival, as you need to start small and build. You cannot run off looking at Glastonbury, Reading or Bestival, these are well established with generations of experience, if they book Bowie, or Bruce Springsteen it’s because they know they can, they know tickets will cover it. Festival organising is a massive risk, and fundamental organisers get an event co-ordinator with experience. But to fail over a trivial aspect like toilets is, aptly, a bit shit!
More so it looks bad, creating a riff between punter and organisers in general, and right now, this is the last thing the hospitality industry needs. I know of one festival organisation shut up shop because they depended on advance ticket sales to host the next event. An honourable, trustworthy little festival, and while I’d rather advocate folk entrust such organisers, stories like this are bound to create understandable uncertainty.
My advice would have to be, in order for the festival scene to thrive and especially for new-comers to become established, folk have to put their trust in events and buy tickets in advance. Yet I urge punters to use their noodle, be wary of festivals promising too much at one time, especially the first time, or events which may have sister operations elsewhere in the UK under a similar banner. But it is detrimental for the future of festivals that organisers remain faithful to their customers, that they insure there’s reserves for refunds should it fail, and that they keep in communication with the ticketholders in such an occasion, as it is not only the customers you are bothering, but other event organisers too; common decency really, isn’t it?
Hey you, with the comb in your back pocket, imagine if the Brand New Heavies were signed by Motown in 1964, and you’d be a smidgen near the awesome sound of the Piaggio Soul Combination. Sprinkle some talc on the dancefloor and I’ll give you lowdown on their scorcher of a new album, Soultimate, released on the 28th January on Area Pirata Records…….
From the Supremes-a-like opening bars of track one, Hang On, also the preceding single, you’ll be wishing you were in knee-high white boots and chequered mini skirt, I know I was! By name and nature, it’s so You Keep Me Hanging on, it might as well be a sequel. Yet despite it’s obvious retrospection, there’s something remarkably fresh and electrifying about it, reminding me of 1985, when Diana Ross detonated pop progression with the number one single, Chain Reaction.
But if Soultimate begins with the Kiss (keep it simple, stupid) ethos of the classic beguiling soul-pop Motown sound, there’s more in store as the album progresses; it gets far more complex than Motown’s manufactured sound, exploring mod culture from all aspects. It’s a glorious, uplifting start, though, projecting the happy-go-lucky atmosphere it carries throughout, and will force you to do the Watutsi; I know I did!
Consider mod subculture’s conception to be uniquely working-class British, while youthful cohorts at the time may’ve thought it something entirely innovative, hence the name, rather it cherrypicked existing principles, fashion and music from elsewhere. The music descended from Afro-American R&B, jazz and the ska sound from Jamaica, whereas the fashion arrived via Italy, from zoot suits to scooters.
Maybe this is payback, because The Piaggio Soul Combination hail from Pisa, Tuscany, where long-standing mod Marco ‘Piaggio’ Piaggesi combined the best singers and musicians of the local Latin-soul scene, including the breath-taking vocals of Lakeetra Knowles, who features as lead on the majority of tracks.
Second tune in is a quirky, beguiling nod to aforementioned contemporary scooter culture, with a subterranean piano riff, you’ll be doing the nose-holding finale of the Swim dance; I know I was!
From here, maintaining its catchiness, it graduates through Motown to a rawer, Stax sound, yet never without usage of the nu-jazztronica elements to keep it fresh; polyrhythms of tasty basslines, organ, groove-laden guitars and a tight horn-section. Five tracks in and things go up a Latino notch, with Se Llama Boogaloo, an irresistible son montuno number, definitely the most diverse song on the album, making it perhaps the standout.
As each element comes to the forefront, it tends to add to the overall sound of the subsequent tunes, and while a Motown influenced mainstay returns, there’s still evidence of the boogaloo and nu-jazz, Hitman being a prime example, where things nod to nineties Acid Jazz, hence my Brand New Heavies citation earlier.
Towards the end, Blindman and the instrumental Dome Slow in particular, tends off towards an electronic blues influences, preserving a continuous upbeat sixties’ mod vibe. Like beehive sporting Emily Capell, her niche being London pseudo-rap fashion amidst similar retrospection, with this melting pot of variation, the Piaggio Soul Combination wouldn’t suffer the “Duffy effect,” the noughties retrospective Welsh singer who failed to maintain her overnight success. For this is The Piaggio Soul Combination’s third album since 2017, though their debut for Area Pirata, and it’s a sparkly upbeat, highly danceable modern soul classic.
Within a burgeon reimaging of Northern Soul and scooter scenes of yore, the time is right for this entertaining collective, yet regardless of movements, the solid soul grooves laid here are era-spanning and tricky to pinpoint, best just do the funky chicken across your kitchen; I know I did, couldn’t help myself!
Set to release their new single ‘Young Loves Dream’ on Friday 11th February across all digital platforms, Talk in Code are rinsing their inimitable and uniformed sound with anthemic pop goodness; it’s to be expected……
Coincidently, three years and one day ago Devizine reviewed this Swindon indie-pop four-piece’s album, Resolve, with the retrospective angle of eighties power-pop rock, yet subtle nods to indie shifts through the heady nineties. Though as the band progress through four further singles we’ve seen the latter dwindle and this take on a classic eighties sound coming through more and more.
Though Talk in Code is no tribute, this is progressive, refreshingly contemporary and exclusively perfected, a hi-fidelity ambience where instruments simply meld as flawlessly as those eighties’ gods of pop. An era of one-hit-wonders, accepted, but those who succeeded beyond this point did so by creating a defining sound, so no youth would confuse their Spandau Ballet with their Human League, and this is precisely where Talk in Code now stand; nowadays we compare their singles with their previous singles rather than cite influences, because their uniqueness is peerless.
The reason why, I consider, the band strive with matchless momentum on the local circuit, having headlined three of Wiltshire’s largest music events last year, the big named bookings of pop-fused Mfor at Lydiard Park, the memorable rock for cancer Concert At The Kings and Swindon’s homegrown talent showcase, the Shuffle. Also, it is why Talk in Code have shared billings with Scouting For Girls, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Craig David, SAS Band, 10cc and Lindisfarne, why devotees are dubbed “talkers” and they’ve accumulated 180,000 Spotify streams, or added to over 700 Spotify playlists.
So, this new single, ‘Young Loves Dream’ is of no exception, it gloriously follows the formula, which is, as suggested, key to their brilliance. It booms straight in, breaks when it needs to and reaches an undefinable bridge, flowing nicely with steady BPMs, and a bright, uplifting vibe. As suggested by the title, it’s romantically themed, exploring the hopefulness of youth; an ode to the potentials of initial infatuation, prior to the twists and turns life throws at you. In that, the mood of the enriching instrumentation reflects the vocals sublimely, and will have you pondering that butterfly moment of early romance, you know the kind of emotion which will make you hug the pillow in their absence, as their scent lingers, or, oh, was that just me?!
Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, all the previous singles we’ve fondly reviewed can be found on this here Spotify link, and with this progressive new track, will make up part of ‘The Big Screen,’ Talk in Code’s second album, due on Friday 15th April, playing the launch at Swindon’s Level 3, Swindon, on Saturday April 16th 2022.
Just prior, I’m hopeful we can set up an interview with Chris and the band, one crucial question will be what’s in a name, as Talk in Code’s style is never cryptic, you need not untangle painstaking poetic wordplay, it is good, honest pop kept simple, and they do it so well it’s mainstream in the making. Love’s Young Dream takes this pattern and truly celebrates it, projecting positive evolution for this radical band.
If there’s one venue I’m delighted to pen an event preview for, this new year, it has to be St Mary’s Church in Devizes. The Invitation Theatre Company showed us the potential of this disused church way back when, when Jemma and friendsaptly dressed as nuns for Sister Act, if I remember rightly?!
Since it’s been on the cards to convert St Mary’s into arts centre, and must be said, it’s been a rocky road to get this far. Now the venue is ready for singing Bishop of Ramsbury, Andrew Rumsey to showcase his musical and literary talents.
The event is in aid of the church regeneration fund, as Wiltshire Council and Salisbury Diocesan Authorities have given the go ahead for an extension to house additional facilities and the necessary changes to the interior.
On the evening of Saturday 22nd January, Andrew will be sharing songs and readings from his new book English Grounds: A Pastoral Journal in the 12th Century Church.
Appropriate for a Grade 1 listed venue, which has been a place of worship in Devizes for the best part of nine hundred years. Dr Rumsey’s new book is rooted in the Wiltshire landscape, exploring themes of place, spirituality and belonging in a series of short essays and photographs.
As well as being an author, whose writing centres on themes of place and local identity, the bishop is also a musician, with a longstanding interest in song writing and popular music. Former Literary Editor of The Times, Erica Wagner, describes his latest title as “a marvellous book, lit by faith, love and imagination”.
The event will be the first of a number planned at St Mary’s for 2022, as the innovative plans to transform the church as a hub for arts in the community take a step nearer, which is exciting news for Devizes.
I’d always imagined a virtual reality internet, but honestly, with Facebook, sorry Meta, (which incidentally sounds like the name of a hard rock magazine,) announcing … Continue reading “Facebookland, Really?”
If the brilliant evening with The Allergies at Devizes’ Muck & Dundar this month did anything more than cause me to dance my socks off, it also made me evaluate the risk of bringing hip hop acts to our often-insular market town. The Allergies certainly rocked the rum bar, deejaying funky hip hop beats, and drew a crowd, but I ponder the reaction to the boom-bap rap of the country’s upcoming trio, Bristol-based The Scribes. I would be interested on your views on this, I mean, would you buy a ticket for a hip-hop-based evening with The Scribes?
Have no doubts, we’ve been biggin’ up these lyrical geniuses for some time, but December sees them reaching a dizzy new height, of which we must congratulate them for. Fresh off the back of their forty-date summer tour, The Scribes are pleased to announce the group’s official signing with the incredible Stimulus Management Agency.
The festival favourites will be joining a star-studded roster full of the biggest names in hip hop including, Busta Rhymes, DJ Premier, Ghostface Killah, Jadakiss, KRS One, Megan Thee Stallion, Method Man, Mos Def, Nas, Pete Rock, Public Enemy, Redman, Slick Rick, Snoop Dogg, Timbaland, Wu Tang Clan and others. There’s even some I, an aging old skooler know on there, never really getting over It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.
The Scribes will be part of the agency’s growing UK contingent alongside British hip hop legends Skinnyman, Rodney P, Dj Skitz and Klashnekoff. So this is not only great news for The Scribes themselves but UK Hip Hop universally.
A huge post-covid summer saw the act grace stages across the full length of the UK and further cement their reputation as a must-see act, with standout performances at Latitude Festival and The Great Estate drawing huge crowds to witness The Scribes’ critically acclaimed live show.
Signing with Stimulus is a clear sign that even bigger things are on the way for The Scribes, with a new tour kicking off on January 29th to celebrate the release of “The Totem Trilogy Part 2” EP, produced by Vice Beats and featuring US legends Dizzy Dustin (Ugly Duckling) and Akil The MC (Jurassic 5) that will take the group around the UK yet again.
Kevin of Stimulus Management said, “Stimulus is an exciting new talent booking agency and music management company covering a wide range of genres from Hip-Hop, R&B and Jazz to Reggae and Electronic music. We have an extensive roster of international musicians, vocalists, DJ’s and Celebrities for commercial or private events. We think The Scribes are a great addition to our UK Rap artists, we love their live show and they add something a bit different and special to our roster.” Yes, so do we at Devizine, and ask, you the reader, isn’t it time to welcome them to The Vizes?
Meditatively strap yourself into a comfy recliner, as under his pseudonym Karda Estra, Swindon’s prolific experimental virtuoso Richard Wileman is in collaboration with Sanguine Hum keyboardist Matt Baber for an album taking their names as the title, Baber-Wileman. It’s released tomorrow (Monday 10th Jan 2022) on Kavus Torabi’s Believers Roast label.….
Under his own name, Richard projects acoustic folk songs, yet never without fascinating instrument experimentation, yet as Karda Estra soundscapes of surreal gothic and cosmic compositions evoke mood as a film score should.
With a pungent fusion of Zappa and Canterbury influenced instrumental compositions, Sanguine Hum was formed a decade ago from the ashes of the Joff Winks Band and the Antique Seeking Nuns. Known for complex ensemble work, reflective song-writing and distinctively striving instrumental pieces, Sanguine Hum’s defining characteristics owes much to Matt’s keys, who released his first solo album, Suite for Piano and Electronics on Bad Elephant Music in 2018.
The pair first met at RoastFest in 2011, where Sanguine Hum were performing, and soon afterwards, Matt and Richard did their first collaboration track, Mondo Profondo 1, which appeared on the Karda Estra album Mondo Profondo.
Returning to the studio together towards the end of 2020, initially intending to put a couple of tracks down, the sessions went so well, they continued co-composing through 2021 and the project evolved into this album, which is chilling me to the bone.
Richard’s long-time vocal and clarinet player Amy Fry also guest appearances on three of the nine enchanted tracks. At times, like the finale, The Birth of Spring, this sounds like it could’ve been recorded on a light dewed grassy knoll, under a troll bridge of a Tolkienesque landscape, at others a Kling Klang type Düsseldorf studio towards the end of the seventies, but the steam of this melting pot perpetually reeks of influences further and wider.
With Matt’s clear progressive-rock influence, tracks like Passing Wave and the penultimate Day Follows Night, hold woozy psychedelic swirls of a Hawkwind free festival, yet the classical piano concertos of Claude Debussy ring through interludes like Three Audio Slow and 2009.
It’s a wonderous journey, mellowly twirling through gorgeously uplifting, sometimes haunting soundscapes, as ambient as The Orb, as methodically composed as Mike Oldfield, as peculiar as The Art of Noise, as moody electronically progressive as Tangerine Dream, and melodically unruffled as Jefferson Airplane.
The second tune, after Karda Estra-fashioned haunting intro, sounding like a spooky film score by William Orbit, Souvenir is vocally a prime example of the folk-rock influence of Jefferson Airplane, but only a slight segment of styles blended here, of which the magnum opus of the album, Emperor combines all aforementioned elements sublimely. This one is as Mike Oldfield created Primal Scream’s Higher Than the Sun from Screamadelica; yeah, it’s that beautiful, all too beautiful!
For their first outing of the year, Devizes Town Band plan to get all Phileas Fogg and beyond, taking the Corn Exchange on a fantastic journey from the depths of the ocean into space and everything in between, and you could onboard!
Since 1999, when the Alpha Wind Ensemble was formed, and Mike Ward of Bratton Silver Band joined as Musical Director a year later, rehearsals at the Wyvern Club led to the Devizes Town Band’s formation in 2001, and they gained permission from the Town Council to use the town crest.
The band came to its summit with 2019’s Spring Concert, Greatest Love Themes, which they state was their best to date; subtly complemented with professional audio and lighting. During lockdown the band stayed strong, rehearsing via zoom and vowed to make a monthly video, which can be found on their website.
Over the last few years, they’ve represented Devizes on the road, appearing at Poulshot Village Hall, Beechingstoke Manor, Avebury Manor, John Coles Park in Chippenham and Swindon’s Town Gardens, and return home to host Remembrance Service at Devizes War Memorial, as well as the celebrated Proms and Children’s Proms at Hillworth Park.
Back together tomorrow, they’ll be rehearsing music for this magical mystery Fantastic Journey set sail for Sunday 15th May 2022, 2:30pm at the Corn Exchange, Devizes.
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, … Continue reading “Freya Beer’s Beast”
A Saturday afternoon, I’m trying to watch the new Boba Fett Star Wars series here, and what’s more important, I ask you; me being fair and impartial about a Handforth-Parish-Council-Zoom-meeting style squabble between Devizes Town Councillors, or the fate of the Tusken Raiders now the Hutt’s legacy has concluded on Tatooine?!
It’s rhetorical, full gone conclusion, yet being without endorsement I was quoted in local rag The Gazelle & Herod, I feel about as moderately involved as Salacious was in Return of the Jedi (he’s the giggling jester gremlin who lives in the folds of Jabba’s flab.)
To quote Obi-Wan, “I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened!” No shit, Jedi; Devizes Town Council are trying to stop councillors posting so much as an amusing meme on social media, or least that’s the talk on social media, initiated by a town councillor!
Between North Ward Conservative Iain Wallis stating his case within the confines of his own Facebook group, Devizes Issues, I’m also chatting with East Ward Conservative Johnathan Hunter, in a kinda east coast/north side stand off. I’ve told them both what they need is a nice, Labour speaker to settle the score, but neither rose to the bait; typical Tories!
To begin I took Iain’s opinion as red, supporting his gallant efforts to project the happenings within DTC, as other councillors don’t use social media with quite the same efficiency. But Johnathan, concerned the local rag went to town with a one-sided scoop, “a half-story without the full facts and presented them in a way which couldn’t be further from the truth,” claimed, “the last thing anyone wants are restrictions in free speech or any type of so-called gagging, which would be absolutely unacceptable as well as plainly ridiculous.”
Yeah, that’s what I was going with, ridiculous. Ridiculouso, because while they’re squabbling between themselves over usage of social media, one has to ponder if they’re dealing with the issues they’re supposed to be dealing with; my nan would say “I’ll bash yer bleedin’ ‘eads together,” cos she resolved conflicts that way, that’s why there were never conflicts in the family.
Jonathan continued, he “would never oppose the use of social media. No one wants draconian restrictions or censorship; however, no single person should control the narrative.Iain provides excellent updates and info on social media, but is selective with rules and posts. I’m not a Guardian but there are some good people who want good stuff for the town. I think with social media groups there should be a more open approach and less controlling if counter views don’t suit a particular narrative.”
So, according to Johnathan, no one objected to a deadlock on social media usage, rather suggested it was controlled with equality for all councillors, and this has been blown out of proportion. “Totally blown!” he responded.
Devizes Town Council proudly announces on its website: In March 2020 the Council was re-accredited with a Quality Gold Award – which it has held since 2015 – demonstrating it delivers its services in a way which is at the forefront of best practice by achieving an excellent standard in community governance, community leadership and performance management.
Ah, that’s nice, but what of it, if the public doesn’t know what services it actually delivers? Where can you find out what’s happening at DTC?
There’s a website, with PDFs of minutes. Can I get the minutes of the meeting involving this outcry? “The 2017 policy is on the council website,” Johnathan tells me, “But as the proposals haven’t been approved, they are not in the public domain.” It’s a far slower process than despatching a Tweet, and besides, you’ve got to go find it, rather than it splash in your face via your phone.
I told Iain, “Folk don’t come (to meetings) as I suspect they believe they’ll succumb to hours of ‘article 234 on the agenda, Reg Smith wants to erect a weathercock on his shed…. type stuff. Ergo, we need a summary, which is exactly what you do, and most would be in favour of that, logically.”
“There is definitely a place for an officially DTC line and it should be on their Facebook page,” Iain replied. “DTC social media presence has improved significantly since the new community engagement manager took up her post.” Though compare Devizes Town Council’s Facebook page’s 1,073 likes, and 123 followers on Twitter, with Devizes Issues’ 14K members, understandable Mr Wallis’ posts there have tenfold the clout of DTC posting on its own page.
What they need is to take a leaf from Iain’s book, create a flourishing “group” rather than a “page” as it’s more open to discussion, and anyone can contribute. Then, and only then, can DTC say please keep social media posts about council matters on the DTC group. Jonathan agrees, “it needs to be improved.”
Hopeful if done it would put an end to the pettiness? Yeah, right. Iain gives me a ‘however’; “I think there is also the case for individual councillors to speak. We are not one council and we are not all bound to think and speak in the same way. We are bound by democratically made decisions but we don’t have to like them.We should be able to engage with the public and give our own views separately to the council’s official position.”
Totally agree with Iain on this one, though on their own platform rather than one they have created for “general purpose.” As the dispute of the impartiality of Devizes Issues is never-ending, it is up to the individual to note he controls that particular powerful Facebook page, and what is published are not agreements made by the entire council; akin to national media, who knows what to believe anymore?
Jonathan’s key concern is that, “an article has been written in the G&H and also posted by Iain, grossly exaggerating potential proposals and is therefore misinforming the public by using headlines like gagging order. The draft policy hasn’t even been debated and agreed in the relevant committee in Council.”
In a heartfelt counter-article placed on other local Facebook groups, which Johnathan says he’s “not allowed to share elsewhere,” he calls there’s “never been any intention to restrict debate, free speech or social media interaction – it’s crucial to have an ongoing conversation within the community and for the community.”
“What a sound social media policy would look like is one when no single individual controls the narrative, and/or censors free speech claiming that it doesn’t fit into the rules as it doesn’t suit a particular narrative. Many organisations are reviewing their social guidelines to also move forward with the times, especially in a world of misinformation.”
Newly elected in May last year, what we know of him is his hard-working community projects particularly during lockdown, in planning and committee responsibilities, his focus on building better provision for young people, and involvement in Greening Projects. “However,” he states, “I am not involved in any schemes to restrict free speech, censorship or that crass term ‘gagging order.’”
What we have here is a storm in a teacup, intended to belittle parts of the council by other sides. In my honest opinion, the argument is crass and misinforming, but not reflective of the good and hard work councillors are really doing behind the scenes.
Though those behind-the-scenes points need to be publicised impartially better than it is, and folk need to be made aware what they’re reading is the view of one councillor only when taking information from the Devizes Issues. We’ve covered the bias there in the past, my conclusion is, intentional or unintentional there is, despite denial from admin. It came to apex when I myself was banned for proposing it was wrong for the taxpayer to fork out the millions for the PCC re-election, and I stand by that notion as proof of censorship.
Same here I confess, if you were to suggest Supreme Chancellor Palpatine was right to manipulate the battle of Geonosis to escalate the Clone Wars, I’d have you banned, outright!
But in the Star Wars universe one councillor would saunter into The Mos Eisley cantina, and with one bout of laser gun battle would solve the problem, and that’s not usually the way it works in Devizes. “Devizes town council meetings actually sound that bit more exciting than I projected here,” I added to Iain’s musings on the episode, “do we bring our own weapons or are they provided?” It got two laughing emojis, which was all I was after, really, I don’t expect this to be solved anytime soon.
Might as well go for all three trilogies in one, and send yourself to a galaxy far far away than wait for a conclusion to this!
What better way to start the new year off than helping a doggie with a hole in his heart? Teddy the golden cockapoo, and owner Hannah Knowles from Tidworth are raising money to help towards Teddy’s two heart operations.
“Teddy is a with a vibrant personality that lights up our lives,” Hannah said. “We recently lost two dogs this year and decided we were ready for a new troublemaker in the house to give her new sister Ke Ke some company. They bonded instantly and haven’t left each other alone since. The vet thought she had a heart murmur until she went for a check-up scan and discovered she had a pulmonic stenosis and Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA). In short this means she has a hole in her heart and needs a balloon in her artery, this will require two heart surgeries when she reaches 4 kilos. These operations will cost a total of £8000 and its money that a normal working family does not have.”
“We have hope for teddy and there is a 95% chance she will live a normal doggy life after. She has bonded with her new sister Ke Ke and we can’t imagine their lives without each other. Any donation is appreciated and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
If we recently reviewed Ian Diddams and friends meeting at the Vaults for their annual festive Jackanory, the first article of 2021 was the very same funny fellow reciting his yarn as a live stream from his mocked garden grotto, and in that, surely displays how far we’ve come from the restrictions of lockdown we entered the year with. Though not without the same notion as last Christmas looming over us, like a dirty black shroud, that it was, perhaps, all too soon, and we’ve not seen the backside of the Covid19 yet.
Summarising, 2021 was marginally better than 2020; there were gung-ho moments of throwing caution to the wind, and there were others to make us stop and ponder the consequences of our actions. There’s little doubt the world will never be the same for decades to come; social interaction, shopping, even work practises; but we did get to party on occasions, and when it was good, it was really good.
And if it ended with a Boxing Day brawl, I suspect some wished for the bash-a-sab fest. Even police it seems, who would likely send in The Wealdstone Raider to crowd control a Wealdstone V Whitehawk FC game, if given the assignment. Did I predict this when I said“make no mistake, there’s a civil war under our noses, which comes to an apex when blood-thirsty predators triumphantly parade their wrongdoing on a day when most of us struggle out of bed to reach the fridge?”
Hardly crystal ball stuff, tensions at their highest for rural Wiltshire’s most contradictory dispute, it was on the cards since day dot; when the county voted in a foxhunting Police Crime Commissioner, whose misadventures in drink driving caused him to pull out at a cost of millions to the taxpayer. A calamity most shrugged off with “oh, ha-ha, those naughty Tories, bless ‘em.”
Allowed Out to Play
It was May before I set foot in a pub, lockdown eased and live music was back on the agenda, albeit with hefty restrictions; early ending times, remain seated, table service, no mingling outside of “bubbles,” and deffo no dancing or singing. It felt awkward to begin with, not quite the same, but it was a start, and who better to kick off proceedings than the brilliant Daybreakers, gracing the trusty Southgate? One could sense the joy from Cath, Gouldy et al, to be singing to an audience once again, proving their dedication to the cause. A handclap emoji just isn’t the same.
For a while then The Southgate remained the only venue in Devizes providing live music, and we thank Deborah, Dave and all staff for working within the rules to create a safe space to be blessed with music; it was like they were on roller-skates at times, up and down the beer garden, ensuring not a mouth was left dry!
I also ventured out to the Barge at Honeystreet, to see how they were coping with the boundaries too. And what a show The Boot Hill All Stars put on there, under a spacious marquee, so tempting to get up and dance, but couldn’t; mastered foot-tapping though.
The return to some normality for many in Devizes came in clement early June, when Devizes Lions held a fantastic car show, plus, on the Green. With side stalls aplenty, nervously folk began to socially distanced mingle; it was a breath of fresh air and a testament to what can be safely achieved with forward thinking and dedication.
By July I made it out a few times, the idea of Vince Bell teaming with the individual performers of The Lost Trades, Phil, Jamie and Tamsin was too much of an irresistible hoedown of local talent to miss, and a third trip to the trusty Southgate to tick TwoManTing off my must-do list also proved to be a memorable evening.
The beginning of August I ventured to TrowVegas to tick another off said list, catching those Roughcut Rebels with new frontman Finley Trusler. They blasted the Greyhound, and didn’t disappoint. The month shifted gear for many, and things simply blossomed like there never was a lockdown. Back-to-back weekends saw both my favourite largescale of 2021, the single-most amazing festival near Marlborough; MantonFest is a real gem, professionally done with a real communal atmosphere, the type perpetual drizzle couldn’t put a downer on. This event wowed.
Back in Devizes, the events of the year were the weekend which followed, sitting nicely between a stripped back version of DOCA’s International Street Festivalsprinkled across town, was of course, The Full Tone Festival. Without the refreshing emergence of folk out of lockdown, this would have still been something for the town’s history books, but being as it was, the opportunity to head back out and enjoy life once again, the timing, the best weather, the whole ambience was electric. The time and work gone into pulling this off was absolutely outstanding, and for which folk of Devizes will forever mark it as a celebration of post lockdown.
Awakenings even drew Andy out of hiding by September, and I was overjoyed to have him back on the team, without putting his bag and coat on the hook, he went out to play, reviewing Devizes Musical Theatre’sGallery of Rogues, and Devizes Town Band’s Proms in Hillworth Park. Meanwhile I was delighted to see The Wharf Theatre reopen with a fantastic performance of Jesus Christ Superstar.
September also saw the welcome return of Devizes Comedy at the Corn Exchange, and The Long Street Blues Club, who, kicking off with Creedence Clearwater Review, wasted no time catching up with their rescheduled programme of the most excellent blues nights money can buy. Andy covered these, while I ventured to see Kieran J Moore’s new digs at Trowbridge Town Hall. After a brilliant street art exhibit from Tom Miller, I went to taste the music there, with a most memorable evening from Onika Venus. I returned to the scene in November, for a great gig from Ålesund with support from Agata.
Other than a trip to the White Horse Opera and Southgate to see Jon Amor’s King Street Turnaround, Andy pitched a tent at Long Street Blues Club, one time shipped out to the Corn Exchange in late November for Focus, which Andy crowned best gig of the year. I made it out to the Cross Keys in Rowde for The Life of Brian Band, and to the Southgate see Strange Folk again, since their fantastic set on Vinyl Realm’s stage at a Street Festival of yore. But October held my best gig of the year, the reasons manyfold, and I’m lay them on the line….
For the outstanding fundraising efforts of the Civic award-winning local supergroup, The Female of the Species, I hold them all up as my heroines, therefore the chance to see them again at Melksham’s fantastic Assembly Hall too much to miss, and the fact they’d chosen this time to raise funds for another of my local heroines, Carmela Chillery-Watson, was almost too much to take! With an electric night of awesome danceable covers and a massive raffle, they raised a staggering £1,763 for Carmela’s Therapy Fund.
It will never cease to amaze me the selfless lengths our musicians will go to for fundraising. Even after a year and half of closed hospitality and no bread-and-butter gigs, they continue to offer their precious time to help. While events blossomed late this year, and November saw the return of TITCO, and Devizes Arts Festival added a spellbinding mini-autumn-festival with Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, Sally Barker and Motown Gold, Devizine continued also to preview events and do what we had being doing to find content during lockdown. Yeah, we rattled some cages with social and political opinion pieces, tasted some great takeaway tucker, and we reviewed recorded music further afield as well as local, but we had a number of feelgood stories, most memorable being things like our snowman competition in January, but there was a project which highlighted the sterling effort from musicians to fundraise, and it will be something I’ll never forget.
So, in April I announced we would be putting together a compilation album, fundraising for Julia’s House Children’s Hospices and by late June it was a thing. It was hard work to put together, but I’m astounded by the plethora of great bands and artists who took the time to send us a tune for inclusion. Knowing time was precious for artists popping out of lockdown, in need to source bookings and rehearse, I only asked them to provide us with an existing tune to prompt their albums, but some went beyond this, giving us exclusive outtakes such as the brilliant Richard Davis & the Dissidents, or some even recorded new songs, like Blondie & Ska, Tom Harris and Neonian.
I picked a staggering forty-six tracks to bind together, to create a boxset so humongous it would need far too many CDs to make it actual, so due to this and the expense of outlaying, it exists as a download on Bandcamp. Think of it as a teaser for the many great acts we’ve supported and reviewed over the years, and for a tenner, it works out under 5p a tune.
For me this was a momentous achievement, and can’t thank them enough. While I’ve put it out to the right places, to the Gazette & Herald and Fantasy, and airtime on West Wilts Radio’s fantastic Sounds of Wilderness Show, there is obviously more I need to do to get the message out there, as sales have been slow, unfortunately.
I could fathom a number of reasons for this, but in all, we’ve raised approximately £177 for Julia’s House, hoping to reach a £200 target before we send them the money, still sales have waivered off so significantly I feel I need to send what we’ve had so far. Please help us to up the total if you’ve not already bought this fantastic album. Gloom aside I will say I’m planning a second volume, and already have a few contributions from incredible acts such as Nick Harper, Onika Venus and Catfish.
Returning to events for the last part of the year, While Andy fondly reviewed Focus, I popped into the Corn Exchange for a quick interview with The Lost Trades, and left to attend a great art show at the Shambles. That weekend the Full-Tone Orchestra played Swindon’s Wyvern, and I’m grateful to Ian Diddams for his review. This is what we need, people, we cannot cover everything, but if you’ve a few words to say about an event or anything local, please, help to make Devizine a comprehensive community, erm, thing!
Of course, one delightful addition to our team TD Rose has been submitting some lovey features, firstly of ramblings, and more recently she made friends with Wiltshire Museum, and reviewed DOCA’s Winter Festival. Thank you so much Tyg, I’ve yet to meet, but we need to arrange this for the new year.
Towards the end of November Andy remained seated at Long Street, I did the rum bar thing. Such a refreshing addition to Devizes, The Muck & Dundar pulled off a blinder with Bristol DJs, The Allergies. This was one smooth funky night, best for an age, and it was great to shake my greying tailfeathers. Both Andy and I finished off the year with a Boot Hill bash at the Southgate, where hip hop misfits Monkey Bizzle supported, and was shocked by Andy’s positive reaction, being more my cup of cheddar, this was an awesome night too!
Having live music back, no matter the limitations was a breath of fresh air. Prior to it I was still scrambling around in the dark as I was in 2020, hunting for something to write about. But I guess a year of lockdown had given me time to contemplate and improve on the content. This boosted the stats, for if 2020 saw a drop in readership, I hoped to better it, and I’m pleased to announce we had a record amount, well over doubling the figures of 2020. This is awesome news, and I thank everyone for keeping the faith in us, and continuing to support Devizine.
I keep looking at the bar graph of stats, not believing the skyscraper which is 2021. How much we’ve grown, become a “thing” now. It’s fantastic and I hope we will continue to entertain you. I must stress though, we don’t harass you to subscribe or any rubbish like this, we keep advertising to a minimum, and nothing should pop up and distract your reading, and we uphold the ethos features should be free to the end user.
Yet we do need to maintain some budget to keep the site going. That’s currently around £60 a year; we fund our own beer money, thank you, we’re not MPs, we have no expense forms! So please consider donating to keep Devizine afloat, please donate when sending us an advert, unless it is fundraising. I’d really like to build up a small fund to get some charity events off the ground, as I believe the artists should be paid for their time considering their predicament too. So, anything extra will go towards this, and promoting the Julia’s House album.
What can we expect from Devizine in 2022, you might ask; well, if it’s not broken……let’s happily bash on shall we?! Thank you all so much for your support over 2021, the stats show we’re heading in the right direction.
Said this before, but I take pride in repeating myself; food reviews get an enormous response, yet still eateries seem reluctant to come forward. A food review here will do wonders for your sales, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a greedy so-and-so. Places we’ve eaten out or takeaways we’ve had which failed to live up to our expectations have not been mentioned. I’m no Gordon Ramsey and I’m not about to publish a slagging off. I’d rather tell you to your face why I’m not reviewing it!
During lockdowns the takeaway became essential part of a weekend treat for families with nought else to do, and new establishments opened, while pre-existing ones flourished. In January we praised the Massimos’ Pizza, and the following month saw me queuing halfway down a frozzled Nursteed Road for a rather tasty Greek Gyro from the Cosy Kitchen mobile van; such was the popularity of these mobile units during the bleakest of times.
When things begun to open up in April I went for my first vaccination jab, where they told me not to drive for fifteen minutes. They didn’t say go find a new Indian lunchtime takeaway in the Brittox, but we did, and long should Naan Guru live on!
Not much further into the same month, I tracked down The Feisty Fish, a fish n chips van like no other. They don’t come into town being there’s chip shops here, but track these guys down for the single best gourmet fish n chips you will ever taste, I tell no lie!
June saw a second IndieDay, organised by InDevizes, and prompted people to get out and shop with a bustling farmer’s market, in which I discovered the rosy cheeked benefits of Lavington’s Rutts Lane Cider, and merrily made my way home on the bus! I also had to mention, unsurprisingly to those who know me, that month, that Plank’s Dairies introduced a new locally-sourced organic milk, yogurt and juice range, in sizable and reusable glass bottles, which has proved hugely popular.
Naturally, without a main stage this year, there was a greater interest in the food market at The Devizes Street Festival in August, and the following month we mentioned Devizes Food & Drink Festival’s Market, where I was reunited with Rutts!
Mildly amusing than most, I offered a Battle of the Best Devizes Breakfast, in November, something we need to follow up on when the kids are back in school, as Round One, The Condado Lounge Vs New Society was a popular post. I bloomin’ love food, me, y’know, invite me to your café, pub or restaurant and I’ll give you my honest opinion, except I don’t do eggs or liquorice; yuck!
If I’ve already mentioned our awesome 4 Julia’s House project, and all the artists who contributed are in my good books, we also covered a whole heap of new releases. Plus, we started a Song of the Day, where we post a YouTube link for your pleasure, and generally don’t say much else about it, rather waffle on a tangent! But mostly recorded sound reviews waned when live music reopened, still we strive to continue telling you what we like.
Will Lawton proposed to open a music school, JMW held a lockdown festival in support of musicians, Wiltshire Council asked Gecko for a Road Crossing song and video, and Wiltshire Rural Music’s announced producing live steams from Trowbridge Town Hall.
Kirsty Clinch announced her music school and book plans, and covered Swindon’s sound system Mid Life Krisis’s live streams. We chatted to The Scribes, announced The Lost Trades Live Stream in Advance of Album Launch, and The Ruzz Guitar Sessions, and Asa Murphy returning to Devizes.
We announced Sheer’s Salem gig, the Dear John Concert Album for War Child, and the bid to help Calne Central. Announced Sheer’s Frank Turner gig at the Cheese & Grain, chatted to Blondie & Ska. Announced Wharf Theatre’s Youth Theatre, Pound Arts Blue Sky Festival, My Dad’s Bigger than Your Dad Festival in tribute to Dave Young. This list goes on, but most enjoyable recently, meeting up with Visual Arts Radio who moved from Frome to Devizes.
We reviewed Terry Edwards Best of Box Set, Ain’t Nobody’s Business by Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue and Pete Gage, Skates & Wagons, Kirsty Clinch, Small Town Tigers, Django Django, Chole Glover, Araluen and Ariel Posen. Trowbridge DJ and producer Neonian, The Direct Hits, Andy J Williams, Erin Bardwell, Nigel G Lowndes, Mike Clerk, Cutsmith, Timid Deer, and Cult Figures.
Horses of the Gods, Lone Ark & The 18th Parallel, Longcoats, Black Market Dub and The Lost Trades.
Brainiac 5, Sitting Tenants, Stockwell, Storm Jae and Nory, Sam Bishop, Longcoats, The Bakeseys and Elli de Mon.
Liddington Hill, Boom Boom Racoon, Longcoats, Girls Go Ska and Daisy Chapman.
Monkey Bizzle, Webb, The Hawks, Captain Accident & The Disasters, Onika Venus, Death of Guitar Pop, The Burner Band, Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer, and Scott Lavene.
Spearmint, Captain Rico & The Ghost Band, Sonny Vincent, Freya Beer, Near Jazz Experience, Beans on Toast, Old Habits, and most recently, Paul Lappin! That enough for you?!
On the Social and Political Side
The fate of every nation depended on how their governments dealt with the pandemic, and how the public responded to them. I’m not here to dwell on international or even national politics, for this is a review of Devizine, what I define loosely as “an entertainment news and events guide,” for the locality of Wiltshire, focussing particularly on our base, Devizes. Yet tenaciously it is linked, undeniably affecting limitations to what we could and couldn’t do. By the very appalling national statistics, despite rolling out vaccinations like no other country, it revealed true horrors of conflicting government decisions, their general disrespect and selfishness for the public they’re supposed to serve, and the public’s reaction to them.
Like a blind vacuum, sucking in every government blame game, it never ceases to amaze me keyboard warriors on social media turning culpability onto mainstream media, when their task is purely to report news, and capture the mood of the nation. The mainstream media is ruled by the elite, funding the government, they’re in bed together, literally. To publicise shortage of goods is informing of a potential issue, they didn’t enforce panic buying, the public did; chicken and egg. Equally, to publish mood change in the majority lost faith in government, is because there’s a mood change; we’ve lost faith in government.
I’m not here to say I told you so; I’ve not lost faith in this government, I had none to start with!
Take the last set of pandemic announcements, made only hours after government-controlled media broke news of Downing Street Christmas parties, best part of twelve months earlier. A day where the public felt betrayed, even those who voted for Bojo and his cronies held their heads in shame and had to confess it was all too much for a government to break rulings it set itself, and party on while the public suffered, and died. The mood was understandably bleak; why should we do what they say when they clearly don’t?
Why, you ask, for crying out loud? To protect ourselves from a global pandemic, numpty! Government announcements are fed counsel from health organisations and medical experts, skewered by bent politics, naturally, but the bullet points are there. It is not the same self-entitled buffoons, they’re voiceover artists on this occasion; given free reign they’d have “herd immunity,” against WHO advise.
Can you not see through the wool? The government press released the Downing Street Christmas Party scandal themselves, bang on cue of an announcement, so we would all think precisely that, why should we do what they say when they clearly don’t? If we rebel from their restrictions, we’ve only got ourselves to blame when the virus spreads. The government gets what they always wanted, herd immunity, and they’ve shifted the blame away from them and onto you, me, and everyone else.
Therefore, we need to take precautions ourselves, be a community, care for others around us. No hard and fast lockdown is needed, if common bloody sense prevailed, but government seem intent to rinse it from our craniums. We’re not self-service tills, do not robotise us!
We know now how to prevent the virus spreading; keep your distance from others, wear facemasks in public places, follow NHS guidelines in testing and get vaccinated as soon as possible, whether they tell you to or not.
These things should be commonplace, but whenever restrictions ease, like a naughty school-boy triumphantly marching out of detention only to offend again, we forget everything we’ve learned and pay the cost for it. I’m not preaching like a saint, caged too, I urged for a pint, to lob my facemask into the air, hug, and flaunt the rules when the rules relaxed, at times reflecting if we did the right thing, least if we did it too soon. But it’s done now and we can’t turn the hands of time. If we could, I’d still be on Castlemorton Common.
In this, one series of articles I was proud of this summer was in reminiscence of my youth, being the thirtieth anniversary of 1991, an explosion for the rave scene. But another similar premise based on news of illegal raves happening in lockdown, was to ask those old skool ravers if they’d still go raving if there was a similar pandemic in the nineties; with interesting results.
And if it sounded like I was defending mainstream media, I wasn’t, only applying a smidgen of sympathy. With Facebook, Twitter et al, media is everyone now; I’m living proof any idiot can publish a blog and make look it like reputable news! Reason why, I guess, criticising other local outlets always brings hits, the occasion I felt the need to defend Devizes against the sharp eye of local gutter-press Wiltshire Live, proved to be our third most popular article of the year.
Devizes is a great place to live, Tory top-heavy, but that’s something anyone with an alternative opinion has to unfortunately suck up. Our fourth most popular article this year was in January, breaking the news Tory PCC candidate for Wiltshire, Johnathan Seed, was a bad card. Something as more evidence came to light, namely drink-driving offences, proved to be true, at the time I put my finger on something conflicting in his chat with us, calling anyone who cared to address fox hunting a “troll,” but requesting we talk on his trespass pledges, blatantly linked to restrict the movement of sabs, the only folk we see actually policing this disgusting and unbelievable smokescreen of trail hunting. Something we covered more recently, suggesting Boxing Day Hunts need better policing.
Moan I’m bias, yeah, no shit, Sherlock. Do I attempt to hide it like others? Why the hell should I side with anyone butchering wildlife for so-called sport, and in that, why the hell would you?! But hey, I remained impartial during local elections, giving each and every candidate a platform, so there!
Never has a PCC election run with such controversy. Aggravation between sides fired, and we did more than blow the lid off Seedy’s bogus campaign, causing some alarming revelations in local social media bias. Tories back Tories, no matter what they’ve done wrong, it’s an allegiance to admire, even if you feel it’s malicious. As well as chatting with Lib Dem candidate Liz Webster and independent Mike Rees, we tried a few spoofs: Play the Wiltshire PCC Game, Basil Brush Missing, and upon the Tories hustling in an alternative candidate by stalling the re-election, we ran a short story The Adventures of Police Crime Commissioner Wilko, which was based upon a better received satire, a long-running mock of Wiltshire Council, inThe Adventures of Councillor Yellowhead.
At times Mike seemed such a threat to Wiltshire’s Tory totalitarianism, a media attack seemed the best method to deflect people taking the common-sense vote. The first bout came in January, when Mike was barred from volunteering to administer lateral flow Covid tests, the second in July affected me personally as the Devizes Issues Facebook group revealed its fiercely denied bias, by banning me for using a George Orwell quote to express my concern at the taxpayer having to fork four million quid for a re-election which was clearly the Conservative Party’s fault! I’m adamant it was justified.
Nineteen-eighty-four was supposed to be a warning, not a fucking self-help guide.
Annoyed, I struck out, naturally, and was begged back, after the full-gone conclusion a Wiltshire majority blindly vote for the blue rosette no matter what! But it was a month after the ban, the smear reached its apex, with all posts about the independent candidate immediately banned and deleted on the popular Facebook group, and anyone complaining were blamed by members for the downfall in Mike’s success! You can’t make up hypocrisy that nasty.
It’s not the politics which bothers me as much as the kind of world they envision. Stories of injustice swamped Devizine this year, more than ever before, even our April Fool’s Joke had stark repercussions.
Every minute an adolescent arm reaches out of a window, unceremoniously handing a bag of fast food to a driver, they nod a thanks, and leave. That seemed to me to be the maximum social interaction of 2020, yet commonplace in modern living, pandemic or not. I recalled going to a Tesco, paid at the pump, masked expressions as I sauntered the aisles, paid at the self-service till and on the way out considered one could live their life in modern times completely unnoticed, months need pass without human contact. My mind meanders if that’s something young folk actually want, or if they’ve been robotised, or if it’s an age thing leaving me in a care-home for terminally bewildered.
The best hitting article of the year was again, our April Fool’s Day joke, where this time I misleadingly announced the opening of a McDonalds in Devizes. Maliciously planned, it broke the local internet, and despite suggesting it was All Fools Day in the piece, comments and messages flooded in from headline scanners. In favour of it or not, the debate is such popular the joke was lost on many desperate souls dying for a McFlurry; causing faith, just like Chippenham’s recent pandemonium for a bucket of battery chicken in gravy, yes, Aldous Huxley was bang-on, many folks do want to live in this commercialised bubble, void of individualism.
On Everything Else
Individualism, free thinking and fair and just causes we stand for here, it is not my fault the many attempts to counteract this seem to come from a conservative ethos, and therefore get criticised for it. I’m not dead against conservativism, but they seem dead against me, as if we’re supposed to know our place tip our hat and reply, “very good guvnor, I’ll bail your shit for a shilling!”
My god, how they hate common people who can articulate, that’s’ why they slash away like Freddy Kruger at the education budget while back the grammar school relaunch. Then keyboard warriors whinge at juvenile delinquency like it’s a new thing and something stringing them up for will somehow solve. We’re heading into days as dark as the early eighties, perhaps medieval for some, days I remember with a horror in my heart.
The audacious legacy building bashes on with grand and glorious plans, I reported Stonehenge had been saved by the High Court, but they operate above the law and continue to ignore the justice system, plotting to bury a road underneath it, shaking it to ruin, least knocking it of the World Heritage List, for the sake of knocking minutes off commuting times.
I criticised the reality of building a whole new train station miles out of Devizes, against popular opinion, cos I’ll believe it when I see it, and furthermore, I feel there’s more pressing issues which looking at. If not our terrible infrastructure, the state of our roads, and the endless chain of bureaucratic nonsense to get the simplest of notions pushed through bumbling pompousness of councillors and apparent do-gooders, it’s the increasing homeless on our streets, the need for Food Banks which the Tories selfishly assume is a good thing, the poverty level submerging a continuous population and the outright condoning of racist, sexist and homophobic acts. Sort them out, and I’ll gladly stand on Devizes Parkway platform with you, or any other brazen legacy-building pledge you dream up!
Every time I’m duped, I feel like an idiot, unable to get my message through the red tape. You want a train station, yet I reported the dangerous state of a Wiltshire Council playpark in Rowde, FIVE years ago, and I have to seriously throw my toys out of the pram to get anyone to pay it any attention. In February this year I was delighted, based on my article, Councillor Laura Mayes secured £20,000 from WC to re-design the playground and she proudly used it to publicise her election pledge.
But still the playpark remains in the same state of disrepair, not a penny pledged has been spent. Whether this is WC’s fault or the Parish Council I don’t know, they got what I suspect they wanted, a successful election result, and my whinging reduced too. I’ve just lost all faith and interest in continuing to bother with it. You want a train station, huh? Traffic lights at the Black Dog crossroads? A no left turn sign at the top of Dunkirk Hill? Yeah, good luck with that, we’re moving into six years for them to fix a dangerous baseplate of a bouncy chicken in a playpark!
Yet perseverance can pay off; we loved it when Rab Hardie of Duck N Curver broke into Stonehenge to raise awareness of his wish to film a video inside the stone circle, we asked if the Fire & Rescue Service were Cutting Vital Flood Equipment, defended Wiltshire Police from keyboard warriors upset they used a rainbow as their Facebook logo during Pride Month, wished Devizes Lions a happy 50th, supported Joe Brindle on his campaign to save Drews Pond Wood, attended Save Furlong Close protests, added some reflection on the Travellers based in Bromham, praised local artist, Clifton Powell when he was commissioned for English Heritage Exhibition, The African Diaspora in England, had a great time at Breakout, Chippenham’s Alternative Art Show, congratulated the award-winning British Lion. Crickey, the list goes on; the vast array of subjects we’ve covered, even war memorials which look like bins!
I must be boring you into an early grave, which isn’t the best way to start a new year!
One last thing, we did plenty of spoofs and satirical pieces, too many to name, yet, all’s fair in love and war, and it was a great year; here’s to 2022! I leave it there before your head explodes!