Helping Ukraine in Wiltshire

Coordinating an event in Devizes fundraising for the Ukraine has fallen wayside at the moment, I need a rethink. Meanwhile there’s lots of ways to help in Wiltshire and I thought I’d see if we can’t amalgamate them into one article….

Wiltshire Council has provided some FAQs on all aspects of fundraising, donating and housing refuges HERE, I’ve been in search for others.

Starter for ten, there’s some fundraising events coming up, starting tomorrow Tuesday 29th, at Downton Social Club, Salisbury, who have a big band concert, free with donations, just turn up after 7:30pm.

Wednesday 30th with a Community Supper at Devizes Corn Exchange, organised by Devizes Food & Drink Festival, details HERE, and Saturday sees punky rock covers bands Stone’s Throw and Izzy Barsby appear at Market Lavington Community Hall, tickets are £6, HERE.

Phoenix Brass have a concert for Ukraine at Marlborough Town Hall on Sunday 10th April, ticket info on the poster below.

If there’s one band in the UK most apt for a Ukraine fundraiser it’s the incredible lively and traditional folk-punk of The Ukrainians; I’ve seen them many years ago at the Endorset in Dorset Festival and they were unforgettable. Obviously originating from Ukraine they’re based in the north of England and have been working tirelessly raising £13,000 to-date, donating to Association of Ukrainians in GB and DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal and have also committed to pay the travel expenses of two transit vans taking locally donated medical supplies to Lviv hospital. They play Salisbury Arts Centre on Saturday 23rd April with Pronghorn, Lump and Gypsy Jukebox. Tickets vary from £15 upwards, pay what you can.

Frome’s Cheese and Grain presents a Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal Event on Saturday April 30th with The Back Wood Redeemers, Mighty One, Back Of The Bus, Henry Wacey and DJ Patmandu, with all proceeds donated to the fantastic Frome Town Council’s twin town Ukrainian refugee appeal. £10 in advance HERE.

Over Easter half-term, 11th-14th April, and again from 19th-22nd, Trowbridge Town Hall has some Workshops in aid of Humanitarian Aid Centre. There are badges, flag making and sunflower sowing at £1-3, kids arts open competitions for ages 5-18yrs, and a prize raffle. There’s also an online auction of local and Ukrainian artists, with a live preview of work on 23rd April from 10am -4pm in the Old Court at the Town Hall. Details HERE.

Warminster has two Concerts for Ukraine at the Athenaeum Centre, on Fri 22nd and Sat 23rd April. All tickets are £10 HERE. Warminster Military Wives Choir, Bonner & Blake, The Echobirds, Hilary Pavey and Andrew Bazeley perform.

I’m sure there’s more yet to discover, everywhere you look there’s churches collecting donated clothes and food, there’s schools holding cake stalls, and so many other amazing efforts. If you know of some worthy to add here, please do let us know.

The response to this crisis has been overwhelming in Wiltshire. Like Wroughton businessman Cliff Barry who raised more than £20,000, bought a van and left last Thursday to deliver donations to the border. But so many others have rallied to the cause, donating or even opening their homes to refuges, it’s incredible!

WILTSHIRE for UKRAINE

Trying to find the best avenue to donate should our gig have happened, I joined a Facebook group, Wiltshire for Ukraine, assuming it was just a place to post fundraising efforts, folk looking to house refugees and visa-versa, and other general news on the theme. But I was surprised to hear Wiltshire for Ukraine is all these things and so much more. I spoke to admin Magdalena, direct from Poland, where her group are visiting charities and places dealing with help for refugees.

She was keen to point out, raising funds for smaller community groups is more effective now. They bridge the gap between big charities and its users. “Of course,” she explained, “big charities are super important and professionally help all in need. In a crisis like war help is needed immediately and funds collected by groups can immediately collect and give money to those most needed. At Wiltshire for Ukraine we collect money to help refugees who fled with nothing. We give them money directly and help them have a new start in foreign countries.”

To donate to WILTSHIRE for UKRAINE find their go-fund-me page HERE, and their Facebook group has so much more info of people going that extra mile, ideas on ways you can get involved, and information for those taking in refugees. Such as Salisbury’s Valeriy, raising £10,000 for personalised help to the children and their families inside of Ukraine who have no possibility to leave the war zone. Their GoFundMe is HERE

Another Marlborough based Facebook group called Ukrainians and their Sponsors in Marlborough and surrounding area is helping link Ukrainians needing homes with sponsors and is giving Marlborough residents a place to offer practical advice once they’re here. Find the group HERE.

There is so many amazing people locally, doing whatever they can, I am sorry if I missed you and yours, the beauty of the online blog though, this can be updated if you send me details!


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The Dark Horizon of Sam Bishop

Oh, for the rolling years since Devizes Sixth Form-Hardenhuish collaborated boy band 98 Reasons, time cannot stand still, we know this, we still see the bassist of which, Finely, on the local circuit with cousin Harvey as the Truzzy Boys, and as frontman of astounding mod-rock covers band The Roughcut Rebels. And occasionally we hear from his partner in the duo spin-off Larkin, Sam Bishop, it’s good to hear from him again with an awesome new EP, Dark Horizons; out now……

While still studying music over in Winchester, his unique brand of pop, while momentously contemporary, didn’t agree with me personally one occasion, a couple of years ago, and he took it on the chin; I have to be honest. If something definably “pop” doesn’t agree with my grumpy aging expectations it doesn’t make it bad, just means I’m too old! He rebuked any past criticism with a sublime last EP homing more auditory on my cabbaged ears, but here’s a young singer and musician who just keeps getting better.

Honestly, cast off any doubts, Dark Horizons is another massive progression, enriched with euphoric soundscapes, some often dark in subject, as the EP title suggests, yet all uplifting. It plods open with digital notes, Same Stars, and I’m nodding approval; love it. There’s contemporary pop on offer here, bleached with William Orbit or Moby style soundscapes.

Yet the second track, Playing in Shadows transcends the previous for retrospective influences, think eighties electronica, especially on the intro, virtually Kraftwerk! Yet again, nothing is passé no matter how far the basslines and synth-pop arch back for recollections, as the vocals roll with repetitive elegance, stirringly upbeat and ultramodern, Years And Years fashion.

Clearly there’s vast experiments washing like waves onto the beachy mind of Sam Bishop, yet by the third tune out of four, Stay Close, we hear the accustomed acoustic croon of Sam, a floating love-song which builds with a subtle aforementioned ambience, but essentially retains the guitar riff over chanting backing vocals. It’s the standout track you might’ve been suspecting when you clicked on the link, if aware of Sam’s past work, but herein lies the point; the EP in general a massive advance forward, looking headlong rather than rearward.

To confirm this progression, here’s Sam a few years ago with a drumstick up his nose, of which he’ll kill me for posting!

The finale, Backroads has a piano riff, building into current pop with elegance, like a lot of Sam’s themes it relies on life’s directional decisions, yet it delves deeper into trialling and investigation both musically and lyrically, which intertwine in such a way I’ve not felt so connected to Sam’s solo work than this wonderful EP previously. And before you suggest, that’s cos you is, like, getting old, brah, I’ll have you know I get my teenage daughter DJ on car journeys, so I may not have the gen Z patois of a roadman but I know my Cardi B from my Ariana Grande, and this is as a blend akin to what The Weeknd and The Kid Laroi are putting out; sick, apparently!

ALBUM LINK HERE


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Is it Possible to Live Rurally and be Impartial towards Blood Sports?

My thought for the day, as I’ve permission to republish an article by the Hunts Sabs Association, suggesting with relevant and shocking examples, Wiltshire Police are lacking in pursuing these rural crimes.

I will direct your attention to the piece, but figure I’d attempt my own spin, else what’s the point in owning a blog in the first place?! So, I’m desperately trying to see the other side of the coin, to avoid accusations of bias. But every time forced to the opinion fox hunting and other blood sports is gratuitously barbaric, trail hunting, for many, is a smokescreen, and our police are clearly not proactive on the issue……

We trashed our common room in art college despite warnings they’d close it, and eventually they did. My bitterness toward the decision was driven by naïve self-centred arrogance of delinquency, but there came a point of feeling guilt that future students wouldn’t benefit from the facility due to our incompetence; reactionary anarchist I once was!

I ponder this “few ruined it for a rest” lesson as I browse hunting social media groups and pages. To momentarily steer against the hunt sabs, or FWGs, as is the favoured term we’ll use hereafter, an abbreviation of Frontline Wildlife Guardians, these glossy and glorious shows of countryside pursuits are embellished with glamorous images, (as our featured image of the Tedworth Hunt,) promoting family, fundraising events, that while a world apart from my own lifestyle, the legality and moral obligation of it is not entirely inconceivable, and the thought it’s not all just a charade hiding a cruel blood sport is a possibility, for some hunts.

Though as FWGs collate irrefutable evidence some hunts are clearly ignoring the law and continuing hunting by using trial hunts as a smokescreen, and in doing so are met with violent retort, county constabularies are working with campaigners and nationally progress is gradually happening, Wiltshire Police are accused of failing by comparison. The well-publicised poor policing of the violence at Lacock on Boxing Day is clear it needs addressing, FWGs report the incident is the tip of the iceberg.

Got to rub the worry-lines of my forehead here. The article points to five ongoing investigations they’ve been reliably informed are ongoing with the Avon Vale Hunt. It states, “alongside a Hunting Act investigation, there are investigations into assaults on sabs: in January, a Bristol sab was punched in the head by an Avon Vale terrier man who had been stopped digging out a fox from a badger sett. The saboteur was knocked unconscious and spent several nights in hospital with a brain bleed, precisely the sort of serious injury that can have tragic consequences and as ironically highlighted by Avon Vale fox hunting Tory MP for North Wiltshire James Gray in the ‘One Punch Can Kill’ campaign.”

I’m glad to hear they’re investigated, but it’s hardly proactive, where are the police when these assaults occurred? Intelligence should tip them off when hunts happen, and they should be policed akin to Saturday night at a city nightclub; there’s terrible acts of violence hiding in our rural fields, and not just on wildlife. Instead, Wiltshire Hunt Sabs told the Hunts Sabs Association, “with so many criminal investigations and allegations ongoing, we would have expected at least a modicum of police suspicion that these gangsters could possibly have been killing foxes, and also aren’t opposed to throwing the odd punch – or ten – at those of us who try to stop them and just maybe they have been doing exactly this for decades. Instead, what we have faced from the police is an unleashing of bias and abuse of power as our publicly funded police service is being used to protect a violent criminal hunt to carry on breaking the law.”

“We also had several officers tell us we could remedy the situation by ‘leaving the area’ whilst simultaneously acknowledging we were there lawfully. Can you imagine them telling someone being assaulted on the high street that they should go home and leave the assailant in peace?”

Besides, eyes of suspicion are on police bias over the Lacock Boxing Day bash-a-sab fest, being one of the two officers affiliated with the hunt personally reportedly took time to chat with her pro-hunt friends and “turned her back” on the violence. The sabs claiming “she was not just an ex-rider, we are also told her own horse was at the hunt on the 27th December 2021, being ridden by a friend of hers, who – we have been told – is also the partner of the violent terrierman responsible for the brain bleed in our Bristol hunt sab.”

The public deserve to know if officers on the scene made any calls for advice or back up, Police say they cannot correspond as the incident is under investigation. Police officers swear an oath of impartiality, the PCC doesn’t and Phillip Wilkinson made full use of this on Twitter, calling out FWGs as “bullies,” suggesting he was “not impressed when I witness grownups wearing balaclavas screaming in face of children who just happen to be riding a pony,” yet doesn’t appear to be able to back this bold claim up with evidence, and why, oh why would anyone take children to a fox hunt anyway?! I’m not associated in any manner with this group of Wiltshire Hunt Sabs and they never reveal their identity to me, but his claims are vastly different from my own dealings with them, as they appear to be the pacifist campaigners one would obviously perceive them to be.

If there are hunts really following the law with fake trails and they are in control of the bloodhounds to prevent them side-tracking from the scent of passing wildlife, as they insist they are, they’re unfortunate victims akin to the future generations of art students in my common room scenario; if some can’t be trusted, and police are informed, educated and trained to investigate, or as accusations suggest, seem to bizarrely favour the illegal pro-hunters, I say pull the plug on the lot, ban trail hunts and apologies if you really trail hunt legally, but the few ruined it for the others.

I’m drawn to the Tedworth Hunt, for example, who parade an “East Kennet Fun Ride,” as a Facebook event, defining it as “3 or 8 miles of beautiful riding on the Wiltshire Countryside with optional jumps.” Not for me, but I’ve no problem with this. Yet the accompanying photo shows a fellow dressed in traditional hunt uniform loading bloodhounds onto a trailer. Why would you need dogs if you’re only horse-riding I ponder? Why does the Tedworth Hunt carry pistols if it’s only a fake trial, does a fake trail open-fire first?! And one more question I’ll relay next paragraph, as, admittedly, therein lies my lack of knowledge on the subject, perhaps there’s good reason for it, I dunno, no one tells me, but why still call these hunting-related happenings hunts at all, and why would anyone support the philosophy of butchering of wildlife by subjecting the activity to replica scenarios if they didn’t secretly wish fox hunting to return? Would it not be better to rid ourselves of the entire culture surrounding it?

Armed Tedworth Hunters hardly project the same image as our featured one

The Wiltshire Hunt Sabs are the only ones who will communicate with me on the subject respectfully. This will post on social media and be met with many comments in support, and a few aggressive, hate-filled pro-hunt responses, but not one will contain any polite or reasonable counterargument, no one will invite me to view it from their angle, leading me to wonder why, if everything is tickety-boo, all dandy and legal, why they project this rage, why do they seem to hire these thugs to accost and assault members of the public for merely attempting to protect the wildlife they themselves claim to love and appreciate? Why all the hate if they’re operating legally, it doesn’t add up, unless, I conclude, they’re hiding something.

I note posts on hunting Facebook pages about how they love their hounds, but we’ve seen some shoot them dead if they underperform. If trail hunting is supposed to be this fun and harmless pursuit, it’s hardly non-competitive for the hounds they claim to adore. The point is, no matter how much I scan these glossy representations of modern hunting organisations, they suffer inane hypocrisy; why persist to support something historically barbaric and inhumane?

Because they claim they’re not fox hunting, the pre-Hunting Act excuse of culling is defunct, and the argument for trail hunts seems to rest on this baffling “traditional values” defence. For this I’d like to point out Victorian coalmines employed children to sit in dark passageways for twelve-hour shifts, their only glimmer of light being when the cart pulled into their section and they tugged it along to the next. Yet to suggest we send children down mines, that they don’t actually have to work down there, just sit there in the dark because it’s “tradition” would be ludicrous, but not unlike this concept of trail hunting.

A rather odd looking trail hunt

Yet, as observed by our Cobra Kai, PCC Wilko, they love taking their kids out to butcher wildlife, apparently, which is, to be frank, twisted beyond all reason, and concludes; it’s impossible to live rurally and be impartial towards blood sports. I could label “screaming in face of children who just happen to be riding a pony,” as complete and utter codswallop for the purposes of propaganda but that would imply the law are defending the unlawful, which cannot be true; who’s zooming who? Who knows what to think anymore? Other than perpetually the argument never settles, so obvious answer is ban it completely, it no longer serves a purpose, only causes friction.

Get a new hobby, preferably one unsupportive of murder!


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REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival FREE FRINGE –Florian Felcitta @ Three Crowns 19th June 2022

Superb Talent In The Afternoon Andy Fawthrop Another day, and yet another Arts Festival presentation at a different D-Town venue. This afternoon it was the turn of The Three Crowns to host a Free Fringe presentation in their wonderful courtyard. And what a delicious Sunday afternoon treat it was.…. Florian Felcitta is a young man … Continue reading “REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival FREE FRINGE –Florian Felcitta @ Three Crowns 19th June 2022”

REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival –The Homing @ Conservative Club 17th June 2022

A Game of Two Halves Andy Fawthrop Another day, another Arts Festival presentation. Following classical, rock, comedy, it was time for something completely different – this time it was alt-country/ folk/ Americana from London-based The Homing, and yet another different D-Town venue. We were up at the Con Club in Long Street, normally home to … Continue reading “REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival –The Homing @ Conservative Club 17th June 2022”

The Return of Saddleback

Yes, felt obliged to drop into the Saddleback Festival, have a nose….. If a week of heatwave may’ve inconviently paused for drizzle Saturday, fortunately Devizes Rugby Club erected a rather splendid marque for the slight return of their legendary Saddleback Festival. A combination of inclement weather and clashes with other similar town events meant while … Continue reading “The Return of Saddleback”

If Devizes to Westminster Race is Under Threat from Parking Fees, What About Other Events?

Hats tipped to Geoff of our beloved Gazelle & Herod, reporting on a looming row between Devizes Town Council and Wiltshire Council over changes to free car parking which could pose a threat to the historic Devizes to Westminster canoe race. Yet I ask, where will this end, what about the county’s numerous other events, and why should one be singled out?

I’ve no issue drawing your attention to his article, even if they refuse to do likewise when making a front-page splash on a story we broke, and mentions any and everyone else except Devizine, including, for some completely baffling and inconsequential logic, the Queen! She wasn’t there rescuing swans, guys, you read it here first. She was more likely at her palace licking her lips!

Anyway, I digress; it points out, the historic Devizes to Westminster canoe race has been running since 1948, but now, following Wiltshire Council’s decision to end the town council’s provision of free parking for events, organisers of the canoe race could face a bill of £2,300 to cover the cost of the parking spaces that they need to stage the event.

The article goes on to explain Devizes councillors are to meet to decide whether the town council should provide emergency funding to pay for the parking spaces itself. Furious, it states, with one saying that Wiltshire Council gave “no thought at all” to the consequences for events posed by the change in free parking.

It is, sadly a tragic scraping of the public’s piggy-bank, either way the organisers of the Devizes to Westminster canoe race have to pay, or we all do should Devizes Town Council foot the bill. Yet, is taking from “emergency funding,” really justifiable, I mean, does paying for parking on any special occasion really constitute an emergency? And where would it end, what about our other special occasions?

Likely a cascade will ensue, and rightly so if you single out one event and pay for everyone to park. What about carnival, street festival, Lantern Festival, Arts Festival, Beer Festival, Food & Drink Festival, Full-Tone Festival? The list goes on, and goes beyond Devizes; what about Pewsey Carnival, Marlborough Mop Fair, The Basil Brush Family Show comes to Swindon Arts Centre on April 2nd, you can’t expect me to fork out parking fees for that, Wiltshire Council, surely?!

Oh no, that one is out of your jurisdiction! But while larger towns and cities can soak up parking fees, because there’s an expectance you’ll have to pay, the cost of parking on daily basis in market towns is enough to bear, let alone those rare opportunities we get to hold events. Aside the environmental and cost impact of having to circulate a town centre twelve times looking for free on-street parking, it is economically detrimental too.

Maybe what is needed is people power, a protest over the changes to free parking, rather than individual town councils cherry-picking events to single out and cover the cost of with public money, when what events are important to some are maybe not as important to others, and in turn, other events are more important to them, if you catch my meandering drift?!

And what needs addressing, is this raking back the budget deficit of more than £27 million from the public for the clear misuse of public spending by our county council, the millions forked out to pay for a PCC re-election, because the thought of anything other than a Conservative PCC is unbearable for them, for example.

Devizes councillors will meet on Tuesday March 29th to decide on whether to fund the parking for this year’s canoe race. A town council spokesman said Wiltshire Council had requested talks on how the cost of Devizes funding the race could be minimalised. Here’s a thought, park them on the Green. If they’re rowing to Westminster I’m sure carrying a canoe to the canal from the Green is child’s play?

Here’s another thought, and it is just a thought; all for one and one for all. If the Canoe race gets free parking so too should our other major events.


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Update on the Crammer

Devizes Town Council announced the result of an assessment by the Environment Agency yesterday, following last week’s outbreak of pollution in Crammar, a spillage from a van fire on the road aside it. Their advise was simply that a sheen “on the surface of the water usually looks worse than it is and although unsightly is a good sign that the quantity of the contaminate is low.”

If the accident has done one good thing, it’s opened a Pandora’s box concerning the overall suitability for wildlife on and around the Crammar, and questions I believe need addressing with a whole heap more clarity than this rather vague Environmental Report.

As much as I respect their professional experience and want this to be actual, they did not heartbreakingly witness Swan Support trudge through the pond to rescue swans drenched in thick black oil, because no environmental officer or town councillor took the opportunity to attend the rescue, no matter what social media groups might suggest. It has left me pondering if “usually looks worse than it is” is adequate, usually being the operative word.

It’s been a week since we reported the contamination, a week for it to have dispensed more evenly across the Crammar. On their Facebook post, the Council continued to inform the Environmental Agency stated, “it is difficult to clean as it is a thin film and using an oil spill boom won’t be effective. If the weather conditions mean that the wind blows the contamination to the edge of the Crammer then a boom might be more effective to absorb it, but it is more likely to degrade and disperse.” 

Okay, I can buy most of this, but again there’s ambiguity with word usage, such as more likely, well, I find myself asking how likely? The weather has been clement and wind has reduced to a gentle breeze of recent. It is unclear when this assessment was made. As it is the oil has dispersed fairly well, though few ducks have returned to the Crammar.

The bigger issue is, though, it has been raised that the last time the pond was dredged it was discovered the drains taking rainwater off the road flow directly into the Crammar. Clearly pollution has been a gradual process over many decades, as the rain water mixes with spilt oils from vehicles from the road; the fire was the poo flavoured icing on the cake.

The statement from the Council continues to question the fire crew too, stating “the Environment Agency have reviewed the Fire Service report and advised that most of the fuel should’ve been burnt off.” Is it just me here, reading too much into this; most of the fuel SHOULD’VE been burnt off? But was it, how can we be so sure? Because the grand finale is: “having reviewed this information it was deemed unnecessary for a site visit to be made.” It almost connotes the fire service was at fault here, when surely it is their priority to put the fire out, ensure safety, and the fact is Devizes Fire crew went above and beyond, by doing the best they could to protect the wildlife, while the Environmental Agency rolled up days later and the Council deemed it not worthy of their attention!

This is the Crammar we’re talking about, a much love facility, a historic tourist attraction, and it seems to me to be treated like a giant puddle, no more worthy than a pothole. Swan Support suggested the area as wholly unsuitable for wildlife, particularly for the swans, as there was no natural food source; they relied on handouts. On one social media thread someone even suggested mouldy bread and leftover takeaways were their staple diet, speculation this maybe, but it was evident those rescued were malnourished, in such poor condition they couldn’t fly away.

Good folk are now asking us as to the welfare of the rescued swans and if they’ll be returning, like we’re experts, when we’re not, just concerned residents. Thankfully we have heard back that the swans are doing well. But surely, we have to accept to return them to the Crammar may not be the best option for them, swans are territorial and new cygnets will find their own natural way to the pond by May, and the cycle continues.

I implore Devizes Town Council to reassess this issue. I accept there is no overnight solution, but with no natural food source for wildfowl the Crammer is unsuitable and potentially harmful to wildlife. I’m no expert but would hope for Council to seek further specialised advise.

I believe issues which need to be looked into is creating a wild area aside the pond, adequate for a natural food source. I believe the overflow pipes, if flowing into the pond need redirecting into a drain, so the water is less polluted in general, and not just in event of an incident such as the recent fire. And I would seriously consider the safety issues of having the roadside of the Crammar as the concrete slope leading directly onto the road, as it currently is; if ducks and swans don’t wander onto the road, what if a swan scared a child who did?

Let’s look to a better future for this landmark, cleaner, safer, conservational and obliging to supporting wildlife. Who’s with me?

Can we get some feedback from Devizes Town Council this will be discussed as soon as feasible, or what, do I gotta sort out a petition?! Thank you!


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REVIEW – Soft Machine @ LSBC, Devizes – Saturday 19th March 2022

Raising The Bar

Andy Fawthrop

Things are really gearing up on the music scene again, and Long Street Blues Club has a full programme over the next few months.  It’s such a pleasure to attend the Con Club in Long Street, when the atmosphere is so great, and the crowd are so supportive & enthusiastic.  Ian Hopkins has booked some fantastic acts over the years, but it seems as if the bar keeps getting raised that little bit higher every time.  And thus we got to Soft Machine, one of the most iconic bands of the 1960s, and still going strong.

But first up was support act local lad Ben Borrill, who bounced onto the stage in confident manner.  This was his second visit to the club, so he knew what to expect. It was a little surprising, therefore, when he chose to go with a set of mostly covers, including some fairly questionable and cheesy numbers. Ben’s done his time with pub gigs around the local circuit, so surely this was a great platform to show off his own material to an audience who would actually listen?  Instead we got Wicked Game, Teenage Dirtbag, When You Say Nothing At All, Yellow and (God Help Us!) Mr, Brightside.  These are songs that have been done to death many times before, and I’ve liked to have heard more of his own material. Perhaps an opportunity missed?

Then on to the main deal.  Originally formed in 1966 as a jazz/ fusion/ experimental/ progressive outfit, the Softs (who were contemporaries of, and shared stages with, Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd and the Jimi Hendrix Experience), have influenced several generations of bands, and continue to be name-checked by today’s hip experimentalists.  Since then, of course, the line-up has changed many times, and we’re a long way past the heady days of the likes of Robert Wyatt and Kevin Ayers.

Nevertheless, the spirit lives on and there was a huge back catalogue to draw upon.  The four-piece set about their single 90-minute set with several numbers from the earlier days.  From discordant jazz strains, we soon settled down into a musical master-class featuring flute, guitar, keys, bass and drums.  There were no “songs” as such, just whimsically-named tunes and themes – The Man Who Waved At Trains, Down To Earth, Tales of Taliesyn, Kings & Queens, One Glove, The Relegation of Pluto – but every one of them had a story or an anecdote behind it.  The linking commentary, provided by guitarist John Etheridge was engaging, gently understated and often self-mocking.

To my ears there was something of the Canterbury sound of the jazzier parts of Caravan, but it’s hard (and probably pointless) to try and pigeon-hole what we were hearing.  At times jazzy, at times melodic (some great flute work from Theo Travis), it was easy to shut your eyes and imagine that you were back in 1967.  This type of music is not everybody’s cup of tea, but I loved it, and so did the audience. Following a 15-minute long “play-out” the band received not only huge applause, but a rarely-seen standing ovation before a well-deserved encore.  A stormingly-good night of music, and, like I said, lifting the bar just a little bit higher.

Future Long Street Blues Club gigs:

Saturday 2nd April 2022                                 Malone & Sibun Band

Friday 8th April 2022                                       Billy Bremner’s Rockfile (Corn Exchange)

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)

Friday 14th October 2022                               Black Sabbitch (Corn Exchange)

Saturday 5th November 2022                       Alastair Greene Band


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Swings and Roundabouts; Hope for Dilapidated Playgrounds in the Devizes Area?

A lengthy but worthwhile report on the state of our playparks and those intending to do something about it….

August 3rd 2019, and I’d had enough of marching to parish council meetings, emailing Wiltshire Council and talking to brick walls, unsure if I did the latter, but it certainly felt like it. So, I published my rant about a village playpark left to dilapidation for well over three years.

Both swings had been taken down, and a dangerously sharp metal baseplate is all that remains of a broken bouncy chicken, the want of repairing these, what’s essentially half the play equipment in the community playpark, has been lost in a tangle of red tape. Wiltshire Council own the site, and in their so-called “transfer of assets,” which roughly translates to passing the buck to local busy-bodies, Rowde Parish Council asked they repair the broken equipment beforehand, and because of the delay the playpark was conveniently brushed under the carpet.

February last year I bugged Councillor Laura Mayes with it, who claimed to have secured over £20,000 funding from Wiltshire Council to re-design the playground, despite all I wanted was them to fix the existing equipment, and she ran with it as a major pledge for her election campaign.

Am I here to bring you a fairy-tale ending? Only on paper.

It sprinkled optimism, the children who originally played here have grownup and had children of their own in the time it has taken Wiltshire Council to fix a swing and replace a bouncy chicken, and they’ve STILL not done it; you hold out hope they’ll build you a whole new railway station?!

I’m told the transfer of assets is just weeks away, but after six years of waiting, ranting and election pledges as broken as the bouncy chicken, I’ll believe it when I see it.

All about priorities, isn’t it? Swings and bouncy chickens aren’t going to get Mr Kruger to Westminster any faster. Playparks hold no interest to me personally either, councillors; my children long grown out of them, but maybe there’s something wrong with me, the part that gives a hoot.

The part which recalls the joy my children once had, the joy I once had, playing in the park, that most other adults seem to have so easily forgotten; particularly those who seem to consider those little people are not of voting age. Aside, playparks provide essential wellbeing and psychical education for our youngest, they learn social interaction there, dexterity and balance.

My brother and I on a 1970s style health & safety inspected slide!!

They need prioritising, particularly if you enjoy a Facebook rant on how teenagers are terrorising your neighbourhood. Tenaciously they’re linked; literally swings and roundabouts, I’ve heard some residents in Devizes want their community parks to be closed as they attract rowdy teenagers. There’s anti-social behaviour because nothing is provided for them to do, and by cutting off activities for the youngest you believe will solve it for the next generation? Why not cut off your nose in spite your face too?!

Not all Doom and Gloom

Devizes Lions supported this new playground at All Cannings School last year

Enraged residents taken to local Facebook groups is a near everyday scenario, last one I saw was the fence and climbing equipment behind the old barracks had been removed, but as usual such threads only produce a barrage of speculation, whereas at the beginning of the month, Councillor Jonathan Hunter was encouraged by my grievance on the issue, and set up a report to investigate the state of all playparks in Devizes. These minutes are published, but as with most Council meetings, who really trudges through billions of insignificant applications for an extension to a greenhouse or a churchyard which needs its weathercock cleaning?!

So, here’s the results of Devizes Town Council findings, you need to tell me if they’re accurate, because I get confused with so many playparks which one is which. Hearsay tells me Dowse Road is in desperate need of repair, Wadworth and Spitalcroft Roads are still chained up, and one on Festival close is closed too.

We all should note with importance, again it’s this transfer of issues argument, where the Town Council have taken responsibility for a number of playgrounds and the report explains, “at the time of the transfer, many of the areas were closed due to maintenance issues and the Open Spaces team have been gradually working their way through the list of closures to reopen them where they can. The sites that have not been opened have more serious safety concerns and need a decision by this committee how to proceed.” So, should you choose to go through the proper channels rather than whine-hole on Facebook, this is the reasoning you’ll likely get, if any.

Okay here we go, just give me second to correct the councillor’s basic grammar and don’t forget to call them out to me, if they’re tugging their own tugboats!

The report flagged three playgrounds in need of major attention. Wadworth Road, they say is currently closed because during the last inspection much of the equipment was flagged as unsafe. Part of the issue with the equipment on this site is its wooden construction as there is some rot. However, to undertake core test sampling with reports is about £250 per sample and each piece of equipment will need to have several tests and there is a high probability it will fail; therefore, in officers’ opinion, given the costs to simply test for something that is likely to fail, officers suggest that there is some local consultation with residents as this is another site where young people gather and have been involved with anti-social behaviour.

Festival Close was closed when it was taken over from Wiltshire Council as it has failed safety inspection as a result of shrinking safety surface. The cost of replacement is £11,269. However, a number of residents are not in favour of the playground being reinstated and therefore the site may benefit from some local consultation.

One of three on Massey Road was closed when Devizes Town Council took on the site, with all of the wooden equipment beyond cost of effective repair. Given the proximity of this play area to the two others on the estate, officers decided to remove the equipment and return the area to a green space, which was welcomed by the residents.

The others are apparently open, some with advisories.

Alan Cobham Road:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There is some shrinkage of the play safety surface, but at this time no action is needed.

Avon Road: Recreational Field Avon Road

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. Some equipment has been replaced over the last few years and there are no outstanding issues.

Bellvedere Road:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Brickley Lane:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. Last year some of the safety surface was replaced with a loose rubber crumb. It was the first time the Council had trialled these systems and officers are not fully convinced it would work on all our sites where a safety surface is required.

In recent months the issue of dogs being exercised in the area has come to the fore as owners are not clearing up. Signs have been put up a couple of times, telling owners not to bring their dog into the recreation area and therefore tensions are running high from both sides, with dog owners who say they have used the area for years without incident and parents of children complaining they can no longer let their children use the area.

Editor note: Hi me here, just to point out, this is down to community and moral obligation, rather than council responsibility, like having a conscience and not allowing your dog to shit where children are playing; basic manners and stuff like that!  

Byron Rd:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Cowslip Close Cowslip Close:

This play area is open and is currently in a serviceable condition but offers poor play value with just two pieces of equipment. The play area was closed for a while and during this period officers did not receive any complaints.

This site may benefit from local consultation on its future, with local residents. An estimated cost of a small play area is £60,000.

Dowse Road Wadworth Road:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. The safety surfacing is at the end of its life and does need to be replaced this year. The cost of this is £13,675.

Dundas Close:

This barely a play area as it consists of a single metal hoop. The area provides little in the way of play value and there is a good quality Aster owned play area. There was an approach a few years ago to turn the area into a community garden, but the project was never taken forward.

Fruitfields:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Hillworth Park:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There is one piece of fitness equipment that failed last year and this is due to be replaced in the summer.

Massey Road 2:

This play area is open and is currently in a serviceable condition but offers limited play value with just two pieces of equipment.

Massey Road 3:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Newman Road:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Osmund Road:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Palmer Road:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding maintenance issues but over the last year the site has been a centre of young people to gather in the evening, resulting in anti-social behaviour.

Palmer Road2:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Quakers Walk1:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Quakers Walk2:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Skate Park Green Lane:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

The Small Green:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. In the not-too-distant future, the safety surfacing will need to be replaced as it is starting to break up, no price has yet been obtained for this work.

White Horse Way:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

So, there you have it, maybe you know different. The Council goes on to say, the budget for playgrounds has been doubled to £40,000, but it will only cover ongoing repair cost and improvements rather than finance of new play areas.

Encourage your kids to look after what they’ve got. It only partially falls on the council, another major part is to be played by the residents too, to respect others. If you’re dog owners have some respect for parents, if you’re teenagers hanging out in the park, I know what’s it’s like, I’ve been there too; but try to remember what it was like when you were little, how much you enjoyed the playparks. Should you now prefer the odd spliff there after dark, all’s fair in love and war; but respect the area for the little ones too, by not creating a ruckus and drawing attention to yourselves by net curtain twitchers. Everyone, in my opinion, needs to allow some give and take; kids will be kids, and we were all one originally!


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On The Road With Talk in Code!

You know that millennial movie, Almost Famous, set mid-seventies, where Rolling Stone Magazine mistake a nerdy teenager for a music journalist and send him on the road with an outrageous prog-rock band? It was nothing like that. Neither did it resemble 200 Motels, where a man dressed as a vacuum cleaner convinces you Ringo Starr is actually Frank Zappa in some freaky acid flashback. But I did have an awesome adventure yesterday, on the road with local premier indie-pop favs, Talk in Code.…..

There were no campervans with CND slogans painted on the side-door, no sign of Goldie Hawn’s daughter unfortunately, and though my bubbles of anachronistic pre-imaginings burst, it allowed me to chart the regular labour of a touring band, rather than my usual practise of slouching up halfway through a performance with lame excuse. For if I’m going to write on the subject, I need to comprehend the inner workings, and the thoughts of a band going to a gig; even though I’m far from teenage music journalist with an advance from Rolling Stone!

So, by dinnertime I’m lone with guitarist Alastair Sneddon at the steering wheel, hereafter referred to as “Snedds,” with an amp case knocking in the rear of his car, and distracted by my inane waffling, weaving between musical subjects, badly following his sat-nav to Portsmouth.

Likely the eldest of this four-piece band, Snedds is a family man with a wealth of musical experience. He fondly recalls playing in cover bands, jazz and blues groups and our chat swifts across his past, musical influence brushing off on his children, current past gigs and local venues, to the importance, or insignificance of pop culture, the mainstream music industry and current trends of listening to music from streaming platforms to amplification to listening through phone speakers; we could’ve chatted all night on his passionate chosen subject, least it perceived to reduce the travel time.  

Before I knew it, we were awkwardly parked on a busy street in Southsea. Awash with cheesy club type pubs, restaurants, kebab houses and chippies, lies an equally misplaced theatre to our right, and a more traditional looking city tavern, The Lord John Russell, which will be our venue for the evening. Like a true roadie I felt a sense of haughtiness as I assisted lugging equipment through the already bustling pub; make way, yes, I’m with the band, ladies control yourselves!

But nothing felt ostentatious for the band as they amassed their kit in a corner, greeted each other and the promoter; here’s a tight working team despite the geographic distance between them. Talk in Code are part from Swindon, Reading and Devizes, but here they are with an excited air of anticipation brewing. There’s a trio of bands on tonight, Talk in Code are second on, while the first are already sound checking, locally based to Portsmouth, Southerlies are a seven-piece covers band, fusing Americana with punchy hooks into contemporary pop; they proficiently delivered their set with good male-female vocal harmonies, and being local I observe they attracted a fanbase.

Quite eclectic then, to switch to Talk in Code’s more electronica indie-pop, which as I discussed in the car with Snedds, perpetually seemed to fuse conventional nineties indie sound to a more inimitable eighties synth-pop style with every new tune. Yet tricker still was the notion the Talkers insist to play only their originals, which would be unknown to this rather heterogenous crowd. Besides, frontman Chris gets his fill of covers with the Britpop Boys.

Seems Friday live music nights are relatively new-fangled for the Lord John Russell, with a promoter keen to create the venture, the pub also adhered to cater for the pull on it’s street with screens showing sport and archetypical club music between acts. As much as market town pubs like Devizes’ Southgate work here, with a penchant for original live music and solely that, it wouldn’t work in this busy city location judging by the footfall. But a splendid, convivial and dynamic pub it was with a wide demographic.

One thing I was keen to gage from Talk in Code, the priorities and feelings towards playing a gig outside their usual stomping ground as opposed to returning to a venue like Swindon’s Victoria where a fanbase would be welcoming. They stressed the importance of both, and being their recent connection to Regent Street Records, there’s a keenness in the band to grab wider-appeal in anticipation of the forthcoming album. The release of which has been pushed back to accommodate this collaboration.

Still, all the band are united in praising recent local gigs, particularly Trowbridge Town Hall where they supported The Worried Men, and were keen to pick out the importance of the many locally-based festivals they’re booked at, from Minety to Live at Lydiard and IWild in Gloucestershire. And with appearances at places like Oxford’s HMV, things are really looking up for them post-lockdown.

And it’s easy to see why when they bounced on stage last night at the Lord John Russell, after their virtually nail-biting eagerness while the Southerlies launched into their final song, Chris already polishing his guitar and Snedds confessing the waiting game is a pet hate. A technical issue with leads to the backing tracks solved, the band applauded the previous and proficiently executed their thing, introducing themselves and delivering their songs with panache.

For me it was a blessing, being I’m aware of much of their discography, to finally get to witness them do it live, and had to stop to ponder their stage presence is as exhilarating as their recorded work. Yet, my view of the performance differed from the crowd as the band were likely new to them. Still, they got the place jumping, sprightlier, and louder than the previous band. They confessed a spirit of fair competition was unavoidable in them, yet affirmed their ethos to never do their set and bunk, in respect for other bands; Talk in Code come off as outgoing throughout and it was an honour to be welcomed into their web.

Also present, I spent time chatting connections, her background as music journalist and her fanzine making past, with manager Lyndsey. From Milton Keynes she avidly followed the group in their early years, falling in love with their sound it seemed only natural to mutually agree for her to manage. And part-time freelance photographer Helen, whose PolarPix Facebook page is dominated with Talk in Code shots. I put it to her she seems to have another band photographed then a Talk in Code one, then another Talk in Code one, then another random band. She acknowledged most of the other bands were on the same bill as TIC! A true “Talker,” as is their fanbase appellation.

Percival Elliott

A pleasant change from trudging the local circuit, as the finale was a euphoric rock band named Percival Elliott, who, with barefoot frontman on keys, executed a sublime set, the like you’d want Coldplay to achieve. In many ways here was a band apt for our own fond venues such as aforementioned Southgate and Trowbridge Town Hall. Without boast, coming highly recommended by yours truly occasionally has some clout, though there was part of me who, if in control of this triple-bill, would’ve put Talk in Code as the final band, being more upbeat popish.

We give no more review of The Lord John Russell for the sake of it being outside our boundaries, but if you’re Pompy bound this would be an ideal pub to consider, offering a variety of free live music dates on Fridays. Now I’m home, unpacked my Peppa Pig bucket and spade, but while I unfortunately didn’t see the seaside, or Kate Hudson, I was in good company with a band which goes from strength-to-strength.  


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REVIEW: White Horse Opera’s Spring Concert @ The Town Hall, Devizes – Friday 18th March 2022

Opera Is Back!

by Andy Fawthrop

Friday was a beautiful, sunny day with clear blue skies, and it finally felt as if we were sloughing off the darker days of Winter.  The daffs and the snow-drops are out, which always makes it feel that Spring is well under way.  White Horse Opera couldn’t have timed things any better for their Spring Concert, and it was good of them to have ordered up such great weather.

Advertising for this event had been much better, and a virtually full room was the clear reward for that extra effort.  The audience were treated to a veritable selection box of operatic delights over a couple of hours, featuring items from Verdi, Puccini, Donizetti, Handel and Mozart in a dazzling first half.  Guest tenor Robert Felstead blended with the in-house company on several items, and was ably accompanied by solos from Paula Boyagis, Barbara Gompels, Charles Leeming and Lisa House.  The highlight for me was The Humming Chorus from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly beautifully rendered not on the stage, but from the close confines of the ante-chamber at the back of the room – very atmospheric!

The second half featured items from Donizetti and Rossini, but was mostly given over to my personal favourites – Gilbert & Sullivan.  There was one item from The Mikado, beautifully sung by Lisa House, but then several helpings of songs from Ruddigore (the operetta which will feature in WHO’s main 2022 programme).  Jon Paget and Jessica Phillips shared a charming duet, and there were strong performances from Charles Leeming and every one of the sopranos.

A delightful concert in a beautiful room.  Spring is back – and so is opera!

Future WHO events:

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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Officers from Devizes Neighbourhood Policing Team Spreading Awareness on Child Exploitation

A terrible thing happened; I grew up.

Debatable, I know! Doesn’t everyone still hold a penchant for being a kid again? Through rose-tinted specs many of us fondly recall our childhood, and forget how, actually, growing up is psychologically challenging, frustrating at times, even if you had what you’d consider a good childhood. Why oh why some attempt to make it worse for children, is something beyond fathoming.

I hope to get my article about the sate of local playgrounds published later today, for I see it’s Child Exploitation Awareness Day. Partly relevant, I ponder, to our children’s wellbeing, and something often overlooked by the powers that be, the sheer joy and also dexterity and health of our youngest of going to the park.

The National Child Exploitation Awareness Day aims to highlight issues surrounding CE; encouraging everyone to thinkspot and speak out against abuse and adopt a zero tolerance to adults developing inappropriate relationships with children, or children exploiting and abusing their peers.

Therefore, I’m pleased to hear Devizes Police has acted, and officers from the Neighbourhood Policing Team will be out and about today spreading awareness on Child exploitation.

“If something doesn’t feel right,” they say, “it may not be. Young people can be exploited anywhere and may be most visible in public places.”

If you are concerned about a child, please dial 999 or 101 if it’s not an emergency.

And for my personal opinion section I say it’s seriously counterproductive to adopt the “my dad smacked me and it never did me no harm….” attitude. I have to ask, really? Sure, aside spouting double-negatives, it didn’t make you a tad selfish and ignorant, inconsiderate to those who it may’ve affected?

For the taboo ethos of my youthful era paved the way for a plethora of the utterly sickest offenders ever to grace our planet, and allowed them to sneak under a non-existent radar to become trusted representatives, even renowned celebrities on Children’s television shows.

So, please help promote this awareness with the hastags #HelpingHands #CEADay22

7% Pay Rise Accepted and Refuse Workers Return to Work

An end to strike action was announced by The GMB Union for refuse workers in Wiltshire today, as Hills Municipal Collections agreed on a 7% pay rise and Wiltshire Council declared they are due to start recycling collections again from 21st March.

“There must be no retaliation and members return to work tomorrow,” says GMB Union. It’s good news for refuse workers in Wiltshire, and of course the public who have seen collections suspended.

Unison and Unite unions had previously accepted the proposal, as part of the tri-union recognition agreement, but the GMB union rejected it. In a ballot today GMB workers almost unanimously accepted the previous 7% offer, with a promised bonus scheme to be offered to more staff and further uplifts for those on the lowest pay rates.

Nicky Nixon, GMB organiser, said her union was “proud” of its members and would be “carefully observing” how they were treated when they return to work.

Wiltshire Council took to Twitter to inform residents to “put your blue lidded bins and black boxes out on your normal collection day from 21 March,” but also warned “There may still be slight delays with collections due to the recent disruption, so if your bins aren’t emptied on your normal collection day, please leave them out and they will be collected as soon as possible.” And continued to announce those with additional recycling that has mounted up during the disruption can be left in non-black bags and containers, such as plastic crates, next to the recycling bins and the crews will collect them.

Congratulations to everyone involved, common sense prevailed over greed today. Refuse staff thoroughly deserve this pay rise in the least; twitch your net curtain next time they come around, watch how hard these guys and girls work, and I’d suggest, give them a cheer.


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Tree People, a Gold Postman, Tea, Minions, Pet Camels, Red Carpets, Old Time Sailors and More; Who’s Excited About Devizes International Street Festival?

Pushed forward to Mayday bank hols, who’s getting excited about Devizes International Street Festival? I am, I always am, it’s been the best weekend of … Continue reading “Tree People, a Gold Postman, Tea, Minions, Pet Camels, Red Carpets, Old Time Sailors and More; Who’s Excited About Devizes International Street Festival?”

Time to Squash Your Wheelie Bin Down!

If 2020 was the year your wheelie bin went out more than you; times are a changin’……

Early in January Wiltshire Council’s proposed budget for this financial year was published, explaining how they’d bridge a budget deficit of over £27m, but ensured residents “business and communities still get access to vital and high-quality services.” Chew on that while you stand in your recycling bin crushing down the contents for a further two weeks longer than the anticipated GMB Union strike.

WC announced today that due to further industrial action they’ve decided to extend the suspension of recycling collection until April 4th. Seek an alternative method to deal with your recycling, and be warned, you are responsible and liable for any mishap which may occur, from a dodgy fly-tipper to if the wheelie bin cascades down your steps with you in it!

Take to social media and ask if you’ll get a council tax rebate for free laughing emojis; welcome to broken Brexit Britain; hyperinflation, fuel and food shortages, inadequate services, pressured health system to the point of breaking, complete disregard for environmental processes we need to pursue. No, you’ll get a hiked-up council tax rise to pop atop your mounting exorbitant household bills and think yourself lucky you’re not fleeing a war-torn country.

I’ve been waiting seven years for them to fix a broken swing in a playpark, still no sign other than a fibbed election pledge, recycling for a few weeks is just a tiny factor to a bigger picture of total egocentricity in the powers that be.

Wiltshire Council condemned the actions of the GMB union at its depots. Leader of Wiltshire Council Councillor Richard Clewer said “we completely respect people’s right to strike,” but went onto say “these actions are leading to an even more adverse impact on our waste collection services and further disruption for our residents.” You’ve got to ask yourself, is there a point to strike action which doesn’t cause disruption, and how effective would that be?!

Isn’t this the same train of thought which said you can protest, but if we hear you protest and we don’t like it, it’s banned?

Clewer waffles the picket lines were unsafe, the leader of Wiltshire Council’s Labour group Ricky Rogers retorted its political spin. Jolly Rogers suggests “Cllr Clewer should put more effort into getting this dispute settled by asking that the years of annual contract inflation extra public money given to Hill’s is shared with their staff, or better still bring this contract back into public control.” Good on you, hopefully you’ve got the Tories bleating like Bianca from EastEnders; “Riiii-ckaaay!!!”

Does “build back better” mean we start in the 1970s and recede to the Victorian era fron there?

And so it goes, to-and-fro around a county hall, looking good on paper. Another fine example of the benefits of conservative privatisation; mega-profits for the wealthiest, stuff the peasants. Note the Hills family have made no public statement. Perhaps it’s time someone nipped over to Cert Octivan, pulled up some of that private tax-free liquid asset, and share out the gold and silver evenly. Then we can all get along and look forward to the Festival of Brexit without worrying what decade the next recycling collection will be in…. I’ve got a Nigel Farage to dump, can I put it my black bin or would he be offended?


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Swan Rescue on the Crammar

Some way to a happy ending to the story we broke yesterday about oil pollution in the Crammar pond after a van fire nearby, that thanks to Swan Support of Windsor and the RSPCA, all of the swans have been rescued from the contamination and taken to safety.

Tipped off by Wiltshire Wildlife Hospital, who I messaged our article, Swan Support arrived before lunchtime. I will get myself into these situations, but rather than press “live on the scene,” a few volunteers and I dared the rain to help hold off traffic on the road, should the swans have attempted an escape across it.

After inspecting the pond myself this morning and seeing those swans drenched in oil, I became intricately involved, and it was hearbreaking to see how filthy the swans were underneath, when the team finally fished them from the water.

A fascinating operation to observe, first involving waders then a canoe, to corner the distressed birds. But after halfhour of chasing around the pond, the Swan Support team and one member of the RSPCA successfully rescused them.

A massive thanks to them, but only in part is the problem solved. Up till 1:30pm there was absolutely no sign of the Environmental Agency Devizes Town Council has promised will turn up to inspect the pond, unless we missed them. By lunchtime the slick had spread across three quarters of the pond, and with precipitation from the rain, you could smell the oil in the water.

Pressure is on to get this process moving for the sake of the ducks and other pond life still affected by the pollution.

Suspicion that someone tampered with the boom which failed to block off the oil has proved non-conclusive, as CCTV found no evidence. I’m of the opinion it collapsed through natural causes.


Chemical Contamination in the Devizes Crammer Pond after Van Fire

The pond on the Crammer in Devizes town centre is clearly showing signs of oil contamination, after a Luton van caught fire yesterday, Monday March 14th, despite a spokesman for Devizes Fire Station informing residents on their Facebook page, “some Damm-it and a boom was used to prevent contamination of the Crammer and its wildlife.”

The fire service was called to the scene on Estcourt Street at 5.20am, the fire was extinguished with one breathing apparatus wearer, one hose reel jet and a 52mm jet, and attempts were made by fire crews to protect the wildlife, but today we’ve been informed there were still visible signs of oil in the pond, and distressingly, covering the swans and ducks there, after fire crews had left.

Images sent to us via a public source looks as if the boom may have broken.

Devizine has informed councillor Jonathan Hunter, who is at a council meeting right now and intends to relay it to the council. Here’s hoping this can be checked thoroughly and cleaned if needed. We have also informed the Devizes Fire Station.

Update: we’ve been informed all councillors in the Forward Planning meeting have been notified, and The Town Clerk will be reviewing the situation as a matter of urgency.

Second UPDATE: Wiltshire Wildlife Hospital are arranging help right now, calling in swan support from Winsor.

Devizes Town Council are contacting the Environmental Agency. They are due to visit the Crammar for an inspection.

Who Visits our Crammer?

As well as resident mallards, swans, moorhen, black-faced gulls, maligned herring gulls, and of course pigeons, over a 24 hour period at this time of year a number of Canada Geese will also likely be stopping by.

The town’s oasis also has some rarer visitors on occasion, but hopefully not until this disaster is tackled.

There are five juvenile swans on the Crammer at present, and because of feeding and seasonal display activities, the chemicals won’t just be infecting their feathers, it will already be in their stomachs and lungs.

And we’ve also to consider fish, frogs, toads and newts, spawn has been noticed in the water already.


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Devizes Arts Festival Coming Back

After the wonderful winter stop-gap between the void of lockdown and this coming summer, Devizes Arts Festival is back with a full programme of events running from Friday 10th to Saturday 25th June.

Please check their website for full details, but allow me to least give you a quick rundown.….

A Diva and a Piano with Britain’s most popular soprano Lesley Garrett starts us off at the Corn Exchange on Friday 10th June. Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling writer of crime fiction Sophie Hannah is at the Town Hall Saturday 11th June with Agatha, Poirot & Me.

Saturday night is my kind of night, cumbia night at Corn Exchange, as phenomenal 10-piece Cumbia band, Baila La Cumbia takes you right back to the dance halls of Colombia, and Sunday they’ve a walk, and a free fringe event at the British Lion; Rip It up with Rockin’ Billy, one big sounding three-piece Rock’n’roll Rockabilly band from Somerset, from 1pm.

Leonore Piano Trio starts the week off on Monday 13th June. The Leonore Piano Trio brings together three internationally acclaimed artists whose piano trio performances as part of Ensemble 360 were met with such enthusiastic response that they decided to form a piano trio in its own right

London based, five wheeled, funk fuelled, open top, custom paint job, rock ‘n’ roll jalopy, Tankus the Henge at the Corn Exchange on Tuesday 14th June, and Wednesday sees Quentin Crisp: Naked Hope with Mark Farrelly in the Merchant Suite, a solo show which has toured the UK ever since it was first previewed in Edinburgh in 2014. Starting in the late 1960s Quentin surveys a lifetime of degradation and rejection in his filthy Chelsea flat. Repeatedly beaten for being flamboyantly gay as early as the 1930s, but also ostracised for daring to live life on his own terms.

Borealis Saxophone Quartet on Thursday 16th June at St Andrews Church, and what was promised prior to lockdown for 2020, The Scummy Mummies Show is at the Corn Exchange.

The Homing, an up-and-coming London band riding the wave of the alt-Country revival, wave it into the Conservative Club on Friday June 17th, and you can Meet Nicci French, the pseudonym of husband and wife writing team Nicci Gerard and Sean French, British fiction’s most famous double-acts at the Town Hall on Saturday 18th June.

Our good Liverpudlian friend, Asa Murphy presents The Song-Writing Years at the Corn Exchange on Saturday too. Asa now sets out on a tour which focusses on his own unique song-writing talents, backed by a fantastic live band. While Sunday has a free fringe event at Three Crowns, astonishingly accomplished jazz guitarist Florian Felcitta.

Onto the final week of the festivities, and there’s An Audience with Adam Frost Monday 20th June at Corn Exchange, Britain’s leading travel commentator Simon Calder on the Tuesday.

Paying tribute to his father’s music in the jazz master’s centenary year, pianist and composer Darius Brubeck teams up with saxophonist Dave O’Higgins, bassist Matt Ridley and drummer Wesley Gibbens for their Devizes debut after critically acclaimed international tours and sold-out shows at major jazz houses in London, on Wednesday 22nd June at the Corn Exchange.

The Second-Best Bed with Liz Grand is in the Merchant Suite on Thursday 23rd June, a frank, humourous and revealing monologue where the audience gets to know Shakespeare like never before, through the eyes of his wife.

BBC Radio 4’s cop-turned-comedian Alfie Moore brings his latest stand-up tour show to the Corn Exchange, Friday 24th June. And the grand finale is an Organ Recital with Claudia Grinnell, Saturday 25th June at St John’s Church and a Celtic Party Night, Absolute, at the Corn Exchange. Absolute are an Irish party band bringing their own unique mix of traditional and modern Irish favourites, with a few classics thrown in for good measure.

Tickets go on sale online on April 29th and from the ticket office in Devizes Books on May 3rd.


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Bath’s Bell Pub Hits Back at 1Star TripAdvisor Review!

The Bell in Bath is an outstanding pub, we know this, you know this, but how they’ve turned a grumpy cretin’s one star review on TripAdvisor on its head is nothing short of genius……

Finding your apposite pub is akin to shoe shopping…. no, hear me out; I can waste time trekking a shopping centre, browse a zillion other stores, but once I’ve settled on a pair of shoes, which are usually in the first shop I visited because I bloody loathe shopping, there is no compromise, it’s those shoes or I’m walking barefoot. I never, however, feel driven to go onto ShoeAdvisor and discredit every other pair of shoes simply because they didn’t suit my tastes.

I’m game finding a suitable pub in Bath, but aware, as with any unfamiliar city, I’m likely to make a blunder and land in one which just isn’t for me. Familiarity, and want of a pint with a degree of urgency, I know full-well satisfaction will be nigh sauntering along the sunny side of Walcott Street, because for as long as I can remember, the Bell has been that stable institution with my name all over it, and then there is no compromise.

Historically The Bell has been lively, the comfy type for the hedonistic alternative. It sells pizza from a bicycle-themed hut, it hosts craft and artisan markets as well as being an upstanding music venue for musicians and DJs alike, with poetry slams and anything else which might tickle their fancy; it’s simply popular because it’s such a darn lovely place.

Their method to dealing with a bad TripAdvisor review though, tips the wanna-be Jay Rayners’ intentions on their heads. As a badge of honour, they post such reviews on their Facebook page for their customers in the know to belittle and laugh at. On this particular occasion the unhappy couple downgraded them from two stars to one, just for mocking their hypocritical review on their own Facebook page; it’s a social media thread which keeps giving!

They blamed the pub for the City Council’s lack of parking facilities, seemed to hate that the pub was popular, on its busiest weekend night, and for want of a quiet pub, with music(?) they hunted elsewhere, but their abhorrence of students prevented any success.

Laughable it may be, but it illustrates the danger in trusting opinions cast by unprofessional critics on these pathetic excuses for websites. Take me, for example, craving my pen mightier than my sword, if I wanted to slag off the Bell, or anywhere else, I would, but I don’t, because ultimately the Bell is a blindingly brilliant pub, always has been, and I hope always will be. Might take a fair attempt at slagging off the reviewer though, but to be fair, the reviewer was nice, and I’m sure on another review it would’ve suited me!

The audacity to downgrade a review simply because they laughed it off only increased the hysterical element to their hypocrisy; as they added “to be fair the place was nice, and I’m sure on another night it would’ve suited us…I am not slating the place or the people there!” But…. oh, you still downgraded your already appalling review to the lowest star rating possible? Okay, makes sense if a tavern with padded walls is what you’re after.

They had our very own guitar virtuoso Innes Sibun playing that very same night, for crying out loud; I strongly suggest he swaps his sublime guitar melodies for a cassette of whale song for want of appeasing these imbeciles, or continue unperturbed if not; of which I fancy the latter! Innes himself asked, “would it help if I offered to do a solo acoustic gig especially for them? I feel really guilty you’re getting slated for providing a night of live music which is what was promised.”

For The Bell have far from “taken it on the chin,” as suggested by the keyboard warrior, with 357 likes, laughing or wowed emojis from the original Facebook post, 140 comments to-date supporting the establishment, and equally blossoming on the latter post telling of the downgrading, rather it’s had quite the opposite effect the critic desired, and their audacity to appear fair-minded has collapsed in a pitiful heap.

Business as usual for the Bell, the Pizza Bike fired its oven and blessed drinkers with sourdough specials, Uncle Boo took to his guitar for some soul and blues grooves, and the staff prepare for a weekend of vinyl DJ sessions, an artisan and pre-loved market, and local country-rock indie from Breakfast Records’ Langkamer; much ado about nothing, but then some people can never let it lie. If your head is stuck in TripAdvisor, you’d never get the right shoes for you.

I could send you a packet of corn plasters for your blisters, but next time have faith in me, who gets or wants nothing from this or any other pub or venue, other than their continuation to support local creatives and musicians, and generate the awesome atmosphere in their establishment they always have.


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Slug Eggs Are On The Menu!

Join the Devizes Slugs Facebook page they said, be fun they said; I even considered the U in slugs might be a typo. No one expressed the horror which might possibly be revealed to me by these mollusc-loving conservationists, that slug eggs are on the menu in swanky restaurants.

Yet a post went up on the page telling of the group’s “ever increasing horror” of reports of slug eggs being described as a new “super food” which are apparently being actively harvested from the wild by foragers for use in high class restaurants as “Caviar Blanc.’

Now, the trusty ol’ Wikipedia defines caviar blanc as snail caviar, “a type of caviar that consists of fresh or processed eggs of land snails. It is a luxury gourmet speciality produced in France and Poland. They were also a delicacy in the ancient world, also known as “Pearls of Aphrodite” for their supposed aphrodisiac properties.” And it goes onto describing heliciculture snail farming and the process of farming or raising land snails specifically for human consumption.

Look, I’m fine with a pizza, thank you, but if you choose to eat snails eggs properly farmed to ensure the delicate balance of wildlife isn’t effected by your werid obssesion, that’s entiely your perogative, note only I’ll politely decline the offer of dinner at your gaff.

But to forage for slug’s eggs must be upsetting the entire food chain, not to mention a liitle twisted, and should you get swarmed by an angry mafia of crows that’s your own lookout.

But the new trendy grub must have cocaine dealers admiring the profit margin, and can fetch £75 for just 75 grams! Supposing the slime has to be separated prior to human consumption, and that labour intensive method must be costly.

Devizes Slugs, a page for all those interested in Slugs in the Devizes area which emphasises their ecological benefits, defends them against all forms of chemical and physical attack and provides a rescue and shelter service, say “if you see Caviar Blanc on the menu of any local restaurants please tell us as a matter of urgency. This has to stop.”

Firstly you’d need evidence they’ve been foraged rather than farmed, but secondly, as easy money as it might appear, I’d like to suggest it’s really not going to go down well on a first date if, when asked what you do for a living, you reply “I separate slug eggs from slime,” so don’t do it, it’s filthy!

Indecision To Split Up, With One Final Gig

Popular covers band on the local circuit and beyond, Indecision, has indeed made a mutual decision to split up, but not without going out with a bang; they’re hosting a “Last Hoorah” gig at Devizes Corn Exchange on Saturday 21st May……

From Seend Beer Festival to Potterne Cricket Club’s, Indecision has been a firm favourite for many-a-year now, playing across the south west from Bromham’s long lost Owl community centre to as far away as Portsmouth, the six-piece Potterne-based band have demanded many to the dancefloor, but the time is nigh to say farewells.

Drummer Richard Monk joked he couldn’t stand the smell anymore, but explained, more seriously, a number of reasons, “Lee has a young family which as we know takes up time, Martin is busy and loving the studio, Tracy is looking at travelling, and I’ve started playing in blues bands in the Leicester area. I’d love to play blues again ….. it’s been a blast!”

Martin Spencer of the Badger Set recording studio fed me this sad secret a while back, and we ran a poll to find out our favourite charities, as they want the Last Hoorah to fundraise. I was mightily impressed with the response to the poll, in which Wiltshire Search and Rescue and the Fatboys Charity, won, so all proceeds will be going to them.

Fatboys is a small local charity which aims to help children who are suffering from cancer, or some other life-threatening illness. They also make charitable donations to other charities working in similar fields. The main thrust of the charity is geared towards the purchase of Christmas gifts for children who are suffering with cancer and other potentially life-threatening illnesses. However, donations have also been made to Oncology Units at NHS Hospitals in Bath and Cheltenham, to a Swindon School for the purchase of gymnastic equipment for children with Special Needs, as well as donations made directly to cancer-related charities such as C.A.L.M, C.L.I.C and Macmillan Nurses.

Indecision promises some guests at the Corn Exchange farewell gig, but are keeping hushed about who, tickets will be out soon, watch this space. We wish the Indecision members all the best with their future prospects and look forward to their final gig, so much so I designed them this poster as a farewell gift!   


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Devizine Music Club: 13th March 2022

Here we are again for a second bout of our music club, providing details of new music from outside our usual confines and stepping out internationally with a spring in our step……

Simon and The Astronauts Debut Album with Rachel Haden

Cambridge/London based writing/recording collective, Simon and The Astronauts have shared a new single I Have a Name, taken from their upcoming self-titled album collaboration with acclaimed US musician Rachel Haden of The Haden Triplets, Jimmy Eat World, Weezer, and Todd Rundgren, Hadestown, due out 22nd April 2022.

The follow up to recent single ‘10 League Boots’, ‘I Have a Name’ finds the collective continuing to flex their melodic, alt-rock muscles. Haden’s performance is brilliant and defiant, declaring “I don’t care what you think or say, I have a name, just a face on a clouded day but I have a name” – her vocals delivered with the confidence and authenticity of an artist who has led the way and followed their own path and passion for many years. A key figure in some of the most iconic music created in the last few decades, this is Haden stepping to the front and demanding our attention – with good reason.

Beginning life as a collaboration between songwriters Simon Wells and Ben Hewerdine with producer and musician Chris Pepper following their introduction by Ben’s father and Simon’s mentor, the acclaimed English songwriter and record producer Boo Hewerdine, ‘Simon and The Astronauts’ have already been creating music together for a number of years.

The trio, along with an impressive list of collaborators, released their debut EP ‘The Entertainment Suite’ in 2019, quickly followed by their debut, self-titled album later that year, spawning the unlikely viral TikTok hit ‘I’m Just A Cat’ – currently featured in just under 300,000 posts.

As the trio set about recording their second full-length album, they decided their group was missing something crucial and after some soul-searching reached out with what they thought was ashot-in-the-dark request to a musician and singer they hugely admired – Rachel Haden.

Haden, a founding member of That Dog and The Haden Triplets, respected solo artist and collaborator of artists including Jimmy Eat World, Weezer, Anais Mitchell, Todd Rundgren and many others, reacted positively to the pitch from the guys in the UK, who promptly set about writing an album of songs with Haden and her iconic voice in mind.

Working remotely between Pepper’s studio in Cambridge and Haden’s base in LA, the group began their international collaboration, writing and recording this fantastic collection of 12 new songs. An ambitious and sonically varied record, this new album effortlessly shifts from the classic alt-rock of ‘I Have A Name’ to the gorgeous balladry of ‘Lost In London’ all the way to the crushing guitars and cinematic atmospherics of new single ‘10 League Boots.’

Featuring additional contributions from LA studios Sea Grass Studios & Spirit Kid Sound, as well as English musician Boo Hewerdine, Swedish multi-instrumentalist Gustaf Ljunggren, lyrics inspired byHaden’s jazz legend father Charlie Haden and the blessing of Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo tointerpolate their song ‘Surf Wax America’ – the album is a tribute to the possibilities of the global sharing of ideas. Each track bouncing between countries and continents, heading to its next destination richer and more developed – ‘Simon and The Astronauts’ is an unlikely cast of characters hailing from a wide variety of musical backgrounds and traditions – and all the better for it.

‘Simon and The Astronauts’ will be released via the bands own imprint on 22nd April 2022 with the possibility of summer tour dates on the horizon.


Tenja in Dub

I’ve been loving this steppers riddim with a glorious vocal, kindly sent by Tenja in Dub, for airtime on my Boot Boy Radio show. Tenja is a Paris born reggae producer & vocalist currently based in Norfolk, who settled in Bristol in 2011.He works with a variety of artists across the reggae spectrum and has toured widely across the UK and Europe.

Once lead vocalist for renowned UK Roots Reggae band Dubheart, winners of the 2013 Rototom European Reggae competition, extensiving touring of Europe and shows at major festivals including Rototom, Reggae Sunsplash, Overjam and Summerjam. More recently, Tenja is continuing to focus on his music production and released a few projects as Tenja in dub, and this tune Faith in Love, features Bristol’s sweet and soulful singer-songwriter Rudey Lee.  


Landon Lloyd Miller Releases Debut Solo Album

Texan singer-songwriter Landon Llyod Miller, ex-The Wall Chargers vocalist released his debut solo album, Light Shines Through this week.

The album follows recent teaser tracks, Light Is Growing, a song praised by Americana UK as “an uplifting dose of positivity” and Feel It Again, championed by God Is In The TV for its “air of hope and positivity as it barrels along with a spring in its step,” as well as latest single Bluebonnet which arrived with a cinematic video directed by Evan Falbaum.

Taking inspiration from folk songs, murder ballads, country classics, and everything in between, Landon offers a suite of songs influenced by his Texan roots and glued together by his unflinchingly biographical lyricism. A diverse record of confessional piano ballads, cinematic roots rockers, and plenty of troubadour soul, Landon creates an album about vulnerability and strength, hope and darkness; with the ultimate message that light will always shine through. Buy it here.


Atalhos Released New Album A Tentação do Fracasso

Ambitious Brazilian indie rock duo Atalhos released an interesting new album this week, A Tentação do Fracasso. Already receiving warm reviews, the band have been praised by Rolling Stone as “a delight to listen to… reminiscent of The War on Drugs”, whereas Prog magazine hailed new album as “like Caetano Veloso channelling The Dukes of Stratosphear…there are strong flavours of 80s neo-psych in their swirling sound, filtered through layers of tropicalia.”

Typical of the record’s loose and hazy qualities, the album opens with the shimmering six-minute Tierra del Fuego. Featuring dreamy guitar strums, clouds of synth imagery, intoxicating looping beats and evocative melodies, the track was mastered by legendary American producer Greg Calbi (Tame Impala, The War on Drugs, Bon Iver) at Sterling Sound, along with the other 8 tracks that make up their sumptuous latest album.

A work that crosses borders and celebrates the Latin American brotherhood in collaborations, ‘A Tentação do Fracasso’ flirts with the psychedelia of the Chilean’s The Holydrug Couple (Ives Sepúlveda of whom produced the record), the sunshine-kissed South American sounds and the Spanish-flecked vocals of the Argentine’s El Príncipe Idiota and Delfina Campos (who both guest on the record).

Blending woozy soundscapes with wistful philosophy, ‘A Tentação do Fracasso’ combines the reverb-rinsed touches of 80s’ Springsteen, the gentle grandiosity of Arcade Fire and the day-dreaming guitar pop of Real Estate to create something as touching as it is timeless. Find the album link-tree here.

In support of the release, Atalhos confirms a Europe and UK tour between September to October 2022.


The Return of The Asian Dub Foundation

Asian Dub Foundation play five UK shows in April and proudly released deluxe remastered editions of ‘Enemy Of the Enemy’ and ‘Tank’ on March 11th through X-Ray records; both albums are released with bonus tracks and will be available on CD and for the first time ever 12” vinyl.

“We’re very happy that X Ray have put together these magnificent packages, the remasters sound crisp and a lot of the subject matter is still relevant, such as the opening lines of “Fortress Europe” exclaims Steve Chandra Savale.

First released in 2003 ‘Enemy of the Enemy’ Asian Dub Foundation’s fourth album opens with the lyrically prophetic ‘Fortress Europe’; “2022, a new European order. Robot guards patrolling the border. Cybernetic dogs getting closer and closer. Armoured Cars Immigration Officers.” The album also includes ’1000 Mirrors’, featuring the inimitable Sinead O’Connor, and Ed O’Brien who also played the title track. This new edition includes three bonus tracks: ‘Illegal Minds’ featuring Mark Stewart, plus two remixes by Adrian Sherwood and The Bug.

‘Tank’ their fifth studio album released two years later sees the original twelve tracks joined by three bonus tracks including; “Easy Man’ ft Perry Farrell, plus two remixes by San J and Shiva Sound System.

Asian Dub Foundation are a genre unto themselves. Their unique combination of tough jungle rhythms, dub bass lines and wild guitar overlaid by references to their South Asian roots and militant high-speed rap has established them as one of the best live bands in the world. During their long and productive career Asian Dub Foundation have shared the stage with the likes of

To pre -order / pre save ‘Enemy Of the Enemy’ and ‘Tank’ go to: https://bit.ly/3tswlVq

Asian play five UK shows in April starting at Trinity in Bristol on Friday 1st  and includes  Earth in London on Friday 15th.

Asian Dub Foundation April UK show

Fri 1st Bristol  Trinity

Fri 8th Manchester  Band On The Wall

Sat 9th Glasgow Studio Warehouse

Fri 15th London  Earth Hackney

Fri 22nd Brighton Chalk


New Single From Jesse Mac Cormack

Montreal songwriter and producer Jesse Mac Cormack has shared his new single “NHFN,” from his upcoming album SOLO. SOLO will be released on April 8th on Secret City Records, and is currently available to pre-order HERE.

“Losing freedom and privileges made me realize how great and important they were”, describes Jesse. “Going through a hard time in a relationship and looking forward to happiness gave me purpose. It really helped me find what nourished me and made me stronger. Everything wasn’t about passion anymore. I started thinking, taking good decisions for myself, and remembering what I wanted in the first place”.

 The new track follows the release of lead single “Blue World,” which is similarly brimming with pulsating beats and an expansive palette of sounds that reflect Mac Cormack’s impressive production skills.


The Kooks New EP

Following their sold-out tour across the UK throughout January and February, here’s a teaser from a forthcoming album, Ten Tracks to Echo in the Dark, due in July, from British indie trailblazers The Kooks; a new EP, Connection in the Dark Pt1, with this song, Jesse James, is out this week.

The video stars model Lottie Moss, half sister of Kate Moss, who said, “It was so fun to be involved in this, I’ve never been able to live out my main character dream before so this was really cool for me to do! I have loved The Kooks since I was younger so that made it even more special!”

Frontman Luke Pritchard comments on the track and video, “Really excited to release ‘Jessie James’, it’s a song about not always trying to prove yourself and losing the ego. We are so thrilled to have the amazing to bring the song to life in her retro future bedroom floating through space, she really elevated the euphoria of the song with her performance!”

Listen or buy the EP from this link-tree.


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Devizes Gives Wiltshire Blues & Soul Club a Warm Welcome

Since their formation last June, Wiltshire Blues & Soul Club have held jamming sessions at the rather splendid Owl Lodge, tucked away on Bowden Hill, near Lacock. Video teasers on the book of face attracted my eye; membership-schemed freestyle blues within a cosy log cabin setting, firepit et al. But if this rural blues society has been stealthy, it was high time for them to blow the lid on the secret.….

And they pulled it off with bells on, staging a multiple act show at The Corn Exchange, in the bright city lights of Devizes(!); a market town historically marked on the blues map of England.

If the event came off with niggling teething troubles, organisers admitted hosting a show on this scale was a learning curve for them. Yet the exceptional high standard of acts booked guaranteed it infallible to be anything less than the awesome night it was.

Failsafe came in the form of the part rockabilly part big band-edged blues frenzy of headliners, Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue, with that guitar virtuoso frontman you could worry will dehydrate up there for want of extending feverish moments from traditional three-minute hero into Pink Floyd record lengths.

Our homegrown legend, Innes Sibun, who glides electric guitar strings as if the lovechild of Page and Hendrix, in sporadically performing, internationally famed collaboration Innes Sibun Blues Explosion. If this was any kind of detonation as the band name suggests, it was a seriously smooth one. Frontman Patrick Hibbert eased sublimely delivered soulful vocals, while Innes did his matchless thing.

Bristol-based one-man-band and regular favourite at Devizes’ Southgate, Eddie Martin, who perfectly filled gaps between bands with sublime solo renditions of long-lost blues legends, encouraging audience participation, with nuggets of a blues history lesson and witty repartee.

And part co-ordinator of the Wiltshire Blues & Soul Club, Will Blake, who with full band straddled a burgundy grand piano akin to Jerry-Lee Lewis, when I walked into the joint, and delivered some outstanding soul and rock n roll classics with a few originals thrown in. Alluring singer Rosa Gray occasionally complimented this line-up with sassy vocals, perhaps most memorable duetting with Will on Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell’s Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.

If, in comparison to the later acts, one debates the repertoire of The Will Blake Band to be wedding requests, it would surely be the one wedding you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Besides, platitude covers added a dimension and awoke the majority elder audience with familiarity; it was a booming flinch creating a buzz of anticipation; this was to be grand night of quality entertainment.

If similar shows fill gaps between bands with recorded sound or second-rate comedians, drafting in the great Eddie Martin proved the club never skipped on quality, even for intervals. A prolific recording artist whose devotion to the old-timey blues of legends like Robert Johnson, Son House and Blind Willie Johnson, Ed’s spellbinding solo tribute is unparalleled, and just as all other acts here tonight, would’ve made an unforgettable show alone.

In this, one prevention of selling out that vast hall could arguably be the score ticket-stub, but to deliver a lush line-up this rammed costs. Nevertheless, it was adequately filled to begin with, a mature majority able to justify and swallow the cost lessened off gradually as the evening drew late. This left the hall disappointingly bare by the time Ruzz Guitar belted on stage, but those who remained made the most of it and dancing upfront lambasted the decision to provide show styled seating. If I’m nit-picking criticisms they’re justified as future considerations, because cost is insignificant when the proficiency of all these acts, combined, was priceless, seating arrangements are hugely debatable, considering the age demographic, and others, well, I’m certain there was no more. This was a great evening, presenting Wiltshire Blues & Soul Club with potential new members, as jams are planned to kick off again in April; will keep you posted.

Long Street Blues Club proprietors Ian and Liz in attendance proved no rivalry, I conversed with Exchange club owner Ian James, who reminisced on blues gigs of yore, based in town; something I never tire of hearing. These, combined with the likes of Innes and Jon Amor affirms Devizes’ place of the blues map of England, surely? So, there was no local location more apt for this kind of event, and a massive respect to the Wiltshire Blues & Soul Club for taking on the challenge of appeasing local blues aficionados, proud of Devizes, akin to what Coventry means to Two-Tone or Bristol to UK hip hop, least near as dammit for a small town!

I personally think you guys pulled the rabbit from the hat.

It was something I was pondering beforehand, now confirmed my need to relabel after Innes Sibun Blues Explosion’s textbook performance last night, that my terminology “local music” I often overuse. It’s inapt to refer to the likes of Innes and Jon Amor as local musicians, despite being born here, with the same marker as those rarely venturing outside our local circuit. Last time I was standing beside Innes and Jon, I earwigged their recollections of tours of eastern European countries; these guys are internationally renowned, The Innes Sibun Blues Explosion have been somewhat dormant for over thirty years, likely due to their individual location being so far apart, and this was a reunion gig for them. But where does one draw the line? With folk trio The Lost Trades’ recent success, they too straddle this borderline now.

Four of the Five original members, Innes Sibun, John Baggot, Patrick Hibbert and also drummer for Ruzz, Mike Hoddinott, reformed for this gig, performing songs from their 1991 album That’s What The Blues Can Do. Coupled with Ruzz, officially endorsed by Gretsch Guitars, who knocked my personal favourite Sweet as Honey out of the park as a grand finale, encored by Will Blake joining them adlibbing on piano, made this evening a notable notch on the history of blues events in town, and a delight to have attended such a memorable occasion.

Where the Wiltshire Blues & Soul Club go from here is anyone’s guess, but we look forward to prospect they might least match this again rather top it, or even hope it breathes interest into their more humbling jamming sessions at the Owl Lodge. Top marks all round I say; anyone got an ibuprofen?!


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