The World Under the Wood; New Family Theatre at The Wharf

The World under the Wood is a new musical-play for children & family audiences written by Helen Langford, who brought ‘Adam & The Gurglewink’ to the Wharf in 2020…..

Jodie meets a magical talking Tree who asks for her help. The wood seems to be dying and Tree thinks the incredible World under the Wood may hold the answer…Jodie is whisked away to a super-world where life moves super-fast. But she discovers that this world is failing too; the super-humans have been collapsing and productivity is down. Jodie and Harley the dog must now journey between worlds to find an answer. Can the mega-multiplier plants restore the wood? And what is the mysterious Source?

The play highlights the need to stop taking the natural-world and its resources for granted. The world under the wood is an awe-inspiring land of invention and productivity, but Jodie discovers that the resources which underpin it are, to everyone’s surprise, finite. The ‘super-humans’ parody the rat-race of contemporary life, where achievement is king and the constant cycle of doing is reassuringly exhausting. Any long-term consequences of living this way have been ignored…until now. We learn through Jodie’s adventure, that it is through perseverance and working together that environmental problems can be tackled.

Though the message is timely and serious, the show is full of fun. With larger-than-life characters, catchy songs, and magical happenings, you’re sure to love your adventure to the world under the wood!

The World Under the Wood runs from Thursday 23rd June till the Sunday, 26th June.

Tickets can be purchased by ringing 03336 663 366; from the website https://www.wharftheatre.co.uk/ and at the Devizes Community Hub and Library on Sheep Street……and don’t forget to follow on Instagram and Twitter.

Ticket Prices:
£6.00 – £8.00* Family 4 – £22.00* Family 5 – £28.00* *booking fee applies For Group Bookings please contact hire@wharftheatre.co.uk directly to ensure that you only pay one booking fee.


Devizes Kids to Celebrate Jubilee with Professional Artist

Featured Image: Gerry Lynch.

A historic Devizes church will help local children celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee by giving them the chance to work with a renowned local artist over the jubilee period.

The parish of St John with St Mary in Devizes has partnered with artist Joanna May and historian David Evans to put an exhibition entitled ‘Majesty’ in St Mary’s Church on New Park Street from 2-4 June. Three local primary schools will participate: Wansdyke, Southbroom, and Trinity. 

Shirley Urwin, who is helping organise the exhibition, said: “The children will hear about Devizes’ historic links with the monarchy through story-telling, then Joanna will help them make paintings and drawings of story or person that resonated most with them. Joanna will then create a mosaic of the children’s drawings as part of a huge exhibition board, based upon her painting “Majesty”, which depicts Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation Crown. 

We hope they will benefit from the opportunity to work creatively with a well-known artist and be involved in a unique project marking a memorable event in their lives. 

The pupils will benefit from one-on-one time with a professional artist completely cost free. All three schools are state-funded, and both Trinity CofE and Southbroom receive higher than the national average Pupil Premium funding. This is about bringing art to everyone in our community. 

This is part of a programme of activities that will secure the future of St Mary’s Church as a vibrant and viable multi-use venue for the community of Devizes and further afield. It will raise awareness and engagement in the town of the plans to make St Mary’s available for the community as a vibrant arts space, accessible to all.  “ 

The exhibition will be free, and take place at St Mary’s from 11 am – 3 pm from Thu 2 – Sat 4 June. 

For more information, contact Shirley Urwin on shirley.urwin@yahoo.co.uk or 07849 536 179.  

About Joanna May 

Joanna May is an artist based in Devizes.  She is recognised and collected widely, with a listing in ‘Who’s Who In Art’. Her work has sold at Christies’, including to celebrity buyers; she has paintings at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Raymond Blanc’s famous hotel near Henley. Her beautiful hare paintings for The Hare on the Moon – A Treasure Hunt Book hang in her Joanna May Gallery, lighting up Northgate Street in Devizes. She can be contacted on joanna@joannamay.com and has a website at joannamay.com

About St Mary’s, Devizes 

St Mary’s Church is a Grade 1 listed building and one of the town’s oldest and most historic landmarks with its magnificent 13m high internal arch. It is among the top 2.5% listed buildings in the country and of significant historic importance to the town. Plans are afoot to redevelop the building into a space for the arts, accessible to all, enjoyed for generations to come, thus preserving our heritage. Find out more at www.stmarydevizestrust.org.uk.  


Belthane: What’s Happening May Bank Holiday in Wiltshire?

I don’t want to be the burden of bad news, you can blame my stupid, stupid phone weather app; Friday looks okay, 12% chance of drizzle on Saturday, 50% on Sunday…. But honestly, right, you don’t want to believe that, I don’t trust it one iota and I don’t even know what an iota is. Subject to change, inconsistent, and just, well, blinking annoying, weather apps are for people who can’t be bothered looking away from their phone and up into the sky anyway, it’s the bank holiday weekend, it’s time to party, so get up, come on everybody.……

Ill-perceived as dull, there’s more events going on in Wiltshire over the weekend than people! So, rather than my Facebook rundown, I need to draft it into an article… here’s what we’ve found to do over the Belthane, or May Day Bank Holiday. Bear in mind, it’s time consuming to add links to all the events, and for those still undecided what to do, I need to push this out today. Therefore, there’s only one link you need, and that’s to our event calendar, where all the details and ticket links are. Be fast though, stuff is selling out!

Click HERE!

For the hardcore, eager to get out and about, Thursday 28th April looks like this:

Leading up to DOCA’s weekend festivities in Devizes, the Festival Quiz Night is happening in The Shambles, with quizmaster Don. In Swindon, Hannah Rose Platt plays with full band and Jules Hill in support at The Tuppeny, it’s comedy night at the Victoria, and finalist in 2016’s I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, who moved onto to then hosting, Joel Dommett, presents his Unapologetic tour at the Wyvern.

Friday 29th, here we go, little toe in the water:

Live music options aplenty, Calne’s brilliant Britpop covers Six O’clock Circus play the Three Crowns Devizes, and equally, for all things mod, The Roughcut Rebels are at The Barge in Seend Cleeve.

We loved these guys at the Gate a few weeks ago, for blues-rock check out The Worried Men at The Barge on HoneyStreet. Megson play Marlborough Folk Roots Club at the Town Hall, in, as you might guess, Marlborough, but for more punky vibes check out Blunder & Bluff at the Three Horseshoes, Bradford on Avon, or legendary Peter & the Test Tube Babies at the Vic, Swindon.

The Teddy Rocks Festival kicks off in Blandford, there’s a celebration of Luther Vandross at the Wyvern, Swindon and it is also the local talent show final time at Chippenham’s Neeld Hall, Take The Stage.

Saturday 30th April is firing on all cylinders:

There’s the monthly Kids Cookery Class for ages 11-16 at Vaughan’s Kitchen Cookery School, but eyes are on Devizes as DOCA’s Street Festival will be in the Market Place; it’s free, it’s fantastic, it’s the best day out you’ll have in Devizes. Further along the Brittox, it’s also the Born2Rum Festival at our glorious rum bar, The Muck & Dundar, and The Leon Day Band play The Southgate.

Either side of Devizes is looking awesome too, with the Urchfont Scarecrow Festival one side, and SOLD OUT Seend Beer Festival on the other. There’s also the Wiltshire Spring Sing with PG Choirs at Neeld, Chippenham.

John Langham is at The Barge, HoneyStreet, Tom Jenkins at Trowbridge Town Hall. Six O’clock Circus play The Jenny Wren, Calne, Alkahest Meeking & Bad News First at The Three Horseshoes, Bradford on Avon, and the Bee Ska’s at Swindon’s The Woodlands Edge. Staying in Swindon, the Wyvern has Paul Merton, show offs!

Sunday 1st May; pinch punch:

Devizes International Street Festival continues in the Market Place, be there, or don’t forget around 5pm, Jon Amor does his residency at The Southgate, this week featuring Marcus Bonfanti.

The Vine Tree Inn, Norton has a mini-festival, VineFest, and Trowbridge’s Pump presents The Rider. Crash UK play The Lamb, Marlborough, and The Mike Hoddinott Band at the Three Horseshoes, Bradford-on-Avon.

It’s the start of Cloth Road Arts Week at Trowbridge Town Hall, and The Bootleg Shadows play Swindon Arts Centre, while Balletboyz are at the Wyvern Theatre.

Monday 2nd May, and it’s not quite over:

Marlborough Rotary have a Bank Holiday Boot Sale on The Common, and Swindon Festival of Literature kicks off with a fortnight of events for your book worms: Isabel Hardman & Caroline Williams at Lydiard Park Conference Centre, and Charlie Corbett at Lower Shaw Farm.

Tues 3rd, you thought it was all over, but it’s not now:

Crazy For You starts a run at Bath Royal Theatre, ending on the 7th, and Elizabeth I: Virgin on the Ridiculous too, running Wednesday too. Then, there’s heap of Swindon Festival of Literature events, with Naomi Shragai, A.C. Grayling and Jon Alexander all at Swindon Arts Centre, and Sue Birley at the Central Library, Regent Circus, and An Evening with Gill Sims at the Wyvern Theatre.

Wed 4th and May just doesn’t come up for air:

Reef, yes Reef plays The Oak in Marlborough, thanks to Sound Knowledge, and Corinne Bailey Rae is at Bath Forum. An interesting Stephen Lowe play at Bath’s Rondo Theatre called Touched, running until 7th May. Swindon’s Literature Festival continues with Abigail Williams, Benedict Allen and Xanthi Barker & Charlie Gilmour, all at Swindon Arts Centre, and there’s a Lunchtime Recital at the Wyvern.

And before you know it, it’ll be the weekend again, and there are loads of great stuff, including one-liner genius Gary Delaney coming to Devizes Corn Exchange, while Marti Pellow is at Bath Forum on Thursday. Birdsmen at Long Street Blues Club in Devizes, The Skandals at the Vic, Swindon, both on Friday. The Devizes Cancer Research fundraiser, Stert Car Boot Sale on Saturday 7th, and Saturday, hip hop fans, the Scribes are playing Trowbridge Town Hall, and that is not to be missed!

There’s so much going on locally, if you browse other websites which wait for organisers to contact them to add listings, you’ll be left in the dark. Devizine goes out of its way to search for the best events, of all kinds, in our local area and this makes it the most comprehensive and probably the silliest too! Have a great Belthane; I’m going to keep calling it that, so you’ll all turn pagan overnight!


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Bishops Cannings Parish Council Renovate YMCA Memorial

When I started Devizine I never imagined I’d be writing about a memorial which looked like a litterbin, but I did, because it did, and it was being used as one. I’m glad to say little over a year later the memorial has been restored to its former glory by Bishops Cannings Parish Council.….

A happy ending to a mysteriously unfolding saga, whereby folk far more knowledgeable on this, and likely most other subjects in general, enlightened us to what it was, why it was placed there and why it had been so sorely forgotten. The article took a number of edits, to the point I stagnated frustratedly; am I still writing about a bin-like memorial?!

Before……

Due to a boundary change on which The YMCA Memorial was previously moved to by Devizes Town Council, adjacent to the former Aster building, it wasn’t until it was bought to the attention of the Bishops Cannings Parish Council that it been inherited by them, they sought to rectify the state of the memorial. And look at it now!

After!

By the power of Greyskull, Bishops Cannings Parish Council, if this isn’t the second time in as many weeks, I’ve had to sing your praises; go steady, you’re putting other local town and village councils to shame!


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REVIEW – Jazz Sabbath @ Corn Exchange, Devizes – Sunday 20th November 2022

You wait for one to come along…. by Andy Fawthrop After Saturday’s double-header at Long Street Blues Club with the Alex Voysey Trio and Hardwicke Circus, there was hardly time to draw breath on this exciting musical weekend.  A quick shift from the Con Club to The Corn Exchange, and there we were on a … Continue readingREVIEW – Jazz Sabbath @ Corn Exchange, Devizes – Sunday 20th November 2022

Introducing The Next Magnificent Seven Tracks from Our Julia’s House Compilation

Me and my absent mind. We released the second volume of our compilation album series in August, when I announced its release, and revealed further details of the first seven tunes, with a promise to detail them all in groups of seven…. then, nothing, nada, absolutely spaced on it! I can only apologise to all … Continue reading “Introducing The Next Magnificent Seven Tracks from Our Julia’s House Compilation”

Professor Elemental Booms Trowbridge Town Hall with Raccoons and Cheesemakers

Type “smack me” into Google, at your own risk, and third predicted search is “…on the bottom with a woman’s weekly.” Six years since her passing, and over three decades since Victoria Wood first performed the Ballad of Barry and Freda her finest hour is everlastingly. Proof while often pushed into the “novelty” pigeonhole, comical songs can be as eternal as serious songs; if I had a penny for every time someone called me Ernie……

Horse and carriage association, comedy and music, since day dot. Be you come at it from a comedian background or as musician, the aged hybrid functions, and it’s effective equally if, like me Saturday night at Trowbridge Town Hall, your jawbone aches from grinning like a jester as much as your feet do from dancing!

It’s been something of a music-comedy weekend at the county town, Barnsley’s The Bar Steward Sons of Val Doonican played the Pump Friday, with their cheeky, seventies children’s TV presenter style of pop adaptions, chief coordinator Kieran sung their praises while I regretted my absence. But I crossed the border and landed in Vegas for Saturday’s offering at the Town Hall; couldn’t resist.

Hosting three acts of varying genres, tenaciously linked by the comical element, the night will end bizarrely, with naturally witty Brighton chap-hopper Professor Elemental rapping through a horse’s head and encouraging the audience to knock an inflatable unicorn between them. But the assorted crowds gathered this wasn’t going to be the archetypal hip hop gig.

Starter for ten the first act is Bristol’s conscious, anarchist, cross-dressed trio, Boom Boom Racoon. An acoustic ska-punk band I’ve been raving, but dubious they’d fit into Devizes’ rather polarised music epoch. Apologies are made for the bassist recovering from a gum infection, as his usual shouty exclamations will be reduced. Nevertheless, offerings approximately casing their fondness of invading dustbins, the NHS, and Lotus Biscuits were purveyed with finesse, and the poignantly satirical Fuck You, Ashley, the final tune on their second album, Songs From Before the Times.

I’d argue though unconventional, in a geek post-punk fashion, veganomics, LGBT and other leftist subjects maintain a seriousness edge, making Boom Boom Racoon uniquely placed at a comical gig, yet concluding on their amusing high-energy adaption of the Venga Boy’s Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom, wherein they dub their own band name into the title, there’s forever a feeling not to take them seriously.

Calne’s Real Cheesemakers on the other hand blast loud rock in your face, all the while maintaining a heap of West Country humour. Akin to Boom Boom Racoon in only one factor, hilarity. Their psychedelia, surrealist-edged rock is aptly introduced with The Tortoise is Coming, and retrospective contemplation with Unicorns of the 1980s.

It becomes almost Dr Seuss at times, such as the vaudeville Trouserland. There’s a ballad involving dinosaurs, local banter with the Roundabouts of Swindon, and a Springsteen-fashioned lengthy, emotional build-up to a song which lasts but a second. The Real Cheesemakers nonsensically mock everything, in a metal style, even down to the dark, satanic ethos of the genre, as if Spike Milligan was Iron Maiden’s frontman, yet they were a Wurzels tribute, naturally.

They’ve supported Professor Elemental in the past, allowing him bound majestically on stage for a duet. Then the stage was stripped bare for the Prof to do his thang, an astounding hilarious stand-up routine, rapped.

Unlike the others, I suspect Professor Elemental comes from the comedian-turned-musician angle, as he weaves rap so effortlessly into what’s best described as stand-up. Topically waxing lyrical, satire and observational humour abound, astute in audience participation, such as the cliché rapper’s request to the crowd to “make some noise,” the Prof appeals they make specific noises.

As any professional stand-up he comments on his surroundings, the venue’s similarities to a council hall, cos it is; he elects himself mayor. He’s also no stranger to character assassinations, whipping off the jacket of his rainbow suit and trademark hunter’s Pith helmet, to become a crude and condescending businessman, heckling an unsuspecting girl in the crowd.

Everything the Professor does is astutely performed, with whimsical yet chivalrous charisma. He simply charms with lyrics chockful of pop culture references and judicious observations, it’s nothing less than hilarious. As the show progresses so too does the insanity level, to the aforementioned section where he’s donned a horse’s head and encouraging the crowd to bounce an inflatable unicorn between them.

Never a dull moment, there’s so much jammed into this show it’s tricky to pin the man down, like a one-man Airplane movie, blink and you’ll miss something. He explodes with colour and amusement, while attracting hip hop aficionados his performance is favourable to all, still, in his own unique manner, he can execute a fine rap too. He comes with a treasure trove of merchandise: comics, books, stickers and of course CDs, though I’d suggest the live show is his forte.

Once he lost the pith helmet, I realised he was older than I assumed, a stand-up comedian stage presence attributing hip hop into his act, he cited the Sugarhill Gang, suggesting his roots lie as old skool as I, a genre he salutes rather than mocks.

I sincerely hope he’s happy independently doing circuits, seemed as if he is, as his professionalism and natural comical ability would be ideal for mainstream TV to wreck, theoretically selling-out as a game show host, or mores to the pity, the best damn Doctor Who post-Tom Baker.

If I pondered through pigeonholing how divergent the three acts were, I was pleasantly surprised when they came together for an improvised finale, and in this the gig was a prime example of Trowbridge Town Hall’s diversity in programming; this was something I’d expect to see at a city venue or festival. A highly enjoyable evening with an assortment of hilarious class acts, in which I got to bounce a unicorn.





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Danny K & The Haters; Here’s my Small Axe

Danny K & the Haters, sounds like a belligerent rockabilly band, but it’s not, it’s far more shameful than that. Devizes and District MP Danny Kruger turned his back on his constituents this week, labelling them “haters,” in order to brown-tongue the effortlessly-reasoned worst Prime Minister in English history. And guess how many people asked me for my opinion? No one, but I’m going to give it anyway….

You should know by now I’m the political equivalent of “Catchphrase,” not the most intelligent of TV game shows; I just say what I see. That’s worth mentioning here, I feel, as this is not a red or blue thing, this applies probably more to Conservative supporters; any gram of reputation your party once had, is at stake, hanging by a thread. I’d thought you’d want to do something about that, or are you Starship-confident, and nothings gonna to stop you now?

Here’s my small axe. Though the desperate defence over party-gate for our tin-pot-dictator-in-clown-disguise devotees often seems to be: there’s more important things to deal with, and we should move on; that’s all they’ve got on this one and it’s as shallow as the liars in Parliament themselves. Yes, there are more important things to deal with, 99.9% of them have been caused by the shit-show we like to call a government, and yes, we should move on, oust the prime minister, rid parliament of his yes-men cabinet, and we can do exactly that.

How absolutely sick and twisted do you have to be to attempt to push this one under the carpet? How dishonourable of all those who died, least suffered from the pandemic, how insolent for NHS staff who risked their lives, to suggest they too partied, when anyone who’s ever done a day’s work of manual labour would know how hard those doctors and nurses were pushed, the endgame of which would not be partying, rather slump on the sofa out of exhaustion, waiting for the next morning to arrive to do it all again.

How utterly disrespectful to us all, all key workers, everyone who self-isolated, obeying the regulations they set out, everyone who has lost their business, least worked tenfold to get it back online. This is apolitical, this is social contempt on a national scale, and those who abused it, those in responsibility who laughed in our faces, and celebrated their own profits made by stamping their boots on our faces, to criticise that, to pass comment this might’ve been a tad unfair and Danny Kruger labels you as a “hater,” your own member of parliament who you pay for, the one who’s supposed to work for you.

I’m sorry Danny, you had me for a while, and despite being a tory, I’d figured you had an angle, you warranted some praise, but to defend the Prime Minister on this is to disrespect your constituencies, and you should, like the rest of the Etonian flunkies, resign too; clear-out the clutter of this toxic workplace.

Oh, Danny

“I want to speak in defence of the Prime Minister,” he waffled, “because somebody has to.” No, Danny, that’s the point; they don’t. He’s a big boy now, part of any top brass job is accepting responsibility.

The logic behind his comments is comradeship, an amity drummed into every public schoolboy that you never call out a fellow scholar, no matter what. This is why Bojo himself happily handed the address of a journalist investigating a school chum fiddling his taxes, to have him beaten up. Boris Johnson, the Bullingdon ringleader who drunkenly trashed priceless art in Oxford’s Magdalen College; the anarchy of the elite, knowing producing a chequebook would waiver whatever destruction they caused. He’s now controlling the country, and you Danny, equivocated in your articulated manner, “if he lied to this house of course he should resign. But he didn’t. Patently he didn’t. Patently he didn’t break the law deliberately, and so patently he didn’t deliberately mislead this house.”

Everything Boris utters is one big continuous lie, he’s compulsive, but that’s beside the point, the point is they partied on while the rest of obeyed the rules they set out. He stood there, on the TV and announced the rules himself, how can you possibly suggest he was unaware of them? He broke the law, deliberately, he assumes he’s Michael Knight, operating above the law, probably mumbles the car’s sound when he’s on his potty.

Danny continued to propose an apology would suffice in his opinion, like Parliament is a nursery and Bojo is but a toddler. He’s 57 for crying out loud, and runs a country, when is he expected to be grownup enough to take a little responsibility?

But the grand finale of Danny’s whimper was on his constituencies who have written to him in outrage. “Many are just the usual haters who have always despised the Prime Minister,” he said, he actually said this, as if there’s absolutely no grounds in which to criticise the actions, or inactions of Bojo. This is without doubt the most hurtful accusation of all, the hate comes from the other way around, me old shagger, the hate is what Boris Johnson showed to all who suffered, died or even those who escaped the pandemic but obeyed the rules, and that means he is so obviously unsuitable as a prime minster, a role which involves caring, not hating.

It’s no walk in the park, prime ministering, it’s an arduous task, a role which needs intelligence, honour and integrity and likeable as the clown is, he ticks none of those boxes. Which is unfortunate, but see the sum of all the scandals and catastrophes, the daily newsfeed of deception and dishonour, multiply them by the state they made of the country, the hyperinflation, condoned prejudice, the failed ideas and projects, the poverty divide; it is not a case of if he lied to the house on this particular occasion, or not, it is the sum of all these parts and many more. If you can mince your words, Mr Kruger, so I believe I have the right too, and you’re confusing hate for a righteous desperate plea; rid parliament of the deadwood, do yourself a favour.


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Laughable Excuses for Savernake Forest Proposals  

Last week I tried to convey how Savernake Forest has fond memories for all who live nearby it, and how it’s cherished by users in the same manner today, in the wake of a publication by Forestry England called “Our Shared Forest.” Ironic by title, it seemed to propose restricting the public to set walking trails at the Postern Hill site, extending the carpark and forcing people to pay for the privilege of using it. We’ve since heard back from Forestry England, as I emailed them the article, though I believe they’ve not quite got over All Fools Day……

A Forestry England spokesperson explained, “Since Our Shared Forest was published, there have been many reports misrepresenting an internal discussion document called ‘A Way Forward’, which was prepared at the request of our landlord, the Savernake Estate. This paper makes no formal proposals for the Forest. It was drafted in response to concerns raised by the Estate regarding the impact of public access, particularly in light of growing visitor numbers since the start of the COVID pandemic.”

Their wishy-washy, ‘we were just having a laugh, you know, didn’t mean it,’ excuses continues thus, “The document explores potential ways we might work to deliver some of our management commitments within Our Shared Forest. A number of our aspirations for a sustainable and resilient Savernake can only be achieved with Estate consent, so early discussion between tenant and landlord is essential. Public access within Savernake Forest has always been with the agreement of the Estate. Any changes to public access can only happen with the consent of the Estate trustees. That internal document has been extensively quoted out of context so we have published it in full on our website so that the community may read it themselves.”

“We recognise and appreciate the great depth of affection felt for Savernake Forest. In response to the extraordinary level of interest in Our Shared Forest, we have extended our feedback survey until 22nd April to ensure as many people as possible are able to review the information and have their say.” The document is HERE.

So, what? They were just brainstorming, you know, knocking some ideas across the table, oh, cheeky monkeys. Call me stupid, I’ve been called far worse, but why would you even contemplate closing the forest, and even if you thought it might be something worthy of acting on, why would you publish your inane plotting online?! It’s not “misrepresenting” at all, it clearly states, “The redevelopment of Postern Hill would be coupled with the closure of the Grand Avenue, and indeed the rest of the Forest for vehicular access by visitors.”

Yet it apparently makes “no formal proposals for the Forest,” and “Any changes to public access can only happen with the consent of the Estate trustees,” begging the question, what was the point in it anyway, then, being owner of the forest Lord Cardigan has been on the telebox, I see the dude, strongly objecting to the notion?!

This change of heart/pathetic excuse (delete as appropriate) has nothing to do, either, with Marlborough Times reporting the “applause after applause” from a large crowd resounding throughout the Court Room in the Town Hall at Monday 11th April’s full Town Council meeting, “where councillors vented their opposition to Forestry England’s ‘internal’ suggestion to close Savernake Forest to all vehicles,” then?!

The article rightfully states, “Councillor Nick Fogg was vehement in his condemnation of the ‘plans’ presented by Forestry England, and whilst in their defence, they claimed that their words had been ‘misrepresented’, Councillor Fogg made clear that, having (like all other Councillors) read and digested the Forestry England ‘internal discussion document’ in its entirety that in his view it ‘was a serious proposal’.”

I, as I’m sure most others were overjoyed to read that, “in the end Councillors voted emphatically and unanimously to object to any such proposals, echoing the resounding opinion of the community at large and those packing the hall,” because whoever concocted this daft-as-a-brush proposal sure has an egg factory on their stupid face!

I also love that the paper classed it ‘Disneyfication.’ As in: “Next step? A statement from either Forestry England or the Forestry Commission setting out exactly what they are proposing regarding vehicular access, the future of the Postern Hill car park (enlarging to 350 cars / ‘Disneyfication’ / charging?) and if they are really going to ‘develop’ this part of Savernake Forest to commercial ends with the ecological consequences. Or let the natural and glorious beauty of Savernake Forest be there for all to enjoy.” The finale of which is perfect. Explore the Grand Avenue area of Savernake and you will find some deep craters, my good friend who grew up in forest referred to them as “bomb holes.”

Now, I always believed it was just a term of phrase, pondering why German WW2 pilots would target a forest, until the day I took my son to a war exhibit at Wiltshire Museum and perchance to browse some old photos with an informative chap, who was a police officer during the era. I found a photo of the gates of Grand Avenue, heavily guarded, and asked him what was happening here. He told me it was a bomb disposal area, and the penny dropped.

And here’s why I bring the subject up: those bomb-holes today are teeming with life, shrubs, grass and trees have grown over them, wildlife nests inside, because a forest replenishes itself over time, naturally, because, well, because it’s a blooming forest and that’s what forests do! You’d have thought an organisation called Forestry England might’ve figured this out themselves. No matter what damage a man walking his dog, a family enjoying a picnic or even, dare I say it, minor acts of anti-social behaviour, might cause in the forest, they cannot be any worse than exploding a WW2 bomb, you’d have thought?!

Leaving me to conclude, for what it’s worth, this proposal was as predicted, simply a suggestion to profiteer from people’s freedom to roam this beautiful feature on our Wiltshire landscape, disingenuously disguised as attempting to environmentally aid it; what a terrible, greedy thought bubble. I’ve got to leave it there, for the sake of my blood pressure.

Though to fully conclude, please, I beg of every potential fly-tipper, litterbug and general knuckle-dragger, please don’t fuel their fire, and give them opportunity or an excuse to pursue this, respect and look after our forests and woodlands, please; I asked nicely, three times at the last count!


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

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

Lovesong at The Wharf

Director Freddie Underwood, who brought the highly successful Things I Know To Be True to the Wharf Theatre, Devizes in 2019 once again puts her personal stamp on this production with the use of movement and music partnering text…..

Written by Abi Morgan Lovesong comes to the Wharf on Monday 23rd and runs until Saturday 28th May. Inspired by T.S. Eliot’s poem, the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock – the story of a middle-aged man who, although in love, feels his love song has never been sung – Abi Morgan’s play revolves around one couple at two very different stages of their lives.  First produced in 2011, the story introduces us to young lovers displaying all the optimism of youth alongside their older selves who have the wisdom and experience of age, but now face growing old with the ensuing frailties of the human body. Past and present literally intertwine as the older and younger couples move around each other on the stage and this poignant piece will take the audience on a journey which ultimately leads back to the belief that…love is a leap of faith…

Tickets can be purchased by ringing 03336 663 366; from the website Wharftheatre.co.uk and at the Devizes Community Hub and Library on Sheep Street.


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Easter at the Crown, Bishops Cannings

Looking south yonder from the Wansdyke atop Morgan’s Hill, you will see the spire of St Mary’s in the parish of Bishop’s Cannings, much less you belt past it on the A361, glad to have escaped Devizes’ congestion.…..

Impressive is the church, recorded in the Domesday Book as held by the Bishop of Salisbury. Tis said its design is to replicate Salisbury Cathedral; a kind of mini cathedral, to make him feel at home, which is nice. I’m certain villagers today would want the same, to make visitors and newcomers’ welcome.

The spire towers over the historic inn, The Crown, which recently under new management felt the objections of a handful of disgruntled residents at their wish to provide a little entertainment in the village, a few of them a considerable distance from the site.

I’m glad to hear the proposal was met positively with a majority, a slightly later licence for outdoor music was granted, and this was celebrated with an Easter humble gathering of villagers and local live music aficionados, which is why I and a sprinkling of other Devizes riff-raff trekked eastwards.

Smooth. Image: Nick Padmore

It’s understandable, you buy a rural property for peace and tranquillity, but I implore you, give and take for the odd weekend, is all anyone asks, no one is proposing your chocolate box cottage is resituated on the Las Vegas strip. Proof is in the pudding, and what the Crown hosted yesterday was far from the satanic-worshipping netherworld of a Special Brew sponsored anarchistic punk uprising I imagine they wrongly perceived it to be!

Rather, as the trend for pub-based mini-festivals is, a beautiful, family-orientated day of live music was had, celebrating a wealth of local talent; there were no acts of depravity, no drug-induced adolescent insurrection and I’d wager to drive through the village this morning would be to have no clue an event of any kind actually occurred. Give and take goes for anyone living in any village where a pub wishes to host a small event; in this era of regaining a hospitality industry, whereas an urban tavern can specialise, a village pub must cater for all, and that’s a delicate balance, to be the hub of a community.

George Wilding. Image: Nick Padmore

That’s exactly what the Crown achieved, owners and staff should be proud, I considered as I wandered through the pub witnessing families enjoying rather tasty looking meals, as ever, as is the mainstay for Wadsworth’s establishments. While outside a double marque nestled between an outside bar and barbeque in its wonderfully spacious beer garden. With clement weather, it made quite the comfy and hospitable music event it promised to be.

Paradox. Image: Nick Padmore

I can’t really justify a review, as such, I only rocked up to check it out prior to heading to the Southgate, but I saw enough and badgered attendees to discover it was nothing short of brilliant. I missed a band I don’t know called Smooth, George Wilding, who though not seeing post-lockdown you can depend his natural talent and charisma shines through with every performance, and Paradox, who I’m told were lively in their covers and got everyone up dancing; what can I say, I had to work, siesta, and had errands to run as dad’s taxi, but folk there spoke highly of them all.

I did arrive as planned, to see N/SH, a heartfelt Swindon-based teacher by profession who enthusiastically circulates the local scene as a solo, multi-instrumentalist indie-rock musician. Perhaps scheduling was slightly off, with Paradox before him being so lively, as N/SH’s style rests very much on acoustic and ambient vibes, his incredibly crafted self-penned songs are rich in narrative and his cool persona reflects this. He’s one for the serious acoustic-heads, the like Bath’s Chapel Arts should headhunt, the nonchalant yet passion he displays rides on the zephyr sublimely; he’s one for any singer-songwriter to sit and admire.

N/SH. Image: Nick Padmore

And I was also enthused to pop my Illingworth cherry, a Salisbury-based duo I’ve been meaning to check out for a while. Few originals, but mostly indie-pop cover favourites, lead John Illingworth’s voice is simply vocational and inspiring; it could pull you into sentimental meanderings if he was covering the Wheels on the Bus! There’s scrupulousness and charm in the whole setup, the kind to polish off a party, returning guests home with fond memories and thoughts of oh, did I get up and dance?!

But unfortunately, that’s all I’ve got, other than here’s a welcoming and comfy village pub keen to host events in support of the local live scene, reminding me somewhat of Bromham’s annual BromFest at the now sadly burnt-out Owl community centre. This little excursion for the Crown is a precursor, for they’ve a festival planned on July 9th, aptly titled CrownFest. N/SH, Illingworth, Paradox and the fantastic Mr Wilding are on the line-up, and also booked is Humdinger, Pete Lamb’s Heartbeats, Isobel Thatcher Band and Becca Maule, with Queen tribute Real Magic headlining.

Judging on this weekend alone, I think this is one very worthy of your attention. Parking and camping are included, it’s fundraising for Devizes Cancer Research and Dementia Friends, tickets are £35, early birds get a fiver off. Hats off to the Crown at Bishops Cannings.


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House of Casks; Barrelhouse Played The Southgate

Easter weekend in Devizes, where aside a canoe race, we’re awash with options for blues music. A diversity of genres debatable, blues is Devizes’ mainstay; a majority wouldn’t wish for it to be any other way. Me? I’m fine too with Billy Walton at Long Street while the Southgate has a local blues band, especially when it’s Barrelhouse….

Hailing from the Marlborough-Swindon areas, I’ve seen this five-piece offering “vintage blues with a hard-edged groove,” before on their home-turf MantonFest, where they rule the day through dependency. I witnessed an expectant crowd swamp the stage area upon their arrival. Such is the limbos of local circuits, while Barrelhouse have graced the trusty Gate before, many there seemed unaware of their excellence, and were pleasantly surprised.

Apt is their self-penned description, they sent us a signature tune about voodoo for our first Julia’s House compilation, with a seriously beguiling blues riff. One has to wonder to the significance of their voodoo affiliation; young, slim lead vocalist Martin Hands appears to have magically exchanged voices with an aged, stout Afro-American, akin to Howlin’ Wolf, to the point it’s possible there’s such a character wandering the Mississippi giving west country tongue, “lush moi luver, praper jarb!”

I use the term lead vocalist rather than frontman, for while last week’s offering at the Southgate was the incredible Worried Men, focus there was on frontman Jamie Thyer with his spellbinding guitarwork bridging every historical variety of blues and rock fusion, the golden element of Barrelhouse is quite the opposite, it’s the unification of the band, and their set style.

Tightly rehearsed, they work as a unit and customise that age-old delta blues formula, to the point where even if other Americana covers are played out, like Johnny Cash, as they did, they’re enriched with that simple working recipe. That’s why the roots of blues are so memorable above later adaptions, it’s the expediency of the rhythm.

So, between their parallel originals, they’re best covering the likes of Bo Diddly, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, Hand’s gritty vocals, coupled with the twang of lead guitarist Tim’s cigar-box guitar bleeds authenticity into it. Though they’re known to also blend the same formula to version other crowd-pleasing genres, such as their celebrated cover of Ace of Spades.

Newly released to a third album, we were introduced to some teasers, and hardly noticeable between said covers, they played out previous album tracks. Mostly upbeat, there were also some sublime moments of smooth downtempo, where as Jim Morrison could, Martin held the audience in his palms. Unusually for typical local bands, Hands plays no instrument, ergo the comparison to someone like Morrison is justified, more so by his somewhat mysterious stage presence, as bass player Stuart Whant seems to take over the stage banter and tune introductions.

Whichever they decide, covers archetypical of their style, adaptions or originals, there’s short blasts of enriching fineness, a working combination flows through them, and the ride is exhilarating.

Precisely what they did last night, and effortlessly won the minor crowd, who broke out in uncontainable bopping; another grand night at the dependable Southgate.


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Love Devizes Issues? The Local Facebook Group Which Banned a Covid Community Support Page

On the day the first Ukraine refugees arrive in Devizes, and government shockingly announces its intentions to set up concentration camps for illegal refugees in Rwanda, it seems Devizes Town Councillor Iain Wallis has played his small part in the hypocrisy, by banning the Facebook page Love Devizes Covid19 Support from his large and influential group, Devizes Issues.…..

Love Devizes Covid19 Support was set up at the beginning of the pandemic, its ethos to enable “the people of Devizes to support, inspire and strengthen one another,” has seen volunteers running needed shopping and prescription trips for those self-isolating, manning advise phone lines, has advised and assisted with the vaccine rollout at the Corn Exchange, and has been a pillar of support in our community.

As the focus on the pandemic is gradually easing, the group has partially turned its attention onto the Ukraine crisis, extending a warm hand of advice and support for those entering the Devizes area, fleeing war-torn zones, and those taking in refugees. It continues to support the community too, helping to create and promote the Devizes Living Room, a social gathering group which meets in the Shambles.

The Facebook group not to be confused with many others of similar names, has come under scrutiny of bias and censorship beyond its set out rules and regulations; heck, I was banned and so too has the Devizine page for hinting Boris Johnson may not be the deity he’s made out to be! So, yeah, I’ll confess some bitterness, because at best what Devizes Issues has done is create a worthy forum of local matters. It remains open to political debate on local and international matters, and encourages members to participate in such discussions. Though it appears more and more the group will not tolerate anyone disagreeing with admin, but to outright ban a community group created to help those most in need is seriously counterproductive to the reason it exists, surely?!

Admin, Councillor Iain Wallis has not given comment reasoning the ban at this time, but I would encourage the group decides its precise purpose and not pose as an impartial community group when quite clearly it holds an agenda, for whatever that reasoning is, intended to block community support groups. Holy Moly, the issue in Devizes is the Devizes Issues; it’s all getting a bit Jackie Weaver out here!


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Birdmens Play Long Street

Bird is the Word. If April has seen a surge of memorable rescheduled gigs from Devizes’ Long Street Blues Club, and I’m content and grateful our roving reporter Andy has taken the arduous task of enjoying and reviewing them, May sees the blues club return to a monthly plan of action, meaning there’s only one gig, and I’m itching to attend it myself.….

The lockdown project of a staggering who’s-who of local blues, Birdmens will play the club on Friday 6th May. The line-up of lead & rhythm guitars Ian Siegal, Jon Amor, Joel Fisk and Dave Doherty, the latter also taking percussion, bassist Rob Barry, both Bob Fridzema and Jonny Henderson on keys and Giles King taking up harmonica, this is truly a force to reckoned with, now prepare for it to be a live show, featuring Ian, Jon, Dave, Rob and Jonny.

Armed only with cheap microphones, phones and varying internet speeds, ‘Birdmens’ recorded Lockdown Loaded, an album created in bedrooms and kitchens which thrusts a genuine life-force and verve back into a scene they feel is in need. If blues is having something of a renaissance, it’s not without timeworn formulas and antique following. Akin to the Doherty’s now defunct Little Geneva, here’s a supergroup aching to reintroduce that raw and energetic edge back into blues, something sorely missed on an elder and commercialised circuit.

Defined as swampy delta blues, there’s something retrospectively authentic and underdone about it, a true ethos of blues. I’m leaving a video here for you to make your own mind up, but it’s won me over. Now everybody’s heard about the bird!


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Mark Thomas Tour in Swindon & Bath

One has to wonder how on earth anyone could come up with political satire in this day and age, when the whole shebang is a comedy of errors and the reality of Westminster caricatures itself; these technicalities are best left to the experts, like Mark Thomas……

Mark announces a Spring run of his latest show Hit Refresh: 50 Things About Us. It’s coming to Bath’s Rondo Theatre on Thursday 28th & Friday 29th April (Full £17.50 Concs £12.50) and Swindon Art Centre on 18th May. Other tour dates here.

Combining his trademark mix of storytelling, stand-up, mischief and really, really well researched material, Mark examines how we have come to inhabit this divided wasteland that some of us call the United Kingdom.

Delighted to be back on the road once again, Mark picks through the myths, facts and figures of our national identities to ask how we have so much feeling for such a hollow land. Who do we think we are? It is a show about money, history, songs, gongs, wigs, unicorns, guns, bungs, sods of soil and rich people* in the vein of The Manifesto-meets-sweary history channel.

An unstoppable force both on and off-stage, Mark has stopped arms deals, created a manifesto and brought the winning policy to parliament, walked the entire length of the Israeli wall in the West Bank, set up a comedy club in Jenin, had six series on Channel 4 alongside several television documentaries and radio series, written some books, grabbed a Guinness World Record, toured sell-out tours,  won numerous awards, nabbed himself a Medal of Honour and succeeded in changing some laws along the way.

50 Things About Us is also a podcast, and was published as a book last year by September Publishing.

*(not the adjective Mark has chosen)

For a full list of tour dates, please visit https://markthomasinfo.co.uk/tour-dates/


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REVIEW – Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy @ LSBC, Devizes – Saturday 9th April 2022

The Gig of 2022 So Far!

Andy Fawthrop

Following the previous night’s gig with Billy Bremner’s Rockfile downstairs at the Corn Exchange, tonight we were promoted upstairs into the main hall. And that was only fitting – big name, big gig, big crowd, so a big venue required. Last time we were in here was for those other prog-rock legends of the 70s – Focus. This time the hall was full of people, and the stage was absolutely full of drum-kit – a massive and meticulously set up piece of equipment, with a pair of huge gongs at the rear.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer, alongside such legends as Cream, were one of the early rock so-called “supergroups”, and were massive innovators in the world of music. Transcending mere rock labels, they incorporated many other musical forms into their repertoire, particularly jazz and classical.

Carl Palmer has a reputation as a drummer’s drummer. A consummate professional, a brilliant technician and a dynamic showman, he has thrilled listeners and audiences alike for nearly four decades with some of music’s most memorable bands including Atomic Rooster, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, Asia and of course Emerson, Lake & Palmer. To be honest, he’s worked/ played with everyone who is anyone. Along the way his dazzling speed and mastery of the drums, combined with his infectious stage personality, have secured for him a respected place in history as one of rock and roll’s greatest drummers.

Carl is now 72, looking fit and healthy, and is the only one of ELP still living. Sadly we lost both Keith Emerson and Greg Lake in 2016 – sad losses of talent. To “replace” them tonight, in a musical sense at least, we had guitarist/ vocalist Paul Bieltawicz, and on bass and Chapman stick we had Simon Fitzpatrick. Notice there were no keyboards – everything was reproduced on guitars.

We opened in classic style with “Welcome My Friends To The Show That Never Ends”, before being taken through several numbers from the ELP and King Crimson back catalogue. From the first album we had “Knife Edge” and “Lucky Man”. From the second album the eponymous “Tarkus”. There was “Trilogy”, “Benny The Bouncer”, “Hoedown” and “Twenty-First Century Schizoid Man”. The musicianship throughout was simply stunning by all three members of the band, each displaying some dizzying skills and dexterity with their instruments. Both Paul and Simon delivered stunning solos. Carl repeatedly stepped out from his drum battery to talk to the audience. He was down to earth, chatty and humorous, building rapport easily.

Carl’s big drum solo came, as it must, like a long-impending storm, and arrived in the midst of the last number “Fanfare For The Common Man”. To be honest, I’m not the greatest fan of drum solos because they are so often used to merely let other band members have a bit of a rest, and to keep them sweet since everyone else will have had a solo by then. But absolutely not the case here. Carl’s solo, as we expected it would be, was an absolute tour de force, demonstrating without question what an absolute master this guy is. It was completely stunning, and drew a deserved standing ovation, as the band filed back on stage to close the number out. I think it’s fair to say that this guy really knows his way around a drum kit!

There was still time for a resounding, thumping encore of “Nutrocker” and then we were done. An absolutely stunning night’s entertainment and, for me at least, best gig of 2022 so far! Superb!

Future Long Street Blues Club gigs:

Saturday 16th April 2022 Billy Walton Band
Friday 6th May 2022 Birdmens
Saturday 4th June 2022 Errol Linton Band
Saturday 17 September 2022 CSN Express
Saturday 8th October 2022 Eddie Martin Big Blues Band
Saturday 5th November 2022 Alastair Greene Band


Worried Men at the Southgate

Glad to find time between running Dad’s taxi to nip over to Devizes’ trusty Southgate, for one reason unworthy of explaing here or another, feels like an age since frequenting our favouritemost tavern, and I’m all smiles to return.

Historically efficient, nonetheless, I’m here to find out what the men are worried about; possibly an ironic namesake for Jamie Thyer’s tradtional electric RnB three-piece, a pub trio very worthy of your attention, should you not have come across them on their 28 years on the circuit.

Sure, I’ve seen The Worried Men’s name about a bit of recent, last time listed at Trowbridge’s Pump with our Tamsin in support. Maybe there’s the reason for my assumption it’d have a folk twinge, but you know what they say about assumption.

Marvellously proficient, in a manner vien of classic sixties and seventies rock bands derived via blues rather than folk, The Worried Men seemed not in the least bit worried to me. Rather brewing in deserved confidence, Jamie’s wealth of experience shows as his fingers glide across those strings, governed, it seemed, from the gods. At one point this guitar virtuoso accepts a mug of tea, drinks it mid-song while continuing to make it look like childsplay.

Treated to the perfect balance of originals and self-stamped covers, they weaved between electric blues and psychedelia rock n roll with a clear nod to its roots. So to blend any subgenre fitted sublimely into a firey set, whether Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water riff, frenzied hints of punk rock, mellowed Flyod-eske moments or reaching further back to rock n roll’s golden era, every experiment in rock history was crafted into their unique style, without the need to metalise. Though Motorhead did get a moment in their repertoire.

What came out the other side was a loud and proud plethora of excellence of which you could only nod your appreciation to, confident you were in the hands of some really experienced long-haired rockers with Cuban heels.

Jamie holds an expression of concentration, occasionally looking up at you through these spellbinding Hendrix fashioned exercursions, as if to ask “is that alright for you?” Like a dentist with his tools stuck in your gum, you feel like responding, “yes, fine, thank you doctor.”

I guess therein lies the beauty of the rather cramped Devizes answer to the 02 arena, virtually perched atop of a band you’d usually witness from a stage distance, makes it an intimate experience, personal. While this may not suit all, The Southgate does it their own way, and they continue to host free gigs you’d happy pay a ticket stub for.

For this, and the clash of similar as The Long Street Blues Club knocking out, I’d suspect, a blinder at the Corn Exchange, last night down the Gate wasn’t as full as it could’ve possibly been for an act so warrent of the highest praise possible. Again, the strive in The Gate to present us with great live music every weekend needs nourishing and respecting, with other local boozers only doing this sporadically, it’s the only dependant offering of entertainment in town, unless of course you keep up with what’s happening via this rather special website, if I do say so myself!

So, if you were in that exclusive club last night, I wager you were as bowlled over by The Worried Men as was I. From moments of intricate guitar picking with amps low, to the frenzied finale where Chuck Berry’s “Bye Bye Johnny,” fused into medley with Muddy Waters’ “Little Red Rooster” with emphasis on the Stones cover, and The Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie,” with an audience participation encouraged encore of Them’s “Gloria,” this surely was an astounding performance to satisfy the craving of rock aficionados from any given generation.

Onwards, next Saturday’s offering at The Southgate also takes on a blues edge, slightly east of us, local blues group Barrelhouse take up the legendary alcove, and take it from me, if you like your entertainment as gritty and vintage as the great Howlin’ Wolf, you’re in for a treat.


REVIEW – Billy Bremner’s Rockfile @ LSBC, Devizes – Friday 8th April 2022

Old Skool

Andy Fawthrop

Another night at Long Street Blues Club but on this particular evening we had an enforced change of venue from the Con Club – downstairs at the Corn Exchange.  Yes – in The Bin!

The support act James Oliver and his band was well chosen in terms of style.  He played the same sort of stuff as the main act that was to follow.  Unfortunately his performance relied more on speed and volume, and self-deprecation of his own Welsh-ness, rather than on any particularly musical ability.  His set was very same-y, apart a fairly pleasant and accomplished version of Peter Green’s “Albatross”.  But otherwise it was all high energy, but low talent.  Sorry, but best forgotten.

Then onto the main act.  Not to be confused with namesake feisty former Leeds United midfielder (if you don’t know – ask your dad), Billy Bremner started life as a member of Lulu and the Luvvers (oh – better ask dad again).  However, he’s best known for being with Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds and Terry Williams, one quarter of Rockpile, one of the finest bands ever to emerge from the United Kingdom music scene. A fearsomely accomplished guitarist, he has also been an occasional lead vocalist, as well as a great songwriter.  Since the break-up of Rockpile he’s had an illustrious career as a solo performer (four albums), and as a member of the Pretenders (that’s him playing the lead guitar on Back On The Chain Gang).  He’s also played with Shakin’ Stevens, Carlene Carter, and The Coal Porters.  Most recently he’s worked as a producer and all round living legend in his adopted home, Sweden.

Now aged 75, this is the Farewell Tour for one of Britain’s finest guitarists and, as expected, the evening was dedicated to the music of Dave Edmunds’ Rockpile.  The four-piece played two sets, kicking off without introduction or pre-amble.  In fact there was extremely little in the way of between-song chat, and little attempt to engage with the audience.  Dressed all in black, and rarely cracking a smile, they presented a rather dour stage presence.  We had the classics like “I Knew The Bride When She Used To Rock & Roll”, “I Hear You Knocking”, “Cruel To Be Kind” and even Kirsty McColl’s “There’s A Guy Down The Chip Shop”, interspersed with other material.

To be honest, it wasn’t the great performance I’d been expecting.  It seemed a step down from last time I’d seen the band a few years back at the Con Club.  It was all rather single-paced, one-dimensional stuff, with little variation to leaven the mixture.  As good old pub-rock, rockabilly, power-pop, it was OK but, frankly, difficult to get too excited about.  It was chunky, but at times it was plodding.  Billy’s vocals sounded rather reedy and thin.  And not at any stage of the night did any of the band actually look as if they were enjoying what they were doing – more a case of going through the motions.  It was competent, and it was professional, but it just wasn’t engaging or exciting.  It seemed as if the spark had gone.

I can’t say it was a bad gig, because it wasn’t.  But somehow it just never seemed to really take off.  The crowd, being unusually rather small for an LSBC gig, just couldn’t quite generate much atmosphere.  I guess you can’t like every performer and every gig – and this was just one of those that didn’t click with me.

Future Long Street Blues Club gigs:

Saturday 16th April 2022                               Billy Walton Band

Friday 6th May 2022                                        Birdmens

Saturday 4th June 2022                                   Errol Linton Band

Saturday 17 September 2022                      CSN Express

Saturday 8th October 2022                            Eddie Martin Big Blues Band

Saturday 5th November 2022                       Alastair Greene Band


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Savernake Forest Restrictions; Residents Say No!

Marlborough residents rally online to criticise Forestry England’s proposals for Savernake Forest. The questionable survey’s deadline has been extended to the 22nd of April, and a previously internal document called Savernake Forest – a Way Forward, has been published which suggests serious restrictions of access to the forest, in favour for paid parking facilities and a polarized vision for future usage.

“We are so privileged to have this beautiful and ancient forest on our doorstep,” one pleaded, “where we can freely wander where we wish. The Forestry Commission wish to change this. No vehicular access through the forest, paid parking for vehicles at Postern Hill and designated walking routes.”

Early one Sunday morning, mid-to-late nineties, and police arrive at a location off the Grand Avenue in Savernake Forest. They tell us the owner of the forest, Lord Cardigan, has reported a party. “But all we see is a few kids tidying up,” they observed with mirth, and went on their merry way. We carried on our labour, binbags in hand; we might’ve had a party, that much would be telling, but we were adamant we’d leave the forest as we found it, and mother nature would do its thing.

We did this because while we had our fun, we also respected the forest, and I don’t believe for one second any past or future generation’s youth would think any different. Long before it was “our” back garden, and I’d like to think long after, Savernake Forest has served tourists and residents alike, as a free, natural and muti-purpose attraction. It’s 4,500 acres, for crying out loud, you can have a party one end and folk can have a bike ride at the other and each be oblivious to what the others are doing!

Residents appear to take the opinion if it’s not broken, but Forestry England say “our Vision for Savernake is to nurture a shared forest unlike any other. By allowing the decisions we take to be guided by the natural potential of the land, as well as by the varied influences of our ever-changing world, we will create a diverse and inclusive forest that is a global example of what can be achieved through forward-thinking forestry.” Ah, yeah, sounds nice; when can we see it? NEVER!!

It continues to use environmental issues as a smokescreen to create a polarized plan restricting access to only the formal recreation facilities at Postern Hill.

Despite claiming the “popularity [of Postern Hill] is having a detrimental impact on the ecological values, and aesthetic values,” rather than continue the free access elsewhere to spread footfall out, the vision is for “Postern Hill being developed as the only visitor hub, where a new, larger car park (probably 300 to 350 spaces), is provided with proper toilets, play and café facilities. Leading out from the new car park would be a series of trails.” Naturally, this would be “coupled with the closure of the Grand Avenue, and indeed the rest of the Forest for vehicular access by visitors.”

Here’s the obvious clinch, the carpark will be a paid carpark, and herein the penny drops; this conservative value which seems to hate the concept no one is profiteering, even if it’s entirely natural. Similar misguided logic as the construction of a tax-funded yet chargeable mound at Marble Arch, or a tunnel under Stonehenge so one can’t see our wonder of the world unless one pays. The vision for Savernake Forest is rinsed with “spin, mis-information and claims masquerading as facts on a grand scale,” calls one local resident.

“The whole survey is worded in such a manipulative way,” suggests another Marlborough resident, “it can’t even be taken seriously! You can want all the things it tricks you into agreeing with without wanting to allow profiteering and restricted use of a beautiful local asset.”

One submits, “I’m sure the number of pheasant pens has increased in the last few years – does that count as diversity of wildlife? Certainly, a reason the Estate side that run them might be supportive and why they wouldn’t be keen on people walking around freely.” And on this, another speculates, “what they are up to is keep the public out so they can lease the bottom half of the Forest out for shooting and stalking deer.”

On several occasions the report points the finger at antisocial behaviour, that “the historic nature of the Grand Avenue, in terms of landscaped parkland; as well as the biodiversity and aesthetic values of the Forest are poorly served by the unregulated use of the Grand Avenue by the public for recreational access, anti-social activities and using the Avenue as a through route, or ‘rat-run’.” As if one can eradicate anti-social behaviour by banning everyone from a particular place it might just happen at.

One resident rightly points out the Grand Avenue is far from a sensible option as a rat-run, “more like a snail run,” they say, “as it takes three times as long driving through the Avenue as it does to drive round via Bedwyn or Burbage; it’s like these muppets have never visited the Forest!” And be safe in knowledge I agree, you really don’t want to race through Grand Avenue unless you want wrecked suspension and deer impact craters on your bodywork.

The lane is a beautiful drive, take it less than 20mph, find a place to stop, take a wander, have a picnic, that’s its purpose, and so should it continue to be. “As a resident of Marlborough for 64 years,” Barry tells me, “And a constant user of Grand Avenue, the idea of closing it is totally absurd and only being carried out for monetary gain by the commission. Their survey was, to say the least misleading, although I did highlight the removal of access should not be considered. The forest has been a lifesaver before, during and after lockdown, you only have to drive through it to see the amount of use it gets.”

Usage it might get, but the scale of it means it’s far from overcrowded. Steve expresses his concern to me, “the busiest part is at Postern, but even then, it’s not crowded. But with a car park and cafe it will be crazy. The rest of the forest is never busy, it’s mainly locals that walk in the less well-known areas. Of course, no one likes pollution from cars, but with Savernake being adjacent to two major roads the small amount of traffic on the grand avenue is like a piss in the ocean. I was bought up with the forest as our back yard; my mother who is 87 with early dementia and not very good mobility loves it when I take her in the car through the Avenue.”

Whatever their broken logic, it seems restriction of Savernake Forest, so dear to local residents is a detrimental supposition of liberty, “a lesson in how to alienate all green and nature followers,” suggested an online commentor. Another says “a project of this scale must be preceded by an Environmental Impact Analysis. I can’t find any evidence that one has been done. No EIA no planning consent.”

Please contact the Forestry Commission if you feel strongly about this. Every letter/email WILL help.


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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 the year in our humble town for many a year, and though we’ve had setbacks with the dreaded year of lockdown and DOCA’s valiant effort to stage something near similar within the restrictions of last summer, we’ve been waiting, debatably patiently, for this summer extravaganza.

But my levels of excitedness have gone from 500% to 1,000 meows, now I’ve seen the program of acts. A band who contributed to our Julia’s House compilation, I’ve been aching to get Bristol-based frenzied folk ska-punk outfit Mr Tea & The Minions to play our town, and DOCA have either noted their brilliance themselves, or have taken heed of my constant whining of a suggestion; either way, we’re quids in, pinky promise. It means two things; someone actually listens to me, and you’ll have your socks blown off by this band I totally love!

Though that’s the icing on the cake for me, the line-up looks set to thrill us as it ever did. Hints of the acts are there to see on the DOCA website, and as usual neither the site nor us can reveal times and places of the acts, you’ll need to buy a programme, as it’s an essential fundraiser for DOCA. But we are allowed to breeze over it.

Expect mischievous experimental entertainment and audience participation, performed in the round by Full Circle, upbeat funk and Northern Soul influenced Desert Boots from Worcester, a quirky Folkdance performance around a 12-foot maypole, fusing everything from clogging to breakdance and beat boxing, a Playground of Illusions, created by Travelling Light Circus, a heavily laden golden postman suddenly surprised by a rain shower, by A bird in the Hand Theatre Company, the latest creation of Jon Hicks and Matt Rudkin, a Visionary who is said to have wisdom beyond knowledge, incredible acrobatic gravity defying feats from Spanish/Swiss collective Tripotes la Compagnie, Dr Jones & Professor Barnard’s Medicine Show, professional painter and amateur alchemist Malcolm Brushell, on a quest to find the pinky-est pink paint on the planet, sea shanties and sing-alongs with some Old Time Sailors, the minuscule majesty of meerkat Prince Amir on the back of his pet camel, circus shenanigans on a giant red carpet, Treemendous tree-people, riotous folk-fusing hypnotic trans-European melodies with Ushti Baba, of course the bustling market and side-stalls of food and drink, and my aforementioned icing on the cake, Mr Tea & The Minions.

All this happens on Saturday 30th April and Sunday 1st May, in Devizes Market Place, it’s free, it’s fantastic, it’s the Devizes event of the year, on a day where there’s also the Born2Rum Festival at the Muck & Dundar, though you’ll be hard pressed to pick up a ticket for this, plus the Leon Day Band play the Southgate, Seend has it’s annual Beer Festival and it’s Urchfont Scarecrow Festival; whoa, what a weekend!

Ushti Baba

We must praise DOCA yet again to the highest heights, but point out, The International Street Festival relies on it’s collective of volunteers to create and control the magic, who are keen to hear from anyone interested in becoming a “festival maker” by helping out in a number of vital roles. One good Facebook group to join if interested is the festival makers group, where there’s details on how you can get involved, upcoming workshops and all the behind-the-scenes gubbings which need to happen to make this magical event it is.

So, yeah, I’m excited, possibly over-excited, can you tell?!


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Daydream Runaways, with Butterflies

Daydream Runaways have released their first single for a while, and it’s got superpowers!

Being a little over four years old, Devizine has grown up with a number of young bands and acts on the local circuit and it’s always nice to hear back from them. I overuse the word “matured” to describe the progression they’ve made since we first met, but it’s not a word I’d use today, as part Swindon-based part Devizes-based indie-pop fourpiece Daydream Runaways, release their first single since their amalgamation EP Dreamlands in November 2020.

Benjamin Heathcote, Nathaniel Heathcote, Cameron Bianchi and Bradley Kinsey promote the new single, Butterflies with images of them head locked into golden age American comics. I spammed the social media post with a selfie of me reading an antique Dandy, one nearly as antique as me!

It’s not the first time the band have used imagery conveying what some might deem nerdy or adolescent pop culture references, from childlike depictions of fairgrounds, cuddly toy mascots etc, and though, in some ways the retrospective nods to the eighties power-pop of a John Hughes soundtrack and youthful themes of unrequited love and romantic obsession might return us to our coming-of-age era, there’s nothing technically in this new song to suggest they’ve matured necessarily, because that air of ripened quality and proficiency in their sound has been there since day-dot.

Akin to Robert Johnson, did they sell their souls to the devil at a crossroads to be, like, automatically this good?! Doubt it, it takes time and dedication, two elements really on show here.

So, I put them on a pedestal and they knock it right over, Butterflies is an absolutely awesome song, I expected nothing less. I’ve called them one of the most underrated bands around these waters, I stick by that. Again, it’s this delicate balance between sounding fresh and replicating a fond era, fused with a sturdy appetite and palpable passion which creates these eternally sublime indie-pop belters, the like I praise Talk in Code, The Dirty Smooth and the Longcoats with too. Ah, it’s like the eighties never ended, just got better, cos, as with their others, perhaps even more so with Butterflies, you could fit these on an eighty’s movie soundtrack, or Now compilation and they’d blend perfectly with the likes of Simple Minds, U2, Echo & the Bunnymen, et al.

I hope you catch my drift, Butterflies certainly is skilfully progressive, the band seem tighter than ever before, the timeless subject of unrequited obsession has been used to full efficiency, and it just works on all levels, but Daydream Runaways always had that in them, ergo it’s not worthy of the term matured. Beguiling via hook-laden layers, building and crashing drums and guitars, it drives with optimistic emotion and screams authority till the point it’s impossible to deem this anything other than anthemic.

It’s also embracingly DIY, sticking with their indie roots, they release Butterflies completely independently. Recording, mixing and mastering was the task of drummer Bradley Kinsey, and the artwork designed by frequent collaborator and friend ‘Ezra Mae Art’.

The band suggest the lonely heart theme, has a twist; the lyrics are written from “the perspective of the titular superhero, Butterfly Boy.” Wanting to write a song fit for a comic book hero, they created their own rather than “going the route of existing meta-humans from the likes of comic giants Marvel & DC.” Maybe I need to align my spidey-senses, or just give it a few more listens to see the connection, but that’s easy to do with a track so invitingly good.


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REVIEW – Jon Amor with Beaux Gris Gris & The Apocalypse @ The Southgate, Devizes – Sunday 3rd April 2022

It’s All Happening At The Gate

Andy Fawthrop

If you ever find yourself at a loose end, particularly the first Sunday afternoon in every month, there’s one place you really ought to be – up at The Southgate.  Starting early in the New Year, hometown boy Jon Amor has taken up a residency – a great idea by Dave & Debs – and has been featuring a different guest each month.

Yesterday it was the turn of American band Beaux Gris Gris & The Apocalypse, and what a great show it turned out to be.  Although usually held inside the pub, yesterday meant everyone was out in the garden – the only practical solution when you’ve got six musicians, including keyboards and two drum-kits to get on the stage.  It was a bit chilly out there at first, but we soon got warmed up with two stonkingly good sets from Amor et al.  

Kicking off on his own, just backed by his usual rhythm section of Tom Gilkes on drums and Jerry Soffe on bass, Jon played the first couple of numbers before inviting up one member of the guest band after another.  It worked a treat, with the sound and the depth/ richness of that sound building and building – more guitar, more drums, keyboards, and more vocals – until we had all six musicians up there and really hitting their stride.

It was one of those great moments in live music when the opening chords of Jon’s signature tune “Juggernaut” rang out to great applause, only for BGG lead singer Greta Valenti to take over the vocal duties and to give the song the best working-out it’s had in quite a while.  Another highlight of the afternoon was the full blast audience participation in one of BGG’s great numbers “Don’t Let The Bastards Drag You Down”.  Everyone – I mean everyone – was singing to that one.

What a great afternoon – good beer, good company, a big enthusiastic crowd, and one of the best live pub gigs that you are ever likely to hear. The size of the crowd and the volume of the applause said it all – terrific gig.

Future gigs at The Southgate:

Saturday 9th April                              Worried Men

Saturday 16th April                           Barrelhouse

Saturday 23rd April                           Splat The Rat

Saturday 30th April                           Leon Daye Band

Sunday 1st May                                 Jon Amor & Friends feat. Marcus Bonfanti


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REVIEW – Malone Sibun Band @ LSBC, Devizes – Saturday 2nd April 2022

Two Stellar Musicians = One Powerhouse Unit

Andy Fawthrop

Another night at Long Street Blues Club – the gigs are coming thick and fast at the moment, and there are several more big ones in the next couple of weeks too – feels like we’re gradually catching up with all the time the venues were closed during Covid.

Support act was local favourite Jamie R. Hawkins, tonight divested of his Lost Trades buddies, and going it alone. Here’s a man comfortable with himself and with getting back to chatting to an home-town audience. Joking that it was almost hard to remember his own songs after the long lay-off and his collaborative work, he then proceeded to deliver a master-class in how to perform as a singer-songwriter. Despite the occasional fluff, his songs remain strong and poignant, delivered with sincerity and a strong voice. Old favourites such as Walking Into Doors, Let’s Put This Thing To Bed, As Big As You and Hey, Where’d Everybody Go! were dusted off and given a good shaking down. There’s not many performers that could get away with singing about divorce, domestic abuse and fair-weather friends, but Jamie’s commentary, wit, and self-deprecating style easily got him through. Great to see him back.

Then onto the main dish of the evening – two very professional sets from the four-piece Malone Sibun Band. These guys were last at the club over three years ago (see? – I told you thee’d been this big two-year hole in live performances!). The guys have a new EP out – “Ashes to Dust”, and this material was well show-cased throughout.

Marcus Malone (vocals, guitar) and Innes Sibun (guitars) were joined on stage with bass and drums, and delivered a power-heavy performance featuring rock, boogie-woogie, slow blues, fast blues – you name it. There was even time to drop back into a couple of acoustic numbers. It may be just me, but there’s something about seeing Innes with an acoustic guitar in his hands that doesn’t quite look right, but I digress. First number in and the band members, clearly enjoying themselves, were soon literally bouncing up and down with enthusiasm.

Thereafter we were treated to the more familiar fare of Innes working his electric guitar, forcing it to give up a whole range of amazing noises through his many solos. There were all the classic gestures – arm-wheeling, head-banging, gurning – and we were back in familiar territory. Marcus, meanwhile, held centre stage, a calmer and more purposeful presence with the vocals. The volume and the pace were dialled up, then down for the odd number, then back up again.

We had the obligatory drum and bass solos late on, but these were produced as grand final flourishes, not as extended self-indulgent passages. The crowd were on their feet, and the encore was a formality – richly deserved after a great evening’s entertainment.

Future Long Street Blues Club gigs:

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 4th June 2022 Errol Linton Band
Saturday 17 September 2022 CSN Express
Saturday 8th October 2022 Eddie Martin Big Blues Band
Saturday 5th November 2022 Alastair Greene Band


Devizes Market Place to be Pedestrianised

There was a unanimous vote at yesterday evening’s Devizes Town Council planning meeting in favour of stopping all traffic coming through the Market Place and pedestrianizing it….

With growing concerns to air quality in the town centre and pressure from local environmental campaign groups, the town council approved plans to prevent vehicles passing through the historic Market Place.

The plans presented by a contributing collaboration of environmental consultants to cut the road off at the Wadworth Brewery roundabout and the High Street at the opposite end will commence as soon as feasible and pedestrianisation of the area will shortly follow, with green spaces provided.

The benefits of pedestrianisation are manyfold: pedestrian safety, the World Health Organisation finds that pedestrianisation not only improves safety for pedestrians but also contributes to lower levels of noise and air pollution. Pedestrianisation creates a pleasant environment people can involve in social, cultural and tourism activities. Furthermore, it helps to promote walking as a transport mode by making the walking experience more enjoyable. And there are economic benefits as well as environmental. Pedestrianisation can improve the economic growth of an area due to increased consumer retail spend, increased rents able to be charged for units within a pedestrianised street and the reduction of economic losses caused through air pollution.

With two pedestrianised piazzas planned, one on each side of the Market Cross, surrounding green spaces have the potential to create lively market and events areas. It’s unlikely this will happen, claimed one Conservative Councillor who stated firmly, “this would only act as a stimulus for rowdy behaviour and festive frolics, and we would not welcome overexcitement from the public, partly because they’re unlikely to invite us.”

Along with plenty of walking and cycle paths, we’re informed there will be a single lane service road running through the centre of the Market Place to allow access to buses, taxis and delivery vehicles. There will be loading and unloading bays in the centre of the ring road, but no cars or private transport will be allowed to enter the area. There will however be two reserved parking spaces, one for our illustrious MP Danny Kruger and the other for Councillor Iain Wallis, social media god.

Plan of new Market Place layout

The council clerk Simon Fisher suggested, “being as Mr Wallis is the only councillor who really does anything it’s only right the second parking bay should be his, if you’d not called Boris Johnson a poo-poo head on his impartial Facebook group and got yourself a lifelong ban you’d know all about just how hard he works.”

Devizes Mayor Chris Gay called the decision “wonderfully different, yet something we will all adjust to in time.” When asked about the landslide vote, she replied, “yes, all councillors voted in favour of the service road, as I told them if they didn’t, they’d be buried under it.”

“Weigh, the lads!” announced councillor Jonathan Hunter, and all councillors stayed late to celebrate the decision, with a blues band arranged by councillor Hopkins, the reason he’s on the council, and a display of breakdancing choreographed by Kelvin Nash.

Guardians danced with Conservatives, and the only Labour councillor, Catherine Brown was sent out to make cups of tea. All enjoyed the evening, with the exception of Mr Wallis, who excused himself by announcing he needed a change of underwear, only later to be found updating his Facebook group with his concerns.

The work should be complete with a grand opening ceremony precisely one year from now, April Fool’s Day 2023. Seriously though, would it be a fool’s idea? No one parks there now anyway, but a patch of greengrocers’ fake grass is the best you could really expect. Let’s have the ceremony opened by Miley Cyrus, no one is reads this far anyway.


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Daffodils; A Lost Trade-Mark!

A classic scenario for the creative is repeating the magic of a debut piece, as pressure mounts from admirers and time is of the essence. Whereas prior, they had all the time in world to perfect an inauguration, the sequel risks hasty yield or unoriginality. I’ve been enjoying The Lost Trades new single Daffodils for best part of a month, and I’m happy to report this is far from the case with our lovable award-winning folk harmony trio.

Rather they’ve smashed the problem, managing, with just a single, to sum up everything which was great about The Bird, the Book and the Barrel, and that little bit more. Hence the title of my review, this wonderful sunny side of the street tune is a neat little package tallying up the brilliance of the Trades, virtually a lost-trademark, geddit?!

Though with signs of spring popping up really rather early this year, ergo the feel of Daffodils might be a tad overdue, this would’ve put a spring in your step and sunglasses on your head if released in the bleak midwinter!

The when the chips are down, you’ve got a friend with a remedy leitmotif is model hand-me-down, but with a delivery so perfect it’s the mint jersey in the jumble sale. Themed like when Toy Story first blessed your ears with Randy Newman’s You’ve Got a Friend in Me, yet with the retrospective banjo riff and vocal harmonies of the Carter Family, a closer comparison technically, and one which I believe the trio strive towards, this has the timelessness of Will the Circle be Unbroken.

Such are the vocal harmonies, Jamie takes the lead, yet I detected Phil’s slip in virtually unnoticed; the trio are this tight now, the camaraderie highlighted here, their three celebrated solo voices are merged and what comes out the end is multiple times what should.  

Their debut album The Bird, the Book and the Barrel, reached the Official Folk Album Chart in both September and January, as well as winning Album of the Year at the GSMC Music Awards; if this is a teaser for a follow-up album, the future is looking intensely all things bright and beautiful.

You’re a newcomer to Devizine if you ask who the Lost Trades are, we might well be the official fanzine, but I swear, cos swearing makes me big and clever, that every smidgen of praise is thoroughly honest and deserved, and this single clarifies it. It’s out on Friday 8th April, bottle any burden till then and this’ll be the sunny respite of deliverance blowing clouds apart!


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