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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