It’s great news today, as the social circle Devizes Public Living Room has been offered The Cheese Hall to continue their weekly gatherings, by Devizes Town Council.…
Living Room projects like this have been running across the world, pre-pandemic, and can be a lifeline for communities, providing nonspecific engagements, activities and a meeting point. There are no requirements, no age, gender or any limitations. Active member Angela Giles told me what she loves about the group, “there is no agenda and no labelling. We just come and be ourselves. Free to chat about whatever we want to, or not, and basically all over a cuppa!”
Originally operarting in the Shambles, the group have been meeting outside at the Wharf for a few months, as the Shambles was no longer an available option. With concerns of the changing season, the group have been concerned about finding a new base.
Angela Giles together with other members, Thomas Green and Nic Ola approached Devizes Town Council at a meeting yesterday evening, and their request was granted to use the Cheese Hall.
Councillor Jonathan Hunter said, “I’m absolutely delighted that a great facility can be used to benefit others and promote social inclusion. I thank my fellow councillors for believing in this group and supporting the request for a safe space for Devizes Public Living Room to call their home.”
You’d be forgiven for assuming, if you’ve been following certain local Facebook groups recently, that the concentration of Devizes Town Council meetings have been preoccupied by a petty squabble over social media policy. This great and righteous permission goes some way to illustrate the content of Council meetings are far from the temper tantrums being hypocritically portrayed, and positive outcomes can be reached.
Here at Devizine, we would like to thank the town council for their decision, and congratulate the camerados of the Devizes Public Living Room group; put the kettle on, guys, as soon as you’re settled in the big cheese I’ll bring some custard creams over!
Here we go for this coming week, excuse me for not waffling, really not in the mood. Oh, okay, just one whinge then, if you insist!
It’s just the power-hungry draconian admin of Facebook groups, again. Now I’ve been banned from “The Devizes Issue,” not to be confused with “Devizes Issues” which I’ve been banned from for yonks, and “Devizes Issue,” “Devizes Issues (but better,)” “Devizes Got Issues,”“The Issues in Devizes,” or any other originally titled local Facebook group. One has to wonder if there’s really that many issues in Devizes which warrants so many Facebook groups with the words “Devizes” and “Issues,” or perhaps, just perhaps, that there is the very issue in Devizes; can’t we all just get along?!
I was banned for sharing our article about an upcoming comedy show by Devizes Arts Festival, likely because the headline comedian was the guy who handed Theresa May a P45. With the Gazelle & Herod concentrating on The Jeremy Kyle Show returning to some TV channel no one’s heard of, media here highlighting all the good stuff going down locally is becoming increasingly limited, and Facebook groups are untrustworthy, ask the town council! So, stick around, and I’ll get onto what’s happening shortly.
Wednesday 28th there’s a Lunchtime Recital at Wyvern Theatre, Swindon.
Sustainable Devizes will at St Andrew’s Church for a free community film screening on the story of plastics. Starting at 7, I’ll drop the poster below.
Thursday 29thand there’s a Jazz Social at Salisbury Arts Centre, the ultimate music quiz at The Cheese & Grain, Frome. The Lawrence Society of Art begins an art exhibit at Devizes Town Hall, free entry, running until Saturday 1st October.
Friday 30th September, the exceptionally talented Adam Woodhouse is at the Pelican Inn, Devizes, while those Somerset crazy folked up hip hoppers Monkey Bizzle bring the noise to The Southgate; this is a hilarious show, throw preconceptions aside and join the fun.
Jen Brister’s The Optimist is at Pound Art in Corsham, while you can find The Music of Carole King at the Wyvern Theatre, Swindon, and the regular Barnstormers Comedy at Salisbury Arts Centre.
Stay Lunar play The Vic, Swindon, The Toasters play The Tree House, Frome, with Toyah at The Cheese & Grain. Illingworth play The Royal George in Salisbury.
Pinch punch and build, Saturday 1st October sees the regular Lego Club at Chippenham Museum from 3-4pm, but real Lego enthusiasts should head to Steam, Swindon, for The Great Western Brick Show. Happening Sunday too, and always amazing!
The Brook Street Band come to St Mary’s Devizes for some Kaffeehaus Culture, expect some Bach, Handel & Telemann.
Meanwhile, editor’s pick of the week comes from Icarus Theatre Collective, who bring a touring, award-winning dark comedy to The Wharf Theatre, called The Lesson.
Icarus’ blistering, magical and award-winning production of Eugene Ionesco’s classic dark comedy returns to the stage, following sold out runs at Teatrul de Comedie in Bucharest, among others. A mild-mannered professor takes on a new pupil, and swiftly descends into tyranny, becoming bent on her destruction. A comically surreal exposé about power, knowledge & those who hoard both…. but that’s not only why I’m picking this as my pick of the week.
Performances are enhanced by a bold projection design that features exciting new Creative Captioning Technology, which is supported by Arts Council England. It ensures that every performance is now accessible to deaf and hard of hearing audiences as well as enhancing the creative story and encapsulating the beating heart of Ionesco’s text; which is a fantastic initiative I hope will find its way to more productions.
If some mod covers are more your thing, Devizions, check Six O’clock Circus live at The Three Crowns, always kicking up a stink, and the Roughcut Rebels are at The Churchill in West Lavington.
Sheer Music is at Trowbridge Town Hall with The People Versus, Pecq and Fly Yeti Fly in support, will be amazing.
Regular fav, Faze is at the Bear, Marlborough, Fire Gazer at the Barge on Honeystreet.
There’s writer Jim Read and performer Louise Jordan’s afternoon of memorable monologues exploring what it is to use paths and pavements at Salisbury Arts Centre, with Pavement Life.
Homer are at The Phoenix Bar, Wotton Basset, Shepard’s Pie play The Vic, and Barrelhouse at the Rolleston in Swindon, with Mortellica next door at Level III, while Devizes Road Oktoberfest goes off at The Tuppeny, Swindon, while the Bell in Bath also has an Oktoberfest.
Junkyard Dogs at the Bear in Bradford-on-Avon, Bully Bones at The Three Horseshoes, and CHK CHK CHK play The Cheese & Grain, Frome. The Zucchinis play Brown Street, Salisbury.
Sunday 2ndand find Melksham Climate Fest at the Assembly Hall, The Great Western Brick Show continues at Steam, Swindon, Magpie Market at The Cheese & Grain Frome, and Saba Douglas-Hamilton’s In The Footsteps of Elephants shows later there too. Funky MH at The Three Horseshoes Bradford-on-Avon, Chai For All & Radio Banska at The Queen’s Head, Box.
But it’s all down to the Southgate in Devizes, where Jon Amor holds his monthly residency, this time featuring guest Dan Moore, who’s played keys for everyone from Tom Jones to Massive Attack; ding dong!
Monday 3rd, sees the regular dream club at the Vic, Swindon, Tuesday find Improvers Art Sessions at the Cause, Chippenham and Spike at Salisbury Playhouse.
And that’s your lot for this week, enough to keep you amused for a weekend?! Keep an eye out for updates, I do do them, occasionally! And don’t forget, support Devizine with all your might! Times like this we need you sharing, caring and sending us your event details too, don’t make me come find you! Have a great week.
Devizes Arts Festival pokes its head out of its nest this autumn, with a one night only comedy gig on Friday 4th November at the Corn Exchange, headlining Simon Brodkin, the genius who handed Theresa May a P45 at the Conservative Party Conference.
Hilarious at the time, but after three years of Boris Johnson, which felt like thirty, and some new spanner in number ten, I forget her name now, maybe better the devil you know. The stunt put Simon Bodkin on the mainstream comedy map, and heck, I think we all deserve a good laugh right now.
London doctor-turned-comic, and professional hoaxer, Simon Brodkin also showered Sepp Blatter with dollar bills at a FIFA press conference, and is famed for creating quirky characters, such as the annoying chav, Lee Nelson.
Supporting Simon is Stella Graham, a naturally funny stand-up comedian, writer & actor. Shameless, charmingly aggressive and unladylike, she’s the funniest half Sri Lankan gal from Coventry.
Stuart Goldsmith is an absolute top level comedian who has performed all over the world. He’s the regular studio warm-up comic for the Graham Norton Show (BBC), which is apparently even more fun than it sounds!
Compere for the evening is Bristol’s finest, James Redmond, who you might have seen on BBC TV’s West Country Sitcom, The Outlaws. James is a dry, slick and subtle stand up who delivers unexpected twists with a distinct West Country tinge to his routine.
“Well good” tickets are just a tenner, live from their website from 3rd October.
Spud-gun is an amusing epithet underutilised as much as the Shambles often is in ol’ Devizes town, in my honest opinion. Spudgun, best describes the far removed from reality councillor who suggested a mezzanine floor is what’s needed to ensure the longevity of The Shambles. Is there even room for a second floor? I gazed upward to answer my own question, with a sigh of possibility, but would enough traders come and fill new units, if they did would it compensate for the cost of adding a second floor, and would shoppers even accend it to explore? Not forgoing lessening the aesthetic value of the building’s glorious height, it sounds like an impractical soultion focussed only on unachievable profit.
Having a feast in the Shambles casted a whole new perspective on the hidden beauty of this building, for me, and its possible usages too. SoupChick hosted a knockout supper there last night for near-on forty guests, celebrating owner Anya’s Georgian roots with an inspiring presentation from her artist mother, followed by a banquet of Georgian cuisine, but somehow, in that wonderfully tall hall, akin to a feast in the great hall of Vaulhalla!
I haven’t enough flowery shirts to be Jay Rayner, but I know what I like, and this was an experience my tastebuds will love me forevermore for! Pampered with a consistent stream of wine and gorgeous dishes, no expense was spared to show off the skills of Anya and her team in a unit the size of a bedsit kitchenette, and confirmed SoupChick is about as close to dishing out a mug of Cup-a-Soup as a daytrip to Canvey Island constituents a tropical holiday!
I feel for you if you missed this exclusive dinner, but keep abreast of their Facebook page or posters, as this was inaugural with future events planned, a Greek one, followed by an Italian, Anya’s partner Marc informed me.
Aside the continuing Devizes Food & Drink Festival, which coincidentally kicked off yesterday too, we’re somewhat limited for world cuisine here, like many rural areas, so this is a welcomed additional option, and just like the art show they organised back in November, it goes a long way in making perfect use of The Shambles.
Proof, I believe, that surely we should keep our feet on the ground, concentrate on what we have got? Starter whinge for ten, the entrance from the Market Place is hardly whetting the appetite, hardly screams come in here and take a look around; just some tables and chairs in a dank hall, occasionally occupied by a trader or two on market days. I accept an open space is practical and convenient, but this needs to occupy the rear end of it while those fantastic units in the middle and rear-end should greet passers-by at the beginning, much less it needs a lick of paint and some decoration.
Vibrant market halls of yore send me on a memory bliss, of sauntering Camden Lock, or the Lanes of Brighton. But this isn’t the nineties, and it’s Devizes, certainly not Brighton or Camden. And with that a chilling thought comes to me, of a couple of weeks ago, decending into the once bustling indoor market in Trowbridge town centre, to find it 99.9% desolate, my daughter reminding me it’s the after effects of the pandemic. By comparison with this, and not a bustling bygone city market, The Shambles is a wonderful market hall, and we shouldn’t take it for granted.
I’m guilty myself, I rush through it on my way elsewhere, but to add lively communal events, to welcome, as it once did, community groups like Devizes Living Room, and the addition of a piano were real positive moves. I’d like to suggest extending this, to welcome buskers, put some acoustic musicians in there, Devizes has plenty to offer.
I say they should encourage a flow of foot traffic through the Shambles by concentrating on adding arts, entertainment and street food, make it colourful and lively, add events such as book or record fairs, the possibilities are endless, let’s have a self-publishing zine convention with affordable tables, let’s have a creche, play area, and things to do for our younger generations, let’s go for it, and visting folk will bookmark Devizes as an even more fantastic day out than previously anticipated.
But hey, you know me, just a thought! For the best part of this is to thank SoupChick for a wonderful meal, it was interesting and an experience, I know now about Georgia, it’s culture and art, and certainly had the best possible taste of its food. All in good company, here’s a local event with a difference, truly tantalising the tastebuds, so much so I took to donning my modest gladrags, much to the shock of regulars at the Southgate, where I bee-lined afterwards for the contrasting headbanging thunder of Plan of Action!
The band were fantastic, though I wasn’t there for long enough to fairly justify a fuller review this time, mentioning it here it is only a method of expressing what a wonderfully diverse calendar of events we have in Devizes, and after last weekend’s gig excursion to Swindon, it was great to return. If buildings like the Shambles can be used as an addition for events, I believe we should make full use of it, diversify and celebrate the talent we have here inside it; go figure, miss-firing spudgun!
Though risky, weatherwise, September seems to be the month The Devizes Food & Drink Festival has settled on, returning again this year on this pleasant Saturday with their grand opening of the food market, and gifting the bustling Devizes Market Place with the beautiful aroma of street food; who am I to resist a stroll through, and maybe a brownie or two?
Though the Gourmet Brownie Kitchen has its own shop now in town, still they put their regular stall up, and I felt the urge for their delicious stodgy bites, though I didn’t see any competition for them there, as there has been in the past. That said, a lot of the stalls seemed to be reappearing from previous years, but if you’ve a winning formula why change it?
The circuit had changed slightly, with stalls facing the street, and folding back into the Market Place carparking area, perhaps not containing browsers so well, but encouraging more from their daily shopping. Paella to burger, it’s all there, chocolate pizza, gin and churros, you name it.
If last year I winged “Frome’s eclectic-influenced folk four-piece, The Decades made for the perfect entertainment, but again, they were the same band which played there in 2019,” they were there again this time too, and throughout my time there they were taking a break. I couldn’t help feel, though the array of food stalls were plentiful, sitting and eating is rather dull if there’s no entertainment, and a little more concentration could be taken on this, although I know and accept the focus is on food and drink, being the Food & Drink Festival and all.
Wadworth takes the beer sponsor, an arrangement previous done by Stealth Brewery, who ensured consistency in music, with a selection of local talent, and I’m certain Waddies could take from their example, and provide as they did with their own WadFest in the summer. Otherwise, it’s just, go get some lunch there and wander off.
But it’s far from the bee-all-and-end-all of the festival, with huge options for ticketed side-events, which you’d better be quick to get yourself in on, here. Me? I’m dining on a Georgian feast at SoupChick tonight so didn’t want to overdo it, a brownie I’m out of there, apologies to the organisers but I’d like a further selection of stalls I’ve not seen before, I’d like to be entertained, and I’d like to be buried under free samples, of which maybe a sign of the times, but I saw much less of this year. Still, busy though, and a joy to have in Devizes at the end of summer.
A little late for the party, as ever, I’ve been procrastinating, and my computer is equally as listless; failing to save my original words on this. Meanwhile Newbury good guy, but welcomed regular on our circuit, Joe Hicks has been busy with a debut album launched yesterday, worthy of a rewrite……
Titled The Best I Could Do at The Time, Joe is seriously playing it down, like the nerd at college who tells you they “haven’t done much” for their assignment, so you follow suit only to find them offering a feasible cure for all known diseases in a presentation with U2 providing the soundtrack, while the best you can offer is a scribbling of your pet cat, which you did on the bus journey there.
The opening tune, Sail Away, for example, is far punchier than David Gray’s appellation of the same name, and we won’t contemplate sailing down the Rod Stewart route. Though it’s best pigeonholed like Gray’s, as folktronica, there’s a whole lot more going on here from this stalwart who could just as easily fit comfortably into a blues dance as he could a folk festival, and does.
The blurb suggests The Best I Could Do at the Time is “a journey through many of the emotional peaks and troughs we go through as humans,” Joe explained, “and more specifically me as a musician in such uncertain times. It’s about acknowledging them, living in those feelings for a while and ultimately finding the hope we all have within us to take control and rise above the worst of them. It’s about doing the best we can with the tools that we have.”
The first thing to hit you is the sheer production quality, a euphoric yet upbeat anthemic joy from the off, Sail Away, sustains the timeless pop formula, making him balance on the edge between aforementioned folk and blues, and allowing this album to flow tidy, but traverse any given pop subgenre at will, while retaining originality and stylised inimitability.
If One More Step, the timeless pop second track is a prime example, it builds on layers like a contemporary hit of say a George Ezra-Bruno Marrs hybrid, Maybe When It’s Over follows, and this stretches back further, reeking of unruffled seventies soul, like Curtis Mayfield.
Four tracks in and you’re safe in knowledge to accept anything, Pieces is sublime acoustic fluff, and there was a line in the subtle skank of Lost in Love, “oh, such a reckless emotion,” where I paused for thought on a comparison which I couldn’t quite put my finger on, until it came to me; the velvety vocals of Paul Young, especially when he sang Come Back and Stay.
Mirror Mirror reflects an indie side-order, while Out of My Mind surprisingly nods of township jive, designating a hint of Paul Simon’s Graceland. Hand in Hand settles the pace once again to this euphoria, so that even if the narrative traverses the downhearted at times, it’s always a musical ride with the glass half full. And herein is my point; this is ageless pop goodness, borrowing from what went before, but fresh and contemporary throughout, which is the even balance of magnitude.
The final trio of tracks on this eleven-strong album returns to the early eighties pop formula with, Alive, folktronica goodness with the inspiring Make It Home, and Weightless polishes it off with the pop roll of The Corrs, or something along those lines, though the whole shebang holds itself in its own pocket.
It’s a wonderful album, deservedly to be considered a remarkable achievement; The Best I Could Do at The Time huh? Well, the time is nigh. Having made a name for himself as a session guitarist, Joe Hicks was ‘BBC Introducing Artist of the Week’, directly from his first solo single in 2017. Since he’s built up a sizable online following, touring the UK and Europe, appearing at CarFest, The Big Feastival, Are You Listening? Festival, Pub in the Park, over thirty Sofar Sounds shows and slots supporting Sam Fender, James Walsh and Starsailor.
Here in Devizes, he’s regularly appeared at Long Street Blues Club and Saddleback, and is always a delight to chat with; just a genuine modest talent, of which this album truly blows the lid off his cover. I got your number, Hicks; bloomin’ amazing album, my son!
Though Ken White’s murals have been seen across Swindon for decades, particularly his Golden Lion at the Whale Bridge roundabout on Fleming Way, contemporary street art in Swindon lives in the shadow of neighbouring city Bristol, where the legend of Banksy is crowned. But all that could be set to change, as the Wiltshire town is to get it’s inaugural street art festival, Swindon Paint Fest…..
Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th of October sets the date, Swindon Paint Fest takes place at the Wharf Green in the centre of town, has a GoFundMe, and been organised by an artist collective, Artsite the Post Moden, who provide studio space at the Post Modern in Theatre Square.
It’s free, and promises an array of works and live demonstrations from some six breathtaking artists nationwide and some Wiltshire born, like Inca Mole and Tim Carroll.
With a BA in Fine Art from Leeds University, Tim has completed several local projects, the documentation and renovation of public art for Swindon Borough Council, and an extremely well-received series of paintings, ‘100 Views of Swindon’, now available as a book.
Inca spent time in Greece working as a tattooist where his abilities and potential were encouraged and further inspired in the art world.
Peter Cowdy, will be working with a few youths to create his piece.
British painter and sculptor, Jenna Fox also features. With an MA from the Royal College of Art and currently researching fine art for a PhD, Jenna’s work reflects interactions with people about shared life experiences and journeys. She was selected for Wells Contemporary 2022 and shortlisted for the High prize 2021. Her work has been shown at The Sunbury Gallery, The National Trust, The RSPB, Earley Station, Trowbridge Town Hall, Cromwell Place Gallery and The Crypt Gallery London, and is on permanent display at South Western Rail, The Sculpture Park Farnham, The War Horse memorial at Royal Ascot and Frimley Park Hospital. She has had two residencies at Stand Point Gallery, London, and stills finds time to edit a zine called Haus-a-rest.
Predominantly a spray painter, painting as Lost Dogs for fun and trading as You Pay I Spray, we find another featured artist with a love for sci-fi, comic books and bright colours.
Unless my maths is as wonky as my own typography, I count five featured creatives, who’ve been gradually introduced on the Swindon Paint Fest Facebook page, so we await the final announcement. Until then, stick the date in your diary, favourably in a large colourful graffiti font!
Apologies, I missed publishing last week’s roundup, one thing gets on another and so on and so forth; I’ve really no excuse, but you know you don’t have to wait for it, it’s all listed on the frequently updated event calendar, where if you’re new here, you’ll find ticket and info links to everything I will waffle on about here.
Those paying particular attention will find the calendar has been extended to December 2023, if anyone is still alive by then, but I wouldn’t bother too much browsing too far in the future just yet, as I’ve not added much stuff onto it; one stage at a time people!
So, back to this week and weekend. I was delighted to attend a dress rehearsal of a play called Hedda Gabler at The Wharf Theatre in Devizes last week. This show is running until Saturday and is very worthy of your attention.
Wednesday 21st, then, and The Temperance Seven play tuneful jazz classics and original numbers with a Pythonesque, deadpan tomfoolery at the Wyvern Theatre, Swindon.
Don’t forget the regular acoustic jam down the Southgate, Devizes.
Thursday 22ndand Chris Wood plays Pound Arts in Corsham. Chris Wood is an uncompromising writer whose music reveals his love for the un-official history of the English-speaking people. With gentle intelligence he weaves the tradition with his own contemporary parables.
Grand Slam headline and Sons of Liberty in support at The Vic in Swindon, while the Buddy Holly story is told at the Wyvern Theatre with That’ll Be The Day.
Oh, and The Seth Lakeman Band play The Cheese & Grain, Frome; nice.
Friday 23rd sees the opening of Bath Children’s Literature Festival, running until Sunday 2nd October, it is Europe’s largest dedicated children’s literature festival with a vibrant array of talks and activities for children.
I’m sorry I cannot be at this one, but the long-awaited new album from Swindon’s indie-pop favourites, Talk in Code gets a launch night at The Vic, with Riviera Arcade and Tom Moore.
Also, The Ultimate Boy Band Party Show at Wyvern Theatre, is not really for me, truth be told, but I thought I’d mention it.
Salisbury Arts Centre announced a gig called Ukraine a Go Go!! But I’m having trouble with that link, sorry, it may’ve been cancelled.
Dreamwave at the Three Horseshoes, Bradford-on-Avon, Dirt Road at The Bear.
Humdinger are playing The Lamb, Marlborough.
At the Cheese & Grain, Bon Giovi…. quite; no prizes for guessing.
Saturday 24thand my tummy is rumbling already; yea-ha, barbeque my ham-hocks! The Devizes Food & Drink Festival kicks off with the Grand Market in the erm, Market Place. Running until Sunday 2nd October, it’s not just about this freebie, there’s a fantastic, super-sized programme of events happening, do check the website.
Once stuffed, Devizes, you’ll find Plan of Action at The Southgate, highly recommended, I am due to stuff my face, again, at SoupChick’s Georgian feast in the Shambles, but I firmly believe I might yet be able to fit all these in, we’ll see.
Due to the obvious, Pewsey Carnival’s legendary illuminated procession has been moved to this Saturday, 24th, and find the funfair running and Humdinger at an afterparty on Cooper’s Field.
The Pump has folk-rock’s Merry Hell, part of Trowbridge Festival, tickets are £16 from the Trowbridge Festival site. The Reservoir Hogs play The Dursley Arms and find Junkyard Dogs at The Wiltshire Yeoman on Chilmark Road.
Another recommendation, 12 Bars Later, play the Talbot Inn, Calne. The Setbacks headline a triple bill at the Three Horseshoes, Bradford-on-Avon, with Bottlekids and Prison Wives.
Cliff Richard tribute at Neeld, Chippenham; Simon Goodall and the Bourne Again Shadows.
This Ukraine a Go Go!! at Salisbury Arts Centre crops up again, I must have got this news from somewhere! But if in the spire, Ed Gamble plays Salisbury Playhouse.
The Wedding Present commemorate the 30th anniversary of the release of their album Seamonsters, at The Cheese & Grain. Recorded in just twelve days during 1991, the record reached No. 13 in the Official Album Chart, hailed by many as a true classic. Meanwhile, I’d thoroughly recommend Bath’s indie-pop sensation Longcoats, playing at the Cheese’s sister venue, The Treehouse.
That just leaves Swindon, where Al Murray’s Gig For Victory tour is at the Wyvern Theatre, there’s a rave, up at The Vic, when Midlife Krisis drop their milk-float round; there’s always a rave when that happens.
But also, onto our Editor’s Pick of the Week, where I dream of doing anything I wanted, VIP access and all gubbings, even if it’s not true! The Jazz Knight’s daring extraordinaire on Saturday, Swindon Folk & Blues Festival at Christ Church in Old Town. Line-up is truly grand, Ruzz Guitar, Lost Trades, Fly Yeti Fly, Joel Rose; did a half-preview with the Shuffle, here.
Sunday, 25thSeptember, and there’s a record fair at The Cheese & Grain, Frome, Hip Route are at the Three Horseshoes, Bradford-on-Avon and Wyvern Theatre in Swindon presents Dave Gorman: Powerpoint To The People.
And that’s about all I’ve found for the weekend, unless you know different; have a good one. The Best of Queen at Wyvern Theatre, Swindon on Monday, 26th, and When Darkness Falls at Salisbury Playhouse on Tuesday, with Crimes On Centre Court at the Wyvern. From then on in, you know what to do, check the event calendar! But there’s two things you need to know about in Devizes on Wednesday 28th, I’ll drop the posters below, cos I’m fed up with typing now!
Yep, It’s Swindon Shuffle weekend, and so I thought it best to poke my nose in…..
Voice recognition they call it, I call it defective verbal dysentery. My precise articulation fails on a number of letters and numbers from my vehicle reg, and I’m wound up. Parking apps; pet hate, so, call a number, it says, fuck you, nonhuman Noddy, I’m relocating, to a known carpark where you put these primative nuggets of bronze into a machine, wondering why I, aging country bumpkin that I am, bothered to come to the smoke of Swindon centre in the first place. Though it was a passing aggravation, my only rant about the Swindon Shuffle, and hardly their fault anyways…..
Like a lukewarm sea, once you’re immersed it’s lovely, and if the ground I once frequented is so alien, Swindon College, Regent Circus, now an underground carpark unpermitable for technophobes with a neon multiplex atop, one step up the hill and dependable Old Town greets you. Dependable because other than a few shop facades changing, it’s prettty much the same as it always was, the one safe haven within the roundabout-infested sprawling metropolis with its name derived from “pig hill.” Apologies Swindonites, I’m tetchy only about your carparks, and every large town has them.
So now I’m decending Vic Hill with the pleasent scent of kebab houses, on a misson to cram myself into the sardine tin which is The Beehive. It’s my first port of call, a bee line, (gettit?) after reviewing the singlemost amazing debut album from a local act, I was coming to see Concrete Prairie no matter the machine, urbanisation and rammed public house.
But it’s the most welcoming sardine tin, it has to be, the bustling Beehive is a wonderful no-frills pub making do with the space it has, adorned with quirky decor, and filled with smiling faces there for this legendary fifteenth Shuffle, a multi-venue long weekend testimonial to local live music, in aid of Prospect House. I’m immediately feeling homely in this hospitable watering hole, if a tad sultry.
I have to grab a word with chief coordinator Ed Dyer, in which he reveals this time legwork is reduced by having a promotor at each venue, though every year it’s rammed like this at most of the venues. Took me to pondering if a mere market town of Devizes populas could ever accommodate such a scale event without a severely dispursed crowd in each individual venue, but here, it works.
And it works with half-hour sets, timed somehow, with precision engineering, this colossal musician assemble spanning too many names to mention, let alone amass a comprehensive coverage. But such was yours truly impressed with what I did manage to injest, I’m contemplating if I should make Swindon Shuffle a B&B getaway next year.
It was good to bump into Kelly Adams, of Lacock’s Wiltshire Blues and Soul Club, hosting this venue’s entertainment, old friend and newspaper entrepreneur Jamie Hill, and Joel Rose, whose set I unfortunately missed. The question was if Concrete Prairie could, in this petite space, recreate the magic of said album, and they did, with bells on. One cover, and a few peaches from the album was all it took to convince me this is a band we so desperately need to get into our town, their stage pressence was topnotch, their timing impeccable and original compositions just melt.
One silver lining to the parking botheration is I’m closer uphill to my car once settled in the reliable Victoria, which is where I’m hotfooting it to next. Keen to catch Salisbury’s upcoming recommended CarSick, though skate-metal-punk not my preferred cuppa I’m game for those who do it well. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you; CarSick pulled a sicky, though no reports it was actually in any kinda vehicle.
Instead, Kieran Moore, coordinator for this legendary venue under his stalwart Sheer banner, flew in a young three-piece called InAir, who thrashed it out professionally, in a most pleasing fashion, so one could feel the bass rumble under one’s feet; I like that in any genre.
For where the Beehive is a welcoming but crammed bustling hive, The Victoria has a large pit aback, geared toward gigging. While slightly more conventional, and certainly more spacious, it still holds charm and you know when you decend those stairs into the black magic box, The Vic will pull a rabbit from its hat.
Proir to InAir’s blown away set, I spotted the man himself, fronting the Saturday headliner at the Vic, it’s impossible to miss him. “You’re out of Devizes?!” he cried in mirth; am I not allowed to be?!
Mike Barham towered, chatting enthusiastically, while bassit Rob McKelvey stood smiling, a position he’d compromise before the finale by circular squirming the stage floor while strumming his last notes. Yeah, with missing drummer Luke Bartels, who’d arrive on the scene soonishly, complaining of the after-effects of the pre-gig curry they’d had, the one InAir promised themselves on stage never to do again, ah, bless, the joys of reuniting with the NervEndings lads on neutral ground.
And they did their thing, loud and proud as before, though slightly more professional I hassen to add, with boundry-pushing banter. It’s one hardcore band easy on my acceptance, because there’s a blues influence. Mike nodded to Devizes’ affection for blues, and attempted a tune geared that Jon Amor way, but it fell short of a younger crowd, there to mosh and roll, or whatchamacallit. A quick switch rammed the dancefloor again, and those purveyors of noise were at it, superbly. Something Devizions need not miss when Sheer takes the Bin for free, on the 7th October.
To conclude, for what bore witness to mine eye, Swindon Shuffle is more than worthy bounding over the downs for, and what’s furthermore, you’re best leaving any ill-conceived notions at home. For loutish hooliganism, I saw none, just a mass of widespread age demographic live music aficionados, relishing the moment of strolling Old Town in bliss. Bouncers, I saw one, happily munching on a salmon sandwich.
There’s no prentious big names, no grand finale tribute act wandering around like they’re the real McCoy, no ethos to let the local orginal acts do their thing early and get sloshed awaiting a mainstream headliner. This is wholly dedicated, not just to a worthy charity, but to promoting upcoming local talent, which is precisely the kind of thing we love here at Devizine Towers; go Swindon; it continues today, (Sunday.)
Residents of Furlong Close in Rowde mingled with staff, the new owners, villagers, councillors, and many of the campaigners which made up the Familes and Friends of Furlong Close steering group, at a party to celebrate the saving of the Close from closure….
It has been a drawn-out battle with former owners HFT, since October 2020, when, in the midst of the pandemic, the residents of Furlong Close, their families and friends were thrown into a state of anxiety and despair at the news Furlong Close was to close, and its thirty vulnerable residents forced to leave their happy and settled homes.
In July, the group were delighted to announce Furlong Close had been saved. The site had been acquired by a new owner, Specialised Supported Housing, and new care provider, Agincare, took over the provision of care to the residents.
Chair of the campaign group, FAFF, Antonia Field gave a heartwarming speech, thanking everyone for their efforts, and MP Danny Kruger reflected on the national mourning, suggesting this occasion was “what England is all about.” For me, personally, getting the chance to meet and talk with some of the residents put all the sterling efforts of the group and villagers into perspective.
The residents of Furlong Close are a welcomed part of the village community, always have been, the gathering today proved this, a truly monumental occasion for Rowde.
The ribbon was cut, symbolic of a new, brighter era for Furlong Close, and a marvellous example of how people-power can turn a negative into a positive.
I tried to chat with a representative of Agincare, but she was preoccupied talking to a resident about the Marvel film “Thor, Love and Thunder!” Along with the sunny autumn afternoon, this said it all for the occasion, giving me faith in the new owners and thier relationship with the residents.
Ah, it’s on the grapevine alright; godfather of Wiltshire’s millennial live indie scene, Kieran Moore isn’t sneaking in the back door with his tail between his legs like the prodigal son, rather he’s returning to Devizes, the origins of his promotional stamp Sheer Music, in a blaze of heavy rock glory.
Not content with setting the soul of live music in the bright light city of viva Trowvegas on fire, or getting those stakes up higher at Komedia in Bath and legendary venue the Vic in Swindon, he’s just a devil with love to spare…. for his roots!
It’ll be loud and proud, that much is for sure, when Sheer takes the Corn Exchange on Friday 7th October, and, hold your breath, it’ll be a free gig, yes I said free. When was the last time you got in the Corn Exchange for nought? Obviously as chief blagger I’m not at liberty to answer that question myself, but you catch my drift I hope!
They’ve got that kick-ass skater punk collaboration of Trowbridge, Devizes, Westbury and Wotton Bassett, Start The Sirens as support. A promising upcomer we handsomely reviewed their debut “Just the Beginning,” back in June.
Next up is two-thirds homegrown purveyors of noise NervEndings, who should need no introduction locally, abielt to note the boys are creating quite the stir forever further abound, headlining this Saturday at the very same Victoria, for the Swindon Shuffle.
Plus hard-rocking contemporary punkers Lucky Number Seven, which I’ll confess is a new one to me, but they certainly sound like a belter, featured alongside NervEndings at the Shuffle, and who tore Bristol’s Fleece apart at the beginning of the month.
Kieran labels his promo posts with “shit the bed, Devizes,” leaving me pondering; are you sure you’re ready for this, Devizes? Stage diving all the way to Chick-O-Land?!
Home after previewing a dress rehearsal at The Wharf Theatre, Devizes last night, I kissed my wife goodnight. She didn’t understand the relevance, but Henrik Ibsen’s magnum opus, Hedda Gabler is one seriously thought-provoking play……
They didn’t have Billy Joel’s doo-wop fad in nineteenth century Norway, see, otherwise the protagonist’s husband, George Tesman could’ve benefitted by taking heed of the lyrics of Tell Her About It, such as the line “let her know how much she means.”
Whereas it’s typical for a fellow to be wilfully pig ignorant in taking their partner for granted, George, played impeccably by Chris Smith, is seemingly oblivious of his psychological man-shed. In modern terminology one might suggest he’s on the autistic spectrum, but definitely, this academic lacks common sense over a work obsession. This is expressed rather amusingly in the opening scene with the assertive “Aunt Ju-Ju,” grandly represented by Jessica Bone.
She interrogates him in pompous nineteenth century mannerisms, in the hope of gaining some pregnancy gossip, but poor old George just doesn’t take the hint any more than Frank Spencer.
Seems he proudly spent his lengthy honeymoon researching for his new book, much to the dismay and rancour of his rather stubborn wife, Hedda, who, longing for a spirit of adventure and drama, finds herself feeling trapped, lonesome and unloved; it’d be an epic fail for Match.com!
Together, her frustrations and his nescient glee, combined with four other exceptionally well-defined characters, twists the kind narrative Ricky Gervais needs to be taking notes from. Character-driven, elements might feel comical at first, but subtle black humour is gradually collapsing into tragedy; such the reason you’ll come away from it realising its stroke of genius.
A feminine Hamlet, perhaps, as the plot thickens to a dramatic climax, but I’ll relax my waffling for fear of spoilers. Though if the plot relies on conflicting characters, this wasn’t the case behind the scenes. Director, Lewis Cowen delighted to tell me the casting immediately fell into place effectively, and indeed this convincing team bounce of each other so well it’d be impossible to extract their real personalities. There’s no way I’m going to attempt to obtain trigger-happy lead role Ange Davis’s phone number, for instance, not after witnessing her sublime expressions of bitterness and contempt for her fellow characters! Her second stint at the Wharf Theatre after appearing in Revlon Girl in March; in layman’s terms, Ange takes on the protagonist roll like a boss.
Pete Wallis wonderfully plays the woeful Eilert Lövborg expressively, personifying the bleeding heart of the artist. With his heart on his sleeve and love for the bottle, he’s easily convinced, but the kingpin to George’s jealousy.
The weak and diffident Thea Elvsted is played to perfection by Anna McGrail, her despair at her broken marriage is paramount to yield Hedda’s vengeance and bullying nature.
Undoubtedly housemaid Bertha, acted subtly but professionally clownish by Merrily Powell, retains the comedy noir while it spirals into tragedy, via her shocked expressions, omniscience but knowing her place to remain silent.
The unscrupulous and advantageous persona of Judge Brack, played sternly by Rob Gill, pitches him as the dark horse, the archetypal baddie, if there has to be one. Rather the depth of all the characters, needy or lusting after Hedda in their own way, here shows far more layers to them then the typically flatness of the Hollywood template.
For if said template is becoming tiresome for you, you know the sort; a couple or amount of people with conflicting personalities come together with an abhorrence of each other but thrust unwillingly into a set of circumstances find mutual ground and befriend with a happy ending, perhaps you should grab up a ticket for Hedda Gabler, running at the Wharf Theatre from the 19th to the 24th September. Because if the cliche template is a reversible jumper, akin to classics such as Easy Rider or Quadrophenia, this intelligently crafted dark play turns it inside out.
I mean, I’m no theatrical critic, just know what I like, but if the hospitable and non-pretentious Wharf Theatre welcome me to assess such quality productions as this, on our doorstep, I’m game!
If opposites attract, love is calmly discussing and accepting your differences, but the escape clause wasn’t so simple in days of yore, and in the confines of the era’s strict conducts, a terrible entrapment can twist a person; that’s the contemplation I took away with me after this engaging and quality production; go see for yourself.
Kaffeehaus Culture comes to St Mary’s, Devizes on the 1st of October, bringing you some Bach, Handel & Telemann……
The acoustically rich space of St Mary’s Church, Devizes, will be filled with music from the best-known baroque masters on Saturday, 1st October.
Playing on traditional instruments The Brook Street Band will transport the audience back to the mid-18th century as they perform pieces by Bach, Handel and Telemann – three of the most famous German composers from the period. The programme reflects the rhythm and harmony of these baroque giants whose music was regularly heard at the famous Zimmerman Kaffeehaus in Leipzig.
The Brook Street Band takes its name from the street in London’s Mayfair where composer George Frideric Handel lived and composed for most of his life. Since its formation in 1996, the ensemble has established itself as one of the country’s foremost interpreters of baroque music performing at many of the UK’s major chamber music venues, as well as at Early Music Festivals in the UK and Europe.
The group has released eleven CDs, all receiving high critical acclaim; the Band’s debut disc “Handel Oxford Water Music” was selected as Gramophone Magazine Editor’s Choice, as was its “JS Bach Trio Sonatas”.
The St. Mary Project
The Church of St Mary the Virgin, Park Street, Devizes, dates from the Norman times and is one of the most important buildings in the town, with the church tower a particular landmark.
The building is listed Grade I, putting it amongst the top 2.5% of listed buildings in the country. The St.Mary Future Group is working hard to turn this wonderful building into an arts and community space that will become a hub for future generations.
Doors open 7pm for 7.30pm; tickets £18. See www.stmarydevizes.or.uk for booking details. email: firstname.lastname@example.org
“When the Queen came to open it, the boat which was doing the ceremonial opening was on the lock below the Waterways Board yard. The approach was through there, where she met the union members, and they walked out along the bank, above the first of the top of the Boto-X lock. She met people who were lined up along the bank, trying to not to push each other into the water! She came to the footbridge but didn’t go over, she got in the boat, cut the ribbon, and the canal was open. But she was introduced to people, and she was laughing, I mean, Jill said it ‘looked as if she was having a day out,’ not on official business.”
“She was introduced to me as the chap who organised this ridiculous race up and down the locks, before there were boats going along it. She said ‘oh what was it?’ So, I started to explain. I was facing down the locks, and she was facing me. It was no good trying to explain it without seeing it, so I asked her if she would mind turning around, so I could show her. I stood beside her, which apparently wasn’t permitted, and I illustrated vigorously with my hands how the starting gun went, and everybody jumped to their boats, charged down the hill, fell into the boats, getting very wet in the process, paddled like hell, climbed out the other end, over the hill, and by the end, she was in fits; I’ve actually got a picture of her laughing. I was told afterwards that you should always face the Queen when speaking to her, and you shouldn’t wave your hands around rather keep them decorously by your sides. So, I was expecting to be arrested for high treason! I asked Bill to send her my apologies, but he said, you don’t need to do that, she was having a day off!”
Some forty-five minutes into our chat, John Petty apologised for taking up too much of my time, which I wouldn’t accept, I could’ve listened all day to his fascinating recollections. For John wasn’t feeling up to what he’d planned this weekend, visiting Devizes for nostalgic reasons and to plan a presentation on what he is renowned for here; being the brainchild of the legendary Boto-X.
If you take the Devizes stretch of the Kennet and Avon Canal, and the beautiful surroundings of the Caen Hill locks for granted, you might be surprised to know for decades after the coming of the railway, once the motorways of their day, canals were left to dilapidate. The Caen Hill Flight was reopened for leisure purposes in 1990, by the Queen. But prior to this much campaigning and fundraising had to be done, and as well as most likely the largest annual event ever in Devizes, the Boto-X was instrumental in that campaign.
If it wasn’t Devizes, I might’ve not believed my wife’s memories of the Boto-X when she relayed them some years ago, how “everyone came out.” It’s surely a story essential to archive, not only because due to health and safety regulations the chance of reviving it would be minimal, but the fact that, as well as the Queen, thousands upon thousands of people laughed, and thousands upon thousands of pounds were raised over the near decade it ran for.
John now resides in Exmouth. He came with his wife, Jill, to the Devizes area in 1978 from Ipswich. John was employed to run engineering firm, Roundway Mill. Having holidayed on canals, they were inactive members of the Canal Trust. The Trust at this time had moved their headquarters to Devizes, and so Jill became the Membership secretary, and John soon took the post of chairman of the local branch. At this time, John explained, “they’d done a lot of the restoration, from Foxhangers to Bath, and from Devizes up to Reading; but they were left with the twenty-six blooming locks, all forlorn with empty gates and side ponds.”
“We used to get annoyed, walking down the flight, thinking nothing was happening, but they needed another ten million quid, or something, to buy gates; we wished somebody could do something.” The Caen Hill Flight wasn’t used as parkland, “you went down the Flight, you couldn’t get across the locks, with no gates on them, and the other side the ponds had all been cleared out and were barren.”
The Rotary Club were assigned to organise an annual fundraising event. “It was suggested,” John chuckled, “we should have a dance, at Dauntsy’s School. We looked at each other and thought, bugger that, we’re not into doing dances!” Adamant an event needed to relate to the canal, inspiration came from the already well-established Devizes to Westminster canoe race, as they had to get out and carry the canoes around the locks. But John explained, “it was quite a gung-ho event, commandoes, army cadets, ranger scouts and pretty tough people. It was a great event, but it did nothing for Devizes, because people arrived about 2am, setting sail in the dark, and were gone.”
It’s unlikely the Flight would be the attraction it is today without John’s pitch to the union for footbridges. The only way across the canal before this was climbing over the lock gates which was forbidden through safety factors. At the time public assistance was reduced to pruning brushes, since the union didn’t want work taken from labourer’s hands. Because you’d need twenty-six bridges, they weren’t in the tight budget. As an engineer, John asked, “if I could get them made, would you blokes put them in? They all looked at each other and replied, ‘yeah, why not?’” Management approved his plans. “Each bridge had a plaque with the name of the donators on them; we had Pewsey Primary School, all sorts of schools and colleges, workplaces, volunteers from all over the place, arriving with a Land Rover and trailer with a footbridge on it. As soon as they were in, people started walking their dogs, and the place started to come alive.”
Asked by the Trust to raise some money, The Rotary thought, “why not do something big and bold?” And the idea for the Boto-X was born. There is little information about it online; to Google “Boto-X” will get you cosmetic surgery sites, a practise which came along during the reign of Boto-X, and John joked, they suggested suing them for taking their name! Though the name of this event is pronounced “boat-o-cross,” like Motor-X.
For those grown up here, this will be a trip down memory lane, for others new to the area, like me, what exactly the Boto-X was can be best explained by this video, submitted to YouTube by Noel Woolrych, who also played a major part in the Boto-X. It was, in short, and by tagline, ‘the Wackiest Race in Wiltshire!’
The two-day event ran from 1985 to 1994, encompassing the grand opening of the Caen Hill Flights in 1990. But John reminded us at the time the pounds were dry. “I went to my friends in the Union,” John continued, “who were friendly, because they liked their footbridges, and said ‘if you drop the stop planks into five locks, what would happen?’ ‘Well, don’t be silly,’ they replied, ‘they’d fill up with water, won’t they?!’ So, I said, ‘would you do it?’ ‘Suppose so,’ ‘would you have to ask anyone?’ ‘Not really!’”
The original idea was a raft race, but people would have to build the rafts. “You couldn’t have canoes either, because they’d be terribly unwieldy,” he clarified. Avon Rubber Company from Melksham supplied dinghies. “This had never been done before,” John delighted to tell us. “We got just about every local charitable organisation, The Lions, Round Table, Rotary, Ladies Circle, Mother’s Union, scouts’ groups, everybody got the message, without mobile phones and internet.” In a quest for publicity, John borrowed the boats a couple of months prior, and asked beneficiary surgeons to paddle across the pond for the sake of newspapers, television and radio. This was also an aid to finding out how long it would take to complete the course.
They even created a free newspaper to promote the idea, an eight-page broadsheet which the Ladies Circle raised money for through advertising. “Noel [Woolrych] took over from me as chairman,” John explained, after also telling me about the programme. “The Boto-X News was just a single A3 fold, Noel was Raynet, the emergency communications people, and provided radio communication.”
Finally, after this amazing origin backstory, we got to talking about the actual race! “We had teams of eight, and each eight was given a three-man inflatable,” John recollects, “because that was cosy!” Split into two, half the team raced down five locks, while the others raced back up. “We had the start and finish lines in one place, so we only needed one stopwatch. We also said we wanted them to get sponsored hereto very worthy causes, we’re trying to finish the canal off, and trying to get money for the Bath Cancer Unit.” Put into assorted sets, teams could be made up of girl guides competing against commandoes, “it didn’t matter!”
The heats were timed, the money was counted, ten of the fastest teams of each category got a plaque, and the best sponsorship handicap too. This equated as the money raised divided by the time taken, “so that you could go very fast, and not raise much money, but perhaps win, or you could raise a lot of money going ever so slowly, and still lose.” The winning teams of heats were put into semis and a grand finale, and cheques were awarded to the beneficiaries there and then. “We raised nearly ten grand the first year, from scratch, and it poured with rain the whole weekend!”
“The ladies all arrived in their best summer dresses and high-heels, and by the time they got to the locks they were plastered in mud, and it was so wet, and so muddy that everyone ended up in hysterics!”
I wondered if the idea came from programs like It’s a Knockout, but John said not. “This was something specific, something which could only be done in Devizes; that’s what we tried to find.”
This historically astonishing extravaganza, which at its peak attracted around 25-30,000 people, sadly ended. John recalled after twelve events, though records suggest it started in 1985 and ended in 1994. It folded because of the finding of viral disease in the water. “Jill and I were involved for five years, then we were punch-drunk, thought it needed reviving and passed it over to Noel Woolrych, under very good committee.”
“It was Devizes event of the year,” John proudly said, so I asked him if there were many large-scale events in town at the time, other than carnival, of course. “Nope! I don’t think there was even a carnival at the time, or if there was it….” John trailed off at this point, to continue affirming, “the Boto-x was the biggie of the year, no doubt about it. As I say, it was always the canoe race which got Devizes mentioned, but it had gone by the time people woke up on Saturday morning. Whereas we had beer tents, helicopter rides one year, and we had teams from RAF Lyneham.” At about 4:20pm on the Sunday before the award ceremony, John explained, “if you looked down the flight towards Trowbridge, you could see a little black dot, and that was a Hercules, which would do a flightpath up the Boto-X course!”
The Boto-X remains confined to history books, surely to revive this, or to organise something like this today through modern health and safety regulations would be a minefield. Though, John was quick to express, “we never had any complaints, locally, about traffic, bad behaviour, anything. And the thing, this ‘wackiest race ever,’ they called it, it must have been in contravention of health and safety regulations, but we were careful, we had a lifesaver in every pond. We were careful and so well organised, I don’t how we managed it!” Wiltshire Constabulary sent one cadet to police the entire thing, John fondly giggled, “I can remember her coming, this sweet little girl, who said ‘I’ve come from Wiltshire Constabulary to look after you!’ There she was, in a crowd of what must have been twelve thousand people, that was our law and order!”
We breezed over methods of documenting this event, and I hope my efforts today will be a catalyst to discussion, photos and memories being posted on social media to build more attention to this, absolutely astounding event, perhaps otherwise lost in time. Then, people looking online for Botox will be completely confused by an overload of images of people falling from dinghies, into muddy Wiltshire ponds!
Right then you lot, Devizine is five years old today, or at least it was when I begun this monumental mission of reminiscing on how, why and what the hell I was thinking when I started it in the first place. Question is, do you want the short story, or the long, drawn-out one?
Oh well, that’s just tough luck then, isn’t it?! You can’t stop me in full shit stream, because, everyone’s good at something, mine is endlessly waffling on about crap, so that’s what I’m going to do. In the words of the unforgettable Lesley Gore, it’s my party I can waffle on about crap if I want to, or something like that.
In consolation, I’ve sprinkled this piece with a lot of lovely photos, well, it’s been five years and we’ve a lot to show off about. And what a wonderful ride it’s been; dancing, dodging, meeting so many wonderful and talented people, rattling a few cages, and I hope it will continue to be so, if I do say so myself.
Best, if any, place to start is childhood aspirations. Note, I never had any dreams of writing, let alone journalism. English at school was a pet hate, like every other subject, especially spelling, I was atrochous…… atreechois…. really bad at it.
Though I have to humour the media industry, I’d grow to detest Fleet Street wank-stains. To be a cartoonist was the thing for me, the like of Charles Schultz or Jim Davis favourably, they did, after all, make the most money. But I’d write for magazines, zines and FINs I submitted cartoon strips for in support, because they needed writers…. bloody slave drivers.
As time moved on and I created my own comic, reviewing works of other creative types within it was an aid to networking, and, most importantly, getting freebies. I also suffered with a lack of writers but plenty of artists, so I’d script for them, and gradually the writing took prominence over the artwork.
Self-publishing is a labour of love, and any excuse for procrastination was on the cards. Unpredictably stumbling upon family life was the perfect excuse for giving it up; there were nappies which needed changing before cross-hatching a nudy caricature of Cameron Diaz, and besides, I’d grown out of the psychedelic nature of the zine; fatherhood can change a lad. Word of warning, whippersnappers.
But once bitten, the creative cannot help but create, that’s why they call them creatives, see? I picked self-publishing up again when eBooks came around, as it was easy, and not so time consuming. As an author I spaffed out more books than Boris Johnson did lies, happy as a method of improving my writing skills; though it’s still a learning cuve…. curth… bendy thing. And okay, that’s the same joke, get used to it.
Devizine came about simply for looking at other avenues in which to offload my wobbly words to the unfortunate world. I pitched to satirical, (or “fake news,” to gammons of which satire is above their understanding) websites, but was only sporadically successful, even lesser-so my attempt to create my own satirical website, called Poop Scoop. Until I noticed a new local news-site called Index;Wiltshire. There, finally through this insane waffling lies the kingpin to Devizine.
The editor wrote to me, “you’re the most powerful person in Devizes,” as my weekly rant column amassed a thousandfold more hits than MP James Gray’s did. Dishonest flattery works; I marched on, slagging off everything that was shit about Devizes as I could possibly think of, for humorous effect, you understand? Some didn’t, and Monday morning hate-mail filled my inbox, which was amusing to start with but being grew tedious.
Aside common complaints from any medium-sized market town, the joke wore thin due to decreasing ammo. Devizes is actually a great place to live; could be better, like freewheeling Frome, or like Tijuana, the murder capital of the world, it could be worse. The need to keep the ideas flowing caused me to post a gathering material question on a local Facebook group. It was Jemma Brown who raised the most important point: why didn’t I focus on the positives about living in Devizes? Of course, she was bang on the money, but it simply wouldn’t do, for that’s not the nature of satire, that’s not the idea of “No Surprises Living in Devizes.”
At the time, I’d just crawled out from my hermit hole and seen for myself talent lurking in the mists of this Tory haven. Richie Triangle played The Black Swan, spurring me to meet Tamsin Quin, who was crowdfunding for a debut album. Jemma, naturally was aiming my attention to her productions, as the TITCO theatre company. I wrote of my findings in an ever-increasingly heavily edited version of my rant column, claiming I was spinning the negatives around, though it was lagging in ethos, because to know me is to know I’m happy-go-lucky, and I couldn’t keep the pretence of being some kind of left-wing Alf Garnett any longer.
The column suddenly became more about what events were forthcoming in Devizes, rather then ranting about how rubbish everything was. I think at one point I joked, “what do I look like, some kind of event guide now?!” Not realising I’d predicted the outcome.
Frustrated the column was so heavily edited, now a new editor took over, I took to publishing them on a personal blog, but blogs need love and attention, in other words shameless self-promotion. Devizine though, as I came to knock up a new blog with the idea of doing precisely what we do now, promotes itself, as featured creative types share the fact they’ve been featured, and generally, people seemed to flock to this gap in the market. The first ever article was an unedited version of the that week’s column, the second was about Tamsin’s Crowdfunder.
I never understood, and probably never will, why aside perpetual splashes on national news stories as an aid to fund submissions to scoop sites, regional newspapers here couldn’t at least mention, or give credit to all the talented people here too. There’s room in a newspaper for both surely? But their downfall is our triumph. Devizine is now the go-to to what to do, the rest of it is me just mucking about!
This, coupled with our policy of brute honesty, will always be why Devizine has become something of a (slightly) respectable local institution. Though it may not have started out this way, because a few who were supposed to be responsible for what’s on sections of local media outlets fell short of lifting a finger, and thought it better to sought to trash Devizine’s pending reputation. Funny world, I thought Devizine would be welcomed, and I opened, and still do, my arms to the chances to work with them regardless; c’est la vie.
I believe it’s levelled now. Hardly anyone posts on local Facebook groups, “any live music going on tonight?” And if they do, rather than being directed to Devizine by yours truly, someone else beats me to the recommendation. Which brings me nicely on to the ten zillion quintillion thank you accreditations.
For aside my waffling, the bulk of this article is nothing more than a tedious clip show, which has taken longer to load up than I planned, probably be the sixth birthday by the time I publish it! Maybe we’ll refer to it as a “photo gallery in dial-up connection speed!”
Cider in one hand trying applause without spillages, my photography skills are best avoided whenever possible. Though I do believe I’m getting better, nothing illustrates a review better than a professional or semi-pro photographer. We’ve used and abused so many, and other than Nick Padmore, who makes me sit on his knee, most of them allow us to use their wonderful snaps for free! Which is handy, cos Devizine has not made millionaires out of us, quite yet.
So, a massive thank you, which would deserve a huge hug, if I wasn’t to wonder if that was a zoom lens in their pockets, rather than them being pleased to see me, and also an apology, there’s so many photos here it’d be a minefield wracking my miniscule mind recalling who took what, so excuse me, I hope that you don’t mind, I’ve not been able to credit them individually. Take it as red, though, the out of focus ones are likely from me. The rest I owe to so many photographers, some mentioned here and now: Gail Foster, Nick Padmore, Simon Folkard, Helen PolarPix, Ruth Wordly, Matthew Hennessy, Abbie Asadi, and Chris Dunn of Inscope Design. Please give them a virtual applause and go check out their work via their websites and social media.
But everyone needs a thank you, don’t they? So many good people have come to my rescue, submitted reviews, scoops and content, to make Devizine both comprehensive, and how I see it; a community-led, erm, thingy. I’d appreciate any help I can get, I’m totally overloaded here, and apologise to things I’ve missed, but Mrs Miggins has to get her pint of semi, also. You know you run a what’s on guide when Facebook pings the notification, “you have 55 events this weekend!”
Sporadically then writers have contributed, and I have Ian Diddams, Jemma Brown, TD Rose, Jenny Dalton, Phil Bradley, and Helen Robertson to sincerely thank too. But none more than our esteemed man in the field, the brilliant Andy Fawthrop, for his constant bombardment of most excellent reviews have been a godsend, to the point we need a statue of the good fellow here, front and centre of the lobby in the prestigious Devizine Towers. Seriously, if I cannot get hold of any marble, though, it might have to be made of paper cups.
All I have to say now is thanks everyone, everyone who has supported us, everyone I missed on the roll-call, contributed in some way, and that’s a long list, folk like the ones who’ve helped us out with technical bobs and bits; Ida McConnell, and musically, Dean Czerwionka, Mike Barham, Cath, Gouldy and the DayBreakers, Clifton Powell and Nick Newman, Daydream Runaways and The Roughcut Rebels.
Or those who’ve given their time to play for us at one of our fundraising gigs, the above mentioned, plus, Chole Jordan, Will Foulstone, Tamsin Quin, Phil Cooper, Jamie R Hawkins, George Wilding, Bryony Cox, Lottie Jenkins, Mirko Pangrazzi, Bran Kerdhynen, Finley Trusler and Sam Bishop.
And I think I’ve waffled enough; sorry if I missed anyone, but they know who they are. Bloody love ’em too, I do; group hug.
Being the Wiltshire Air Ambulance bear, touring homemade breweries, the Palace cinema, spending a day with Clifton Powell with Arts Together, going behind the scenes with DOCA, a day on tour with Talk in Code, press screening of Follow the Crows, riding an E-bike with Sustainable Devizes, meeting Neville Staple backstage, plus all the event invites, and so much more my brain is aching, there’s been so many fond memories, but I think, if you had to ask me to pick just one, it’d have to be the time I did my milk round in my Spiderman onesie and met with Carmela Chillery-Watson and her lovely family. A day I’ll never forget.
It leaves me now, to sign off, you must be tired looking at all those people having fun, but I did pre-warn you about my waffling! Enjoy the remaining pictures in our picture show, maybe you’ve spotted yourself in there, five or less years younger. If so, I want you to know, you’re still that gorgeous, gorgeous for showing us your support and partying with us; here’s to another five years, gorgeous!!
Trivia: What is the most popular article on Devizine to-date?
A: The April Fools Day joke 2021, when I announced, McDonalds was coming to Devizes. I believe that one broke the internet! Sad, but true.
Trivia: When did you first force Andy Fawthrop against his will and better judgement, to write reviews?
A: I believe it was October 2018, and the first review was Joe Hicks at the Three Crowns; I maybe wrong, I often am.
Trivia: Who was that country looking gent who used mascot on Devizine?
A: I don’t know, stop hassling me with inane questions like a fanboy at a Star Trek convention!
Slight seasonal changes, wetter but still warm, slight Prime Minister changes, dryer but still a narcissistic numpty; ah well, let’s see, a day later than usual I know and apologise, what’s happening in Wiltshire over the next week……
The one link you need as usual, is our event calendar, where it’s all listed with ticket and info links, and it’s updated (fairly) regularly, so bookmark the beast and remain as you will be after reading this; in the know.
Thursday 8thand there’s the Swindon Comedy Club at Kioki, with headliner Abi Clarke.
Friday 9th Hedda Gabler begins at the Wharf Theatre, Devizes and runs until 24th September. Hedda Gabler is recognised as one of the world’s great plays written by one of the world’s great playwrights and is generally regarded as Ibsen’s masterpiece. Hedda, on the face of it, is not your archetypal tragic heroine. Starting quietly, and quite humorously, the drama builds to its terrifying and riveting climax, involving the presentation set of pistols that Hedda inherited from her father.
One to watch, Sour Apple play the Pelican in Devizes on Friday, and look out for a new music program called Vamos, at The Old Road Tavern, Chippenham, they’ve got the wonderful Harmony Asia supporting Hoggs Bison. And find Illingworth at The Royal Oak in Marlborough, all free gigs.
“Hurrah, they are back to School” runs the tagline of the end of summer barbeque at Seend Community Centre.
Our renowned house DJ, George G Force is at Marston Park, Frome, while tribute The Smyths play The Cheese & Grain. Festival season hasn’t quite closed yet, it’s The Mucky Weekender Festival at the Winchester Bowl.
Meanwhile, In Swindon, Dangerous Kitchen play The Vic, The Salts at Swindon Arts Centre, and A Country Night in Nashville at the Wyvern Theatre.
Saturday 10thand back by popular demand, the start of the legendary Pewsey Carnival, yay! Procession is next Saturday 17th, with the Wheelbeero race on Thursday 15th, but this Saturday is Pewsey Carnival Wine Race.
Our editor’s pick of the week; Party for Life, Melksham
A world suicide prevention day fundraiser in the Sky Bar at Melksham Town FC. The Soul Strutters, Blind Lemon Experience and Roughcut Rebels play this big one, with DJs and pizza and others; sounds fantastic, we did preview it a while back, and I believe a few tickets are still up for grabs, follow their Facebook page for more details.
Staying in the Sham, The Pilot has a Family fun day with music and, fundraising for MIND, see the poster for details.
Crafts, stalls and entertainment are promised at Devizes Rotary Club’s Health & Wellbeing Showcase on the Small Green from 11am-3pm on Saturday, and for a musical evening in Devizes, rock covers band Black Nasty are at The Southgate, while People Like Us do their awesome thing at the Three Crowns.
Time also, for the Burbage Beer, Cider & Music Festival.
Another upcoming local band to watch is Salisbury indie-kids Carsick, who plan to blow the lid off of Trowbridge Town Hall.
Contrasts in Swindon as Rage Against the Regime play The Vic, while Shape Of You brings the music of Ed Sheeran to the Wyvern Theatre.
You might have caught him at Devizes Arts Festival this summer, Alfie Moore’s show Fair Cop Unleashed comes to Salisbury Arts Centre.
No prizes for guessing who Motorheadache is attributing, they’re at the Cheese & Grain, Frome, while Dana Gavanski plays their sister venue the Tree House, with Cornelia Murr in support.
And unfortunately, The International Comics Expo, ICE in Birmingham which I’ve still got listed, has been cancelled, I’m just being too lazy to delete it!
Sunday 11th, after terrible weather last Sunday postponed Devizes Town Band’s Children’s Proms in the Park at Hillworth, it will be combined this week with the planned main Proms in the Park.
And save a Recital Series at Swindon Arts Centre, also on Sunday, that about wraps it up for the weekend, unless you know different? Unless you dare to tell me that I missed something?! Please do, I don’t bite, at least only a nip, on the bum; it’s free to list stuff on Devizine, just message us, we’re in it for the love.
Through the week I’ve not got much, but you know updates of the event calendar occasionally happens, though I’m currently undergoing the arduous task of getting next year’s calendar up and running, so bear with, bear with.
Tuesday 13th, I’ve got Kaleidoscopic at Salisbury Arts Centre and a RSPB: A Victorian Birder’s Wiltshire at the same venue.
Next week though you can look forward to Pewsey carnival, Swindon Shuffle, and the White Horse Opera is back too, along with lots more events to get your teeth into; I’ll catch you around at one sometime, maybe? What else are you going to do, “Simpsonise” yourself with a phone app; get real?!!
I believe I speak for most of us, when I say we all love that Devizes punches above its weight when it comes to hosting some grand universal events, such as yesterday’s historic, if bizarre local ritual, Confetti Battle. DOCA and others, such as the Devizes Food & Drink Festival, use the Market Place to be exactly what it was intended for, free social gatherings. They take a lot of organising, and are open to everyone to enjoy, or are they?
When the parking places in Market Place are occupied by an event and carparking is closed there, there is no provision or replacement for the absence of disabled bays, and a lack of them causes some disabled people to be unable to attend.
I spoke to Claire, who is disabled and lives in Devizes. Claire would’ve liked to attend the Confetti Battle this year, “I would like to attend Christmas events too,” she said, “but there is no option for disabled people to park.”
“I do appreciate how hard people work to make our lovely town fun,” Claire expressed, “but I had to miss last night because there was nowhere close enough to park.”
I must confess, in promoting our events I hadn’t stopped to consider this, and would like to be clear, this is, I suspect, an oversight on Devizes Town Council’s part. Therefore, I’m not out to point fingers and play the blame game, (ha, not this time!) rather to suggest some provision is introduced so when disabled bays are closed for events, suitable temporary bays can be created specifically for disabled badge-holders. “Even if one extra disabled person could enjoy the events,” Claire stated, “this will make a difference to someone’s life, rather waiting to see it all in Facebook, which is what I do.”
This is unfortunate and unfair, certainly unintentional, but I’m confident with some awareness spreading it’s easily resolved. I’d be interested to hear any town councillor’s views on this, their feedback would be helpful; hey, no, their feedback is essential! I will call out ignorance on the issue if not, (they know that by now!)
No large-scale event goes ahead without meeting requirements for the disabled, simple as. I’d suggest perhaps arranging a booking-in system so a specific number of parking bays can be reserved, this way everyone with a blue badge who wants to attend can, and needless spaces wouldn’t be used as disabled bays. That would take one DTC admin and one spreadsheet five minutes to produce.
“These events should be for all,” Claire asked me, “wouldn’t you agree?” That doesn’t need answering, Claire, not from me I’m afraid, I’m with you fully, and I’m here to pitch the same question to the powers that be. Perhaps there is some provision already in place that we don’t know of, but I’m happy to publish any such answer too.