Featured Image by Simon Folkard Photography
Happy New Year from Wiltshire’s wackiest what’s-on website. It’s that time again when I waffle on endlessly in hope of summing up an entire year on Devizine. What can I say? It helps me grasp the ups and downs, highlights the things we could’ve done better but most of all, the things that went down well in 2022. And you get to see for yourself, our local area is awash with so many great events, so much great talent, and few things of concern……
Though I’m reserved to the fact, Santa’s good list starts afresh as early as January, so those who deliberately go out of their way to spoil the wellbeing of others and upset public peace will be called out accordingly, regardless of what position of power they might think they hold over others; Santa reads Devizine and Devizine states the facts, fact! See? It just did!
For the most part, though, Devizine is a happy place. If I must pick a favourite article I wrote this year, I’ve chosen an interview with John Petty, the brainchild of Devizes’ legendary event, the Boto-X. But it’s a rare thing for us to be retrospective, most coverage is about the here and now, and there’s so many highlights to mention, advance apologies for waffling!
January, I was still reviewing international music releases, as per-lockdown when we scrambled somewhat in the dark for content. It put me between a rock and hard place, the ol’ melon twister as to what exactly Devizine is; a music review blog, or a site dedicated to local affairs. While it straddled between the two for a while, I made the executive decision that Devizine is, first and foremost, a local affair, for local people, therefore if you’re not local the “things for you here” have been greatly reduced this year, as I’m sworn to dedicate it to the first and foremost.
Not to suggest I didn’t appreciate receiving new tunes from afar, and if I can make a tenacious link to something local, such as bands including a local venue on their tour, I will. The biggest niggle has been time, and time is key to decisions I’ve needed to make with content. As Devizine grows and lockdown is archived to the history books, I get inundated with enough local content to keep me busy, therefore reviewing international music has been put on the back-burner. Though reviewing locally produced music is still something we relish in, please send them in to us.
If I had the time, I’d consider reintroducing it, and in that there’s a reason to brainstorm how I balance my in-tray with working full-time and spending quality time with the family.
Part of this begun end of last year, when Christmas saw my son gain a “gamer’s corner” of our lounge, and to create the space I relocated my PC to my bedroom. At first, I admit I liked the idea, gave me office type space to think, but as the year went on, I realised I was missing family time, upstairs like a hermit. This meant I was either rushing out content fast as I could, or attempting to create content on my phone app, which doesn’t work quite as well. The new year’s resolution, then, is to acquire a shiny new laptop, allowing me to disappear upstairs when I need to concentrate, but create content and update the event calendar far more efficiently while still spending time downstairs with the family.
If I used the term “Devizine Towers” to make you believe we’ve a Trump-like office block, employing staff in various departments, (mostly in the complaints department) it was a big fat fib for humorous effect. But you’re no fool, I guess you knew this anyway.
Fact is, Devizine is a non-profit labour of love. Though this notion hasn’t put more folk off contributing and helping to make Devizine comprehensive in coverage. I’m eternally grateful for everyone who has helped in this, from longstanding reporter, Mr Andy Fawthrop, to Ian Diddams, Ben and Vicky, Lorraine, and the few other occasional contributors.
Take the “Devi” bit away, and you’re left with “zine,” and that’s the ethos we run with, a free press, DIY concept without the confines of mainstream publishing; ergo, we can publish whatever we see fit, and anyone and everyone is welcome to submit anything for consideration. This transpires to you all, if you go to a gig, for example, and think “everyone needs to know how fantastic this band are,” please consider jotting down a few words on the subject, snap a couple of wobbly photos on your phone, and send it to us. You don’t need to be Shakespeare, we are not your English teacher, and can even edit any spelling or grammatical mishaps to the best of our ability!
To stats and all that mathematical malarkey. 2021 we received well over double the hits to the site, but to double it again felt a little ambitious. We didn’t achieve it, but we did get 23% above the record-breaking 2021 with a further +18K, so again we’re heading up the right direction, with 100K hits seeming like an achievable target this year. To have achieved this, being I feel I slacked off slightly with supplying regular content sometimes through the year, I think is amazing, and I appreciate everyone who enjoys reading Devizine; thank you all, blinking love yer, group hug!
The best hitting article this year was from May, when immediately after DOCA’s Street Festival, I highlighted all the forthcoming big events coming in Devizes, headlining it “The Big Ones; Forthcoming Summer Events in Devizes.” Strange how, going on the success of this, in December I published a second “Big Ones” piece, this time highlighting on a wider scale, the best large-scale events and festivals locally over the entire 2023, incorporating anything deemed conceivable to travel to from here. But this was not nearly as successful on hits. Pondering why, I must consider we’re Devizes based, ergo content about Devizes seems to get most attention. Start to venture any further than the Lavingtons and that’s foreign soil!
Yeah, I’m aware the name Devizine directly links to Devizes, but I like the name, it’s grounded now, besides, I believe it’s important to let folk from other local areas know, Devizine’s boundaries are flexible, incorporate anywhere conceivable to travel to for an event, so ideally from Salisbury to Swindon, Bath to Marlborough, but hey, like I say, we’re flexible and I’m not going to hold it against you if you live in Newbury!
In fact, even if I often loiter sober, Billy-no-mates fashion, I’ve enjoyed my voyages of discovery outside of D-town most of all. Particularly Swindon Shuffle, MantonFest, Trowbridge Town Hall, Seend Community Centre for The Female of the Species gig, a trip to Aldbourne to see Painted Bird and Deadlight Dance, and especially the fond memory of going on the road to a Portsmouth gig with Talk in Code. It also goes a long way in the introduction of acts from elsewhere, who often find gigs in town after we’ve featured them playing elsewhere, or within an album review.
Fair to point out at this conjunction, our preview of The Party For Life organised Suicide Prevention gig at Melksham Town FC was the second highest hitting article this year, blowing my Devizes-only theory out of the water, and forgoing the best hit articles are often based upon how many people share and re-Tweet social media posts. The organisers of this one was so pleased to get some press coverage, in an area where the mainstream press seem more interested in national headlines and celebrity click-bait tosh, they rarely support local affairs, especially in entertainment.
This is what gives me the motivation to continue with Devizine, despite some criticism of a completely fictional political sway, or knickers twisted from the few we’ve had to call out the behaviour of. To know we’re appreciated, to hear stories of how we helped, be it a venue finding a band, or visa-versa, or a charity able to reach out, these things are what keeps our spirits up.
Feel-good articles, you know? That’s the ticket, so when young local actress Jess Self won Vernon Kay’s Talent Nation in November, people flocked to our coverage, making it our third best-hitting article this year. These bring the person(s) of the subject delight and joy, and that’s really what it’s all about, smiles on faces, people, smiles all round.
And given this, I really don’t understand why some people want to criticise us, ban us from their petty, clique social media groups, but they will, and that’s life. I got a name for them, I won’t spell it out here today; smiles on faces, remember?!
The fourth best-hit article of the year was a 30th anniversary piece on the Castlemorton free rave, a personal reflection on the historic event and the impact it had on society. But more importantly should be local current affairs, and when we broke the story of pollution in the water of The Crammer Pond in Devizes, well that became our fifth best hitter. Sadly, I really thought we’d made an impact here, and plans were afoot to address the unsuitability of the pond for wildlife and what can be done to rectify it by the town council.
Unfortunately, the issue has raised its ugly head again after the death of some wildfowl during December’s freezing conditions, of which bird flu was blamed but never proven. Nevertheless, no bird has died since a rise in temperature, bird flu is being used to politically point score and to suit other agendas by the powers that be. Is there nothing off limits to boost their egos, not even the deaths of wild animals?
Apparently not, as we continue to assist in campaigns against animal cruelty, especially of blood sports, the badger cull, and expose the trial hunt as the smokescreen it is. So, not only did we cover Lacock’s violence at Boxing Day perpetrated by the Avon Vale Hunt, when it came to light, the single police officer was a member of the hunt and did little to keep the peace, but other suspicious factors too, such as the proposed closure of Savernake Forest. Allowing only for a few set paths to be accessible around the Postern Hill site, environmental benefits to the forest were used in excuse, but residents were suspicious it’d give game hunters unrestricted access without the watchful eye of ramblers.
I cover these issues because I believe in them, and we don’t see enough being done to tackle the issues in, not only other local media sources, but within Wiltshire Police too, who’s fall into special measures surely proves what we’ve always said; the bogus re-election of a PCC in order to sustain totalitarianism for the Conservative Party has resulted in a candidate completely unsuitable for the role, a lack of motivation within the force, and people’s conviction in the Police in general.
I strive to wish to help any such organisations, to illustrate what they are doing to improve, should they wish to, but if it’s fluff they seek, they’re in the wrong place. Our services, our schools and charities are suffering from the incompetence of an uncaring government, we continue the fight for the everyman. That is not political sway, that’s common sense.
We will be reporting the facts of the Crammer debate as opinion pieces here, if you disagree that’s no issue, we won’t hold it against you, for it’s a close one to call. Much less certain councillors have decided their way or the highway. Okay, whatever hidden agendas lie there, but if you convince others to take matters into their own hands, resulting in children being harassed and verbally abused simply for feeding ducks, what have we become, blindly taking the word of someone with a popular Facebook page?!! Well, more’s the pity for them when I call them out on it.
On a happier note, sixth most popular article announced; George Ezra coming to Trowbridge, in what must’ve been the highlight of many young faces in our area. The response was overwhelming, and special thanks goes to Roger of Sound Knowledge, Marlborough and Kieran Moore of Sheer Music for making that happen. Bringing a top act like this to our area, without the need of an extortionate price, or ticket stub of festival proportions, allowing children and teenagers to catch a glimpse of live music by an inspiring popular act like Ezra was nothing short of miraculous, and I had a great time too!!
Something which doesn’t bother me as much as it seems to for a majority, the news DOCA have reset the date of Devizes carnival to the traditional date to the 2nd September was our 7th most popular article. MantonFest revealing their 2022 line-up came 8th, and what a brilliant festival it was, tickets for this year’s are on sale now, though I’ve procrastinated on a preview for the line-up, save inclusion on our aforementioned “Big Ones” article. Something we’re sure to knock up as soon as, because 2023’s line-up sounds equally as great.
From a proposal raised at a Devizes Town Council meeting by national organisers, the idea of a Devizes Cheese & Chilli Festival proved popular, being our 9th most popular article of 2022. Though, did this ever actually happen?! I certainly don’t recall hearing any more about it. Fact is though, Devizes already has our regular Devizes Food & Drink Festival, and that is well-established and as popular as ever. Dates for this year are to be confirmed, cheese and chilli I’m sure will be included, all you must do is support it.
The 10th most popular article of 2022 was concerned with Wax Palace, who held an officially licensed “rave festival” near Erlestoke. Much to the preconceptions of locals concerned, we spoke to organiser Harry, the man who ingeniously got a rave approved by Wiltshire Council, but when chatting to him it became clear how he managed it.
After this the sheer mountain of content we published continued, the day-to-day reviews of nights down our favourite venues, the concerns of public interest, and some silliness to boot! Though I must say, our cheeky, satirical pieces I’ve laid off from recently; must try harder!
Always popular, though not as previous years, like the very notion a McDonald’s would come to Devizes, was our essential April Fools joke. Our 11th most popular article this year, when I suggested Devizes Market Place will be pedestrianised; oh, the very thought of environmental progression angered gammons from afar, but seriously struck a chord with campaigners like Sustainable Devizes, and when you think about it, might yet be an environmentally sensible solution.
Yet, last year I struggled with an April Fools joke, while previous years were founded long before the date, I’m pleased to whisper to those brave enough to have read this far, I’ve already got a killer for this year, and it came to me immediately after All Fools Day 2022. On this though, no one seemed to have noticed the service road on my diagram was deliberately shaped like a small penis; a gag failed, maybe because clearly, none of you own a small penis!
But what of the importance of stats and popularity against our own personal enjoyment of attending events and giving our tuppence on them? Speaking to Andy about what we should or shouldn’t attend, I stressed, as we’re far from professional here, our focus should be on enjoying ourselves rather than seeing ourselves as pro-journalists, having to cover events we might not enjoy. Our objective therefore is surely to enjoy ourselves foremost; so, mine is a pint of scrumpy when you see me, cheers! Excuse the wobbly photos, we should view this as enjoyable or it’s not worth doing.
Taxing Andy’s superior mind for his most memorable events of 2022, off the top of his head, and in no particular order, he suggested: when Tankus The Henge played Devizes Arts Festival, and the Darius Brubeck Quartet too. Longcroft’s Lachy Doley gig in December, and Jazz Sabbath in November. Long Street Blues Club also features understandably high in his hitlist, noting April’s Carl Palmer, Skinny Molly, and March’s Soft Machine gigs. For me, both the Birdmen and the Errol Linton Band were my most memorable nights at Long Street, up skanking with the town councillor! Our gratitude to Ian and Liz for perhaps the most interesting and diverse programme at Long Street, ever!
As for Devizes Arts Festival, Andy became part of the furniture there, not missing a gig. I, on the other hand, skived, apologise profusely, and regret it too. Although, to catch Baila La Cumbia, or simply to have cumbia in Devizes was something I couldn’t miss, and must be one of my favourite gigs of 2022. That said, on my venturing out of Devizes note, I was welcomed over to Calne for their Arts Festival, to see one my new favourite things after fondly reviewing their debut album, and that is Concrete Prairie, who I’m glad to say, come to the Southgate on Saturday 25th March, do not miss it.
On our dependable Southgate, there’s too much to type about, again proving itself for another year to be the stalwart in providing regular live music, and simply for being such a fantastic watering hole. Andy notes the first Sunday of the month residences of Jon Amor, and I cannot possibly argue against this, reviewed them too, and even Ian Diddams stepped in to write his take on it.
I mean, right, bringing Beaux Gris Gris to the jam, who also played at Long Street is nothing short of awesome. Andy also gave honourable mentions of Southgate gigs to the Sarah C Ryan Band, Eddie Martin, and Jack Grace. Ben and Victoria noted the Cracked Machine gig at The Gate, whereas for me, SGO, again, Eddie Martin, but also 12 Bars Later, The Worried Men and Barrelhouse, all provided my most memorable evenings at this wonderful tavern.
Though despite working his little socks off at the Stealth bar, Andy was also quick to mention the Full-Tone Festival, which goes without saying. Such a marvellous annual event on our calendar, we had a fantastic time Full-Tone, thank you. Think classical festival, I’ll give you, but with Kirsty Clinch breezing the sunny Sunday vibes with her brand of pop-folk, or James Threlfall up there on the wheels of steel, how can we possibly now marginalise this? It’s incorporating everything, aside their love of classical, to the point the only part of the word classical we need to sum it up with is the beginning part; class.
Time for tiny niggle, then, for Full-Tone comes at a price, a price you’ll see where your money goes should you attend, but with this in mind, the most fantastic event in Devizes must remain as the free-for-all DOCA Street Festival. This year I took a taster in volunteering to help, and consequently saw how much hard work goes into putting this on. All this said, I still partied, cider in one hand, clearing the bins in the other! And must say, throughout the wealth of talent present, the circus acts, and musical activities, which are too many to mention here, Mr Tea and the Minions rocked my world, and Loz’s farewell gift to Devizes, the Ceres display by Bassline Circus, was nothing short of the most breath-taking, inspiring, and apt thing I’ve EVER seen happen in Devizes.
But Devizes has seen the most amazing year for entertainment events in general, post lockdown, we are celebrating big stylee! Just think, I’ve written all this without even mentioning CAMRA’s Devizes Beer and Cider Festival yet, and that was phenomenal this year. With Ben and Vicky taking on the music task, they did a spectator job, Dr Zebo’s, I give you, Vince Bell giving it “you ain’t ever leaving,” and why would we? With Triple JD’s Hendrix-fashioned brilliance, followed by a reggae jam with Knati P and Nick; wowzers! Yes, it was so good I did fall into the flowerbed; thanks to my rescuers!
And while Wadworth gave us a free mini-fest, supporting local acts like Ben Borrill and The Roughcuts, Ruzz Guitar and the gang rocked Saddleback, which after a plethora of acts from Derby, turned into a full-scale dance event for an apt charitable cause. And The Crown at Bishop’s Cannings pulled out all the stops, giving us the inaugural CrownFest, something so utterly spectacular, I shit you not, Freddie Mercury mingled with the crowd!
Outside our area, I did MantonFest, which was a beauty, and later witnessed a Noddy-a-like yell “it’s Christmassss” at Marlborough College, while trips to Trowbridge Town Hall blessed me with meeting Gecko, and The Scribes, and wow, if Professor Elemental didn’t host a fantastic night with Boom Boom Racoon and The Real Cheesemakers. Nights I’ll never forget.
To bring hip hop to Trowvegas is one thing, to do it in Devizes is another, and though I sadly missed James Threlfall’s BBC Introducing night at the Muck and Dunder, I tip my straw hat to the rum bar, not just for presenting diversity to Devizes’ music events, but doing it in such style it bought the house down. I am, of course referring to the incredible Scribes visiting us in November, wow, that was a pina colada level of cool!
As far back as February, People Like Us played a packed Three Crowns in Devizes, affirming the pub’s reputation as a firm player on our live music scene. It’s always a great night, universally welcoming. Thinking back to The Roughcut Rebels playing a blinder one summery August, to the point, I’m basing my birthday down there on 4th March. Free to all, just turn up, we’ve hopefully some acoustic music in the afternoon followed by Talk in Code and the Ruzz Guitar Trio.
There’s just so much great, great stuff which happened last year, apologies if I missed mentioning your favourite bit, the article is going to epic proportions now and I need to put a cork in it. I just get so excited noting all these great happenings, it gives me great pleasure to be the happy chappy who helps to inform you about them.
I mean, look, I’ve not even mentioned our fabulous Wharf Theatre yet, who I’m delighted to really touch base with this year, and be invited to dress rehearsals, so we can get our views out on the performances prior to you delving into your purse for. Andy, Ian, and myself have given you the lowdown on TITCO’s The Dinner Party, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Hedda Gabler, Lovesong, but my favourite most was when Georgina Claridge played a Dorothy-type character in a most thoughtful, homemade children’s play by Helen Langford, called The World Under the Wood. We love the Wharf!
We had a feast at Soupchick, helped save Furlong Close, we told you about Swindon Paint Fest, we said about Midlife Krisis raving at the Vic in a milk float, we went to the Art Heist in Chippenham, we released a second volume of our 4 Julia’s House compilation albums, which you still NEED to buy, we even went down the “Bin” for UB40 tribute Johnny2Bad, but on bad, we cannot sing the praises of everyone, for that’s simply not realistic. The naughty list is open to invitation!
It was a shame to have to report how popular local Facebook group, Devizes Issues, administered by Tory town councillor Iain Wallis has seen it fit to block and ban Devizine for absolutely no given reason, as it has done with many individuals and even a local Covid support group. Nothing to do with a failed, laughable attempt to set up their own what’s on guide, (which only includes town council organised events,) no, of course not! It seems to enjoy regular culls of anyone who holds an alternative opinion to those of the admin’s, despite inviting members to participate in political debate on both local and national scales. So be it, we’re not looking back… the GB News of Devizes!!
We haven’t banned anyone from our social media pages, you can still enjoy the apolitical Devizine whatever side of the fence you sit on. We are an entertainment events and what’s on guide, ergo, there’s no need to include our personal political views, so we don’t. Why some think we should or shouldn’t do are shit stirrers from both sides, and we don’t play ball with shit stirrers. If you think different that’s your own issue, seek a doctor’s advice, not mine!
What a shame, that had to be said, but I feel it did. I’m not going out like that! For the most part Devizine continues to be the Time Out of Wiltshire, and I’m proud of this, and I’m eternally grateful to everyone who supports it. So, here’s to 2023, hoping it will be as good as last year, hoping we’ll get to cover more of it, be as comprehensive as possible, to not rise to witch hunts against us, and be the go-to website for the free-thinking local.
I urge you to tell us your story, inform us of your events, give us the scoops to cover, tell us about your talented family member, tell us about a niggly issue in need of exposure. Yeah, you can rant on Facebook or Twitter, but you won’t get the same level of attention, we are here to shake up the area, we are here to bring you the news on how great-a-place this is. If this means we’re the black sheep because we refuse to comply, so be it.
Devizine for 2023, I say, though I would, wouldn’t I?! We want to host some events too, btw, we want to raise some funds for charities, and we want to have a good time doing it! Do not get in our way of this simple ethos, with your pathetic and frankly perverse urge to kiss arse!