Marlborough’s darkwave-goth duo, Deadlight Dance push their boundaries to new limits with their second single, Innocent Beginnings this week, and it’s a corker of goth perilous poignancy…..
Echoes of Human League synth prowess rain from this sombre tune, with foreboding warning vocals of Joy Division, yet the theme is environmental, something though historically consistent in pop, generally, surprisingly overlooked by the alternative subgenre of post-punk gothic of the eighties. You’d have thought with the stereotypical gloomy disposition of the genre, climate change was a missed opportunity for electronica, and/or post-punk goth subject matter; though maybe you know different, I’m no expert.
While it has been done, eighties misconceptions of the subject often obscure the severity of the topic, and place them subtly irreverent by today’s standards. Best I can conjure from memory is The Pixies’ track Monkey Gone to Heaven, of which the context of pollution and the depleting ozone layer is missed amidst the screeching vocals of Black Francis, A Forest by the Cure, which always felt more Little Red Riding Hood than eco-warrior, Talking Heads’ (Nothing but) The Flowers which is all too satirical art-pop, experimentally awash with soukous, for some bizarre reason, and even to endure ten minutes of Giorio Moroder’s less-inspiring disco synth moment in Cerrone’s Supernature only to discover elements of environmental concerns conclude with humankind obliterated by some kind of “creature from below!”
It makes this single of an interesting composition, sounding so retrospective; precision with environmental subject matter came much later than this track imitates, therefore musical trends had changed by the time it’s more astutely covered. Ethereal nineties and noughties alternative rock certainly made full use of the topic, from Mors Syphilitica to All About Eve, but Innocent Beginnings, asis Deadlight’s design, it seems, is to recreate the sound of alternative eighties, leaving you pondering if Joy Division were at their peak now, climate change would have been the theme of Atmosphere, and might have come out sounding akin to this. Not forgoing, environmental groups would clasp hold of it, rather than just the creators of Stranger Things!
Though, having said all of the gloomy irreversible theme of Innocent Beginnings which basically suggests it’s all too late to do something about it now, the video is contradictorily recorded in the setting of the pretty village of Aldbourne; hardly the dystopian landscape of a post-apocalyptic earth wrecked by our own hand! And in turn, makes me come over all Greta Thunberg and contemplate at least if we try, we can say we tried; put that in your pipe and smoke it, Nick Fletcher and Tim Emery of Deadlight Dance! Damn good track though, guys, and produced by Nick Beere at Mooncalf Studios, we look forward to hearing more from these guys.
If Lidl Shoes, April’s blast from our aspiring homegrown four-piece indie-punkers, Nothing Rhymes With Orange certainty raised the rafters with energetic enthusiasm, I held subtle solicitude, despite the amusing name, it did only a smidgen to progress the band any further than their mind-blowing debut EP Midsummer. By contrast today’s new single, Butterflies, is a Neil Armstrong sized leap in the maturing direction they need to be heading to attain a mass appeal.
With an infatuation theme, the band express a continuation of narrative relating to Lidl Shoes, yet while maintaining their archetypal jab of youthfulness, Butterflies ventures into a pensive mood, it’s dreamier, swapping guitar distortion and resounding choruses for a softer emotional sound. Don’t run off with Coldplay connotations, it remains punchy enough to warrant influences they cite, like Arctic Monkeys, The Killers and The Wombats, and it lies equally as beguiling as their most celebrated tune to-date, Manipulation.
If the chorus of Manipulation is hailed back at them by fans, Butterflies is clearly in the making to evoke the same effect. It’s instantly loveable, their best work so far, proving as I said since day dot, Nothing Rhymes With Orange are going places.
With this interesting development, I wonder how their predominantly teenage fanbase have responded to this, as they will mature in-line with the band, and should, in theory, relate. Idolised acts of teenage years always rely on this familiarity with the path their fanbase are personally on, and their songs become stories of their own life. Butterflies identifies definitively, calls out to them, it’s an anthem, I tell you!
Frontman guitarist Elijah Easton, drummer Lui Venables, guitarist Fin Anderson-Farquhar and bassist Sam Briggs have cracked it again, furthering a natural development in their sound, and in conglomeration have penned another standout masterpiece; you’d be a fool to yourself for failing to make it down to the mainstage of Devizes Street Festival on Sunday by 2:30pm, where we should join in celebration at the remarkable achievement this young Devizes-based band has made, amidst the selection of international acts on show.
I’ve a mildly interesting word origin urban myth to bore you with before we begin on an opinion piece about the latest petty squabbling at Devizes Town Council, which, beggar belief, causes no consequence or botheration to proceedings of the town’s affairs, but stands to illustrate how pathetic and time wasting it’s all become; a council supposed to diplomatically decide necessary changes to better improve facilities in a town yet cannot even concur which hall to hold meetings in without toys being thrown from prams; so, back ofthe class, pay attention!
Word of the day is “text,” as in a body of words most commonly used in “text message.” Obviously, there’s a derivation from the term textiles, but how it came to be was pre-industrial revolution when weavers worked outside as the cloth was too large to manage in small houses. Being outside, they got to hear the word on the street, a bygone equivalent of taxi drivers and hairdressers! As public opinion mattered to early politicians they would gage and take notes from the weavers as they cast their opinion on current affairs, to take to parliament. The annotations, words from textiles, ergo, came to pass text would mean any body of words.
But it illustrates a point, as to read the recent lone ramblings of one rouge councillor’s renownedly biassed Facebook group, that Devizes Town Council aims to bar the public from attending meetings by switching back to a meeting room though historically used and deemed by a majority of councillors more suitable from another used only recently to insure social distancing during the pandemic, that really, upstanding politicians and councillors alike both want and need to gage public opinion, therefore, logically would encourage public interaction.
The Marketplace this weekend might be for street festival, but next Saturday, 27th May, is a bit of a letdown by comparison as the Devizes Town Council have their roadshow, unless they intend to break into a cover of Wonderwall, which is, fortunately, unlikely! But it is a regular occurence, the purpose of which is for the public to meet the councillors and pour out their concerns to them. In turn, it goes to prove the majority of councillors welcome public opinion. Which begs the question, why go to all that trouble, if this rant is genuine and to be believed, that the council doesn’t care for public interest?! It simply doesn’t make sense.
Two other town councillors have independently taken to other local Facebook groups to elucidate the reasons for the room switch, but being like many members of the public who dared to offer a differing opinion to the admin and town councillor of the page that the rant was posted on, the Devizes Issues, their pledge lies separate from the original post and they are unable to comment upon it. This leaves the admin, again, with the final say on the matter there, that other councillors are according to him, switching rooms in order to bar the public from attending meetings.
Longstanding councillor and former mayor Judy Rose was the one who proposed the move from the Town Hall Assembly Room back to the Council Chamber. “The reasons for wishing to return there have been suggested by a Conservative Cllr, Iain Wallis, is in order to keep the public out,” she explained, “I can state clearly that this proposal has nothing to do with keeping the public out, nor the spurious idea of ‘returning home’.”
She continued to outline the reasons for the move,”the acoustics of the Assembly Room are poor for the spoken word, even with mics. At our last Council meeting, an invited speaker used the mic, but still remained inaudible to many of us, and frequently, the same thing happens with councillor’s contributions. The arrangement of tables facing each other does not, at times, make for co-operative, civilised debate or behaviour.”
The public have always been able to attend meetings in the Council Chamber since the Town Hall was built. Prior to Covid, the meetings were moved to the Assembly Room when a larger contingent of the public was expected, a move which was relatively easy to anticipate from the contents of the agenda.
Judy expressed, “the public never have, nor will they ever be excluded from meetings, save under GDPR for certain exempt items concerning staff matters and commercial information about the properties owned by the Town Council. To suggest otherwise is completely mistaken, and to imply such a hidden agenda is not constructive and indeed very unhelpful in aiding the knowledge and understanding of how the Town Council operates.”
Guardian leader Jonathan Hunter also expressed his concerns, “this move is not about excluding any members of the public; it’s about promoting a more positive and cohesive environment. Councillors do not want to exclude members of the public and to suggest that this is the case is completely false.”
“Whilst the super-sized venues of the Corn Exchange and Assembly Room were appropriate for Covid protocols, the Assembly Room has become a venue that promotes distance between councillors and the public. Regular difficulties with communication and, at times, an adversarial and confrontational atmosphere all make the Assembly room a poor choice environment and a venue that isn’t fit for purpose. Councillors should be working together, and the environment should be positive, focused, and non confrontational.”
“Members of the public that were also present last night were asked for their views. Their conclusions were that the Assembly Room was confrontational. In an attempt to sway opinion, it was unfortunate that one or two councillors stated that the public would be sat behind the backs of councillors within the council chamber in future meetings, even though the room layout hasn’t been set up for future meetings. Councillors do not want to have their backs towards members of the public.”
Devizes Guardians, along with the Labour councillor, the Independent councillor and the newly elected Mayor all voted in favour. Three Conservative councillors abstained. The proposal was approved with a majority vote. But with these facts obscured from the more popular Facebook group the readers are faced with a one-sided evaluation of the issue and will likely believe what’s said because no one has come forward to challenge it; ministry of truth type stuff.
The very fact this has happened, and is of no rare occasion, implies more generally, that these accusations made against opposing councillors are in fact, nothing more than the power tripping ramblings of a particular councillor who’s only intentions are to belittle their fellow councillors and create the illusion he is the superhero of hour here to bound in wearing his spandex and restore public access to council meetings; is it a bird? Is it a plane?!
Yet, being a majority of residents, and councillors have been banned from the group, and/or are silenced by comments deleted, alternatively implies otherwise.
Now, I stand accused myself of “bullying and harrassing” this councillor, by none other than him, on an occasion where he posted a request for people to advertise upcoming events consequently causing a number of people to mention that Devizine was a good place to find such information. I didn’t encourage them to do this, and have no access to the group yet sonehow this constituted “bullying.”
Every comment which stated this simple fact was deleted, and many were banned from the group. Suggesting there appears to be a personal vendetta against us, when really, as we cover discrepancies and problematic issues arising from local politics, it so unduly seems to be near every time such a happening occurs within Devizes Town Council it seems the same councillor is at the heart of the squabble. This doesn’t mean we have deliberately targeted anyone in particular, and we certainly haven’t bullied or harassed anyone.
I could go out on a whim and suppose, on this occasion the councillor in question is right, and all the other town councillors intend to bar the public from meetings, but unfortunately for him, there’s simply no logical explanation as to why they would want to do this, and furthermore, if it is the truth, has he never read The Boy Who Cried Wolf?!
Ask yourself this question, who would you believe, the individual town councillor who has lied, maliciously exaggerated and skewered facts, censored anyone opposing him then plays the victim, or a majority of councillors simply motivated by the notion of doing what’s best for our town?
Just remember all this come local council elections, boi, I did say pay attention; it’s petty, I know, but makes one wonder how they fair on bigger issues when they throw their toys out of pram over what room to hold a meeting in to solve said bigger issues! Mind you, if I was mayor the council would be Playboy bunnies and meetings would held in a hotub, so no one’s perfect!
Swindon’s acoustic Celtic folk duo Canute’s Plastic Army played the Southgate in Devizes last Saturday; though firmly on my never-ending must-see-list, even just the name alone is enticing, until cloning technology is readily affordable and can be found in Lidl next to the Portable Car Air Compressors and 30-in-1 Screwdriver Sets, I cannot be everywhere at the same time!
To rub salt into said wound, they’ve a new single out this week, Anglo Saxon Song, with the passionate vocals of Anish Harrison harking beautiful Celtic song and intricately subtle guitar work of Neil Mercer, here’s a taste of something different for you; timeless, enchanting, and hanging around Avebury at solstice type stuff, and it drips with authenticity and charm.
Their first EP, Building Walls, was released in summer 2017 on Secret Chord Records. Find some interesting previous singles on Bandcamp, for a quid a piece, and then you, like, me will be aiming not to miss them next time around!
OMG, OMG, another bank holiday weekend coming up, who’s excited, who’s coming out to play?! Here’s what we’ve found this week, find the info and links, and for planning ahead, here, on our event calendar. No prizes for guessing Editor’s Pick of the Week this week!
Obviously more stuff will be added to our event calendar as and when it comes to our attention, this is not comprehensive, so do check in later in the week, and let us know what we missed, we charge one cupcake to add an event, but it must be a chocolate one!
Don’t forget to check out Hail the Curious, the debut exhibit at The Forbidden Carnival in Chippenham, running until 30th June.
Regular acoustic jam at The Southgate in Devizes.
Skimpy & The Triniti Band at The Bell Inn, Bath, where Little Shop of Horrors runs until Saturday at The Rondo Theatre.
Emmanuel Sonubi’s Emancipated at Swindon Arts Centre, and Gretchen Peters at The Wyvern Theatre, Swindon.
The Mead Community Primary School presents Forever Treasure Island at Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon.
Pierre Novellie and Huge Davies, Comedy Previews at Pound Arts in Corsham.
Shindig Festival opens its doors, have a great weekend to all at Shindig, you lucky lot; have a boogie for me!
Open Mic at Stallards in Trowbridge.
Lady Maisery at Pound Arts, Corsham.
The Soap Girls play The Vic in Swindon, I say, ding-dong! Reverend Ferriday is at The Tuppenny, Jen Brister’s The Optimist at Swindon Arts Centre, and it’s all soul at The Wyvern Theatre with the Luther show.
Octopus Dream Theatre presents I Love You, Mum, I Promise I Won’t Die at The Merlin Theatre, Frome.
Lou Cox’s n o holds barred one-woman show, Having a Baby and the S**t They Don’t Tell You, at The Wharf Theatre, Devizes for Friday and Saturday; highly recommended from us, but not for the faint hearted!
Meanwhile, 12 Bars Later make a welcomed return to The Three Crowns, Devizes, with the incredible Mark Colton’s solo show at The Pelican.
John Watterson’s celebrated tribute to Jake Thackray, An Evening Without Jake Thackray comes to The Bouverie Hall in Pewsey. Billy & Louie at The Castle & Ball, Marlborough.
Running until the 29th, it’s the opening of Chippenham Folk Festival, while the fantastic Triple JD Band plays The Old Road Tavern.
Find Castro at The Wheatsheaf, Calne.
The most amazing young soul singer I’ve heard for an era or four, Franki Soul is at Trowbridge Town Hall. While Fly Yeti Fly have a double-bill at The Pump with Alex Roberts and Graeme Ross.
The Karport Collective are the Seven Stars, Winsley, Bradford-on-Avon; fantastic these guys are. Dervish, legends of the Irish folk scene at Wiltshire Music Centre.
Break Cover are at Brown Street in Salisbury.
Tapped at the Theatre Royal, Bath, and The Lynne and McCartney Story Theatre Show at Chapel Arts.
We Were Promised Honey at Pound Arts, Corsham.
Here Come The Crows at The Vic in Swindon, while Rosie Jones’ Triple Threat is at Swindon Arts Centre, and The Roy Orbison Experience comes to The Wyvern Theatre.
Ultimate Coldplay at The Cheese & Grain, Frome, and The Urban Voodoo Machine at The Tree House.
You know it has to be Editor’s Pick of the Week, The Devizes International Street Festival is free, it’s the best weekend in Devizes, and it starts on the Green on Saturday and continues on the Sunday in the Market Place; see you there!
Street Festival after parties, then, find Jonah Hitchens Band at the Southgate, Devizes, Ben Borrill plays at The Moonrakers, and Gerry Jablonski Band plays at the Long Street Blues Club. The Snuff Box has an International Craft Beer Festival, and The Exchange hosts guest DJ, Castro.
Direct from the Pump, Fly Yeti Fly, Alex Roberts and Graeme Ross fly over to The Barge on HoneyStreet, while the Chaos Brothers are at The Lamb in Marlborough.
Be Like Will & Band Of Pilgrims are at The Pump in Trowbridge.
End of Story at The Talbot, Calne, while Band-X play The Wheatsheaf.
A fundraiser for Swindon’s Ukrainian community at Swindon Hub, Rave Against The Regime at The Vic, The Black Hole Sons at the New Inn, Walk Right Back at The Wyvern Theatre, and Tom Davis’ Work in Progress at Swindon Arts Centre.
Ma Bessie and her Pigfoot Band at Chapel Arts, Bath, with You Are The Sun at Theatre Royal, running until 29th May, and A Shining Intimacy at The Egg.
Triple JD are at the Sun in Frome, the Cheese & Grain have Lindisfarne while The Burning Hell are at The Tree House.
Devizes International Street Festival continues, in the Market Place this time, too much to mention here, but do look out for our homegrown upcoming talent Nothing Rhymes With Orange on the main stage at 2:30pm.
The Barge, Honey-Street are Celebrating 50 years of Dark Side of the Moon with Atom Heart Floyd.
Jon Amor Trio at The New Inn, Bath, Jolie Blon at The Bell Inn.
Last Call at The Vic, Swindon.
Frome’s Spring Vegan Fair at the Cheese & Grain.
Bank holiday goodness then, arty kids will be pottery painting at Hilworth Park, find Kate and The Unpredictables at The Three Crowns, Devizes.
Swindon’s famous duck race, see poster below.
Mono at the Cheese & Grain, Tryani Collective at The Bell in Bath.
Tuesday 30th I got nought, unless you know better; always tell us if we’ve missed something! Mind you, I think that’s enough for one week, have a day off, stay home and make beans on toast; you can add a little chilli powder to fully clear your system if you so choose! Have a great weekend, stop me and give me grief if you spot me at the Street Festival, I don’t bite…..not on the nipple at any rate!
For eight years on the trot, minus the lockdown year no one needs reminding of, local all-female supergroup, The Female of the Species have performed a one-off gig raising funds for various local charities; 2023 is no different as they announce this year’s will be on 21st October at Seend Community Hall….
It’s an amalgamation made in heaven. Five frontwomen of various local bands join in celebration, which is the sum of all their individual talent and a whole lot more. Nicky Davis from People Like Us and The Reason, Julia Greenland from Soulville Express & Delta Swing, Claire Perry from Big Mamma’s Banned & The Misfitz, Charmaigne Andrews from Siren, and Julie Moreton from Train to Skaville and Jules & The Odd Men make the line up, and if you’ve seen these any of these girls in action solo or with their own bands, you’ll know they’re all 100% dynamite; imagine this times five, forget the maths, the result is greater than 500%, an atomic detonation of wonderful!
I’ll see your examples of legends upstaging each other when on the same stage at the same time, as it’s fair to wonder how on earth something so right like Mike Jagger and David Bowie recording Dancing in the Street could’ve gone so utterly wrong, but raise you my assurance this is not the same ballpark here. The girls of Female of the Species work together in unison, back each other’s solos with such gusto, skill and friendship, it’s a sight to behold.
From Teen Talk to Young Melksham, and even once for Carmela’s Fight Against Muscular Dystrophy, Female of the Species must have raised tens of thousands of pounds by now, and received a civic award three years ago. Last year was a Halloween theme, this time the girls cover “the MTV years.” And will raise funds for Alzheimers Support.
I mean, yeah, it’s an assortment of sing-a-long covers, but with the adjoining of so much talent, it’s the unmissable cover show bursting with energy and fun you must see for yourself; the likes you only know if you know. Because of this ever growing need to know basis, it will sell out super fast, so….
The Female of the Species throw absolutely everything they have at this annual event. With great support acts and on stage banter, it’s something to behold. Here at Devizine we congratulate and thank the girls and all involved in this annual event which has become as special on our local event calendar as Christmas day!
Finally crawled out of my Hobbit-hole this weekend after a shilly-shallying period of making do with BGT on the telebox, and what better way to kick my sorry-ass back into gear than to finally pop my Cheese and Grain cherry?
Hold your gasp, I know, mate, inspecting the South West’s flagship venue was still surprisingly on my Devizine roadshow to-do-list, and a little tour of Frome’s back streets on a Saturday night with a former resident to direct me off the tourist track was also on the cards. For I’ve mindfully put Frome, particularly the Cheese, on a pedestal, and was eager to see if it lived up to expectations.
Firstly, the invite was for a sellout night with eighties premier Scottish rockers, Big Country, of whom I could only cite one hit from memory, conveniently self-titled, but if far from their biggest fan, the support came from another eighties band, who had minor chart success with a post-punk synth type style, Spear of Destiny, and I’d never heard of them. Neither, I confess, were my cuppa, but the opportunity to cross the border and see Frome in all its heavenly glory was my motivation.
Frome conveys a happening liberal, alternative arty and counterculture reputation, its hipster value far outweighing any Wiltshire market town, something which has developed fairly recently, and can be likened to Somerset’s own Brighton, pebbly beach converts to cobbled streets, and the Cheese effectively their Pavilion. But should we bow in envy at its proud accomplishments? Perhaps.
Our initial pitstop was a necessity burrito calling, placing me with pleasant first impressions. As a train pulled into Frome Station and people offloaded, we took to a renovated hanger nearby, called the Station, where various street food outlets surrounded an alternative art gallery. It was no issue Burrito Boi was the only one open, as per guide’s recommendation, it was what we were here for.
Even with a view of the gigantic B&M sign, your gaze is ever-easily diverted from commercialisation in Frome, it’s colourfully aesthetic. We met a chatty musician type, of the acoustic punk covers band Raggedy Men, a Frome band, it was told, which rarely gigs further than they can effectively crawl home from, amidst folk gathered alfresco on benches, under a casual reggae beat! Burrito Boi’s bar and eatery wasn’t exactly cheap, but damn, that was one tasty burrito, as worthy of your attention as any beef and rice wrap can possibly be.
And there it is with a general nutshell of Frome, like Italy, to suggest it’s cool and hip is no fib, but whatever you do is hefty on the wallet; shrug, sign of the times.
The ticket stub for The Cheese and Grain tonight stood at a sizable thirty-five notes, a pint has reached the inevitable fiver as standard, but dammit, it bears its wires as to where your dollar goes, and you have to hand it to the place, it’s the kind of wonderful to leave you contemplating if every town needs a Cheese and Grain.
While immersed in an adequate free overnight car park, one vocal regular with khaki shorts and floppy pink and silver mohican informed me she had never seen it so full, only to be further confirmed Big Country attained a devoted fanbase in meeting a couple who’d travelled from London, and delighted to shock us that there’s “nothing quite like this in the capital.”
Such is the reputation of this big cheese, the kind of venue to host the Foo Fighters, or a spontaneous pitstop for Sir Paul McCartney to drop in for a gig on his way to Glasto, and frequently too, The Pretenders graced this grand hall last Friday. It is a comparable rural answer to a city venue, such as Bristol’s O2. Though you may find a ticket stub at a smidgen less at the latter, supposing because it has a larger capacity, the further fuel and parking fees will far tipple over the price for the Cheese.
So, if you like your live music bold and with celebrity or legendary status, The Cheese and Grain is the choicest thirty-five minute drive away, as it’s the only venue here so majestically respected to host such big names. As at an eight hundred capacity, the mechanics of any larger venue are unavoidably bound by regulations, to make you feel like herded cattle, at the Cheese you’re relatively of the organic free-range variety. The hall is a huge open space with a grand purpose-built stage and marvellous acoustics, as the sound reverberates like a bass bin, the effect is awesome. But the surroundings are equally appeasing, the outside area is bustling, with an aroma of freshly-cooked pizza; it is, just, nice.
The slim age demographic inside reflected the double bill of acts popularised in the eighties, and thus an older crowd appeared spaciously divided, so late comers were standing watching beyond the fire doors for want not to be ageing sardines, and thus I felt little atmosphere developing. Both bands accomplished yet hardly groundbreaking now, and with little knowledge of their works for me it lacked the retrospective appeal it clearly did for the fans; I was a tender thirteen in 1983, and favoured Grandmaster Flash!
Though I will say, if a post-punk support felt unmatched for the aficionados of this harder rock band, even if of the same era, Spear of Destiny where equally as great, expressively vocal and perhaps closer to the general rock sound of Big Country than I’d bargained they would be.
Big Country though, were only partially the real McCoy. With former Skids original frontman Stuart Adamson passed away in 2001, Simon Hough made for a great alternative, as they worked through their magnum opus album, The Crossing, on its forty anniversary. As for the fans, well, they lapped it up.
Of course, on another evening, with a different line-up I’m gathering The Cheese & Grain converts to suit the punters, ergo given when Ruzz Guitar plays there, or when Dreadzone pays a visit, the crowd will relate appropriately to the tenet of the act. See, to me, June 16th-17th’s Frome ska and reggae weekender has my name all over it, and you should browse their website or our event calendar to find something to fill your boots too, because I know you will!
With the pull of acts to play the Cheese, such as Big Country far greater than our humble blog, it’s futile to provide you with a detailed analysis of them, as also as suggested, I appreciate they played well to the fans but it wasn’t my cuppa. I ask myself, would I have preferred to be in one of our cosier, grassroots venues, backing an upcoming act, like at The Pump, or down the trusty Southgate back in Devizes? Actually, being not one to chase the big names, yeah, I believe I would have.
With that box ticked then, it was decided to do a bunk; I was keen to see what else was on offer in Frome on an typical night. Yet, it was surprisingly quiet elsewhere, as if the Cheese has the gravitational pull of Jupiter and anything else surrounding it was merely a moon.
I didn’t think at this point to check the sister venue, the Tree House, who had a Muse tribute, rather we sauntered the town, mostly upwards cobbly streets. While told to avoid The Blue Boar, and some class and glass fronted wine bar, Eight Stony Street, which looked city-like and not within the character of the town, we wandered through the partial club-bar 32 Bath Street, which catered for a younger, perhaps less affluent, and with drum n bass playing out, young at heart, I loved it there!
Of course, the busiest was a taste of home, Wadworth’s grand George Hotel, and we passed by The Sun, which appeared welcoming, and had some locally sourced live music on, to the cobbled legendary Lamb & Fountain, which I was told was the best pub in town. Yet it was an acquired taste, uniquely appropriate, akin to said Southgate, or Swindon’s Beehive, it has its independent feel which wouldn’t change on request, a local of locals, it was sawdust-on-the-floor welcoming. Nought Wetherspoons about any of them!
I left feeling sometimes, perhaps, less is more. Clearly Frome attracts more lively characters, bohemians and oddities than any neighbouring towns, but overloaded with options of things to do, I fear, aside the outside pull of The Cheese, if it has the population to sustain them all, as the biggest niggler was, unlike cities like Brighton, the streets felt comparatively void of activity.
Maybe we could attribute this to being a weekend before a bank holiday, or a general sign of these hard times which all towns are experiencing. I don’t know, just felt, though it was an adventurous evening exploring a town I know little about, and only had time to scratch the surface of, while Frome has this city-sized event programme feel to it, it only weighs in approximately eight thousand larger in population to Devizes, and less than half the size of Chippenham.
I’m kinda thinking, if I lived there, with all this on my doorstep, would I simply take it for granted and rarely engage as much as I assume I would? And would my wallet allow me to?
Ah, it’s debatable for sure, but take Devizes on a Saturday night, where options are comparably limited, at least plenty will gather at what beauties we do have, I’d wager great nights were had, as ever, at the Three Crowns and The Southgate. So even without a regular Cheese and Grain on our doorstep, we make do with what we do have, and use them more regularly. And on those special occasions like next week’s Street Festival, Devizes will put on the amazingly colourful parade we know it to be, and all will join and rejoice there, freely.
Or I could just be on a grumpy Sunday rant cos you can’t get a burrito that tasty for love nor money in Devizes; you decide, but yeah, Frome, don’t go changing just to please me!
Hey you, had one of those weeks so far, and need to blow off some steam?! I know I have, but you don’t need me to get started on my problems, you need to hear about all the events happening this coming week in Wiltshire; here’s what we’ve found, but there’s always more to come, so info on these, links and further updates can be found on our Event Calendar.
It’s about this time when you really need to be looking over next month too and planning ahead. So much going on in June, from Pride to Devizes Arts Festival and, and, and, well, just have a sneaky peak HERE.
Ongoing: do check out Si Griffith’s new gallery The Forbidden Carnival in Chippenham. There’s an exhibit currently running until the end of June, and it is amazing; see the poster below, and review HERE.
Wednesday 17th: the regular acoustic jam at The Southgate, Devizes. Also, a piano lunchtime recital from Helen Farrar at Pound Arts in Corsham.
The Tight Lipped Combo at The Bell Inn, Bath, and Tiff Stevenson’s Sexy Brain at the Rondo Theatre.
Opening at Swindon Arts Centre and running until 20th May the TinkCo Theatre Group presents Calendar Girls. And Kate Rusby is at the Cheese & Grain in Frome.
Thursday 18th: And The Drystones play The Pump in Trowbridge, with a Comedy Network night at the Civic.
Happy Place at the Rondo Theatre in Bath.
Ghosts of This Town play The Vic in Swindon, Somerset Velvet & James Turner at The Tuppenny, and Lulu’s For the Record is at The Wyvern Theatre.
Jon Royon is a Corsham based potter who took up pottery 5 years ago after taking classes at The Pound, and you can meet him at the Pound in Corsham, and it’s free. In the evening there’s a National Theatre live screening of David Harewood (Homeland) and Zachary Quinto (Star Trek) playing feuding political rivals in James Graham’s (Sherwood) multiple award-winning new drama, Best of Enemies, set in 1968 America, as two men fight to become the next president. This is also showing at the Merlin Theatre in Frome.
Friday 19th: The Reason, are at The Three Crowns in Devizes, and that is never a bad thing! Sarum’s Lot are at The Barge on Honey-Street.
There’s funky jazz and soul from the Shilts at the Civic in Trowbridge.
The Mark Harrison Band at The Rondo Theatre, Bath.
2 Sick Monkeys headline The Vic in Swindon, with Borrowed Time, The Liabilities and Room 10, while The Music of Meatloaf can be found at The Wyvern Theatre with Hits Out of Hell.
George Egg’s Set Menu at Pound Arts, Corsham. The South play the Cheese & Grain in Frome, with A Band Called Malice at The Tree House.
Saturday 20th: Find a 75-minute chaotic journey through the minds of two dudes; Jack & Jordan at The Wharf Theatre, Devizes, Lazy Dog Comedy comes to Devizes Con Club, and some edgy folk from Caute’s Plastic Army at the Southgate.
The Travis Waltons at Heartwork at The Pump, Trowbridge, the wonderful Strange Folk play Stallards, and Marty’s Fake Family at the Wiltshire Yeoman.
The Hi Fi’s at Melksham Rock ‘n’ Roll Club, Triple JD Band at The Constitutional Club in Chippenham.
Homer at The Baker’s Arms, Swindon, The Roughcut Rebels at the Swiss Chalet, Faux Fighters at The Vic, Tim Vine’s Breeep! at The Wyvern Theatre.
The Archive of Dread at Rondo Theatre, Bath, with Blurt at The Bell Inn, and Ricky Cool and the In Crowd at Chapel Arts.
Mara Simpson at Pound Arts, Corsham.
But I’m seriously thinking of crossing the border for our Editor’s Pick of the Week, Big Country playing the Cheese & Grain, with Spear of Destiny in support, amazeballs! Meanwhile Muse tribute Muze plays the Tree House.
Sunday 21st: you can find the Madhatter’s Wedding Fayre at Devizes Corn Exchange from 11am-3pm. From 5pm in Devizes, find the Eddie Martin Trio at the Southgate.
Jaywalkers at The Bell Inn, Bath.
All for the kids at Swindon Arts Centre with Grooving with Pirates, and Pop Princesses at The Wyvern Theatre.
Illyria presents Robin Hood in an open air performance at the Merlin Theatre, Frome.
Pasha Finn & The Ellipsis at The Bell Inn, Bath, and Monday also kicks off SparkFest at the Mission Theatre, running until 27th May, there’s lots going on there.
War of The Worlds at Swindon Arts Centre, Li’l Jim at The Bell Inn in Bath, and an Exhibition on screen at Pound Arts in Corsham, called Tokyo Stories.
And that’s all folks. Big weekend next time, bank holiday again, and Devizes Street Festival with so much other great stuff going on it’s going to take me until next week to type it all out here! Have a good one, big love, Darren.
Suh Gen Z? U might think U is well dank two-footing pensioner’s doors for TikTok followers, n U might think U snatched the kiki, vibing n vaping through a Taylor Swift concert, polishing off a whole bag of Haribo, U total ledge. But I have wig for U about your so-called “boomer” parents; your slang is wonky at best, mate, they ain’t boomers at all, they’re more likely the wicked, jilted generation X, and it might just be fact that in a time of yore, before you were a twinkle in your daddy’s dilated pupils, they secretly partied harder, faster and longer in an hour than you will ever hope to achieve throughout your entire life…..
Big yikes, tho, don’t get salty, I’m not out to diss U, so don’t ghost me, I’m here to give you the tea on how to find out if your parents were what we deemed in the nineties as “ravers.”
Now, U might assume you know what this entails, but I can assure you, soz, but you have absolutely no clue at all. To rave in the nineties wasn’t clubbing in soft play centres covered in neon glow sticks and daring to drink six Primes, like it might be today. Raving back then was mostly illegal, multitudes gathering in fields and disused warehouses across the UK, all of which wouldn’t pass modern health and safety regulations; but this is only the tip of the iceberg, the rest will knock you the fuck out like you is Chris Rock at the Grammys, and these facts are Will Smith.
Yep, they might be dictating and demanding now, stamping their control over you, preaching right from wrong, and bigging up their own behaviour by comparison, but I ask, how well do you really know them, what secrets might they be hiding about their own misspent youth? Were your parents party to this outrageous trend? Did they gyrate like broken robots with eyes the size of saucers, masticating the shit out of a Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit?
Here are some tell-tale signs to help you discover if, in some long-forgotten past, your parents made some fucking noise, and if they secretly, knew the score (you may need to Google these archaic expressions):
1: Ask Your Grandparents
Grandparents might hold several clues but may not think it wise to let you in on them. Try asking them about what time your parents would get home after going out on a Friday evening. If they answer “usually around 1 or 2am,” you are off the hook. If they answer “sometime on Tuesday evening, and then they slept until Thursday,” then it’s a reason for suspicion.
If fortunate enough your grandparents still live in the same house as they did when your parent in question was young, go to their former bedroom and carefully peel back the wallpaper. Should you discover hundreds of blue smears, that will be blu-tac remains, and it’s very possible they adorned their walls with a thing called “flyers.” These were basically adverts for forthcoming raves. It was the carbon footprint fire insurance write-off done thing at the time, though collecting flyers doesn’t constitute they actually attended raves, it could’ve been a bluff to look cool and gain a shag, but it’s a good starting clue. Take some wallpaper paste to avoid detection.
2: Check for Jawbone Structure and Oral Hygiene
If you think it likely your grandparents would’ve taught good oral hygiene, yet your dad’s teeth looks like someone threw a grenade into Wookey Hole, chances are he was gurning his face off in a field somewhere, long before you were an itch in his “baggies,” and this is the aftermath.
Remember, don’t ask why, but the jawbone structure of Johnny Bravo and the teeth of Gollum is your gateway to enlightenment on the issue; I think it best you follow further instructions as your Dad sounds like the kind of right cheesy quaver who were dubbed “the white glove” brigade. Again, it was a thing at the time.
3: Blowdry your Hair and other Audio Clues
More simply, blowdry your hair. If they start dancing to the sound of the hairdryer it’s time to prepare for the worst; it sounds like they were officially on a “pukka one,” at more than one point in their life.
Attend a football match or other sporting event, should the referee’s whistle evoke blissful memories and your parents respond thus: “whistle posse!” you should be concerned.
4: Shout Outs
Shout out “I’ll take your brain to another dimension,” from the top of the stairs, and repeat three times. If they reply, “what the devil are you on about now, foolish child?” then you’re back in the safe zone. If, however, in a glorious screech of reminiscence they respond, “pay close attention!” Then it’s a pretty safe bet I’m afraid.
Alternatively, you could try the rave mantra, “top one, nice one,” and they should respond with “get sorted!” If that doesn’t trigger them nothing is likely to, and you can be safe in the knowledge they probably listened to boy bands in the nineties, the sad acts.
5: Search for Photographic Evidence and Pop Music Knowledge
Time for some research. You should note your parents are not of your generation who feel the need to photographically document every second of their lives on social media. In fact, pulling out a camera at a rave would be seriously frowned upon, so a decade gap of photographs in the fam’s archive of your parents might hold a clue. If all you find are the odd snap of a family occasion, where your parent can be seen snoozing on a sun-lounger in the background with a grin like the Cheshire Cat, or a photograph of them standing next to their XR3i or 3.0 Capri turbo, you should be wary.
Give your parents a pop quiz starting off with chart hits of the eighties, then the nineties. If they come up all chicken dinner with the eighties questions but fail like Joey Essex on Mastermind on the nineties ones, it’s because ravers forgot all about pop hits and chart positions when they first reached for the skies and got mullered at a rave party, fact.
6: Suspicious Purchases
If your mum neglects to buy you the bitesize GCSE maths book you’ve been asking for, but instead gets you a pair of Technics and a mixer, something is definitely amiss, and there’s a likelihood they want you to be the life and soul to a hopeful resurrection of the trend. Say “no, I’m not Carl Cox, I only want to pass my exams.”
7: The Obvious Final Exam
Only attempt this if your parents have scored high in all the above tests, and never, I repeat never question why; there are some skeletons in closets you really don’t want to uncover. For this final exam you will need a packet of M&Ms, favourably of the plain old chocolate variety. Take the sweets out of their packet, place them in a money bag and offer one to your old folks. The correct response from the average parent should be something along the lines of, “oh, no thank you, it’s very kind, but you eat them my love.”
However, should your mum or dad respond with a sniff, and a “na, sorted mate!” it’s pretty much concrete that your parents have had equal if not more ”rave accessories” than Bez of the Happy Mondays, (Google him and prepare yo bad self.)
The bottom line is to never worry too much about it, okay so your parents were hardcore, but you do not need counselling, it’s not biggie, really; just ensure they are comfortable and never throw out any of these things pictured below. They are called cassette tapes, and they might be the only fragments left of a long-forgotten youth culture very sentimental to them. You should note, the times were vastly different from today, we had an economic recession and were dictated to with an iron fist, by the last desperate attempts of a failing conservative government, but at least we didn’t have Ed Sheeran. You cannot judge your parents by the order of things today, this is not Minority bloody Report.
Samuel Beckett’s existential work is performed in the round this week in Bath’s Mission Theatre, by the Playing Up Theatre Company…..
“Give them enough rope and they’ll hang themselves” …. Beckett’s rope is superbly used by the company to great aplomb as it happens. Gogo (Matt Nation) and Didi (Darian Nelson), have no rope to do so whilst wanting to, while Lucky (Sam Fynn) and Pozzo (Jack Strawbridge) do have rope but no suicidal tendencies. Godot naturally never appears although his messenger (Scarlett Nation) delivers his tardy apologies.
These five perform on a traditionally sparse set, with cunning use of lighting for the tree, accompanied by two large rocks and two entrances to frame the action. Heavy winter clothing sets the season. Sophie Brookes’ direction does the rest, ably supported by Richard Chivers’ tech.
“Godot” is fundamentally a five-person, two-hour “monologue”. It’s word heavy, with little flow – “Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes”. It has challenging scenes of slavery and abuse. Large parts of it are difficult to fathom. But the company provides a phenomenally slick production that avoids turgidity. This is community theatre at its very finest – professional qualities abounding. All characterisation is stunning, the gibbering loon of Lucky especially – disturbingly – so.
“Godot” ran until Saturday 13th May. The only question you needed to ask is “Shall we go?”. But now like our eponymous heroes… don’t move…
Friday night saw the launch of an entirely new musical experience from good old Devizes Town… “The Four Sopranos”….
Attendees at the full house in the Town Hall may well have been familiar with those in the quartet already… Jemma Brown, Terésa Isaacson, Lucia Pupilli and Tabitha Cox. Yet whilst they certainly have historical and ongoing connections with “The Invitation Theatre Company” and “The Fulltone Orchestra”, nonetheless “The Four Sopranos” are a separate entity in their own right; four friends coming together to perform something presented a little differently for audiences to enjoy. As Lucia says, “We have worked on the harmonies collaboratively, we didn’t want to just take them off the shelf and let people hear what they might have heard before, it’s been a fantastic way of working, but is also hard work – but it means our sound is absolutely ours”. And I can confirm it absolutely is.
Doing what their name says on the tin, “The Four Sopranos” were exactly that… four talented and musically excellent sopranos, delivering a widespread program of harmonic song, from opera, stage, film and popular music, sung in harmony – as per the above!
So what of the show? The foursome started with a couple of crowd favourites – two numbers from “Les Mis”; “I dreamed a Dream” and “Stars”. It is true there were some nerves showing – but understandably. A new venture, a new idea, a new approach… but with these two songs under their belt a noticeable lifting of confidence, a collective “what’s going on – let’s get over it” so to speak was evident. And the rest of the show delivered with verve, panache and oozed with the talent before us.
The Musical Theatre genre continued with “Somewhere over the rainbow” and “You’ll never Walk alone”. Followed by a change into a more classical and operatic tone with solos and duets, Terésa with Gounod’s arrangement of Ave Maria, Lucia – a fluent Italian speaker in her own right – with O Mio Babbino Caro by Puccini. And “Sull’aria” by Mozart performed by Lucia and Tabitha plus Delibe’s “Flower duet”. Our quartet finished off a whirlwind first half with numbers from “Phantom of the Opera” and “My Fair Lady”.
The second half followed in similar vein… I won’t bore you any further with lists of songs performed and if you want to find out what they were you’d best get to one of their gigs! I will add that Tabitha and Jemma also performed solos – with “Never Enough” from “The Greatest Showman” and “She Used to be Mine” from “Waitress” respectively. Other than those two, needless to say it was just more high class, perfectly delivered songs from film and musical theatre including the breath-taking four voice rendition of Adele’s “Skyfall”.
It would be remiss of me to not say that the evening’s performance was accompanied by the hugely talented pianist (and all-round musical virtuoso!) Dominic Irving, whose ivory tinkling was sublime in itself. And making a rare appearance for him of facing the audience rather than with his back to them, Anthony Brown charmed as the evening’s ringmaster.
So there we had it – a whistle-stop tour of music from multiple genres, in a beautiful building, created uniquely by four maestros of their art. What more do you want? Well, for a start… chances to see more of them that’s what!
You can catch all four next Friday night as it is, in Cheltenham Town Hall, including reprising “Skyfall” and “Somewhere over the rainbow” – amongst many other wonderful pieces of music including the phenomenal choral piece “Symphonic Adiemus” by Karl Jenkins; see the link at the bottom for tickets… and keep an eye on the Facebook page for “The Four Sopranos” for more dates and news in the future of course.
From tiny acorns do mighty oaks grow… or words to that effect. And on Friday evening we saw one such acorn planted….
Cyclists of all abilities are invited to ride with our inspirational fundraiser, Carmela Chillery-Watson on their very own Wonder Wheels Cycling Challenge 100km around Wiltshire.…
Carmela, who has LMNA congenital muscular dystrophy, a very rare, progressive muscle-wasting condition which affects just one in a million children around the world, relentlessly continues to raise awareness and vital funds for the cause. She is, in short, the most inspiring person I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet, and has fast become an instantly loveable public figure through her sheer determination and drive to highlight the condition of muscular dystrophy.
The condition is likely, in time, to affect Carmela’s heart and lungs and is also very likely to be life-limiting. Some children with this condition do not survive their childhood or teenage years, while some, with the help of specialist intervention, live into adulthood. However, there is no cure; Carmela’s family is intent on raising funds to help further research into treatments and a cure, to help children affected, including Carmela, to enjoy a longer life.
It’s completely free to get involved in the Wonder Wheels Cycling Challenge, but Carmela asks you to try to raise at least £150 in sponsorship, this could help improve the efficiency of clinical trials, meaning they can reach more people and get results quicker.
If you’re thinking, whoa, Nellie, 100K is too much, there are other ways to Join Carmela’s Wonder Wheels Cycling Challenge. You can join in on the 2nd July by doing a 10k at Daunstey School, starting at 9am where they have a track suitable for bikes and wheelchairs.
You could also do your own 100Km, or 10km a day if the full distance is too much, at a more suitable date and route, any time in July and set up your own JustGiving page linked to Carmela’s Charity Research Fund.
To register for any of the options click here to sign up, this will take you through to a registration page so that you can support Carmela and research into LMNA congenital muscular dystrophy.
If you can, please join the Wonder Wheels Cycling Challenge, and make a real difference for children affected by LMNA congenital muscular dystrophy. If it all sounds far too energetic for you, I know, I hear you, there are other ways to support the cause.
Recently Carmela has set up a Muscular Dystrophy Buddy Bear campaign, where you can sponsor a teddy bear for a child with muscular dystrophy. Speaking from experience, Carmela explains how she was scared and crying at all the hospital appointments and tests, and first discovering she had muscular dystrophy, so Buddy Bear aims to provide comfort for younger children in a similar situation.
Registration is still open to sign up for Wiltshire Wonder Wheels, and closes on 1st June 2023. Entries for 100km across Wiltshire are closed but 100km and 10km around Dauntsey’s athletic track are still open: 250 laps for 100km or 25 laps for 10km. There is no age limit or restrictions on abilities, even wheelchairs and adapted bikes.
Okay, the king’s bank holiday is over, put your bunting away it’s turning into soggy mush now! Onwards to what’s happening across Wiltshire this coming week…..
As usual, find info and links on our event calendar HERE. But do check in on the calendar throughout the week as updates will be added when they come in, and are not included here. It’s the conflict between getting this out there as early as possible for tickets to ticketed events, and balancing this with the smaller venues who will sporadically put up a social media post on Thursday night! So, it’s not comprehensive, just a guide, check a check on the calendar.
Ongoing, lucky you if you have a ticket for the Railway Children at the Wharf Theatre, which is nearly sold out, and running until Saturday. We reviewed it here.
Also find a review HERE for Hail the Curious alternative art exhibit at the newly opened Forbidden Carnival in Chippenham, go see this!
Wednesday 10th, and there’s the usual Acoustic Jam at The Southgate, Devizes.
Anu Vaidyanthan’s BC:AD – (before children, after diapers) at the Rondo Theatre, Bath. Hang Massive at the Cheese & Grain, Frome.
Broken Robot Production Presents Britain’s Got Talent finalist, Magical Bones at Swindon Arts Centre, and Tony Blackburn brings his Sound of the Sixties to The Wyvern Theatre.
Thursday 11th Spare Snare with Ravetank at The Pump in Trowbridge.
Mark Simmons’ Quip off the Mark at Rondo Theatre, Bath.
Modern Evils & Cosmic Ninja at The Vic in Swindon, Good Habits at the Tuppeny, with Johannes Radebe’s Freedom Unleased at The Wyvern Theatre.
Friday 12th sees The Four Sopranos at Devizes Town Hall, and The Unpredictables at the Condado Lounge. SynthCity plays the Bear in Marlborough.
Bath Festival starts Friday, running until 21st May, lots to see and do there. Rock the Tots are at the Rondo Theatre with some One Hit Wonders.
ZZ Topped at The Vic in Swindon, Suzie Ruffell at Swindon Arts Centre.
Gary Davis BBC Sounds of the Eighties at the Cheese & Grain, Frome.
Saturday 13th is the annual Stert Country House car boot sale near Devizes, for Cancer Research. Rock Hoppaz at The Three Crowns, Devizes that evening, The Duskers at The Southgate, Ben Borrill is at the Moonrakers, and Slade tribute Sladest at the Cavalier for a Devizes Scooter Club night.
Static Moves play The Barge on Honey-Street, Trash Panda at The Lamb, Marlborough, @59 play the Bear.
Scott Doonican’s Bar-Stewards Sons of Val Doonican is at The Pump, Trowbridge; long since sold out I’m afraid; you’ve got to keep scrolling through our event calendar, and be quick!
The Green Man Festival in Bradford-on-Avon, free, see poster below.
Simon Munnery’s Trials & Tribulations is at Rondo Theatre, Bath
Alasdair Beckett-King at Swindon Arts Centre.
XSLF at the Tree House in Frome, Eric Bibb at The Cheese & Grain.
Sunday 14th sees Avebury Artisans Market, and a Wellbeing Nature Day at West Lavington, and Jack Grace Band is at the Southgate, Devizes from 5pm.
Monday 15th I have nought, nada, let me know if something crops up!
Tuesday 16th is Poetika 111, The Great Outdoors at The Winchester Gate in Salisbury,
Anton De Beke & Friends at The Wyvern Theatre, Swindon, and the Pretenders, yes, I said The Pretenders, at the Cheese & Grain; wowzers, every town needs a cheese and some grain, don’t they?!
Looking forward for needy speedy timely ticket takers, Thursday sees folk dance fusion at the Pump with The Drystones, and Lulu come to Swindon, Jack & Jordan’s Sketch Show at the Wharf in Devizes on Saturday 20th, and Lazy Dog comedy comes to the Devizes Cons Club, Big Country at The Cheese & Grain. So much more going on, all you gotta do is keep scrolling, and have a great week.
Director Freddie Underwood and the cast of The Railway Children absolutely smashed it last night at Devizes’ Wharf Theatre, and that’s coming from someone who doubted it would be their cuppa…..
Said doubt derived from the social expectations and restrictions of my own childhood; aware of the Railway Children film, it just wouldn’t have done to have watched something I’d deem “girly,” and outdated (the film from 1970;) imagine the teasing from my elder brother, and I’d dread to think what would’ve transpired if my school friends found out! Though, at a younger age I relished in children’s period drama, of Enid Blyton, The Velveteen Rabbit, and archaic representations in The Beano comic where teachers still wore mortarboards. But by the grand age of ten plus, there were expectations of me to rather indulge in “boy’s stuff;” The A-Team, Monkey Magic, and a series with a talking car!
Coincidentally, much of the context of the Railway Children deals with social expectations and reputation, yet in a far stricter Edwardian era in which the book was written and set. A fairly affluent London family is uprooted to Yorkshire when the father is unexpectedly taken away by his employers at the Foreign Office. While the mother deals alone with the grief, the social etiquette of keeping the reasons secret from the children only shrouds the affair in mystery. Dealing with newfound poverty and cultural differences between London and the North, the mother and particularly the three children take a few hard-knocked lessons in the mannerisms of the working class.
Yet it is in the misadventures the children engage in, willfully upstanding by all modern reasoning, which the emotional roller coaster evokes the most prevalence and where lessons are sorely learned, yet in turn, sees their father acquitted from the accusations of spying. Not only dealing with the social ethics of the rich/poor and north/south divides, the two eldest children also contend with the issues of coming of age without a father figure.
But its beauty lies not from the genius plot, rather its point of view taken from a children’s innocence perspective. In this, the three children are the only ones allowed to break the fourth wall, as their excitable narration is so cleverly blended with the happenings. It all makes for a highly emotional ambience and thought-provoking mood. With minimal props or effects, the flow feels as imaginative as in the mind of a child. Of course, this couldn’t be carried off with such precision without the need of some top class acting, and herein is the icing on the cake.
The side characters are played enchantingly, Mari Webster as the emotional mother, the kind hearted well-to-do nature of Wharf boss John Winterton as the old gentleman, and the bubbling pomposity of Jon Lewthwaite as the doctor are all played superbly, but it’s within the comical hard-knock mannerisms of station master Perks and the amusing bumbling of the Russian exile Mr Szezcpansky which this play really shines, played with certain skill by Debby Wilkinson and Ellie Mayes respectively.
The play hinges rather on the three protagonists, the children, and, for me, this made it the breathtaking experience it was, plentiful to revert any preconceived doubts on their head and go for broke that this is the best performance I’ve seen at our wonderful Wharf Theatre so far.
Both the eldest child, Bobbie, and middle boy Peter, played immaculately by fifteen year old Katy Pattinson and twelve year old Poppi Lamb-Hughes, just oozes delight and believability by their dedication to the parts and the divine proficiency in which they carry this off. It is with such utter conviction I had to duck back into my car straight afterwards, because as such talented actors it would be impossible to imagine these two as anything but the Edwardian children they were portraying. Ergo, the chance to meet and witness them chatting as usual twenty-first century kids I feared would’ve broken their perfected illusion!
If Bobbie and Peter deal with the conflict of expectations versus growing up and their confusions between what’s right and wrong while everything they expect praise for seems to be returned with reprimand, and equally, anything they seem to do right is hastily turned on its head by the misunderstanding of working class etiquette, the absolute icing on this performance’s cake is without doubt the comical element of the far more carefree youngest child, Phyllis. Influenced by both older brother and sister, she plays the two against each other, and charms all with gusto, wit, and risk taking, just as the typical youngest sibling tends to do!
The mechanics of the part of Phyllis is where this play could have taken a nose-dive, for this surely needs a certain something, a sheer sparkle. And that star is fourteen year old Jessica Self. Simply put, Jessica’s acting ability is sublime, of West-End/Broadway level already. She cam charm when charm is needed, evoke emotion and amuse at the drop of a cue.
Since returning last night I’ve been pondering two possibilities, the first being this part was made for her, but I’m tendering towards the latter possibility, that Jess has the natural skill to become whatever character she is given. I gave thought to the best movie actors, of Dustin Hoffman, of Tom Hanks; how you cannot imagine the persona of the real Tom Hanks through the character he’s playing in each and every film he becomes. I similarly cannot imagine Jessica as being anything like the cheeky girl of Phyllis, rather an imminent actress of boundless talent.
This combination of genius plot, perfect direction and the wonderful acting of particularly Katy, Poppi and Jessica, makes this a delightful, thought-provoking marvel. But you need to hurry as this is near sold out, as expected and deserved.
Another landmark performance at our wonderfully welcoming and devoted little theatre, the pride of arts in Devizes. And if it’s the family oriented ethos you love about it, note it is director Freddie Underwood’s eighth production here, the first time she’s directing her husband Chris, who plays the Father, and of whom she fell in love with during a performance together at the Wharf, and their nine year old daughter Gigi, who is named after said play, and appears in the Railway Children as the child of the station master, Perks; I mean, unless you’ve a grandad you could find a walk-on for to make it a hattrick, you cannot get much more family-felt than that!
Virtual bouquets thrown, then, to all involved with this fantastic show from someone who, if they had Steven Crowder’s “Change My Mind” Campus Sign meme template in the eighties may’ve added “The Railway Children is soppy girly mush!” As you did change my mind, with bells on!
In strict contrast to the synopsis and setting of the Railway Children, the upcoming Girls Like That is the next production I’m advising is unmissable, my preview here. Find all forthcoming events at the Wharf Theatre on our event guide and at their website.
Long Street Blues Clubs’ offering for the coronation weekend.. Kyla Brox…..
The bunting is still up for those keen to celebrate, personally I was looking forward to this gig as the crowning moment in my Saturday, and I was not disappointed!
Opening up proceedings the ever-excellent and irrepressible Tom Harris. Tom has ‘Written hundreds of songs and released none,’ he quips before launching into a great set with lots of original songs.
Three Word Slogans, my personal favourite, a genius political anthem. Should be released digitally come local election time, such is this song’s genius.
An observational rhyme on the hollow meaningless billboard contradictions of the (I agree with him!) broken political system…
Classic blues material frankly but delivered in Tom’s moderately manic and good humoured manner. With a disclaimer that it wasn’t necessarily aimed at conservatives..! (Editor’s note, you are in the Conservative Club, after all!) A local gem you are only likely to enjoy by getting out to pubs and venues like this.
Kyla Brox, the main event, I wanted to see this lady for a good while; friends had advised me this was an essential gig for me.
I’ve had the album Pain and Glory for some time, and my anticipation of what that record would indicate with regard to a live experience was not wrong.
Kyla attests her incredible voice and total embodiment of soulful blues to singing in her father’s band from twelve years of age;
no surprise, you don’t just learn to embody soulful blues to this standard, it seems to me like that would require those musically enriched genes and history.
Proudly sharing a little of her family and musical history in passing on stage, you realise very quickly this phenomenal voice has been nurtured over a lifetime, not forced and it shows in the stunning, natural way she sings from the heart.
I feel like I am a little late to the party here, my first time seeing this band live, a good few old friends in tonight by the looks.
Hats off too, to her sensational band, painting the scene for the stars’ vocals.
Superb musicians all.
An outstanding gig, I was enthralled from start to finish, ‘ Queen of the UK blues scene’ as I’ve read elsewhere, not an overused moniker for a coronation day gig, a reflection of the musicianship on display.
Absolutely bowled over and will be making sure to see her again.
Thank you to Long Street Blues Club for continuing to bring the best bands from across the blues scene to Devizes.
Alongside fellow artist Rae Melody from Chippenham, and dressed as a clown, Warminster artist Sarah Christie greets the curious and art lovers at the door of the newly opened Forbidden Carnival, long-time aspiration of homegrown Wiltshire alternative artist Si Griffiths. Inspiration strikes and she excitedly elucidates a blossoming idea on the topic of circus….. I went in, they had cake…...
I also found great conversation with Bristol-based artist Jimmer Willmott, who was proudly loitering around his own canvas, capturing an exceptionally dilapidated caravan, graffitied and amusingly adorned with a “for sale” sign. The opening night of the show, Hail The Curious has my mind pondering, being we were taught art history in movements, what exactly is the movement of now, and if there is one, is this it, alive, well and driven to Chippenham by the enduring and prolific force which is Si Griffiths and his associates?
Wikipedia labels it “contemporary art,” and denotes it’s not to be confused with “modern art.” It describes it as a movement, in “a globally influenced, culturally diverse, and technologically advancing world,” with a “dynamic combination of materials, methods, concepts, and subjects that continue the challenging of boundaries already well underway in the 20th century.” In layman’s terms it’s a blank canvas void of rules, something the Dadaists conceptualised over a century ago so hardly ground-breaking. Yet also, as a concept shrouded in pastiche and often satire, it is indulging outside influences akin to what we see in all media, from music sampling to reworking of classic films.
Though it is, akin to modern art, postmodernism, or pop art, a rather ineffective name, which will one day suffer from not being contemporary at all, as “pop” art is hardly as “popular” today as it was when conceived in the mid fifties. Agreeably though, it’s a basis of what I see here, as I browse diverse methods and subjects the only thing combining them is curiosity and alternative thought, the mood varies intensely from the fantastical forbidding worries of Montague Tott and the poignancy of Mike Long’s “One Million Poppies,” to the brain-curdling comix art of Guts and comical outlandishness of David Russel Talbot, carried off in Victorian book illustration style. It is an anthology of craziness, a feast for your eyes, sir.
So, what is great about the here and now, and firmly accounted for in Forbidden Carnival is the overwhelming notion that art defends itself from the onslaught of technology by being of a level of creativity and method artificial intelligence cannot contend with. Because AI needs the outside command prompt, whereas Sarah’s lightbulb moment, or Jimmer enthusiastically expressing his thoughts when he painstakingly painted each line of said caravan, are organically composed command prompts induced by abstract observation, a challenge pop art never had to contend with. With the exact prompts, AI could recreate anything Warhol’s Factory knocked out, on a Samsung phone in seconds and still plaster you with adverts while doing it.
There’s two ways to overcome this battle between the infinite monkey theorem and so-called artificial intelligence; revert back to a period of realism and paint a pragmatic portrait or landscape, which duly seems to be a backpedalling trend around these backwaters and something commented on amidst this gallery of divine curiosity, or face the challenge head on, as is exactly what we see here.
Here, all the artists are independently devising a new wave of incorporating cultural influences, the bizarre and surreal, graffiti, circus and carny lifestyle, comic book art and anything else they deem appropriate to throw into the melting pot, in a manner so far unseen.
In this I partially take back my rather inept observation in my preview of this show, pigeonholing Sarah Christie’s work “feminine Litchensteinesque,” as I see now there’s far more layers to her work than preconceived, as while Litchenstien’s blagged comic panels could be reconstructed by AI, Sarah’s work though similarly inspired by comic-book art couldn’t, as they offer originality and sly humour; one lady viewer giggled at the term “mansplaining” on one of her works, and in earshot, with my penchant for ironic overstatement I suggested my daughter had to explain the meaning of the slang!
Now, see, you cannot induce conversation like this with a throwaway AI image, anymore than you can gaze outward and zoom your eye in to pick out hidden details of anything on display here; hold on, there’s a mysterious pair of eyes in the window of Jimmer’s caravan, I could’ve seen this picture on social media a thousand times at not picked it out! I give particular reference to the mind-blowing cubist graffiti work of Miller, his Clokhous piece had me induced for an indefinite time, just gazing into it, picking it out the chosen angles and discovering their subject from the delineating separate image glued onto it, thinking why Pablo Picasso never thought of doing that!
If you want to browse antique shops for a pretty local landscape, you go do that, this is not for you. But should you wish to divulge into a realm of bizarre, of unexplored territory which dips your little toe into familiar waters, than chucks you straight into the deep end with a swirling splash of artistic outpouring, colour and the wary amusement of a meld of ghost train and hall of mirrors, then this circus big top of art is for you, and you only need to get yourself to Chippenham’s market place to do so. Open Saturdays and Sundays, 10-3pm, and also by appointment.
Chansonnier Yorkshireman Jake Thackray is paid tribute in Pewsey’s Bouverie Hall on May 26th by fellow Yorkshireman John Watterson, aka “Fake Thackray……”
An adopted YorkshiremanJohn Watterson, grew up on the Isle of Man, which is where he first met Jake Thackray in 1975. Recalling the performance at his local folk club, which John explains, “had the audience in stitches,” chatted with a very modest and self-deprecating Jake at the interval, describing him as “a big man and a huge talent, clearly embarrassed by the standing ovation, Jake preferred to have a pint at the bar with the punters and didn’t really see what the fuss was about.”
Influenced by the likes of Jaques Brel and Georges Brassens, Thackray wrote and performed unique folk songs recognisably rooted in the English countryside, at times painfully funny, yet often sad, tragic, rude, irreverent, and incisive, and all these things at the same time. His performances in folk clubs led to appearances on The Frost Report, Braden’s Week and That’s Life. In nearly thirty years of performing he made over 1,000 radio and TV appearances ranging from a topical song in magazine programmes to broadcasts of live concerts on both radio and television. His EMI catalogue produced seven albums between 1967 and 1991.
On learning of Jake’s passing in 2002, John decided that the songs were too good not to be kept alive, so he set about learning more of them. Performing them at a memorial evening in Monmouth, and John is currently researching and writing a biography on Jake with the help of members of the Thackray family. This is where tribute act really takes on a favoured notion of true homage, his appreciation and love of Jake Thackray’s music reflects in this show he has toured with Fairport Convention nation-wide tour, and has performed twenty shows at the Edinburgh Fringe. He has also been delighted to support Ralph McTell, Richard Digance, Vin Garbutt and many more of his music heroes.
Tickets are £12.50, and include a light supper in the interval. Available from Around the World, Woottons and the newsagent in Pewsey (cash only please) Or call 07876 230 540.
A quick one from me today, offering our congratulations to our new writer, Helen Edwards from Devizes, who read out her poem “Motherhood,” on BBC Wiltshire this week on James Thomas’s Upload show. “It was fun,” she told us, “except my phone started ringing!”
Who knew? Devizes has an annual Strongest contest; why am I the last to know about these things? Best guess is because I’d only show you all up! Wiltshire born and bred, the saying goes, strong in the arm and thick in the head! Let’s forget about the latter bit, and concentrate on the first.…
Arising like a brown bear from hibernation, now the Quality Street tin is all but empty wrappers and toffee pennies, I dropped briefly into The Three Crowns yesterday, to catch Adam Woodhouse strumming George Michael’s Faith…. Admist a quiet Devizes town, the faithful central perk was modesty busy under the circumstances, and this lively acoustic…
The Full-Tone Orchestra have released details of the 2023 line-up for their annual extravaganza, The Full-Tone Festival on Devizes Green, August bank holiday. It’s all on a rather smashing looking poster, unalike darker past posters with neon text, this time with a fresh use of pastel colours on white background, all very Degas I must…
As temperatures rise from the coldest December spell in a decade, life on Devizes Crammer is returning to normal. The Crammer Watch team concentrate their efforts on the natural course of activities for the wildfowl present, as aggressive swans drive others onto the roadside in territorial disputes…… Meanwhile, confused as to whether they should be…
Having trouble driving in Devizes? We’re not surprised, it’s got the infrastructure designed by a six-year-old given some Lego road plates. There are rules, on a need-to-know basis, if you’re not local you will get no sympathy for your negligence of them. So, here’s some advice to follow if passing through our lovely town…you don’t…
Well, as you could probably imagine, after yule celebrations the start to the new year is kind of quiet. At least, that’s what we’re seeing; it’s all broken, all over, only empty wrappers and toffee pennies left in the Quality Street tin, your Lynx Africa deodorant set is in the cupboard, Christmas cracker hat left…
And that day is Saturday 4th February. Celebrated frontline folk band, Seize the Day, who specialise in conservational protest songs, and have supported many environmental campaigns across the world, will arrive at our Corn Exchange for a one-off gig fundraising for Wiltshire Climate Alliance…… Founded in 1997 by singer-songwriters Theo Simon and Shannon Smy, Seize…
The Wharf Theatre in Devizes begin their 2023 program with Amanda Whittington’s Ladies’ Day, running from January 30th to February 4th…… This play, which premiered in 2005, is the first of a trilogy which follows the adventures of Pearl, Jane, Shelley, and Linda. It’s written by Amanda Whittington with arrangements with Nick Hern Books, and…
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…
Featured Photo credit: Jus Carroll It’s been far too long since Bristol-based singer-songwriter Gaz Brookfield has had a mention on our pages, so here’s a belated Christmas present from this amazing performer, a name-your-price download of a live album you’ll be sorry to have missed out on otherwise. Of course, I only say belated because…
Wednesday, song of the week time, and it’s some smooth jazz from Bristol’s finest purveyors of looping rhythms and upside down chickens, Snazzback. Stokes Croft Sleep Clinic is from the forthcoming album Ruins Everything, and it gorgeously trickles over halfway, building layers until the evocative vocals of Tlk meld to complete the effect. So incredibly cool I’m horizontal!
Long overdue is our annual poking our nose into Devizes Scooter Club, see what peaky blinders they’re pulling off, including of course, the Devizes Scooter Rally 2023; because no matter what the people say, this sound leads the way…..
While I’d half-heartedly shrug at critics giving it scooter rallies can be a niche market, retrospective lager-fuelled skinheads admiring each other’s hairdryers in an overgrown field while some northern soul DJ spins his 7” rare grooves, this is where Devizes Scooter Rally differs from the status quo. Of course, appeasing the diehards who will trek vast land to amass at such events is crucial, but on its third year, Devizes Scooter Rally never feels insular, rather it’s the genuine article, affordable fun and welcomes curious townsfolk and those who may only have a passing interest in the scene. That’s its beauty, and long shall it be so.
You only have to check the interest when the club ride the carnival parade looking dapper in suits and braces, to note this is more than a retrospective cult; the merger of youth cultures of yore, the mod, the soul boys and skinheads and all inbetween is something impossible for those caught up in to let go off, simply because it’s irresistibly beguiling, and fun. To relish in soul and reggae of yesteryear is valid, as all mainstream pop since relies so heavily on its influence.
So, we’re talking the weekend of 28th-30th of July, when the club invites all to gather at Lower Park Farm, just off the dual carriageway on Whistley Road, where scooters will be on show, and will ride out no doubt, but that’s not all. Activities for the children will be added, with food stalls and of course, the bar! And all raising funds for such a wonderful organisation, The Devizes & District Opportunity Centre, our most fantastic pre-school for children with disabilities and learning difficulties.
Expect legendary Northern Soul DJ Terry Hendrick of the Soul Pressure sound system to be spinning tunes between bands, and the bands are, a reunited, I believe, Killertones, the perfect ska outfit of Cath and Gouldy from Sound Affects and the Day Breakers, who are stalwarts on the local scooter scene. Those trusty Roughcut Rebels, who never fail to bring the party with them, as is their era-spanning repertoire of anything from swinging sixties to Britpop.
The other locally-based act is perhaps the wildcard; Trowbridge’s 41 Fords play with all the vigour of ska, but are decidedly more rockabilly with a dash of scrumpy & western folk. We fondly reviewed their debut album Not Dead Yet, last month. Here’s a shining example of what I mean about the congenial and welcoming mesh of subgenres you’ll find at Devizes Scooter Rally, see, rude boy? There were no mockers in eras past, they’d have been fighting each other! Thus the scenes merge and it’s a one love happy aura for everyone to enjoy as, which is ironically the entire ethos of reggae and soul in the first damn place!
And reggae I’m certain you’ll find there, of the boss variety of yore, predominantly, and of course it’s predecessor ska, which though saw a second generation influx through Two-Tone in the eighties, thrives today on the scene. Now, if you know me, you’ll know I’m something of an aficionado of this, and seen many a great ska band; Orange Street, named after the location of Duke Reid’s legendary Kingston studio, Studio One, are one of the tightest ska bands I’ve witnessed, blowing my socks off at the inaugural Devizes Scooter Rally in 2019; having them return is the icing on this cake.
Going in blind for the last two in the line-up, first, Sharp Class, with a corporate identity akin to The Jam causing me to ill-conceive it would be an old bunch of mods knocking out Jam and Merton Parkas covers. Rather this young, fresh-faced London-based trio have a sharp image, hence the name, and original songs grounded in realism and spattered with an English essence. Merging punk and soul into power-pop and Britpop, they claim. They’ve recently released a debut album “Tales of the Teenage Mind,” and are set to tour Boston this month, but you can say you saw them in Devizes!
And the Butterfly Collective, Southampton based ska, soul and mod covers and originals five-piece, heavily influenced by The Who and the Mod/Rock fraternity including Oasis, Ocean Colour Scene, Kinks, Small Faces and The Hiwatts. They have become a renowned band within the Scooter and music scenes across the U.K. Being The Devizes Scooter Club tend to evaluate their lineup based on past experience touring other rallies, I’m assured we’re in good hands, and this weekend will deliver a damn fine spectrum of entertainment to get you snapping your braces and skanking up the Whistley Road!
Now, if you’re thinking where the catch might be, it’s only your two-tone trouser suit, with a weekend wristband at just thirty notes and cheaper day options, you’ve got to hand it to Devizes Scooter Club for maximum dedication to making this jumping jiving rally affordable and irresistible.
Prior to skanking up Whistley Road, the club’s base at The Cavalier in Devizes sees Slade tribute Sladest on May 13th, and following the rally, Bristol’s big boss sound of Ya Freshness and the erm, aptly titled Big Boss Band will make their Devizes debut on Saturday September 9th. Self-styled rude boy Ya Freshness has worked with two-tone’s best, from the likes of Neville Staple, and made groundbreaking original work with Bristol’s retrospective reggae greats through his label Strictly Rockers. If you recall my radio show on Boot Boy Radio, those shout-outs were by this absolute legend.
Then, on 28th October it’s the mandatory skalloween night at the Cavy, with ska band Skamageddon, and the club see of 2023 with a NYE party. Though as I said, there’s a welcoming atmosphere for those with a passing interest, local scooter enthusiasts should contact the club for ride-outs, social get-togethers and beanos to other rallies and clubs are organised. So get up on your feet, put your braces together and boots on your feet, and give me some of that old moonstomping!
Since the recent byelection for Devizes East, Guardian Vanessa Tanner was welcomed to The Town Council this month; Guardians of the Galaxy ensemble, or, maybe just Guardians of the Devizes, but you get the general gist!
“Not everyone would stand in an election,” Vanessa said, which is a good start because I wouldn’t want to; I could sit in one, maybe slouch a bit and snooze until it was time to hit the pub, but that’s about it!
Apologies, ignore my silly edits to bulk this out; Vanessa continued, “by putting yourself forward as a representative for your community, you may open yourself up for criticism along with praise. We are hard-wired to remember the bad over the good so for your own self-preservation, you need to develop a tough skin and constantly remind yourself why it is important.”
“So why was it important for me to stand as a candidate in the recent by-election? I wanted to really engage in Devizes and be part of the community. I’m not a local born and bred, but Devizes