Music For a Royal Celebration at St Mary’s Devizes

Jon Amor, Friends, and the Southgate

Jeepers. No one works that hard on a Sunday, surely? Even if your boss shoves a Sunday shift unwillingly on you, you brush as much as you can under the carpet; anything which can wait until Monday, should do. I’ve mentioned it in passing, but not given Jon Amor’s monthly residency at the Southgate full coverage before, because those who know, know anyway.…..

For procrastination isn’t in our Devizes’ blues living legend’s vocabulary, neither is the notion it’s only a free pub gig. Jon Amor and friends blows the Southgate down, every first Sunday of the month. The like you’d happily pay a ticket stub for, and he throughly loves every second of it.

It’s a pub Sunday roast with a difference; you’re the meat. Jon bangs up the heat and cooks like Heston Blumenthal on a promise, usually drafting in a renowned sous chef from his network of astounding bluesmen. On this occasion King Street Turnaround bassist, Jerry Soffe and quickfire drummer Tom Gilkes joined him, along with the single most dexterous keyboardist I’ve had the pleasure to witness, John Baggot.

With more to appease than Devizes blues afictionardos in the middle-aged mosh pit, being footfall decended clockwork from DOCA’s fantastic Picnic in the Park, Jon didn’t concern himself to warm the oven first, sizzling our tender loins with his signature ‘Juggernaut,’ I was assured from start, this was a hip rub with michelin star garnish.

Baggot was the gravy boat, seemingly improv throughout, his sublime skill at the keyboard poured the stock on so thickly, contrails were visible from his hands. Complimenting Jon, Tom and Jerry’s jam, it came together impeccably. We’re looking at the Devizes’ very own juke joint here, the tunes they played through unimportant when you’re going with the flow, the outstanding quality is the only element paramount for mentioning.

See, I’m a world music lover, mightily impressed by DOCA’s ethos of providing our town with these slices of something all together different for these back waters. But due to Dad’s taxi service I rocked up belated enough only to catch the finale of their carnival warmup at Hillworth; beguiling marimba rhythm band, London-based Otto & The Mutapa Calling. Their enchanting tempo breezed through the crowd and trees beyond, contrasting in genre to the familiarity of what was to follow a stone throw away at our Southgate. Yet to palsy-walsyily acquaint with electric blues is to Devizes what Merseybeat is to Liverpool or triphop to Bristol, Jon is the kingpin, and we love it with bells on.

Otto & The Mutapa Calling

The rare occasion timings between events occur in town like this, is fantastic, bit like sauntering between stages at Glastonbury, without the wellies. The sporadic spoils of DOCA or Devizes Arts Festival, Long Street Blues Club or the Wharf truly are blessings to the town when they occur, but the Southgate is that dependable, regular stalwart, something Deborah and Dave should be very proud to have developed.

With such a flowing lineup, it’s never a disappointment, but I recall a day a few years past, when, with glint in her eye, landlady Deborah told me Jon Amor came in and wanted a slot; look how far we’ve come. For if the musical menu is tantalising weekly, this residency is the house special.


Hooch on Streaming

Once a cover band, east Wiltshire’s rootsy four-piece Hooch have moved to writing and recording original material. Their discography goes onto music streaming sites today (Sunday 3rd July,) and if you like your country-rock breezy and uplifting, with a subtle touch of psychedelia and surf, then it’s worthy of your attention…..

The instrumental Eagle Ray is particularly awash with this aforementioned surf-rock style, while all tracks have this sunny-side-of-the-street, retrospective feel about them. Slowburn, for instance, is good time mid-era-Beatles in nature and Voodoo Hair is outright groovy.

Well even if you don’t do the streaming platforms you can get a listen direct from their website.Ten tunes on offer here, enough for an album, guys? An album of ten jumpy, anthemic ballads like Sweet Maria would see us fine, this one in particular is a beguiling peach I could imagine fans chanting back at them after only a few listens.

Live is a bigger part to Hooch, I’m certain you’ll make a beeline for a gig upon hearing these well crafted tunes, they’re at the Seven Stars in Bottlesford Saturday July 16th, tickets are a purple one, I believe this includes a barbecue thrown into the bargin, and a summer mini-fest at the Horseshoe Inn, Mildenhall July 23rd.

Expect “unusual” covers choices, they say, but I’d argue the cited Depeche Mode, Space and The Coral are apt, this upbeat melodic blend from Martyn Appleford, Nesh Thompson, Simon Dryland and Matt Ryan reflects this, with a dash more roots than perhaps, new wave mod, but with a move to electrification enhacing their acoustic roots, they weave perfect pop simplicity into their lyrics, and that’s where it is to pinning an imitatble, memorable style.

If the name derives from the late 19th century abbreviation of Hoochinoo, a North American tribe in Alaska renowned for brewing booze, this is certainly fun time drinking music, but the sound is far more matured than its commonly associated brand of alcopop. Ha, whatever happened to that, do they still sell it? It certainly took the brunt of the blame for underage drinking in the nineties, as if they invented the concept and no kid ever tried alcohol before their ingenious bottle of wobbly lemonade came onto the market!

Sickly sweet though, wasn’t it? Precursor to the Bacardi Breezer and Smirnoff Ice, but try the tune Aluna for size, and you’ll see, though there’s elements of the Kinks at their most comical, or subtle Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band at times, it’s a choice for grownups, with no immature persuasion; I love it, and hope they’re encouraged to perform their own tunes live, rather than an all-covers set; the difference between buying spirits and mixing it to your own taste or letting mainstream brewers decide on your sugar levels!


Full-Tone Stands Alone

Full Tone Festival August Bank Holiday then, penny for your thoughts on that one……

Five irritating wannabes handpicked for their conflicting personalities vote on each other’s dinner parties while a poor man’s Harry Hill narrator insults them in a heavily edited sham of a television show. Yet, despite this perpetual cycle of formulated garbage, Come Dine with Me attracts millions of viewers. It’s the same thing every darn episode; oh, how original, they’re looking in her knicker draw, saucy!

Give me strength; familiarity is prevalent, between three to five million people slouch in front of The Chase daily, when face it, aside differing questions, it’s monotonous; eat, watch The Chase, sleep, repeat. Still, from a few branches of the grapevine, I’ve caught this tosh: “The Full Tone Festival is the same as last year.” Shut the front door!

Honest, I feel like tapping them on the head, inquiring, “hello? Anybody in?!” Even if it was the same, which I’m out to conclude it’s not, so if you agree you need not read on, but even if it was, I’d reply, “yeah? Good!” for the simple reason, last year’s was absolutely, off-the-scale fantastic, and nothing, I repeat nothing, around these parts could match it.

I sincerely hope they’re not the same substandard detractors who hypocritically whine-hole when DOCA, for good reason, change the dates or the route of carnival! I attended the astounding MantonFest last weekend, it was a similar setup as last year, because the formula works, regulars flock to it safe in the knowledge they know what they’re getting, and if it’s not broken…. Face it, most events are samey. Glastonbury might host some different acts annually, but even they have the same stages in the same fields year after year; fresh cowpats, same mud!

Bottom line is, I’m unsure if it’s possible to improve on the sound, stage and pyrotechnics from last year, unless we forward-wind technology a few decades. The acoustics on that stage were mind-blowing, and if the price-tag is another niggly issue, you could see where your dollar was offloaded. It looked like something out of The Jetsons, didn’t it?! And I hope its shape will become iconic symbolism as to what can be achieved right here in Devizes. As an inimitable annual party, it’s one of a kind around these waters, it’s our ravey-davey Last Night of the Proms! The Full Tone Orchestra toured Bath Abbey, Marlborough College, the Wyvern in Swindon and beyond this year, but what they return home to produce is something really superior, something to congratulate and celebrate.

Musical director and conductor, Anthony Brown tells us he’s “been looking forward to this year’s festival from the moment I put my baton down last year, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share what we do with so many people. There’s something here for everyone, no matter what your musical tastes are, and I guarantee that even those who have never experienced orchestral music before, will leave wanting more!” Summing my angle up nicely; far from a restrictive Proms, last year it opened doors to those otherwise sceptical of the magnificence of an orchestra and changed their preconceptions of them, and that’s a glorious achievement.

But the biggie still remains, what can we expect from this year’s Full-Tone Festival on August Bank Holiday weekend (27th & 28th August)? The family-friendly music festival promises to be even bigger and better than ever, with two full days of back-to-back music, performed by this spectacular 65-piece orchestra conducted by Anthony Brown, we know and love as the Fulltone Orchestra.

The programme divides into six orchestral concerts providing the ultimate variety of live music from popular classics, opera and big band to movie themes and huge nineties hits. The grand finale on Sunday evening will see The Green at Devizes transformed into its very own Studio 54, with the orchestra and singers performing a full two hour set of seventies inspired disco classics; oh, that can ring my bell, have I got time to grow an afro?!

So, if it is as I suggested, impossible to improve on the sound, stage and pyrotechnics, enhancements in the line-up are the logical steps, which has been done. Special guest artists performing on stage include the formidable voice of Jonathan Antoine. A classically-trained tenor, Jonathan rose to fame after appearing on the sixth series of Britain’s Got Talent in 2012, as half of the classical duo Jonathan and Charlotte. He went solo and his debut album, Tenore, was released in 2014, and subsequently followed with a further two albums.

Wiltshire’s own presenter and skateboarder, DJ James Threlfall also appears. James works radio for the BBC, and hosts football platform, 433. With a 95K Tik-Tok audience, Full Tone Festival also welcomes trumpeter Oli Parker, local legendary rock n rollers, Pete Lamb & The Heartbeats, and I’m delighted to see the most amazingly talented country-rock star Kirsty Clinch added to this fine bill; surely the icing on the cake.

Talking cake, food and drink will be available from local vendors, and t-shirts will be on sale and raising funds for Dorothy House. And that’s that, Bowie said it best, ch-ch-ch-changes. All you need to do is grab a ticket, from Ticketsource, or Devizes Books. While children under 14 go free, it’s going to set you back forty quid, yet you can guarantee its money well spent, for this unmissable entire weekend show right on your doorstep.

And for anyone casting a shadow of “samey,” I’d argue only in as much as everything is formulated; Albert Einstein had seven of the same suits, so he didn’t have to decide which one to wear! What are you expecting from them, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, digging up Beethoven? One ponders if they even attended last year, and I don’t mean the unofficial gathering on the little green, because they didn’t receive the benefit of being encased in the incredible acoustics of that Jetsons stage, they had not one iota of the splendour, the all-encompassing effect of it. But to say, if you were there, you’d surely take the “if it isn’t broken,” opinion and want nothing more than to do it all again.

Of course, it’s your prerogative to stay home watching Come Dine with Me on an endless cycle of repeats while everyone else is having a truckload of fun! For more information about the Fulltone Music Festival on The Green, Devizes, and to purchase tickets, please visit the Fulltone Orchestra website.


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REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival 2022

A Great Festival – Now What About The Future?

Andy Fawthrop

Well, the 2022 Devizes Arts Festival has now drawn to its successful close.  Thanks to a very determined and hard-working committee, this jewel in the D-Town crown was finally shining again.  Along with DOCA-led events like the International Street Festival, Carnival, Colour Rush, Lantern Parade etc, The Food & Drink Festival, the two Beer Festivals, and The Fulltone Music Festival, we are truly spoiled for the cultural life in our town.  We certainly punch way above our weight.….

This year the DAF ran from 9th to 25th June, a fortnight full of great entertainment – I counted 23 events at ten venues across town, showcasing a wide variety of the arts – jazz, classical, rock and country music, comedy, talks, walks.  Most, if not quite all, were well supported and I know that the organisers were pleased overall with ticket sales.  Bearing in mind that this Festival was effectively originally planned in 2019 and meant for delivery in 2020, it finally emerged blinking into the light of a post-Covid world in 2022.  A great job was done in rolling forward as many planned acts as possible, but there were inevitable casualties – some artists previously booked had understandably moved on and taken other bookings in the meantime. So, for the DAF Committee, it must have seemed a little bit like Groundhog Day in getting this thing finally done.

So what was so good about it?  Obviously tastes and opinions are going to differ, but attendances and ticket sales have to be a good indicator.  We saw some nationally-known stars – Lesley Garrett, Simon Calder, Adam Frost, Tankus The Henge, and Darius Brubeck making their way down to this part of rural Wiltshire.  For me, the personal highlights were The Scummy Mummies and Alfie Moore on the comedy side, and Tankus and Darius Brubeck on the musical front.  The spread and variety of events was impressive, the venues were well set up and organised, and the advertising was spot-on.

The things that might need a little further thought about were that some events/ venues weren’t sold out, that there were not more “affordable” events in the mix, and that there were only two Free Fringe events (although both were excellent and very well attended).  Perhaps these factors, and the lack of very much aimed specifically at a much younger audience, did lead to a preponderance of an (ahem) “older demographic” at quite a few events.  Clearly there were a couple of exceptions (Tankus and The Scummies spring to mind), but certainly something I couldn’t help but notice.

But, to be honest, a lot of this is minor quibbling.  The Festival overall was clearly an artistic success, and the DAF committee and volunteers deserve a hell of a lot of praise for getting off their arses and delivering a very high quality event in our town.  Hats off to the lot of them!

So what of the future?  What should we expect?  Already, as the dust settles on this year’s event and all the analysis starts, change is afoot.  The DAF organising committee itself is changing and evolving, as the Chair (Margaret Bryant) and Vice-chair (Vivienne Cuckow) step down from their roles.  Discussion and planning for 2023 and beyond will start shortly, with Vince McNamara and Jean Edwards stepping up to jointly fill the role of Chair.

The broad thinking at the moment is that, now that the “old” Festival has been (finally) delivered, 2023 can start with an almost completely blank sheet of paper.  The decks have been cleared, and the DAF committee are back in the saddle, raring to go.  Is that too many metaphors? – probably, but you get the drift.

There are (hopefully) new venues to think of – the Palace cinema, St. Mary’s, the Vaults and other pubs.  There is the possible prospect of conversations and more co-operation with other music venues in the town, and other Festival organisers – hopefully to mutual benefit.  There might well be more Free Fringe, especially on days/ times that don’t conflict with or overlap the more marquee main events.  Perhaps some choirs or singing events?  Perhaps more to appeal to a younger audience?  (But probably not children’s events – these have been tried several times in the past, but have not succeeded).   Because, whilst it’s important to have an open mind, it would clearly be foolish to completely ignore the hard lessons that have been learned in the past.  Experience has to be blended with innovative thinking.  It has to be a sensible and commercial balance between the completely experimental – bringing in the exotic, the different, unexpected – and the tried-and-trusted popular bankers.

Equally, whilst it’s always good to support artists from our local cultural scene, there needs to be a heavy sprinkling of national/ international stars that audiences in D-Town would never normally get to see at affordable prices.  Frankly, it’s the latter that sells most of the tickets, and the acts that look good on the posters and the advertising!

So it’s going to be a real tightrope walk for the new committee to get this just right.  I don’t envy them, but I do sincerely wish them the very best of luck!

Does this make you feel that you’d like to contribute your ideas and/ or your energy?  If so, I’m pretty sure DAF would like to hear from you – there’s plenty of work to be done to develop and shape a successful festival.  And/ or you can become a Friend of the Festival, volunteer, and – most importantly of all – buy those tickets! For more information see the Devizes Arts Festival website at www.devizesartsfestival.org.uk/


Editor’s note: well, that kept our roving reporter Andy out of trouble for a fortnight! A massive thanks to you, Mr F, you’ve done an astounding job covering the Devizes Arts Festival. As opposed to me who danced my socks off at the fantastic Baila La Cumbia night. Here’s to 2023!


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Timid Deer; back with more Melodies for the Nocturnal

Salisbury may be a grey area for us, we don’t get to hear a great deal about the music scene there. I guess they have their own media, magazines and blogs covering it, but it is something I realise I must work on. For all I know, Timid Deer could be huge there, but they should be widely known, everywhere, in my honest opinion. So even if this is erroneous, I stand my ground when I’ve said in the past, they’re one of the most underrated bands around these parts, and this follow-up EP to vol one of Melodies for the Nocturnal proves their worth…….

If, like me, you find it hard to come to terms with the notion the melodic Bristol-led trip hop scene for the matured raver is a generation past, and cannot get over how luscious Portishead, Massive Attack and, particularly, Morcheeba were, or if your indie side still relishes in the mellowed ambient soundscapes of Celtic goth, of Clannad, or All About Eve, this sits comfortably, somewhere in the middle, yet, for all the random comparisons I’m flinging, it’s unique for not applying the electronica “dope beats” of trip hop or the often gloomy outlook of goth. It is, in essence, uplifting indie.

Uplifting because Timid Deer captures your mood and whisks it away on a smooth airborne expedition across a fantasy realm, akin to Enya or Evanescence, or which seems to be trending recently, Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill.

Unsure quite why every kid is listening and every mainstream radio station is playing Running up that Hill at the moment, but I’m happy it has, going on the grounds it makes those little hairs on the back of your neck stand up, Timid Deer has the same effect.

I’ve fondly reviewed the first two tracks, Crossed Wires and Run upon their single release in March and December last year, respectively, but the EP contains two more beautiful songs, Wrapped Around Your Heart, and Promises. I said of Run, at the time; “a grand piano opening, their evocative part-indie-part-trip hop ambience is accomplished to a new standard here, with Naomi Henstridge’s both soothing yet haunting vocals embracing howling strings and, wow, this rolling piano. It’s reflective of nineties nu-cool, the brilliance of Morcheeba or Portishead, yet without so much inspired of acid jazz or trip hop to make it cliché, rather it’s owning this refreshing edge to appeal to the more guitar-laced indie fans, too.”

And I described Crossed Wires as, “An uplifting piano three-minute masterwork, engulfing your soul and building layers with smooth electronic beats. Evocative as Enya without the orchestrated strings, as expressive as Clannad without the folk roots, and closer to Yazoo via electronica, rather than the aforementioned influences of Portishead and Morcheeba. Ticks all my boxes.”

These two new tunes follow suit. The rolling piano, is blissful and lyrics beguiling, Wrapped Around your Heart is another winner, perhaps a smidgen more marketable than the previous two. The four-track EP ends with the ballad Promises, exemplifying everything that’s gorgeous about the sound they’ve captured, the strings and piano work in harmony, entreat the euphoric mellifluousness. It’s the standing motionless mouth aghast kind of music which reaches the soul.

I discovered Timid Deer supporting the Lost Trades’ launch night at Trowbridge’s Pump, a gig I unfortunately had to miss but despatched a roving reporter to in my absence, and upon checking out their slight recorded output I was shocked as to why Timid Deer doesn’t have greater recognition. Perhaps a clue in the band name, they play Swindon Shuffle but rarely we see them gig otherwise; it’s a sound to relish, a sound for home comforts, for “chilling in your crib,” and Melodies for the Nocturnal Pt. 2, showcases that brilliance. Absolutely enrapturing…..


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Weekend Roundup: 30th June – 3rd July 2022

Full throttle into July, then; here’s what the weekend looks like around these parts. These parts of cultural void, so it’s claimed, we say otherwise…. You want proof?

As usual no links here, the only link you need is here, our event calendar. Have a great weekend whatever you do!

Ongoing from Wednesday until Sunday the Wyvern Theatre, Swindon has got Shrek the Musical. Thursday and Friday, Devizes Musical Theatre presents their Summer Concert, Miss Fortunes at The Wharf Theatre, see the poster, always see the posters!

I’m delighted to hear Devizes LGBTQ+ group’s first big event, Drag Bingo at the Exchange has sold out on Thursday 30th; well done to them and here’s hoping for some similar events in Devizes in the future.

One of folk music’s greatest innovators, Martin Carthy is at Trowbridge Town Hall Thursday, Paul Jones Live in Concert at Christ Church, Swindon while Swindon Arts Centre has a play called Blithe Spirit, running until Sunday.

Friday is pinch punch. Chippenham Comedy Festival at The Old Road Tavern, starts, running all weekend. Limited Weekend Tickets £60, individual shows are all £7 each. Friday 1st July: 7pm Sam Michael & John Matthews: Cister Act, 8.30pm Juliette Meyers: Passport Face,10pm James Dowdeswell: Beers of a Clown. Saturday 2nd July: 5pm Jo Caulfield: Here Comes Trouble, 6.30pm Sooz Kempner: Playstation, 7.45pm Katie Mitchell: She Festers, 9pm Andrew O’Neill: We Are Not In The Least Afraid Of Ruins; We Carry A New World In Our Hearts, 10.15pm Wil Hodgson: Barbicidal Tendencies. Sunday 3rd July: 5.30pm Jessie Nixon, Dannie Johns & Millie Haswell: Dumb Belles,7pm Joe Wells: I am Autistic, 8.30pm Beth Black.

Devizes School Summer School Concert in the main hall. Minety Festival kicks off for the weekend. Melksham’s One Love reggae night has been moved from the Assembly Hall to Spencer’s Club on Beanacre Road, I just haven’t changed the poster, so forget all I said about paying attention to the posters!!

The Ukey Dukes play The New Inn, Winterbourne Monkton. Ska punkers head to The Barge at Honeystreet, for Slageri J headline there, and surfers should wipe-out at The Three Horseshoes, Bradford-on-Avon, where they’ll find the highly recommended Palooka 5. Rorke’s Drift play The Vic, Swindon, and fresh(ish) from Glasto, Jo Whiley plays 90s Anthems at The Cheese & Grain, Frome.

Saturday 2nd, Longleat continues showing off; those who don’t mind standing for hours, with a bottomless wallet and advance planning can see Tears for Fears, the rest of us are not left without options…. like Salisbury Pride at Queen Elizabeth Gardens.

Arts Together fundraise with a day painting at Bowood, see the poster for real this time!

Six O’clock Circus headline The Vale of the White Horse Scooter Rally at The Cooper’s Arms, Pewsey. While there’s a reggae day at The Wheatsheaf, Calne; the Bee Skas play at 3pm!

The Seven Stars in Bottlesford has a Burger BBQ for twenty quid, but you do get The Reason playing.

The amazing Jack Grace is at Southgate, and popular covers band Paradox are down the Cellar Bar in Devizes; yes, I did say The Cellar Bar, glad to see this venue back on our listings.

Band X at the Three Horseshoes Bradford-on-Avon, Siren at the 12 Bells, Trowbridge, with Hatepenny rocking the Town Hall. @Fest mini-festival at the White Hart in Attsworth. Down & Dirty at The Vic, Swindon.

Swindon’s Midlife Krisis sound system was due to setup at The Barge at HoneyStreet, however, due to issues with their secondary camping field it is unfortunately cancelled. We wish the Barge all the best with this issue, and hope it can be resolved as soon as possible.

Sunday 3rd July is DOCA’s Picnic at Hillworth Park. British Blues with Trevor Babajack Steger from 12pm, from 1pm, find some jazz-tinged klezmer and old-world Yiddish folk, from Mozzle Brocha, branch of the collective, Chai for All, who we tried to get to play a Ukraine fundraiser at St Mary’s, but it unfortunately fell through. It will be good to meet you, guys.   

Eastern European folk traditions follow that with East of Eden at 2:40, South African at 4pm with Otto & The Mutapa Calling, finishing off your Sunday entertainment. Also look out for Rose Popay, the “Art Tart,” sounds hilarious, and various carnival workshops, suitable for all ages; see the DOCA website.

Elsewhere, People Like Us headline free live music for Inspire Warminster, preview here. The Cosmic Sausages play The Bell, Bath, The Lost Hills play The Tap & Barrel, Swindon. Blues legend Andy Fairweather Low plays The Cheese & Grain, Frome, with Ruzz Guitar in support, and oh, it’s Aldbourne Doggy Day!

That’s your weekend wrapped up, unless I missed anything? Did you let us know? It’s not too late, I can edit our event calendar, if you’re nice and send cake!


Through the week you can catch a Live Art Demonstration by the wonderful Caroline le Bourgeois at Devizes Conservative Club on Monday 4th, meanwhile David Olusoga presents A House Through Time at The Cheese & Grain, Frome.

Tuesday sees carparks in Devizes closed for the Birmingham 2022 Queen’s Baton Relay; for a whole half-hour! Heaven help us! Keyboard warriors, I’d advise you walk or bus it into town to get your garibaldi biscuits!

The New Forest Folk Festival starts Wednesday, while there’s a bit of Shakey at Bath’s Rondo Theatre, Macbeth; all proceeds go to Marie Curie. Best of luck to the two Devizes actors appearing in this, Lucy Upward and Ian Diddams; break a leg!

Next weekend you need tickets for a fundraising concert for Devizes GAC’s chosen charity, Julia’s House Children’s Hospice, at Devizes School Hall, on Friday July 8th at 7.30pm. Special guests at the concert will be the Pewsey Belles Ladies Choir. Tickets are priced £8 and available from 01761 472468.

Both Readipop Festival and Cornbury Festival, next weekend, and of course, Devizes Carnival and Trowbridge’s ParkFest, both on the Saturday 9th. I believe I’ll be painting the whole village purple at Bishop’s Cannings mini festival at The Crown; please come and support this too. And on Sunday, give our Essex country-rocker favourites, Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective a warm Devizes welcome at the Southgate.

And if you’ve read this far I salute you; people like you who pay attention really need to grab up tickets to the Full-Tone Festival August Bank Holiday, AND Devizes Scooter Rally, AND Devizes Beer Festival too!


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REVIEW – Tamsin Quin & Vince Bell @ The Southgate, Devizes – Sunday 26th June 2022

300 and still counting!

Andy Fawthrop

Is it really (not that) long? Debs suddenly realised over the weekend that this was the 300th gig that she and Dave had put on in The Southgate since taking over in 2018. That’s only four years, and we had a pandemic in the middle when all the pubs were necessarily closed anyway, so that’s a pretty remarkable record! No-one has done more to support live music in D-Town that Debs and Dave, with virtually every weekend supporting at least one gig, sometimes two or three. I do remember one night when there were (for complicated reasons that need not detain us now) two gigs on at exactly the same time – one inside the pub, and one in the skittle alley!

There have been acts from all over the country, and indeed from several other countries. There has been just about every style of music you can think of – rock, prog, psychedelia, blues, funk, soul, folk and every combination thereof that you can think of. Most of it worked too!

So it was really good, albeit perhaps just a lucky coincidence, that gig number 300 should be one of those relaxed Sunday afternoon sessions featuring a couple of the best of our very local singer/ songwriters – Tamsin Quin and Vince Bell. The atmosphere was, as usual, warm and supportive right from the start.

Tamsin was up first, shorn of her Lost Trades buddies, for an occasional solo performance. I’ve known Tamsin since some of her early gigs back in the mists of time at the now-defunct Seend Acoustic. Back then she was chatty, nervous, a little scatty, but clearly a great songwriter and performer. Since then, and I’ve seen her perform many times, she has clearly developed. She’s stronger and more assured in front of a microphone, her singing style is more gentle, and her song-writing has developed in leaps and bounds – intimate, sincere and with a new depth and maturity.

Vince followed her onto the singing stool and showed us, yet again, what a great singer/ songwriter he is. And it was one of those gigs where, instead of being reduced to the “folkie in the corner” everybody (including the dogs) was properly listening. Again we had strong, deep songs, with some occasional Spiderman-pyjama whimsy thrown in, and a captivating performance.

Unfortunately, I had to skip the very last bit where they got to sing some songs together (Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was calling and I didn’t want to get put “on hold”), so as they used to say in The News Of The World “I made my apologies and left”, which was a damned pity because it was such a lovely, homely gig.

There were lots of friends in the audience, and a lot of love in the room. I’m pretty sure I’m right in thinking that both performers enjoyed it as much as we audience did in listening. Wonderful.

So, as I said, a great gig to celebrate 300 and counting. Let’s hope for many more great gigs, and let’s hope that the good folk of D-Town keep on supporting quality live music.

Future gigs at The Southgate:

Saturday 2nd July Jack Grace Band
Sunday 3rd July Jon Amor + Friends


REVIEW – Fulltone Strings @ Town Hall, Devizes – Sunday 26th June 2022

Four Seasons In One Day

Andy Fawthrop


There’s no respite if you’re into your culture in D-Town these days. Fresh off the back of the wonderful Devizes Arts Festival, I headed on a beautiful sunny Sunday evening to a sold-out Town Hall to hear The Fulltone Orchestra in full musical flight. This was FTO’s “taster” event, and an advert for the big event over the August Bank Holiday weekend (Fulltone Music Festival) to be held on The Green on 27th and 28th August….

Anthony Brown (“Our Tone”) had gathered an almost 40-strong string orchestra, with only a very short time for rehearsals, and moulded them together to provide us with a short, but very satisfying musical repast.
To start with, our amuse-bouche if you like, was the short but sweet Adagio in G Minor by Tomaso Albinoni. This 18th Century composer, who was quite famous in his day, and a contemporary of Vivaldi, is less well-known these days. The piece was light and airy, and played with some panache by a clearly enthusiastic orchestra, a perfect Baroque accompaniment to the sunshine flooding in through the open windows, and a piece absolutely suited to the surroundings of the splendid room in which were sitting.

Next up, the real starter, was Ralph Vaughn Williams’ Fantasia on A Theme By Thomas Tallis. Still light but a little more substantial, this was one English composer’s interpretation of an earlier English composer’s work, and is perhaps more recognisable, having been recorded and performed many times over the last century.

And finally, after a short interval, we were onto the main course and, I suspect, the key reason for this concert’s obvious popularity – Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, his violin concerto written roughly 300 years ago in the period 1718-20. For this piece, conductor Anthony willingly ceded the leadership of the strings to guest Russian concert violinist, Elizaveta Tyun. Elizaveta has performed all over the world, and her appearance in Devizes was a real coup for the FTO.

The Four Seasons (“Le quattro stagioni” in Italian) is, by far and away, the best-known of Vivaldi’s works, and is a group of four linked violin concertos, each of which gives musical expression to a season of the year. At the time when they were first performed, they were a revolution in musical conception: in them Vivaldi represented flowing creeks, singing birds, a shepherd and his barking dog, buzzing flies, storms, drunken dancers, hunting parties from both the hunters’ and the prey’s point of view, frozen landscapes, and warm winter fires. Also unusual for the period, Vivaldi published the concerti with accompanying sonnets (possibly written by the composer himself) that elucidated what it was in the spirit of each season that his music was intended to evoke. The concerti therefore stand as one of the earliest and most detailed examples of what would come to be called “program music” — or in other words, music with a narrative element. Vivaldi divided each concerto into three movements (fast–slow–fast), and, likewise, each linked sonnet into three sections. I’m not going to pretend that I knew all of that, but I Googled it and I thought you ought to know! I did it before I listened, and it certainly helped me to understand much better what I was listening to!

What can I say? It was absolutely wonderful, thrilling, inspiring, and emotional stuff. It was live orchestral music at its very best. Elizaveta played with enormous passion and enthusiasm, attacking the faster, trickier passages with great energy. And the strings of the FTO, probably inspired by such skill in their midst, followed her lead and supported her to great effect. It’s an absolutely fabulous piece of music. No matter how many times I’ve heard it played, it never ceases to amaze me. Despite being used in (literally) hundreds of film soundtracks, adverts, and the inevitable telephone on-hold theme, it always comes through as fresh and original. And it was so good to listen to it properly, all the way through, played by a set of musicians who clearly wanted to play it. Hats off to the lot of them – it was absolutely superb!

Well done to Jemma and Anthony Brown for pulling this concert together, well done to Elizaveta for a stirring rendition of the lead violin role, and well done to the scratch group of musicians who came together to deliver an excellent performance. Oh, and well done to the crowd who came out on a Sunday night to support such great live music and gave the performance exactly what it deserved – a long standing ovation and rapturous applause. Absolutely brilliant!

So – don’t forget to buy your tickets for The Fulltone Music Festival on Saturday and Sunday 27th & 28th August on The Green – available from Devizes Books, and online from www. www.ticketsource.co.uk/fulltone


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Miracle at MantonFest!

Ah yeah, Paul McCartney whisked Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl out of his hat at Glasto, and no one can top that, no one dare try, but on the other side of the west country The Fab Four were rejuvenated on stage, and miraculously commanded the weather!

Okay, allow some exaggeration for artistic licence, but being the only sour point about MantonFest last year was spates of torrential downpour, and the forecast foreboding a repeat, note it tried its uppermost to drizzle, but on the one occasion the crowds thought, “this is it,” Nottingham’s fantastic Beatles tribute, The Fab Four broke into George Harrison’s Here Comes the Sun and lo-and-behold, the sunshine returned, to a rapturous applause.

Coincidence, or should these guys try a Paul Daniels tribute next, is besides the point; there were numerous memorable happenings at MantonFest this year, the Beatles tribute controlled clement weather was just the tip of the iceberg.

For eleven years strong MantonFest has been Marlborough’s little gem, punching well above its weight. It’s both communal and friendly, but professionally executed too. If Glastonbury is a city of tents, this day festival is a village of gazebos. Picnicking families return year-after-year, and MantonFest prides itself on a loyal fanbase.

Nit-picking, the focus is entirely on the music, but kids seem unperturbed by any lack of facilities aimed at them. They naturally make their own entertainment, organise a game of football in the ample surrounding fields, more so join the already extensive age demographic and genuinely enjoy the music. Perhaps why The Fab Four were so apt, the Beatles’ early music is the eve of bubble-gum, beguilingly simple for the masses, which makes it timeless.

Talking to them backstage they delighted in the notion they’re a platform introducing Beatles music to a new generation, and in that, plus the fact they are an archetypical four-piece rock band setup without strings and effects, they blasted out the earlier, simpler 45s such as Love me Do and Hold my Hand as a baseplate. And they did it fantastically, with a nod to later Beatles creations such as Yellow Submarine and Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but perhaps most absolute to exposing their skills in ballads, such as Something the aforementioned, Here Comes the Sun, and a grand finale of Hey Jude, this was a very entertaining package.

Take a Beatles tribute as red, my mum, caught up in Beatlemania, thrust it willingly down my throat, so I’m bound to enjoy, but the real surprise of MantonFest 2022 was the second tribute, Jean Genie. As it suggests, accomplished musician and writer in his own right, John Mainwaring becomes David Bowie, more so in sound than appearance.

You can rough me up for this, but note while I fully recognise and accept Bowie’s importance in the progression of pop, and understand why he is idolised, I’m a smidgen too young to have been caught up in the fanaticism surrounding him. But this guy wowed, as simple as; assessment is this is way up on my best tributes leader-board, forcing me to view Bowie in a new light. I mean, the guy toured with Bowie’s own band The Spiders from Mars in the nineties, explaining to me backstage the gradual progression to this career point was, as he sounded so much like his influence, through his own original music, he was persuaded first to attribute the fictional persona Ziggy Stardust, “as Bowie killed him off anyway.”

This performance was truer to the definition “tribute” than the standard tribute act, it was part John Mainwaring, being himself hugely inspired by Bowie, but it was also part Bowie, sublimely, his voice and showmanship as close as you could possibly get, and as Starman echoed out, it was a totally mesmerising performance, my highlight of the day.

Unfortunately, while professional and accomplished, I have to say, I don’t think the headliners The Animals topped this. Maybe it was just me, feeling the strain of not drinking myself stupid, of which, looking back on, I’m proud, but at the time at tad niggly! I’d say the line between a real act and a tribute act are blurred, when a man like Mainwaring, with such experience and close relationship with the act he’s attributing is a tribute, but a band with only one original band member is considered the genuine article. I mean, yeah, it’s labelled as The Animals and Friends, but grammar comes into play somewhat. It’s not plural; The Animal and Friends. A rather plodding show, a bit meh in comparison with what went beforehand.

Between the two tributes stood the testament to MantonFest, Marlborough’s pride, Barrelhouse. With bassist Stuart Whant as artistic director, MantonFest is the Barrelhouse fan club’s annual beano, but they’ve the knack to make their show something watchable on repeat. If you ever figured the timeworn blues of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Bo Diddley,or even when they slip into bluegrass, couldn’t enthuse teenagers today, you need to bear witness to the enduring methods of Barrelhouse, with the growling mysterious frontman Martin Hands, his proficient band, and the reaction of their loyal fans at the one place they’ll guarantee to rule the stage, Manton Grange.

But if Barrelhouse are guaranteed goodness, The Fab Four were what they said on the tin, fab, and Jean Genie was a sublime homage, there was an equally talented act upon my arrival. Rocking up a bit late to catch previous performances, Southend-on-Sea’s Rosalie Cunningham was all I needed as confirmation this was going to be a great day for live music. Program a hundred personas of legendary rock heroines into a computer, from Patti Smith to Suzi Quatro and Debbie Harry to Alanis Morissette, and ask it to compute something analogous, it’d likely create Rosalie Cunningham. She looked the part, she sounded like the part, and in all essence, she was the part.

At first it came across prog-rock, all King Crimson type, but there were riffs to punk, nods to rock n roll, and the band explained they liked it like this, prevented it getting tedious for them. For an audience it was astutely performed, original rock, steady, flowing; the like you’d think you knew already.

All-in-all, Mantonfest is a credit to Wiltshire, but as I said last year, absent are the faces of our own live music aficionados, just a stone-throw away. Marlborough is not the Upside Down from Stranger Things, Devizions, yet those rolling downs seem to divide us into little circuits.

In fact, the only connection to my hometown I made was thinking about my stomach! Yes, amico, that trusty airstream caravan, The Italian Job, usually parked upon the Green in Devizes, was pitched at MantonFest, the wonderful aromas of basil and garlic were as alluring as the seating inside, and for want of a cup of Rosey-Lee, I came bundling out with gorgeous homemade lasagne, garlic bread and rocket, and slouched in a chair below the beautiful slopes of Treacle Brolly; now that’s festivaling Marlboro’ country, something you’re really missing. I’d highly recommend you etch MantonFest 2023 into your must-do-list.


REVIEW – Sarah C Ryan Band @ The Southgate, Devizes – Saturday 25th June 2022

Another Great Find

Andy Fawthrop

Ah – you never know what life is going to throw up at you till it smacks you right in the face.  Coming off the back of two weeks’ worth of fare from Devizes Arts Festival, I poked my head in to The Corn Exchange to catch their very last act – Absolute with their Celtic Party Night.  I managed to stay for the first half (and very it good it was too as the crowd began to thaw and fill the dance-floor), but to be honest, there’s only so much diddley-diddley music that one man can take.…..

And so it was, as a late call, I decided to head up the hill to The Southgate to check out the Sarah C. Ryan Band.  And boy am I glad I did.  These guys were a new band to me, despite being quite local (they even rehearse in Devizes), and I couldn’t believe that I’d never run into them before.

In short they were beltingly good – several notches above most pub bands.  But that judgement is kinda unfair – they were much more than a mere “pub band”.  They played mostly self-penned numbers, with just the occasional leavening of covers.  Being a five-piece, and including three guitars, drums, keyboards and the occasional woodwind, gave them a depth and a richness in their sound.  The songs were clean, sharp, unfussy.  Sarah’s singing in particular lifted the performance with her sweet, clear voice, but the whole thing was a complete pleasure to listen to.  Number after number rolled off their set-list, each one bringing huge applause from a very enthusiastic audience.  Their versions of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and the Cranberries’ “Zombie” were absolutely spot-on, working with the crowd and feeding off their energy.

Really good band – best I’ve seen in ages.  And really nice folks to talk to as well.  They told me that they don’t actually gig very much, but I really can’t understand why – they’ve got the right package – good songs, good playing, good sound and an ability to connect with their audience.  Let’s hope we see much more of them in the future!

Well done to Debs for another great booking, and a good night at The Gate.

Future gigs at The Southgate:

Saturday 2nd July                               Jack Grace Band

Sunday 3rd July                                  Jon Amor + Friends


Editor’s Top-Secret Information! I’m sorry to have missed this gig at our trusty Southgate, for although I’ve not had the chance to catch The Sarah C Ryan Band live, yet, I can leak some top-secret information, or, at least, procrastination being the reason I’ve not mentioned it sooner: I’m fully aware how absolutely awesome The Sarah C Ryan Band are, as they’ve kindly donated a tune called A Woman in White, to the forthcoming second volume of our Julia’s House compilation. And you HAVE to hear it!

We just need a few more songs to make this happen; don’t make me beg!

We want your band name on our desk!
You can download the first Volume here!

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Inspire Warminster; Free Live Music on Sunday

Skewered, the adverse replies to my Facebook post a month ago, asking for suggestions on how to kill a few hours in Warminster; it was as if I’d wandered into the outback! Skewered by banter, neighbouring rivalry, perhaps, but I also have to take into account the town’s proximity to funky freewheeling Frome, and the fact any town name with the word “war” in hardly connotes an approachable kind of place..but, is it?

But what’s in a name, military links aside? I set about a little research project to suggest Warminster is not a cultural void, and any accusation it is, is obscured by ignorance, surely? They probably say the same about us; all’s fair in love and war, minster….see what I did there? A little Sunday pun to break the ice! Okay, I’ll get my coat.

Already aware both the Rose & Crown and Prestbury Sports Bar host a regular live music programme, supporting local live music, I also came across a group aptly titled Inspire Warminster. Coincidently, they’ve a free community festival happening Sunday 3rd July from 1-7pm in the town park. I suggest if you suffer from Warminster-phobia you check it out, overcome your negative presumptions!

The brainchild of Pete Bartley and Doug Halls, Inspire Warminster started out in 2013, when their Town Council approached them with their idea to put on an annual live music event in the park to showcase local talent, and more specifically to encourage young people to take up a musical instrument. Doug and Pete wanted to put on a daytime family event where parents could bring their children and enjoy a family day out listening to the music, which is precisely what they did!

Okay, so there’s a guy clearly scratching his butt in their featured Facebook photo, what of it?!

I spoke to Tom of the group, whose job it is to organise the bands. “We’ve nine very diverse bands booked for this year,” he tells me, “All of whom local to Warminster, so it really will be a wonderful showcase of the talents in the town.” This is exactly what I was after, evidence!

Coyote Country starts the music at 1pm, followed by Wade Merritt, Junkyard Dogs, Grumpy Dog, and Brakelight. Then the Warminster Community Choir are on at 4:20, followed by Dr Alibi, The Frontman and our good friends, People Like Us headline at 6. “With the amount of talent on during the course of this event,” Last playing Inspire in 2017, People Like Us announced, “we are stunned, thrilled and humbled to be headlining this brilliant community event.”

Old stock photo of PLUS, knocks a couple of years off, guys!

“PLUS were instrumental in reuniting our community,” Inspire explains, “as we emerged from lockdown, reigniting our spirits and reminding us that good times could exist again. All that remains is to let them do their thing, so come, dance and sing!”


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REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival – Alfie Moore’s Fair Cop Unleashed @ Corn Exchange 24th June 2022

Criminal Humour

Andy Fawthrop

The Devizes Arts Festival left it late in their programme to unleash one of its comedy big guns Friday night, but it was well worth the wait. And a huge audience packed out the Corn Exchange to witness some great comedy in action…..

Alfie Moore is a comparatively recent talent to come on to the comedy circuit, but he’s already cornered the market in combining real-life police experience with a natural comedic ability. Recently retired as a police sergeant, with over twenty years’ front-line service with our finest, he has a wealth of real-life insights and comedy moments to share.

Looking every bit the slightly overweight, world-weary copper who’s heard every excuse in the book, Alfie has developed a wry, observational comedic style, which lends itself to witty, and sometimes gritty, anecdotes based on everyday modern policing. He also proved himself to be an adept socio-political commentator and weaved this all together with his take on the comedy gold of real life, the stuff that you just can’t make up.

He led us through his back-story, including his dyslexia, lack of formal education and his low self-esteem. Born and raised on a council estate in Sheffield, he was an apprentice in the steelworks before managing to join the Police, possibly through a mix-up in the paperwork. He was later inspired to take up stand-up comedy in 2007 after his first taste of live comedy at a local comedy club. He quickly became well and truly hooked, and was soon performing regularly up and down the country. (Since then he has written and performed his own one-man show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival six times now. His BBC Radio 4 comedy series ‘It’s A Fair Cop’ debuted in July 2014 and, following exceptional feedback from listeners and media reviews, further series have since been commissioned.) Last night he was touring his latest show ‘Fair Cop Unleashed’.

The first half consisted mostly of a general stand-up routine, getting himself into the murky world of gender politics, treading a very fine line between the acceptable and the very non-PC, beautifully rescued at the end by a great gag about having to know someone’s gender in order to know how much to pay them. There was some great stuff about police nick-names, the CPS (“Couldn’t Prosecute Satan”), and the ongoing struggle with paperwork in his Grimsby posting.

But it was the second half before he finally laid out his “real life” incident with a mysterious and inebriated clown walking in to his police station, asking for help to find four lions lost from the circus. What followed was the tale of his hilarious attempts to make sense of it all, to work with others (armed police that he referred to as “the Milk Tray men”) to re-capture the four dangerous wild beasts roaming the town (he was advised “try not to look like prey”), whilst overcoming his genuine fear that he might actually die.

His style throughout was engaging, confidential and dead-pan. The whole thing was genuinely funny, laugh-out-loud hilarious, with the gags and asides coming thick and fast. Long and loud applause was his just reward.

The Devizes Arts Festival finished Saturday 25th June with Absolute – Last Night Celtic Party at The Corn Exchange. Devizine congratulates The Devizes Arts Festival and thanks them for putting on such an excellent programme of events, looking forward to another great summer in 2023.

Editor’s Note: I’d also like to thank Andy for his extensive coverage of the Arts Festival over the last fortnight, covering almost every event can be exhausting, but it goes a long way to show how jam-packed the Arts Festival is and the dedication from the team to provide Devizes with some quality and diverse performances.


REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival – The Second Best Bed @ The Merchant Suite 23rd June 2022

The Plays What She Wrote

Andy Fawthrop

The Devizes Arts Festival’s presentation last night was a right little gem.

Alright, it definitely helped if you were slightly interested in William Shakespeare and his back-story, but it certainly wasn’t compulsory in order to have found this production quite fascinating. The central conceit of this compelling monologue, superbly played by Liz Grand, was that her recently-deceased husband William, that “upstart crow”, hadn’t in fact written any of his famous plays and poems at all – and that she, Anne Hathaway, was the real literary genius behind the scenes. Addressing a bust of the bard in her bed-chamber, occasionally sitting upon and referring to the eponymous second-best bed, Anne recounted in hilarious detail how the two of them had, jointly, carried off this major deception over the many years of their marriage.

The piece managed to convey both much factual (or at least conjectured) biographical detail – their marriage, the deaths of their children, the vagaries of the court and the theatrical players of their times – as well as the comic flights of fancy that constructed the central myth of bard’s true authorship. Her description of her trips to London, disguised as a man, to see her own plays performed on the stage, and debated in the taverns, whilst passing unrecognised by her oblivious and complacent husband were hilarious. And to later catch him in flagrante with not just one, but two, whores, just proved to her that her that the man was none too bright.

Anne, now widowed, spoke of her regret that her contribution, indeed her literary genius, had not been recognised. It was not now enough, following William’s death, to simply claim authorship since no-one would ever believe her. It would have needed Will to admit the deception, to corroborate the deceit, whilst he was still alive. And the chance of that had now gone forever. She railed at her ex-hubby – a man who couldn’t even spell his own name the same way twice – for having taken all the credit.

There was some clever stuff here if you listened carefully, with many famous lines from both the plays and the sonnets freely scattered in among the scripted lines, and some hilarious explanations of why certain things had been written the way they had. Indeed one of the highlights towards the end was the now-dead Bard arguing with his own genius wife about why she’d written the various roles of the plays’ heroes and heroines the way she had. Richard III, Macbeth, Hamlet, Lear, Othello, and all the flawed tragic men were swiftly eviscerated, and the roles of the women – Lady Macbeth, Juliet, Desdemona, Cordelia, the “Dark Lady” and the rest – were all grounded in the lives and feelings of real, oppressed women.

Both the script, and Liz Grand’s performance, were a tour de force, eagerly lapped up by an appreciative audience. An entertaining and instructive evening all round.

The Devizes Arts Festival continues only for two more days until Saturday 25th June at various venues across town. Tickets can be booked at Devizes Books or online at www.devizesartsfestival.org.uk


The World Under the Wood Will Put a Smile on Your Face

A dollop of Lewis Carroll, shards of C. S. Lewis and Roald Dahl, and perhaps even nicer elements of Tolkien, The World Under the Wood will put a smile on your face and bring out the inner child in you.…..

Being honest, it doesn’t take too much to bring out the inner child out in this grumpy old man, but more to cheer me up, and this did both, delightfully!

Running until Sunday, with matinees and evening performances at Devizes’ Wharf Theatre, this simply charming hour-long play, written and directed by Helen Langford is so whimsical, such a delight, you will be captivated by its magical cross-realms. Ideally you need a child aged six plus, but anyone into fairytales you can drag along, I suggest you do. Break out some glitter!

Yet while citing the obvious influences of classic children’s literature combines the settings and themes, it overlooks the subject, a contemporary feel of industry versus nature, the environmental angle on everyone’s lips, especially children. And it presents it in such an easy, fantastical way, without complication or ‘rubbing your face in it’ any age will be absorbed by the moral. Anymore synopsis and I’m verging on spoliers!

All homegrown talent, The World Under the Wood is an unmissable Wharf exclusive. The protagonist, Jodie, a kind of Dorothy-Dora hybrid is played confidently and spectacularly by Georgina Claridge, and her interactions with archetypal characters manage to retain the charm of those they pastiche, a talking tree, played gracefully by Chris Smith, pet dog by Carolynn Coomer, and Louise Peak as the queen-like Great Leader of an industrial underworld of robotic oompa loompa-like humans adds pantomime humour to the show.

Yet, it is not pantomime, in so much its zany or sing-along element is slight above the morals, but it is partially musical, with simple but effective original songs. If I’m honest, I huffed at the thought of going to see a “family” show, but I came out the other end chuffed, sprinkled with psychological fairy dust and mused with an emotion of sustainability on equal terms.

Your kids will love it, you might love it more! The World Under the Wood is running now, ending Sunday 26th June at The Wharf Theatre, Devizes. Tickets HERE.


REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival– Darius Brubeck Quartet @ The Corn Exchange 22nd June 2022

“Nice”

Andy Fawthrop

The Devizes Arts Festival rolls on, and I was just thinking that it was high time that we had some proper jazz in the programme. To satisfy this so-far unfilled gap, DAF had managed to secure the services of top-notch international outfit The Darius Brubeck Quartet. Darius, of course, is the son of the famous Dave Brubeck.

Looking and sounding somewhat bemused to find themselves in the heart of rural Wiltshire, and a long way from the fleshpots of that there London, the band turned up smartly booted and suited, glad to be out on the road again playing the music that they love.

Darius himself is an American jazz pianist, composer, author and retired professor residing in the UK. Paying tribute to his father’s music in the jazz master’s centenary year, Darius had teamed up with saxophonist Dave O’Higgins, bassist Matt Ridley and drummer Wesley Gibbens. Not surprisingly, this was their Devizes debut, after playing critically acclaimed international tours and sold-out shows at major jazz houses in London.

The concert included Darius’s own compositions, some pieces influenced by and written by his South African students, as well as some well-loved Dave Brubeck hits, culminating in probably the most recognisable piece of the evening: the sublime “Take Five”.

Darius himself, quietly spoken, dapper and urbane, introduced each piece. The quartet’s mutual understanding and interaction was much in evidence, each musician contributing in laid-back fashion, and giving respectful musical breathing space to the others. Each piece was a delight, clear and unfussy, providing a concert that was certainly “cool” and, in the words of Louis Balfour of The Fast Show “nice”. As might have been expected, Darius’ piano and Dave’s saxophone were very much to the fore in most of the pieces, although there was time for both bass and drum solos.

Overall a very enjoyable evening listening to jazz of the highest calibre.

The Devizes Arts Festival continues for the next few days until 25th June at various venues across town. Tickets can be booked at Devizes Books or online at http://www.devizesartsfestival.org.uk


Captain Councillor V The Pigeons From Hell

Jonathan Livingston Seagull came to. Through bloodshot eyes he regained just enough bearing to recall his whereabouts. His wings tied with rope, behind a hardbacked chair, his feet were tied to the legs. Out of focus a stumpy, bearded fellow sneered face-to-face with him, grasping two electrodes. “Sch-sch-should, I shock him again, oh master?” he sniggered.

A deep voice bellowed from the rotund shadow in the background, his ghastly features only visible for a second when he thrusted a Crammar Watch postcard marked with all the postcodes of honest folk who wished to see something done about their poullted town pond, into the fire, and lit his cigar with it. “A word in your shell-like, gull. Refuse to answer and you will be banned from my Facebook group, capiche;? Now, who shate on my Greggs sausage and bean melt?!”

As the first unkindly fellow moved the electrodes closer to his temple, Livingston screamed out, “please, do not exclude me from such a fine, unbais Facebook group; I’ll squawk, I’ll tell, but please, anything but that! It, it, it was the pigeons, they did it!”

Two weeks later….

Honestly, if you’re wondering what happened at the Devizes Town Council meeting last night, when the dynamic duo unleased their devestating plan against pigeons in the Market Place, I dare not ask.

Is this the kind of “important issues” we were advised by Danny K to focus on, rather than partygate? Or just perhaps it’s a distraction from the pollution in the Crammar issue, you know, the other occasion when these two cross-party councillors mobbed up to spread misinformation. Far from me to shoot that in the foot, by pondering the pigeons who’ve abandoned the Crammer, that if there was the natural food source we’ve been campaigning for, perhaps the pigeons would be more evenly dispersed across town, rather than congregating for easy pickings, but I wouldn’t dare suggest such a thing.

There is no evidence of pollution in the Crammar,” it’s said they claimed, and here’s a CGI video our tech guys at Devizine Towers just knocked up; honestly, it’s like Pixar around here!

Of course, it was rightly pointed out by one of our dynamic duo, that the rescue charity Swan Support actually polluted the unpolluted pond when one of them wadded in for a few moments, before giving up and going for the canoe option. Because, of course, Swan Support always rock up to clean water and steal swans from their natural environment for no good reason.

Ha, and we all thought it was because there’s a runoff drain from the busy road adjacent! Silly us, what do we know, after all we weren’t even there to witness it, probably at home watching Come Dine With Me. The councillors were the ones in the perpetual drizzle rescuing the swans, one even posted a photo of them holding a swan to prove it, it’s been said, the photo circa 2017, on his timeline photos. That’s what being a timelord from Gallifrey is useful for.

Moving the silt in the water is what’s poullting it, they claim, and then they had a toy boat race, for the Queen.

Now, of course, they point out the Crammar is Town Council property, ergo everything in the water is too; including the non-polluting pollution I have to presume. And anyone wadding in to rescue oil-slicked wildlife is liable; which is a nice way of resolving the issue and moving onto a few pigeons in the Market Place.

In a week where a Marlborough councillor tried to convince me the whopping taxpayer’s bill to blockade the ridgeway over solstice, causing chaos for miles, was only to protect nesting birds. Being here in the Vizes councillors are hell bent on destroying birds, hardly gives anyone the confidence Wiltshire tories are keen ornithologists, or give a finger of fudge about any wildlife really, on account of Wiltshire PCCs blind eye to fox hunting. “Look away from the Crammer, and feast your eyes on the site of our future railway station, six miles out of town!”

Yeah, we’re supposed to feel the need, the need for speed; getting Danny K to Parliament on time is the difference it makes, because favours for who gets their tongue furthest up Bojo’s anus are handed out on a first-come-first-served basis. While many taxpayers coughing up for the vanity project won’t be able to afford the bus journey to the station, let alone a railway ticket. Anyway, I digress, who cares about peasants?

What will be done to reduce the slight pigeon population in Devizes; poison in the nests, armed response unit, one-way ticket to Rwanda for these naturally homing flying rats? The latter might get you an allowance to touch Priti Patel’s petticoat, imagine what a semi that’ll produce.

Here’s an article explaining culling pigeons is totally ineffective and actually counterproductive, it will only make matters worse. The best soultion is education, it suggests. No, not the pigeons, though it might be helpful to our education system to replace a few headteachers around these parts for pigeons, it meant educating the public. Because, here’s the bottom line, it’s a monster of our own making, and only Captain Councillor and his trusty sidekick can save us now!

Yes indeedy, hence my narrative at the top, try reading the bottom comment in this screenshot below without taking on an east London gangster type accent. “The gulls are being worked on!” Give me strength, who do they think they are? Hale & Pace doing The Firm?!

I’ve no idea, but they seem to me nothing more than Dastardly and Muttley. How in the bejeezus is a poll conducted on a Facebook group where anyone with a differing opinion from the one-man town council admin is promptly banned, considered a consensus of public opinion and presented before the council as damning evidence?

Whatever happened to democracy, much less live and let live? Pigeon infestations are annoying, so is tory ones in my opinion, but I don’t campaign for their cull. Let’s all be good Christians and sing, “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” shall we, then slaughter a mass of those blasted creatures lord god made?

Can I give up now? Is the hypocrisy showing yet? First world problems for little Englanders, like the verbal war in Bishop’s Cannings over a pub painting its shed purple, perpetrated by keyboard warriors in tow with our dynamic duo, but not quite on city level. Take the slave trader they convicted, in Bristol of all places, where they condone slavery! A city with a council who try to fine folk for taking a statue of a slave trader down! Oh my years, the wonky reasoning went along the lines of “you can’t erase history, we keep the statue to remind us of the atrocities so they won’t happen again.” Yeah, right, the bastard really took notice of that, didn’t he? By that logic you should be erecting a statue of him for future generations to look up to and say, “right, deffo this time, it won’t happen again.”

It might be a world apart, but the same ballpark, all hypocrisy together as one pile of steaming bullshit.

Death to all pigeons will mean we get other species of birds, rats, and other pests taking their place; do we mow down everything in our path in a Mad Max stylee? Or do we just have to get on with our lives, try to live in unity with nature, before the apocalypse?

This duo are a kind of anti-David Attenborough, aren’t they? A knight showing you how dinosaurs gained feathers and evolved into birds when we were but scrurrying rodents in the sand, on the telebox, yet seems these over-inflated egotistical power-hungry councillors think they’re above the natural order of things; because of digital watches, Douglas Adams might conclude.

You can use netting, paint owl eyes on windows as a deterrent, you can cover up food for sale outside or keep a watch over them. You can diversify and defeat, peacefully. Pigeons have a brain capability slightly lesser than councillors, you can outwit them.

It must’ve really helped local shop-owners when the dynamic duo blabbed to Wiltshire Times, for example, how “traders in the little Brittox are concerned by the number of pigeons in the area as they believe the droppings are making the footpath unsafe and are contaminating food and products on display.” Good thinking, guys, that’s not put me off buying produce from there at all. Just another day for Captain Councillor and his trusty sidekick!

REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival– Simon Calder @ The Corn Exchange 21st June 2022

Travel Tales

Andy Fawthrop

Well, we’re on to week two of the Devizes Arts Festival, but there’s been no let-up, as the entertainment continues to come thick and fast. Following Florian Felcitta’s wonderful Free Fringe performance in the Three Crowns on Sunday afternoon, and yesterday’s highly entertaining talk from gardening expert Adam Frost, last night it was the turn of The Independent’s travel writer and commentator Simon Calder.

I suppose there was a deep irony at play in Simon coming to D-Town, a place that last saw a rail service back in the 1960s, and which “enjoys” the bus services of a third-world country. Added to which, of course, was the added insult of it being the first day of the national rail strike. Simon’s day had started very early (as early as that of our esteemed milky editor) in his attempt to catch the first (still running) train of the day from London to Gatwick. And even then, his only purpose in being at Gatwick at sparrow’s cough was to be aboard the first Gatwick Express back to London, just so that he could report on the experience for various TV and radio stations. His quest turned out to be forlorn – the first train failed to run (staff shortages), and the second one only managed ten miles before it broke down. It was the start of a day which, he remarked in an understated stage whisper, had “gone completely Tango Uniform”. If you don’t know, Google it.

Following that, he’d made his way via Swindon, and the rigours of the cross-country 49 bus, to finally haul up in The Vize – and there were plenty of graphic pictures to prove it, including a shot of him in Tea Inc. doing yet another media despatch. Having played this early sympathy card, and got the near-capacity audience fully on-side, Simon was off on his more standard presentation on the life of a travel journalist, using photos of funny signs from around the world, personal travel experiences, and his reflections on such issues as the Covid travel restrictions, and the sub-optimal outcomes (for travellers at least) of Brexit.

His style was confident and brisk, with quips, asides and much dry humour in evidence. He was deft in praising the charms of D-Town, whilst playing to the gallery by snarking at Melksham, Swindon and Trowbridge. He’d done his homework all right. The main presentation having concluded, Simon spent a good half hour fielding audience-generated questions (ably delivered by DAF Chair Margaret Bryant) and providing helpful and hilarious advice on topics as wide as Avios points, best and worst places to visit, when to board an aircraft, the quality of airline catering, the value of rail travel, tourism in post-conflict Ukraine, and the feasibility (or otherwise) of electric planes.

An altogether professional and entertaining evening, and another coup for DAF in getting a media personality down to our neck of the woods.

The Devizes Arts Festival continues for the next few days until 25th June at various venues across town. Tickets can be booked at Devizes Books or online at www.devizesartsfestival.org.uk


What to Do; Weekend Roundup for 24th-27th June

Okay, here we go for our weekend rodeo roundup, for those who it’s too much energy to scroll our event calendar for. No time for links, I’m a busy bee, find the links on the aforementioned event calendar, forcing you scrolling, and also updates as they come bounding in…..

Build-up to the weekend….

Another week of Devizes Arts Festival events prior to the finale at the weekend. Wednesday 22nd sees the Darius Brubeck Quartet at the Corn Exchange. Meanwhile, local legend Nick Harper showcases Phantastes at Marlborough Town Hall, there’s The Carpenters Story at The Wyvern Theatre, Swindon, and many will start making their way to Glastonbury, hopefully not relying on the railway.

Thursday’s Devizes Arts Festival offering is Liz Grand at The Merchant Suite with a frank, humorous and revealing monologue about Shakespeare and Hathaway’s bed. While over at the Wharf Theatre there’s the opening night of the family play, The World under the Wood, directed by Helen Langford, where I hope to meet a talking tree and report back my findings. This one will close Saturday night, and is ideal for everyone aged six plus.

Electric Ladies of the 80s at The Wyvern Theatre, Swindon, Thursday, YouTube weekly That Pedal Show comes to The Tree House, Frome, with Andy Timmons, and Playgroup Open Mic sessions at The Bell, Bath, takes us neatly to Friday.

Friday

The 24th day of June is a Friday, and you’ll find Finley Trusler at The Condado Lounge, while Radio 4 cop-comedian Alfie Moore presents his stand-up show at the Corn Exchange Devizes, as part of the Arts Festival. On comedy, there’s a stage show of Keeping Up Appearances at Neeld, Chippenham, running over the weekend.

Band of Pilgrims with Sour Apple in support at The Pump, Trowbridge, Death is a Girl at The Three Horseshoes, Bradford-on-Avon and Alex Rex & Mighty One at The Tree House, Frome.

Marlborough Town FC have an open mic night, and psychic medium Craig Morris is at Swindon Arts Centre, Monastries & Creek & Chasing Dolls at The Vic, but if in Swindon, I recommend the Ruzz Guitar Trio at The Rolleston Arms, obviously!

Oh yeah, and Simply Red play Longleat, if you want to cough up a small fortune and be charged extra for a seat; camping chairs are not allowed at these gigs, go figure. Taste my deckchair Hucknall!

Saturday

Anyways, Saturday 25th June, is MantonFest Day, yay! Get your ticket, hope to see you there at this brilliantly professionally organised yet exceptionally welcoming festival near Marlborough, got to be highlight of the weekend. Firstly though, I’ve got to nip over to Trowbridge’s Carnival Fair in the town park, lots going on there, see the poster.

Bromham Carnival’s Teddy Bear Trail starts Saturday, and continues Sunday, with the theme ‘Someone Beginning with B.’ Forty-plus teddies around the village, created and generously sponsored by local businesses and individuals. See how many you can guess, and enjoy a walk round their beautiful village at the same time.

The wonderful Swindon Hub has their Monthly Craft Market, and the Spotlight Rooms hosts a Mamma Mia & More Dinner Dance. Elsewhere in Swindon, check Down & Dirty at The Queen’s Tap, Myra DuBois at Swindon Arts Centre, Italia Conti Newbury at The Wyvern Theatre or A Night At The Opera at the Old Town Gardens Bowl.

Let’s get the 49 to Devizes then, I know you want to! Because Devizes Arts Festival has an afternoon Organ Recital by Claudia Grinnell at St Johns Church, followed by their grand finale, a Celtic party night with a band called Absolute at the Corn Exchange.

Spoiled for choice again you are though, The Sarah C Ryan Band comes highly recommended by yours truly, and they play The Southgate. Over in the Sham, the monthly Melksham Rock n Roll Club have Shane & The Korrados.

Life in Mono come to Trowbridge Town Hall, and with one our fav Bath indie-pop bands, Longcoats in support, it’s guaranteed to be great. Marty’s Fake Family at Stallards, Biaritz at The Three Horseshoes, Bradford-on-Avon, and Siren at The Rose & Crown, Warminster; all good, good stuff.

Sunday

Come on back to Devizes Sunday, and find Vince Bell and Tamsin Quin live at The Southgate, but don’t forget, The FullTone pre-festival warm up at the Town Hall, presents Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, or Riding Lights Theatre Company comes to St Marys with a play called My Place.

Heading slightly westwards to the Owl Lodge near Lacock, and the exclusive Wiltshire Blues and Soul Club celebrate their first anniversary with what they do best, a jam; happy anniversary, guys! Oh, and watch out for the Lacock Road Races while you’re there!

To end our weekend with a blowout, Below the Salt play The Three Horseshoes, Bradford-on-Avon

Aftermath

A quiet week follows, at the moment, but you should be browsing July on our calendar, and looking to grab up tickets for Devizes Musical Theatre’s Musical Fortunes at the Wharf on Thursday and Friday, and I’m delighted to say the Devizes LGBTQ+ group has sold out Thursday’s Drag Queen Bingo Night at the Exchange already; that is fantastic guys, well done!

That’s all folks, have a great weekend.


Trending…..

Wadfest; Great Community Do Launched at Wadworth

When a better half browsing Facebook, tells her husband about an event in their own town, that’s informative. When the husband runs a local what’s on guide, it’s a tad embarrassing! But that is the unusual way I found out about Devizes’ cornerstone industry, the Wadworth Brewery putting on a mini-festival in their carpark.

This added a droplet to my overall scepticism as to what a do at Wadworth might involve, but what I overlooked was Jim Smith, frontman of local flightless bird rock covers band, Rockhoppaz, was a valid employee of the institution, so there you go. Now, in our last partial review of last weekend’s entertainment before looking to the next, I’ll tell you I did manage to pop along whilst juggling this and Saddleback, by hotfooting the tow path. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Once informed about this by the good lady wife, I despatched an enquiry as to acts booked, and the usual promise of free promotion, but the only reply I received was something about a free T-shirt. Promoters should note, local rags seem preoccupied with national headline clickbait, and a preview on Devizine is worth a zillion self-promoting Facebook posts, but c’est la vie; when I saw the lineup I was immediately reassured this was a worthy venture, and apologise to Waddies for any aforementioned scepticism.

Upon arrival the wonderful folk acoustic soloist and Visual Radio Arts presenter, Sue Harding, one third of Devizes’ two-thirds of the folk harmony trio on everyone’s lips, The Lost Trades’ Jamie R Hawkins, and the incredibly unpretentious Vince Bell had already played, the latter shrugging I missed him as I approached. How can I excuse the plain and simple fact I need my beauty sleep? But I can take it as red, due to past experience, this is a brilliant way to kick off the proceedings of any local do.

Of great consolation, the fantastically cool Ben Borrill was doing his thing, sublimely covering those tasteful classics. Duty called though, when you’ve an invite to a ticketed event where Ruzz Guitar and his Revue were about to begin, you’re more than obliging. My apologies to RockHoppaz, the first full band on. Again though, this is such a renowned local circuit lineup, it may’ve been seen before but of a quailty worthy of all the repeats of the Dave TV channel.

What I did glimpse of Wadfest was just enough to know, this was Devizes’ surprise freebie event of the summer, central, communal, with both pizza and hog roast, and anything where those dynamic retrospective RoughCut Rebels rocks the finale is a-okay by me.

The only nitpicking to let Wadfest down were not the blame of anyone. Firstly, the natural elements’ temporary weekend pause in a record breaking heatwave will always reduce footfall, unavoidable clashes with other similar events in Devizes added to it. A fair crowd of local music and beer afictionardos gathered nonetheless and an enjoyable afternoon was had, cut short by a medical incident of which we wish the person involved all the best for a speedy recovery.

Just prior though, the drizzle did its worst, as the Roughcuts did their cliché but refined Wonderwall cover, and I ducked into The Tap Shop and Bar, grasping a perfectly baked hot and spicy pizza, breaking my Woodland Pizza Kitchen cherry. Ha, this appleman justifes drinking Frome’s finest Lilley’s Cider in the Waddies Tap Shop as being one of my five-a-day. But have to say, the Tap Shop is a thing of beauty, doubly so with such a tasty pizza.

On a better day, free of other town goings-on and a tad clement, Wadfest would’ve been an absolute blast, as it was it made the best of bad situations and did the town proud. I sincerely hope this will turn into an annual event to look forward to in the coming years, and fully praise Wadworth for hoisting in the community spirit and bringing us this delightful lineup of locally sourced acts.


Devizes School Summer Concert – Celebrating our Local School Community

Devizes School students will be showcasing their artistic and creative abilities at the school’s first public concert since the end of the Covid-19 lockdowns on Friday July 1st from 7:30pm.

With performances and pieces from across the arts, the student community of Devizes welcomes local people back to their school with an evening to remember. A mix of dramatic excerpts, dance recitals across multiple disciplines and a mix of musical styles will be sure to engage and enthral attendees, as well as celebrate the young creatives ushering in the next generation of the arts in our local area and possibly beyond. The stars of the future could very well be born on the Devizes School stage!

Tickets are available now via Devizes School or alternatively on the door on July 1st. 

Adults – £3

Children – £2

Under 5s – FREE

Any further information can be found by emailing Devizes School – devizes_school@devizes.wilts.sch.uk. Or by calling 01380 724886

REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival FREE FRINGE –Florian Felcitta @ Three Crowns 19th June 2022

Superb Talent In The Afternoon

Andy Fawthrop

Another day, and yet another Arts Festival presentation at a different D-Town venue. This afternoon it was the turn of The Three Crowns to host a Free Fringe presentation in their wonderful courtyard. And what a delicious Sunday afternoon treat it was.….

Florian Felcitta is a young man who, in my mind at least, is going places. An extremely accomplished guitarist, who plays modern folk/ gypsy/ jazz, gave an absolute masterclass in how to engage and entertain a Sunday afternoon audience. Modest, self-deprecating, and thoroughly charming to boot, he worked his way through two superb sets of material. With no vocals, but merely relying on his sheer artistry of the guitar strings to produce accomplished instrumental versions of some great pop and rock tunes, the performance was absolutely captivating. Challenging his audience from the outset to effectively “name that tune”, he largely lost his £1000 per tune bets as his listeners homed in on the key melodies. We had hits from Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Wonder, Ed Sheeran, Django Reinhardt, Michael Jackson, Guns & Roses, Tom Petty and many others. But absolutely like you’ve never heard them before.

His guitar skills were superb. Aided by a modest use of loops and pedals, which he never allowed to dominate, he managed to produce a beautiful and very laid-back performance. The audience, despite being in the middle of a very busy pub serving lunches, were never distracted and paid full attention to every song and every introduction. It was stripped back, it was accomplished, and it was very, very good indeed. Hopefully we’ll see and hear much more of this wonderful artist in the future. I’m old and cynical, and not easily impressed these days, but this performance was absolutely spot-on. Highly recommended.

And, yet again, well done to DAF for putting this event on. The fact that it was FREE was just the icing on the cake!

The Devizes Arts Festival continues every day until 25th June at various venues across town. Tickets can be booked at Devizes Books or online at www.devizesartsfestival.org.uk