A little-known personal fact, at the tender age of twelve I won a posh set of Windsor & Newton oil paints via a Kellogg’s competition, and feared to touch them for years! Oils are the crème-de-la-crème of art, in awe of those humongous Renaissance paintings hanging in the National Gallery came the worry I’d never be able to handle such a craft, and until art college days of yore they collected dust under my bed. Even when I did finally use them anything I painted, truth be told, was rubbish!!
If you have a similar story, fabulous local charity working to improve the health, wellbeing, and quality of life of older people through the provision of a range of participatory arts projects since 1999, Arts Together, have a fundraiser on 12th May at The Old Cricket Pavilion in All Cannings.
A Beginner’s Introduction to Oils invites you to light lunch in the Wiltshire countryside for a few peaceful hours of painting. The workshop will be run by Paul Oakley, an acclaimed landscape and still life artist who paints in oils on location and in his studio in All Cannings. As well as exhibiting his work as part of Marlborough Open Studios, Paul is an experienced teacher who runs oil painting courses for beginners and more experienced artists and regularly demonstrates to art groups throughout southern England.
The morning will be spent in the studio learning oil painting techniques and building confidence. After lunch there will be a chance to have a go at painting en plein air outside the studio where beautiful views of Wiltshire can be seen in every direction. The cost is £75. To booking a place: Call Belinda on 07779608196 or Online Here.
Arts Together truly is a wonderful charity, I once got the opportunity to visit one of their workshops in Melksham, and it remains one of my fondest experiences since running Devizine, even if, I still can’t paint well!
First one in what I hope to be a series diverting negative local social media hysteria about wayward youths in our area, must be a Devizes-based indie-pop band of young hoodlums with nothing better to do with their time than pick up guitars and drums, practise like crazy, self-promote themselves, and name themselves with a rational band name, like Nothing Rhymes With Orange……
Even though we have a mountain in Wales called Blorenge, and, the technical term for a sac where spores are made, sporange, all of which they could’ve Googled, but perhaps were too busy becoming the band the best upcoming band in the South West, Salisbury’s Carsick, cite as the best upcoming band in the South West…. maybe!
Whatever the reason for them overlooking these obscure words which do rhyme with orange, the guys are really at the top of their game right now, something we all should tip our hats to. Since fondly reviewing their EP last November, they’ve ventured off to perform in Bristol, Bath, and Trowbridge, as well as Chippenham’s Take the Stage contest. I’ve be encouraging some home-turf gigging too, which is never easy being they and their prospering fanbase are predominately under eighteen.
Seems my bleating to DOCA paid off, and all looks set for the guys to perform at Devizes International Street Festival in May, for here’s something without age limitations which can all enjoy. This is an opportunity I’d like to see become an annual thing, where we recommend a local upcoming band of the year to play the main stage, rather than any kind of bolt-on substitute. Because these guys thoroughly deserve all the attention they’re getting, and you thoroughly need to see them perform.
Which you can do sooner, Saturday April 22nd to be precise, as they play a hometown self-organised gig at West Lavington Hall, with support from three bands new to me, Stoneface, Paradigm, and Frankastre. Showing my age, maybe, but Nothing Rhymes With Orange’s accomplishments are also sharing the attention with a next generation circuit developing, and without trying to sound like a Mandalorian, something which has been “the way” since the eve of rock n roll!
If you don’t wish to take my word for it, someone you should never doubt when it comes to music, Sheer Music’s Kieran Moore, sung their praises after a sell-out show last night at The Pump, alongside Chippenham-based (I believe?) band The Sunnies, currently taking a similar route. Kieran had this to say, “wow, just wow. When the bands first played, they were a bunch of teenagers looking for opportunities. Fast forward a year, and they’ve both been hitting up Chippenham’s Take The Stage and St James Wine Vaults in Bath, played a number of gigs for us at The Pump, and begun hosting their own gigs in Lavington and generally have grown astronomically quick.”
“That furious year of activity have seen the bands stream line their abilities, build their craft and become the anchors around which we will hang off our scene. Their sounds have become dynamic, more focused, and concise. The crowds now know all their lyrics, and sing and dance accordingly, and the teenagers come and are so respectful. It’s a pure treat to watch this all unfold, and The Pump is beaming with pride, because it’s not just the bands who have been developing, but the team there too.”
Don’t save me a seat, I’ll be crowd-surfing, and hope to see you there! Tickets are just eight quid, HERE. And I’d also like to thank The Pump for continuing to showcase upcoming talent, for more info on forthcoming gigs at the Pump, check here. But, if it’s one incredible thing to see a Springsteen gig, it’s a whole other ballpark to see a Springsteen gig in New Jersey, and wager, least hope for a similar effect in the Lavingtons!
Wayward youths are in the minority, and historically always have been. Sweeping generalisations, tarnishing groups according to age is counterproductive, probably making matters worse. We want to focus on the positives, highlight those youths out there doing good, for really, stuff the clickbait bad press, they’re in the majority, and here is the proof. If you know of more examples we’d like to hear from you.
In a deal I’ve been trying to clench for a year now, Newsquest, owners of Wiltshire based newspapers, including the Gazette & Herald have taken the decision today to buy out Devizine and merge it with the Gazette…….
It is fantastic news for us, as Devizine readers will no longer have to put up with second-rate content, unprofessionally written by a kinky milkman, steering on honesty and commitment. Instead, our readers can expect slapdash clickbait articles with little or no reference to local matters, shameless advertorials, towing the Conservative line to the letter and endorsing illegal fox hunting activities.
In turn the Gazette will have a glossy pull-out section, a funky, freewheeling socialist magazine- fashioned spotlight on local arts and entertainment, highlighting the blossoming cascade of talent we are blessed with here; something they’ve not bothered to do since 1864.
It will rally the concepts of social and political change, be a crucial and pivotal hub for campaigning, fundraising, and highlighting charitable needs, offering free advertising for schools and charities, provided they cross our palms with silver, or at the very least buy us a nice Marks & Sparks Battenburg cake.
We can expect to see a regular environmental news column by Devizes & District MP Danny K Booger, who voted for dumping more raw sewage into our rivers, a sports section by Wiltshire PCC Phillip Willykissingson (blood sports that is,) a fun, games, and undernourishment section for kids by Chippenham MP Michelle Donenought, who voted against free school meals during lockdown, spot the pothole competitions from Wiltshire Council Cabinet Member for Transport, Dr Mark McBellend, and regular updates by Devizes Town Councillor Liam Wallyish (or whatever his name is) on all the crap we can’t read on local Facebook groups because we’ve been perversely banned for no good reason.
We will be celebrating this fantastic news by erecting a humongous and obtrusive signpost on the Crammer in Devizes, blatantly advertising our reprehensible merger, with no indignity. Now defunct from the Guardians, independently bias and in a tizzy town councillor, Chris Greenpants welcomed the obstructive billboard, despite not really favouring proposals for a small ‘ducks crossing’ warning sign. He said, “the last thing anyone wants to see is a squashed duck or swan on our roads, hopefully this sign will distract drivers enough to not notice, until such a time we can kick the carcase into a pothole and cover it over with either horse manure, or the bullshit that comes from our own mouths.”
A spokesman for the Gazette and Herald, Martha Fokker said, “this is officially the most unconvincing April Fool’s joke Devizine has pulled since that statue of MP Claire Perry crap. If only we could think of something to counter attack this pathetic attempt we would, but being we’re a sad sack of spuds, awaiting boiling, we can’t. Oh, by the way, we’re running on the scoop Strictly Come Dancing star Molly Rainford has just bought a house in Lancashire, now, that’s local news.”
Do you remember the wonderful sounds of The Shadows and The Tornadoes beaming across the airwaves from Radio Caroline with their spellbinding instrumentals; Apache, Foot Tapper and Riders in the Sky?
If you do then you will not want to miss the star guest at Devizes’ Wharf Theatre on 15th April, Kevin Dean, who recreates those nostalgic guitar sounds of swinging Britain which have since become the sound track to many people’s lives. The show takes its title from the Helen Shaprio classic, Waking Back to Happiness, and, woopah oh yeah yeah; we could all do with a little of that!
Accompanied by The Hot Band, this wonderful show also features talented musical entertainer, impressionist, guitarist and banjo virtuoso Warren James, in company with your chirpy, musical host Mike Martin, who himself has spent a life time in show business including part of Wharf favourites, London Philharmonic Skiffle Orchestra.
This light-hearted and foot-tapping show features the fabulous songs of Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, The Everly Brothers, Lonnie Donegan, Joe Brown, The Seekers, Tommy Steele and many more hit parade heroes.
There’s two show times on Saturday 15th April, evening starts at 7:30pm, and a matinee at 2:30pm. Tickets are between £10 and £14, with a booking fee, from HERE.
Last Week, the Green Party announced Catherine Read as their candidate for the next General Election in Devizes…..And I know what many will have to say…..
You carry on with your inane imaginings of Catherine being some dreadlocked hippy-chick, twirling uncontrollably barefoot at a love-in, if you must, we’ve surpassed your pathetic stereotyping. For Catherine is a health professional, with thirty years experience as a clinical radiographer working in the NHS. Now, looking for a different role, she is an active member of her community, working alongside local government to promote sustainable transport options and cleaner air.
Previously, she set up full time nursery provision and a BMX riding facility in her local village. Catherine has been a school governor at both primary and secondary level and a Parish Councillor. As a member of various environmental groups, Catherine is involved in activities to address climate change, shares eco friendly tips on social media and is gardening for wildlife.
Catherine said, “I am proud to have been chosen as the Green Party’s candidate for Devizes. More people are supporting the Greens and we have seen a record number of Green councillors being elected across the country, including in Wiltshire. The Devizes area has the opportunity to select a different MP, one from a party that has not become complacent. Living in this community, I will be standing up for local people and bring a fresh outlook and vision.“
“After 12 years of a Conservative government, we are experiencing crisis after crisis because of poor political choices. People are struggling with an out of control cost-of-living crisis, soaring energy bills and public services that are just not working for us. Increased sewage in our rivers and seas, an attack on nature and a failed climate promises, where our government have not stepped up and committed to the actions that are needed.“
“I am optimistic that this can change. We are seeing how people are supporting our public sector workers, calling for our water industry, railways and energy to be in back public hands. The NHS would be safe with the Green Party. We would take control of the NHS and end creeping privatisation. It is the Green voices in Parliament who are speaking out and challenging the government when they are not doing right by the public.’
“If you agree with me that we need a fairer greener country, one that puts people and the environment first, then please vote for me at the next General Election.”
Devizine wishes Catherine the very best of luck. We have to be thinking green now, don’t we? Not aiming for an amber tag on your recycling bin! While I accept the public should focus on reducing the workload, Wiltshire Council’s hanger idea, I feel is counterproductive, and will inevitably result in more landfill, as well as being another unnecessary slip of sliced tree itself. We have to do this because we want to do this and not being pushed or punished for not. We have to do this because a worshipping money system is not the way to govern, you can’t take your wallet with you when it goes belly-up. I think we need to pose some serious questions for Catherine, and a few silly ones to lighten the mood, closer to general election time….even if we have to sail to the polling station.
You can’t stay on the sunny side of the street; you’ve got to cross over at some point. But if the blurb I’m sent for Talk in Code’s latest single Hindsight suggests they’re showing “a darker side,” don’t run off with the notion they’ve come over all Radiohead.….
Taken from their second album, The Big Screen our single of the week is out on Friday 31st March, but you know how it goes, you can pre-save on the streaming platforms. And do, because yeah, so it’s perhaps a cliché theme of biblical teachings; penitent, should-have-known-better sentiments returned unto you with a cold, hard slap in the chops, but wake up, we’ve all been there, and Talk in Code project it with finesse, as ever, and of course it’s cradled in the uniformed indie-pop synth style. A chic instantly recognisable and beguiling, every Talk in Code single is ageless and unhindered from pigeonholing, it’s darn good pop, dammit!
Atmospheric thumper describes it best on the publicity, anthemic soundscape with swirling synths, shimmering guitars and soaring vocals. Recorded with Sam Winfield at Studio 91, Newbury (Amber Run, The Amazons, Fickle Friends) and out on Regent Street Records, continuously ascending, Talk in Code go from strength-to-strength and Hindsight exhibits precisely this.
Again it was a real pleasure to bowl along to our town’s little theatre and to enjoy a wonderful opening night. The fare on offer was that Mr. Shakespeare’s tragi-comic offering Measure For Measure……
To be honest, it was (many) years since I’d last read or seen a performance of this often neglected play. It just doesn’t get wheeled out as often as those wonderful chaps Othello, Hamlet and Lear. I wonder why that is? Perhaps it’s because it doesn’t quite plumb the emotional and tragic depths in the same way as those giant figures? Or perhaps because it’s not as funny as the classic comedy capers we see in Midsummer Night’s Dream? Or maybe tragedy and comedy don’t mix together too well in the same play?
Notwithstanding these difficulties, Liz Sharman’s production made light of such concerns, and a competent and well-drilled cast delivered an excellent opening night performance to a near-full theatre. The themes of corrupt power, of vice vying with virtue, of hypocrisy and double dealing remain as a relevant commentary on the political events of today, to say nothing of the resonance of the #MeToo movement. In this case, of course, The Bard of Avon ensures that all is wrapped up well at the end, where deception is uncovered, virtue is rewarded and the criminals are punished. If only that happened so neatly in real life.
Using a sparse black set, a simple staircase and a gallery, and little in the way of props or scenery, the focus was very much on the words and the actions. The only real exception was the frequent use of cloaks and hoods, a necessary device given that the plot hinges on disguise and deception. Pete Wallis as Vincentio, Simon Carter as Angelo, Paul Snook as Lucio and Eleanor Smith as Isabella all delivered their leading roles with great aplomb, but they were just as ably supported by stalwarts of the Wharf Lewis Cowan. Oli Beech and Tor Burt. And it would be churlish not to mention the old “rude mechanicals”, Ian Diddams as the bawd Pompey and Lesley Scholes as the prostitute Mistress Overdone, whose exaggerated comic performances gave the show that comic lift that it occasionally needed. It was worth the entrance money alone to witness the bizarre shirts worn by Ian.
All in all, a great ensemble performance from faces both new and familiar. Well played!
The show runs until Saturday, so I urge you to go and see it. There are still just a few tickets left, available via The Wharf’s website.
Here we go, headlong into April with lots to do.….
Said it before, I’ll say it again, more stuff will be added, this is published on Mondays so you’ve time to grab any tickets for ticketed events, but live music in pubs and things like this will no doubt come to our attention through the week, so please keep in the loop with our event calendar as it’d be impossible if not very cluttered to post individual events onto our social media pages.
The one link you need is here, our event calendar, or two perhaps, March and April, for planning ahead, more info and ticket links.
Opening night tonight at The Wharf Theatre, Devizes, for Shakespeare’s lots play, Measure for Measure, and this continues until Saturday 1st April.
Wednesday 29this the opening night of Devizes Musical Theatre production of Doly Parton’s 9 to 5, also running until Saturday at Dauntsey’s in West Lavington. Regular acoustic jam at the Southgate, Devizes.
The Sing Space’s Musical Theatre Choir has a Greatest Showman & Prosecco Masterclass at St Mary’s Church in Marlborough and welcomes new members. Details are here.
Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman play Chapel Arts in Bath, while Annie Gardiner supports Sci-Fi, post-jazz rhythmists Run Logan Run at The Bell on Walcot Street, and the Rondo Theatre have Whimsi-Co Theatre’s Escape to Wonderland, running until 30th March.
Award-winning garden designer and Gardeners’ World presenter, Adam Frost is at the Wyvern Theatre, Swindon.
Thursday 30thsees Funke & The Two-Tone Baby at the Pump in Trowbridge.
In Swindon, Lile Rode & Rob Beckinsale play The Tuppenny, Preacher Stone & The Sons of Liberty at The Vic, The ELO Experience at the Wyvern Theatre, and Mike Bubbins at Swindon Arts Centre.
Friday 31stthere’s live music at the Pelican in Devizes, with The Thieving Magpies, so watch your pint! And oh, I love the name, darling, Camilla Parkyaballs brings their live show to The Exchange for a Devizes LGBTQ+ night.
Six O’clock Circus play The Pheasant in Chippenham, while it’s heat 4 of Take the Stage 2023 at the Neeld.
Sour Apple play The Castle & Ball in Marlborough.
Pussycat & The Dirty Johnsons at The Three Horseshoes, Bradford-on-Avon, while Ashley Wass plays Wiltshire Music Centre.
Jayde Adams: Men, I Can Save You already sold out at Pound Arts, Corsham.
Hannah James & Toby Kuhn at Chapel Arts, Bath, with global folk collective Mishra Featuring Deepa Nair Rasiya at Rondo Theatre.
Nikki Kitt at Swindon Arts Centre, a Total 90s night at the Wyvern Theatre.
Tribute, Absolute Britney at The Cheese & Grain, Frome.
All Fools Day, Saturday 1st April, sees Devizes Farmer’s Market from 9:30-3pm, Devizes Lions Sports Coaching Weekend, where children in school year groups 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 are invited to try one of up to 16 different sports that they might not otherwise can experience and with tuition provided by qualified coaches.
Open Day at The Wharf Theatre in Devizes is free from 10am to 2pm. Corinthian Casuals play The Southgate, Roughcut Rebels at the Three Crowns.
Ravers young and old, head to The Barge on HoneyStreet where the Midlife Krisis crew are in effect. This guarantees to go off, if I break out a whistle and some white gloves I could rekindle my youth, embarrassingly or else just sulk in self-pity in the chill-out room! Nevertheless, I think it’s high time we made Midlife raves our Editor’s Pick of the Week; anyone got any Veras?
Six O’clock Circus play the Wheatsheaf, Calne, The ELO Encounter at The Neeld, Chippenham, GM Live’s A Tribute to George Michael at Melksham Assembly Hall.
Sour Apple are at The Rose & Crown, Warminster.
Sansara Vox Machina at Wiltshire Music Centre in Bradford-on-Avon, while there’s an all-out triple bill at The Three Horseshoes with Hell Death Fury, Kings Alias, and Felis Margarita.
Long For the Coast at Chapel Arts in Bath.
Aniimalia play The Vic, Swindon, with Seek Harbour in support, comedian, and actress Jayde Adams at Swindon Arts Centre, while a retelling of the classic film Die Hard from Fringe First-winner, London poetry slam champion, BBC Audio Drama Best Scripted Comedy Drama award-winner Richard Marsh presents Yippee Ki Yay at the The Wyvern Theatre.
Sunday 2ndsees Devizes Half Marathon, with an 8:30am start, and Devizes Strongest 2023 at Devizes Town Football Club, usually only a couple of quid to spectate, I usually don’t like to lift a finger on a Sunday!
The fantastic James Hollingsworth plays The Three Horseshoes, Bradford-on-Avon.
One for the little ones, Sing-A-Long-A Encanto at The Wyvern Theatre, and Easter panto, Rapunzel, while Sheila Harrod presents 7 Guys and a Piano at Swindon Arts Centre.
Monday 3rdand there’s more fun kid’s stuff I’d secretly like to do myself, with a Lego Animation Workshop at Trowbridge Town Hall.
Open Mic at The Lamb in Marlborough at 8:30pm.
Look out online for the wonderful Strange Folk are at Visual Radio Arts, and is estimated to be out on this day.
Also sees the Ukrainian National Opera’s Carmen at The Wyvern Theatre, and Eshaan Akbar’s The Pretender at Swindon Arts Centre.
That’s all I have for now, but like I say, more will come in so keep checking our event calendar, and if there’s something we’ve missed do tell us and I might, for chocolate cake, add it!
Have a great week, things to look forward to in April? Yeah, I can do that too: Vic Fest at the Vic I Swindon comes next week, Jon Amor’s monthly residency is on Sunday 9th this month at The Southgate, Devizes, and The James Oliver Band plays The Three Horseshoes, Bradford-on-Avon same day, Eddie Martin is in Bromham on Thursday 13th, Swindon Jazz & Soul Festival is coming, White Horse Opera, and Nothing Rhymes With Orange make a hometown call on 22nd April, and lots more, and I’m getting over-excited, so check the calendar, don’t make me tell you again!!
A few weeks ago whilst scrolling through social media an advert for this event came up. Intrigued and having never been to a poetry night before I popped it into my calendar. The date soon came round and I nearly bailed… too much to do, too far to drive, too dark, cold, lazy. But before making the final call I did some research. My main discovery was that the 21st March is in fact, World Poetry Day. So that was that, decision made and done. I was on my way to have poetry fun (yep, I know).
I arrived at the pub adjacent to Salisbury’s ring road, went to the bar, and found myself standing next to a very tall Queen of Hearts. A huge auburn beehive wig added to her intimidating height. The theme (I remembered) was ‘Through the Looking-Glass”. Already feeling out of place with my usual jeans, sweater, and trainers garb, I tentatively walked into the intimate and warm side-room. Twenty or maybe thirty people sat, perched, or stood near tables decorated with playing cards and jam tarts, all facing the low stage embellished with tinsel and a large mirror reflecting their expectant faces.
Watching the final stragglers squeeze in, it became clear that most of the audience knew each other or of each other. Because of this the atmosphere felt supportive and inclusive. I sipped my wine, relaxed and opened my mind. Then BAM. The Queen of Hearts, Alice and the Rabbit, ‘I’m late, I’m late!’ jumped on stage and performed a semi-rehearsed intro show. Scripts in hand and costumes adorned, the passion and dedication to Poetika came across to all. My initiation into the poetry night proved louder, brasher and way more fun than anticipated.
With the ice, and not the mirror, broken the poets took to the mic. The Queen of Hearts, Nikki (I learnt at the interval that Nicki is the chief organiser of Poetika) stepped up to read her fast paced, caustic, funny lines. It wasn’t solely the poems that had me chuckling; Nicki’s striking resemblance in looks and mannerisms to the eclectic and talented Sue Pollard amused me throughout. When I told her in the break that her poems reminded me of John Cooper-Clarke, the famous punk poet and I was informed that she was his support act for part of a past tour. How cool. It’s obvious that JCC has been a huge influence on her work. I was offered a slot on stage in the second half to read my own stuff and responded by nodding whilst shaking my head simultaneously unsure as to whether I’d just enthusiastically agreed or vehemently declined.
Back to the first half. After Nicki came a succession of amateur poets, including Poetika’s Alice (Ria) with her clever plot and sweet but sharp delivery and the Rabbit (Jamie). I sat consumed, listening deeply, trying not to miss the, at times, lightning quick word concoctions. It became clear that this was theatre. This was not a read-off-the-page poetry recital but a pure and raw exposure of one’s writing, wit, and inner workings. Deep and true – as poetry can be … with a big dose of stage presence.
Two of the next performers achieved a stand-up comedic delivery with inspired words and accompanying audience participation. Ripper’s ‘Cider’ poem, a fun crowd pleaser, was read with an air of self-deprecating, drole, deadpan humour. Move over Romesh Ranganathan. The other, Craig, is a born comedian. He evoked laughter throughout his set but brushed aside each short poem with a ‘and that’s that one!’ remark, his poetry performance tic.
My favourite act of the night allowed all present to dive right through the looking-glass and into the authors heart. Echo, a beautifully presented human with self expression etched on every inch of clothing, jewellery, exposed skin and hair was outstanding. I cannot compare the writing to any other: FYI my current education level in poetry is pretty low so to me it was totally unique. A mirror to the soul was shared and if I hadn’t heard another all night, the poem, ‘T1’ alone was worth hauling my butt to Salisbury for. Softly delivered, a hard-hitting exposure to drug use walked us around a squat and Echo’s mind. A beautiful shock of a poem. The lines, ‘I glance up, I see myself in the mirror malnourished, dying. I look away quickly to convince myself my reflection is just simply lying’ speak for themselves. I wouldn’t be surprised if Echo’s words are bouncing off much bigger venues’ walls in the future.
The event’s special guest came next, the professional poet, Claire H from Bournemouth. Claire began with a capsule lesson on poetry agreeing with another writer (sorry, source unknown) that poetry ‘isn’t a hiding place it’s a finding place’. Claire H, a self-branded witch poet, told her transfixed guests that ‘poetry saved her life’. ‘That old chestnut’ I hear you smirk but I believed every word. And judging by the reflective silence that followed it seemed many were concluding similar, that words had performed a transformative magic on them too.
Claire’s stage presence, from her downright natural, cool-as demeanour to her dance-like arm movements marked her out as ‘the professional’ on the night. Even her poems had their own stand to be read from. I immediately connected both with Claire’s honest, clear and charged poems and her generous and kind personality. She told me at the interval that she reads tarot cards but apart from this and her signature black fingerless gloves I wasn’t really feeling the broomstick vibes. Maybe the reference to ‘burning effigies of all those women I wasn’t’ was the giveaway.
Claire’s ‘England’ poem was excellent: political, clever, personal and relatable. But my preferred piece was ‘Forty’ describing what it can be like to be a woman in the fourth decade of life right now. Spot on. The snippet that has stayed with me however came from her ‘Love and Other Natural Disasters’ poem: ‘Fractured affections and dislocated devotions’. Claire left us with the insightful advice ‘to look to the poetry of your intuition’.
The interval was like a cold-water immersion into a truly creative bunch of people. It was powerfully revitalising and eye-opening to see glimpses of lives lived so differently to my own. I wanted more.
Act two came with more solid performances from Poetika trio, Nicky (reading John Cooper-Clarke), Jamie with his ‘Tory’ poem, and Ria with her superb ‘Black Dog’ piece. Ria’s quirky, sweet radiance could fool one into mis-labelling but listen to this poem, and you will hear a voice full of strength and intelligence. Respect to you, Ria, for picking a fight with Sir Winston Churchill. You educated and made us see that his labelling of black dogs as synonymous with depression was wrong. I love how Ria’s quiet passion permeated the room and how her words weaved anger and the virtues of black dogs into a great poem.
We had a Gary Stringer (lead singer of 90’s band, Reef) look-alike sing a lovely song about his mum’s death, Lois a relative newbie reading her second poem of the night and more from the comedy poets Ripper and his mate ‘and that’s that one!’ Craig. We had Hopper, confidently read his second poem and then we had me. Confidence slipped away as I heard my name called. Tummy swirling, I floated above the scene and listened as I read out a personal piece of me. I received a warm clap and vocal praise. Thank you Poetika, my ego enjoyed the moment. I write for me but sharing on the night was good. And inspiring. The following day I wrote two poems.
If you want to sit back and take in the theatre, the warmth, the tough emotions and the laughter then I would highly recommend going along to Poetika in Salisbury. You will be welcomed and hopefully, as I was, surprised and inspired by the talent in the room. If you have an inkling that you’d like to get up on stage to read then please do. I may have had an out of body experience but it’s charged me up like a supernova. You could always do what I did and go on your own. If you die on stage you never have to go back… if no one you know hears it, it never really happened, right?
Thanks Team Poetika. See you in the future.
Next Poetika night: 18th April 2023, 7.30pm The Winchester Gate, Salisbury. Theme: tbc.
Without cloning technology it was another Saturday night dilemma still as easily solved; Concrete Prairie were at The Gate, arm twisted….
From The Barge to the Pump we were spoiled for live music choices; any decision made I could predict would’ve paid off. But after fondly reviewing Swindon’s dark roots Americana five-piece, Concrete Prairie’s self-titled debut album last September, I hot-footed it to Swindon Shuffle to see them, and from Calne to Bradford-on-Avon I’ve been stalking them like a red-cheeked groupie with hearts for pupils, hoping my hometown will get a taste of why, soonishly.
It only seemed fitting then, being I’ve nagged landlady Deborah to get them in, now they finally play our trusty Devizes answer to the 02 arena, I show my ugly mug and assist in draining the scrumpy barrels.
It was, as ever down the Southgate, a blinding night. Celebrating their fifth year at the helm and over 350 gigs, Deb and Dave show no sign of converting it to a Christian science reading room yet. It’s lively and bustling, despite a majority of town’s live music aficionados at Long Street, but importantly, it’s always welcoming.
Sadly the Gate supplied a PA unsuitable for a five-piece, ergo the engineering didn’t do Concrete Prairie’s divine sound justice, by comparison to the acoustics of the specifically designed Wiltshire Music Centre, where I saw them last.
But as pundits of their craft, they overcame and delivered us their superb set of stunning originals, with outstanding covers of The Coral, and the particularly adroit Glen Campbell’s Wichita Lineman.
I never tire of hearing this set. Concrete Prairie operates as a unit, their passion shows in this tight unification and spills out to any audience, the result is irresistible entertainment of the highest calibre. Dark country Americana doesn’t necessarily have to be your thing, you’ll come away in awe.
And as is their tradition, they leave their magnum opus for the encore. The mood-switching, tempo-layered The Devil Delt the Deck is the perfect finale, saccharine yet melancholic. Its building powerhouse of emotions acts as the template to drive you back to see this band at every available opportunity.
Catch them locally on 16th April at the Electric Bar at Bath’s Komedia, and again with Mad Dog McRea on 7th May, at Cherhill Bank Holiday Celebration in Calne on 5th May, The Live Music Festival in Bradford-on-Avon 3rd June, and their Food & Drink Festival on the 11th. On the 17th, they headline Chippenham Pride and are at Box’s Schtumm on 25th June.
The Southgate humbly work with what they have, squeezing the kind of band into the bijou you’d happily pay a ticket stub for, and whatever technical stage engineering they lack they make up with devotion, and create an undeniably happy place, essentially our favourite pub in Wiltshire.
Personally, my favourite band currently on the circuit, in my favourite watering hole, was a chicken dinner, so while there was plenty on the menu, trips to Marlborough’s Lamb for Pants, Deadlight Dance at The Barge, Plan of Action at the Three Crowns, Long Street and a Devizes Scooter Club night, I had to make a choice, but it wasn’t pin in a map, if you’ve seen Concrete Prairie you’ll understand; I scoffed the lot, with only vague memories of returning home!
Seems like an absolute bloody age since the last run-out for the Long Street Blues Club, but here we were back on the old stomping ground again. So good to be back and see some familiar faces.
What a shame to have to choose between LSBC and the Southgate (who had Concrete Prairie playing at the same time) but that’s perhaps just a reflection of D-Town’s vibrant live music scene at the moment. In fact, it was at one of The Gate’s recent Jon Amor Sunday residences that I first ran into Mr. Atlas. His performance with Jon that afternoon was the very thing that inspired me to buy a ticket for this gig. Hey, ho.
First up in the support slot was the returning local favourite Ben Borrill. Ben’s been working hard recently, plying his trade in some of our local pubs, and tonight he was rewarded with a larger more attentive audience than he might usually get in the pub. He’s a singer/ songwriter who’s not afraid of hard work. Here he seemed to struggle over his first couple of numbers, but then hit his stride with some great covers. Numbers from Tom Petty, Chris Isaak, The Killers, Radiohead, Wheatus and Ronan Keating were delivered with increasing confidence. Personally I wish someone would finally put Mr. Brightside out of its misery (mainly by just not playing it), but that’s just my personal taste.
Then on to the main fare of the evening – two sets from the returning Brummie Thomas Atlas. He was back with a great young band (Andre Masine on keyboards, Jack Bowles on drums, and Sam Rogers on saxophone). Thomas was on lead guitar, of course, and also handled all of the vocals. Right from the off Thomas’s sparkling guitar work set the scene with some wonderful funky stuff, with the band filling in some nice textures. There was no flash, no histrionics, just some solid down-to-earth hard work from a band that was tight on the set passages, but equally comfortable loosening up for the jazzier solos.
Thomas himself was clearly very happy to be there. Apart from repeatedly telling us that he was really enjoying playing for us (they all say that, don’t they?), his face was the proof of the pudding, constantly lit up by one long beaming smile.
There was plenty of original material, leavened with occasional covers/ reinterpretations. The two that stood out for me were Bob Marley’s Stir It Up, and The Stones’ Miss You. The guitar work was faultless, often reminding me of Clapton on the more flamboyant pieces and Robin Trower on some of the more languid solos.
And, of course, in one of the worst-kept secrets of the night, Jon Amor was not only in the room, but also up on stage, jamming and repaying the favour from The Southgate gig a couple of months back.
All in all a cracking gig, and a return to form for LSBC after a long lay-off.
Okay, I know, last thing I want is to be is a stuck record, always waffling about a pond in Devizes, but allow me thus, to express concerns in line with public opinion over the recommendation by the Crammer Working Party that the Committee endorses the approach being adopted by the Crammer Working Party in relation to the future management of the Crammer, which is due to be put forward in a Devizes Town Council Recreation & Properties Committee meeting on Tuesday 28th March…because it’s beyond wonky……
Content of the agenda prioritises evaluations of the performance of council-run venues, including a report on the Hillworth Park Café, running a net operating loss of £16,674. It sure is a nice café, and nice to have a café in the park, but if the preposterousness of the council isn’t highlighted by the notion there’s a shop nearby which is considerably cheaper and, generalising, the most common users of the park are youths and families, the least groups with disposable funds right now to accommodate a costly cuppa and slice of cake when the shop will provide a viable alternative, the notion The Crammer Working Party is dedicated to the task it was set surely is the icing on the cake.
“A recommendation that the Committee endorses the approach being adopted by the Cramer Working Party in relation to the future management of the Crammer,” then, is the header to the section I’m dubious about. The Crammer Working Party being the very two councillors who we’ve recently underscored for lying on social media about DEFRA testing the swans which died in December’s extreme cold spell, falsely confirming it was bird flu, staging a campaign to starve the birds by encouraging the public not to safely feed them and to argue with anyone defying their opinion by feeding, and censoring and banning anyone from their Facebook groups who dared to question it; yeah, those committed councillors!
The background explains a Planning Committee on 14th February where a loose association of concerned residents called Friends of the Crammer requested installation of specific wildlife warning signage, after several occasions where wildfowl had been killed by traffic. Which was promptly shot down by the Working Party members stating there was too much signage already and they considered more to be a distraction for drivers.
If the purpose of the report, is for the Committee to consider if it supports the working party’s approach to dealing with issues relating to the Crammer, let me explain to you exactly what they hypocritically came up with. Adamant specific warning signage would have a “limited impact on mitigating the issues surrounding wildlife and the adjoining highways, there is a sense that changing the way humans interact with wildlife may help, and one option may be to have a series of information boards surrounding the Crammer. These would give advice on the type of wildlife present, their behaviours as well as details on the history of the Crammer, including what its original use was.” (“Theway humans interact with wildlife may help” ?? They’re not running them over on purpose, I hope, or is that what they’re suggesting?!)
But….but….but I thought you said there was too much signage already, and anymore would be a distraction, and now you’re suggesting a small sign warning drivers to beware of wildfowl, which is pretty much standard in similar areas nationwide will have a limited impact, but whopping gurt information billboards labelling the species like it’s a zoo is absolutely fine and dandy, and you expect a council to be blind to the hypocrisy here?!
What the council must decide is the purpose of the Crammer Working Party, which was in the eyes of the public to ensure the future conservation of the area and protection of the wildlife. Yet, in week where four ducks have been run over in separate incidents, The Crammer Working Party did not believe that the “installation of signage was the right solution to the problem,” and propose to babble on about the heritage of the Crammer, stating “there is also a significant heritage value associated with the Crammer, which should not be overlooked. To support this, various stakeholders have been sent a request to share their views on this aspect.”
In conclusion, then, if in true conservative philosophy the stakeholders and heritage of the site is more important to the Working Party than the feelings of the public that improvements to protect the wildlife needs attention, what really needs attention is the objectives of this Working Party. Members of the Friends of the Crammer are understandably outraged. One key member passionate about the wildlife there demands the Council gets rid of the Crammer Working Party, calling out the report as a “thinly disguised attempt to play at being in charge and asserting control, but has highlighted that the CWP have no clue as to what is urgently needed. In almost a year since forming, the CWP have at no point indicated that the problems facing the Crammer wildlife are recognised or understood. What has instead been illustrated is ignorance of fatalities and health issues, ignorance of wildfowl habitat usage, and an unwillingness to listen to and discuss issues with the public actively supporting the Crammer wildlife. Instead, the CWP appears intent on maintaining an illusion that the CWP are active in the interests of the wildlife and the Crammer engaged public, when any one of those actively supporting Crammer wildlife daily can refute any such idea. The proposal of information boards is monstrously indicative of the CWP’s ignorance and unwillingness to engage and consult, adding to the built environment will only materially add to the obstacles and clutter mute swans must negotiate when attempting to move between the water surface and the grazing/rest/runway areas. Less obstacles need to be the objective, not more.”
Other members are wary, pondering “if we go in all guns blazing, are we not in danger of the council becoming more intransigent?” Of which I understand, but am hopeful councillors will see the logic that if a simple warning signpost is considered “clutter” an information board would be more so, having no effective reason for supporting. But the consensus is after taking a year to produce, the report is a farcical non-event, which says absolutely nothing. The group even proposes the possibility of creating their our own report with proposals based on research, expert advice, local knowledge and general feedback.
So, yeah, I know, it’s just a duck pond, but a good and effective town council is being overshadowed by a few bad eggs, and this is symbolic of the charade. Maybe the Crammer Working Party could consider a tally chart on their information boards, so drivers can cross off the species of duck they’ve run over?!
Maybe rather than stare aimlessly at a stating-the-bloody-obvious sign saying, “this is a mallard, this is a swan, this is a moorhen,” future generations could look more favourably at us, being the ones who took steps to better protect the wildlife depicted on the board, rather than wonder why a board exists without any evidence of the wildlife referenced on it!
Add a Dodo onto their anticipated information board, for the very idea of this so-called Working Party should be as dead as one! The Meeting is Tuesday 28th March, at the Cheese Hall, immediately following Planning Committee, you can attend to see the local council in action, you can witness if your money will spent on an elaborate superfluous information board against the objections of the public who think a far more effective and inexpensive warning sign really isn’t that much to ask for.
Song of the week this week comes from Brighton’s singer-songwriter Lewis McKale, a Billy Bragg-ish harmonica and guitar combo breakup song from his forthcoming album, Self Help Tape.…
Retrospectively shouty, Thanks For Nothing is as anti-Against All Odds, as Dylan’s Positively 4th Street, but if that’s not selling it to you, it’s a moreish grower with a unique composition, ideal for a damp spring evening as you watch rain drizzle down the window with lukewarm tea in a chipped mug….which is what I’m currently engaged in, because it’s better than BBC1.
Got to rain, though, hasn’t it?! Likewise, musicians must express themselves, and this is heartfelt simplicity at its best.
All the ickle birdies singing in the blossom, and it’s beginning to look at bit more like spring, which it should, being equinox, which basically means, take a raincoat to all the events we’ve found to do in Wiltshire this coming week!
As usual, more information and ticket links to everything I waffle on about here can be found on our event calendar. I know, like a stuck record I say this every week, but listen up; this article is put out on the Monday or Tuesday of each week, and is compiled from many sources, from individual venue’s websites, and various social media groups. Once published you can guarantee someone, somewhere, usually on a Facebook share, will inevitably say “oh, you forgot this!”
So, with this in mind, I do try to update the article, but be aware not always, so the best place to go and check for updates towards the end of the week is our calendar, as it will be updated there.
It’s never an easy task, to remember to check everywhere, it’s like data juggling, and often stuff gets missed, but never think it’s because we don’t like you, or something similar, it’s only that we missed it within the perpetual overload of information coming in! We love you all, please message us if you know of something we forgot and we’ll do our upmost to get your event out there.
Onwards, to Wednesday 22nd March 2023, when as ever there’s an acoustic jam at the Southgate in Devizes. Opening night for Made in Dagenham at the Neeld in Chippenham, and that’s running up to Saturday 25th.
Also running until Saturday, Sheelagh Stephenson’s dark comedy, The Memory of Water is presented by Rondo Theatre Company at The Rondo in Bath.
Afrobeat/funk at The Bell in Bath with Worm Discs Attack’s DunDunDun.
Argentine tango king and Strictly Come Dancing legend, Vincent Simone, brings his show Tango Passions to the Wyvern Theatre, Swindon, with Paula Duarte as his leading lady.
Thursday 23rd and The History of Soul, a joyous, life-affirming celebration of soul music through the years performed by a truly exceptional 9-piece band can be found at Melksham Assembly Hall.
Jessie Phelps plays The Tuppenny in Swindon, with Trashed, Sweet Diego and Palps at The Vic. Endorsed by Rod’s own family, Some Guys Have All the Luck – The Rod Stewart Story comes the Wyvern Theatre.
The Sylvertones play The Bear in Bradford-on-Avon, Steve Knightley’s 2023 solo tour, Unlock Me & Other Lockdown is at Chapel Arts, Bath. Wildlife presenter Gordon Buchanan’s 30 Years in the Wild is at The Cheese & Grain, Frome.
Friday 24thWilswood Buoys, Meg and Ed Dyke play the Pump in Trowbridge, The Lost Trades are at Chapel Arts in Bath.
Celebrated Irish singer songwriter Brigid Mae Power paints expansive songs that are effortless, hypnotic, and folk-oriented, at Pound Arts in Corsham.
Find Stanton PLC and Yur Mum at The Three Horseshoes, Bradford-on-Avon. While The AKA Trio play the Wiltshire Music Centre. AKA Trio is the result of 12 years of friendship between three world-renowned virtuosos: Italian guitarist, Antonio Forcione; Senegalese kora player, Seckou Keita and Brazilian percussionist, Adriano Adewale.
Looks like the last time you’ll ever get to see punk legends Cockney Rejects, as they play a farewell tour at The Vic in Swindon, with Angry Itch and Street Outlaws in support. For a more relaxed evening in Swindon, find The Simon and Garfunkel Story at the Wyvern Theatre.
Black Sabbath tribute, Sack Sabbath at the Tree House in Frome, while more dance tributes play The Cheese & Grain, Chemical Dance and Daft Punk Experience.
Right, now, starting off with a craft fair at Melksham Assembly Hall, Saturday 25th is humongous, so pay attention! I’m at least triple-booked with no idea which I want to do; might have to flip a coin!
Guest at the last Jon Amor’s monthly residency at the Southgate, Thomas Atlas brings his full band to Long Street Blues Club in Devizes, and that’ll be lovely. But folk artist John E Wright plays down The Cellar Bar, the incredible Plan of Action play The Three Crowns, Devizes Scooter Club presents legendary northern soul DJ Terry Hendrick at The Cavalier, and DJ Flash is at The Exchange.
Any of these will be great, but, one of our favourite-most, local dark country blues band, Concrete Prairie play The Southgate, Devizes, and this is unmissable, guys; that means don’t miss it(!!) and I’m sorry to everyone else, but I must, by law, make this Editor’s Pick of the Week!
Now, that’s not all, because there will be trippy sita playing at The Barge on Honey-Street when Omnivibes arrive in the evening, but before this, from around 3pm, our favourite Marlborough eighties new-wave/goth duo, Deadlight Dance will play a set, you may recall they came to my birthday party a few weeks gone. Personally, I’m having difficulties remembering much of that evening, with no explanation why.
Another damn fine choice, is to head to The Lamb in Marlborough, for if Pants were invited to play Vyv and Jackie’s farewell party as landlords there, the new owners have only gone and invited them back; utter madness, is precisely what you’ll find, and The Vooz are also playing.
Sheer Music presents indie favourites Arms & Hearts at the trusty Pump in Trowbridge, with Ed Poole in support (ignore the date on my poster, it’s changed.) The lovely Sour Apple play the Wiltshire Yeoman.
Tequila Slammers play at Melksham Rock n Roll Club, while Peaky Blinders Band do their thing at The Pilot in the Sham.
A whole host of amazing choirs from across Wiltshire descend on Calne’s Pocket Park for The Big Sing 2023: A song for Elton, a glittering finale to this year’s fabulous Calne Spring Sing, as they film a very special 76th birthday message for one of the best-selling artists of all time, Sir Elton John.
Iron Maiden tribute at Chippenham’s Consti Club, Ed Force One.
Find the wonderful Kirsty Clinch at Suave in Westbury.
Triple bill at The Three Horseshoes, Bradford-on-Avon, with The Bolsheviks, The Setbacks & Split Dog. Dom Martin plays Chapel Arts, Bath.
Pearl Jam tribute, Earl Ham at the Vic in Swindon, and social media sensation and Chortle Award winner, Rosie Holt debuts an hour of comedy based on her smash-hit satirical videos at the Wyvern Theatre.
Thom Belk will be at Wilton Live at Michael Herbert Hall in Wilton.
Gaz Brookfield plays The Tree House in Frome, while King King play The Cheese & Grain, with Glenn Tilbrook.
Sunday 26th, Furlined at The Three Horseshoes in Bradford-on-Avon, Fly Yeti Fly at Schtumm, The Queens Head in Box, and there’s an album crowdfunding launch for this ever-hotter Blues & Rhythm ensemble, Kirris Riviere & The Delta du Bruit at The Bell, Bath.
Revolution Performing Arts School presents The Soaring Revolution at Swindon Arts Centre.
At the The Cheese & Grain, Frome Voices sing Mozart.
Monday 27thand it’s the opening night of hidden Shakespearean gem Measure for Measure at The Wharf Theatre, Devizes, running until April 1st, when they have their open day. Directed by Liz Sharman, see preview here.
Ben Tunnicliffe’s Nowhere Ensemble bring synth bass, bass clarinet, drums and keys into the room marked jazz and don’t entirely behave as expected, at The Bell in Bath.
Tuesday 28th, Crazy Bird Comedy is back at The Piggy Bank in Calne, with Andrew Bird headlining, and Tuesday also sees Dreamcoat Stars at the Wyvern Theatre in Swindon, and Ivo Graham’s My Future My Clutter at Swindon Arts Centre.
Ruth Blake plays The Bell in Bath.
And that’s your lot. If it’s not enough to be getting on with, you need to be thinking about buying tickets for Devizes Musical Theatre’s 9 to 5 at Dauntsey’s, which starts on Wednesday 29th. Have a great week, hope to see you around!
Saturday April 1st, between 10am and 2pm The Wharf Theatre in Devizes are holding their second ever open day, it’s free and open to all. Whether you’ve been in the theatre before, or not, everyone is welcome to come and see what goes on at the Theatre and what goes into putting on a show…..
There will be a collection of costumes, and guided theatre tours – even to darkest depths of the Wharf visitors don’t usually see, like the tech box and green room.
An entirely free event which will be offering refreshments. If you’re interested in joining the theatre groups, either on the stage or behind the scenes, people will be on hand to chat about the various roles, but even if you fancy popping in for a cuppa and a look around, they’re welcome.
Publicity director Karen said, “following the lockdowns, when it looked for a while that we might not survive, we were saved with the help of the lovely local people who donated to our Just Giving Page, we would like to think that we are the little theatre who the town took to its heart and helped to save.”
Next show at The Wharf is hidden Shakespearean gem, Measure for Measure, running from March 27th to the open day on April 1st. See our preview here.
While The Trussell Trust created the first food banks in 2000, under Tony Blair, usage of them rose by a staggering 2,612% during David Cameron’s term as Prime Minister. It didn’t stop him barefacedly posing for a Tweet mucking in with Chipping Norton’s “Chippy Larder.”
Devizes MP Danny Kruger joined the food poverty hypocrisy voting against Marcus Rashford’s campaign to extend free school meals over lockdown. Speaking in defence of ministers’ continuing refusal to U-turn the policy, he reasoned in the Gazette & Herald, “the problem is generous, unconditional, universal benefit entitlements trap people in dependency on the state and rightly enrage people who are working hard for themselves. That’s why I believe in a more flexible, community-led approach to welfare.”
To address local causes of financial hardship, community organiser at Devizes and District Foodbank, Alex Montegriffo, arranged a meeting with Danny Kruger last month, with members of Devizes community, and representatives from local charities; let’s see these “generous, unconditional, universal benefit entitlements,” panning out in the real world, shall we?
One hot topic was people living on houseboats, who’ve not had access to the £400 Energy Bills Support Scheme since it began. Out of the estimated 550 people living in houseboats in Wiltshire, only houseboats with a permanent residential mooring are now able to access the fund, leaving regulations for those in non-residential moorings, like marinas, in the dark, literally.
Danny Kruger agreed to write to the Canal and River Trust about using their database of houseboat license fees to distribute the £400 payment, by taking it off license fees, and potentially using their offices as permanent addresses for those with continuous cruising licenses.
Another topic was the insufficiency and lack of flexibility of the social security system, with benefits like Universal Credit often leaving applicants below destitution level. A member of Devizes community spoke, “every day I see my husband come back from work exhausted. He counts all the bills and has said, if prices rise again, he doesn’t know what to do. He uses some of my disability benefit to pay his bills, and then pays me back when he gets paid. That shouldn’t be right in this day and age.”
If claimants get into debt, even more money is taken away from their Universal Credit allowance, leaving sometimes just £100 a month or less for food and electricity.
Long and complicated application processes, even for small amounts of money or basic support, causes barriers for those who need help but are unable to fill out forms, or feel stigmatised by the process. As a result, there’s £10 million of unclaimed Pension Credit in Wiltshire, a benefit which unlocks Cost of Living Payments. Attendees heard Wiltshire Council are currently in discussion with the community organiser of Devizes and District Foodbank to simplify the application process of one of their support schemes, the Local Welfare Provision, to alleviate this issue.
A couple from Devizes described their frustration at not being encouraged to work, and feeling judged as ‘lesser’ for not being able to work. Volunteering is not counted as work, despite the attendees contributing significantly to their community, spurring a discussion on the topic of the impact of part-time work versus full-time work versus volunteering on benefits, where the taper rate for Universal Credit discourages part-time work, and leaves some people better off not working if they cannot work full-time due to health conditions or disability.
Localising the social security system, so there’s more human contact and agency for recipients, as well as better advertising of support through local trusted individuals, was also discussed. Proposing how schemes such as The Homes and Money Hubs of Barking and Dagenham could be adapted to Devizes, as the Integrated Care Alliance already brings together some departments of Wiltshire Council with social prescribers.
If those with second homes have received their Energy Bills Support Scheme payments, but people living in houseboats are struggling, if people need more support than ever in the current cost-of-living crisis, if people feel they’ve no one to talk to, or are unable to get through on the phone for help with applications, clearly there’s lots of work to do; the food bank isn’t just about giving out tins of beans.
Suggestions were made of a community hub in Devizes, with support for applying for and receiving benefits, or developing the several organisations existing at the St James Centre further. Here’s a group conversing specific topics and looking for solutions to this cost-of-living crisis in Devizes. They meet again on Thursday 30th March, 2:30-3:30pm at the Cheese Hall in Devizes Town Hall to plan and implement a project in Devizes addressing issues raised, which might be adopted in the rest of Wiltshire; if you feel you can assist, please attend.
“It would be great to get more people there to plan a project, and also be consulted on uses of the Community Fridge in the Shambles,” Alex explained, “although Danny agreed to do one action, which I’m not sure has been done or not, we agreed that sometimes it was quicker to do things ourselves.”
Attendees agreed to act, as they can quicker than local authorities and government. Cameron’s defunct socio-political soundbite “big society,” in action during these trying times, I could scoff, but tip my hat to all involved with this, for their enthusiasm and dedication. Not only Alex, but Suzanne Wigmore of Citizens Advice Wiltshire, Richard Oliver of Devizes Opendoors, Graham Martin of Sustainable Devizes, Martin Elliott of Warm Spaces Devizes and Devizes Community Fridge, Kate Brooks, Sarah Cardy and Rachel Clarke of Age UK Wiltshire, and those active members of Devizes community, thank you.
Day-to-day, though, we can all help, supporting Devizes & District Food Bank. Currently supporting an average 220 people per month, over 1,980 meals per month are supplied, which wouldn’t happen without donations. You can download a BanktheFood app to keep up to date with their shortages while shopping, and drop off points for items can be found here.
Bristol’s purveyors of emotive post-grunge verging on etherealwave, Lucky Number Seven get our song of the week today, for their latest burst of harrowing energy, Marker Pen.
It’s neo-goth come post-punk, relished in Bauhaus lachrymose and passion, yet twisted with Foo Fighters’ fervidity, tumbling like iced water over rocks, it’s a rollercoaster four minutes full of masterful poignancy, apt for a Breakfast Club remake earring swap scene; enjoy but mind gnawing your fingernails….
If establishing Pride events in our cities and larger towns is sooo last decade, darling, we’re both keen and overjoyed to join the newer trend of small towns, even villages hosting Prides, as Devizes LGBTQ+ announce the very first Pride in Devizes on Saturday July 1st….
It was an overexcited notion I put to Devizes LGBTQ+ group organiser, Oberon Christmas when they first started up a couple of years ago, and though taking it onboard as a future possibility I think they figured small acorns to begin with. Understandable, but now, with regular meets and events at The Exchange nightclub, it looks like the time is near to our own Pride here in Devizes.
Pewsey is also hosting a first Pride at the Cooper’s Field on 15th July. Melksham Pride is a couple of years strong now, that’s on 24th June at the Assembly Hall. Calne also pops its Pride cherry with a small event on Castlefields Park on the 4th June. Of course, Pride is well-established in Chippenham, and this year sees our favourites Concrete Prairie on stage at Island Park on 17th June.
Though our details are yet to be revealed, it is a wonderful thing to be able to announce that Devizes is too to travel over the rainbow and join this festive fun. One thing, I see a lot of town councils assisting to get these small town Prides off the ground, and I do hope Devizes Town Council will follow this trend.
I’m having a nose at Devizes Arts Festival website, as they’ve just published this year’s line-up, which you can find HERE. There’s a lot of stuff I don’t know of this year, but that’s no bad thing, because I’m something of an uncultured swine!
This wonderful annual arts festival on our doorstep has cultured me; turned me from bonehead bozo to bohemian squire in just a few short years! I’ve discovered so much I never thought I’d like but I did, whereas before all this I was happy with a karaoke and a bag of chips!
Bearing in mind there might be a few things left to add, particularly the free fringe events, let’s see what’s in store we know about, shall we? Not to get you over-excited, it isn’t until 2nd June through to the 17th, and the box office opens on 28th April, unless you’re a “friend” booking for friends starts on 11th April, see here to become a member now and get ahead of the game. But you know us, let’s dip a toe in the ocean now. I’ll put pretty little stars next to ones I personally think are unmissable; favouritism, I know!
It opens with some tango, at the Assembly Room of the Town Hall on Friday 2nd June, with polar adventurer and motivational speaker Sue Stockdale at St Johns Church on the Saturday, and an evening with opera star Sir Willard White with the Kymaera Duo at Corn Exchange.
The Three Crowns plays host to the first fringe event we’ve got, at 2pm on the Sunday 4th, with banjo and guitar roots combo Texas Tick Fever, and one we gave a song of the week too a few months back, the amazing Ajay Srivastav is the second free fringe gig at the Cellar Bar from 7pm, this is a must for me! First star, two stars **!
Walks are a big part of Devizes Arts Festival, personally I’m fine walking from the Three Crowns to the Bear on a Sunday. But the Festival Walk takes you over civil war battlefield Roundway Down, which actually sounds kinda doable!
First full week sees micro-artist Graham Short at the Town Hall on Monday 5th June, and Onarole Theatre’s Jesus, My Boy at the Corn Exchange on Tuesday 6th.
Welsh, Polish, and Belgian influences fuse with the Aglica Trio at the Town Hall on Wednesday 7th, and see, that’s exactly what I meant earlier when I said about discovering new things; this year is an eye-opener, gets a star! *
And let’s not stop there, because the Town Hall plays host to cello and guitar duo Dieci Cordeon on the Thursday, and you don’t see this everyday in D-town! Also on Thursday, actor and singer, Lucy Stevens, and pianist Elizabeth Marcus meet for A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening.
Comedy by the weekend, with someone I do know (!) BBC New Comedian Award winner at the Edinburgh Festival, Marcus Brigstocke, is at the Corn Exchange on Friday 9th June, oh yes, star! *
Tessa Dunlop’s Elizabeth & Philip – A Story of Young Love, Marriage, and Monarchy kicks off Saturday 10th, at the Town Hall. Rip-roaring alt-folk with Noble Jacks at the Corn Exchange, while fringe event is at 2pm in the Condado Lounge, Jukebox James.
It’s a hard stompin’, bluegrassy, old-timey start to Sunday with a free fringe event at the British Lion with The Sisters and the Brothers, (star *,) a walk along the Wansdyke, and back to the Corn Exchange for the furniture restorer from The Repair Shop, Will Kirk.
One not to miss, local blues legend, Elles Bailey Band, on Tuesday 13th June, 8pm at the Corn Exchange, this is cool, we’ve not seen Elles for an age, and it will be good to welcome her back to Devizes; star, deffo! *
Also on Tuesday, author Lois Pryce’s Revolutionary Ride – One Woman’s Solo Motorcycle Journey around Iran at The Bear, and Wednesday sees Clive Anderson, yes Clive Anderson, chatting about Macbeth; could be one of those where are they now moments, oh, they’re in Devizes, incredible!
I mistakenly read the next one, and thought fictional female equivalent to Dan Dare, Kitty Hawke was coming, rather St Andrews Church on Thursday 15th play host to folk duo Kit Hawes and Aaron Catlow, while Chris Ingham Trio plays the Jazz of Dudley Moore at the Town Hall.
The festival draws a close with the unconventional and snappily attired boutique orchestra, Christian Garrick and the Budapest Café Orchestra at the Corn Exchange on Friday 16th June, traditional Balkan and Russian, I’m going to star this too! *
Saturday 17th June sees a poetry workshop with Carrie Etter at the Town Hall, and the grand finale is Devon’s reggae Latin funk powerhouse Malavita, which if you know be by now, they said Latin, they said reggae, I’m saving my last star for this – here it is *, and I’m there already.
The more I delve into this programme the more exciting it sounds, as ever, a refreshing break from the normal circuit, where variety knows no bounds. Well done Devizes Arts Festival, it all sounds irresistibly worthwhile looking forward to. In the meantime I’ve got to add all these to our event calendar; does it ever end?!!
Windy but warm, no, not me, the weather, I mind my manners, I thank you! Here’s what’s going down this coming week across our green and (mostly) pleasant land……
You should know the score by now, adding links here, ain’t nobody got time fer dat! You can find all that, details, links for tickets and stuff over on our main event calendar, and you can use it to plan ahead, good huh?
Wednesday 15th Memory Cinema, wonderful idea, dementia friendly film screenings, at Swindon Arts Centre, this one is Dad’s Army.
New York’s musician and writer Franz Nicolay, member of cabaret-punk orchestra World/Inferno Friendship Society, the Hold Steady, Balkan-jazz quartet Guignol, and co-founder of Anti-Social Music, comes to the Pump, Trowbridge with Aimless Arrows in support.
Acoustic jam at The Southgate, Devizes.
Original music at The Bell, Bath with world-folk into jazz artist Solana.
Thursday 16th is comedy night at Trowbridge’s Civic.
Dirty Sound Magnet at The Vic, Swindon, while the The Rosellys play The Tupenny.
Will Page plays Chapel Arts in Bath.
Friday 17th find Sour Apple at the Condado Lounge in Devizes, and The Truzzy Boys play The Bridge Inn, Horton.
Damn! at The Bear in Marlborough, with Al Jenkins at The Green Dragon.
Melksham Assembly Hall prepares for Giants of Rock.
Sound Affects play for St Patrick’s Day at The Talbot in Calne.
Junkyard Dogs at Old Road Tavern, Chippenham.
Upcoming local punk-based Foxymoron are at the Pump, Trowbridge; you need to see these guys rock, and they’re with The Easy Peelers and Lonely Daughter. Be Like Will play the West Wilts Conservative Club in Trowbridge.
Hacksaw & Hot Pink Sewage & Altermoderns at The Three Horseshoes, Bradford-on-Avon, while Karport Collective are at The Boathouse, and Ineza Women’s Words, Sisters Stories is what’s in store at Wiltshire Music Centre.
House Above the Sun at Chapel Arts, Bath, and our Full Tone Orchestra are at Bath Abbey Churchyard with Karl Jenkins Adiemus.
The Unravelling Wilburys at The Cheese & Grain, Frome.
Come What May is the play at the Wyvern Theatre, Swindon. The Pre-Fab Four Beatles tribute at the Vic.
Saturday 18th is the opportunity for families to see what the fabulous Calne River Warriors get up to, and join in raft making and a woodland hunt, see poster below. In the evening, Six O’clock Circus take over The Rec Club in Calne.
The Hoodoos are at The Southgate, Devizes, with Rev at The Three Crowns, Ben Borrill at The Moonrakers, and Southern Ruin at The Dolphin. Smackdown at The Corn Exchange with CSF Superstar Wrestling, and DJ Flash is in the mix at the Exchange.
Pink Floyd night at The Barge on Honey-Street.
Songwriter’s Circle at the Pump in Trowbridge provides us with Editor’s Pick of the Week; with Annie Dresser, Lucy Grubb, Dan Wilde, and Luke James Williams.
Find Custyard Pye at Stallards, also in Trowbridge.
Orange Skies Theatre offer some riotous, narrative cabaret with Wild Onion at Swindon Arts Centre, while the musical theatre concert tour of Beyond The Barricade is at the Wyvern Theatre.
The awesome Barrelhouse play the Queens Tap in Swindon, Chop Suey bring nu-metal vibes to the Vic.
Some Indian classical music with Pooja Angra’s new project Creative Unity, with vocalist Karan Rana, sitar player Baluji Shrivastav OBE, and tabla player Mitel Purohit, at Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford-on-Avon. Ragged Union play The Three Horseshoes.
Jenny Colquitt plays Chapel Arts in Bath.
Blur tribute Blurd at The Tree House in Frome, with Hayseed Dixie at The Cheese & Grain, and Be Like Will at the Artisan Pub & Kitchen on Christchurch Street.
Sunday 19thsees Trowbridge Symphony Orchestra play Wiltshire Music Centre, in Bradford-on-Avon, and find Bob Bowles at The Three Horseshoes.
The FOS Brothers play The Bell in Bath.
Arch Garrison at The Vic, Swindon.
And a record fair at The Cheese & Grain, Frome.
Monday 20th and Sue Harding & Gabriel Moreno’s Troubadour Bandits play The Bell in Bath.
Tuesday 21st and the regular spoken-word open-mic Poetika is on at The Winchester Gate, Salisbury, every third Tuesday of the month. This session with guest poet, Claire H has a Through The Looking Glass theme.
That’s all folks, but remember do check ahead for those ticketed events, keep on scrollin’ our event calendar and watch out for updates. Have a fantastic weekend. Tell us if we missed anything, it’s free to list here, but you must send me some details, I’m not mystic Meg.
If of recent I’ve been critical about counterproductive steps taken to solve the rise in youth crime, favouring encouraging events designed for our youngest, it doesn’t mean any age demographic should miss out on live entertainment. Therefore, it was a blessing last night to see the Corn Exchange jam-packed, predominately with middle-aged and elders, enjoying a cracking musical variety concert in aid of Devizes Opendoors.…
A massive congratulations goes to the organisers, especially Dora Kan, who slaved to create an amazing rosta of entertainment and sizable raffle. Acts were tried and tested; Dora is an active member of the humongous PSG Choir, who shone for the finale with zest, ardour, and a selection of pop classics; my favourite? Well, no child of the eighties can argue with such a wonderful rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s True Colours, now, can they?
One personal particular highlight of the event was to witness PSG members’ bubbling smiles of enthusiasm as they lined the doors awaiting their turn to shine. At one point I was nearly encased within them, praying I wouldn’t be dragged in by the crowd and expected to sing too, for this could’ve been the disastrous consequence which spoiled an otherwise unspoiled evening!
The pop gospel choir is a local amateur community-driven choir, which doubles as social group, with Will Blake as the mentor and conductor. But if the concert acted as both showcase and advertisement for this open choir, prior to this, Will was given the opportunity to also showcase himself and his trio.
Covering an era-spanning range of sing-a-long pop classics merged into a non-stop medley, The Will Blake Trio enthuses any audience with a showy display of accomplished precision. Will himself takes to a grand piano, carrying off the act in true Jerry Lee Lewis standing position. He even has the tendency to kick the stool away. To begin with The Jungle Book’s King of the Swingers is bold, to infuse it with the Jackson’s I Want YouBack is surely just showing off, isn’t it?!
It was the most amazing burst of energy to rouse the crowd after the interval, but if Will has class and style, and the choir can hold the audience in a certain awe, with the sheer number in the choir one could argue it’s not so tricky as doing this solo. This is where I came in, apologies to the amazing multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, and music teacher Andrew Hurst, who I unfortunately missed.
I’d rushed home after a Devizes hockey 1sts away game in Portishead, and by the time dinner was finished I checked the listing on my own event guide to see it started ten minutes ago, an hour ealier than I’d imagined. Fancy that, I run the blasted event guide and still messed up! I heard a great response to Andrew’s set, knowing him, it’s hardly unexpected. Pre-lockdown Andrew was teaching my son piano, and his perfected work method engaged him throughly, and he’s no easy kid to engage. Dora is also tutored by Andrew. As I said, the entertainment has personal connections to Dora, which gave the evening this wonderful community ambience.
Anyway, I disgress, you don’t need to hear of my first jog up Dunkirk Hill since turning fifty, and how I suspect someone extends that hill a few extra yards everytime I scale the mountain, you need to hear, everyone needs to hear, what greeted me at the summit. As I say, a choir, yes, solo to hold a crowd spellbound, that’s another thing entirely.
Chloe Jordan was already on stage, perfectly accompanied by Susan Braunton on keys, but my inexperience in wording a critique on opera, on classical singing will show through here, in only being able to compare it to the very best of rock, blues, indie and folk singers of our usual haunts. However amazing they might be, this is way beyond. The pitch and note changes, the enriching power of this soprano holds you, encases you in the same awe as an entire orchestra.
It is, in a word, breathtaking. If the phrase using ones voice as a musical instrument is cliché, there’s no better way to describe Chloe Jordan in full flight. It’s something amazing, a something to summon angels down from the heavens to listen, I kid you not!
Though we’ve not touched base on the overall joy this evening will bring, as the sellout crowd donated to the local homeless charity Devizes Opendoors; such a worthy cause. We’ve heard a staggering sum has been gratefully received, and this is the cherry on top of a wonderful evening and a testament to what can be achieved.
Chole, though, with her entertaining covers of sing-a-long classics from musicals and films, my personal highlight of which being Doris Day’s Deadwood Stage, which wowzers, if I’ve not heard for an age, I’ve never heard it performed so absolutely sublimely, I thank you, you are staggeringly amazing!
While it may’ve been a week of social media turmoil at Devizes Town Council, the type usually reserved for national politics, a few hours prior to the uproar, I put the phone down after the kind of conversation which left me feeling more like I’d been catching up with an old friend, rather than interviewing a candidate for a local election……
I got the notion before chatting to hopeful Guardian Town Councillor, Vanessa Tanner she feared I’d come over all Jeremy Paxman! It’s not fair play for me to interrogate a person any more than it’s the opposition in this by-election’s morals to post exaggerated and prejudicial statements about them, though they did.
It’s impossible to publish concentrated material, such as an interview, to match the velocity of which social media accelerates, therefore I intend to produce this interview as it was said before this whoha, hoping it will shed some light on the Guardian candidate’s character and personality. Then, it is up to residents of East Devizes to decide if it’s the kind of refractory group who would slanderously magnify a trivial error in hope of sabotaging the opposition which they want on their seat at the town council, or an active member of the community, too busy cleaning the streets, engaging in support groups, and with the public, to fuss over some bitterness on bias Facebook pages.
Though the appropriateness of sole Councillor-controlled social media groups was a subject I coincidently wanted to verbally jab Vanessa with, it was something she didn’t dwell on, and our chat begun with the reason why we have this by-election in the first place.
Town clerk, Simon Fisher said of Jane Burton, “She was fiercely knowledgeable about all things Devizes. In the Council Chamber, Jane was a formidable force unafraid to take on anyone to get her point over; however, whilst she would not always agree with a viewpoint others would over, she would always be respectful of differing opinions. She had many skills and attributes we all admired, but she had a special ability to connect with residents, to listen and advise.”
So, I opened said passive interrogation(!) suggesting Vanessa had some “big boots to fill!” But she extended this like birds of a feather, “it was actually Jane who asked me to join the Guardians,” continuing with a recollection of a quiz night, “and before I knew it I was a Guardian!”
Vanessa has been a volunteer of Devizes Clean Up Squad for four years, and we spoke of the fantastic work they do. Though Vanessa is so active in the community, we moved swiftly onto her involvement with the “Love Devizes” group. “Yes,” she explained, “it started off with Love Devizes during Covid, and I was delivering meals during that time, for the people who couldn’t get out, and then it changed to Love Ukraine, which I became heavily involved in, because we had the first Ukraine guests here.”
Meandering already, a heart-breaking tangent ensued about her guests. Vanessa revealed how they only stayed a couple of months; after Russian concentration lessened in her hometown of Kiev, they returned to help her family, and for concern to their children’s wellbeing. To encourage our conversation back to her as a candidate, as I felt her passion on the subject would’ve led her to talk on this subject forever, I offered all this was evidence enough that she is a people-person. But does Vanessa hope to get the time to carry-on groups like the CUDs if she was to become a councillor?
With a tone of upmost sincerity she replied, “I hope so,” expressing her job had come to an end and venturing she should have enough time. Being she had stated she only had half-hour to chat, and I’d already diverted it to Ukraine, she replied, “I’m quite good at time management!” Best rush through my questions, because I’m hopeless at it!
I wondered if there was any other charities or support groups Vanessa was actively engaged in, and that was precisely why we only had a half-hour window; she was off to work at the Dorothy House shop. “And Sustainable Devizes is a big thing for me,” Vanessa continued. Though a hot topic with the public, The Crammar isn’t part of East Devizes, her association with the environmental group is enough to convince me of her penchant for wildlife and environmental issues. The Guardians in general have been engaged with talking to the Friends of the Crammar campaign group, and so we switched to the lack of electric-car charging points in Devizes. Again, though Vanessa relayed the question to a personal anecdote; her son came to stay, who has an electric car, but there is nowhere in town which an accessible charging point. “So, I raised it with Wiltshire Council, and asked on Devizes Issues, where are these car charging points, and…. There aren’t any!”
Vanessa wrote to the supermarkets to ask them when they were likely to put them in, “and I worked out that Devizes is the biggest town in Wiltshire without any electric car charging points.” I sighed, as she sustained, “I think they’re coming, there was a debate in the council a couple of weeks ago, about when they should be putting them in.”
New builds, I turned the subject onto. Vanessa agreeing encouraging contractors to up the percentage of affordable housing on new builds was vital to maintaining an age demographic in town, otherwise younger residents are priced out of the market. Neatly bringing us around to the other hot topic, youth crime. I asked Vanessa if she agreed we needed to improve funding for youth groups and associations. “I think with any bad behaviour there’s always a reason which we have to get to the bottom of,” she replied, “what is motivating some to smash a window rather than play football, and if you can get to the bottom of the issue, it’s a lot easier to get these people engaged in society again, because at the moment they’re marginalised but everybody misbehaves for a reason.”
I reasoned it’s for the prestige, so to reduce several youths away from following the perpetrators, they’ve less of an audience reaction, lessening the thrill. “That’s never a bad thing,” Vanessa replied, “to have more facilities. If we can get those reopened, it would be great.”
I admit, I hoped Vanessa would bring the subject of subsidising youth initiatives and groups up of her own accord, but in agreeing with me they should was, to be honest, a good enough baseplate. Plus, she did continue to say, “I think by what Jonathan (Hunter-leader of the Guardians) was telling me, we’re already quite a way down the road to getting a youth engagement officer, so, that will get the ball rolling.”
The importance of selecting the right person for such a job was her resultant, “and that’s something a trained youth engagement officer will know how to do; we’re on the road to getting one of those, and hopefully we can get to the bottom of it. Nobody wants to get their window broken, or be frightened to go out at night, and you don’t want that in a town. As soon as this is dealt with the better, but I think I’m more of a carrot than a stick person!”
Unaware of this idiom, I laughed, proposing it could be our headline: Vanessa; Carrot or Stick?!“Nobody likes to be told what to do,” she explained, as I did bring my grievance about Wiltshire Council holding an open-event on the youth crime subject whereby youths themselves were unable to attend. “They like be involved with decision making. Discussion, compassion, and kindness is the way forward,” Vanessa stated. In this, we must ask ourselves, exactly what is a town councillor, and what do we want from them?
Do we need them to be academics of law and national politics, seemingly expert enough to spot a minuscule flaw in the opposition’s election leaflet and expand it to a full-blown attack only for the purpose of upstaging them in a race to the position, or do we need someone so obviously concerned for our amenities, our environment and public wellbeing, motivated and active towards changing it? For the subjects we covered which do appear on Vanessa’s promises, she was clearer and more adamant on; the green issues of car-charging, and cycle paths, and creating shared spaces, and keeping Devizes independently run.
Indeed, my question was one of statements inviting discussion, that national political parties should be kept out of local council, the very ethos of the Guardians. “Yes,” she explained, “so everyone in the Guardians have their own political views but they’re not bought to the table, because we are all about the town. We’re about what happens here, not about what the national parties have dictated to us.”
Ironically, other parties entering this election pledge a similar promise, though assigned to a national party for funding, they unyielding suggest they too are independently based, though I must ask, surely if someone is funding your campaign, they’ll demand you sway in their favour, at least tow the party line, and carry out the position with the shared philosophy. “I can’t answer for them!” Vanessa laughed it off, “I just know the Guardians are independent, and we will do what’s best for our town.”
And herein lies my concluding section, on councillor’s use of social media, of which you should note happened before the brash and vastly embellished statements of their breaking of election law, by the opposition’s Conservative campaigner Iain Wallis, on his self-run Facebook group. I put to Vanessa, “social media is another sour point with the public now, because while it’s an advantage for councillors to gage public opinion, and visa-versa, some feel those councillors active on social media aren’t really listening to them, rather brashly using it to blow their trumpets, and those who disagree are censored. Do you feel what we need is more attention to a create a united council social media output, so the majority, voice of a united council is the definite article?”
“Wouldn’t that be lovely?!” Vanessa responded with, “in an ideal world! You’ve got twenty-odd different characters, haven’t you? I think they came together for Covid, Ukraine, the bigger things, but they’re different adults from different backgrounds who are bound to disagree.”
But that’s what a council is, isn’t it; to discuss these things, nail out a definite agreeance, and then go onto social media, unitedly announcing the decision? “Social media is a tool, but also a dangerous place to air your grievances. We have got a social media policy, created by Wiltshire Council, and in the main work occasionally there’s a little bit of spat, but it settles down again. But that’s not the place to air your dirty laundry, in my opinion. I use social media to inform people of what’s going on, not to have an argument.” How sad that not hours after Vanessa told me this, she was victim to this precise kind of attack by the opposition, only to better their chances of winning the by-election on 30th March? It says more about them than her.
Vanessa would like to conclude, she is “a real-person, just because I do a lot of community work doesn’t mean I don’t find time to get out and enjoy the pubs and restaurants of Devizes.” She giggled throughout this bit, “I try to frequent all of them, but not all at once! There are twenty-two drinking establishments, you’d be a mess at the end of it, wouldn’t you?” I didn’t like to suggest, I’d given it my best shot, so our chat regressed back to local environmental issues, for it’s something Vanessa is obviously passionate about, but in this is precisely her character and charm, and it’s infectious, exactly what I believe we need in a town councillor.
Communities, getting together, fundraising, and doing something good for their town’s youth. It might sound like the stuff of Terry Pratchett fantasy here in Devizes right now, but over in Bradford-on-Avon, it’s a reality…..
They’ve successfully raised their £250,000 target and invited the town to come and see their new skatepark designs earlier this afternoon at St Margaret’s Hall.
Maverick Skateparks have been busy perfecting their final plans and are presenting them to the full council, to vote on passing on to the construction phase. Campaigners intended to cram the council offices with supporters, we hear it went well.
This is what working with and listening to the public can achieve, Wiltshire Council, proactive engagement in providing facilities for youth, rather than condemning them in meetings, least so-called “drop-in” events deliberately arranged at such a time our younger generation would be unable to attend, much less air their views upon.
Well done, Bradford-on-Avon, for it’s more than a skatepark. It’s a testament to community spirit in an era that has seen so many youth enterprises and facilities cut back. If heaven is a halfpipe, you are the gods of the 180!
Opps, it didn’t occur to me until afterwards, we only had the lads play for us at my birthday celebration at the Three Crowns on Saturday. Not intentional, just the way the cookie crumbled, but it’s no coincidence that today, my actual birthday, falls on International Women’s Day!
Like any other industry, the history of the music biz’s treatment of women may be questionable, but it’s fair to say as far as creative output goes, girls have been at the forefront since pop begun. There are so many talented females on our local circuit, so boys, go vegetate with your X-Box for a moment while we give a deserved roll-call to as many of our favourite girls on the scene as I can think of……(in alphabetical order so there’s no arguments or hair-pulling!)
Oh, for the haunting vocals of Annalise, fronting Salisbury’s purveyors of folk-gothic rock, Strange Folk. So captivating, so evocative; think Amy Lee of Evanescence, and you’re not far off the mark.
Promising Salisbury teenager Becca is an acoustic singer-songwriter who has been known to occasionally strap a band of friends together. Coming from a post-punk angle, there’s some chatty punk-rock Kate Nash-fashioned vocals on some astutely self-penned songs and covers. Themes include contemporary teenage anguish, climate change and mental health.
Drifted from the shores of the Isle of Man to anchor in Wiltshire, I first heard country singer-songwriter Becky Lawrence supporting the annual Female of The Species fundraiser. A young Becky started out in musical theatre, then trekked to London to attend London School of Musical Theatre. This training shows in her confident and accomplished solo show, and within powerful original compositions. Again, themes of maturing and relationships are key, and if you think this is somewhat cliché, Becky puts her stamp on them with poise and exquisiteness. Her first single You Say reached the number 1 spot in the UK Country Music Charts on iTunes, her second gained over 90K streams on Spotify, but her latest my favourite, Loud and 17 is what kept me in awe of her performance.
Fronting Bristol soul four-piece Belle Day, this is a new one on me though they’ve been on the southwest circuit for some years, and I’m happy to report being blown away by these breath-takingly powerful vocals, of the classic Stax-Motown era. It’s smooth blues flavour is ballroom jazzy with a hint of R&B.
Melksham’s premier rock soloist, tattoo artist, and one-fifth of The Female of the Species, Charmaigne is a force to be reckoned with. Powerful, soulful vocals enrich either solo performances or her newfound rock covers four-piece, Siren.
Perhaps the odd one out amidst these pop performers, but when you hear music teacher and classically trained soprano Chloe sing, angels will come down from the heavens to listen, officially!
Show me a female-fronted Muse trump card, and I’ll raise you Trowbridge based acoustic trio Be Like Will. Popular on our pub circuit, they’ve already got some originals under their belt, as well as their popular rock covers. Claire controls the lads, and will hold you captivated too! Book these guys.
Formerly of People Like Us, Claire now performs with six-piece function band LiveWired.
Self-described as “barking!…daft…loyal…technophobic…achey chunk!” we love Claire, for her outrageous onstage banter, and her contribution to Female of the Species. Find this devilish diva fronting Melksham’s most popular cover band, Big Mamma’s Banned.
I’m yet to catch Evie play live. Pewsey’s resident Joss Stone, she brings soulful vocals to her solo show, the like you wouldn’t believe; ergo, Evie is on top of my must-see-list. A singer-songwriter citing Billy Holiday and Nina Simone as influences, so expect some blue soul. You can find Evie regularly at the open mic nights at The Exchange in Devizes, often playing the Moonrakers in Pewsey.
Folk with a touch of soul for this knockout singer-songwriter and acoustic musician from Chippenham, look I’ll leave you a YouTube link from Mr Moore’s days at Trowbridge Town Hall, and you can make your own mind up, but we think Harmony Asia is really something special!
One half of husband and wife Devizes blues trio, 12 Bars Later, this wonderful couple can hold the kind of crowd spellbound which would usually take a six piece supergroup of legends!
Frome-based Julia Greenwood is probably the vocalist of the Female of the Species I’m least familiar with, but through her soul ballads she wows me every year. Lead singer from Soulville Express, it is as it says, Julia can hold the note of Aretha Franklin with remarkable ease.
Ah, our Jules, jewel in the ska crown of Wilsthire. Train to Skaville is the longest-running, chugging along since 2011, bestest ska and reggae cover band in the county, and let the lord Walt Jabsco strike me down if it isn’t so. Also, key member of charity fundraising supergroup, Female of the Species, Jules skanks and we love her for it!
Be it as a solo performer or with acoustic guitarist Sue in the duo Sour Apple, Katie commands any generation-spanning cover with all the power and finesse of the original. Breath-taking to think Katie will attribute a Whitney Houston set with certain ease, and her powerful vocal range I liken to Alison Moyet. Yet through her work in Sour Apple, the duo has set about creating many a sublime original, and works them into a set with equal passion. Prolifically gigging locally they’re the up-coming name which can accommodate any kind of venue or pub, and bring their shine to the punters.
What can we say about Westbury’s finest musical export, Kirsty Clinch that we haven’t already? Concentrating on her children’s music school First Melodies primarily these days, on the rare occasion our wonderful country singer-songwriter and music teacher is performing, you need to be there when she does. Kirsty is prolific in releasing some of most beautiful songs to bless my ears, and is astute with her business plans, self-managed, self-promoter and recently launching her own brand of clothing and merchandise.
Chippenham based duo, David and Lorraine take tribute acts to the next level. Lorraine makes the perfect Blondie, but they’ll add popular two-tone ska covers in too, making for a highly entertaining show. Blondie and Ska will liven your pub up, and get everyone up dancing.
Plan of Action are the Wiltshire rock, blues and alternative band which pack a punch. It’s loud and proud, and for every loud and proud rock band you need a killer bassist, the only girl in the group, Lucianne is the personification of rock bass!
Lead singer with Salisbury’s nu-cool indie sovereigns, Timid Deer. Arguably the most underrated local band, Timid Deer’s unique sound is enchanting, Naomi’s vocals are stunning, and this band does to indie-rock as Morcheeba did to trip hop.
Last but by no means least, we come to our final contributor to fundraising supergroup Female of the Species, Nicky Davis. Whether upfront vocalist or behind her landmark red keyboard, Nicky is a powerhouse. Fronting function band The Reason and lifetime member of our celebrated covers band, People Like Us, entertaining our pubs since 2016, Nicky, we love you!
Haven’t heard from Sally for a while, I know she moves about a bit and believe she resides closer to Oxford. Still her wonderful acoustic sets a few years ago justify her presence on this here hall of fame, and her work with the gothic duo Strange Tales, which seems a little inactive of recent. Still, I never forget a talented musical lady when I meet one!
Sarah C Ryan
The Sarah C Ryan Band describe themselves as “melodic low slung rock pop with a country/folk tinge,” and I always feel they sell themselves down, unaware of how completely mind-blowingly fantastic they are. This, if you perchance to see them at a gig adds a delightful element of surprise. If the name comes over a tad “function band” too, you should take heed, they’re far from run-of-the-mill. Recently did one of the best Visual Radio Arts features I’ve seen, I see if I can drop the link to it……
Frome based Welsh hippy-chick singer/songwriter Sara Vian is in her element singing jazz, soul and blues with a fabulous sunny vibe which charms and disarms with a distinction all her own, and she rides this with bells on.
Collaborating with the Graham Dent Trio, Sara has also released a number of singles over the Lockdown, and wonderfully acoustic goodness they are too!
Daughter to Swindon’s answer to Mike Oldfield, Richard Wileman, an incredibly prolific composer of pre-symphonic rock band Karda Estra, where there is nothing vertical or frenetic about his musical approach, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Though where singer-songwriter Sienna differs is theme, we hear topics of adolescence, youthful relationships, and perhaps their collapses, in this angelic voice of reason. Sienna’s music is experimental too, easy-going, and ambient, and I predict great things from one the most promising young artists locally.