The Return of the Female of the Speices

Wow, 11th September 2017 this article dates back to: “Female of the Species, boil ska, soul and blues influences to simmer Melksham for the Air Ambulance.” In Devizine terms that’s ancient and a gentle reminder we’ve nearly reached our first birthday.

Being one of our first pieces it has to be said, not only is it of far better quality than the type of rubbish I’m now putting out, but it had an inspiring theme! The reason I bring it up, because the local, all-girl supergroup The Female of the Species, which was its subject, are at it again, and tickets for their gig at the Melksham Assembly Rooms are now on sale.


Tackily pasted from last year’s event, I wrote: “Nicky Davis from People Like Us and The Reason, Glastonbury’s Julia Greenland from Soulville Express & Delta Swing, Frome’s Claire Perry from Big Mamma & The Misfitz, solo artist Charmaigne Andrews from Melksham, and Julie Moreton from Trowbridge’s Train to Skaville and Jules & The Odd Men, form the supergroup for Live on the Night, at the Melksham Assembly Rooms on Saturday 30th September.” So, other then being pushed back a day, I asked Nicky if anything else has changed?

“Claire (Big Mama) no longer performs with the Misfitz,” noted Nicky, “instead she’s now with ‘Big Mama’s Banned.” Jules added, “The girls are delighted to announce that joining us as part of our band line up this year, on sax, is my fellow ‘Train to Skaville’ band-mate, the awesome Miss Karen Potter.” So other than this it’s much the same and on target to rock the Melksham Assembly Rooms on Saturday the 29th September.

Karen Potter

This year’s event is subtitled “Raising Money Through Music,” and is in aid of Young Melksham, a registered charity which “work as a community to provide all children and young people with opportunities to thrive, develop and participate.” Young Melksham really makes a huge difference to the lives of youth in our area, by hosting more events than I can list here, including The Melksham Young People’s Awards.

Click for more info on Young Melksham

They make trips to shows locally, hold a variety of regular weeknight “youth club styled” workshops and events from their Canberra Club, from cookery to sports. They even run a shuttlebus to get kids there safely. The policy of Young Melksham is: “advancing in life and helping children and young people by developing their skills, capacities and capabilities to enable them to participate in society as independent, mature and responsible individuals; advancing education, providing recreational and leisure time activities in the interest of social welfare designed to improve their conditions of life.” They even have fully-trained counsellor and listening support workers when youth need a friendly face and a listening ear.


Supporting the supergroup this year will be young songstress with that oh so soulful voice, Laura Jayne Burt, Melksham’s guitar/soloist Sarah Deer and batting for the boys, Bath’s acoustic duo Ben & Tim. This is one unmissable annual extravaganza which takes the best elements of all these local groups and combines them into a blend of reggae and ska, soul and Motown, blues and rock. It can only guarantee too ooze with local talent and blow the roof of the Assembly Rooms, for just a tenner a ticket, with ALL proceeds going to this fantastic charity-based community project…..and it’s full of gorgeous ladies; what’s not to like?!


Facebook Event Page


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Thanks, You Gave the CUDS Christmas Dinner a Pudding!

I was always sceptical when my Nan would waffle off fables of the wives of the East-End of London, who without washing machines, fridges and other labour-saving devises we now take for granted, still found the time to get on their hands and knees daily, to scrub the steps of their front doors and tidy the area around their humble homes. Then I saw it depicted in the 1980s film of the Kray Twins, ergo; story checks out. Herein lies the problem when I believe some filmmaker over my Nan’s heartfelt memories!

With our society today and our attitude towards it, no one can be blamed for assuming the idea was poppycock, if there was only one thing David Cameron ever had a point about, it was his “big society” concept. Not through want to admit he had a point, there’s a natural response we still hold to unite in the face of disaster or catastrophe which sadly wanes once the issue is sorted.

We now grasp to glimmers of acts of human kindness, video them to share on social media. Times have changed Cameron, wherever you are now, and you were utterly out of touch with it at base level, you didn’t even take heed of your own concept and jumped ship when the going got tough; perhaps we should’ve listened closer to Billy Ocean instead!

The idea though should never have had to be a soundbite from a politician, it should be, as it was back in our grandparent’s era, common bloody sense. Still, as I sit hot and bothered in my garden, contemplating closure of this piece we did back in May about a group of volunteers who call themselves the Clean Up Devizes Squad, I observe the plastic wrapper of a discarded water bottle dance across my lawn by the zephyr. I groan, I just sat down, but something sparks inside me, I get up before it’s too late and it goes deep into the bramble; it’s binned. What made me hesitate? Pure laziness? The notion it’s someone else’s job, I pay my taxes towards? I even contemplated for a brief moment if it was mine.

It shouldn’t matter, pick it up and bin it; simple. We have to think above this modern conditioning, but while we still don’t, thank heavens there are people like the CUDS. Back in May I expressed what a fantastic group of superheroes they were, and I stated we must get them a thank you gift. READ IT HERE.

Knocked head-over heels by the response, I’m delighted to say many ordinary people of Devizes donated to our JustGiving page, and we raised £300 without a clue how we should actually spend it! With 36 members of the CUDs working sporadically on and off, I was unsure how to go about gifting them; stuffing a box of chocolates in the back pocket while they weed and tidy in this heatwave probably the single most impractical one I envisioned!

In deciding what to do I have been in touch with the unofficial chief of the Cuds, Zena Robson and together we decided we’d put the money towards their annual Christmas dinner. So, pudding is on you guys, thanks!

Here’s a few words of gratitude from Zena herself: “Whilst we CUDS are out and about picking up litter and scraping roads, we are always very grateful when a kind person comes along with tea (and doughnuts, once!) water and, lately, ice creams to keep us going, but to have people actually donate cash to us so we can have a reward of some sort is absolutely marvellous! Many, many thanks to all who have donated to the JustGiving page – we are very grateful for all your support. We will put the cash you have so kindly given towards our next birthday bash and will raise a glass to you all. Many thanks also go to Darren whose brainchild this was. From your trusty CUDS.”

I want to thank each and every one of you who donated, it was simply fantastic. However, I think there’s the bigger picture I’ve learned through this, maybe we could all attempt to lessen the load for people like Zena and her squad, by not dropping litter, by picking up bits when you see them and generally just thinking more about the beautiful area we live in.


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Saddleback Rock

All Photos used with kind permission of Nick Padmore Photography


I’m chatting with a guy from Hertfordshire as he keenly looks around. He’s considering moving to Devizes, but this Saturday thoroughly convinced him to do exactly that. Enthralled by our neighbourly ambiance, the friendliness of everyone present, I advise him it’s like this much of the time, although what he sees around him is quite unique for Devizes; sadly, we don’t get a Saddleback Music Festival every weekend!

Possibly a relief for the organisers, who put amazing effort and months of hard work to bring us this show. After an astounding appetiser of Sweet Home Alabama, waving long mousy-blonde hair on stage, dynamic frontman of Norfolk’s Bad Touch, Stevie Westwood praises the festival, stating he cannot believe it’s only the second year. This sentiment is echoed throughout the day by all I converse with, as the Saddleback Festival was hailed a success for its professional but welcoming attitude and, well, stonker of show!

Despite Friday’s downpour, the sun kissed the Devizes Sports Club, occasionally taking a welcomed break behind a cloud. It made the perfect location, a large open space and its locality within town. The opportunity to camp was taken up by a few, and everyone converged beyond the rugby pitch to relish a fairly diverse range of rock, funk, and blues. While Saddleback remained faithful to last year’s blues label, perhaps the opening of other genres allowed it wider appeal; the field was teeming.

Never a doubt local legend Jon Amor would rock the show, after a year away from Devizes. However, a highlight of this diversity for me being Innes Sibun, who’s blues band were indescribably funky, and but a dash of Latin influence could’ve rivalled Santana. Likewise, when the crowd grimaced somewhat at the cliché of John Verity wailing out an electric-guitar version of The Star-Spangled Banner, thanking Christ Trump hadn’t been passing through, he clinched the moment by sliding neatly into the perfect rendition of Purple Haze.

Whilst stalls for the supported charities, Julia’s House and the Wiltshire Air Ambulance positioned at the entrance, beyond two abutting main stages, in which one band tuned while the other performed, lay a passage of stalls, bar, ice cream van, and activities for children, as any good festival should. As this was advertised as a family event, and kids went free, perhaps there could’ve been a tad more to prevent little-ones from bordering boredom, but really, not many turned up with children, therefore additions were adequate.

Herein lies an issue, to stage such an amazing event costs, we know this, still there was tension over a £25 ticket-stub. In this day and age where every penny counts I cannot help but agree, it didn’t come cheap; show me festival which doesn’t, I challenge you. Ever a risk, but in my opinion the organisers must consider price, should they wish to pull a crowd of our younger generation.

Pardon the pun; it’s between a rock and a hard place, deciphering how to achieve maximum effect at low cost, in an era with an abundance of small festivals. With space plentiful at the Sports Club, a popular “well-known” headline act is a valid option to attract, though would sadly not help reduce the ticket price, unless Saddleback gamble it’d generate ticket sales, or even, if they wish it to.

I get the sense they’re content with the setup, organisers have suggested prior they wouldn’t wish to expand the festival to huge degrees. I offered my tuppence on its future; after dropping the “blues” label, perhaps drop the “music” too. For all are aware festivals are predominantly music, and word-of-mouth alone will confirm Saddleback’s dedication to quality musical acts, so how about adding other popular elements of larger festivals; a comedy tent?

I reached out to a couple of organisers I stopped for a brief chat with, perhaps, dare I say it, a dance tent, or reggae stage. They hum at the idea, but it seems suggestions to introduce circus and street theatre acts was the final straw! I digress, for variety of elements make the difference from a “festival,” to a “concert,” whereby people freely wander, involve themselves with a happening, or else move onto the next.

For Saddleback, at this early stage, perhaps catered for an older crowd, content to pitch a sunblock and deck chairs, and remain situated while the music came to them. Which is dandy, and for this Saddleback gave the most excellent experience one could wish for. Part of me longed for these crowds to saunter past the beer tent, and rather than just headlong for the loos, observe Saddleback had a smaller acoustic stage where the upcoming local talents ruled the day.

Shamefully I felt more could’ve been done to enhance this, the “stage,” little more than a gazebo and the PA insubstantial, there was an air that this was merely a bolt-on. The location of this segment was justified by organiser Mirko, who explained the tuning of the main stages would’ve drowned the sound from this acoustic area should it have been situated closer. I nodded; fair point. I consoled with the notion it was near the bar, and many did attend when thirsty, particularly when Phil Cooper unexpectedly arrived to accompany Jamie Hawkins on a cajón, which produced an excellent and most welcomed set. Again, gathered around the acoustic area Mike Barham I thought really gave it his all too, with his usual thoroughly entertaining and amusing elegance.

Coupled with two reasonable food stalls, it was great to see local ale brewer, Glen Upward’s Devitera stand, of which I attempted to drink dry. By mid-afternoon this whole area transformed into a haven for the lesser wishers of sitting idle at the main stage, and it bustled with Devizes-fashioned merry laughter and revelry.

Maybe to squeeze everything in the timeframe, which again justifies the price-tag, I’m darned if those Saddlebackers were overly keen to kick it off early. A mere few hours late I missed a few acts I’d considered worthy of headliners. I’d been eager to catch Mollie, the daughter of Small Faces and Humble Pie’s Steve Marriott, and was surprised they’d put her on so early.

I was also stumped why the brilliant George Wilding opened the event before I could even taste the toothpaste, and I’d like to have caught Strange Tales’ Sally Dobson too; but I cannot blame Saddleback for my own indolence!

For despite aforementioned inconsequential and debatable glitches, I loved it all, I loved the non-existence of a DJ, a format with a constant flow of live music. I loved the sociability, I loved the way the performer’s hair got longer with every act introduced!


Saddleback gave it their all, was superb in every detail and this can only raise all eyebrows as to how they will attempt to top it next year. For this alone, they should be celebrated and thanked, as it undoubtedly will go down in Devizes history as our town’s proudest of musical moments.



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Pleased to Eat You…

No one goes hungry in Seend as the First of the annual Seend breakfasts has taken place, and as ever the brekker has lived up to expectations. It’s a great way to start the day; a sociable gathering with locally sourced fodder at very reasonable prices. They’ve thought of everything…you can even grab your newspaper there and nothing is too much trouble for the group of village volunteers running the event.


You really should pop by and try a Seend breakfast special for yourselves. Each Saturday at 8:00-10:00, from now into September. The village breakfasts have been running for a number of years, originally started by the WI. The breakfasts are open for ANYONE to attend not just villagers. Bring along your guests, invite people from neighbouring villages, boaters take a stroll up from the canal, flag down passing holiday makers, stop the early morning milkmen & postmen…Let’s just be clear EVERYONE is welcome.

More info: Click here




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Mac’s Theatre School Announce New Performances

Mac’s Theatre School continue to go from strength to strength, proving that with the right support and guidance there are no limits to what young people can achieve.

The Devizes-based theatre company are off to perform on one of the main stages at Disneyland Paris in April 2019, after passing a rigorous audition process with flying colours. Disney described Mac’s Theatre School as “a very good all-round school who are producing very talented young performers who are clearly passionate and feeling about the arts.”

The Theatre company are currently rehearsing for their up and coming drama productions “DNA” and “Blood Brothers” which will be performed at Devizes school on the 27th to the 28th of July (DNA) and the 3rd and 4th of August  (Blood Brothers). Tickets are available from ticket source via the website or from Devizes books.


If you are passionate about acting, dancing, singing then Mac’s Theatre School are always keen to welcome new members. The company are open from 5-21 year olds and starting in September will be launching a weekly work shop for 11-21 year olds on a Wednesday evening as well as their already flourishing Mini Mac’s Workshops from 5-10 year olds who have classes on a Saturday morning at Devizes School from 1130-12.30 and 13.00-14.00. Both groups will get the chance to perform in the February Musical “The Addams Family.”


If you would like to find out more please don’t hesitate in contacting them via the website or follow them on Facebook (Mac’s Theatre School), Twitter (@macs_theatre) or Instagram ( macstheatre )

Mac’s Theatre School


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PSG Choir’s County Tour for Plastic Oceans Foundation this Saturday

Established in 2014, the PSG choir organisation helps people to build confidence in their vocal ability, perform with a live band and enjoy bonding with their friends and community.

With 75 members of PSG choir based in Wiltshire, founder Will Blake and his choir will be taking pop, soul and gospel to the masses this Saturday (14th July) and raising funds for Plastic Oceans, by doing a musical tour around our county.

Plastic Oceans Foundation engages people of all ages, in all social situations, to understand the danger of continuing to perceive plastic to be disposable; a vital subject obviously, in which the choir asks for a small donation to the cause.


Plastic Oceans explains, “The problem of plastic pollution is growing exponentially every year; we are producing more than 300 million tons of plastic, half of this is designed for single use, and each year around 8 million tons of it ends up in our oceans. We can solve this problem and we can do it by educating and engaging everyone in a conversation to rethink plastic. Plastic Oceans is working to change the way we deal with plastic waste by challenging society’s perception that this indestructible substance can be treated as ‘disposable’.”

“Once people become aware of the ultimate threat to human health, it will become a personal choice to prevent plastic waste from entering the environment. We plan to tackle this issue, through an awareness campaign using film and media – our documentary feature film, A Plastic Ocean. We will continue to spread the message of the film activating students through education, engaging with industries through entrepreneurship and partnering with global organizations actively changing their communities.”


If you’d like to see PSG Choir perform on the tour, they’ll be at The Brittox, Devizes at 10:30am, the Borough Parade Shopping centre, Chippenham at 12:30pm, Derry Hill and Studley Village Fete at 3:20pm, and finishing at The Bear in Melksham at 4:30pm.

“It’s time we did something about the horrendous effect single use plastics are having on the planet,” says PSG, “and the amazing creatures that live on it.”

Please Donate


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Mozart’s The Magic Flute comes to White Horse Opera

White Horse Opera announce their next main production will be “The Magic Flute,” opening in October at Lavington School.

Child prodigy Mozart wrote the singspiel (part-song-part-dialogue) Die Zauberflöte, or The Magic Flute to you and I! Launched in September 1791 at Schikaneder’s theatre in Vienna, he conducted the premiere despite feeling unwell, an illness which would take his life by the December.

Mozart’s great romantic opera drew from the magical spectacle of earthy comedy, popular in Vienna’s theatres. White Horse Opera assure it “will take you on an adventure.”

With comedic elements, the mien of The Magic Flute is Mozart’s philosophical divine principles. There’s a exploration of wisdom and virtue as the mainstay of this captivating anecdote.


Image by Gail Foster

Promising the Queen of the Night to rescue her daughter, Pamina, from the enchanter Sarastro, the intrepid but naïve Prince Tamino initiates a quest, as, basically, he’s “got the hots for her!” Accompanied by a bird-catcher called Papageno, who the Prince believes would be happy with any pretty girl, not all will be as it at first seems.

The Prince and the bird-catcher have to deal with the majestic but unapproachable Queen of the Night, the mysterious Sarastro and his reclusive and dedicated followers, not to mention a lecherous henchman, three seductive ladies and three other-worldly boys. But are any of the characters they encounter really what they seem? Find out when White Horse Opera unlocks the bewildering world of this always fascinating fable.
It’s fully staged, sung in English with a full orchestra.

Performances 10th, 12th & 13th October at 7.30pm at Lavington School SN10 4EB

Tickets £15 for padded seats and £10 for unpadded available from Devizes Books 01380-725944 or



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