State of the Thing; a Monthly Guide to Last and This Coming Month of Devizine

Particularly crucial at this point, in the midst of this “roadmap” out of lockdown, for me to consider writing a monthly post outlining where we’re at, what we’ve been doing, and looking forward to the next month. A two-part article then, the second half on what’s happening locally during May particularly important.

But first, I have to say, despite the lack of events causing the lowering of hits annually, stats for April hit a record-breaking high, a staggering 132% higher than March. This is fantastic and I thank our readers for their support. Generally, April is a good month, All Fools Day being our bread and butter. This year’s was exceptionally accommodating, when I convinced thousands, Devizes was to get a McDonalds! This prank was in the pipeline long before April, and I suspected it would spread like wildfire, but only issue now, is how to top it next year.

Other popular articles this month have been political, when Tory Wiltshire Councillors were instructed by head councillor, Philip Whitehead to block correspondence with the Stop the Closure of Furlong Close campaigners, particularly prevalent. So too has been the interest of the Police Crime Commissioner election, with our interviews of Mike Rees and Liz Webster. And we’ve played impartial, allowing all council candidates an untainted paragraph in which to pitch the reason while we should vote for them.

Such is lockdown, when another seemingly popular doing, was my satirical fictional story serial, The Adventures of Councillor Yellowhead; honestly, I don’t know where these ideas come from! I think serials might be good addition to Devizine, and I’ve a new, wholly different approach to the next one, a personal account celebrating thirty years since the blossoming of the rave scene. So, wave your hands in the air for that one, if I find the time to write it!

Yet, proving our stomachs are more important than our politics, the best hitting articles, second only to the April Fools, have been when the Naan Guru opened, and my visit to the Feisty Fish. Proof of what I say, time and time again, but few owners of eateries listen; throwing me a luncheon voucher will boast your sales! We published our Feisty Fish review Wednesday, by Friday they sold out at their pitch in Littleton Pannell!

And I thought our mainstay was music and arts. But without live music reviews, it’s been no walk in the park. The live streams continue, but I cannot justify reviewing them in the same manner, only drawing your attention to them, and all other online events. This is why, and I can’t stress this enough, because I spend eons adding to it, our event guide is crucial, the coming months doubly so.

Our Song of the Day features continues, if slightly more sporadic than previous months, and we’ve covered reviews of Erin Bardwell, The Horses of Gods, Longcoats, Fruits Records and Black Market, with more to follow. But, with fingers crossed, and it’s looking rosy, May is the month live music is returning, so let’s muck about now more, wallowing in the past, and bang straight on with what’s happening over May.

Not forgoing, before I get onto this, my efforts this month will be focussed on our forthcoming compilation album, For Julia’s House, which I hope to be released later in the month or early June.   The list of contributors now looks like this, all of them I’d like to thank eternally: Pete Lamb & Cliff Hall, King Dukes, Erin Bardwell, Timid Deer, Duck n Cuvver, Strange Folk, Strange Tales, Paul Lappin, Billy Green 3, Jon Veale, Will Lawton, Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective, Kirsty Clinch, Richard Wileman, Kier Cronin, Sam Bishop, Mr Love & Justice, The Truzzy Boys, Daydream Runaways, Talk in Code, Longcoats, Atari Pilot, Andy J Williams, The Dirty Smooth, SexJazz, Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue, The Boot Hill All Stars, Mr Tea & The Minions, The Oyster, Nigel G. Lowndes, The Birth of Bonoyster, Revival, Room 101, The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show, Julie Meikle and Mel Reeves, Cutsmith, Big Ship Alliance and Knati P. What a line up!

And I’ve more promised in the pipeline, possible tracks from Clock Radio, the Horse of Gods, Cutfish, The Lost Trades, and so many more; how utterly fantastic is that? I just have to pull my finger out and get on the case!

So, to what’s happening in May!

Events, remember them, that’s the kiddy, that’s what we’re looking forward to. And with positive feedback from the Liverpool clubbing experiment, stuff is being arranged and events organised, and everyone is undoubtedly as excited as a kid at Christmas.

May is the month which will, hopefully, keep on giving. I’ve a mega-task trying to keep up with changes and added events, updating our new look event calendar. You can help, by letting me know about your event, rather than expecting me to go digging. Thanks. Oh, and people, this preview is not exhausted, take heed, the calendar is going to explode with updates, so keep on top of it. Plus, the notion events will often be under usual capacity due to social distancing, and ticketed, so keeping ahead of the game is vital, if you want to head on out with a destination in mind!

For the now though, events remain online, but not void. Do check out the Wylye Valley Arts Trail, running until next Sunday, 9th May, and the Online Swindon Festival of Literature starting tomorrow until the same Sunday the 9th.

Later today, I’d recommend you check out the Kyla Brox Band stream, or for banging clubland, the Midlife Krisis has it’s Sunday Session. Tomorrow, Monday 3rd, head down to Hillworth Park in Devizes, where there’s a fundraising books and toys stand in Hillworth Park, for Wiltshire Air Ambulance. 10am till 2pm.

But on Saturday 8th the Prestbury Sports Bar in Warminster is the first I’ve noted to open their doors to a live gig, and the fantaboulouso People Like Us will kick it off. Good luck to Nicky, Pip and the Scooby gang!

The first to brave the water on mass, though, is our brilliant Big Yellow Bus co-ordinator, Gerry Watkins with a Gloucestershire VW Bus Meet and Chill, a free event on 15th May at Cirencester Town Football Club. “It’s just that,” Gerry explains, “meet up with old and new friends that share the same passion for the VW bus, it doesn’t matter if it’s a rusty old shed or a sparking bran new one it’s your pride and joy and we are here to enjoy and have fun, it’s also to help raise funds for The Big Yellow Bus Project a homeless shelter.” Bands playing include: Six O Clock Circus, Loaded Dice, The Daybreakers, and The Roughcut Rebels. Sounds super, but like I said, all events this early need booking, and once all 85 spaces have been filled that’s it; which it might already be. Just leaves me to say, have a great time, guys, and I hope you raise some serious funds for the Big Yellow Bus project.

But it’s the following weekend when shit really hits the fan. Swindon’s Victoria kicks off the return of live music with Awakening Savannah on Friday 21st, and Thin Lizzy tribute, The Lizzy Legacy on the Saturday, I wish you all the best for these gigs, Darren Simons and the team at the Vic.

Both Pewsey and Devizes kick off live music too, on the Saturday. As for a fiver a pop, the Barge at Honeystreet offer Paul Ruck paying his tribute to legendary guitarist Eric Clapton, and at our trusty Southgate in Devizes, the long awaited return of live music will be supplied by the band who finished off at the last live music session prior to the lockdown, I believe, Swindon’s fantastic Sound Affects, who will double-up as the Daybreakers; something I’ve been looking forward to since I dunno when, and hope to see many faces I haven’t seen for ages, perhaps lockdown hair!

The Daybreakers pop up again the following Friday at Swindon’s Vic, while Honeystreet’s Barge offers you their favourites Jassy and Ted, aka SwingleTree, a wonderous folky duo with songs of the sea, lost loves, the ol’ canal, heart-warming harmonies, luscious squeeze boxes, and toe tapping tunes.

Saturday 29th The Barge has the Dryadic collective, The Southgate have Leon Daye, and there’s few tickets left for an Attitude Is Everything fundraiser with Longcoats and Tangled Oaks at Bath’s Moles. But in general, the fantastic news is, slow and few in between, live music is returning to Wiltshire this month, and if everyone bonds, taking care and adhering to the restrictions set out, by June, we could have ourselves a mini summer of love!

Apologises if I’ve missed your event here, it’s most likely because you didn’t tell me about it! But it’s never too late to let me know. For fun-seekers crawling out of the woodwork, as I said, this list is not exhaustive, and over the coming weeks you must take a peek at our calendar, as it will continuously blossom with stuff to do. I mean, take a look at June, when festivals begin; oh, my lord, remember them?!


Trending….

Erin Bardwell Gets Organised

A new album released yesterday from Swindon’s premier reggae keyboardist and producer Erin Bardwell made me contemplate a section of Henri Charrière’s book Papillon. The autobiographical account of a fellow no prison or penal colony can seem to keep incarcerated. There’s a point where Papillon deliberately causes a disturbance in order to be put in solitary confinement. He claims he prefers it to the regular cells, because away from the other inmates, alone in pitch darkness he can reimagine, practically hallucinate and relive his better days.

For the concept of the album and accompanying film Get Organised is largely reminiscing and reflecting on his past. Possibly, I suspect, due to age becoming, the fact this marks a thirtieth anniversary of the formation of his heyday two-tone band, The Skanxters, but largely due to lockdown.

Myself, lockdown has been parttime. I’ve worked throughout, galivanting through the villages, meeting early morning risers, and it’s all been much the same as it ever was, just cannot nip t’ pub, or see family living out of the area. Which is frustrating at times, but I accept it’s not as bad as those shielding and self-isolating; that would’ve driven me insane my now. It’s common in isolation to consider one’s life and recollect, but Erin does it over a reggae beat; and I approve!

We’ve been here before; this is not Erin’s first reflection of lockdown. Pre-pandemic he directed a collective who were pushing new boundaries in rock steady. But April last year saw the solo release of Interval, a deeply personal reflection and mind-blowingly cavernous concept album, diving into the psyche and exploring past events; scarce formula for reggae.

Erin Bardwell

Yet Erin’s style is such; relished in unconformity, individualism and freethinking, factors which make it so utterly unique it’s hard to compare. It’s this standout signature which Erin stamps on all projects, be them solo, as the Collective, or side projects such as the experimental dub of Subject A with Dean Sartain, or The Man on the Bridge project with ex-Hotknives Dave Clifton, which defines the very sound of reggae in Swindon and puts it on the skanking map. If there was a skanking map, which I wish there was!

Whereas Interval’s morose mood merged styles through experimentation, some often out of the confines of reggae, be they jazz, ambient and space rock, Get Organised will wash better with the matured skinheads, scooterists and Two-Tone aficionados, for it sits with more golden era reggae, particularly of the sixties Trojan “boss” reggae epoch. They tend to know what they like, and favour tradition over risky and radical progressions.

In this notion too it’s sprightlier and more optimistic than Interval, a result of vaccinations and this “roadmap” out of lockdown, perhaps; The Erin Bardwell Trio booked for a gig at Swindon’s Victoria on 1st July. Though at times there’s still the thoughtful prose Erin is fashioned for, reflecting the effect of lockdown. The lyrics of Eight O’clock, for example, which notes despite the usually lively nightlife at this time, the town is quiet.

The Erin Bardwell Collective

They’re all sublimely crafted pieces, the title track’s mellow riff nods to Lee Scratch Perry’s middling Upsetters period with something akin to a tune like Dollar in the Teeth. And in that, we have to consider the great producers of rockers reggae for comparisons, rather than the artists. Aforementioned Perry, but of Niney the Observer, of Harry J too, and Get Organised subtly delves into dub, so I guess King Tubby also. Yet the opening tune reminded me of the earlier, legendary producer Duke Reid.

Erin has the proficiency to cherry-pick elements from reggae’s rich history, effectively merge them and retain this said signature style. The Savoy Ballroom has the expertise keys of Jackie Mittoo, with the vaudeville toytown sound of Madness. That said has opened another Pandora’s box, as Two-Tone also has a significant influence on Get Organised, naturally. The grand finale We Put on that Show is reflective of the era, along the lines of the steady plod of Do Nothing rather than the frenzied ska of Little Bitch, if we’re going to make a Specials contrast, which I think is apt.

Equally, you’re going to love this if, like me, you cite the debut album Signing Off, as UB40’s magnum opus rather than their following pop covers, or just if you’re looking for something different from the norm.

These recollections are visualised in a half-hour video, making it more poignant. It’s a scrapbook film, with homemade clips of The Skanxters setting up or driving to a gig, footage I’d expect to have been largely unseen until now. There’s also a montage of memoirs chronicling Erin’s career, as the camera pans across gig posters, bus tickets, vinyl and press cuttings. Though far from documentary, the sound plays out the album, the material an aid to the songs, and a fascinating art project to accompany it.

 “A second solo album wasn’t really part of the plan,” Erin explains, “but with the current climate as it is, I still found myself coming up with music and songs. These tunes started following a theme, that led to a film idea, and the sounds and visuals grew together influencing each other.”

The point in the early nineties, when the Skanxters were the pride of Swindon’s two-tone scene is captured well, and while those on the circuit, or even living locally then, will love recognising the many memoirs, anyone into the scene at the time will thoroughly enjoy this outing. Overall, though, Erin continues to break boundaries, and this album is a blessing and pleasure to listen to, alone from its narrative and meaning, as all good reggae should.


Trending……

World Book Day; Flash Your Book at Us!

Bit late for the party, as usual, it’s been World Book Day all day, hence the day bit in the name, and at 5pm I think, hum… maybe I should write something about it. Should I have been proactive, I’d have something better prepared, but hey, those semi-skimmeds won’t deliver themselves.

Though we have done, one thing we don’t have nearly enough of on Devizine is local book reviews, yet I know matter of factually, there’s a number of authors locally. I welcome you to let me know of your writing, and I promise to be nice about it; got the t-shirt, haven’t I? Written quite a number of words in my time, some, but few, made sense.

Stereotypically shy and reserved, authors need either an agent or big balls, else they fall into the trap of underselling and marketing themselves. Vanity presses will hound such writers until they’re blue in the face, and begging for scraps with the pigeons in the park. It comes naturally with the monumental and solitary task, I think, to be wary of promoting and not to boast, generally being modest about their abilities. Either that or they’re paranoid their associates will discover they’re the influence for a wayward character, like a mad axeman, or the brains of their fictional counterpart were eaten by zombie robot pigs from Mars in the opening chapter.  

Yet it’s a delicate balance. Consistently bark “buy my book” on social media and once your mates are over the surprise you wrote something other than an IOU, they’ll anger at the stream of blatant and shameless self-promotion you impel unto their newsfeed.

Next option is you join a local group of likeminded individuals, such as Devizes Writers Group, which can be rewarding and social. And online small communities and groups act similar, you could be engaging with an international community of writers. Often though, online groups fall into obscurity, else flourish and get a somewhat too big for their boots. Sarcastic trolls and mocking dogmatists have never delivered such effectively harmful words then those with a talent for writing; it’s what they’re good at. Even if you don’t join such groups, they’ll find you on Amazon, and air their spiteful opinions.

Non-writers will be surprised at how harsh the literature world can be, at times. Those who look like book worms, with the nerdy glasses and pimple-puss faces can be saw-scaled vipers from hell when locked up in a bedroom with Wi-Fi.

So where are our local authors? Don’t be afraid, we’re bunnies, we’re all friends here; show yo’ bad self! And for those who simply like to sit back on an easy chair and lose themselves in a page-turner, where do you find local authors to support them?

Your local bookshop is a good place to start, if you want to seek out the local authors lurking among us, and if upon asking the bookshop they’re more interested in flogging you a Tom Clancy novel, tell them off. Scorn at them, like Tubbs and Edward, and tell them you want local books, from local people. Tell them Devizes Books will climb over mountains to support local literature, and will sell folk’s wares in their wonderful shop; that ought to do it.

I was going to feature the few authors we do know about, on this very post, starting with the weirdest first, which I’ll hold my hands up to, as there are a few, some not nearly as weird as me. As well as yours truly, then, who spends so much time with Devizine has unfinished works in a blocked pipeline, there is our esteemed contributor Andy Fawthrop, and our town’s amazing poet, Gail Foster goes without saying. But from the twisted narrative of Jerry Bradley, of whom we reviewed the debut novel of, The Candyman, to children’s authors Robin Rowles, and Sara Hill who created the Whimsey Woods series, there must be too many of us around and about to mention all in one article, and besides, I’ve got washing-up to do.

So, here’s the plan, just as we’ve done with our artist gallery, I’ll open a new parent page for local authors over the weekend, and every author who contacts us can have their own page, where we will add their wares, websites, and links to reviews from myself or outside links.

Sound like a plan? All it takes is for local authors to reveal themselves! Avoid commenting on social media shares, as I rarely pick them all up, rather message below, to let me know you’re out there. And who knows, by next year’s World Book Day, I might just have it up and running!!

Trending….


Online Stuff 2 Do This Half Term

Yay! Home Schooling is out for half term, but before it’s replaced with excruciating racket, higgledy-piggledy hullabaloos, and junior revolutionary uprisings, diligent stay-at-home parents teetering on the edge of wine o’clock should note, if the outside activity mountain won’t come to Muhammad, well, Muhammad has to get there online. Here’s some “lit” bodacious suggies to get him harnessing his crampons….

No, I’ve no idea what that meant either, just hit me with your suggestions, homies, and I’ll add them here without beef!

Firstly, keep them well fed, and if you’re having difficulty…….

FREE SCHOOL MEALS ELIGIBILITY

Wiltshire Council is urging families who find themselves in difficult circumstances to check if they are also eligible for free school meals and the holiday food funding. Families can find out details of how to apply for free school meals support on the Wiltshire Council website including those families on: -• Income Support• Job Seeker’s Allowance (income-based)• Employment and Support Allowance (income-related)• Support under part six of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999• The Guarantee element of State Pension Credit• Child Tax Credit – providing you are NOT entitled to Working Tax Credit and your family’s annual income (as assessed by HMRC) is not more than £16,190 (as at 6 April 2012)• Working Tax Credit ‘run-on’ – the payment you may receive for a further four weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit• Universal Credit (provided you have an annual net earned income of no more than £7,400, as assessed by earnings from up to three of your most recent assessment periods) • Better2Gether Funding (two year olds only) Universal Credit – if you and your partner are on a low income from work (this usually means a combined income of less than £15,400 a year after tax)Or if the two year old child: -• Has a statutory statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN) or an Education, Health and Care Plan.• Has left local authority care through a Special Guardianship Order, adoption or a Residence Order• Is currently a Looked After Child, for example in foster care• Is in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (DLA)People should apply directly to Wiltshire Council if they are eligible but currently do not have free school meals by using the form on the Council website.

Morrisons Kids Meal and Pizza making Boxes Here!


Creative

Stuff!

Get Cartooning!

There’s always cartoon and comic workshops to get creative darlings budding. Enter Beano artist and charismatic comedian Kev F, whose Comic Art Masterclass usually travels the schools and libraries of the country, and ends with some seriously entertained kids each with their own homemade comic. The only need to travel is to grab some paper and pens now Kev’s class is online.

But check here for a number of different creators giving away their artistic secrets in comic workshops…


The End of the Pier Show

Jonny Fluffypunk presents a brand spanking new show for families, with poetry, puppetry, story, song and a healthy dose of ramshackle anarchy.

Cooking

Stuff!

The Farm Cookery School in Netherstreet

have their popular holiday clubs online, and are available to book NOW! They are only £10 – £15 per login and that includes LIVE Tuition as well as a Recipe and Ingredients Guide which will be emailed to you straight away. Just imagine, dinner may be served by your little horrors!

Learning

Stuff!

Family half term activities among online events at Chippenham Museum

Prior to lockdown Wiltshire Museum were really enjoying hosting Curious Kids sessions for under 5’s and their grown-ups. They have adapted sessions to deliver them on zoom. A chance for younger children to have some interaction with people from outside the home and for families to learn, create and play together – supported by the museum.

February Half term session will focus on Saxon Crafts and will look at weaving jewellery.


STEM Venturi

 February Half Term online coding courses for 7 – 12+ year olds. Also debuting Girls Who Code course…… Lots of coding courses including Minecraft!


Music

Stuff!

Open to all young people aged 12 – 18s who love to sing, the new Wiltshire Youth Choir (WYC) will take your singing and performance to the next level.
– Learn from inspiring choir leaders with years of professional experience
– Explore music from different genres: musical theatre, pop, classical and more…
– Work towards performances in some of the county’s top music venues
Join us for our next free virtual Come and Sing workshop on Thursday, 18 February, 10.00 – 12.00 via zoom.

Trending now….

Rise of the Snowmen!

Ladies and gents, this is the moment you’ve waited for…. or maybe not. This isn’t the Greatest Showman, this is the greatest SNOWman! Yes, we held a little snowman competition, and here’s how it went…..

Two things didn’t occur to me upon posting a picture of our snowman on our Facebook page, offering others to do likewise in a competition fashion. Firstly, the colossal response, but I guess Sunday’s snowfall was a golden opportunity to get out of houses and have a little social distanced fun. Alas, now the power of the sun and rain has reduced the white blanket to the odd splatter here and there. We will always have photographic memories of our once proud sculptures, and a carrot on the front lawn. Here comes some now……

Secondly, how to actually go about judging a snowman competition, never having judged anything of the sort before. I gathered some thoughts to criteria, I Googled and found some rather serious rules from other such competitions.

Jonesy McSnow and Lucy (age 10)

Certain I wasn’t intending to make it half as serious as these, their judgements were much as I anticipated. There are factors to consider. Creativity for starters. Originality, tradition, competence, and dedication are equally important. Size is good, but it’s, as you know, not everything, when building a snowman that is.

Towering over the playpark on Devizes Green, Bally Bongo’s Bob stands at over 6ft 2. By
Archie(8) Blu (4) and a little help by the parents!
This snow Kong at the Henly’s has sacred everyone back inside!
The Russell Family’s got an outie belly button bigger than the average snowman!
The Waterman’s daughter’s first snowman is huge!
Stay back, he’s got a taste for meat, or is that a twig?!
From the tall to the small, it doesn’t matter, he looks happy!
Don’t, don’t, don’t you, forget about me!

Many were divided into age groups, which I figured awkward. Building a snowman is usually a group activity, it’s about families, all ages contribute. Kids run around trying to construct the starting ball, dads get the backbreaking task of rolling it up and taking half the grass and autumn leaves with it, while mums usually stay in the warm sourcing carrots and hats; it’s a communal experience for sure! Okay, I’m generalising for artistic license and know it’s not really like that, trying to be funny, when really, judging a snowman competition is snow joke (see what I did there?) But making a snowman has no boundaries or conditions, any age, and race and gender, everyone together, getting creative….

Amazing!
Best buddies!
Hide your carrots, there’s a snow bunny about! Pictured with it’s creator; grand job, Faith!
The apple of Pingu’s eye! Well done Willow & Jonah!
Very retro, Kiana!
Shiver me timbers!
Mange tout, Hoffman, you plonker!

He made snow chicks, cats and dogs….

Arrow through the head??!
Great rocket ship, Isacc…. oh, you’ve sledged away!
Shark invasion in Sam’s garden!
And a hoodie in Kev’s yard!
Buddha in Urchfont!
And some lounging about!

But part of the beauty of creating a snowman is the feeling of togetherness. Here is an art where anyone can be the artist, provided they’re willing to get wet gloves. And in that notion, where some strive to be original, often the traditional method is tried and tested. A good snowman doesn’t need to be carved by Henry Moore with flawless features; he needs a carrot for a nose, he needs two pebbles for eyes, twigs for arms and an old hat and scarf. We live in a traditional county, after all.

Tracey and Sara Whatley did the hard work, the horses reaped the benefits!

Then again, there’s something striking when creative genius gets to work and original ideas bend the theme. Some can be topical, facemasks a common theme this year, or culture based, whereas some can be funny, others damn-right rude….

The Barter family make use of their brussels sprouts after Christmas!
Zeb’s snowman has a snow booty!
Ol’ broccoli eyes is back; Guardian of the wheelie bins!
Either they tried to put wellies on this snowman, or it ate a small child!
Facemasks on, here comes the foreman tree inspector!
Dog photobomb at the Diskett’s!
Somebody call the snow doctor!
Anyone seen the funnel bit to mum’s vacuum cleaner?!
Take two bottles into the shower? No, I just wash n snow!
Anymore snow coming, I need a friend? Not for you, sprout-face!
Got to look your best when doing a spot of gardening…
Hit and run snowman attack!
Skateboarding on ice is dangerous, but when else can a snowman hit the half-pipe?
I’m all for gender neutral snow people, but this one has lady’s assets and a six-pack!
You’re only ever one jacket away from being a goth!
I thought about making this the winner; they’ve got to win something after all!
Office party, you know how it goes…..
Jimmy Saville goes skiing?

Rudeness I can take, live by it; but at least drag yourself away from Babestation for a few minutes to get out and actually build a snowman, rather than, as some did, Google “rude snowman” and share the first image which pops up. Sad, but true, spoils it for the kids, of all ages.

Rule Britannia, we shall, we shall never stuff a whole loaf in our mouths at once?
Heavy night, anyone got a paracetamol?
I’ve had enough of this, I’m off to live with the wolves…..
Will you be my friend?
I am robo-snowman!

Can I pick a winner?

Drum roll…… Tricky. I’ve narrowed it down to my ten favourites, and here they are. I apologise, I tried to source a snowman type of prize, but they’re a tad out of season and this was a spontaneous idea. I think a bit of future planning, for next year’s snow storm, being the idea was so popular, and we could have prizes. For now, winners can print off my certificate here, and a colour-me-in sheet, if they like that sort of thing! Thank you all so much for letting me see your brilliant snowmen, I loved looking at them all, having a penchant for snowmen, I admit unashamedly!

Oh, and if you do colour them, I’d love to see your fine colouring skills!

Never over-complicate the objective. Matrim Vaux, age 6 knows less is more with Bill the snow owl.
Leo, age 5, and Hallie, age 2 looking a tad cold, but like they’re having so much fun!
Topical from the Collins family, but he looks awesome!
I just love this picture, Casey, age 6 looks so proud as she strikes a pose, but Archie, age 3, seems distracted by something else happening elsewhere; it’s a guy thing Casey!
By Justina Hams and her seven year-old. Because he’s so smooth and grand looking!
Rob Jobson understated his snowman, saying “it’s the taking part that matters!” No mate, he’s superb in his simplicity!
A team effort from the Lake family, and a grand job made of it!
Marc Spartacus Fleming and Leia (2!) This is Steve the snowman, and he just works!
Are you in competition with your snowman for the best hat, Ava-Mae?! A grand effort, you look proud and so you should be!
Just to put a hat on her snowman wasn’t enough, Alison Sinclair (45!) carved it, and all other features so brilliantly!

Devizine in Lockdown, again.

Here’s our deal, as I see it given new lockdown restrictions.

We have an annual reach of approximately 50K, over 80% of which are local. Whatever Devizine can do to help you, we will, but you must let me know about what you’re doing and engaged in for me to promote it. I’m unable to spend every moment on social media sourcing your stories.

Advertise your business, school, charity, online event, FREE for lockdown duration. Just send me details. This is available for small local businesses and at the editor’s discretion. We can put adverts on all published articles. We can cover your activities in articles and features, and we will share these across social media.

If you are engaged in any supportive projects, notify me so we can spread the word.

If you’re in creative arts, music, art, sports, and fundraising, whether crowdfunding, help in promoting live streams, recordings, online exhibitions and any other projects, we can and will help.

Please consider, if you can, making a donation to help the site keep running and improving.This you can do at http://www.devizine.com/about

You can email devizine@hotmail.com or message the Facebook page, you can tweet @devizine1 – Together we can pull through this.

Here we go again.

Thanks, Darren.

Oh, an important note I forgot to add, thanks to the edit function here! Please, if I fail to respond to emails and messages, feel free to nudge me. Things do sometimes get missed and I’d dread you to think I’m ignoring you! I don’t view it as impolite to ask if I remembered to do this or that, ask the wife, I can be forgetful!! 🙂

Devizine’s Review of 2020; You Can’t Polish a Turd!

On Social and Political Matters……

For me the year can be summed up by one Tweet from the Eurosceptic MEP and creator of the Brexit Party, Nigel Farage. A knob-jockey inspired into politics when Enoch Powell visited his private school, of which ignored pleas from an English teacher who wrote to the headmaster encouraging him to reconsider Farage’s appointed prefect position, as he displayed clear signs of fascism. The lovable patriot, conspiring, compulsive liar photographed marching with National Front leader Martin Webster in 1979, who strongly denies his fascist ethos despite guest-speaking at a right-wing populist conference in Germany, hosted by its leader, the granddaughter of Adolf Hitler’s fiancé; yeah, him.

He tweeted “Christmas is cancelled. Thank you, China.” It magically contains every element of the utter diabolical, infuriating and catastrophic year we’ve most likely ever seen; blind traditionalist propaganda, undeniable xenophobia, unrefuted misinformation, and oh yes, the subject is covid19 related.

And now the end is near, an isolated New Year’s Eve of a year democracy prevailed against common sense. The bigoted, conceited blue-blooded clown we picked to lead us up our crazy-paved path of economic self-annihilation has presented us with an EU deal so similar to the one some crazy old hag, once prime minster delivered to us two years back it’s uncanny, and highly amusing that Bojo the clown himself mocked and ridiculed it at the time. I’d wager it’s just the beginning.

You can’t write humour this horrifically real, the love child of Stephen King and Spike Milligan couldn’t.

Still, I will attempt to polish the turd and review the year, as it’s somewhat tradition here on Devizine. The mainstay of the piece, to highlight what we’ve done, covered and accomplished with our friendly website of local entertainment and news and events, yet to holistically interrelate current affairs is unavoidable.

We have even separated the monster paragraphs with an easier, monthly photo montage, for the hard of thinking.

January

You get the impression it has been no walk in the park, but minor are my complaints against what others have suffered. Convenient surely is the pandemic in an era brewing with potential mass hysteria, the need to control a population paramount. An orthornavirae strain of a respiratory contamination first reported as infecting chickens in the twenties in North Dakota, a snip at 10,400km away from China.

Decidedly bizarre then, an entire race could be blamed and no egg fried rice bought, as featured in Farage’s audacious Tweet, being it’s relatively simple to generate in a lab, inconclusively originated at Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, rather spread from there, and debatably arrived via live bat or pangolin, mostly used in traditional Chinese medicine, a pseudoscience only the narrowminded minority in China trusts.

Ah, inconsistent pseudoscience, embellished, unfalsifiable claims, void of orderly practices when developing hypotheses and notably causing hoodwinked cohorts. Yet if we consider blaming an ethos, rather than a race, perhaps we could look closer to home for evidence of this trend of blind irrationality. Truth in Science, for example, an English bunch of Darwin-reputing deluded evangelicals who this year thought it’d be a grand and worthy idea to disguise their creationist agenda and pitch their preposterous pseudoscientific theory that homosexuality is a disease of the mind which can be cured with electro-shock treatment to alter the mind inline with the body’s gender, rather than change the body to suit the mind’s gender orientation, to schoolchildren!

Yep, these bible-bashing fruit-bats, one lower than flat earth theorists actually wrote to headmasters encouraging their homophobia to be spread to innocent minds, only to be picked up by a local headmaster of the LGBTQ community. Here’s an article on Devizine which never saw the light of day. Said that Truth in Science’s Facebook page is chockful with feedback of praise and appreciation, my comments seemed to instantly disappear, my messages to them unanswered. All I wanted was a fair-sided evaluation for an article, impossible if you zip up.

Justly, no one trusts me to paint an unbiased picture. This isn’t the Beeb, as I said in our 2017 annual review: The chances of impartiality here, equals the chances of Tories sticking to their manifesto. Rattling cages is fun, there’s no apologies I’m afraid, if I rattled yours, it just means you’re either mean or misguided.

Herein lies the issue, news travels so fast, we scroll through social media unable to digest and compose them to a greater picture, let alone muster any trust in what we read. I’m too comfortable to reside against the grain, everyone’s at it. I reserve my right to shamelessly side with the people rather than tax-avoiding multinationals and malevolent political barons; so now you know.

February

If you choose to support these twats that’s your own lookout, least someone should raise the alarm; you’d have thought ignoring World Health Organisation advise and not locking down your country until your mates made a packet on horseracing bets is systematic genocide and the government should be put on trial for this, combined with fraud and failure of duty. If not, ask why we’re the worst hit country in the world with this pandemic. Rather the current trend where the old blame the young, the young blame the old, the whites blame the blacks, the thin blame the fat, when none of us paid much attention to restrictions because they were delivered in a confused, nonsensical manner by those who don’t either, and mores to the pity, believe they’re above the calling of oppressive regulations.

If you choose to support these twats, you’re either a twat too, or trust what you read by those standing to profit from our desperation; ergo, twats. Theres no getting away from the fact you reep what you sow; and the harvest of 2020 was a colossal pile of twat.


Onto Devizine…. kind of.

For me what started as a local-based entertainment zine-like blog, changed into the only media I trust, cos I wrote the bollocks! But worser is the general obliteration of controversy, criticism and debate in other media. An argument lost by a conformer is shadowed behind a meme, or followed up with a witch hunt, a torrent of personal abuse and mockery, usually by inept grammar by a knuckle-dragging keyboard warrior with caps-lock stuck on; buy a fucking copy of the Oxford Guide to English Grammar or we’re all going to hell in a beautiful pale green boat.

We’re dangerously close to treating an Orwellian nightmare as a self-help guide, and despite fascists took a knockdown in the USA and common sense prevailed, the monster responded with a childish tantrum; what does this tell you? The simple fact, far right extremism is misled and selfish delinquency which history proves did no good to anyone, ever. Still the charade marches on, one guy finished a Facebook debate sharing a photo of his Boris “get Brexit done” tea-towel. I pondered when the idiot decided a photo of his tea towel would suffice to satisfy his opinion and convince others, before or after the wave of irony washed over his head in calling them Muppets.

I hate the term, it’s offensive. Offensive to Jim Henson’s creations; try snowflake or gammon, both judgemental sweeping generalisations but personally inoffensive to any individual, aside Peppa Pig. I wager you wander through Kent’s lorry park mocking the drivers and calling them snowflakes rather than tweeting; see how far you get.

So, the initial lockdown in March saw us bonded and dedicated, to the cause. We ice-skated through it, developed best methods to counteract the restrictions and still abide by them; it was kind of nice, peaceful and environmentally less impacting. But cracks in the ice developed under our feet, the idea covid19 was a flash in pan, akin to when Blitz sufferers asserted it’d all be over by Christmas, waned as we came to terms, we were in it for the duration.

Yet comparisons to WWII end there, lounging on the sofa for three months with Netflix and desperate peasants delivering essential foodstuff, like oysters, truffles and foie gras is hardly equivalent to the trench warfare of Normandy. Hypocritical is me, not only avoiding isolation as, like a nurse, my labour was temporarily clapped as key worker in March, I figured my site would only get hits if I wrote something about Covid19, and my ignorance to what the future resulted in clearly displayed in spoofy, ill-informed articles, Corona Virus and Devizine; Anyone got a Loo Roll? on the impending panic-buying inclination, and later, I Will Not Bleat About Coronavirus, Write it Out a Hundred Times…

The only thing I maintained in opinion to the subject, was that it should be light-hearted and amusing; fearing if we lose our sense of humour, all is lost. Am I wrong? Probably, it’s been a very serious year.

It was my first pandemic-related mention, hereafter nearly every article paid reference to it, no matter how disparate; it’s the tragedy which occupied the planet. But let’s go back, to oblivious January, when one could shake hands and knew where the pub was. Melksham got a splashpad, Devizes top councillors bleated it wasn’t fair, and they wanted a splashpad too. They planned ripping out the dilapidated brick shithouses on the Green and replacing it with a glorious splashpad, as if they cared about the youth of the town. I reported the feelings of grandeur, Splashpad, I’m all over it, Pal! A project long swept under the carpet, replaced with the delusion we’ll get an affordable railway station. As I said, convenient surely is the pandemic.

So many projects, so many previews of events, binned. Not realising at the time my usual listing, Half Term Worries Over; things to do with little ones during February half-term… would come to an abrupt halt. Many events previewed, the first being the Mayoral Fundraising Events, dates set for the Imberbus, and Chef Peter Vaughan & Indecision’s Alzheimer’s Support Chinese New Year celebration, to name but a few, I’m unaware if they survived or not.

March


On Music……

But it was the cold, early days of winter, when local concerns focused more on the tragic fire at Waiblingen Way. In conjunction with the incredible Liz Denbury, who worked tirelessly organising fundraising and ensuring donations of essentials went to the affected folk, we held a bash in commemoration and aid down that there Cellar Bar; remember?

It was in fact an idea by Daydream Runaways, who blew the low roof off the Cellar Bar at the finale. But variety was the order of the evening, with young pianist prodigy Will Foulstone kicking us off, opera with the amazing Chole Jordan, Irish folk with Mirko and Bran of the Celtic Roots Collective and the acoustic goodness of Ben Borrill. Thanks also has to go to the big man Mike Barham who set up the technical bits before heading off to a paid gig. At the time I vowed this will be the future of our events, smaller but more than the first birthday bash; never saw it coming, insert sad-face emoji.

We managed to host another gig, though, after lockdown when shopping was encouraged by In:Devizes, group Devizes Retailers and Independents, a assemblage of businesses set up to promote reopening of town. We rocked up in Brogans and used their garden to have a summer celebration. Mike set up again, and played this time, alongside the awesome Cath and Gouldy, aka, Sound Affects on their way to the Southgate, and Jamie R Hawkins accompanied Tamsin Quin with a breath-taking set. It was lovely to see friends on the local music scene, but it wasn’t the reopening for live music we anticipated.

Before all this live music was the backbone of Devizine, between Andy and myself we previewed Bradford Roots Music Festival, MantonFest, White Horse Opera’s Spring Concert, Neeld Hall’s Tribute to Eddie Cochran, and the return of Asa Murphy. We reviewed the Long Street Blues Club Weekender, Festival of Winter Ales, Chris O’Leary at Three Crowns, Jon Walsh, Phil Jinder Dewhurst, Mule and George Wilding at The White Bear, Skandal’s at Marlborough’s Lamb, and without forgetting the incredible weekly line-up at the Southgate; Jack Grace Band, Arnie Cottrell Tendency, Skedaddle, Navajo Dogs, Lewis Clark & The Essentials, King Street Turnaround, Celtic Roots Collective, Jamie, Tamsin, Phil, and Vince Bell.

The collection of Jamie R Hawkins, Tamsin Quin and Phil Cooper at the Gate was memorable, partly because they’re great, partly because, it was the last time we needed to refer to them as a collection (save for the time when Phil gave us the album, Revelation Games.) Such was the fate of live music for all, it was felt by their newly organised trio, The Lost Trades, whose debut gig came a week prior to lockdown, at the Pump, which our new writer Helen Robertson covered so nicely.

For me, the weekend before the doom and gloom consisted of a check-in at the Cavy, where the Day Breakers played, only to nip across to Devizes Sports Club, where the incredible Ruzz Guitar hosted a monster evening of blues, with his revue, Peter Gage, Innes Sibun and Jon Amor. It was a blowout, despite elbow greetings, I never figured it’d be the last.

It was a knee-jerk reaction which made me set up a virtual festival on the site. It was radical, but depleted due to my inability to keep up with an explosion of streamed events, where performers took to Facebook, YouTube sporadically, and other sites on a national scale, and far superior tech knowhow took over; alas there was Zoom. I was happy with this, and prompted streaming events such as Swindon’s “Static” Shuffle, and when PSG Choirs Showed Their True Lockdown Colours. Folk would message me, ask me how the virtual festival was going to work, and to be honest, I had no idea how to execute the idea, but it was worth a stab.

One thing which did change, musically, was we lowered our borders, being as the internet is outernational and local bands were now being watched by people from four corners of the world, Devizine began reviewing music sourced worldwide. Fair enough, innit?

The bleeding hearts of isolated artists and musicians, no gigs gave them time on their hands to produce some quality music, therefore our focus shifted to reviewing them, although we always did review records. Early local reviews of 2020 came from NerveEndings with the single Muddy Puddles, who later moved onto an album, For The People. Daydream Runaways’ live version of Light the Spark and Talk in Code’s Like That, who fantastically progressed through lockdown to a defining eighties electronica sound with later singles Taste the Sun and Secret.

We notified you of Sam Bishop’s crowdfunding for a quarantine song, One of a Kind, which was released and followed by Fallen Sky. Albums came too, we covered, Billy Green 3’s Still in January, and The Grated Hits of the Real Cheesemakers followed, With the former, later came a nugget of Billy Green’s past, revealing some lost demos of his nineties outfit, Still, evidently what the album was named after.

Whereas the sublime soul of Mayyadda from Minnesota was the first international artist featured this year, and from Shrewsbury, our review of Cosmic Rays’ album Hard to Destroy extended our presence elsewhere in the UK, I sworn to prioritise local music, with single reviews of Phil Cooper’s Without a Sound, TheTruzzy Boys’ debut Summertime, Courage (Leave it Behind), a new single from Talk in Code, and for Daydream Runaways’ single Gravity we gave them an extensive interview. This was followed by Crazy Stupid Love and compiled for an EP, Dreamlands, proving they’re a band continuously improving.

April

Probably the most diverse single around spring though was an epic drum n bass track produced right here in Devizes, featuring the vocals of Pewsey’s Cutsmith. Though while Falling by ReTone took us to new foundations, I ran a piece on the new blues sounds locally, as advised by Sheer Music’s Kieran Moore. Sheer, like all music promoters were, understandably, scrambling around in the dark for the beginnings of lockdown, streaming stuff. It wasn’t long before they became YouTube presenters! The Sheer podcast really is something special, in an era leaving local musicians as dry as Ghandi’s flip-flop, they present a show to make ‘em moist!

Spawned from this new blues article, one name which knocked me for six, prior to their YouTube adventures, was Devizes-own Joe Edwards. I figured now I was reviewing internationally; would it be fair to local musicians to suggest a favourite album of the year? However, Joe’s Keep on Running was always a hot contender from the start, and despite crashing the borders on what we will review, I believe it still is my favourite album of the year.

Other top local albums, many inspired from lockdown came flowing, perhaps the most sublime was Interval by Swindon’s reggae keyboardist virtuoso, Erin Bardwell. The prolific Bardwell later teamed with ex-Hotknive Dave Clifton for a project called Man on the Bridge.

Perhaps the most spacey, Devizes’ Cracked Machine’s third outing, Gates of Keras. Top local singles? Well, George Wilding never let us down with Postcard, from a Motorway, and after lockdown reappeared with his band Wilding, for Falling Dreams and later with a solo single, You Do You. Jon Amor was cooking with Peppercorn, which later led to a great if unexpected album, Remote Control.

There was a momentary lapse of reason, that live streaming was the musical staple diet of the now, when Mr Amor climbed out onto his roof to perform, like an ageless fifth Beatle. Blooming marvellous.

Growing up fast, Swindon’s pop singer Lottie J blasted out a modern pop classic with Cold Water, and no one could ignore Kirsty Clinch’s atmospheric country-pop goodness with Fit the Shoe.

Maybe though it wasn’t the ones recorded before, but our musicians on the live circuit coming out with singles to give them some pocket money, which was the best news. I suggest you take note of Ben Borrill’s Takes A Little Time, for example.

I made new friends through music, reviewing so many singles and EPs; Bath’s Long Coats, and JAY’s Sunset Remedy. Swindon’s composer Richard Wileman, guitarist Ryan Webb, and unforgettable Paul Lappin, who, after a couple of singles would later release the amazing acoustic Britpop album The Boy Who Wanted to Fly. Dirty and Smooth and Atari Pilot too, the latter gave us to cool singles, Right Crew, Wrong Captain, and later, Blank Pages. To Calne for End of Story and Chris Tweedie, and over the downs to Marlborough with Jon Veale’s Flick the Switch. I even discovered Hew Miller, a hidden gem in our own town.

May

But we geographically go so much further these days, even if not physically much more than taking the bins out. Outside our sphere we covered Essex’s Mr B & The Wolf, Limerick’s Emma Langford, London’s Gecko, and from the US, Shuffle & Bang, and Jim White. Johnny Lloyd, Skates & Wagons, My Darling Clementine, Micko and the Mellotronics, Typhoidmary, Frank Turner and Jon Snodgrass, Mango Thomas, Beans on Toast, Tankus the Henge; long may the list continue.

Bombino though, the tuareggae artist really impressed me, but I don’t like to pick a favourite, rather to push us onto another angle. I began reviewing stuff sent via my Boot Boy radio show, and covered a ska scene blossoming in South America. But as well as Neville Staple Band’s single Lockdown, The Bighead, the Bionic Rats, and Hugo Lobo teaming up with Lynval Golding and Val Douglas, we found reggae in Switzerland through Fruits Records, the awesome Cosmic Shuffling and progressive 808 Delavega.

So much music, is it going on a bit? Okay I’ll change the record, if you pardon the pun, but not until I’ve mentioned The Instrumental Sounds Of Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue, naturally, Sound Affects’ album Ley Lines, Tunnel Rat refurbing their studio, and Bristol’s freshest new hip hop act The Scribes. Ah, pause for breath.

Oh, and outside too, we did get a breather from lockdown and tiers, all Jamies for me, Mr R Hawkins was my first outing at the Gate and followed by Jamie Williams and the Roots Collective. Sad to have missed Two Man Ting and when The Big Yellow Bus Rocked the Gazebo, but hey, I thought we were out of the deep water.

June

Splashed straight back in again; “tiers” this time, sounds nicer than lockdown. Who knows what 2021 will bring, a vaccine, two vaccines, a mesh of both despite being ill-advised by experts? Just jab me, bitch, taxi me to the nearest gig, if venues still exist, by spring and I’ll shut up about it.


On Arts…..

Bugger, I’m going to need Google maps to find my local boozer. But yeah, they, whoever they are, think we’re all about music, but we cover anything arts and entertainment, you know? We previewed Andy Hamilton coming to Swindon’s Wyvern, Josie Long coming to Bath, The Return of the Wharf Theatre, and the county library tours of Truth Sluth: Epistemological Investigations for the Modern Age. Surely the best bit was being sent a private viewing of a new movie, Onus, by the Swindon filmmakers who gave us Follow the Crows.

I shared poems by Gail Foster, and reviewed her book Blossom. Desperate for subject matter I rewrote a short story Dizzy Heights. I featured artists Bryony Cox and Alan Watters, both selling their wares for the NHS, Ros Hewitt’s Glass Art open studio, Small Wonders Art Auction in aid of Arts Together and Asa Murphy published a children’s book, The Monkey with no Bum! I dunno, don’t ask.

July


On Food…

Despite my Oliver Twist pleads, we never get enough on the subject of grub. January saw us preview Peter Vaughan’s Chinese New Year dinner party in aid of Alzheimer’s Support and with music from Indecision, we covered DOCA’s Festival of Winter Ales, and looked forward to the Muck & Dunder’s Born 2 Rum festival, which was cancelled.

From here the dining experience reverted to takeaways, and I gave Sujay’s Jerk Pan Kitchen at big shout, and thought it best to wait until things reopened before singing Massimos’ praise, but I guess for now I should mention their awesome takeaway service next.

The Gourmet Brownie Kitchen supplied my welcomed Father’s Day gift, even nipped over to Swindon, in search of their best breakfast at the Butcher’s cafe, and recently I featured vegan blogger, Jill. Still though I need more food articles, as restaurants should take note, they’re extremely popular posts. Sadly, our while self-explanatory article, “We Cannot Let our Young People go Hungry; those locally rallying the call to #endchildfoodpoverty,” did quite well, at third most popular, the earlier “Eat Out to Help Out, Locally, Independently,” was our highest hitting of all; giving a sombre redefining of the term, dying to go out.

Back to my point though, food articles do so well, I’m not just after a free lunch, or maybe I am. But here, look, the fourth most popular article this year was our review of New Society, which was actually from 2019. Does lead us on nicely to the touchy subject of stats this year.

August


On Stats, Spoofs and the Future….

As well as an opportunity to review what we’ve done over the past year and to slag off the government, I also see this rather lengthy article which no one reads till the end of, a kind of AGM. It should be no surprise or disappointment, being this is a what’s-on guide, and being nothing was actually on, our stats failed to achieve what we hit in 2019. Though, it is with good news I report we did much better than 2018, and in the last couple of months hits have given me over the stats I predicted. Devizine is still out there, still a thing; just don’t hug it, for fuck’s sake.

I did, sometime ago, have a meeting with the publishers of Life In, RedPin. You may’ve seen Life in Devizes or various other local town names. The idea to put Devizine into print is something I’ve toyed with, but as it stands it seems unlikely. My pitch was terrible, my funds worse. If I did this it would cease to be a hobby and become a fulltime business, I’d need contributors, a sales department, I’d need an expert or ten, skills and a budget for five issues ahead of myself, and I tick none of those boxes. A risk too risky, I guess that’s why they call a risk a risk, watching the brilliant Ocelot reduced to online, publications suffer, the local newspaper house scrambling for news and desperately coming up with national clickbait gobbledygook, I know now is not the time to lick slices of tree with my wares.

So, for the near future I predict trickling along as ever. Other than irrational bursts of enthusiasm that this pandemic is coming to an end, I’ve given in updating our event calendar until such really happens. And it will, every clown has a silver lifeboat, or something like that.

September