“We want to be there for every seriously ill child that needs us,” say Julia’s House, “but to care for families in your community, we need your support. As part of our Together We Care Appeal, we’re creating a giant bear sculpture and aiming to cover it with the faces of everyone who cares about seriously ill children in Wiltshire – that’s YOU!“
Join them in The Brittox, Devizes, this Friday 24th, Salisbury Market Place on Saturday 25th, or Chippenham High Street on Sunday 26th.
Have your photo taken at their selfie tent, and your photo will be added to the We Care Bear. Once created, the bear will tour different towns across the county before going on permanent display at their hospice in Devizes, so the families they look after will be reminded of your support whenever they arrive at the hospice.
When can I see the finished bear? Julia’s House will announce the dates soon for when you can see your photo on the finished Julia’s House We Care Bear. Sign up for an email newsletter to get your paws on the latest bear action: https://www.juliashouse.org/enews
This major exhibition explores for the first time the celebrated artist’s lifelong fascination for the chalk hills of southern England, particularly Wiltshire and Sussex.
The exhibition will feature more than 20 works borrowed from national collections and private collectors, including iconic watercolours such as The Westbury Horse and The Wilmington Giant, alongside other rarely-seen works. The exhibition is supported by the Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund. Created by the Garfield Weston Foundation and Art Fund, the Weston Loan Programme is the first ever UK-wide funding scheme to enable smaller and local authority museums to borrow works of art and artefacts from national collections.
Central to the exhibition are several of Ravilious’s best-loved watercolours of chalk figures made in 1939 in preparation for a children’s book, Downland Man. The book was never completed, and for many years the prototype or ‘dummy’ made by Ravilious was believed lost. When it resurfaced in 2012 this precious item was bought at auction by Wiltshire Museum. It will be included in the exhibition alongside some of the artist’s watercolours, aerial photographs, annotated Ordnance Survey maps, postcards and books that relate to the Ravilious works on show – material drawn largely from Wiltshire Museum’s own collection.
The exhibition will offer a new view of Eric Ravilious (1903-42) as a chronicler of the landscape he knew better than any other. From his student days until the last year of his life, Ravilious returned again and again to the Downs, inspired particularly by the relationship between landscape and people. Watercolours and wood engravings included in the exhibition show dew ponds and farmyards, a cement works and a field roller, modern military fortifications and ancient monuments.
Eric Ravilious: Downland Man is curated by James Russell, previously curator of the 2015 blockbuster Ravilious at Dulwich Picture Gallery. He said ‘I studied History at Cambridge and I’m always intrigued by the social and cultural context of artists’ work. When it comes to downland history and archaeology Wiltshire Museum has an unrivalled collection, making this exhibition a unique opportunity to shed new light on Ravilious – an artist who is well-known these days but still little understood. With watercolours such as ‘Chalk Paths’ and ‘The Vale of the White Horse’ on display, visitors are in for a treat.’
Heather Ault, Exhibitions Officer said: ‘This is a wonderful opportunity for Wiltshire Museum to exhibit such beautiful works by Ravilious. The exhibition will be an absolute delight’.
Sophia Weston, Trustee of the Garfield Weston Foundation, said: “We are delighted that the Weston Loan Programme has been able to support the display of these important works by Eric Ravilious in Wiltshire – an area of the country which repeatedly inspired this much-loved artist. The exhibition will bring his evocative landscapes to new audiences and shed light on material little-known by the public.”
Our rambling reporter, T.B.D Rose, hangs up her walking boots for a moment, to enjoy a guided tour of our town gem, The Wiltshire Museum….
Opened in 1873, Wiltshire Museum, on 41 Long Street Devizes, isn’t much to look at from the front but holds a nationally renowned world of wonders in its walls.
Walking me through the basics of the museum’s most famed collections was its director of over 12 years, David Dawson.
David often finds that although the museum is the major attraction for visitors, the reception with locals is a different story: they often take a “oh yeah, I went to the museum 30 years ago, there’s not much there, it’s not for me” attitude, and that it’s as simply “a tiny museum full of cobwebs and it’s stuck in a part of town they don’t go to.”
As the age-old adage goes, it’s easier to look at the outside than it is the inside.
The Assize Court
For these reasons and to save another treasured part of local history, the museum is working with Assize Court Trust in a long-term plan to make the abandoned Devizes Assize Court the new home of Wiltshire Museum.
Following a consultation this time last year, a hundred-page report of what could engage visitors was produced. It doesn’t differ much from the current set up of the museum but will probably make it worth £2,000000 to the local economy, more than twice it’s worth currently.
Although he sees the enormous potential once the museum moves to the Assizes Court, David wants people to visit the museum now and hopes to reach our local readership.
So on to the museum!
Stonehenge and the Bronze Age
Having started our interview in a part of the building that was once a Georgian grammar school, it turns out the museum is in fact five buildings knocked together, including two Georgian town houses and a link building.
We begin on the ground floor covering the Bronze Age which was once a 1980s art gallery extension, the floor having originally been converted into the museum in 1872.
David gives me the rundown.
“What we’re best known for is our prehistory collection, particularly the Bronze Age, so that’s the time from about 2200 BC to 1500 BC, and what everyone thinks of at that time is Stonehenge.” The world-famous monument that needs no introduction.
For people looking for something closer to home, “Stonehenge seems a long way away, we do have objects from a burial on top of Roundway, Roundway down, which has the largest copper dagger ever found in Britain. And that’s a much earlier burial that’s about 2300 BC. And we think he, the chap who was buried there, probably grew up on the continent. But came across and was buried here.”
The objects he was buried with are currently in a traveling exhibition in the US, having been at four venues so far it will eventually be going to New Zealand and Australia.
“At the moment we’re also lending to two exhibitions in Germany, and that’s Stonehenge and the Bronze Age. And come early next year we’ll be lending some of our stuff to the British museum for a major exhibition about prehistoric Europe, because we have the best Bronze Age collection in the country.”
“So other museums have to come to us to cover the Bronze Age.”
As it’s important to note, David eloquently explains away a common misconception about our ancestors: “Most people think people at the time were like Fred Flintstone bashing each other over the head with clubs, no! These guys were really, really sophisticated.”
I won’t spoil it any further for you but this part of the museum is certainly the place for archaeology buffs.
The Kingdom of the Saxons
Here you can learn all about the Saxon people and the coming of Christianity and the branches of the Church, the most often noted one founded by St. Nicholas and brought to our shores by St. Augustine.
In addition to this often-referenced part of our religious development, David points out a less commonly known factor, “what everyone forgets is that the Irish Church survived from the late Roman period and there were missionaries coming across from Ireland, and so in Malmesbury for example there was an Irish monk who founded a monastery, before the St. Augustine type of missionary arrived.”
Among many other colourful characters, you can also learn the life story of a Christian woman of high status, who may have been an Abbes and possibly even the daughter of a King of Wessex.
The Story of Devizes
An aptly named section which, as David put it, “does what it says on the can.”
Beginning from, well, the earliest beginning to prehistory and the Romans (there having been Roman settlements here) through to Medieval town and castle, and a wonderful quirkily constructed model by John Girvan (our local tour guide, history buff and ghost walk host) of what the town may have looked like.
And also on show is a book of charters given to the town and made in the Tudor Period, which you’ll see is beautifully illustrated.
“We also talk about the story of The Battle of Roundway, and we’ve also got some cannon balls found in the town, musket balls found in the battle site,” etc.
There’s also a section on the old Prison (the museum even has one of its thick wooden barred doors) and the Asylum.
“There’s going to be a Channel Four program that’s going to dig up bits of the Prison from people’s back gardens,” says David, that the museum is involved in, which will start essentially in the second week of September.
Then you can see the majestic mayoral robe from the 1880s, we probably had our first mayor around 12000.
Fun fact if you’re a Devizes School Student: you’ll see a mourning ring in the cabinet beside the robe, it contains a lock of hair from the lady in the portrait that hangs in the school entrance.
In the next room David told me the heart-warming story of a boy and his toy submarine (now on display in the cabinet), made by prisoners of war who had befriended him while they were in Swindon building houses.
“This toy submarine was made by guys in the camp and given to a young lad in Swindon. The guys in the camp were being taken to Swindon to help build houses and they made friends with this lad and they gave him that as a present.”
With over 20,000 books and 20,000 archaeological journals, 30,000 photos and lots of archival material, and working with “over 30 postgraduate researchers every year and over 10 universities,” it’s not only a Library but also a research hub.
For anyone wanting to look through the archive, “pretty much everything we’ve got is searchable through our online database, it’s got images of everything, I think we’ve got about 15-20,000 images.”
The library’s archive of books, some donated by authors and others bought by the museum, covers the entire county.
I bid David adieu and thanked him for the informative tour: Bear in mind this was only a tour of the highlights, there’s far more in store for visitors.
Wiltshire Museum is funded by £12,780 in grant from Wiltshire Council and £4,000 from our Town Council, but they’re worth 3 quarters of a million pounds to the local economy, because as David illustrates, “when people come here, most of our visitors are making a special visit to Devizes to come to the Museum. Then of course they’re staying in B&Bs or hotels and spending money in pubs and shops and restaurants.”
Believe me, it’s not the boring, fuddy-duddy cobwebby museum you may remember. So, I for one reckon it’s time to show our support and appreciation for Wiltshire Museum!
Us locals ought to pay our prized museum a visit now and then, especially families so our kids can engage with the exhibits and have a sense of their history.
That’s it, one big blowout of a bank holiday weekend and August is kaput. Nights drawing in, the fall will be here before you can say “was that it, summer?” Given last years blazing heatwave, while we were couped up, this summer’s been comparatively damp, you could’ve have made it up. There were lots of great things to do, and that doesn’t show signs of slowing through next month.
So, check in and scroll down to see what’s happening this bank holiday, where’s there’s more than enough just in Devizes alone to keep us busy. Awesome, firstly, to see Swindon’s indie-pop stars, Talk in Code will join our favourite Daydream Runaways, for the first Friday night of music down at The Southgate. Then the town goes festival crazy, for three solid days! Full-Tone Festival hits the Green, Saturday and Sunday, and Monday you have to get down to the Market Place for our wonderful, Devizes Street Festival and the Colour Rush.
September 2021Once you’ve gotten over that, September then, here’s the highlights:
Running now until the 4th, Four artists exhibit at Trowbridge Town Hall. A selection of 2D and 3D works by local artists Deborah Clement, Sonja Kuratle, Jennie Quigley and Jane Scrivener.
It was in August 1979 that arguably Swindon’s greatest-ever band, XTC, released their first commercially successful album, 42 years on, original drummer Terry Chambers pays tribute as EXTC, at Swindon’s Victoria on Thursday 2nd.
Following night, Friday 3rd, the Pink Floyd-Fleetwood Mac double-tribute act, Pink Mac will stand on the same stage, at the Vic, while The Wiltshire Blues & Soul Club presents an evening with Sloe Train at Owl Lodge in Lacock, and Corsham’s Pound Arts has comedy with the brilliantly titled “Rescheduled Rescheduled Rescheduled Time Show Tour 2021” by Rob Auton.
Burbage celebrates their the 24th Beer, Cider and Music Festival, with Humdinger and Kova me Badd.
Saturday 4th and there’s a Greatest Showman Sing-a-Long with the Twilight Cinema at Hillworth Park, yet it will be loud down Devizes Southgate, with a welcome return of NervEndings, Fangs & The Tyrants sound equally as loud, they’re at Swindon’s Vic. For a more chilled evening, Cara Dillon plays the Neeld. An extraordinary, captivating Irish singer Mojo magazine claims to be “quite possibly the world’s most beautiful female voice.”
It is also good to see the Melksham Assembly Hall back in the biz, they have Travelling Wilbury tribute, The Unravelling Wilburys! And there’s a unique blend of melodic folk-pop blowing out from Trowbridge Town Hall as Bristol band Sugarmoon come to town.
One to overshadow the lot, is The Concert at the Kings at All Cannings, happening over the weekend. Great line-up for Rock against Cancer, as ever, with Billy Ocean headlining Saturday and 10CC on Sunday, albeit they seem completely unresponsive to messages from us. While I accept the strength of booked acts alone means they need no local press presence, it’s a shame they won’t care to respond; it would be great to cover this.
Ah well, Sunday rocks anyway, with an incredible booking by The Southgate, mind-blowingly awesome US blues outfit of Well-Hung Heart, with a local twist, Beaux Gris Gris & The Apocalypse play. Not to be missed. Westwards, Schtumm presents Will Lawton & The Alchemists with support by Hazir at the Queens Head, Box, and north, Syteria play the Vic, with Adam & The Hellcats and Awakening Savannah.
Oh, and The Lions Clubs of Trowbridge & Westbury have their White Horse Classic & Vintage Vehicle Show on Sunday 5th too!
Second weekend of September and things just get better, from Thursday to Sunday, the place to be is Swindon. The free roaming festival is back, with a line-up across too many venues to list, see the poster. The Swindon Shuffle is truly a testament to local music, everyone who is anyone will be there, in the words of Zaphod Beeblebrox.
It’s time for Jesus Christ Superstar to magically appear in Devizes, as the Wharf Theatre showcases the retro musical, opening Friday 10th, running until 18th.
A hidden gem in the heart of the Wylye valley, the Vintage Nostalgia Festival begins too, running until Sunday at Stockton Park, near Warminster. Sarah Mai Rhythm & Blues Band, Great Scott, Shana Mai and the Mayhems all headline, with those crazy The Ukey D’ukes and our favourites The Roughcut Rebels also play. Lucky if you’re off to the Tangled Roots Festival in Radstock, all sold out.
Closer to home though, Saturday 11th sees the Stert Country House Car Boot Sale, for Cancer Research, the Corsham Street Fair, Women in Rock at the Neeld and The Rock Orchestra by Candlelight at Swindon’s MECA. Eddie Martin’s solo album launch, Birdcage Sessions, at the Southgate, Devizes and the awesome Will Lawton and the Alchemists are at Trowbridge Town Hall. Two Tone All Ska’s play Chippenham’s Consti Club.
Staying in Trowbridge, Rockhoppaz at the Park for an Alzheimer’s Support Gig on Sunday 12th. Meanwhile it’s Hillworth Proms in the Park with Devizes Town Band, and the incredible homegrown guitar virtuoso, Innes Sibun is at The Southgate.
Third weeks into September, find some jazz with Emma Harris & Graham Dent Duo at Il Ponte Ristorante Italiano, in Bradford-on-Avon. By Thursday 16th, The Derellas play the Vic, and a welcomed reopening of the the Seend Community Centre sees our good friends Celtic Roots Collective play on Friday 17th.
Also Friday, in Swindon, Road Trip play The Vic, and Hawkwind, yes, Hawkwind at MECA!
It’s Dauntsey Academy Scarecrow Trail and there’s a Happy Circus in aid of Nursteed School in Devizes on Saturday 18th, and the welcomed return of Devizes Long Street Blues Club, with the Billy Walton Band. People Like Us are playing The Churchill Arms in West Lavington, ELO Beatles Beyond at Melksham Assembly Hall, and the amazing Onika Venus is at Trowbridge Town Hall.
Sunday 19th sees the Rock The Rec for Macmillan Cancer Support, free fundraiser at Calne Recreation Club.
On Thursday 23rd Antoine & Owena support the The Lost Trades at Komedia, Bath, Steve Knightley plays the Neeld, and there’s ‘An autobiographical journey of a deaf person trapped in a hearing world’ calledLouder Is Not Always Clearer at Pound Arts.
Tom Odell is at Marlborough College Memorial Hall on Friday 24th, and Fossil Fools play the Vic in Swindon.
Sat 25th sees the opening of the Devizes Food & Drink Festival, with the market. A Full Preview of everything happening at HERE. The HooDoos do The Southgate.
Meanwhile, Melksham Rock n Roll Club presents Johnnie Fox & The Hunters, Juice Menace play Trowbridge Town Hall. Wildwood Kin at Christ Church, Old Town, Swindon, and, this will go off; Talk in Code, The Dirty Smooth & The Vooz at the Vic, while tributes to Katy Perry vs Taylor Swift @ MECA.
Award for the most interesting thing to do this Saturday goes to Pound Arts. Sh!t Theatre Drink Rum with Expats is a production which contains distressing themes, images covering topics including migration and political assassination, plus a dog onstage; make of that what you will!
By the end of the month things look a little sportier, with bookworms, Sunday 26th is The Hullavington Full Marathon & 10K, travel author and TV presenter Simon Reeve talks at Dauntseys on Wednesday 29th, Thursday sees the opening of Marlborough Literature Festival.
But this list is by no means exhaustive, stuff to do is coming in all the time, making it near impossible to keep up, you need to regularly check our event calendar. Help me to help you by letting me know of your events, and if you’ve the time, write us a preview or review, I can’t be everywhere at once, and sometimes get so overloaded I just want to slouch on the sofa watching Netflix!
Halfway up the grand staircase of Trowbridge Town Hall, where it splits into left or right, my daughter, permanently two paces ahead of me, asked me which way now. I’d noted a sign to the art exhibit I’ve been aching to check out, so I called it. Problem was, the show is called “Up,” to which her only rejoinder could’ve been, “yes, I know it’s up, but which way?!!”
If I had reservations about the unpredictably positive response in asking if she wanted to come, being sports is her thing and creativity perhaps not so much, it was only that she might drag me around Usain-Bolt-going-for-gold fashion. Key to my pitch was that, essentially, the most appropriate movement in which to pigeonhole artist Tom Miller was street art, secondarily only to the fact she was “bored, with nothing better to do anyway!”
But it’s not her incentive on entry which is important here, rather her reaction inside the exhibit, and if she enjoyed it, which she did, anyone with a mere slither of a passing interest in art will we wowed by this show. For me, it was up my street and knocking loudly on my door.
Native to Trowbridge, Tom Miller exhibits at his hometown until 20th August, not long left to pay it a worthy visit. For yeah, Miller typically uses spray paint as street artists do, but only as a base for these canvases. He thickly layers acrylics and oils over it, amalgamating mediums as much as influences, in explosions of colour and meticulous and intricate detail. The result is staggering.
Swirls of psychedelia snake your eyes across them, akin to underground comix or yore, and in particular S. Clay Wilson. They can be themed darkly, with elements of cyberpunk, or lighter, fine art, impressionism is at play too. Yet there’s a nod to pop art, capturing humorous elements, wide-ranging themes from flowers to ice creams, and contemporary cultural icons, such as The Simpsons can be discovered on closer examination. Then, as you pan out, you begin to focus on a central point, the composition vortexes into a subject, often random, but themed to suit the surroundings. It is also a clear running concept to repeat the central subject atop the first, but slightly smaller in scale, and perhaps the topper most of one below, larger, like a play with a hall of mirrors.
Apt to mention a hall of mirrors, as there’s generally something fairground going on here, if the repetition of the central subject is cubist, it would be like viewing cubist art whilst on the waltzer. On a few occasions the subject can feel tangible, as fine art, expressionism, but with Miller’s style brashly expanding the realms of normality, somewhere along the lines. For this, and the running theme of these scaled duplications, Edvard Munch meets Marcel Duchamp in Salvador Dali’s studio, as the lines of expressionism, futurism and surrealism blur into dada in such a way only pop artists could’ve dreamed of.
But, as I said, if your knowledge of art doesn’t stretch to the influences and movements I’ve cited, none of it really matters, as why I contemplated René Magritte, my daughter also examined the concepts and discovered subjects. Like a Where’s Wally book, you could circle this exhibit twenty times and still discover something you’d not noticed before in these canvases.
Added to the pieces, there’s some sublime charcoal sketches, showing his workings and thought process. There’s also a bio, with printed matter showing the various private commissions and frescos which obviously couldn’t come to the exhibit, for quintessentially, Miller is a street artist, and in Bristol and round and about Trowbridge there’s some excellent examples. The brilliant finale to this show is, once you’ve left, you can make a beeline to Stallard Street to find such a wall with Miller’s art displayed, and in the same ethos as what’s on display inside. This added an extra dimension to the enthralling exhibit.
Plus, I’m pleased to say, Usain-Bolt had no influence over my daughter’s pace through the show, she took her time, examined everything and came out with some exceptionally precise observations. This is ideal to enthuse a non-art lover equally as much as one who is, as good street art does, but with the extra dimension of this influx of various art movement influences. Go see it, but hurry; it’s only running until 20th August!
Not forgoing Trowbridge Town Hall is a friendly place, where I gossiped and namedropped to the man on reception. There’s a vast and amazing array of events planned over the coming months, from the yoga classes to the PSG Choir and from Moo Moo Music for little ones to an impressive gig line up from the likes of Will Lawton & the Alchemists on 11th September, Onika Venus on 18th, Juice Menace on 25th, and on the list goes on….
If July saw the gradual return to normality, and cautiously events crawled back with a welcomed but awkward feeling, while it may be hugely debatable if we’re doing the right thing, or not, August is warming up to be stonker. Events of all types are flung up each day, it’s hard to keep track and up-to-date, nevertheless I try.
Fingers crossed it doesn’t go Pete Tong. Such a divided issue with good arguments on each side, I’m not about to start ranting for either, but I salute everyone organising events, at great risk to themselves financially. All I will say is, it is vital for the success of any event and the continuation of them in general, that we still apply certain rules, restrictions set by the organisers, and adopt the necessary etiquette when attending them. We know what the precautions are, they’re second nature now. The government passed the buck, it is up to us, each and everyone of us to think for ourselves, respect other’s decisions on how to act, but I appeal, act responsibly and long may this continue.
Without further-a-do then, here’s what we’ve found on Devizine for August. It’s far easier to knock this article up with providing too many links, they can be found at the event calendar, and for family events throughout the school holidays, check here; but please do check for updates, it’s never an exhaustive thing, new events are being added. Said that bit before, but it is even more vital to check ahead, to ensure events are going ahead as planned, and what restrictions might be in place at them individually. Have a great August, stay safe.
Kicking off on Monday August 2nd with the +5 Holiday Club at The Farm Cookery School. Tuesday 3rd and running until Thursday 5th August, RW Football School Summer Football Camp are at Green Lane, Devizes, ages 6-11.
Wednesday August 4th, then. Chippenham Museum host a Children’s Art Walk. Take a walk, through Monkton Park for this fun arty session. You will receive a pack with pencils, crayons and plenty of paper and join local artist Kirsty Jones to explore the wonderful setting of the park.2pm – 3pm. £4 per child. Recommended age 6 and above, all children must be accompanied. Meet at the town bridge entrance to Monkton Park. There’s also the +8 Holiday Club @ The Farm Cookery School.
Wednesday also sees the first Junior Actors with Lucia, for school years 6-9, for the Youth Theatre Summer Workshop at the Wharf Theatre, Devizes.
Thursday 5th and the Summer Kid’s Art Club at Wiltshire Scrapstore starts on Bowden Hill, Lacock. Sessions from 10:30 am – 12:00 pm, run every Thursday and Friday through August.
Our first August festival starts Thursday, Wickham Festival in Hampshire, where Van the Man headlines, and the Love Summer Festival at Plympton, Devon starts Friday.
There’s an interesting-sounding new family musical written and produced by Mel Lawman staged at Bath’s Forum on Friday 6th -Saturday 7th Miss Red. Devizes folk support this, because our homegrown talented twelve-year-old, Jessica Self from Centre Stage Academy of Dance in Devizes and Stagecoach Trowbridge is in the cast, playing Daisy Blewitt. We wish you all the best, Jessica.
Friday 6th also sees the Salisbury Comedy Festival start, Black Sabbath tribute, Supernaut play the Vic in Swindon, and HoneyStreet’s Barge will be kicking as the Mid Life Krisis Collective head down there.
On Saturday 7th time for Sheer Music to put aside their lockdown TV presenting skills and get on with what they do best, hosting gigs. And what a way to start, it’s Frank Turner at the Cheese & Grain. Also, catch the amazing Kevin Brown the Southgate, Devizes, and those mods, The Roughcut Rebels play the Greyhound in Trowbridge.
The wonderful Strange Folk are at The Three Horseshoes in Bradford on Avon. Concord Drive, Transfer Window and Man in Vest play Swindon’s Vic, Jive Talkin’ perform the Bee Gees at Chippenham’s Neeld Hall and it’s The Bath Festival Finale Weekend, where McFly headline.
For Sunday chilling, on the 8th, get down to the Queens Head in Box where Schtumm presents The Lost Trades with support from Lee Broderick, alternatively the Neeld play The Rod Stewart Songbook.
Monday 9th August there’s a +8 Holiday Club, The Farm Cookery School and +11 on Tuesday.
Wednesday sees another Youth Theatre Summer Workshop, at Devizes, the Wharf Theatre, check their website for details. Chippenham Museum also hosts a Writing & Performance Workshop with performer Ruth Hill, for ages 8 and above. More Summer Kid’s Art Club at Wiltshire Scrapstore on Thursday and Friday, and The Cake Lady takes The Farm Cookery School’s +8 Holiday Club.
Friday night, I’ve got Stop Stop playing Swindon’s Vic, and that’s it so far.
Saturday 14th, Cobbs at Hungerford have a charity Emergency Service Day, should be fun for the little ones. For the grownups, cider fest at the Civic in Trowbridge with the Mangled Wurzels.
Lewis Clark is at The Southgate, Devizes, Shepard’s Pie at Wanborough’s The Harrow, and Webb, formally known as Ryan Webb has this EP launch party at Swindon’s Vic, with Broken Empire and Land Captains in support. Hope to get a copy of this for reviewing, some clog in the pipeline at the moment. But hey, it’s also Buckfest at Marlborough The Roebuck where the loud and proud Humdigger headline.
Bedpost, Transfer Window and Pool play the Vic in Swindon on Sunday.
+11 Holiday Club at The Farm Cookery School on Monday 16th, and the RW Football School are in Melksham. Suitable for ages 6+, Pound Arts welcome Scratchworks Theatre Company’s joyful and mischievous show to Corsham Almshouses, for an outdoor performance of The Grimm Sisters.
A welcomed return of events at Melksham Assembly Hall on Thursday 19th, with Neil Sands Bringing Back the Good Times; ol’ time favourite show tunes from the 40s, 50s & 60s and a heart-warming tribute to Dame Vera Lynn.
Friday 20th and Jack Dee’s new show, Warm Up is at Chippenham’s Neeld Hall. I’ve nothing else for Friday night yet, but Saturday21st, woah, festival time!
First up, is where I plan to be, Mantonfest, near Marlborough, with Blondie tribute Dirty Harry, Dr Feelgood, Barrelhouse, Richard Davies & The Dissidents and many more. Over the downs, OakStock at Pewsey’s Royal Oak is another safe bet; Amy Winehouse, Rag n Bone Man tributes, alongside the brilliant Illingsworth.
Meanwhile the rescheduled Bath Reggae Festival takes place, with Maxi Priest, Aswad, Big Mountain, Dawn Penn, Hollie Cook and more. Anne‐Marie, Dizzee Rascal and Clean Bandit headline Live at Lydiard 2021.
Howlin’ Mat plays The Southgate, Devizes, while Sex Pistol’s tribute Pretty Vacant are at Swindon’s Vic, with support by The Half Wits and Subject Ex.
Monday 23rd August is +8 Holiday Club at The Farm Cookery School, and Tuesday is11+.From Tuesday until Thursday, The RW Football School Summer Football Camp returns to Green Lane, Devizes, for ages 6-11.
Chippenham Museum has a one-hour workshop to create your own simple mini scrap book inspired by their latest exhibition on Wednesday, for ages 6+.
Thursday and Friday it’s Summer Kid’s Art Club at Wiltshire Scrapstore. And Thursday 26th August sees an Olympic Gold Medallist, Alex Danson running a Hockey Masterclass at Devizes Hockey Club. Open to all hockey players aged 11-18 – you don’t have to be a member of DHC.
All weekender at The Barge on Honeystreet, when Honey Fest kicks off Thursday, with a grand local line-up, including The Lost Trades, The Blunders, and Chicken Shed Zeppelin, to name but a few.
The Southgate is the place to head towards on Friday in Devizes, where my personal indie-pop favourites, (not that I should have favourites) Daydream Runaways are booked in. Also, the highly anticipated FullTone Festival returns to Devizes Green, all weekend, with the Full Tone Orchestra and Pete Lamb’s Heartbeats appearing Sunday.
A theatrical outdoor re-telling of Kenneth Grahame’s classic, Wind in the Willows on Saturday 28th August at Corsham’s Pound Arts. And Sunday, a Magical show where beautiful Princesses become Pop Stars, Pop Princesses comes to Wyvern Theatre, Swindon.
Meanwhile, it’s the welcomed Triple JD Band at The Southgate, Devizes and HarrowFest at Wanborough’s The Harrow, featuring Jamie R Hawkins, The Blind Lemon Experience and more…
Oh yes, it’s coming, you can feel it in the air; or is that more rain? Take a deep breath, because here’s our lowdown on stuff to keep your darling princesses and special little guys busy during the summer break, across our area, to retain some of your sanity and keep you from maxin’ your Wine Warehouse loyalty card.
Ongoing and regularly updated, bookmark this, mums and dads, and check back from time as more stuff will hopefully be added. Please note Devizine cannot accept responsibility for the safety of links outside of this site, the cancelation or failure of organisers to maintain events listed. Thanks, enjoy your summer holidays, and stay safe!
Submissions: use the contact form at the bottom to tell us about your event, and I will add it onto our list!
From Saturday July 10th: Wild World Heroes Summer Reading Challenge @ Devizes Library
Join the Wild World Heroes Summer Reading Challenge for four- to 11-year-olds from Sat 10 July. The fun free challenge helps children improve their reading skills whilst having fun, it’s also great for good mental health. Children are challenged is to read six library books over the summer (including eBooks), so come into the library from this Saturday and pick up your bag of materials (including a map of Wilderville and stickers) while stocks last! Medals and certificates for children who complete the challenge will be available for collection after Monday 2 August.
Running from Tuesday 13th until Saturday 17th July, The Wharf Theatre in Devizes presents Collected Grimm Tales, by the Brothers Grimm, directed by Debby Wilkinson.
Familiar and less known stories from the Brothers Grimm are brought to the stage in this acclaimed adaptation. Using a physical and non-natural style of performance, these are stories that will journey into the warped world of imagination. We will see Hansel and Gretel, Ashputtel, Rumpelstiltskin and others, all performed by a small, adult cast on a simple set. The audience will be required to use their imagination and fully embrace the living power of theatre. Suitable for adults and children alike!
Wednesday July 14th: Starcrazy – Open-Air Theatre back again at Ogbourne Maizey
WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY BILL SCOTT, WITH ORIGINAL MUSIC BY TOM ADAMS
October 1957: the world lives in fear of nuclear war, Russia has launched Sputnik 1, UFOs are cropping up everywhere, MI5 is on high alert and Stanley is building something in his garden shed.
He may live in suburbia but, in his mind, Stanley is voyaging through outer space. He hopes to make contact with other life forms. His neighbour, Gwen, thinks he should be exploring the unknown much closer to home…
A cosmic comedy about obsession and the rekindling of love, hope and possibility
Estimated running time: 1hr 10 mins, no interval
Everyone welcome, but as a guide we recommend the show for age 7+
Saturday July 17th – Saturday July 24th: Charlie & Stan @ Theatre Royal Bath
In 1910, the then unknown Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel set sail from Liverpool to New York as part of Fred Karno’s famous music hall troupe. On the voyage, they shared a cabin, they shared comedy routines and they shared laughter. Inspired by real life events, Told by an Idiot’s acclaimed production is the remarkable story of the greatest double act that nearly was and is a hilarious and deeply moving homage to two men who changed the world of comedy forever. Tickets from £23. Children best seats £22.50 at all performances.
Friday July 16th: Under 5’s Coffee and Craft Morning @ Wiltshire Scrapstore
Friday July 16th: King Arthur at Manor Farm, Upton Cheyney
Local theatrical tour of a fun and farcical family adventure by The Last Baguette. Suitable for ages 5+
Somewhere in England, a long time ago, a very, very, very long time ago. So long ago that nobody quite knows whether it happened or not. Or where it happened or not. A boy pulled a sword from a stone and became King. A story of the old world, with knights, wizards, mist and magic. This fun and farcical adventure is deliberately anarchic and anachronistic re-telling of the Arthurian Legend with live music, physical comedy and lo-fi acrobatics. And some silly jokes…
This is an outdoor production, please bring your own chairs, blankets. The field at Manor Farm will be open from 6pm for picnics, prior to the 7pm performance. The tour continues, courtesy of Pound Arts, see below for other venue dates.
Saturday July 17th: Food Glorious Food Photography Day: Cricketts Lane & Lords Mead Allotments, Chippenham.
Join the Photo Club and Chippenham Museum at a local Chippenham allotment to learn how to capture portraits of fresh produce. These free sessions take place on Saturday 17 July at the following times: Time: 10am – 12pm Ages: 9-14years. Location: Cricketts Lane. Time: 12:30-2:30pm Ages: 15-18 years. Location: Cricketts Lane.
These free sessions are part of a celebration of locally grown and seasonal produce by The Food School have been made possible through funding from Chippenham Borough Lands Charity.
Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th July: the Southern Counties Organ Festival on The Large Green Devizes.
Sunday July 18th: King Arthur at Kington Langley Recreation Ground.
See above (Friday July 16th)
Monday July 19th: The Farm Cookery School
Kids who can cook, well, I say, have to be the best kind of kids ever! The Farm Cookery School at Netherstreet Farm near Bromham has a great summer programme, in a kitchen divided into 6 Covid-Safe Acrylic ‘Cookery Pods’. Each pod is suitable for 2 children to share.
Starting Monday 19th July with a Cookery Camp, for children aged 11+ where the young chefs get to come along for 2 days (8.30am – 4.00pm) to learn all about food; make breakfast, lunch & snacks to eat at the school, then make tea and desserts which they will take home with them. The camp includes 2 days of tuition, ingredients, recipes & meals.
I’ll list the events here, simply with a brief title, as there’s so many good ones!
Monday July 19th – September 12th: Under the Moon @ Longleat
Discover the wonderful creatures of the dark who have inhabited The Longhouse under the light of the Moon. Then explore Longleat’s nocturnal wildlife with dramatically enlarged straw sculptures in the open air.
Experience the astounding astronomical work of art by UK artist, Luke Jerram, titled the Museum of the Moon, as you wander up close to the orbital illuminator of the night. This 6 metre suspended replica of our Moon was created using detailed NASA imagery with each centimetre of the internally lit spherical sculpture representing 6km of the moon’s surface!
Then observe the fascinating flora and fauna of the dark such as bioluminescent algae, blind cave fish, and the slender loris. Discover the mysterious creatures of dark with illuminating insights on their adaptations like why the blind cavefish have no eyes and emperor scorpions glow a bluish-green under UV light.
Step outside of The Longhouse and the wildlife exploration continues with a focus on the native animals active around the Park at night. Discover more about the barn owl, fox, mole, snail and others as we celebrate our nocturnal wildlife with huge straw sculptures.
Join us for a summer of exploration of new and native animals
Need to know
This exhibition is designed to be a sensory, calm experience, utilising the wide space of The Longhouse.
The Longhouse is fully accessible.
The number of guests in the Longhouse will be monitored and managed throughout the day to maintain safe social distancing and guest comfort.
Friday July 23rd: King Arthur at Sherston Village Hall
See above (Friday July 16th)
Saturday July 24th: Bromham Teddy Bear Trail
Bromham Carnival may’ve been cancelled but there will be a Teddy Bear Trail on Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th July. This year’s theme will be ’60 Years of Family Films’ with 40+ Teddies around the village, created and generously sponsored by local businesses and individuals. See how many you can guess – and enjoy a walk round the beautiful village of Bromham. Refreshments available. Entry forms £2.50 each available from the Social Centre in New Road.
Tuesday July 27th: Devizes Tennis Club Holiday Camp
Anyone for tennis? Summer camps start on 27th July at Devizes Tennis Club, ongoing sessions from 10am-3pm, every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday until 19th August.
Wednesday July 28th: Youth Theatre Summer Workshop @ the Wharf Theatre
I’ve given details of Devizes’ Wharf Theatre’s exciting ongoing Youth Theatre, which starts the full courses towards the end of September. But, in addition to the fuller workshops the Wharf are also offering two Summer Workshops this year. These will offer an opportunity to have fun and participate in various drama activities. Whilst they will give you a flavour of the work you could be exploring over the forthcoming terms these are stand-alone sessions and are open to all. The first is Senior Actors with Lou is on Wednesday July 28th, for school years 10-13.
Wednesday July 28th: Summer Holiday Workshops @ Chippenham Museum: Make an Embroidery Sampler.
Ages 8 and above. 10.30am – 12.30pm Join Members of the Bath Textile Artist Group to make an embroidery sampler at Chippenham Museum. Once it was only girls who used to have fun with samplers but now anyone can have a go. Come and explore the history of samplers and start to stich your own. You will learn different stitches and can choose a range of motifs to produce your own design or sew a prepared piece. Whether you are a beginner or more experienced stitcher there will be something for you.
Wednesday July 28th: Bath Rugby Summer Camp coming to Devizes RFC
Bath Rugby coaches are back on the road again and coming to a rugby club near you! A full summer of coaching activity has been planned across Somerset, Wiltshire and Dorset ensuring that everybody has the chance to get involved. And what’s more, we have a session at Devizes RFC on Wednesday 28th July! The camp is designed for U7’s through to U16’s looking to hone their skills and is open to all abilities.
Thursday July 29th: Fireman Sam Saves the Circus @ Bath Forum
When all of his friends go away, Norman Price decides to find adventure in Pontypandy and become the star of a visiting circus. But with a tiger on the loose and faulty lights, the adventure soon turns to danger. Can Fireman Sam come to the rescue and save the circus?
Join Sam, Penny, Elvis, Station Officer Steele and Norman in an all singing, dancing, action-packed show. You can become a fire-fighter cadet and then watch the magic of the circus.
So, come along to Pontypandy and watch the adventures unfold!
This event is being sold as a socially distanced event at the present time, but should government guidelines allow, socially distanced seating may not be in place at the time of the event. Book Here
Friday July 30th: King Arthur at The Corsham Almshouse
See above (Friday July 16th)
Saturday 31st July: MFor 2021 @ Lydiard Park
If you fancy taking your kids to a local family festival with acts they’ll enjoy, rather than being dragged along to, check out MFor 2021 at Swindon’s Lydiard Park. Craig David, TS5, Sigala, Raye, Ella Henderson, Gracey & more! Lots of entertainment is included in the Saturday ticket price and you are promised a fantastic music line-up. Under 5s go FREE.
The Great Poppy Party @ The Crown, Bishops Cannings
Wednesday August 4th: Youth Theatre Summer Workshop @ the Wharf Theatre
I’ve given details of Devizes’ Wharf Theatre’s exciting ongoing Youth Theatre, which starts the full courses towards the end of September. But, in addition to the fuller workshops the Wharf are also offering two Summer Workshops this year. These will offer an opportunity to have fun and participate in various drama activities. Whilst they will give you a flavour of the work you could be exploring over the forthcoming terms these are stand-alone sessions and are open to all. The first Junior Actors with Lucia workshop is on Wednesday August 4th, for school years 6-9.
Wednesday August 4th:Children’s Art Walk by Chippenham Museum
2pm – 3pm. £4 per child. Recommended age 6 and above, all children must be accompanied. Meet at the town bridge entrance to Monkton Park.
Take a walk through Monkton Park with a bit of a difference. For this fun arty session, you will receive a pack with pencils, crayons and plenty of paper and join local artist Kirsty Jones to explore the wonderful setting of the park.
An interesting sounding new family musical written and produced by Mel Lawman is staged at Bath’s Forum early August. Devizes folk support this, because our homegrown talented twelve-year-old Jessica Self from Centre Stage Academy of Dance in Devizes and Stagecoach Trowbridge is in the cast, playing Daisy Blewitt. We wish you all the best, Jessica.
I’ve given details of Devizes’ Wharf Theatre’s exciting ongoing Youth Theatre, which starts the full courses towards the end of September. But, in addition to the fuller workshops the Wharf are also offering two Summer Workshops this year. These will offer an opportunity to have fun and participate in various drama activities. Whilst they will give you a flavour of the work you could be exploring over the forthcoming terms these are stand-alone sessions and are open to all. The second workshop for Senior Actors with Lou, for school years 10-13 and Junior Actors with Lucia workshop, for school years 6-9.
Writing & Performance Workshop by Chippenham Museum
9.30am – 3.30pm. Ages 8 and above, please bring a packed lunch.
Come and join writer, facilitator and performer Ruth Hill for a day of writing and performing. In the morning you will write something inspired by the museum’s exhibition which focusses on local Victorian diarist Rev. Francis Kilvert. Using the exhibition for inspiration, you will write stories, poems and scripts. Ruth will help you create a piece of work you are proud of and in the afternoon, you will work together to direct, stage and perform your pieces of writing to a small audience of your family and friends. You can take part as a writer, performer, director or all three. Come and develop your skills, whether you love writing and performing, or just want to give it a go.
Thursday 12th – Friday 13th: Summer Kid’s Art Club @ Wiltshire Scrapstore, Bowden Hill, Lacock
Saturday 14th August: Charity Emergency Service Day @ Cobbs, Hungerford
A police car and van, fire responder car, and fire truck are visiting Cobbs. A free event hoping to raise some money and put a little love back into our emergency services, to say thank you for the incredible job that they do. There will be a raffle. Please note: If you would like breakfast or lunch in the cafe, book a table in advance: www.cobbsfarmshops.co.uk/book-a-table
Friday August 20th: The Grimm Sisters @ Corsham Almshouses (outdoor theatre)
Suitable for ages 6+. Pound Arts are excited to welcome Scratchworks Theatre Company’s joyful and mischievous brand-new show to Corsham, for an outdoor performance at Corsham Almshouses. Please bring along chairs, blankets, cushions, afternoon teas and picnics. The venue will be open one hour prior to the performance start time for audience to arrive, settle in and get comfortable.
Saturday August 21st: Live at Lydiard 2021
Another one-day festival at Swindon’s Lydiard Park, with Anne‐Marie, Dizzee Rascal and Clean Bandit headlining. Information is vague on this one, but by the line-up it sounds family-friendly.
WIND IN THE WILLOWS, 28 August, 6.30pm @ Pound Arts.
A theatrical outdoor re-telling of Kenneth Grahame’s classic, performed in The Pound arts centre car park. Calf 2 Cow wowed a sold out crowd here at the arts centre back in June with their outdoor theatrical extravaganza “The Wave”, and now they’re back! This time they’re retelling a classic children’s tale, known the world over, with a modern gig-theatre twist. https://mailchi.mp/poundarts/wind-in-the-willows-a-theatrical-outdoor-experience
Sunday August 29th: Pop Princesses @ Wyvern Theatre, Swindon
A Magical show where beautiful Princesses become Pop Stars! This is the children’s pop concert with a big difference. A musical spectacular starring four fabulous Fairy tale Princesses who just love to sing! It’s the perfect mix. Featuring a soundtrack of top pop hits from artists such as Little Mix, Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, Meghan Trainor, and internet sensation, JoJo Siwa, plus songs from all your favourite Films and Musicals.
Saturday 4th September: Twilight Cinema in the Park @ Hillworth Park, Devizes
Ladies and gents, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for! Hillworth announce this year’s Twilight Cinema film is the Greatest Showman Sing-a-Long!! Pre-film music, pop-up bars, and food. Tickets.
Saturday 4th September:Horrible Histories Live @ Bath Forum
We all want to meet people from history! The trouble is everyone is dead!
So it’s time to prepare for Horrible Histories live on stage with the acclaimed production of Gorgeous Georgians and Vile Victorians!
Are you ready to swing with a Georgian king? Can you see eye to eye with Admiral Nelson? Does the Duke the Wellington get the boot? Dare you dance the Tyburn jig? Will you be saved by Florence Nightingale? Find out what a baby farmer did and move to the groove with party Queen Victoria!
Don’t miss this horrible history of Britain with the nasty bits left in!
The flags of Israel and Palestine halved with a swish and a white dove stencilled over the top, was the starting point for a painting by Chippenham artist, Mike Long. We discussed his method, almost making it up as he went along, the original idea extends outwards as he progresses with a painting, rather like his unique tendency to continue the painting over the actual frame. Underneath the flags, a scene of a football game, with goalposts painted on tanks, in Mike’s sketchy Chagall style; this element developed while painting it.
We’re at Chippenham’s Yelde Hall in the Market Place, Mike’s turn on the rota to hold the fort. The alternative art show, Breakout is running for another week, until Saturday 3rd July. Open everyday except Sunday from 10am to 4pm, I call it “an art show” to break the preconceptions of words like “gallery” or “exhibit,” because here’s a display which finds an even ground between an often seen as tedious fine art gallery of standard landscapes or portraits, and the outright “arty” kind of off-putting “weird.” For this concept, it’s the sort of exhibit to appease anyone with only a passing interest in art; a contemporary pop art show.
Unlike two years past, when, teamed with two other artists, Si Griffiths and Emma Sally, they put on Never Mind The Heritage, Here’s Our Art Show, in the same venue, the three are joined by five other locally-based artists, each taking a panel, making for variety and a fuller experience. It’s a dazzling show, well worth paying a visit.
To start at the beginning, an artist I know only too well, Devizes-based Clifton Powell, takes the first panel. Recently commissioned to paint Abbot Hadrian for an English Heritage exhibition, The African Diaspora in England, in Canterbury, closer to home Clifton shows a few works from his ongoing “Unrest” series. They’re striking images, poignantly painted with realism, and take the subject of modern civil turbulence.
Works from the other artists exhibiting here are new to me. Jimmer Willmott, a pop surrealist from Bristol takes the next panel, describes his work as a “chaotic love affair of the cute and weird, running naked hand-in-hand with a bright, fun blend of humour and juxtaposition.” Indeed, words found in some excellently crafted Alphabetti Spaghetti, or American cops with donuts for heads in a more colourful vein than René Magritte’s The Son of Man, fits the bill.
Meanwhile, photographer Daniel Carmichael takes inspiration from patterns in small objects and the effects of time and the elements upon them. With a keen eye for a snap, autumn leaves covering a discarded men at work road sign, for example, captures a mood of manufactured versus nature.
Next is Mike Long’s varied styles, of expressionism, often Lowry-like scenes or steampunk imaginings which extends into the frame, involving it and creating the notion the subject continues after the confines of the image you’re looking at, these are ingenious works in which you’ll spot something different in each time you look at them. Also, I was surprised to see some graphical pieces too.
With environmental, often sombre themes, the ever-expressive Emma Sally is up next, she states her artwork this year has arisen from “feelings of frustration,” aptly. A new direction, she says, “in articulating visceral emotions,” and the solemnity of a graveyard with woman dressed in black gazing at headstone is poignantly effective. Others are more sardonically abstract, the Earth ripped apart, rolled into sausage-shapes and knotted back together again being particularly adroit and stirring.
Mixed-media artist Helen Osborne Swan, creates a series of striking papier-mâché 3D masks, “open to the beholder’s interpretation,” but started with the Colston statue being toppled and daubed with paint. “There is a lot more behind the face we present to the world,” is a notion which could take us back to Clifton’s Unrest series, there’s a murky conception in these inventive faces protruding from the canvas at you, some obvious, but others, like the “too cool for skool” one of a younger with baseball cap and shades, you’re left uncertain as to the reason for their underhandedness.
Whereas Montague Tott leaves nothing to the imagination, trained as an illustrator “having to follow other people’s artistic direction,” given the freedom to express himself through his own work was “too great a temptation to ignore,” so he embarked on a more esoteric path. Inspired by classic oil paintings, Montague adds elements of horror movies, comics and popular culture into what would otherwise be a classic portrait. One of whom I suspect as silent-film actress Mabel Normand, painted with a child Freddy Kruger is particularly disconcerting, yet equally are the family portraits of half-man-half goat characters, as if trapped in a mansion of a fantasy novel.
And last up is the amazing, highly-skilled underground comix style of Si Griffiths, with his penchant for putting clowns or Frankenstein’s monster into unusual and inexplicable settings. Comically disturbing at times, in psychedelic visions or thriller movie surroundings, they bring an awkward smile.
If lockdown for the solitude profession of an artist hasn’t been so impacting on ability to work, it’s certainly had an impression on their subjects, but more so, producing a painting is only half the job; getting them out there is crucial financially. Do check this exhibit out if you can, it has Covid regulations in place, and is an airy hall. Importantly though, I feel here’s an art show you don’t need to be well-versed in art or an “arty sort” to enjoy and be entertained by. Neither will take up your entire day to browse, but with its less-is-more policy, there’s a varied bunch of alternative art on show, of which the standard is outstanding.
By 1994 the Criminal Justice Bill had become an act. Attempts to enforce it were either greatly exaggerated, such as riot vans and police helicopters crashing a birthday barbeque, or were disregarded as an unnecessary government enforcement from the police on the ground. Though we may never have had another Castlemorton, the mid-nineties and even into the millennium, free raves struck back from the body-blow.
Urbanised parties took over railway arches, disused warehouses and squats, the people fought tooth and nail to preserve the culture, and in a way, they did. Rural parties continued, localised and smaller, but communal and friendly. Albeit any forces resisting against them, caused many larger ones to become more viciously anarchistic over time. There were attempts to party in aid of a greater cause, environmental issues for example, such as the Reclaim the Streets protests.
Yet in turn, rave bore an impact on culture and society, which outreached the free party scene. We spoke of musical genres breaking apart, so that large pay-raves erected multiple tents of differing sounds; house, drum n bass, techno, happy hardcore, speed garage, the list continued to get more diverse, until at Universe’s Tribal Gathering 1997, where originators of computer-generated music, Kraftwerk played a main stage, and everyone from each individual subgenre tent came out to pay respects to the roots.
Likewise, Liverpool super-club Cream wanted in on the large festival rave, and created Creamfields, where the likes of Run DMC played. And the scene redeveloped in many avenues, Acid Jazz was popularised, and if it was only short-lived, it birthed incredibly successful Jamiroquai. It also returned hip hop to the forefront, as breakbeat, chemical and big beat were the sounds of the later nineties. The indie and rave divide, parted dramatically since the days of Madchester, the Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, and Primal Scream’s Screamadeleica had realigned, with the punk nature of the Prodigy’s new look. The crossover blended once again, as indie kids accepted electronica wasn’t intending to lay down and die.
Clubs rocked to The Dust Brothers, later to be the Chemical Brothers. Mo-Wax, Skint and Wall of Sound roared a big beat, hip hop melting pot ethos, rooted by rave parties, and everyone flooded to Brighton beach to see Norman Cook “large it” as Fatboy Slim.
What was clear, by this conjunction, while the movement had altered, and divided, rave was now embedded in our culture, and was spreading globally. The paid peanuts DJs who once rocked up to an illegal rave now jetsetters, playing clubs worldwide.
Clubland never had it so good, buy a MixMag, relish in a party, legally, without the need of convoys, service station coups and risks of police brutality. I bought a silk shirt, wore it at Lakota in Bristol, but headed there after a free party in the forest of Longleat, the night before, and without care for basic hygiene, my paisley chic was ruined by the sweat marks of a boxer. I was oblivious ‘til presented with embarrassing photographic evidence afterwards.
But commercialisation of the culture had always loomed. In the race to become the “king of rave,” as rock n roll had Elvis and reggae had Marley, they failed to note this plastic throwaway ethos I’ve previously mentioned. In 1992, thousands of twenty-somethings blissfully unaware of the references, sang ‘Eezer Goode ‘Eezer Goode He’s Ebeneezer Goode, simply because the Shamen reached number one in the pop charts, in just the same way thirty years previously, no-hopers sang “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” oblivious to its blatant LSD connotations. I’d argue if we have to have a “king of rave” it’d would have been the ever-progressive Prodigy, but they never cared to call for the title.
The point is, commercialisation got the better of us eventually, as it did for every previous outrageous youth culture. It would be difficult to imagine in the days of Scott Joplin, that his rags would be considered conforming for a hoity-toity jazz festival in market towns like Marlborough, as in the 1910s, he played to lewd degenerates and desperate sailors in New York’s underworld and bawdy brothels. In a short few years after the peak of rave culture, Leftfield’s Release the Pressure will be used in an advert for Cheese Strings. And don’t get me started on Yo Gabba Gabba.
And now we live in a time when reflections of nostalgia from forty-somethings comply with Albert Trotter moments, and a misunderstanding of what happened is ingrained in our culture. I cringe at how the tragic Wonder Woman sequel depicted the eighties, in an almost caricatured version of the fashion, and foresee bearded twenty-somethings attending wistful “rave” nights dressed in glow sticks like tourists on planet Mars. I never waved a fucking glowstick in the nineties, any more than I wore legwarmers in the eighties!
A van speeds past me, a youngster wears his hood up while driving. Why? Is there a leak in the van’s roof? Yes, we ravers popularised the hooded top in the UK long before the “hoody” culture, and if we wore the hood up, it was because we came out from a sweatbox into the cool night air with perspiration evaporating off of us. We did it to prevent dehydration from precipitation, rather than cos it made us look well ‘ard.
And then Ollie Murs’ heart skips a beat, with a drum loop the Ratpack would’ve rejected in 91, and I yell, NO! Get your own youth culture kids, nicking ours is disillusioned by commercialisation, unless you’re standing chilly at Peartree services at 3am, teeth masticating the life out of a slice of Wrigleys, eyes like saucers, and waving your arms about like a broken robot with a hundred others, surrounded by cars beeping their horn and playing a chewed up Easygroove cassette, then you are not a raver. And don’t you even let me see you asking Alexa to search the word cassette!
Last thing I want to do is end this series on a sour note, but duty calls. I read an article about how the days of the illegal rave had returned in all its former glory. “It was just like 1992,” they quoted in a story about a warehouse takeover, then informed partygoers discovered the happening via a Tweet. Eh? Have a word with yourself, Tweets were a novelty eighties band who rehashed an oom-pah so your granny could do a little bit of this and a little bit of that and shake her bum at some family disco of yore. We went raving without a clue what a pager was, while scare-story spreading tabloids suggested we all had mobile phones, in an era where mobile phones were thought of as the devil’s business. They couldn’t comprehend how an entire generation could all descend onto one field simply by word-of-mouth.
“…and if you tell that to the young people today, they won’t believe you…”
The Four Yorkshire Men sketch, Monty Python.
In conclusion; as we say farewell to my little series reflecting back on those heady ravey dayz, I’ll confirm, there was numerous amazing times, the best times of my life, times evoking stories I could bore you into an early grave with. And by the thankful response to this series and the masses of posts of stories from so many old skool ravers in the variety of Facebook groups, it is clear I’m not alone in this theory. Although, my rose-tinted specs were large enough to engulf those dilated pupils throughout most of the examination.
Probably the most active of those groups, aforementioned DOCU FREE PARTY ERA 1990-1994 – WERE YOU THERE?was originally set up as a research project by one Aaron Trinder a filmmaker on a mission to document the era in a film. We wish him all the best of luck with this monumental task. And it is a monumental task, as unlike most previous youth cultures which borrowed from various trends and cultures, say the teddy boys borrowed extensively from rock-n-roll, mods borrowed from jazz, Italian suits and scooters, and so on, rave borrowed from everything and anything.
United, the melting pot came from any source, we electrified it and, even if it was relatively short-lived, what exhausted out inspired everything that went hereafter; modern pop, multiple dance music subgenres, fashion, video technology, literature, children’s entertainment, and most importantly, despite the authorises misunderstanding us and their traditionist values causing hateful vengeance upon us, a wealth of people power; the notion that masses can make a difference to life, society and politics. Evident by politicians consistently doing what our Iron Lady wouldn’t do at the time, make a U-turn to save their popularity and votes. For this, we should all be proud.
I would reward myself with one last disco biscuit, but I’m unsure if my ticker would take it. Slapped with a finale date though, it would be on my bucket list, and what a way to go, reaching for the skies in one last sweet harmony…..
A proud moment for Devizes-based artist Clifton Powell as he poses for a photo next to his amazing portrait of Abbot Hadrian, in Canterbury.
Clifton joins Elena Onwochei-Garcia, Glory Samjolly, Mikéla Henry-Lowe, Hannah Uzor and Chloe Cox in a project by English Heritage. EH has commissioned a series of portraits depicting six historic figures from the African diaspora whose stories have contributed to England’s rich history. Each artist has been supported by their curators and historians to creatively portray their subject. Each painting will be hung at the English Heritage site connected to its subject this summer.
St Hadrian of Canterbury played a pivotal role in the early history of the English Church. He was born in North Africa and travelled to Italy, most likely as a refugee, before making the journey to Canterbury. He was abbot of the monastery of St Peter and St Paul (later St Augustine’s) in Canterbury, between 670 and 710.
During his time in Canterbury, he became an influential teacher and scholar, and helped shape the theology and rites of worship of the English Church.
Clifton Powell studied at the Jamaica School of Art in Kingston, Jamaica, and moved to the UK in the late 1980s. A versatile and skilled painter, Clifton is influenced by the places he has travelled to and the people he’s met. He has taken part in numerous exhibitions and art fairs in London, Bath, Stroud and the West Country including the International Black Art Fair, The House of Emperor Haile Selassie, Bluestone Gallery and Diaspora at Salisbury Arts Centre.
You may also remember me reporting on the day I attended the charity-run art group for the elderly, Arts Together, in Melksham way back in February 2019, where I met with Clifton, who is a mentor and volunteer.
Recent areas of exploration in his work include the Wiltshire countryside, wildlife, birds, still life and his remarkable series of paintings depicting unrest in the world. He is currently working on a painting project titled African Art. You can catch his work closer to home, from 21st June to 3rd July at The Yelde Hall in Chippenham when he exhibits as part of Breakout, the Alternative Art Show.
A follow-up to the 2019 exhibit Never Mind The Heritage, Here’s an Art Show, in which three local artists, Si Griffiths, Mike Long and Emma Sally exhibited their “alternative art,” Breakout extends the concept, with additional artists Clifton, Daniel Carmichael, Helen Osborne-Swan, Jimmer Willmott and Montague Tott, as well as Si, Mike and Sally. I’m looking forward to this one.
While I’m on the subject of art, don’t forget we have an online art gallery on Devizine, yes we do! Each artist gets a page to show off their work, Clifton’s is here, and if you’d like to be featured with links to your website, just drop us a line, there is no fee.
So, who told the April showers that the lockdown applied to it? Come on, I want names! Last month of lockdown was dry and clement, as soon as things starts opening up again, it phased between drizzle and downpour; you can’t make it up.
Yes, I wrote this too soon; bang on cue, here comes the sun for June.
I reviewed Cornish psych-punkers The Brainiac 5’s album Another Time Another Dimension, Trowbridge’s Sitting Tenants album A Kitchen Sink Drama. Also, Sam Bishop’s great EP Lost Promises, a single from Stockwell, Storm Jae and Nory’s called Can’t Come Home, and a new track from the Longcoats, Nothing Good. We also did a great interview with Dave Lewis, one half of Blondie & Ska. Reviews in the next few days will be an EP of Celtic punk from Liddington Hill, some awesome punkish blues from Elli De Mon, and the new album from The Lost Trades, due on 2nd June.
I started a new Sunday series, being the last one was so popular. No satire this time, just a reflection back thirty years to the era of the rave, from a personal angle; I’m having lots of fun with this, if it does make me feel old! This continues into June. So, without further to do, here’s what’s occurring in June.
Firstly, staying at home we can entertain you too. I’m gradually working through writing promotional material and sleeve notes for our compilation album, 4 Julia’s House, which, as it sounds, all proceeds will go to Julia’s House. This has proved more work than I anticipated for me, due to the most amazing line up of talent who has kindly donated a song. The penultimate entry was an exclusive rock steady track by Blondie & Ska, and the latest entry is by none other than Richard Davis & the Dissidents. See what I mean now, don’t you? Absolutely fantastic, massively hugely massive this is going to be, over three hours of genre-crossing music; something for everyone on there. Okay, I’ll copy and paste the artists featured; hold onto your jawbone.
A mahoosive thanks goes to: Pete Lamb & Cliff Hall, King Dukes, Erin Bardwell, Timid Deer, Duck n Cuvver, Strange Folk, Strange Tales, Paul Lappin, Billy Green 3, Jon Veale, Wilding, Richard Davis & The Dissidents, Barrelhouse, Tom Harris, Will Lawton & the Alchemists, Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective, Kirsty Clinch, Richard Wileman, Nigel G. Lowndes, Kier Cronin, Sam Bishop, Mr Love & Justice, Barmy Park, 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, Cosmic Shuffling, Blondie & Ska, The Birth of Bonoyster, The Oyster, The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show, Julie Meikle and Mel Reeves, Meru Michae, Cutsmith, The Tremor Tones, Big Ship Alliance, First Born Losers, Dutch Money(s), and last but by no means least, Neonian, who is working on a track as we speak.
Phew, so, yes, who is as out-out as Mickey Flanagan in June? I know right, how surreal. I went to a pub, an actual pub, and heard live music last Saturday; down the trusty gate for those Daybreakers. Bloody fantastic it was too. Here’s some things to be looking forward to over this month. Note, this is in no way exhaustive, (which is what I’m going to be trying to keep up to date with it all!) You must continue to check our event guide, for details of all events listed here, updates of events, and even live streamed.
Half term sees us into June, ongoing from Tuesday 1st there’s holiday activities at Wiltshire Museum, which we welcome their reopening, and program of forthcoming events.
Also, back in business is the Nether-Street’s Farm Cookery School, who has a parent and child class called Cake Lady on Thursday 3rd.
The weekend sees The Devizes Lions Sports Coaching Weekend at Devizes Leisure Centre, IndieDay happening across Devizes town centre, meanwhile Devizes Southgate welcomes Texas Tick Fever.
There’s a Court Room Cabaret at Trowbridge Town Hall, Talk In Code play Swindon’s Level 3, with Atari Pilot, and Rude Mood are at The Vic.
Eddie Martin is live at The Bell in Bath, and we wish the Bath Reggae Festival a successful first event, let’s hope it’ll become an annual thing.
While we’re on about festivals, the following weekend, from Friday 11th is Kite Festival at Kirtlington Park, Oxfordshire. Closer to home, Trevor Babajack Steger is at The Southgate, Devizes on Saturday, and don’t forget Lions on the Green in Devizes, Sunday 13th; let’s support their brand-new fund-raising event. Joh Griven also has a guided tour of the Heritage Walk of Devizes.
This sounds fun too, Mustard Brass Band live at The Bell in Walcott Street, Bath
Monday 14th there’s an important meeting online, a progress report on Wiltshire Museum’s hopeful move to the Assize Court.
Summer Solstice weekend, (solstice being 4:30 on Monday 21st) kicks off the Bigfoot Festival at Ragely Hall, Warwickshire. Closer to home, as it goes to press, the Kington Langley Scarecrow Festival is still happening. The HoneyStreet Barge presents Troyka, on Saturday 19th, Jon Amor’s King Street Turnaround at The Southgate, Devizes and Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue with the Pete Gage Band at The Cheese & Grain, Frome.
There are also two great charity fundraising events, Caroline Lowe as Amy Winehouse at Swindon’s Swiss Chalet, in aid of The Specialized Project, which acts as a fundraising portal for many charitable causes and projects. And at The Rose & Crown in Worton, Chloe Jordan, Mistral and the Celtic Roots Collective have a fundraiser for MacMillan Cancer Support.
To the last weekend of what will, finger’s crossed, be an amazing return to normality, on Saturday 26th, The Southgate, Devizes welcomes Blind Justice, and the brilliant Blondie & Ska play The Greyhound, Trowbridge. But I’m hopefully saddling up and heading east, for geetars and corset swinging fun at the Barge on HoneyStreet, where those Boot Hill All Stars plan to moor up, with Dry White Bones; that one will go off!
As far as I know, the legendary Black Uhuru at Frome’s Cheese & Grain, and Sunday 27th Blondie & Ska will be at the Royal Oak, Corsham. But as I say, loads more will be listed by the time we know what’s what, and hopefully a summer to remember is on the cards; just have to take responsibility for adhering to regulations and observing social distancing. Have a great June.
With a few i’s to dot and t’s to cross, the non-profit organisation Devizes Retailers & Independents announce a second IndieDay in Devizes on Saturday 5th June. With an aim to spread the word about all the excellent independent retail shops and small businesses in Devizes, last year’s event was well received and enjoyed, at such a crucial time.
Firstly, there will be trail maps, with the chance to win an indie hamper with goodies donated by generous independent retailers across Devizes. You can get one on the day from the Market Place, or pick a map up prior, during the first week of June, from any participating independent shops, or download one here. You need to post your entry form at the post office, at Cositas Bonitas or Tea Inc. by 4.30pm on the day.
Unfortunately, Devizine will not be arranging any live music this time, as we did last year. The need is must for our local musicians to concentrate on obtaining bookings for paid events, and I feel asking them to freely contribute their valuable time at this delicate moment is, quite simply unfair on them. Though we did have a wonderful day last time, and I reach out my eternal gratitude to Tamsin, Jamie, Cath and Gouldy, and particularly Mike Barham for setting it up.
There will be lots of things to do on the day though. Youth Traders at Albion Place in Sidmouth Street, will be giving some young traders the chance to take part and experience running a market stall. Something worthy of supporting. Artist/picture framer Becky Hanney Art will be there, with amazing quality craftsmanship for wood turning and bespoke pieces from Jack Baldwin. Eyah Bakes Cakes brings some amazing cake creations that are like a works of art. With prints and postcards from Harriet’s Crafts & Creations, unique handmade works in wool from Vintage Cyanide Kira, and the promise for more to be confirmed.
The ever-important face painting still has to be found a space to make me into a lion, as is my preferred choice, or risk my tantrum! But we also have music at various locations throughout the day, organised by Jemma Brown. At 10am in the Market Place Take Five perform, TITCO at 11am, and Segregation 6 Brass at midday.
Meanwhile in The Brittox, find Devizes Jubilee Morris from midday. And at The Shambles from 1pm piano and cello with Dominic and Dori, and never to be missed, young Will Foulstone on piano from 3pm. It’s a sterling effort from inDevizes and Devizes Retailers & Independents to encourage local shopping at this tricky junction, but with everyone adhering to social distancing and regulations, let’s hope for a successful IndieDay on 5th June.
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.
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!
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?!
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.
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.
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.