Live Jam Sessions at Swindon Hub Looking for Musicians

Central at The Parade, Swindon Hub, an accessible, friendly community space which opened in October are aiming to host regular Saturday jamming sessions, to promote local artists and give them a platform where they can perform……

The Hub is a comfortable volunteer-led centre trying to bring the community together. They’ve an affordable café where they invite you to relax in their “snug,” read and share books in their bookshop, browse items for sale from local retailers and upcycled furniture by Renew Men’s Shed. The profits of any surplus of stock items donated from shops for sale go to Swindon Night Shelter.

They are currently building a calendar of regular events including a monthly craft market, weekly knitting circle and writer’s club, as well as art workshops and regular music jams on the weekends. They’ve just hosted Swindon ZineFest, which I’m sorry to hear I missed, and from a Women’s History Month exhibition or a Ukraine fundraising jumble sale to Dub in the Hub sessions, the last one by Suitcase Sound System, there’s something for everyone here, especially those who like cake!

Music last Saturday came from The Thieving Magpies, but it was far from the be-all-and-end-all of activities at the Swindon Hub, as well as the aforementioned zine festival, there was a kid’s comic workshop too; it really caters for all.

“The Jam is a Community project as much as a Music one,” organiser Claire told me.

It focuses on confidence building, teamwork, social interaction and collaboration.

The Jam has been running already since September last year and there have been hundreds of people who have taken part.

There are loads of people who take part who have no background in music or performing to an audience and it creates an opportunity for people to get involved with music without the traditional barriers that stop so many people from taking the first step.

That said there are also many talented musicians who take part and it creates a wonderful mix of experience and enthusiasm that allows people of all experience levels to have a meaningful musical and emotional experience.

The key to creating a successful jam is building a relaxed atmosphere with little pressure or expectation that allows people to share without fear of criticism, ridicule or humiliation.

The Hub has a great atmosphere for this kind of activity due to the warm, friendly and supportive nature of the volunteers and visitors to the space.

There are already some fantastic success stories of people who have had their confidence built up by attending the event.

Post lockdown has seen a real boost in community spirit, and such volunteer-based projects like this are a lifeline, in rural areas and debatably more crucial in urban areas too; the larger the population doesn’t necessarily mean the large scope for friendships to occur, in fact it can be harder. So, a massive congratulations to the good folk at Swindon Hub, this looks like an amazing space doing some amazing work, and I might add for a wide-spanning age demographic.

They always need volunteers, if you want to join and help shape the future of communities in Swindon, and any musicians interested in performing for their day sessions should contact them. Facebook Page here.


Trending….

Savernake Forest Restrictions; Residents Say No!

Marlborough residents rally online to criticise Forestry England’s proposals for Savernake Forest. The questionable survey’s deadline has been extended to the 22nd of April, and a previously internal document called Savernake Forest – a Way Forward, has been published which suggests serious restrictions of access to the forest, in favour for paid parking facilities and a polarized vision for future usage.

“We are so privileged to have this beautiful and ancient forest on our doorstep,” one pleaded, “where we can freely wander where we wish. The Forestry Commission wish to change this. No vehicular access through the forest, paid parking for vehicles at Postern Hill and designated walking routes.”

Early one Sunday morning, mid-to-late nineties, and police arrive at a location off the Grand Avenue in Savernake Forest. They tell us the owner of the forest, Lord Cardigan, has reported a party. “But all we see is a few kids tidying up,” they observed with mirth, and went on their merry way. We carried on our labour, binbags in hand; we might’ve had a party, that much would be telling, but we were adamant we’d leave the forest as we found it, and mother nature would do its thing.

We did this because while we had our fun, we also respected the forest, and I don’t believe for one second any past or future generation’s youth would think any different. Long before it was “our” back garden, and I’d like to think long after, Savernake Forest has served tourists and residents alike, as a free, natural and muti-purpose attraction. It’s 4,500 acres, for crying out loud, you can have a party one end and folk can have a bike ride at the other and each be oblivious to what the others are doing!

Residents appear to take the opinion if it’s not broken, but Forestry England say “our Vision for Savernake is to nurture a shared forest unlike any other. By allowing the decisions we take to be guided by the natural potential of the land, as well as by the varied influences of our ever-changing world, we will create a diverse and inclusive forest that is a global example of what can be achieved through forward-thinking forestry.” Ah, yeah, sounds nice; when can we see it? NEVER!!

It continues to use environmental issues as a smokescreen to create a polarized plan restricting access to only the formal recreation facilities at Postern Hill.

Despite claiming the “popularity [of Postern Hill] is having a detrimental impact on the ecological values, and aesthetic values,” rather than continue the free access elsewhere to spread footfall out, the vision is for “Postern Hill being developed as the only visitor hub, where a new, larger car park (probably 300 to 350 spaces), is provided with proper toilets, play and café facilities. Leading out from the new car park would be a series of trails.” Naturally, this would be “coupled with the closure of the Grand Avenue, and indeed the rest of the Forest for vehicular access by visitors.”

Here’s the obvious clinch, the carpark will be a paid carpark, and herein the penny drops; this conservative value which seems to hate the concept no one is profiteering, even if it’s entirely natural. Similar misguided logic as the construction of a tax-funded yet chargeable mound at Marble Arch, or a tunnel under Stonehenge so one can’t see our wonder of the world unless one pays. The vision for Savernake Forest is rinsed with “spin, mis-information and claims masquerading as facts on a grand scale,” calls one local resident.

“The whole survey is worded in such a manipulative way,” suggests another Marlborough resident, “it can’t even be taken seriously! You can want all the things it tricks you into agreeing with without wanting to allow profiteering and restricted use of a beautiful local asset.”

One submits, “I’m sure the number of pheasant pens has increased in the last few years – does that count as diversity of wildlife? Certainly, a reason the Estate side that run them might be supportive and why they wouldn’t be keen on people walking around freely.” And on this, another speculates, “what they are up to is keep the public out so they can lease the bottom half of the Forest out for shooting and stalking deer.”

On several occasions the report points the finger at antisocial behaviour, that “the historic nature of the Grand Avenue, in terms of landscaped parkland; as well as the biodiversity and aesthetic values of the Forest are poorly served by the unregulated use of the Grand Avenue by the public for recreational access, anti-social activities and using the Avenue as a through route, or ‘rat-run’.” As if one can eradicate anti-social behaviour by banning everyone from a particular place it might just happen at.

One resident rightly points out the Grand Avenue is far from a sensible option as a rat-run, “more like a snail run,” they say, “as it takes three times as long driving through the Avenue as it does to drive round via Bedwyn or Burbage; it’s like these muppets have never visited the Forest!” And be safe in knowledge I agree, you really don’t want to race through Grand Avenue unless you want wrecked suspension and deer impact craters on your bodywork.

The lane is a beautiful drive, take it less than 20mph, find a place to stop, take a wander, have a picnic, that’s its purpose, and so should it continue to be. “As a resident of Marlborough for 64 years,” Barry tells me, “And a constant user of Grand Avenue, the idea of closing it is totally absurd and only being carried out for monetary gain by the commission. Their survey was, to say the least misleading, although I did highlight the removal of access should not be considered. The forest has been a lifesaver before, during and after lockdown, you only have to drive through it to see the amount of use it gets.”

Usage it might get, but the scale of it means it’s far from overcrowded. Steve expresses his concern to me, “the busiest part is at Postern, but even then, it’s not crowded. But with a car park and cafe it will be crazy. The rest of the forest is never busy, it’s mainly locals that walk in the less well-known areas. Of course, no one likes pollution from cars, but with Savernake being adjacent to two major roads the small amount of traffic on the grand avenue is like a piss in the ocean. I was bought up with the forest as our back yard; my mother who is 87 with early dementia and not very good mobility loves it when I take her in the car through the Avenue.”

Whatever their broken logic, it seems restriction of Savernake Forest, so dear to local residents is a detrimental supposition of liberty, “a lesson in how to alienate all green and nature followers,” suggested an online commentor. Another says “a project of this scale must be preceded by an Environmental Impact Analysis. I can’t find any evidence that one has been done. No EIA no planning consent.”

Please contact the Forestry Commission if you feel strongly about this. Every letter/email WILL help.


Trending…….

Tree People, a Gold Postman, Tea, Minions, Pet Camels, Red Carpets, Old Time Sailors and More; Who’s Excited About Devizes International Street Festival?

Pushed forward to Mayday bank hols, who’s getting excited about Devizes International Street Festival? I am, I always am, it’s been the best weekend of the year in our humble town for many a year, and though we’ve had setbacks with the dreaded year of lockdown and DOCA’s valiant effort to stage something near similar within the restrictions of last summer, we’ve been waiting, debatably patiently, for this summer extravaganza.

But my levels of excitedness have gone from 500% to 1,000 meows, now I’ve seen the program of acts. A band who contributed to our Julia’s House compilation, I’ve been aching to get Bristol-based frenzied folk ska-punk outfit Mr Tea & The Minions to play our town, and DOCA have either noted their brilliance themselves, or have taken heed of my constant whining of a suggestion; either way, we’re quids in, pinky promise. It means two things; someone actually listens to me, and you’ll have your socks blown off by this band I totally love!

Though that’s the icing on the cake for me, the line-up looks set to thrill us as it ever did. Hints of the acts are there to see on the DOCA website, and as usual neither the site nor us can reveal times and places of the acts, you’ll need to buy a programme, as it’s an essential fundraiser for DOCA. But we are allowed to breeze over it.

Expect mischievous experimental entertainment and audience participation, performed in the round by Full Circle, upbeat funk and Northern Soul influenced Desert Boots from Worcester, a quirky Folkdance performance around a 12-foot maypole, fusing everything from clogging to breakdance and beat boxing, a Playground of Illusions, created by Travelling Light Circus, a heavily laden golden postman suddenly surprised by a rain shower, by A bird in the Hand Theatre Company, the latest creation of Jon Hicks and Matt Rudkin, a Visionary who is said to have wisdom beyond knowledge, incredible acrobatic gravity defying feats from Spanish/Swiss collective Tripotes la Compagnie, Dr Jones & Professor Barnard’s Medicine Show, professional painter and amateur alchemist Malcolm Brushell, on a quest to find the pinky-est pink paint on the planet, sea shanties and sing-alongs with some Old Time Sailors, the minuscule majesty of meerkat Prince Amir on the back of his pet camel, circus shenanigans on a giant red carpet, Treemendous tree-people, riotous folk-fusing hypnotic trans-European melodies with Ushti Baba, of course the bustling market and side-stalls of food and drink, and my aforementioned icing on the cake, Mr Tea & The Minions.

All this happens on Saturday 30th April and Sunday 1st May, in Devizes Market Place, it’s free, it’s fantastic, it’s the Devizes event of the year, on a day where there’s also the Born2Rum Festival at the Muck & Dundar, though you’ll be hard pressed to pick up a ticket for this, plus the Leon Day Band play the Southgate, Seend has it’s annual Beer Festival and it’s Urchfont Scarecrow Festival; whoa, what a weekend!

Ushti Baba

We must praise DOCA yet again to the highest heights, but point out, The International Street Festival relies on it’s collective of volunteers to create and control the magic, who are keen to hear from anyone interested in becoming a “festival maker” by helping out in a number of vital roles. One good Facebook group to join if interested is the festival makers group, where there’s details on how you can get involved, upcoming workshops and all the behind-the-scenes gubbings which need to happen to make this magical event it is.

So, yeah, I’m excited, possibly over-excited, can you tell?!


Trending….

On the Buses with Pewsey Community Coronavirus Assistance

Parliament may’ve dissolved Covid regulations and passed the buck to public responsibility, for those still listening to them, but voluntary support group, Pewsey Community Coronavirus Assistance, originally established to assist the people of Pewsey and surrounding area during the pandemic, is not only still operating, but making improvements and necessary changes to fight, more generally, rural poverty in our area.

They proudly posted a photo of their new double-decker bus on social media, which just passed its MOT, but still needs support, help with electrics, carpentry and gas. “Our community bus was purchased to enable us to continue to fight food waste,” they explained, “food poverty, malnutrition, loneliness, isolation fatigue and cultural deprivation through our radical action plan in the heart of our community.”

The PCCA are currently operating out of the village’s Wesley Hall, “offering Foodshare by collecting food from supermarkets that would otherwise go to waste and by redistributing into the heart of our community where it’s needed most,” they continued. “The guys down at the hall have been kind enough to offer us the use of the hall while we are converting our bus, but as soon as we are good to go, the bus will be our new home.”

They deliver emergency food and household supply boxes to individuals and families suffering from financial hardship leading to food poverty, cooking nutritious meals every week for those more vulnerable members of our community, to ensure they get nutritious home cooked meals. The PCCA also run a donations-based fresh fruit and veg market and friendship café, “so people who are in isolation can come down, meet new friends and have a chat over free tea, coffee and cake, going home afterwards with a bag of fruit and veg.”

The extent of rural poverty is something seriously undersold and misguided through the seductive popular myth of the idyllic British countryside, and often imagined solely as an urban affliction. Austerity and the effects of lockdown has seen massive cuts to public infrastructure and services, so while often hidden, rural housing has an affordability crisis, employment has dwindled particularly for youth, together with increasing fuel prices, making ends meet is becoming increasingly difficult in rural areas like Wiltshire.

I would like to extend a warm hand of gratefulness for all the sterling work the PCCA has done so far, and will continue to do so, hopefully now more mobile. As well as the food packages, home cooked food delivery and community café, the amenities they cover is vast, from the Community Farming Initiative, library, and “buddy” helpline, to being a helping hand in dog walking. Everything they do is voluntarily, and they need helpers, plus funds to convert their bus to meet food safety standards on a mobile vehicle, which will cover the numerous villages of the Pewsey Vale area.

More information on the PCCA, here. Facebook here.


Trending……

Tree People, a Gold Postman, Tea, Minions, Pet Camels, Red Carpets, Old Time Sailors and More; Who’s Excited About Devizes International Street Festival?

Pushed forward to Mayday bank hols, who’s getting excited about Devizes International Street Festival? I am, I always am, it’s been the best weekend of … Continue reading “Tree People, a Gold Postman, Tea, Minions, Pet Camels, Red Carpets, Old Time Sailors and More; Who’s Excited About Devizes International Street Festival?”

Marching On, Things to do Next Month, Part 1……

I bloomin’ love March, usually, but as we show this month the door, and with such a mild winter, do not get over excited; while temperatures improve slightly, except it’ll be a wet one. A day of snow predicted Thursday, March kicks in better, but worsens by the second week, with a forecast 15-22 days of perpetual rain, hopefully clearing at the end, from Thursday 24th.

To add a degree of optimism to all this, there’s a truckload of things to do over the first month of so-called spring, there’s hope we can see less events being cancelled and life in the great outdoors taking steps towards the positive. Still, I advise to check ahead before venturing out, via the links provided; our ever-updating event calendar doesn’t update that quickly to include cancelations, and I can’t be held responsible for such cancelations or failure of organisers to refund tickets. Also, it’s a minefield adding links to these events, so find them all on the calendar, ta muchly.

And do not take this as comprehensive, the calendar is being updated all the time, this is just some advance highlights and all things I’d do, if I had cloning technology……

Given all I’ve said about the weather, it doesn’t seem too bad for Bath’s Big Sleepout on Friday 4th in Alice Park; hats off to Julian House and all doing it, raising vital funds and awareness for people forced to sleep-out every night.

Prior, live rock, electronica and folk from novelist, playwright and stand-up comedian Grant Sharkey, with ecologist Thomas Haynes and Bristol the Badger, aka Grasslands, on Wednesday 2nd, at that little coffee shop Baristocats, on Commercial Road Swindon. While Thursday sees one half of Show of Hands, Steve Knightly, at Trowbridge’s Pump, and the other, Phil Beer kicking off his So Much to Choose From tour at Corsham’s Pound Arts. Meanwhile, it’s a three-way guitar showdown at Chapel Arts in Bath with Daryl Kellie, Will McNicol and David Mead, and the Apricity Theatre group bring a Greenhouse of emerging artists out of lockdown to the Rondo Theatre.

WEEK 1

Friday 4th

To week one, then; starting Friday 4th, for parents and babies, Pound Arts has Swings & Roundabouts by the Filskit Theatre, who are inviting the bum wipers, bedtime boppers and owners of tiny humans, to join actor, musician, and mummy, Sophie Ross, for a brand-new comedy musical. A nappy change in the evening though, with dark, gut-wrenching adult stand-up from Bobby Mair, on his Cockroach tour.

The Exchange, Devizes pushes up the Tempo with a drum n bass night, while for a more hip-hop/reggae related evening, try DJ Nicewun & Mac Lloyd at The Village Pump. For something lighter, Alan Titchmarsh is at the Theatre Royal, Bath!

If you are in Bath, though, and into folk, try internationally renowned Faustus at Chapel Arts, who also come to Marlborough folk Roots the next week, Friday11th, or The Rondo, where Cindy Stratton and Marius Frank, ZBella, men’s choir Sasspafellas and upcoming singer/songwriter Ellie Frank headline an evening of entertainment raising money for the refugee charity UNHCR.

Closer to home, our good friends Bran and Mirko, as The Celtic Roots Collective bring some Irish roots to Seend Community Centre, from 7pm, which is free or donations. Also look out for one-man mechanical alt-blues band, Funke and the Two-Tone Baby at the Winchester Gate, Salisbury, a tribute to Nightwash, Knightwish, at the Vic, Swindon, or Coyote Kings at the Village Inn. Oh, and the Fillers play the Cheese & Grain, Frome.

Saturday 5th

Saturday, and the Wharf Theatre, Devizes has the award-winning theatre company White Cobra, presenting Bette & Joan, i.e., Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, in danger of becoming has-beens but get an opportunity to appear together in a new film, if the arch-rivals don’t clash.

Swindon’s original band with bluesy intent, Thud come to The Southgate, while the Bear’s Cellar Bar reopens with free entry to a 70s-80s Disco with DJ Andy Saunders.

It’s happy third birthday to Melksham’s The Hiding Place, and The Carpenters Experience, which speaks for itself, at the Assembly Hall.

Trowbridge Town Hall get post-punk DIY vibes with a triple billing of Slagheap, Slug Puppie and Carsick, while Chippenham’s Neeld have Amen Corner’s Andy Fairweather Low & the Low Riders, and The Cuban Brothers take The Cheese & Grain, but when in Frome, local punkers One Chord Wonders play the Sun. In complete contrast, Pound Arts has critical acclaimed folk and Americana, with Ida Wenøe & Samantha Whates.

Back to the arts, Rondo Theatre, Bath have Charlotte Palmer in an hilarious and moving one woman show, sometimes angry exploration of women over 50, who find themselves overlooked, ignored, disregarded, in short becoming The Invisible Woman, and Theatre Royal’s Egg have The Dark, Peut-Etrê Theatre which merges vibrant physicality with live music to create captivating and energetic performances for the whole family. It is even accessible for blind and visually impaired children through integrated audio description and touch tours.

Sunday 6th

Jon Amor’s first Sunday of the month residency at the Southgate, Devizes is the place to be, promising guest Jonny Henderson. But allow me to also recommend Bath’s Yiddish folk collective, Chai For All, who celebrate International Women’s Day at the Grapes.

Week 2

The Theatre Royal, Bath starts Willy Russel’s musical Blood Brothers on Tuesday 8th and running until Saturday, while the Ustinov Studio has an epic cycle of short plays exploring the personal and political effect of war on modern life, called Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat running from Thursday to Saturday.

But for a locally themed performance, try the Theatre screening of Naming The View at Pound Arts, Corsham, on Thursday. Naming the View takes its inspiration from Shakespeare’s much-loved comedy, The Taming of the Shrew, yet it’s setting is Seend.

Meanwhile, Chapel Arts, Bath has three days on the trot of acoustic folk with Chris Wood on Wednesday, Nick Hart on Thursday, and The Lost Trades play Friday.

Friday 11th

Aforementioned internationally renowned folk with Faustus at Marlborough Folk Roots club, and there’s open mic night at Trowbridge’s Pump, the third heat for amateur musicians of Take The Stage at Chippenham’s Neeld, and ancient ballads promise to be awoken, poems given the tunes they’ve long deserved with Salt House, Scotland’s foremost performers; Jenny Sturgeon, Ewan MacPherson and Lauren MacColl at Pound Arts.

I’d recommend the experimental jazz-fusion of SexJazz, at Swindon’s Beehive for a Harbour Project FUNdraiser, funding art sessions for Swindon refugees and asylum seekers. Also, the Relayaz Band at Bradford-on-Avon’s Boathouse, or for Thin Lizzy fans, as I know there’s a few, Limehouse Lizzy play The Cheese & Grain.

But Devizes best of luck wishes go out to our Full Tone Orchestra, who present Gilbert & Sullivan Pirates of Penzance at Bath Abbey; glorious!

Saturday 12th

Saturday is a whopper, spoiled for choice you are! The most excellently unique Bristol-based Two-Tone punk meets Sierra Leonean percussion duo, Two Man Ting return to The Southgate, Devizes. Meanwhile the Corn Exchange opens its doors to the Lacock-based Wiltshire Soul & Blues Club with a blues extravaganza headlining Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue, and there’s a rock n roll night at the Conservative Club, fundraising for Kennet Gateway Club with Mickey Ace and the Wildcards and DJ.

With support by the awesome Train to Skaville, boot boys need to get to Melksham, where Madness tribute Complete Madness take the Assembly Hall one step beyond. Meanwhile our indie-pop heroes, Talk in Code support for The Worried Men at Trowbridge Town Hall. The Dunwells play The Croft, Hungerford.

The Roving Crows play Chapel Arts, Bath, masters of euro-trance, Transglobal Underground at The Cheese & Grain, Frome, and there’s a Party & The Pavilion at Minety Rugby Club, featuring a number of bands, including our friends The Dirty Smooth.

Deep Purple, Rainbow and Whitesnake tributes rolled into one at the Vic, Swindon, with Rising from the Deep, meanwhile, Room 101 take the Castle, and Mean as Custard, Loaded Dice and Six O’clock Circus have a free band-off at Level III, fundraising for Swindon homeless charity the Moonlight Express Project. Oh, and MECA have a Sausage & Cider Fest; two of my favourite things!

But if gigs don’t tickle your fancy, there’s some excellent family theatre too; Saturday and Sunday at the Theatre Royal, is the place to find The Super Greedy Caterpillar, and Pound Arts in Corsham have Zoo Co Theatre coming in, presenting Messy, where you can meet Daisy. She’s got a messy brain and a messy bedroom, which makes it very difficult to look after her class hamster Mr Twiggy! A magical visual story, complete with original music, puppets, tap dancing and even a trip to the moon!

Messy is performed by a deaf and hearing cast with Sign Supported English, created in partnership with ADHD Foundation, where all performances are Relaxed, without loud noises and lights left on, and it is followed by a free workshop afterwards.

Saturday at Pound Arts also sees ENG-ER-LAND by Hannah Kumari and WoLab, a football-themed play set in 97, with 13-year-old Lizzie, obsessed with the beautiful game.

Sunday 13th and I got nothing, yet, except CSF Wrestling at The Cheese & Grain, but that’s why you need to keep checking into our bulging event calendar, as more comes in all the time. So much, I’m leaving it there, through fear of repetitive strain injury of my typing fingees. Either that, or it’ll be the middle of April before you finish reading it. But don’t, whatever you do, think for a second there’s nought to do in Wiltshire, and we’ll finish off the rest of March in a few days, give you time to digest this lot first!


Trending……………..

Devizine 4 Julia’s House; Volume 2 in the Pipeline, Need Your Help!

I’m delighted to transfer £186.46 over to Julia’s House Children’s Hospices today, the proceeds to-date of our compilation album; well, I call it an album, but it’s one mahoosive boxset really, a staggering forty-six tracks from local artists and others worldwide who’ve featured somewhere on Devizine in the past.

If you’ve not heard this absolutely stunning Miss World of music before, a virtual Now, That’s What I Call Devizine Music, she’s here for your viewing pleasure, please download your copy, exclusive on Bandcamp, as I feel this site offers the best deal to artists. Once you buy it, it stores in your account cloud, and you have unlimited downloads, so you can put it onto various devices.

Unlike a fundraising event, here is something which will stay in the domain, something you can download whenever you like, and we’ll continue to build a little stash and send it over to this wonderful registered charity once it builds up again. If I’m honest, I’ve been waiting for it to total to a nice round £200 before sending, but attention on the project has waned recently, and it’s been a while.

There are ways I could prompt folk towards it, a poster or flyer campaign would be handy, but I figure, as lots of bands and musicians expressed an interest to be included, after its release, time is nigh to start plotting a second volume.

As we penned all the acts onto an army surplus bag for the front cover, as many students in my era did just this, I thought we’d do similar this time. So, see our old school desk below, eerily free of graffiti? It is aching for me to inscribe your band name or logo onto it, with chewed biro.

You should note we have three tunes for volume 2 already, from Nick Harper, yes, I said Nick Harper, the wonderful Onika Venus, and Marlborough rockers, Catfish. But we need you onboard too. I envision it being entirely new artists, so if you contributed a track to volume one, I sincerely thank you, but unless you’re absolutely bursting with enthusiasm to forward a second song, let’s try to compile a whole new set of artists.

What got to me last time, was the unexpected amount of work I’d set myself. There was me, at the beginning, thinking I’d just be bobbing about, enjoying the ride, while our contributing artists did all the hard labour!

It occurred to me at the time, I’d likely raise better funds riding through town in a bathtub full of cold baked beans, and while I’ve certainly not scrubbed the idea, I would like this compilation project to build into a series, really prompting and promoting the best of the music we feature on Devizine, and giving the good folk out there a sampler of what great music there is, as well as raising funds for such a brilliant charity; it’s a double-whammy. Ergo, sending us a song will put you straight onto the good list!

So, I ask, if you want to contribute a song, please bear with, and I’ll be back in touch as soon as possible, but last time I was inundated. Streamlined, that’s the key here, so I’ve set out some guidelines to contributing below.

Firstly, we NEED original songs, NO COVERS, not even Chas & Dave ones, as copyright is a minefield. You must own the rights to the song, or have permission from everyone who owns the rights to it, and you MUST TELL ME THIS, see the form at the bottom.

Secondly, please remember this is a children’s charity, and while Julia’s House has been accepting of all the styles and content, really, I don’t want songs with unsuitable themes, or constant bad language. Willing to accept the odd naughty word, and extreme content should be avoided, thanks.

Thirdly, any genre is fine; I want to get a real cross-section of sounds, no pigeonholing. While some chose to record an exclusive song, and that was great, all I ask is for an album track or outtake not currently doing the rounds, but you’re free to choose whatever one suits you best.

Fourthly, there is NO DEADLINE set as of yet, but I will email you once one is decided; please do not wait for the deadline if you can help it; last time I got confused where I stood on so many promised contributions, and it doesn’t take a lot of confuse me.

And, oh fifthly, if that’s not already too much to take in already?! Please ensure you include how you’d like the song to be listed, i.e. Name of Artist and Song. Sounds rather obvious, but also, if I don’t know you already, send some links to websites, social media, and a short bio too!

You can copy and paste this passage below into an email, fill in the dotty bits, and send it to me at devizine@hotmail.com – attach a WAV file format of the song you’d like me to add, and wait patiently for a reply; I look forward to hearing your song; you flipping superstar, you!

I, (FULL NAME) confirm I’m the full copyright holder of the track (ENTER SONG NAME) or that I have contacted any other parties which holds rights to the track and have gained their permission also. 

I hereby grant Darren Worrow of Devizine, my permission to use it as part of the 4 Julia’s House Volume 2 compilation album, fundraising for Julia’s House. Registered Charity Number 1067125. I also agree to allow clips of the track to be used for promotional purposes of the album mentioned above only.

In turn, Darren Worrow and Julia’s House maintain the artist of the track reserves all rights to the track, and it is only used in conjunction with the aforementioned album.

(If you have PRS details, Tunecode or ISWC, please add them.)


Trending…….

UB40 Tribute, Johnny2Bad in Devizes for CCTV Fundraiser

Amnesty International investigate, but a song can resonate injustices to the masses with far more impact. When UB40 released Tyler, in 1980, the perversions of the American justice system which jailed Gary Tyler six years previously for a murder he didn’t commit were little known in the UK. Convicted based entirely on the statements of four witnesses who later recanted their testimony, one has to wonder the differences having CCTV technology back then might’ve had on injustices such as this.

Apt then, that Birmingham’s premier UB40 tribute act, Johnny2Bad are playing The Exchange nightclub on Friday 11th February for a Devizes & District Licensees fundraiser, to raise funds towards supporting our town CCTV. But we’ve already got a CCTV system, haven’t we?

I caught up with Noel Woolrych, controller of the cameras since it began fourteen years ago, to ask him what improvements need to be made. “How long a list would you like?” he responded, pointing out several areas in need of cameras; blind spots which I’ve no intention of telling you where they are cos, I know what you’re like! “But it’s pretty much impossible to get from the Bell to Waddies without going past several cameras,” Noel adds; probably got a few of me staggering home!

Currently upgrading the cameras in Old Swan Yard and putting up a couple more behind the Town Hall, Noel points out “none of it is original, as it’s been upgraded several times. We respond to requests where there is antisocial behaviour.”

Inclined to quip, at least the CCTV is run by a Labour man, heaven help us otherwise, but Noel quickly deflected the political jab, “politics has nothing to do with it.  I’m just concerned for the safety of all.” And in that, I’m convinced nothing Orwellian is in operation here, Noel adamant if you’re doing nothing wrong, he’s not interested in spying on you.

“It’s being well supported by the night-time economy,” continues Noel, explaining it recently caught someone smashing a car windscreen, and provided evidence for the knife incident at the Dolphin. “Oh, and my conviction rate of those who get to court is only 100%!” he vaunts, though with good reason, and for the coverage to continue keeping us safe and improve, further updates are needed.

I’m certain booking Johnny2Bad is as a wise move as it is fitting, everyone loves UB40, and this eight-piece ensemble are a world-renowned tribute, endorsed by Ali Campbell himself on a national TV interview. With a wealth of experience beyond the reggae circuit, members of the band have toured with artists such as Sting, Santana and Peter Gabriel, and also reggae legends Jimmy Cliff, Third World, Shaggy, and Maxi Priest, but ultimately, Ali Campbell and the late Astro themselves; there can surely be no higher accolade.

But if there’s one thing which, for me, puts a tribute act on a pedestal, is when they record original material in the style of those tributed. I’ve played one of two of their singles, “I love you,” on my radio show, and it magnificently mimics the UB40 sound to the degree without knowing you’d think it was an album track of theirs you must’ve missed, and they’ve more tracks promised.

Not one to blag, but I’m honoured to have their collaboration lockdown single on our compilation album for Julia’s House, “we’re all in this thing together,” with Big Ship Alliance, another brilliant reggae outfit which also has a Freddie McGregor tribute, plus Robbie Levi, and Stones.

Still, Johnny2Bad are real crowd-pleasers, and you’d be in for a fantastic night of the classic UB40 covers we love. Although I’d be hoping for some personally favoured UB40s older originals, I won’t throw toys from my pram if they don’t, as I believe post-Red Red Wine, their concentration on covering reggae classics breathed new life into rare Jamaican singles, which otherwise might’ve been lost in time. Such as the sublime Lord Creator’s Kingston Town, and man, if this ol’ trainspotter need Google if UB40 ever covered the Slicker’s Johnny Too Bad, Johnny2Bad have answered that for me!

Tickets for Johnny2Bad at The Exchange on Friday 11th February are £15, and can be found in the various pubs, at Devizes Light & Sound in Sidmouth Street…. but not in Kingston Town, the place I long to be, if I had the whole world, I would give it away, just to see, the girls at play…. but obviously not via taking advantage of Noel’s CCTV system, for that’s just to catch criminals!


Trending…..

Singing Bishop with Stories to Tell Comes to St. Mary’s Devizes

If there’s one venue I’m delighted to pen an event preview for, this new year, it has to be St Mary’s Church in Devizes. The Invitation Theatre Company showed us the potential of this disused church way back when, when Jemma and friends aptly dressed as nuns for Sister Act, if I remember rightly?!

Since it’s been on the cards to convert St Mary’s into arts centre, and must be said, it’s been a rocky road to get this far. Now the venue is ready for singing Bishop of Ramsbury, Andrew Rumsey to showcase his musical and literary talents.

The event is in aid of the church regeneration fund, as Wiltshire Council and Salisbury Diocesan Authorities have given the go ahead for an extension to house additional facilities and the necessary changes to the interior.

On the evening of Saturday 22nd January, Andrew will be sharing songs and readings from his new book English Grounds: A Pastoral Journal in the 12th Century Church.

Appropriate for a Grade 1 listed venue, which has been a place of worship in Devizes for the best part of nine hundred years. Dr Rumsey’s new book is rooted in the Wiltshire landscape, exploring themes of place, spirituality and belonging in a series of short essays and photographs.

As well as being an author, whose writing centres on themes of place and local identity, the bishop is also a musician, with a longstanding interest in song writing and popular music. Former Literary Editor of The Times, Erica Wagner, describes his latest title as “a marvellous book, lit by faith, love and imagination”.

The event will be the first of a number planned at St Mary’s for 2022, as the innovative plans to transform the church as a hub for arts in the community take a step nearer, which is exciting news for Devizes.

Entry is £10, you can book at Devizes Books, or pay on the door.


Trending….

Devizine Review of 2021; Marginally Better than 2020!

If we recently reviewed Ian Diddams and friends meeting at the Vaults for their annual festive Jackanory, the first article of 2021 was the very same funny fellow reciting his yarn as a live stream from his mocked garden grotto, and in that, surely displays how far we’ve come from the restrictions of lockdown we entered the year with. Though not without the same notion as last Christmas looming over us, like a dirty black shroud, that it was, perhaps, all too soon, and we’ve not seen the backside of the Covid19 yet.

Summarising, 2021 was marginally better than 2020; there were gung-ho moments of throwing caution to the wind, and there were others to make us stop and ponder the consequences of our actions. There’s little doubt the world will never be the same for decades to come; social interaction, shopping, even work practises; but we did get to party on occasions, and when it was good, it was really good.

And if it ended with a Boxing Day brawl, I suspect some wished for the bash-a-sab fest. Even police it seems, who would likely send in The Wealdstone Raider to crowd control a Wealdstone V Whitehawk FC game, if given the assignment. Did I predict this when I said “make no mistake, there’s a civil war under our noses, which comes to an apex when blood-thirsty predators triumphantly parade their wrongdoing on a day when most of us struggle out of bed to reach the fridge?”

Hardly crystal ball stuff, tensions at their highest for rural Wiltshire’s most contradictory dispute, it was on the cards since day dot; when the county voted in a foxhunting Police Crime Commissioner, whose misadventures in drink driving caused him to pull out at a cost of millions to the taxpayer. A calamity most shrugged off with “oh, ha-ha, those naughty Tories, bless ‘em.”


Allowed Out to Play

It was May before I set foot in a pub, lockdown eased and live music was back on the agenda, albeit with hefty restrictions; early ending times, remain seated, table service, no mingling outside of “bubbles,” and deffo no dancing or singing. It felt awkward to begin with, not quite the same, but it was a start, and who better to kick off proceedings than the brilliant Daybreakers, gracing the trusty Southgate? One could sense the joy from Cath, Gouldy et al, to be singing to an audience once again, proving their dedication to the cause. A handclap emoji just isn’t the same.

For a while then The Southgate remained the only venue in Devizes providing live music, and we thank Deborah, Dave and all staff for working within the rules to create a safe space to be blessed with music; it was like they were on roller-skates at times, up and down the beer garden, ensuring not a mouth was left dry!  

I also ventured out to the Barge at Honeystreet, to see how they were coping with the boundaries too. And what a show The Boot Hill All Stars put on there, under a spacious marquee, so tempting to get up and dance, but couldn’t; mastered foot-tapping though.

The return to some normality for many in Devizes came in clement early June, when Devizes Lions held a fantastic car show, plus, on the Green. With side stalls aplenty, nervously folk began to socially distanced mingle; it was a breath of fresh air and a testament to what can be safely achieved with forward thinking and dedication.

Image by Nick Padmore

By July I made it out a few times, the idea of Vince Bell teaming with the individual performers of The Lost Trades, Phil, Jamie and Tamsin was too much of an irresistible hoedown of local talent to miss, and a third trip to the trusty Southgate to tick TwoManTing off my must-do list also proved to be a memorable evening.

The beginning of August I ventured to TrowVegas to tick another off said list, catching those Roughcut Rebels with new frontman Finley Trusler. They blasted the Greyhound, and didn’t disappoint. The month shifted gear for many, and things simply blossomed like there never was a lockdown. Back-to-back weekends saw both my favourite largescale of 2021, the single-most amazing festival near Marlborough; MantonFest is a real gem, professionally done with a real communal atmosphere, the type perpetual drizzle couldn’t put a downer on. This event wowed.

Back in Devizes, the events of the year were the weekend which followed, sitting nicely between a stripped back version of DOCA’s International Street Festival sprinkled across town, was of course, The Full Tone Festival. Without the refreshing emergence of folk out of lockdown, this would have still been something for the town’s history books, but being as it was, the opportunity to head back out and enjoy life once again, the timing, the best weather, the whole ambience was electric. The time and work gone into pulling this off was absolutely outstanding, and for which folk of Devizes will forever mark it as a celebration of post lockdown.

Awakenings even drew Andy out of hiding by September, and I was overjoyed to have him back on the team, without putting his bag and coat on the hook, he went out to play, reviewing Devizes Musical Theatre’s Gallery of Rogues, and Devizes Town Band’s Proms in Hillworth Park. Meanwhile I was delighted to see The Wharf Theatre reopen with a fantastic performance of Jesus Christ Superstar.

September also saw the welcome return of Devizes Comedy at the Corn Exchange, and The Long Street Blues Club, who, kicking off with Creedence Clearwater Review, wasted no time catching up with their rescheduled programme of the most excellent blues nights money can buy. Andy covered these, while I ventured to see Kieran J Moore’s new digs at Trowbridge Town Hall. After a brilliant street art exhibit from Tom Miller, I went to taste the music there, with a most memorable evening from Onika Venus. I returned to the scene in November, for a great gig from Ålesund with support from Agata.

Other than a trip to the White Horse Opera and Southgate to see Jon Amor’s King Street Turnaround, Andy pitched a tent at Long Street Blues Club, one time shipped out to the Corn Exchange in late November for Focus, which Andy crowned best gig of the year. I made it out to the Cross Keys in Rowde for The Life of Brian Band, and to the Southgate see Strange Folk again, since their fantastic set on Vinyl Realm’s stage at a Street Festival of yore. But October held my best gig of the year, the reasons manyfold, and I’m lay them on the line….

For the outstanding fundraising efforts of the Civic award-winning local supergroup, The Female of the Species, I hold them all up as my heroines, therefore the chance to see them again at Melksham’s fantastic Assembly Hall too much to miss, and the fact they’d chosen this time to raise funds for another of my local heroines, Carmela Chillery-Watson, was almost too much to take! With an electric night of awesome danceable covers and a massive raffle, they raised a staggering £1,763 for Carmela’s Therapy Fund.

It will never cease to amaze me the selfless lengths our musicians will go to for fundraising. Even after a year and half of closed hospitality and no bread-and-butter gigs, they continue to offer their precious time to help. While events blossomed late this year, and November saw the return of TITCO, and Devizes Arts Festival added a spellbinding mini-autumn-festival with Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, Sally Barker and Motown Gold, Devizine continued also to preview events and do what we had being doing to find content during lockdown. Yeah, we rattled some cages with social and political opinion pieces, tasted some great takeaway tucker, and we reviewed recorded music further afield as well as local, but we had a number of feelgood stories, most memorable being things like our snowman competition in January, but there was a project which highlighted the sterling effort from musicians to fundraise, and it will be something I’ll never forget.

Image: Gail Foster

So, in April I announced we would be putting together a compilation album, fundraising for Julia’s House Children’s Hospices and by late June it was a thing. It was hard work to put together, but I’m astounded by the plethora of great bands and artists who took the time to send us a tune for inclusion. Knowing time was precious for artists popping out of lockdown, in need to source bookings and rehearse, I only asked them to provide us with an existing tune to prompt their albums, but some went beyond this, giving us exclusive outtakes such as the brilliant Richard Davis & the Dissidents, or some even recorded new songs, like Blondie & Ska, Tom Harris and Neonian.

I picked a staggering forty-six tracks to bind together, to create a boxset so humongous it would need far too many CDs to make it actual, so due to this and the expense of outlaying, it exists as a download on Bandcamp. Think of it as a teaser for the many great acts we’ve supported and reviewed over the years, and for a tenner, it works out under 5p a tune.

For me this was a momentous achievement, and can’t thank them enough. While I’ve put it out to the right places, to the Gazette & Herald and Fantasy, and airtime on West Wilts Radio’s fantastic Sounds of Wilderness Show, there is obviously more I need to do to get the message out there, as sales have been slow, unfortunately.

I could fathom a number of reasons for this, but in all, we’ve raised approximately £177 for Julia’s House, hoping to reach a £200 target before we send them the money, still sales have waivered off so significantly I feel I need to send what we’ve had so far. Please help us to up the total if you’ve not already bought this fantastic album. Gloom aside I will say I’m planning a second volume, and already have a few contributions from incredible acts such as Nick Harper, Onika Venus and Catfish.

Returning to events for the last part of the year, While Andy fondly reviewed Focus, I popped into the Corn Exchange for a quick interview with The Lost Trades, and left to attend a great art show at the Shambles. That weekend the Full-Tone Orchestra played Swindon’s Wyvern, and I’m grateful to Ian Diddams for his review. This is what we need, people, we cannot cover everything, but if you’ve a few words to say about an event or anything local, please, help to make Devizine a comprehensive community, erm, thing!

Of course, one delightful addition to our team TD Rose has been submitting some lovey features, firstly of ramblings, and more recently she made friends with Wiltshire Museum, and reviewed DOCA’s Winter Festival. Thank you so much Tyg, I’ve yet to meet, but we need to arrange this for the new year.

Image: Chris Dunn

Towards the end of November Andy remained seated at Long Street, I did the rum bar thing. Such a refreshing addition to Devizes, The Muck & Dundar pulled off a blinder with Bristol DJs, The Allergies. This was one smooth funky night, best for an age, and it was great to shake my greying tailfeathers. Both Andy and I finished off the year with a Boot Hill bash at the Southgate, where hip hop misfits Monkey Bizzle supported, and was shocked by Andy’s positive reaction, being more my cup of cheddar, this was an awesome night too!

Kossoff played Long Street, Andy also went to White Horse Opera’s Winter Concert and other than the hugely successful Tractor & Tinsel Run, we’re back to where we started with an Ian Diddams’ spoken word showdown the Vaults!


On Stats and Boring Stuff

Our Annual Stats Doubled from Last Year!

Having live music back, no matter the limitations was a breath of fresh air. Prior to it I was still scrambling around in the dark as I was in 2020, hunting for something to write about. But I guess a year of lockdown had given me time to contemplate and improve on the content. This boosted the stats, for if 2020 saw a drop in readership, I hoped to better it, and I’m pleased to announce we had a record amount, well over doubling the figures of 2020. This is awesome news, and I thank everyone for keeping the faith in us, and continuing to support Devizine.

I keep looking at the bar graph of stats, not believing the skyscraper which is 2021. How much we’ve grown, become a “thing” now. It’s fantastic and I hope we will continue to entertain you. I must stress though, we don’t harass you to subscribe or any rubbish like this, we keep advertising to a minimum, and nothing should pop up and distract your reading, and we uphold the ethos features should be free to the end user.

Yet we do need to maintain some budget to keep the site going. That’s currently around £60 a year; we fund our own beer money, thank you, we’re not MPs, we have no expense forms! So please consider donating to keep Devizine afloat, please donate when sending us an advert, unless it is fundraising. I’d really like to build up a small fund to get some charity events off the ground, as I believe the artists should be paid for their time considering their predicament too. So, anything extra will go towards this, and promoting the Julia’s House album.

What can we expect from Devizine in 2022, you might ask; well, if it’s not broken……let’s happily bash on shall we?! Thank you all so much for your support over 2021, the stats show we’re heading in the right direction.


On Food

Said this before, but I take pride in repeating myself; food reviews get an enormous response, yet still eateries seem reluctant to come forward. A food review here will do wonders for your sales, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a greedy so-and-so. Places we’ve eaten out or takeaways we’ve had which failed to live up to our expectations have not been mentioned. I’m no Gordon Ramsey and I’m not about to publish a slagging off. I’d rather tell you to your face why I’m not reviewing it!

During lockdowns the takeaway became essential part of a weekend treat for families with nought else to do, and new establishments opened, while pre-existing ones flourished. In January we praised the Massimos’ Pizza, and the following month saw me queuing halfway down a frozzled Nursteed Road for a rather tasty Greek Gyro from the Cosy Kitchen mobile van; such was the popularity of these mobile units during the bleakest of times.

When things begun to open up in April I went for my first vaccination jab, where they told me not to drive for fifteen minutes. They didn’t say go find a new Indian lunchtime takeaway in the Brittox, but we did, and long should Naan Guru live on!

Not much further into the same month, I tracked down The Feisty Fish, a fish n chips van like no other. They don’t come into town being there’s chip shops here, but track these guys down for the single best gourmet fish n chips you will ever taste, I tell no lie!

June saw a second IndieDay, organised by InDevizes, and prompted people to get out and shop with a bustling farmer’s market, in which I discovered the rosy cheeked benefits of Lavington’s Rutts Lane Cider, and merrily made my way home on the bus! I also had to mention, unsurprisingly to those who know me, that month, that Plank’s Dairies introduced a new locally-sourced organic milk, yogurt and juice range, in sizable and reusable glass bottles, which has proved hugely popular.

Naturally, without a main stage this year, there was a greater interest in the food market at The Devizes Street Festival in August, and the following month we mentioned Devizes Food & Drink Festival’s Market, where I was reunited with Rutts!

It was July when we discovered Thai-day Friday, and that was just delicious!

Mildly amusing than most, I offered a Battle of the Best Devizes Breakfast, in November, something we need to follow up on when the kids are back in school, as Round One, The Condado Lounge Vs New Society was a popular post. I bloomin’ love food, me, y’know, invite me to your café, pub or restaurant and I’ll give you my honest opinion, except I don’t do eggs or liquorice; yuck!


On Music

If I’ve already mentioned our awesome 4 Julia’s House project, and all the artists who contributed are in my good books, we also covered a whole heap of new releases. Plus, we started a Song of the Day, where we post a YouTube link for your pleasure, and generally don’t say much else about it, rather waffle on a tangent! But mostly recorded sound reviews waned when live music reopened, still we strive to continue telling you what we like.

Will Lawton

Will Lawton proposed to open a music school, JMW held a lockdown festival in support of musicians, Wiltshire Council asked Gecko for a Road Crossing song and video, and Wiltshire Rural Music’s announced producing live steams from Trowbridge Town Hall.

Kirsty Clinch announced her music school and book plans, and covered Swindon’s sound system Mid Life Krisis’s live streams. We chatted to The Scribes, announced The Lost Trades Live Stream in Advance of Album Launch, and The Ruzz Guitar Sessions, and Asa Murphy returning to Devizes.

We announced Sheer’s Salem gig, the Dear John Concert Album for War Child, and the bid to help Calne Central. Announced Sheer’s Frank Turner gig at the Cheese & Grain, chatted to Blondie & Ska. Announced Wharf Theatre’s Youth Theatre, Pound Arts Blue Sky Festival, My Dad’s Bigger than Your Dad Festival in tribute to Dave Young. This list goes on, but most enjoyable recently, meeting up with Visual Arts Radio who moved from Frome to Devizes.

We reviewed Terry Edwards Best of Box Set, Ain’t Nobody’s Business by Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue and Pete Gage, Skates & Wagons, Kirsty Clinch, Small Town Tigers, Django Django, Chole Glover, Araluen and Ariel Posen. Trowbridge DJ and producer Neonian, The Direct Hits, Andy J Williams, Erin Bardwell, Nigel G Lowndes, Mike Clerk, Cutsmith, Timid Deer, and Cult Figures.

Horses of the Gods, Lone Ark & The 18th Parallel, Longcoats, Black Market Dub and The Lost Trades.

Brainiac 5, Sitting Tenants, Stockwell, Storm Jae and Nory, Sam Bishop, Longcoats, The Bakeseys and Elli de Mon.

Liddington Hill, Boom Boom Racoon, Longcoats, Girls Go Ska and Daisy Chapman.

Monkey Bizzle, Webb, The Hawks, Captain Accident & The Disasters, Onika Venus, Death of Guitar Pop, The Burner Band, Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer, and Scott Lavene.

Spearmint, Captain Rico & The Ghost Band, Sonny Vincent, Freya Beer, Near Jazz Experience, Beans on Toast, Old Habits, and most recently, Paul Lappin! That enough for you?! 


On the Social and Political Side

The fate of every nation depended on how their governments dealt with the pandemic, and how the public responded to them. I’m not here to dwell on international or even national politics, for this is a review of Devizine, what I define loosely as “an entertainment news and events guide,” for the locality of Wiltshire, focussing particularly on our base, Devizes. Yet tenaciously it is linked, undeniably affecting limitations to what we could and couldn’t do. By the very appalling national statistics, despite rolling out vaccinations like no other country, it revealed true horrors of conflicting government decisions, their general disrespect and selfishness for the public they’re supposed to serve, and the public’s reaction to them.

Like a blind vacuum, sucking in every government blame game, it never ceases to amaze me keyboard warriors on social media turning culpability onto mainstream media, when their task is purely to report news, and capture the mood of the nation. The mainstream media is ruled by the elite, funding the government, they’re in bed together, literally. To publicise shortage of goods is informing of a potential issue, they didn’t enforce panic buying, the public did; chicken and egg. Equally, to publish mood change in the majority lost faith in government, is because there’s a mood change; we’ve lost faith in government.

I’m not here to say I told you so; I’ve not lost faith in this government, I had none to start with!

Take the last set of pandemic announcements, made only hours after government-controlled media broke news of Downing Street Christmas parties, best part of twelve months earlier. A day where the public felt betrayed, even those who voted for Bojo and his cronies held their heads in shame and had to confess it was all too much for a government to break rulings it set itself, and party on while the public suffered, and died. The mood was understandably bleak; why should we do what they say when they clearly don’t?

Why, you ask, for crying out loud? To protect ourselves from a global pandemic, numpty! Government announcements are fed counsel from health organisations and medical experts, skewered by bent politics, naturally, but the bullet points are there. It is not the same self-entitled buffoons, they’re voiceover artists on this occasion; given free reign they’d have “herd immunity,” against WHO advise.

Can you not see through the wool? The government press released the Downing Street Christmas Party scandal themselves, bang on cue of an announcement, so we would all think precisely that, why should we do what they say when they clearly don’t? If we rebel from their restrictions, we’ve only got ourselves to blame when the virus spreads. The government gets what they always wanted, herd immunity, and they’ve shifted the blame away from them and onto you, me, and everyone else.

Therefore, we need to take precautions ourselves, be a community, care for others around us. No hard and fast lockdown is needed, if common bloody sense prevailed, but government seem intent to rinse it from our craniums. We’re not self-service tills, do not robotise us!

We know now how to prevent the virus spreading; keep your distance from others, wear facemasks in public places, follow NHS guidelines in testing and get vaccinated as soon as possible, whether they tell you to or not.

These things should be commonplace, but whenever restrictions ease, like a naughty school-boy triumphantly marching out of detention only to offend again, we forget everything we’ve learned and pay the cost for it. I’m not preaching like a saint, caged too, I urged for a pint, to lob my facemask into the air, hug, and flaunt the rules when the rules relaxed, at times reflecting if we did the right thing, least if we did it too soon. But it’s done now and we can’t turn the hands of time. If we could, I’d still be on Castlemorton Common.

Old Skool Rave

In this, one series of articles I was proud of this summer was in reminiscence of my youth, being the thirtieth anniversary of 1991, an explosion for the rave scene. But another similar premise based on news of illegal raves happening in lockdown, was to ask those old skool ravers if they’d still go raving if there was a similar pandemic in the nineties; with interesting results.

Return of the Rave

And if it sounded like I was defending mainstream media, I wasn’t, only applying a smidgen of sympathy. With Facebook, Twitter et al, media is everyone now; I’m living proof any idiot can publish a blog and make look it like reputable news! Reason why, I guess, criticising other local outlets always brings hits, the occasion I felt the need to defend Devizes against the sharp eye of local gutter-press Wiltshire Live, proved to be our third most popular article of the year.

Devizes is a great place to live, Tory top-heavy, but that’s something anyone with an alternative opinion has to unfortunately suck up. Our fourth most popular article this year was in January, breaking the news Tory PCC candidate for Wiltshire, Johnathan Seed, was a bad card. Something as more evidence came to light, namely drink-driving offences, proved to be true, at the time I put my finger on something conflicting in his chat with us, calling anyone who cared to address fox hunting a “troll,” but requesting we talk on his trespass pledges, blatantly linked to restrict the movement of sabs, the only folk we see actually policing this disgusting and unbelievable smokescreen of trail hunting. Something we covered more recently, suggesting Boxing Day Hunts need better policing.

Moan I’m bias, yeah, no shit, Sherlock. Do I attempt to hide it like others? Why the hell should I side with anyone butchering wildlife for so-called sport, and in that, why the hell would you?! But hey, I remained impartial during local elections, giving each and every candidate a platform, so there!

Never has a PCC election run with such controversy. Aggravation between sides fired, and we did more than blow the lid off Seedy’s bogus campaign, causing some alarming revelations in local social media bias. Tories back Tories, no matter what they’ve done wrong, it’s an allegiance to admire, even if you feel it’s malicious. As well as chatting with Lib Dem candidate Liz Webster and independent Mike Rees, we tried a few spoofs: Play the Wiltshire PCC Game, Basil Brush Missing, and upon the Tories hustling in an alternative candidate by stalling the re-election, we ran a short story The Adventures of Police Crime Commissioner Wilko, which was based upon a better received satire, a long-running mock of Wiltshire Council, in The Adventures of Councillor Yellowhead.

At times Mike seemed such a threat to Wiltshire’s Tory totalitarianism, a media attack seemed the best method to deflect people taking the common-sense vote. The first bout came in January, when Mike was barred from volunteering to administer lateral flow Covid tests, the second in July affected me personally as the Devizes Issues Facebook group revealed its fiercely denied bias, by banning me for using a George Orwell quote to express my concern at the taxpayer having to fork four million quid for a re-election which was clearly the Conservative Party’s fault! I’m adamant it was justified.

Nineteen-eighty-four was supposed to be a warning, not a fucking self-help guide.

Annoyed, I struck out, naturally, and was begged back, after the full-gone conclusion a Wiltshire majority blindly vote for the blue rosette no matter what! But it was a month after the ban, the smear reached its apex, with all posts about the independent candidate immediately banned and deleted on the popular Facebook group, and anyone complaining were blamed by members for the downfall in Mike’s success! You can’t make up hypocrisy that nasty. 

Tory Devizes Town Councillor Iain Wallis on “the Devizes Issues.”

It’s not the politics which bothers me as much as the kind of world they envision. Stories of injustice swamped Devizine this year, more than ever before, even our April Fool’s Joke had stark repercussions. 

Every minute an adolescent arm reaches out of a window, unceremoniously handing a bag of fast food to a driver, they nod a thanks, and leave. That seemed to me to be the maximum social interaction of 2020, yet commonplace in modern living, pandemic or not. I recalled going to a Tesco, paid at the pump, masked expressions as I sauntered the aisles, paid at the self-service till and on the way out considered one could live their life in modern times completely unnoticed, months need pass without human contact. My mind meanders if that’s something young folk actually want, or if they’ve been robotised, or if it’s an age thing leaving me in a care-home for terminally bewildered.

The best hitting article of the year was again, our April Fool’s Day joke, where this time I misleadingly announced the opening of a McDonalds in Devizes. Maliciously planned, it broke the local internet, and despite suggesting it was All Fools Day in the piece, comments and messages flooded in from headline scanners. In favour of it or not, the debate is such popular the joke was lost on many desperate souls dying for a McFlurry; causing faith, just like Chippenham’s recent pandemonium for a bucket of battery chicken in gravy, yes, Aldous Huxley was bang-on, many folks do want to live in this commercialised bubble, void of individualism.


On Everything Else

Individualism, free thinking and fair and just causes we stand for here, it is not my fault the many attempts to counteract this seem to come from a conservative ethos, and therefore get criticised for it. I’m not dead against conservativism, but they seem dead against me, as if we’re supposed to know our place tip our hat and reply, “very good guvnor, I’ll bail your shit for a shilling!”

My god, how they hate common people who can articulate, that’s’ why they slash away like Freddy Kruger at the education budget while back the grammar school relaunch. Then keyboard warriors whinge at juvenile delinquency like it’s a new thing and something stringing them up for will somehow solve. We’re heading into days as dark as the early eighties, perhaps medieval for some, days I remember with a horror in my heart.

The audacious legacy building bashes on with grand and glorious plans, I reported Stonehenge had been saved by the High Court, but they operate above the law and continue to ignore the justice system, plotting to bury a road underneath it, shaking it to ruin, least knocking it of the World Heritage List, for the sake of knocking minutes off commuting times.

I criticised the reality of building a whole new train station miles out of Devizes, against popular opinion, cos I’ll believe it when I see it, and furthermore, I feel there’s more pressing issues which looking at. If not our terrible infrastructure, the state of our roads, and the endless chain of bureaucratic nonsense to get the simplest of notions pushed through bumbling pompousness of councillors and apparent do-gooders, it’s the increasing homeless on our streets, the need for Food Banks which the Tories selfishly assume is a good thing, the poverty level submerging a continuous population and the outright condoning of racist, sexist and homophobic acts. Sort them out, and I’ll gladly stand on Devizes Parkway platform with you, or any other brazen legacy-building pledge you dream up!

Every time I’m duped, I feel like an idiot, unable to get my message through the red tape. You want a train station, yet I reported the dangerous state of a Wiltshire Council playpark in Rowde, FIVE years ago, and I have to seriously throw my toys out of the pram to get anyone to pay it any attention. In February this year I was delighted, based on my article, Councillor Laura Mayes secured £20,000 from WC to re-design the playground and she proudly used it to publicise her election pledge.

But still the playpark remains in the same state of disrepair, not a penny pledged has been spent. Whether this is WC’s fault or the Parish Council I don’t know, they got what I suspect they wanted, a successful election result, and my whinging reduced too. I’ve just lost all faith and interest in continuing to bother with it. You want a train station, huh? Traffic lights at the Black Dog crossroads? A no left turn sign at the top of Dunkirk Hill? Yeah, good luck with that, we’re moving into six years for them to fix a dangerous baseplate of a bouncy chicken in a playpark!

Yet perseverance can pay off; we loved it when Rab Hardie of Duck N Curver broke into Stonehenge to raise awareness of his wish to film a video inside the stone circle, we asked if the Fire & Rescue Service were Cutting Vital Flood Equipment, defended Wiltshire Police from keyboard warriors upset they used a rainbow as their Facebook logo during Pride Month, wished Devizes Lions a happy 50th, supported Joe Brindle on his campaign to save Drews Pond Wood, attended Save Furlong Close protests, added some reflection on the Travellers based in Bromham, praised local artist, Clifton Powell when he was commissioned for English Heritage Exhibition, The African Diaspora in England, had a great time at Breakout, Chippenham’s Alternative Art Show, congratulated the award-winning British Lion. Crickey, the list goes on; the vast array of subjects we’ve covered, even war memorials which look like bins!

I must be boring you into an early grave, which isn’t the best way to start a new year!

One last thing, we did plenty of spoofs and satirical pieces, too many to name, yet, all’s fair in love and war, and it was a great year; here’s to 2022! I leave it there before your head explodes!


Tractors, Tinsel, and “Suggested” Environmental Issues

From Devizes to Marlborough and back, last weekend, Sunday 19th December saw a repeat of last year’s Tractor & Tinsel Run, and Devizes Young Farmers’ fundraising event attracted masses of attention. Our man Andy was at the scene and I leave his thoughts on it here, I just wanted to add my tuppence too; you know me! Firstly, I offer thanks to the Devizes Young Farmers and congratulations on the success of the day.……

Raising for both Wiltshire Air Ambulance and Alzheimer’s Society, the Devizes Young Farmers told me they haven’t got a grand total yet, “we will let the Just Giving page run for a while.” For which you can find by clicking here, if you wish to donate.

Confirming this was their second year, they added it was the, “first year for the night run though!” So popular it virtually broke local social media groups with videos, images and messages of congratulations. I had to ask them if they think this could become something of annual Christmas tradition. “We have discussed doing it bi-annually, however it gets such good feedback and response from the public, we are considering doing it annually.”

In fact, the only negative feedback on social media has been concerns about the environmental impact. Puts me between somewhat of a rock and hard place, being the event’s popularity and the amazing fundraising achievement. I figured I’d ask local “green” experts for their thoughts on the issue, rather than play party to social media ranting; and before you throw your toys out of the pram and ingeniously change the D in my name, Darren, for a K, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by their responses!

In the global scheme of things, I consider the environmental impact of a fleet of tractors pottering around town to be but a pinprick, and Graham for Sustainable Devizes was equally constructive. “We have very little engagement with farmers locally,” he begun, “yet they are essential to protecting the environment and biodiversity.  Our approach to sustainability is to take practical steps and form partnerships.  When we campaign it is to start practical projects that will make changes and not to make criticisms of any particular group. We wish to engage with farmers on big issues such as protecting biodiversity rather than take positions on individual actions which have laudable aims.”

Council Green Party Candidate, the aptly named Margaret Green, was similarly supportive, “I agree that raising money for charity is a good thing and assume that the tractor mileage for the event is a donation from the farmers. I think the event has a positive outcome for the community,” she replied, “In terms of climate crisis and emission reduction, farmers are ideally placed to deliver positive outcomes in the form of increasing biodiversity through wildflower meadows (potentially associated with local energy production in solar farms). Their transition to reduced use of pesticides and fertilisers also benefits the soil’s ability to sequester carbon, a key element in a sustainable future. As stewards of our landscape farmers are our friends!”

Naturally the real test would be from the Devizes and Marlborough Extinction Rebellion group, who were somewhat lost for words, noting “like quite a few charity events, it’s also a polluting event,” but even they weren’t overly negative! So, to those whinging on social media today about the environmental impact, I’d suggest they put that in their vapes and puff it!

It now leaves me with the great pleasure to pass you onto roving reporter on the scene, Andy Fawthrop, for his thoughts. All I will add is; I believe the hashtag #nothingeverhappensinDevizes is a splendid piece of ironic overstatement created, correct me if I’m wrong, by local satirist (among other things) Mr Ian Diddams, therefore not to be taken to heart!


Tractors & Tinsel

Andy Fawthrop

There’s a bit of a (joking) saying that “nothing ever happens in Devizes”, a phrase that deserves to be fully buried and forgotten for just how incredibly inaccurate it now is.……

Whilst in Pyongyang they parade their missile-launchers, and in Moscow they show off their tanks and troops, this bit of rural Wiltshire did something rather better last Sunday by showcasing its own arsenal of terrifying hardware – tractors!  And not just a few tractors, but loads and loads of tractors.  Decked out with tinsel.  And Christmas trees.  And Santa Clauses.  And truly it was enough to frighten the pants off any super-power even thinking of ever invading The Vize.

Along with hundreds of others gathered along the route all the way out to Marlborough and in the Market Place in Devizes, my inner tractor-man came suddenly to the fore.  And what a sight we witnessed, as the massed squadrons of agricultural machinery drove past us, headlights shining, horns blaring, drivers waving.  And this was no mere token gesture, but over 150 colourful beasts roaring past us for the best part of an hour. 

Thanks to Devizes Young Farmers for their amazing vision and organisation, for the second year running, in the middle of deep mid-winter, we had another fantastic display of hardware as tractors rolled through the country lanes of Wiltshire on their way back to T.H. White’s gathering ground.  Rwanda might be famous for its gorillas in the mist, but in this neck of the woods we had tractors in the fog.  And not just the once either – this year for the first time we got a reprise of the shorter D-Town loop in the winter darkness.  It’s said that there are some weird folk, like our doughty editor, who simply don’t “get” tractors, but I can’t understand that at all. Personally, I was mesmerised – like a John Deere caught in the headlights, you might say.

Of course part of the (unintended) entertainment was spotting the looks of horror on the faces of the drivers of cars trying to pass through the town, suddenly finding themselves between a massive JCB or CASE, and a flotilla of Massey-Fergusons, wondering what level of hell they’d suddenly found themselves in – absolutely priceless!

To say that was a great success is surely an under-statement.  You only had to be there looking at the children’s faces (and those of a few slightly leaky-eyed men of a certain age) to realise what a lot of joy and excitement this all brought to the town.  And social media was bending under the sheer weight of photos and videos posted online, as local folk let all their friends know far and wide just what an amazing town this is.

But of course, it wasn’t just for the hell of it: there was a worthy purpose behind such madness.  The whole thing was organised to raise funds for two brilliant charities – Wiltshire Air Ambulance and Alzheimer’s Society.   And there’s still time to help make a difference in our community and beyond by donating at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/devizesyoung-club

So it’s a massive “hats off” to Devizes Young Farmers, and everyone else involved in organising such a fantastic bit of rural entertainment.  It was wonderful, it was awe-inspiring, it was totally bonkers.  And a great event out in the open air in the lead-up to Crimbo.  Let’s just hope it now becomes an annual and traditional fixture in the D-Town “Nothingeverhappens” Calendar!


Editor’s note; I only “don’t get” tractors without fridges and stereos as standard, otherwise I’m virtually Wurzel!


Trending…..

The Devizine Online Local Yuletide Market

If you’re like me and leave shopping to the last-minute Christmas eve frenzied dash like a headless turkey, or even if you’re arranging next year’s already, here’s some local Christmas gifts and ideas, which will build up, I hope, to a virtual Christmas market, a warm winter wonderland!

Surfing through the Net, with a one-maned open search engine, over Facebook we go, laughing all the way! Hey, crafty crafters, cheeky chefs and any other local creative types, I haven’t got a naughty or nice list, so don’t make me hunt you down. I know you’re busy, but it takes a second or three, and costs nought, to message us at Devizine and get your Christmassy products and ideas listed here, on our online local Yuletide market.

So, do bookmark this page and drop back in regularly, as it will be updated.

And for those who prefer the physical, there’s a list of Christmas Craft Markets at the bottom of this list, just keep on scrollin’!

Real Christmas Trees in Devizes

Back at the Bell on the Green this year from the 26th November, as it has been for 23 years, real Christmas trees will be for sale. You can pre order your trees for click and collect or delivery at www.merryChristmastrees.co.uk

AbraKadabra

AbraKadabra make these wonderful handmade magic seed-bombs, always popular at Christmas! Contact them via Facebook or Esty, and if you are in Devizes, put the discount code DEVIZES at checkout and you’ll get free postage!

Alan Watters

Rowde artist Alan Watters has limited edition signed and mounted prints of his recent drawing of a highland cow, and gives some of the proceeds to charity. This picture is also a signed cow greetings card with each print and posting worldwide. Have a look at https://alansfineart.com if interested. Cost is just £30 with delivery included.

Arthe

From the creators of Devizes-own artistic, hectic, eclectic, chaotic, linguistic, poetic, bombastic, fantastic, and perhaps a little anarchistic, kawaii bear, Arthe, there’s some groovy greeting cards and gifts on their website, tote bags, mugs, tees, etc; check it out funk soul bears.

Andy Fawthrop

Whilst some people might have spent their Lockdown baking banana bread or stockpiling toilet rolls, our very own roving reporter, Andy was hard at it, writing short stories. These have now been published in three volumes. There’s 49 new stories in all, featuring the usual gentle topics of murder, blackmail, mistaken identity, revenge, infidelity, piracy, robbery and…oh…well, anyway, they’re jolly entertaining, and by turns spooky, bizarre or comic. You can buy them direct from Andy for a tenner each, or order them through the wonderful Jo at Devizes Books, or even buy them from Amazon (paperbacks £10, Kindle downloads £3). “They would obviously make ideal Christmas presents,” Andy says, “particularly for that special person that you don’t like very much.” I’ve read his “stuff” and beg to differ.

Beeze’s

Easy choice, you just know Beeze’s in Devizes’ Ginnel are going to have some great ideas for Christmas gifts; they’ve got a whole Christmas Collection, not to mention Little Beeze’s toys next door. Chocolate message bars? Say no more!

Website Facebook

Blossom Hill Cards

Devizes-based Blossom Hill Cards has five Christmas wonderful card designs, with all proceeds going to Alzheimer’s Society. You can buy them HERE.

Cositas Bonitas

The brilliant shareware craft shop in Sidmouth Street Devizes, Cositas Bonitas is a must stop off on your Christmas shop, you will be spoiled for choice. Check out Facebook, to see what I mean!

The Little Eco Shop, Devizes

I’m so glad to hear the Little Eco Shop is back. Go there for zero waste Christmas Eco wrapping essentials. Recycled craft wrapping paper in brown, green and red. Compostable brown paper tape. Christmas patterned brown paper tape (perfect for jazzing up the paper) Natural twine. Coloured twine made from recycled plastic. Paper bows. Craft card tags. Make your own elf Christmas crackers.

Little Eco Shop is off Couch Lane, Devizes: Website. Facebook

My Happy Place

Such a lovely name for this Devizes-based small decoupage business; so it’s mainly bottles and jars, with lights or wooden hearts hanging plaques, but owner Cassie tells me, “pretty much anything I can get my hands on that will work!” Join her Facebook group for more details.

Caroline Le Bourgeois

If you’re lucky to find this amazing wildlife artist at the Shambles, or many local fairs and markets, her cute pictures would make a perfect wall hanging gift, or greetings cards. If not, her website is here.

Dollies Dimples

Devizes-based Dollies Dimples makes these charming secret pocket tins with personalisation, visit their Etsy shop here.

The Healthy Life Company

From Green and Blacks, Montezuma, Moo Free and Clipper tea advent calendars to Vaughn’s Kitchen Christmas Cake Packs, the Healthy Life in Devizes’ Little Brittox is more than muesli. With a reduced carbon footprint focus, they have a pop-up gift shop each year, with those gifts that you won’t find elsewhere on the high street. For a healthy, planet-friendly Christmas, visit The Healthy Life, or on Facebook.

FM by Gem

Perfume, the ideal gift; Gemma is your local FM rep with everything from real discounted perfumes, to home fragrances, makeup and even cleaning products. You will need to join this Facebook group to find out more.

Shaz’s Chutneys and Pickles!

Shaz’s homemade chutneys, pickles and hampers are up for grabs from the Southgate, Devizes. With a 5 star Food Hygiene Rating, they do look tasty!

The Devizine Compilation Album, of Course!

If you’re not fussed about unwrapping gifts, I could shamelessly plug our Devizine compilation album. It can’t be on CD, because it’s far too mahoosive, it would need approximately 6 discs to cram onto, ergo you can download it, and your money goes to Julia’s House Children’s Hospices. And on it you’ll find the very best of what local music has to offer, I pinky promise you that much!

Download it HERE

White Chalk Gallery

Newly opened in Devizes, The White Chalk Gallery would be the perfect stopping place on any Christmas shop, there’s handmade jewellery and sculptured pots as well as art, and will you just look at these two needle felted cutties made from pure wool by Jo Lilley @miceandmole. Find the White Chalk Gallery in Devizes Market Place, or website here.

Simon Folkard Photography

Amazing photographer Simon Folkard has a range of Devizes themed Christmas cards, as well as his celebrated calendars. He will be at the Corn Exchange’s Christmas fayre on Saturday 15th November, look him up or contact him via Facebook.

The Gourmet Brownie Kitchen

The way to a man’s heart this festive season I can tell you, for I’m dreaming of a brownie Christmas, and no one, I repeat, no one makes a brownie as good as The Gourmet Brownie Kitchen. Currently based at Poulshot Farm Lodge, plans are afoot for a new shop, but while it looks like Devizes, it’s all top secret at the moment, so keep in the loop via Facebook, and visit their website! UPDATE: it’ll be on Maryport Street; yay!

Kit Tags

Personalise your kit bags with combat proof tags, here!

Will Do Studio

On a Bauble or hanging decoration, personalisation is trending, Westbury’s Will Do Studio have personalised Christmas ornaments. Write your wishes on the bauble and give it to the person who is important to you. Add any text and make this souvenir on the Christmas tree.

Website Facebook

The Bird, The Book & The Barrel

I could recommend a billion albums, but this debut from our brilliant The Lost Trades would be my pickermost for the yule season, it’s just sooo nice! And yes, they have this on CD, so you can gift-wrap it! Buy it here.

Hannah Cantellow Studio

From Poulshot’s to Lockeridge’s village halls, Hannah runs linocut Christmas card workshops, a great way to create multiple cards yourself. You’ll be able to make and handprint a set of 10 Christmas cards and a carved block to take away with you, which you’ll be able to print again and again. All materials, tools, design templates and refreshments are provided (however, you’re welcome to bring your own design if you prefer.) Check the website for dates and booking.

Wix n Scents

Based at Castle Combe, who wouldn’t want a pug or boxer fart scented candle, I ask you? Other scents are available! Check them out here.


Christmas Shopping in Devizes

Our friends at InDevizes has created this map of all the independent shops around Devizes, for refence when out there shopping, and the cafes too, naturally!

Christmas Markets

Coming over all Oliva Newton John? Prefer the physical? Yeah, for shopaholics there’s nothing like trampling around a craft market this time of year, so I’ve also included a list of known Christmas craft fayres locally. If I missed yours, my gift to you is I can add it, which is not quite as good as socks or a Lynx deodorant set, but c’est la vie.

Deck The Halls @ Devizes Corn Exchange: 12th & 13th Nov.

Forest Friends Online Christmas Fayre: 15th-21st Nov.

Festive Shopping Night @ Bratton Jubilee Hall. 7-9pm. 18th Nov.

Wootton Rivers Village Hall: 20th Nov.

Westbury United FC: 20th Nov.

Shop Small Swindon Artisan Market @ The Hop Inn: 21st Nov.

Devizes Winter Festival: 26th Nov.

Christmas Market Night @ Abbey Meads School, Swindon. 5:30-8:30pm 26th Nov.

Charity Craft Fair in aid of St Joseph’s Nursey @ Devizes Conservative Club: Nov 27th, 10am-12.

Wadworth Christmas Fair: 27th Nov, 10am-4pm.

The Lamb Inn, Urchfont: 27th Nov.

Shield & Dagger Christmas Market, Swindon: 27th Nov.

Christmas Charity Fair @ The Cheese & Grain, Frome: 27th Nov.

Chippenham Festival of Christmas: 28th Nov.

Bishops Cannings School Christmas Fayre: 4th Dec.

Christmas Extravaganza @ St Johns Church, Devizes: 4th Dec.

Biddestone Christmas Fayre: 4th Dec.

Christmas Fayre at Ridgeway School, Wroughton: 4th December.

Codford Christmas Artisan Market: 4th Dec.

Mamma Events Christmas Market @ Mecca, Swindon: 11am-3pm. 5th Dec.

St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, Devizes: 10th Dec

Christmas Fair at the Churchill Arms, West Lavington. Saturday 11th Dec.

Christmas Craft Fair @ Warminster Park Community Centre: 11am-3pm 11th Dec.

Christmas Nativity @ White Hart Attworth


Print me out and colour me in!

Oh, and send me them via our Facebook page, with your name and age, and we’ll decide winners in December. If anyone of the lovely businesses we’ve helped by plugging their wares could offer a prize, do let me know!!


Trending….

Female of the Species Blow the Roof of The Assembly Hall, for Carmela

Entertainment events in the county blossoming out of lockdown came to a pinnacle this weekend. We were spoiled for choice, and without cloning technology the decision would’ve been a toughy for me, if it hadn’t had been for the no-brainer; the sixth annual outing of local supergroup, The Female of the Species at Melksham’s brilliant Assembly Hall.

From the moment I was pinged the lowdown on this event my heartstrings spasmed, five band’s fantastic frontwomen in their own right united for the rare, Community Civic award-winning, fundraising bonanza which has become somewhat equal in legend around these parts as a Spice Girls reunion. And perhaps what is more, the proceeds this year were directed at another personal superheroine, Carmela Chillery-Watson.

Super-heroic is a term I don’t use lightly, and not out of sympathy for Carmela’s rare strain of muscular dystrophy. Over the past two years I’ve followed the progress of Carmela and her family’s fight against this muscle-wasting condition, since mum, Lucy sent Devizine a fundraising event poster and I figured I could do more, which consequently saw me take to my milk-round dressed in my Spiderman onesie! For, now at seven years old, Carmela’s zest for life and amiable charisma is an inspiration to everyone she meets. I found it rubs off on you with immediate effect, something hordes of international celebrities have also now discovered.

Bringing this celebrity herself now back home to Wiltshire for a fundraising event, I was not only delighted to meet her and her family again, but mightily impressed with her handling of fame. Carmela responds accordingly to mounting attention, never excluding or shunning any individual yet finding the time to address them all equally; a skill many a celeb could learn from.  

With a bombardment of unfortunate planning episodes, Jools of the reggae-ska band Train to Skaville confessed, “it was a nightmare trying to get this event off the ground,” it truly became a sense of it’ll be alright on the night, and the party went off with an explosive boom. The amalgamated wealth of experience, proficiency and professionalism of The Female of the Species shone through; they are deadlier than the male.

Dedication too, to overcome obstacles, apexed by performer and musical director, Nicky Davis of bands People Like Us and the Reason, who took a fall during rehearsals to personify the performance idiom, break a leg. Frustrated by her vocal restrictions slouched at the keyboard, the second half of the show proved too tempting, and Nicky manged to make it onto her feet to sing behind the keys, rather more like Jerry Lee Lewis than Elton John in style!

But we are getting ahead of ourselves now, for full credits have to be awarded to support act, Melksham-based Plan of Action. Unbeknown to me, this male trio with a female bassist took me by surprise. Based on previous FOTS supports, I was expecting soothing acoustics, yet Plan of Action done what it suggested on the tin, and executed said plan in a hard rock fashion akin to the Foo-Fighters covers they blasted with certain precision. They then beseeched their benchmark, rather than redefined their style, to cover Wilson Pickett’s Mustang Sally in hard-edged blues fashion, and finished more retro than they started with rock classics such as Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell.

Not only did they fire up the audience superbly in preparation, but their fanbase also resolved the terror of who would be first to break the dancefloor reservations. Now there was no stopping the crowd, as Female of the Species drummer, Pip Phillips of People Like Us was first to appear, foot-peddling the bass drum to build anticipation while the girls came onstage under an impressive light show.

Second tune in, Nicky Davis led them in an accomplished cover of Hotel California, and solo soul singer Julia Hanratty followed lead on Stevie Wonder’s Superstition, as is the Female of the Species code of conduct; memorable pop covers ranging the spectrums of their individual tastes. That said, we had none of the two-tone of Jools’ Train to Skaville, although she did an outstanding lead on Deacon Blue’s Real Gone Kid.

With affections towards uncompromising rock, Charmaigne Andrews’ AC/DC Highway to Hell boosted the crowd, but not before an early highlight for me; Julia’s absolutely outstanding cover of Aretha Franklin’s Respect, something I’d not advise any singer to attempt, as with Nicky last time, who gorgeously portrayed Heard it Through the Grapevine, Julia clearly knocked this one clear out of the park.

Claire Perry of Big Mama’s Banned not only brings range to the repertoire, but witty if saucy repartee to the show, unsurpassed during the break where Carmela joined her to announce raffle prize-winners. Sporting Wonder Woman headgear for the second half, they raised the roof of the Assembly Hall, as much as they raised serious funds for the cause.

Aforementioned, Nicky stood for the second half despite her plastered leg, as they played through memorable covers, dancefloor fillers, and perfected songs you’d be excused from thinking, oh my, they’re covering that? Bohemian Rhapsody, Grease Lightening, Oh, Sweet Child of Mine, and Jacko’s Beat It for examples. Jool’s cover of Kirsty MacColl’s New England, Claire’s I’ll Put a Spell on You, Charmaigne leading on Republica’s Ready to Go, the show continued past my bus time, but I could faintly hear Mr Blue Skies while I waited!

Yeah, here’s a thing I hadn’t thought of before; escaping the Devizes westwards for the evening is surprisingly possible via public transport, and it wasn’t a drunken fallout zone, like the Boot Hill All Star’s hilarious song, Night Bus, which I imagined, rather a mediocre and tranquil bus journey!

The last bus on the 273 route leaves Bath at 11:30, and gets to the Sham at ten-to-midnight; blooming marvellous, for Melksham have a real gem with the Assembly Hall. Drinks are affordable, the service well-staffed, the atmosphere is hospitable and they’re continuing to bring outstanding shows and events to the Sham.

All in all, this show was professional yet communal, absolutely fantastic and spellbindingly electric; if another comes along, I suggest you don’t miss out. But I must finish in thanking the Female of the Species and all involved for supporting such an amazing cause, and local girl; and to Carmela, you are a superstar.


Trending….

Boo! Spooky Halloween Happenings for Everyone!

Fantastic and spooky image of St Johns, Devizes, used with permission from Simon Folkard Photography

I say everyone, but it’s the inbetweenies always at a loss during Halloween, I tend to find. Too old for patronising trick or treating, only a handful of idiots, sulking at their lack of Harbio, who opt for the terrorising old folk kind, which spoils it for them, and for younger kids too, when everyone under the age of eighteen is tarnished with the same witch’s broom.

Yet too young to attend adult Halloween parties, which we all know, generally end up as mindless drunken satanic orgies, full of naked chicks pouring the blood of scarified male counterparts over themselves in a hellfire pit of inequity to the sound of evil giggling, and thrash metal roaring from the rafters…. at least, in my mind it does.

What?! I’m speculating, I wouldn’t know whether they break out the leather, or not. I grew up in a household where the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain was considered American commercialisation, and since escaping the nest I built my own, whereby on All Hallows’ Eve I don a beanie and wander aimlessly in the background, as “protector” parent of hyperactive children, getting ecstatic about being out under street light.

I awkwardly grimaced at housekeepers like a vagabond, as neighbours loaded their pumpkin-shaped buckets with cheap confectionary they don’t like anyway. We’d join chains of other trick or treaters, my watchful duties waning with each grouping; safety in numbers I’d suppose perfunctorily, as I tire and they run off in merriment and sugar-fuelled frenzy. Responsibility is a bitch.

I’ve got cheap, Wilkos luminous paint on my jersey from a leaking zombie, whose mask is sagging where they broke the elastic, otherwise I blur into the background and children organise themselves, until one genuinely gets scared, and I get to return home, ignore door-knocking and slope on the sofa, groaning like a headless horseman, wishing one day they’ll grow out of it.

And before you know what’s what, they do, and you pity the complaining, realise you miss the thrill in their eyes, and await the welcomed subsequent phase, grandchildren, when you hope them to provide the perfect excuse to get back out trick or treating again; by this age you need no mask or makeup, but you can return them sugar-bursting; mwahahaha!

Anyway, enough of my problems, you came here wanting to hear about all the spooky events and monster mashes going down over the Samhain, and that’s what I’m about to do, just, you know, had to get that off my chest.

Although if I’ve missed yours, I can always add them, if you liked, just message, email or howl under the full moon when the wind is blowing my direction, but the first “halloweeny” type event we’ve found, is All Cannings’ Pre-School Half term Halloween Trail, starting on 23rd October and running until the 30th. Take your little ones to All Cannings, buy a trail map from the village shop and walk the village looking for clues to spell a spooky word! Put your completed maps into our box at the back of the village hall for your chance to win a Halloween prize.

Leading up to the Halloween weekend, Crazy P’s Ron Basejam brings some Halloween disco to Komedia on Thursday 28th, but Saturday is when the spookiness really comes out to play….

In Devizes, the trusty Cavalier have a children’s Halloween fancy dress disco, with prizes for the best dressed boy and girl. You’ll need a £3 ticket, available here.

Forgive me if I’m wrong but I believe wonderful DJ, Holz Stone will be on the spooky wheels of steel for the Halloween fancy dress disco at the Wyvern Club. There’ll be hot dogs, burgers and sweet bags, a novel hook-a-skull game, guess the weight of the pumpkin and what’s in the box, as well as best dressed prizes. This one’s £2 per child, on the door.

For Devizes grownups, over 21s, there’s a DJ set from Houses of Joy Soundsystem at The Muck & Dundar’s Zombie Cocktail Special night. Free entry, walk-ins, favourably like a zombie, and feel free to dress up or down. I think they’ll need an exorcist like me, to purify those spirits!

And of course, the traditional Krazee Devil Halloween Karaoke Disco will be down the The Pelican, Devizes. Only numbers are limited this year, so if you want to Party Pelicano style this Samhain then shout Sarah-Jane on (01380) 723909.

The Truzzy Boys welcome fancy dress at their Halloween Party at the Churchill Arms in West Lavington, also on Saturday. Honey-Street’s Barge have a monster mash rock ‘n’ roll Halloween party, with Little Miss Blue Bass, Mutley and Rockin Rich. Best dressed wins a £20 bar tab, which beats a bucket of Freddos. They want only £6 off you for the pleasure, tickets here.

Meanwhile, over misty graveyards and ancient burial mounds to Bradford-on-Avon, where the Three Horseshoes host Strange Folk for a Halloween party. If you checked them out last weekend at the Southgate, or read our review, you’ll know this will be a great, and very apt Halloween venture. It should go without saying by now, its fancy dress, with a prize for best dressed.

In spooky Swindon, The Swiss Chalet have one hell of a show from 2pm onwards. Train to Skaville, The DayBreakers, Hip Replacements and Mark Colton bring the skalloween tunes, all in aid of the fantastic Big Yellow Bus Project. Door tax is just a quid, with mac n cheese and a chance to win a Nintendo Switch!

Vampires and zombies of Frome only need head to The Cornerhouse, where they’ll find the highly recommended Back Wood Redeemers, with a dark country, twisted blues and religious fervor eve of Halloween. Expect special guests and they’ll be introducing the MagiGant Ska Sound System. There will be dancing afoot! Bring your relevant body parts and dress up should the whim arise… you’ll be in good company.

But not everyone wants dancing afoot, and for a relaxed meal-type Halloween event, Rowde’s legendary George & Dragon have a Rocky Horror Tunnel Party, in, as the name suggests, their secret, aptly spooky, tunnel. Dress up in your favourite horror costumes for a three-course BMF supper, and a party to follow.

And on the Sunday, the 31st, The Roebuck Inn, Marlborough, has a Halloween Open mic Night, while over in Market Lavington’s Green Dragon, there will be all sorts of spooky bonkers things going on all day, perfect for kids and grown up kids alike; with the fantastic People Like Us playing from 8pm.

I’m sure that list isn’t exhaustive, and I’ll add your event if you tell me about it. Otherwise have a grand Halloween, and as I say, I’ll be maxing relaxing, safe in the knowledge my kids now consider themselves too old for the trick or treating fiasco. I mean, I’m not naming and shaming, but one of my nippers must be the only person who can lose a tooth bobbing for apples, for crying out loud into the cold night air!


Trending….

We Care Bear Selfie Sculpture

“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.