Summer Solstice Celebrations Looking Likely at Stonehenge

With the green light given for the A303 tunnel at Stonehenge, the lockdown restrictions at winter solstice and EH’s solstice parking fee demands, it’s understandable we haven’t seen a positive message from the pagan high priest, Uther Pendragon for a while. But this week proved different. If Uther used emojis on his social media posts it would be near all smiley faces, but he’s not the type to, so there wasn’t!

Nevertheless, the leader of the warrior and political arm of the modern druid movement, The Loyal Arthurian Warband, reported back from a virtual RT meeting with English Heritage, Police and other interested parties, save Wiltshire Council who Uther noted, “steadfastly refused to attend.”

Assurances about this year’s summer solstice celebrations at Stonehenge appear positive. Urther called for “assurances from EH and their partnering ‘authorities’ that there are no plans to restrict access by ticket and/or advance booking, or to take part in any Goverment pilot or other such ‘trial’ that restricts access to ‘all-comers’ due to perceived health issues or certification. And that no pilgrims will be denied entrance, save for those who’s anti social behavior dictates such.”

EH are continuing to make plans and arrangments,” Urther reported, “for the managed open access to go ahead as scheduled for the night of 20th/dawn of the 21st June, subject to the lifting of Government restrictions, due to end by this point.”

On the eve of lockdown last year, English Heritage said, “we know how appealing it is to come to Stonehenge for Winter Solstice, but we are asking everyone to stay safe and to watch the sunset and sunrise online instead. We look forward to welcoming people back for solstice next year.” And with that, and this positive development, we hope things will run smoothly for 2021.


Wiltshire Council Leader Advises Tory Candidates to Block Correspondence With Save Furlong Close Campaign

It has been some time since we’ve covered the disgraceful fiasco at Rowde’s Furlong Close, where residents with learning disabilities face closure of the HFT site, their home, and undefined, separated relocation.

The reason being, the situation had fallen into a political stalemate, as HFT ceased all dealings with Wiltshire Council. It seems HFT are no strangers to closing sites down, and equally Wiltshire Council’s reaction is lacklustre. I cannot decide who is really to blame in all this, but something certainly doesn’t add up; perhaps they’re both as bad as each other, and the clock is ticking for May 19th when closure is planned. You know me, I’ve been concerned my anger at this issue will lead me to publish speculation, and the last thing I want is put forth misleading information.

Now, it seems, via a Tweet from The Save Furlong Close campaign group, in a memo released on Easter Sunday, Wiltshire Council Leader, Philip Whitehead advised councillors and future Conservative candidates to block all correspondence with Save Furlong Close Campaigners, in fear it’s being used as “an election matter.”

This is very concerning, while both sides battle the politics out, the Save Furlong Close campaigners are merely worried for the future prospects for the residents there, and least deserve a voice. So, I’m pleased to be able to publish an article, by Mark Steele, a member of the campaign’s steering group, which outlines the history and current situation.

I merely offer to endorse their rightful campaign and promote it as much as possible. If then, residents of Furlong Close are indeed moved out, it will be a terrible day for Wiltshire, and a shameful reflection on a county council, but if this happens and I stood there and did nothing, it’s a shame I would partly bear too, and I have no intentions of that happening. I hope our readers and supporters will agree, and I fully believe, with the permissions of the campaign group, we need to arrange a socially distanced peaceful protest, as soon as feasible. So, WHO IS WITH ME? Watch this space, but here’s Mark’s outline of the happenings in Rowde.


SAVE FURLONG CLOSE

“The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”

(Mahatma Ghandi)

Save Furlong Close

For the last 30 years, Furlong Close has been home to 36 vulnerable adults with learning disabilities, including Down syndrome, autism and epilepsy.  The residents live in 5 bungalows in a cul-de-sac at the edge of the village of Rowde, sharing a community hall, workshops and gardens (including a market garden and pens for sheep and rabbits).  It is a short walk to the centre of Rowde and a short bus ride to Devizes.  Many of the residents have lived at Furlong Close for more than 20 years.  They are happy and settled, have formed life-long friendships and are a close and caring community. 

In October last year, however, it was announced that Hft (the charity which owns and operates the site) and Wiltshire Council (which funds the majority of the residents) had “jointly” decided that everyone was to be “moved on” by June 2021, the site shut down and the land sold off for development.  The shocked families were told that there would be no consultation or discussion; it was a “done deal”. 

Already reeling from the emotional impact of the pandemic and cut off from the support of their families, the residents were fearful and anxious.  Their disabilities make change extremely stressful for them and being forcibly evicted from their home of 20+ years would cause them great trauma and distress.  For some, the trauma would be life-shortening.  My cousin, David, who has lived at Furlong Close for 18 years, was left in fear of the future and telephoned his 95-year-old mother, Audrey, many times a day, often in tears, to ask her where he would go and who would look after him.  Sadly, Audrey passed away in March, spending the last months of her life wracked with worry about what would happen to her beloved and vulnerable only child (https://twitter.com/savefurlongcl/status/1374671484187242507).

So, why is Furlong Close facing closure?  At first, Hft and the Council said it was “not about money”, but was only about doing the best for the residents.  It was said that “moving them on” from their settled and happy homes would be an “exciting opportunity” for them, but no-one could quite explain how breaking up a happy community and scattering them to new and strange places would be either “exciting” or an “opportunity”.   Certainly, it was an “opportunity” which none of the residents or their families wanted.  Subsequently, it became clear that it was in fact “all about money” after all, with Hft accusing the Council of grossly underfunding the site over many years and refusing to pay the full costs of care.

Faced with this cruel threat to the well-being of our vulnerable relatives, the families organised and the local community rallied to our cause.  People became angry.  43,000 people, from Wiltshire and beyond, signed a petition.  Legal proceedings were commenced by the family of one resident, to seek to have the decision set aside as a breach of her human rights.

Faced with this local anger, Wiltshire Council promptly threw Hft under the bus.  It claimed that the “joint decision” was nothing to do with it, but solely a matter for Hft.  Hft responded angrily, accusing the Council of “lying” and trying to “hide behind” it, and gave notice that it was withdrawing services, not just from Furlong Close, but from Wiltshire as a whole.  With Hft and the Council each pointing the finger at the other, the situation deteriorated into what has recently been described by a judge in the pending legal proceedings as “a shambolic mess”.

As the clock ticks down to the termination of Hft’s contract for the site on 19 May, the residents and their families fear that we are being hung out to dry.  Hft has offered the Council the chance to buy or lease the site and bring in another operator, but neither has taken decisive action to make this happen.  Many suspect that the Council is just playing for time, to try and kick the can down the road until after the Council election in May.  Meanwhile innocent and vulnerable people are suffering and the families are calling on Hft and Wiltshire Council to act now to save Furlong Close. 

Please, if you want to help:

Thank you


McDonalds Coming to Devizes….

Yes, you read it right, it’s been confirmed in a Devizes Town Council Zoom meeting this week, permission has been granted after decades of rejections, to build a McDonalds restaurant on the outskirts of town, and work could be starting as early as July.

In an exclusive conversation with MP for the Devizes district, Danny Kruger said he is delighted at the news. “With the Devizes Gateway station proposal looking likely,” Mr Kruger explained, “this will be of great benefit to the town’s economy, will provide jobs for local chavs, thickos and acne-covered juvenile delinquents, and will also fill in all the potholes along the main road with discarded slices of pickles.”

“Face it,” he continued as if someone cared, “no one is going to stop off to visit Devizes if they look out of the train window and see the Lydeway as it currently stands; all muddy fields and an elderly trailer trash park. No, people need to see the golden arches, they need to know they can get a Big Mac, or a Fillet o’ Fish. Heck, when I get back from Westminster, all I crave is a nice Twirl McFlurry, but no, not here, pal; whad up wid dat shit?” 

Danny K is Lovin’ It; you will too!

Despite the train station project not being complete until a predicted 2025, local franchiser and entrepreneur, Mr Michael Hunt of The Bottom, Urchfont has pushed for development of the land surrounding the site into a multi-purpose entertainment complex, with many other facilities, including chain restaurants Wagamama and Nandos, as well as a multiplex cinema, and an American style bowling arena, with a regular free bus service from the town centre and surrounding villages. But, for Mr Hunt, construction of the McDonalds is paramount and prioritised. “I’ve given the Town Council an ultimatum,” he claimed, “build a Maccy D’s now, or businesses will shift out of the area long before the first train stops here.”

Asked if Mr Hunt is laying down a rather rigid and uncompromising petition to the Council, who have rejected many past proposals of having the fast-food giants in town, Mr Kruger replied, “No way, Mike Hunt is a softy. Anyone can enter [the debate] and slip their piece into it.”

Therefore, local busy-body Liam Wallis, no stranger to a burger or three himself, has set up a steering group on Facebook, The Devizes McIssue, here, where tory partisans can air their views, but has warned members of the group he won’t stand for personal attacks on the businessman, who is known for making outlandish claims. “I love his proposal of having a McDonalds,” he cried, “but many locals see my Mike Hunt and laugh. I will not have Mike Hunt compromised, if people come to stick two fingers up,” he demanded, “they will be banned from the group.”

Clerk for the Town Council has spoken negatively about the idea, but feels they have no choice. “We don’t think it’s time to change our traditionist ethos and move with the times. But Mike Hunt is big, and hairy, and everyone on the council is afraid. He’s not just some tittering schoolboy blogger’s running joke wearing very thin, and one which, I might add, will undoubtedly get him in a lot of trouble. He is a risk to everything we stand for, and Chick-o-Land. I went to a McDonalds once, when I was about twenty- eight, or was that The Michelin star Hand & Flowers in Marlow? Oh, whatever, they gave me this cheap plastic toy with my meal, and it broke within five minutes of playing with it and I cried all the way home, and my mum told me off. Is that the kind of fiasco we need for our children?”

You can join the Facebook debate group, and give your views, by clicking here. Perhaps you think a McDonalds is well peng and you is lovin’ it, or is as unlikely as a train station, or maybe symbolic of an undesirable insignia of mass US commercialisation, an institute of Satan, or maybe you just prefer the gravy in KFC.

Or perhaps, you’re bitter because I led you up a garden path and everything I’ve said, if you’ve bothered to read this far, is simply an April Fool’s joke, and now, right, you’ve got a craving for a thick shake. Well, friend, you’ve gotta, like, get out of your onesie to drive to the Sham, else chance an underpaid Deliveroo driver will enter our Tory haven with gun-toting rednecks waiting to pick them off in the hills of Bromham.

Oh, and if you get to the Sham, be sure to adhere to the local tradition of jettisoning your mountain of waste packaging out of the passenger window onto the leafy lane of a quiet, unsuspecting village at three in the morning, you know, so your mum doesn’t see it and tell you off. Yeah, I like your cut G, you is Chuck Norris gangsta. Big up Danny K for gittin’ us a golden arches!


Protect Drews Pond Wood Area

Local enviromental campaigners are calling on Devizes Town Council to designate ten areas of land around Drews Pond Wood as Local Green Spaces due to their importance for wildlife, health and wellbeing as well as historical significance.

Please sign the petition, here.

Drews Pond Wood Project has looked after the Local Nature Reserve since 1990 to keep it as a special place for wildlife and a resource for local people. They are asking for your help to get more protection for the wood and its surroundings.

The Local Plan and Neighbourhood Plan are being reviewed. These plans will decide where to put hundreds more houses in Devizes. These plans shouldn’t just be about where to put development – they also need to identify areas that are special and important for people and wildlife so that they can be protected for the future.

The National Planning Framework enables communities to identify and protect areas that are of value to them through Local and Neighbourhood Plans by designating Local Green Space. This designation ensures strong development restrictions on an area. 

Make no mistake, Drew’s Pond Wood has been earmarked for development, though the application has been rejected, this doesn’t protect the area should future applications are made.

Thanks goes to local environmentalist, Joe Brindle and his team for creating the campaign and raising awareness of this. It is supported by the Drew’s Pond Wood Project.

Please sign the petition, here.


Asa is Back in Devizes

Give or take a week, it’s been two years since Devizes Corn Exchange reverberated rock n roll when Liverpool’s entertainer Asa Murphy presented his Buddy Holly tribute show. An amazing fundraising night, in dedication to local music hero Bruce Hopkins, the show had perfect renditions of Buddy’s songs wrapped in a simple narrative to set the scenes, and by the end, Age Concern need not be called as young and old, the audience danced in the aisles!

Deja-vu on many preview pieces we wrote about this time last year, including announcing Asa set to return without the Buddy specs in April with a variety performance and handpicked guest appearances.

Obviously and sadly, it couldn’t be, but I’m pleased to now re-announce the Corn Exchange is booked for this show on October 16th, and will feature the original lineup; superb sixties singer, Sandy Collins and Lennie Anderson, an excellent comic.
Tickets are on sale at Devizes Books, which you can call to secure your seats until the shop is bookshop is open again for business.

For more details you could check last year’s preview, by clicking here; saves me writing it all again, but don’t look directly at the old date, look around that date and concentrate your mind on October 16th 2021! Oh, and I hope to see you there!


First Aid Courses Return; Chatting with Louise Worsley

After lockdown workshops via Zoom, Worsley Training returns with actual first aid courses, there’s one at Devizes Town Hall on May 18th, where basic first aid, including the use of a defibrillator will be taught in a four-hour emergency course, concurrently with a full six-hour accredited Emergency First Aid at Work course. Ideal for general interest or a small business owner who needs the full one-day accredited certificate. The course mixes theoretical and practical learning and assessment, and the accredited certificate lasts for three years… I’m all for finding out more:

If I had a time machine, they’d probably erect a statue of me, for I have a tendency to dream up ingenious ideas which I later find out have already been put in place! I came up with the virtual blackboard years after someone else did, and were widely used. Similarly, today, planning a chat with first aid instructor, Louise Worsley, I thought to myself, shouldn’t first aid be part of the school curriculum, only to discover the success of a campaign from the St Johns Ambulance website which put just that into place a year ago!

“Yes,” Louise confirmed, “after years of campaigning St Johns and the Red Cross have finally got it on the curriculum for primary and secondary schools.” She continued to explain she had been teaching first aid at schools for years, “but it hasn’t been compulsory, just up to PTAs to decide whether they think it should or shouldn’t be taught.”

I wondered where this left Louise’s business, Worsley Training, if teachers are administering the training, hopefully she could train the teachers. “Basically, yes, I have a flyer which I send out to schools,” she told me. Louise was a formerly geography teacher, “so I’m in comfort zone with schools.”  She has the scope to teach the children, or train the teachers, “and also what questions are going to come up, and how the kids react.”

I expect you’d get quite different responses from children as you would from adults. “Oh, god yes!” she laughed, “as with any off-curriculum subjects, primary school children love it, secondary are far too cool, and I have to strongly encourage them to get involved.” But Louise supposed though they might not have practiced it entirely accurately, at least they have practised it should the need arise.

Personally, while I’m not as perilously sensitive as a vampire who faints at the sign of blood, I never saw myself as a first aider until a company asked me if it was something I wanted to do. I figured being the one to sort out spilled blood and guts while workmates slouched in the tearoom might be a step too far for me. Yet I found the course interesting, and proudly became an appointed first aid person, thankfully only having to use it once. It was later, at a smaller company when the first aider was on holiday! Louise beathed a grave sigh upon telling her, and stressed the rule, “there should always be a first aider on hand.”  

I didn’t say it to get into the law, only to ask Louise if it was the right course of action to take, being my certificate had expired, and I wasn’t official. I explained it to the worker, and asked if they wanted me to administer first aid before proceeding. “An appointed person doesn’t qualify you to give any first aid. The only responsibilities were to recognise something was wrong, call 999, deliver report forms and restoke the first aid kit.” Louise stressed it’s not a qualification, “they never say you have to do any first aid despite being taught some. It exists as there has to be a person in company to do those things. The first qualification is the emergency first aid at work, a one-day course.” Louise teaches this as a public course.

Another reason why I bought it up with Louise, is when on the course I asked how a process would differ if the patient was a baby, being my daughter was at the time. The instructor ludicrously replied they couldn’t teach me that, as this was an appointed person in the workplace course, and you won’t be administering it on a baby. “That’s a rubbish trainer,” she stressed!

Even for the workplace course, Louise always brings child and baby manakins along, “because a lot of people are parents, and want to know, others might work in cafes, the qualification is just for the employees, but if you were working in, say, a café, or similar, it wouldn’t be very good PR to say I’m not going to get involved.” I supposed it wouldn’t take long to explain the difference, and she agreed. “the main differences are with choking and CPR, the rest you just treat them more gently.” She continued on technicalities of the differences, I’m not going to run them off here, you’ll have to take the course!

Wanting to inquire why certificates expire, if the theory of first aid changes, but the answer was more simply people they need a reminder. “I always finish a course by saying, I hope you never have to use this, but if you don’t use it you obviously forget it. Things do change, but my style is very much to give you confidence, that something is better than nothing. If all you can remember was taught ten years ago, at least you’re doing something. Whereas panicking, worrying they might get sued is useless.”

The use of public access defibrillators is something which has been updated, I wanted to know how easy they are to use, because, they look simple on the casing, but under stress or panic mode, might be a different story. Louise has four training versions of defibrillators, which won’t shock. Though she confirmed they’re simple to use, which might undermine that section of her course, but again, confidence to use them is favoured. “People can be sacred of them, but the more who know how to use them…. They’ve saved so many lives so far,” which is, after all, why we’re here discussing the issue.

But it must be nice for Louise to be looking forward to starting actual course again, after Zoom meetings during lockdown. She said she enjoyed either, “but yeah, meeting people, in a hall, I was okay, haven’t done this since December!” Unlike the first lockdown, they didn’t have to stop teaching, but Louise felt she shouldn’t put on a course. But now, Worsley Training is getting fully booked already, “I missed it when it was not happening.”

I’m grateful for our chat, Louise is obviously passionate about teaching first aid. “I love teaching and first aid is such a needy topic to get behind, so, there’s no reason not to go on a first aid course, if someone offers it to you; you never know when you’ll need it, and it’s better to know it and not need it rather than need it and not.”

To find out more info or book a course, click here

Find the Devizes Town Hall Course on May 18th on Facebook Here



Trending…..

Hoping for a Summer of Local Music Festivals

Presented a punter-based cautionary piece on the hopeful move forward for live music this year, and how chancy it all is at this stage. If the playground remains uneven, I never intended the article to be pessimistic, though it may’ve been perceived that way. I just advised applying caution may be necessary prior to a compulsory detonation of over-excitement.

The other side of the coin of this vicious circle is that, without ticket sales there will be no show. While many organisers have cancelled their regular events, some keep their fingers and toes crossed, others are trying to work through it, and are dowsing a silver lining to this cloud with a summer of festivals planned.

Let’s hope and pray it pays off. Festival websites report that it is, and tickets are selling fast, which agreed, could be a sales pitch. So, you’re left to risk the call, and snap up tickets, especially for the most popular ones. I have faith most festivals will refund you if it either goes Pete Tong, or Pete Tong is booked to DJ, or else ask to retain your ticket for another year, because they organise festivals, and festivals are all about openness and sharing. Booking agents on the other hand, might be another story.

Personally, I’ve done gone got the festival t-shirt many moons ago, and the jester’s hat too, come to think about it; I can bide my time from power-napping in a spinning canvas pyramid, paying over the odds for a baggie of basil, and sliding headlong into a ditch of piss. For many though, particularly younger generations, festivals are essential, and vital, for their wonderful feeling of togetherness. For the music industry it’s crucial to maintain this notion; ignore my aged rant, there is no ditch of piss, not really, not in this clean-cut era!

Let’s run through the locally based choicest ones, which sound too good to miss… but remember to check the individual planned conditions of entry, some will ask you to provide evidence of licensed vaccination or negative PCR test within the previous 48 hour period.

June


11th – 13th: Kite Festival

Kirtlington Park, Oxfordshire

Born from a Kickstarter campaign in January 2020, but cancelled for the obvious reasons, it’s this festival’s maiden voyage this year. KITE aims to combine incredible music and breakthrough ideas in a unique programme of live performances and interactive discussions. “We wanted to bring together contemporary and legendary performers, thinkers, writers and public figures from the world of music, politics, business, technology and the arts and give you the opportunity to engage with the people who are influencing the way we live.”

Cultural icon Grace Jones, multi-Grammy-Award winning jazz singer Gregory Porter and gospel legend Mavis Staples were set to lead the music programme for the original date last year, we wait in anticipation to hear the line-up now, as Kite announce they’re working on their 2021 programme. Sign up for their newsletter for updates.


18th-20th: Bigfoot Festival

Ragely Hall, Warwickshire

Another first outing cancelled last year sees its debut this June. Just the map is enticing enough, with a boating lake and woodland and all that stuff. Local breweries and bands, who share the stages with a great line up, including Primal Scream, Fat White Family, Hot Chip Megamix, Maribou State (DJ) Baxter Dury and Dinosaur Pile-Up. There’s also an intersting wellbeing programme with hip hop yoga, boxercise, Let’s Talk About Sex Meditation & Mindfulness, and biscuits & burpees; I’ll just have the biscuits, thank you! Find Bigfoot here.


July


2nd – 4th: Minety Music Festival

Hornbury Hill, Malmesbury

Fourth outing for this popular do. A community non-profit triple day extravaganza, run entirely by volunteers which raised funds for the Wiltshire Air Ambulance, and local schools and charities last year. Guaranteed excellent music, a great, wide range of food and a well-stocked house Bar, Gin & Prosecco Bar and Cocktail Tiki Bar! There will also be a range of FREE activities in the Kidzone, including rock climbing wall, rock climbing digi-wall, an inflatable slide and assault course, bouncy castles, circus skills workshops and kids craft workshops, plus many more activities.

Line-up includes, Dr & The Medics, Space, Jesus Jones, Dreadzone, Crikey Minogue & Six Packs, a Ministry of Samba workshop, and a great local roster of Devizine favourites The Tribe, Talk In Code, The Dirty Smooth, A’La-Ska, Navajo Dogs, Sloe Train and Plucking Different. This is going to be a brilliant one, make sure there’s room in your backpack to sneak me in! Info Here.

Should get you in the mood…..

8th-10th: 2000trees Festival

Withington, Cheltenham

A largely rock and indie festival, 2000trees has a good reputation and won awards. This year sees Jimmy Eat World headline, with Thrice, Creeper, The Amazons, Dinosaur Pile-Up, The Menzingers, The Get Up Kids and many more to make me feel old!  Tickets & info Here.

9th-11th: – Cornbury Festival

Great Tew, Oxfordshire

Still in the planning stages, this ever-growing festival in the most beautiful Oxfordshire Cotswold location think it’s enough just to announce on headline act, yeah, but it is Bryan Adams; show offs! Should be good though. Info here.


22nd-25th Womad (?)

Charlton Park, Malmesbury

Still hopeful, Womad are holding off announcing acts, but you know, I know, we all know it’ll be the crème de la crème of world music on our doorstep, if all goes well, they’ve secured the date and tickets are here.


31st Mfor 2021

Lydiard Park, Swindon

A family orientated, affordable, one day pop-tastic festival I’ve only heard good things about, could be just the thing to introduce kids to festivals. And with Craig David, Rudimental, Ella Henderson, Phats & Small, Mark Hill (Original Artful Dodger), Lindy Layton on the line-up, it’s easy to see how this party is going to go down. I believe local acts will also be on agenda, certain our friends Talk in Code feature. There’s even an over 18 Friday night special additional event, with Five, S Club, Liberty X, Baby and Rozalla; everybody is freeeee, to feeeel gooood, apparently. Info & Tickets.


August


5th-8th: Wickham Festival

Fareham, Hampshire

New one on me this, but The Wickham Festival is an annual four-dayer of music and arts. Boasting three stages, and rated as one of the safest, most relaxed and family-friendly festivals in the UK, Wickham was voted ‘Best UK Festival, cap. under 15000’ at the Live UK Music Business Awards in October 2015; so, they know their stuff; I mean, they’ve got Van the man, and The Waterboys. Note also, Devizine favs, Beans on Toast, Gaz Brookfield, Tankus the Henge along with Nick Parker on the agenda; sweet! Tickets & Info Here.


6th: Love Summer Festival Devon: SOLD OUT.


7th- 8th: The Bath Festival Finale Weekend

And what a finale it is, Saturday; McFly, Scouting For Girls, Orla Gartland, Lauren Hibberd, George Pelham, Josh Gray, Novacub, Dessie Magee and Luna Lake. Sunday; UB40 featuring Ali Campbell & Astro, Billy Ocean, Fun Lovin’ Criminals, Seth Lakeman, Bloco B, Hannah Grace, Casey Lowry, Port Erin Life, and Life In Mono, with more to be announced… Tickets HERE.


21st: Mantonfest

Manton, Marlborough

Any closer than this and it’ll be in your back garden! But that’s not the sole reason to grab a ticket for MantonFest! Just thirty notes for adults, a tenner for teenagers, and a fiver for kids, but that’s not the only other reason. Reports on this family, broad ranging charity fundraising annual do has never been negative, and we’re glad to hear it’s back for 2021. Number one Blondie tribute Dirty Harry headline, along with Dr. Feelgood, Ex-Men (five members of original 60’s bands), Barrelhouse, Jo Martin with his band, Devizine favs Richard Davies and The Dissidents, Josie and the Outlaw and homegrown Skeddadle. We previewed it last year before shit hit the fan; tickets bought in 2020 are valid for 2021. Mantonfest say, “we may have to introduce some anti-covid restrictions. These will be announced nearer the time and will be in line with the latest developments and best practice;” let’s hope this goes off this time. Tickets & Info here.


21st: Live at Lydiard

Lydiard Park, Swindon

Anne‐Marie, Sean Kingston, Roman Kemp [DJ set] Artful Dodger, Chaney, Fabian Darcy on the line-up over four stages for this day festival at Lydiard, with a dance tent, boutique cocktail bar and food court. Info & Tickets here.


21st: Bath Reggae Festival

Now pushed back to August bank holiday, this is the maiden voyage for the Bath Reggae Festival, and we bless them with the best of luck. With a line-up this supreme though, I’d imagine it’ll sell itself. Legends Maxi Priest, Aswad, Big Mountain, Dawn Penn, and The Slits solo extraordinaire Hollie Cook, Laid Back and lovers rocker Wayne Wonder, this is a must for reggae fans. Tickets & info here.


September


4th-5th: Concert at the Kings

All Cannings, Devizes

For locals little more can be said about how awesome this ground-breaking festival raising staggering funds for cancer research is. Since 2012 it has bought international headline acts to the sleepy village outside Devizes; legendary fables and the fondest memories have been had there. No difference this time around, save for some social distancing. Billy Ocean, 10CC, Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, Sweet, Strawbs, Lindisfarne and Devizine favs Talk in Code, with more to be announced; twist your arm anymore, sir? No; no need to! Tickets & Info here.


9th-12th: Swindon Shuffle

Venues across Swindon

A later date for this annual extravaganza of local live music, spread across Swindon’s premiere venues and hugely supportive of original homegrown talent, this is weekend to head for the railway town. Since 2007 the Shuffle raises funds for MIND, and is largely free to attend. Ah, there’s plenty time to arrange a line-up, which is underway, but you can guarantee a truckload of our local favourites will be there, somewhere! Info.


10th-12th: Vintage Nostalgia Festival

Stockton Park, Near Warminster

The mature place to glamp this summer if you want to get retro; classic cars is the concentrate, but there’s no shortage of great bands from rockabilly, doo-wop, blues to mod skiffle, boogie woogie jazz and beyond. Sarah Mai Rhythm & Blues Band, “Great Scott,” Shana Mai and the Mayhems, The Bandits, Junco Shakers,The Flaming Feathers, The Harlem Rhythm Cats, Little Dave & The Sunshine Sessions, The Rough Cut Rebels, Riley K, The Ukey D’ukes and loads more. Info & Tickets Here.


You know, this one could be for me, rather than trying to look youthful clutching onto a marquee pole for dear life while a hoard of sugared-up teeny-boppers check Instagram amidst a soundtrack of dubstep! But look, I reckon there’s something for everyone here, but if I did miss yours, let me know, for a squashy cup of cider at the festie bar, I must just add your do here too!


Trending….

Slow-Clap to Stand up Against ‘derisory’ Payrise for NHS staff

Everyone across the country is being urged to join a mass slow handclap against the chancellor’s proposed 1% rise for NHS staff, in a campaign backed by UNISON. 

The union is asking the public to stand on their doorsteps and balconies to protest next Thursday (11 March) at 8pm. This is to show what they think about the government’s pay offer, which UNISON says is derisory.

The slow handclap will be repeated three weeks later on April 1, the day staff were due to have their next wage increase.

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Millions stood on doorsteps and clapped for health staff who’ve given their all. Let’s now stand up for their right to fair wages.

“Give the chancellor a slow hand clap for his miserly one percent. Times may be tough but this deal is below-inflation and derisory. It’s like the worst of austerity is back.

“NHS staff have worked throughout the darkest days in health service history. They were expecting a fair increase that reflects their exceptional efforts.

“Nurses, midwives, porters, cleaners and other health workers are upset, hurt and angry. There were 100,000 vacancies even before Covid hit. Now the health service will be losing staff quicker than they can recruit new ones.

“This offer isn’t just bad for staff. It’s bad for the NHS and the patients it cares for.”


A Chat with Wiltshire PCC Candidate Liz Webster

“Perhaps it will take electing a determined and feisty female Lib-Dem to turn that around in standing up for our Police and communities.” Wiltshire PCC Candidate Liz Webster opened up about her life, priorities for the role, and her reasons for standing….

If our jolly chinwag with Wiltshire Police Crime Commissioner candidate, Johnathon Seed, last month went supernova, hijacked with best intentions by those offended with field sports (oops, did I say field sports, when I meant the inglorious barbaric biota slaughter dressed as a requisite pageant?) and we found solace with the hospitable dude, Mike Rees, who independently campaigns for the same position, it’s all kind of, I dunno, left me in limbo.

My apologies if you came here looking for impartiality, you should know by now, I don’t dither on traditionalisms. Still, I’m between a rock and hard place, questioning the necessity for politics within this PCC job thingy, as while Rees favours his wealth of on-the-job experience, Seed is adamant politics is essential.

I went searching for a third opinion, and found it with the Liberal Democrat’s PCC candidate, Liz Webster. But I discovered more than I bargained for. Away from campaigning, Liz runs a farm with her husband and stressed her passion for the future of farming. “It’s calving season,” she explained, “and I’m deeply worried about trade deals that will be a disaster for our environment, animal welfare, food standards and for shoppers and farmers alike.” Liz and her husband set up campaign website, Save British Farming, protesting the Government’s current Agriculture and Trade Bills.

I didn’t want to dwell on my aforementioned ruckus, wanted the focus today to be what she would bring to the table, but I felt it imperative to ask Liz for her views on fox hunting, if she encourages the law to be upheld on these matters, oh and the boy’s ruckus too!

“I’m too busy responding to residents’ concerns about speeding, anti-social behaviour, domestic violence, pet theft, police station closures, drug dealers and cyber-crime to pay attention to personal spats between other candidates,” she stated.

“However, I have had very many anxious residents ask me asking about fox hunting, so here is where I stand. As an animal lover and keen horse rider when young, I have never had any involvement in hunting‎. My husband and I farm at the northern tip of Wiltshire‎ and we work with Matt Prior on his Marlborough Downs: Space for Nature project to conserve and protect wildlife on our farm.”

“Animal welfare matters to me. which is why I’ve been campaigning for Wiltshire Police to treat the crime of pet theft much more seriously, and I’m having some success. I want the law strengthened in this area. Protecting our pets, farmed animals and wildlife is important.”

“If the voters of Wiltshire and Swindon vote me in as our next Police and Crime Commissioner‎, I will urge that all laws to protect our animals, including our wildlife, are respected and that we investigate and prosecute those that break the law.”

Below is an extract of a recently published article which Liz penned. The section sets out her views on the issue, and farmed animal welfare, “which aligns with the vast majority of our citizens,” Liz expressed, “and against those of our current Prime Minister, and apparently my Conservative opponent.”

Take the latest discovery of his (Boris Johnson) opinions on foxhunting laws from an article he wrote for the Spectator in 2005. In it, he said: “It is like skiing, in that you are personally tracing, at speed, the contour of the landscape, and then there is the added interest of the weird semi-sexual relation with the horse, in which you have the illusion of understanding and control. There is the military-style pleasure of wheeling and charging as one, the emulative fun of a pseudo-campaign.” [our emphasis]

Boris Johnson, 2005

He argued that the foxhunting ban was “a Marxian attack” by the Labour government on the upper classes and nothing to do with animal cruelty, and he urged foxhunters to break the law and keep killing animals.

Bizarre that he should totally disregard the will of the people that is still overwhelmingly against hunting, irrespective of the relationship with the horse, semi-sexual or otherwise.

It’s one rule for them and another for us: let them eat chlorinated chicken and hormone infused meat! Boris Johnson also completely ignores the will of the people on food and animal welfare standards.

Recent polls have shown that between 80 and 90% of the public are aligned against lowering our standards to help deliver a quick and grubby USA trade deal.

Righteousness aside, I’m forever baffled by his weird semi-sexual relation with the horse, but I’m too nauseated to ponder deeper, and there’s not much which dribbles from his Gugelhupf-hole that makes sense to me. But we must push on, the importance of politics in the duties of police crime commissioner is my kingpin, and I asked Liz, “why?”

“Our Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) takes decisions that impact on all of us,” Liz replied. “They set the strategic priorities for our Police Force. Those decisions will reflect their values, those values are why people join together in political parties. The political alignment of the candidates should provide voters with assurances and clues about how those decisions will made.”

“My values are liberal; that means being open, tolerant, caring and respectful of others, being inclusive, strong on the importance of communities and our environment but also willing to listen and to compromise to make real progress. For example, I believe that putting real effort and resources into community cohesion will prevent crime and limit damage.  That’s why I’m ‎a Liberal Democrat.”

“Now that we, the people get to choose our PCC it is important that we know their values, where they stand on the key issues and what their priorities are. Mine are set out in my Plan for Wiltshire. I have experienced very directly the reality of inadequate action, funding and systemic failure. That woke me up to the reality that I should not stand quietly and watch but get involved‎ to prevent it happening to others.”

If you supposed Liz Webster just woke up one day and thought, I know, I fancy being police crime commissioner, think again. The revelation came to her a decade ago, when her eldest son, Henry, was the victim of a hate crime in one of Wiltshire’s schools. “He was attacked by a gang with hammer. Like all parents, I trusted The Ridgeway School and the Local Council who are the Education Authority to be responsible for my children’s safety while they were at school.

“When they failed to protect Henry,” Liz expressed, “that fundamental belief ensured I campaigned hard for three and half years for real change and eventually succeeded in getting an independent inquiry (Serious Case Review) published. That set out the lessons that had to be learnt to stop horrific attacks on children from happening again. I have written an article which touches on some of these lessons.”

“The Conservatives say they dislike ‘big government.’ Their grip on power over the last decade has seen our public services cut to the bone. Wiltshire Police – already at the bottom of the funding league table – has suffered deeply damaging cuts at the hand of Conservatives. This has ensured that our communities are less safe and left our police force feeling undervalued.”

“Seven Conservative MPs, two Conservative Councils and a Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner (and all mostly male)‎ have allowed this to happen. Perhaps it will take electing a determined and feisty female LibDems to turn that around in standing up for our Police and communities.”

Liz has said, “Wiltshire is one of the lowest funded police forces in the country because of an outdated formula which favours densely populated urban counties,” a notion also high on Johnathon Seed’s agenda. Yet while Liz recently wrote to the Home Secretary, she hasn’t responded. Meanwhile, hey-ho, pictures are circulating of Mr Seed blushing over Priti Patel as if she was Marilyn Monroe, (with a decided lack of facemask and social distancing measures I might add, though perhaps being beside the point!)

Isn’t this proof of a self-righteous, monopolising attitude with conservatives, where taking total control of not only government but our councils and policing too is paramount; there’s no room for any alternative? You don’t got to answer that; I put it Liz!

“The Conservatives are all about being in power,” she replied, (you think?!) “Both they and the Labour Party centralise power. Liberals believe in decentralising power. That’s why I’m passionate about setting up and properly supporting Community Safety Forums and making sure our senior Police Officers attend and listen to residents’ real concerns.”

“They make campaign promises are not anchored in reality, like my Conservative opponent’s pledge to recruit an extra one hundred police officers with no explanation of the vast increase in the precept that it will take to get anywhere near this or the vast practical problems of getting it done.”

“I want our Government to fairly fund Wiltshire Police and to be smart about how we use technology and increased community engagement to tackle and prevent crime and get local parish, town and Wiltshire and Swindon Borough Councils working with charities, school, businesses and volunteers alongside our Police.”

“The Conservative candidate is attacking the policies of the Conservative incumbent PCC, the Conservative Council, of which he is a member, and the Conservative Government that he surely voted for. He is gaslighting his past very active campaigning to get rid of the hunting ban, ignoring the fact that he has spent four years sitting on the Police and Crime Panel where all these issues and policies on the Police estate were discussed, just to try to get himself elected.”

“Both the Labour and Conservative PCC candidates have been sitting councillors on the Police and Crime Panel and yet neither have installed cost effective technology to deal with speeding in their wards and neither said a word about the police station closures until now.”

“As PCC I will be straight forward with people, ‎make communications and community engagement my priority. Look at smart ways and good ideas being used by other police forces. Look to get our Police, local councils, schools, businesses and community organisation working together rather than against each other.”

I’ll tip my cap, shine your shoes for a shilling, guvnor and suppose it’s the working class in me which, throughout my warming to Liz and her policies, maintain clarity in Mike Rees’s argument; a PCC with on-hand experience is greater than a political standpoint.

Her angle and priority on rural theft of pets, trees and hedges, no matter how big the budget, and how many new officers are employed, in a rural setting cannot be everywhere all the time. Ergo, a bigger budget allowing more officers and resources will solve crimes and capture criminals more efficiently, but it’s not as proactive in preventing crimes as on-hand experience. Learned that from Telly Savalas, they call it “the hunch!”

But Liz thinks, “unfortunately, I think Mike Rees is standing for the wrong job. I think we wants to be Chief Constable not our Police and Crime Commissioner. Judging by his comments, so does my Conservative opponent.  A Police and Crime Commissioner is not a military or police operational role. No one standing in this election should be trying to replace our Chief Constable.”

Yeah, but Mike looks more like Telly Savalas than Liz does!

“The role of the PCC is to involve our communities, enhance their support for and engagement with our Police to make our lives safer. They are also required to listen to the public and give candid feedback and direction when community needs are not being met or when real issues like pet theft are being ignored or downgraded.”

“The PCC is there to set the strategy for safer communities and to influence how policing is delivered to prevent crime and protect people and ensure that victims voices are heard. They are a bridge between the people and the police.”

“A successful PCC should strive to deliver less crime, less victims, safer communities and a happier police force. You do that by making good collegiate decisions and by working effectively with others that can help deliver those goals.”

“My family were victims in one of Wiltshire’s more high-profile cases back in 2007 when Wiltshire Police was run by the Police Authority and not by the PCC. We found that as the victims of this horrific crime we were marginalised. The whole emphasis was on the prosecution of the case and the protection of the offenders.”

“My son and several of the offenders were minors. But my son did not get same protection as his attackers. To this day some of them enjoy the luxury of anonymity as their identities were protected from the media. My son’s pictures and our address were printed in newspapers within hours of the attack. We had no help to deal with the media onslaught at the same time as we dealt with a serious medical emergency.”

“If I am elected, one of my key jobs I will ensure that Wiltshire Police are reminded to that the victims of crime need real help and support.”

It’s inspiring motivation from a moving and terrible incident, summed up by her campaign’s strapline:  Offering a more victim-led and preventative approach to the role of Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner. But how do we prevent rural crime such as the aforementioned animal theft, and even speeding through sleepy villages, when they’re so hard to police due to the openness of the countryside?

“Farming in a very rural corner of Wiltshire,” Liz started, “I am thoroughly awake to the difficulties we face dealing with rural crime. That’s why I have put forward practical policies that will help tackle such crimes. For example, I want to immediately abolish the position of deputy PCC. After discussions with our Chief Constable, I want that money used for a Traveller liaison officer to ensure cohesion throughout our rural communities.”

“I want to create a county wide DNA database for livestock to tackle sheep and cattle rustling, a growing area of violent, organised crime. This approach would combine that with reaching out to ensure all Farm vehicles and items are logged and safely returned.”

“I am committed to using smart and cost-effective camera technology to tackle speeding in our villages and rural areas. This will empower our excellent Community Speed Watch teams.  It will identify those driving without paying their road tax and deter and detect offenders of rural crime.

Liz recently posted thoughts on an article about what controls the state should be allowed to hold on to once things start to get back normal, as Covid infections and fatalities reduce. She wrote, “the balance between safety and freedom is an eternal tug of war, but it’s paramount that the suspensions of freedoms agreed in a health emergency don’t become permanent.” But with government’s talk of free speech reform, and scrapping the bill of human rights, on top of predicted poverty increases due to economic downturn, tensions are bound to mount. How would police in Wilts under Liz’s control react to possible protests, racist and hate crime, and acts of violence bought about by this tension?

“My values are centred in the Human Right Act” Liz affirmed, “it is effectively the incorporation of the document, drafted in large part by the UK, post the atrocities of the Second World War – the European Convention on Human Rights – of which the UK is a founding member. To withdraw from a commitment that guaranteed certain rights for all, regardless of your political affiliation is anti-British.”

“It is of great concern that the economic and financial impacts of Covid19 could see tensions run high. That is why we need a PCC who will make communicating with the public a priority and really values community engagement, as I do. A PCC who will, through social interventions and crime prevention policies seek to settle tensions rather than preside over their explosion.”

“As a mother I experienced directly what happens if things are ignored and tensions are allowed to build to flashpoint; it ends in violence and threat to life, to the life of my son, Henry. Having lived through that nightmare, I would never sit by and allow that to happen to other families. I am someone who wants to enjoy living in a county which is free and safe.”

“The rights to free speech and peaceful protest are fundamental. They have been respected in our country down the years. The tolerant attitude they represent alongside the rule of law is part of why Britain has been respected around the world. But should protest or hate speech break the law, lead to damage and violence then, of course, the lawbreakers must be held to account and brought to justice, whoever they are.”

Very liberal response! But that’s where its advantageous to have a Lib Dem PCC, rather than another Conservative who’ll surely simply toe the line. “Yes, I can confirm that I am a Liberal Democrat,” Liz said. “Within our broad set of Liberal principles, I am free to think for and be myself. To use my strengths to communicate openly and honestly without being told what to do or say. The Conservative Party has become increasingly extreme and intolerant, forcing out good people because they disagreed with Brexit and had the courage to say so. No wonder Nigel Farage was happy to instruct his candidates to stand down at the General Election and so many UKIP members joined the Conservative Party. Another Conservative PCC will see more of the same. Wiltshire will stay at the bottom of the funding pile.”

I don’t know about you, but all I see these days, perhaps due to lockdown, is internet and phone scams. It’s an international issue rather than county, but does Liz think police could do better in this area? “More international action is needed to control the internet and telephone scams,” she explained, “but yes with such a widespread issue the only answer is to educate and support people as best we can. This is why the PCC needs to have the ability and motivation to work closely with other those who support vulnerable people in our communities. Our businesses, particularly the smaller ones and those run by self-employed people are also an increasing target of these cyber criminals.   I have a meeting with a women’s business group next week to discuss the increasing levels of crime they are experiencing. I will report back on this issue.”

Domestic abuse rising is another topical post hot on Liz’s social media campaign, stressing the importance of calling a helpline. “Perhaps as the only female candidate this issue of domestic abuse is high on my agenda,” she expressed. “It highlights the need for far more education and empowerment of women. That is the real way of breaking this dire crime that means people cannot feel safe in their own homes.”

“I also welcome and back enthusiastically the Ask Ana initiative. This has seen training staff in pharmacies to enable victims of domestic abuse to simply “ask for Ana‎”. That code will see them taken into the pharmacy private space and be linked to trained police and support staff. This is a great example of what I mean by harnessing all of our communities’ various resources to combat crime and keep people safe.”

“I am also fully committed to ensuring the essential services offered by Domestic Abuse charities are properly funded and resourced. I have met with the leaders of our domestic abuse refuge in Swindon. If I am elected, I will go above what has already been done to ensure this vital service is protected.”

I’m grateful to Liz, and immediately warmed to her and her campaign, she has good sense of direction, motivation for engaging positively and justly in the role, and given her save British Farming campaign, will no doubt have a close and honoured connection with Wiltshire folk.

I’m supposing now there may be a need for political perspective within the role of PCC, however much I’ve taken to Mike’s approach. If so, I believe we must not take this disheartening conception that there is no alternative, as red. You’re welcomed to name-call, assume my political stance, but I’m growing evermore sceptical of the nodding dog which is Keir Starmer, but I won’t bow to this Tory appropriation; there is an alternative, and perhaps, just perhaps Police Crime Commissioner is a great place to start the trial.

I thank Liz for taking time out of her busy schedule on the campaign trail, which you can find out more about here, and wish her all the very best. Still, none of them will beat Kojak in my honest opinion; cootchie-coo, he loves ya, baby!


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Swindon Sound System Mid Life Krisis Live Streams

If you’re missing a tubthumping club night, you could clear your laminate flooring of breakables, blag your kid’s colour-changing lightbulb, overcharge yourself for a Bacardi Breezer from your own fridge, and belch up kebab behind your sofa.

All these things are optional to simulate the full lockdown nightclub in your own home. But, even creating a cardboard cut-out queue for the downstairs bog, or hiring a doggie tuxedo so your pet can double-up as the bouncer, extreme measures in extreme times will doubtfully replicate the genuine clubbing experience; sad but true.

However, if props don’t make the neon grade, the music can. Swindon-based tri-county sound system, Mid Life Krisis, abbreviated to MiLK, announce an online schedule for live DJ feeds and multi-genre events. “We will be putting on events post Covid for the people of Swindon and beyond,” they say.

There’s an interesting line-up ahead, prompted to me by Pewsey acoustic performer Cutsmith, who is on this Sunday (28th Feb.) Yet most are hard floor, afro/tribal house, trance, techno and drum n bass DJ sessions, freely shared onto a Facebook group, here. Join the group, throw your hands in the air, scream oh yeah, just don’t set your own roof on fire, it’s only going to increase your insurance direct debits, mo-fo.

Your exhaust cannot drop off en-route, girlfriend needs not to spend umpteen hours sorting her hair, and there’s no over-vocal knob jockey giving you all that in the carpark to distract you. No excuse for unattendance; no dress-code either, get funky in your jimmy-jams, if you like, you know I will. Shit, I’m like the Arthur Dent of Mixmag!

Now, I’m also gonna start adding these posters to our event calendar, which despite being about as tech-savvy as Captain Caveman, I’ve taken the time when nought is really happening to redesign it, to be more user-friendly.

All needs doing is directing buggers to the thing, as we’re listing global online and streamed events, and until a time when Bojo the Clown finally stops mugging us off and announces a release date, it’s not worth adding real live events for me to have to go delete them again.

That said, I find difficulties in keeping up to scratch with what’s on in the online sense, partly because I’m fucking lazy, but mostly because they pop up sporadically and unexpectedly.

Else they’re mainstream acts begging via a price-tagged ticket. I can appreciate this, it’s a rock and hard place, and we all need to get some pocket money, but from a punter’s POV, charging to watch their own laptop screen in hope they get a good speed for their feed, can be asking a bit much and one now favours a PayPal tip jar system.

Such is the nature of the beast, where a performer or DJ could be slumped in front of Netflix one minute and suddenly decide they fancy going live. Thankful then, we should be, to these Facebook groups hosting streams, in order to create some kind of structure.

The positive, for what it’s worth, is boundaries have been ripped down. Without travel issues, online, your performance has the potential to reach a global audience, and hopefully attract newbies to your released material. Who knows, pre-lockdown you played to a handful of buddies at your local watering hole, but afterwards tribes from Timbuctoo might rock up at your show. Okay, I’ll give you, they might not, but potentially, the world is your oyster. Just a shame its shell is clamped shut.


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Happy 50th Anniversary Devizes Lions!

Join me in thanking and congratulating The Devizes Lions in celebrating fifty years of serving the community.

Two members of DEVIZES LIONS Club have together amassed over 100 years of voluntary service to the local community. This milestone has been reached during the year in which the Club marks the 50th anniversary of its founding.

Soon after the Club formed in 1970 David Bousfield joined, and John Hurley did so a few months later. Over the years they have helped to organise many Lions’ events, including assisting individuals and groups in need of practical or financial help as well as organising large scale events such as Gymkhanas and the May and Christmas Fayres

David was President of the Club in 1984 and again in 2014. Like many of the Lions, David is well known in other fields. He is a solicitor with Wansbroughs in Devizes and has lived in Potterne for many years, he is a former trustee of the Wiltshire Community Foundation and governor of Devizes School. A keen sportsman, he was previously a county hockey player and remains a keen golfer.

John was President of the Club in 1977, and now lives in New Park Street. He was Engineer & Surveyor to the former Devizes Rural District Council and then Kennet District Council. With his late wife Beryl he was active in the establishment of the Wharf Theatre and they were also leading figures in the Wiltshire family history scene, transcribing and publishing many records and giving talks over much of the country.

Both John and David remain active Club members preparing for the restart of the Club’s public activities and its next 50 years helping local individuals, families and groups in need of support.


After 2 Years: Silverlands Playpark Update

August, two years ago I got on my high horse and exposed the dangerously damaged playpark equipment in Rowde‘s Silverlands Road.

Sadly, over this time the main remaining piece of equipment, the climbing frame, was taped off, leaving the children with one “wobbly” bench left in working order.

Also wrapped in red tape was the Rowde Parish Council’s ability to do much about it, being owned by Wiltshire Council. Unfair to hand over such an asset in such a state of dilapidaton, the issue was lost in limbo.

My emails to Wiltshire Council and in particular, Cllr Anna Cuthbert fell on deaf ears. Seemed despite the article recieveing over 3k hits, it was still superficial to bother to reply.

Enough to leave a soul feeling despondent towards any realisation complaints have any effect on the progress of our county council.

But today I’m glad to be able to update it with positive news. After one final push, contacting councillor Laura Mayes, who promised to “look into it,” an agreement has been met, and working with Rowde Parish Council Clerk, Laura has secured over £20,000 funding from Wiltshire Council to re-design the playground. Please contact her with ideas on what could be included.

So a massive thanks goes to Rowde Parish Council and Cllr Laura Mayes this week for their sterling efforts. Thus proving, over time, a long time abielt, things can be put into action!


Offended by a Rainbow; Assault on Wiltshire Police’s Temporary LGBT History Month Facebook Logo

To clarify, I like dunking biscuits into my tea, but if it’s not my cup of tea, and someone else wants to dip their biscuit in it, why on Earth would I have a problem? It affects me in no way whatsoever, it has zero consequences to my brew, nada.

If I dunk my biscuit into your tea, however, half drops off and dissolves into your cup, we might have a minor issue; it’s impolite and I should’ve asked first. Truth be told, though, this has never manifested, because I’ve basic manners, and only dunk into my own tea. Ergo, I say; dunk, and let others dunk. It’s a fair and just modern tenet, tasty too, you should try it sometime.

Since Henry VIII’s Buggery Act of 1533, of which defines the term as “an unnatural sexual act against the will of God and Man,” the timeline of LGBT history in UK law reads like the genocidal presupposing of a tyrannical third world regime. Wrought with disturbing arrogances, cruel and misconstrued judgements and fatal sentences, its roots lie biblically, a confine we no longer adhere our hearts and souls fully into, anyway. Least we accept the book was drafted over centuries of prejudiced editing by megalomaniac nutcases who couldn’t possibly have known the word of god any more than an amoeba knows the name of the pond it lives on.

As time moves forward, the religious connotations are secreted under political judgement, yet so inherit is our belief in chapters 18 and 20 of Leviticus, “thou shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination,” and for the sake of obeying, it will be 328 years after the passing of the Buggery Act, that the death penalty for it was abolished. Here’s my melon-twister for starters, if law had to be based on the apparent, word of god, what happened, when executing an offender, to deadly sin number five, Ὀργή, or “wrath” to us? And while you’re explaining that one to me, maybe explicate Luke 6:37 too; “do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven?”

Hard to imagine, this would be the way of things until only fifty-four years ago, when despite restrictions The Sexual Offences Act 1967 legalized consensual homosexual acts, privately, and only for over twenty-ones. My own lifetime witnessed this step in the right direction continue. Through the hullabaloo of celebs bravely confessing and campaigning, even during the dawn of AIDS, as Boy George and many others colourfully threw it in their faces, pride to be homosexual was still controversial and a long way from general acceptance. The ingrained discrimination turned from angered hatred to taboo, and the butt of the joke. Dick Emery made his fortune; his angle was awful, but we liked him.

Sticks and stones, not quite as bad as the death penalty, though psychologically damaging, it’s been a rocky road to where we now sit, dunking our biscuits. A gender-neutral era of law, media acceptance and general consensus, where anyone can marry anyone, where the sexual orientation of pop stars is of no significance, and when a character in a prime-time children’s cartoon, namely The Loud House, can have two Dads. A notion as brilliant as the colours of a rainbow.

Even to look back as recent as twenty years ago, where Will Young “came out of the closet,” society has achieved something unthinkable given the history, and for everyone hung, to those necessitating toilet trading, and from those who hid in denial and shame to those queens who wafted it their judicious faces, despite your personal orientation, this is something, in my view to be proud of, and to celebrate.

Yet, when the social media manager of those ordered by government to uphold the law decides to acknowledge this acceptance, on the shortest month of the year marking LGBT History Month, by taking two minutes out of their day to add rainbow colours symbolising Pride, to the backdrop of their Facebook logo, cabin-fevered keyboard warriors gather to accumulate a thread of hatred comments, condemning the decision.

Yep, despite the repulsive and discriminating history, when we finally reach this trailblazing conjunction, Wiltshire Police’s temporary Facebook profile picture is plagued by self-righteous little Englanders, again shamelessly twisting the narrative of positivity for their own wonky agenda. It comes from the same school of thought which devised “All Lives Matter.” Regardless of the plight of a cause, they have to have their share of the glory, less launch their toys from their prams.

Given the plight and horrors history exposes on the campaign, you really have an issue with this?

Largely, the feeble excuse for their prejudges was police should be out there, arresting people, as if every officer on the force gathered around one laptop, each clicking one Photoshop option. See here, it took me precisely two minutes to lone extract a rainbow backdrop off Google and paste it onto my logo, and I kind of like it, might keep it, if it annoys.

The other popular justification is in doing this, police are side-tracking and singling out a particular group, precariously extenuating the issue. Humm… only, it seems by bringing it to your personal attention. Wiltshire Police explain their reasoning, “the rainbow is a symbol of hope. It represents everyone, irrespective of their sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion or disability. People are people. All of us need kindness, tolerance and acceptance. Please remember this when you post your comments.”

Top answer is, survey says no; “Just accept people for who they are, there is no room for any form of prejudice, but I cannot help but think that highlighting individual groups just widens the gap, instead of building the bridge.” Really? Two “buts;” you like buts?

Think historically, the death penalty denotes the gap started quite wide, awareness and celebration of said cognizance is a bridge building machine. Some need to take a long hard look at themselves, and dunk their custard cream in a fresh new cuppa. Growling at a rainbow like a dog barks at the moon; give me strength!

One can only conclude, even if it’s ingrained and those passing negative opinion genuinely believe they’re not discriminating, they are. Your archaic notion of abhorrence is regressive, and yet again, unwelcome to general consensus.

If you trust there’s no need to symbolise this progress, then there’s no need to pass negative comment. But by the very fact you did, represents a definite need to; snakes and ladders. Because there’s looming underlining issue, and it lies in your own psyche. Ergo, eradication is teetering, we’ve come a long way; u ok, hun? If the reprehensible repercussions of this episode represent anything, it is not Pride, but shame, and evidently, the sat-nav of equality has not announced we are at our destination, quite yet.

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Kirsty Clinch Lauches Pre-School Music School

Wishing local singer-songwriter Kirsty Clinch only the best of luck today, as she announces a new project; a music school for pre-school age and above, called First Melodies.


As well as private tuition, Kirsty plans to combine published books and a YouTube channel to create a wider audience. Anyone interested should contact the website and subscribe to the channel…. I need not explain further, as it’s covered in this video…

Best of luck Kirsty, we reckon it’s the perfect idea for you.


Online Stuff 2 Do This Half Term

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

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

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

FREE SCHOOL MEALS ELIGIBILITY

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

Morrisons Kids Meal and Pizza making Boxes Here!


Creative

Stuff!

Get Cartooning!

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

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


The End of the Pier Show

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

Cooking

Stuff!

The Farm Cookery School in Netherstreet

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

Learning

Stuff!

Family half term activities among online events at Chippenham Museum

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

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


STEM Venturi

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


Music

Stuff!

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

Trending now….

Getting Cosy with the Gyros; Greek Pop-up Catering Coming to Devizes & Melksham

For the love of Eros, what’s the plan for your Valentine’s weekend in this restricted era? Just a language of love suggestion in view of limitations, because I’ve not tasted a Greek gyro, yet, but boy, the ones at The Cosy Kitchen pop-up takeaway look scrum-diddly-umptious! And word on the street is; they’re heading our way. Find them at the Wiltshire School of Gymnastics on Friday 12th and The Moonraker Pub, Devizes on the 13th February.

I’ve been chatting to these SBS winners, finding out how it works and asking them, why Greek. The foremost is simple, just rock up, order and obviously adhere to social distancing measures. They don’t offer pre-orders or deliveries, it’s collection only, “we find it’s not fair to the people queueing to then stop serving them when they’ve been waiting, for someone who has called up,” they explained.

The Cosy Kitchen started in 2019, on the events circuit, which is probably what jogged my memory of their popularity at Devizes Food & Drink Festival that year. “It has been difficult as we have had every event cancelled and I feel most of this year is going to be the same,” they told me, “so we’ve had to adapt to how things are to ensure we’re adhering to guidelines by putting things in place to keep everyone safe, it’s not been easy but all our customers have been amazing!”

The Cosy Kitchen at 2019 Devizes Food & Drink Festival

I’m reckoning it’s great for towns like Devizes, despite awesome Italian, Chinese and Indian restaurants, the choice is mostly limited to these. But why did the Cosy Kitchen decide upon Greek cuisine? I asked if there was a connection.

“We love Greece,” they added, “it was the first place my partner and I went on holiday and we fell in love with the place, since then we go back a couple times a year, to a little village where we are friends with everyone! We would come home, wanting gyros or Greek food and would drive long distances, and not be 100% happy with it, either not tasting right or the wrong atmosphere. So, we thought, let’s just do it ourselves!”

With a chef in the family, a connection to Greek suppliers, and friends who had restaurants (one called The Cosy Corner, influencing the name) to teach them recipes, The Cosy Kitchen was born and it treks Wiltshire towns and villages, bringing them a taste of Greece; what’s not to like?!

Cyprus is as close to Greece I’ve been, personally. An island which seems to cater for the majority English tourist by offering, I found tiresomely, chips with every meal. Much to my initial delight, at one point we tried an Australian bar where the owner proudly acclaimed in broad Sydney accent, “today we’ve got the Sunday roast.” But to my horror, even this was served with chips!

Due to this, the sustenance experience of my life occurred there, and I’ve been a fan of Greek food since. Yep, we’re talking the meze, a boundless round of courses until you drop. Honest, I’m a big eater, but this broke me. There’s a photo I’m not sharing, of me at this conjunction, reddened in face and blotted beyond compare. The waiter noted my faltering and tapped me reassuringly on the shoulder, “not long to go now!” But it was a big fat fib, as they covered the table in traditional Greek dishes, and I’m not one to excuse myself. They were all so fine, I had to try at least a bit of each!

The Cosy Kitchen found my recollection amusing, “ha-ha! Greeks do not understand portion control!” Which led us nicely onto the details of what a gyro is. Akin to the Turkish kebab, its meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie, typically served wrapped or stuffed in a pita, along with ingredients such as tomato, onion, and tzatziki sauce. “In Cyprus,” those Cosy Kitchen folk informed, “they mostly don’t put chips inside their gyros, whereas in Greece they do.” I zoomed in their photos, story checks out, there be chips in there; fortunately, I’d just had my dinner, still got a tad eager though. But the Cosy Kitchen get only good feedback on their brand of “herby fries,” “people just love them!”

It all sounds good, and in my mind, I’m already queuing at the Moonies! But the proof is in the pudding, as they say, of which, incidentally, you can order cheesecake for £3 a slice, and I think we should report back on how they taste on the day, if you’re not tempted already!


Trending…

Wiltshire Rural Music to Stream Gigs from Trowbridge Town Hall

Wonderful Trowbridge-based music charity, Wiltshire Rural Music revealed an online programme project, Live at Town Hall, today.

In collaboration with Trowbridge Town Hall, they plan to stream full concerts of our outstanding local musicians, starting in February. I hope to have more information for you, when dates and acts are announced.

Wiltshire Rural Music do an outstanding job supporting and enabling local communities and individuals to realise their musical potentials and fullfilling their ambitions. They provide room hire, give bursaries and work closely with Alzheimer’s Support, taking music into care homes and schools across the county.

More info on the work they do here. Follow them on Facebook for details of the streamed gigs.


Around and Around, and Hitting a High; Kirsty Clinch on Top Form

You can give it to me straight and agree, I’m old. Though as much as I hold dear the hours browsing record shops for a seven-inch slither of vinyl, the stream’s advantage is manyfold. Perhaps none more than the increased availability and distribution of home-made wares.

Vinyl junkies were restricted to what the music industry decided. While DIY music was around then, it was a needle in an underground haystack, obscured by a lack of prior knowledge of counter culture distribution, and even if you were aware, still they cost post and packaging.

Send a SAE in good faith, and when the musician finally finished his last bong, made it off his scabby sofa to the post office, you’d receive your cassette, only to find out it wasn’t as good as you’d been convinced it was by the crazy fractal advert in a punk-paste zine. We’ve come a long way, folks.

Local independent, country, singer songwriter, Kirsty Clinch posts on Facebook, one of the many social media platforms she tweaks to promote her music. Her latest single, Around and Around has reached a staggering 2K Spotify streams in just five days, managing to peak at number four in the iTunes country chart. It’s an achievement made mostly on her own, but does it prove the value of DIY rather than aiming to be signed by a label, can anyone with social media savvy achieve it, or is simply that it’s a great song from an exceptionally talented musician?

It’s certainly that much. Dreamy and evoking, Around and Around sees the ever-enlightening Kirsty at the ultimate perch in her career, in line for the forthcoming album, it leaves you dripping in anticipation for more. “Around & Around is all about catching your dreams,” she explained, “taking chances and not getting stuck in ruts; that’s just what I’m doing right now.”

A smidgen punchier than her previous release, Fit the Shoe, and perhaps even more beguiling than that beauty. To hear it is to engrossed in its pensive narrative, as all classic country should. But its Americana influences are subtle, it never references peripheral subject, as much UK country artists feel impelled to mention boxcars, dustbowls, and things you wouldn’t expect to find in their English suburban hometowns. No, Around and Around, like, Fit the Shoe is romantically topsy-turvy themed, flexible for a wider, international audience and contemporary sounding.

That said, Kirsty is no stranger to authenticity, travelling and performing in Nashville at venues such as the Blue Bird. Aside the clear influence of country’s leading ladies, the likes of Parton and Wynette and modern folk-rock artists, KT Tunstall and KD Lang spring to mind, Around and Around evoked memories of Kate Bush more than any other tune I’ve heard of Kirsty’s, in its haunting atmosphere rather than vocal arrangement. I put this to her.

“I don’t get the Kate Bush thing; my voice is not as squeaky!” she laughed, “I’m not a big fan of hers, which is weird as you’re not the first person to say it either. She’s huge though and loved for what’s she does, so I won’t complain!”  I had to explain I meant more the whole ambience of the sound rather than squeakiness of her voice, but we needed to move onto the immediate success of this particular tune, and where she hope it will lead.

“It won’t go higher,” Kirsty predicts, and I hope she’s wrong. “Only slowly hides away after that, the famous people take over sooner or later! But songs can always come back, so [I’ve] just got to keep hustling.”

I took Kirsty back a couple of years, sitting chatting on the lawn at BromFest, we discussed the hopes of an album then; best things come to those who wait. Aside her nonchalant social media persona, I perceive Kirsty to be a perfectionist on the quiet, certainly shows with these two singles. “Yes, I have one more coming out hopefully before May, and then I’ll drop the 14-track album,” she announced, “That’s why it’s taken so long, it’s a big one, but for a first timer in online sales, I had to do it to catch up!”

I’m aware Peter Lamb had a hand in this remarkable achievement, so I name-dropped the local legend, “all produced by Pete?”

“I did the whole thing in my bedroom studio by myself,” Kirsty replied, adding an angel emoji. “Pete added the bass, and then corrected my mixing and mastering mistakes at the end, as I got frustrated on the last bit! So, I’m pretty proud of it for that reason.”

It must be a relief to get an album complete, but the hard work is only halfway there, getting out and promoting it follows. Which part does Kirsty favour, despite psychically getting out and launching is impossible at the moment?

“I like all of the process,” she chuckled. “Gigs will come back, I’m just making the most of the situation and working with what I’ve got for now, there is always a way around things when you’re creative.”

Returning to my opening notion, due to developments in tech and a motivation for independence, a professional sound can be achieved at home. Kirsty furthered that she did the artwork and music video for this track all by herself too, due to lockdown.

“The album launch is not so essential,” she pondered, “when I can promote it just as good online anyway now.” As I said, Kirsty has a sturdy online presence, accomplished at building a YouTube audience, but is that more important to her than an album?

“It’s equal. All my fans are excited for the album! But the social media side of things mean they get to know you more, which is essential for selling music in the first place. Loads of people sell music, the marketing is the part that makes them what to listen to yours.”

And her secret?

“Get to know your story etc,” Kirsty elucidated, “and connect with the music; if you just say ‘buy my single’ and that’s all your social media is about, you won’t get many results.”

For the end of our chat, we dithered and pondered if the angle of this piece should focus on the song or herself. I’m of the opinion, when the creative open themselves up to releasing art, a part of creator is revealed through it, so practically, they’re similar. You are the song; the song is you; be one with the song! It’s why naïve teenage fans really believe they know a popstar enough to fall in love with them, and perhaps is augmented with homemade product. There’s a huge connection between the singer and the song, though, I put to Kirsty.

“Yah, subscribe to my YouTube channel, and they would have all the details anyway!” I suggest you do, as the interconnection is all-encompassing, the song is awesome, and likewise, so is Kirsty Clinch.


Carmela Wins Points of Light Prime Minister Award

A huge congratulations to Carmela and the Chillery-Watson family of Lavington, who knew nothing about the Points of Light awards until Carmela was rewarded with one this week. “We are absolutely bowled over with pure happiness at this surprise award,” mum Lucy said.

First established in the USA by President George Bush in 1990, UK Points of Light was developed in partnership with the US programme and launched at Downing Street in 2014. Since then, hundreds have been named Points of Light by the Prime Minister, highlighting an enormous array of innovative and inspirational volunteering across the length and breadth of Britain.

Points of Light are outstanding individual volunteers; people making a change in their community, and after her 300km challenge last year, we couldn’t think of anyone more suitable and deserving than our lovable Carmela.

Diagnosed at the age of three with L-CMD, a progressive muscle-wasting disease which weakens every muscle over time, Carmela is now six and has come a colossal way in raising awareness and funds for Muscular Dystrophy, and continues to be an inspiration to us all.

“Thank you, Boris,” Carmela said, “this is awesome news, I can’t believe it, it’s so amazing. Thank you so much.” Although the prime minister is just another celebrity notched on Carmela’s campaign trail, meeting with the likes of Beverly Knight, Frank Bruno, Jimmy Carr, and even Harry Duke of Sussex. Oh, and not forgetting last September when Wonder Woman actress, Gal Gadot, donated over £3K to Carmela’s fund. Face it, between Boris and Gal, I know which one I’d rather meet!

It’s a wonder, excuse the pun, if Carmela remembers the morning when she helped me on my milk round at all. I hope so, as it was a pleasure to meet her, Lucy and dad, Darren, and an occasion, I’ll always hold dear; even if I was a little tired and smelly!

CEO of Muscular Dystrophy UK Catherine Woodhead congratulated Carmela, and added, “everyone at MDUK is thrilled that Carmela’s outstanding fundraising efforts for the charity have been recognised by the Prime Minister. To date, Carmela and her family have raised nearly £50,000 for MDUK.” Which is simply, amazing. Well done Carmela.


Trending……


Candidate for Wiltshire Police & Crime Commissioner barred from Volunteering to Administer Lateral Flow Covid Tests

Is it campaign point-scoring, as the authorities seem to presume, or concern for health which encouraged Wiltshire PCC candidate, Mike Rees to volunteer to administer lateral flow tests? Whatever, the bottom line is discouraging anyone from attempting to help out during this crisis is bureaucratic nonsense.

And besides, just a brief chat with Mike recently, throughly convinced me his motives are genuine. He’s an open minded, authentic and down-to-earth guy, with experience in the field and a passion for the role.

Mike explains: “It’s with great surprise and disappointment that I have to let you know that I have been stopped, and apparently barred, from becoming a volunteer in the police effort to combat Covid19.

As a retired police officer I put my name forward for volunteer duties last year when the pandemic struck.

Mike Rees

This month I answered another call to volunteer to administer lateral flow tests to police officers and staff. I had a training session earlier this week and completed the online NHS assessment and passed to certificate my competency for the task.

Today I was expecting to attend a ‘dry run’ session however I’ve now been told I cannot attend as they have to investigate the ‘rules’ as allowing me to volunteer may suggest bias on their part because I’m a candidate for the role of Wiltshire Police Crime Commissioner.

I’m disappointed and dismayed to be denied the opportunity to volunteer to support the police, a force I worked in for 30 years.

I’ve asked for the ‘rules’ to be clarified as I see no possible concerns.

For your information, I do not agree with this decision to bar me from volunteering. 

I’m standing as an independent candidate, not aligned to any political party and volunteering was a personal decision.”

Mike is fast becoming the outside chance of becoming our PCC, and we’re backing him fully here on Devizine after his Malmesbury boxing club recently helped out the homeless, appealing for  donations of sleeping bags , food and clothes from locals and delivering them to the OpenDoors support agency in Devizes.

Plus, this is, by far, not the first charitable thing Mike has engaged in.


Rise of the Snowmen!

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

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

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

Jonesy McSnow and Lucy (age 10)

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

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

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

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

He made snow chicks, cats and dogs….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can I pick a winner?

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

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

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

Graham Steel Music Awards Online Tomorrow

Join the GSMC on Friday 22nd January at 8pm for a celebration of grassroots music as they present this year’s GSMC Music Awards Live Online on YouTube, where they will announce the Winners of all 12 categories and will include live and pre recorded music from some of the nominees as well as a look back at the year and celebrate all those people that helped keep the grassroots music scene alive in 2020.

GSMC Music Awards Night will be streamed live from YouTube on Friday 22nd January at 8pm, the link for this is below: