Crammer Watch Postcards; We Need Your Help

Next time you’re in Devizes town centre look out for the postcards in various shops and pubs. They’re not a wish you were here, more so a wish you can help, with updating the historic landmark which is the Crammer……….

All we need you to do is add your postcode, no names or contact details are needed, to the postcard, a petition, if you will, to send to Devizes Town Council expressing your wish that the Crammer needs bringing into the 21st century, it needs biodiversity. Since the van fire spilt contamination into the town’s pond at the beginning of the year, it has been realised it needs a few basic improvements to make it safe and effective for the wildlife living there.

A Facebook page, Crammer Watch (do please click here to like it) was set up to highlight the issue and gather support, the postcards, we hope, will emphasis the interest by local people and have some sway in convincing Devizes Town Council to act as a matter of urgency.

So, if you feel the Crammer isn’t as it used to be and you miss the wildlife that has vanished of late, please consider adding your postcode to these postcards. When full the postcards will be handed to Devizes Town Council to illustrate wide-ranging support for a good quality wildlife habitat and a showcase for Devizes.

There are two main issues detected which need improving, pipes flow into the Crammer directly from the road, polluting it and making in dangerous for wildlife, this should be redirected and a freshwater solution implemented. The second is what Swan Support informed us of when they rescued the poor swans drenched in oil spillage; they need a natural food source, having relied on handouts for so long the swans which were there had become reliable on them.

We accept what we are asking Devizes Town Council is a costly operation, and we’re not expecting miracles overnight, just the assurance the matter is still on the agenda. As Brian, heading the campaign says, “we need a positive action plan, with proper expertise assessment and a management strategy to deal with issue.”

The postcards are already filling up, please consider adding your postcode to them. They can be found at these outlets below, and thank you to everyone for showing your support.

The British Lion

9 Estcourt Street, Devizes SN10 1LQ

The Bell by The Green

Estcourt Street Devizes SN10 1LQ

 Light & Sound

2 Sidmouth St, Devizes SN10 1LF

The Barber Shop

24 Sidmouth Street Devizes SN10 1LD

CREATIV-e-T

11 Sidmouth St, Devizes SN10 1LD

Devizes Books

HANDEL HOUSE, Sidmouth St, Devizes SN10 1LD

Choic-e-cigs

16 Maryport St, Devizes SN10 1AH

White Chalk Gallery

8 Old Swan Yard, Devizes SN10 1AT

Estcourt Vets

5 Estcourt St, Devizes SN10 1LQ


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Music For a Royal Celebration at St Mary’s Devizes

Get into the musical mood of the Platinum Jubilee with a concert in St Mary’s Church, Devizes, that showcases the Queen’s favourite music.

Talented sisters Katja and Laura, who play the cello and violin respectively as the Serenity String Duo, have put together a selection of music for a special programme marking this milestone anniversary on Friday, 20th May.

Classical favourites by composers including Bach, Handel and Vivaldi together with a medley of hymns the Queen enjoys will feature in the first half. The second part of the evening will focus on a range of pop classics from Abba and The Beatles to Queen; to be honest, if the Queen doesn’t like Queen, what chance have we got?!

It’s the perfect playlist to serenade the country’s longest serving monarch!

Doors open at 7pm for 7.30pm.
Background note: Permissions have been given to transform the 12th century Grade 1 listed St Mary’s Church into a multi-use community space . The aim is to continue events, such as the above, whilst the fund-raising gets underway.

St Mary’s would very much welcome anyone who would like to get involved in this project. For further information about the project contact Tony Scorer on info@stmarydevizestrust.org.uk

Tickets are £15, online through ticketsource.co.uk at http://www.stmarydevizes.org.uk or book at Devizes Books or pay on the door)


Devizes Books Gets Rude at the Museum!

Literary Evenings are back in Devizes, and they’re inviting you to find out how rude they can be, though there is no bidding for you to be rude back, yet there appears to be no regulations set, so I’ll leave it up to your own artistic licence….

For the record I’m hardly ever rude, but the opening evening on 25th May at Wiltshire Museum, Devizes is at 7:30pm, on Wednesday 25th May. Devizes Books presents the evening, in which the subject of rudeness and impoliteness will be discussed and celebrated as an art, as written about by Saki, Mark Twain, Bernard Levin, Hunter S Thompson, and Jane Austen, among others. There’s a musical interlude, or should I suggest “inter-rude” by Lewis Cowen and James Harpham, nibbles and wine.

Tickets are £6 from Devizes Books, which is rude, perhaps you could shout at them as they go in! (Kidding!) They should consider the novel White Space Van Man by a certain local author if they want to delve into some deep-rooted rudeness, and not to mention, shameless plugging.

I can’t help feeling there might be some local councillors really into this event!


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Devizes Street Festival Day 1; the Inner Workings of DOCA

Well okay, there’s a meerkat atop a camal, patrolling him through Devizes Market Place, while girls attired in Victorian strongman leotards heckle the crowds, spoiling for arm wrestling contests.Grown men in pink bunny onesies hop outside the Corn Exchange while Bristol’s riotous transeuropean folk drum n bass agricultural revolutionaries Ushti Baba harmonise beatbox and an acordian in a sea-shanty-come-klezmer fashion on an open stage where you usually park to use the cashpoint. Devizes Street Festival blessed us early this year.

Ignoring the idol threat of April showers, Saturday was an absolute blast with the clement weather of summer and revellers out to play. The Market Place was thriving with smiley faces young and old and merriment abound. After last year’s restricted effort, we needed to blow it out of our system, and Devizes Outdoor Celebratory Arts knocked that sentiment out of the park.

Yet I do this; recover enough to string a haggard description of multiple circus and street theatre occurences into a kind of overhaulled review with a sensational “wow, this slice of festival really happened in Devizes” angle, every year. Throughly deserved though it is, to saunter through the crowd is to be joyful in the spirit of the moment, but blissfully unware of its inner workings.

Have faith, or take for granted the Market Place will magically tranform into Boomtown for a weekend, your free playground of revellery, with little consideration to how much effort has been made by a vast amount of contributors and volunteers.

So, the angle this time is only partially how utterly fantastic it so obviously was, rather focus behind the scenes, because arts director Loz and her volunteering team are not Paul Daniels, and this free fairytale bonanza doesn’t magically appear overnight.

To do this I’m high-viz wearing undercover, and for all the use I’ll be, other than clearing a few wheelie bins, misguiding folk in the opposite direction to the loos, and assigning myself offical cider tester, I’ve assimilated myself into the festival maker collective.

Adorned with access-all-areas privileges the Corn Exchange exposed the inner workings. Loz and leaders divide their time between rushing around like headless chickens and coordinating on a laptop, while every member wears a smile on their face despite the mundane or heftiness of the errand they’ve been set. Take these crates of food into the kitchen, I’ll be glad to. Happy to be on the team, which I haven’t made head nor tail of tasks set on a rota board by the entrance. I’m a newbie, many volunteers have done this for decades.

If you ever thought outside was bizarre, that hall you’ve been to for your covid jab is equally. A makeshift office-back stage circus hybrid, with a camal parked in the foyer, dancers choreographing in the hall, tree people preparing to wander out into the drunken abyss, and I’ve adopted the English tradtion of speaking my own language just with a hint of Latino accent in order to communicate with a crew of traditional Spanish saliors enjoying the supplied buffet. It’s an eye-opener to the inner workings of the centrepiece of DOCA.

Oh, for the energy, teamwork and amazing effort from everyone here, other than me, who, to put it nicely, aren’t getting any younger, to the keyboard warriors of social media land who continue to criticise changes to the programme, I confirm to you, my feet were aching by the first morning, and I was merely part time bin inspector. Criticise all you will, that is your perogative; they could’ve done this like this, not like that, where’s my favourite brand of lager, and the tradtionalist toppermost, why can’t they keep the dates as they were, all contained in a fortnight? Why not drain every last gram of stamina out of these volunteers and hang them up on a glucose drip afterwards?! Seriously, take a look at yourself, those guilty few, have you offered to help or are about to anytime soon? I took my best shot, it’s exhausting, I first-hand know this to be true now.

If its done anything it’s made me appreciate even more the will and effort of the volunteers, and respect that not every minor market town is blessed with such an event; we should be far more grateful. Then I revert, ignore the hiding whingers, they are but few. For everyone here, throughly enjoying themselves, the Ceres finale came at 6pm.

A theatrical acrobatic display of song and dance with the narrative of town’s folklore incident involing Ruth Piece, on this very spot, was promised. At first, while a hefty crane hoisted a peformer high into the sky, few drinkers at the bar huffed “hippy shit,” least admired the machinery and skill of the crane operator. Yet as the ambince of the drum beats, the haunting narrative of the moment, the strawmen casting shadows over the crowd, and the absolutely sublime acrobatic display above them, I swear every single person in the Market Place was left spellbound; you could hear a pindrop.

Unlike the usual fizzling out of the street festival, whereby revellers stagger away over time, navigated by a broken compass with the hide-in-a-pub or go home to sober up dilemma, even if they did they bore the imprint of a kind of subliminal concept, inserted through the medium of arts.

Perhaps Ruth Piece isn’t as portrayed, the archetypal baddie here, and while of course it is wrong to cheat, poverty and demading situations caused her to do what she did. Perhaps, just perhaps, the heckling and petty squabbling attaining her guilt was also at fault, and we should instead learn to have some sympathy and understanding. Perhaps, in turn, those complaining about the breaking up of the ‘fortnight of fun’ should consider the gallant work carried out by this group of volunteers, and appreciate their combined efforts, because Saturday was outstanding, and Sunday is awakening, the carnival, confetti battle and later events DOCA gift us with will arrive later in the summer, and you’re grownup, you can wait.

Ah, I’m getting all morally correct again, just ignore my insane dribbling if you will, the Street Festival continues today, I’m looking forward to it but I’m currently away in Taunton, typing this on my phone, where it’s rather drizzly. I hope this passes upon my return to Devizes later and we can do it all again; hope to see you there, and any delicious brownies from the Bake With Lil stall will be gratefully received!

This incredible Ceres show, with written verses by our resident poet Gail Foster, will be repeated as the finale again at 6pm, and prior one of my favourite bands, Mr Tea and the Minions are due to blast their sublime folky Balkan ska at us; lack of Mr Blue Skies I sincerely hope won’t prevent that!


The World Under the Wood; New Family Theatre at The Wharf

The World under the Wood is a new musical-play for children & family audiences written by Helen Langford, who brought ‘Adam & The Gurglewink’ to the Wharf in 2020…..

Jodie meets a magical talking Tree who asks for her help. The wood seems to be dying and Tree thinks the incredible World under the Wood may hold the answer…Jodie is whisked away to a super-world where life moves super-fast. But she discovers that this world is failing too; the super-humans have been collapsing and productivity is down. Jodie and Harley the dog must now journey between worlds to find an answer. Can the mega-multiplier plants restore the wood? And what is the mysterious Source?

The play highlights the need to stop taking the natural-world and its resources for granted. The world under the wood is an awe-inspiring land of invention and productivity, but Jodie discovers that the resources which underpin it are, to everyone’s surprise, finite. The ‘super-humans’ parody the rat-race of contemporary life, where achievement is king and the constant cycle of doing is reassuringly exhausting. Any long-term consequences of living this way have been ignored…until now. We learn through Jodie’s adventure, that it is through perseverance and working together that environmental problems can be tackled.

Though the message is timely and serious, the show is full of fun. With larger-than-life characters, catchy songs, and magical happenings, you’re sure to love your adventure to the world under the wood!

The World Under the Wood runs from Thursday 23rd June till the Sunday, 26th June.

Tickets can be purchased by ringing 03336 663 366; from the website https://www.wharftheatre.co.uk/ and at the Devizes Community Hub and Library on Sheep Street……and don’t forget to follow on Instagram and Twitter.

Ticket Prices:
£6.00 – £8.00* Family 4 – £22.00* Family 5 – £28.00* *booking fee applies For Group Bookings please contact hire@wharftheatre.co.uk directly to ensure that you only pay one booking fee.


Devizes Kids to Celebrate Jubilee with Professional Artist

Featured Image: Gerry Lynch.

A historic Devizes church will help local children celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee by giving them the chance to work with a renowned local artist over the jubilee period.

The parish of St John with St Mary in Devizes has partnered with artist Joanna May and historian David Evans to put an exhibition entitled ‘Majesty’ in St Mary’s Church on New Park Street from 2-4 June. Three local primary schools will participate: Wansdyke, Southbroom, and Trinity. 

Shirley Urwin, who is helping organise the exhibition, said: “The children will hear about Devizes’ historic links with the monarchy through story-telling, then Joanna will help them make paintings and drawings of story or person that resonated most with them. Joanna will then create a mosaic of the children’s drawings as part of a huge exhibition board, based upon her painting “Majesty”, which depicts Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation Crown. 

We hope they will benefit from the opportunity to work creatively with a well-known artist and be involved in a unique project marking a memorable event in their lives. 

The pupils will benefit from one-on-one time with a professional artist completely cost free. All three schools are state-funded, and both Trinity CofE and Southbroom receive higher than the national average Pupil Premium funding. This is about bringing art to everyone in our community. 

This is part of a programme of activities that will secure the future of St Mary’s Church as a vibrant and viable multi-use venue for the community of Devizes and further afield. It will raise awareness and engagement in the town of the plans to make St Mary’s available for the community as a vibrant arts space, accessible to all.  “ 

The exhibition will be free, and take place at St Mary’s from 11 am – 3 pm from Thu 2 – Sat 4 June. 

For more information, contact Shirley Urwin on shirley.urwin@yahoo.co.uk or 07849 536 179.  

About Joanna May 

Joanna May is an artist based in Devizes.  She is recognised and collected widely, with a listing in ‘Who’s Who In Art’. Her work has sold at Christies’, including to celebrity buyers; she has paintings at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Raymond Blanc’s famous hotel near Henley. Her beautiful hare paintings for The Hare on the Moon – A Treasure Hunt Book hang in her Joanna May Gallery, lighting up Northgate Street in Devizes. She can be contacted on joanna@joannamay.com and has a website at joannamay.com

About St Mary’s, Devizes 

St Mary’s Church is a Grade 1 listed building and one of the town’s oldest and most historic landmarks with its magnificent 13m high internal arch. It is among the top 2.5% listed buildings in the country and of significant historic importance to the town. Plans are afoot to redevelop the building into a space for the arts, accessible to all, enjoyed for generations to come, thus preserving our heritage. Find out more at www.stmarydevizestrust.org.uk.  


Bishops Cannings Parish Council Renovate YMCA Memorial

When I started Devizine I never imagined I’d be writing about a memorial which looked like a litterbin, but I did, because it did, and it was being used as one. I’m glad to say little over a year later the memorial has been restored to its former glory by Bishops Cannings Parish Council.….

A happy ending to a mysteriously unfolding saga, whereby folk far more knowledgeable on this, and likely most other subjects in general, enlightened us to what it was, why it was placed there and why it had been so sorely forgotten. The article took a number of edits, to the point I stagnated frustratedly; am I still writing about a bin-like memorial?!

Before……

Due to a boundary change on which The YMCA Memorial was previously moved to by Devizes Town Council, adjacent to the former Aster building, it wasn’t until it was bought to the attention of the Bishops Cannings Parish Council that it been inherited by them, they sought to rectify the state of the memorial. And look at it now!

After!

By the power of Greyskull, Bishops Cannings Parish Council, if this isn’t the second time in as many weeks, I’ve had to sing your praises; go steady, you’re putting other local town and village councils to shame!


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Professor Elemental Booms Trowbridge Town Hall with Raccoons and Cheesemakers

Type “smack me” into Google, at your own risk, and third predicted search is “…on the bottom with a woman’s weekly.” Six years since her passing, and over three decades since Victoria Wood first performed the Ballad of Barry and Freda her finest hour is everlastingly. Proof while often pushed into the “novelty” pigeonhole, comical … Continue reading “Professor Elemental Booms Trowbridge Town Hall with Raccoons and Cheesemakers”

Danny K & The Haters; Here’s my Small Axe

Danny K & the Haters, sounds like a belligerent rockabilly band, but it’s not, it’s far more shameful than that. Devizes and District MP Danny Kruger turned his back on his constituents this week, labelling them “haters,” in order to brown-tongue the effortlessly-reasoned worst Prime Minister in English history. And guess how many people asked … Continue reading “Danny K & The Haters; Here’s my Small Axe”

Laughable Excuses for Savernake Forest Proposals  

Last week I tried to convey how Savernake Forest has fond memories for all who live nearby it, and how it’s cherished by users in the same manner today, in the wake of a publication by Forestry England called “Our Shared Forest.” Ironic by title, it seemed to propose restricting the public to set walking trails at the Postern Hill site, extending the carpark and forcing people to pay for the privilege of using it. We’ve since heard back from Forestry England, as I emailed them the article, though I believe they’ve not quite got over All Fools Day……

A Forestry England spokesperson explained, “Since Our Shared Forest was published, there have been many reports misrepresenting an internal discussion document called ‘A Way Forward’, which was prepared at the request of our landlord, the Savernake Estate. This paper makes no formal proposals for the Forest. It was drafted in response to concerns raised by the Estate regarding the impact of public access, particularly in light of growing visitor numbers since the start of the COVID pandemic.”

Their wishy-washy, ‘we were just having a laugh, you know, didn’t mean it,’ excuses continues thus, “The document explores potential ways we might work to deliver some of our management commitments within Our Shared Forest. A number of our aspirations for a sustainable and resilient Savernake can only be achieved with Estate consent, so early discussion between tenant and landlord is essential. Public access within Savernake Forest has always been with the agreement of the Estate. Any changes to public access can only happen with the consent of the Estate trustees. That internal document has been extensively quoted out of context so we have published it in full on our website so that the community may read it themselves.”

“We recognise and appreciate the great depth of affection felt for Savernake Forest. In response to the extraordinary level of interest in Our Shared Forest, we have extended our feedback survey until 22nd April to ensure as many people as possible are able to review the information and have their say.” The document is HERE.

So, what? They were just brainstorming, you know, knocking some ideas across the table, oh, cheeky monkeys. Call me stupid, I’ve been called far worse, but why would you even contemplate closing the forest, and even if you thought it might be something worthy of acting on, why would you publish your inane plotting online?! It’s not “misrepresenting” at all, it clearly states, “The redevelopment of Postern Hill would be coupled with the closure of the Grand Avenue, and indeed the rest of the Forest for vehicular access by visitors.”

Yet it apparently makes “no formal proposals for the Forest,” and “Any changes to public access can only happen with the consent of the Estate trustees,” begging the question, what was the point in it anyway, then, being owner of the forest Lord Cardigan has been on the telebox, I see the dude, strongly objecting to the notion?!

This change of heart/pathetic excuse (delete as appropriate) has nothing to do, either, with Marlborough Times reporting the “applause after applause” from a large crowd resounding throughout the Court Room in the Town Hall at Monday 11th April’s full Town Council meeting, “where councillors vented their opposition to Forestry England’s ‘internal’ suggestion to close Savernake Forest to all vehicles,” then?!

The article rightfully states, “Councillor Nick Fogg was vehement in his condemnation of the ‘plans’ presented by Forestry England, and whilst in their defence, they claimed that their words had been ‘misrepresented’, Councillor Fogg made clear that, having (like all other Councillors) read and digested the Forestry England ‘internal discussion document’ in its entirety that in his view it ‘was a serious proposal’.”

I, as I’m sure most others were overjoyed to read that, “in the end Councillors voted emphatically and unanimously to object to any such proposals, echoing the resounding opinion of the community at large and those packing the hall,” because whoever concocted this daft-as-a-brush proposal sure has an egg factory on their stupid face!

I also love that the paper classed it ‘Disneyfication.’ As in: “Next step? A statement from either Forestry England or the Forestry Commission setting out exactly what they are proposing regarding vehicular access, the future of the Postern Hill car park (enlarging to 350 cars / ‘Disneyfication’ / charging?) and if they are really going to ‘develop’ this part of Savernake Forest to commercial ends with the ecological consequences. Or let the natural and glorious beauty of Savernake Forest be there for all to enjoy.” The finale of which is perfect. Explore the Grand Avenue area of Savernake and you will find some deep craters, my good friend who grew up in forest referred to them as “bomb holes.”

Now, I always believed it was just a term of phrase, pondering why German WW2 pilots would target a forest, until the day I took my son to a war exhibit at Wiltshire Museum and perchance to browse some old photos with an informative chap, who was a police officer during the era. I found a photo of the gates of Grand Avenue, heavily guarded, and asked him what was happening here. He told me it was a bomb disposal area, and the penny dropped.

And here’s why I bring the subject up: those bomb-holes today are teeming with life, shrubs, grass and trees have grown over them, wildlife nests inside, because a forest replenishes itself over time, naturally, because, well, because it’s a blooming forest and that’s what forests do! You’d have thought an organisation called Forestry England might’ve figured this out themselves. No matter what damage a man walking his dog, a family enjoying a picnic or even, dare I say it, minor acts of anti-social behaviour, might cause in the forest, they cannot be any worse than exploding a WW2 bomb, you’d have thought?!

Leaving me to conclude, for what it’s worth, this proposal was as predicted, simply a suggestion to profiteer from people’s freedom to roam this beautiful feature on our Wiltshire landscape, disingenuously disguised as attempting to environmentally aid it; what a terrible, greedy thought bubble. I’ve got to leave it there, for the sake of my blood pressure.

Though to fully conclude, please, I beg of every potential fly-tipper, litterbug and general knuckle-dragger, please don’t fuel their fire, and give them opportunity or an excuse to pursue this, respect and look after our forests and woodlands, please; I asked nicely, three times at the last count!


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Easter at the Crown, Bishops Cannings

Looking south yonder from the Wansdyke atop Morgan’s Hill, you will see the spire of St Mary’s in the parish of Bishop’s Cannings, much less you belt past it on the A361, glad to have escaped Devizes’ congestion.…..

Impressive is the church, recorded in the Domesday Book as held by the Bishop of Salisbury. Tis said its design is to replicate Salisbury Cathedral; a kind of mini cathedral, to make him feel at home, which is nice. I’m certain villagers today would want the same, to make visitors and newcomers’ welcome.

The spire towers over the historic inn, The Crown, which recently under new management felt the objections of a handful of disgruntled residents at their wish to provide a little entertainment in the village, a few of them a considerable distance from the site.

I’m glad to hear the proposal was met positively with a majority, a slightly later licence for outdoor music was granted, and this was celebrated with an Easter humble gathering of villagers and local live music aficionados, which is why I and a sprinkling of other Devizes riff-raff trekked eastwards.

Smooth. Image: Nick Padmore

It’s understandable, you buy a rural property for peace and tranquillity, but I implore you, give and take for the odd weekend, is all anyone asks, no one is proposing your chocolate box cottage is resituated on the Las Vegas strip. Proof is in the pudding, and what the Crown hosted yesterday was far from the satanic-worshipping netherworld of a Special Brew sponsored anarchistic punk uprising I imagine they wrongly perceived it to be!

Rather, as the trend for pub-based mini-festivals is, a beautiful, family-orientated day of live music was had, celebrating a wealth of local talent; there were no acts of depravity, no drug-induced adolescent insurrection and I’d wager to drive through the village this morning would be to have no clue an event of any kind actually occurred. Give and take goes for anyone living in any village where a pub wishes to host a small event; in this era of regaining a hospitality industry, whereas an urban tavern can specialise, a village pub must cater for all, and that’s a delicate balance, to be the hub of a community.

George Wilding. Image: Nick Padmore

That’s exactly what the Crown achieved, owners and staff should be proud, I considered as I wandered through the pub witnessing families enjoying rather tasty looking meals, as ever, as is the mainstay for Wadsworth’s establishments. While outside a double marque nestled between an outside bar and barbeque in its wonderfully spacious beer garden. With clement weather, it made quite the comfy and hospitable music event it promised to be.

Paradox. Image: Nick Padmore

I can’t really justify a review, as such, I only rocked up to check it out prior to heading to the Southgate, but I saw enough and badgered attendees to discover it was nothing short of brilliant. I missed a band I don’t know called Smooth, George Wilding, who though not seeing post-lockdown you can depend his natural talent and charisma shines through with every performance, and Paradox, who I’m told were lively in their covers and got everyone up dancing; what can I say, I had to work, siesta, and had errands to run as dad’s taxi, but folk there spoke highly of them all.

I did arrive as planned, to see N/SH, a heartfelt Swindon-based teacher by profession who enthusiastically circulates the local scene as a solo, multi-instrumentalist indie-rock musician. Perhaps scheduling was slightly off, with Paradox before him being so lively, as N/SH’s style rests very much on acoustic and ambient vibes, his incredibly crafted self-penned songs are rich in narrative and his cool persona reflects this. He’s one for the serious acoustic-heads, the like Bath’s Chapel Arts should headhunt, the nonchalant yet passion he displays rides on the zephyr sublimely; he’s one for any singer-songwriter to sit and admire.

N/SH. Image: Nick Padmore

And I was also enthused to pop my Illingworth cherry, a Salisbury-based duo I’ve been meaning to check out for a while. Few originals, but mostly indie-pop cover favourites, lead John Illingworth’s voice is simply vocational and inspiring; it could pull you into sentimental meanderings if he was covering the Wheels on the Bus! There’s scrupulousness and charm in the whole setup, the kind to polish off a party, returning guests home with fond memories and thoughts of oh, did I get up and dance?!

But unfortunately, that’s all I’ve got, other than here’s a welcoming and comfy village pub keen to host events in support of the local live scene, reminding me somewhat of Bromham’s annual BromFest at the now sadly burnt-out Owl community centre. This little excursion for the Crown is a precursor, for they’ve a festival planned on July 9th, aptly titled CrownFest. N/SH, Illingworth, Paradox and the fantastic Mr Wilding are on the line-up, and also booked is Humdinger, Pete Lamb’s Heartbeats, Isobel Thatcher Band and Becca Maule, with Queen tribute Real Magic headlining.

Judging on this weekend alone, I think this is one very worthy of your attention. Parking and camping are included, it’s fundraising for Devizes Cancer Research and Dementia Friends, tickets are £35, early birds get a fiver off. Hats off to the Crown at Bishops Cannings.


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

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

Love Devizes Issues? The Local Facebook Group Which Banned a Covid Community Support Page

On the day the first Ukraine refugees arrive in Devizes, and government shockingly announces its intentions to set up concentration camps for illegal refugees in Rwanda, it seems Devizes Town Councillor Iain Wallis has played his small part in the hypocrisy, by banning the Facebook page Love Devizes Covid19 Support from his large and influential group, Devizes Issues.…..

Love Devizes Covid19 Support was set up at the beginning of the pandemic, its ethos to enable “the people of Devizes to support, inspire and strengthen one another,” has seen volunteers running needed shopping and prescription trips for those self-isolating, manning advise phone lines, has advised and assisted with the vaccine rollout at the Corn Exchange, and has been a pillar of support in our community.

As the focus on the pandemic is gradually easing, the group has partially turned its attention onto the Ukraine crisis, extending a warm hand of advice and support for those entering the Devizes area, fleeing war-torn zones, and those taking in refugees. It continues to support the community too, helping to create and promote the Devizes Living Room, a social gathering group which meets in the Shambles.

The Facebook group not to be confused with many others of similar names, has come under scrutiny of bias and censorship beyond its set out rules and regulations; heck, I was banned and so too has the Devizine page for hinting Boris Johnson may not be the deity he’s made out to be! So, yeah, I’ll confess some bitterness, because at best what Devizes Issues has done is create a worthy forum of local matters. It remains open to political debate on local and international matters, and encourages members to participate in such discussions. Though it appears more and more the group will not tolerate anyone disagreeing with admin, but to outright ban a community group created to help those most in need is seriously counterproductive to the reason it exists, surely?!

Admin, Councillor Iain Wallis has not given comment reasoning the ban at this time, but I would encourage the group decides its precise purpose and not pose as an impartial community group when quite clearly it holds an agenda, for whatever that reasoning is, intended to block community support groups. Holy Moly, the issue in Devizes is the Devizes Issues; it’s all getting a bit Jackie Weaver out here!


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Birdmens Play Long Street

Bird is the Word. If April has seen a surge of memorable rescheduled gigs from Devizes’ Long Street Blues Club, and I’m content and grateful our roving reporter Andy has taken the arduous task of enjoying and reviewing them, May sees the blues club return to a monthly plan of action, meaning there’s only one gig, and I’m itching to attend it myself.….

The lockdown project of a staggering who’s-who of local blues, Birdmens will play the club on Friday 6th May. The line-up of lead & rhythm guitars Ian Siegal, Jon Amor, Joel Fisk and Dave Doherty, the latter also taking percussion, bassist Rob Barry, both Bob Fridzema and Jonny Henderson on keys and Giles King taking up harmonica, this is truly a force to reckoned with, now prepare for it to be a live show, featuring Ian, Jon, Dave, Rob and Jonny.

Armed only with cheap microphones, phones and varying internet speeds, ‘Birdmens’ recorded Lockdown Loaded, an album created in bedrooms and kitchens which thrusts a genuine life-force and verve back into a scene they feel is in need. If blues is having something of a renaissance, it’s not without timeworn formulas and antique following. Akin to the Doherty’s now defunct Little Geneva, here’s a supergroup aching to reintroduce that raw and energetic edge back into blues, something sorely missed on an elder and commercialised circuit.

Defined as swampy delta blues, there’s something retrospectively authentic and underdone about it, a true ethos of blues. I’m leaving a video here for you to make your own mind up, but it’s won me over. Now everybody’s heard about the bird!


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Mark Thomas Tour in Swindon & Bath

One has to wonder how on earth anyone could come up with political satire in this day and age, when the whole shebang is a comedy of errors and the reality of Westminster caricatures itself; these technicalities are best left to the experts, like Mark Thomas……

Mark announces a Spring run of his latest show Hit Refresh: 50 Things About Us. It’s coming to Bath’s Rondo Theatre on Thursday 28th & Friday 29th April (Full £17.50 Concs £12.50) and Swindon Art Centre on 18th May. Other tour dates here.

Combining his trademark mix of storytelling, stand-up, mischief and really, really well researched material, Mark examines how we have come to inhabit this divided wasteland that some of us call the United Kingdom.

Delighted to be back on the road once again, Mark picks through the myths, facts and figures of our national identities to ask how we have so much feeling for such a hollow land. Who do we think we are? It is a show about money, history, songs, gongs, wigs, unicorns, guns, bungs, sods of soil and rich people* in the vein of The Manifesto-meets-sweary history channel.

An unstoppable force both on and off-stage, Mark has stopped arms deals, created a manifesto and brought the winning policy to parliament, walked the entire length of the Israeli wall in the West Bank, set up a comedy club in Jenin, had six series on Channel 4 alongside several television documentaries and radio series, written some books, grabbed a Guinness World Record, toured sell-out tours,  won numerous awards, nabbed himself a Medal of Honour and succeeded in changing some laws along the way.

50 Things About Us is also a podcast, and was published as a book last year by September Publishing.

*(not the adjective Mark has chosen)

For a full list of tour dates, please visit https://markthomasinfo.co.uk/tour-dates/


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REVIEW – Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy @ LSBC, Devizes – Saturday 9th April 2022

The Gig of 2022 So Far!

Andy Fawthrop

Following the previous night’s gig with Billy Bremner’s Rockfile downstairs at the Corn Exchange, tonight we were promoted upstairs into the main hall. And that was only fitting – big name, big gig, big crowd, so a big venue required. Last time we were in here was for those other prog-rock legends of the 70s – Focus. This time the hall was full of people, and the stage was absolutely full of drum-kit – a massive and meticulously set up piece of equipment, with a pair of huge gongs at the rear.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer, alongside such legends as Cream, were one of the early rock so-called “supergroups”, and were massive innovators in the world of music. Transcending mere rock labels, they incorporated many other musical forms into their repertoire, particularly jazz and classical.

Carl Palmer has a reputation as a drummer’s drummer. A consummate professional, a brilliant technician and a dynamic showman, he has thrilled listeners and audiences alike for nearly four decades with some of music’s most memorable bands including Atomic Rooster, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, Asia and of course Emerson, Lake & Palmer. To be honest, he’s worked/ played with everyone who is anyone. Along the way his dazzling speed and mastery of the drums, combined with his infectious stage personality, have secured for him a respected place in history as one of rock and roll’s greatest drummers.

Carl is now 72, looking fit and healthy, and is the only one of ELP still living. Sadly we lost both Keith Emerson and Greg Lake in 2016 – sad losses of talent. To “replace” them tonight, in a musical sense at least, we had guitarist/ vocalist Paul Bieltawicz, and on bass and Chapman stick we had Simon Fitzpatrick. Notice there were no keyboards – everything was reproduced on guitars.

We opened in classic style with “Welcome My Friends To The Show That Never Ends”, before being taken through several numbers from the ELP and King Crimson back catalogue. From the first album we had “Knife Edge” and “Lucky Man”. From the second album the eponymous “Tarkus”. There was “Trilogy”, “Benny The Bouncer”, “Hoedown” and “Twenty-First Century Schizoid Man”. The musicianship throughout was simply stunning by all three members of the band, each displaying some dizzying skills and dexterity with their instruments. Both Paul and Simon delivered stunning solos. Carl repeatedly stepped out from his drum battery to talk to the audience. He was down to earth, chatty and humorous, building rapport easily.

Carl’s big drum solo came, as it must, like a long-impending storm, and arrived in the midst of the last number “Fanfare For The Common Man”. To be honest, I’m not the greatest fan of drum solos because they are so often used to merely let other band members have a bit of a rest, and to keep them sweet since everyone else will have had a solo by then. But absolutely not the case here. Carl’s solo, as we expected it would be, was an absolute tour de force, demonstrating without question what an absolute master this guy is. It was completely stunning, and drew a deserved standing ovation, as the band filed back on stage to close the number out. I think it’s fair to say that this guy really knows his way around a drum kit!

There was still time for a resounding, thumping encore of “Nutrocker” and then we were done. An absolutely stunning night’s entertainment and, for me at least, best gig of 2022 so far! Superb!

Future Long Street Blues Club gigs:

Saturday 16th April 2022 Billy Walton Band
Friday 6th May 2022 Birdmens
Saturday 4th June 2022 Errol Linton Band
Saturday 17 September 2022 CSN Express
Saturday 8th October 2022 Eddie Martin Big Blues Band
Saturday 5th November 2022 Alastair Greene Band


Worried Men at the Southgate

Glad to find time between running Dad’s taxi to nip over to Devizes’ trusty Southgate, for one reason unworthy of explaing here or another, feels like an age since frequenting our favouritemost tavern, and I’m all smiles to return.

Historically efficient, nonetheless, I’m here to find out what the men are worried about; possibly an ironic namesake for Jamie Thyer’s tradtional electric RnB three-piece, a pub trio very worthy of your attention, should you not have come across them on their 28 years on the circuit.

Sure, I’ve seen The Worried Men’s name about a bit of recent, last time listed at Trowbridge’s Pump with our Tamsin in support. Maybe there’s the reason for my assumption it’d have a folk twinge, but you know what they say about assumption.

Marvellously proficient, in a manner vien of classic sixties and seventies rock bands derived via blues rather than folk, The Worried Men seemed not in the least bit worried to me. Rather brewing in deserved confidence, Jamie’s wealth of experience shows as his fingers glide across those strings, governed, it seemed, from the gods. At one point this guitar virtuoso accepts a mug of tea, drinks it mid-song while continuing to make it look like childsplay.

Treated to the perfect balance of originals and self-stamped covers, they weaved between electric blues and psychedelia rock n roll with a clear nod to its roots. So to blend any subgenre fitted sublimely into a firey set, whether Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water riff, frenzied hints of punk rock, mellowed Flyod-eske moments or reaching further back to rock n roll’s golden era, every experiment in rock history was crafted into their unique style, without the need to metalise. Though Motorhead did get a moment in their repertoire.

What came out the other side was a loud and proud plethora of excellence of which you could only nod your appreciation to, confident you were in the hands of some really experienced long-haired rockers with Cuban heels.

Jamie holds an expression of concentration, occasionally looking up at you through these spellbinding Hendrix fashioned exercursions, as if to ask “is that alright for you?” Like a dentist with his tools stuck in your gum, you feel like responding, “yes, fine, thank you doctor.”

I guess therein lies the beauty of the rather cramped Devizes answer to the 02 arena, virtually perched atop of a band you’d usually witness from a stage distance, makes it an intimate experience, personal. While this may not suit all, The Southgate does it their own way, and they continue to host free gigs you’d happy pay a ticket stub for.

For this, and the clash of similar as The Long Street Blues Club knocking out, I’d suspect, a blinder at the Corn Exchange, last night down the Gate wasn’t as full as it could’ve possibly been for an act so warrent of the highest praise possible. Again, the strive in The Gate to present us with great live music every weekend needs nourishing and respecting, with other local boozers only doing this sporadically, it’s the only dependant offering of entertainment in town, unless of course you keep up with what’s happening via this rather special website, if I do say so myself!

So, if you were in that exclusive club last night, I wager you were as bowlled over by The Worried Men as was I. From moments of intricate guitar picking with amps low, to the frenzied finale where Chuck Berry’s “Bye Bye Johnny,” fused into medley with Muddy Waters’ “Little Red Rooster” with emphasis on the Stones cover, and The Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie,” with an audience participation encouraged encore of Them’s “Gloria,” this surely was an astounding performance to satisfy the craving of rock aficionados from any given generation.

Onwards, next Saturday’s offering at The Southgate also takes on a blues edge, slightly east of us, local blues group Barrelhouse take up the legendary alcove, and take it from me, if you like your entertainment as gritty and vintage as the great Howlin’ Wolf, you’re in for a treat.


Savernake Forest Restrictions; Residents Say No!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Ushti Baba

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

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


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Devizes Market Place to be Pedestrianised

There was a unanimous vote at yesterday evening’s Devizes Town Council planning meeting in favour of stopping all traffic coming through the Market Place and pedestrianizing it….

With growing concerns to air quality in the town centre and pressure from local environmental campaign groups, the town council approved plans to prevent vehicles passing through the historic Market Place.

The plans presented by a contributing collaboration of environmental consultants to cut the road off at the Wadworth Brewery roundabout and the High Street at the opposite end will commence as soon as feasible and pedestrianisation of the area will shortly follow, with green spaces provided.

The benefits of pedestrianisation are manyfold: pedestrian safety, the World Health Organisation finds that pedestrianisation not only improves safety for pedestrians but also contributes to lower levels of noise and air pollution. Pedestrianisation creates a pleasant environment people can involve in social, cultural and tourism activities. Furthermore, it helps to promote walking as a transport mode by making the walking experience more enjoyable. And there are economic benefits as well as environmental. Pedestrianisation can improve the economic growth of an area due to increased consumer retail spend, increased rents able to be charged for units within a pedestrianised street and the reduction of economic losses caused through air pollution.

With two pedestrianised piazzas planned, one on each side of the Market Cross, surrounding green spaces have the potential to create lively market and events areas. It’s unlikely this will happen, claimed one Conservative Councillor who stated firmly, “this would only act as a stimulus for rowdy behaviour and festive frolics, and we would not welcome overexcitement from the public, partly because they’re unlikely to invite us.”

Along with plenty of walking and cycle paths, we’re informed there will be a single lane service road running through the centre of the Market Place to allow access to buses, taxis and delivery vehicles. There will be loading and unloading bays in the centre of the ring road, but no cars or private transport will be allowed to enter the area. There will however be two reserved parking spaces, one for our illustrious MP Danny Kruger and the other for Councillor Iain Wallis, social media god.

Plan of new Market Place layout

The council clerk Simon Fisher suggested, “being as Mr Wallis is the only councillor who really does anything it’s only right the second parking bay should be his, if you’d not called Boris Johnson a poo-poo head on his impartial Facebook group and got yourself a lifelong ban you’d know all about just how hard he works.”

Devizes Mayor Chris Gay called the decision “wonderfully different, yet something we will all adjust to in time.” When asked about the landslide vote, she replied, “yes, all councillors voted in favour of the service road, as I told them if they didn’t, they’d be buried under it.”

“Weigh, the lads!” announced councillor Jonathan Hunter, and all councillors stayed late to celebrate the decision, with a blues band arranged by councillor Hopkins, the reason he’s on the council, and a display of breakdancing choreographed by Kelvin Nash.

Guardians danced with Conservatives, and the only Labour councillor, Catherine Brown was sent out to make cups of tea. All enjoyed the evening, with the exception of Mr Wallis, who excused himself by announcing he needed a change of underwear, only later to be found updating his Facebook group with his concerns.

The work should be complete with a grand opening ceremony precisely one year from now, April Fool’s Day 2023. Seriously though, would it be a fool’s idea? No one parks there now anyway, but a patch of greengrocers’ fake grass is the best you could really expect. Let’s have the ceremony opened by Miley Cyrus, no one is reads this far anyway.


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If Devizes to Westminster Race is Under Threat from Parking Fees, What About Other Events?

Hats tipped to Geoff of our beloved Gazelle & Herod, reporting on a looming row between Devizes Town Council and Wiltshire Council over changes to free car parking which could pose a threat to the historic Devizes to Westminster canoe race. Yet I ask, where will this end, what about the county’s numerous other events, and why should one be singled out?

I’ve no issue drawing your attention to his article, even if they refuse to do likewise when making a front-page splash on a story we broke, and mentions any and everyone else except Devizine, including, for some completely baffling and inconsequential logic, the Queen! She wasn’t there rescuing swans, guys, you read it here first. She was more likely at her palace licking her lips!

Anyway, I digress; it points out, the historic Devizes to Westminster canoe race has been running since 1948, but now, following Wiltshire Council’s decision to end the town council’s provision of free parking for events, organisers of the canoe race could face a bill of £2,300 to cover the cost of the parking spaces that they need to stage the event.

The article goes on to explain Devizes councillors are to meet to decide whether the town council should provide emergency funding to pay for the parking spaces itself. Furious, it states, with one saying that Wiltshire Council gave “no thought at all” to the consequences for events posed by the change in free parking.

It is, sadly a tragic scraping of the public’s piggy-bank, either way the organisers of the Devizes to Westminster canoe race have to pay, or we all do should Devizes Town Council foot the bill. Yet, is taking from “emergency funding,” really justifiable, I mean, does paying for parking on any special occasion really constitute an emergency? And where would it end, what about our other special occasions?

Likely a cascade will ensue, and rightly so if you single out one event and pay for everyone to park. What about carnival, street festival, Lantern Festival, Arts Festival, Beer Festival, Food & Drink Festival, Full-Tone Festival? The list goes on, and goes beyond Devizes; what about Pewsey Carnival, Marlborough Mop Fair, The Basil Brush Family Show comes to Swindon Arts Centre on April 2nd, you can’t expect me to fork out parking fees for that, Wiltshire Council, surely?!

Oh no, that one is out of your jurisdiction! But while larger towns and cities can soak up parking fees, because there’s an expectance you’ll have to pay, the cost of parking on daily basis in market towns is enough to bear, let alone those rare opportunities we get to hold events. Aside the environmental and cost impact of having to circulate a town centre twelve times looking for free on-street parking, it is economically detrimental too.

Maybe what is needed is people power, a protest over the changes to free parking, rather than individual town councils cherry-picking events to single out and cover the cost of with public money, when what events are important to some are maybe not as important to others, and in turn, other events are more important to them, if you catch my meandering drift?!

And what needs addressing, is this raking back the budget deficit of more than £27 million from the public for the clear misuse of public spending by our county council, the millions forked out to pay for a PCC re-election, because the thought of anything other than a Conservative PCC is unbearable for them, for example.

Devizes councillors will meet on Tuesday March 29th to decide on whether to fund the parking for this year’s canoe race. A town council spokesman said Wiltshire Council had requested talks on how the cost of Devizes funding the race could be minimalised. Here’s a thought, park them on the Green. If they’re rowing to Westminster I’m sure carrying a canoe to the canal from the Green is child’s play?

Here’s another thought, and it is just a thought; all for one and one for all. If the Canoe race gets free parking so too should our other major events.


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Update on the Crammer

Devizes Town Council announced the result of an assessment by the Environment Agency yesterday, following last week’s outbreak of pollution in Crammar, a spillage from a van fire on the road aside it. Their advise was simply that a sheen “on the surface of the water usually looks worse than it is and although unsightly is a good sign that the quantity of the contaminate is low.”

If the accident has done one good thing, it’s opened a Pandora’s box concerning the overall suitability for wildlife on and around the Crammar, and questions I believe need addressing with a whole heap more clarity than this rather vague Environmental Report.

As much as I respect their professional experience and want this to be actual, they did not heartbreakingly witness Swan Support trudge through the pond to rescue swans drenched in thick black oil, because no environmental officer or town councillor took the opportunity to attend the rescue, no matter what social media groups might suggest. It has left me pondering if “usually looks worse than it is” is adequate, usually being the operative word.

It’s been a week since we reported the contamination, a week for it to have dispensed more evenly across the Crammar. On their Facebook post, the Council continued to inform the Environmental Agency stated, “it is difficult to clean as it is a thin film and using an oil spill boom won’t be effective. If the weather conditions mean that the wind blows the contamination to the edge of the Crammer then a boom might be more effective to absorb it, but it is more likely to degrade and disperse.” 

Okay, I can buy most of this, but again there’s ambiguity with word usage, such as more likely, well, I find myself asking how likely? The weather has been clement and wind has reduced to a gentle breeze of recent. It is unclear when this assessment was made. As it is the oil has dispersed fairly well, though few ducks have returned to the Crammar.

The bigger issue is, though, it has been raised that the last time the pond was dredged it was discovered the drains taking rainwater off the road flow directly into the Crammar. Clearly pollution has been a gradual process over many decades, as the rain water mixes with spilt oils from vehicles from the road; the fire was the poo flavoured icing on the cake.

The statement from the Council continues to question the fire crew too, stating “the Environment Agency have reviewed the Fire Service report and advised that most of the fuel should’ve been burnt off.” Is it just me here, reading too much into this; most of the fuel SHOULD’VE been burnt off? But was it, how can we be so sure? Because the grand finale is: “having reviewed this information it was deemed unnecessary for a site visit to be made.” It almost connotes the fire service was at fault here, when surely it is their priority to put the fire out, ensure safety, and the fact is Devizes Fire crew went above and beyond, by doing the best they could to protect the wildlife, while the Environmental Agency rolled up days later and the Council deemed it not worthy of their attention!

This is the Crammar we’re talking about, a much love facility, a historic tourist attraction, and it seems to me to be treated like a giant puddle, no more worthy than a pothole. Swan Support suggested the area as wholly unsuitable for wildlife, particularly for the swans, as there was no natural food source; they relied on handouts. On one social media thread someone even suggested mouldy bread and leftover takeaways were their staple diet, speculation this maybe, but it was evident those rescued were malnourished, in such poor condition they couldn’t fly away.

Good folk are now asking us as to the welfare of the rescued swans and if they’ll be returning, like we’re experts, when we’re not, just concerned residents. Thankfully we have heard back that the swans are doing well. But surely, we have to accept to return them to the Crammar may not be the best option for them, swans are territorial and new cygnets will find their own natural way to the pond by May, and the cycle continues.

I implore Devizes Town Council to reassess this issue. I accept there is no overnight solution, but with no natural food source for wildfowl the Crammer is unsuitable and potentially harmful to wildlife. I’m no expert but would hope for Council to seek further specialised advise.

I believe issues which need to be looked into is creating a wild area aside the pond, adequate for a natural food source. I believe the overflow pipes, if flowing into the pond need redirecting into a drain, so the water is less polluted in general, and not just in event of an incident such as the recent fire. And I would seriously consider the safety issues of having the roadside of the Crammar as the concrete slope leading directly onto the road, as it currently is; if ducks and swans don’t wander onto the road, what if a swan scared a child who did?

Let’s look to a better future for this landmark, cleaner, safer, conservational and obliging to supporting wildlife. Who’s with me?

Can we get some feedback from Devizes Town Council this will be discussed as soon as feasible, or what, do I gotta sort out a petition?! Thank you!


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Swings and Roundabouts; Hope for Dilapidated Playgrounds in the Devizes Area?

A lengthy but worthwhile report on the state of our playparks and those intending to do something about it….

August 3rd 2019, and I’d had enough of marching to parish council meetings, emailing Wiltshire Council and talking to brick walls, unsure if I did the latter, but it certainly felt like it. So, I published my rant about a village playpark left to dilapidation for well over three years.

Both swings had been taken down, and a dangerously sharp metal baseplate is all that remains of a broken bouncy chicken, the want of repairing these, what’s essentially half the play equipment in the community playpark, has been lost in a tangle of red tape. Wiltshire Council own the site, and in their so-called “transfer of assets,” which roughly translates to passing the buck to local busy-bodies, Rowde Parish Council asked they repair the broken equipment beforehand, and because of the delay the playpark was conveniently brushed under the carpet.

February last year I bugged Councillor Laura Mayes with it, who claimed to have secured over £20,000 funding from Wiltshire Council to re-design the playground, despite all I wanted was them to fix the existing equipment, and she ran with it as a major pledge for her election campaign.

Am I here to bring you a fairy-tale ending? Only on paper.

It sprinkled optimism, the children who originally played here have grownup and had children of their own in the time it has taken Wiltshire Council to fix a swing and replace a bouncy chicken, and they’ve STILL not done it; you hold out hope they’ll build you a whole new railway station?!

I’m told the transfer of assets is just weeks away, but after six years of waiting, ranting and election pledges as broken as the bouncy chicken, I’ll believe it when I see it.

All about priorities, isn’t it? Swings and bouncy chickens aren’t going to get Mr Kruger to Westminster any faster. Playparks hold no interest to me personally either, councillors; my children long grown out of them, but maybe there’s something wrong with me, the part that gives a hoot.

The part which recalls the joy my children once had, the joy I once had, playing in the park, that most other adults seem to have so easily forgotten; particularly those who seem to consider those little people are not of voting age. Aside, playparks provide essential wellbeing and psychical education for our youngest, they learn social interaction there, dexterity and balance.

My brother and I on a 1970s style health & safety inspected slide!!

They need prioritising, particularly if you enjoy a Facebook rant on how teenagers are terrorising your neighbourhood. Tenaciously they’re linked; literally swings and roundabouts, I’ve heard some residents in Devizes want their community parks to be closed as they attract rowdy teenagers. There’s anti-social behaviour because nothing is provided for them to do, and by cutting off activities for the youngest you believe will solve it for the next generation? Why not cut off your nose in spite your face too?!

Not all Doom and Gloom

Devizes Lions supported this new playground at All Cannings School last year

Enraged residents taken to local Facebook groups is a near everyday scenario, last one I saw was the fence and climbing equipment behind the old barracks had been removed, but as usual such threads only produce a barrage of speculation, whereas at the beginning of the month, Councillor Jonathan Hunter was encouraged by my grievance on the issue, and set up a report to investigate the state of all playparks in Devizes. These minutes are published, but as with most Council meetings, who really trudges through billions of insignificant applications for an extension to a greenhouse or a churchyard which needs its weathercock cleaning?!

So, here’s the results of Devizes Town Council findings, you need to tell me if they’re accurate, because I get confused with so many playparks which one is which. Hearsay tells me Dowse Road is in desperate need of repair, Wadworth and Spitalcroft Roads are still chained up, and one on Festival close is closed too.

We all should note with importance, again it’s this transfer of issues argument, where the Town Council have taken responsibility for a number of playgrounds and the report explains, “at the time of the transfer, many of the areas were closed due to maintenance issues and the Open Spaces team have been gradually working their way through the list of closures to reopen them where they can. The sites that have not been opened have more serious safety concerns and need a decision by this committee how to proceed.” So, should you choose to go through the proper channels rather than whine-hole on Facebook, this is the reasoning you’ll likely get, if any.

Okay here we go, just give me second to correct the councillor’s basic grammar and don’t forget to call them out to me, if they’re tugging their own tugboats!

The report flagged three playgrounds in need of major attention. Wadworth Road, they say is currently closed because during the last inspection much of the equipment was flagged as unsafe. Part of the issue with the equipment on this site is its wooden construction as there is some rot. However, to undertake core test sampling with reports is about £250 per sample and each piece of equipment will need to have several tests and there is a high probability it will fail; therefore, in officers’ opinion, given the costs to simply test for something that is likely to fail, officers suggest that there is some local consultation with residents as this is another site where young people gather and have been involved with anti-social behaviour.

Festival Close was closed when it was taken over from Wiltshire Council as it has failed safety inspection as a result of shrinking safety surface. The cost of replacement is £11,269. However, a number of residents are not in favour of the playground being reinstated and therefore the site may benefit from some local consultation.

One of three on Massey Road was closed when Devizes Town Council took on the site, with all of the wooden equipment beyond cost of effective repair. Given the proximity of this play area to the two others on the estate, officers decided to remove the equipment and return the area to a green space, which was welcomed by the residents.

The others are apparently open, some with advisories.

Alan Cobham Road:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There is some shrinkage of the play safety surface, but at this time no action is needed.

Avon Road: Recreational Field Avon Road

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. Some equipment has been replaced over the last few years and there are no outstanding issues.

Bellvedere Road:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Brickley Lane:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. Last year some of the safety surface was replaced with a loose rubber crumb. It was the first time the Council had trialled these systems and officers are not fully convinced it would work on all our sites where a safety surface is required.

In recent months the issue of dogs being exercised in the area has come to the fore as owners are not clearing up. Signs have been put up a couple of times, telling owners not to bring their dog into the recreation area and therefore tensions are running high from both sides, with dog owners who say they have used the area for years without incident and parents of children complaining they can no longer let their children use the area.

Editor note: Hi me here, just to point out, this is down to community and moral obligation, rather than council responsibility, like having a conscience and not allowing your dog to shit where children are playing; basic manners and stuff like that!  

Byron Rd:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Cowslip Close Cowslip Close:

This play area is open and is currently in a serviceable condition but offers poor play value with just two pieces of equipment. The play area was closed for a while and during this period officers did not receive any complaints.

This site may benefit from local consultation on its future, with local residents. An estimated cost of a small play area is £60,000.

Dowse Road Wadworth Road:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. The safety surfacing is at the end of its life and does need to be replaced this year. The cost of this is £13,675.

Dundas Close:

This barely a play area as it consists of a single metal hoop. The area provides little in the way of play value and there is a good quality Aster owned play area. There was an approach a few years ago to turn the area into a community garden, but the project was never taken forward.

Fruitfields:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Hillworth Park:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There is one piece of fitness equipment that failed last year and this is due to be replaced in the summer.

Massey Road 2:

This play area is open and is currently in a serviceable condition but offers limited play value with just two pieces of equipment.

Massey Road 3:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Newman Road:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Osmund Road:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Palmer Road:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding maintenance issues but over the last year the site has been a centre of young people to gather in the evening, resulting in anti-social behaviour.

Palmer Road2:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Quakers Walk1:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Quakers Walk2:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Skate Park Green Lane:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

The Small Green:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. In the not-too-distant future, the safety surfacing will need to be replaced as it is starting to break up, no price has yet been obtained for this work.

White Horse Way:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

So, there you have it, maybe you know different. The Council goes on to say, the budget for playgrounds has been doubled to £40,000, but it will only cover ongoing repair cost and improvements rather than finance of new play areas.

Encourage your kids to look after what they’ve got. It only partially falls on the council, another major part is to be played by the residents too, to respect others. If you’re dog owners have some respect for parents, if you’re teenagers hanging out in the park, I know what’s it’s like, I’ve been there too; but try to remember what it was like when you were little, how much you enjoyed the playparks. Should you now prefer the odd spliff there after dark, all’s fair in love and war; but respect the area for the little ones too, by not creating a ruckus and drawing attention to yourselves by net curtain twitchers. Everyone, in my opinion, needs to allow some give and take; kids will be kids, and we were all one originally!


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REVIEW: White Horse Opera’s Spring Concert @ The Town Hall, Devizes – Friday 18th March 2022

Opera Is Back!

by Andy Fawthrop

Friday was a beautiful, sunny day with clear blue skies, and it finally felt as if we were sloughing off the darker days of Winter.  The daffs and the snow-drops are out, which always makes it feel that Spring is well under way.  White Horse Opera couldn’t have timed things any better for their Spring Concert, and it was good of them to have ordered up such great weather.

Advertising for this event had been much better, and a virtually full room was the clear reward for that extra effort.  The audience were treated to a veritable selection box of operatic delights over a couple of hours, featuring items from Verdi, Puccini, Donizetti, Handel and Mozart in a dazzling first half.  Guest tenor Robert Felstead blended with the in-house company on several items, and was ably accompanied by solos from Paula Boyagis, Barbara Gompels, Charles Leeming and Lisa House.  The highlight for me was The Humming Chorus from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly beautifully rendered not on the stage, but from the close confines of the ante-chamber at the back of the room – very atmospheric!

The second half featured items from Donizetti and Rossini, but was mostly given over to my personal favourites – Gilbert & Sullivan.  There was one item from The Mikado, beautifully sung by Lisa House, but then several helpings of songs from Ruddigore (the operetta which will feature in WHO’s main 2022 programme).  Jon Paget and Jessica Phillips shared a charming duet, and there were strong performances from Charles Leeming and every one of the sopranos.

A delightful concert in a beautiful room.  Spring is back – and so is opera!

Future WHO events:

Spring 2022                                        Ruddigore                                           7.30pm Venues TBA

26th, 28th & 29th Oct 2022          L’elisir d’amore                                 7.30pm Lavington School

More information on WHO is available at www.whitehorseopera.co.uk


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7% Pay Rise Accepted and Refuse Workers Return to Work

An end to strike action was announced by The GMB Union for refuse workers in Wiltshire today, as Hills Municipal Collections agreed on a 7% pay rise and Wiltshire Council declared they are due to start recycling collections again from 21st March.

“There must be no retaliation and members return to work tomorrow,” says GMB Union. It’s good news for refuse workers in Wiltshire, and of course the public who have seen collections suspended.

Unison and Unite unions had previously accepted the proposal, as part of the tri-union recognition agreement, but the GMB union rejected it. In a ballot today GMB workers almost unanimously accepted the previous 7% offer, with a promised bonus scheme to be offered to more staff and further uplifts for those on the lowest pay rates.

Nicky Nixon, GMB organiser, said her union was “proud” of its members and would be “carefully observing” how they were treated when they return to work.

Wiltshire Council took to Twitter to inform residents to “put your blue lidded bins and black boxes out on your normal collection day from 21 March,” but also warned “There may still be slight delays with collections due to the recent disruption, so if your bins aren’t emptied on your normal collection day, please leave them out and they will be collected as soon as possible.” And continued to announce those with additional recycling that has mounted up during the disruption can be left in non-black bags and containers, such as plastic crates, next to the recycling bins and the crews will collect them.

Congratulations to everyone involved, common sense prevailed over greed today. Refuse staff thoroughly deserve this pay rise in the least; twitch your net curtain next time they come around, watch how hard these guys and girls work, and I’d suggest, give them a cheer.


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