Your Place, or Mine? Devizes Town Council Squabbles Over Meeting Venue!

I’ve a mildly interesting word origin urban myth to bore you with before we begin on an opinion piece about the latest petty squabbling at Devizes Town Council, which, beggar belief, causes no consequence or botheration to proceedings of the town’s affairs, but stands to illustrate how pathetic and time wasting it’s all become; a council supposed to diplomatically decide necessary changes to better improve facilities in a town yet cannot even concur which hall to hold meetings in without toys being thrown from prams; so, back of the class, pay attention!

Word of the day is “text,” as in a body of words most commonly used in “text message.” Obviously, there’s a derivation from the term textiles, but how it came to be was pre-industrial revolution when weavers worked outside as the cloth was too large to manage in small houses. Being outside, they got to hear the word on the street, a bygone equivalent of taxi drivers and hairdressers! As public opinion mattered to early politicians they would gage and take notes from the weavers as they cast their opinion on current affairs, to take to parliament. The annotations, words from textiles, ergo, came to pass text would mean any body of words.

But it illustrates a point, as to read the recent lone ramblings of one rouge councillor’s renownedly biassed Facebook group, that Devizes Town Council aims to bar the public from attending meetings by switching back to a meeting room though historically used and deemed by a majority of councillors more suitable from another used only recently to insure social distancing during the pandemic, that really, upstanding politicians and councillors alike both want and need to gage public opinion, therefore, logically would encourage public interaction.

The Marketplace this weekend might be for street festival, but next Saturday, 27th May, is a bit of a letdown by comparison as the Devizes Town Council have their roadshow, unless they intend to break into a cover of Wonderwall, which is, fortunately, unlikely! But it is a regular occurence, the purpose of which is for the public to meet the councillors and pour out their concerns to them. In turn, it goes to prove the majority of councillors welcome public opinion. Which begs the question, why go to all that trouble, if this rant is genuine and to be believed, that the council doesn’t care for public interest?! It simply doesn’t make sense.

Two other town councillors have independently taken to other local Facebook groups to elucidate the reasons for the room switch, but being like many members of the public who dared to offer a differing opinion to the admin and town councillor of the page that the rant was posted on, the Devizes Issues, their pledge lies separate from the original post and they are unable to comment upon it. This leaves the admin, again, with the final say on the matter there, that other councillors are according to him, switching rooms in order to bar the public from attending meetings.

Longstanding councillor and former mayor Judy Rose was the one who proposed the move from the Town Hall Assembly Room back to the Council Chamber. “The reasons for wishing to return there have been suggested by a Conservative Cllr, Iain Wallis, is in order to keep the public out,” she explained, “I can state clearly that this proposal has nothing to do with keeping the public out, nor the spurious idea of ‘returning home’.”

She continued to outline the reasons for the move,”the acoustics of the Assembly Room are poor for the spoken word, even with mics. At our last Council meeting, an invited speaker used the mic, but still remained inaudible to many of us, and frequently, the same thing happens with councillor’s contributions. The arrangement of tables facing each other does not, at times, make for co-operative, civilised debate or behaviour.”

The public have always been able to attend meetings in the Council Chamber since the Town Hall was built. Prior to Covid, the meetings were moved to the Assembly Room when a larger contingent of the public was expected, a move which was relatively easy to anticipate from the contents of the agenda.

Judy expressed, “the public never have, nor will they ever be excluded from meetings, save under GDPR for certain exempt items concerning staff matters and commercial information about the properties owned by the Town Council. To suggest otherwise is completely mistaken, and to imply such a hidden agenda is not constructive and indeed very unhelpful in aiding the knowledge and understanding of how the Town Council operates.”

Guardian leader Jonathan Hunter also expressed his concerns, “this move is not about excluding any members of the public; it’s about promoting a more positive and cohesive environment. Councillors do not want to exclude members of the public and to suggest that this is the case is completely false.”

“Whilst the super-sized venues of the Corn Exchange and Assembly Room were appropriate for Covid protocols, the Assembly Room has become a venue that promotes distance between councillors and the public. Regular difficulties with communication and, at times, an adversarial and confrontational atmosphere all make the Assembly room a poor choice environment and a venue that isn’t fit for purpose. Councillors should be working together, and the environment should be positive, focused, and non confrontational.”

“Members of the public that were also present last night were asked for their views. Their conclusions were that the Assembly Room was confrontational.
In an attempt to sway opinion, it was unfortunate that one or two councillors stated that the public would be sat behind the backs of councillors within the council chamber in future meetings, even though the room layout hasn’t been set up for future meetings. Councillors do not want to have their backs towards members of the public.”

Devizes Guardians, along with the Labour councillor, the Independent councillor and the newly elected Mayor all voted in favour. Three Conservative councillors abstained. The proposal was approved with a majority vote. But with these facts obscured from the more popular Facebook group the readers are faced with a one-sided evaluation of the issue and will likely believe what’s said because no one has come forward to challenge it; ministry of truth type stuff.

The very fact this has happened, and is of no rare occasion, implies more generally, that these accusations made against opposing councillors are in fact, nothing more than the power tripping ramblings of a particular councillor who’s only intentions are to belittle their fellow councillors and create the illusion he is the superhero of hour here to bound in wearing his spandex and restore public access to council meetings; is it a bird? Is it a plane?!

Yet, being a majority of residents, and councillors have been banned from the group, and/or are silenced by comments deleted, alternatively implies otherwise.

Now, I stand accused myself of “bullying and harrassing” this councillor, by none other than him, on an occasion where he posted a request for people to advertise upcoming events consequently causing a number of people to mention that Devizine was a good place to find such information. I didn’t encourage them to do this, and have no access to the group yet sonehow this constituted “bullying.”

Every comment which stated this simple fact was deleted, and many were banned from the group. Suggesting there appears to be a personal vendetta against us, when really, as we cover discrepancies and problematic issues arising from local politics, it so unduly seems to be near every time such a happening occurs within Devizes Town Council it seems the same councillor is at the heart of the squabble. This doesn’t mean we have deliberately targeted anyone in particular, and we certainly haven’t bullied or harassed anyone.

I could go out on a whim and suppose, on this occasion the councillor in question is right, and all the other town councillors intend to bar the public from meetings, but unfortunately for him, there’s simply no logical explanation as to why they would want to do this, and furthermore, if it is the truth, has he never read The Boy Who Cried Wolf?!

Ask yourself this question, who would you believe, the individual town councillor who has lied, maliciously exaggerated and skewered facts, censored anyone opposing him then plays the victim, or a majority of councillors simply motivated by the notion of doing what’s best for our town?

Just remember all this come local council elections, boi, I did say pay attention; it’s petty, I know, but makes one wonder how they fair on bigger issues when they throw their toys out of pram over what room to hold a meeting in to solve said bigger issues! Mind you, if I was mayor the council would be Playboy bunnies and meetings would held in a hotub, so no one’s perfect!


Gazette & Herald to Buy Out Devizine

In a deal I’ve been trying to clench for a year now, Newsquest, owners of Wiltshire based newspapers, including the Gazette & Herald have taken the decision today to buy out Devizine and merge it with the Gazette…….

It is fantastic news for us, as Devizine readers will no longer have to put up with second-rate content, unprofessionally written by a kinky milkman, steering on honesty and commitment. Instead, our readers can expect slapdash clickbait articles with little or no reference to local matters, shameless advertorials, towing the Conservative line to the letter and endorsing illegal fox hunting activities.

In turn the Gazette will have a glossy pull-out section, a funky, freewheeling socialist magazine- fashioned spotlight on local arts and entertainment, highlighting the blossoming cascade of talent we are blessed with here; something they’ve not bothered to do since 1864.

It will rally the concepts of social and political change, be a crucial and pivotal hub for campaigning, fundraising, and highlighting charitable needs, offering free advertising for schools and charities, provided they cross our palms with silver, or at the very least buy us a nice Marks & Sparks Battenburg cake.

We can expect to see a regular environmental news column by Devizes & District MP Danny K Booger, who voted for dumping more raw sewage into our rivers, a sports section by Wiltshire PCC Phillip Willykissingson (blood sports that is,) a fun, games, and undernourishment section for kids by Chippenham MP Michelle Donenought, who voted against free school meals during lockdown, spot the pothole competitions from Wiltshire Council Cabinet Member for Transport, Dr Mark McBellend, and regular updates by Devizes Town Councillor Liam Wallyish (or whatever his name is) on all the crap we can’t read on local Facebook groups because we’ve been perversely banned for no good reason.

We will be celebrating this fantastic news by erecting a humongous and obtrusive signpost on the Crammer in Devizes, blatantly advertising our reprehensible merger, with no indignity. Now defunct from the Guardians, independently bias and in a tizzy town councillor, Chris Greenpants welcomed the obstructive billboard, despite not really favouring proposals for a small ‘ducks crossing’ warning sign. He said, “the last thing anyone wants to see is a squashed duck or swan on our roads, hopefully this sign will distract drivers enough to not notice, until such a time we can kick the carcase into a pothole and cover it over with either horse manure, or the bullshit that comes from our own mouths.”

A spokesman for the Gazette and Herald, Martha Fokker said, “this is officially the most unconvincing April Fool’s joke Devizine has pulled since that statue of MP Claire Perry crap. If only we could think of something to counter attack this pathetic attempt we would, but being we’re a sad sack of spuds, awaiting boiling, we can’t. Oh, by the way, we’re running on the scoop Strictly Come Dancing star Molly Rainford has just bought a house in Lancashire, now, that’s local news.”


Devizes Street Festival; Day One

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Deadlight Dance: Innocent Beginnings

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Nothing Rhymes With Orange have Butterflies

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Song of the Week: Canute’s Plastic Army

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Female of the Species Announce 2023 Date!

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Crammer Working Party to ask Devizes Town Council to Endorse Dubious Approach to Future Management of the Crammer

Okay, I know, last thing I want is to be is a stuck record, always waffling about a pond in Devizes, but allow me thus, to express concerns in line with public opinion over the recommendation by the Crammer Working Party that the Committee endorses the approach being adopted by the Crammer Working Party in relation to the future management of the Crammer, which is due to be put forward in a Devizes Town Council Recreation & Properties Committee meeting on Tuesday 28th March…because it’s beyond wonky……

Content of the agenda prioritises evaluations of the performance of council-run venues, including a report on the Hillworth Park Café, running a net operating loss of £16,674. It sure is a nice café, and nice to have a café in the park, but if the preposterousness of the council isn’t highlighted by the notion there’s a shop nearby which is considerably cheaper and, generalising, the most common users of the park are youths and families, the least groups with disposable funds right now to accommodate a costly cuppa and slice of cake when the shop will provide a viable alternative, the notion The Crammer Working Party is dedicated to the task it was set surely is the icing on the cake.

A recommendation that the Committee endorses the approach being adopted by the Cramer Working Party in relation to the future management of the Crammer,” then, is the header to the section I’m dubious about. The Crammer Working Party being the very two councillors who we’ve recently underscored for lying on social media about DEFRA testing the swans which died in December’s extreme cold spell, falsely confirming it was bird flu, staging a campaign to starve the birds by encouraging the public not to safely feed them and to argue with anyone defying their opinion by feeding, and censoring and banning anyone from their Facebook groups who dared to question it; yeah, those committed councillors!

The background explains a Planning Committee on 14th February where a loose association of concerned residents called Friends of the Crammer requested installation of specific wildlife warning signage, after several occasions where wildfowl had been killed by traffic. Which was promptly shot down by the Working Party members stating there was too much signage already and they considered more to be a distraction for drivers.

If the purpose of the report, is for the Committee to consider if it supports the working party’s approach to dealing with issues relating to the Crammer, let me explain to you exactly what they hypocritically came up with. Adamant specific warning signage would have a “limited impact on mitigating the issues surrounding wildlife and the adjoining highways, there is a sense that changing the way humans interact with wildlife may help, and one option may be to have a series of information boards surrounding the Crammer. These would give advice on the type of wildlife present, their behaviours as well as details on the history of the Crammer, including what its original use was.” (“The way humans interact with wildlife may help” ?? They’re not running them over on purpose, I hope, or is that what they’re suggesting?!)

But….but….but I thought you said there was too much signage already, and anymore would be a distraction, and now you’re suggesting a small sign warning drivers to beware of wildfowl, which is pretty much standard in similar areas nationwide will have a limited impact, but whopping gurt information billboards labelling the species like it’s a zoo is absolutely fine and dandy, and you expect a council to be blind to the hypocrisy here?!

What the council must decide is the purpose of the Crammer Working Party, which was in the eyes of the public to ensure the future conservation of the area and protection of the wildlife. Yet, in week where four ducks have been run over in separate incidents, The Crammer Working Party did not believe that the “installation of signage was the right solution to the problem,” and propose to babble on about the heritage of the Crammer, stating “there is also a significant heritage value associated with the Crammer, which should not be overlooked. To support this, various stakeholders have been sent a request to share their views on this aspect.”

In conclusion, then, if in true conservative philosophy the stakeholders and heritage of the site is more important to the Working Party than the feelings of the public that improvements to protect the wildlife needs attention, what really needs attention is the objectives of this Working Party. Members of the Friends of the Crammer are understandably outraged. One key member passionate about the wildlife there demands the Council gets rid of the Crammer Working Party, calling out the report as a “thinly disguised attempt to play at being in charge and asserting control, but has highlighted that the CWP have no clue as to what is urgently needed. In almost a year since forming, the CWP have at no point indicated that the problems facing the Crammer wildlife are recognised or understood. What has instead been illustrated is ignorance of fatalities and health issues, ignorance of wildfowl habitat usage, and an unwillingness to listen to and discuss issues with the public actively supporting the Crammer wildlife. Instead, the CWP appears intent on maintaining an illusion that the CWP are active in the interests of the wildlife and the Crammer engaged public, when any one of those actively supporting Crammer wildlife daily can refute any such idea. The proposal of information boards is monstrously indicative of the CWP’s ignorance and unwillingness to engage and consult, adding to the built environment will only materially add to the obstacles and clutter mute swans must negotiate when attempting to move between the water surface and the grazing/rest/runway areas. Less obstacles need to be the objective, not more.”

Other members are wary, pondering “if we go in all guns blazing, are we not in danger of the council becoming more intransigent?” Of which I understand, but am hopeful councillors will see the logic that if a simple warning signpost is considered “clutter” an information board would be more so, having no effective reason for supporting. But the consensus is after taking a year to produce, the report is a farcical non-event, which says absolutely nothing. The group even proposes the possibility of creating their our own report with proposals based on research, expert advice, local knowledge and general feedback.

So, yeah, I know, it’s just a duck pond, but a good and effective town council is being overshadowed by a few bad eggs, and this is symbolic of the charade. Maybe the Crammer Working Party could consider a tally chart on their information boards, so drivers can cross off the species of duck they’ve run over?!

Maybe rather than stare aimlessly at a stating-the-bloody-obvious sign saying, “this is a mallard, this is a swan, this is a moorhen,” future generations could look more favourably at us, being the ones who took steps to better protect the wildlife depicted on the board, rather than wonder why a board exists without any evidence of the wildlife referenced on it!

Add a Dodo onto their anticipated information board, for the very idea of this so-called Working Party should be as dead as one! The Meeting is Tuesday 28th March, at the Cheese Hall, immediately following Planning Committee, you can attend to see the local council in action, you can witness if your money will spent on an elaborate superfluous information board against the objections of the public who think a far more effective and inexpensive warning sign really isn’t that much to ask for.

Chatting with Vanessa Tanner; Guardian Candidate for Devizes East

While it may’ve been a week of social media turmoil at Devizes Town Council, the type usually reserved for national politics, a few hours prior to the uproar, I put the phone down after the kind of conversation which left me feeling more like I’d been catching up with an old friend, rather than interviewing a candidate for a local election……

I got the notion before chatting to hopeful Guardian Town Councillor, Vanessa Tanner she feared I’d come over all Jeremy Paxman! It’s not fair play for me to interrogate a person any more than it’s the opposition in this by-election’s morals to post exaggerated and prejudicial statements about them, though they did.

It’s impossible to publish concentrated material, such as an interview, to match the velocity of which social media accelerates, therefore I intend to produce this interview as it was said before this whoha, hoping it will shed some light on the Guardian candidate’s character and personality. Then, it is up to residents of East Devizes to decide if it’s the kind of refractory group who would slanderously magnify a trivial error in hope of sabotaging the opposition which they want on their seat at the town council, or an active member of the community, too busy cleaning the streets, engaging in support groups, and with the public, to fuss over some bitterness on bias Facebook pages.

The opposition party’s outrageous claim
Vanessa’s statement explaining the situation

Though the appropriateness of sole Councillor-controlled social media groups was a subject I coincidently wanted to verbally jab Vanessa with, it was something she didn’t dwell on, and our chat begun with the reason why we have this by-election in the first place.

Town clerk, Simon Fisher said of Jane Burton, “She was fiercely knowledgeable about all things Devizes. In the Council Chamber, Jane was a formidable force unafraid to take on anyone to get her point over; however, whilst she would not always agree with a viewpoint others would over, she would always be respectful of differing opinions. She had many skills and attributes we all admired, but she had a special ability to connect with residents, to listen and advise.”

So, I opened said passive interrogation(!) suggesting Vanessa had some “big boots to fill!” But she extended this like birds of a feather, “it was actually Jane who asked me to join the Guardians,” continuing with a recollection of a quiz night, “and before I knew it I was a Guardian!”

Vanessa has been a volunteer of Devizes Clean Up Squad for four years, and we spoke of the fantastic work they do. Though Vanessa is so active in the community, we moved swiftly onto her involvement with the “Love Devizes” group. “Yes,” she explained, “it started off with Love Devizes during Covid, and I was delivering meals during that time, for the people who couldn’t get out, and then it changed to Love Ukraine, which I became heavily involved in, because we had the first Ukraine guests here.”

Devizes CUDS

Meandering already, a heart-breaking tangent ensued about her guests. Vanessa revealed how they only stayed a couple of months; after Russian concentration lessened in her hometown of Kiev, they returned to help her family, and for concern to their children’s wellbeing. To encourage our conversation back to her as a candidate, as I felt her passion on the subject would’ve led her to talk on this subject forever, I offered all this was evidence enough that she is a people-person. But does Vanessa hope to get the time to carry-on groups like the CUDs if she was to become a councillor?

With a tone of upmost sincerity she replied, “I hope so,” expressing her job had come to an end and venturing she should have enough time. Being she had stated she only had half-hour to chat, and I’d already diverted it to Ukraine, she replied, “I’m quite good at time management!” Best rush through my questions, because I’m hopeless at it!

I wondered if there was any other charities or support groups Vanessa was actively engaged in, and that was precisely why we only had a half-hour window; she was off to work at the Dorothy House shop. “And Sustainable Devizes is a big thing for me,” Vanessa continued. Though a hot topic with the public, The Crammar isn’t part of East Devizes, her association with the environmental group is enough to convince me of her penchant for wildlife and environmental issues. The Guardians in general have been engaged with talking to the Friends of the Crammar campaign group, and so we switched to the lack of electric-car charging points in Devizes. Again, though Vanessa relayed the question to a personal anecdote; her son came to stay, who has an electric car, but there is nowhere in town which an accessible charging point. “So, I raised it with Wiltshire Council, and asked on Devizes Issues, where are these car charging points, and…. There aren’t any!”

Vanessa wrote to the supermarkets to ask them when they were likely to put them in, “and I worked out that Devizes is the biggest town in Wiltshire without any electric car charging points.” I sighed, as she sustained, “I think they’re coming, there was a debate in the council a couple of weeks ago, about when they should be putting them in.”

New builds, I turned the subject onto. Vanessa agreeing encouraging contractors to up the percentage of affordable housing on new builds was vital to maintaining an age demographic in town, otherwise younger residents are priced out of the market. Neatly bringing us around to the other hot topic, youth crime. I asked Vanessa if she agreed we needed to improve funding for youth groups and associations. “I think with any bad behaviour there’s always a reason which we have to get to the bottom of,” she replied, “what is motivating some to smash a window rather than play football, and if you can get to the bottom of the issue, it’s a lot easier to get these people engaged in society again, because at the moment they’re marginalised but everybody misbehaves for a reason.”

I reasoned it’s for the prestige, so to reduce several youths away from following the perpetrators, they’ve less of an audience reaction, lessening the thrill. “That’s never a bad thing,” Vanessa replied, “to have more facilities. If we can get those reopened, it would be great.”

I admit, I hoped Vanessa would bring the subject of subsidising youth initiatives and groups up of her own accord, but in agreeing with me they should was, to be honest, a good enough baseplate. Plus, she did continue to say, “I think by what Jonathan (Hunter-leader of the Guardians) was telling me, we’re already quite a way down the road to getting a youth engagement officer, so, that will get the ball rolling.”

The importance of selecting the right person for such a job was her resultant, “and that’s something a trained youth engagement officer will know how to do; we’re on the road to getting one of those, and hopefully we can get to the bottom of it. Nobody wants to get their window broken, or be frightened to go out at night, and you don’t want that in a town. As soon as this is dealt with the better, but I think I’m more of a carrot than a stick person!”

more of a carrot than a stick person!

Unaware of this idiom, I laughed, proposing it could be our headline: Vanessa; Carrot or Stick?! “Nobody likes to be told what to do,” she explained, as I did bring my grievance about Wiltshire Council holding an open-event on the youth crime subject whereby youths themselves were unable to attend. “They like be involved with decision making. Discussion, compassion, and kindness is the way forward,” Vanessa stated. In this, we must ask ourselves, exactly what is a town councillor, and what do we want from them?

Do we need them to be academics of law and national politics, seemingly expert enough to spot a minuscule flaw in the opposition’s election leaflet and expand it to a full-blown attack only for the purpose of upstaging them in a race to the position, or do we need someone so obviously concerned for our amenities, our environment and public wellbeing, motivated and active towards changing it? For the subjects we covered which do appear on Vanessa’s promises, she was clearer and more adamant on; the green issues of car-charging, and cycle paths, and creating shared spaces, and keeping Devizes independently run.

Indeed, my question was one of statements inviting discussion, that national political parties should be kept out of local council, the very ethos of the Guardians. “Yes,” she explained, “so everyone in the Guardians have their own political views but they’re not bought to the table, because we are all about the town. We’re about what happens here, not about what the national parties have dictated to us.”

Ironically, other parties entering this election pledge a similar promise, though assigned to a national party for funding, they unyielding suggest they too are independently based, though I must ask, surely if someone is funding your campaign, they’ll demand you sway in their favour, at least tow the party line, and carry out the position with the shared philosophy. “I can’t answer for them!” Vanessa laughed it off, “I just know the Guardians are independent, and we will do what’s best for our town.”

And herein lies my concluding section, on councillor’s use of social media, of which you should note happened before the brash and vastly embellished statements of their breaking of election law, by the opposition’s Conservative campaigner Iain Wallis, on his self-run Facebook group. I put to Vanessa, “social media is another sour point with the public now, because while it’s an advantage for councillors to gage public opinion, and visa-versa, some feel those councillors active on social media aren’t really listening to them, rather brashly using it to blow their trumpets, and those who disagree are censored. Do you feel what we need is more attention to a create a united council social media output, so the majority, voice of a united council is the definite article?

“Wouldn’t that be lovely?!” Vanessa responded with, “in an ideal world! You’ve got twenty-odd different characters, haven’t you? I think they came together for Covid, Ukraine, the bigger things, but they’re different adults from different backgrounds who are bound to disagree.”

But that’s what a council is, isn’t it; to discuss these things, nail out a definite agreeance, and then go onto social media, unitedly announcing the decision? “Social media is a tool, but also a dangerous place to air your grievances. We have got a social media policy, created by Wiltshire Council, and in the main work occasionally there’s a little bit of spat, but it settles down again. But that’s not the place to air your dirty laundry, in my opinion. I use social media to inform people of what’s going on, not to have an argument.” How sad that not hours after Vanessa told me this, she was victim to this precise kind of attack by the opposition, only to better their chances of winning the by-election on 30th March? It says more about them than her.

Vanessa would like to conclude, she is “a real-person, just because I do a lot of community work doesn’t mean I don’t find time to get out and enjoy the pubs and restaurants of Devizes.” She giggled throughout this bit, “I try to frequent all of them, but not all at once! There are twenty-two drinking establishments, you’d be a mess at the end of it, wouldn’t you?” I didn’t like to suggest, I’d given it my best shot, so our chat regressed back to local environmental issues, for it’s something Vanessa is obviously passionate about, but in this is precisely her character and charm, and it’s infectious, exactly what I believe we need in a town councillor.


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Wiltshire Council has “A complete disregard for the residents of Devizes,” says Guardian Jonathan Hunter

You’ve got to award Gazette & Herald reporter Jason Hughes the journalism medal of bravery this week, for his dissemination on head of the Devizes Guardians, Jonathan Hunter’s mien concerning the tardiness of communication by Wiltshire Council over the current state of our roads!

The headline read “Devizes potholes cause misery for motorists, councillor claims.” Claims? Wha?! Does this guy get to go outside at playtime?! Has he seen the state of it out there? It’s like a lunar landscape after a flipping meteor shower! When Jules Verne wrote Journey to the Centre of the Earth, fittingly about volcanic tubes that reach the centre of the earth, he was inspired by Wiltshire’s roads; fact!

Honestly, honesty is a must here, let’s not get impassive on this breaking scoop; we all know the truth, we’ve known for some time, and hats off to town councillor Jonathan Hunter for digging the claws in.

“A road repairs promise was made two years ago,” he explained, “last week I wrote to Cllr Caroline Thomas on behalf of the residents of Devizes who face the reality of an appalling local road network. Cllr Thomas, has given a statement through the press but after a week I’m still waiting for a reply to my email, which apart from being unprofessional and rude, it signals that the cabinet members approach is not community first and shows a complete disregard for the residents of Devizes.”

I responded, “probably because she owns a Chelsea tractor,” with a little emoji of a tractor in hope to cheer him up! What can I say? I was under pressure and it was the best I could come up with at the time. But what can we do about it? Here’s Jonathan’s top four tips, which makes a terrible headline, because people love “top ten tips,” five, perhaps, Jonathan, but not four, no. Still, they’re good ones.

1. Continue to bombard WC using MyWilts the app, to report potholes. Whilst this system is very reactive it’s the best that they can offer.

2. Write to Cllr Thomas and share your concerns, I can’t guarantee that she will read or even reply but the more residents that express their concerns may make a difference.

3. Please identify hazardous areas to your friends, neighbours or colleagues who are vulnerable. In particular, those with mobility difficulties.

4. At the 2025 Wiltshire Council unitary election remember the promises that were made in 2021 and the reality of how those promises have been implemented across your local road network.

“There are three areas of key concern in Devizes,” Jonathan told the Gazette, “London Road is the main road coming in and out and that isn’t great at all. Bath Road and also Windsor Drive, which is an interconnecting road, the surface degradation on those roads is really poor.” And continued to express his concern for damaged pavements reducing the accessibility and safety for vulnerable pedestrians.

After such, the article does give this press reply by Cllr Thomas, which goes thus: “The hot, dry summer of last year, and the very wet and very cold weather so far this winter has unfortunately created the perfect conditions for potholes to form across the 2,500-mile road network. We’re doing all we can to repair them, using all our skilled workforce and resources, with the priority being to make the road safe.”

Now, I did rant on this subject at the beginning of February, quoting Cabinet Member for Transport, Dr Mark McClelland’s axiomatic piffle direct from the council’s website, so let’s have a little game of spot the difference here: “The weather has provided the perfect conditions for potholes to form, and that’s why we’re seeing an increase in the number of road defects throughout the county.”

Uncanny, huh?! At least they’re singing off the same song sheet I suppose. Probably written on the wall at county hall, “just reword this weather-blaming twaddle if the press asks!”

Well, please accept my apologises, but I’m not the press, just the milky, the milky inspired by Stephen Mulhern of Catchphrase to “say what I see,” and with a tendency to do precisely that; it’s an abomination which so obviously could have been avoided with ongoing proactive maintenance, even Mr Chips can see it, and he’s a fictional yellow bollard with a clown’s nose, naked other than a cravat.

“The roads are very dangerous for all users,” Jonathan expressed his concern, “pothole repairs should just be an emergency fix to prevent a serious accident, they are not a permanent solution as the substance shrinks within the original road defect. Unfortunately, it would seem WC have adopted pothole repairs as their main strategy to improve crumbling roads with surface degradation. The lack of engagement is a poor show and speaks volumes.”


Helen’s Poem on BBC Upload

A quick one from me today, offering our congratulations to our new writer, Helen Edwards from Devizes, who read out her poem “Motherhood,” on BBC…

Song of the Week: Snazzback

Wednesday, song of the week time, and it’s some smooth jazz from Bristol’s finest purveyors of looping rhythms and upside down chickens, Snazzback. Stokes Croft…

Devizes Town Council Welcomes New Councillor

Since the recent byelection for Devizes East, Guardian Vanessa Tanner was welcomed to The Town Council this month; Guardians of the Galaxy ensemble, or, maybe…

Carsick Pump It!

By Ben Niamor (with Devizine edits) This evening I’ve been reminded of a different feeling, something missing in recent years; noisy, energetic, bordering madness….. Youthful…

Devizes Gearing Up For Street Festival

Less than a month away now until the best day out in Devizes, our International Street Festival; who’s overexcited, who wants to know what’s happening…

How Ingrained is Hunting on our Society Given Police are Members of Criminal Gangs?

Of course, today’s opinion rant comes from news Wiltshire Police have promoted officer Cheryl Knight to the rural crimes department despite allegedly being a member of the Beaufort Hunt and has previously ridden with the notorious Avon Vale Hunt. The public outrage of such has spawned a planned protest on 5th March at Devizes Police HQ….

It should hardly come as a shock to those who follow social media of anti-hunt groups like Wiltshire Hunt Saboteurs, as we’ve seen many attempts by hunters to infiltrate the police, and video evidence of police deliberately being awkward with sabs by blocking paths and siding with hunters. Recently we’ve seen it with another hunt member PC, Laura Hughes who turned a blind eye when hunters attacked protesters at Lacock’s Boxing Day meet. And at top level, with former Avon Vale huntsmaster Jonathan Seed defunct from the PCC election and current PCC Phillip Wilkinson’s open derogatory remarks about anti-hunt protesters.

But if bent cops sounds like something from an American thriller movie, no one’s as bold to suggest all Wiltshire Police support hunting. It’s a huge organisation employing many, therefore fair to assume the bad eggs are a minority.

However, their official reaction to the outrage this news has caused, defending Cheryl Knight and warning protesters they will be “seeking independent guidance from other agencies to ensure the protest is in line with those peaceful and lawful requirements and to ensure the Devizes community is not adversely impacted,” borders retaliation to public outcry. Reading between the lines, anyone so much as sneezes at the protest and they’ll shut it down. Wiltshire Hunt Saboteurs stressed to me, “that’s how we read it too. Well, if they want even more bad publicity…”

It causes me to ponder just how far this rabbit hole goes; how ingrained by the traditions of hunting is this in our society? You may not stop to consider it while watching a children’s cartoon with anthropomorphised characters whereby the fox is nearly always portrayed as a “baddie,” or dining in a local pub, where your dinner is served on a pictorial plate adorned with a scenic landscape and a fox hunt in progress, or similarly on a painting on the wall, but in this glorification of the blood sport, these connotations of the fox spelling trouble, is it our own psychological Colston statue?

“You cannot erase history,” gammonites remark of the statue debate, and I retort with “poppycock!” For historical references in literature will always be, but a statue glorifies and celebrates the slave trade, ergo, is counterproductive to progress against racial discrimination. Likewise, the paintings in the pub, the common pub name, The Fox and Hounds, should they be changed? They clearly idealise this barbaric pastime.

My ponderings stem from a Facebook thread this week, by Devizes Town Councillor Chris Greenwood, (yes, the one who blatantly lied about Defra confirming bird flu on the Crammer) on his own general local affairs group, Devizes News. In posting news of Cheryl Knight’s promotion, he stated, “this group will not tolerate any form of detrimental, nor hateful comments associated with this article. The officer concerned has done nothing illegal whatsoever, and their appointment has been with the full approval of Wiltshire Police. Any false accusations or comments will result in the person posting being excluded from the group.”

It was simply too tempting, and inadvertently my reply, “so, why post it then?” saw me promptly barred from the group, along with a handful of others. But seems the temptation was deliberate for no sooner as we were gone, he posted again, boasting, and celebrating, “it was time for a clearout of activists, bigots and those motivated by negativity.”

Quite where the negativity in opposing the promotion of a possible criminal within the governing body supposed to prevent crime is supposed to derive from will forever confound me. Alas, adjoining various comments like a jigsaw, Chris made in this thread might shed some light on why he, like so many others, are so pro-hunting. Unable to respond to one question given by a concerned so -called bigot, Chris took a trip on memory bliss, and waffled a random interminable history of his affection for horse riding. One might assume this was irrelevant, but further on when we were discussing the social media posts of lists of local companies alleged to be in support of the Avon Vale Hunt, he highlighted a sponsorship of a pony club. So, herein lies his justification for supporting hunting; Avon Vale sponsored the club where his fond memories of riding begun. Ergo, he’s reminiscence through rose-tinted specs is clouding his judgment to the reality it’s a bloodthirsty pursuit, and I’d wager is not alone in this view.

I could agree, horse riding is okay by me, but you don’t need to take a pack of bloodhounds along to bludgeon a fox to death to enjoy it, surely? Though I fear it will fall on deaf ears. Hunts have spent decades and countless fortunes I could only dream of, to ensure their brutal activities are ingrained so deep into our society, economy and way of life, the rose-tinted specs wearers will only ever view it as a harmless tradition, because they’re trained to by showers of gold sent their way and into charities and causes.

Ergo, when a clear conflict of interests invades our police, these folk shrug, and state the officer concerned has done nothing illegal. So, given innocent until proven guilty, we should ask Wiltshire Hunt Saboteurs if they’ve any proof of the contrary. “Her main association seems to be the Beaufort,” Wiltshire Hunt Saboteurs explained, “that is where most of her hunting images were taken. She also has photos of her at Avon Vale meet, and also photos of her attending beagle meets (hare hunts).”

Besides, the point isn’t whether she has, or hasn’t, the concern lies within her power to sway, ignore, or pervert the cause of justice in such matters she’s so clearly bias in. Does this mean the protest is focused entirely on her promotion, being it would seem there’s other pro-hunting officers?

“At this moment it’s focused on the fact that a fox hunter has been appointed,” they continued, “but I guess the wider issue is who appointed her – and the appalling response they gave. There are other serving officers that have hunted with the Avon vale, which we also oppose, but to be placed into a role like this, particularly in the middle of an investigation by her new team, into the Avon Vale video just is crass beyond belief. It’s a direct breach of the Code of Ethics which Wiltshire Police are refusing to address.”

We live now in the aftermath of the national media exposure of video evidence proving The Avon Vale Hunt illegally fox hunted, its impact is this undeniable proof you’d have thought would be a catalyst to change, but this latest outcry suggests otherwise.

All my meanderings seem to return to a same point, the point in the video where they successfully pulled the fox out from the dig and threw it to the hounds, and one young hunter shrieks with delight like a little girl getting a pony for Christmas! If hunting was to cull a pest, that’s clearly in past, there’s few foxes left in the countryside, and the shrill of delight reverbs the acknowledgement, is symbolic that this is done purely for fun, the thrill. You don’t see an insect exterminator cry with joy when he clears your home of ants!

So, if you support this in any way, do you deserve to be called out for it regardless of how little your association with the hunts may’ve been formed upon, excusable by ignorance to the notion they were definitely killing wildlife, until now?

Yet while many companies and organisations have found themselves having to publish statements attempting to defuse their association with Avon Vale, or hunting in general, Wiltshire Police seem none too fussed, rather promoting officer Cheryl Knight to the rural crime unit, and have defended their decision to maintain the PC in the role. Others listed, such as ice cream cafe, The Rowdey Cow were quick to announce their association was only to vendor at one of their events, and it’s not just because they make exceptional ice cream, I’m willing to forgive that(!) rather sigh, that’s just business.

The Rowdy Cow I trust has sufficient trade to do without the association now, and hope they do. The last thing anyone wishes by way of boycotting businesses loosely associated with the hunts, is to bring any more damage on our rural economy. Yet Wadworth’s only line of defence seemed to be their association was “historic.” Should we forgive that too, because of the passage of time? Our councillor Greenwood on his pro-hunting rant seemed to suggest this, that the images of Knight hunting was the stuff of ancient history, leading me to ponder how old is she? From recent photos she looks late twenties, so it could only have been after 2004, when the Hunting Act was introduced, not so long ago for us old-timers, Chris!

Forgiveness only ever seems to be when the boot fits. The public don’t seem too keen to forgive Shamima Begum anytime soon, but views Piers Morgan as this cheeky chappie with a penchant for a few offensive comments, rather than the bastard who wrecked a teenage girl’s murder inquiry by hacking her phone. He took personal monetary gain over the life of a child, for Heaven’s sake, but hey, he’s on the tele. I like to call this the “Jimmy Saville Effect,” he raised these incredible amounts of money for charity, so should he be forgiven for paedophilia, necrophilia, and whatever other sick fetishes he performed? Equally, should we forgive hunters if their hunting is all in the past?

I believe this is simply another desperate excuse from pro-hunting lobbies. It matters not if or when Knight hunted, only that she is in support of hunting. To suggest her affiliation with the hunt wouldn’t affect her ability to carry out the role of a rural crime officer is completely and utterly ludicrous. The public know this, it’s hardly rocket science, and the public have the right to voice their outrage at this poor decision. After all, we do pay for the police, they are governed by law, but paid for by the taxpayer. Wiltshire Police make many a statement about building a rapport with the public and how they “serve them,” surely this is the ideal opportunity to prove this ethos right?

But it’s a small piece of a larger puzzle. Akin to the suffragette movement, anti-hunting will look blindly obvious to future generations if we can wash away this ingrained perception. The police’s involvement in watching over so-called trail hunts will be viewed as the massive waste of resources they clearly are, for if hunt organisations cannot be trusted the only solution is to ban them, and eradicate this insane affiliation to blood sports once and for all.

So, to people who share Chris Greenwood’s obsolete and atrocious opinions and see fit to censor opposing views, I say you’re foolish to think you can silence me. Not one to boast stats, but Devizine is read by the number of members in your petty group times a thousand. In a media war you’re the Gassworks Gang and I’m the American military! Accept the majority are anti-hunt, and will share this beyond way Facebook, until its long out of my control, folk will rightfully gather to sound their disgust at this barbaric activity, and the authorities which permit it to continue despite the indisputable evidence.

Their days are numbered, if we throw off our ingrained bigotry and accept it, that is quite possible. It wouldn’t hurt to show your humane side. And in saying that, no one wishes to send Cheryl Knight to the stocks, only to advise she is moved to a department free from her bias. So patently obvious it’s staring everyone in face and making them angry enough to have to spell it out by reacting on offensive social media posts, with disregards to the idea they’ll be futility chastised by a power-tripping would-be tinpot dictator! Knockers I say unto thee, Devizes News indeed, the bastard son of GB News?! Lest we forget come local election time.

Stay Out of Trouble! Wiltshire Council’s Drop-In Event Targets Young Criminals Only

Ka-pow, ker-runch, ker-splat! Fear not good citizens of Devizes, waftastic Wiltshirecouncilman is here to save us from the evil delinquent Dylan and the Acne Street Gang! The devastating plan is to hold a “drop-in event to update on work to reduce youth anti-social behaviour in the town,” at the Corn Exchange from 9:30am to noon on Thursday 2nd March; that’ll give them a ruddy good telling off for sure!

Does anyone else see an immediate flaw in the plan? By very definition it’s counterproductive. Wiltshire Council send out a powerful message to our youth; their crimes are unacceptable, but we’re all fine with crimes committed by older people. Why not drop the “youth” tagline all together, and see any crime committed by any age with the same degree of urgency? Just, y’ know, a fleeting notion of fairness.

Way to go to marginalise society and section off a particular group according to age, that’s sure not to stoke the fire. And when can we expect a similar event to tackle crimes committed by adults, pray tell?!

We have a current issue in Devizes with some wayward youths, no one can deny it, it’s no secret, but from a minority. That’s the crucial point, all pigeonholing them is going to do is encourage a barrier between age groups and welcome more teenagers into the rut; you’re only going to make matters worse, you blind and foolish old fuddy-duddies!

We cannot expect to obtain upstanding young citizens by tarnishing them all with the same brush. Still social media is awash with pitchfork welding folk, condoning medieval punishments, and admin of these groups fail to deal outrageous comments promoting vigilante violence; look at yourself, publishing your futile online vengeance on youths, and still then ponder why they rebel so. Ever heard of a thing called an endless circle?

Places of real-life social interaction are no better, full of elders firing daggers from their eyes at any younger person who happens to pass by. I’ve spoken to young people about their fear of going into cafes for the dirty looks they’ll receive, despite doing no wrong and not having any intentions of. What else is there here for them to do, where do you expect them to go?

Cllr Peter Hutton, Portfolio Holder for Safeguarding at Wiltshire Council said of the event, “this will be an informal and interactive morning where you can talk to the people who are working with Devizes residents in all sorts of ways with a common goal of making the town a safer place to live.” But what about the people who this really effects most? We must readdress the balance here, focus too on the victims, not just the criminals. Children and young people are disproportionately more likely to be victims of crime, particularly the most serious crimes, by any age group including their own. And where are the group most affected by this issue between the set hours of 9:30-noon? At school or college most likely.

The very fact they’ve been excluded from this event sends a shiver up my spine. It’s as if to say they’ve no valid point to bring to the table, or any they might have, are worthless, amidst this wealth of grownup’s experience. Why not make the time later, so it’s convenient to all to cast their views? Why not bring this “roadshow” to schools and colleges?

As we age it’s all too easy to forget how it feels to be younger, but not giving young people the benefit of the doubt is detrimental to them reacting angrily against the system. I may’ve been criminalised in my youth, but day-to-day I forget those occurrences, wish I was that age again, only because I view it through rose-tinted specs. It was never as easy as memory serves me. I rebelled, and much of the anguish came from my elders; the powers that be, parents, et al. They never understood, I felt trapped, a child in an adult world, and reacted with rebellious anger. Why? Because it was a thrill to, it exposed a crack in the boredom, an escape.

Yet top-heavy Conservative thinking Wiltshire Council and Police are backing a government which has acted far worse than these few wayward kids. They’ve lied their way through government, they’ve profited and partied while ordinary folk watched their loved ones die. They continue to drain every penny out of public services, to reduce the education budget to the point the teachers must strike, they’re determined to increase the poverty divide to line their own pockets, and we ignore it in order to focus on some naughty children. They are hardly setting the shining example of moral upstanding citizens. As Michael Jackson said, “if they wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change.”

Or perhaps a more poignant musical quote could come from Woody Guthrie, “some will rob you with a six-gun, some with a fountain pen.” Purchase a security light for your home if you favour being robbed by the energy companies rather than some hoodlums in your shed at night.

Here’s a better plan, councillors, et al who follow the blue rosette, resign from your Conservative Party, and stand independently. Show them you don’t side with criminals before invoking your hypocrisy on the youth. For our young are no fools, and I, for one, salute them for taking a stance, I applaud their patience and endurance with the disgusting way they’re being treated.

Some will resort to crime, it’s a terrible thing, I wish it didn’t have to be this way, and I certainly would never condone it. But they’re not alone as a generation; history proves time-over during eras of abject poverty crime will increase. It’s not a problem with “youth of today” rather a problem with a minority of youth, historically. Rubbing their faces in it, plotting behind their backs isn’t going to help.

Wiltshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Philip Wilkinson, an advocate of conservatism, says of the event, “this is a great opportunity for members of the public to hear first-hand the importance of the work that is being done as a result of the Home Office funding to tackle youth anti-social behaviour in the Devizes area and focus on ways to help prevent it.” But what’s his views on rural crime in general, to have called hunt saboteurs only gathering evidence of crimes committed by those who should be considered mature enough to know better, “balaclava wearing thugs,” when we’ve all seen the recent concrete evidence as to who the real thugs are?

The only smidgen of positive came from inspector Ben Huggins, Devizes sector Policing Inspector, who said, “we recognise that there are some anti-social behaviour issues in Devizes at the moment. We are and have been tackling them. My officers will always respond swiftly and robustly to reports of this nature; however, we know more needs to be done and this is not a problem that can be solved by us the police alone. So, this initiative is very much welcomed – involving not only the agencies we already work with but the wider community.  Hopefully, we can all resolve this problem by working together.”

It goes without saying, we offer our eternal thanks to the bobby on the beat. I certainly don’t envy their job at times like these, and in having to deal with the issues which arise from this, but there’s radical thinking we need to put on the table in order to tackle it, not the seemingly militant stance of conservatism. Communication with the youth is key, obviously, for crying out loud, including them in events like this, allowing them a voice.

Give a little to take a little, isn’t it? Treat them with respect and that respect will come back to you; see if it doesn’t, but apply something out of Robocop it will never be solved and we just go round in circles. I welcome the idea of this gig, but if they wished to build bridges, making it time appropriate for those most affected to attend would be logic, really, one would’ve thought, or are we just a community of hypocritical pitchfork welding rednecks?

Actually, don’t answer that one!

Avon Vale Hunt Suspended from the British Hounds Sports Association

If Bob Marley used a Jamaican proverb for a line in I Shot the Sheriff , “Every day the bucket a-go a well, One day the bottom a-go drop out,”  it really has for the notorious Avon Vale Hunt, who’ve been suspended from the British Hounds Sports Association, following some sickening video footage…...

I guess congratulations goes to Wiltshire Hunt Saboteurs, for want of a better word. The breaking news certainly produced an awkward chuckle from me. Their hard work has paid off with this indisputable evidence of the hunt, digging out two foxes and throwing one to the hounds, while the second attempts an escape. The most distressing and horrifying part of the film is to hear them shrieking with delight when realising there was a second fox.

A criminal investigation had begun, we hope the sentence fits the crime. I’ve tried to be as subtle as possible on this issue, always willing to give anyone the benefit of the doubt. Previous filming from the sabs has often been obscured and difficult to define precisely what’s happening, but this is undeniable, trail hunting is an outright lie.

This definitive proof shifts the way I’ll handle my wording on such reports, for it’s conclusive, that hunters are nothing but bloodthirsty criminal scum, and I, for one, believe the time has come to ban these so-called trail hunts once and for all.

Wiltshire Hunt Sabs told The Hunt Saboteurs Association, “We routinely sab this particularly vile and vicious hunt, so we aren’t surprised to see them shrieking in delight as the whip chucks the first fox to the hounds as a second fox tries to flee. It’s almost a year to the day since they seriously assaulted a hunt sab after sabs stopped a similar dig out of a fox from an active badger sett near Erlestoke.

We hope Wiltshire Police do their jobs properly this time. For too long this hunt has gotten away with murder, largely because of the protection of Wiltshire Police who have had serving officers riding with this hunt. The Avon Vale are now truly exposed for the bloodthirsty criminals they are.”

So, we find ourselves at the conjunction where I will not refrain to mince my words any longer; anyone condoning the actions of the Avon Vale Hunt, from allowing meets on their establishment to political figures supporting the hunt or claiming they’re doing nothing illegal, will be called out and treated as an accessory to a crime.

A Wiltshire police spokesperson said, “We have received a report of alleged wildlife offences and will be reviewing the evidence that has been presented.” Begging the question how it can “alleged” if the offence is clearly caught on camera?

For a fuller story and to watch the film, please refer HERE, but warning, the video can be distressing. And please, if you can, donate to the Wiltshire Hunt Saboteurs so they can continue their hard and often dangerous work.

The Great Pothole Debacle; Are Wiltshire Councillors Teleported into County Hall?!

As a younger chap, for it once was so, I’d procrastinate with the washing-up, putting it off until the point I’d run out of cutlery or crockery. By this time the daunting task of tackling the mountain was too much to bear. Not forgoing, I’d be suspicious organic matter in the sink could’ve evolved into a dispassionate and sadistic varmint which would, acting in defence of its dwelling, ambush my digits, and marigolds would make unless armour.

In maturity I’ve learned engaging proactive to chores will prevent such issues from building to an uncontrollable catastrophe, but remain convinced, by driving on any road in the county, Wiltshire Council hasn’t yet reached such maturity. Their dithering, wilful ignorance of Section 41 of the Highways Act 1980, has spawned an infestation of intractable and accrescent critters: potholes, and they breed like rabbits.

Agreed, like a birdwatcher finding a rare Capercaillie, I’ve seen council workers patching up the deadliest potholes of recent, here and there, but take The Kings Road, Easterton, for example, which for a while now I’ve renamed the Kamikazes Road, for my own personal white-knuckled amusement. Here, over the past week, they’ve shoved some hardcore in the odd pothole which has occupied the road for an insurmountable eon, ticked it off as a job well done, and returned to base for tea and custard creams. The equivalent of which in my washing-up metaphor would be to rinse a teaspoon I found rotting behind the fridge under the cold tap.

Of course, Cabinet Member for Transport, Dr Mark McClelland has waffled this axiomatic piffle on the council’s website, “The weather has provided the perfect conditions for potholes to form, and that’s why we’re seeing an increase in the number of road defects throughout the county.”

Akin to a football manger telling the presenter, “It’s a game of two halves,” tell us something we don’t know, like perhaps coupled with Dr McClelland’s valid point is also the unmentioned minor technicality they failed dismally to repair potholes for the last two previous years, minimum. Yeah, the increase of road defects is caused by bad weather, I’ll give him, but bad management too. Like my washing-up, if you don’t address the issue promptly, we see potholes on potholes on potholes, on, well, you get the picture; it’s of a lunar landscape, and you’re cycling one of those old Boneshaker bicycles over it.

Potholes are so rife in Wiltshire; people have started using them to give directions. “Oh-argh, go down road for six potholes, past the pensioners playing street golf, you’ll see a really massive pothole, not the one where Kate Winslet is grasping driftwood crying over drowning Leonardo DiCaprio, but a much deeper one, turn right there and it’s just past the third pothole on the left!”

Okay, you roll your thunder; cease the satirical ranting and tell us what we can do about it, I hear your cry. Here’s the longwinded Wiltshire Councillor Dr McBellend again, with the official advice: “Wiltshire Council has an online reporting system called MyWilts that people can use to report problems on the council’s roads and footways. This can be either accessed by computer or an app downloaded from the relevant app store. Reports received from MyWilts are processed accordingly and customers updated through the Council’s reporting and management systems.”

Like everything these days, from parking your car to ordering at Nandos, you must go to a website, download an app, create an account, and customise yourself to the inner-workings of the profiteering geek mate of the council who invented it.

According to the Wiltshire Highways Safety Inspection Manual, depending on priority and road size, it can take anything up to 60 days for them to address the issue, which, based on past experience, seems to be to send a team out to inspect, possibly spray paint a colourful circle around it, or in severe cases stick a traffic cone in it, return to base to file the report and grab some tea and custard creams. By which time umpteen drivers have lost a wheel in the pothole you’re attempting to inform them about.

Technophobes are shit out. I like to think I’m savvy, but it took me little under an hour to make head nor tail of the app, and report a SINGLE road defect, when the county is awash with them, on every single road, multitudes of them, potholes on potholes, remember? How much spare time do they think we have?

One has to wonder how Councillors get to county hall. Are they blindfolded? Are they teleported in like Captain Kirk? How come they cannot see what we see? Oh yeah, the gas-guzzling Chelsea tractor brigade, I forgot; why don’t we all just save up and buy ourselves a 4×4, goes the pig-ignorant Conservative thinktank. Because we’re scrapping the barrel to put food on the table due to their general incompetence of a thousand other issues I could rant a tangent on, that’s why, and we really don’t need the added expense of avoidable car repairs.

Oh, but, oh, what’s that you say? You can reclaim expenses from Wiltshire Council if your vehicle is damaged due to potholes? Yes, I hear that, and after months of paperwork there’s been some success stories; ninety days is the legal maximum allowed, they will take advantage of that while your kids go hungry.

Provided you take a multitude of photos and videos of the damage, the questionable pothole with a tape measure or sonic deep-sea echo sounder, and its surroundings, provide indisputable evidence it was said pothole, add some interesting history about any neighbouring landmarks, and possibly bribe them with proper posh Waitrose biscuits rather than working class custard creams, you can retrieve some but rarely all your costs, should you suffer an incident there and then. But what of the gradual wear and tear of our cars on our daily journeys across this scabrous terrain of endless bottomless chasms? These surely are both insurmountable and incalculable, and what’s more, impossible to prove. I quizzed a local mechanic.

Coils, springs and other such technical bits and bobs are forever being replaced at his garage, he informed me, and was undoubtedly convinced it was due to the constant driving through potholes. He extended it to suggest driving in France wouldn’t cause these problems; whoa, controversial!

Now, I’m sorry for my rude alteration of the councillor’s name, if you noted it, and if I could take it back I would, but I’ve said it now and it’s out there; just a typo really. I’m aware Tories can be touchy when pointing out their incompetence and hypocrisy, and often act like a told-off toddler, but name-calling is simply not cricket. I’m aware it’s a tricky issue and perpetual, but you did sign up for the job, so, no temper tantrums, let’s be logical here; the app is a get out clause for the council, if it’s not reported there it’s as mythical as unicorns.

For I made the gag out of frustration, not so much for the crumbs of pasty I lose while driving the milk float over these bumps, for I’m not so petty to calculate and invoice the council for a six pack of Ginsters, but for the pothole so deep it shattered my window, covering me in shards and leaving me in need of a change of underwear, for the repair of my car’s wheel balance, tyres, for the fact that although I drove over the window-shattering pothole carefully for the next month or so, and it was finally repaired, to note the other six or seven potholes surrounding that one wasn’t, and they’ve equalled it now in deepness. It’s a never-ending problem, I accept this, but for crying out loud, be the hero who finds a doable solution, and I can eat my words rather than have to mince them.

I’m aware we’ve bricked ourselves into this asylum the lunatics have taken over and that’s democracy, but if they’ve found a workable solution on the continent, are we too proud to pinch their strategies? Opps, grey area, fetch my blue pissport and I’ll shut the door behind me.

No good waffling figures to me about how much the council have spent on infrastructure, while I gaze at the new digital road sign in Worton, which flashes up the driver’s speed with a happy or sad face emoji, when one car I witnessed this week clocked 72mph and didn’t fuss to slow past the school gates through that 30mph zone. And, pray tell, how much did it cost to install it, compared to the revenue it’ll provide? It’s not how much you’ve got but what you do with it.

While it may well slow the considerate fella who’s accidentally slipped into 33mph, no emoji is going to cause these thoughtless potential murderers to take caution, but a copper with a speed camera offering a huge fine and lifetime driving ban might. That’d raise some pennies for tarmac, and reduce traffic as well as encouraging lorries to use the motorway and not shortcut through towns and villages; blimey I’m full of radical notions this morning; give the man a Twix.

But failing any of them, councillor, take a pay cut, live like the rest of us sufferers, avoid expensive luncheons, buy bargain custard creams for county hall’s biscuit barrel, or pick up a shovel, get your Fairy-Liquid-kind hands dirty for once in your sad little life and fill the potholes in yourself! Or do they keep potholes as it’s symbolic of where this country is heading?

Who can say for certain?

I can, “for certain,” there you go, job a good ‘un, shame the same can’t be said for Wiltshire Council’s road policy!


Bournemouth Writing Festival 2023

A festival goer’s perspective Helen Edwards  A first. A first for Bournemouth and a first for me.  The event, brain (and heart) child of Ildiko…

The Vintage Bazaar is back in Devizes!

On Saturday 24th June from 9.00am to 2pm, its regular home The Corn Exchange in Devizes, Wiltshire will once again be filled to the brim…

Age of the Liar; The Burner Band

Okay, so it’s been a little over two years since I fondly reviewed the debut album, Signs & Wonders, from Leeds’ alt-country come Americana outfit,…

Song of the Week: Ålesund

Back-tracking a week for this, as it was two great tunes came along simultaneously; like buses, in another county, don’t get me started on the…

Gastard’s Billionaire’s Tax Free Mine

I thought it’d be nice to have a localised “did you know” type article today, during this era where everyday folk die on our streets waiting for an ambulance, nurses cannot afford the petrol to get them to work, pensioners huddle together in community-led halls to keep warm, and a government which blames everything from a pandemic through to gas prices, Russians, and unions rather than its own incompetence that there’s “systems in place to help,” so, on a completely unrelated note, here goes…..

Did you know between the villages of Whitley and Gastard, on the Melksham to Corsham road, there’s what looks like a modest warehouse with a sizable office atop called Cert Octavian?

From ground up it looks like any other small business premises, other than the high security fence and gatehouse, but inside there’s a goods train which decends into a mine, of over a million square feet.

During the war the mine was used to store munitions, today, because of its constant ambient temperature it’s the perfect environment to store wine. Cert Octavian are a logicistics company, storing bonded wine from worldwide collectors and traders. Their collections are recorded, photographed and documents are sent to the clinet. Then it’s stored underground, millions of pallets of it. Anything from twenty to fifty pallets can arrive there daily, from every corner of the globe but mostly, obviously, from the Châteaus of Bourdeaux. Pallets of eight crates a layer, seven high, each crate with twelve bottles inside, ranging an average of £1,000 a bottle and gaining value with every second that passes.

The owners of the wine rarely see any of it, let alone drink it. A tiny fraction of their collection might be called on for a special occasion, but more likely its traded with another collector, so it will be bought to the surface, sent to the clinet, or to Sotherbys, Christie’s in New York, or similar auction and sent back to Cert Octavian to restore by a different customer, or more generally, simply bought to the surface, relabelled with the new clinet’s details, and sent back down again.

Traders usually buy in yen and sell in US dollar to achieve maximum profit, but why you may ask. Why have all this wine, so much wine they or their conceited bum chums couldn’t possibly drink it all in their lifetimes?

Because they are not wine conissours at all, and have no intention of ever taking so much as a sip. If they pose as them it’s a smokescreen. They’re worldwide investors, and as wine is a liquid assest they pay no tax on it; not a stitch, not a single penny. Billions upon billions of untaxable stock, just sitting down there, collecting profit and dust. Dust, sitting atop more money than you or I could possibly imagine.

The only people who will ever see it are the warehouse staff. Ask me how I know; I was, for a short peroid, one of those staff members; even honoured to drive the train once, choo-choo, which wasn’t as much fun as it sounds!

I saw it with my own eyes, saw the millionaire contracts from a single crate, and when I left they asked I return the polo shirt workwear they gave me!

Not that it’s for me to suggest the sickening inequality, a tenacious link between this economic recession and the greed of billionaires, simply because they, quite literally, want the shirt off my back. Neither is it for me to suggest how much revenue taxing this vast stock would procure, or the effects if a government had the balls to demand it’s now taxable, or even weighing it up against the NHS or the £2,436.7 billion national deficit, though I’m sure it’d cover both with enough spare to throw a party or twenty.

Or further still, not that it’s for me to suggest the billionaires could engage in what us peasants are asked of us; to “pull together for the good of the country.”

No, of course not, it’s not for me to suggest at all, anymore than the notion the trillions of untaxed pounds stored under Gastard is but a small player in the global untaxed wealth stashed in offshore accounting, tax loopholes, bogus company money laundering and illegal trades of drugs or weapons, but, you know, just thought it was an interesting bit of local historical information, that’s all. You have a good day now, you hear? Work on, pay your taxes,  choose between heating your home or feeding your kids, and be bloody grateful!

Devizes Town Councillors LIED About Bird Flu on Crammer

As temperatures rise from the coldest December spell in a decade, life on Devizes Crammer is returning to normal. The Crammer Watch team concentrate their efforts on the natural course of activities for the wildfowl present, as aggressive swans drive others onto the roadside in territorial disputes...…

Meanwhile, confused as to whether they should be fed, due to a lack of official advise to update them on the situation, townsfolk are understandably concerned for their health and wellbeing, after the deaths of two swans and two Canada Geese in December.

But the questions which need to be asked now, but clearly are not, are concerned more with the appropriateness of actions taken by Devizes Town Councillors on the matter; off I go, not wanting to issue a rant so close into a new year, but feeling it’s imperative; someone’s gotta say it……

Firstly, Guardian Town Councillor, Chris Greenwood declared on the Devizes News Facebook page that an outbreak of bird flu had be confirmed on the Crammer, and the birds had been collected by DEFRA for testing. This was backed up by a stern campaign on another Facebook group, Devizes Issues, by the admin and Conservative town councillor, Iain Wallis, not to feed the wildfowl on the Crammer to prevent spread of the disease.

Only when questioned on his statement did Mr Greenwood revert to DEFRA guidelines, stating any suspected outbreak should be treated as a definite outbreak, therefore this governed his advice to stop feeding the wildfowl. Meanwhile, Mr Wallis took it upon himself to delete any differing opinions on his own Facebook group. The argument for continuing to feed being, because of a lack of natural food source, the wildfowl would consequently die of starvation, if bird flu was evident or not.

They both informed the public DEFRA had collected the birds for testing, and this was backed up belatedly by Devizes Town Council, who issued a notice advising the same, not to feed the wildfowl. Clerk Simon Fisher adding in his published musings that the Council were operating on skeleton staff during the period, despite it being some weeks prior to Christmas.

As confirmation from DEFRA didn’t arrive all went quiet on the Western Front, updates were scarce and suspiciously varying. Councillor Wallis stated DEFRA were “busy,” others suggested DEFRA was closed for Christmas, a fortnight prior to Christmas. Councillor Greenwood stated no confirmation was likely, as DEFRA rarely test individual birds. But the real facts are coming to light from a leaked email from Clerk Simon Fisher to a Crammer Watch member; the birds were never collected by DEFRA at all.

In the email Mr Fisher states, “we did report the bird in the hope they would be collected but they weren’t. Given the time period and the level of decay that had started to set in, the birds were double bagged and disposed of. We are pleased that since the initial incidents, that there have been no more deaths, but we are now seeking advice from the Wetland Trust on the best way to feed the birds, which may be something that we do it ourselves in the future.”

Seems evident now it’s all been one big, fat fib, the likelihood of bird flu remains unknown and so does the chances of ever knowing. Only one bird on the canal has been reported dead since the original few during the freezing spell in December, DTC reports today, and well, nature takes its course, wild animals will unfortunately die. There’s as much evidence to suggest there never was an outbreak of bird flu as much as there was, but the truth may never be known. Reasons why the issue has been handled so appallingly would be speculation. Despite no one was pointing a finger, it was a close one to call after all, I’ll give them that much. Yet, I believe what needs to be questioned is the bolshy way this was pushed into effect via social media hysteria caused by the individual Councillors.

And of course, none of it would be a problem if the birds were in an area with a natural food source, for without it, as is the Crammer, the birds will die of starvation, infected with bird flu or not. Furthermore, there’s a danger to the birds crossing over the busy road to find alternative means of food from nearby pub and supermarket bins. This information of the lack a natural food source was passed to us by Swan Support, when they aided a rescue of swans struck by pollution in the Crammer back in springtime. The reason why Crammer Watch was set up. Crammer Watch advocated feeding the birds safely and individually would give them the sustainability to survive the freezing conditions, and the jury was out for the while, now it seems it was the right thing course of action, after all.

The argument put forward by the councillors active on social media was by not feeding the birds we are reducing the likelihood they’ll congregate and spread the disease. I get this, I really do, yet through various channels Crammer Watch sourced information from DEFRA, from the top UK medical boffins and the King’s Swan Marker; they’re not simply acting on a whim.

They say it isn’t illegal to feed and where local authorities are trying to stop it in most cases, they have installed barriers and taken over safe feeding. Devizes Town Council have none of this yet, and only now, a month too late, have they suggested it “may be something that we do it ourselves in the future.”

But the really concerning issue is by the aforementioned town councillor, Iain Wallis, responsible for the area the Crammer is, in mounting a huge campaign for no feeding, via being admin of the controversial Facebook group, Devizes Issues, which saw any angle of debate questioning the ruling we should stop feeding the wildfowl, promptly deleted and the commenters banned. Mr Wallis furthered the campaign by suggesting townsfolk should take the law into their own hands by reprimanding anyone found feeding the swans.

It’s one thing for admin of a claimed “unbiased” social media group to delete misinformation, it’s another to eradicate personal opinions, especially when there’s no confirmation of the fact. Now temperatures have returned to normal, comments on the post have been turned off, so no updated information seems to allowed, the word is final there; don’t feed the swans.

The final straw in this matter, for me, was to encourage the public to question anyone feeding the birds, as, and let’s be frank here, it’s obvious this would lead to a “torches and pitchforks” scenario, in which enraged abuse is thrown at anyone who dares to take an opposing opinion to Mr Wallis. Lo and behold, several reports of this have been made by victims of such verbal abuse, one person claiming an angered man shouted at her child for feeding the ducks. What have we become?!

Make no mistake, this outcome is outrageous and despicable, in my opinion, and questions should be raised as to councillor Iain Wallis’s motives behind such a forceful approach. As no official updates were given, people continued obey and not feed the wildfowl, much less drive others away from feeding them by hurling abuse at them.

But why, you understandably ask, and the only answer I can provide is, I don’t know. The birds there would obviously die if not fed, providing more evidence for a supposed but unproven case of bird flu. Councillor Greenwood stated in no uncertain circumstances, such a continuation of deaths will result in a mass cull of all birds in the area, interestingly he noted the gulls and the pigeons. The very gulls Wiltshire Councillor Laura Mayes has been calling for a cull of for months, and likewise the very same town councillor, Iain Wallis, has been pushing for a cull of the pigeons?

Permission needs granting to cull birds, if relevant agencies assess there’s not a significant pigeon problem in the area, they’ll not issue a licence. But we’ve heard nothing of the result on this, and they say no news is good news. I could fairly venture therefore, they didn’t issue any such licence, ergo pushing for a case of bird flu would be the backdoor to having a cull. Of course, this is speculation, but I worry, why else is this being pushed without evidence, and isn’t it coincidental the same councillor pushing this is the one who campaigned to cull the pigeons?

What other reason could there be? That the councillor is, much less a wildlife expert, because he’s not, but a caring soul for wildlife? A confessed Conservative blindly following the advice of DEFRA unquestionably. DEFRA, a government department, the same government which, against advice of financial experts condoned we’re best leaving the EU and plummeted us into recession, a government who, against advice of the World Health Organisation, suggested we’d not need to lockdown in a worldwide pandemic until after international jetsetters flew in for a profitable horse race? A government who profited from said lockdown and partied through it while advising we don’t see our babies born or our elderly relatives die? A government who crushed the NHS and education budgets, have continued to lie at every given opportunity? That government? Oh yeah, sounds viable to me!

If it feels like said government have little respect for human life, why do you suppose they would for animals? A government with the kingpin prime minister stating a fetish of fox hunting, continuing to find reasonable grounds to turn the hunting act around, and advocating other unlawful blood sports, and a badger cull, for example, without any real proof it leads to bovine Tb in cattle. And ultimately, a government which assigns an MP like Thérèse Coffey as minister for DEFRA, despite voting against protecting Animal Welfare and Food Standards from post-Brexit trade deals, as well as a lengthy voting record of other disgracefully unjust and oppressive issues. Face it, Thérèse Coffey doesn’t view animals as sentient, least that’s what her voting record revealed.

The MP who defended Rebekah Brooks as chief executive of News International when they thought it’d be fun to hack the phone of murdered teenager Milly Dowler, claiming objectors were on a “witch hunt,” yet had no issue aiding a similar witch hunt against Marcus Rashford, for merely suggesting the poorest children should be fed during the pandemic? Oh right, yeah, she sounds like someone who gives a toss about some swans living in a duck shit pond in Devizes, for sure.

Apologies if you feel I’ve gone off on a wild tangent here, but it feels like another brick in the wall. When a topic is debatable it usually means the motivation behind each side differs. Mine is purely based on the protection of the wildlife, the other side argue the same, but all I called for is a debate, with experts present, on how the Crammer can be improved to help the wildlife there. Chris Greenwood’s response to a call for a natural food source and an island ideal for bird flight paths, was “There’s currently no real possibility of providing a natural food source in or near the Crammer, due to it potentially restricting flight paths for the swans and geese, it would also disrupt the aesthetics of the area, by changing the very nature of a feature of our Town.”

The latter part of this raises the question of what folk in Devizes want, a pretty looking pond unsuitable and dangerous for the wildlife which visits it, or a conservational area apt for sustaining the needs of the wildlife. Crammer Watch say, “the Crammer had an island in the middle during the Victorian period, there is no other imaginable reason for its introduction unless it was precisely because of the aesthetic enhancement of walks.”

The first part of this, quite frankly, is codswallop. Crammer Watch points out, “swans drop in but can’t take off because there isn’t a long enough stretch of water for a safe runway and they can’t clear the trees or buildings.” Also stating “I have only seen them take off from the Green, albeit one may have taken off from water alone in June. I have started to wonder whether a way could be engineered to put swans off of dropping in. If non breeders drop in they find it impossible to leave in the short term and nothing to eat.”

Ergo, given Occam’s razor, that the explanation that requires the fewest assumptions is usually the correct one, without any confirmation or even evidence of bird flu, and the only birds dying in the extreme cold has now stopped as the temperature levelled, the argument with fewer explanations required is that the birds died of extreme weather conditions, as is the unfortunate natural course of life.

Whether or not the unsuitable conditions at the Crammer played a part in this, well, we could carry on all night with, but what’s clear, without feeding they’ll die anyway, so the logical reasoning is to feed them and anyone who says otherwise are either misinformed or have a different agenda. I also apologise to those councillors I’ve called out on this, all’s fair in love and war, for there’s a fair chunk of speculation presented, I’ll admit, but I can see no other reason for staging such a ferocious campaign against feeding them without the required evidence. But more so, I question the need to incite folk to police it themselves, for this would undoubtedly cause friction.

I believe a full, independent enquiry needs to be done, as to why the councillors perpetrated their fictious campaign; what else are they lying to us about?

Let’s hope for a positive outcome for the new year ahead, but if not, I urge you to leave The Devizes Issues Facebook group, because no one should be taking its advice and reprimanding children for feeding ducks; inexcusable behaviour from a town councillor, for heaven help if incited verbal abuse turned physical.

Devizine Review of 2022!

Featured Image by Simon Folkard Photography

Happy New Year from Wiltshire’s wackiest what’s-on website. It’s that time again when I waffle on endlessly in hope of summing up an entire year on Devizine. What can I say? It helps me grasp the ups and downs, highlights the things we could’ve done better but most of all, the things that went down well in 2022. And you get to see for yourself, our local area is awash with so many great events, so much great talent, and few things of concern……

Though I’m reserved to the fact, Santa’s good list starts afresh as early as January, so those who deliberately go out of their way to spoil the wellbeing of others and upset public peace will be called out accordingly, regardless of what position of power they might think they hold over others; Santa reads Devizine and Devizine states the facts, fact! See? It just did!

For the most part, though, Devizine is a happy place. If I must pick a favourite article I wrote this year, I’ve chosen an interview with John Petty, the brainchild of Devizes’ legendary event, the Boto-X. But it’s a rare thing for us to be retrospective, most coverage is about the here and now, and there’s so many highlights to mention, advance apologies for waffling!

January, I was still reviewing international music releases, as per-lockdown when we scrambled somewhat in the dark for content. It put me between a rock and hard place, the ol’ melon twister as to what exactly Devizine is; a music review blog, or a site dedicated to local affairs. While it straddled between the two for a while, I made the executive decision that Devizine is, first and foremost, a local affair, for local people, therefore if you’re not local the “things for you here” have been greatly reduced this year, as I’m sworn to dedicate it to the first and foremost.

Not to suggest I didn’t appreciate receiving new tunes from afar, and if I can make a tenacious link to something local, such as bands including a local venue on their tour, I will. The biggest niggle has been time, and time is key to decisions I’ve needed to make with content. As Devizine grows and lockdown is archived to the history books, I get inundated with enough local content to keep me busy, therefore reviewing international music has been put on the back-burner. Though reviewing locally produced music is still something we relish in, please send them in to us.

If I had the time, I’d consider reintroducing it, and in that there’s a reason to brainstorm how I balance my in-tray with working full-time and spending quality time with the family.

Part of this begun end of last year, when Christmas saw my son gain a “gamer’s corner” of our lounge, and to create the space I relocated my PC to my bedroom. At first, I admit I liked the idea, gave me office type space to think, but as the year went on, I realised I was missing family time, upstairs like a hermit. This meant I was either rushing out content fast as I could, or attempting to create content on my phone app, which doesn’t work quite as well. The new year’s resolution, then, is to acquire a shiny new laptop, allowing me to disappear upstairs when I need to concentrate, but create content and update the event calendar far more efficiently while still spending time downstairs with the family.

If I used the term “Devizine Towers” to make you believe we’ve a Trump-like office block, employing staff in various departments, (mostly in the complaints department) it was a big fat fib for humorous effect. But you’re no fool, I guess you knew this anyway.

Fact is, Devizine is a non-profit labour of love. Though this notion hasn’t put more folk off contributing and helping to make Devizine comprehensive in coverage. I’m eternally grateful for everyone who has helped in this, from longstanding reporter, Mr Andy Fawthrop, to Ian Diddams, Ben and Vicky, Lorraine, and the few other occasional contributors.

Take the “Devi” bit away, and you’re left with “zine,” and that’s the ethos we run with, a free press, DIY concept without the confines of mainstream publishing; ergo, we can publish whatever we see fit, and anyone and everyone is welcome to submit anything for consideration. This transpires to you all, if you go to a gig, for example, and think “everyone needs to know how fantastic this band are,” please consider jotting down a few words on the subject, snap a couple of wobbly photos on your phone, and send it to us. You don’t need to be Shakespeare, we are not your English teacher, and can even edit any spelling or grammatical mishaps to the best of our ability!

To stats and all that mathematical malarkey. 2021 we received well over double the hits to the site, but to double it again felt a little ambitious. We didn’t achieve it, but we did get 23% above the record-breaking 2021 with a further +18K, so again we’re heading up the right direction, with 100K hits seeming like an achievable target this year. To have achieved this, being I feel I slacked off slightly with supplying regular content sometimes through the year, I think is amazing, and I appreciate everyone who enjoys reading Devizine; thank you all, blinking love yer, group hug!

The best hitting article this year was from May, when immediately after DOCA’s Street Festival, I highlighted all the forthcoming big events coming in Devizes, headlining it “The Big Ones; Forthcoming Summer Events in Devizes.” Strange how, going on the success of this, in December I published a second “Big Ones” piece, this time highlighting on a wider scale, the best large-scale events and festivals locally over the entire 2023, incorporating anything deemed conceivable to travel to from here. But this was not nearly as successful on hits. Pondering why, I must consider we’re Devizes based, ergo content about Devizes seems to get most attention. Start to venture any further than the Lavingtons and that’s foreign soil!

Yeah, I’m aware the name Devizine directly links to Devizes, but I like the name, it’s grounded now, besides, I believe it’s important to let folk from other local areas know, Devizine’s boundaries are flexible, incorporate anywhere conceivable to travel to for an event, so ideally from Salisbury to Swindon, Bath to Marlborough, but hey, like I say, we’re flexible and I’m not going to hold it against you if you live in Newbury!

In fact, even if I often loiter sober, Billy-no-mates fashion, I’ve enjoyed my voyages of discovery outside of D-town most of all. Particularly Swindon Shuffle, MantonFest, Trowbridge Town Hall, Seend Community Centre for The Female of the Species gig, a trip to Aldbourne to see Painted Bird and Deadlight Dance, and especially the fond memory of going on the road to a Portsmouth gig with Talk in Code. It also goes a long way in the introduction of acts from elsewhere, who often find gigs in town after we’ve featured them playing elsewhere, or within an album review.

Fair to point out at this conjunction, our preview of The Party For Life organised Suicide Prevention gig at Melksham Town FC was the second highest hitting article this year, blowing my Devizes-only theory out of the water, and forgoing the best hit articles are often based upon how many people share and re-Tweet social media posts. The organisers of this one was so pleased to get some press coverage, in an area where the mainstream press seem more interested in national headlines and celebrity click-bait tosh, they rarely support local affairs, especially in entertainment.

This is what gives me the motivation to continue with Devizine, despite some criticism of a completely fictional political sway, or knickers twisted from the few we’ve had to call out the behaviour of. To know we’re appreciated, to hear stories of how we helped, be it a venue finding a band, or visa-versa, or a charity able to reach out, these things are what keeps our spirits up.

Feel-good articles, you know? That’s the ticket, so when young local actress Jess Self won Vernon Kay’s Talent Nation in November, people flocked to our coverage, making it our third best-hitting article this year. These bring the person(s) of the subject delight and joy, and that’s really what it’s all about, smiles on faces, people, smiles all round.

And given this, I really don’t understand why some people want to criticise us, ban us from their petty, clique social media groups, but they will, and that’s life. I got a name for them, I won’t spell it out here today; smiles on faces, remember?!

The fourth best-hit article of the year was a 30th anniversary piece on the Castlemorton free rave, a personal reflection on the historic event and the impact it had on society. But more importantly should be local current affairs, and when we broke the story of pollution in the water of The Crammer Pond in Devizes, well that became our fifth best hitter. Sadly, I really thought we’d made an impact here, and plans were afoot to address the unsuitability of the pond for wildlife and what can be done to rectify it by the town council.

Unfortunately, the issue has raised its ugly head again after the death of some wildfowl during December’s freezing conditions, of which bird flu was blamed but never proven. Nevertheless, no bird has died since a rise in temperature, bird flu is being used to politically point score and to suit other agendas by the powers that be. Is there nothing off limits to boost their egos, not even the deaths of wild animals?

Apparently not, as we continue to assist in campaigns against animal cruelty, especially of blood sports, the badger cull, and expose the trial hunt as the smokescreen it is. So, not only did we cover Lacock’s violence at Boxing Day perpetrated by the Avon Vale Hunt, when it came to light, the single police officer was a member of the hunt and did little to keep the peace, but other suspicious factors too, such as the proposed closure of Savernake Forest. Allowing only for a few set paths to be accessible around the Postern Hill site, environmental benefits to the forest were used in excuse, but residents were suspicious it’d give game hunters unrestricted access without the watchful eye of ramblers.

I cover these issues because I believe in them, and we don’t see enough being done to tackle the issues in, not only other local media sources, but within Wiltshire Police too, who’s fall into special measures surely proves what we’ve always said; the bogus re-election of a PCC in order to sustain totalitarianism for the Conservative Party has resulted in a candidate completely unsuitable for the role, a lack of motivation within the force, and people’s conviction in the Police in general.

I strive to wish to help any such organisations, to illustrate what they are doing to improve, should they wish to, but if it’s fluff they seek, they’re in the wrong place. Our services, our schools and charities are suffering from the incompetence of an uncaring government, we continue the fight for the everyman. That is not political sway, that’s common sense.

We will be reporting the facts of the Crammer debate as opinion pieces here, if you disagree that’s no issue, we won’t hold it against you, for it’s a close one to call. Much less certain councillors have decided their way or the highway. Okay, whatever hidden agendas lie there, but if you convince others to take matters into their own hands, resulting in children being harassed and verbally abused simply for feeding ducks, what have we become, blindly taking the word of someone with a popular Facebook page?!! Well, more’s the pity for them when I call them out on it.

On a happier note, sixth most popular article announced; George Ezra coming to Trowbridge, in what must’ve been the highlight of many young faces in our area. The response was overwhelming, and special thanks goes to Roger of Sound Knowledge, Marlborough and Kieran Moore of Sheer Music for making that happen. Bringing a top act like this to our area, without the need of an extortionate price, or ticket stub of festival proportions, allowing children and teenagers to catch a glimpse of live music by an inspiring popular act like Ezra was nothing short of miraculous, and I had a great time too!!

Something which doesn’t bother me as much as it seems to for a majority, the news DOCA have reset the date of Devizes carnival to the traditional date to the 2nd September was our 7th most popular article. MantonFest revealing their 2022 line-up came 8th, and what a brilliant festival it was, tickets for this year’s are on sale now, though I’ve procrastinated on a preview for the line-up, save inclusion on our aforementioned “Big Ones” article. Something we’re sure to knock up as soon as, because 2023’s line-up sounds equally as great.

From a proposal raised at a Devizes Town Council meeting by national organisers, the idea of a Devizes Cheese & Chilli Festival proved popular, being our 9th most popular article of 2022. Though, did this ever actually happen?! I certainly don’t recall hearing any more about it. Fact is though, Devizes already has our regular Devizes Food & Drink Festival, and that is well-established and as popular as ever. Dates for this year are to be confirmed, cheese and chilli I’m sure will be included, all you must do is support it.

The 10th most popular article of 2022 was concerned with Wax Palace, who held an officially licensed “rave festival” near Erlestoke. Much to the preconceptions of locals concerned, we spoke to organiser Harry, the man who ingeniously got a rave approved by Wiltshire Council, but when chatting to him it became clear how he managed it.

After this the sheer mountain of content we published continued, the day-to-day reviews of nights down our favourite venues, the concerns of public interest, and some silliness to boot! Though I must say, our cheeky, satirical pieces I’ve laid off from recently; must try harder!

Always popular, though not as previous years, like the very notion a McDonald’s would come to Devizes, was our essential April Fools joke. Our 11th most popular article this year, when I suggested Devizes Market Place will be pedestrianised; oh, the very thought of environmental progression angered gammons from afar, but seriously struck a chord with campaigners like Sustainable Devizes, and when you think about it, might yet be an environmentally sensible solution.

Yet, last year I struggled with an April Fools joke, while previous years were founded long before the date, I’m pleased to whisper to those brave enough to have read this far, I’ve already got a killer for this year, and it came to me immediately after All Fools Day 2022. On this though, no one seemed to have noticed the service road on my diagram was deliberately shaped like a small penis; a gag failed, maybe because clearly, none of you own a small penis!

But what of the importance of stats and popularity against our own personal enjoyment of attending events and giving our tuppence on them? Speaking to Andy about what we should or shouldn’t attend, I stressed, as we’re far from professional here, our focus should be on enjoying ourselves rather than seeing ourselves as pro-journalists, having to cover events we might not enjoy. Our objective therefore is surely to enjoy ourselves foremost; so, mine is a pint of scrumpy when you see me, cheers! Excuse the wobbly photos, we should view this as enjoyable or it’s not worth doing.

Taxing Andy’s superior mind for his most memorable events of 2022, off the top of his head, and in no particular order, he suggested: when Tankus The Henge played Devizes Arts Festival, and the Darius Brubeck Quartet too. Longcroft’s Lachy Doley gig in December, and Jazz Sabbath in November. Long Street Blues Club also features understandably high in his hitlist, noting April’s Carl Palmer, Skinny Molly, and March’s Soft Machine gigs. For me, both the Birdmen and the Errol Linton Band were my most memorable nights at Long Street, up skanking with the town councillor! Our gratitude to Ian and Liz for perhaps the most interesting and diverse programme at Long Street, ever!

As for Devizes Arts Festival, Andy became part of the furniture there, not missing a gig. I, on the other hand, skived, apologise profusely, and regret it too. Although, to catch Baila La Cumbia, or simply to have cumbia in Devizes was something I couldn’t miss, and must be one of my favourite gigs of 2022. That said, on my venturing out of Devizes note, I was welcomed over to Calne for their Arts Festival, to see one my new favourite things after fondly reviewing their debut album, and that is Concrete Prairie, who I’m glad to say, come to the Southgate on Saturday 25th March, do not miss it.

On our dependable Southgate, there’s too much to type about, again proving itself for another year to be the stalwart in providing regular live music, and simply for being such a fantastic watering hole. Andy notes the first Sunday of the month residences of Jon Amor, and I cannot possibly argue against this, reviewed them too, and even Ian Diddams stepped in to write his take on it.

I mean, right, bringing Beaux Gris Gris to the jam, who also played at Long Street is nothing short of awesome. Andy also gave honourable mentions of Southgate gigs to the Sarah C Ryan Band, Eddie Martin, and Jack Grace. Ben and Victoria noted the Cracked Machine gig at The Gate, whereas for me, SGO, again, Eddie Martin, but also 12 Bars Later, The Worried Men and Barrelhouse, all provided my most memorable evenings at this wonderful tavern.

Though despite working his little socks off at the Stealth bar, Andy was also quick to mention the Full-Tone Festival, which goes without saying. Such a marvellous annual event on our calendar, we had a fantastic time Full-Tone, thank you. Think classical festival, I’ll give you, but with Kirsty Clinch breezing the sunny Sunday vibes with her brand of pop-folk, or James Threlfall up there on the wheels of steel, how can we possibly now marginalise this? It’s incorporating everything, aside their love of classical, to the point the only part of the word classical we need to sum it up with is the beginning part; class.

Image: Gail Foster
Image: Simon Folkard

Time for tiny niggle, then, for Full-Tone comes at a price, a price you’ll see where your money goes should you attend, but with this in mind, the most fantastic event in Devizes must remain as the free-for-all DOCA Street Festival. This year I took a taster in volunteering to help, and consequently saw how much hard work goes into putting this on. All this said, I still partied, cider in one hand, clearing the bins in the other! And must say, throughout the wealth of talent present, the circus acts, and musical activities, which are too many to mention here, Mr Tea and the Minions rocked my world, and Loz’s farewell gift to Devizes, the Ceres display by Bassline Circus, was nothing short of the most breath-taking, inspiring, and apt thing I’ve EVER seen happen in Devizes.

Image Simon Folkard

But Devizes has seen the most amazing year for entertainment events in general, post lockdown, we are celebrating big stylee! Just think, I’ve written all this without even mentioning CAMRA’s Devizes Beer and Cider Festival yet, and that was phenomenal this year. With Ben and Vicky taking on the music task, they did a spectator job, Dr Zebo’s, I give you, Vince Bell giving it “you ain’t ever leaving,” and why would we? With Triple JD’s Hendrix-fashioned brilliance, followed by a reggae jam with Knati P and Nick; wowzers! Yes, it was so good I did fall into the flowerbed; thanks to my rescuers!

And while Wadworth gave us a free mini-fest, supporting local acts like Ben Borrill and The Roughcuts, Ruzz Guitar and the gang rocked Saddleback, which after a plethora of acts from Derby, turned into a full-scale dance event for an apt charitable cause. And The Crown at Bishop’s Cannings pulled out all the stops, giving us the inaugural CrownFest, something so utterly spectacular, I shit you not, Freddie Mercury mingled with the crowd!

Outside our area, I did MantonFest, which was a beauty, and later witnessed a Noddy-a-like yell “it’s Christmassss” at Marlborough College, while trips to Trowbridge Town Hall blessed me with meeting Gecko, and The Scribes, and wow, if Professor Elemental didn’t host a fantastic night with Boom Boom Racoon and The Real Cheesemakers. Nights I’ll never forget.

To bring hip hop to Trowvegas is one thing, to do it in Devizes is another, and though I sadly missed James Threlfall’s BBC Introducing night at the Muck and Dunder, I tip my straw hat to the rum bar, not just for presenting diversity to Devizes’ music events, but doing it in such style it bought the house down. I am, of course referring to the incredible Scribes visiting us in November, wow, that was a pina colada level of cool!

As far back as February, People Like Us played a packed Three Crowns in Devizes, affirming the pub’s reputation as a firm player on our live music scene. It’s always a great night, universally welcoming. Thinking back to The Roughcut Rebels playing a blinder one summery August, to the point, I’m basing my birthday down there on 4th March. Free to all, just turn up, we’ve hopefully some acoustic music in the afternoon followed by Talk in Code and the Ruzz Guitar Trio.

There’s just so much great, great stuff which happened last year, apologies if I missed mentioning your favourite bit, the article is going to epic proportions now and I need to put a cork in it. I just get so excited noting all these great happenings, it gives me great pleasure to be the happy chappy who helps to inform you about them.

I mean, look, I’ve not even mentioned our fabulous Wharf Theatre yet, who I’m delighted to really touch base with this year, and be invited to dress rehearsals, so we can get our views out on the performances prior to you delving into your purse for. Andy, Ian, and myself have given you the lowdown on TITCO’s The Dinner Party, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Hedda Gabler, Lovesong, but my favourite most was when Georgina Claridge played a Dorothy-type character in a most thoughtful, homemade children’s play by Helen Langford, called The World Under the Wood. We love the Wharf!

We had a feast at Soupchick, helped save Furlong Close, we told you about Swindon Paint Fest, we said about Midlife Krisis raving at the Vic in a milk float, we went to the Art Heist in Chippenham, we released a second volume of our 4 Julia’s House compilation albums, which you still NEED to buy, we even went down the “Bin” for UB40 tribute Johnny2Bad, but on bad, we cannot sing the praises of everyone, for that’s simply not realistic. The naughty list is open to invitation!

It was a shame to have to report how popular local Facebook group, Devizes Issues, administered by Tory town councillor Iain Wallis has seen it fit to block and ban Devizine for absolutely no given reason, as it has done with many individuals and even a local Covid support group. Nothing to do with a failed, laughable attempt to set up their own what’s on guide, (which only includes town council organised events,) no, of course not! It seems to enjoy regular culls of anyone who holds an alternative opinion to those of the admin’s, despite inviting members to participate in political debate on both local and national scales. So be it, we’re not looking back… the GB News of Devizes!!

We haven’t banned anyone from our social media pages, you can still enjoy the apolitical Devizine whatever side of the fence you sit on. We are an entertainment events and what’s on guide, ergo, there’s no need to include our personal political views, so we don’t. Why some think we should or shouldn’t do are shit stirrers from both sides, and we don’t play ball with shit stirrers. If you think different that’s your own issue, seek a doctor’s advice, not mine!

What a shame, that had to be said, but I feel it did. I’m not going out like that! For the most part Devizine continues to be the Time Out of Wiltshire, and I’m proud of this, and I’m eternally grateful to everyone who supports it. So, here’s to 2023, hoping it will be as good as last year, hoping we’ll get to cover more of it, be as comprehensive as possible, to not rise to witch hunts against us, and be the go-to website for the free-thinking local.

I urge you to tell us your story, inform us of your events, give us the scoops to cover, tell us about your talented family member, tell us about a niggly issue in need of exposure. Yeah, you can rant on Facebook or Twitter, but you won’t get the same level of attention, we are here to shake up the area, we are here to bring you the news on how great-a-place this is. If this means we’re the black sheep because we refuse to comply, so be it.

Devizine for 2023, I say, though I would, wouldn’t I?! We want to host some events too, btw, we want to raise some funds for charities, and we want to have a good time doing it! Do not get in our way of this simple ethos, with your pathetic and frankly perverse urge to kiss arse!

More Wildfowl Die as Situation on the Crammer is Debated

NOTE: This article gives no advise on what to do for the best, honestly, I don’t know what to make of all this, or what side to sit on, as a second swan died on the Crammer in Devizes yesterday, after two Canada geese did prior, only in that the two debating sides are of the same motivation, and I’m assured they only wish to do what is best for the birds.

The Crammer Watch page announced the RSPCA attended the Crammer today, Sunday, and said, “in the absence of a positive test for bird flu there is no reason to withdraw feeding safely.” In this it is my understanding, though face it, no one arguing any of this are experts, no matter how much some think they are, as the Crammer has no natural food source, not feeding the birds there will either see them move on, thus spreading any potential flu elsewhere (or will it disperse it, I simply don’t know), or stay on the Crammer and die in the freezing conditions. My only condolence in this is the recent higher temperatures. Still, the wildfowl there are under-nourished and this effects their ability to survive in these extreme conditions.

Crammer Watch reasons with heartfelt plea, “why did Crammer Watch carry on feeding wildfowl on the Crammer? We monitor these birds daily, saw no classic symptoms of bird flu but expected deaths of weakened birds from the extreme cold. When individual large birds were found dead, one each day, but none of the smaller species – we contacted the official Agency for advice on two separate occasions. We continue to speak daily to wildlife professionals. In the absence of identifiable symptoms or a positive test we continued feeding safely following the safety measures. Crammer Watch has always promoted feeding only what birds eat straight away – one reason why our few volunteers visit more than once a day in winter. We are only attempting to keep our lovely Crammer birds alive.”

It is contradicting advise from Devizes Town Council, who state not to feed the birds at all. At times I consider Crammer Watch running on heartstrings, but as of the current situation we are unaware if the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs are even engaging in tests, let alone when we can expect confirmation. Putting the importance of confirmation to Devizes Town Councillor Chris Greenwood yesterday, who has confirmed the birds are dying because of bird flu, writing on Devizes News Facebook group; “Bird Flu has been confirmed in Devizes, with several birds having been reported with the virus,” I consider this greatly misleading, as to-date he later confessed there is no such apparent confirmation.

Despite the DEFRA website not reporting any bird flu outbreaks in our area, Chris contradicted himself, now saying confirmation is “irrelevant,” as the situation should be treated as if there is bird flu on the Crammer, according to guidelines. He stated, “the three cases of death are being treated as infected, under guidance from government and wildlife agencies. Losing three birds within such a short period of time, can only be regarded as potential for grave concern about the health of the Town’s birdlife. Until we have the “All Clear” it is imperative that feeding large groups of birds and wildfowl is avoided.”

So, I asked Chris on the grounds that nowhere on the link provided (the DEFRA guidelines) suggests confirmation is irrelevant, but in fact says; These signs can indicate bird flu, but the avian influenza virus can only be confirmed through laboratory tests, if “DEFRA has done such tests, and if so, when will the results of test be announced?”

His responsewas frank: “If and when it is categorically diagnosed as bird flu, then APHA will come along, capture everything, and cull them. We are desperately trying to stop people feeding birds, which encourages them to congregate, and potentially become infected. There is no middle ground here, and attracting birds to a suspected site of infection, is effectively giving them a death sentence either way. Two more birds have been recorded as sick, which could potentially place the site in danger of a total cull. There are no facilities for hospitalisation or recovery, no fluffy blankets, or hot drinks – the birds will die! As far as the actual testing is concerned, it is highly unlikely that many birds will have post mortem examinations, due to the vast numbers being reported, and collected.” And to add to our concerns, he became quite agitated with my line of fire which was only so because of said inconsistencies, “Does this reply answer your question, or would you prefer to wait until APHA turn up with their nets and euthanasia equipment?!”

There’s unlikely to be any announcement,” Chris claimed, “the next step would be a total cull of all wildfowl, including gulls, pigeons, and any other birds in the area.” Which is bizarre considering friendly town councillor Iain Wallis, in charge of the area the Crammer is in, has been positively open about campaigning for the culling of pigeons for months, and I must wonder if this is the answer to his prayers, though he refuses to cooperate with us due to other disagreements we have had in the past; which is, to be frank, while we’re all obviously being frank here, petty bullshit.

Of course, no one really wants this to happen, and consider my thoughts unfair on the hard-working councillors, but as said, unlike a natural waterside, if the birds there rely on handouts, they will either fly off elsewhere if they can, or die anyway if no one feeds them; that’s the problem, they will die no matter what we do, then again, such is the natural circle of life, I sigh.

We raised the issue of having a natural food source for the wildfowl on the Crammer back in the spring, based on what Swan Support told us while rescuing the swans, when the issue was pollution in the Crammer caused by an overflow pipe running into it directly from the roadside. I asked Chris if he felt if it was dealt with back then we wouldn’t find ourselves in this conundrum now.

“There’s currently no real possibility of providing a natural food source in or near the Crammer, due to it potentially restricting flight paths for the swans and geese,” he continued, “it would also disrupt the aesthetics of the area, by changing the very nature of a feature of our Town.” The first point is above my sphere of knowledge on the subject, the reasons birds need organised flight paths, like air traffic control, or what?! But the latter is most concerning, yes, it might change the very nature of the unsuitable for wildfowl pond for the better, a mini wildlife reserve on our doorstep would be far better in my honest opinion than a concrete kerb into a duck shit tarn! Though this is costly, I know, accept this, and have said this too in the past. No one is expecting miracles overnight, but cards need to be thrown on the table because overnight the wildfowl are sadly dying.

It is a conundrum “that’s providing an answer of its own,” Chris suggested, because “following detailed examination and analysis of the silt and water content, by competent professionals, we will shortly be in a position to confirm that there is barely any difference between those recent results, and those taken in 2008. The drainage from the roadside, is currently providing the only method of restoring water content to an optimum level.” Poisonous matter has been dribbling into the water in the Crammer long before 2008.

The concerning conclusion here was when Chris finished, after thanking him for his time, “we are faced with a situation that affects the long-term welfare of birds, and we have been given sound advice which is being ignored by a few – having the potential for a large loss of birdlife, to the detriment of the very things that the vast majority of us are trying to protect. I find it inconceivable that those few people insist on quibbling over semantics, when faced with the real possibility of a mass cull.”

If quibbling means “the action of raising objections about a trivial matter,” this is terrible wording I’d ask him to take back, for those asking the questions are needing to know, because they’re equally as concerned, and the deaths of animals is far from trivial. Still, we must take these ideas as red, coming from the top, and no matter the dire circumstances and how our hearts drive us, accept that feeding the birds is damaging to the situation, if it is so.

The jury is out, I’m sitting on the fence here and cannot advise what to do for the best, other than follow the advice from the council, and hope and pray for the bird’s welfare. Though I also remain in the dark about how anyone can officially claim bird flu has been confirmed when clearly it hasn’t, and this gives me understandable reason for concern. Dammit, where’s Chris Packham when we need him?!

Devizine Christmas Podcast!

I’ve only gone and done another podcast, and I apologise. But it is in keeping with the season…..

Please note: this podcast contains adult themes and language, and is NOT for children.

Here we are then, bar humbug, my second monthly podcast goes all Christmassy…. sort of, as I discuss shopping, Christmas meal deals, the hype, and the true meaning of Christmas, the big day itself, and have myself a teary-eyed temper tantrum!

Gathering local Christmas songs, moaning about them grumpily, and having a seasonal ska mix at the end. With songs from Tickle Your Fancy, The Lost Trades, Timid Deer, Danni W, Illingworth, Tom Harris, Eddie Mole, and Knati P, and our ska mix from Baked-A-La-Ska, Sir Jay & The Skatanauts and The Copacetics. Have a merry Christmas one all all!

Thanks to everyone who sent me a song, even if you didn’t expect it to be on such an appalling podcast as this!!

Tally-Ho for Boxing Day; Avon Vale Hunt Ride Again Admist Protests

Here we go again, Lacock’s Boxing Day incongruous pageant of corruption and barbarism plans to go ahead this year, despite protests, as The Avon Vale Hunt will gather in showy and shameless glory.….

Safe in the knowledge the single patrolling WPC, Laura Hughes was a member of the hunt, and it was suggested did little to remain impartial, last year’s Boxing Day fiasco turned nasty, with violent clashes between hunt supporters and protesters. The protesters intend to be in attendance again, for peaceful intent as always, but hoping for safety in numbers.

While you’d like to think Wiltshire Police have learned a lesson, and this year’s event will be more efficiently manned, no charges or disciplinary was deemed necessary for the officer in question, despite publicly stating “we do accept a potential conflict of interests should have been declared,” and claiming they were unaware of her association with the hunt. Well, they’re aware now, only time will tell.

We also hope Wiltshire PCC Phillip Wilkinson’s recent crackdown on rural crime strategies, which has seen recent arrests for hare coursing, will extend to hunting, but he has shown little respect for hunt protesters in the past, apparently calling anti-hunt individuals, “balaclava wearing thugs.” In similar logic as Nelson Mandela was a deemed terrorist, no doubt.

With Conservative MP James Gray accused of being in attendance last year, in support of the hunt, sonething he later denied although photographed there, it would seem there’s a clear aborehence of the Hunting Act within many powers that be, resulting in these clashes, which sadly takes costly lawsuits to justifiably resolve. Something avoidable with proactive policing, me thinks; or is that a tad too bleeding obvious?!

In April, three hunt supporters were convicted after pleading guilty to using “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to cause unlawful violence.” In September though, the anti-hunt individuals were acquitted. Judge Dickens said, “ultimately, the evidence is pretty thin, wafer thin…While there is just about a case to answer, the evidence is wafer thin and it won’t get any better, and for those reasons I won’t be able to be sure they were not acting in self-defence.”

What is becoming clearer through this, is the wheels of the ‘trail hunting’ smokescreen are coming off, as the populous accept it’s a charade, and leaving hunters frustrated, and aggressive. I can understand this, they’ve taken their toys away, and in the name of tradition it would seem a shame, if the activity wasn’t a completely unnecessary bloodthirsty and barbaric activity which has been democratically deemed unwanted and unlawful in today’s society.

It now falls on town and parish councils, landowners and pub landlords to accept the majority’s appeal on this matter, and outright ban all hunting meets and activities on their land, regardless of these petty bogus claims of lawfulness, until such a time they can prove no acts of animal welfare have been breached. Which, and let’s be frank, they can’t, ergo they react in force of vengeance. For if they could, there would be no valid reason to behave with this thuggish mentality.

So, I cannot advise you attend, for your own safety, but the Boxing Day meet will start at 10am in Lacock, but doing so at your own risk will show support for the rising campaign against this, and, as I said, it is the responsibility of Wiltshire Police to ensure the event runs more smoothly this time. Here’s to a peaceful protest, then, and also to those risking themselves to protect our wildlife, not just on Boxing Day, but throughout the year.

Unemployment is a Choice, Says Wiltshire PCC Phillip Wilkinson

You’ve got to love social media for its provision into the ethics of those in positions of power. It’s beggar’s belief why no-one in the White House office monitered Trump’s flutters on Twitter, let alone attempted to stop him.

Similarly, while this thread on the Facebook page of Wiltshire Police Crime Comissioner, Phillip Wilkinson, begun on the rightful topic of tackling knife crime, it quickly became a little frosted window into the psyche and ethos of our PCC, who, to a response suggesting rising crime rates and employment satisfaction are related, stated “people need to work to earn a wage which over 5 million have decided not to do.”

With a tendency to say what he sees on his official Facebook page, Phillip Wilkinson might fair well on TV’s Catchphrase, but in a position of power such as PCC, is this really a responsible reply to a simple notion? That’s not to suggest I believe everyone currently out of work is striving to regain employment, and will be the first to agree there’s a debatable number bucking the system (like many politicians evidently are too, only far worse), but if current unemployment numbers sit at 5.3 million, just where did Wilko pull the statistic that 96% of them made a premeditated choice to be out of work?

One has to ponder if this is an extremely bad choice of wording on his part, or if he really believes the vast majority of unemployed choose to be unemployed, for the latter option sounding most probable is, quite honestly, a grossly misinformed, shameful and thoroughly irresponsible attitude.

I find myself wondering if he has the foggiest notion just how frustrating and demoralising being out of work is, for the majority out of work, if he’s stopped to contemplate how damaging his comment is, and if, admist his pomposity, he really gives a hoot.

Fact is, a massive majority out of work are not so because of a concious decision not to, rather cannot work due to mental or physical illness, redundancy or being laid off, or social situations such as single parents without skills or experience to obtain a salary able to cover childcare costs. Anyone with any basic understanding of how real life works already knows this, you’d have thought?!

There’s even a great number of them unable to gain employment after being mentally or physically injured serving in the forces, which he so proudly parades his own record in; whatever happened to the “nemo resideo” ethos of solidarity in the armed forces?

But more concerning is it’s a fact surely garnished with bittersweet hypocrisy that the very political party Phillip Wilkinson aligns to are responsible for such poor conditions and economic decline rendering the situation far worse than it need be. Shut the front door in the face of shallowness!

Someone draw a map of logic for the chap, and manoeuvre some tanks of reason across it in a manner he might comprehend; dole, job seeker’s allowance, tax credits, whatever the latest name a government office human resources team spent serveral conferences deciding to call it, is a safety net, because no one’s job is 100% safe. Anyone can find themselves out of work, from their factory closing to their business in negative equity, and everyone who worked paid for that safety net, it is our money, we put in to build it.

Still, it’s the negative stereotyping and arrogant attitudes of odious individuals like this which projects the concept one should feel honoured for the ability to take any of this back, one should feel ashamed to have to sign on, and this turns the coggs of a vicious circle in the demoralising the very being of unemployment.

Far from me lobbing a random opinion for the sake of mocking a tory, I’ve felt it myself, been there. I’m speaking from experience and with an open heart. What the Wiltshire PCC expresses here is openly and unashamedly prejudice against the unwell, the sick and disabled, not least the poor or homeless, and coming from a man responsible for our policing, it’s also throughly concerning.

To Mr Wilkinson I ask if he realises people retain their morals when not working, their emotions too, and doesn’t abuse his position to highlight his wonky and, frankly, disgusting opinions.

Hillworth and Coate Housing Developments Rejected

Word on the grapevine is both controversial housing developments, one west of Hillworth Road, and the other off Coate Road in Devizes have been refused permission, Hillworth from five votes to three with one abstention at this morning’s Wiltshire Council Strategic Planning Committee meeting.….

The Hillworth site proposed the odd number of fifty-nine new houses, allowing only for the limit of 30% of affordable homes, meaning 18 of the 59, 11 affordable renting, and 7 shared ownership. But the plans faced criticism from both residents and Devizes Guardians, with residents protesting against it on October 30th.

The second far more ambitious proposal, a maximum of two-hundred houses, with again limited affordable housing, 36 rented, and 24 shared ownership, over near Coate was rejected soon after the Hillworth announcement, even with persuasive technique promising shops, because, you know, we haven’t got enough retail space in Devizes awaiting someone to occupy them.

Organiser of the Hillworth protest, Steve Cole told the Gazette, “this development is purely speculative, and its only aim is to make money from one of the town’s most valuable wildlife habitats. We don’t need speculation; we need preservation and protection to ensure our community and the wildlife can continue to enjoy this area for years to come.”

Yet this quote from the same article really takes the biscuit for a walk to cloud biscuitland, and dunks it in the tea of fibs lake. The developers added “the existing highway network would satisfactorily accommodate the additional traffic arising from the proposed development without resulting in any severe impacts.” Earth to planet developer, who blatantly has never attempted to turn out of Hillworth Road, much less drive anywhere in Devizes during peak hours! Must’ve graduated from the Boris Johnson school of honesty.

Such wildly inaccurate assessments against a market town already in dying need of improvement to infrastructure makes me suspicious of the whole shebang, don’t know about you? Yeah, new homes need to be built, but around towns with bypasses like Calne, not towns without the capacity for a bypass, like Devizes. Take the already bustling tight rat traps at your own peril. And besides, is anyone in a position to be buying a home right now, anyway? Putting their’s on the market and gathering some cardboard boxes more like. We need a much higher percentage of affordable rented homes, not just the minimum to satisfy the regulatory.

Devizes Guardians have been against both proposals, town Councillor Jonathan Hunter told me he believes “the current infrastructure in Devizes, including services like dentistry, GP surgeries, schools and local transportation provision is not adequate for an ever increasing population. Our current road infrastructure is certainly not able to cope”

Apologies if this newsflash is hardly breaking, and you’ve read opinions about it already plastered over your favoured local Facebook groups, but trekking back from Swindon earlier, I hit Devizes bang-on 5pm; shock-horror, I’m wagering you’ll never guess what happened next?!

A 35 minute journey magically tranforms into an hour and a quater, fighting the town congestion like Immortan Joe, proving Jonathan’s point I think; could’ve got the better half to jump out at the Market Place for a takeaway, and it’d be cooked, served and eaten by the time I pass the Brewery roundabout!

While I’m rapping on a curry tangent, always thinking about my tucker, Jonathan sees the wider issue, and continues, “this is not a nimby issue, society needs more homes and especially ones that families, single parents, single people or low income families can afford and enjoy. There should be much better provision of low cost quality rental properties too.”

“However new developments need to be well thought out and located where the infrastructure can more than just cope meaning the local road network isn’t gridlocked as a result of mismatched locations or people aren’t waiting weeks to see a GP.”

From planning experts to local residents – they have all listed the many factors that make these two developments a very poor fit for Devizes and believe that these developments are not suitable.”

Good news all round today, then, common sense prevails in the end, prospective moneybags hold off until the next unjustifiable housing proposal rears its head, me? I got a Chinese takeaway in the end! Yeah, was nice, thanks for asking.

Fox Hunting Suppoter Ploughs into Sab with Car

Just a quick one from me this morning, as I’m at a total loss for words. A video has emerged on Facebook from the Herefordshire Hunt Saboteurs of a host and hunt supporter on the Ladywood Estate, home of the Cottesmore Hunt, running over a sab at high speed. The Sab organisation claim it was deliberate, I personally cannot see how you can possibly deny it anything less.

Another example of the outrageous behaviour of hunt supporters in an ongoing national series of violent backlashes against groups only protecting wildlife in accordance of the law. Though I know, this is a little outside our area, it is the like we’ve seen at Lacock last Boxing Day, but so off the scale, it needs coverage, to highlight the extreme lengths hunt supporters are willing to go to; it is nothing short of attempted murder.

Aside the obvious that this aggressor should be bought to justice via the compelling evidence, it should stand as a testament to what the sabs have to endure, whether it is verbal abuse and harassment on a daily basis, or bouts of violence. Even if it were true, that the smokescreen of trail hunting are carried out legally, this should be used as a reason to outright ban the whole filthy charade, before someone is killed.

Our thoughts and hearts go out to victim and hope she makes a speedy recovery.

Wiltshire Against the Badger Cull Expresses Outrage as Farmer Buried an Active Badger Sett

Amidst the number of other suspicious, much less futilely brutal activities, in the pursuit of rural blood sports, we’re currently knee-deep in the badger cull, set to run until 2025 at least, and Government’s dodgy bTB eradication policy plans makes hard reading, but who, locally, bothers with licences anyway? Just lob some peanuts, and fire away….

Allow me, doubtful a counterargument will come my way being they usually don’t warrant communication other than hate-mail or vindictive social media comments, an opinion piece on a particular recent incident highlighted by non-profit organisation, Wiltshire Against the Badger Cull; now, let’s dig those claws in, shall we?

You got to laugh, if not cry, when supporters excuse their actions with the argument campaigners know nothing of “country ways.” I beg to differ, I’m sure most live locally too, in rural areas. More likely they know nothing in comprehending just why trigger-happy landowners cannot find humane methods of dealing with so-called pests, which, incidentally, are plentiful. And in that, feel the need to apply a variety of pathetic and wretched smokescreens to justify their thirst for blood. But, you know, I don’t like to mince my words.

So infuriated to hear of this one, and the police’s apparent lack of action towards it, according to the organisation I’ve no reasonable grounds to doubt. I pondered a title of Wiltshire’s Killing Fields, but thought twice, it may be offensive to victims of the genocide in Cambodia. After all, MPs far more intelligent than me, declared animals are not sentient life forms, didn’t they? Though a withdrawal bill to transfer the EU protocol on animal sentience into UK law was narrowly defeated, the jury is out on what the vote meant in practice. Me? I saw a dead cat lying in the road recently, and another cat clearly crying at its side. Make of that what you will, but consider your pet dog, their affection for you is indisputable.  

Anyway, the story goes something like this…. are you sitting awkwardly and about to retch? Then I’ll begin, but warn, some areas of reality here might be distressing.

Monks Farm near Gastard is the setting for our fairy-tale, one dark night when the Wiltshire Against the Badger Cull patrol entered a field there, to cross a footpath close to a badger’s sett. All of a sudden, a shot was heard, the crusaders knew they were too late.

The patrol raced towards the sett, as cull shooters the campaigners called “cowardly,” fled the scene. Myself, I cannot be so judgemental and refuse to name-call, but being they reported they’d “managed to grab the body, and drag it 100m pouring with blood to their vehicle,” through an act where the farmer was “determined to wipe out this sett in his crop field,” even I, non-prude, confessed occasional wasp-killer must acknowledge, it all seems a little Bad Boys to me. The farmer is named in their Facebook post, I like to think he sees himself as Will Smith in some popcorn-munching overdramatic Hollywood trash; “keep my woke do-gooders’ names out of your fucking jokes!”

Wiltshire Against the Badger Cull have been monitoring the sett ever since, and regularly record activity, badgers, as well as his attempts to wipe them out. They watched the surviving badgers playing nearby in his fields often, using their thermal or night-vision cameras right up to Autumn 2021. I’m assuming the field was fallow, being the campaigners state, “with nothing in the field to “protect” (landowners smokescreen excuse to destroy wildlife on their land), we had hoped they would be safe for the winter and in peace to birth their cubs, which occurs between January and March, with cubs remaining underground until April or May.” 

But upon their return in February, and to their horror, the entire field had been deep ploughed ready for planting potatoes. They claimed, “the setts were completely wiped out and nothing of them survived. Undoubtedly the sett was active at the time, as we witnessed on our cameras, even having taken a still photo of them in the field in the October.”

They reported the matter to rural crime team, who discovered the farmer, obviously angry at the badgers for daring to build a home in a corner of his field, and angry at them for having the gall to try to lawfully protect them, had applied to Natural England for permission to interfere with the sett, “to protect crops.” Poppycock is great word to insert at this conjunction, I feel; one can only apply to cull badgers to prevent the spread of Bovine TB in cattle, which opens another pandora’s box I’m sure we’re aware of. There’s little evidence to show this is anyway effective from Bovine TB in cattle, badgers rarely go near cattle, and likely the spread of the virus is from cattle-to-cattle because of bad farming practises.

But this contradiction of the purpose of the cull is besides the point here. Badgers are protected species in the UK, so if they already have an established sett, there is nothing you can do. There are laws in place to protect badgers from coming to harm. According to UK law, you cannot dig for a badger, mistreat a badger, allow or provoke a dog to enter a badger sett, disturb or block access to a badger sett, nor intentionally take, injure or kill a badger; so there it is. Wiltshire Against the Badger Cull claim “the truth is they just want them off their land, because it’s ingrained in them that they can do as they please on their land.”

I find myself wondering just how much damage to acres of crop can one badger sett possibly do? I mean, really, are they likely to invite their badger friends to an illegal rave on your land, are they football hooligan badgers prospectively out to cause trouble? “Come on you black and whites!”

This was a breach of the licence, clearly, as Wiltshire Against the Badger Cull explain, “the licence does not allow him to destroy an active sett, nor cause suffering to a protected animal. In this case the undoubted suffocation of badgers and their cubs as they slept during daylight whilst he ploughed. The former 11+ healthy active entrances which we originally surveyed some years ago, have never to this date reappeared.”

Badgers are an endangered species, uncontrolled destruction of them will wipe them out for good, that’s why I’m relaying these claims, and not to upset those in the agricultural industry. There are methods to protect crops, better fences lying further below the surface than badgers can burrow, use natural repellents, or motion sensor floodlights.  

Every fairy-tale needs a happy ending, and the group said, “a couple of months ago, we were delighted to find a new active entrance not far away from the former sett, and finding what is clearly a survivor from the wiped-out clan, we captured some beautiful video, proving the sett to be active.  We once again asked the rural crime team to investigate, and also contacted Natural England as did the police.”

But the twist comes thus, “we are saddened to report that the case has been closed with no action taken, and once again the criminal slaughter of our wildlife goes unpunished. This is why so many people take the matter into their own hands, because we cannot rely on the law, or even those paid to uphold it.”

Wiltshire Against the Badger Cull ask for help in the field, or if not, consider making a donation to their fuel and equipment fund, or just buy them a coffee. They conclude, “we note no licences for this year’s cull have yet been published, but we know shooters are in fields still killing our badgers every night through the last six weeks, and although this year’s cull is beginning to draw to a close, we are still out filming and watching our stripy friends and will continue to do so until this whole murderous chapter is finally brought to an end.”

Myself, as a nocturnal worker, badgers pass me by, we keep ourselves to ourselves to be honest, they can have a little growl at me from time-to-time, maybe I get too close to their sett, and that’s understandable. But in all, I have a little banter at the way they waddle, and generally call them out for their chubby bottoms when they run off! Still, the last thing I want is to see my work buddies shot, and possibly become extinct.

Therefore, hats off to Wiltshire Against the Badger Cull for the work they do, and though I don’t understand quite why police have failed to prosecute, likely the lack of evidence excuse, if they don’t go investigating these things, as ol’ PCC Wilko Cobra Kai seems prominent in stamping out hare coursing but vauge on fox hunting, they never will have a case, now will they? Much of this opinion piece is based upon the words of the campaign group, I’ll give you this much, but consider Wiltshire Police, in their special measures, hardly appear to be proactive in abiding to the law against blood sports. I’ll leave you with this recent photo, to remind you, and for you to make your own mind up, but ask, if Swindon and Oxford football hooligans clashed, would you send an active supporter of either team to police it?!

Bishop’s Cannings Crown Forced to Cancel Events

You’d be forgiven for assuming The Crown at Bishop’s Cannings desire a gothic exodus of drugged and depraved heathens sacrificing virgins into a hellfire den of iniquity on a daily basis, if you believe the pitches of complaints by a sole villager. When, in reality, all that’s really happening is the occasional small gathering with some music, lasting only until a respectable hour.

If the pitchforks at dawn is beggar’s belief, Wiltshire Council’s undemocratic decision to restrict the licence to a mere five events a year is the stuff of inequitable despotism, and they should try applying Mr Spock logic that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Far from me to suggest this one objector has some kind of association with Wiltshire Councillors, but the thought is.

And it is a need, for many, living in an area hardly Ayia Napa. Without a hub of a community what’s left, rows of houses of slouching mindless hermits masticating on a Lidl bag of Cheesy Puffs, relying on ITV broadcasting a new series of Love Island?

Seriously, does this look anything like a den of iniquity to you?!

The endgame is the village loses a charity fundraising pub, and employer, likely in favour for a Facebook page, for that’s the reality. Tempting me to hold my position in the debate in the key of Harry Enfield’s Angry Frank character, “is that what you want, cos that’s what’ll happen?!” There are enough villages around here where their local pub is badly managed, offers little in the way of community spirit and help, ergo Bishop’s Cannings should be grateful for what the landlords Gary, Jazzy and Chi have achieved. But the key point here is, most of the villagers are.

On Facebook, folk have gathered in support of the Crown upon announcing the cancelation of their next live music date, set for October 4th, leaving villagers disheartened, charities they were fundraising for and the musicians out of pocket, all thanks to one person who couldn’t compromise on a single night’s full beauty sleep; a real player in the spirit of community. I’m not suggesting they were a pioneering acid house DJ in the heady warehouse rave era, but ponder they must’ve, at some point in their life, held the basic desire to have fun, surely?!

The musicians who’ve played there have also rallied in support of the Crown, Liam Woolford on Plan of Action said, “this is an outstanding pub with some of the best landlords we have the pleasure to deal with, Jazzy has said it nail on the head, with hard times ahead for pubs etc we need to support these businesses otherwise they won’t be around much longer, such a shame one individual thinks they can ruin that.”

This guy, Illingworth, entertaining the crowds, clearly off his nut on Tizer!

Tunnel Rat Studios, who organised the music at CrownFest this summer said, “Jazzy Gary and Che have turned the Crown around to be the best music venue in Wiltshire. All the hard work putting on shows over last summer raising much needed funds for local and national charities.”

And Derrick Jepson, frontman of Paradox got virtually primeval with his thoughts, “you have been exemplary in your reserve and calm when there are those around you who seem hellbent on closing you down for trying your level best to make something fantastic that serves the musicians of this world who only want to perform their art form and express themselves in a manner that dates back since the dawn of time.”

Look at these lot, why don’t you? Clearly Satanists!

When this summer saw CrownFest I’d be so bold as to suggest this was the local event of the year, at least in my top five, hospitable and well-organised, with a variety of volume-controlled music hardly constituting a thrash metal anarchist’s ball. Though it might not be Glastonbury, the weight of whinging is near equal, a wrangle Michael Eavis regularly solved by going ahead regardless and paying the fine, an option not viable when hosting the kind of small affair, the proposed gigs at The Crown hope to do.

All this in a weekend where Wiltshire Police shut down an illegal rave at the nearby village of Great Cheverall, evoking my questioning; if you cannot be allowed to organise a music event through official channels, what choices are to be made by people who simply want entertainment? If the authorities don’t wish for a repeat of the nineties, maybe they should consider a compromise.

In a word it is a shame, a crying shame that one tiny and equally petty groupuscule can kick up such a fuss about such a storm in a teacup. The best thing The Crown can do is, when the occasion allows, hold the best party, like, ever!


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Devizine 5th Birthday!

Right then you lot, Devizine is five years old today, or at least it was when I begun this monumental mission of reminiscing on how, why and what the hell I was thinking when I started it in the first place. Question is, do you want the short story, or the long, drawn-out one?

Oh well, that’s just tough luck then, isn’t it?! You can’t stop me in full shit stream, because, everyone’s good at something, mine is endlessly waffling on about crap, so that’s what I’m going to do. In the words of the unforgettable Lesley Gore, it’s my party I can waffle on about crap if I want to, or something like that.

In consolation, I’ve sprinkled this piece with a lot of lovely photos, well, it’s been five years and we’ve a lot to show off about. And what a wonderful ride it’s been; dancing, dodging, meeting so many wonderful and talented people, rattling a few cages, and I hope it will continue to be so, if I do say so myself.

Best, if any, place to start is childhood aspirations. Note, I never had any dreams of writing, let alone journalism. English at school was a pet hate, like every other subject, especially spelling, I was atrochous…… atreechois…. really bad at it.

Though I have to humour the media industry, I’d grow to detest Fleet Street wank-stains. To be a cartoonist was the thing for me, the like of Charles Schultz or Jim Davis favourably, they did, after all, make the most money. But I’d write for magazines, zines and FINs I submitted cartoon strips for in support, because they needed writers…. bloody slave drivers.

As time moved on and I created my own comic, reviewing works of other creative types within it was an aid to networking, and, most importantly, getting freebies. I also suffered with a lack of writers but plenty of artists, so I’d script for them, and gradually the writing took prominence over the artwork.

Self-publishing is a labour of love, and any excuse for procrastination was on the cards. Unpredictably stumbling upon family life was the perfect excuse for giving it up; there were nappies which needed changing before cross-hatching a nudy caricature of Cameron Diaz, and besides, I’d grown out of the psychedelic nature of the zine; fatherhood can change a lad. Word of warning, whippersnappers.

But once bitten, the creative cannot help but create, that’s why they call them creatives, see? I picked self-publishing up again when eBooks came around, as it was easy, and not so time consuming. As an author I spaffed out more books than Boris Johnson did lies, happy as a method of improving my writing skills; though it’s still a learning cuve…. curth… bendy thing. And okay, that’s the same joke, get used to it.

Devizine came about simply for looking at other avenues in which to offload my wobbly words to the unfortunate world. I pitched to satirical, (or “fake news,” to gammons of which satire is above their understanding) websites, but was only sporadically successful, even lesser-so my attempt to create my own satirical website, called Poop Scoop. Until I noticed a new local news-site called Index;Wiltshire. There, finally through this insane waffling lies the kingpin to Devizine.

The editor wrote to me, “you’re the most powerful person in Devizes,” as my weekly rant column amassed a thousandfold more hits than MP James Gray’s did. Dishonest flattery works; I marched on, slagging off everything that was shit about Devizes as I could possibly think of, for humorous effect, you understand? Some didn’t, and Monday morning hate-mail filled my inbox, which was amusing to start with but being grew tedious.

Aside common complaints from any medium-sized market town, the joke wore thin due to decreasing ammo. Devizes is actually a great place to live; could be better, like freewheeling Frome, or like Tijuana, the murder capital of the world, it could be worse. The need to keep the ideas flowing caused me to post a gathering material question on a local Facebook group. It was Jemma Brown who raised the most important point: why didn’t I focus on the positives about living in Devizes? Of course, she was bang on the money, but it simply wouldn’t do, for that’s not the nature of satire, that’s not the idea of “No Surprises Living in Devizes.”

At the time, I’d just crawled out from my hermit hole and seen for myself talent lurking in the mists of this Tory haven. Richie Triangle played The Black Swan, spurring me to meet Tamsin Quin, who was crowdfunding for a debut album. Jemma, naturally was aiming my attention to her productions, as the TITCO theatre company. I wrote of my findings in an ever-increasingly heavily edited version of my rant column, claiming I was spinning the negatives around, though it was lagging in ethos, because to know me is to know I’m happy-go-lucky, and I couldn’t keep the pretence of being some kind of left-wing Alf Garnett any longer.

The column suddenly became more about what events were forthcoming in Devizes, rather then ranting about how rubbish everything was. I think at one point I joked, “what do I look like, some kind of event guide now?!” Not realising I’d predicted the outcome.

Frustrated the column was so heavily edited, now a new editor took over, I took to publishing them on a personal blog, but blogs need love and attention, in other words shameless self-promotion. Devizine though, as I came to knock up a new blog with the idea of doing precisely what we do now, promotes itself, as featured creative types share the fact they’ve been featured, and generally, people seemed to flock to this gap in the market. The first ever article was an unedited version of the that week’s column, the second was about Tamsin’s Crowdfunder.

I never understood, and probably never will, why aside perpetual splashes on national news stories as an aid to fund submissions to scoop sites, regional newspapers here couldn’t at least mention, or give credit to all the talented people here too. There’s room in a newspaper for both surely? But their downfall is our triumph. Devizine is now the go-to to what to do, the rest of it is me just mucking about!

This, coupled with our policy of brute honesty, will always be why Devizine has become something of a (slightly) respectable local institution. Though it may not have started out this way, because a few who were supposed to be responsible for what’s on sections of local media outlets fell short of lifting a finger, and thought it better to sought to trash Devizine’s pending reputation. Funny world, I thought Devizine would be welcomed, and I opened, and still do, my arms to the chances to work with them regardless; c’est la vie.

I believe it’s levelled now. Hardly anyone posts on local Facebook groups, “any live music going on tonight?” And if they do, rather than being directed to Devizine by yours truly, someone else beats me to the recommendation. Which brings me nicely on to the ten zillion quintillion thank you accreditations.

For aside my waffling, the bulk of this article is nothing more than a tedious clip show, which has taken longer to load up than I planned, probably be the sixth birthday by the time I publish it! Maybe we’ll refer to it as a “photo gallery in dial-up connection speed!”

Cider in one hand trying applause without spillages, my photography skills are best avoided whenever possible. Though I do believe I’m getting better, nothing illustrates a review better than a professional or semi-pro photographer. We’ve used and abused so many, and other than Nick Padmore, who makes me sit on his knee, most of them allow us to use their wonderful snaps for free! Which is handy, cos Devizine has not made millionaires out of us, quite yet.

So, a massive thank you, which would deserve a huge hug, if I wasn’t to wonder if that was a zoom lens in their pockets, rather than them being pleased to see me, and also an apology, there’s so many photos here it’d be a minefield wracking my miniscule mind recalling who took what, so excuse me, I hope that you don’t mind, I’ve not been able to credit them individually. Take it as red, though, the out of focus ones are likely from me. The rest I owe to so many photographers, some mentioned here and now: Gail Foster, Nick Padmore, Simon Folkard, Helen PolarPix, Ruth Wordly, Matthew Hennessy, Abbie Asadi, and Chris Dunn of Inscope Design. Please give them a virtual applause and go check out their work via their websites and social media.

But everyone needs a thank you, don’t they? So many good people have come to my rescue, submitted reviews, scoops and content, to make Devizine both comprehensive, and how I see it; a community-led, erm, thingy. I’d appreciate any help I can get, I’m totally overloaded here, and apologise to things I’ve missed, but Mrs Miggins has to get her pint of semi, also. You know you run a what’s on guide when Facebook pings the notification, “you have 55 events this weekend!”

Sporadically then writers have contributed, and I have Ian Diddams, Jemma Brown, TD Rose, Jenny Dalton, Phil Bradley, and Helen Robertson to sincerely thank too. But none more than our esteemed man in the field, the brilliant Andy Fawthrop, for his constant bombardment of most excellent reviews have been a godsend, to the point we need a statue of the good fellow here, front and centre of the lobby in the prestigious Devizine Towers. Seriously, if I cannot get hold of any marble, though, it might have to be made of paper cups.

All I have to say now is thanks everyone, everyone who has supported us, everyone I missed on the roll-call, contributed in some way, and that’s a long list, folk like the ones who’ve helped us out with technical bobs and bits; Ida McConnell, and musically, Dean Czerwionka, Mike Barham, Cath, Gouldy and the DayBreakers, Clifton Powell and Nick Newman, Daydream Runaways and The Roughcut Rebels.

Or those who’ve given their time to play for us at one of our fundraising gigs, the above mentioned, plus, Chole Jordan, Will Foulstone, Tamsin Quin, Phil Cooper, Jamie R Hawkins, George Wilding, Bryony Cox, Lottie Jenkins, Mirko Pangrazzi, Bran Kerdhynen, Finley Trusler and Sam Bishop.

And I think I’ve waffled enough; sorry if I missed anyone, but they know who they are. Bloody love ’em too, I do; group hug.

Being the Wiltshire Air Ambulance bear, touring homemade breweries, the Palace cinema, spending a day with Clifton Powell with Arts Together, going behind the scenes with DOCA, a day on tour with Talk in Code, press screening of Follow the Crows, riding an E-bike with Sustainable Devizes, meeting Neville Staple backstage, plus all the event invites, and so much more my brain is aching, there’s been so many fond memories, but I think, if you had to ask me to pick just one, it’d have to be the time I did my milk round in my Spiderman onesie and met with Carmela Chillery-Watson and her lovely family. A day I’ll never forget.

It leaves me now, to sign off, you must be tired looking at all those people having fun, but I did pre-warn you about my waffling! Enjoy the remaining pictures in our picture show, maybe you’ve spotted yourself in there, five or less years younger. If so, I want you to know, you’re still that gorgeous, gorgeous for showing us your support and partying with us; here’s to another five years, gorgeous!!

Trivia: What is the most popular article on Devizine to-date?

A: The April Fools Day joke 2021, when I announced, McDonalds was coming to Devizes. I believe that one broke the internet! Sad, but true.

Trivia: When did you first force Andy Fawthrop against his will and better judgement, to write reviews?

A: I believe it was October 2018, and the first review was Joe Hicks at the Three Crowns; I maybe wrong, I often am.

Trivia: Who was that country looking gent who used mascot on Devizine?

A: I don’t know, stop hassling me with inane questions like a fanboy at a Star Trek convention!

Big Events Like Confetti Battle are Great for Devizes, But Where Can the Disabled Park?

I believe I speak for most of us, when I say we all love that Devizes punches above its weight when it comes to hosting some grand universal events, such as yesterday’s historic, if bizarre local ritual, Confetti Battle. DOCA and others, such as the Devizes Food & Drink Festival, use the Market Place to be exactly what it was intended for, free social gatherings. They take a lot of organising, and are open to everyone to enjoy, or are they?

When the parking places in Market Place are occupied by an event and carparking is closed there, there is no provision or replacement for the absence of disabled bays, and a lack of them causes some disabled people to be unable to attend.

I spoke to Claire, who is disabled and lives in Devizes. Claire would’ve liked to attend the Confetti Battle this year, “I would like to attend Christmas events too,” she said, “but there is no option for disabled people to park.”

“I do appreciate how hard people work to make our lovely town fun,” Claire expressed, “but I had to miss last night because there was nowhere close enough to park.”

I must confess, in promoting our events I hadn’t stopped to consider this, and would like to be clear, this is, I suspect, an oversight on Devizes Town Council’s part. Therefore, I’m not out to point fingers and play the blame game, (ha, not this time!) rather to suggest some provision is introduced so when disabled bays are closed for events, suitable temporary bays can be created specifically for disabled badge-holders. “Even if one extra disabled person could enjoy the events,” Claire stated, “this will make a difference to someone’s life, rather waiting to see it all in Facebook, which is what I do.”

This is unfortunate and unfair, certainly unintentional, but I’m confident with some awareness spreading it’s easily resolved. I’d be interested to hear any town councillor’s views on this, their feedback would be helpful; hey, no, their feedback is essential! I will call out ignorance on the issue if not, (they know that by now!)

No large-scale event goes ahead without meeting requirements for the disabled, simple as. I’d suggest perhaps arranging a booking-in system so a specific number of parking bays can be reserved, this way everyone with a blue badge who wants to attend can, and needless spaces wouldn’t be used as disabled bays. That would take one DTC admin and one spreadsheet five minutes to produce.

“These events should be for all,” Claire asked me, “wouldn’t you agree?” That doesn’t need answering, Claire, not from me I’m afraid, I’m with you fully, and I’m here to pitch the same question to the powers that be. Perhaps there is some provision already in place that we don’t know of, but I’m happy to publish any such answer too.

I’m aware Wiltshire Council is introducing paying for disabled parking in their carparks, but that is a different topic for another time, don’t even get me started on that. We’re here today to assume something as simple as allowing space for disabled folk to accessibly park to be able to enjoy the events as we do, be resolved. Whether or not they have to pay for that space is the responsibility of Wiltshire Council, who, to be honest, I’m at my tethers end with anyway.

“I had to cancel plans this weekend in town,” Claire continued, “because I couldn’t park close enough. Not even close enough to get to the pharmacy, so I went without my pain relief.” We await your response with thanks, Devizes Town Council.

Click to buy Vol 2 of our compilation album; all proceeds go to Julia’s House


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