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!


Trending….

Swan Dies in Road Accident at The Crammer

A swan from the Crammer hit on the road between Morrison’s roundabout and the traffic lights this morning, has died…. In territorial disputes, the wildfowl…

Song of the Week: Sienna Wileman

Okay, I admit it, our Song of the Day feature was too optimistic, and failing every day to post a tune meant it fell by…

On The Wayside with Viduals

Akin to Ghostbuster’s nemesis Slimer when he appears over the hotdog stand, I was squatting a spacious windowsill at Wiltshire Music Centre with an Evie’s…

Old Wharf Café to Become Meeting Room

The Kennet & Avon Trust today revealed plans to convert the old café on Devizes Wharf, Couch Lane, into a meeting facility; how exciting! It…

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.

https://fb.watch/goKC1eWnhd/

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!


Trending….

Delicate, Like A Psychedelicat

What is a psychedelicat, a tin of magic mushroom flavoured Felix?! His picture on the tin certainly displays some suspiciously dilated pupils, but this exaggeration…

The Bradford Roots Music Festival Returns

I know, it’s hardly festival weather, but this one is all inside! Inside the glorious Wiltshire Music Centre in Bradford-on-Avon that is, on Saturday 21st…

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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Full-Tone Festival Announce 2023 Line-up

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Ten Top Tips for Driving in Devizes

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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…

Shut the Front Door and Catch a Bus Month with Wiltshire Council!

The lunacy, much less the audacity to suggest it, of Wiltshire Concillors, and their inability to accept reality, is highlighted in September by the singlemost insane campaign to-date; Catch a Bus Month.

A double-decker bus can take up to 75 cars off the road and switching just one journey in 25 to the bus would save two million tonnes of CO2 emissions,” the article on their website begins, because everyone in Wiltshire has been waiting for them to tell them this.

Assuming it’s us neglecting environmental concerns as the reason we don’t take the bus, as opposed to the utterly appalling and unaffordable service available to us, in their infinite wisdom they’ve invented “Catch the Bus Month,” where “Wiltshire Council is taking part to encourage more people to change their travel habits by taking the bus and celebrate it as a sustainable, inclusive and accessible form of transport.” Seriously promoting this hairbrained scheme on social media seemingly without the foggiest notion of the backlash of criticism anyone with a working brain cell would’ve forseen.

A flourish of negative responses errupted, some stating how their village bus service was cut, others complaining it’s simply not affordable or accessible. Others telling stories of being thrown off buses before their stop to make way for other passengers, being rudely addressed by drivers and their issues not being dealt with by the bus companies.

Personally I’ve found bus drivers of extremities, they’re either exceptionally happy and willing to please, or grumpy as sin; there is no middle-ground. One once sped off before I could get my daughter seated, and her pushchair collapsed in time, a toddler at the time, resulting in her hitting her head. My complaint fell on deaf ears. Now they’re at senior school the bus fee would be over a thousand pounds each, annually; a journey I can drive for far less. And that is the unfortunate reality.

Everyone knows if you’re relying on the local bus service you’re best taking a tent, and for shift workers the bus simply wouldn’t get them to work on time, even if they were reliable to turn up. Forgo reliability for a second and consider the timetable, imagine a night bus, but keep your disillusionment, most stop running by 5pm at the latest; everybody, tea and time for bed.

The Department or Transport’s (DfT) National Bus Strategy requires local authorities to form enhanced legal partnerships with bus operator,” it says, “and the council is working on a Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) to achieve a vision for a better bus network.”

Cllr Laura Mayes, Deputy Leader of Wiltshire Council, said: “We’re delighted to be working in partnership with the bus companies with a combined aim of increasing usage and improving the service across Wiltshire.”

Here’s a thought, and it is just a thought, then, not that I’m the expert, but how about Wiltshire Council actually improve the service first, then have this “celebratory” Catch the Bus Month when it’s done and it’s actually reasonable and affordable to catch the damn things?! Unless, of course, you’re collecting laughing emojis on your social media posts… I know I am, but that’s intentional.

Catch the bus month, oh, my years. It’s Wiltshire Council who need to take a bus journey, to another county, and see how much better they’re doing!

Waxin’ the Palace; Chatting to the Man Who Convinced Wiltshire Council to Have a Rave!

All the local mainstream are on it like a fly on a turd, and the negativity of keyboard warriors is flowing fast and furious. Who am I to steer off the bandwagon, yet you know we’ll handle the news Wax Palace obtained permission for a “rave festival” to happen near Erlestoke with a slightly different angle……

An angle much less based upon the fact your esteemed editor had a youth some indeterminable time yonder, where he gyrated in muddy fields with eyes like saucers, masticating the shit out of a Wrigley’s Doublemint, and more on the notion, I hope, that while we have a great music scene in these backwaters, there is little to tickle our younger resident’s tastebuds. This then, is great news, surely?

But is raving still a progressive thing, or does it dabble largely in retrospection? And what exactly will this Wax Palace provide in the way of entertainment? Harry, one of the organisers, a man who unbelievably convinced Wiltshire Council, conservative at the best of times, to grant them permission to hold what’s best described, to avoid media confusion, as a “rave festival;” can he sell ice to Eskimos, or what?! In a short chat with him, I suspected he could.

He giggled at the question, “we’d do our best, that’s for sure! It’s been a bit of a task, but we got it through, and they seemed very with it, during the hearing.” Throughout Harry projected himself as level-headed, reliably assured of the achievement of Kaleidoscope, the name of the event.

The first myth from the Gazette’s report to dispel is that these guys are bundling down from Yorkshire to ruin our peaceful community, when Harry explained the company is only registered there, and he lives close to Erlestoke himself. “The group who first run it were students in Leeds,” he explained, “but we’re very much Wiltshire born and bred.” Herewith the reason for bringing it to Devizes.

Promoting this today is neither here nor there, they’ve a solid base and early bird tickets have already sold out for the estimated 800 strong event. “This is our third edition of the festival,” he said with me interrupting about how to define it, “it is very much a festival, but we hope it has the apogee of a rave, though licenced, as the articles have focused on. It started as one night event, next time it was two, now we’ve got the full weekend, and our largest line-up yet.”

To spoil my queries of disambiguation, musically, Kaleidoscope will offer the whole range of rave subgenres, from house and disco to techno to drum & bass; “you name it will be there!” But this only got me pondering the setup, if it would, as legendary pay-raves like Universe’s Tribal Gatherings once attempted, to host each subgenre in a different tent. Because much as this appeased the then evolution of the diversity, it tended to clash into one immense noise when central! “We don’t have genre-split tents,” Harry clarified, “they’re split more-so by their set design. We’ve got three stages, one indoors, another outdoor, in which we’re shaping out an old school bus for the DJ’s, which should be really fun.”

Harry jested jealously at me rapping about raves of yore like Universe, “we missed that golden era, but we very much like to be inspired by the ethos.” This is great, though I’m trying to avoid an Uncle Albert moment where I preach on memory lane, but it does bring to question how niche is the market, does Harry think rave is either coming back, or it never really lost its appeal?

“I think it is coming back, commercially, perhaps it did lose a bit of what it was meant to be. In the last few years, I’ve heard people referring to their club nights as raves. I think the term rave now covers something broader and less political than it did, originally.” Harry hopes it does come back, encouraged to bring back those original values.

Though I’d suggest, rave was apolitical, it wasn’t until government interjected with the Justice Bill post-Castlemorton which both forced it underground and for ravers to think politically. Originally it was solely a celebration of life, and to party, and that really was our only objective. Which neatly covers another misconception; we raved everywhere and anywhere, if it meant standing in a muddy field, or if it meant going clubbing, location was irrelevant, so long as we could blow off steam and dance!

And herein lies my pitch at why I think this is a fantastic addition to our local events, because if you’re the first to complain about this, I sure hope you’re not the same one whinging about acts of anti-social behaviour in youth culture. If Wax Palace can provide a safe haven for young to go and enjoy themselves, it’s surely a positive.

Wiltshire Council were keen to label this a festival rather than a rave, as rave connotes to some to be an illegal, uncontrolled gathering. I say, this is the name of the genre, and doesn’t relate to illegal gatherings at all. After the Justice Bill the scene became anarchistic in frustration to the restrictions, but it never began like this. There was a sense of one big family, a tribal movement, and it was all about smiles. This, I feel is an important point to reduce this common misconception, and something Harry was also keen to express. “We’ve worked really hard to build a real sense of community,” he explained.

Today, of course, the original ravers have come of age, and organisations like Raver Tots have marketed retrospection in the form of taking your kids to a rave, but throughout our chat I got the feeling the ethos of Wax Palace was much more progressive, about introducing “rave; the next generation,” and that’s good to hear. “We like the idea through the way we organise events and our approach will introduce the idea of raving to a market who are only just coming to an age where they’re able to go to clubs. So, it’s nice to think we have the chance in shaping that impression they have. For a lot of people, this could be their first music festival, and for it to be local and described as a rave would be really exciting; exactly what I’d wish I’d have had in my village when I was 18.”

Tickets are here, Kaleidoscope takes place from 2nd-5th September.

Avoid negativity of misconceptions bought about by a bygone era, well organised and safe pay raves have happened since day dot, and providing youth with entertainment is paramount to building bridges; Wax Place, I salute you!


Trending….

Swan Dies on the Crammer, Devizes

Saddened to hear of the death of a swan on the Crammer today, via Devizes Police who were called to its attention last night….The Crammer…

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…

Black Uhuru UK Tour Cancelled; The Plight of International Touring Post-Brexit

They can get no time to press,
Because of all the distress that the society leads. What I’m a longing for is some happiness,”

Black Uhuru “Happiness.”

Frome’s Cheese & Grain today annouced the booking of The Counterfeit Beatles in November, which is all fine and dandy, but yesterday it sadly had to notify ticket holders for next month’s appearance of legendary reggae band Black Uhuru that the show had been cancelled.

In fact, after numerous postponements, the entite UK leg of the tour has been axed, due to a backlog in visas. The Cheese & Grain expressed their sorrow, explaining they’ve “been assured that the band and their representatives have tried everything in their power to make this work, but unfortunately there is now no option but to cancel this show.”

Kinda reminded me of my favourite upcoming ska band, Girls Go Ska, from Mexico, proudly posting their European tour dates on Facebook, without a single date on England’s green and pleasent land. I commented, “I wish you could come to England.” And though the South America ska scene developed separately from the retrospective niche of Two-Tone here, the girls are fully aware of our nation’s importance within the roots of international ska, and replied with sad emoji, “so do we.”

Now the tour is reality, all I get is fantastic looking video clips from Germany, of crowds enjoying the pinnacle of contemporary South American ska, when I’ve no hope in hell of ever seeing them live.

Not to moan too much about the divided issue, and as much as I enjoy a Beatles tribute, I have to ponder, is this what Brexit Britain has become? Barricaded in from outside influence, regurgitating archived moments of British achievements in the form of tribute acts, much less, extremely unlikely for upcoming UK artists to export their wares in the same method the flagwaving-idolised achievers of yore once did?

Ironic in considering if we had Brexit in the sixties, we wouldn’t have had The Beatles. Derry and the Seniors were doing well in Hamburg for booking agent, Allan Williams, whilst the young skiffle band on his books, who had recently rebranded from The Quarrymen were paltry amateurs, lost amidst the flooded market of the Merseybeat circuit. So Williams sent the young hopefuls on a similar path, to Hamburg, and what came out the other end was the greatest band ever; every gammon wave your union jack now.

Everything about the Beatles was honed and shaped in Germany, from their performance skills, their association with Brian Epstein, and even the famed hair-do. The ability for UK musicians to tour other countries, particularly in Europe was paramount in shaping pop music, and equally, from Buddy Holly to Kraftwerk, the influence of international acts touring the UK.

I have to tip my hat to Frome’s Cheese and Grain, how such an average sized Somerset town can attract the standard of act usually reserved for cities. On Beatles, the venue has built the kind of reputation whereby Paul McCartney will pitstop for an intimate gig on his way to Glastonbury. But for want of an influx of international artists seems reserved for megastars on the Springsteen level, of which you need a stadium-sized venue, and you’d need to morgage your home for a ticket.

Longleat hosted a Diana Ross concert, and a number of other household names this summer, in the kind of conservative thinktank arrangement which took an average three hundred notes off each punter then told them they couldn’t bring in a folding chair. As if anyone who had amassed that kind of wealth to wantingly throw three hundred quid at one gig, and who would be eager to see a heronie of 55 years past would be of a suitable age to stand like a teenager for four hours; you can bet your bottom dollar a few deckchair hire conpanies rubbed their hands together that night. The young get tetchy when being herded like cattle, I can only imagine the disappointment from their elders.

Live music is big business, I get that, the hospitality industry was bought to it’s knees through lockdown, I get that too, but relaying the deficit onto the punter will not bring a stream of genuine fans, it will only bring an inequality culture of those who can afford to will, those who can’t have to suck it up.

But it’s not just about way to go to whack up the price of a Womad ticket, but more about the missed opportunities for amateur and semi-professional artists to export their talent further afield. What’s the point of extending a reputation internationally online, if you cannot follow it up by appearing live without an unaffordable bill, a financial advisor and a year’s worth of paperwork to fill in just to take a tambourine on a continental flight?

And what do we get in return for this supposed will of the people? An oil rig dragged into Weston-super-Mud and decorated with taxpayer’s much needed banknotes to resemble a pathetic play on words, “See Monster.” Yes, I do see a monster, as I swig from my crown embossed pint margo, pointlessly waving my blue pissport; it’s stranded us on this island with a bunch of self-serving, ignorant bastards.

Best we can do right now, is support the little man, to show our love and support to the burgeoning DIY ethos promoting local live music. This is where fervour remains, in the enthusiasm of imending talent, and pray for a better day when the red tape of
welcoming international acts will be cut.


Citizen’s Advice’s Plea for Funding From Local Councils as Wiltshire Council Slash Their Budget

Do you take Citizen’s Advice for granted? For many it’s a lifeline, the first port of call for any issues rising from legal, debt, consumer, and housing, yet Wiltshire Council has slashed £100k off its funding, about one-third of their budget. Makes you wonder why they ever dropped their slogan, “where everybody matters,” really, doesn’t it?!

The independent organisation has been rallying local town and parish councils for support. A spokesman from Citizen’s Advice was heard at the Devizes Town Council Committee Meeting on Tuesday 16th August, to plea for financial help.

The trade publication Third Sector states around 60% of Citizens Advice funding comes from government sources, but Citron contends there’s tension between Citizens Advice and the government, because while the charity relies on government funding to survive, it’s most effective as a high-profile critic of government policy. As if the government has any policies worthy of criticism! But cuts like these forces the bureau to seek much more funding from other sources. Locally, they’re approaching major towns and parishes for support.

As well as rising prices, Devizes Town Council explained the spokesperson was keen to point out this was “unfortunate in timing as they anticipated a rash of applications for help when the next raise in energy caps occurs, as well as coping with the other challenges of inflation.”

Councillor Ian Hopkins rightfully criticised the savagery of the cut and the timing, suggesting the town council “were not the authority to whom they should be appealing but, in suggestion a more rational approach, suggested an application in the autumn, prior to budget setting.”

Our local branch is situated in New Park Street, yet serves a wider community across villages and other local towns, so, Councillor Burton’s enquiry if funds would be spent on supporting Devizes people only could not be reassured by the spokesperson. She did however confirm they had received some responses offering various sums.

Councillor Hunter asked whether any other of their services could be redirected back to Wiltshire Council or other agencies. The representative confirmed that Age UK has been supportive but CAB remains the first port of call during which they hope to empower clients to follow up themselves, leaving it unlikely that Wiltshire Council would be impacted.

There was a surge amidst Devizes Town Council of favouring grants which would be kept for local use, but the councillor Hopkins suggested that £1,500 should be given, pending a more formal application for better funds, a proposal that was carried unanimously.

So, well done DTC, you’re officially in my good books (were you ever not, you need ask?!) No, really, I’ve applied some Lynx Africa and I’m coming in for a group hug, asap! Citizens Advise is a sustenance for so many, providing free advice and help is essential even more in this day and age, yet it’s a sad reality of a failing government when Citizen’s Advise needs its own advice on how to fund itself.


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Carmela To Help in Local Care Home

Over three years since my most memorable “Spider-Milk-Man” run in aid of Carmela’s Stand Up to Muscular Dystrophy, it’s always nice to catch up with…

Sustainable Devizes Christmas Toy & Book Swap

Grab some free Christmas gifts, clear some space at home, and reduce waste… “try swapping not shopping this Christmas,” says Sustainable Devizes, as they host…

Alex Roberts at The Barge, Honeystreet 

by Ben Romain and Victoria Stanley We ventured out to the Barge to catch Alex Roberts after first seeing him at The Southgate, Devizes on…

Illingworth Celebrate Their 100th Gig!

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Weird, I Find Myself Agreeing With Danny Kruger Over Station Road Carpark Closure!

It’s quite alright, you’ve not entered the Upside Down from Stranger Things, or another theoretical parallel universe. Station Road carpark in Devizes will be closed overnight to cars, effective immediately. MP for Devizes Danny Kruger pushed for this Wiltshire Council order, and in hindsight, I happen to agree with them and wished it had come proir to the terrible incident which spurred the notion….

Wiltshire Council has today (11th August) obtained a Closure Order for the carpark to help prevent anti-social behaviour in the area. It will mean the car park is closed between 6pm and 6am every day for a period of three months, for anyone other than season ticket holders, buses, lorries and coaches.

Cllr Richard Clewer, Leader of Wiltshire Council, said “This will be enforceable by the police, who will be regularly patrolling the area to ensure that people are abiding by the Closure Order.” And yes, that’s the same police force recently put into special measures, red in all areas. One cannot help but think about the word “proactive” here, and perhaps regular monitoring of the carpark should’ve been a priority before said terrible incident.

Sadly, if it has to be, and does what they suggest it will do, “help prevent anti-social behaviour” in the area, then I agree. Yet I cannot help but feel they’re putting a plaster on a severed limb, and this will only push activities elsewhere. Proactive policing, engaging with youth, providing facilities they want, and building trust with them is a better way to deal with the situation than bricking them in.

And no one shrugs at the hypocrisy, where an MP takes a stand on youth crime yet backed a criminal Prime Minister. So you may’ve raked back a few popularity points with the constituency after using your political position to voice your relgious beliefs on abortion, Danny K, but to be honest it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans, really, now does it?!


You’ve Only Got Until Monday to Sound Your Opinion on the Devizes School Land Sell-off

You’ve only got until Monday to sound your opinion on the Devizes School land sell-off, the consultation ends Monday 15th August. Go give your verbal muscle, here, for all it’s worth.

I’m not well-travelled but I did once go to Barbados, where people live in humble breezeblock shacks yet their schools are immaculate. How this system works on such a small island with its eggs only in tourism and sugarcane baskets is beyond me, when we surrive in a so-called developed nation in which our state education system is flawed and failing.

Education is a service, should be funded by taxation, not a flipping business, yet sad reality is so, Federations like White Horse are running them as if they were a business, and I can only point the finger at the Conservative ethos of Parliament, as the buck clearly stops there. The fact a school needs to sell land to repair the building is a shining example, surely?

So if you’re wondering why I haven’t used Devizine to cast a rant-like opinion on the selling of Devizes School land, it’s because, as an individual issue I’m sitting on the fence. But it’s a windswept, broken fence I’m due to fall from, because the rabbit hole is deeper than if they should, or  shouldn’t, sell off land to housing in order to carry out needed repairs of the school and its infrastructure. It goes as deep to suggest it’s part of a bigger, national disaster that we are sadly, failing our children.

Something which has frustrated me long before this niggly local issue, which as we speak is thrown around for political pointscoring on bias local social media groups, in a Boris Johnson era where nothing is sacred, and nothing is off limits. Let’s not debate, rather open new Facebook groups with hidden agendas, and delete valid opinions because they don’t match ours, while our children suffer from this uncaring and wonky shitstem.

There was even a point in all this which made me contemplate that’s my angle, to join the pathetic parade of keyboard warriors, waffling political propaganda for the sake of saving their beloved party in blind faith. But I thought, no, focus should be on those affected, the children.

By selling off the land The White Horse Federation says they hope to “release a significant amount of capital to reinvest into maintaining and modernising school infrastructure; enhancing school and community sports and performing arts facilities; and working more closely with the local community to support better physical, mental and economic well being,” and for that I cannot argue with, if I could trust the Trust as far as I could throw the Trust, to spend it wisely in favour of the children’s education. Then I’d sigh, suppose if it needs to be done, sadly, it needs to be done, and perhaps the loss of conservation is the unfortunate price to pay. It is, after all, a reality of any building project. But hey Joe, did you even know there was a conservation issue? Were residents actually consulted in the expected manner?

It’s come to our attention, once your only chance to be heard runs out on Monday, meetings will be run behind closed doors. It’s suggested there’s definite transparency in this consultation, the Trust accused of explicitly stating at a resident’s meeting they had no plans to sell, when evidently they did.

The White Horse Federation also faces accusations that appropriate organisations and councils have been ill-informed and unable to comment on the website. Residents of Pans Lane, Festival Close and Edward Rd, say they got no letters, and only residents of Nursteed Rd did. With Devizes Town Councillors also saying they’ve not been informed about the conservation issue, it seems the consoltation is not as public as it should be.

No reference has been made by The White Horse Federation to loss of conservation, though we’ve suggestions the matured woodland near the nursery on the Leisure Centre road, which they plan to flatten for cricket nets and softball is home to foxes, deer and badgers.

We sacrifice our town’s green spaces for extended carparking, disturb an established wildlife habitat, possibly for astroturf, and while considering the need for improvements to the school building to better aid the pupil’s education, are these really necessary?

I, for one, am still shaking my head, and would suggest townsfolk require to be better informed. White Horse Federation need to extend this deadline, and invite further public consultation.

Here we have a Federation-run school which reprimanded and punished pupils, by including time spent off self-isolating due to a positive Covid result on their attendance records, when they were only obeying the law. When questioned the headteacher at the time pushed the responsibility onto the Education department, and dared me to contact MP Danny Kruger with a laughing emoji, suggesting I wouldn’t get a response.

Though the last laugh was on them, as Danny knows better than to not respond to me, he only threw the butt back by suggesting the Education Department had no such ruling, I find myself forced to wash hands on the issue. Pushed from pillar to post, I can’t figure out who to believe, and I’m aghast I’m possibly having to take the word of a Tory MP over my own local school! Now, I ask you, does this sound like the type of organisation who has the best interests of the children’s education and wellbeing at heart? There’s butterflies in my stomach, that I’d rather trust Captain Birdseye, because his captain’s table doesn’t sound quite so fishy!


Chippenham MP Boasts about Appearing on Far-Rightwing TV Channel

Being politically correct, a near-naked rotund fellow with obesity issues mopped his greasy body with a sponge, being certain to cleanse all areas by slipping it through the gusset of his swimming trunks. Another moronic daredevil then raised the sponge above his tilted head, opened his mouth and rinsed the contents into his gullet, on a regular section of eighties TV show The Word, called, “I’ll do anything to be on TV.”

I was, as were many others, shocked to see Chippenham MP Michelle Donelan bragging about appearing on the renowned far-right extremist TV channel GB News this week. The dire channel, which dresses up propaganda as ‘news,’ sacked a presenter for condoning a gesture of racial equality and replaced them with Nigel Farage, known nationalist extremist knobjockey who, though might look like Sam the Eagle from the Muppet Show, is far more sinister than him. The man marched with the National Front, the offspring of Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Facists who would’ve taken control of the country if Hitler had’ve won the war, and who addressed a neo-nazi conference in Germany, of which the leader is Hitler’s great granddaughter.

https://fb.watch/eKeEdWFJ8T/

I’m sorry but it doesn’t take a genius to suss out, any media outlet which willingly gives this milkshake-wearing pissant, who would be dangerous if he wasn’t so gullible as to be fooled by the joke name ‘Hugh Janus,’ airtime can only be far-rightwing; I’m not out for you to futility attempt to change my mind on this plain and blatant fact, keyboard warriors, so don’t bother trying.

Credit where it’s due, Michelle responds well to her constituents online, and was there to big-up her wish for Thatcher-infactuated Liz Truss to win the PM race. As if I care at all which unsuitable spanner is hoisted into the toolbox, for what it’s worth, I agree with her choice, as I believe she’ll bring the Conservative Party to their knees far quicker and more effectively than Sunak; we live in hope Labour can rid themselves of their novelty nodding-dog toy and find a respectable and electable replacement in time. As let’s face it, without their worst criminal to wear a clown’s mask since Stephen King’s It at number ten, they’re nothing; if he, his goldigger and taxpayer-funded gold-crested wallpaper ever goes.

But all this is beside the point. That being, Michelle Donelan thought it would be worthy preaching to the converted on national issues, on an extremist TV channel which makes the Daily Fail look like Socialist Worker magazine, rather than address those sitting on the fence in her own constituency; you have to chortle at that much alone. And from it I can only deduce she’s either akin to our dirty sponge-drinking nutcase who will do anything to be on TV, or is a closet facist.

Should it be a case of the latter, I suggest Michelle takes a timeout from local politics to read some world history and finds me an example, from anywhere, from any time, where a far-rightwing philosophy has done anyone, any good, at all. Then returns to the drawing board, remaining faithful to the original Conservative ethos, which is alleged to be middle-of-the-road rightwing, or else feel the wrath of millions of souls who gave their lives to prevent fascism spreading across Europe, as they turn in their graves.


Rowde Parish Council Takes on The Kremlin!

What in the wonderful world of fudge cake is going on here? Aside the appalling attention to primary school grammar, have you ever read such a bizarre Facebook post from a Wiltshire parish council?! Seems like either Rowde Parish Council’s Facebook page has been highjacked by a lone Councillor eager to battle ze Ruskies, Rocky Balboa-style, or the entire council are out to lunch!

It stems from one villager, questioning why the Ukraine flag is flying from their village flagpost, when other invaded country’s flags have not been given the same honour. The opinion comes across rather wonky, I agree this much, only so much space on a flagpole, and in this era where everything sensationised hinges on this one conflict, and refugees of other nations are being shown the door to make way for Ukraine ones instead. When, of course we support the Ukraine refugees and of course we sympathise with their predicament, as we should anyone from any country which has faced such atrocities.

But, this is a tiny Wiltshire village, why has its parish council gone all Tony Blair on us, and taken on the world’s problems when it exists to deliver on local issues, and local issues only?

Would it not have surfficed to just explain to the disgrunted villager the flag is there to show support for the Ukraine refugees, as it should be, and get on with processing farmer Barleymow’s application for a new barn roof, rather than start flaffing on about international politics and picking a side in a conflict which is clearly not as cut and dry as it’s made out to be?

Suggesting the Ukraine was invaded “without provocation” is not only questionable, but is unnecessarily stating which side of the fence a supposedly impartial parish council is on the issue, when there’s no valid reason to cast assertions or get involved at all; that’s the lunacy of the shebang, without regards to the consequences.

Did Putin not threaten to act if we waged retaliation for his invasion? Admittedly he might not be sauntering down Marsh Lane,
browsing Rowde All About It Facebook page, and Russians wouldn’t attack our county anywa….hold on, just got to sneeze… ahhhh-skripallll!…sorry about that, where was I?

Ah yes, it’s a concerning bandwagon to enforce an entire village to jump on, what with a prime minister who willingly handed top secret Nato documents to ex-KGB lieutenant-colonel, Alexander Lebedev, without his security detail or Foreign Office officials, at the height of the Skripal poisoning crisis, hand his son a lifetime peerage in the House of Lords, and still deny Russian money laundering through Londongrad funded Brexit and the Conservative election campaigns despite the Pandora Papers revealling irrefutable evidence it did, because, take a breather…. none of it has anything to do with the day-to-day runnings of a Wiltshire village!

So, a poll is added to the local Facebook group in which 86% said they’re happy to keep the flag flying. All’s fair in love and democracy, I agree with the outcome, but comments flare in a witch hunt for the person who questioned it, calling them a “bully” and the poll even has the option to vote that they’re “unpleasant trouble,” of which a remarkable 1% voted for; could that be our Rocky?! Cue, Eye of the Tiger….

It’s all gone a bit pitchforks at dawn in a sleepy village, in a country of free speech, like a poor man’s reenactment of a Simpsons cartoon.

Forgive me for suggesting it’s neither here nor there for a parish council to involve themselves with international politics, but it does raise a valid point. Rather like Christians wearing a symbolic cross when it’s likely to be the worst symbol Jesus would wish to see if he returned, if I’d been lucky enough to have claimed asylum from escaping a war-torn country, I’d favour facing my new life with a clean sheet, archiving the bad memories, and wouldn’t wish to see the flag of the troubled nation I’d just come from, not in favour for honesty and respect from those around me. But that’s subjective and ill-conceived, thankfully never having to have been in that situation.

In order to fully assess whether flying the Ukraine flag is welcomed by the refugees parhaps actually asking the refugees themselves might be a solution; just a thought. Otherwise, this is isn’t Rowde at all, but Bizarro World!


Sad Day for Melksham Assembly Hall

The stalwart venue of Melksham is being viewed more like just a wart by town councillors, in a sad day which could see the closing curtain for the Assembly Hall.

Melksham News reported on the rumour I’ve been trying to hold back on, hoping the day wouldn’t come, that Melksham Assembly Hall and the Town Hall could be sold off under controversial plans being considered by Melksham Town Council.

More than once, Conservative Councillor Phil Alford contradicts himself in conversation with Melksham News, in the very same sentences!

Here he defends his case by telling the newspaper, “the Assembly Hall needs £400K for refurbishment,” but adds “we should build a new facility.” Is it just me being thick, I mean I’m no building contractor, but wouldn’t building a new facility cost more than repairing the one you’ve got?!

And does it even need this colossal cost for a refurb at all? It looks fine to me as it is, lick of paint, job done. Face it, Melksham, other than a handful of excellent local pubs, like the Pilot and Foresters supplying the town with live music, you’ve hardly any few entertainment venues as it is.

The Assembly Hall is a pillar to the community, with a brilliant programme and variety of events to suit everyone. From top class tribute acts, massive fundraising events such as the legendary Female of the Species gigs, which had to be shifted to Seend, to regular clubs such as the twenty-five year strong Rock n Roll Club drawing crowds from across the country, and even the popular male stripper nights. Perhaps it’s the latter offending Mr Alford; feeling somewhat inferior?!

Has the smokescreen got in your eyes yet? The new campus project has seen closure of the library and historic Blue Pool too; how many eggs does this Councillor want to put in the same basket, I sigh. “We now have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to do something about it,” he continues his pitch, why is it “a once-in-a-lifetime chance?” is there no chance of a backhander in the future?

He said this, He. Actually. Said. This. “Now is the time to be creative, trust residents, decide on a plan and move forward for the benefit of the town,” regardless of the simple fact, next Tuesday’s meeting to decide upon the fate of the hall has the proposal it should be held as a closed session, preventing the press and public from attending. If that’s the best method of involving public opinion then I’m the Queen of Sheba.

It’s begger’s belief how closing a venue would “benefit” a town, but the cavalry comes in the form of independent councillor Jon Hubbard, who told Melksham News, “we don’t know the details of the options yet, but the Assembly Hall is a massive asset to the town.

It’s one of the largest halls in Wiltshire, there is nothing else that can compete with it in terms of capacity and I think we would be quite mad to even contemplate getting rid of that without replacing it with an equivalent facility.

All of the plans I have seen have been talking about significantly smaller facilities and Melksham already has a wealth of smaller halls and I see no reason why the town council should invest taxpayers’ money into facilities which will compete with existing assets that the town has.”

Well said Jon, it goes in line with the original rumour circulating, that some councillors wanted the hall to be only for events which they feel benefitted the community, in which case they’re in the wrong job and should be an events coordinator rather than a councillor. The Assembly Hall is the brilliant venue hosting self-propelled events I wish we had here in Devizes. The running at a loss argument is piffle in a peroid of economic decline, they all are unfortunately. Especially when said peroid is a direct result of appalling national decisions of the political party Mr Alford himself supports.

The irony is blinding, but folk have hijacked the Facebook post to express their disappointment and point out the significance of the Assembly Hall. One said, “The Town Hall is the very fibre of this town’s history. Its location at the heart of Market Place is the embodiment of the pride we have for our town. To sell the building for private ownership is beyond conscionable.”

Another said, “The town hall is the focal point for nearly all the town events. Selling it off is 100% short sighted. People travel for miles to see melksham Xmas lights and other events, if the town hall goes we would lose those or they would move to melksham house which doesn’t have the same focus in the town.”

The post is here, you can comment, but I’d advise to take your opinion to Mr Alford himself, his email is: Phil.Alford@wiltshire.gov.uk