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


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!


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.


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.

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:

Here’s Your Festival of Brexit!

It doesn’t even look like a monster, just a monstrosity, but hey, here’s your Festival of Brexit, then. Ha, and you thought you’d be clinking crown-embossed pint margos with Nigel Farage while Jim Davison comperes a Morrissey concert and Jacob Rees-Mogg piggybacks Pritti Patel in the crowd, waving her Union Jack shirt in the air.

And so it begins, your only chance in the West Country to benefit from the £120million Festival of Brexit, which, in the name of apparently fairplay to remoaners, has been such an embarrassment to the government they were forced to rename it “Unboxed” and to their hidden horror has been delegated to “leftie” environmentalist artists; you have to laugh or you’ll cry.

Unboxed indeed, Unhinged more like, unhinged from reality. Oh, sorry I’m supposed to “get over it,” and think “positive.”  Everybody stand and stare in awe, at a rusted oil rig, a testament to what we can achieve when we lavish an artist with Great British taxpayer’s money. Don’t get me wrong, I’m an art lover, just like to keep things in perspective while my artist friends cut the crusts off their kid’s sandwiches and have that for their lunch.

Until the time they scrap our human rights, so it’s Rwanda or bust for Johnny Foreigner, I reserve my right to criticism, thanks all the same.

Rather than restore Weston Super Mare’s Tropicana to its former glory, you know, giving it actual use, maybe a sequel to Banksy’s Dismaland would’ve been more apt than employing Dutch companies to hoist in a rusty oil rig, and for just a couple of months, provided they don’t max their budget, add some trees atop and create an artificial waterfall so we can wave our blue passports at it and cheer for Great Britain’s world-leading climate change policies.

See Monster, yeah we can do that already, at the public galleries of the House of Commons. Apparently, once we’ve taken out a loan to fill our cars with petrol and driven down there, See Monster will have us discussing climate change. We’ve known about it since the late 19th century, been talking about it for sixty plus years; you’d have thought some action might be more appropriate.

Why not have taken that £120 million and invested it in companies creating sustainable alternatives? At least then we could say we tried, rather than watch the polar icecaps melt and flood over Weston Super-Mud, putting an old rig we all thought would make a difference, back out at sea. You know, just a thought. Looks great though, really; can’t wait.

Top Marks For CrownFest

Sitting by a controversially purple outside bar, contemplating my debatable definition of the term “festival,” yesterday in Bishop’s Cannings, while Freddie Mercury sauntered past and the sun toasted me another shade closer to “calypso berry” on the Dulux colour chart… this isn’t your average day in this sleepy Devizes-hugging parish, it’s the meticulously planned and aptly named “CrownFest,” at their only central village pub, The Crown.….

Because while grateful for the pub trend of sticking a man with a guitar under a gazebo and hoisting in a hotdog van, it hardly constituents a “festival.” Even the Easter musical event at The Crown received a higher-scoring mark than that, and it wasn’t labelled a festival; just a free social gathering. This time around though, attendee’s entrance fee was exhausted with a proper stage of quality sound and pyrotechnics, and the semi-permanent marquee where performers were shoved into a corner of last time, this time was filled with a whopping selection of affordable homemade pasties and sausage rolls; that’s me set in for the day!

Okay, so here’s my vague scoring system; to me “festival” must include multiple happenings; variety, if you will. If you’ve one act, or even one and a support, it’s a concert. If you’ve one food choice, it’s a beer garden barbecue, and if you’ve one barrel of flat, warm ale, well, you’re really asking for it!

I’m pleased to announce, with a great line-up, two bars plus the pub operating as usual, two barbecues, aforementioned pasties, sweeties and doughnuts stall, a kiddies fairground ride, and Devizes’ Italian Job airstream caravan, who I strongly suspect are following me around the local festival circuit(!) for an inaugural village festival, CrownFest ticked all my boxes and went way beyond expectations.

With a Queen tribute headlining, for example, a local spray-paint artist laboured the entire day, reconstructing a colossal portrait of Freddie Mercury, to be auctioned for charity. Just one of many unique elements which drove this mini-festival to punch above its weight, and a marvellous time was had by all. In a nutshell, it was a generous slice of fantastic.

On paint, a few nick-picking peevish keyboard warriors would’ve had you believe the Crown’s intentions of bringing a community together for a party was counterproductive, highly illegal and a nuisance to the tranquillity of life in Bishop’s Cannings, should you follow pitiful Facebook rants. Desperate for an angle, it backfired bizarrely, through petty complaining that the outside bar was painted purple! But if shock, horror meanderings divided a community online, there was no sign of it in the actual.

Despite the town carnival clashing, the event was moderately attended. The damning report for said pessimists is only a handful arrived from town, rather the bulk was made up of villagers, overjoyed entertainment of this calibre had parachuted into their village. Still though, to those unconvinced I’d say, I accept your concerns and respect your desire for tranquillity, but give and take in this world, and for just one night a year, a little compromise wouldn’t surely go amiss? While a significant event for a small village, noise levels were controlled and full-proof yet friendly security kept the peace; it hardly reached the intensity of living in Pilton.

The alternative is the reality of many a village pub, and excuse me if I’m wrong on this, but I also believe the Crown was suffering from the damning predicament prior to new tenants, that they fail to be a hub for villages, resulting in a dull life for its inhabitants. Providing such a service is essential for a demographic, as if house prices aren’t bad enough to drive the young away. Village pubs should take heed of the remarkable turnaround of the Crown at Bishop’s Cannings, owners employing local youths on a grander scale, building bridges between folk and providing entertainment to an otherwise archetypal sleepy community. Jazzy and Gary, you should be very proud of your achievement, and CrownFest was surely symbolic of the respect you’ve earned since taking the tavern on.

Eddie of Tunnel Rat Studios appears to have made coordinating the musical element his baby, the icing on the Crown’s cake. Though, running ahead of schedule, my bus journey ETA fell short of catching Pete Lamb’s Heartbeats, I can console myself upon the notion we’ll meet again some sunny Full-Tone day, and not forgoing, a band I’ve been meaning to tick off my must-see list, Devizes-based Paradox, were bundling equipment on stage superfast.

Paradox are entertaining, period. Kicking off with the Kinks’ You Really Got Me, and particularly adroit with the Beatles’ Day Tripper, yeah, they’re predominately covers, but their few originals came to a hilarious apex with a soon-to-be redundant satirical stab at Boris Johnson. Still, they were fun all round, and frontman, Derrick Jepson slogged it out as an amusing compere.

With George Wilding reassigned to a cruise job, and Isobel Thatcher signed off with covid, any doubt the two unfortunate cancellations would affect the schedule were abandoned when guitarist and sax backing for Thatcher surprisingly, mostly to themselves, produced a sublime set.

Then two hard rock bands, Melksham-Devizes crossover Plan of Action and Pewsey’s Humdinger contested for the best Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell cover, but also separately blessed the afternoon with back-to-back rock cover sets, that, while not entirely my cuppa, were exceptionally accomplished and certainly got the party going. While it was the heavier end of the scale which floated my boat from Plan of Action, covering Foo-Fighters yet also fantastically replicating Ready to Go, by Republica, the most appealing from Humdinger was certainly the breezy and encapsulating cover of Stereophonics’ Dakota. Both took no prisoners; drink was taking effect and CrownFest was gathering pace.

Confessions time; I neglected to tell John of Illingworth he was up for a mighty fine review regardless, until after he dropped me off home! Though despite following two heavy rock bands, this duo acoustic set with Jolyon Dixon, for me, was the kingpin in the line-up. Illingworth are so utterly skilful in driving a cover headlong into sentimental city, it’s always a pleasure. With heart and soul channelled, two guitars and a foot drum are all that’s required from Illingworth to produce breath-taking versions of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, and The Beatles Hey Jude, among others on this refined setlist; The Waterboys, Oasis, et al. Songs which could be considered cliché if anyone other than Illingworth were stamping their authority on them.

Time was nigh for the finale, Real Magic from Leicester pulled out the tribute act costume shop to replicate a marvellous homage to Queen, of which goes beyond comparison, likely because I’ve not witnessed another Queen tribute before. If doubts of how well they’d accomplish such a feat were mildly enthused with quantities of alcohol, but nevertheless were absolute perfection. Through every legendary hit they covered them with precision and finesse, it was a sight to behold, truly confirming the kind of magic CrownFest had monumentally achieved through just their first attempt. What a wonderful way to end the day, as villagers lit up the area with a true bond to be proud of. Spot on, I say.

I believe some folk need to get over the antiquated notion festivals are only for a raging mob of crusties, as trends have changed dramatically from the anarchist balls of the eighties or illegal raves of the nineties. Music festivals are today a stalwart of family entertainment, churches of popular culture and performing arts. They’re controlled, they’re mainstream, and the industries’ essentiality for them will not be put off by a whinging minority. It was great to meet Peggy-Sue of Swindon 105.5 radio, who for the past year has been producing a show wholly dedicated to local acts, and Mark Jones of Fantasy Radio, as we got along handsomely, chasing the shade in squatting his gazebo. So, if us media giants can get along, I’m sure a village community can too!

We look forward to the possibility of this being an annual fixture, word passed around CrownFest in the heat of the moment was positive it would be, meanwhile they’ll sporadically host smaller music events, and if true it’d be wise to bookmark CrownFest 2023 on your calendar.


The Only Thing I Have in Common With Danny Kruger is Not Knowing When to Keep My Big Mouth Shut!

Featured image by Gail Foster

A hard piece to draft today, reflecting a week after Devizes MP Danny Kruger tried to rewind women’s rights a hundred years by riskily casting his antiquated, and frankly, narrow-minded views on the subject of abortion, because I’m adamant not to make this an opinion piece, for my opinion matters not, being I’ve a penis.

Not that it’s particularly spectacular(!) but I do, and I, like all other men, need to accept it’s undoubtedly a choice to be made by women, and women only. If I need to explain my reasoning for that, you failed primary school level anatomy.

Image by Charlotte Howard

And if I ever reverberate chauvinist banter, jokes of parallel parking, for instance, I’d expect ladies to retort this cracker, because it’s bloody hilarious and true: “what’s the useless piece of flesh on the end of a penis called? …. a man!” In a manner satirical it’s a cold served dish of fair play, and being present at both births of my children it’s also exactly how I felt; a completely useless spare part, a spectator to some kind of circus noir.

I believe the late, great Robin Williams spoke best on the reality of being a man assuming he’s ‘sharing the childbirth experience,’ when he said “unless you’re passing a bowling ball, I don’t think so. Unless you’re trying to circumcise yourself with a chainsaw, I don’t think so. Unless you’re opening an umbrella up your ass, I don’t think so!”

Despite a mounting campaign in his constituency involving protests in both Devizes and Marlborough last weekend, petitions and Facebook groups set about calling for his resignation, he only met us halfway and abandoned his post as PPS to some department or other, which I didn’t even know about until now, dunno if you did, but it seems neither does Danny K, who used the wrong Twitter handle and dumbfounded a random bloke in the Arab world, who’s wondering why there’s such a sudden female interest in his Twitter feed.

And anyway, isn’t it just following public contentious, giving into opinion, and what’s much, much more, a convenient distraction from his outburst?

Image by Charlotte Howard

Hysteria is likely his POV, being his mum, TV celeb Dame Pru Leith’s dismay, hounded on social media although actually expressing her disagreement with him was well publicised. It was a kind of warped Some Mother’s Do Ave ‘Em rant, condemning Eton for brainwashing away any parental influence; I’m buying it.

One can only crack a giggle at the thought of Danny K face-palming like a teenager in the back of the car; “mum! Soooo embarrassing!”

Still, a tad of hysterical I shrug, at why mum needed a keyboard warrior onslaught, not really her fault after all, but there’s good reason to anger. Much less he must feel that way or he would’ve apologised and taken it back, rather than what he did do, affirm his original stance on the issue. Horary to the anonymous person who messaged an open letter from women concerned about Danny Kruger’s comments (some of whom went to the Devizes and Marlborough events on Saturday) which has now collected around over a hundred signatures.

For prosperity, the letter is as follows: “To whom it may concern,

A politically diverse gathering of deeply concerned constituents who are supposedly represented by Danny Kruger MP came together on Saturday in Devizes and Marlborough. Local women self-organised using social media and word of mouth, there has been a flood of concern, support for one another and a wish to demonstrate very clearly how we feel.

We believe people were moved to come together to challenge the statements of a man who is in a role that is meant to represent our views and that Mr Kruger’s ‘intervention in an urgent question’ – as he himself described it – on the catastrophic reversal of Roe V Wade in the US – is a cause for our concern.

He stated clearly in the House of Commons that he disagreed with his peers – who were expressing dismay at this reversal – he then continued that he believes women do not ‘have an absolute right to bodily autonomy’. We can see this has had an incredible impact in our community, and that many people felt they simply could not let this pass.

We believe he has used his platform as an MP inappropriately to extol a niche and regressive ideology, about a private matter between a woman and her healthcare providers, which is not how he should be representing his constituents and shows them little respect. In our view it should concern anyone who cares about their own or others basic human rights.

Many of us have seen his qualifying statement and have indicated we do not believe that he was speaking about maintaining a status quo in the UK, he voted last week against an amendment to allow the Government to extend abortion access in Northern Ireland, and expressed opposition to buffer zones around UK providers to protect women attending from the unwanted abuse of protesters. Given this it is difficult to accept that his statement addresses the concerns outlined above, nor does it adequately address his comments on Roe vs Wade.”

Why, oh, why, oh Danny-boy, in these times of turbulence at Westminster did you choose to offend the entire female population and a great deal of men with a sense of basic morals, in your constituency? Especially being the current trend in the topic stems from the Roe V Wade case in the USA, and isn’t even on the agenda here. Was it a guff, is he so confidence in his safe seat? Let’s rewind here a moment.

When baby-faced Danny K was parachuted in and stormed the 2019 general election, with a majority of 47%, his maiden speech called for “a return to Christian values,” remember?

Danny is a devote Evangelical, the religious group renowned for extreme views against abortion. Seems this wasn’t politically motivated at all, he was just using his political position to preach to us, to indoctrinate his religious beliefs. It’s one stage above door-to-door Jehovah’s Witnesses intent on shoving their faith down your throat when you’re trying to sort the kid’s dinner out. And what do most of us do in this frustrating predicament? We shove the door in their face; take a hint, Danny, before I burn the Abalphabetti Spaghetti to the bottom of the pan!

I sincerely hope we find ourselves loosely united now, after years of bickering, which is strange. Two factions, then, one wanting Bojo and his cabinet gone to form a better Conservative party, and, another more sensible faction who are sick to death of the whole bloody lot of them.

I give reference to the blatant oddity that when a vote of no confidence was due, for partying through a pandemic regardless of the law they themselves set, potentially spreading a killer virus further, MPs like Danny K decided to back the prime minister, but the thought of being touched up in Westminster proved too much to bear. Weird that Gove has gone but Pincher is still an MP; standards in office, the country’s interests at heart? Ha, there was me thinking post-partygate we were supposed to be “getting on with the important issues affecting the country……”

Oh fuck, I accidentally made this an opinion piece, didn’t I?! I just can’t stop myself sometimes, it’s true, the only thing I have in common with Danny Kruger is not knowing when to keep my big mouth shut!

All I know is this, yeah, I was a spare part in that maternity unit, but when the time came, and I held my daughter in my arms I was overcome with the most immense emotion of love, love for them both, incalculable to anything I’ve ever experienced before. I cannot see how any man could see it anything less, but alas, some do. I think you have to experience it to know, it’s lifechanging, but only in the correct circumstances. I have to accept circumstances for others is not the fairy-tale, and often problematic.

We don’t need to dig deeper into said problems, as we’re opening all manner of Pandora’s boxes, we just need to acknowledge, guys, there’s no way in the world any woman would take abortion on a whim, I don’t believe it’s possible for women to not take the decision seriously. But still, regardless Danny hit back rather than apologised, stating, “What I said in the Commons was that ‘in the case of abortion’ a woman’s ‘absolute right to bodily autonomy… is qualified by the fact that another body is involved.’ This is the basis of the law as it stands, which recognises that somewhere along the journey towards birth the foetus or baby acquires rights of its own.”

“The fact is that all autonomy – all liberty – is qualified. We are not absolutely free because we are not absolutely alone. ‘Absolute autonomy’ in the matter of abortion would mean no restrictions at all on the termination of healthy, viable babies up to nine months’ gestation. It is this radical position that I oppose. Studies of public opinion also show a clear majority in support of restrictions, including term limits.”

Image: Gail Foster

Not to mock this without good reason, because I’m above that, but consider he was driven to comment from the widespread criticism of the overturning of Roe vs Wade, which triggered the immediate suspension of abortion at any term in many states, not just the restrictions he now says here he’s against, and the holes in his statement begin to reveal themselves.

Did anyone claim a thirty-seven-week abortion was accepted practice? Either I must’ve slept through this bit, or it’s simply untrue. It was the SCOTUS ruling they protested against, bringing about the immediate and complete dissolution of many safe and legal abortion options, for any reason, including rape, incest, underage pregnancy, health of the foetus or mother, or just simple accident.

It’s a clever piece of wordplay, from an educated and articulate chap, trying to convince you against your right of decision. Keep up the struggle to defend it. Because it was a matter left to medical experts in the States, now criminalised, undoubtedly resulting in needless deaths as folk would take abortion into their own hands, as it was in the dark ages; a period of history this confirms our government wish us to return to.

Full-Tone Stands Alone

Full Tone Festival August Bank Holiday then, penny for your thoughts on that one……

Five irritating wannabes handpicked for their conflicting personalities vote on each other’s dinner parties while a poor man’s Harry Hill narrator insults them in a heavily edited sham of a television show. Yet, despite this perpetual cycle of formulated garbage, Come Dine with Me attracts millions of viewers. It’s the same thing every darn episode; oh, how original, they’re looking in her knicker draw, saucy!

Give me strength; familiarity is prevalent, between three to five million people slouch in front of The Chase daily, when face it, aside differing questions, it’s monotonous; eat, watch The Chase, sleep, repeat. Still, from a few branches of the grapevine, I’ve caught this tosh: “The Full Tone Festival is the same as last year.” Shut the front door!

Honest, I feel like tapping them on the head, inquiring, “hello? Anybody in?!” Even if it was the same, which I’m out to conclude it’s not, so if you agree you need not read on, but even if it was, I’d reply, “yeah? Good!” for the simple reason, last year’s was absolutely, off-the-scale fantastic, and nothing, I repeat nothing, around these parts could match it.

I sincerely hope they’re not the same substandard detractors who hypocritically whine-hole when DOCA, for good reason, change the dates or the route of carnival! I attended the astounding MantonFest last weekend, it was a similar setup as last year, because the formula works, regulars flock to it safe in the knowledge they know what they’re getting, and if it’s not broken…. Face it, most events are samey. Glastonbury might host some different acts annually, but even they have the same stages in the same fields year after year; fresh cowpats, same mud!

Bottom line is, I’m unsure if it’s possible to improve on the sound, stage and pyrotechnics from last year, unless we forward-wind technology a few decades. The acoustics on that stage were mind-blowing, and if the price-tag is another niggly issue, you could see where your dollar was offloaded. It looked like something out of The Jetsons, didn’t it?! And I hope its shape will become iconic symbolism as to what can be achieved right here in Devizes. As an inimitable annual party, it’s one of a kind around these waters, it’s our ravey-davey Last Night of the Proms! The Full Tone Orchestra toured Bath Abbey, Marlborough College, the Wyvern in Swindon and beyond this year, but what they return home to produce is something really superior, something to congratulate and celebrate.

Musical director and conductor, Anthony Brown tells us he’s “been looking forward to this year’s festival from the moment I put my baton down last year, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share what we do with so many people. There’s something here for everyone, no matter what your musical tastes are, and I guarantee that even those who have never experienced orchestral music before, will leave wanting more!” Summing my angle up nicely; far from a restrictive Proms, last year it opened doors to those otherwise sceptical of the magnificence of an orchestra and changed their preconceptions of them, and that’s a glorious achievement.

But the biggie still remains, what can we expect from this year’s Full-Tone Festival on August Bank Holiday weekend (27th & 28th August)? The family-friendly music festival promises to be even bigger and better than ever, with two full days of back-to-back music, performed by this spectacular 65-piece orchestra conducted by Anthony Brown, we know and love as the Fulltone Orchestra.

The programme divides into six orchestral concerts providing the ultimate variety of live music from popular classics, opera and big band to movie themes and huge nineties hits. The grand finale on Sunday evening will see The Green at Devizes transformed into its very own Studio 54, with the orchestra and singers performing a full two hour set of seventies inspired disco classics; oh, that can ring my bell, have I got time to grow an afro?!

So, if it is as I suggested, impossible to improve on the sound, stage and pyrotechnics, enhancements in the line-up are the logical steps, which has been done. Special guest artists performing on stage include the formidable voice of Jonathan Antoine. A classically-trained tenor, Jonathan rose to fame after appearing on the sixth series of Britain’s Got Talent in 2012, as half of the classical duo Jonathan and Charlotte. He went solo and his debut album, Tenore, was released in 2014, and subsequently followed with a further two albums.

Wiltshire’s own presenter and skateboarder, DJ James Threlfall also appears. James works radio for the BBC, and hosts football platform, 433. With a 95K Tik-Tok audience, Full Tone Festival also welcomes trumpeter Oli Parker, local legendary rock n rollers, Pete Lamb & The Heartbeats, and I’m delighted to see the most amazingly talented country-rock star Kirsty Clinch added to this fine bill; surely the icing on the cake.

Talking cake, food and drink will be available from local vendors, and t-shirts will be on sale and raising funds for Dorothy House. And that’s that, Bowie said it best, ch-ch-ch-changes. All you need to do is grab a ticket, from Ticketsource, or Devizes Books. While children under 14 go free, it’s going to set you back forty quid, yet you can guarantee its money well spent, for this unmissable entire weekend show right on your doorstep.

And for anyone casting a shadow of “samey,” I’d argue only in as much as everything is formulated; Albert Einstein had seven of the same suits, so he didn’t have to decide which one to wear! What are you expecting from them, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, digging up Beethoven? One ponders if they even attended last year, and I don’t mean the unofficial gathering on the little green, because they didn’t receive the benefit of being encased in the incredible acoustics of that Jetsons stage, they had not one iota of the splendour, the all-encompassing effect of it. But to say, if you were there, you’d surely take the “if it isn’t broken,” opinion and want nothing more than to do it all again.

Of course, it’s your prerogative to stay home watching Come Dine with Me on an endless cycle of repeats while everyone else is having a truckload of fun! For more information about the Fulltone Music Festival on The Green, Devizes, and to purchase tickets, please visit the Fulltone Orchestra website.


Captain Councillor V The Pigeons From Hell

Jonathan Livingston Seagull came to. Through bloodshot eyes he regained just enough bearing to recall his whereabouts. His wings tied with rope, behind a hardbacked chair, his feet were tied to the legs. Out of focus a stumpy, bearded fellow sneered face-to-face with him, grasping two electrodes. “Sch-sch-should, I shock him again, oh master?” he sniggered.

A deep voice bellowed from the rotund shadow in the background, his ghastly features only visible for a second when he thrusted a Crammar Watch postcard marked with all the postcodes of honest folk who wished to see something done about their poullted town pond, into the fire, and lit his cigar with it. “A word in your shell-like, gull. Refuse to answer and you will be banned from my Facebook group, capiche;? Now, who shate on my Greggs sausage and bean melt?!”

As the first unkindly fellow moved the electrodes closer to his temple, Livingston screamed out, “please, do not exclude me from such a fine, unbais Facebook group; I’ll squawk, I’ll tell, but please, anything but that! It, it, it was the pigeons, they did it!”

Two weeks later….

Honestly, if you’re wondering what happened at the Devizes Town Council meeting last night, when the dynamic duo unleased their devestating plan against pigeons in the Market Place, I dare not ask.

Is this the kind of “important issues” we were advised by Danny K to focus on, rather than partygate? Or just perhaps it’s a distraction from the pollution in the Crammar issue, you know, the other occasion when these two cross-party councillors mobbed up to spread misinformation. Far from me to shoot that in the foot, by pondering the pigeons who’ve abandoned the Crammer, that if there was the natural food source we’ve been campaigning for, perhaps the pigeons would be more evenly dispersed across town, rather than congregating for easy pickings, but I wouldn’t dare suggest such a thing.

There is no evidence of pollution in the Crammar,” it’s said they claimed, and here’s a CGI video our tech guys at Devizine Towers just knocked up; honestly, it’s like Pixar around here!

Of course, it was rightly pointed out by one of our dynamic duo, that the rescue charity Swan Support actually polluted the unpolluted pond when one of them wadded in for a few moments, before giving up and going for the canoe option. Because, of course, Swan Support always rock up to clean water and steal swans from their natural environment for no good reason.

Ha, and we all thought it was because there’s a runoff drain from the busy road adjacent! Silly us, what do we know, after all we weren’t even there to witness it, probably at home watching Come Dine With Me. The councillors were the ones in the perpetual drizzle rescuing the swans, one even posted a photo of them holding a swan to prove it, it’s been said, the photo circa 2017, on his timeline photos. That’s what being a timelord from Gallifrey is useful for.

Moving the silt in the water is what’s poullting it, they claim, and then they had a toy boat race, for the Queen.

Now, of course, they point out the Crammar is Town Council property, ergo everything in the water is too; including the non-polluting pollution I have to presume. And anyone wadding in to rescue oil-slicked wildlife is liable; which is a nice way of resolving the issue and moving onto a few pigeons in the Market Place.

In a week where a Marlborough councillor tried to convince me the whopping taxpayer’s bill to blockade the ridgeway over solstice, causing chaos for miles, was only to protect nesting birds. Being here in the Vizes councillors are hell bent on destroying birds, hardly gives anyone the confidence Wiltshire tories are keen ornithologists, or give a finger of fudge about any wildlife really, on account of Wiltshire PCCs blind eye to fox hunting. “Look away from the Crammer, and feast your eyes on the site of our future railway station, six miles out of town!”

Yeah, we’re supposed to feel the need, the need for speed; getting Danny K to Parliament on time is the difference it makes, because favours for who gets their tongue furthest up Bojo’s anus are handed out on a first-come-first-served basis. While many taxpayers coughing up for the vanity project won’t be able to afford the bus journey to the station, let alone a railway ticket. Anyway, I digress, who cares about peasants?

What will be done to reduce the slight pigeon population in Devizes; poison in the nests, armed response unit, one-way ticket to Rwanda for these naturally homing flying rats? The latter might get you an allowance to touch Priti Patel’s petticoat, imagine what a semi that’ll produce.

Here’s an article explaining culling pigeons is totally ineffective and actually counterproductive, it will only make matters worse. The best soultion is education, it suggests. No, not the pigeons, though it might be helpful to our education system to replace a few headteachers around these parts for pigeons, it meant educating the public. Because, here’s the bottom line, it’s a monster of our own making, and only Captain Councillor and his trusty sidekick can save us now!

Yes indeedy, hence my narrative at the top, try reading the bottom comment in this screenshot below without taking on an east London gangster type accent. “The gulls are being worked on!” Give me strength, who do they think they are? Hale & Pace doing The Firm?!

I’ve no idea, but they seem to me nothing more than Dastardly and Muttley. How in the bejeezus is a poll conducted on a Facebook group where anyone with a differing opinion from the one-man town council admin is promptly banned, considered a consensus of public opinion and presented before the council as damning evidence?

Whatever happened to democracy, much less live and let live? Pigeon infestations are annoying, so is tory ones in my opinion, but I don’t campaign for their cull. Let’s all be good Christians and sing, “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” shall we, then slaughter a mass of those blasted creatures lord god made?

Can I give up now? Is the hypocrisy showing yet? First world problems for little Englanders, like the verbal war in Bishop’s Cannings over a pub painting its shed purple, perpetrated by keyboard warriors in tow with our dynamic duo, but not quite on city level. Take the slave trader they convicted, in Bristol of all places, where they condone slavery! A city with a council who try to fine folk for taking a statue of a slave trader down! Oh my years, the wonky reasoning went along the lines of “you can’t erase history, we keep the statue to remind us of the atrocities so they won’t happen again.” Yeah, right, the bastard really took notice of that, didn’t he? By that logic you should be erecting a statue of him for future generations to look up to and say, “right, deffo this time, it won’t happen again.”

It might be a world apart, but the same ballpark, all hypocrisy together as one pile of steaming bullshit.

Death to all pigeons will mean we get other species of birds, rats, and other pests taking their place; do we mow down everything in our path in a Mad Max stylee? Or do we just have to get on with our lives, try to live in unity with nature, before the apocalypse?

This duo are a kind of anti-David Attenborough, aren’t they? A knight showing you how dinosaurs gained feathers and evolved into birds when we were but scrurrying rodents in the sand, on the telebox, yet seems these over-inflated egotistical power-hungry councillors think they’re above the natural order of things; because of digital watches, Douglas Adams might conclude.

You can use netting, paint owl eyes on windows as a deterrent, you can cover up food for sale outside or keep a watch over them. You can diversify and defeat, peacefully. Pigeons have a brain capability slightly lesser than councillors, you can outwit them.

It must’ve really helped local shop-owners when the dynamic duo blabbed to Wiltshire Times, for example, how “traders in the little Brittox are concerned by the number of pigeons in the area as they believe the droppings are making the footpath unsafe and are contaminating food and products on display.” Good thinking, guys, that’s not put me off buying produce from there at all. Just another day for Captain Councillor and his trusty sidekick!

Wiltshire Council & English Heritage Gang Up to Ruin Solstice at Avebury

Morning person by default, I get to see the sunrise every morning, ergo I’ll tell you something you all should know anyway; watching it as a live stream on your phone just doesn’t have the same impact. “You’ve got a window, use it, hippy,” seems to be the ethos of regulations set by Wiltshire Council, the National Trust and English Heritage, who’ve ganged up to ruin solstice at Avebury, for the people it means the most to.

Marlborough Tory Councillor Jane Davies republished Wiltshire Council’s statement on her Facebook page, to receive much frustrated and unanswered replies. The Council will close The Ridgeway from Overton Hill to Hackpen Hill to all vehicles from Monday 13th to Thursday 30th June. It will also close Avebury High Street to non-residents through 20th to 22nd June. Solstice is Tuesday 21st.

Park illegally and it will be towed away they threaten, as a way to “ensure people can enjoy the summer solstice safely at Avebury this year.” Yes, with irony on a departed flightpath, that really is their reasoning, reminding folk if they don’t like it the sunrise will be live streamed anyway, so you know where to go.

Let’s look at this logically, if I may, rather than the type of wonky perception of English Heritage, who last week saw nothing inappropriate in abusing Stonehenge as a giant projection screen for images of the Queen. The fact remains, while the National Trust carpark is the only way they’ll make a tidy profit, it simply isn’t big enough, neither will it accept “live-in” vehicles, or has ample disabled parking spaces, and despite this there’s rumours floating it’ll also be closed.

One stage away from bricking the village in, I find myself pondering if they’ve stopped to consider the consequences, or if they really care. Anyone who can read between the fabricated wellbeing and conservational lines will be fully aware this is a calculated attack on our rights to roam, and those who execute that right. Yet it will not only affect them, but the entire community surrounding the stones. Rightfully every farmer will batten down the hatches, close gates and block entrances, because this is necessary arable land and the last thing, they need, is a bunch of hippies hanging about; I get that, but surely, that’s the point of the Ridgeway in the first place, to give them space to camp, without invading private farmland?

This, and the alternatives will set to infuriate residents and passers-by, perpetuating the negative stereotype of the travelling community, as lorry drivers cannot take a well-earned rest in occupied laybys, and neighbouring villages will clutter with parked vehicles; I get that too, but it’s easily avoided if the Ridgeway offered them a temporary stop, as is the practice. Ha, who’d a thought it, (not the pub carpark, don’t make it like I put ideas in your head!) but it feels like Wiltshire Council have an agenda, a kind of abhorrence of the travelling community, when we all thought the Beanfields was consigned to historical articles in the Guardian.

For a further point of aggravation; surely, it’s a burden to the Police too, who’ll have to deal with the frustration these restrictions will cause, and likely face the brunt of the blame? “Appropriately” seems to be a word they bounce around regularly in the notification, as in “this will ensure Solstice celebrations can be managed appropriately,” and “people preparing for the summer solstice should take note of these important restrictions so they can plan celebrations appropriately.” Yet by very definition, in a manner that is suitable or proper in the circumstances, these regulations are perceptibly inappropriate. In other words, we have a polarised vision of how to conduct an ancient festivity, and you are forced to follow it; we don’t want too many people to enjoy themselves and it doesn’t include travellers.

With limited space in the pricey National Trust carpark, feels like the Council and EH want just enough revellers to set the mood for their live stream; the local folk they snub but humour “champagne socialists,” or as I favour to call them; a dying breed of affluent inhabitants with a conscious and basic morals. If lockdown facilitated a culture of watching events online, note, WC, that time is over.

Ha, course you could get the bus, if only the service was adequate. But yeah, Solstice is on a first-come-first-served basis this year, giving locals the upper-hand; This is a local solstice, for local people, there’s no sunrise for you here.

Shoot me after my conclusion, but all this feels akin to the Christianisation of ancient festivals, like you know, Father Christmas was a wiseman following the star, or the Easter bunny’s rabbit holes provided excellent support for crucifixion crosses; the very same ethos which tore down Avebury stone circle in the first place (check your history.) Why not go the full hog and Disneyfy the whole shebang, make solstice sunrise only available as a series on Disney+?

Rather, it’s high time for our county to accept and embrace this alternative form of tourism, provide facilities adequate to the need. Do this under the presumption without aggravation caused by such restrictions will go some way to building a trustworthy bond, because, and here is the rock bottom line; the only trouble that’s EVER happened at Avebury or Stonehenge during Solstice was caused by frustration at such restrictions. Given the right to celebrate, there would be no trouble, there never has been. Make people feel constrained, fraught and segregated, and there’s nowhere else for them to go but exacerbation.

And don’t be giving me this “protecting a world heritage site,” crock-of-shite; when they’re prepared to strip Stonehenge of its world heritage status in order to unlawfully (according to the High Court,) construct a monstrous overpriced tunnel underneath it! Here; take a hint, a row of bushes will do the job of hiding it from non-paying tourists!

There, had my rant, these organisations made their bed, and if this causes issues, they’ve only themselves to blame. You know closing off the byways isn’t going to solve any damage to Avebury, it will only make it worse, I wonder if you care, or if there’s a hidden agenda. Feels like WC are an older sibling, continuously slyly poking their younger brother until he’s forced to lash out, and then calling, “mum, he hit me!” Because it’s not relevant in their lives they want rid of it; I say, get over yourself.


Castlemorton Wasn’t the Best Rave Ever!

Featured Image ©Alan Lodge Photography

Okay, I confess, that’s a clickbait title, forced to make you shout, pantomime style, “oh yes it was!” On this, the thirtieth anniversary of The Castlemorton Free Festival I’m predicting vast quantities of media coverage, hailing its significance in the counterculture of the nineties, and indeed it was the largest illegal gathering in the UK, comparable with the Stonehenge Free Festivals a decade prior.….

And indeed, due to the knickers of a local Tory councillor getting in a twist, it heralded an act of law to prevent so much as four pixies gathering and listening to “repetitive beats,” a desperate last stand from fraying Thatcherism.

But arriving on the scene Friday, dusk had already befallen and we hadn’t a clue just how much it had blossomed. From its epicentre it seemed like just another, typical weekend for us, and in personal reflection, it was not my most memorable rave at all.

In the late eighties acid house was a secret, an exclusive collective no more than a couple of thousand strong. Pyramid promoting, predominately via word-of-mouth, but also by media overexposure, had created a monster; a burgeoning culture trend, an apolitical rebellion whose only ethos was carefree dance. But authorities could neither control it nor let it be. No one made any money from it, that infuriated them, so government made it political, the aftermath of Castlemorton was their Empire Strikes Back.

What was more important to me this weekend thirty years ago, was I finally passed my driving test; a catalyst to seeking raves easier than our only previous methods of blagging lifts or hitchhiking, both of which had unpredictable results. Devastating irony was this particular weekend would be the last of the great raves!

I had my Ford Escort, which I hadn’t fully paid my mum for, so it was legally still hers, and we headed off to Malvern in it; no motorway lesson nor taking-it-steady-on-local-roads starter kits for me!

This legendary party line phone message the Beeb published this week I never heard. On this occasion the usual method of a reliable source phone call was not needed; HTV broadcasted a bulletin about it, they made it too easy for us!

The common was positively buzzing, as more sound systems bolted on and revellers flocked to explode the population to city status. Just how many attended is the query for great debate, safety in numbers was our philosophy, but when we staggered up the hillside at sunrise, our rural chillout zone, the penny dropped.

I recall duly and rather dully contemplating, “they’re never going to live this one down, they’ll never let us get away with it,” it didn’t take Nostradamus, as this sprawling linear development metropolis of o’ bangers and hippy buses expanded like a Sim City game along across a single country track.

Yet the first evening proved unsuccessful in purchasing “rave necessities,” we were ripped off with duff “red & blacks,” soon to be aptly dubbed, “Dennis the Menaces.”

Financially this put us in deficit, and while the upside wasn’t so up, the downside seemed to be equally as prominent, as if the upside had of happened. Supply and demand reduced the potency, these were changing times. But we did it to ourselves, our own worst enemy in so effectively promoting this new way of life. Such was the effect of ecstasy, coming complete with an uncontrollable desire to share the experience, as standard. In this much, that is why we had come to this final kaboom; Castlemorton was the rave to end raves in the UK, least on the same scale.

Second downer for me was when a friend of a friend was badly injured, hanging off the side of a bus which was being pursued by police. The deep graze on her leg needed medical attention, a clean dressing, but the only car available was sporty without adequate room on the backseats. I was in no fit state to drive, so in a flash of unnerving planning, a friend had whisked away to an accident & emergency ward, in my car. We were stranded here for inestimable period. The sun was blazing with little shade, I couldn’t contemplate straying too far, eager to see my little red car returned safely.

I needn’t have worried, but understandably I did, I was a naïve 18-year-old, laughable now that I considered myself grownup. Feelings of doubt haunt the intoxicated teenage mind, but to give this story a happy ending, the car returned with injured passenger in fine fettle, and I was rewarded a gift for my assistance, the pick-me-up I sorely needed. So, because my friends didn’t receive a similar package, I had no choice but to temporarily abandon them, and head to the DIY tent for a dose of their celebrated trancey house grooves.

And for that moment it was an amazing experience, yet I’d argue no more than previous raves, like Lechlade the previous weekend, and so, so many others. Every time it just got bigger, but not necessarily better, Castlemorton was the breaking point, and for this, it deserves to be the one historically recorded and remembered. Though in turn we should use the anniversary of it to reminisce on the era as a whole, and the “happy daze” of our youth.

Rave continued regardless of the Criminal Justice Bill, albeit it took a shot in the leg, dispersing the scene into localised events, or, more agreeable to society, the great pay raves. But the most important factor of the importance of Castlemorton was the international media exposure, and the new ruling forcing sound systems to exile into Europe, for this only caused Britain’s enthusiastic tenet and attitude toward rave to go global.

In turn its effects on musical progression, the aesthetics of festival design, fashion, politics, and resurgence of counterculture are undeniably prominent today, and for those who attended this particular eruption, they’ll always make some fucking noise about Castlemorton; a raver’s Mecca; deservedly.


Popped my Frome cherry; a Morning in a Somerset Freetown

Without certified limitations on Devizine, I freestyle the boundaries of listing events upon the ethos if it’s conceivable and practical to drive to from our Devizes base, then what the hell, I’ll list it. While it’s laborious, and often impossible to include every Wiltshire pub with a man with a guitar yodelling Wonderwall in, I try my upmost, but the wider we journey the vaguer it obviously gets; I’m not flipping omnipresent.

I’m partial to listing events in Frome, though, despite it bordering my ruling, for two reasons; 1: The Cheese & Grain; the non-profit, community led, all-purpose venue, punches well above its weight, booking the quality of acts you’d expect to trek to a city for.

And 2: I get this overall perception of Frome being this little Somerset haven of alternative arts and culture; like a West Country Brighton, without a pier. But in all honesty, it’s hearsay; it could have a pier for all I know, for other than dropping in on my previous employment as a delivery driver, and to navigate its bypass on my way further west, I confess, I’ve never actually explored the centre of Frome; what-cha gonna do? I don’t do urban rambling, and deplore the mechanical façade of orthodox window-shopping.

In a weekend where I decided to bunk gigging, as previous weekends I’ve golloped three apiece, realise I’m addicted to writing and have to knock some-waffling-thing up for the sake of my sanity, even if it comes across school holiday assignment. Up until Sunday options were slim, Britain’s Got Talent the epicentre of entertainment ingested, followed by a surprisingly tricky quiz show hosted by the Not Going Out comedian, in which questions might’ve been easier if BGT hadn’t previously fried my cranium.

So, with Dad’s taxi booked to Longleat Forest with an approximate three-hour interval, I start contemplating how to kill said three hours. With strict satirical nonstarters like “keep driving,” “catch the first bus out of there,” and “end it all now!” being the responses to a Facebook post requesting ideas of how to kill three hours on a drizzly spring Sunday morning in Warminster, I made a note to reconnoitre why it’s considered so dismal and cultureless, other than its discouraging namesake relating to war, which is never much fun, coupled by my discovering a Warminster community hub website which, when you click their event guide comes up “page not found,” and perhaps sought to rectify this if possible, another time.

It was a no-brainer, head to Frome, Sunday mid-mornings aren’t the liveliest of times anywhere, so if I could find some hippy-chick knocking up a bowl of humus barefoot on the street, at least it’d be something. Noted I’d crossed state line as drystone walls envelope fields, hills get that bit steeper and road systems are purposely designed to ward off, or merely confuse the shit out of grockles.

To save diverting in circles, I implored myself to dump the car at the next available carpark and pray it was walking distance to the town centre. Cliché mainstream shop Marks & Sparks Food Hall and the Frome Job Centre provided clues, unimpressively. I mean yeah, they’ve got the archetypical charade of chain stores, though the borderline acceptable Subway being the only fast-food joint, if Greggs is endurable, and yay, they robbed me two quid to park on a Sunday to ascend vertical cobblestoned streets like Dale Winterton mountaineering, only to browse closed shops wondering why I didn’t slouch in the car playing WordLots on my Samsung.

What upped my spirits, other than a bakery sign saying Cornish pasties for £2.50 (I mean, who does that? Have I slipped through a wormhole to the nineteen-nineties, or is this the Isle of Wight?) was a window display of an arty emporium sardonically mocking Brexit and the travesty of the Conservatism regime through decorated mugs and other handmade merchandise. I smiled at the audacity of a shop which would be petrol-bombed by our knuckle-dragging majority of Daily Fail readers back in Devizes before it opened; I’d fit in here.

For want of getting lost, I wobbled back down the hill, locating The Sun Inn, one watering-hole with a Tardis for a door I’d noted for holding the odd live music event; perhaps that was my route back in time but without a rainbow scarf I couldn’t gain access, ramming the door only woke the dog and I assessed I was too early. Though by the time I’d detoured once more, governed by a broken compass, found another closed boozer I’ve listed as a music venue, uninventively named 23 Bath Street, I went on a hunch the side road by The George would be the way to my mecca.

Sure enough, over a bridge in a carpark a visage appeared, the golden wooded entertainment cathedral of The Cheese & Grain. With a café, The Grain Bar, on the side it was lively already, as a regular children’s clothes market, L