“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”
1984 by George Orwell
As the jollity of a carefree leaflet campaigning outing, for the new Conservative Wiltshire PCC candidate, Philip Wilkinson, and backed by Danny Kruger, is brazenly and shamelessly shared across the popular Facebook platform Devizes Issues, anyone with a questioning opinion is immediately thrown out the group; including me!
Allow me thus, to throw my toys out of my pram in dismay, the best way I know how! Oh, the calamity, the drama! The only real issue in Devizes, is that even social media is a predisposition.
Yes, I shared the “almost” parallel Orwell quote above, after my comment was deleted, twice, expressing the anger felt by many Wiltshire residents as to why money is ploughed into the candidate’s campaign, while taxpayers could face a £1.4m bill to hold another election, because of the Conservative Party’s impertinence in running a previous candidate who had a criminal record making him unable to stand. I figured it was a genuine and just thought, considering the circumstances.
Hardly a big secret, heck, you all know the story; Conservative candidate Johnathan Seed pulled out of the first election after hit and run, and drink driving offences the party carelessly assumed could be brushed under the carpet, came to light. And rather than the cost effective and democratic process of simply going with the second choice, Lib Dem candidate Liz Webster, it’s been decided a Police Crime Commissioner couldn’t possibly be anything less than a tory, so the whole shebang would have to be rerun.
Meanwhile, Wiltshire Police launch an investigation into the scandal, which is, to-date, still in progress. Yet the election goes ahead on 19th August, when I ask you, them, and everyone of Wiltshire, if you think it right not to wait until the inquiry has concluded prior holding a new election? With such a shocking revelation, how can any of you trust a Conservative candidate ever again, if it was discovered the Party knew of the convictions? And furthermore, what kind of madcap, totalitarianism is this, which dismisses such an assessment as a thoughtcrime?
I personally don’t want anyone who stands for a party which allows criminals to run as a Police Crime Commissioner, there’s an irony there sky-rocketing over some serious heads!
Ever a poor imitation of the original, The Devizes Issue, and named in such a way to narrowly escape trade descriptions if it was a product rather than a Facebook group, Devizes Issues has a 12.9k audience. The Facebook group is perhaps the second most popular general page for Devizes residents, initially set up by local Facebook users disgruntled by the original group’s ruling of no political subject matter, but run under the iron fist of a local Conservative town councillor, I and many others have often criticised its naturally right-wing bias. My argument thus; call a spade a spade, if you intend to have a group for local Conservative thinkers, then call it something which relates to this, but do not disguise it as general local group, for that is deceitful.
Ha, nearly as deceitful as fox-chumping Mr Seed, see a pattern evolving here?
Now I’m advised, if I get the chance to interview Philip, I should take it. In other words, that’s my way out of room 101, and back into what is, primarily, a great and informative Facebook group. Day-to-day it provides an endless stream of informative local matter. Such a shame so many have been pitilessly shoved out of it, including many opposition councillors, MPs and candidates, simply for arguing a contrasting opinion.
The only element incomparable to Orwell is it’s far from the bee-all-and-end all of local social media. There’s more than one way to skin a cat; if you rely on me sharing Devizine articles there, you may well have to change your habits by ensuring you’ve liked our Facebook page, or followed us on Twitter, for the time being. There’s a thing, I think the heat is getting to him, he just needs a big, teddy bear hug!
Because of my local social media diplomatic immunity, I get a response from admin, an honour most traitors to the Tory line are not bestowed. I’m told, “he [the new Conservative Wiltshire PCC candidate, Philip Wilkinson] is a good man and has sympathy that he has had to refinance due to the previous election. Philip should have been the candidate last time and wasn’t, it’s a mistake but it can’t be changed. We have to move on and make sure people get a fair choice.” Yes, Conservative Party; pay the cost of the re-election, then we can move on.
An opportunity I would be honoured to, and welcome, as I have interviewed previous PCC candidates. A process which, I might add, is counter-productive for Devizine, as any one-party candidate I do interview tends to receive angered social media comments condemning my reasoning for allowing a platform to a party they personally don’t like, and any previous interviews I have conducted with other party’s candidates and independents is long forgotten. It must also be noted, the majority come from, coincidently, a conservative ethos, when in all actual fact, Johnathan Seed was the first PCC candidate I interviewed. So, stick that in your pipe!
Because, and please take heed Mr Wilkinson if you are reading this, the assumption seems to be my comment was an attack on you, when it never was about that. The point was if the Conservative Party are at fault, should they not cover the £1.4m bill to hold another election, rather than squander cash on a campaign.
And neither is this article an attack on you, or anyone else. Rather it is a shame, I believe, when political bias has to get in the way of a relationship otherwise built on pacification, by those who feel the need to pettily censor local social media. It’s not the Daily Mail, anyone with a Facebook group of over a thousand “likes” is not Rupert Murdoch; there is no need for political bias, the town is a guaranteed Tory haven anyway! The result turning Seed’s way despite all the well-publicised dishonour and humiliation is proof of this blind voting; if they splodged a blue rosette onto a lobotomised potbelly pig, Wiltshire would still vote it in.
Unless, no… unless they suspect the tide is turning! We live in hope.
Have you seen this, at the Euros? When in defence of a freekick they have a guy lying on the ground behind the wall like a human draft excluder. That’d be me, about as much use as a chocolate fireguard, finally a position I could play. Imagine the scenario; I’d be like “where do you want me to be?” The captain’s response would be, “tell you what, why don’t you take a load off, and lie down there on the grass, take as long as you need!”
The crowds thinking; that guy came to the wrong event, he wants to be at the solstice celebrations, maxin’-relaxin’, awaiting sunrise…. now there’s a confliction; while Wembley play host to 60,000 foreign media and dignitaries, exempt from quarantine, Wiltshire bans access to its world-famous Neolithic monument for significant less thousands of revellers whose only wish is to see in the solstice in a manner done centuries prior to the notion a bunch of lads kicking a pig’s bladder around a park might be fun.
Last year was understandable, and well reported, solstice at the henge would be via live stream only. Hardly the same, but adhered too. This year it looked set to go ahead, and was poorly publicised that it had been pulled last minute due to the pushing back of our Clown Minister’s so-called, “Freedom Day.”
Take a deep breath, refrain from calling it “Freedom Day,” please. Freedom Day in the USA remembers the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery and involuntary servitude, rather than being able to drunkenly hug your best mate down the pub. The only thing slightly comparable to it would be the day this government, intent on regurgitating and condoning the traditional hypocrisies and philosophies of prejudices, collapses, and a freer society which adopts the tenet live and let others live, replaces it.
A prime example this weekend, in my honest opinion, and here’s why; constraining a populace’s desire to celebrate a religious rite whilst allowing lucrative sporting events is nothing less than cultural appropriation. Far from Pope Gregory I’s era, who banged out a letter to Saxon Bishop of London, Mellitus, legitimately approving the reformatting of pagan cultural activities and beliefs into a Christianised form, (hence bunnies and chocolate eggs presented to mark Jesus’s crucifixion, and Santa Claus jingling bells on his birthday) but be certain, it’s the same ballpark; Interpretatio Christiana lite.
As I sift through social media commentary and local news reports, I find nothing but support and positive stories from those who either attended Solstice at our county’s heritage sites, or tried to, couped only by downright insolence from authorities to accept its importance to so many people, and made concentrated efforts to prevent it.
In this pandemic era, restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus is logical, we’ve had over a year to come to terms and implement these. Social distancing, basic hygiene, and the wearing of facemasks when in close proximity to another have all become second nature. These can be used to create a safer environment in which to gather, and we have done, but it seems only when it suits. A celebration at Stonehenge could have been policed properly, the standard model for Covid prevention could have be implemented, but to outright ban it, when it’s bleeding obvious there will be resistance, and people will attempt to gate-crash, is counter-productive to preventing the spread of the virus, compared to allowing it to go ahead with aforementioned restrictions. Ever been to Stonehenge? Hardly a confined and enclosed space!
If we put measures into Royal Ascot and made it a “pilot,” for Queenie and her affluent chums, we could have done the same with Stonehenge. But we only need to look at the controversial history of retribution by authorities to suspect there’s far more to the reasons for preventing solstice celebrations than the pandemic.
I need not reflect back-to-square-one, the Battle of the Beanfield, rather consider, through the Iron Age, the Roman Empire, and the early Mediaeval periods, while the meaning and significance of Avebury’s stone circle had been lost through the passage of time, people largely let it be, ignoring it, using as a fortified site or even, during Roman times, seeing it as a tourist attraction, much as we do today. It wasn’t until the early 14th century, Late Mediaeval, when England had been wholly transformed to Christianity, the circle was associated with the devil, and villagers ripped down the stones with such anger, one poor chap was killed attempting to topple them.
Imagine the fate, insanely yelling at an eight-foot stone monolith that it was the work of the devil, until it falls and crushes you to death, and your mate is like; yeah, story checks out; that’s gonna hurt in the morning! And why anyone would want to build their church out of stones considered the Devil’s Chair, or the Devil’s Quoits is beyond reasoning.
The irony is, if it wasn’t for Black Death in 1349, halving the village population, when manpower was focussed on agricultural obligations rather than taking their aggression out on a pagan monument, it’s likely there would be no remains for Alexander Keiller to have renovated.
And now, 672 years later, we’ve got our own plague, and on a rain-drenched, dull sunrise anyway, Wiltshire Police waffle, “We have taken the difficult decision to prevent further access to part of the Ridgeway, near Avebury, to maintain public safety and prevent potential damage to nearby farmland. This is in response to large numbers of people and vehicles in the area.” When really, it’s common knowledge locally, Avebury is a far less popular solstice celebration site than Stonehenge and would’ve only risked being inundated with vehicles because they closed Stonehenge; swings and roundabouts!
I spoke to a friend, heading to Avebury on motorbike, so able to take the byways across Hackpen Hill to avoid roadblocks. The point being; where there’s a will, there’s a way, folk are prepared to take a hike because, and here’s the thing the authorities fail to grasp, even if solstice is not your cup of tea, it’s time to accept that to thousands of British people, it clearly is.
Yet English Heritage pull their live stream of sunrise at Stonehenge, due to invasion, host Ed Shires announced, “I must say we have been disappointed that a number of people have chosen to disregard our request to not travel to the stones this morning and that is the reason why we haven’t been able to bring you the pictures that we would have liked to have done.” The pictures that they would have liked, is the image of solitude and splendour, as the sun rises over the stones, to promote the site as a lucrative attraction to tourists, rather than their attempts curb the real connotations it has for the indigenous folk, on what was a dull and rainy morning without much sunrise, anyway! Run the film, I say, show the world what is really happening at Stonehenge, and that it means so much to so many, they’re willing to break the law and lockdown restrictions to be there, and perhaps only then, the embarrassment might make them consider, perhaps, you know, we could have organised an event, with restrictions and made far safer environment than the inevitable invasion; give me strength!
By 1994 the Criminal Justice Bill had become an act. Attempts to enforce it were either greatly exaggerated, such as riot vans and police helicopters crashing a birthday barbeque, or were disregarded as an unnecessary government enforcement from the police on the ground. Though we may never have had another Castlemorton, the mid-nineties and even into the millennium, free raves struck back from the body-blow.
Urbanised parties took over railway arches, disused warehouses and squats, the people fought tooth and nail to preserve the culture, and in a way, they did. Rural parties continued, localised and smaller, but communal and friendly. Albeit any forces resisting against them, caused many larger ones to become more viciously anarchistic over time. There were attempts to party in aid of a greater cause, environmental issues for example, such as the Reclaim the Streets protests.
Yet in turn, rave bore an impact on culture and society, which outreached the free party scene. We spoke of musical genres breaking apart, so that large pay-raves erected multiple tents of differing sounds; house, drum n bass, techno, happy hardcore, speed garage, the list continued to get more diverse, until at Universe’s Tribal Gathering 1997, where originators of computer-generated music, Kraftwerk played a main stage, and everyone from each individual subgenre tent came out to pay respects to the roots.
Likewise, Liverpool super-club Cream wanted in on the large festival rave, and created Creamfields, where the likes of Run DMC played. And the scene redeveloped in many avenues, Acid Jazz was popularised, and if it was only short-lived, it birthed incredibly successful Jamiroquai. It also returned hip hop to the forefront, as breakbeat, chemical and big beat were the sounds of the later nineties. The indie and rave divide, parted dramatically since the days of Madchester, the Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, and Primal Scream’s Screamadeleica had realigned, with the punk nature of the Prodigy’s new look. The crossover blended once again, as indie kids accepted electronica wasn’t intending to lay down and die.
Clubs rocked to The Dust Brothers, later to be the Chemical Brothers. Mo-Wax, Skint and Wall of Sound roared a big beat, hip hop melting pot ethos, rooted by rave parties, and everyone flooded to Brighton beach to see Norman Cook “large it” as Fatboy Slim.
What was clear, by this conjunction, while the movement had altered, and divided, rave was now embedded in our culture, and was spreading globally. The paid peanuts DJs who once rocked up to an illegal rave now jetsetters, playing clubs worldwide.
Clubland never had it so good, buy a MixMag, relish in a party, legally, without the need of convoys, service station coups and risks of police brutality. I bought a silk shirt, wore it at Lakota in Bristol, but headed there after a free party in the forest of Longleat, the night before, and without care for basic hygiene, my paisley chic was ruined by the sweat marks of a boxer. I was oblivious ‘til presented with embarrassing photographic evidence afterwards.
But commercialisation of the culture had always loomed. In the race to become the “king of rave,” as rock n roll had Elvis and reggae had Marley, they failed to note this plastic throwaway ethos I’ve previously mentioned. In 1992, thousands of twenty-somethings blissfully unaware of the references, sang ‘Eezer Goode ‘Eezer Goode He’s Ebeneezer Goode, simply because the Shamen reached number one in the pop charts, in just the same way thirty years previously, no-hopers sang “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” oblivious to its blatant LSD connotations. I’d argue if we have to have a “king of rave” it’d would have been the ever-progressive Prodigy, but they never cared to call for the title.
The point is, commercialisation got the better of us eventually, as it did for every previous outrageous youth culture. It would be difficult to imagine in the days of Scott Joplin, that his rags would be considered conforming for a hoity-toity jazz festival in market towns like Marlborough, as in the 1910s, he played to lewd degenerates and desperate sailors in New York’s underworld and bawdy brothels. In a short few years after the peak of rave culture, Leftfield’s Release the Pressure will be used in an advert for Cheese Strings. And don’t get me started on Yo Gabba Gabba.
And now we live in a time when reflections of nostalgia from forty-somethings comply with Albert Trotter moments, and a misunderstanding of what happened is ingrained in our culture. I cringe at how the tragic Wonder Woman sequel depicted the eighties, in an almost caricatured version of the fashion, and foresee bearded twenty-somethings attending wistful “rave” nights dressed in glow sticks like tourists on planet Mars. I never waved a fucking glowstick in the nineties, any more than I wore legwarmers in the eighties!
A van speeds past me, a youngster wears his hood up while driving. Why? Is there a leak in the van’s roof? Yes, we ravers popularised the hooded top in the UK long before the “hoody” culture, and if we wore the hood up, it was because we came out from a sweatbox into the cool night air with perspiration evaporating off of us. We did it to prevent dehydration from precipitation, rather than cos it made us look well ‘ard.
And then Ollie Murs’ heart skips a beat, with a drum loop the Ratpack would’ve rejected in 91, and I yell, NO! Get your own youth culture kids, nicking ours is disillusioned by commercialisation, unless you’re standing chilly at Peartree services at 3am, teeth masticating the life out of a slice of Wrigleys, eyes like saucers, and waving your arms about like a broken robot with a hundred others, surrounded by cars beeping their horn and playing a chewed up Easygroove cassette, then you are not a raver. And don’t you even let me see you asking Alexa to search the word cassette!
Last thing I want to do is end this series on a sour note, but duty calls. I read an article about how the days of the illegal rave had returned in all its former glory. “It was just like 1992,” they quoted in a story about a warehouse takeover, then informed partygoers discovered the happening via a Tweet. Eh? Have a word with yourself, Tweets were a novelty eighties band who rehashed an oom-pah so your granny could do a little bit of this and a little bit of that and shake her bum at some family disco of yore. We went raving without a clue what a pager was, while scare-story spreading tabloids suggested we all had mobile phones, in an era where mobile phones were thought of as the devil’s business. They couldn’t comprehend how an entire generation could all descend onto one field simply by word-of-mouth.
“…and if you tell that to the young people today, they won’t believe you…”
The Four Yorkshire Men sketch, Monty Python.
In conclusion; as we say farewell to my little series reflecting back on those heady ravey dayz, I’ll confirm, there was numerous amazing times, the best times of my life, times evoking stories I could bore you into an early grave with. And by the thankful response to this series and the masses of posts of stories from so many old skool ravers in the variety of Facebook groups, it is clear I’m not alone in this theory. Although, my rose-tinted specs were large enough to engulf those dilated pupils throughout most of the examination.
Probably the most active of those groups, aforementioned DOCU FREE PARTY ERA 1990-1994 – WERE YOU THERE?was originally set up as a research project by one Aaron Trinder a filmmaker on a mission to document the era in a film. We wish him all the best of luck with this monumental task. And it is a monumental task, as unlike most previous youth cultures which borrowed from various trends and cultures, say the teddy boys borrowed extensively from rock-n-roll, mods borrowed from jazz, Italian suits and scooters, and so on, rave borrowed from everything and anything.
United, the melting pot came from any source, we electrified it and, even if it was relatively short-lived, what exhausted out inspired everything that went hereafter; modern pop, multiple dance music subgenres, fashion, video technology, literature, children’s entertainment, and most importantly, despite the authorises misunderstanding us and their traditionist values causing hateful vengeance upon us, a wealth of people power; the notion that masses can make a difference to life, society and politics. Evident by politicians consistently doing what our Iron Lady wouldn’t do at the time, make a U-turn to save their popularity and votes. For this, we should all be proud.
I would reward myself with one last disco biscuit, but I’m unsure if my ticker would take it. Slapped with a finale date though, it would be on my bucket list, and what a way to go, reaching for the skies in one last sweet harmony…..
As a new local Facebook page for the LGBTQ+ community, Devizes Lgbtq+ springs to life, I’m left wondering exactly what social and counsel interactions are readily available in Devizes today. So, I’m chatting with the page’s admin, Oberon, about his group’s aims and goals.
What I think was most interesting about it, while I dug for negativity, I’d suspect will be evident in our local community towards LGBTQ+, Oberon simply didn’t take the bait, and remained positive throughout our friendly chinwag. Sorry if you came here looking for controversy, this is just a plug for the page and hope it’ll strength both the community and opinions of others towards it.
Firstly, someone shared an already existing Facebook group for LGBTQ+ in Devizes. I supposed having a page rather than a group is less exclusive and not as restricted being it can make looser, more general connections. “I agree,” Oberon started, “a page is much broader and will be easier to reach out to a wider range of people, which will make it easier to advertise, make connections and get the word out.”
As I understand it, Devizes School has an excellent program to deal with the issue, but suppose once pupils leave, there’s little else in town, no real places to feel like a community. “I’m very glad Devizes School have a good programme to help their pupils!” he continued. “As far as when they leave goes, as the LGBTQ+ community grows I’d be happy to say that there will be a place to be a community online and, once the community has found its feet, offline and in person too. The sooner the better I say!”
But is a group like this is more important in a smaller town like Devizes, than say, a city, where there’s already more in place to bring together like-minded people? “I do think an LGBTQ+ community is very important in small towns,” Oberon expressed, “just as much as a city. Many people don’t live in cities or grow up in them, myself included. For a small town to be just as proud and just as accepting is important because it helps to reach everyone. Even if there are a smaller group of LGBTQ+ residents in Devizes it helps to create a safe, inclusive space for us and stops the feeling that small towns don’t ‘understand’ or ‘accept’ as much as larger places do. Furthermore, it can show people that aren’t LGBTQ+ what we’re all about and hopefully help them get a greater understanding of who we are.”
And there’s a thing, causing me to mention Pride. Pride is supported by many people outside the LGBTQ+ community, and that’s probably more important than just being there for those who are, because it’s about casting negative opinions of yore aside, especially in a smaller community like here. Because, and here’s the crunch, being honest, I do think there’s a number of insular people here who simply refuse to shake off the old stereotypes, maybe more so than urban environments.
We’ve come a long way even in my own lifetime, I suggested to him, flagrantly showing my age by citing the awareness in the eighties by singers like Boy George, Jimmy Somerville et all! As while they made it a recognisable subject and broke the taboos we now see in our society, at the time people were still hiding in shame, you still wouldn’t have same sex couples on tv shows like you do today.
The fear is, I do however think we’re in danger of letting that progress slip backwards, as all prejudices seem to be at the forefront and a right wing, or far right-wing gains popularity. I mean we only have look at the onslaught of negative comments when Wiltshire Police added a rainbow flag back in February.
Oberon replied admirably, I must say! “Every human being is an individual with their own beliefs and views, my aim isn’t to change people, it’s just to show them a greater understanding of things, and be who we are. I agree, we have come a very long way and, as with everything, there will always be a negative and a positive side of things. I choose to focus on the positive and that’s the light I aim to share.”
Okay, given that, let’s go for it; imagine, a Devizes Pride! At least, some smaller events, or a physical club would be a great start.
“A Devizes Pride would be fantastic and of course that wouldn’t happen overnight,” he replied, which is just as well, as it’s past my bedtime already!
“I aim to start off with smaller events,” Oberon suggested, “community outreach and fundraisers. Physical clubs, meet-ups and youth groups are also something I’d like to get started, as I think they’ll help LGBTQ+ people find one another, in a safe space, and grow a strong community together.”
Still, he didn’t rule out the possibility of a Devizes Pride. “Devizes having its own Pride celebration is an avid goal of mine, amongst others! I believe that the stronger the representation of LGBTQ+ people in Devizes the more that people will have a greater understanding of who we are and what we’re all about. Devizes is a town with a strong community and I am for the LGBTQ+ community to have a ‘louder voice’ as it were.”
But, like any new venture, it would need the support behind it, and all this costs, at this stage is to “like” the page on the Book of Face, and join the separate entity group too, if you wished. It was nice chatting to Oberon, on what can be a touchy subject we need to open up to and address.
In a press release dated 24th September 2020, MP Danny Kruger claimed Boris Johnson had called upon him to report for government calls for a new era of ‘community power.’ This included “proposals to sustain the community spirit we saw during the lockdown.” He christened his paper, “Levelling up our communities,” a vision for “a more local, more human, less bureaucratic, less centralised society in which people are supported and empowered to play an active role in their neighbourhoods.”
As shpil it sounds a-okay, a far cry from a Conservative Party of yore set against the people it’s supposed to serve, a Conservative Party which, on 1st June 1985, ordered police to viciously attack a Peace Convoy, setting up the 1985 Stonehenge Free Festival. History recalls it “The Battle of the Beanfields,” any witness could better perceive it as a politicide massacre. Its aim, to eliminate categories of people who either chose to live their life on the road, happened to stumble across this way of life by unpreventable circumstance, or grew up nurtured in such an environment, for political advantages. As a blanket term we call them travellers.
But that’s all it is, a blanket term, there is no organised grouping anymore than people who own a home are assembled, therefore there is no reason to presume any individual classed as such is part of a joint ethos, a collective philosophy or tenet. Attitudes and opinions of such a grouping differ as vastly as those who live in a house, or a bungalow, or a flat. To note someone who lives in a flat breaking the law, is ludicrous for bungalow dwellers to make a sweeping generalisation that, ergo everyone who lives in a flat is therefore a law-breaker. Yet prejudge typecasting seems to be systematically accepted, ingrained and encouraged when focussed on travellers.
Hard to define exactly as an ethnic group, as while Romany Gypsies are bound into the stereotype, not all are such, so, calling the racist card is unwarranted, but it is a definite form of prejudice, which aimed at other groupings would be frowned upon. Yet how does Danny Kruger remember the Battle of the Beanfields on its anniversary this week? His office, fronted by, I might add, Rebecca Hudson, the journalist who first broke the news of the Salisbury poisonings and therefore a far more articulate professional than the mere meanderings of a milkman, put out a Facebook post condemning the actions of a traveller site in Bromham. Despite Bromham isn’t his jurisdiction, it is in the division of Wiltshire councillor Laura Mayes, though.
I asked Laura why it’s necessary for Danny Kruger to get involved with, what seems to me, to be a simple planning permission issue. After all, planning permission disputes must be a regular occurrence in the county, and there’s never a need to involve an MP. Laura responded, “the problem is that the planning activity is illegal – there is an Enforcement Notice and an Emergency Stop Notice and the owners have ignored them.”
Danny’s post included the explanation, “deliveries of hardcore were made to the field, breaching the Enforcement Notice. The clear expectation is that an illegal Traveller encampment is being created and an influx of caravans is now expected.” Hardly an “expectation,” rather speculation; a big difference. A speculation driven by the aforementioned ingrained prejudge, is my “expectation.” Fair game by his own criteria?
In discussion with Gazette & Herald reporter Kirsten Robertson, The Ward family say the delivery of hardcore is to form a bund, an embankment to control the flow of water. Face it, evidence that it’s not a plan to expand the site or allow more travellers onto it. In a heartfelt plea for peace Bridget Ward, 21, told the Gazette, “We just want to live in peace and become part of the community.”
Yet negative, often offensive comments and name-calling slurs flood social media coverage of the simple planning dispute. It doesn’t help bridge the divide when the council “recommends the public stay away from the site.” Neither does it help when an MP lashes out, the post calculatedly shared on only one local Facebook group, known for an absence of admin regulations and therefore being a highly opinionated group.
We should note, they are not residing illegally, the land was bought in 2014, with an article 4 direction on it, which makes it unsuitable for development anyway. Any attempt to improve the site has been refused permission, the adding of fences, planting of trees and creation of an equestrian area. Constant refusal of simple improvement plans, the hostility against them verbally, constitutes the notion they’re simply not wanted there. Where in Wiltshire would they be welcome?
Wiltshire Council own and manage just three residential Gypsy and Traveller sites, with a total capacity to accommodate fifty-one families, who, in contrary to popular belief, are subject to rent charges, Council tax and service charges for site, water and electricity. Across a whole county, it’s a failure compared with Essex, with twelve sites accommodating 188 families, Somerset has eighteen sites, seven sites in Berkshire, the list continues not forgoing Wiltshire Council looks to possibly sell the three sites they do own under part of the recently concluded Regulation 18 consultation to prepare a Gypsy and Traveller Development Plan Document.
While we should respect permissions for planning need to be made, and upheld, little is done to provide a legal alternative for travellers in the county. Coupled with the ramifications of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which could see travellers facing a fine or prison if they set up unauthorised encampments rather than currently being a civil offence, Danny Kruger’s “levelling up our communities,” constitutes of the eradication of a way of life which has operated for centuries. In fact, pre-Neolithic age, we were all nomadic. Chew on that fat for a moment.
One comment added, “we don’t live in a lawless country,” yet when Danny illegally posted his campaign posters around polling stations, when he ignored lockdown regulations by failing to wear a mask on the train, when he allowed his dog to attack deer on Richmond Common, we brushed them under the carpet, I even defended the latter as an accident.
What about when the High Court said government acted unlawfully by failing to publish details of more than 500 Covid contracts, or abolishing the permit-free training scheme for doctors who qualified outside the United Kingdom or the rest of the European Union without proper consultation, or the case where it departed from the UK’s longstanding policy on opposing the death penalty in all circumstances? Need I continue? Why then, can we not give a little leeway here? Is a delivery of some hardcore to create a bund somehow more damaging to society as the examples given above?
The fact Danny’s offending Facebook post had a grammatical error I’d forgive a primary school pupil to overlook, “and a influx of caravans,” suggests this was not the calculated penning of a skilled journalist, rather a knee-jerk reaction handsome-faced Danny K needs to take a chill pill from before the silver spoon launches from his mouth.
And I say this because, the issue at hand is clearly overexposed by our prejudice, a presuppose striking fear into a family with a young child, for crying out loud, take a look at yourself! I plead you put the political matter aside for just a moment and think outside the box, would you try defend yourself given such hostilities towards you? Is it any different from Afrikaans erecting steel gates and barbed wire to protect their property in apartheid-era Johannesburg? How you can expect travellers not to be slightly anarchic when faced with such exacerbation against them?
Especially in this, quite honestly, trivial instant, far from the given stereotype, where we have a local family simply pleading to blend in and be part of a community. Bridget tells me, “I asked him [Danny Kruger] to stand up for us, against the hate and racism, and to sign the pledge card, but he has just ignored that. We just feel helpless.” This isn’t about hardcore delivery at all, is it?
What do you get out of this Danny, a permit to touch Pritti’s petticoat?! Hardly the “proposals to sustain the community spirit we saw during the lockdown,” is it, mucker?!
I’ve parked the van on the opening of a farm track, to have a sandwich and scan the area. I’m looking for a quarry which runs alongside the train track. A few years ago, I was a delivery driver, and though I didn’t know the roads, I’d recognise village names with fond memories. On this occasion I’ve turned off through the sleepy Oxfordshire village of Cassington; my memory of it was not so sleepy.
Those reading this too young or not into the south west free party movement of the nineties might wonder why, while those who were will know exactly why, and no doubt will be screaming a delighted, “yes mate, red and blacks!” Later to be referred to as Dennis the Menaces, without concern to what Beano publishers DC Thompson may’ve made of it all.
The distant resonance of an MC echoed through the valley, alas only in my head. “Get off the railway track,” he warned, “that is a live railway track!” A memory abetted by a rave tape capturing the irreplaceable moment, one of thousands I carelessly released into a skip many moons ago, foolish to the notion they’d be sought after.
On rave tapes, we’d either have a “master” or a recorded, taped from Christ knows how many cassettes down the line. Often inaudible by today’s standards, but recorded live at various events, they chartered the era. Endless weekday hours spent cutting up flyers to use as covers, doubles of those already pasted on my bedroom wall. In 1990 I had obtained a few, in the space of a year the wall was covered with them, overlapping to hide the roached edges.
Akin to the accumulation of flyers, my rave tape collection increased like wildfire. From popping into Swindon’s Homeboyz Records, which at the time occupied a loft space in a head shop on Fleet Street, to ask for “the kind of tunes I’ve been hearing at the raves,” in which I was sold two, recorded from Coventry’s Eclipse; Frank De Wulf, and the second, Sasha and Top Buzz, to the point where an entire collapsing shelf was bursting with alphabetically arranged cassette boxes, with the wrong tapes in each. Ah, weekday timewasting activities; we lived for the weekend.
Another delivery driving time, after a few visits to Great Tew, I found the private airfield at Enstone. I recalled arriving there in 1991, one misty morning after a lengthy standoff at Peartree services outside Oxford. These were customary; convoys from every direction flooded in, police would surround them, rumours would circulate they were to search every vehicle moving out, meanwhile the bottleneck swelled, car stereos melded into one colossal clamour as kids danced on the embankments, blowing horns and whistles, undaunted to the likelihood of a tipoff, lawlessness supervened, petrol and spearmint chewing gum went mysteriously missing, and police finally acknowledged they were outnumbered, and allowed free passage out of there.
For the journey my mate spoke of nothing other this track he’d heard. “You remember the don’t talk to strangers’ advert with the boy and his cat, Charlie, went, like, Charlie says……” Yeah, I did, but hadn’t heard the song. Coincidently the DJ spun it as we arrived, and he wasted no time, leaping from the car prior to stopping, yelling “this is it!” and running off headlong into the fog.
I myself got lost in that fog sometime later, asked a friendly crusty if I could climb on his van to see if I could find my friends. The view of synchronised trilby hats and bobbed hair dipping into the low-level mist enticed me to dance, to which he seemed completely content with, as I stomped on top of his van. But as others, noting my joy, decided to do similar, I climbed off, persuading them not to follow my bad example, it was this guy’s home from home.
Charlie did say that, but with these carefree strangers, it didn’t seem to matter, hence the irony in the Prodigy’s song. Everyone had the smile of the Cheshire Cat, everyone would lend you a chewing gum in exchange for a rizla, and right in the moment, that was all that mattered. It was short-lived, a few years of complete bonkers, but it had a profound effect on society. Football fans returned from clubbing the night before, far too intoxicated with love drugs to cause the trouble the sport had become associated with. Football chants were adapted from “you’re going home in a fucking ambulance,” to “you’re going home in a fluffy ambience.”
In a clubland where once, to accidently knock over someone’s pint, or look at their girlfriend for longer than a millisecond, would likely evoke a fight. Now, the clubber sighed, “I know you didn’t mean to spill it, no worries mate,” to which the reply would be “sorry, I’ll get you another.” One clubber said, “is that your girlfriend pal? She’s gorgeous,” and that’d be seen as a compliment, perhaps understandably backed by an informal warning, but it certainly wouldn’t end in a drunken scrap.
Such was the scene expanding, a legendary party at the end of the summer of 91, somewhere near Banbury, extended into a nearby field, with a narrow track joining to two. A continuous stream of pedestrians sauntered to-and-fro, until a BMW hurtled through the wanders. A lone hippy cursed the driver, pleading he slowed down. The car came to a screeching halt and backed up. All four doors opened and some rather mean-looking urbanites, full of sovereign rings and bling stepped out to confront the scrawny fellow. Towering over him, the driver and his passengers asked him to repeat what he said; it was a setting akin to a violent scene of a gangster movie, and the expectant crowd held their breath. The crusty replied he had asked them to slow down, because someone could get hurt. The rude boys considered this, got back into the BMW and drove on, at a snail’s pace all the way to the end, carefully stopping for pedestrians.
An incident I’ll reiterate as an example to how genuinely passive and diplomatic raves were. We policed ourselves, troublemakers were dealt with, often in a medieval fashion. Yet troublemakers were few, unlike nightclubs you had to make reasonable effort to find a party, so most were aligned to the concept we were there for that and only that, to party. So too, if you overstayed a party till its conclusion, you willingly picked up and bin liner and helped clean the area, (okay, there was always a chance of finding some money or hashish, I’ll give you!)
The country suddenly seemed at peace, least it did to us, and the authorities had a problem with this.
There was a frustrated lost terrier, scrambling around in the dark, barking, scared without its owner; it was the Conservative Party. John Major walked into this, and knew if he was to overthrow the shadow of Thatcher, he’d need to take drastic change to society.
Me, my mates? We didn’t give a fuck. Other than the annoyance of the odd rave being broken up, when the police got the itch, we had no political opinion, we had no concern over much at all. Because, we knew there was a happy place, somewhere we could go, freely, and we were in the moment of building our own society, shaped as we wished, policed as we required, but as many adolescent dreams, we thought we knew it all.
Twas the night before my life done gone flipped upside down. It may not have been the colossal party the rest of the country were having, but Marlborough was, and always will be, lost in its own little world. Numerous attendees at the aforementioned Read’m and Weep rock concert on the common, just three years earlier, I’d suspect now joined us in marching up to the same common after the pubs called last orders, this time heading for an “acid house party.” Others, who failed to register or accept the change of era continued on their rocky road. No harm done.
With a fire at one end, and an older comrade who rigged a speaker to his Beetle at the other, blasting out whatever music he had which could be deemed as close to acid house as possible, it was a Marlborough-fashioned interpretation of an acid house party, and in rural backwaters you learned to make do.
The morning after undoubtedly the strangest of my life, for some reason everything I’d ever thought had been turned on its head. For the remainder of 1990 we continued with archetypical house parties, where gullible parents went away, but by the spring of 1991 we invited ourselves onto traveller sites, the first being the Belthane festival on Hungerford Common. And while it opened my eyes to see so many living on the road, they seemed unconcerned of our presence and were, on the whole, welcoming. If the urban raver story starts in clubland, note rural ravers didn’t have that luxury, least not without a vehicle.
Indeed, we had a small nightclub in town, but like many it favoured appeasing the old-hat drinking culture. If club owners were aware of rave clubs, they weren’t prepared to make the switch, fearing it’d only diminish their drink sales. At the time the closet place to head for was Swindon, where Extos held legendary nights at Hardings. By the time we’d scrouge a lift and arrived, the club was full, and we’d stand outside in blankets, waiting for a tip off to the party.
So, for a while, best my mate and I could hope for, was to loiter outside the pub, as going in would empty the wallet we needed to escape our town. As newfound ravers leapt in cars and soared off, one of us dared to ask, “alright mate, going to the party?” in hope of scrouging a ride. At art college I had a reliable source, two Oxfordshire individuals into the scene, with bob haircuts and a VW Beetle, one phone call would reveal a clue where to head, if only someone would give us a lift!
The Oxfordshire buddies listened to what we called, “bleep.” For many years I considered it, like ska, a description of the sound, but sources online class it as genre. Rave, or hardcore were the sweeping generalisations, and in 1990 little had been done to separate it into subgenres. There was mellowed vibes type rave, hardcore, house and garage, sure, but at the time it cured into one immense, chaotic noise. Subgenres would derive much later, as the scene exploded and separated. It was however, of small significance UK artists now created their own sound, aside acid-house styled bleep, German techno, which was stiff and structured but lacking soul, and the trancey Goa House, breakbeat house was looming on the horizon.
Here’s a thing; I argue with myself if we could even call all this a “youth culture,” rather class it a movement. Youth cultures of yore had a definitive uniform, musically and fashionably. Rave was a melting pot, electronics seeped its way into all genres, and new arrivals descended onto it from all walks. If the Northern Soul clubbers say it was them who inspired it, they’re not wrong. Neither are the travellers, punks and skins, new romantics, Rastas, or trendy eighties kids. What were once separate identities, rarely seen together, now flocked to the same party, danced and celebrated together, without fussing or fighting, save a mite of banter. This was the chief reason why I class this era as the most wonderful show of unification the nation had seen since the second world war, and I’m honoured to have been a part of. But I’m uncertain if it matched the definition of regulated youth culture, as previous mods, rockers, punks and skins did.
The music reflected this, a melting pot of inspirations, whatever angle you came at rave from, you added your portion into the mix. The upcoming trend derived from Britain’s ties with reggae through the Windrush generation, and the surging dancehall flavours we deemed “ragga.” Fused with the archaic hip-hop concept of breaking the beat, ragga and breakbeat house surged over bleep, and fast became the mainstay. X-L Recordings, Moving Shadow, Urban Shakedown and many other labels headed this change.
But here is the second thing; we were the throwaway generation, jilted, plastic population, and didn’t care for who created the music. There was no interest in holding a torch for particular bands or labels, unless you were master of ceremonies, the DJ. Leaving the choice to one person, it existed as a DJ culture, and they’d soon become the stars of the show. If it was genre-bending, we relied on their faith to perpetrate a certain style; when Sasha got on the decks it would be “fluffy,” whereas as when Easygroove did, it would be “hardcore,” with the upcoming breakbeat twist. That’s all we knew, and rightly cared about.
What swept at us as a trend became a way of life; we lived for the weekend, vaguely remembering to attend college or jobs in the week. Every weekend an ever-growing number roamed the roads at night, invading unsuspecting service stations, joining to convoys with a lead car who we hoped had an inkling where the party was. Bristol moved east, London moved west, meeting in the Shires, where police would be outnumbered and, rather prevent a riot, would grudgingly allow us free movement. Naturally there were times when they got flustered, upon service stations appropriations, for example, but suspect many appreciated the overtime, and left us to enjoy the ride.
At the Gloucestershire one fondly recalled as “the one with the haystacks,” someone drew my attention to the police standing on a ridge overlooking the site. To our amusement, and seemingly theirs too, they were imitating our dance moves, and you know what they say about imitation, sincerest form of flattery!
Despite the ruminates of bad blood with travellers, from the Beanfields and free festival movement of the previous decade, they tended to only throw their weight at them. Attempts to move them on, before ravers flocked to their sites turned hostile. Though if, as my friend and I did once at Pitton near Salisbury, ravers arrived early, they’d witness the true horrors of life on the road, as eviction resembled a massacre rather than a battle. There are shocking things I could tell, of which I’ve witnessed, effectively ethnic cleansing, destruction of a way of life, and homes. It was not the vision of Britain I pre-held, naïvely, reason enough for us to continue to rebel, when all we really wanted to do was party. Opps, some pig knocked off my rose-tinted specs.
Sorry to pop the bubble of happy daze, but there were downsides. Aside the growing harassment from authorities, which would see rave’s demise in the end, there was also comedowns, maintaining motivation for everyday life, failed attempts to find the party, else the event raided and broken up too early. The latter became greater with every weekend, as the sensation blossomed.
You see, we adopted a pyramid-selling technique, only wanted to spread word of our newfound love. Kids we hadn’t seen since leaving school would wander into the pub, they were looking for something, they didn’t know what, but we did. We had the answer, the escapism, and we welcomed them with open arms, took them under our wings and looked after them during their first rave experience. Then, the following week they’d shed their old identity, and we’d see them fully assimilated, like Star Trek’s Borgg, through the foggy morning, wearing a puffa jacket, round pink shades and diamond-cut trilby, giving it, “alright? I’m mullered mate, wot you done?!”
Thus, we all played a part in promoting the scene, until it got too big for the authorities to leave alone. Some weekends when we didn’t go party, somehow rave crept in. I ventured back to Essex to see old friends, and they’d have similar stories, of Raindance and other events there. One weekend we attended my mate’s brother’s wedding in Liverpool, only to find in the basement where the reception was held, a steaming club-rave. The sound attracted us, and we unbolted a fire escape to both gate-crash, and discover likeminded raves were happening nationwide. Meanwhile, his mum wondered where we’d got to, and wandered in to find us amidst a pumping party. Upon her return she’d been shocked, but happily reported the scene as “loads of kids, just dancing, having fun, no one fighting, no one drunk, and one gave me a hug!”
If a little old lady who accidently stumbled into a rave could see it for all its upsides and worth, why couldn’t the police and government? Why did it ever have to end? Because at the time we couldn’t envision that finale, we assumed it would go on forever.
A branch of a classy supermarket chain seems an unlikely place to start a story of one’s first rave experience. It was a shop which, on a later occasion, my mate and I decided to walk ten miles back to, to thank them for such a lovely pizza. Overlooking the fact, it was the extra topping of liberty caps we added ourselves which sparked the idea, and, in turn caused us to only make it a hundred yards out of the village before we collapsed in a hysterical heap. Just as well, given I worked there at the time.
Oh, for the time, I’m slipping down my rose-tinted specs again, but, while I’m grateful to those reading this who lived it, I’d rather those too young would too, who they need to understand the era leading up to it, to know why we did what we did……
A protest at end of term school disco, 1988. Teachers, thought they were “hip” enough to do the “in” thing, hiring a standard DJ to deliver the latest pop sounds. One year away from leaving the institution we saw ourselves as mature. Obviously not, but sufficient to warrant a plain and simple fact; the pop chart was not aimed at us.
A decade old now and electronica has become timeworn and abused by the Hit Factory and Stock Aitken Waterman. The formula was simple, derived from sixties bubble-gum pop, and aimed an even younger audience. An assembly line of drum machine synthpop churned out uninspiring samey trash, a monotonous drone promoting pop stardom to Australian soap opera actors, failing have-been musicians convinced by a fat cheque and dreadful teenage dreamboats. They punished the last part of the decade; they commercialised the once experimental epoch. It should have been a crime.
We all sat in protest on the dancefloor, booing, as the DJ spun, I Owe You Nothing by latest teen-pop sensation Bros, two brothers from Camberley with Pet Shop Boys manager Tom Watkins, stupid belt buckles and leather vests donning crucifixes, which seeing as what they did for pop, was actually quite apt. The only person left dancing was a good friend of mine, who took the ingenuity to bring a Sony Walkman, and he skanked out of time, through the protesters in his own little world, lip-syncing the words to Buffalo Solider.
For me, even my love of hip hop worn thin. While it still had a nostalgic place in my heart, as it spread out from the Bronx it seemed to be whitewashed, typecast far from the original ethos. Yes, Grandmaster Melle Mel rapped conscious lyrics on The Message, but that was the exception to the rule. Now, seemed every rapper had a chip on their shoulder, something to criticise, a plastic attitude and some serious bling. It was either this, or sell yourself like a cheap tart; take MC Miker G & DJ Sven rapping over Madonna’s Holiday as red for why hip hop lost its way.
A far cry from the untroubled origins of hip-hop, where the idea was to throw your cares away for the duration and party. A notion closer to the new impending wave of electronic music, fresh from the underground.
In any case, at 14 I’d moved to Marlborough, where breakdance seemingly hadn’t the same impact as it had on my Essex town. Prior to starting school there, my mother suggested my brother and I attend a concert on the common, as promoted on GWR Radio, surprisingly. It may’ve been a tactic to encourage us to blend into our new home. What actually happened freaked me out. If I considered I’d descended time, back to the seventies, before this day, I certainly did now. I believe the band playing to have been popular local rock band, Read’m and Weep.
Looking back now, they were excellent, but through my trendy suburban Essex eyes I was shocked at the sight of scruffy rock kids perched on car bonnets, uniformed in black, smoking, drinking from bottles before me. I felt like the character Sam Emerson, the younger brother in the movie The Lost Boys, when they go to the beach fair. If one of these “weirdos” glimmered fangs at me, I was legging it.
In fairness, being bored with the direction of hip-hop, and annoyed with commercial pop, I had a sweeping overview of rock, as soft metal took the charts by storm. And as I emersed fuller into the cultural differences of my environment. I began to find it was the only musical avenue worthy of attention, and had to backtrack my knowledge to the classics. But as I was taking in Led Zeppelin, Hendrix and The Doors, in order to make friends at school, they became accepting of a new wave of electronic music called “house,” as it was, it had a commercial side, but looming was the psychedelic underground roots, sub-labelled “acid house.” We kind of met in the middle.
I find it amusing child-friendly raves have become a popular attraction recently. Organisers such Raver Tots and Big Fish, Little Fish attained a gap in the market with new parents who thought the stork has ended their raving days.
Ingeniously they create a pay-rave/soft play centre crossover, largely based on the hardcore era of the mid-nineties, as that’s the generation with easily persuaded toddlers. Way to go to push your diehard habits onto your saucepan and lids, but indulge now, as it doesn’t last! If you asked my daughter ten years ago what her favourite music is, she’d reply “reggae,” an obvious spoon-fed response. Now she’s engulfed by current pop, and you have to let them find their own path, their own thing. Pushy parenting backfires.
But that’s not the reason it amuses me, neither is the fact since the dawn of rave participants never take themselves too seriously. Yes, it’s “cheesy” by their own definition. Yes, there’s a childlike euphoria involved with raving too. Sucking of lollies, cuddling complete strangers, and dancing like a lunatic to a breakbeat sample of the Sesame Street theme. But it’s a notion the flipside, the “indie” kids could never fathom, in all their depressing reality-driven gloom; rave was never to be taken too seriously. It was quintessentially an escapism.
No, the reason it amuses me is thus, at the time rave was not the place to take a toddler and few did, save for perhaps the travelling folk who, for them, the sites were their home. Rave was illegal, primarily, until big businesses saw the opportunity to make a fast buck. Rave was daring, criminal and that’s what, unashamedly, made it exciting. In fact, the spread of the trend grew from a scare story, a tabloid attempt to frighten parents into believing every teenager, including theirs, was off their rockers in a dangerous derelict warehouse somewhere around the London orbital. Truth is, my friends and I hadn’t a clue about it, until now.
In fact, in 1988, just before some doughnut invited a lucky journalist to an acid house party, the scene was tiny, a secret association only a select few Ibiza diehards knew about. The desire to recreate their hedonistic holiday in the Balearics in London gained little attention, until one day the newspapers splashed it across their front pages. Needless to say, it backfired, now every teenager in the country wanted in on the deal. Including me.
As ever, the Sun was the main culprit, Gary Bushell pasting a light-hearted angle, often satirical and tongue-in-cheek but definitely in favour of the exploding trend, in order to sell their “acid house t-shirt.” Soon as sales dropped, they turned nasty on the surge they had a hand in prompting. It’s almost as if they deliberately blossomed a teenage rebellious phenomenon in order to flip it over and create hysteria, to sell papers; who knew they could be so callous?!
But it was too late. D-Mob sounded it out; We Call It Acieeed. Prior tunes to hit the charts never wrote it directly on the wall. It was always just about “house” music, pumping up the volume, or jackin’ your body. One could differentiate, draw a definite line between run-of-the-mill “house,” hence being commercial, or the evil, drug suggested “acid house.” At least to our adolescent mind. Truth is, it was all the same.
Yet meanwhile we were still convinced electronic music was sold out to commercialisation, therefore we’d rewound back to the space rock of psychedelic sixties and seventies. Unlike my peers though, I retained small penchant for the original hip hop, and swept house with the same brush. It was short lived, but I liked house for all the silly samples of Bomb the Bass’ Beat Dis. It was as if electro had turned full circle, and divided from the cliche of fierce rap styled US hip hop, particularly now the west coast had as much clout as the east.
It’s also worth noting, although we took its source as American, British acts like Coldcut were now producing house. As the media hysteria became old news and mellowed, by 1990, the average joe blogs could be forgiven for assuming it had all been a flash in the pan. Little did even we know the trend was growing, and since graduating from pupil to student, felt we had moral responsibility to check it out for ourselves.
Perhaps not just our age, but also rural Wiltshire was hardly cutting edge when it came to trends. So, two years on and the words on our lips were “acid house,” despite the term had metamorphosed into “rave.”
With local Tory backhanding secret social clubs’ slaps on the back, our school opened its doors and poured children into the only supermarket in town, where the branch manager welcomed weekend staff, he could offer £2.20 an hour to. I succumbed for want of my own pocket money. Surprisingly, it was there where my adventure into rave begun.
Yet it was there, working my Saturday job, allowing us the newfound financial freedom to maturely decide where best to invest our earning, which happened to be getting wasted. A friend, a year or so senior, dropped the killer bombshell, to which I hide my excitement and pretended to know all about. “You going to the acid house party tonight, up the common?” he inquired.
Well, my feet didn’t touch the floor before arriving at the opposite side of the warehouse below the store, where my buddy priced up tins of soup. Shocking to think barcodes were still some way off, and one would have to be like Clint Eastwood with a pricing gun. But nevertheless, he stopped as I told him the news, and his face lit up with excitement, and a slight evil grin.
1991 beckons next week, as I relive my rave honeymoon, be there!
New short series of articles exploring rave culture thirty years on, from a personal perspective….
In the early eighties my nan and grandad stood at the head of the hall, preparing from requests they adlib a speech for their surprise anniversary party. My grandad did the standard honours, thanking everyone for coming, excusing any clumsiness with his words by suggesting, “we’re still at ten thousand feet with the surprise.” At this point my nan’s sister interrupted with astute cockney humour; “bit like your wedding night, eh, Carrie?!”
“No,” my Nan causally retorted, “there were bombs on our wedding night!”
It’s a sentiment which will live with me forever, how anyone can pass off bombs during their wedding, in jest. Most people nowadays get irate if rains on their special day. Because, whenever my grandparents spoke of the war and living in the east-end during the blitz, it was a joyous transcript, never revealing horrors we know happened. I ponder my own memories of youth, wonder if it’s the same rose-tinted specs, or if the era really was as utterly fantastic as my memory of it is.
And in this much, there’s a thing; nothing we did was particularly new-fangled. Tribally, ancient folk gathered to celebrate and hypnotically dance to drum beats, and the occurrence never trended or waivered. Though it maybe debatable, I think, with the introduction of computer technology in music, designer chemicals and enough chewing gum to keep Wrigley’s in business, we partied harder, faster and longer than any previous youth culture did, and probably ever will in the future!
We made party a way of life. We did not think politically until they came for us. Our only concerns were where the next party would be and if we’d have enough cash for some petrol and necessities. Our only motivation was the joyous unification of a tribal-like movement, or in other words, a fuck-off legendary party. Our only philosophies were how beautiful said unification was, and how we could promote it to the world. Yet, unbeknown at the time, the latter was most likely our downfall. No one makes some fucking noise anymore.
I do recall the fabled week of the second bank holiday of May 1992, how we gathered at a common in Malvern. I also recollect wandering up a hillside on the first morning, observing how large the event had grown, and I remember thinking to myself, nice as it was, they were never going to let us live this one down, they were going to have to attempt to put a stop to it, politically.
So, I’m drafting a series of articles exploring the time, from a personal interpretation, hoping to conclude, it’s a bit of both; rose-tinted specs, and the most explosive period of counter-culture hedonism ever. Individual because events and accounts vary vastly from person-to-person; how, where and why they “got into,” the sybaritic nineties trend of rave. Lots of memoirs I do read or see, like the most successful, Justin Kerrigan’s 1999 film Human Traffic, are set in an urban environment. Unlike these, we spent our youth in the Wiltshire countryside, and this I feel is a major contributing factor which differs our story from most, especially prior to passing my driving test! Thumbs out, “you going to the party, mate?”
I’m doing it now because of the significance of the anniversary. Thirty years ago, I class my “personal summer of love.” It was 1991, I was eighteen, standing in an unidentified field somewhere in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds, gyrating like a robot through the morning mist, eyes large as saucers, and a jawbone tremor you could break a walnut with. Imagine, not alone, but with countless likeminded others. In fact, I’d lost my mates an uncalculatable time ago, which mattered not one iota. How did I get here? Why did I go there? Where the bloody hell was I anyway? To reflect back with any hope of clarity is not only to understand the epoch and the time, but the mindset, and for this we need to go back further, much further.
I put my pre-initiation to becoming a “raver,” into two significant recollections. The first was in the spring of 1984, in my Dad’s Ford Cortina, heading for the Asda at the Chelmer Village outside Chelmsford. Growing up in Essex had one advantage to my friends in the west country, we had pirate radio, and I mean pirates. Anchored off the East Anglia coast were the legendary Radio Caroline, where BBC Radio headhunted many DJs, but who appeased their fanbase by continuing playing sixties and seventies songs, and its sister, the short-lived Laser 558, which toppled Caroline’s listeners by using American DJs which played a continuous mix of contemporary tunes.
Hard to imagine at the time we considered having a cassette deck in a car radio as something only for the gods. In fact, I went to edit that last sentence to call it a car stereo, but reflecting back it wasn’t even stereo, just the one speaker below the dashboard! Reason why my brother and I would screech requests from the backseats for my Dad to turn it up. On this occasion we were particularly demanding, as there was a song, I’d never heard the like of ever before. Sure, Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte’s I Feel Love was timeworn, and we existed amidst the dawn of new romantic, the electronic eighties pop in Britain was governed by the experimental post-punks. They either got with the program or fell into obscurity, whinging about how Adam Ant sold out.
Nope, I hadn’t a Scooby-Doo what a Roland TR-808 was, but I knew what I liked. I wasn’t aware of Factory Records, but I knew what Blue Monday was, and I knew liking Duran Duran might make me more attractive to the opposite sex. But this American song was wildly different, it was like ultramodern sonic funk, it was Planet Rock by Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force. I figured aside the Dr Who theme, this was the sound of the future, this was space-age, flying cars type stuff. And for the best part, I was right. Little did I know I’d be standing in a cold west country field seven years later, gnashing my teeth to electronic beats which made this sound old-hat.
I went out and loaded myself with American electro and early hip hop, discovering Grandmaster Melle Mel, Hashim, Newcleus et all, and we nagged Dad for a video recorder. My parents couldn’t see the point to recording TV, or hiring a VHS cassette, but the latter soon become a family weekend activity. We hired National Lampoons Vacation the first weekend, but prior to that, my brother rented the movie Beat Street, and everything, the Bronx culture, the graffiti, the breakdancing, the rapping, all fell into place.
Before I knew what was what, we were breaking in the school playground to commercialised versions, Break Machine’s Street Dance, Ollie & Jerry’s Breakin’… There’s No Stopping Us and Hey, you The Rock Steady Crew. Well, I say breakdancing, but that was a showy skilful fad for flexible kids. As a shy, cumbersome one, surrounded by puppy-fat I ticked none of those boxes and made do with “body popping.” This was far simpler, just had to join hands with the kids in the circle either side of you and do a kind of connected wave. That will impress the fairer sex, we must have figured, least I don’t know why else we did it, but we did, and less said about it the better.
The second significant recollection as a pre-cursor to becoming a “raver,” was a trip to the dentist. I needed my four remaining milk teeth extracted. For this, unlike today where you stay awake, numbed but perceptible to the dentist tensioning a foot to the side of the chair while he wrenches into your gum full force, they put me to sleep using gas. The nurse held my hand and told me to count to ten, I remember feeling uneasy as the gas took effect, it felt strange, it was the first time I was high; destined to be a “raver,” I’ll leave it up to your imagination if it was the last!
Do come again next Sunday, for the second part; might actually get on to the party stuff by then!
Two opinion pieces from me in as many days; you lucky, lucky people! What I wouldn’t give to have two lofty opinion pieces from Devizine thrown at me once in a while!
As the news circulates that hunting bonkers Conservative PCC candidate for Wiltshire, Johnathan Seed is out of the race, we all can have a belly-laugh, especially Basil Brush. But rules are rules, and at this stage, seems WC will need to hold a second election, rather than the obvious, just pick the second-place candidate and roll with that.
I mean, if a horse falls out of the race, the race continues. You wouldn’t stop the race, pick another horse and rerun it, would you?
Without quoting sources at this delicate time, word on the street is another election will cost a cool million squid; who picks up this bill, the taxpayer?
Hinging on two conflicting allegations as to how this story came to light, one being Seedy declared his drink driving offence and suddenly decided he should pull out because of it, and the second that he was ousted when the offense came to light, one could argue if the latter, he, or the Conservative party should be liable for the bill, whereas the first means the electoral roll should’ve picked this up before running the election. Being Wiltshire Council is Tory run, you can bet your bottom dollar, the dollar is coming out of your pocket. In essence, it’s Wiltshire’s most expensive laugh.
Whatever, this does mean there’s time for the Conservatives to draft in a new candidate, which they can do. One who without even having to campaign, will, by current trends walk the show without the slightest insight or experience of the roll. So, if you thought every cloud has a silver lining, no, not in our Tory haven. But I must stress, that’s speculation.
If the race is yet to be won, there’s as much convincing as I can to be done, to sway you to consider voting elsewhere. We’ve interviewed Lib Dem Liz Webster, and we’ve interviewed independent Mike Rees. We ran out of time to chat to Labour’s Junab Ali, for which I apologise, but with this news, and depending on the date of the election, perhaps this is still on the cards, and I welcome Junab to chat with us.
Anyway, tonight will see the news break the local social media sites, where’s there’s a general feeling of relief. Johnathan Seed’s campaign has not been particularly popular. And if that has reflected in the current polls, who knows, we may not have to go through all this again.
Here’s what some people are saying online, which is what the Gazelle & Herod do for a quick article, I know, and if it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for us!
“I’m sorry, but I’m losing no sleep over this one!”
“Apparently they’re going to put up a garden gnome with a blue rosette on it, they’re still convinced it will win.”
“It’s very frustrating, especially as it’s nothing new. He doesn’t seem to have been a popular choice so fingers crossed he doesn’t win and we can bypass another vote.”
“Good. Will Wiltshire Council send him the bill for having to rerun the poll?”
“This will give him more time to spend with the hunt and hounds..”
Right, that’s enough of that, this isn’t a public forum! Go figure!
You’ve done it now, it’s too late for reason. My reaction to the local election results coming in; you really want to hear it?!
It’s not really news, and altogether unsurprising to see early results to the local town/village elections coming in, proving generally the majority population of Wiltshire is unable to consider change, and doesn’t much care for their neighbours. Yep, if you proudly tow the national party line, or if you waffle how the sheer ignorance, dishonourable and incompetent of the Conservative Party nationally doesn’t reflect your own opinions and views, if you painted your election leaflet blue, you more than likely won it by a country mile. Did we seriously expect anything less?
Face it, any other party, or independent candidate wouldn’t have stood a chance even if they offered everyone a free fish finger sandwich for every vote, and everyone, tory or sensible, loves a fish finger sandwich. To those who lost, it’s not a reflection on you, rather the ignorance of the silent majority. Not even mayo on the sarnie would’ve worked.
As impartial as I get, I offer my congratulations to the winning candidates, but it is with great concern for the wellbeing of the most vulnerable, the youth, the working class and usual victims of this totalitarian regime. Even if many themselves fail to see past their Daily Fail, fail to comprehend the buck stops at the top, and their neighbours, or their mass-media driven forged enemies are not to blame for the current balls up this country finds itself in, it is, nonetheless, proof Wiltshire loves to lay all it’s eggs in the same basket.
It’s not even a shiny new basket, it’s the aged wrecked one, where guaranteed the eggs drop out of the bottom and an expectant fat cat waits to lap them up.
I cross my fingers and toes that this sheer stupidity will not elevate to the Police Crime Commissioner role, due to be announced on Monday, but reflecting on today’s results, I’m not holding my breath. The most controversial and malevolent of all tory candidates standing has raised interest in this debatably inconsequential job. It all hinges on what we want from a PCC; a dedicated experienced man in the field, a politically-minded victim’s mother of a callous and brutal attack with an argument to boot, or a one-policy suspected criminal themself, with the financial backing of the wealthiest felons of blood sports in order to encourage police to turn a blind eye to brutally attacking wildlife for twisted kicks. Seriously, you think you’ll get justice for a burglary, an assault or theft, from a fellow whose only objective for the role is to turnaround the hunting act and roam the countryside on horseback yelling tally-ho and smearing the blood of slaughtered foxes on their face? Is that really the future prospective for policing in the county you crave?
Give me strength. There’s a level of blind folly which astounds my tolerance, it really does. Yet historically it’s a given thing, Wiltshire is Tory, always has been since the Cavaliers whipped the Roundheads; you face it head-on and bite your lip, or you follow suit, opt for the selection which takes no brainpower, and place your cross where you always do. Unreasoning contemporary alterations is a dangerous game, having an opposition is vital to democracy. I’m no politician, don’t pretend to be, don’t wish to be, but that much I do know.
As this reflects national trend, I hope every successful candidate adheres to the lofty pledges and promises of change, rather than submits to the corrupt ethos of the current cabinet. Okay, so you used the blue platform to get to this point, despite bits of Bojo’s rash and forbidding outbursts, like the watermelon smiles, the post boxes, and now the bodies piling higher, don’t match your sentiments, but the motivation is surely to climb further up the ladder, that’s the philosophy of modern conservatism, and for which you need to kiss the rings of those in charge, and they do not accept a midrange, centre-right standing; you watched them get ousted in favour of far right and nationalists from other parties, remember? You are buying into oppression, whether you want to, or not, like it, or not.
There’s nothing wrong with Conservatism per say, as a theory, and one, possibly two Tories I can stomach, for they seem to have morals on the surface. Yet, it’s when there’s a, whatever the collective noun for self-centred arseholes is, they tend to bounce inconsistences to what’s righteous around, garnish them with wonky and selfish agendas, and generally, fuelled by expensive tax-free wine from daddy’s collection, conjure a plan to maintain the wealth for the wealthiest without concern for the trickling down of any leftover faeces for the common man to lap up.
This is good news for most of us here, this is an affluent area. But I urge you, when you next roll your 21reg Land Rover Discovery off your extensive loose chipping track and drive into the real world, stop to observe not everyone’s silver spoon is quite as polished and orally positioned, and everyone who serves you in Marks and Sparks, everyone who delivers your bespoke Lexington four-draw chest for your next refurb, or collects your recycling bin surely warrants a better day too. Enough to go round, isn’t there? Monkeys live in this jungle too, not just organ grinders.
Ah, same shitshow different day. For me it’s a no news day, and I’m waffling. I can’t even raise my optimism for the news the controversial head Wiltshire councillor Phillip Whitehead has resigned, for it’s easy to suspect another one will be along shortly, equally as vexed. I’m more flabbergasted, and slightly upset the sequel to my fictional story series needs a new thinktank, as those comical and sensitive Tories say!
Rowde villagers joined for a socially distanced and peaceful protest today, in the centre of the village to show their support for the Save Furlong Close campaign.
More show of solidarity than protest, if “protest” is now a dirty word and standing up for your rights is to be considered illicit. It was good to meet those heading this campaign to deflect the closing of Furlong Close, home to 36 vulnerable adults with learning disabilities, including Down syndrome, autism and epilepsy.
Reflecting on a thought I’d said in previous articles on this campaign, campaign leader Trish specified how the residents of Furlong Close were a big part of the village community and would be missed if it was to close down. We also discussed that while the red tape between Wiltshire Council and the owning charity HFT continues, the opinions of both locals and residents are being ignored.
We’ve covered the tragic plans on Devizine at length, in the past; hearing direct from Mark Steele, a member of the campaign’s steering group, who has family at Furlong Close. The Gazette & Herald ran an edition with a wrap-around page campaign, and over a staggering 44,000 have signed the petition, therefore I do not wish to go over the same ground. We know this is a terrible decision, we are aware the residents do not wish to be dispersed and move into isolated and lonely single accommodations they’re unfamiliar with, we only need a workable solution.
Yet with the backing of many local councillors, Anna Cuthbert and Lib Dem candidate for Bromham, Rowde and Roundway, Mark Mangham in attendance today, the backing of the media, and in particular, the local people, I sincerely hope we can turn this around and end on a feel-good story. The show of hope and solidarity today proves this is possible. Mark said it was, “humbling to be among the campaigners, many related to residents and from beyond Wiltshire. Many Rowde residents are volunteers. This is what community feels like!”
Or at least the ones either valiant or crazy enough to stomach appearing on Devizine!
I did, didn’t I, promise not to edit or “open my big cake hole,” rather offer any candidate two paragraphs on why the heck we should vote for them, and leave it at that?
No bias, no political grandstanding, no wonky opinion, and, take heed politicians/councillors; I’m a man of my word! The only editing I’ve had to undertake is the obvious grammar and spelling mistakes. Honestly, it’s been like a primary school teacher’s weekend!
I was informed there were hundreds of wanna-be councillors and it was suggested I’d be inundated. But to-date, only these guys braved the wrath. But, if you’re a councillor thinking, well blow me down with a manifesto attached to feather, attached to a brick, that filthy commoner stuck to his promise and refrained from insulting and mocking candidates, and I missed my chance; the beauty of online blogging is I can add you, if you so wish. Just drop me line on email@example.com and you’re in the club. There’s no badge or plastic club wallet though, try to control your tantrum at this.
By the way, I postal voted, so I’m way past caring!
While I’m here though, and before I tangent or lower the tone, I’d like to wish all candidates the very best of luck, and being so popular it scares me, be thankful I’m not running as an ultramodern monster raving loony candidate, or a conservative, as it’s better known. Apologies, couldn’t resist one quick satirical stab; somebody stop me!
Margaret Green: Green Party Candidate for Devizes Rural West
Looking for a challenge in my third retirement… What should I do??? I know, drive Wiltshire to meet a zero carbon future by 2030 😉 become a Wiltshire Councillor…
Something to keep me busy when not out with the horses or importing French saddles (Brexit has been interesting)…
I have lived Wiltshire since retiring from the MOD in 2009, and am proud to have called our beautiful town of Devizes home for the last 5 years. Since moving to Devizes, I’ve become involved with Sustainable Devizes, the Wiltshire Climate Alliance, and the Green Party. All organisations committed to delivering a better future for local residents.
My highest priority is to ensure that Wiltshire Council delivers a sustainable local plan that provides safe, warm affordable homes for all citizens, while preserving the character of the area.
The Green Party never tell their councillors how to vote. So, I can be an independent voice for Devizes Rural West, putting residents and not party politics first.
I have loved working with you and for you, finding out what matters to you, looking for solutions to local problems and working to make this area better for everyone in the community. That’s why I’m standing for election. I would be honoured to be your representative on Wiltshire Council and get even more done for you as your councillor. For more information on Green Party policies, see our Manifesto here: https://campaigns.greenparty.org.uk/manifesto/
Alan Coxon: Independent Candidate for Pewsey, Milton Lilborne, Easton Royal, and Wootton Rivers.
I am excited to be standing for election as your Independent candidate for the Pewsey area for Wiltshire council.
I’m not tied by party policies and party politics, I will be your voice, not the party representative. I know I can offer you something different, a real voice in local government.
I’m not going to make false promises, but I do have a raft of policies. The policies are extensive and so available on my website, https://www.alan-coxon.com/ and there is more information about me and why I am the choice for you.
Formerly on the Parish Council I have made a real impact preserving local services. I have a lot of experience in Local Government to add to my wide life and employment experience.
Be the change.
Lisa Kinnaird: Liberal Democrats Candidate for Urchfont and Bishops Cannings
Well, it’s not all about me! In voting for a Liberal Democrat Candidate, you will be supporting our Plan for Wiltshire. I am fully behind the Plan and would love the opportunity to reset and transform the way Wiltshire is run and how services are delivered. The Conservatives have governed nationally now for 11 years, and have led Wiltshire council since its creation in 2009. In that period, we have seen a decline in all areas of our public services. It’s hard to think of any that have improved and this managed decline directly impacts our lives here in Wiltshire. We don’t need to shrug and accept this. As a Liberal Democrat councillor, I would deliver on our promise to run our council more openly and with greater direct engagement with communities. Our plan recognises our commitment to the environment with practical steps to reduce CO2 rather than abstract and distant targets. For our villages I would campaign to create safe (e)cycling and routes linking our villages to Devizes so all ages can “get to town” without a car.
Briefly about me. I was a hairdresser, then worked in Social Care then switched again to become secondary school teacher! I moved to Urchfont as an Army family 20 years; all 3 of my Children have gone to our local state schools. I ran a local youth club, helped with the rights of way group and now a local environment group. I plant hedges and trees, walk my dog, have always campaigned against racism and inequality, shout at Andrew Marr and get upset at a corruption and old boys’ networks. We deserve more honesty, integrity and compassion from our representatives at all levels and I put myself forward to represent our community to try and be exactly that. I’d have a huge amount to learn, but I would genuinely do my best for my community and Wiltshire.
David Kinnaird: Liberal Democrats Candidate for Devizes North
Well – as a Lib Dem Candidate I’d echo the views set out by Lisa Kinnaird above. I won’t repeat the Lib Dem manifesto again.
About me – I served 15 years in the Army leaving as a Major in 2000, and it was in my final 3 years of service that we moved to Urchfont. Since then, I have worked and lead in technology and property companies in London, the USA and India and outside the Army have had to work hard to understand how business works. Unsurprisingly my interests mirror Lisa’s and I have been involved in all of her voluntary and campaigning activities – but was also a School Governor of our local Primary School. I feel grounded and happy in Wiltshire but want to see better public services and equality of access for all of us.
I’d have a huge amount to learn again about local government, but if elected would bring wide experience and dedication to the post. I hope you can put your trust in me.
Iain Wallis: Conservative Candidate for Devizes North
I have lived in Devizes most of my life and have always felt incredibly lucky to live here. Having been interested in local issues for many years I went to a town council organised ‘consultation’ event in 2014 and couldn’t believe how little the councillors there actually wanted to listen to the views of the town. They had their plan and weren’t going to budge; the consultation was little more than lip service to those who had even discovered the session was being run. As a result, many of those there, who I spoke to and thought had great ideas, never came back as they couldn’t see the point if they weren’t going to be heard.
At that point I decided that what was needed was someone who wanted to listen to the town and work with others but was also stubborn enough not to be pushed around by an old guard who were comfortable with things as they were. I believe I am that person and that I can help others from across the town get their voice heard, especially those who say to me that the council don’t want to hear from them as it’s even more important that they have a voice. I recognise that not everyone will always agree with my view, my politics, or my actions, but I hope they recognise that I will always be prepared to take action and justify them with honesty and integrity. No one should want to be a councillor to say they are a councillor; they should do it because they want to make a difference – however corny that may sound.
Why should you vote for me? For 30 years I’ve been working behind the scenes to get a new hospital and to restore a rail link to the Town (I’m one of the DDP Directors committed to delivering this by 2025). Potholes (enough said!) Green issues – I’m one of the few people who have actually converted their houses to near Zero carbon. I want to do more. Homeless issues, fly tipping, I could give you a wish list as long as your arm.
Angelika Davey: Liberal Democrats Candidate for Devizes East
Although I’ve been living in Devizes East since 1988 you may not have heard of me because unlike my political opponents I cannot boast of any involvement in political or social local issues. I have not been a mayor or even a councillor, because raising a family and starting my own business has taken all my time. As a self-employed teacher my working times change every time a student leaves and a new student wants lessons. But in recent months this has changed as most of my new students learn via my online courses – and I now have more time.
And I want to use this time best by serving Devizes East residents.
I am concerned about our green spaces and as a teacher I am very interested in education and youth services. But most of all I will work for you. If you raise any issues with me, I will get back to you. Whether it’s something I can do or not, or if it’s taking longer than anticipated – you will get replies from me!
I love living in Devizes and I want the best for all of us!
Laura Mayes: Conservative Candidate for Bromham, Rowde & Roundway
I am Laura Mayes, the Conservative candidate for Bromham, Rowde & Roundway for the Wiltshire Council elections on 6th May. I have been the Wiltshire Councillor for Roundway for 12 years and am the only candidate who lives in the constituency so have a real vested interest in doing my best for residents. I look forward to adding Bromham and Rowde to my patch after the boundary change. I have built a reputation for acting quickly to solve local issues and getting results – I don’t give up easily! In addition to representing Roundway residents, I have been supporting Rowde Parish Council for the last year, including securing £20,000 to improve the playground at Silverlands. I have also been attending Bromham Parish Council meetings – I am up to date with the road, drainage, planning and broadband issues so will be able to hit the ground running after the election.
I have worked hard for the last 12 years to make improvements to our area, and if you elect me, I will continue to support residents. As one resident said, “You’re doing a great job Laura – you make things happens. The world needs more you!”
Mark Mangham: Liberal Democrats Candidate for Bromham, Rowde & Roundway
I am new to politics but have been driven to stand because of the poor performance of Wilshire council. I am a former soldier, a defence consultant and treasurer of the friends of Erlestoke prison charity. I volunteered for Love Devizes during the pandemic. The last month has been really illuminating talking to people on the doorstep and I can’t wait to be able to make a difference if lucky enough to be elected. I hope to talk to you personally before May 6th.
Furlong Close should be a great example of how a village has taken a vulnerable community to its heart. Instead, it’s under threat of closure and is not yet safe and the Council have been dragged kicking and screaming to perform a U-turn by a small group of parents of vulnerable residents. That alone is a scandal and in lockdown has caused stress and anxiety in a community who actually needed proactive support. They have been briefed against and only very recently when 43,000 people signed a petition taken seriously.
In certain areas in Roundway there is about to be a major traffic nightmare with the new estate and no extra access or provision – and those who live on London Road have it pretty bad already. People in Rowde are about to get triple the congestion at the new super school – and planning are dragging their feet on making the access safe and sensible. The speed limit is far too high and three deaths in an accident appears to have made no difference.
Wilts County Council led by the LibDems made a commitment on climate change in 2019 – but only when sensible conservatives rebelled – I fear my opponent was not one of them. It is time to make sure the council helps to put the environment at the heart of policy. Reducing pollution levels from unnecessary traffic queues would be a start!
Finally, local youth have been let down with the collapse in youth services; Braeside was saved by a campaign led by ordinary people – and central government funding and bans priorities in the county council have had a terrible impact on people badly affected by the pandemic.
Listening to people and taking action will be my aim – I look forward to be lucky enough to be able to get going!
Truth be told, I get a tad nervy when a subject wants an interview via phone call. I worry of saying the wrong thing, or forgetting a fundamental question. Being I’ve chatted to Mike Rees, Wiltshire independent Police Crime Commissioner candidate on the dog and bone before, I’m quite looking forward to hearing from him. He is so down-to-earth it’s like chatting to an old friend.
At the time he was at his boxing class, where he teaches various age groups, but I felt Mike sounded rather exhausted and slightly more despondent than his usual cheery self. Naturally I opened with asking him how the campaigning was going. “It’s bloody hard work, to be honest, Darren,” he confessed, perhaps the very reason for his temperament. Mike runs a business, has the boxing gym to manage too, “and I’m trying to get this campaign stuff down. I keep getting requests for more leaflets, and I just can’t afford that. That’s my disadvantage.”
Hoping the focus will be entirely on Mike and his campaign, prior to the call I made a mental note not to mention, if possible, the other candidates and in particular, Conservative Johnathan Seed. But only a minute in I broke that rule, mainly because a post by Seedy popped on my Facebook newsfeed seconds before the call, and I noted it was sponsored by a company. Budget is everything when on a campaign trial, and Mike funds his himself.
However, sharing is caring on social media; I mainly see positivity for Mike, but newsfeeds are catered to taste, and there’s that silent majority. “Yeah,” he agreed, “it’s the people not on social media who are always going to vote Tory, no matter what. That’s the people I can’t really get to.”
This said, I’ve noted a number of known conservative thinkers in support of Mike, because the humdinger here is the importance of politics in the PCC role. Other candidates affiliated with a party insist this is political. I loved chatting to Lib Dem runner Liz Webster, though I asked Mike how he felt when, in the interview, she said he was “going for the wrong job!”
This was where Mike cheered up. “Yeah, chief constable; it did make me laugh! No, I don’t. It’s the last thing I want to do!” Mike knows exactly what the job involves. There’s this notion circulating we need a party-led politician for PCC, like calling a sparky for a plumbing job. Yet, in a political MP or councillor election anyone is free to run as an independent, and no one batters an eyelid. Mike agreed, informing me his focus is on the public, “on what the people want, you know. They have HMIC inspections and Wiltshire Police has come out as good. Do the public think that? I’m not sure they do. That’s what’s more important, not what HMIC says but what the pubic think about their policing.”
So, I put another negative comment from the book of face to him, which said “we don’t want a copper in the role because he’s institutionalised.” Mike retorted, he’s been out of the cops for seven years, and been running his own business, “and I’ve seen things from the other side. I’ve seen real poor police service, and seen some good stuff. There are good cops out there, but some bad service, and some stories I get told, I just put my head in my hands. As someone who worked for the police for thirty years, I understand what they’re going through. But I also get dismayed by it, because through my service we always wanted to do the best for the victim. It seems like they’re more concerned with policing themselves than they are about policing the public. So, I worry for the public perception of them.”
He reflected, “on my first day of training school, what we were taught; prevention and detection of crime, preservation of life and property, keeping the peace. That was the core function of the police, it just seems like we’ve lost sight of that, personally. We’ve become to politicised, and I don’t like it.”
One point Mike recently posted online, was concerning domestic abuse, stating he was disappointed with the House of Lords when 351 MPs rejected Amendment 42 of the Domestic Abuse Bill, which sought to instigate a national register of domestic abuse perpetrators and stalkers. I wanted to ask Mike, how one governs a police force if you have to align with political decisions you personally disagree with. “Well,” he started, “I’m not afraid to speak up. This is what I see as an advantage for me; I don’t need the job, I’m going in there to try make things better, because I care. I could sit here and moan all day but someone’s got to put down we’re trying do something about it. A politician, I don’t think they think like that, they think rather differently. I understand what these people are dealing with on a daily basis, dealing with some horrible, nasty things, and the force is demoralised, recent federation survey showed us that, and things need to change.”
“If you’ve got a demoralised police force, it doesn’t matter what policies and procedures people are coming up with, nothing’s going to work. You’ve got to sort your workforce out first, and get them to follow you, be inspired by you; and that’s one of things I do.”
There’s been progression since we last spoke, and I felt the need to mention the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill protests, supposing the successful Wiltshire candidate is lucky in respect that while we’ve had a few protests, it’s relatively passive compared to Bristol. “No one’s got an issue with peaceful protest, have they?” Mike responded, with his “own views” about the Bill, “I don’t see the need for it, to be honest, I think the law is already there for what they’re trying to do. I don’t see the purpose it serves.”
“If the violence is there, it can be dealt with now, under the current laws.” Mike laughed off the concept a protest should be shut down if it gets too noisy, adding, “a slightly annoying protest? What’s that about? How can you judge ‘annoying’?!”
“Peaceful protest is an absolute right in a democratic society, isn’t it?” he asked me; like, yeah, I thought so too! “If you’re going to be violent, then you’re going to be dealt with, and I think you should be dealt with strongly. If you’re going to infiltrate and cause violence, then you have to be dealt with strongly, that’s the only way to deal with it.”
To find myself agreeing with the police must be an age thing, but I do on all Mike’s points! I only hope, on this reply, the ‘you’ he uses is proverbial and not a personal warning! That’s the key throughout our chat, he’s an agreeable bloke. I noted if one wants to be violent, they will, and we went through other examples in British history, like football violence. And herein is my respect for the police, because if you see a fight happening on the street, you cross the road, avoid it, but the Babylon, they’ve got to be the ones who go and sort it out. I confessed; I’d be completely shit at that! Mike relayed when, off duty, he stepped in to stop an unfair fight, “I told the lad who was getting a kicking to bugger off, which he did, then they set on me!” The point is, most politicians, I’d gather, would be like me, sheepishly walking away, hardly ‘community policing!’ Mike has been there, and knows the shop floor duties.
A serious note ensued, Mike felt we’d lost touch with community policing, “it’s really important to build up a relationship with the community, they feel reassured and they talk to you, and when they start talking, you find, who the criminals on the patch are. We seem to have lost all that, mostly down to lack of resources.” All candidates are requesting more funding is needed, in previous chats with Mike, he was adamant, while he agreed more funding is needed, it’s not the amount rather where and how it is spent. “It’s a combination of both,” he told, “but there’s a lot of money that’s wasted, I’ve seen it over the years, still hear stories now, that need looking at. The other candidates get to hear about that, because they don’t know people within the service, whereas I get to hear all that. Because people trust me, I have a good reputation.”
Pet crimes seemed to be a focus for other contenders, but Mike claimed he hadn’t seemed much evidence of that, and, comparably, it’s not so much of an issue in Wiltshire. More steam to the notion, you need a guy with his ear to ground and a rapport with the workforce. Rural crime is different, “it’s due to a lack of policing.” I added my tuppence on the lack of the Bobby on beat, and speed watching, and Mike agreed, adding volunteer community speed watchers felt they wasn’t getting supported by Wiltshire Police. “Road safety,” he stated, “is really important, you know. Would you rather have us tell you your house has been burgled or a loved one has been hit by a speeding car? Some say catching speeders when you should be catching real criminals, but what would you rather be told?”
What Mike wants to see, is specials working with the community speedwatch, “then they feel better because it’s being enforced, and everyone’s a winner!” Trust me to break the solemn tangent with a dig, “yep,” I replied, “get them out of the office, give ‘em some doughnuts and fresh air!” Ack, I used the doughnut gag, to the possible, and I very much hope it will be so, future police crime commissioner.
I wanted him to laugh it off, but he was feeling pessimistic about his chances, “I still think Mr Seed will get it, due to huge number of votes I have to get.” It was a sour point to end on, but I didn’t type this up for nothing. Yet Mike’s cynicism has the span of seconds, joking, “and I’ve only nine friends!!” Although we love the cut off Mike’s jib, without the equal campaign budget, it is up to us, to share his social media posts, and posters, this interview, and let our friends know, we don’t necessarily need a paper-pushing office-bearer in this role, if you agree, we need a fellow of shop floor experience. And man, I’ve not even mentioned fox hunting!
I did end on a topical subject for our arts and music-based zine, and asked Mike about pop crime; “can we get Rick Astley arrested, or Ace of Base, or Venga Boys?”
“He should’ve been sent down years ago!” Mike replied, but retracted it on the grounds he does a cover of AC-DC, “and that sort of stuff, so he’s gone up in my estimation!” What a genuinely great bloke! All the best Mike, we’re rooting for you.
After fondly reviewing the single Falling from ReTone’s homegrown drum n bass label SubRat last May, the Pewsey-based vocalist featured, Cutsmith, who also runs the … Continue reading “Osorio With Cutsmith”
It has been some time since we’ve covered the disgraceful fiasco at Rowde’s Furlong Close, where residents with learning disabilities face closure of the HFT site, their home, and undefined, separated relocation.
The reason being, the situation had fallen into a political stalemate, as HFT ceased all dealings with Wiltshire Council. It seems HFT are no strangers to closing sites down, and equally Wiltshire Council’s reaction is lacklustre. I cannot decide who is really to blame in all this, but something certainly doesn’t add up; perhaps they’re both as bad as each other, and the clock is ticking for May 19th when closure is planned. You know me, I’ve been concerned my anger at this issue will lead me to publish speculation, and the last thing I want is put forth misleading information.
Now, it seems, via a Tweet from The Save Furlong Close campaign group, in a memo released on Easter Sunday, Wiltshire Council Leader, Philip Whitehead advised councillors and future Conservative candidates to block all correspondence with Save Furlong Close Campaigners, in fear it’s being used as “an election matter.”
This is very concerning, while both sides battle the politics out, the Save Furlong Close campaigners are merely worried for the future prospects for the residents there, and least deserve a voice. So, I’m pleased to be able to publish an article, by Mark Steele, a member of the campaign’s steering group, which outlines the history and current situation.
I merely offer to endorse their rightful campaign and promote it as much as possible. If then, residents of Furlong Close are indeed moved out, it will be a terrible day for Wiltshire, and a shameful reflection on a county council, but if this happens and I stood there and did nothing, it’s a shame I would partly bear too, and I have no intentions of that happening. I hope our readers and supporters will agree, and I fully believe, with the permissions of the campaign group, we need to arrange a socially distanced peaceful protest, as soon as feasible. So, WHO IS WITH ME? Watch this space, but here’s Mark’s outline of the happenings in Rowde.
SAVE FURLONG CLOSE
“The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”
For the last 30 years, Furlong Close has been home to 36 vulnerable adults with learning disabilities, including Down syndrome, autism and epilepsy. The residents live in 5 bungalows in a cul-de-sac at the edge of the village of Rowde, sharing a community hall, workshops and gardens (including a market garden and pens for sheep and rabbits). It is a short walk to the centre of Rowde and a short bus ride to Devizes. Many of the residents have lived at Furlong Close for more than 20 years. They are happy and settled, have formed life-long friendships and are a close and caring community.
In October last year, however, it was announced that Hft (the charity which owns and operates the site) and Wiltshire Council (which funds the majority of the residents) had “jointly” decided that everyone was to be “moved on” by June 2021, the site shut down and the land sold off for development. The shocked families were told that there would be no consultation or discussion; it was a “done deal”.
Already reeling from the emotional impact of the pandemic and cut off from the support of their families, the residents were fearful and anxious. Their disabilities make change extremely stressful for them and being forcibly evicted from their home of 20+ years would cause them great trauma and distress. For some, the trauma would be life-shortening. My cousin, David, who has lived at Furlong Close for 18 years, was left in fear of the future and telephoned his 95-year-old mother, Audrey, many times a day, often in tears, to ask her where he would go and who would look after him. Sadly, Audrey passed away in March, spending the last months of her life wracked with worry about what would happen to her beloved and vulnerable only child (https://twitter.com/savefurlongcl/status/1374671484187242507).
So, why is Furlong Close facing closure? At first, Hft and the Council said it was “not about money”, but was only about doing the best for the residents. It was said that “moving them on” from their settled and happy homes would be an “exciting opportunity” for them, but no-one could quite explain how breaking up a happy community and scattering them to new and strange places would be either “exciting” or an “opportunity”. Certainly, it was an “opportunity” which none of the residents or their families wanted. Subsequently, it became clear that it was in fact “all about money” after all, with Hft accusing the Council of grossly underfunding the site over many years and refusing to pay the full costs of care.
Faced with this cruel threat to the well-being of our vulnerable relatives, the families organised and the local community rallied to our cause. People became angry. 43,000 people, from Wiltshire and beyond, signed a petition. Legal proceedings were commenced by the family of one resident, to seek to have the decision set aside as a breach of her human rights.
Faced with this local anger, Wiltshire Council promptly threw Hft under the bus. It claimed that the “joint decision” was nothing to do with it, but solely a matter for Hft. Hft responded angrily, accusing the Council of “lying” and trying to “hide behind” it, and gave notice that it was withdrawing services, not just from Furlong Close, but from Wiltshire as a whole. With Hft and the Council each pointing the finger at the other, the situation deteriorated into what has recently been described by a judge in the pending legal proceedings as “a shambolic mess”.
As the clock ticks down to the termination of Hft’s contract for the site on 19 May, the residents and their families fear that we are being hung out to dry. Hft has offered the Council the chance to buy or lease the site and bring in another operator, but neither has taken decisive action to make this happen. Many suspect that the Council is just playing for time, to try and kick the can down the road until after the Council election in May. Meanwhile innocent and vulnerable people are suffering and the families are calling on Hft and Wiltshire Council to act now to save Furlong Close.
Local enviromental campaigners are calling on Devizes Town Council to designate ten areas of land around Drews Pond Wood as Local Green Spaces due to their importance for wildlife, health and wellbeing as well as historical significance.
Drews Pond Wood Project has looked after the Local Nature Reserve since 1990 to keep it as a special place for wildlife and a resource for local people. They are asking for your help to get more protection for the wood and its surroundings.
The Local Plan and Neighbourhood Plan are being reviewed. These plans will decide where to put hundreds more houses in Devizes. These plans shouldn’t just be about where to put development – they also need to identify areas that are special and important for people and wildlife so that they can be protected for the future.
The National Planning Framework enables communities to identify and protect areas that are of value to them through Local and Neighbourhood Plans by designating Local Green Space. This designation ensures strong development restrictions on an area.
Make no mistake, Drew’s Pond Wood has been earmarked for development, though the application has been rejected, this doesn’t protect the area should future applications are made.
Thanks goes to local environmentalist, Joe Brindle and his team for creating the campaign and raising awareness of this. It is supported by the Drew’s Pond Wood Project.
“Perhaps it will take electing a determined and feisty female Lib-Dem to turn that around in standing up for our Police and communities.” Wiltshire PCC Candidate Liz Webster opened up about her life, priorities for the role, and her reasons for standing….
If our jolly chinwag with Wiltshire Police Crime Commissioner candidate, Johnathon Seed, last month went supernova, hijacked with best intentions by those offended with field sports (oops, did I say field sports, when I meant the inglorious barbaric biota slaughter dressed as a requisite pageant?) and we found solace with the hospitable dude, Mike Rees, who independently campaigns for the same position, it’s all kind of, I dunno, left me in limbo.
My apologies if you came here looking for impartiality, you should know by now, I don’t dither on traditionalisms. Still, I’m between a rock and hard place, questioning the necessity for politics within this PCC job thingy, as while Rees favours his wealth of on-the-job experience, Seed is adamant politics is essential.
I went searching for a third opinion, and found it with the Liberal Democrat’s PCC candidate, Liz Webster. But I discovered more than I bargained for. Away from campaigning, Liz runs a farm with her husband and stressed her passion for the future of farming. “It’s calving season,” she explained, “and I’m deeply worried about trade deals that will be a disaster for our environment, animal welfare, food standards and for shoppers and farmers alike.” Liz and her husband set up campaign website, Save British Farming, protesting the Government’s current Agriculture and Trade Bills.
I didn’t want to dwell on my aforementioned ruckus, wanted the focus today to be what she would bring to the table, but I felt it imperative to ask Liz for her views on fox hunting, if she encourages the law to be upheld on these matters, oh and the boy’s ruckus too!
“I’m too busy responding to residents’ concerns about speeding, anti-social behaviour, domestic violence, pet theft, police station closures, drug dealers and cyber-crime to pay attention to personal spats between other candidates,” she stated.
“However, I have had very many anxious residents ask me asking about fox hunting, so here is where I stand. As an animal lover and keen horse rider when young, I have never had any involvement in hunting. My husband and I farm at the northern tip of Wiltshire and we work with Matt Prior on his Marlborough Downs: Space for Nature project to conserve and protect wildlife on our farm.”
“Animal welfare matters to me. which is why I’ve been campaigning for Wiltshire Police to treat the crime of pet theft much more seriously, and I’m having some success. I want the law strengthened in this area. Protecting our pets, farmed animals and wildlife is important.”
“If the voters of Wiltshire and Swindon vote me in as our next Police and Crime Commissioner, I will urge that all laws to protect our animals, including our wildlife, are respected and that we investigate and prosecute those that break the law.”
Below is an extract of a recently published article which Liz penned. The section sets out her views on the issue, and farmed animal welfare, “which aligns with the vast majority of our citizens,” Liz expressed, “and against those of our current Prime Minister, and apparently my Conservative opponent.”
Take the latest discovery of his (Boris Johnson) opinions on foxhunting laws from an article he wrote for the Spectator in 2005. In it, he said: “It is like skiing, in that you are personally tracing, at speed, the contour of the landscape, and then there is the added interest of the weird semi-sexual relation with the horse, in which you have the illusion of understanding and control. There is the military-style pleasure of wheeling and charging as one, the emulative fun of a pseudo-campaign.” [our emphasis]
Boris Johnson, 2005
He argued that the foxhunting ban was “a Marxian attack” by the Labour government on the upper classes and nothing to do with animal cruelty, and he urged foxhunters to break the law and keep killing animals.
Bizarre that he should totally disregard the will of the people that is still overwhelmingly against hunting, irrespective of the relationship with the horse, semi-sexual or otherwise.
It’s one rule for them and another for us: let them eat chlorinated chicken and hormone infused meat! Boris Johnson also completely ignores the will of the people on food and animal welfare standards.
Recent polls have shown that between 80 and 90% of the public are aligned against lowering our standards to help deliver a quick and grubby USA trade deal.
Righteousness aside, I’m forever baffled by his weird semi-sexual relation with the horse, but I’m too nauseated to ponder deeper, and there’s not much which dribbles from his Gugelhupf-hole that makes sense to me. But we must push on, the importance of politics in the duties of police crime commissioner is my kingpin, and I asked Liz, “why?”
“Our Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) takes decisions that impact on all of us,” Liz replied. “They set the strategic priorities for our Police Force. Those decisions will reflect their values, those values are why people join together in political parties. The political alignment of the candidates should provide voters with assurances and clues about how those decisions will made.”
“My values are liberal; that means being open, tolerant, caring and respectful of others, being inclusive, strong on the importance of communities and our environment but also willing to listen and to compromise to make real progress. For example, I believe that putting real effort and resources into community cohesion will prevent crime and limit damage. That’s why I’m a Liberal Democrat.”
“Now that we, the people get to choose our PCC it is important that we know their values, where they stand on the key issues and what their priorities are. Mine are set out in my Plan for Wiltshire. I have experienced very directly the reality of inadequate action, funding and systemic failure. That woke me up to the reality that I should not stand quietly and watch but get involved to prevent it happening to others.”
If you supposed Liz Webster just woke up one day and thought, I know, I fancy being police crime commissioner, think again. The revelation came to her a decade ago, when her eldest son, Henry, was the victim of a hate crime in one of Wiltshire’s schools. “He was attacked by a gang with hammer. Like all parents, I trusted The Ridgeway School and the Local Council who are the Education Authority to be responsible for my children’s safety while they were at school.”
“When they failed to protect Henry,” Liz expressed, “that fundamental belief ensured I campaigned hard for three and half years for real change and eventually succeeded in getting an independent inquiry (Serious Case Review) published. That set out the lessons that had to be learnt to stop horrific attacks on children from happening again. I have written an article which touches on some of these lessons.”
“The Conservatives say they dislike ‘big government.’ Their grip on power over the last decade has seen our public services cut to the bone. Wiltshire Police – already at the bottom of the funding league table – has suffered deeply damaging cuts at the hand of Conservatives. This has ensured that our communities are less safe and left our police force feeling undervalued.”
“Seven Conservative MPs, two Conservative Councils and a Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner (and all mostly male) have allowed this to happen. Perhaps it will take electing a determined and feisty female LibDems to turn that around in standing up for our Police and communities.”
Liz has said, “Wiltshire is one of the lowest funded police forces in the country because of an outdated formula which favours densely populated urban counties,” a notion also high on Johnathon Seed’s agenda. Yet while Liz recently wrote to the Home Secretary, she hasn’t responded. Meanwhile, hey-ho, pictures are circulating of Mr Seed blushing over Priti Patel as if she was Marilyn Monroe, (with a decided lack of facemask and social distancing measures I might add, though perhaps being beside the point!)
Isn’t this proof of a self-righteous, monopolising attitude with conservatives, where taking total control of not only government but our councils and policing too is paramount; there’s no room for any alternative? You don’t got to answer that; I put it Liz!
“The Conservatives are all about being in power,” she replied, (you think?!) “Both they and the Labour Party centralise power. Liberals believe in decentralising power. That’s why I’m passionate about setting up and properly supporting Community Safety Forums and making sure our senior Police Officers attend and listen to residents’ real concerns.”
“They make campaign promises are not anchored in reality, like my Conservative opponent’s pledge to recruit an extra one hundred police officers with no explanation of the vast increase in the precept that it will take to get anywhere near this or the vast practical problems of getting it done.”
“I want our Government to fairly fund Wiltshire Police and to be smart about how we use technology and increased community engagement to tackle and prevent crime and get local parish, town and Wiltshire and Swindon Borough Councils working with charities, school, businesses and volunteers alongside our Police.”
“The Conservative candidate is attacking the policies of the Conservative incumbent PCC, the Conservative Council, of which he is a member, and the Conservative Government that he surely voted for. He is gaslighting his past very active campaigning to get rid of the hunting ban, ignoring the fact that he has spent four years sitting on the Police and Crime Panel where all these issues and policies on the Police estate were discussed, just to try to get himself elected.”
“Both the Labour and Conservative PCC candidates have been sitting councillors on the Police and Crime Panel and yet neither have installed cost effective technology to deal with speeding in their wards and neither said a word about the police station closures until now.”
“As PCC I will be straight forward with people, make communications and community engagement my priority. Look at smart ways and good ideas being used by other police forces. Look to get our Police, local councils, schools, businesses and community organisation working together rather than against each other.”
I’ll tip my cap, shine your shoes for a shilling, guvnor and suppose it’s the working class in me which, throughout my warming to Liz and her policies, maintain clarity in Mike Rees’s argument; a PCC with on-hand experience is greater than a political standpoint.
Her angle and priority on rural theft of pets, trees and hedges, no matter how big the budget, and how many new officers are employed, in a rural setting cannot be everywhere all the time. Ergo, a bigger budget allowing more officers and resources will solve crimes and capture criminals more efficiently, but it’s not as proactive in preventing crimes as on-hand experience. Learned that from Telly Savalas, they call it “the hunch!”
But Liz thinks, “unfortunately, I think Mike Rees is standing for the wrong job. I think we wants to be Chief Constable not our Police and Crime Commissioner. Judging by his comments, so does my Conservative opponent. A Police and Crime Commissioner is not a military or police operational role. No one standing in this election should be trying to replace our Chief Constable.”
Yeah, but Mike looks more like Telly Savalas than Liz does!
“The role of the PCC is to involve our communities, enhance their support for and engagement with our Police to make our lives safer. They are also required to listen to the public and give candid feedback and direction when community needs are not being met or when real issues like pet theft are being ignored or downgraded.”
“The PCC is there to set the strategy for safer communities and to influence how policing is delivered to prevent crime and protect people and ensure that victims voices are heard. They are a bridge between the people and the police.”
“A successful PCC should strive to deliver less crime, less victims, safer communities and a happier police force. You do that by making good collegiate decisions and by working effectively with others that can help deliver those goals.”
“My family were victims in one of Wiltshire’s more high-profile cases back in 2007 when Wiltshire Police was run by the Police Authority and not by the PCC. We found that as the victims of this horrific crime we were marginalised. The whole emphasis was on the prosecution of the case and the protection of the offenders.”
“My son and several of the offenders were minors. But my son did not get same protection as his attackers. To this day some of them enjoy the luxury of anonymity as their identities were protected from the media. My son’s pictures and our address were printed in newspapers within hours of the attack. We had no help to deal with the media onslaught at the same time as we dealt with a serious medical emergency.”
“If I am elected, one of my key jobs I will ensure that Wiltshire Police are reminded to that the victims of crime need real help and support.”
It’s inspiring motivation from a moving and terrible incident, summed up by her campaign’s strapline: Offering a more victim-led and preventative approach to the role of Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner. But how do we prevent rural crime such as the aforementioned animal theft, and even speeding through sleepy villages, when they’re so hard to police due to the openness of the countryside?
“Farming in a very rural corner of Wiltshire,” Liz started, “I am thoroughly awake to the difficulties we face dealing with rural crime. That’s why I have put forward practical policies that will help tackle such crimes. For example, I want to immediately abolish the position of deputy PCC. After discussions with our Chief Constable, I want that money used for a Traveller liaison officer to ensure cohesion throughout our rural communities.”
“I want to create a county wide DNA database for livestock to tackle sheep and cattle rustling, a growing area of violent, organised crime. This approach would combine that with reaching out to ensure all Farm vehicles and items are logged and safely returned.”
“Iam committed to using smart and cost-effective camera technology to tackle speeding in our villages and rural areas. This will empower our excellent Community Speed Watch teams. It will identify those driving without paying their road tax and deter and detect offenders of rural crime.”
Liz recently posted thoughts on an article about what controls the state should be allowed to hold on to once things start to get back normal, as Covid infections and fatalities reduce. She wrote, “the balance between safety and freedom is an eternal tug of war, but it’s paramount that the suspensions of freedoms agreed in a health emergency don’t become permanent.” But with government’s talk of free speech reform, and scrapping the bill of human rights, on top of predicted poverty increases due to economic downturn, tensions are bound to mount. How would police in Wilts under Liz’s control react to possible protests, racist and hate crime, and acts of violence bought about by this tension?
“My values are centred in the Human Right Act” Liz affirmed, “it is effectively the incorporation of the document, drafted in large part by the UK, post the atrocities of the Second World War – the European Convention on Human Rights – of which the UK is a founding member. To withdraw from a commitment that guaranteed certain rights for all, regardless of your political affiliation is anti-British.”
“It is of great concern that the economic and financial impacts of Covid19 could see tensions run high. That is why we need a PCC who will make communicating with the public a priority and really values community engagement, as I do. A PCC who will, through social interventions and crime prevention policies seek to settle tensions rather than preside over their explosion.”
“As a mother I experienced directly what happens if things are ignored and tensions are allowed to build to flashpoint; it ends in violence and threat to life, to the life of my son, Henry. Having lived through that nightmare, I would never sit by and allow that to happen to other families. I am someone who wants to enjoy living in a county which is free and safe.”
“The rights to free speech and peaceful protest are fundamental. They have been respected in our country down the years. The tolerant attitude they represent alongside the rule of law is part of why Britain has been respected around the world. But should protest or hate speech break the law, lead to damage and violence then, of course, the lawbreakers must be held to account and brought to justice, whoever they are.”
Very liberal response! But that’s where its advantageous to have a Lib Dem PCC, rather than another Conservative who’ll surely simply toe the line. “Yes, I can confirm that I am a Liberal Democrat,” Liz said. “Within our broad set of Liberal principles, I am free to think for and be myself. To use my strengths to communicate openly and honestly without being told what to do or say. The Conservative Party has become increasingly extreme and intolerant, forcing out good people because they disagreed with Brexit and had the courage to say so. No wonder Nigel Farage was happy to instruct his candidates to stand down at the General Election and so many UKIP members joined the Conservative Party. Another Conservative PCC will see more of the same. Wiltshire will stay at the bottom of the funding pile.”
I don’t know about you, but all I see these days, perhaps due to lockdown, is internet and phone scams. It’s an international issue rather than county, but does Liz think police could do better in this area? “More international action is needed to control the internet and telephone scams,” she explained, “but yes with such a widespread issue the only answer is to educate and support people as best we can. This is why the PCC needs to have the ability and motivation to work closely with other those who support vulnerable people in our communities. Our businesses, particularly the smaller ones and those run by self-employed people are also an increasing target of these cyber criminals. I have a meeting with a women’s business group next week to discuss the increasing levels of crime they are experiencing. I will report back on this issue.”
Domestic abuse rising is another topical post hot on Liz’s social media campaign, stressing the importance of calling a helpline. “Perhaps as the only female candidate this issue of domestic abuse is high on my agenda,” she expressed. “It highlights the need for far more education and empowerment of women. That is the real way of breaking this dire crime that means people cannot feel safe in their own homes.”
“I also welcome and back enthusiastically the Ask Ana initiative. This has seen training staff in pharmacies to enable victims of domestic abuse to simply “ask for Ana”. That code will see them taken into the pharmacy private space and be linked to trained police and support staff. This is a great example of what I mean by harnessing all of our communities’ various resources to combat crime and keep people safe.”
“I am also fully committed to ensuring the essential services offered by Domestic Abuse charities are properly funded and resourced. I have met with the leaders of our domestic abuse refuge in Swindon. If I am elected, I will go above what has already been done to ensure this vital service is protected.”
I’m grateful to Liz, and immediately warmed to her and her campaign, she has good sense of direction, motivation for engaging positively and justly in the role, and given her save British Farming campaign, will no doubt have a close and honoured connection with Wiltshire folk.
I’m supposing now there may be a need for political perspective within the role of PCC, however much I’ve taken to Mike’s approach. If so, I believe we must not take this disheartening conception that there is no alternative, as red. You’re welcomed to name-call, assume my political stance, but I’m growing evermore sceptical of the nodding dog which is Keir Starmer, but I won’t bow to this Tory appropriation; there is an alternative, and perhaps, just perhaps Police Crime Commissioner is a great place to start the trial.
I thank Liz for taking time out of her busy schedule on the campaign trail, which you can find out more about here, and wish her all the very best. Still, none of them will beat Kojak in my honest opinion; cootchie-coo, he loves ya, baby!
If you’re missing a tubthumping club night, you could clear your laminate flooring of breakables, blag your kid’s colour-changing lightbulb, overcharge yourself for a Bacardi Breezer from your own fridge, and belch up kebab behind your sofa.
All these things are optional to simulate the full lockdown nightclub in your own home. But, even creating a cardboard cut-out queue for the downstairs bog, or hiring a doggie tuxedo so your pet can double-up as the bouncer, extreme measures in extreme times will doubtfully replicate the genuine clubbing experience; sad but true.
However, if props don’t make the neon grade, the music can. Swindon-based tri-county sound system, Mid Life Krisis, abbreviated to MiLK, announce an online schedule for live DJ feeds and multi-genre events. “We will be putting on events post Covid for the people of Swindon and beyond,” they say.
There’s an interesting line-up ahead, prompted to me by Pewsey acoustic performer Cutsmith, who is on this Sunday (28th Feb.) Yet most are hard floor, afro/tribal house, trance, techno and drum n bass DJ sessions, freely shared onto a Facebook group, here. Join the group, throw your hands in the air, scream oh yeah, just don’t set your own roof on fire, it’s only going to increase your insurance direct debits, mo-fo.
Your exhaust cannot drop off en-route, girlfriend needs not to spend umpteen hours sorting her hair, and there’s no over-vocal knob jockey giving you all that in the carpark to distract you. No excuse for unattendance; no dress-code either, get funky in your jimmy-jams, if you like, you know I will. Shit, I’m like the Arthur Dent of Mixmag!
Now, I’m also gonna start adding these posters to our event calendar, which despite being about as tech-savvy as Captain Caveman, I’ve taken the time when nought is really happening to redesign it, to be more user-friendly.
All needs doing is directing buggers to the thing, as we’re listing global online and streamed events, and until a time when Bojo the Clown finally stops mugging us off and announces a release date, it’s not worth adding real live events for me to have to go delete them again.
That said, I find difficulties in keeping up to scratch with what’s on in the online sense, partly because I’m fucking lazy, but mostly because they pop up sporadically and unexpectedly.
Else they’re mainstream acts begging via a price-tagged ticket. I can appreciate this, it’s a rock and hard place, and we all need to get some pocket money, but from a punter’s POV, charging to watch their own laptop screen in hope they get a good speed for their feed, can be asking a bit much and one now favours a PayPal tip jar system.
Such is the nature of the beast, where a performer or DJ could be slumped in front of Netflix one minute and suddenly decide they fancy going live. Thankful then, we should be, to these Facebook groups hosting streams, in order to create some kind of structure.
The positive, for what it’s worth, is boundaries have been ripped down. Without travel issues, online, your performance has the potential to reach a global audience, and hopefully attract newbies to your released material. Who knows, pre-lockdown you played to a handful of buddies at your local watering hole, but afterwards tribes from Timbuctoo might rock up at your show. Okay, I’ll give you, they might not, but potentially, the world is your oyster. Just a shame its shell is clamped shut.
Sadly, over this time the main remaining piece of equipment, the climbing frame, was taped off, leaving the children with one “wobbly” bench left in working order.
Also wrapped in red tape was the Rowde Parish Council’s ability to do much about it, being owned by Wiltshire Council. Unfair to hand over such an asset in such a state of dilapidaton, the issue was lost in limbo.
My emails to Wiltshire Council and in particular, Cllr Anna Cuthbert fell on deaf ears. Seemed despite the article recieveing over 3k hits, it was still superficial to bother to reply.
Enough to leave a soul feeling despondent towards any realisation complaints have any effect on the progress of our county council.
But today I’m glad to be able to update it with positive news. After one final push, contacting councillor Laura Mayes, who promised to “look into it,” an agreement has been met, and working with Rowde Parish Council Clerk, Laura has secured over £20,000 funding from Wiltshire Council to re-design the playground. Please contact her with ideas on what could be included.
So a massive thanks goes to Rowde Parish Council and Cllr Laura Mayes this week for their sterling efforts. Thus proving, over time, a long time abielt, things can be put into action!
To clarify, I like dunking biscuits into my tea, but if it’s not my cup of tea, and someone else wants to dip their biscuit in it, why on Earth would I have a problem? It affects me in no way whatsoever, it has zero consequences to my brew, nada.
If I dunk my biscuit into your tea, however, half drops off and dissolves into your cup, we might have a minor issue; it’s impolite and I should’ve asked first. Truth be told, though, this has never manifested, because I’ve basic manners, and only dunk into my own tea. Ergo, I say; dunk, and let others dunk. It’s a fair and just modern tenet, tasty too, you should try it sometime.
Since Henry VIII’s Buggery Act of 1533, of which defines the term as “an unnatural sexual act against the will of God and Man,” the timeline of LGBT history in UK law reads like the genocidal presupposing of a tyrannical third world regime. Wrought with disturbing arrogances, cruel and misconstrued judgements and fatal sentences, its roots lie biblically, a confine we no longer adhere our hearts and souls fully into, anyway. Least we accept the book was drafted over centuries of prejudiced editing by megalomaniac nutcases who couldn’t possibly have known the word of god any more than an amoeba knows the name of the pond it lives on.
As time moves forward, the religious connotations are secreted under political judgement, yet so inherit is our belief in chapters 18 and 20 of Leviticus, “thou shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination,” and for the sake of obeying, it will be 328 years after the passing of the Buggery Act, that the death penalty for it was abolished. Here’s my melon-twister for starters, if law had to be based on the apparent, word of god, what happened, when executing an offender, to deadly sin number five, Ὀργή, or “wrath” to us? And while you’re explaining that one to me, maybe explicate Luke 6:37 too; “do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven?”
Hard to imagine, this would be the way of things until only fifty-four years ago, when despite restrictions The Sexual Offences Act 1967 legalized consensual homosexual acts, privately, and only for over twenty-ones. My own lifetime witnessed this step in the right direction continue. Through the hullabaloo of celebs bravely confessing and campaigning, even during the dawn of AIDS, as Boy George and many others colourfully threw it in their faces, pride to be homosexual was still controversial and a long way from general acceptance. The ingrained discrimination turned from angered hatred to taboo, and the butt of the joke. Dick Emery made his fortune; his angle was awful, but we liked him.
Sticks and stones, not quite as bad as the death penalty, though psychologically damaging, it’s been a rocky road to where we now sit, dunking our biscuits. A gender-neutral era of law, media acceptance and general consensus, where anyone can marry anyone, where the sexual orientation of pop stars is of no significance, and when a character in a prime-time children’s cartoon, namely The Loud House, can have two Dads. A notion as brilliant as the colours of a rainbow.
Even to look back as recent as twenty years ago, where Will Young “came out of the closet,” society has achieved something unthinkable given the history, and for everyone hung, to those necessitating toilet trading, and from those who hid in denial and shame to those queens who wafted it their judicious faces, despite your personal orientation, this is something, in my view to be proud of, and to celebrate.
Yet, when the social media manager of those ordered by government to uphold the law decides to acknowledge this acceptance, on the shortest month of the year marking LGBT History Month, by taking two minutes out of their day to add rainbow colours symbolising Pride, to the backdrop of their Facebook logo, cabin-fevered keyboard warriors gather to accumulate a thread of hatred comments, condemning the decision.
Yep, despite the repulsive and discriminating history, when we finally reach this trailblazing conjunction, Wiltshire Police’s temporary Facebook profile picture is plagued by self-righteous little Englanders, again shamelessly twisting the narrative of positivity for their own wonky agenda. It comes from the same school of thought which devised “All Lives Matter.” Regardless of the plight of a cause, they have to have their share of the glory, less launch their toys from their prams.
Given the plight and horrors history exposes on the campaign, you really have an issue with this?
Largely, the feeble excuse for their prejudges was police should be out there, arresting people, as if every officer on the force gathered around one laptop, each clicking one Photoshop option. See here, it took me precisely two minutes to lone extract a rainbow backdrop off Google and paste it onto my logo, and I kind of like it, might keep it, if it annoys.
The other popular justification is in doing this, police are side-tracking and singling out a particular group, precariously extenuating the issue. Humm… only, it seems by bringing it to your personal attention. Wiltshire Police explain their reasoning, “the rainbow is a symbol of hope. It represents everyone, irrespective of their sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion or disability. People are people. All of us need kindness, tolerance and acceptance. Please remember this when you post your comments.”
Top answer is, survey says no; “Just accept people for who they are, there is no room for any form of prejudice, but I cannot help but think that highlighting individual groups just widens the gap, instead of building the bridge.” Really? Two “buts;” you like buts?
Think historically, the death penalty denotes the gap started quite wide, awareness and celebration of said cognizance is a bridge building machine. Some need to take a long hard look at themselves, and dunk their custard cream in a fresh new cuppa. Growling at a rainbow like a dog barks at the moon; give me strength!
One can only conclude, even if it’s ingrained and those passing negative opinion genuinely believe they’re not discriminating, they are. Your archaic notion of abhorrence is regressive, and yet again, unwelcome to general consensus.
If you trust there’s no need to symbolise this progress, then there’s no need to pass negative comment. But by the very fact you did, represents a definite need to; snakes and ladders. Because there’s looming underlining issue, and it lies in your own psyche. Ergo, eradication is teetering, we’ve come a long way; u ok, hun? If the reprehensible repercussions of this episode represent anything, it is not Pride, but shame, and evidently, the sat-nav of equality has not announced we are at our destination, quite yet.
Here you go, right; the meal was flawless, the wine is taking effect, the candles are in perfect position, the rose petals spread on the duvet, made sure you changed the sheets and hidden your Razzle collection. Now all you need is the perfect valentines evening playlist as the icing on the cake.
One track wrong, just one accidental selection, could prove fatal for getting to final base. At worst you’ll be alone, regretting how that Slipknot track got mixed in there, or which prankster mate added Iron Maiden’s Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter. At best, mistakes can be made in picking from the plethora of timeless love songs available. One narrative of break-up, something just too damn perverse or slushy, or even a song which reverts your partner back to past lost love, can be dangerous and a waste of your hard-earned cash at the johnny vending machine.
It is with great empathy and consideration I offer you my tuppence on the perfect Valentine’s Day playlist. To begin, you must understand, love songs come in four main categories; the cliché slushy, soppy sort which are so wet they’re Wet Wet Wet. These are best avoided. The second are the breakup songs, often beautifully crafted nuggets of melancholy, but again, not best for enticement. The third sort, Frankie Says, is the outright filth, centred around the kind of mindless, unattached, no bars held bonking frenzy you have to clean up with a mop and bucket. While at times these are the best of the aforementioned options, what you really need to set the appropriate mood is the fourth category, the songs I deem “sensual.”
Sensual songs arouse the neurons, make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. They neither absolutely call out the knob-fest you’re hoping for, merely hint at it, or relish in slushiness so maudlin it all comes over corny and nauseating. Don’t blame me if everything you do you do it with Bryan Adams’ songs on repeat, it horribly backfires and all which remains of their presence is a fading odour of Superdrug’s own make Eau de Parfum. Here’s the list, adhere to it, fool!
1- Try a little Tenderness – Otis Redding
Otis was a magician, indisputably. His effortless vocals are so sublimely sensual, one play of this and women’s clothes automatically fall off. Guys, if it was good enough for the Ducky, it’s good enough for you; a guaranteed win-win.
2 – Let’s stay together – Al Green
Again, this one is a given. Why do people break up, turn around and make up? Well, it’s for the make-up sex, Al, obviously. Look, we all know make-up sex is the best and stickiest kind of sex, but when setting the mood for the now, never dwell on the possibilities of the future; price of prams these days, prenuptial agreements, stuff like that. Nope, this song pledges nought can possibly go wrong, you are 100% devoted, and that assurance will see knickers on the bedroom floor.
3- Sexual Healing – Marvin Gaye
Marvin with the topper most sex blag, only one under the notion it’s greater for weight-loss than a diet. Here, Motown’s senior figure suggests wellbeing, that sex is good for him emotionally and psychologically. But there’s cohesion, it is affirmed, he’s no slapper, and only wants to do it with you. Although you guessed this song would be listed, it works a like a charm.
4- Je T’aime…Moi Non-Plus – The Scamps
Okay, Serge Gainsbourg’s classic obviously needs consideration, but is about as corny as seventies lava lamps, and Jane Birkin’s aching French orgasmic harmonies might be off-putting if you’re still eating pudding or not making quite as good a job as Serge himself. Therefore, try this; this Scamps version is instrumental reggae, and reggae in general, is kinky as. For added effect, should things be going well and your French up-to-scratch, you can have fun arranging your own vocals.
5- Bob Marley & The Wailers – Guava Jelly
So, pandora’s box opened. If we’re going to do reggae, there’s so many Bob Marley tunes which are more than apt, picking just one is a minefield. Let’s go demining like Steve, it’s okay, I’m a professional. For starters Guava Jelly teeters on the edge of reggae, rather deemed closer to rock steady, the pioneering transitory period between ska and reggae. Rock steady is the definitive romantic period of the music of Jamaica, and Bob is one charmer. This particular song is the perfect balance for what I’m proposing here, it’s connotations of lubrication is pure filth, but its backstory of love is quixotic; precision engineering from the Tuff Gong.
6 – Henry III – With a Girl Like You
Now, after all I said about rock steady, a word of warning. Don’t, whatever you do go gung-ho and add any old rock steady song to your playlist. Such is the way of bygone eras and particularly in Jamaica, many are not PC by today’s standards. Often subjects deal with cheating, disintegrations or can be degrading to the fairer sex. Sometimes it helps, if going with rock steady to check covers, take this divine version of The Troggs “With a Girl Like You,” for example; this’ll work.
7 – Lorna Bennett – Breakfast in Bed
Now, if you’re only up for covers being the kind you jiggle about underneath, by all means go for the original of Breakfast in Bed, on Dusty Springfield’s ultimate “Dusty in Memphis,” as it’s more than suitable. But if you want a bit of reggae in said jeggae, the UB40 version is not your best option. Lorna Bennett does this with bells on. This is so sexy it should be illegal.
8 – Claude Fontaine – Cry for Another
If it’s sexy reggae you want, but contemporary you fancy, and you’ve taken heed of the importance of French accents we’ve mentioned, here’s a lesser-known masterpiece by multi-platinum, Grammy award-winning record producer, Lester Mendez, certain to hold the object of your affections mesmerised and putty in your hands. Claude Fontaine’s voice just, just, just…. oh, no, pass the Kleenex.
9- Kingston Town – Lord Creator
Look, I like UB40, I really do. But whence you listen to the original Lord Creator version of this, you won’t go back. Its subtle idealistic references paint a romantic image of Kingston Jamaica, in contrast to the biting reality it’s often depicted as. Like the notion, any place is beautiful when you’re there, sure to cause a love tidal wave, in your direction.
10- Swimmer – Black Star Liner
Now, you’ve done the groundwork and things are moving fast. Unlike technology of the era, owning a pager isn’t going to get to you close enough to the opposite sex to be sneezed on these days, the electronica of the nineties can be your friend. Dance music came of age mid-nineties and no longer concerned itself wholly for standing in a muddy field wearing a dust-mask and gyrating like a broken robot. In fact, local city Bristol took a whopping portion of credit for the downtempo trip hop trend. But, while you know Massive Attack will make it onto this list or it’s not worth publishing, unless you lived it, and I mean, really lived it, I forgive you for not knowing this and the next two sublime nuggets of dreamy dance. Black Star Liner are as if Massive Attack did bhangra for film scores.
11 – Long as I Can See the Light – Monkey Mafia
As the finale of Shoot the Boss, an album with enough cutthroat techno and dark ragga to scare the willies out of Moby, Jon Carter places this gorgeous protuberance of uplifting trip hop to bring a lump to your throat, or elsewhere.
12 –Soldissimo – Air (Etienne de Crécy Remix)
Again, the French know saucy. This Air remix by the super discounted Etienne de Crécy is such a barely known, absolute inspiring masterpiece, and when that acoustic guitar breaks in, oh my, eyes will implode, and the bedsheets will need changing.
13 – Unfinished Sympathy – Massive Attack
For me to pick a single song from my misspent youth wouldn’t be easy, until I’m reminded of this. You know it, you must do, so will your partner. They’ll whimper, “I love this song,” ergo, I love you for thinking it’s suitable to reflect your feelings towards me, and bingo; fire in the hole.
14 – Sharing the Night Together- Square One
To take heed of my warning about picking any reggae tune, apply doubly so with soca. Subject matter of most soca is outright filth, if not being about waving your flag about during crop over, it’s generally about waving something more phallic about. Which is great for the rugby club’s Christmas party, but not so much when wooing. However, there’s always exceptions to the rule, and when Alison Hinds does it by covering this Dr Hook track, she makes Rhianna sound like Cathy Lesurf by comparison.
15 – Lovely Day – Bill Withers
Okay, so a few might be new to you, this is good, but let’s end it with a classic. The sunlight hurts his eyes, and something without warning bears heavy on his mind. Yes, it does have slight negativity about it, but the very notion just by looking at your partner, it’s all inconsequential and can all melt away, will guarantee your bedposts will be thumping against the floorboards in no time at all. Have a happy and successful valentine’s day. Best of luck, mucky comrade. Over and out!
And if these fail, something is wrong and you should either try Nina Simone, or consult your GP, just don’t bother me, do I look like Deidre Saunders? Actually, don’t answer that, just keep your mind on the job at hand, else your hand will be the only…..okay, you get the idea….