Popped my Frome cherry; a Morning in a Somerset Freetown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sure enough, over a bridge in a carpark a visage appeared, the golden wooded entertainment cathedral of The Cheese & Grain. With a café, The Grain Bar, on the side it was lively already, as a regular children’s clothes market, Little Pickles was just closing, allowing me to sneaky peak at the impressive venue. I could just imagine some great acts playing, who have in the past graced this stage. It was no Albert Hall, it was functional, yet in by modernism standard it was chic, alluring nonetheless.

I considered my tummy, at the café, but wandered off as on the way over to it, I’d seen another attraction beckoning me. Black Swan Arts is another point of interest, and I sheepishly entered, as a stranger does in a gallery shop. With some lovely art, you usually browse the circuit, make your excuses and go the way you came in, cos as much as I adore art, my wallet doesn’t.

Yet this was such a charming gallery, hosting plenty of workshops, it just fizzled into the Frome life already blossoming from its slumber outside. But I didn’t go out through the out-door, I sauntered to the rear of the shop to appear next in queue for the café, The River House, conveniently.

Handsomely expedient and adorably unpretentious, they kookily handed me a mini-figure of Batman’s Robin, rather than a spoon with a number on (which I secretly wanted to keep,) and proceeded to knock me up a hunky-dory mug of tea and perfectly toasted sausage ciabatta for a mere seven quid.

That’s when I got the bat-signal, sadly, my time was up and Dad’s taxi was back on call; just as I was getting into sharing my table with middle-aged beatniks far cooler than me. I pondered upon my return to the carpark, as a fellow sat on a bench practising his flute, Frome is a wonderfully original, outlandish place, deffo. If I was a younger, unattached lad, I could be persuaded to settle there, become part of the furniture at the Cheese & Grain.

But as it is, aging rapidly, rooted here with a settled family, and I must say, content with Devizes, I could only wish that our town council, our event organisers, and the great doers in town could take a leaf out of Frome’s books, shake off the partial frumpiness of Devizes, the discreditable tory grasp, and think outside the box. For all the great amenities we have in Devizes match Frome, yet our ability to utilise them as effectively, to accommodate everyone and their ways no matter how eccentric they might appear to others, sometimes, and I stress, only sometimes, falls beneath our potential; in, ha, you know, my honest opinion.

Though, I’ve returned home, added listings for The Cheese & Grain to our event calendar, as usual, but I mean, look, it falls within the ruling, really; they’ve got The Beat, The Feeling, Zion Train, Stiff Little Fingers coming up, they’ve even got Public Image Ltd, and thems worth driving the distances for, worth crossing border control into the land of somersetting for, if we can’t have Johnny Lydon here, punking up the Corn Exchange!


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Devizes Street Festival Day 1; the Inner Workings of DOCA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Danny K & the Haters, sounds like a belligerent rockabilly band, but it’s not, it’s far more shameful than that. Devizes and District MP Danny Kruger turned his back on his constituents this week, labelling them “haters,” in order to brown-tongue the effortlessly-reasoned worst Prime Minister in English history. And guess how many people asked me for my opinion? No one, but I’m going to give it anyway….

You should know by now I’m the political equivalent of “Catchphrase,” not the most intelligent of TV game shows; I just say what I see. That’s worth mentioning here, I feel, as this is not a red or blue thing, this applies probably more to Conservative supporters; any gram of reputation your party once had, is at stake, hanging by a thread. I’d thought you’d want to do something about that, or are you Starship-confident, and nothings gonna to stop you now?

Here’s my small axe. Though the desperate defence over party-gate for our tin-pot-dictator-in-clown-disguise devotees often seems to be: there’s more important things to deal with, and we should move on; that’s all they’ve got on this one and it’s as shallow as the liars in Parliament themselves. Yes, there are more important things to deal with, 99.9% of them have been caused by the shit-show we like to call a government, and yes, we should move on, oust the prime minister, rid parliament of his yes-men cabinet, and we can do exactly that.

How absolutely sick and twisted do you have to be to attempt to push this one under the carpet? How dishonourable of all those who died, least suffered from the pandemic, how insolent for NHS staff who risked their lives, to suggest they too partied, when anyone who’s ever done a day’s work of manual labour would know how hard those doctors and nurses were pushed, the endgame of which would not be partying, rather slump on the sofa out of exhaustion, waiting for the next morning to arrive to do it all again.

How utterly disrespectful to us all, all key workers, everyone who self-isolated, obeying the regulations they set out, everyone who has lost their business, least worked tenfold to get it back online. This is apolitical, this is social contempt on a national scale, and those who abused it, those in responsibility who laughed in our faces, and celebrated their own profits made by stamping their boots on our faces, to criticise that, to pass comment this might’ve been a tad unfair and Danny Kruger labels you as a “hater,” your own member of parliament who you pay for, the one who’s supposed to work for you.

I’m sorry Danny, you had me for a while, and despite being a tory, I’d figured you had an angle, you warranted some praise, but to defend the Prime Minister on this is to disrespect your constituencies, and you should, like the rest of the Etonian flunkies, resign too; clear-out the clutter of this toxic workplace.

Oh, Danny

“I want to speak in defence of the Prime Minister,” he waffled, “because somebody has to.” No, Danny, that’s the point; they don’t. He’s a big boy now, part of any top brass job is accepting responsibility.

The logic behind his comments is comradeship, an amity drummed into every public schoolboy that you never call out a fellow scholar, no matter what. This is why Bojo himself happily handed the address of a journalist investigating a school chum fiddling his taxes, to have him beaten up. Boris Johnson, the Bullingdon ringleader who drunkenly trashed priceless art in Oxford’s Magdalen College; the anarchy of the elite, knowing producing a chequebook would waiver whatever destruction they caused. He’s now controlling the country, and you Danny, equivocated in your articulated manner, “if he lied to this house of course he should resign. But he didn’t. Patently he didn’t. Patently he didn’t break the law deliberately, and so patently he didn’t deliberately mislead this house.”

Everything Boris utters is one big continuous lie, he’s compulsive, but that’s beside the point, the point is they partied on while the rest of obeyed the rules they set out. He stood there, on the TV and announced the rules himself, how can you possibly suggest he was unaware of them? He broke the law, deliberately, he assumes he’s Michael Knight, operating above the law, probably mumbles the car’s sound when he’s on his potty.

Danny continued to propose an apology would suffice in his opinion, like Parliament is a nursery and Bojo is but a toddler. He’s 57 for crying out loud, and runs a country, when is he expected to be grownup enough to take a little responsibility?

But the grand finale of Danny’s whimper was on his constituencies who have written to him in outrage. “Many are just the usual haters who have always despised the Prime Minister,” he said, he actually said this, as if there’s absolutely no grounds in which to criticise the actions, or inactions of Bojo. This is without doubt the most hurtful accusation of all, the hate comes from the other way around, me old shagger, the hate is what Boris Johnson showed to all who suffered, died or even those who escaped the pandemic but obeyed the rules, and that means he is so obviously unsuitable as a prime minster, a role which involves caring, not hating.

It’s no walk in the park, prime ministering, it’s an arduous task, a role which needs intelligence, honour and integrity and likeable as the clown is, he ticks none of those boxes. Which is unfortunate, but see the sum of all the scandals and catastrophes, the daily newsfeed of deception and dishonour, multiply them by the state they made of the country, the hyperinflation, condoned prejudice, the failed ideas and projects, the poverty divide; it is not a case of if he lied to the house on this particular occasion, or not, it is the sum of all these parts and many more. If you can mince your words, Mr Kruger, so I believe I have the right too, and you’re confusing hate for a righteous desperate plea; rid parliament of the deadwood, do yourself a favour.


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Laughable Excuses for Savernake Forest Proposals  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Savernake Forest Restrictions; Residents Say No!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Trending…….

Is it Possible to Live Rurally and be Impartial towards Blood Sports?

My thought for the day, as I’ve permission to republish an article by the Hunts Sabs Association, suggesting with relevant and shocking examples, Wiltshire Police are lacking in pursuing these rural crimes.

I will direct your attention to the piece, but figure I’d attempt my own spin, else what’s the point in owning a blog in the first place?! So, I’m desperately trying to see the other side of the coin, to avoid accusations of bias. But every time forced to the opinion fox hunting and other blood sports is gratuitously barbaric, trail hunting, for many, is a smokescreen, and our police are clearly not proactive on the issue……

We trashed our common room in art college despite warnings they’d close it, and eventually they did. My bitterness toward the decision was driven by naïve self-centred arrogance of delinquency, but there came a point of feeling guilt that future students wouldn’t benefit from the facility due to our incompetence; reactionary anarchist I once was!

I ponder this “few ruined it for a rest” lesson as I browse hunting social media groups and pages. To momentarily steer against the hunt sabs, or FWGs, as is the favoured term we’ll use hereafter, an abbreviation of Frontline Wildlife Guardians, these glossy and glorious shows of countryside pursuits are embellished with glamorous images, (as our featured image of the Tedworth Hunt,) promoting family, fundraising events, that while a world apart from my own lifestyle, the legality and moral obligation of it is not entirely inconceivable, and the thought it’s not all just a charade hiding a cruel blood sport is a possibility, for some hunts.

Though as FWGs collate irrefutable evidence some hunts are clearly ignoring the law and continuing hunting by using trial hunts as a smokescreen, and in doing so are met with violent retort, county constabularies are working with campaigners and nationally progress is gradually happening, Wiltshire Police are accused of failing by comparison. The well-publicised poor policing of the violence at Lacock on Boxing Day is clear it needs addressing, FWGs report the incident is the tip of the iceberg.

Got to rub the worry-lines of my forehead here. The article points to five ongoing investigations they’ve been reliably informed are ongoing with the Avon Vale Hunt. It states, “alongside a Hunting Act investigation, there are investigations into assaults on sabs: in January, a Bristol sab was punched in the head by an Avon Vale terrier man who had been stopped digging out a fox from a badger sett. The saboteur was knocked unconscious and spent several nights in hospital with a brain bleed, precisely the sort of serious injury that can have tragic consequences and as ironically highlighted by Avon Vale fox hunting Tory MP for North Wiltshire James Gray in the ‘One Punch Can Kill’ campaign.”

I’m glad to hear they’re investigated, but it’s hardly proactive, where are the police when these assaults occurred? Intelligence should tip them off when hunts happen, and they should be policed akin to Saturday night at a city nightclub; there’s terrible acts of violence hiding in our rural fields, and not just on wildlife. Instead, Wiltshire Hunt Sabs told the Hunts Sabs Association, “with so many criminal investigations and allegations ongoing, we would have expected at least a modicum of police suspicion that these gangsters could possibly have been killing foxes, and also aren’t opposed to throwing the odd punch – or ten – at those of us who try to stop them and just maybe they have been doing exactly this for decades. Instead, what we have faced from the police is an unleashing of bias and abuse of power as our publicly funded police service is being used to protect a violent criminal hunt to carry on breaking the law.”

“We also had several officers tell us we could remedy the situation by ‘leaving the area’ whilst simultaneously acknowledging we were there lawfully. Can you imagine them telling someone being assaulted on the high street that they should go home and leave the assailant in peace?”

Besides, eyes of suspicion are on police bias over the Lacock Boxing Day bash-a-sab fest, being one of the two officers affiliated with the hunt personally reportedly took time to chat with her pro-hunt friends and “turned her back” on the violence. The sabs claiming “she was not just an ex-rider, we are also told her own horse was at the hunt on the 27th December 2021, being ridden by a friend of hers, who – we have been told – is also the partner of the violent terrierman responsible for the brain bleed in our Bristol hunt sab.”

The public deserve to know if officers on the scene made any calls for advice or back up, Police say they cannot correspond as the incident is under investigation. Police officers swear an oath of impartiality, the PCC doesn’t and Phillip Wilkinson made full use of this on Twitter, calling out FWGs as “bullies,” suggesting he was “not impressed when I witness grownups wearing balaclavas screaming in face of children who just happen to be riding a pony,” yet doesn’t appear to be able to back this bold claim up with evidence, and why, oh why would anyone take children to a fox hunt anyway?! I’m not associated in any manner with this group of Wiltshire Hunt Sabs and they never reveal their identity to me, but his claims are vastly different from my own dealings with them, as they appear to be the pacifist campaigners one would obviously perceive them to be.

If there are hunts really following the law with fake trails and they are in control of the bloodhounds to prevent them side-tracking from the scent of passing wildlife, as they insist they are, they’re unfortunate victims akin to the future generations of art students in my common room scenario; if some can’t be trusted, and police are informed, educated and trained to investigate, or as accusations suggest, seem to bizarrely favour the illegal pro-hunters, I say pull the plug on the lot, ban trail hunts and apologies if you really trail hunt legally, but the few ruined it for the others.

I’m drawn to the Tedworth Hunt, for example, who parade an “East Kennet Fun Ride,” as a Facebook event, defining it as “3 or 8 miles of beautiful riding on the Wiltshire Countryside with optional jumps.” Not for me, but I’ve no problem with this. Yet the accompanying photo shows a fellow dressed in traditional hunt uniform loading bloodhounds onto a trailer. Why would you need dogs if you’re only horse-riding I ponder? Why does the Tedworth Hunt carry pistols if it’s only a fake trial, does a fake trail open-fire first?! And one more question I’ll relay next paragraph, as, admittedly, therein lies my lack of knowledge on the subject, perhaps there’s good reason for it, I dunno, no one tells me, but why still call these hunting-related happenings hunts at all, and why would anyone support the philosophy of butchering of wildlife by subjecting the activity to replica scenarios if they didn’t secretly wish fox hunting to return? Would it not be better to rid ourselves of the entire culture surrounding it?

Armed Tedworth Hunters hardly project the same image as our featured one

The Wiltshire Hunt Sabs are the only ones who will communicate with me on the subject respectfully. This will post on social media and be met with many comments in support, and a few aggressive, hate-filled pro-hunt responses, but not one will contain any polite or reasonable counterargument, no one will invite me to view it from their angle, leading me to wonder why, if everything is tickety-boo, all dandy and legal, why they project this rage, why do they seem to hire these thugs to accost and assault members of the public for merely attempting to protect the wildlife they themselves claim to love and appreciate? Why all the hate if they’re operating legally, it doesn’t add up, unless, I conclude, they’re hiding something.

I note posts on hunting Facebook pages about how they love their hounds, but we’ve seen some shoot them dead if they underperform. If trail hunting is supposed to be this fun and harmless pursuit, it’s hardly non-competitive for the hounds they claim to adore. The point is, no matter how much I scan these glossy representations of modern hunting organisations, they suffer inane hypocrisy; why persist to support something historically barbaric and inhumane?

Because they claim they’re not fox hunting, the pre-Hunting Act excuse of culling is defunct, and the argument for trail hunts seems to rest on this baffling “traditional values” defence. For this I’d like to point out Victorian coalmines employed children to sit in dark passageways for twelve-hour shifts, their only glimmer of light being when the cart pulled into their section and they tugged it along to the next. Yet to suggest we send children down mines, that they don’t actually have to work down there, just sit there in the dark because it’s “tradition” would be ludicrous, but not unlike this concept of trail hunting.

A rather odd looking trail hunt

Yet, as observed by our Cobra Kai, PCC Wilko, they love taking their kids out to butcher wildlife, apparently, which is, to be frank, twisted beyond all reason, and concludes; it’s impossible to live rurally and be impartial towards blood sports. I could label “screaming in face of children who just happen to be riding a pony,” as complete and utter codswallop for the purposes of propaganda but that would imply the law are defending the unlawful, which cannot be true; who’s zooming who? Who knows what to think anymore? Other than perpetually the argument never settles, so obvious answer is ban it completely, it no longer serves a purpose, only causes friction.

Get a new hobby, preferably one unsupportive of murder!


Trending….

7% Pay Rise Accepted and Refuse Workers Return to Work

An end to strike action was announced by The GMB Union for refuse workers in Wiltshire today, as Hills Municipal Collections agreed on a 7% pay rise and Wiltshire Council declared they are due to start recycling collections again from 21st March. “There must be no retaliation and members return to work tomorrow,” says GMB … Continue reading “7% Pay Rise Accepted and Refuse Workers Return to Work”

Time to Squash Your Wheelie Bin Down!

If 2020 was the year your wheelie bin went out more than you; times are a changin’…… Early in January Wiltshire Council’s proposed budget for this financial year was published, explaining how they’d bridge a budget deficit of over £27m, but ensured residents “business and communities still get access to vital and high-quality services.” Chew … Continue reading “Time to Squash Your Wheelie Bin Down!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Update on the Crammer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Trending…….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not all Doom and Gloom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The others are apparently open, some with advisories.

Alan Cobham Road:

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

Avon Road: Recreational Field Avon Road

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

Bellvedere Road:

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

Brickley Lane:

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

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

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

Byron Rd:

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

Cowslip Close Cowslip Close:

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

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

Dowse Road Wadworth Road:

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

Dundas Close:

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

Fruitfields:

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

Hillworth Park:

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

Massey Road 2:

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

Massey Road 3:

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

Newman Road:

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

Osmund Road:

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

Palmer Road:

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

Palmer Road2:

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

Quakers Walk1:

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

Quakers Walk2:

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

Skate Park Green Lane:

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

The Small Green:

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

White Horse Way:

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

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

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


Trending…..

7% Pay Rise Accepted and Refuse Workers Return to Work

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

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

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

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

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

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


Trending…….

Time to Squash Your Wheelie Bin Down!

If 2020 was the year your wheelie bin went out more than you; times are a changin’……

Early in January Wiltshire Council’s proposed budget for this financial year was published, explaining how they’d bridge a budget deficit of over £27m, but ensured residents “business and communities still get access to vital and high-quality services.” Chew on that while you stand in your recycling bin crushing down the contents for a further two weeks longer than the anticipated GMB Union strike.

WC announced today that due to further industrial action they’ve decided to extend the suspension of recycling collection until April 4th. Seek an alternative method to deal with your recycling, and be warned, you are responsible and liable for any mishap which may occur, from a dodgy fly-tipper to if the wheelie bin cascades down your steps with you in it!

Take to social media and ask if you’ll get a council tax rebate for free laughing emojis; welcome to broken Brexit Britain; hyperinflation, fuel and food shortages, inadequate services, pressured health system to the point of breaking, complete disregard for environmental processes we need to pursue. No, you’ll get a hiked-up council tax rise to pop atop your mounting exorbitant household bills and think yourself lucky you’re not fleeing a war-torn country.

I’ve been waiting seven years for them to fix a broken swing in a playpark, still no sign other than a fibbed election pledge, recycling for a few weeks is just a tiny factor to a bigger picture of total egocentricity in the powers that be.

Wiltshire Council condemned the actions of the GMB union at its depots. Leader of Wiltshire Council Councillor Richard Clewer said “we completely respect people’s right to strike,” but went onto say “these actions are leading to an even more adverse impact on our waste collection services and further disruption for our residents.” You’ve got to ask yourself, is there a point to strike action which doesn’t cause disruption, and how effective would that be?!

Isn’t this the same train of thought which said you can protest, but if we hear you protest and we don’t like it, it’s banned?

Clewer waffles the picket lines were unsafe, the leader of Wiltshire Council’s Labour group Ricky Rogers retorted its political spin. Jolly Rogers suggests “Cllr Clewer should put more effort into getting this dispute settled by asking that the years of annual contract inflation extra public money given to Hill’s is shared with their staff, or better still bring this contract back into public control.” Good on you, hopefully you’ve got the Tories bleating like Bianca from EastEnders; “Riiii-ckaaay!!!”

Does “build back better” mean we start in the 1970s and recede to the Victorian era fron there?

And so it goes, to-and-fro around a county hall, looking good on paper. Another fine example of the benefits of conservative privatisation; mega-profits for the wealthiest, stuff the peasants. Note the Hills family have made no public statement. Perhaps it’s time someone nipped over to Cert Octivan, pulled up some of that private tax-free liquid asset, and share out the gold and silver evenly. Then we can all get along and look forward to the Festival of Brexit without worrying what decade the next recycling collection will be in…. I’ve got a Nigel Farage to dump, can I put it my black bin or would he be offended?


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Slug Eggs Are On The Menu!

Join the Devizes Slugs Facebook page they said, be fun they said; I even considered the U in slugs might be a typo. No one expressed the horror which might possibly be revealed to me by these mollusc-loving conservationists, that slug eggs are on the menu in swanky restaurants.

Yet a post went up on the page telling of the group’s “ever increasing horror” of reports of slug eggs being described as a new “super food” which are apparently being actively harvested from the wild by foragers for use in high class restaurants as “Caviar Blanc.’

Now, the trusty ol’ Wikipedia defines caviar blanc as snail caviar, “a type of caviar that consists of fresh or processed eggs of land snails. It is a luxury gourmet speciality produced in France and Poland. They were also a delicacy in the ancient world, also known as “Pearls of Aphrodite” for their supposed aphrodisiac properties.” And it goes onto describing heliciculture snail farming and the process of farming or raising land snails specifically for human consumption.

Look, I’m fine with a pizza, thank you, but if you choose to eat snails eggs properly farmed to ensure the delicate balance of wildlife isn’t effected by your werid obssesion, that’s entiely your perogative, note only I’ll politely decline the offer of dinner at your gaff.

But to forage for slug’s eggs must be upsetting the entire food chain, not to mention a liitle twisted, and should you get swarmed by an angry mafia of crows that’s your own lookout.

But the new trendy grub must have cocaine dealers admiring the profit margin, and can fetch £75 for just 75 grams! Supposing the slime has to be separated prior to human consumption, and that labour intensive method must be costly.

Devizes Slugs, a page for all those interested in Slugs in the Devizes area which emphasises their ecological benefits, defends them against all forms of chemical and physical attack and provides a rescue and shelter service, say “if you see Caviar Blanc on the menu of any local restaurants please tell us as a matter of urgency. This has to stop.”

Firstly you’d need evidence they’ve been foraged rather than farmed, but secondly, as easy money as it might appear, I’d like to suggest it’s really not going to go down well on a first date if, when asked what you do for a living, you reply “I separate slug eggs from slime,” so don’t do it, it’s filthy!

Ten Best Pubs to Hide in When the Volcano in Devizes Erupts Tomorrow

Here it is then, being we’re all buried in ten feet of snow today, your handy guide to the ten best pubs in Wiltshire, who, honestly, haven’t paid us a penny, in which to take refuge in when Mount Devizes volcano erupts, due tomorrow, after elevenses.…..

Wait for the reactions when this is shared on Facebook; “that’s not even a picture of the Devizes volcano, that’s Krakator!” “What poor research, Devizes has a few mounds, but no volcano!” “Other than the headline this article doesnt even mention Devizes,” or better still, “my USGS Volcano Hazards Program app doesn’t predict the Devizes volcano will erupt till next Thursday.”

And I thank them all for bumping the post up the newsfeed and engaging in the perpetual stream of nonsense from those who fail to comprehend how advertorials work. Yet I ask, please excuse me but I’ve no intention of interacting to any comments as I’m busy sharing the same article with all the different Wiltshire town’s Facebook pages, and changing the title to suit them accordingly. And not because I couldn’t give a toss if you believe it, or not, read it, or not, provided you click on the link.

And all for the sake of that very failure to acknowledge clickbait when a majority see it, which makes them work, and why companies spend so much money on them.

Of course, there’s many forms of clickbait, for you to believe are real, and increase our hits, so we can dazzle potential advertisers with stats; we’re just happy going with the flow, doing what other local media are doing, deceiving the general public to increase stats. Not mentioning names, naturally, but when it does erupt in Wiltshire, we’ll be Live on the scene with the other clowns.

Here at Devizine Towers we never tire at perpetually spewing sensationisling nonsense and disguising it as localised current affairs. One ickle scoop is all we need to exaggerate a slight dodgy weather forecast into a headline claiming (enter relevant town name) will be knee-deep in a snowstorm akin to the Star Wars planet Hoth, or one rumble in our high street and our market town has become Belarus overnight.

Or better still, if Brexiteer ‘I’m not paying my staff during lockdown, but please bail me out bestest buddy Boris’ boss, Martin Tim, or whatever which way his two fornames happen to fit, happens to lob a fat cheque in our direction, we will of course kowtow to his every word and publish numerous advertorials, singing his pub chain’s praises, but sneakly disguising them as news.

Here at Devizine, we love the fact the entire modern media is one big Sunday Sport, and look forward to reporting Wiltshire buses found on the moon, and how Danny Kruger ate our hamster.

But, for fear of you realising this is a biting piece of satire, and nothing really to do with the possible volcanic eruption of an imaginary volcano right here in Devizes, I feel impelled to actually tell you the best pubs of which to hide in. Or so help me, they’ll be complaining.

Incidently, these will also be the same best pubs in Wiltshire in which to hide in next week, when the zombie apocalypse hits, predicted to be on Friday.

1 The Silk Mercer, Devizes

2 The Bear, Melksham

3 The Bridge House, Chippenham

4 The Albany Palace, Trowbridge

5 The Bath Arms, Warminster

6 The Sir Daniel Arms, Swindon

8 The Savoy, Swindon

9 The Bell, Salisbury

10 The Reece, Witherspoon

Any connection with these pubs is purely coincidental and nothing to do with backhanders from R Witherspoons inc, thank you, and take care out there, the floor is either lava or snow, whatever,  we’re way past caring; just click on our links or another cute unicorn will be beheaded.

School Children Penalised for Absence Due to Self-Isolating, Why?

Tuesday’s article kicked up a stink on local social media groups, quite literally. They’re still on the subject of dog poo, I’ve moved onto something else now, mate. Something which doesn’t seem to have kicked up quite the fuss I believe it should, and that notion in itself is as symbolic as the issue is to my concluding paragraphs.

But let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Your kid comes home from school with a reprimanding letter, informing you their attendance has been low this year. You pause for recollection, certain the only time they were absent from school was when they had to self-isolate due to a positive covid test.

So, is it just me thinking, why are our children being penalised for obeying the regulations, the law? Why has self-isolating been included as absence due to sickness and reflected badly on their attendance record?

It’s at this point I’m aiming daggers at Devizes School’s new headmaster Julian Morgan, sizing him up and considering meeting him round the back of the science block for, what my offspring informs me the contemporary slang currently is, “a bit of tea;” don’t ask, it was always “spoiling for a rumble,” to me!

However, a reply is despatched from his personal Twitter account, in response to my query and sternly put point that it all “seems rather unfair.” Julian agreed with me, suggesting “it does seem really unfair,” which has to be the first time in my near fifty years I’ve seen eye-to-eye with a headmaster!

Turns out, he’s alright by my book, explaining, to get himself off the hook, “attendance criteria are set by the Department of Education, and its statutory that schools follow the government guidance. I think the government want a comprehensive picture of how Covid is impacting school attendance, and I suppose this is the only real way of doing it.”

Thank you for setting me straight, Mr Morgan, sir, put that cain back, it’s a national issue, I wrote it out a hundred times on the blackboard. I also followed this by penning an email to our supercilious man in parliament, Mr Danny Kruger, and surprise, surprise, the expected failed to hit me between the eyes; to date he felt it pointless to respond. Because, you know, it’s not like he’s our democratically voted voice in government, or that we pay his wages or anything silly like that. I’m sure after digesting this he might have some smug reply which we’ll think ourselves honoured and edit in accordingly…yeah, for sure.

Ruffle my hair, apologise, getting on with more “important things” is the order of the day, it seems, in Westminster. Level up this….

It would’ve been nice to hear from our Monday’s child, fair of face, being it’s the British Cross Children’s Mental Health Week, and if I’m honest, this, I feel, is a small piece in a larger jigsaw, that basically suggests we treat our youth worse than a turd on our lawn. You want kids to be free of mental health issues, start treating them with an ounce of respect, might be a small start, start cutting them some slack. They are not slugs on your lettuce patch, a colony of ants marching across your kitchen lino. They are not a single-minded infestation; they are the ones who will be ruffling the pillows of your sickbed.

I’m still in the dark at how the government will gain a “comprehensive picture of how Covid is impacting school attendance,” if other absences are included under the same marking, but ponder if it would’ve taken too much expertise to divide a spreadsheet with a new column, so that the government could have an even clearer indication, and children wouldn’t be penalised for basically obeying the law. Or what? I am asking too much now? Can we not invest in a Microsoft Excel workshop for these unfortunate parliament office staff, Nadhim?

But of the larger jigsaw, depends on if you like social media, or not. An impossible subjective question, for all the keyboard warrior bigotry and hatred you’ll shamelessly find posted, there’s rays of sunshine mainstream media simply won’t scoop. Like the other day on one of our local Facebook groups, where the family of an elderly lady who dropped her purse posted a photo of two hoodie teenagers on her doorstep, with a story of how, after the lady dropped her purse, these two juvenile hoodlums swept it up, cracked it open, found her address and walked the length of the town to deliver it back to her.

Yet random acts of kindness like this don’t sell newspapers, drama through crime does, and watch the plethora of negativity flow, tarnishing an entire generation for a few wayward youths in the comments of such shared news reports. How they all need stringing up, how they’re all the same, how things looked so different back when you were young, through your rose-tinted specs.

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.” Affix caps-lock, subtract grammar and educated thought, and you’d be fooled to think I found this on a local Facebook group post about door-kicking Tik-Tokers, rather than a Socrates quote from 300 B.C-ish; what a Tory twot!

Or how about, “Come mothers and fathers, throughout the land, and don’t criticize, what you can’t understand, your sons and your daughters, are beyond your command, your old road is rapidly agin’, please get out of the new one, if you can’t lend your hand, for the times they are a-changin’,” which was written about your parents?! Face it, it is not a problem with youth of today, it’s a problem with a minority of youth, historically.

UK School Student’s Strike; 1985

In a politically correct era striving for equality, ageism seems exempt, when in my honest opinion it is the crassest, most hypocritical form of all prejudges, being most of us at some point will be the age being targeted! And if you are currently within that target, I’ll let you know a top adult secret, kids; the majority of your parents, your grandparents, and their grandparents behaved in manners far worse than you could possibly fathom, but they choose to forget for the sake of the benefits of whinging; guiltlessness, and to make them feel better about their own wayward past.

And while I’m on honest opinion, I ask you think back to your own fondest memories and wager you were aged similarly, recall what you did, how you partied, celebrated and relished your youthful life. Then think what this generation has been through, what they’ve sacrificed; what you consider your warmest times, to prevent the spread of a pandemic.

They have sacrificed their golden years; they have foregone more than any generation since World War Two. Meanwhile, their influencers are hardly setting a good example, from walking into a supermarket and noting the majority of folk still wearing facemasks are the elderly and the youngsters, to footballers kicking cats to members of parliament who thought the Ministry of Sound was a real government department.   

For crying out loud on Instagram, the idea of penalising students for poor attendance due to obeying the law came from Bullingdon bully leaders who danced on the graves of the infected, whose age should’ve caused them to know better, but their sheer ignorance prevented them. To have had their golden years of trashing Oxford student unions halls and priceless art, burning money in front of the homeless, and other classy schoolboy acts of defiance, but still partied carelessly away today, while the rest of us suffered, and no more than our very own youth, who to dare enjoy themselves came with a ten thousand pound fine, while the regime got away with the insincere apology of a toddler. And you tell the kids to grow up and act responsibly?!

I urge you respond, Danny K, tell me you will nudge Nadhim Zahawi, wake him up and tell him to revise this appalling crime, by simply backtracking and marking students’ absence with a degree of respect for how they obeyed the law, while your bum-chums clearly don’t.


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Devizes Guardians’ Doggie Doo-Doo Bag Dispensers

If the Gazelle & Herod knocked a front page together this week from Facebook discussions about a spate of dog fouling in Devizes, with a frustrated looking Conservative Councillor Iain Wallis about centre, grasping a doggie poo bag, independent party of Devizes Town Council, The Guardians have a suggestion to curb the current controversy; installation of poo bag dispensers in key locations in the town.

Despite some areas of the country, like Ipswich having bulky male vigilantes hilariously dressed as dog poo fairies, all agreed a squad of enforcement officers on patrol was impractical. Iain Wallis, who I’m certain would agree he would look great dressed as a dog poo fairy, suggested in the local rag, “I would like to see the town council set up a task group to gather ideas from the public as to how we can tackle the issue.” Team Dog Poo, we could dub them, arguably apt, you might say, for some members of DTC. But this time, I’m coming to their defense!

Devizes Guardian Councillors Mrs Bridewell and Mrs Burton think the problem might be overcome, at least in part, by offering the bags in dispensers, located in key areas, including Hillworth Park, Brickley Lane Play Area and The Greens. The option will be discussed at Council’s forthcoming Community and Civic Resources Committee.

I’d sincerely hope its workable, but I’m a realist; plus, it’s hardly environmentally friendly. A wide range of reusable doggie poo solutions are available, dog owners only need to Google it and take some responsibility for their pets, and their planet alike. Which while a majority do bag-up, they still tend to use disposable bags, ergo dumping a turd in a bush is actually reducing their carbon footprint; the council could encourage them to break their wallet out and buy a reusable poo bag, because finding a practical solution is a minefield.

Concern is, if this trend continues it’ll become the norm and we’ll rearward to the watch-your-step era of the seventies and eighties, where if you grew up in this time, you’ll recall the fetid white dog poo lining our streets, and brown snowballs being the single most vicious weapon of a snowball fight; is that what you really want? Brown snowball in the chops?

Give a man a doggie poo bag dispenser and you’ll supply a solution for a day, teach the idiot to pick up after his mutt and you’ll avoid non-dog owners complaining why they should fork out their council tax because of the contempt of certain dog owners. Not forgoing, I’d fear bored pranksters, likely the TikTok door-kicker brigade with all the brains of an amoeba, tugging them out of the dispenser for so-called amusement, and we’d have empty dog poo bags flying in the air, and you’d likely step in a turd trying to avoid them; you can’t train stupid, neither can a council.

The Gov site encourages you to shop a dog fouler to your county council, here, this being the only sensible method to report it, but a proactive resolution is another thing. Because, the real solution is so radical it defies all reason, and it’s called a sense of moral obligation, to pick up your doggie’s doings. Yet that’s not something any council can undertake successfully; it is up to the individual.

Thing is, do not sigh and assume you’re living in some degenerating hellhole, most do pick up their doggie doings around here, and the problem is nationwide, not lone to Devizes, probable worse in other areas. But it relies on a common-sense of decency; something seriously lacking in the chosen few who deem themselves above picking up their dog poo, if this is you, I’ve a message for you, don’t get a bloody dog!


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Rock n Roll Lives; in Melksham!

Found myself in the Sham last night, hail hailing rock n roll at the Assembly Hall, something I’ve been meaning to witness for ages; and I’m pleased to report, they do it with bells on……

Passing through Swindon’s GWR works prior to the Steam Museum, I perchance to natter to an aged engineer prepping a locomotive for display. He frustrated his vocation was fading, and with no apprenticeship, the knowledge would be a lost trade. Art is different from a trade; it lives beyond the creators’ years naturally; it is only hope it inspires enough to attract devotees from future generations.

Creative types rarely contemplate this, tending to live for the moment. Rock n Roll was perhaps the first youth culture to transcend social and political barriers into mainstream. Generations of segregation had worn-out the connection of railroad slaves, mimicking four-beat folk of their masters, and white youths of the 1950s reunited it by blending blues into country, much to the outrage of traditionists. But would those early, wide-eyed rock n rollers have stopped to consider seventy years later their voices would still be ringing out, their fashion would be epitomised and their dances displayed with such enthusiasm, in a market town hall in South-West England?!

Geoff and his wife proudly sit on the door of the Melksham Assembly Hall and welcome me. They have been the backbone of The Melksham Rock N Roll Club since its formation, twenty years ago. Recently two clubs opened in Bristol, he expressed, but prior he’s had free reign of the niche market for a few years. Coupled with winter’s chill and the resistance to head back out post-lockdown, he shrugs, unruffled attendance is slightly down. I pulled up a chair for a chat of all things Buddy Holly to Shakin’ Stevens, then popped inside to see for myself.

Despite his reservations and taking into account the hall is wonderfully spacious, it feels suitably packed in there, if this is an evening of lesser ticket sales it certainly doesn’t show. Devotees of rock n roll have come from afar to attend; Geoff cites members trek from Bristol, and even as far as Essex.

The closest we have here in the ‘Vizes is the Long Street Blues Club, which while spectacular can be a library-like appreciation society; I was shushed in there while thanking Ian for inviting me! Here appreciation is displayed rather differently, events aptly referred to as “dances,” while hold factors akin to many clubs, a live band, DJ and a raffle, the most astounding part was the dancing. There was no way I dare step onto that dancefloor to be showed up, as matured and authentically attired regulars would put upcoming generations to shame with their astounding moves! Trade in your gym membership, come here instead for a rock n roll workout!

With poodle skirts whirling around refined gents in double-breasted Chesterfields and winklepickers, it’s an impressive spectacle. I was interested to observe the age demographic, concerned, like the steam engineer, for his disappearing trade. I’d spoken to Geoff about diversity, for what is considered “rock n roll” is altered by later age-groups, through Zeppelin to punk. But acceptance of progression felt like a no-go zone; this was traditional, fifties fashioned rock n roll, like it or lump it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the band, hailing from various locations from Hungerford to the Cotswolds, this five-piece ensemble called Haney’s Big House had the classic arrangement; bona-fide frontman on lead, bassist, drummer, harmonica and an outstanding upright double-bass player. It proficiently spelled rock n roll to me, they played their own awesome compositions, and relished in covering Bill Haley and Chuck Berry, to name a few. Yet conversing outside, nick-picking gossip circulated it was too blues, whilst others suggested too rockabilly.

True, but the band don’t hide this blues influence on their own website, and inside the crowd danced on seemingly unconcerned. I huffed at a minority of grouches, they revelled in nights of yore through rose-tinted specs, when unfortunately, that era has passed. Haney’s Big House made for an excellent evening, seemed to love the spotlight and were a perfect match for a rock n roll club.

Akin to the contemporary scooter scene, subgenres have to merge back into one another in hope of survival, as Northern Soul mods meet ska-led skinheads, so rockabilly, RnB and blues should be accepted as fair game by fundamentalist rock n rollers, otherwise the scene risks fragmentation over time.

A heartfelt concern, because I’m with Joan Jett, loving rock n roll, put it every time on the jukebox baby; I grew up listening to Elvis, Buddy et al, via parents. There’s nothing like the authenticity of original rock n roll, with an epoch to match, The Melksham Rock N Roll Club is an institution upholding this ethos and they do so with matchless effort.

It was a brilliant evening of beguiling retrospection and long may it continue for another twenty years plus. My demographic observations came up trumps, while a palpable majority were retirement age diehards, a sprinkling was younger, equally excited about the scene. Though that number has to be upped, so I urge anyone affectionate of old timey rock n roll, try this affordable club for size; it’s reelin’ and a rockin’ to the point age is just a number, folk of all ages twirling the night away; absolutely wonderful!

Next dance is Saturday 26th February with Jive Street….

Stay updated via their Facebook page.


Check out other forthcoming events at Melksham Assembly Hall Here, from Abba and Carpenters tributes to Madness and Led Zeppelin…and erm, “ladies” nights!


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Mobius Loop Launch Anti-Hunt Song

Nationwide hunt saboteurs and animal rights activists have inspired those gypsy-folk misfits, Mobius Loop to create this righteous tune, the Foxtrot Tally Hoedown; and we love it here at Devizine.….

I love it because despite social and political injustices linger, as it ever did, rarely does the mainstream music industry reflect this, whereas topical songs of protest and political commentary were the backbone of subject matter in times of yore; and yeah, I’m old enough to remember, just!

Photograph by John Middleham
Flower Crown by Flowercrown Magic

From the Clash and Linton Kwesi Johnson to The Levellers, songs of freedom which were once commonplace are reduced to the underground, and one has to ask if returning to an era where mainstream musicians speak out is needed now more than ever before. All we can do is encourage them, and this is indeed encouraging.

We’ve seen the trend back on the agenda, through folk, punk and ska genres; hats off to bands like Five Iron Frenzy, Boom Boom Racoon and Mobius Loop, the latter of whom say they’re “on a mission to raise positive vibrations, projecting an organic co-operative voice for humanist spirituality, vegan philosophy, grassroots philanthropy, true democracy and alchemical magic, in the name of Hemp Redemption and the infinite unknown.” Boom-shankar to you, guys!

The penetratingly energetic folk blended with conscious rap gives this tune serious clout, as it meanders onto all forms of animal cruelty and veganism. Whatever your view of vegans, you’ll remain toe-tapping through Veganuary! The song comes from their album 2020 Vi5on, which you can buy from their website, here, or stream here.

Using national footage of hunts and protests, they’ve produced a no-holds-barred video to prompt the tune, which includes scenes from our own county’s Boxing Day bash-a-sab fest in Lacock. It’s received applause from local hunt sab groups, but again that’s preaching to the converted when its those sitting on the fence it needs to reach. This symbolises my agony at the current music industry and how it operates; what’s the point in singing cliche boy-meets-girl slush when there’s injustices and transgressions happening across our green and pleasant land?

All we can do is share and publish as much as possible, to raise awareness there remains positive and rebellious vibrations through contemporary music, and praise that this Preston band of nonconformists are truly kicking up a storm nationwide with their eruptions of free-form dance, charged with intimately powerful live performances, and I say, good on ‘em, hunting must end, now.


Please grab your copy of our compilation album in aid of Julia’s House, click on the poster, thanks!

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Bath Reggae Festival Ticketholders Still Await Refund

Ticketholders for the hugely publicised Bath Reggae Festival still awaiting a refund after the festival was cancelled in August last year are getting understandably disgruntled, as the organisers are reportedly unresponsive to emails and messages….  

Like many others, I jumped on this when first announced in November 2020. With a real community feel to their reggae scene, and Fairfield House, where Emperor Haile Selassie I spent five years in exile, what location in the southwest could be more apt to hold a reggae festival than Bath?

Wowed but slightly dubious when I saw the inaugural festival announce their line-up later in the month, for a first-time festival it seemed too good to be true. Legends of reggae were billed; Maxi Priest, Aswad, Big Mountain, Dawn Penn, Hollie Cook, Sister Nancy and more. Due to Covid restrictions the event was postponed from June to August, but over 2,000 reggae fans were disappointed to learn, due to the organisers being unable to source port-a-loos, the festival at Kensington Meadows in the city was again called off.

Spokesperson for event organisers, VIP Productions, Jack Wilkinson told the BBC at the time, “there has been a mention of September but again that can’t be guaranteed.” VIP put out a plea on their Facebook page, encouraging ticketholders to retain their tickets as they would be honoured once a future date was arranged, but promised a full refund if not. This was the last post published on their Facebook page in August, as punters rally to inquire to their refund, and receive no response.

Some managed to obtain a part-reimbursement from their bank or PayPal, but I’ve yet to find anyone who actually received a refund direct from the organisers. I emailed the festival’s website and the messaged VIP Productions, to no reply either, but since discovered, according to the .gov site, the company dissolved in October. VIP also presented another similar reggae festival, same month, in Huddersfield, called Sunup, of which I can find no evidence of it happening either. Going on this, I’m sad to say, I wouldn’t hold out much hope, guys.

I would not go as far to suggest the whole shebang was a scam; the festival industry is not a swindlers’ market, as it is not enormously profit-making. An event of this scale takes hard work, dedication, experience and a huge pot of funds long before stages are erected, and folk are downing cider and chewing on falafels. Admin, marketing, council permissions and insurance are just some of the mountains of red tape you need to get through just to get your foot on the first run of the ladder, therefore there’s far easier methods of defrauding people.

Just one day prior to the event in August, Somerset Live reported VIP were “criticised for their last-minute approach and lacking basic information in the application, making it ‘extremely difficult’ for Bath and North East Somerset Council.” Somerset Live also spoke to a senior environmental health officer, Sara Chiffers, who expressed concerns, “we’ve had extensive dialogue with the organisers about elements of the event management plan that were unclear, contradictory.”

This would suggest my initial hesitancy was justified; perhaps their intentions were honourable, but they tried to run before they could walk. For to have one of these big names booked would have been enough for an inaugural festival, as you need to start small and build. You cannot run off looking at Glastonbury, Reading or Bestival, these are well established with generations of experience, if they book Bowie, or Bruce Springsteen it’s because they know they can, they know tickets will cover it. Festival organising is a massive risk, and fundamental organisers get an event co-ordinator with experience. But to fail over a trivial aspect like toilets is, aptly, a bit shit!

More so it looks bad, creating a riff between punter and organisers in general, and right now, this is the last thing the hospitality industry needs. I know of one festival organisation shut up shop because they depended on advance ticket sales to host the next event. An honourable, trustworthy little festival, and while I’d rather advocate folk entrust such organisers, stories like this are bound to create understandable uncertainty.   

My advice would have to be, in order for the festival scene to thrive and especially for new-comers to become established, folk have to put their trust in events and buy tickets in advance. Yet I urge punters to use their noodle, be wary of festivals promising too much at one time, especially the first time, or events which may have sister operations elsewhere in the UK under a similar banner. But it is detrimental for the future of festivals that organisers remain faithful to their customers, that they insure there’s reserves for refunds should it fail, and that they keep in communication with the ticketholders in such an occasion, as it is not only the customers you are bothering, but other event organisers too; common decency really, isn’t it?


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Devizine Review of 2021; Marginally Better than 2020!

If we recently reviewed Ian Diddams and friends meeting at the Vaults for their annual festive Jackanory, the first article of 2021 was the very same funny fellow reciting his yarn as a live stream from his mocked garden grotto, and in that, surely displays how far we’ve come from the restrictions of lockdown we entered the year with. Though not without the same notion as last Christmas looming over us, like a dirty black shroud, that it was, perhaps, all too soon, and we’ve not seen the backside of the Covid19 yet.

Summarising, 2021 was marginally better than 2020; there were gung-ho moments of throwing caution to the wind, and there were others to make us stop and ponder the consequences of our actions. There’s little doubt the world will never be the same for decades to come; social interaction, shopping, even work practises; but we did get to party on occasions, and when it was good, it was really good.

And if it ended with a Boxing Day brawl, I suspect some wished for the bash-a-sab fest. Even police it seems, who would likely send in The Wealdstone Raider to crowd control a Wealdstone V Whitehawk FC game, if given the assignment. Did I predict this when I said “make no mistake, there’s a civil war under our noses, which comes to an apex when blood-thirsty predators triumphantly parade their wrongdoing on a day when most of us struggle out of bed to reach the fridge?”

Hardly crystal ball stuff, tensions at their highest for rural Wiltshire’s most contradictory dispute, it was on the cards since day dot; when the county voted in a foxhunting Police Crime Commissioner, whose misadventures in drink driving caused him to pull out at a cost of millions to the taxpayer. A calamity most shrugged off with “oh, ha-ha, those naughty Tories, bless ‘em.”


Allowed Out to Play

It was May before I set foot in a pub, lockdown eased and live music was back on the agenda, albeit with hefty restrictions; early ending times, remain seated, table service, no mingling outside of “bubbles,” and deffo no dancing or singing. It felt awkward to begin with, not quite the same, but it was a start, and who better to kick off proceedings than the brilliant Daybreakers, gracing the trusty Southgate? One could sense the joy from Cath, Gouldy et al, to be singing to an audience once again, proving their dedication to the cause. A handclap emoji just isn’t the same.

For a while then The Southgate remained the only venue in Devizes providing live music, and we thank Deborah, Dave and all staff for working within the rules to create a safe space to be blessed with music; it was like they were on roller-skates at times, up and down the beer garden, ensuring not a mouth was left dry!  

I also ventured out to the Barge at Honeystreet, to see how they were coping with the boundaries too. And what a show The Boot Hill All Stars put on there, under a spacious marquee, so tempting to get up and dance, but couldn’t; mastered foot-tapping though.

The return to some normality for many in Devizes came in clement early June, when Devizes Lions held a fantastic car show, plus, on the Green. With side stalls aplenty, nervously folk began to socially distanced mingle; it was a breath of fresh air and a testament to what can be safely achieved with forward thinking and dedication.

Image by Nick Padmore

By July I made it out a few times, the idea of Vince Bell teaming with the individual performers of The Lost Trades, Phil, Jamie and Tamsin was too much of an irresistible hoedown of local talent to miss, and a third trip to the trusty Southgate to tick TwoManTing off my must-do list also proved to be a memorable evening.

The beginning of August I ventured to TrowVegas to tick another off said list, catching those Roughcut Rebels with new frontman Finley Trusler. They blasted the Greyhound, and didn’t disappoint. The month shifted gear for many, and things simply blossomed like there never was a lockdown. Back-to-back weekends saw both my favourite largescale of 2021, the single-most amazing festival near Marlborough; MantonFest is a real gem, professionally done with a real communal atmosphere, the type perpetual drizzle couldn’t put a downer on. This event wowed.

Back in Devizes, the events of the year were the weekend which followed, sitting nicely between a stripped back version of DOCA’s International Street Festival sprinkled across town, was of course, The Full Tone Festival. Without the refreshing emergence of folk out of lockdown, this would have still been something for the town’s history books, but being as it was, the opportunity to head back out and enjoy life once again, the timing, the best weather, the whole ambience was electric. The time and work gone into pulling this off was absolutely outstanding, and for which folk of Devizes will forever mark it as a celebration of post lockdown.

Awakenings even drew Andy out of hiding by September, and I was overjoyed to have him back on the team, without putting his bag and coat on the hook, he went out to play, reviewing Devizes Musical Theatre’s Gallery of Rogues, and Devizes Town Band’s Proms in Hillworth Park. Meanwhile I was delighted to see The Wharf Theatre reopen with a fantastic performance of Jesus Christ Superstar.

September also saw the welcome return of Devizes Comedy at the Corn Exchange, and The Long Street Blues Club, who, kicking off with Creedence Clearwater Review, wasted no time catching up with their rescheduled programme of the most excellent blues nights money can buy. Andy covered these, while I ventured to see Kieran J Moore’s new digs at Trowbridge Town Hall. After a brilliant street art exhibit from Tom Miller, I went to taste the music there, with a most memorable evening from Onika Venus. I returned to the scene in November, for a great gig from Ålesund with support from Agata.

Other than a trip to the White Horse Opera and Southgate to see Jon Amor’s King Street Turnaround, Andy pitched a tent at Long Street Blues Club, one time shipped out to the Corn Exchange in late November for Focus, which Andy crowned best gig of the year. I made it out to the Cross Keys in Rowde for The Life of Brian Band, and to the Southgate see Strange Folk again, since their fantastic set on Vinyl Realm’s stage at a Street Festival of yore. But October held my best gig of the year, the reasons manyfold, and I’m lay them on the line….

For the outstanding fundraising efforts of the Civic award-winning local supergroup, The Female of the Species, I hold them all up as my heroines, therefore the chance to see them again at Melksham’s fantastic Assembly Hall too much to miss, and the fact they’d chosen this time to raise funds for another of my local heroines, Carmela Chillery-Watson, was almost too much to take! With an electric night of awesome danceable covers and a massive raffle, they raised a staggering £1,763 for Carmela’s Therapy Fund.

It will never cease to amaze me the selfless lengths our musicians will go to for fundraising. Even after a year and half of closed hospitality and no bread-and-butter gigs, they continue to offer their precious time to help. While events blossomed late this year, and November saw the return of TITCO, and Devizes Arts Festival added a spellbinding mini-autumn-festival with Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, Sally Barker and Motown Gold, Devizine continued also to preview events and do what we had being doing to find content during lockdown. Yeah, we rattled some cages with social and political opinion pieces, tasted some great takeaway tucker, and we reviewed recorded music further afield as well as local, but we had a number of feelgood stories, most memorable being things like our snowman competition in January, but there was a project which highlighted the sterling effort from musicians to fundraise, and it will be something I’ll never forget.

Image: Gail Foster

So, in April I announced we would be putting together a compilation album, fundraising for Julia’s House Children’s Hospices and by late June it was a thing. It was hard work to put together, but I’m astounded by the plethora of great bands and artists who took the time to send us a tune for inclusion. Knowing time was precious for artists popping out of lockdown, in need to source bookings and rehearse, I only asked them to provide us with an existing tune to prompt their albums, but some went beyond this, giving us exclusive outtakes such as the brilliant Richard Davis & the Dissidents, or some even recorded new songs, like Blondie & Ska, Tom Harris and Neonian.

I picked a staggering forty-six tracks to bind together, to create a boxset so humongous it would need far too many CDs to make it actual, so due to this and the expense of outlaying, it exists as a download on Bandcamp. Think of it as a teaser for the many great acts we’ve supported and reviewed over the years, and for a tenner, it works out under 5p a tune.

For me this was a momentous achievement, and can’t thank them enough. While I’ve put it out to the right places, to the Gazette & Herald and Fantasy, and airtime on West Wilts Radio’s fantastic Sounds of Wilderness Show, there is obviously more I need to do to get the message out there, as sales have been slow, unfortunately.

I could fathom a number of reasons for this, but in all, we’ve raised approximately £177 for Julia’s House, hoping to reach a £200 target before we send them the money, still sales have waivered off so significantly I feel I need to send what we’ve had so far. Please help us to up the total if you’ve not already bought this fantastic album. Gloom aside I will say I’m planning a second volume, and already have a few contributions from incredible acts such as Nick Harper, Onika Venus and Catfish.

Returning to events for the last part of the year, While Andy fondly reviewed Focus, I popped into the Corn Exchange for a quick interview with The Lost Trades, and left to attend a great art show at the Shambles. That weekend the Full-Tone Orchestra played Swindon’s Wyvern, and I’m grateful to Ian Diddams for his review. This is what we need, people, we cannot cover everything, but if you’ve a few words to say about an event or anything local, please, help to make Devizine a comprehensive community, erm, thing!

Of course, one delightful addition to our team TD Rose has been submitting some lovey features, firstly of ramblings, and more recently she made friends with Wiltshire Museum, and reviewed DOCA’s Winter Festival. Thank you so much Tyg, I’ve yet to meet, but we need to arrange this for the new year.

Image: Chris Dunn

Towards the end of November Andy remained seated at Long Street, I did the rum bar thing. Such a refreshing addition to Devizes, The Muck & Dundar pulled off a blinder with Bristol DJs, The Allergies. This was one smooth funky night, best for an age, and it was great to shake my greying tailfeathers. Both Andy and I finished off the year with a Boot Hill bash at the Southgate, where hip hop misfits Monkey Bizzle