Wiltshire Council Leader Advises Tory Candidates to Block Correspondence With Save Furlong Close Campaign

It has been some time since we’ve covered the disgraceful fiasco at Rowde’s Furlong Close, where residents with learning disabilities face closure of the HFT site, their home, and undefined, separated relocation.

The reason being, the situation had fallen into a political stalemate, as HFT ceased all dealings with Wiltshire Council. It seems HFT are no strangers to closing sites down, and equally Wiltshire Council’s reaction is lacklustre. I cannot decide who is really to blame in all this, but something certainly doesn’t add up; perhaps they’re both as bad as each other, and the clock is ticking for May 19th when closure is planned. You know me, I’ve been concerned my anger at this issue will lead me to publish speculation, and the last thing I want is put forth misleading information.

Now, it seems, via a Tweet from The Save Furlong Close campaign group, in a memo released on Easter Sunday, Wiltshire Council Leader, Philip Whitehead advised councillors and future Conservative candidates to block all correspondence with Save Furlong Close Campaigners, in fear it’s being used as “an election matter.”

This is very concerning, while both sides battle the politics out, the Save Furlong Close campaigners are merely worried for the future prospects for the residents there, and least deserve a voice. So, I’m pleased to be able to publish an article, by Mark Steele, a member of the campaign’s steering group, which outlines the history and current situation.

I merely offer to endorse their rightful campaign and promote it as much as possible. If then, residents of Furlong Close are indeed moved out, it will be a terrible day for Wiltshire, and a shameful reflection on a county council, but if this happens and I stood there and did nothing, it’s a shame I would partly bear too, and I have no intentions of that happening. I hope our readers and supporters will agree, and I fully believe, with the permissions of the campaign group, we need to arrange a socially distanced peaceful protest, as soon as feasible. So, WHO IS WITH ME? Watch this space, but here’s Mark’s outline of the happenings in Rowde.


SAVE FURLONG CLOSE

“The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”

(Mahatma Ghandi)

Save Furlong Close

For the last 30 years, Furlong Close has been home to 36 vulnerable adults with learning disabilities, including Down syndrome, autism and epilepsy.  The residents live in 5 bungalows in a cul-de-sac at the edge of the village of Rowde, sharing a community hall, workshops and gardens (including a market garden and pens for sheep and rabbits).  It is a short walk to the centre of Rowde and a short bus ride to Devizes.  Many of the residents have lived at Furlong Close for more than 20 years.  They are happy and settled, have formed life-long friendships and are a close and caring community. 

In October last year, however, it was announced that Hft (the charity which owns and operates the site) and Wiltshire Council (which funds the majority of the residents) had “jointly” decided that everyone was to be “moved on” by June 2021, the site shut down and the land sold off for development.  The shocked families were told that there would be no consultation or discussion; it was a “done deal”. 

Already reeling from the emotional impact of the pandemic and cut off from the support of their families, the residents were fearful and anxious.  Their disabilities make change extremely stressful for them and being forcibly evicted from their home of 20+ years would cause them great trauma and distress.  For some, the trauma would be life-shortening.  My cousin, David, who has lived at Furlong Close for 18 years, was left in fear of the future and telephoned his 95-year-old mother, Audrey, many times a day, often in tears, to ask her where he would go and who would look after him.  Sadly, Audrey passed away in March, spending the last months of her life wracked with worry about what would happen to her beloved and vulnerable only child (https://twitter.com/savefurlongcl/status/1374671484187242507).

So, why is Furlong Close facing closure?  At first, Hft and the Council said it was “not about money”, but was only about doing the best for the residents.  It was said that “moving them on” from their settled and happy homes would be an “exciting opportunity” for them, but no-one could quite explain how breaking up a happy community and scattering them to new and strange places would be either “exciting” or an “opportunity”.   Certainly, it was an “opportunity” which none of the residents or their families wanted.  Subsequently, it became clear that it was in fact “all about money” after all, with Hft accusing the Council of grossly underfunding the site over many years and refusing to pay the full costs of care.

Faced with this cruel threat to the well-being of our vulnerable relatives, the families organised and the local community rallied to our cause.  People became angry.  43,000 people, from Wiltshire and beyond, signed a petition.  Legal proceedings were commenced by the family of one resident, to seek to have the decision set aside as a breach of her human rights.

Faced with this local anger, Wiltshire Council promptly threw Hft under the bus.  It claimed that the “joint decision” was nothing to do with it, but solely a matter for Hft.  Hft responded angrily, accusing the Council of “lying” and trying to “hide behind” it, and gave notice that it was withdrawing services, not just from Furlong Close, but from Wiltshire as a whole.  With Hft and the Council each pointing the finger at the other, the situation deteriorated into what has recently been described by a judge in the pending legal proceedings as “a shambolic mess”.

As the clock ticks down to the termination of Hft’s contract for the site on 19 May, the residents and their families fear that we are being hung out to dry.  Hft has offered the Council the chance to buy or lease the site and bring in another operator, but neither has taken decisive action to make this happen.  Many suspect that the Council is just playing for time, to try and kick the can down the road until after the Council election in May.  Meanwhile innocent and vulnerable people are suffering and the families are calling on Hft and Wiltshire Council to act now to save Furlong Close. 

Please, if you want to help:

Thank you


Protect Drews Pond Wood Area

Local enviromental campaigners are calling on Devizes Town Council to designate ten areas of land around Drews Pond Wood as Local Green Spaces due to their importance for wildlife, health and wellbeing as well as historical significance.

Please sign the petition, here.

Drews Pond Wood Project has looked after the Local Nature Reserve since 1990 to keep it as a special place for wildlife and a resource for local people. They are asking for your help to get more protection for the wood and its surroundings.

The Local Plan and Neighbourhood Plan are being reviewed. These plans will decide where to put hundreds more houses in Devizes. These plans shouldn’t just be about where to put development – they also need to identify areas that are special and important for people and wildlife so that they can be protected for the future.

The National Planning Framework enables communities to identify and protect areas that are of value to them through Local and Neighbourhood Plans by designating Local Green Space. This designation ensures strong development restrictions on an area. 

Make no mistake, Drew’s Pond Wood has been earmarked for development, though the application has been rejected, this doesn’t protect the area should future applications are made.

Thanks goes to local environmentalist, Joe Brindle and his team for creating the campaign and raising awareness of this. It is supported by the Drew’s Pond Wood Project.

Please sign the petition, here.


A Chat with Wiltshire PCC Candidate Liz Webster

“Perhaps it will take electing a determined and feisty female Lib-Dem to turn that around in standing up for our Police and communities.” Wiltshire PCC Candidate Liz Webster opened up about her life, priorities for the role, and her reasons for standing….

If our jolly chinwag with Wiltshire Police Crime Commissioner candidate, Johnathon Seed, last month went supernova, hijacked with best intentions by those offended with field sports (oops, did I say field sports, when I meant the inglorious barbaric biota slaughter dressed as a requisite pageant?) and we found solace with the hospitable dude, Mike Rees, who independently campaigns for the same position, it’s all kind of, I dunno, left me in limbo.

My apologies if you came here looking for impartiality, you should know by now, I don’t dither on traditionalisms. Still, I’m between a rock and hard place, questioning the necessity for politics within this PCC job thingy, as while Rees favours his wealth of on-the-job experience, Seed is adamant politics is essential.

I went searching for a third opinion, and found it with the Liberal Democrat’s PCC candidate, Liz Webster. But I discovered more than I bargained for. Away from campaigning, Liz runs a farm with her husband and stressed her passion for the future of farming. “It’s calving season,” she explained, “and I’m deeply worried about trade deals that will be a disaster for our environment, animal welfare, food standards and for shoppers and farmers alike.” Liz and her husband set up campaign website, Save British Farming, protesting the Government’s current Agriculture and Trade Bills.

I didn’t want to dwell on my aforementioned ruckus, wanted the focus today to be what she would bring to the table, but I felt it imperative to ask Liz for her views on fox hunting, if she encourages the law to be upheld on these matters, oh and the boy’s ruckus too!

“I’m too busy responding to residents’ concerns about speeding, anti-social behaviour, domestic violence, pet theft, police station closures, drug dealers and cyber-crime to pay attention to personal spats between other candidates,” she stated.

“However, I have had very many anxious residents ask me asking about fox hunting, so here is where I stand. As an animal lover and keen horse rider when young, I have never had any involvement in hunting‎. My husband and I farm at the northern tip of Wiltshire‎ and we work with Matt Prior on his Marlborough Downs: Space for Nature project to conserve and protect wildlife on our farm.”

“Animal welfare matters to me. which is why I’ve been campaigning for Wiltshire Police to treat the crime of pet theft much more seriously, and I’m having some success. I want the law strengthened in this area. Protecting our pets, farmed animals and wildlife is important.”

“If the voters of Wiltshire and Swindon vote me in as our next Police and Crime Commissioner‎, I will urge that all laws to protect our animals, including our wildlife, are respected and that we investigate and prosecute those that break the law.”

Below is an extract of a recently published article which Liz penned. The section sets out her views on the issue, and farmed animal welfare, “which aligns with the vast majority of our citizens,” Liz expressed, “and against those of our current Prime Minister, and apparently my Conservative opponent.”

Take the latest discovery of his (Boris Johnson) opinions on foxhunting laws from an article he wrote for the Spectator in 2005. In it, he said: “It is like skiing, in that you are personally tracing, at speed, the contour of the landscape, and then there is the added interest of the weird semi-sexual relation with the horse, in which you have the illusion of understanding and control. There is the military-style pleasure of wheeling and charging as one, the emulative fun of a pseudo-campaign.” [our emphasis]

Boris Johnson, 2005

He argued that the foxhunting ban was “a Marxian attack” by the Labour government on the upper classes and nothing to do with animal cruelty, and he urged foxhunters to break the law and keep killing animals.

Bizarre that he should totally disregard the will of the people that is still overwhelmingly against hunting, irrespective of the relationship with the horse, semi-sexual or otherwise.

It’s one rule for them and another for us: let them eat chlorinated chicken and hormone infused meat! Boris Johnson also completely ignores the will of the people on food and animal welfare standards.

Recent polls have shown that between 80 and 90% of the public are aligned against lowering our standards to help deliver a quick and grubby USA trade deal.

Righteousness aside, I’m forever baffled by his weird semi-sexual relation with the horse, but I’m too nauseated to ponder deeper, and there’s not much which dribbles from his Gugelhupf-hole that makes sense to me. But we must push on, the importance of politics in the duties of police crime commissioner is my kingpin, and I asked Liz, “why?”

“Our Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) takes decisions that impact on all of us,” Liz replied. “They set the strategic priorities for our Police Force. Those decisions will reflect their values, those values are why people join together in political parties. The political alignment of the candidates should provide voters with assurances and clues about how those decisions will made.”

“My values are liberal; that means being open, tolerant, caring and respectful of others, being inclusive, strong on the importance of communities and our environment but also willing to listen and to compromise to make real progress. For example, I believe that putting real effort and resources into community cohesion will prevent crime and limit damage.  That’s why I’m ‎a Liberal Democrat.”

“Now that we, the people get to choose our PCC it is important that we know their values, where they stand on the key issues and what their priorities are. Mine are set out in my Plan for Wiltshire. I have experienced very directly the reality of inadequate action, funding and systemic failure. That woke me up to the reality that I should not stand quietly and watch but get involved‎ to prevent it happening to others.”

If you supposed Liz Webster just woke up one day and thought, I know, I fancy being police crime commissioner, think again. The revelation came to her a decade ago, when her eldest son, Henry, was the victim of a hate crime in one of Wiltshire’s schools. “He was attacked by a gang with hammer. Like all parents, I trusted The Ridgeway School and the Local Council who are the Education Authority to be responsible for my children’s safety while they were at school.

“When they failed to protect Henry,” Liz expressed, “that fundamental belief ensured I campaigned hard for three and half years for real change and eventually succeeded in getting an independent inquiry (Serious Case Review) published. That set out the lessons that had to be learnt to stop horrific attacks on children from happening again. I have written an article which touches on some of these lessons.”

“The Conservatives say they dislike ‘big government.’ Their grip on power over the last decade has seen our public services cut to the bone. Wiltshire Police – already at the bottom of the funding league table – has suffered deeply damaging cuts at the hand of Conservatives. This has ensured that our communities are less safe and left our police force feeling undervalued.”

“Seven Conservative MPs, two Conservative Councils and a Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner (and all mostly male)‎ have allowed this to happen. Perhaps it will take electing a determined and feisty female LibDems to turn that around in standing up for our Police and communities.”

Liz has said, “Wiltshire is one of the lowest funded police forces in the country because of an outdated formula which favours densely populated urban counties,” a notion also high on Johnathon Seed’s agenda. Yet while Liz recently wrote to the Home Secretary, she hasn’t responded. Meanwhile, hey-ho, pictures are circulating of Mr Seed blushing over Priti Patel as if she was Marilyn Monroe, (with a decided lack of facemask and social distancing measures I might add, though perhaps being beside the point!)

Isn’t this proof of a self-righteous, monopolising attitude with conservatives, where taking total control of not only government but our councils and policing too is paramount; there’s no room for any alternative? You don’t got to answer that; I put it Liz!

“The Conservatives are all about being in power,” she replied, (you think?!) “Both they and the Labour Party centralise power. Liberals believe in decentralising power. That’s why I’m passionate about setting up and properly supporting Community Safety Forums and making sure our senior Police Officers attend and listen to residents’ real concerns.”

“They make campaign promises are not anchored in reality, like my Conservative opponent’s pledge to recruit an extra one hundred police officers with no explanation of the vast increase in the precept that it will take to get anywhere near this or the vast practical problems of getting it done.”

“I want our Government to fairly fund Wiltshire Police and to be smart about how we use technology and increased community engagement to tackle and prevent crime and get local parish, town and Wiltshire and Swindon Borough Councils working with charities, school, businesses and volunteers alongside our Police.”

“The Conservative candidate is attacking the policies of the Conservative incumbent PCC, the Conservative Council, of which he is a member, and the Conservative Government that he surely voted for. He is gaslighting his past very active campaigning to get rid of the hunting ban, ignoring the fact that he has spent four years sitting on the Police and Crime Panel where all these issues and policies on the Police estate were discussed, just to try to get himself elected.”

“Both the Labour and Conservative PCC candidates have been sitting councillors on the Police and Crime Panel and yet neither have installed cost effective technology to deal with speeding in their wards and neither said a word about the police station closures until now.”

“As PCC I will be straight forward with people, ‎make communications and community engagement my priority. Look at smart ways and good ideas being used by other police forces. Look to get our Police, local councils, schools, businesses and community organisation working together rather than against each other.”

I’ll tip my cap, shine your shoes for a shilling, guvnor and suppose it’s the working class in me which, throughout my warming to Liz and her policies, maintain clarity in Mike Rees’s argument; a PCC with on-hand experience is greater than a political standpoint.

Her angle and priority on rural theft of pets, trees and hedges, no matter how big the budget, and how many new officers are employed, in a rural setting cannot be everywhere all the time. Ergo, a bigger budget allowing more officers and resources will solve crimes and capture criminals more efficiently, but it’s not as proactive in preventing crimes as on-hand experience. Learned that from Telly Savalas, they call it “the hunch!”

But Liz thinks, “unfortunately, I think Mike Rees is standing for the wrong job. I think we wants to be Chief Constable not our Police and Crime Commissioner. Judging by his comments, so does my Conservative opponent.  A Police and Crime Commissioner is not a military or police operational role. No one standing in this election should be trying to replace our Chief Constable.”

Yeah, but Mike looks more like Telly Savalas than Liz does!

“The role of the PCC is to involve our communities, enhance their support for and engagement with our Police to make our lives safer. They are also required to listen to the public and give candid feedback and direction when community needs are not being met or when real issues like pet theft are being ignored or downgraded.”

“The PCC is there to set the strategy for safer communities and to influence how policing is delivered to prevent crime and protect people and ensure that victims voices are heard. They are a bridge between the people and the police.”

“A successful PCC should strive to deliver less crime, less victims, safer communities and a happier police force. You do that by making good collegiate decisions and by working effectively with others that can help deliver those goals.”

“My family were victims in one of Wiltshire’s more high-profile cases back in 2007 when Wiltshire Police was run by the Police Authority and not by the PCC. We found that as the victims of this horrific crime we were marginalised. The whole emphasis was on the prosecution of the case and the protection of the offenders.”

“My son and several of the offenders were minors. But my son did not get same protection as his attackers. To this day some of them enjoy the luxury of anonymity as their identities were protected from the media. My son’s pictures and our address were printed in newspapers within hours of the attack. We had no help to deal with the media onslaught at the same time as we dealt with a serious medical emergency.”

“If I am elected, one of my key jobs I will ensure that Wiltshire Police are reminded to that the victims of crime need real help and support.”

It’s inspiring motivation from a moving and terrible incident, summed up by her campaign’s strapline:  Offering a more victim-led and preventative approach to the role of Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner. But how do we prevent rural crime such as the aforementioned animal theft, and even speeding through sleepy villages, when they’re so hard to police due to the openness of the countryside?

“Farming in a very rural corner of Wiltshire,” Liz started, “I am thoroughly awake to the difficulties we face dealing with rural crime. That’s why I have put forward practical policies that will help tackle such crimes. For example, I want to immediately abolish the position of deputy PCC. After discussions with our Chief Constable, I want that money used for a Traveller liaison officer to ensure cohesion throughout our rural communities.”

“I want to create a county wide DNA database for livestock to tackle sheep and cattle rustling, a growing area of violent, organised crime. This approach would combine that with reaching out to ensure all Farm vehicles and items are logged and safely returned.”

“I am committed to using smart and cost-effective camera technology to tackle speeding in our villages and rural areas. This will empower our excellent Community Speed Watch teams.  It will identify those driving without paying their road tax and deter and detect offenders of rural crime.

Liz recently posted thoughts on an article about what controls the state should be allowed to hold on to once things start to get back normal, as Covid infections and fatalities reduce. She wrote, “the balance between safety and freedom is an eternal tug of war, but it’s paramount that the suspensions of freedoms agreed in a health emergency don’t become permanent.” But with government’s talk of free speech reform, and scrapping the bill of human rights, on top of predicted poverty increases due to economic downturn, tensions are bound to mount. How would police in Wilts under Liz’s control react to possible protests, racist and hate crime, and acts of violence bought about by this tension?

“My values are centred in the Human Right Act” Liz affirmed, “it is effectively the incorporation of the document, drafted in large part by the UK, post the atrocities of the Second World War – the European Convention on Human Rights – of which the UK is a founding member. To withdraw from a commitment that guaranteed certain rights for all, regardless of your political affiliation is anti-British.”

“It is of great concern that the economic and financial impacts of Covid19 could see tensions run high. That is why we need a PCC who will make communicating with the public a priority and really values community engagement, as I do. A PCC who will, through social interventions and crime prevention policies seek to settle tensions rather than preside over their explosion.”

“As a mother I experienced directly what happens if things are ignored and tensions are allowed to build to flashpoint; it ends in violence and threat to life, to the life of my son, Henry. Having lived through that nightmare, I would never sit by and allow that to happen to other families. I am someone who wants to enjoy living in a county which is free and safe.”

“The rights to free speech and peaceful protest are fundamental. They have been respected in our country down the years. The tolerant attitude they represent alongside the rule of law is part of why Britain has been respected around the world. But should protest or hate speech break the law, lead to damage and violence then, of course, the lawbreakers must be held to account and brought to justice, whoever they are.”

Very liberal response! But that’s where its advantageous to have a Lib Dem PCC, rather than another Conservative who’ll surely simply toe the line. “Yes, I can confirm that I am a Liberal Democrat,” Liz said. “Within our broad set of Liberal principles, I am free to think for and be myself. To use my strengths to communicate openly and honestly without being told what to do or say. The Conservative Party has become increasingly extreme and intolerant, forcing out good people because they disagreed with Brexit and had the courage to say so. No wonder Nigel Farage was happy to instruct his candidates to stand down at the General Election and so many UKIP members joined the Conservative Party. Another Conservative PCC will see more of the same. Wiltshire will stay at the bottom of the funding pile.”

I don’t know about you, but all I see these days, perhaps due to lockdown, is internet and phone scams. It’s an international issue rather than county, but does Liz think police could do better in this area? “More international action is needed to control the internet and telephone scams,” she explained, “but yes with such a widespread issue the only answer is to educate and support people as best we can. This is why the PCC needs to have the ability and motivation to work closely with other those who support vulnerable people in our communities. Our businesses, particularly the smaller ones and those run by self-employed people are also an increasing target of these cyber criminals.   I have a meeting with a women’s business group next week to discuss the increasing levels of crime they are experiencing. I will report back on this issue.”

Domestic abuse rising is another topical post hot on Liz’s social media campaign, stressing the importance of calling a helpline. “Perhaps as the only female candidate this issue of domestic abuse is high on my agenda,” she expressed. “It highlights the need for far more education and empowerment of women. That is the real way of breaking this dire crime that means people cannot feel safe in their own homes.”

“I also welcome and back enthusiastically the Ask Ana initiative. This has seen training staff in pharmacies to enable victims of domestic abuse to simply “ask for Ana‎”. That code will see them taken into the pharmacy private space and be linked to trained police and support staff. This is a great example of what I mean by harnessing all of our communities’ various resources to combat crime and keep people safe.”

“I am also fully committed to ensuring the essential services offered by Domestic Abuse charities are properly funded and resourced. I have met with the leaders of our domestic abuse refuge in Swindon. If I am elected, I will go above what has already been done to ensure this vital service is protected.”

I’m grateful to Liz, and immediately warmed to her and her campaign, she has good sense of direction, motivation for engaging positively and justly in the role, and given her save British Farming campaign, will no doubt have a close and honoured connection with Wiltshire folk.

I’m supposing now there may be a need for political perspective within the role of PCC, however much I’ve taken to Mike’s approach. If so, I believe we must not take this disheartening conception that there is no alternative, as red. You’re welcomed to name-call, assume my political stance, but I’m growing evermore sceptical of the nodding dog which is Keir Starmer, but I won’t bow to this Tory appropriation; there is an alternative, and perhaps, just perhaps Police Crime Commissioner is a great place to start the trial.

I thank Liz for taking time out of her busy schedule on the campaign trail, which you can find out more about here, and wish her all the very best. Still, none of them will beat Kojak in my honest opinion; cootchie-coo, he loves ya, baby!


Trending….

Swindon Sound System Mid Life Krisis Live Streams

If you’re missing a tubthumping club night, you could clear your laminate flooring of breakables, blag your kid’s colour-changing lightbulb, overcharge yourself for a Bacardi Breezer from your own fridge, and belch up kebab behind your sofa.

All these things are optional to simulate the full lockdown nightclub in your own home. But, even creating a cardboard cut-out queue for the downstairs bog, or hiring a doggie tuxedo so your pet can double-up as the bouncer, extreme measures in extreme times will doubtfully replicate the genuine clubbing experience; sad but true.

However, if props don’t make the neon grade, the music can. Swindon-based tri-county sound system, Mid Life Krisis, abbreviated to MiLK, announce an online schedule for live DJ feeds and multi-genre events. “We will be putting on events post Covid for the people of Swindon and beyond,” they say.

There’s an interesting line-up ahead, prompted to me by Pewsey acoustic performer Cutsmith, who is on this Sunday (28th Feb.) Yet most are hard floor, afro/tribal house, trance, techno and drum n bass DJ sessions, freely shared onto a Facebook group, here. Join the group, throw your hands in the air, scream oh yeah, just don’t set your own roof on fire, it’s only going to increase your insurance direct debits, mo-fo.

Your exhaust cannot drop off en-route, girlfriend needs not to spend umpteen hours sorting her hair, and there’s no over-vocal knob jockey giving you all that in the carpark to distract you. No excuse for unattendance; no dress-code either, get funky in your jimmy-jams, if you like, you know I will. Shit, I’m like the Arthur Dent of Mixmag!

Now, I’m also gonna start adding these posters to our event calendar, which despite being about as tech-savvy as Captain Caveman, I’ve taken the time when nought is really happening to redesign it, to be more user-friendly.

All needs doing is directing buggers to the thing, as we’re listing global online and streamed events, and until a time when Bojo the Clown finally stops mugging us off and announces a release date, it’s not worth adding real live events for me to have to go delete them again.

That said, I find difficulties in keeping up to scratch with what’s on in the online sense, partly because I’m fucking lazy, but mostly because they pop up sporadically and unexpectedly.

Else they’re mainstream acts begging via a price-tagged ticket. I can appreciate this, it’s a rock and hard place, and we all need to get some pocket money, but from a punter’s POV, charging to watch their own laptop screen in hope they get a good speed for their feed, can be asking a bit much and one now favours a PayPal tip jar system.

Such is the nature of the beast, where a performer or DJ could be slumped in front of Netflix one minute and suddenly decide they fancy going live. Thankful then, we should be, to these Facebook groups hosting streams, in order to create some kind of structure.

The positive, for what it’s worth, is boundaries have been ripped down. Without travel issues, online, your performance has the potential to reach a global audience, and hopefully attract newbies to your released material. Who knows, pre-lockdown you played to a handful of buddies at your local watering hole, but afterwards tribes from Timbuctoo might rock up at your show. Okay, I’ll give you, they might not, but potentially, the world is your oyster. Just a shame its shell is clamped shut.


Trending….

After 2 Years: Silverlands Playpark Update

August, two years ago I got on my high horse and exposed the dangerously damaged playpark equipment in Rowde‘s Silverlands Road.

Sadly, over this time the main remaining piece of equipment, the climbing frame, was taped off, leaving the children with one “wobbly” bench left in working order.

Also wrapped in red tape was the Rowde Parish Council’s ability to do much about it, being owned by Wiltshire Council. Unfair to hand over such an asset in such a state of dilapidaton, the issue was lost in limbo.

My emails to Wiltshire Council and in particular, Cllr Anna Cuthbert fell on deaf ears. Seemed despite the article recieveing over 3k hits, it was still superficial to bother to reply.

Enough to leave a soul feeling despondent towards any realisation complaints have any effect on the progress of our county council.

But today I’m glad to be able to update it with positive news. After one final push, contacting councillor Laura Mayes, who promised to “look into it,” an agreement has been met, and working with Rowde Parish Council Clerk, Laura has secured over £20,000 funding from Wiltshire Council to re-design the playground. Please contact her with ideas on what could be included.

So a massive thanks goes to Rowde Parish Council and Cllr Laura Mayes this week for their sterling efforts. Thus proving, over time, a long time abielt, things can be put into action!


Offended by a Rainbow; Assault on Wiltshire Police’s Temporary LGBT History Month Facebook Logo

To clarify, I like dunking biscuits into my tea, but if it’s not my cup of tea, and someone else wants to dip their biscuit in it, why on Earth would I have a problem? It affects me in no way whatsoever, it has zero consequences to my brew, nada.

If I dunk my biscuit into your tea, however, half drops off and dissolves into your cup, we might have a minor issue; it’s impolite and I should’ve asked first. Truth be told, though, this has never manifested, because I’ve basic manners, and only dunk into my own tea. Ergo, I say; dunk, and let others dunk. It’s a fair and just modern tenet, tasty too, you should try it sometime.

Since Henry VIII’s Buggery Act of 1533, of which defines the term as “an unnatural sexual act against the will of God and Man,” the timeline of LGBT history in UK law reads like the genocidal presupposing of a tyrannical third world regime. Wrought with disturbing arrogances, cruel and misconstrued judgements and fatal sentences, its roots lie biblically, a confine we no longer adhere our hearts and souls fully into, anyway. Least we accept the book was drafted over centuries of prejudiced editing by megalomaniac nutcases who couldn’t possibly have known the word of god any more than an amoeba knows the name of the pond it lives on.

As time moves forward, the religious connotations are secreted under political judgement, yet so inherit is our belief in chapters 18 and 20 of Leviticus, “thou shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination,” and for the sake of obeying, it will be 328 years after the passing of the Buggery Act, that the death penalty for it was abolished. Here’s my melon-twister for starters, if law had to be based on the apparent, word of god, what happened, when executing an offender, to deadly sin number five, Ὀργή, or “wrath” to us? And while you’re explaining that one to me, maybe explicate Luke 6:37 too; “do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven?”

Hard to imagine, this would be the way of things until only fifty-four years ago, when despite restrictions The Sexual Offences Act 1967 legalized consensual homosexual acts, privately, and only for over twenty-ones. My own lifetime witnessed this step in the right direction continue. Through the hullabaloo of celebs bravely confessing and campaigning, even during the dawn of AIDS, as Boy George and many others colourfully threw it in their faces, pride to be homosexual was still controversial and a long way from general acceptance. The ingrained discrimination turned from angered hatred to taboo, and the butt of the joke. Dick Emery made his fortune; his angle was awful, but we liked him.

Sticks and stones, not quite as bad as the death penalty, though psychologically damaging, it’s been a rocky road to where we now sit, dunking our biscuits. A gender-neutral era of law, media acceptance and general consensus, where anyone can marry anyone, where the sexual orientation of pop stars is of no significance, and when a character in a prime-time children’s cartoon, namely The Loud House, can have two Dads. A notion as brilliant as the colours of a rainbow.

Even to look back as recent as twenty years ago, where Will Young “came out of the closet,” society has achieved something unthinkable given the history, and for everyone hung, to those necessitating toilet trading, and from those who hid in denial and shame to those queens who wafted it their judicious faces, despite your personal orientation, this is something, in my view to be proud of, and to celebrate.

Yet, when the social media manager of those ordered by government to uphold the law decides to acknowledge this acceptance, on the shortest month of the year marking LGBT History Month, by taking two minutes out of their day to add rainbow colours symbolising Pride, to the backdrop of their Facebook logo, cabin-fevered keyboard warriors gather to accumulate a thread of hatred comments, condemning the decision.

Yep, despite the repulsive and discriminating history, when we finally reach this trailblazing conjunction, Wiltshire Police’s temporary Facebook profile picture is plagued by self-righteous little Englanders, again shamelessly twisting the narrative of positivity for their own wonky agenda. It comes from the same school of thought which devised “All Lives Matter.” Regardless of the plight of a cause, they have to have their share of the glory, less launch their toys from their prams.

Given the plight and horrors history exposes on the campaign, you really have an issue with this?

Largely, the feeble excuse for their prejudges was police should be out there, arresting people, as if every officer on the force gathered around one laptop, each clicking one Photoshop option. See here, it took me precisely two minutes to lone extract a rainbow backdrop off Google and paste it onto my logo, and I kind of like it, might keep it, if it annoys.

The other popular justification is in doing this, police are side-tracking and singling out a particular group, precariously extenuating the issue. Humm… only, it seems by bringing it to your personal attention. Wiltshire Police explain their reasoning, “the rainbow is a symbol of hope. It represents everyone, irrespective of their sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion or disability. People are people. All of us need kindness, tolerance and acceptance. Please remember this when you post your comments.”

Top answer is, survey says no; “Just accept people for who they are, there is no room for any form of prejudice, but I cannot help but think that highlighting individual groups just widens the gap, instead of building the bridge.” Really? Two “buts;” you like buts?

Think historically, the death penalty denotes the gap started quite wide, awareness and celebration of said cognizance is a bridge building machine. Some need to take a long hard look at themselves, and dunk their custard cream in a fresh new cuppa. Growling at a rainbow like a dog barks at the moon; give me strength!

One can only conclude, even if it’s ingrained and those passing negative opinion genuinely believe they’re not discriminating, they are. Your archaic notion of abhorrence is regressive, and yet again, unwelcome to general consensus.

If you trust there’s no need to symbolise this progress, then there’s no need to pass negative comment. But by the very fact you did, represents a definite need to; snakes and ladders. Because there’s looming underlining issue, and it lies in your own psyche. Ergo, eradication is teetering, we’ve come a long way; u ok, hun? If the reprehensible repercussions of this episode represent anything, it is not Pride, but shame, and evidently, the sat-nav of equality has not announced we are at our destination, quite yet.

Trending…..


15 Sensual Songs for Valentines

Here you go, right; the meal was flawless, the wine is taking effect, the candles are in perfect position, the rose petals spread on the duvet, made sure you changed the sheets and hidden your Razzle collection. Now all you need is the perfect valentines evening playlist as the icing on the cake.

One track wrong, just one accidental selection, could prove fatal for getting to final base. At worst you’ll be alone, regretting how that Slipknot track got mixed in there, or which prankster mate added Iron Maiden’s Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter. At best, mistakes can be made in picking from the plethora of timeless love songs available. One narrative of break-up, something just too damn perverse or slushy, or even a song which reverts your partner back to past lost love, can be dangerous and a waste of your hard-earned cash at the johnny vending machine.    

Image: Jakob Montrasio

It is with great empathy and consideration I offer you my tuppence on the perfect Valentine’s Day playlist. To begin, you must understand, love songs come in four main categories; the cliché slushy, soppy sort which are so wet they’re Wet Wet Wet. These are best avoided. The second are the breakup songs, often beautifully crafted nuggets of melancholy, but again, not best for enticement. The third sort, Frankie Says, is the outright filth, centred around the kind of mindless, unattached, no bars held bonking frenzy you have to clean up with a mop and bucket. While at times these are the best of the aforementioned options, what you really need to set the appropriate mood is the fourth category, the songs I deem “sensual.”

Sensual songs arouse the neurons, make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. They neither absolutely call out the knob-fest you’re hoping for, merely hint at it, or relish in slushiness so maudlin it all comes over corny and nauseating. Don’t blame me if everything you do you do it with Bryan Adams’ songs on repeat, it horribly backfires and all which remains of their presence is a fading odour of Superdrug’s own make Eau de Parfum. Here’s the list, adhere to it, fool!

1- Try a little Tenderness – Otis Redding

Otis was a magician, indisputably. His effortless vocals are so sublimely sensual, one play of this and women’s clothes automatically fall off. Guys, if it was good enough for the Ducky, it’s good enough for you; a guaranteed win-win.

2 – Let’s stay together – Al Green

Again, this one is a given. Why do people break up, turn around and make up? Well, it’s for the make-up sex, Al, obviously. Look, we all know make-up sex is the best and stickiest kind of sex, but when setting the mood for the now, never dwell on the possibilities of the future; price of prams these days, prenuptial agreements, stuff like that. Nope, this song pledges nought can possibly go wrong, you are 100% devoted, and that assurance will see knickers on the bedroom floor.

3- Sexual Healing – Marvin Gaye

Marvin with the topper most sex blag, only one under the notion it’s greater for weight-loss than a diet. Here, Motown’s senior figure suggests wellbeing, that sex is good for him emotionally and psychologically. But there’s cohesion, it is affirmed, he’s no slapper, and only wants to do it with you. Although you guessed this song would be listed, it works a like a charm.

4- Je T’aime…Moi Non-Plus – The Scamps

Okay, Serge Gainsbourg’s classic obviously needs consideration, but is about as corny as seventies lava lamps, and Jane Birkin’s aching French orgasmic harmonies might be off-putting if you’re still eating pudding or not making quite as good a job as Serge himself. Therefore, try this; this Scamps version is instrumental reggae, and reggae in general, is kinky as. For added effect, should things be going well and your French up-to-scratch, you can have fun arranging your own vocals.

5- Bob Marley & The Wailers – Guava Jelly

So, pandora’s box opened. If we’re going to do reggae, there’s so many Bob Marley tunes which are more than apt, picking just one is a minefield. Let’s go demining like Steve, it’s okay, I’m a professional. For starters Guava Jelly teeters on the edge of reggae, rather deemed closer to rock steady, the pioneering transitory period between ska and reggae. Rock steady is the definitive romantic period of the music of Jamaica, and Bob is one charmer. This particular song is the perfect balance for what I’m proposing here, it’s connotations of lubrication is pure filth, but its backstory of love is quixotic; precision engineering from the Tuff Gong.

6 – Henry III – With a Girl Like You

Now, after all I said about rock steady, a word of warning. Don’t, whatever you do go gung-ho and add any old rock steady song to your playlist. Such is the way of bygone eras and particularly in Jamaica, many are not PC by today’s standards. Often subjects deal with cheating, disintegrations or can be degrading to the fairer sex. Sometimes it helps, if going with rock steady to check covers, take this divine version of The Troggs “With a Girl Like You,” for example; this’ll work.

7 – Lorna Bennett – Breakfast in Bed

Now, if you’re only up for covers being the kind you jiggle about underneath, by all means go for the original of Breakfast in Bed, on Dusty Springfield’s ultimate “Dusty in Memphis,” as it’s more than suitable. But if you want a bit of reggae in said jeggae, the UB40 version is not your best option. Lorna Bennett does this with bells on. This is so sexy it should be illegal.

8 – Claude Fontaine – Cry for Another

If it’s sexy reggae you want, but contemporary you fancy, and you’ve taken heed of the importance of French accents we’ve mentioned, here’s a lesser-known masterpiece by multi-platinum, Grammy award-winning record producer, Lester Mendez, certain to hold the object of your affections mesmerised and putty in your hands. Claude Fontaine’s voice just, just, just…. oh, no, pass the Kleenex.

9- Kingston Town – Lord Creator

Look, I like UB40, I really do. But whence you listen to the original Lord Creator version of this, you won’t go back. Its subtle idealistic references paint a romantic image of Kingston Jamaica, in contrast to the biting reality it’s often depicted as. Like the notion, any place is beautiful when you’re there, sure to cause a love tidal wave, in your direction. 

10- Swimmer – Black Star Liner

Now, you’ve done the groundwork and things are moving fast. Unlike technology of the era, owning a pager isn’t going to get to you close enough to the opposite sex to be sneezed on these days, the electronica of the nineties can be your friend. Dance music came of age mid-nineties and no longer concerned itself wholly for standing in a muddy field wearing a dust-mask and gyrating like a broken robot. In fact, local city Bristol took a whopping portion of credit for the downtempo trip hop trend. But, while you know Massive Attack will make it onto this list or it’s not worth publishing, unless you lived it, and I mean, really lived it, I forgive you for not knowing this and the next two sublime nuggets of dreamy dance. Black Star Liner are as if Massive Attack did bhangra for film scores.

11 – Long as I Can See the Light – Monkey Mafia

As the finale of Shoot the Boss, an album with enough cutthroat techno and dark ragga to scare the willies out of Moby, Jon Carter places this gorgeous protuberance of uplifting trip hop to bring a lump to your throat, or elsewhere.

12 –Soldissimo – Air (Etienne de Crécy Remix)

Again, the French know saucy. This Air remix by the super discounted Etienne de Crécy is such a barely known, absolute inspiring masterpiece, and when that acoustic guitar breaks in, oh my, eyes will implode, and the bedsheets will need changing.

13 – Unfinished Sympathy – Massive Attack  

For me to pick a single song from my misspent youth wouldn’t be easy, until I’m reminded of this. You know it, you must do, so will your partner. They’ll whimper, “I love this song,” ergo, I love you for thinking it’s suitable to reflect your feelings towards me, and bingo; fire in the hole.

14 – Sharing the Night Together- Square One

To take heed of my warning about picking any reggae tune, apply doubly so with soca. Subject matter of most soca is outright filth, if not being about waving your flag about during crop over, it’s generally about waving something more phallic about. Which is great for the rugby club’s Christmas party, but not so much when wooing. However, there’s always exceptions to the rule, and when Alison Hinds does it by covering this Dr Hook track, she makes Rhianna sound like Cathy Lesurf by comparison.

15 – Lovely Day – Bill Withers

Okay, so a few might be new to you, this is good, but let’s end it with a classic. The sunlight hurts his eyes, and something without warning bears heavy on his mind. Yes, it does have slight negativity about it, but the very notion just by looking at your partner, it’s all inconsequential and can all melt away, will guarantee your bedposts will be thumping against the floorboards in no time at all. Have a happy and successful valentine’s day. Best of luck, mucky comrade. Over and out!

And if these fail, something is wrong and you should either try Nina Simone, or consult your GP, just don’t bother me, do I look like Deidre Saunders? Actually, don’t answer that, just keep your mind on the job at hand, else your hand will be the only…..okay, you get the idea….


Trending now…..

Candidate for Wiltshire Police & Crime Commissioner barred from Volunteering to Administer Lateral Flow Covid Tests

Is it campaign point-scoring, as the authorities seem to presume, or concern for health which encouraged Wiltshire PCC candidate, Mike Rees to volunteer to administer lateral flow tests? Whatever, the bottom line is discouraging anyone from attempting to help out during this crisis is bureaucratic nonsense.

And besides, just a brief chat with Mike recently, throughly convinced me his motives are genuine. He’s an open minded, authentic and down-to-earth guy, with experience in the field and a passion for the role.

Mike explains: “It’s with great surprise and disappointment that I have to let you know that I have been stopped, and apparently barred, from becoming a volunteer in the police effort to combat Covid19.

As a retired police officer I put my name forward for volunteer duties last year when the pandemic struck.

Mike Rees

This month I answered another call to volunteer to administer lateral flow tests to police officers and staff. I had a training session earlier this week and completed the online NHS assessment and passed to certificate my competency for the task.

Today I was expecting to attend a ‘dry run’ session however I’ve now been told I cannot attend as they have to investigate the ‘rules’ as allowing me to volunteer may suggest bias on their part because I’m a candidate for the role of Wiltshire Police Crime Commissioner.

I’m disappointed and dismayed to be denied the opportunity to volunteer to support the police, a force I worked in for 30 years.

I’ve asked for the ‘rules’ to be clarified as I see no possible concerns.

For your information, I do not agree with this decision to bar me from volunteering. 

I’m standing as an independent candidate, not aligned to any political party and volunteering was a personal decision.”

Mike is fast becoming the outside chance of becoming our PCC, and we’re backing him fully here on Devizine after his Malmesbury boxing club recently helped out the homeless, appealing for  donations of sleeping bags , food and clothes from locals and delivering them to the OpenDoors support agency in Devizes.

Plus, this is, by far, not the first charitable thing Mike has engaged in.


“Nobody has Wanted to Talk about Hunting, Other than Trolls!” Says PCC Candidate Jonathon Seed

Busy day, chatting to Wiltshire Police Crime Commissioner candidates and The Wilts Hunt Sabs; something is conflicting…

In 2012 five members of the Avon Vale Hunt, including the master huntsman and Wiltshire councillor, Jonathon Seed appeared in court charged with breaching the Hunting Act 2004. Though they all denied the breach before magistrates in Chippenham, Seed made a statement released to the Wiltshire Times, “This is a private prosecution by the RSPCA and I believe that it has been commenced for political reasons, as their stance against hunting is well known and it is of great significance that Wiltshire Police, after advice from the Crown Prosecution Service, declined to take this case forward. These proceedings are an abuse of the private prosecution system, which needs to be addressed in due course.”

And how best to address said abuse? Elect to become Police Crime Commissioner, that’s how. Perhaps it’s an episode the councillor wishes would disappear, going on the rather defensive attitude he put up when I chatted with him about his campaign this morning. And for what’s it’s worth, he provided some great ideas and valid points on subjects he attempted to divert me onto, but I was wondering where he actually stood on hunting, being, you know, it’s illegal, and he’s wants to be Police Crime Commissioner, just felt, well, a tad conflicting.

“Okay, so, not about the campaign then,” he started.

But I think it’s relevant. “Hunting is illegal,” I pointed to the seemingly obvious, “surely we would want a PCC who upholds the law?”

“Are you suggesting that I wouldn’t want the law upheld?” came Jonathon’s reply. Had to say, far from suggesting anything, the question was built behind the datum the huntsmaster for the Avon Vale hunt appeared in court with allegations he broke the law. And upon experts in the field, Wiltshire Hunt Sabs, who seemed convinced laws had been broken that day. “The badger sett incident,” they confirmed, “it’s clear evidence they were illegally hunting. It’s illegal to use terriers underground (the exemption is in relation to birds, which isn’t relevant on a hunt.) There can only be one reason for sending terriers to ground and that is to flush a fox.”

“You were,” I checked, “huntsmaster for the Avon Vale hunt at the time?”

“You will already know that I was,” Johnathon stated, “the allegation against me that was unfounded was dropped and is covered in the blog.”

Wiltshire Hunt Sabs claimed, “it wasn’t unfounded at all, the current Huntmaster (Stuart Radborne) was found guilty of interfering with the sett. The fact they couldn’t prove hunting act charges is yet more evidence that the law around hunting needs tightening.”

“Do you have anything to ask about the campaign,” Johnathon inquired, “or are you just interested in the Avon Vale Hunt?”

Yes, I do. So, I asked him, “if successful in the post, would you therefore discourage police to act against hunting offences? I mean, I understand, because they’d be personal friends engaged in something you firmly believe in. Also, would you support a turnaround of the law to allow hunting?”

And thus, came the jaw-dropper.

“I have spoken to thousands of people about policing over the last four years,” he said, “residents, officers, volunteers, victims of crime and nobody has wanted to talk about hunting other than trolls online.” Rather than be labelled a “troll,” by Tory boss-cop I allowed myself to be side-tracked. Jonathon was keen to lobby government for further funding, “Wiltshire is the third poorest funded force per head of population in the country, it needs overhauling and I will work with government to achieve this.”

“I have spoken to thousands of people about policing over the last four years,” he said, “residents, officers, volunteers, victims of crime and nobody has wanted to talk about hunting other than trolls online.”

Funds would put more officers in our communities, and offer better support for training and officers and staff’s mental health, and I cannot argue with this, though I pondered why it should be; are we all so better behaved in rural Wiltshire, so we don’t need as much policing as an urban area? I know I am!

“Historic underfunding of the force will continue to be an issue due to the way the funding formula is weighted towards some areas,” Johnathon explained, “The current PCC has done nothing to improve the situation and I believe the public deserve a PCC who will lobby the heart of government for better funding.”

I overlooked the oxymoron; “heart of government.”

In true Conservative fashion he blamed Labour, because fourteen years isn’t enough to up a budget. “The formula was created under Blair so naturally favoured labour voting areas,” he reckoned. “Getting the central government funding addressed has to be a priority. Just because we are a rural county doesn’t mean we don’t have sophisticated criminals operating in our towns and villages; domestic abuse, child sexual exploitation, modern day slavery, county drugs lines all affect our communities….”

“And fox hunters?” I added!

“It’s a shame that without knowing me or talking to me you would assume I would actively seek to have the law overlooked,” Johnathon asserted. “I do not and would not want our police to do this for any crime. The Chief Constable has my full backing to ensure that the law is upheld. There is no picking and choosing who the police ‘police.’ Operational policing isn’t the responsibility of the PCC.”

On the front seems Johnathon has good policies, but they’re undoubtably all politically motivated. Do we need a local councillor in the role, or someone who has been actively in the field, policing? I also spoke to independent candidate Mike Rees, passionate about delivering a quality police service for the people. And have to admit, it was akin to chatting to eager musicians when interviewing them. In fact, if there’s irony in voting for a police candidate suspected of breaking the law, the only similarity is that Mike is in a heavy rock band called “the Lawless!”

He told me of annual fundraising gigs at Level III with a plethora of other bands, which has raised £13K for his own charity “Fatboy’s Cancer Charity,” which aims to bring a smile to children who are suffering from cancer or have other life-threatening illnesses. He was also adamant he loved animals, and aside his respect for traditional aspects of rural life, more needed to be done to enforce the Hunting Act. Mike went as far as telling me he’d like to set up a hedgehog rescue centre in his retirement.

“I know there’s a difference between what the boss says and what the police see, I’d like to see a happy workforce, not demoralised.” He expressed a want to improve the service, the relationship between officers and the bosses, and the public, as he’s been on the beat in Swindon, working up through surveillance and CID to counter-terrorism, called in to help during the London bombing. “No wool pulled over my eyes,” Mike added.

“We’ve seen year on year increases to the policing precept, yet no tangible changes or improvements to the service the public of Wiltshire receive,” Mike stated, “seems evident to me and the many people who I speak with, that the Police sometimes do not have the resources to deal with many of the basic responsibilities that we expect; and all too often we see the cracks of struggling service delivery being papered over with a slick marketing campaign, or dare I say it, a social media post!”

“I know that savings can be made, and I also know how tax-payers money is sometimes squandered by Police managers,” he continued. “A politician who doesn’t understand policing can be told that something is required or best value, and will just accept what they are told. I know whether it is actually nice to have or need to have. Spending needs to be scrutinised very closely and I would look to do that to ensure money is diverted to the right resources and needs.”

Though Mike said Jonathon Seed was “very critical of Independent Candidates on his Facebook page recently. To my knowledge, I am the only independent candidate for Wiltshire so his comments are clearly directed to me!” But “the last thing I want to do is get involved in a continual slanging match with any of the other candidates.” Which is just as well for them, as an amateur boxer, I wouldn’t argue!

Jonathon Seed was “very critical of Independent Candidates on his Facebook page recently.”

He compared his own campaign budget to Johnathon’s on the precept he doesn’t mind if he doesn’t get the job, estimating Seed has “about £50k to spend on campaigning, I’ve got about £50, and I begrudge paying that! Money is squandered when it should be to improve services.”

The hunting issue will always be a touchy subject in any rural settings with opinions so divided. But the law is the law, and if anyone upholds it, it should be Police Crime Commissioner. Though while Mr Seed’s blogposts call for his innocence, they also state: “Millions of people in this country engage in perfectly legal fishing, hunting and shooting pastimes and should not be demonised and bullied by a small but vocal minority who do not approve of these pastimes,” and “It is utterly irrelevant to the vast majority of the electorate whether or not a political candidate had a lawful interest in country sports along with millions of other law-abiding people.” Left me wondering how defending wild animals under lawful methods, could possibly deemed demonising and bullying.

“If you wanted to ask me something sensible about fox hunting,” Johnathon said, “rather than the usual stuff that has been well rehearsed and I know doesn’t resonate with rural voters, ask me my views on the change to trespass and who it will apply to.”

But I didn’t like to ask, changing rules to trespass blatantly is there to halt operations from protesters. The Wiltshire Hunt Sabs said, “we’d love to know if he still hunts, we haven’t seen him out with the AVH, but there was a rumour he may go out with the Tedworth. I suspect he has paused for the election. It’s interesting he calls concerned members of the public “trolls”. How arrogant do you have to be to think that regular members of the public aren’t interested in his background as a fox hunter!”

I’ll let the hits on this article decide, and leave it there. I’m all for deciding the next Police Crime Commissioner based purely on a doughnut eating contest, might be easier, might even win myself! Then you’d all be buggered!


Choo-Choo; Dreams of Devizes Railway Station

I know what you’re thinking, I’m a naughty boy; why hasn’t Devizine shared news of the survey about the Devizes Park/Gate/Safe-Way railway station proposal yet, the one on the “official” Devizes website? Well, I’ve been deliberating. But before you judge me, I ask you hear me out.

When I took a bus from the Leigh end of Southend-on-Sea to Shoeburyness, at the other end, which I’d estimate being the equivalent of Devizes to Melksham, it cost one pound. The bus was bustling with a wide demographic, it cost the same across the entire city.

Live in a village just two miles out of Devizes and it’s £2.50 for a single on the bus. Given Devizes Parkway would be a similar distance out on the other side of town, I’d wager it’d be much the same price. Let’s take a family of four from their village for a nice day out to London; a tenner to get town, a purple one just to get to this imaginary station for an overpriced train ticket; not including inflation.

Okay, I’m playing devil’s advocate. Everyone wants a station, including me. Back, long before Devizine, and Danny Kruger could pinpoint Devizes on a map, I put a poll on Facebook for my satirical rant column on Index:Wiltshire, asking what, if you could have anything which was once in Devizes but no longer, would you like to see returned. The top answer was unanimously, a railway station. And I agree. I agree with you all, from young and old, fat and thin, from Tory to leftie and beyond, everyone would like to catch a train from Devizes, even if only to escape!

The argument of education, getting students to colleges, and employment, getting them to work, rather than relying on a rural bus service and of course lessening the environmental impact of commuting are, of course, valid and ample justification. The idea it will attract visitors, helping our local businesses and economy is slightly more dubious, an untested valuation. Simply because they can get here doesn’t mean they will, especially if there’s nothing here to entice them. A view of Monument Hill and the Clock Inn Park are nice, but are hardly an exciting hive of activity.

I cannot help but feel, just as Brexit, and these grand and glorious schemes, a futurism-fashioned Festival of Britain, money saved from being in the EU to help the NHS, vaccinations for everyone by March, a high-speed train to gain three and a half minutes off the journey time from London to Birmingham, or a tunnel under Stonehenge to prevent erosion and people from seeing it without paying, the right-wing majority are suffering delusions of grandeur in a country potentially at it’s knees by the time these under-budgeted dreams will become anywhere near reality. I’m sorry to have to see it this way, but the system is crumbling under our feet because our leaders are only in it for themselves.

Oh, need a relevant example? Boris Johnson only proposed this £500m fund to reopen some of the passenger rail services axed in the Beeching review to win seats from Labour prior to the 2019 general election.

To bring it back to local affairs, feels to me like the potential railway station is only on the cards because Danny Kruger wants to get to Westminster quicker, and Hornby enthusiasts are rallying to kiss his ring. And yeah, as I said, it’s a great idea, for all the reasons stated. But given there’s surely far more important things we could spend the money on in this dilapidating town to improve it for everyone, you know what I’d like to see first and foremost? If we have spare cash to build a Lego station, I’d like to see our poorest, our youngest, eldest and people in care being supported.

I don’t want to see homeless being cleared out from camping in the woods so dog walkers can be free to roam and tie poo-bags to trees. I want to see projects being put into reality which would cost far less than a station, give them a hostel. I’d like to see our playparks and green spaces maintained better, youth clubs and facilities reopened, providing activities which kids actually want to go to.

At the beginning of year, when Melksham got a splashpad, Devizes said yeah, we could that too, but, as I forecast at the time, it was brushed aside. I’d like to drive on flat local roads, rather than negotiating potholes like it’s a lunar landscape. I’d like better road planning, infrastructure and affordable public transport, to avoid congestion. I want to park somewhere without taking out a bank loan. I want to see markets and The Shambles bustling with life, smells of street food and music. I want a free-thinking, flatpack and proactive council, funding sporting events and arts, and not idly watching as so-called charities throw folk with learning disabilities out of their homes.

And once we have achieved these, yes, I’d like a railway station, ta muchly. Not asking for much is it? Tee-hee, yeah, I’m hearing you, life isn’t so simple, this is Devizes, not Shangri-La. That said, I’m uncertain if Shangri-La has a railway station, still, it manages, as we have done since Beeching waved his wand, to get by without one. My family of four, twenty quid down just getting to the station, now they’re looking at train ticket prices. Have you seen train ticket prices recently? Remain calm, but they do often come in triple figure sums. I’ve seen aeroplane tickets to Barcelona cheaper than a return to Paddington.

The big question is, then, how much will it all cost and who is footing the bill? Did we get this grant, and what was that for? I asked Tamara of Devizes Gateway Railway Station steering group.

“The Restoring Your Railway grant from the DfT is for the cost of the Strategic Outline Business Case only and is being supplemented by Wiltshire Council,” she informed me. So already we’ve all put some cost into it through our council tax. “Thereafter, funding would need to be secured for the rest of the Business Case process (Outline Business Case and Full Business Case) and then for the capital costs to build the station.” Tamara added, “we are at the beginning of the process, but the fact that we have secure the grant monies from the DfT puts us in a good place. We now need to prove the business case.”

From there I was directed to a presentation made to the Devizes Area Board in November, which doesn’t explain where the dosh is coming from. I’m only opting for a station if they promise I can drive the train! Just once. But more importantly, I honestly look forward to a time, if I make it to 2025 without Thomas the Tank Engine shooting me, when we could smash my piggy bank for a train ticket, I really do, but the bottom line is, it has to be affordable, for all, especially if the public is footing the bill to build the thing.

Answer the survey, with your thoughts, if you wish. But the jury is still out with me. It’s on the site where a certain member, who shall remain nameless, accused me of spamming when I first launched Devizine, and mysteriously moments later I was in Facebook jail. Of which, such general pettiness is neither here nor there, but I feel worthy of mentioning. I know what you’re thinking, I’m still such a naughty boy!


Trending….

Are the Fire & Rescue Service Cutting Vital Flood Equipment?

Concern mounts after a petition was launched claiming vital flood equipment and training is being planned to be moved from fire stations from Chippenham and Trowbridge to Dorset, and Stratton in Swindon. You know me, usually I jumped at the chance to expose a transgression by authority, but on this occasion, as a response from Assistant Chief Fire Officer James Mahoney suggests the service is merely aligning the way in which all stations operate interchangeably, the jury is out on this one. I know right, impartiality; is this the new me?!

Not really. It gets rather technical, and I don’t do technical. The last thing I will do is belittle the fire service for the grand job they do. So, as I’ve been asked to share news of the petition, like a real reporter, I’ll give you the low down from both sides of the argument, and it’s up to if you choose to sign it; righty then?

Becky Montague, who started the petition argues, “members of the public will have to wait an hour to be rescued safely, instead of eight minutes in the River Avon area, because Chief Fire Officer Ben Ansell has decided to remove vital equipment from Chippenham and Trowbridge stations to Dorset, and Stratton in Swindon. This will put the lives at risk of people caught in flooding in an area Mr Ansell knows to be of high risk.”

“Removing equipment and training from the firefighters means that they will respond but be unable to rescue people quickly and with the right tools. Rather than watch people die, they will be forced to carry out dangerous rescues without the vital safety equipment they need.”

“There is no flood risk in Swindon like there is in the Chippenham, Bradford-on-Avon and Trowbridge areas. Mr Ansell will put residents of Wiltshire at risk and put firefighters in danger.”

This sounds like cause for alarm, and I’m grateful for our reader bringing to my attention. They’re concerned and angered, “We don’t distribute emergency equipment based on geography we do it based on risk otherwise we would have a fire station in the middle of Salisbury plain, we don’t do that because there’s no risk there,” they informed, “The flooding risk is in the river Avon area not in Stratton in Swindon. They’re going to put the council tax precept up again this year, what are Wiltshire residents going to get for that, other than the grateful thanks of Dorset residents for part-funding the service that they provide from the fire service?”

However, Assistant Chief Fire Officer James Mahoney had this response; “A strategic review of the technical rescue provision of Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service has been carried out. This considered risk and demand across the whole Service area; evidence from historical incident data; geographical station locations; and neighbouring Service capability. A decision on the placement of these facilities is now being considered internally.”

 “Technical rescue includes technical search, rescue from swift water, rescue from height, bariatric rescue, confined space rescue and large animal rescue capability. There are currently six stations providing differing aspects of technical rescue across the two counties of Dorset and Wiltshire. In addition to these technical rescue stations, all fire stations have initial water safety equipment and training, and a large number of our stations also have wading team capability. The provisions at these six stations are not consistent, and most stations do not provide all of the capabilities listed above. As a combined Service, this is neither effective, efficient or resilient.”

 “Whilst technical rescue is not a funded statutory duty for the Fire and Rescue Service, we recognise the importance of having this capability commensurate with the risks faced within our communities across the whole of Dorset and Wiltshire. We are looking to enhance, not diminish, our capability, allowing us a more strategic approach to the positioning of the key elements of technical rescue – which will also add greater resilience by aligning the way in which all stations operate interchangeably.

 “Staff and representative bodies have been briefed, and given the opportunity to contribute their views throughout and engage in this process, and we will be carrying out public consultation on our draft Community Safety Plan for 2021-25 from 17 February to 13 May 2021.”

If I remember rightly, when our estate flooded some years ago, a fire service came from Yeovil to help, stating Wiltshire forces were preoccupied elsewhere. Understandably, this took some time for them arrive, but had it not been for the fire services to be integrated, it may not have happened at all. On the other hand, the dubious line from the Assistant Chief Fire Officer’s statement, “technical rescue is not a funded statutory duty for the Fire and Rescue Service,” concerns me. What constitutes a technical rescue? And if it’s not a statutory duty, why call yourself Fire and Rescue Service?

And, as the Gazette reports, “Summerham and Seend Wiltshire councillor Jonathon Seed, who is also running for the Police and Crime Commissioner post, has pledged to take the case up with MPs saying the decision is outrageous,” well, something is iffy with it; deffo.

Being a man of the people, who I’d like to hear the views of is an actual local firefighter. Your anonymity will be respected if you contact us; but we need the opinion of the men on the ground. In general, I’m at my tether’s end with bureaucratic nonsense from pen-pushers, and I urge any firefighter concerned to please do let us know.

Here’s the petition, should you decide to sign it: https://www.change.org/p/dorset-wiltshire-fire-authority-stop-the-removal-of-vital-rescue-equipment-from-wiltshire-fire-stations


Stonehenge or Bust; Duck n Cuvver Scale the Fence!

The last thing Robert Hardie wants is to be portrayed as villainous, or condoning mass trespass, though he accepts some might interpret breaking over the fence at Stonehenge as such. Chatting to this veteran on the phone this morning, he described the exhilaration and sensation of wellbeing, wandering between Wiltshire’s legendary stone pillars, but expressed he doesn’t wish to encourage others to follow his example, only to raise awareness of his crusade.

Frustration with English Heritage was the prime motive for taking the leap, displayed in his video doing the rounds on social media. But one half of Salisbury folk-rock indie duo, Duck n Cuvver has been fundraising for over three years to be able to shoot the final part of a music video inside the stone circle. “Initially,” he said, “English Heritage said it would cost £750, then they suddenly upped it to £4,500.” I asked Rob if they gave an explanation, a breakdown of what the costs involved to them would be. He replied they hadn’t.

My musing wandered over the occasion two years ago when local reggae band, Brother from Another pulled a publicity stunt recording themselves atop Silbury Hill, to wide criticism, but how The Lost Trades recently played around Avebury stone circle without trouble. Rob and Ian cannot call a compromise though, being the subject of the song, Henge of Stone, is as it says on the tin. As he explained to the Salisbury Journal back in 2019, “This video will make history – singing about Stonehenge in Stonehenge.”

Clearly enthusiastic about covering our ancient local landmarks as song themes, Rob told me he’d written about Avebury too, and how he played them to the solstice crowd there. This part of our conversation ended with him reciting a few verses in song, and expressing the feeling of joy as the crowds sang them back to him.

While he didn’t rule out this was a publicity stunt too, we discussed the necessities of the project. Rather than being a colossal movie production, with the atypical entourage, trailers and crew, all that’s needed is his partner in crime, Ian Lawes, and possibly the accompanying musicians, Chris Lawes, Jamez Williams, Louis Sellers and Paul Loveridge, a cameraman and a few instruments. The mechanics of shooting the footage would be simple, it’s unplugged, being there’s no electricity on site, and Rob explained how mats would be provided to protect the grass. Besides, if EH’s concerns were for the welfare of the site they’d simply say no, surely, not put a price on it.

There’s therefore no justice, in my mind, really, on the exceptionally high price tag. Only to assume English Heritage is out to profit. Contemplating on recent outcries concerning activities around Stonehenge; the solstice parking debacle, closing for winter solstice and of course the tunnel, which we mutually dismissed as ludicrous on the grounds excavating there would obviously turn up some ancient findings and archaeological digs, and protection rights would whack the project way over budget, it feels the quango run agency is not the best method to protect our heritage sites, if the conservative ethos is revenue driven rather than insuring it’s splendour is for all to enjoy and savour. As Rob points out in the film, “Stonehenge belongs to fucking us!”

Ah, story checks out; even English Heritage states similar on their website, if not quite so sweary! “The monument remained in private ownership until 1918 when Cecil Chubb, a local man who had purchased Stonehenge from the Atrobus family at an auction three years previously, gave it to the nation. Thereafter, the duty to conserve the monument fell to the state, today a role performed on its behalf by English Heritage.” It’s basically one extortionate babysitter, calling the shots.

I enjoyed chatting with Rob, even if my plan to record the dialogue backfired due to my poor tech skills! I apologise to him for this improv article.

I’m surprised to not have previously heard of Duck n Cuvver, we tend to get vague coverage of the Salisbury area; something I need to work on. We did rap about our mutual friend, the pianist prodigy, young Will Foulstone, among other things.

The duo are sound as a pound, though, real quality folk rock come indie sound, the song is cracking, proper job. Which is why they’ve supported the likes of the Kaiser Chiefs and The Feeling, and recently performed at the National Armed Forces Day. Ardent about his music, this veteran explained his service inspired the band name, and continued to express his passion for this particular song, something which has been evolving over five years, and it shows. He described it as a “celebration of life,” dedicated to a friend who passed away, from cancer.

Both members of the duo are good, charitable folk, and if Rob did climb the fence at Stonehenge recently, note he lives within the restricted range of it to constitute it being his daily exercise. From our phone call alone, I could tell they’re not the sort to abuse the trust, if it was given to them, to perform at Stonehenge, that’d be a magical moment, and, well, we could do with a magical moment right now. So, if you can help fund their campaign, you’ll find a link to do so here.

I’ll pop the song which is kicking up all the fuss below, and leave with a thanks for the natter, Rob, and I wish you all the best with the crusade; Stonehenge or bust!

    


Devizine’s Review of 2020; You Can’t Polish a Turd!

On Social and Political Matters……

For me the year can be summed up by one Tweet from the Eurosceptic MEP and creator of the Brexit Party, Nigel Farage. A knob-jockey inspired into politics when Enoch Powell visited his private school, of which ignored pleas from an English teacher who wrote to the headmaster encouraging him to reconsider Farage’s appointed prefect position, as he displayed clear signs of fascism. The lovable patriot, conspiring, compulsive liar photographed marching with National Front leader Martin Webster in 1979, who strongly denies his fascist ethos despite guest-speaking at a right-wing populist conference in Germany, hosted by its leader, the granddaughter of Adolf Hitler’s fiancé; yeah, him.

He tweeted “Christmas is cancelled. Thank you, China.” It magically contains every element of the utter diabolical, infuriating and catastrophic year we’ve most likely ever seen; blind traditionalist propaganda, undeniable xenophobia, unrefuted misinformation, and oh yes, the subject is covid19 related.

And now the end is near, an isolated New Year’s Eve of a year democracy prevailed against common sense. The bigoted, conceited blue-blooded clown we picked to lead us up our crazy-paved path of economic self-annihilation has presented us with an EU deal so similar to the one some crazy old hag, once prime minster delivered to us two years back it’s uncanny, and highly amusing that Bojo the clown himself mocked and ridiculed it at the time. I’d wager it’s just the beginning.

You can’t write humour this horrifically real, the love child of Stephen King and Spike Milligan couldn’t.

Still, I will attempt to polish the turd and review the year, as it’s somewhat tradition here on Devizine. The mainstay of the piece, to highlight what we’ve done, covered and accomplished with our friendly website of local entertainment and news and events, yet to holistically interrelate current affairs is unavoidable.

We have even separated the monster paragraphs with an easier, monthly photo montage, for the hard of thinking.

January

You get the impression it has been no walk in the park, but minor are my complaints against what others have suffered. Convenient surely is the pandemic in an era brewing with potential mass hysteria, the need to control a population paramount. An orthornavirae strain of a respiratory contamination first reported as infecting chickens in the twenties in North Dakota, a snip at 10,400km away from China.

Decidedly bizarre then, an entire race could be blamed and no egg fried rice bought, as featured in Farage’s audacious Tweet, being it’s relatively simple to generate in a lab, inconclusively originated at Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, rather spread from there, and debatably arrived via live bat or pangolin, mostly used in traditional Chinese medicine, a pseudoscience only the narrowminded minority in China trusts.

Ah, inconsistent pseudoscience, embellished, unfalsifiable claims, void of orderly practices when developing hypotheses and notably causing hoodwinked cohorts. Yet if we consider blaming an ethos, rather than a race, perhaps we could look closer to home for evidence of this trend of blind irrationality. Truth in Science, for example, an English bunch of Darwin-reputing deluded evangelicals who this year thought it’d be a grand and worthy idea to disguise their creationist agenda and pitch their preposterous pseudoscientific theory that homosexuality is a disease of the mind which can be cured with electro-shock treatment to alter the mind inline with the body’s gender, rather than change the body to suit the mind’s gender orientation, to schoolchildren!

Yep, these bible-bashing fruit-bats, one lower than flat earth theorists actually wrote to headmasters encouraging their homophobia to be spread to innocent minds, only to be picked up by a local headmaster of the LGBTQ community. Here’s an article on Devizine which never saw the light of day. Said that Truth in Science’s Facebook page is chockful with feedback of praise and appreciation, my comments seemed to instantly disappear, my messages to them unanswered. All I wanted was a fair-sided evaluation for an article, impossible if you zip up.

Justly, no one trusts me to paint an unbiased picture. This isn’t the Beeb, as I said in our 2017 annual review: The chances of impartiality here, equals the chances of Tories sticking to their manifesto. Rattling cages is fun, there’s no apologies I’m afraid, if I rattled yours, it just means you’re either mean or misguided.

Herein lies the issue, news travels so fast, we scroll through social media unable to digest and compose them to a greater picture, let alone muster any trust in what we read. I’m too comfortable to reside against the grain, everyone’s at it. I reserve my right to shamelessly side with the people rather than tax-avoiding multinationals and malevolent political barons; so now you know.

February

If you choose to support these twats that’s your own lookout, least someone should raise the alarm; you’d have thought ignoring World Health Organisation advise and not locking down your country until your mates made a packet on horseracing bets is systematic genocide and the government should be put on trial for this, combined with fraud and failure of duty. If not, ask why we’re the worst hit country in the world with this pandemic. Rather the current trend where the old blame the young, the young blame the old, the whites blame the blacks, the thin blame the fat, when none of us paid much attention to restrictions because they were delivered in a confused, nonsensical manner by those who don’t either, and mores to the pity, believe they’re above the calling of oppressive regulations.

If you choose to support these twats, you’re either a twat too, or trust what you read by those standing to profit from our desperation; ergo, twats. Theres no getting away from the fact you reep what you sow; and the harvest of 2020 was a colossal pile of twat.


Onto Devizine…. kind of.

For me what started as a local-based entertainment zine-like blog, changed into the only media I trust, cos I wrote the bollocks! But worser is the general obliteration of controversy, criticism and debate in other media. An argument lost by a conformer is shadowed behind a meme, or followed up with a witch hunt, a torrent of personal abuse and mockery, usually by inept grammar by a knuckle-dragging keyboard warrior with caps-lock stuck on; buy a fucking copy of the Oxford Guide to English Grammar or we’re all going to hell in a beautiful pale green boat.

We’re dangerously close to treating an Orwellian nightmare as a self-help guide, and despite fascists took a knockdown in the USA and common sense prevailed, the monster responded with a childish tantrum; what does this tell you? The simple fact, far right extremism is misled and selfish delinquency which history proves did no good to anyone, ever. Still the charade marches on, one guy finished a Facebook debate sharing a photo of his Boris “get Brexit done” tea-towel. I pondered when the idiot decided a photo of his tea towel would suffice to satisfy his opinion and convince others, before or after the wave of irony washed over his head in calling them Muppets.

I hate the term, it’s offensive. Offensive to Jim Henson’s creations; try snowflake or gammon, both judgemental sweeping generalisations but personally inoffensive to any individual, aside Peppa Pig. I wager you wander through Kent’s lorry park mocking the drivers and calling them snowflakes rather than tweeting; see how far you get.

So, the initial lockdown in March saw us bonded and dedicated, to the cause. We ice-skated through it, developed best methods to counteract the restrictions and still abide by them; it was kind of nice, peaceful and environmentally less impacting. But cracks in the ice developed under our feet, the idea covid19 was a flash in pan, akin to when Blitz sufferers asserted it’d all be over by Christmas, waned as we came to terms, we were in it for the duration.

Yet comparisons to WWII end there, lounging on the sofa for three months with Netflix and desperate peasants delivering essential foodstuff, like oysters, truffles and foie gras is hardly equivalent to the trench warfare of Normandy. Hypocritical is me, not only avoiding isolation as, like a nurse, my labour was temporarily clapped as key worker in March, I figured my site would only get hits if I wrote something about Covid19, and my ignorance to what the future resulted in clearly displayed in spoofy, ill-informed articles, Corona Virus and Devizine; Anyone got a Loo Roll? on the impending panic-buying inclination, and later, I Will Not Bleat About Coronavirus, Write it Out a Hundred Times…

The only thing I maintained in opinion to the subject, was that it should be light-hearted and amusing; fearing if we lose our sense of humour, all is lost. Am I wrong? Probably, it’s been a very serious year.

It was my first pandemic-related mention, hereafter nearly every article paid reference to it, no matter how disparate; it’s the tragedy which occupied the planet. But let’s go back, to oblivious January, when one could shake hands and knew where the pub was. Melksham got a splashpad, Devizes top councillors bleated it wasn’t fair, and they wanted a splashpad too. They planned ripping out the dilapidated brick shithouses on the Green and replacing it with a glorious splashpad, as if they cared about the youth of the town. I reported the feelings of grandeur, Splashpad, I’m all over it, Pal! A project long swept under the carpet, replaced with the delusion we’ll get an affordable railway station. As I said, convenient surely is the pandemic.

So many projects, so many previews of events, binned. Not realising at the time my usual listing, Half Term Worries Over; things to do with little ones during February half-term… would come to an abrupt halt. Many events previewed, the first being the Mayoral Fundraising Events, dates set for the Imberbus, and Chef Peter Vaughan & Indecision’s Alzheimer’s Support Chinese New Year celebration, to name but a few, I’m unaware if they survived or not.

March


On Music……

But it was the cold, early days of winter, when local concerns focused more on the tragic fire at Waiblingen Way. In conjunction with the incredible Liz Denbury, who worked tirelessly organising fundraising and ensuring donations of essentials went to the affected folk, we held a bash in commemoration and aid down that there Cellar Bar; remember?

It was in fact an idea by Daydream Runaways, who blew the low roof off the Cellar Bar at the finale. But variety was the order of the evening, with young pianist prodigy Will Foulstone kicking us off, opera with the amazing Chole Jordan, Irish folk with Mirko and Bran of the Celtic Roots Collective and the acoustic goodness of Ben Borrill. Thanks also has to go to the big man Mike Barham who set up the technical bits before heading off to a paid gig. At the time I vowed this will be the future of our events, smaller but more than the first birthday bash; never saw it coming, insert sad-face emoji.

We managed to host another gig, though, after lockdown when shopping was encouraged by In:Devizes, group Devizes Retailers and Independents, a assemblage of businesses set up to promote reopening of town. We rocked up in Brogans and used their garden to have a summer celebration. Mike set up again, and played this time, alongside the awesome Cath and Gouldy, aka, Sound Affects on their way to the Southgate, and Jamie R Hawkins accompanied Tamsin Quin with a breath-taking set. It was lovely to see friends on the local music scene, but it wasn’t the reopening for live music we anticipated.

Before all this live music was the backbone of Devizine, between Andy and myself we previewed Bradford Roots Music Festival, MantonFest, White Horse Opera’s Spring Concert, Neeld Hall’s Tribute to Eddie Cochran, and the return of Asa Murphy. We reviewed the Long Street Blues Club Weekender, Festival of Winter Ales, Chris O’Leary at Three Crowns, Jon Walsh, Phil Jinder Dewhurst, Mule and George Wilding at The White Bear, Skandal’s at Marlborough’s Lamb, and without forgetting the incredible weekly line-up at the Southgate; Jack Grace Band, Arnie Cottrell Tendency, Skedaddle, Navajo Dogs, Lewis Clark & The Essentials, King Street Turnaround, Celtic Roots Collective, Jamie, Tamsin, Phil, and Vince Bell.

The collection of Jamie R Hawkins, Tamsin Quin and Phil Cooper at the Gate was memorable, partly because they’re great, partly because, it was the last time we needed to refer to them as a collection (save for the time when Phil gave us the album, Revelation Games.) Such was the fate of live music for all, it was felt by their newly organised trio, The Lost Trades, whose debut gig came a week prior to lockdown, at the Pump, which our new writer Helen Robertson covered so nicely.

For me, the weekend before the doom and gloom consisted of a check-in at the Cavy, where the Day Breakers played, only to nip across to Devizes Sports Club, where the incredible Ruzz Guitar hosted a monster evening of blues, with his revue, Peter Gage, Innes Sibun and Jon Amor. It was a blowout, despite elbow greetings, I never figured it’d be the last.

It was a knee-jerk reaction which made me set up a virtual festival on the site. It was radical, but depleted due to my inability to keep up with an explosion of streamed events, where performers took to Facebook, YouTube sporadically, and other sites on a national scale, and far superior tech knowhow took over; alas there was Zoom. I was happy with this, and prompted streaming events such as Swindon’s “Static” Shuffle, and when PSG Choirs Showed Their True Lockdown Colours. Folk would message me, ask me how the virtual festival was going to work, and to be honest, I had no idea how to execute the idea, but it was worth a stab.

One thing which did change, musically, was we lowered our borders, being as the internet is outernational and local bands were now being watched by people from four corners of the world, Devizine began reviewing music sourced worldwide. Fair enough, innit?

The bleeding hearts of isolated artists and musicians, no gigs gave them time on their hands to produce some quality music, therefore our focus shifted to reviewing them, although we always did review records. Early local reviews of 2020 came from NerveEndings with the single Muddy Puddles, who later moved onto an album, For The People. Daydream Runaways’ live version of Light the Spark and Talk in Code’s Like That, who fantastically progressed through lockdown to a defining eighties electronica sound with later singles Taste the Sun and Secret.

We notified you of Sam Bishop’s crowdfunding for a quarantine song, One of a Kind, which was released and followed by Fallen Sky. Albums came too, we covered, Billy Green 3’s Still in January, and The Grated Hits of the Real Cheesemakers followed, With the former, later came a nugget of Billy Green’s past, revealing some lost demos of his nineties outfit, Still, evidently what the album was named after.

Whereas the sublime soul of Mayyadda from Minnesota was the first international artist featured this year, and from Shrewsbury, our review of Cosmic Rays’ album Hard to Destroy extended our presence elsewhere in the UK, I sworn to prioritise local music, with single reviews of Phil Cooper’s Without a Sound, TheTruzzy Boys’ debut Summertime, Courage (Leave it Behind), a new single from Talk in Code, and for Daydream Runaways’ single Gravity we gave them an extensive interview. This was followed by Crazy Stupid Love and compiled for an EP, Dreamlands, proving they’re a band continuously improving.

April

Probably the most diverse single around spring though was an epic drum n bass track produced right here in Devizes, featuring the vocals of Pewsey’s Cutsmith. Though while Falling by ReTone took us to new foundations, I ran a piece on the new blues sounds locally, as advised by Sheer Music’s Kieran Moore. Sheer, like all music promoters were, understandably, scrambling around in the dark for the beginnings of lockdown, streaming stuff. It wasn’t long before they became YouTube presenters! The Sheer podcast really is something special, in an era leaving local musicians as dry as Ghandi’s flip-flop, they present a show to make ‘em moist!

Spawned from this new blues article, one name which knocked me for six, prior to their YouTube adventures, was Devizes-own Joe Edwards. I figured now I was reviewing internationally; would it be fair to local musicians to suggest a favourite album of the year? However, Joe’s Keep on Running was always a hot contender from the start, and despite crashing the borders on what we will review, I believe it still is my favourite album of the year.

Other top local albums, many inspired from lockdown came flowing, perhaps the most sublime was Interval by Swindon’s reggae keyboardist virtuoso, Erin Bardwell. The prolific Bardwell later teamed with ex-Hotknive Dave Clifton for a project called Man on the Bridge.

Perhaps the most spacey, Devizes’ Cracked Machine’s third outing, Gates of Keras. Top local singles? Well, George Wilding never let us down with Postcard, from a Motorway, and after lockdown reappeared with his band Wilding, for Falling Dreams and later with a solo single, You Do You. Jon Amor was cooking with Peppercorn, which later led to a great if unexpected album, Remote Control.

There was a momentary lapse of reason, that live streaming was the musical staple diet of the now, when Mr Amor climbed out onto his roof to perform, like an ageless fifth Beatle. Blooming marvellous.

Growing up fast, Swindon’s pop singer Lottie J blasted out a modern pop classic with Cold Water, and no one could ignore Kirsty Clinch’s atmospheric country-pop goodness with Fit the Shoe.

Maybe though it wasn’t the ones recorded before, but our musicians on the live circuit coming out with singles to give them some pocket money, which was the best news. I suggest you take note of Ben Borrill’s Takes A Little Time, for example.

I made new friends through music, reviewing so many singles and EPs; Bath’s Long Coats, and JAY’s Sunset Remedy. Swindon’s composer Richard Wileman, guitarist Ryan Webb, and unforgettable Paul Lappin, who, after a couple of singles would later release the amazing acoustic Britpop album The Boy Who Wanted to Fly. Dirty and Smooth and Atari Pilot too, the latter gave us to cool singles, Right Crew, Wrong Captain, and later, Blank Pages. To Calne for End of Story and Chris Tweedie, and over the downs to Marlborough with Jon Veale’s Flick the Switch. I even discovered Hew Miller, a hidden gem in our own town.

May

But we geographically go so much further these days, even if not physically much more than taking the bins out. Outside our sphere we covered Essex’s Mr B & The Wolf, Limerick’s Emma Langford, London’s Gecko, and from the US, Shuffle & Bang, and Jim White. Johnny Lloyd, Skates & Wagons, My Darling Clementine, Micko and the Mellotronics, Typhoidmary, Frank Turner and Jon Snodgrass, Mango Thomas, Beans on Toast, Tankus the Henge; long may the list continue.

Bombino though, the tuareggae artist really impressed me, but I don’t like to pick a favourite, rather to push us onto another angle. I began reviewing stuff sent via my Boot Boy radio show, and covered a ska scene blossoming in South America. But as well as Neville Staple Band’s single Lockdown, The Bighead, the Bionic Rats, and Hugo Lobo teaming up with Lynval Golding and Val Douglas, we found reggae in Switzerland through Fruits Records, the awesome Cosmic Shuffling and progressive 808 Delavega.

So much music, is it going on a bit? Okay I’ll change the record, if you pardon the pun, but not until I’ve mentioned The Instrumental Sounds Of Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue, naturally, Sound Affects’ album Ley Lines, Tunnel Rat refurbing their studio, and Bristol’s freshest new hip hop act The Scribes. Ah, pause for breath.

Oh, and outside too, we did get a breather from lockdown and tiers, all Jamies for me, Mr R Hawkins was my first outing at the Gate and followed by Jamie Williams and the Roots Collective. Sad to have missed Two Man Ting and when The Big Yellow Bus Rocked the Gazebo, but hey, I thought we were out of the deep water.

June

Splashed straight back in again; “tiers” this time, sounds nicer than lockdown. Who knows what 2021 will bring, a vaccine, two vaccines, a mesh of both despite being ill-advised by experts? Just jab me, bitch, taxi me to the nearest gig, if venues still exist, by spring and I’ll shut up about it.


On Arts…..

Bugger, I’m going to need Google maps to find my local boozer. But yeah, they, whoever they are, think we’re all about music, but we cover anything arts and entertainment, you know? We previewed Andy Hamilton coming to Swindon’s Wyvern, Josie Long coming to Bath, The Return of the Wharf Theatre, and the county library tours of Truth Sluth: Epistemological Investigations for the Modern Age. Surely the best bit was being sent a private viewing of a new movie, Onus, by the Swindon filmmakers who gave us Follow the Crows.

I shared poems by Gail Foster, and reviewed her book Blossom. Desperate for subject matter I rewrote a short story Dizzy Heights. I featured artists Bryony Cox and Alan Watters, both selling their wares for the NHS, Ros Hewitt’s Glass Art open studio, Small Wonders Art Auction in aid of Arts Together and Asa Murphy published a children’s book, The Monkey with no Bum! I dunno, don’t ask.

July