Eric Ravilious: Downland Man

Unique exhibition to open at Wiltshire Museum

Featured Image: The Westbury White Horse © Towner Eastbourne

Finally opening at Wiltshire Museum on 25 September 2021 is Eric Ravilious: Downland Man, something we previewed on Devizine in October 2019, but, sadly, lockdown prevented.

This major exhibition explores for the first time the celebrated artist’s lifelong fascination for the chalk hills of southern England, particularly Wiltshire and Sussex.

The exhibition will feature more than 20 works borrowed from national collections and private collectors, including iconic watercolours such as The Westbury Horse and The Wilmington Giant, alongside other rarely-seen works.  The exhibition is supported by the Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund.  Created by the Garfield Weston Foundation and Art Fund, the Weston Loan Programme is the first ever UK-wide funding scheme to enable smaller and local authority museums to borrow works of art and artefacts from national collections.

Central to the exhibition are several of Ravilious’s best-loved watercolours of chalk figures made in 1939 in preparation for a children’s book, Downland Man.  The book was never completed, and for many years the prototype or ‘dummy’ made by Ravilious was believed lost.  When it resurfaced in 2012 this precious item was bought at auction by Wiltshire Museum.  It will be included in the exhibition alongside some of the artist’s watercolours, aerial photographs, annotated Ordnance Survey maps, postcards and books that relate to the Ravilious works on show – material drawn largely from Wiltshire Museum’s own collection.

The exhibition will offer a new view of Eric Ravilious (1903-42) as a chronicler of the landscape he knew better than any other.  From his student days until the last year of his life, Ravilious returned again and again to the Downs, inspired particularly by the relationship between landscape and people.  Watercolours and wood engravings included in the exhibition show dew ponds and farmyards, a cement works and a field roller, modern military fortifications and ancient monuments. 

Eric Ravilious: Downland Man is curated by James Russell, previously curator of the 2015 blockbuster Ravilious at Dulwich Picture Gallery. He said ‘I studied History at Cambridge and I’m always intrigued by the social and cultural context of artists’ work.  When it comes to downland history and archaeology Wiltshire Museum has an unrivalled collection, making this exhibition a unique opportunity to shed new light on Ravilious – an artist who is well-known these days but still little understood. With watercolours such as ‘Chalk Paths’ and ‘The Vale of the White Horse’ on display, visitors are in for a treat.

Heather Ault, Exhibitions Officer said: ‘This is a wonderful opportunity for Wiltshire Museum to exhibit such beautiful works by Ravilious.  The exhibition will be an absolute delight’.

Sophia Weston, Trustee of the Garfield Weston Foundation, said: “We are delighted that the Weston Loan Programme has been able to support the display of these important works by Eric Ravilious in Wiltshire – an area of the country which repeatedly inspired this much-loved artist. The exhibition will bring his evocative landscapes to new audiences and shed light on material little-known by the public.”

Eric Ravilious: Downland Man opens at Wiltshire Museum on Saturday 25 September and closes on 30 January 2022.  Tickets can be pre-booked online at https://www.wiltshiremuseum.org.uk/prebooktickets/.

The exhibition ends on 30 January 2022.


win 2 tickets here

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Up to Trowbridge for Some Miller-Art

Halfway up the grand staircase of Trowbridge Town Hall, where it splits into left or right, my daughter, permanently two paces ahead of me, asked me which way now. I’d noted a sign to the art exhibit I’ve been aching to check out, so I called it. Problem was, the show is called “Up,” to which her only rejoinder could’ve been, “yes, I know it’s up, but which way?!!”

If I had reservations about the unpredictably positive response in asking if she wanted to come, being sports is her thing and creativity perhaps not so much, it was only that she might drag me around Usain-Bolt-going-for-gold fashion. Key to my pitch was that, essentially, the most appropriate movement in which to pigeonhole artist Tom Miller was street art, secondarily only to the fact she was “bored, with nothing better to do anyway!”

But it’s not her incentive on entry which is important here, rather her reaction inside the exhibit, and if she enjoyed it, which she did, anyone with a mere slither of a passing interest in art will we wowed by this show. For me, it was up my street and knocking loudly on my door.

Native to Trowbridge, Tom Miller exhibits at his hometown until 20th August, not long left to pay it a worthy visit. For yeah, Miller typically uses spray paint as street artists do, but only as a base for these canvases. He thickly layers acrylics and oils over it, amalgamating mediums as much as influences, in explosions of colour and meticulous and intricate detail. The result is staggering.

Swirls of psychedelia snake your eyes across them, akin to underground comix or yore, and in particular S. Clay Wilson. They can be themed darkly, with elements of cyberpunk, or lighter, fine art, impressionism is at play too. Yet there’s a nod to pop art, capturing humorous elements, wide-ranging themes from flowers to ice creams, and contemporary cultural icons, such as The Simpsons can be discovered on closer examination. Then, as you pan out, you begin to focus on a central point, the composition vortexes into a subject, often random, but themed to suit the surroundings. It is also a clear running concept to repeat the central subject atop the first, but slightly smaller in scale, and perhaps the topper most of one below, larger, like a play with a hall of mirrors.

Apt to mention a hall of mirrors, as there’s generally something fairground going on here, if the repetition of the central subject is cubist, it would be like viewing cubist art whilst on the waltzer. On a few occasions the subject can feel tangible, as fine art, expressionism, but with Miller’s style brashly expanding the realms of normality, somewhere along the lines. For this, and the running theme of these scaled duplications, Edvard Munch meets Marcel Duchamp in Salvador Dali’s studio, as the lines of expressionism, futurism and surrealism blur into dada in such a way only pop artists could’ve dreamed of.

But, as I said, if your knowledge of art doesn’t stretch to the influences and movements I’ve cited, none of it really matters, as why I contemplated René Magritte, my daughter also examined the concepts and discovered subjects. Like a Where’s Wally book, you could circle this exhibit twenty times and still discover something you’d not noticed before in these canvases.

Added to the pieces, there’s some sublime charcoal sketches, showing his workings and thought process. There’s also a bio, with printed matter showing the various private commissions and frescos which obviously couldn’t come to the exhibit, for quintessentially, Miller is a street artist, and in Bristol and round and about Trowbridge there’s some excellent examples. The brilliant finale to this show is, once you’ve left, you can make a beeline to Stallard Street to find such a wall with Miller’s art displayed, and in the same ethos as what’s on display inside. This added an extra dimension to the enthralling exhibit.

Plus, I’m pleased to say, Usain-Bolt had no influence over my daughter’s pace through the show, she took her time, examined everything and came out with some exceptionally precise observations. This is ideal to enthuse a non-art lover equally as much as one who is, as good street art does, but with the extra dimension of this influx of various art movement influences. Go see it, but hurry; it’s only running until 20th August!

Not forgoing Trowbridge Town Hall is a friendly place, where I gossiped and namedropped to the man on reception. There’s a vast and amazing array of events planned over the coming months, from the yoga classes to the PSG Choir and from Moo Moo Music for little ones to an impressive gig line up from the likes of Will Lawton & the Alchemists on 11th September, Onika Venus on 18th, Juice Menace on 25th, and on the list goes on….


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Help DOCA Brighten up Devizes; An Art Project for all Ages….

Devizes Outdoor Celebratory Arts are asking budding crafters and artists to help brighten up the town.

“Devizes is usually festooned with hanging baskets at this time of year,” they point out, “but they have been a bit absent since Covid struck and we miss them and all the colour they bring to the town. It got us thinking! We would like to create something equally colourful to decorate the streets of Devizes at our events, and we’d love your help to do this.”

There are two ways you can do this… 

Make flowers: They are asking anyone of any age to make flowers, so they can make beautiful garlands to drape over the barriers. You can make them out of anything, any size big or small, and DOCA will assemble them.

Materials that can stand getting wet and don’t take too long to dry are the best, old carrier bags, sweet wrappers, used foil wrapping paper, coffee wrappers whatever you can find. We know we have a talented bunch of folk in Devizes and we’d love to see what you come up with for this project. You can drop off your flowers at the Kingfisher Café on Devizes Wharf. Please try and avoid their busy lunch time periods. 

Draw pictures: DOCA invites children of 8 years or under to draw pictures of circus characters, performers or other festival or DOCA related things. They will pick out the best artwork and work with a graphic designer to make a montage which will be printed on gauzes to decorate the dull barriers  they use to divide up their events. Please send images as Jpegs.  

DOCA need your work to be sent in digital format, so you can scan it or take a picture and send it. The email to send your artwork to is docadevizes@gmail.com

More information here.


Please include your name and the age of the artist and even a photo of them holding the work and they’ll share it on their social media… I’d love to see them too!


Breakout to Chippenham’s Alternative Art Show

The flags of Israel and Palestine halved with a swish and a white dove stencilled over the top, was the starting point for a painting by Chippenham artist, Mike Long. We discussed his method, almost making it up as he went along, the original idea extends outwards as he progresses with a painting, rather like his unique tendency to continue the painting over the actual frame. Underneath the flags, a scene of a football game, with goalposts painted on tanks, in Mike’s sketchy Chagall style; this element developed while painting it.

We’re at Chippenham’s Yelde Hall in the Market Place, Mike’s turn on the rota to hold the fort. The alternative art show, Breakout is running for another week, until Saturday 3rd July. Open everyday except Sunday from 10am to 4pm, I call it “an art show” to break the preconceptions of words like “gallery” or “exhibit,” because here’s a display which finds an even ground between an often seen as tedious fine art gallery of standard landscapes or portraits, and the outright “arty” kind of off-putting “weird.” For this concept, it’s the sort of exhibit to appease anyone with only a passing interest in art; a contemporary pop art show.

Unlike two years past, when, teamed with two other artists, Si Griffiths and Emma Sally, they put on Never Mind The Heritage, Here’s Our Art Show, in the same venue, the three are joined by five other locally-based artists, each taking a panel, making for variety and a fuller experience. It’s a dazzling show, well worth paying a visit.

To start at the beginning, an artist I know only too well, Devizes-based Clifton Powell, takes the first panel. Recently commissioned to paint Abbot Hadrian for an English Heritage exhibition, The African Diaspora in England, in Canterbury, closer to home Clifton shows a few works from his ongoing “Unrest” series. They’re striking images, poignantly painted with realism, and take the subject of modern civil turbulence.

Works from the other artists exhibiting here are new to me. Jimmer Willmott, a pop surrealist from Bristol takes the next panel, describes his work as a “chaotic love affair of the cute and weird, running naked hand-in-hand with a bright, fun blend of humour and juxtaposition.” Indeed, words found in some excellently crafted Alphabetti Spaghetti, or American cops with donuts for heads in a more colourful vein than René Magritte’s The Son of Man, fits the bill.

Meanwhile, photographer Daniel Carmichael takes inspiration from patterns in small objects and the effects of time and the elements upon them. With a keen eye for a snap, autumn leaves covering a discarded men at work road sign, for example, captures a mood of manufactured versus nature.

 

Next is Mike Long’s varied styles, of expressionism, often Lowry-like scenes or steampunk imaginings which extends into the frame, involving it and creating the notion the subject continues after the confines of the image you’re looking at, these are ingenious works in which you’ll spot something different in each time you look at them. Also, I was surprised to see some graphical pieces too.

With environmental, often sombre themes, the ever-expressive Emma Sally is up next, she states her artwork this year has arisen from “feelings of frustration,” aptly.  A new direction, she says, “in articulating visceral emotions,” and the solemnity of a graveyard with woman dressed in black gazing at headstone is poignantly effective. Others are more sardonically abstract, the Earth ripped apart, rolled into sausage-shapes and knotted back together again being particularly adroit and stirring.

Mixed-media artist Helen Osborne Swan, creates a series of striking papier-mâché 3D masks, “open to the beholder’s interpretation,” but started with the Colston statue being toppled and daubed with paint. “There is a lot more behind the face we present to the world,” is a notion which could take us back to Clifton’s Unrest series, there’s a murky conception in these inventive faces protruding from the canvas at you, some obvious, but others, like the “too cool for skool” one of a younger with baseball cap and shades, you’re left uncertain as to the reason for their underhandedness.

Whereas Montague Tott leaves nothing to the imagination, trained as an illustrator “having to follow other people’s artistic direction,” given the freedom to express himself through his own work was “too great a temptation to ignore,” so he embarked on a more esoteric path. Inspired by classic oil paintings, Montague adds elements of horror movies, comics and popular culture into what would otherwise be a classic portrait. One of whom I suspect as silent-film actress Mabel Normand, painted with a child Freddy Kruger is particularly disconcerting, yet equally are the family portraits of half-man-half goat characters, as if trapped in a mansion of a fantasy novel.

And last up is the amazing, highly-skilled underground comix style of Si Griffiths, with his penchant for putting clowns or Frankenstein’s monster into unusual and inexplicable settings. Comically disturbing at times, in psychedelic visions or thriller movie surroundings, they bring an awkward smile.

If lockdown for the solitude profession of an artist hasn’t been so impacting on ability to work, it’s certainly had an impression on their subjects, but more so, producing a painting is only half the job; getting them out there is crucial financially. Do check this exhibit out if you can, it has Covid regulations in place, and is an airy hall. Importantly though, I feel here’s an art show you don’t need to be well-versed in art or an “arty sort” to enjoy and be entertained by. Neither will take up your entire day to browse, but with its less-is-more policy, there’s a varied bunch of alternative art on show, of which the standard is outstanding.


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Local Artist Clifton Powell Commissioned for English Heritage Exhibition The African Diaspora in England

A proud moment for Devizes-based artist Clifton Powell as he poses for a photo next to his amazing portrait of Abbot Hadrian, in Canterbury.

Clifton joins Elena Onwochei-Garcia, Glory Samjolly, Mikéla Henry-Lowe, Hannah Uzor and Chloe Cox in a project by English Heritage. EH has commissioned a series of portraits depicting six historic figures from the African diaspora whose stories have contributed to England’s rich history. Each artist has been supported by their curators and historians to creatively portray their subject. Each painting will be hung at the English Heritage site connected to its subject this summer.

St Hadrian of Canterbury played a pivotal role in the early history of the English Church. He was born in North Africa and travelled to Italy, most likely as a refugee, before making the journey to Canterbury. He was abbot of the monastery of St Peter and St Paul (later St Augustine’s) in Canterbury, between 670 and 710.

During his time in Canterbury, he became an influential teacher and scholar, and helped shape the theology and rites of worship of the English Church.

Clifton Powell studied at the Jamaica School of Art in Kingston, Jamaica, and moved to the UK in the late 1980s. A versatile and skilled painter, Clifton is influenced by the places he has travelled to and the people he’s met. He has taken part in numerous exhibitions and art fairs in London, Bath, Stroud and the West Country including the International Black Art Fair, The House of Emperor Haile Selassie, Bluestone Gallery and Diaspora at Salisbury Arts Centre.

You may also remember me reporting on the day I attended the charity-run art group for the elderly, Arts Together, in Melksham way back in February 2019, where I met with Clifton, who is a mentor and volunteer.

Recent areas of exploration in his work include the Wiltshire countryside, wildlife, birds, still life and his remarkable series of paintings depicting unrest in the world. He is currently working on a painting project titled African Art. You can catch his work closer to home, from 21st June to 3rd July at The Yelde Hall in Chippenham when he exhibits as part of Breakout, the Alternative Art Show.

A follow-up to the 2019 exhibit Never Mind The Heritage, Here’s an Art Show, in which three local artists, Si Griffiths, Mike Long and Emma Sally exhibited their “alternative art,” Breakout extends the concept, with additional artists Clifton, Daniel Carmichael, Helen Osborne-Swan, Jimmer Willmott and Montague Tott, as well as Si, Mike and Sally. I’m looking forward to this one.

While I’m on the subject of art, don’t forget we have an online art gallery on Devizine, yes we do! Each artist gets a page to show off their work, Clifton’s is here, and if you’d like to be featured with links to your website, just drop us a line, there is no fee.


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DOCA Receives Culture Recovering Funding

The future of Devizes’ carnival and Outdoor Celebratory Arts is looking great, as DOCA announce today some exciting news; they are delighted to have received funding from the government’s #CultureRecoveryFund.

The much-needed funding will cover their overheads in the coming months. Allowing investments in developing their Board of Trustees, employ a Volunteer Coordinator and begin reconnecting with the existing “family” of volunteers. They also seek new recruits to help deliver the fantastic program of events. Such as new volunteer coordinator, Holly Solo-Hawthorn, who joined the team in last November. If volunteering with DOCA is something you are interested in please email: docavolunteer@gmail.com

Chair of the Trustees, Kelvin Nash said, “we know people can’t wait to get out and meet up with others and enjoy all the things we might have taken for granted before COVID. We also know we are very privileged to receive this funding that will help us continue bringing great events to Devizes. We hope everyone will continue to support us this year to make these events happen safely, plans are still tentative of course, but it does feel like there is now a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Artistic Director, Loz Samuels expressed although DOCA are able to start planning Summer events, not all of the usual events will be back this year. “This year will have a different feel but we know that it will be just as amazing as ever. There will be no Confetti Battle this year we hope to combine the Colour Rush with the Street Festival which will add an explosion of colour to the day and we hope to attract some new people along to the event.”

As we look forward to future events in Devizes, DOCA will be touching base with market traders and coordinating a hopeful new season of celebrations. Here’s the plan to date:

Sunday 22nd August 2021 – Picnic in the Park

Monday 30th August 2021 – Devizes International Street Festival

Monday 30th August 2021 – Colour Rush

Friday 26th November 2021 – Winter Parade

Saturday 27th November 2021 – 31 Trees and Counting

Saturday 26th & Sunday 27th Feb 2022 – Festival of Winter Ales

Image: Gail Foster

Online Stuff 2 Do This Half Term

Yay! Home Schooling is out for half term, but before it’s replaced with excruciating racket, higgledy-piggledy hullabaloos, and junior revolutionary uprisings, diligent stay-at-home parents teetering on the edge of wine o’clock should note, if the outside activity mountain won’t come to Muhammad, well, Muhammad has to get there online. Here’s some “lit” bodacious suggies to get him harnessing his crampons….

No, I’ve no idea what that meant either, just hit me with your suggestions, homies, and I’ll add them here without beef!

Firstly, keep them well fed, and if you’re having difficulty…….

FREE SCHOOL MEALS ELIGIBILITY

Wiltshire Council is urging families who find themselves in difficult circumstances to check if they are also eligible for free school meals and the holiday food funding. Families can find out details of how to apply for free school meals support on the Wiltshire Council website including those families on: -• Income Support• Job Seeker’s Allowance (income-based)• Employment and Support Allowance (income-related)• Support under part six of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999• The Guarantee element of State Pension Credit• Child Tax Credit – providing you are NOT entitled to Working Tax Credit and your family’s annual income (as assessed by HMRC) is not more than £16,190 (as at 6 April 2012)• Working Tax Credit ‘run-on’ – the payment you may receive for a further four weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit• Universal Credit (provided you have an annual net earned income of no more than £7,400, as assessed by earnings from up to three of your most recent assessment periods) • Better2Gether Funding (two year olds only) Universal Credit – if you and your partner are on a low income from work (this usually means a combined income of less than £15,400 a year after tax)Or if the two year old child: -• Has a statutory statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN) or an Education, Health and Care Plan.• Has left local authority care through a Special Guardianship Order, adoption or a Residence Order• Is currently a Looked After Child, for example in foster care• Is in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (DLA)People should apply directly to Wiltshire Council if they are eligible but currently do not have free school meals by using the form on the Council website.

Morrisons Kids Meal and Pizza making Boxes Here!


Creative

Stuff!

Get Cartooning!

There’s always cartoon and comic workshops to get creative darlings budding. Enter Beano artist and charismatic comedian Kev F, whose Comic Art Masterclass usually travels the schools and libraries of the country, and ends with some seriously entertained kids each with their own homemade comic. The only need to travel is to grab some paper and pens now Kev’s class is online.

But check here for a number of different creators giving away their artistic secrets in comic workshops…


The End of the Pier Show

Jonny Fluffypunk presents a brand spanking new show for families, with poetry, puppetry, story, song and a healthy dose of ramshackle anarchy.

Cooking

Stuff!

The Farm Cookery School in Netherstreet

have their popular holiday clubs online, and are available to book NOW! They are only £10 – £15 per login and that includes LIVE Tuition as well as a Recipe and Ingredients Guide which will be emailed to you straight away. Just imagine, dinner may be served by your little horrors!

Learning

Stuff!

Family half term activities among online events at Chippenham Museum

Prior to lockdown Wiltshire Museum were really enjoying hosting Curious Kids sessions for under 5’s and their grown-ups. They have adapted sessions to deliver them on zoom. A chance for younger children to have some interaction with people from outside the home and for families to learn, create and play together – supported by the museum.

February Half term session will focus on Saxon Crafts and will look at weaving jewellery.


STEM Venturi

 February Half Term online coding courses for 7 – 12+ year olds. Also debuting Girls Who Code course…… Lots of coding courses including Minecraft!


Music

Stuff!

Open to all young people aged 12 – 18s who love to sing, the new Wiltshire Youth Choir (WYC) will take your singing and performance to the next level.
– Learn from inspiring choir leaders with years of professional experience
– Explore music from different genres: musical theatre, pop, classical and more…
– Work towards performances in some of the county’s top music venues
Join us for our next free virtual Come and Sing workshop on Thursday, 18 February, 10.00 – 12.00 via zoom.

Trending now….

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


On Food…

Despite my Oliver Twist pleads, we never get enough on the subject of grub. January saw us preview Peter Vaughan’s Chinese New Year dinner party in aid of Alzheimer’s Support and with music from Indecision, we covered DOCA’s Festival of Winter Ales, and looked forward to the Muck & Dunder’s Born 2 Rum festival, which was cancelled.

From here the dining experience reverted to takeaways, and I gave Sujay’s Jerk Pan Kitchen at big shout, and thought it best to wait until things reopened before singing Massimos’ praise, but I guess for now I should mention their awesome takeaway service next.

The Gourmet Brownie Kitchen supplied my welcomed Father’s Day gift, even nipped over to Swindon, in search of their best breakfast at the Butcher’s cafe, and recently I featured vegan blogger, Jill. Still though I need more food articles, as restaurants should take note, they’re extremely popular posts. Sadly, our while self-explanatory article, “We Cannot Let our Young People go Hungry; those locally rallying the call to #endchildfoodpoverty,” did quite well, at third most popular, the earlier “Eat Out to Help Out, Locally, Independently,” was our highest hitting of all; giving a sombre redefining of the term, dying to go out.

Back to my point though, food articles do so well, I’m not just after a free lunch, or maybe I am. But here, look, the fourth most popular article this year was our review of New Society, which was actually from 2019. Does lead us on nicely to the touchy subject of stats this year.

August


On Stats, Spoofs and the Future….

As well as an opportunity to review what we’ve done over the past year and to slag off the government, I also see this rather lengthy article which no one reads till the end of, a kind of AGM. It should be no surprise or disappointment, being this is a what’s-on guide, and being nothing was actually on, our stats failed to achieve what we hit in 2019. Though, it is with good news I report we did much better than 2018, and in the last couple of months hits have given me over the stats I predicted. Devizine is still out there, still a thing; just don’t hug it, for fuck’s sake.

I did, sometime ago, have a meeting with the publishers of Life In, RedPin. You may’ve seen Life in Devizes or various other local town names. The idea to put Devizine into print is something I’ve toyed with, but as it stands it seems unlikely. My pitch was terrible, my funds worse. If I did this it would cease to be a hobby and become a fulltime business, I’d need contributors, a sales department, I’d need an expert or ten, skills and a budget for five issues ahead of myself, and I tick none of those boxes. A risk too risky, I guess that’s why they call a risk a risk, watching the brilliant Ocelot reduced to online, publications suffer, the local newspaper house scrambling for news and desperately coming up with national clickbait gobbledygook, I know now is not the time to lick slices of tree with my wares.

So, for the near future I predict trickling along as ever. Other than irrational bursts of enthusiasm that this pandemic is coming to an end, I’ve given in updating our event calendar until such really happens. And it will, every clown has a silver lifeboat, or something like that.

September

Most popular articles then, as I said, desperation to return to normal is not just me, “Eat Out to Help Out, Locally, Independently,” was our highest hitting of all, whereas “We Cannot Let our Young People go Hungry; those locally rallying the call to #endchildfoodpoverty,” came in third. Nestled between two foodie articles our April Fools spoof came second. As much as it nags me, I have to hold up my hands and thank Danny Kruger for being a good sport. He shared our joke, Boris to Replace Danny Kruger as Devizes MP.

We do love a spoof though, and given a lack of events, I had time to rattle some off, A Pictorial Guide to Those Exempt from Wearing a Facemask, Guide to Local Facebook Groups pt1 (never followed up) The Tiers of a Clown, Sign the Seagull Survey, Bob! and Danny featuring again in The Ladies Shout as I go by, oh Danny, Where’s Your Facemask?! all being as popular as my two-part return of the once celebrated No Surprises columns, No Surprises Locked Down in Devizes.

Perhaps not so popular spoofs were The World’s Most Famous Fences! and Worst Pop Crimes of the Mid-Eighties! But what the hell, I enjoyed writing them. 


On Other News and Miscellaneous Articles……

I was right though, articles about lockdown or how we’re coping were gratefully received, and during this time, a needed assurance we weren’t becoming manically depressed or found a new definition of bored. Devizes together in Lockdown, After the Lock Down, Wiltshire is not Due a second Lockdown, the obvious but rather than bleating on the subject, how we celebrated VE Day in Devizes & Rowde, the Devizes Scooter Club auctioning their rally banner for the NHS, Town Council raising £750 to support the Devizes Mayor’s Charities, DOCA Announce Next Year’s Carnival & Street Festival Dates, DOCA’s Window Wanderland, and a Drive-In Harvest Festival! to boot. Town Council making Marlborough High Street a safer place, all came alongside great hope things would change, and pestering why not: The State of the Thing: Post Lockdown Devizine and How We Can Help, Open Music Venues, or Do They Hate Art? Opinion: House Party Organiser in Devizes Issued with £10,000 Fine.

 If Who Remembers our First Birthday Bash? Saw me reminiscing, I went back further when raves begun to hit the news. Covered it with Opinion: The End and Reawakening of Rave, and asked old skool ravers Would you Rave Through Covid? But we also highlighted others not adhering to restrictions With Rule of Six and Effects on Local Hunting and Blood Sports, it was nice to chat with Wiltshire Hunt Sabs.

October