The World Under the Wood Will Put a Smile on Your Face

A dollop of Lewis Carroll, shards of C. S. Lewis and Roald Dahl, and perhaps even nicer elements of Tolkien, The World Under the Wood will put a smile on your face and bring out the inner child in you.…..

Being honest, it doesn’t take too much to bring out the inner child out in this grumpy old man, but more to cheer me up, and this did both, delightfully!

Running until Sunday, with matinees and evening performances at Devizes’ Wharf Theatre, this simply charming hour-long play, written and directed by Helen Langford is so whimsical, such a delight, you will be captivated by its magical cross-realms. Ideally you need a child aged six plus, but anyone into fairytales you can drag along, I suggest you do. Break out some glitter!

Yet while citing the obvious influences of classic children’s literature combines the settings and themes, it overlooks the subject, a contemporary feel of industry versus nature, the environmental angle on everyone’s lips, especially children. And it presents it in such an easy, fantastical way, without complication or ‘rubbing your face in it’ any age will be absorbed by the moral. Anymore synopsis and I’m verging on spoliers!

All homegrown talent, The World Under the Wood is an unmissable Wharf exclusive. The protagonist, Jodie, a kind of Dorothy-Dora hybrid is played confidently and spectacularly by Georgina Claridge, and her interactions with archetypal characters manage to retain the charm of those they pastiche, a talking tree, played gracefully by Chris Smith, pet dog by Carolynn Coomer, and Louise Peak as the queen-like Great Leader of an industrial underworld of robotic oompa loompa-like humans adds pantomime humour to the show.

Yet, it is not pantomime, in so much its zany or sing-along element is slight above the morals, but it is partially musical, with simple but effective original songs. If I’m honest, I huffed at the thought of going to see a “family” show, but I came out the other end chuffed, sprinkled with psychological fairy dust and mused with an emotion of sustainability on equal terms.

Your kids will love it, you might love it more! The World Under the Wood is running now, ending Sunday 26th June at The Wharf Theatre, Devizes. Tickets HERE.


REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival – Tankus The Henge @ Corn Exchange 14th June 2022

Absolutely Stonking!

Andy Fawthrop


The Devizes Arts Festival stepped up several gears last night with an absolutely explosive performance from the musical phenomenon that is Tankus The Henge.…..

The powerhouse 7-piece hit the stage running, immediately injecting energy, noise, fun and bombast into a dull Devizes Tuesday night. This is a band that is almost impossible to categorise, but why on earth should that matter?

“Eclectic” is probably the best I can come up with, combining influences from all over the musical spectrum, and all over the world. There’s soul, funk, blues, jazz, psychedelic all there in the mix, one minute evoking the stinking swamps of New Orleans, the next minute a Berlin bordello, and then on to vaudeville and cabaret. You can hear Tom Waits, Dexys, Madness, Audience and the late and long-missed Alex Harvey.

Up front Jaz Delorean was the ultimate showman, not only leading the band on vocals and piano, but egging on his band-mates to greater and greater efforts. His boogie-woogie piano, often shifting into almost ragtime, combined with physical and actual pyrotechnics – the tilting piano, the clouds of smoke, the climbing acrobatics – provided an arresting front-piece to a very, very good band. These guys were happy to give out the appearance of a ramshackle, fun-loving, loose band, but make no mistake, they were an extremely tight and well-rehearsed unit. The rhythm section drove the juggernaut, and the three-man brass section did all the wheelies. The moves were dramatic and choreographed, theatrical and expressive, and a grand visual foil to the musical shenanigans.

But, like any really good band, they were no mere one trick pony. Never afraid to dial it down for a while, drop the tempo and the volume, they took the audience with them every step of the way. Love songs were mixed with crowd-pleasing call-and-response anthems, before the full wall-of-sound came belting back at you again.

Tankus themselves describe what they do as “Gonzo rock & roll”, and I guess that summed it up – – bonkers, anarchic, fusion, bizarre, batshit-crazy stuff. And it was absolutely wonderful, drawing enormous applause from the dancing crowd.

And so good to see people of all ages and generations there amongst the crowd. I suppose with such a catalogue of styles it would be hard not to at least please some of the people some of the time. With a full 90-minute rollercoaster, high-energy set, Tankus have certainly lifted the bar in D-Town for sheer enjoyment and entertainment.

I’ve no idea how much these guys got paid (and I’m not asking) but whatever it was, Tankus absolutely earned their money. They must be one of the most hard-working bands on the circuit. This wasn’t so much a performance, as complete on-stage energy blow-out. It was a musical statement made in the boldest of colours and loud sounds. It was never subtle, but OMG it was soooo good! Bonkers but brilliant!

The Devizes Arts Festival continues every day until 25th June at various venues across town. Tickets can be booked at Devizes Books or online at www.devizesartsfestival.org.uk


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REVIEW – Lovesong @ Wharf Theatre, Devizes – Thursday 26th May 2022

Fabulous Stagecraft!

by Andy Fawthrop

Images used with kind permission of Chris Watkins Media

Been a while since I’d been to our town’s lovely little theatre, and it was a joy to go back again.…..

The occasion was the staging of Abi Morgan’s “Lovesong”. Now I happen to be a fan of Abi Morgan’s writing, and anyone who watched the recent BBC1 three-series drama “The Split” will know exactly what I’m on about. Her catalogue of work in TV, film and live theatre has won plenty of much-deserved critical acclaim. Accordingly, I was very much looking forward to this production, about which I’d heard many positive comments (and which we briefly previewed here at Devizine recently).

Image: Chris Watkins

The play, directed by the talented Freddie Underwood, no stranger to Wharf productions for a few years now, is a tight emotional drama. Starring only four actors – Imogen Riley, Adam Ball, John Winterton and Tor Burt – “Lovesong” tells the story of one couple from two different points in their lives, both as young lovers in their 20s, and as older companions looking back on their lives. Their relationship is reviewed by their past and present selves, blending youthful yearning and optimism with more worldly experience. The start of a youthful relationship blends with an impending death.

I found the production quite mesmerising, captured by the verbal and physical choreography of the piece. The tactile interactions of the two couples (being really the same couple) was offset by their inability to talk to their future or past selves, only their contemporaneous partner. It made for some interesting debates, particularly in the second half, about whether time (and space) is linear, or whether the past, present and future are somehow all fused together. Life events happen, they come and go, but emotions and feelings are far more complex than that.

Image: Chris Watkins

The two younger members of the cast – Imogen Riley and Adam Ball – gave confident and assured performances, looking quite at home on the stage as the younger version of the couple. But it was the elder version of the couple – played by John Winterton (in a rare appearance in front of the audience), and the talented and evergreen Tor Burt – that edged it for me. It may be an age thing, but I found the way that they inhabited their roles quite fascinating. Their concerns, their issues and their undoubted love for each other were conveyed in an utterly convincing performance.

I won’t spoil the ending (and you can see it coming a mile off) but it was pretty heart-wrenching, and there were plenty of weepy eyes in the auditorium to prove it.

For me, this was an ideal type of production to run at the Wharf, given its tight space restrictions on stage. A cast of only four had enough room on a sparsely-dressed stage to actually move and to breathe, and therefore you could concentrate on the words and the action, without your eye being distracted any purely physical/ practical stage constraints in productions with a larger cast.

Image: Chris Watkins

I found the music in the first half slightly distracting, but the balance felt much better in the second half. That minor quibble aside, this was overall a superb production. Starting with Abi Morgan’s tautly-scripted prose, Freddie Underwood’s assured direction, working with four very good actors on stage, and we had the recipe for success. Very highly recommended.

There are still a few tickets left for tonight (Friday) and tomorrow (Saturday), so get along to see it if you possibly can. You won’t regret it. Box Office – 03336 663366 or www.wharftheatre.co.uk

Future productions at The Wharf Theatre:

23rd – 26th June The World Under The Wood
19th – 24th September Hedda Garbler
1st October The Lesson (Icarus Theatre Company) – one night only
7th October London Philharmonic Skiffle Orchestra – one night only


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Live Jam Sessions at Swindon Hub Looking for Musicians

Central at The Parade, Swindon Hub, an accessible, friendly community space which opened in October are aiming to host regular Saturday jamming sessions, to promote local artists and give them a platform where they can perform……

The Hub is a comfortable volunteer-led centre trying to bring the community together. They’ve an affordable café where they invite you to relax in their “snug,” read and share books in their bookshop, browse items for sale from local retailers and upcycled furniture by Renew Men’s Shed. The profits of any surplus of stock items donated from shops for sale go to Swindon Night Shelter.

They are currently building a calendar of regular events including a monthly craft market, weekly knitting circle and writer’s club, as well as art workshops and regular music jams on the weekends. They’ve just hosted Swindon ZineFest, which I’m sorry to hear I missed, and from a Women’s History Month exhibition or a Ukraine fundraising jumble sale to Dub in the Hub sessions, the last one by Suitcase Sound System, there’s something for everyone here, especially those who like cake!

Music last Saturday came from The Thieving Magpies, but it was far from the be-all-and-end-all of activities at the Swindon Hub, as well as the aforementioned zine festival, there was a kid’s comic workshop too; it really caters for all.

“The Jam is a Community project as much as a Music one,” organiser Claire told me.

It focuses on confidence building, teamwork, social interaction and collaboration.

The Jam has been running already since September last year and there have been hundreds of people who have taken part.

There are loads of people who take part who have no background in music or performing to an audience and it creates an opportunity for people to get involved with music without the traditional barriers that stop so many people from taking the first step.

That said there are also many talented musicians who take part and it creates a wonderful mix of experience and enthusiasm that allows people of all experience levels to have a meaningful musical and emotional experience.

The key to creating a successful jam is building a relaxed atmosphere with little pressure or expectation that allows people to share without fear of criticism, ridicule or humiliation.

The Hub has a great atmosphere for this kind of activity due to the warm, friendly and supportive nature of the volunteers and visitors to the space.

There are already some fantastic success stories of people who have had their confidence built up by attending the event.

Post lockdown has seen a real boost in community spirit, and such volunteer-based projects like this are a lifeline, in rural areas and debatably more crucial in urban areas too; the larger the population doesn’t necessarily mean the large scope for friendships to occur, in fact it can be harder. So, a massive congratulations to the good folk at Swindon Hub, this looks like an amazing space doing some amazing work, and I might add for a wide-spanning age demographic.

They always need volunteers, if you want to join and help shape the future of communities in Swindon, and any musicians interested in performing for their day sessions should contact them. Facebook Page here.


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The Big Ones; Forthcoming Summer Events in the Devizes Area

Woe is me; tis a fortnight did pass since the beloved Devizes Street Festival. I did happen to saunter through the market lodging Saturday, peered ov’r to whither the main stage once gallantly did stand, but ‘t wast just parked cars and a bank façade; insert depress’d visage emoji…..     

Because that’s it, folks, that’s your bloomin’ lot; there is nothing else happening in Devizes this summer, nought, nada….

Okay, that probably didn’t work, you’re nobody’s fool, and you probably know these already, but here’s a quick guide to the BIG events in Devizes and surrounding villages over the summer months; you know, so bods don’t whinge on social media, “I didn’t hear about this, I took my dog out for a poo and ka-blamo, without so much as a warning some kind of social event hit me square in the chops.”

Oh, and before I commence the proceedings be aware there’s always something on, some little events here and there, like free music at The Southgate every Saturday for instance, do keep in tune with our event calendar, but for this particular outing, we’re thinking BIG (ooh, matron.)

Sunday 15th May: Devizes Town Band’s Fantastic Journey at the Corn Exchange.

Their first outing of the year, Devizes Town Band plan to get all Phileas Fogg and beyond, taking the Corn Exchange on a fantastic journey from the depths of the ocean into space and everything in between, and you could onboard! Tickets are £10 here: http://devizestownband.com/


Saturday 21st May: Indecision’s Last Hoorah Tour at the Corn Exchange.

Popular covers band on the local circuit and beyond, Indecision, has indeed made a mutual decision to split up, but not without going out with a bang; they’re hosting a “Last Hoorah” gig at Devizes Corn Exchange. Proceeds go to Wiltshire Search and Rescue and the Fatboys Charity.


Monday 23rd May: Lovesong @ Wharf Theatre, Devizes

Running till May 28th, Lovesong is the story of one couple, told from two different points in their lives, as young lovers in their 20s and as worldly companions looking back on their relationship. Their past & present selves collide onstage as we witness the optimism of youth becoming the wisdom of experience | Love is a leap of faith. Freddie Underwood brought Things I Know To Be True to the Wharf stage in 2019. Movement has become Freddie’s personal stamp within her productions and Lovesong will be similar to her previous work which fuses movement & music, partnering within the work of the text.


Saturday 28th May: Hardy’s Wessex: The Landscape Which Inspired a Writer, Exhibition at Wiltshire Museum

Running until 30th October, this exhibition opens 28th May, and will explore how Hardy’s writing merged his present with the past. Within this ancient landscape, old beliefs died hard and Hardy’s plots are set against a background of superstition. Hardy felt that these past ways of life were important, helping us understand ourselves and our relationship with the environment; he also made a film outside the Bear Hotel, like a TikTok-obsessed teenager up for a rumble. Okay, that last bit isn’t strictly true!


Note: The first week of June is the Jubilee, where there’s so many village or town street parties to list here, so check your village magazines and social media sites for archetypical clipart bunting posters, and gawd bless ‘er, guvnor.


Thursday 2nd – Monday 6th June: Honey Folk Festival @ The Barge Inn, HoneyStreet

Bit of prequel to July’s HoneyFest, as you might expect from the trusty Barge, it’s a folk fest with a difference. Acts here range globally and incorporates the loose pigeonhole world music too, so much so it’s like a mini-Womad!  


Saturday 4th June: Bromham Carnival

Friday 10th – Sunday 26th June: Devizes Arts Festival

A fortnight long arts festival on your doorstep! Including Baila La Cumbia, Rockin Billy, Tankus the Henge, The Scummy Mummies Show, Asa Murphy and so, so much more; we do love Devizes Arts Festival. Do check our preview, and links to The Devizes Arts Festival for more details of separate events and tickets.


Saturday 11th June: Sustainability Fair

Arranged by Sustainable Devizes, there will be a day celebrating all things sustainable in the Market Place and Shambles; let’s get green.


Sunday 12th June: Lions on the Green

Talking of green, it’s always a fantastic free day out with the Devizes Lions, on the Devizes Green, with a car show, beer tent, and whole lot more.


Sat 18th June: Saddleback Music Festival with LottieFEST

Yes, Saddleback is erm, back! This one stealthily popped up out of nowhere, which is good if you’re a Shaolin assassin but not if you want people to come to your festival; a little bit of notice on this wouldn’t go amiss, guys, like a marketing strategy and erm, telling your friendly neighbourhood Spider-event guide!

So, you may not have heard; Devizes Sports Club in full force with a blues extravaganza. Jon Amor & King Street Turnaround, Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue, Joe Hicks, No Manz Land, Carolyn McGoldrick & Friends, Matt Peach, Public Eye and The Best of Ratcat feature, with DJs until the early hours, which is different but I guess that’s where the Saddleback incorporates LottieFEST too, a celebration of the life of Lottie Rapson, who sadly passed away aged just 27 from Friedreich’s Ataxia. Tickets are £30, with £5 donated to Ataxia UK & the Lily Foundation.


Thurs 23rd June: The World under the Wood @ Wharf Theatre, Devizes

Running until June 26th; Jodie meets a magical talking Tree, as you do, who asks for her help, as they often do. The wood seems to be dying and Tree thinks the incredible World under the Wood may hold the answer… Jodie is whisked away to a super-world where life moves super-fast. But she discovers that this world is failing too; the super-humans have been collapsing and productivity is down. Jodie and Harley the dog must now journey between worlds to find an answer. Can the mega-multiplier plants restore the wood? And what is the mysterious ‘Source’?

A magical story of courage, friendship & unity to inspire a greener generation – For everyone 6+; of which I fall into this age-group, just.


Saturday 25th Sunday 26th June: Bromham Teddy Bear Trail

Always a lovely carnival in a lovely village, that’s on the 4th June, but bon’t forget their Teddy Bear Trail from 25th – 26th June, this year’s theme will be ‘Someone Beginning With B,’ with 40+ Teddies around the village, created and generously sponsored by local businesses and individuals. See how many you can guess!


Saturday 25th June: MantonFest

A tad further out, this side of Marlborough, but always worth a big mention, cos it’s such a well-organised community-driven yet professional one day music festival; certain I did a preview about it, here, and yeah, I might be going too but don’t let that put you off; you don’t have to talk to me if you don’t want to.


Saturday 3rd July: DOCA Picnic in the Park @ Hillworth Park

Picnic in the Park is DOCA’s traditional start to the festival week. It’s a chance for the community to get together in the beautiful surroundings of Hillworth Park. There’s top quality music, stalls and a bar. You can also buy snacks, ice-creams and hot drinks from the café on the park. Bring your friends and a picnic, for the perfect Sunday afternoon.

Acts include a travelling duo of a Dubliner and a songwriter in the vein of Tom Waits or Leonard Cohen, called The “Grave” Diggers, bluegrass Americana with The Stemville Ramblers and Bristol based trio Boogaloo String Band.

Artist and performer Boogaloo Stu, too, while we’re on boogaloo, who promises to gets up-close and personal with Puppet Paramour, a one-to-one session of craft activity and psychic surgery to create your ideal partner in sock-puppet form.

And resident artist Libertine, a free-motion embroider who specialises in social commentary and out of the box thinking which is reflected in her work. She will take up residence at the Picnic and gather your musings on the last year, the year ‘we’ missed, she will commit them to fabric and thread.


Saturday 9th July: Devizes Carnival

Devizes comes alive carnival day, need I say more?


Saturday 9th July: CrownFest @ the Crown, Bishops Cannings

Queen tribute Real Magic headline this mini-festival with serious clout, not so far from carnival, in Bishops Cannings. Some awesome acts, check the poster, Including Illingworth, George Wilding, Humdinger and local legend Pete Lamb & the Heartbeats. This is such a nice setting; it has to be done.


Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th July: Market Lavington Vintage Meet Family Fun Weekend

Ah, big steam engines, proper job!


Saturday 23rd July: Devizes Beer & Cider Festival

Details of this still in the pipeline, but that’s no excuse for not putting the date in your diary for this historic wharf-side beer fest; I’ve still got my half-pint glasses from the early noughties!


Friday 29th, Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st July: Devizes Scooter Rally

The Devizes Scooter Club have worked tirelessly through lockdown postponements and beyond to recapture the magic of their first scooter rally in 2019, which went way beyond the archetypical scooter rally and border-lined festival with the supreme acts it booked; here’s hoping they achieve this again, but I can pre-empt it will just by the line-up, most of which have been tried and tested at former Devizes Scooter Club gigs, the poignant Motown covers band All That Soul, Orange Street, who were the pivotal act at the last rally, The Specialized Specials tribute, local sure-things, The Roughcut Rebels, and a wildcard; Slade tribute Sladest!


Saturday 13th July: Seend Fete 2022

Always a real community-feel to Seend’s fete, a great family out!


Thursday 25th till Sunday 28th July Honey Fest @ The Barge Inn, HoneyStreet

Again, the annual kingpin at a campsite, wharf and pub which is like a mini-festival all year around! You can guarantee this will be amazing.


Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th August: Fulltone Music Festival

OMG Super-Proms….Can they do it again? Go compare, I think they can! The funding and effort put into last year’s Full Tone Festival on the Green was truly the jewel in Devizes’ event calendar, a memorable history in the making. To help replicate the magic there’s a bigger line-up of other acts as well as the Full Tone Orchestra. Including our favourite country solo singer Kirsty Clinch, Pete Lamb’s Heartbeats again, DJ James Threfall and it’s great to see local piano virtuoso, young Will Foustone heading the bill.

Also note my pun above, as an opera section with a host of guests including local music school owner, the breath-taking Chloe Jordan and Welsh soprano Wayne Evans, better-known to gogglebox slouchers as the Go Compare man!


Saturday 3rd September: Devizes Confetti Battle and Colour Rush

If you don’t know what this most bizarre event of Devizes calendar consists of, you’re not from Devizes!

For those who aren’t, please come and see what it’s all about: This year the Confetti Battle continues to grow and the colourful chaos has been added to with the introduction of the Colour Rush, an amazing 5 km mixed terrain fun run – what better way to arrive at a Confetti Battle than covered in multi-coloured powder!

There is no ‘battle’ as such, just a very silly half-hour during which a lot of fun is had, and a lot of confetti is thrown about. Expect to get ‘attacked’ by complete strangers throwing paper!  The Battle continues to gain popularity and 2017 saw over 3500 people take part. The event takes place at the finish line of our new Colour Rush 5k run so expect to see some exceptionally colourful visitors in the crowd.

Enjoy yourself on Jennings funfair in the Market Place on both Saturday 31st of August and Sunday 1st of September operating between 5.30 pm until 11.00 pm.

Buy tokens to exchange for the confetti before the event – look out for our stand and get your tokens in advance to reduce queuing time during the event. You’ll still need to line up to collect your confetti prior to the 8pm kick-off.

Keep your eyes peeled when collecting your confetti as one lucky person will receive a Golden Ticket in a confetti bag, info about the prize will be announced soon.


Saturday 24th September 2nd October: Devizes Food & Drink Festival

More food than I can reasonably stuff into my oversized cakehole, and trousers for afterwards, and that’s really saying something more than Bananarama. Saturday 24th kicks straight off with the free market in the Market Place, and there’s a packed lunch full show of events, including designing a sandwich fit for the Queen, workshops, talks, meals, foraging, Come Dine with Us, and a Teddy Bear’s picnic; details of which are on their website.


And that’s about it, summer over, batten down the hatches for autumn; unless you know any different? Something we missed? Why didn’t you tell us about it? Too late now…..unless you twist my arm, editing on this article is strictly and unashamedly governed on favouritism!  


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Devizes Street Festival; Day Two and Overall

All images used with the kind permission of Simon Folkard Photography

That’s overall, as in “taking everything into account,” and not the all-in-one pac-a-mac kind, I thought you should know before I commence waffling…

Do they even sell pac-a-macs now? Google it if you feel the need, but keep the results to yourself; ah, off I trek… Sunday, the second day of Devizes Street Festival, and the main stage had a little hat; unfortunately, weather turned more appropriate for April and I’d wager combined with fragments of hangover, it resulted in a slightly lesser crowd.

Nevertheless, the show marched on unperturbed. I confess, due to Dad’s taxi on call, I rocked up far too late to justify a precise evaluation, but you know me, I relish in the attention giving my tuppence brings, so I will, thank you.

Firstly, I’ll apologise if Saturday’s thoughts came across a tad preachy, about volunteering and playing your part, but my reasoning was concern. It is critical younger volunteers take up these posts as the years pass; I worry if generation next doesn’t replicate what DOCA have achieved, it could go all village fete fashion, rather than what we have now, the colourful array of variety, the festive-style we rarely see the like of around these backwaters.

Though I accept how it is, folk are busy, working, have other priorities (like dad’s taxi) and want the occasion to unwind and enjoy themselves, that is, after all, its purpose. I found myself caught in this dilemma helping out Saturday. Self-assigned myself to wheelie bin patrol, I figured I could keep one eye on them from the bar area! Anyhoo, let’s drift away from that thought and look at what an utterly fantastic show it was; don’t wanna jinx it.

An assessment of social media commentary hailed it a success, aside one ironic Facebook jester. Many suggested it was the best yet, though it came to us at a light at the end of a biennial tunnel, void of much entertainment at all, so a Jim Davidson tour would sound fantastic by comparison. But I agree, taking heed of various attendees’ observations, yeah, it was equally if not better than previous street festivals. I believe the change of stage positioning, binding food stalls into a horseshoe was a benefactor for this, but aside design the surprise icing on the cake had to be the Ceres show, the splendour of which was covered in my previous article. The local folklore subject breathed a sense of inimitability and distinctiveness to the whole shebang, it really did.

I confess, when I first read about the idea, I was sceptical, even at its commencement I doubted but now, the more I consider it the more astonished and overwhelmed I become with its magnificence. Sunday for me though had one highlight I simply couldn’t miss; I’ve been raving Bristol’s folk-Balkan ska ensemble Mr Tea & The Minions since I fondly reviewed their album Mutiny in 2019. So much so I’ve been trying to convince anyone and everyone to book them somewhere local since; you should’ve seen my little chubby chops light up when I noticed their name on the schedule, the like of a toddler at Christmas. Why did I then go about, recommending them to every passer-by? The proof was in the pudding, they didn’t disappoint despite the pedestal I put them on, as their album they were lively, jubilantly danceable, the perfect match for the spirit of the street festival.

With some brilliant new tunes and a handful from their album they won the audience over with their stylised formula of blending localised folk into this already deeply fused south-eastern European genre which reflects its own roots with the off-beat of Jamacia’s finest musical export. As an enthusiast of ska keen to ascertain its contemporary global progression, I’m resolute we castoff the polarized presumption it belonged to a time of yore, of eighties skinheads and Two-Tone. Memorable and fantastically beguiling though Madness, The Specials, et al were, developments internationally offer us a much wider variety often overshadowed by the aforementioned retrospective cult in the UK. I think Mr Tea & the Minions represent this, but as the tradition presides, they have a truckload of carefree fun while doing it.

I could chew your ear off about how much I enjoyed that particular act, but it is the combination of all which really made the weekend something special. Equally as much as I love the wealth of local talent, and do believe they too should be represented at the Street Festival, director Loz’s determination to present us with a variety of sounds unconventional to our usual local circuit, the liveliest and most colourful array of world music, is something I welcome with open arms. Just like the South American vibe of Mariachi Las Velentinas, Simo Lagnawi’s Gnawa Blues All Stars, on one act prior to Mr Tea, was the perfect example; you don’t get to hear Gnawa, the scared trance music of Morocco in the pubs around here, and they played it sublimely for our alternate jiffy.

In this, the most conventional act on the main stage was perhaps the Brass Junkies, and by our usual expectations they were pretty much unconventional! I note them because while a covers band, where I usually assess with their attention of making a cover their own, this Bristol-based versatile brass band of New Orleans style do this so absolutely proficiently. So, to appease the populace, covers of contemporary, foot-tapping pop hits, such as Daft Punk’s Get Lucky get a brass makeover, and they refined this angle with bells on.

But more so on this variety point is the vast array of circus and street theatre, too many to cover, they just go on, around you, in a breath-taking inclusive show you dare not blink at. If one constructive criticism I heard bounding about requested DOCA add more music to the main stage, the answer would have to be, aside the sheer cost and the time needed to soundcheck for these multi-instrumental seven- or eight-piece bands, is that DOCA want you to explore the Market Place and take in the variety of side-shows, and to have a continuous rave at the main stage would both distract the crowds and drown out the sounds of them too; and you know what? I think that’s fair point.

The combination of all these elements meant the Street Festival is restored post-lockdown, better than it ever was and is continuing to better itself through continued assessment and experimental changes; something we are very lucky to have here in Devizes. Though the smiles in the crowd said it all, then the topical and uniquely Devizes narrative of this added element, this sublime finale, combing dance, acrobatic performance, poetry and music truly was the binding component which confirms my assertion and made it, undoubtedly, the finest street festival yet. Thank you once again, all the organisers and volunteers of DOCA.

Onwards, carnival is July 9th, the Confetti Battle and Colour Rush are on 3rd September, but next up is The Picnic in the Park at Hillworth Park, Devizes, on Sunday 3rd July, all the info you need is at the DOCA website; enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.


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Devizes Street Festival Day 1; the Inner Workings of DOCA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Lovesong at The Wharf

Director Freddie Underwood, who brought the highly successful Things I Know To Be True to the Wharf Theatre, Devizes in 2019 once again puts her personal stamp on this production with the use of movement and music partnering text…..

Written by Abi Morgan Lovesong comes to the Wharf on Monday 23rd and runs until Saturday 28th May. Inspired by T.S. Eliot’s poem, the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock – the story of a middle-aged man who, although in love, feels his love song has never been sung – Abi Morgan’s play revolves around one couple at two very different stages of their lives.  First produced in 2011, the story introduces us to young lovers displaying all the optimism of youth alongside their older selves who have the wisdom and experience of age, but now face growing old with the ensuing frailties of the human body. Past and present literally intertwine as the older and younger couples move around each other on the stage and this poignant piece will take the audience on a journey which ultimately leads back to the belief that…love is a leap of faith…

Tickets can be purchased by ringing 03336 663 366; from the website Wharftheatre.co.uk and at the Devizes Community Hub and Library on Sheep Street.


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

Pushed forward to Mayday bank hols, who’s getting excited about Devizes International Street Festival? I am, I always am, it’s been the best weekend of the year in our humble town for many a year, and though we’ve had setbacks with the dreaded year of lockdown and DOCA’s valiant effort to stage something near similar within the restrictions of last summer, we’ve been waiting, debatably patiently, for this summer extravaganza.

But my levels of excitedness have gone from 500% to 1,000 meows, now I’ve seen the program of acts. A band who contributed to our Julia’s House compilation, I’ve been aching to get Bristol-based frenzied folk ska-punk outfit Mr Tea & The Minions to play our town, and DOCA have either noted their brilliance themselves, or have taken heed of my constant whining of a suggestion; either way, we’re quids in, pinky promise. It means two things; someone actually listens to me, and you’ll have your socks blown off by this band I totally love!

Though that’s the icing on the cake for me, the line-up looks set to thrill us as it ever did. Hints of the acts are there to see on the DOCA website, and as usual neither the site nor us can reveal times and places of the acts, you’ll need to buy a programme, as it’s an essential fundraiser for DOCA. But we are allowed to breeze over it.

Expect mischievous experimental entertainment and audience participation, performed in the round by Full Circle, upbeat funk and Northern Soul influenced Desert Boots from Worcester, a quirky Folkdance performance around a 12-foot maypole, fusing everything from clogging to breakdance and beat boxing, a Playground of Illusions, created by Travelling Light Circus, a heavily laden golden postman suddenly surprised by a rain shower, by A bird in the Hand Theatre Company, the latest creation of Jon Hicks and Matt Rudkin, a Visionary who is said to have wisdom beyond knowledge, incredible acrobatic gravity defying feats from Spanish/Swiss collective Tripotes la Compagnie, Dr Jones & Professor Barnard’s Medicine Show, professional painter and amateur alchemist Malcolm Brushell, on a quest to find the pinky-est pink paint on the planet, sea shanties and sing-alongs with some Old Time Sailors, the minuscule majesty of meerkat Prince Amir on the back of his pet camel, circus shenanigans on a giant red carpet, Treemendous tree-people, riotous folk-fusing hypnotic trans-European melodies with Ushti Baba, of course the bustling market and side-stalls of food and drink, and my aforementioned icing on the cake, Mr Tea & The Minions.

All this happens on Saturday 30th April and Sunday 1st May, in Devizes Market Place, it’s free, it’s fantastic, it’s the Devizes event of the year, on a day where there’s also the Born2Rum Festival at the Muck & Dundar, though you’ll be hard pressed to pick up a ticket for this, plus the Leon Day Band play the Southgate, Seend has it’s annual Beer Festival and it’s Urchfont Scarecrow Festival; whoa, what a weekend!

Ushti Baba

We must praise DOCA yet again to the highest heights, but point out, The International Street Festival relies on it’s collective of volunteers to create and control the magic, who are keen to hear from anyone interested in becoming a “festival maker” by helping out in a number of vital roles. One good Facebook group to join if interested is the festival makers group, where there’s details on how you can get involved, upcoming workshops and all the behind-the-scenes gubbings which need to happen to make this magical event it is.

So, yeah, I’m excited, possibly over-excited, can you tell?!


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Devizes Arts Festival Coming Back

After the wonderful winter stop-gap between the void of lockdown and this coming summer, Devizes Arts Festival is back with a full programme of events running from Friday 10th to Saturday 25th June.

Please check their website for full details, but allow me to least give you a quick rundown.….

A Diva and a Piano with Britain’s most popular soprano Lesley Garrett starts us off at the Corn Exchange on Friday 10th June. Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling writer of crime fiction Sophie Hannah is at the Town Hall Saturday 11th June with Agatha, Poirot & Me.

Saturday night is my kind of night, cumbia night at Corn Exchange, as phenomenal 10-piece Cumbia band, Baila La Cumbia takes you right back to the dance halls of Colombia, and Sunday they’ve a walk, and a free fringe event at the British Lion; Rip It up with Rockin’ Billy, one big sounding three-piece Rock’n’roll Rockabilly band from Somerset, from 1pm.

Leonore Piano Trio starts the week off on Monday 13th June. The Leonore Piano Trio brings together three internationally acclaimed artists whose piano trio performances as part of Ensemble 360 were met with such enthusiastic response that they decided to form a piano trio in its own right

London based, five wheeled, funk fuelled, open top, custom paint job, rock ‘n’ roll jalopy, Tankus the Henge at the Corn Exchange on Tuesday 14th June, and Wednesday sees Quentin Crisp: Naked Hope with Mark Farrelly in the Merchant Suite, a solo show which has toured the UK ever since it was first previewed in Edinburgh in 2014. Starting in the late 1960s Quentin surveys a lifetime of degradation and rejection in his filthy Chelsea flat. Repeatedly beaten for being flamboyantly gay as early as the 1930s, but also ostracised for daring to live life on his own terms.

Borealis Saxophone Quartet on Thursday 16th June at St Andrews Church, and what was promised prior to lockdown for 2020, The Scummy Mummies Show is at the Corn Exchange.

The Homing, an up-and-coming London band riding the wave of the alt-Country revival, wave it into the Conservative Club on Friday June 17th, and you can Meet Nicci French, the pseudonym of husband and wife writing team Nicci Gerard and Sean French, British fiction’s most famous double-acts at the Town Hall on Saturday 18th June.

Our good Liverpudlian friend, Asa Murphy presents The Song-Writing Years at the Corn Exchange on Saturday too. Asa now sets out on a tour which focusses on his own unique song-writing talents, backed by a fantastic live band. While Sunday has a free fringe event at Three Crowns, astonishingly accomplished jazz guitarist Florian Felcitta.

Onto the final week of the festivities, and there’s An Audience with Adam Frost Monday 20th June at Corn Exchange, Britain’s leading travel commentator Simon Calder on the Tuesday.

Paying tribute to his father’s music in the jazz master’s centenary year, pianist and composer Darius Brubeck teams up with saxophonist Dave O’Higgins, bassist Matt Ridley and drummer Wesley Gibbens for their Devizes debut after critically acclaimed international tours and sold-out shows at major jazz houses in London, on Wednesday 22nd June at the Corn Exchange.

The Second-Best Bed with Liz Grand is in the Merchant Suite on Thursday 23rd June, a frank, humourous and revealing monologue where the audience gets to know Shakespeare like never before, through the eyes of his wife.

BBC Radio 4’s cop-turned-comedian Alfie Moore brings his latest stand-up tour show to the Corn Exchange, Friday 24th June. And the grand finale is an Organ Recital with Claudia Grinnell, Saturday 25th June at St John’s Church and a Celtic Party Night, Absolute, at the Corn Exchange. Absolute are an Irish party band bringing their own unique mix of traditional and modern Irish favourites, with a few classics thrown in for good measure.

Tickets go on sale online on April 29th and from the ticket office in Devizes Books on May 3rd.


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Wharf Theatre Goes from Comedy to Tragedy

To those living in Devizes it should come as no surprise Jemma Brown can pull off a performance. Directing a stage version of the eighty’s sitcom classic Allo Allo at the Wharf Theatre has been hailed a massive success, Devizes’ sole theatre Tweeted this morning “Café Rene may have returned to the workshop, but the echoes of laughter will mark its place in Wharf history.”

But looking forward today at forthcoming performances, after the rescheduled feel-good musical comedy Sister Act JR, (25th & 26th February,) and the jocularity of award-winning theatre company White Cobra’s Betty & Joan, on the 5th March, the next in-house production takes rather a melancholic turn.

From the 28th March to 2nd April, The Revlon Girl is set eight months after the Aberfan disaster, the catastrophic collapse of a colliery spoil tip in 1966, in the Welsh village of Aberfan. The devastating slurry took the lives of 116 children and 28 adults as it submerged the village’s junior school.

The Revlon Girl tells the real-life story of a group of bereaved mothers who met every week to talk, cry and even laugh without feeling guilt. At one of their meetings, they secretly arrange for a representative from American multinational cosmetics, and fragrance company Revlon, to come and give them a talk on beauty tips.

Directed by Lyn Taylor, this is a play packed with character and heartache, entwining the restraints, gossip and sometime irrationality of a small-town community, with the poignancy of a mother’s loss. There are many humorous, uplifting and hopeful moments, allowing this piece to bring much emotion and entertainment to its audience.

Book office is open on this one now, tickets are £10-£14, with the success of the recently closed Allo Allo, the Wharf goes from strength-to-strength, yet while a show like the last one will sell itself based on its background in popular culture, it is the poignant and ground-breaking dramas such as this which really deserves the push. Personally, I’m impartial to putting on some slap, bit of lippy at the weekend p’haps, but please support your local arts anyway!


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

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

Chippenham’s Fringe Feb Festival is Back!

An exciting variety of arts and performance events are being offered to Chippenham residents from Friday 11th-13th February. The line-up for this year’s Fringe Feb festival includes live comedy, dance, theatre and music performances along with a host of interactive fun and entertainment for the whole family to enjoy. There will be events popping up across Chippenham throughout the weekend, from on the high street to local venues and cafés.

Chippenham’s Fringe Feb Festival has been set up and funded by Chippenham Borough Lands Charity to champion the arts in the town and bring exciting work to Chippenham. There is a wide selection of events to choose from with some completely free and others provided at a special subsidised ticket price.

Laura Graham-May, Arts and Education Officer for CBLC said, “This is now our third year of the festival following last year’s Covid safe online event. We’re very excited to be bringing a mixture of live arts and performance events to Chippenham people. We hope there is something for everyone to enjoy and brighten up this cold and quiet time of the year”. 

For comedy fans, there’s an improvised musical from The Bean Spillers,  quick fire comedy from the brilliant Instant Wit, and there are two special Fringe Feb gigs from Chippenham Comedy Club – one for adults, and an afternoon one for kids and families.

Book tickets at the Cause Venue to see ‘Cult Figure: Kenneth Williams’ for an hilarious and engaging evening and then the next afternoon ‘The Mary Lou Revue’, an all-singing, all-dancing celebration of Golden Age entertainment featuring the songs of Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Peggy Lee & others.

Chippenham performer Florence Espeut-Nickless brings her hard hitting monologue, ‘Destiny’ back to her home town for one night only at The Neeld Community & Arts Centre. For a 14+ audience, follow the story of a teenage girl growing up in a rural Wiltshire Council estate after a big night out takes a turn for the worst.

‘Mama G’s Storytime’ at the Yelde Hall, is a show that will make the whole family laugh, love and think. Combining panto and the art of storytelling, this all singing, partial-dancing extravaganza is filled with stories about being who you want and loving who you are!

Boogie along and clean up the streets of Chippenham with the ‘Disco Litter Queens’ and help ‘The Dance We Made’ dancers create some new moves and watch a performance come together on the high street and then on YouTube. Expect the unexpected watching ‘A real fiction’, a hyperactive mix of dance, theatre, meme and pop culture and ‘Chippenham you’re under a vest’ with the ‘Fashion Police’ who will be rolling out the red carpet ready for the best cat walk, hop, skip and a jump!

Travel back in time at Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre with an evening of little seen silent film of the county dating back from the 1930’s to the 1980’s, accompanied by evocative live traditional west country music and song. You might also like to join the Chippenham Museum team for the premiere of its latest ‘Museum Jukebox’ piece where you can experience their latest exhibition through the music of John Noble, local saxophonist, composer and teacher.

Chippenham’s brilliant Knatty Knitters will be back again this year bringing their knitting magic to a town centre window with some surprises to look out for and a festival in Chippenham would simply not be complete without The Chippenham Town Morris Men in attendance. They have been dancing in the town and surrounding villages since 1978 and will be back by The Buttercross on Saturday lunchtime. The fantastic Chippenham Rock Choir will follow them, providing you with entertainment and classic pop songs to enjoy. There may be more to watch – so pop along and see who might be there!

You can view the work of local artists and crafters by visiting the latest Chippenham Craft Market at King Alfred Hall and blow away the winter blues with a “Sweet Soul Music Singalong” workshop with Chippenham Allsorts Community Choir.

There will be music to enjoy throughout the day in Grounded café and you can put your music knowledge to the test by taking part in “The Lyric Walk” around Chippenham. Hidden in the main streets of Chippenham will be 29 snatches of lyrics, from across the decade. Will you be able to find the most lyrics and win £50 worth of vouchers?!

Pop the 11th-13th February into your diary and get ready to be entertained in Chippenham. Visit  www.chippenhamfringe.co.uk for more information and to book tickets.


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Singing Bishop with Stories to Tell Comes to St. Mary’s Devizes

If there’s one venue I’m delighted to pen an event preview for, this new year, it has to be St Mary’s Church in Devizes. The Invitation Theatre Company showed us the potential of this disused church way back when, when Jemma and friends aptly dressed as nuns for Sister Act, if I remember rightly?!

Since it’s been on the cards to convert St Mary’s into arts centre, and must be said, it’s been a rocky road to get this far. Now the venue is ready for singing Bishop of Ramsbury, Andrew Rumsey to showcase his musical and literary talents.

The event is in aid of the church regeneration fund, as Wiltshire Council and Salisbury Diocesan Authorities have given the go ahead for an extension to house additional facilities and the necessary changes to the interior.

On the evening of Saturday 22nd January, Andrew will be sharing songs and readings from his new book English Grounds: A Pastoral Journal in the 12th Century Church.

Appropriate for a Grade 1 listed venue, which has been a place of worship in Devizes for the best part of nine hundred years. Dr Rumsey’s new book is rooted in the Wiltshire landscape, exploring themes of place, spirituality and belonging in a series of short essays and photographs.

As well as being an author, whose writing centres on themes of place and local identity, the bishop is also a musician, with a longstanding interest in song writing and popular music. Former Literary Editor of The Times, Erica Wagner, describes his latest title as “a marvellous book, lit by faith, love and imagination”.

The event will be the first of a number planned at St Mary’s for 2022, as the innovative plans to transform the church as a hub for arts in the community take a step nearer, which is exciting news for Devizes.

Entry is £10, you can book at Devizes Books, or pay on the door.


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REVIEW – Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club On Tour @ Corn Exchange, Devizes – Thursday 11th November 2021

Jazz Is Back In Town!

Andy Fawthrop

Yay!  The Devizes Arts Festival is back in business, albeit in truncated format for this year, and kicked off public proceedings with a real bang last night in The Corn Exchange.

Despite being massively well served for all forms of live music in D-Town generally, jazz has been somewhat under-represented of late.  I certainly remember going to regular jazz gigs a few years ago, just next door in the Bear’s Cellar Bar, but there’s been nothing much since.

But that was all put to rights last night as The Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club On Tour rolled into town.  This proved to be exactly what it said on the tin – direct from the world-famous jazz club founded by the eponymous Ronnie Scott in the late 1950s London’s Soho, this was a live touring version of what generally happens “live” in the club itself.  We were treated to what can only be described as a multi-media presentation, combining a world class live jazz quintet alongside rare archive photos and video footage.  We were taken on a guided verbal and musical tour of the history of this great cultural institution.  Set amongst the dive bars and jazz juke joints of Soho, we heard of the desperate hand-to-mouth finances of the early years, the frequent police raids, and the various scrapes with gangsters (including the Krays, who were rumoured to have taken Ronnie and Pete “for a little drive”!)

Our “MC” for the evening, playing the role of compere, raconteur and sax soloist Ronnie Scott was the near-lookalike (and birthday boy) Alex Garnett.  He perfectly conveyed the seedy, dubious and wise-cracking humour of the man, combined with a clear love of the music, and appreciation of the skills of his fellow musicians.  On upright bass we had the dapper Sam Burgess, on piano the grinning James Pearson, and on drums the highly-accomplished Shaney Forbes.  Completing the line-up was vocalist Natalie Williams, who brought some real sparkle and show-biz pizzazz to proceedings.  Whether tackling numbers from the Great American Songbook, other jazz standards, or simply scat-singing, Natalie absolutely lit up the room with her enthusiastic personality and powerful vocals.

The band looked very comfortable on stage with one another, compact and tight when required, but giving one another just the right amount of space for the various solos.  I was particularly impressed with Shaney Forbes’ drum solo in the first half.  The material chosen was eclectic, featuring forays into the back catalogue of Sarah Vaughn (“Sassy”), Chet Baker, Ella Fitzgerald, Chick Corea, Duke Ellington, Nina Simone, and many others.

If the aim was to convey “the feel” of what it was like in the early days of an evening in Ronnie Scott’s Club, then the quintet certainly succeeded.  A near-packed house was treated to a great evening’s entertainment, and lapped it all up.  A rousing call for an encore was the least they deserved.  A really great night out.  Let’s hope someone in town now picks up the jazz baton again!

Devizes Arts Festival continues for the next week, with a large range of events, including several fringe (free!) events at various venues around the town.  See www.devizesartsfestival.org.uk/ for further details and booking information.  Of particular note are An Evening With Sally Barker (featuring the songs of Joni Mitchell and Sandy Denny) at The Town Hall tomorrow (Saturday) 13th November, and a rousing finale dance night with Motown Gold next Friday 19th November.  Some tickets for both are still available.


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Spoiled Rotten in Devizes this November with Devizes Arts Festival, The Wharf Theatre, Long Street, TITCO, DOCA and more!

Spoiled Rotten in Devizes this November you are. In what is usually a quiet month leading up to yule, the easing of lockdown has detonated the month, opening it up as anyone’s game. It’s just so good to see a chockful event calendar for the whole county, and so many event organisers making a Rocky Balboa style comeback.

Dave and Deborah at the Southgate

Aside our dependable Southgate, who’ve led the way for events in Devizes, and continue to provide top notch live music every weekend, free I might add, it’s exciting to see the Cavalier, The Muck & Dundar, and even the Condado Lounge in the running.

There are some big guns coming out too, as we welcome back the Wharf Theatre, who hosted The Paul Simon Story last weekend, and the return of the Invitation Theatre Company from Tuesday (9th) to Saturday (13th) this coming week. The Long Street Blues Club are back in force with three gigs this month, the Gerry Jablonski Band Saturday 13th, Force on the 20th, which is such a whopper it’s coming out of The Corn Exchange rather than usual Cons Club, and the Antonio Forcione Quartet on the 27th.

If it’s sounding good so far, we’ve not even touched on Devizes Eisteddfod from Thursday 18th to Saturday 20th, The Lawrence Art Society’s exhibition at the Town Hall from 25th to the 27th, and of course DOCA bring the Winter Festival and lantern parade on the 26th.

With all that I’ve mentioned it would be understandable to have overlooked the icing on the cake; Devizes Arts Festival surprisingly pops up to host some awesome events this month, when it’s usually confined to more summery months. Despite we’ve outlined the individual gigs lined up at the Arts Festival, back when it was announced in August, such has lockdown caused much jiggery-pokery with the dates of such things, and not forgoing I’d suspect the Arts Festival got itchy fingers and simply couldn’t wait until summertime to present us with some amazing performances, these things need reminders, so here I am!

Though the opening gig, Thursday’s Ronnie Scott’s All Stars Jazz Club Tour has sold out, tickets for the others are on the table awaiting your attention, plus, of course there’s free fringe events across town too. Let’s have another look at what’s on offer here, to wet your appetite shall we?

Under the banner, “the show must go on,” the Arts Festival are delighted to welcome Sally Barker to Devizes, on the 13th. In this new show ‘Sandy, Joni & Me’ she will bring some of the songs of both Joni Mitchell and Sandy Denny to the stage, exploring the singer/songwriter legacy that was forged in the early ’70s.

Veteran folk-blues singer/songwriter Sally Barker became Tom Jones’ finalist on The Voice UK 2014 after reducing her mentor, and many watching the TV, to tears with her performances. Sally has toured with Sir Tom, Bob Dylan and Robert Plant amongst others. Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans said, “Sally changes the atmosphere in a room when she sings.”

And Friday 19th is Motown Gold time at the Corn Exchange. Dust off your dancing shoes for a fabulous evening from a fantastic band. Motown Gold celebrate the finest songs from the timeless Motown and Classic Soul era, which kind of speaks for itself.

As for free Fringe events, The Muck & Dundar have loop pedal guru Arif Najak bringing laid-back reggae sounds on Friday 12th. Sunday 14th is at New Society, where you’ll find Bristol’s dynamic jazz vocalist Lucy Moon, performing energetic swing and classic swing-era tunes to liven up your Sunday lunchtime. Booking is essential for this one, contact New Society to reserve your table.

There’s a couple more fringe events before the Arts Festival’s grand Motown finale; South Wales’s Big Sky are at The Crown on Wednesday 17th, with roots rock infused with touches of blues, country and psychedelia, they are known for being one of the few bands containing brothers who have not yet had an on-stage altercation! And Thursday 18th sees Mark Harrison at the Three Crowns. An original and interesting songwriter, a stunning guitarist, and a master storyteller.

It is, in all my years of running Devizine, the biggest November I’ve ever seen! But the Devizes Arts Festival doesn’t stop there, this is just filling a gap. I asked artistic director Margaret Bryant if there will be something in the pipeline for a summer arts festival too, and she replied “yes, we’re already planning 2022!”

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, just look forward to November; get your Devizes Arts Festival tickets here, for all other gigs and events, see our event calendar for links and info; see you out and about, folks!


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It’s Beginning to Look a DOCA Like Christmas

Devizes Outdoor Celebratory Arts are in the thick of planning for the Lantern Parade and Winter Festival, set to take place at the Market Place on Friday the 26th and Saturday 27th of November, but it looks doubtful the usual mass-gathering to see Santa Claus switching on the Christmas lights will be possible this year.

Divided in opinion on controlling the pandemic and vaccinations we may be, but I’m certain, though disappointed, it would be an understandable move to spread the festival out for safety reasons, as it did so well with the town’s celebrated International Street Festival in the summer. Not forgoing, we’ll all agree, the last person we need to test positive at this time of year, is Santa!

“Traditionally Devizes Lantern Parade,” DOCA announced, “a huge magical community event comes to our streets on the last Friday of November, it is usually part of the Town Councils Light Switch on.  Things may be a little different this year.”

 But, let’s look forward for the positives; posters are going up around town this coming week, lantern making workshops in schools and at the Wiltshire Museum will take place on the 7th and 21st of November, and DOCA is gearing up to present the town with a wonderful parade and market. “We can confirm that we will have an amazing festive market,” they delight to inform, “with carefully selected sellers and makers bringing unique gifts, tasty food, and drinks to our Market Place.”

“The Makery” in the Corn Exchange will hold independent crafter stalls on both days, where you’ll find beautiful handmade gifts. Fantasy Radio will be playing festival tunes in the Market Place, Devizes Town Band will bring class brass to the Market Place, from 6-7pm each evening, with fireworks straight afterwards, and the highlight lantern parade starting off at 6:30pm.

There is a revised route for the parade, DOCA advises checking maps on lampposts around the town. Collect your lanterns from St. John’s Church between 5pm until 6pm. Leave unwanted lanterns under the Christmas Tree in the Market Place for recycling.

Other first-time things to look out for include the Air Giants, outside the Corn Exchange and the Town Hall at 5:30pm and 8:30pm. Amazing gentle giants, Triffid and Luma are huge illuminated, emotionally expressive, soft robotic creatures. “You may think the wind is blowing them, but they can actually sense you and will interact with you as you approach them,” DOCA claim. This I have to see for myself; who knows, by the end of the evening we’ll be best buddies and probably stop off for a pint at the British!

Also look out for Ghost Caribou; part caribou, part spirit, roam a mystical world after dark. That being outside the Mayflower on Long Street at 5:30pm and 7:10pm, and they’ll go walkabout along the High Street and Long Street afterwards. Join them as they clear a space to perform their other-worldly ceremony, with music, song and shadow puppets they tell stories of lost homes, impossible migrations and seeds of hope before continuing the journey into their hauntingly beautiful dream-world of the night.

Spooky! Hope to catch you there, with mulled wine and mittens! Find out more, HERE.


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Arts in Calne; October sees the Calne Music and Arts Festival

Calne Music and Arts Festival (CMAF) is a community celebration of music and the arts, which takes place during a ten-day period at the beginning of October each year, and this year is of no exception.

The festival aims not only to provide entertainment for the people of Calne and surrounding villages, but also to promote local musical and artistic talent. It was inaugurated in 1974 and has grown substantially over the years, showcasing some exceptional talent, whilst reaching a wide cross section of the community.

Starter for ten, there’s an art exhibition at Marden House, home to most of the festival. The exhibition presents hundreds of pieces from beginners to internationally exhibiting artists from in and around Calne. Opening times: Saturday 2nd: 10:00am – 4pm – Please note the Family Day will be in progress. Sunday 3rd: 10:00am – 02:00pm & 04:00pm – 05:00pm. Monday 4th to Friday 8th: 10:00am – midday and 01.15pm – 05:00pm. Saturday 9th: 11:00am – 02:00pm – Free Artists Talk 10:00am – midday.

There’s a Festival Club, a wine bar at Marden House, open before evening events and for interval drinks. Light lunches, snacks and drinks will be available throughout the Family Day, Saturday 2nd October. Coffee and cakes are also available on weekday evenings after the main event when there is a free late evening concert. Light lunches will be served following the weekday lunchtime concerts.

So, it starts off on Saturday 2nd October with a Family Day at the Pocket Park, and the evening sees Calne based family trio, The Shelburne Ensemble, comprising of Laurence Davies, French horn, violinist Siân McInally and pianist Helen Davies. Laurence until recently has been principal horn for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, of which Siân is still a member.

Lorna Davies

The shows, exhibits and events come in thick and fast, see the program here. Highlights include guitar teacher at Marlborough College, Mark Willcocks with a classical guitar and Renaissance lute, and an evening with Will Blake and the PSG Choir, both on Monday 4th. Returning jazz favourite, Catherine Sykes on 5th, Bath-based folk quartet Concrete Prairie on Thursday 7th and The Bonfire Radicals on the Friday.

Concrete Prairie

Info and Tickets Here


Win 2 Free Tickets HERE!

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