The Return of the Wharf Theatre

Word on the towpath is our wonderful theatre, the only theatre in Devizes, The Wharf Theatre is preparing for curtains up in October, starting with an amateur production of My Mother Said I Never Should.

Since being forced to close in March the team have been working tirelessly to keep East Wiltshire’s best loved and only theatre afloat. There was a time, in June, when the future looked rather bleak for the little theatre. After the renovation three years ago, surplus funds were already low, then lockdown happened. The Gazette reported it may have to close due to a £30,000 shortfall in income. Celebrity patron Christopher Biggins praised and promoted a campaign, at the time they hoped to reopen for 2021. So good news is, we’re some months earlier you can enjoy the Wharf productions once again.

While it’s great news for entertainment in town, be aware and be quick to book. Only thirty tickets are available for each performance, in line with current guidelines. They can be purchased by ringing 03336 663 366; from the website Wharftheatre.co.uk or at the Devizes Community Hub and Library on Sheep Street, Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm

Last years’ Chair, Oli Beech says: “Break out the bottles, the phoenix of theatre does rise from the ashes and soars high above Devizes! Our dear little theatre is back in the black after a close encounter with disaster! The call went out and boy, was it answered. We’ve had donations pouring in, generous members and locals passing the hats around, bake sale proceeds, even an overwhelming donation of £10,000. We are so thankful to everyone who has helped us either financially or with their many words of support and encouragement….”

During their enforced closure the team hosted three costume sales to raise further funds; completely updated their website and launched a YouTube channel to keep people entertained with specially filmed monologues and some short behind the scene films.

The Wharf also welcome a new Artistic Director, Debby Wilkinson. “Restrictions are beginning to lift but with social distancing still very much in place,” Debby said, “anything we do in the theatre itself will be limited. However, we are very proud to launch the first three plays of our Autumn/Winter season.”

Whilst social distancing restrictions remain in place please continue to refer to their website for the latest details. But I’m happy to announce the new performances will be:

My Mother Said I Never Should

Friday 16th and Saturday 17th October 2020 7.30pm each evening

Written by Charlotte Keatley and Directed by Debby Wilkinson       

This rehearsed reading is scheduled to run on October 16th and 17th.   First performed in 1987, this play breaks with convention in that it doesn’t follow a linear timeline.  The text is now studied for both GCSE and A level and tells the stories of four women throughout several periods of their lives. It explores the relationships between mothers and daughters along the themes of independence and secrets. It is a poignant bittersweet story of love, jealousy and the price of freedom through the immense social changes of the 20th century.                   Copyright: this amateur production is presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals Ltd on behalf of Samuel French Ltd concordtheatricals.co.uk


 Tickets: £10/£8 concessions.

Adam and the Gurglewink

Friday 13th and Saturday 14th November

7.30pm each evening with a 2.30pm Saturday Matinee

Written and Directed by Helen Langford

Three rehearsed readings of an original play by the Wharf’s own Helen Langford.   Adam is planning to run away when he stumbles across The Gurglewink, a childhood toy who has come to life in the attic.  They form a reluctant friendship where reality blurs and magic happen. They meet Rainbowgirl who challenges Adam to a dangerous quest which will depend on his ability to keep going when things are not always what they seem.

Suitable for children 6-12 years and their parents. Tickets:/ £8/£6 concessions


Collected Grimm Tales

Monday 14th to Saturday 19th December       7.30pm each evening with a 2.30pm Saturday Matinee

By: The Brothers Grimm     Directed by: Debby Wilkinson

Familiar and lesser known stories are brought to the stage using a physical and non-natural style of performance.  These stories journey into the warped world of imagination.  We will meet Hansel and Gretel, Ashputtel, Rumpelstiltskin and others, performed by a small adult cast, on a simple set.  The audience will need to use their imagination and fully embrace the living power of theatre. Suitable for children and adults.

Copyright: this amateur production is presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals Ltd. On behalf of Samuel French Ltd concordtheatricals.co.uk  Adaptor Carol Ann Duffy Dramatised by Tim Supple and the Young Vic Co.  Tickets: £14/£12 concessions

PREVIEW: White Horse Opera’s production of Bizet’s Carmen @ Lavington School – Wednesday 30th October, Friday 1st November and Saturday 2nd November 2019

This Opera Is For You!

Andy Fawthrop

Carmen is an opera in four acts by the French composer Georges Bizet, based on an original story by Prosper Merimee, first performed in 1875. It is written in the genre of opéra comique, with musical numbers separated by dialogue, and it shocked its early audiences with its breaking of social conventions. Nowadays it is one of the most popular, and frequently-performed, operas in the classical canon. And, of course, it features two very famous arias – the Habanera, and the Toreador Song.

It is set in southern Spain and tells the story of the downfall of Don José, a naïve soldier who is seduced by the wiles of the fiery gypsy Carmen. José abandons his childhood sweetheart and deserts from his military duties, yet loses Carmen’s love to the glamorous torero Escamillo, after which José kills her in a jealous rage. The depictions of proletarian life, immorality, and lawlessness, and the tragic death of the main character on stage, broke new ground in French opera and were highly controversial at the time.

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So – what have White Horse Opera done with this absolute classic of an opera? First up they’ve kept it simple. There are just four backdrops to represent the four locations of the four acts, the costumes are modern and unfussy, and there are very few props. This allows the music, the singing and the acting to speak for itself. It’s also sung in English to keep it very accessible. Even the orchestra is a stripped-back unit of only seven musicians + conductor.

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Stand-out performances came from all the leads – there are no weak links here – Paula Boyagis as Carmen, Phillip Borge as Don Jose, Jon Paget as Escamillo, Barbara Gompels as Micaela, Brian Brooks as Zuniga and Graham Billing as Morales. But the cast has strength in depth, with some fine support work from Jess Phillips, Bryony Cox, Lisa House, Stephen Grimshaw and Robin Lane. The only wooden thing on the stage (making a key contribution to Act 2) was one of the benches from The Vaults!

I enjoyed the production a lot. It had pace, passion and a great freshness. Why wouldn’t you? – the story involves love, smuggling, jealousy, seduction, and death! Definitely worth the trip out to Lavington School.

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Ticket sales have been strong, but there are still some tickets left for the three performance – tonight (Wednesday 30th Oct), Friday 1st November and Saturday 2nd November. NOTE – there is NO performance on Thursday night.


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Andy Fawthrop)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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Mark Thomas comes to Swindon Arts Centre

Images used with the kind permission of Steve Ullathorne

 

I’ve been a admirer of the pragmatic Mark Thomas and his satirical cutting-edge comedy since his days guesting on The Mary Whitehouse Experience at the dawn of nineties, end of this month he’s at the Swindon Arts Centre; could you ask for a more apt date?!

I recall with fond nostalgia how he ridiculed and enraged his local McDonalds, or gambled the entire ten grand profit from the previous show on a hopeless outsider at Doncaster, thanking Michael Grade, chief executive of Channel 4 at the time, for allowing him to waste his money. The notion, he stated, was that it was an exhilarating thrill of washing someone else’s money down the toilet, and likened it to the how the Queen must feel at races.

But it’s been a while since stumbling across his name. Hearing this self-dubbed “libertarian anarchist” comedian is heading to the Swindon Arts Centre on Thursday 31st October as part of a work-in-progress tour, before the real thing kicks off in the New Year, I did a little YouTube catching up type research, and found a decade old stand-up show where he the tackles the fox hunting ban, Tony Blair’s move to the right, and the Islamic extremism hot on the world’s lips. He takes no prisoners, dares to go where other comedians would quiver.

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I have to ponder if the current affairs of a hare-brained conservative ruling, shifting towards nationalism and abandonment of a unification of Europe, simply to maintain billionaire’s tax-free offshore accounts whist politically dividing the country through media-bias, propaganda and blatant fabrications, thus creating a hatred of alternative thinking which even lambasts the very extinction of all life on Earth simply because it’s voiced by a teenage female, is enough ammunition for this cheeky-faced comedian.

The blurb suggests though, his new show, 50 Things About Us will go beyond this, “Mark Thomas combines his trademark mix of storytelling, stand-up, mischief and really, really well researched material to examine how we have come to inhabit this divided wasteland that some of us call the United Kingdom.”

“He picks through the myths, facts and figures of our national identities to ask how we have so much feeling for such a hollow land. Who do we think we are? It is a show about money, history, songs, gongs, wigs, unicorns, guns, bungs, sods of soil and rich people* in the vein of The Manifesto-meets-sweary History Channel.

*(not the adjective Mark has chosen)

MARK THOMAS 3 - Please credit Steve Ullathorne

It sounds like age and the writing of award-winning plays has only in heightened his crusade and hilarious radical sarcasm. I think we can take it as red; he isn’t going to do a Morrissey on us just yet. With a full tour of this show happening next year, here’s something worthy of your attention for the 31st October, what else you going to be doing on that date, eh? Kowtowing Boris Johnson whilst stockpiling baked bean tins before your meds run out?

With an 12+ Age Restriction, tickets are £15.50. Concessions: £2.00 Off, from here.


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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Top Twenty Best Vids of the Vizes!

Wet play project, can’t be bothered to go out. I’ve complied the best-loved videos documenting our crazy lil’ town, yet it can be updated if you know of a better one? And not one of your barbeque party where cousin Billy lost it on the trampoline; I’m not Harry flipping Hill and you won’t get two-hundred and fifty quid out of me, lucky to blag 10p. Let the arguments commence, but I’ve tried to top twenty the best, based on historical fact, entertainment value, general nostalgia and quantity of eighties short-shorts.

1- I was fascinated to watch this near on half-hour 1956 silent film, A Small Town Devizes. Made by cameraman David Prosser, from a series of similar Small-Town shorts. It features the lives of people in Devizes during Carnival Week August 1956. In the YouTube notes there’s an extensive list of people and companies which featured in the film. If it brings any notable points of interest it must surely be lobbying DOCA to reintroduce the drag-your-wife-along-in-a-pram-attached-to-a-motorbike race, methinks.

2 – Lion in the Hall! Courtesy of BBC Points West, the day in 1980 when escaped circus lions paid Devizes School a visit during the lunch hour goes down in history. Were you there, are you showing your age, and did you try feed the lion your mate’s school tie? What about today’s pupils, do you think Mr Bevan should reinstate this lion, maybe give him a TA job? Would your teacher benefit from fighting a lion, it might help to maintain the pupil’s interest in the lesson?

3 – Boto-X clip 1986. See, my Devizes born and bred better half told me about this strict health & safety regulated event and, if it hadn’t been Devizes, I’d probably have branded her a liar. Delighted to see Caen Hill Locks dig up a clip of this incredibly brilliant Boto-X from 1986. Stop! Win a Colour Telly!

4 – Oh get off my back, I’ve read Tess of the d’Urbervilles, just not any other of ol’ Tom Hardy’s books, it’s not like he’s going to hassle me about it. Far From The Maddening Crowd was his first major novel, and had four film adaptations. John Schlesinger’s 1967 MGM version was part filmed in Devizes, and Bill Huntly of Devizes Television loses his shit about it like it was Casablanca or Star Wars; bless. There are some great clips of the film in this interview, of people drunkenly singing and dancing in the Market Place; something you don’t see every day, eh? Yeah, I know, right, not that far from the maddening crowd at all really, wait for the bin to kick out.

5- Out of all Simon Folkard’s gorgeous aerial shot films, last year’s snow-covered town and canal was undoubtedly the most breath-taking. Oh, that Beast from the East, looks beautiful from above, but just to think, I was wheel-spinning a milk-float down there somewhere, holding on to me gold-tops for dear life.

6- While we’re on the subject of the milkman, here’s Madness disciple Mark’s moment in the spotlight as BBC Wiltshire focus on Plank’s Dairy. It has to be nine below zero before he puts his long trousers on, no one needs to see those knees, Mark. Ask him to whistle a Thin Lizzy tune on his round, I double-dare you.

7- 19 36- Last Train From Devizes. Post-punk poets, Browfort, ingeniously fuse synth-pop and local history in this video about The Beeching Axe and the last train from Devizes in 1966. There’s some great railway footage, mixed with their performance at The Bell on the Green. There’s no evidence to suggest the band will reform as Julia’s House to pay tribute to the first train from Devizes Parkway, when…. erm, if it happens.

8 – If you’re considering shoplifting for camera film in town, watch this early-eighties adaptation of the story of Ruth Pierce by Devizes Cine Club, and you’ll quickly be bored into submission. It really is so bad it’s good. I need not mock it, the acting, production and deviation of facts does it for me. Just to say though, is it me, or does the lead role sound a little like Claire Perry?!

9- We love our whacky historian John Girvan, the only man to enter the Town Hall lock up and live to tell the tale, save for feasting food festival fanatics who failed to note there’s the far comfier Peppermill across the road. But did you know, rather than most men whose interests lie more on what’s inside them, John confesses a love for brassieres? So, if your bra goes missing from the washing line, you know who to point the finger at.

10- Proof that either the legendary ghost of Room 4, or stranger still, the Black Swan’s window cleaner has five fingers. In 2014 the Visual Paranormal Investigations team trucked their mystery machine into our town and, without the great Dane and giant sandwiches, set up an experiment to find out if the ghost broadcasts on FM, like Ken Bruce.

11- More actual evidence in this charmingly narrated clip, this time of the Muppetry of the new traffic light system on London Road. Evidence the road planning department of Wiltshire Council are, and I quote, “retarded!” Classic, don’t hold back Truthseeker. I don’t know who you are pal, but you’re defo not Philip Whitehead.

12- There’s countless musical performers I could include here, but perhaps the widest known and appreciated is blues legend Jon Amor. Here he is, at the International Street Festival 2015 with a lengthy but worthy song, Even After That.

13- Talented Arthur Plumb, the Juggling Unicyclist at Sidmouth Street Festival 2015. While there’s a vast amount of street acts posted to YouTube, from our street festivals and carnivals, if I could only pick one it’s this entertaining Devizes TV presentation of a rather youthful Arthur Plumb. Three years ago, Shambles trader Bill Huntly was fast becoming our town’s TV host, where did he go, someone nick his cravat? Seriously though, hope you are well Mr Huntly and wishing you all the best; we loved your short films.

14- Usually reserved for the still camera, Nick Padmore is a man loved by our local music scene, for capturing the essence of its performers. Here though he videos the man, Vince Bell at Sheer Music in the Fold. Not intending to post too many music-related videos here, this 2017 performance is a must, if not just for Ship of Fools, but his amusing ditty about Devizes, Nobody Gets Out of Here Alive, right at the end of this film.

15- If you ever wondered why Tesco shut its Devizes metro branch, this may go some way to explain why. Yep, never had a lick of paint applied to it since the release of Michael Jackson’s album Thriller. The staff were friendly though!

16- Set the captives free! No really, I think they’d have moved convicts before blowing Devizes prison to the ground to make way for housing in 1927, wouldn’t they? Or did they move into the houses? Might explain a few things. British Pathe have millions of videos on their website, search Devizes and you’ll find a carnival parade of the 1920s and an Army Football Cup final from 1955, to name a couple.

https://www.britishpathe.com/video/prison-walls-make-cottage-homes/query/devizes

17- There’s nothing sarcastic I can comment here, even I wanted to, which I wouldn’t, cos I’m not like that; a gorgeously edited film of Devizes at Christmas by Chris Watkins, accompanied by a song written and performed by the equally wonderful Kirsty Clinch, makes my bells go all jingly…I said my bells!

18- Well done Paige Hanchant, for the only Harry Hill style clip I’m going to allow; capturing this amusing moment on the canal, just when it was going so well too; who ordered the chubster? Awl, bless.

19- No one interrupted the march to nip into Greggs for a sausage and bean melt in 1983, not in this pleasant three-minute video of the parade at least.

20 – Moonrakers Fable. Vintage poem narrator Alan Doel puts on his best Wiltshire accent to recite Edward Slow’s 1881 telling of the Moonrakers fable, and illustrated with postcards and emblems, makes a fair job of it. Yet the tale is known only too well in Devizes, it be rioght gurt lush to ‘ear it read in ye olde Wiltshire dialect, ewe.

That’s all folks, well, I’m sure there’s many others, but these were my favs. Not to blow my own trumpet, but Devizine does have its own YouTube channel, mostly I create wobbly musical performance clips, with a cider in the other hand and standing far too close to the speaker to do the band or musician justice, but they seem like a good idea at the time. So, subscribe at your own risk. I set it up primarily to capture this meeting with local street magician Raj Bhanot in Café Nero last summer, and here he is for a bonus vid.

Perhaps, if we get another rainy day, which is doubtful, I’ll find another set of videos based in Devizes. If you know of any which should be included then do send the link. Saucy ones to my personal email though, please.


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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At This Shoebox Stage

Have you ever loved a show so much that you wished you could kidnap the actors, keep them in your basement and get them to perform it again for you? No? Just Rupert?

After a successful three week run at the Miniver Theatre, a troupe of young actors are ready and willing to let go of their most recent production and move on to bigger and better things, but Rupert isn’t going to let that happen. He loves the piece to the point of obsession and can’t let their show die. There are a few things you should know when trying to save a play from death. Thing number one: the actors aren’t gonna like it. Trapped in a basement, forced to rehearse and fearing for their lives, there is only one way for the performers to gain their freedom.

They must act their way out…

The intriguing new drama-thriller work, At This Stage is on at The Shoebox Theatre, Swindon on Saturday 12th October at 7.30pm. Suitable for ages 14+
Tickets are £10 from HERE

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Living Together at The Wharf

Monday 21st – Saturday 26th October sees the next Wharf Theatre production, Living Together, by Alan Ayckbourn and directed by Mervyn Harrowven.

 

When the Norman Conquests (named after the plays leading character, assistant librarian Norman, as opposed to the Kings William and Harold!) burst onto the theatre-going public in the early 1970s, they were a revelation. Here was domestic comedy that spoke to everyone; intelligent, well-observed and extremely funny. Today they are regarded as possibly Ayckbourn’s most ingeniously constructed set of plays.

 
The second in the trilogy, which features the same characters in the same house during the same weekend, Living Together takes place in the living room. Here we are introduced to incorrigible womaniser, Norman, his wife’s family and a vet.

 
Certain liaisons have been arranged but when plans change, and Norman drowns his sorrows in a bottle, the scene is set for the testing of married relationships and the comic dissection of middle-class morality.

 
Tickets (£12/under 16s £10) can be purchased from Ticketsource at: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/the-wharf-theatre/events or at the Devizes Community Hub and Library on Sheep Street, Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm or by ringing 03336 663 366. To find out what else is on at the Wharf pick up a new Autumn/Winter brochure which is available from the Community Hub and Library and many other outlets around Devizes. Tickets for this year’s panto, Cinderella are being snapped up, so get in quick!


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Forty Years of The Wharf Theatre, we look forward as well as backwards.


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Now a trail of leisurely pursuits, remnants of an industrial thoroughfare are still visible on The Kennet and Avon Canal. While some lay dormant and dilapidated since its decline in the 1850s, many have been put to good use. Enhancing the tourist attraction, cafes and inns make use of warehouses and wharfs, but none perhaps as much as the small, 18th century warehouse, adjacent to the Kennet & Avon Canal Museum at the Devizes Wharf.

It’s been home for The Wharf Theatre for the past forty years, officially opening on the 16th May 1980 with a production of J B Priestley’s When We Are Married. Prior to purpose-built arts centres, Devizes was the only local town with its own theatre, and it remains the only dedicated theatre in East Wiltshire.

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Formed in 1947, The Devizes and District Amateur Dramatic Society, were never happy using the Palace Cinema or Corn Exchange, and though it gave them the name Wharf Theatre in ‘73, even the first premises in Couch Lane was unsuitable. It’d take another six years before Kennet District Council redeveloped the Wharf, and the site as we know it today was reserved.

Handy, perhaps that the then treasurer, John Hurley, was former assistant chief executive at Kennet District Council, but the fact we have our own theatre is largely due to him and wife Beryl. However, if you think the theatre is all a bit hoity-toity for you, consider it was renovated with labour provided by youth, under a Job Creation Scheme, and part-funded by the Manpower Services Commission, a quango addressing unemployment. It’s said all members chipped in to help, working alongside offenders on community service!

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If you’re still not convinced, thinking this is all before my time, (me too, honest!) stick around as Devizine wishes the Wharf a happy 40th birthday, and with their autumn-winter season brochure out, highlight what’s happening over the coming season. With an incorrigible womaniser, ghostly horror, an amateur boxer and a pimp, skiffle and comedy songs, flap-tastic family comedy and pantomime, oh, and Boycie, there may be something for you.

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It starts 23rd -28th September with a ghost story, and everyone loves a ghost story. The Turn of the Screw, which we previewed here.

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On Friday 4th October they trace back a plethora of comedy songs. Probably The best Comedy Songs in the World Ever…. Maybe! covers a history of comedy songs, from Noel Coward and Lonnie Donegan to Monty Python and The Goons. Bernie Cribbins is in there, and of course, if they need any props for the customary Benny Hill song, I’ve a milk bottle or twenty.

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Also note I can do a cracking impression of both Boycie and Marlene, but not to order. John Challis has an audience with on 12th October, revealing on-set secrets from Only Fools and Horses and the actors Sir David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst. You know this one makes sense, Rodders.

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Comedy a running theme for the early autumn, Alan Ayckbourn’s Living Together runs from 21st to 26th October, introducing us to the incorrigible womaniser, Norman, and his family of recognisable middle-class types whose personalities are never quite as predictable as they seem.

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One of the UK’s beloved comedians and impressionists, Duncan Norvelle and award-winning singer and entertainer, Maggie Regan visit the Wharf Theatre on November 1st. Combing eccentric humour with high energy roots music, it’s all funny songs, crazy costumes and virtuoso music with The London Philharmonic Skiffle Orchestra on Friday 8th November.

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In residence at Pound Arts, Corsham, but taking their show internationally, expect flap-tastic family comedy, when The Last Baguette Theatre Company presents The Bird Show on the 9th. Suitable for the “whole brood,” including fledglings from three plus, this madcap and touching show about birds facing changes to their habitat uses live music, puppetry and lots of silly bird jokes.

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Now, I don’t wanna think about it just yet, sure you don’t either, not while the sun is still shining, but the big C wouldn’t be the big C without pantomime, and the Wharf has Cinderella running from Friday 6th to Saturday 14th December.

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New decade, 2020 then, and nobel laureate Harold Pinter’s Tony Award-winning 1964 two-act play, The Homecoming runs from Monday 27th January to Saturday 1st February. Directed by Lewis Cowen, this is vintage Pinter, but its twists are worthy of Alfred Hitchcock.

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When Teddy, an expatriate American philosophy professor, brings his wife Ruth to visit his old home in London, he finds his eccentric family still living in the house; his father, a retired butcher, his uncle, a chauffeur and his brothers, an amateur boxer and a pimp. In the conflict that follows, it is Ruth who becomes the focus of the family’s struggle for supremacy.

With a rich history, notable past performances and maintening an eminent yet pragmatic, hospitable atmosphere, The Wharf Theatre is something for Devizes to be proud of. Check the website for more details of performances and tickets.

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© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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Street Festival, Yeah!

Images used with the kind permission of

Tanya Jurkiewicz Photography

and Gail Foster

 

Gigantic bouncy slide outside the trusty Pelican, where we usually wait for a bus. Beyond, a superior stage surrounded by pockets of circus acts, charity stands, clothes stalls, and street food heaven wraps the Market Place, where DOCA gave information and a Pimms bar bustled. Happenings snaked down Snuff Street, over St Johns, and across the town centre, the atmosphere buzzing. What’s not to like?

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From fudge and churros, to Tibetan cuisine and crocodile burgers, food and drink was diverse. Stealth Brewery held the most aesthetic bar and seating area, The British Lion occupied the other, functional side, frantically serving the cider which gives this event it’s local auxiliary namesake. Yes, Black Rat Monday, or as the wonderful organisers would favour you call it, The Devizes International Street Festival. Upon us, the customary bubbliest, most multicoloured and all-round brilliant community-fuelled event to bless our spirited market town.

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If many a festival constitutes packing camping gear, blagging petrol money off mates and trekking through town and country to attend, DOCA bring the spirit of festival to your doorstep, and do it with bells on. As the crowd bobbed and gyrated at the main stage, I spotted a musical statue, poised to snap a photo, or ten. Gail turned to me with a smile, “it’s my favourite day of the year,” she uttered. Whatever I write of it will be deficient and incomplete, for there’s so much going on. It’s our Mardi Gras; you wander, you catch what you can, go where you like, impossible for me to document it all, especially half-toasted as I was! Gail summed it in a sentence.

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As the sun shone, I must say yet again, this was the fantastic event it traditionally always has been, and improves annually. Impossible to stage something so vast and varied without slight hip-cups. I’m not rising to grumpy hecklers taken to Facebook to whinge their futile vendetta against DOCA, all over a carnival date change so volunteers can take a well-earned break and schools can be encouraged to participate. Drunkenly calling for the artistic director’s head on a platter, as if they were the manager of Newcastle is pathetic. Did you slip through a wormhole and appear in an alternative reality, because I thought it was awesome? Take your storm in a teacup to Rio, least upon return from Lalaland give yourself the directive to resist the urge to post when sozzled!

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Ha, an opinion piece it be, refraining from writing journalistically as I do, it’s my belief we should praise DOCA, award the highest accolade. This weekend was tremendous. Budget didn’t stretch to quite as many cosplayers, walkers and random street theatre than previous years, something funding will help towards, or hey, the attendees maketh the festival; maybe dress up yourself! No Andy; Spiderman onesie is in the wash, thank you!

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My attention was drawn to an apparent lack of activities at the Northgate end, usually the child-friendly zone. I’ll say Sunday on the Green is more geared towards our younger, still it’s fair feedback. Though, it’s all the criticism I will accept as constructive. Yes, unobtainable was sitting around The Market Cross; it was fenced off due to structural damage and danger of pieces falling; no fault of DOCA. Similarly, a band mistaking their performance time is an unavoidable calamity. This caused a rather vacant period on the main stage, which was a shame, yet well-oiled crowds laughed between themselves, and thus away with the fairies went such trivial issues.

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However, it did mean many flocked past the Town Hall, an area which usually fizzles out back to the reality of everyday Devizes. I’m so happy to say, prompting DOCA to take onboard our local music scene, I suggested something I really couldn’t commit to; had to work in the morning. But it was so, that Pete of Vinyl Realm had similar ideas, and executed a second zone of music in a manner I couldn’t have. My dream to have a little marquee with some acoustic singers was transformed into not only a trailer stage, but acoustic area and vinyl DJ, adding that extra dimension and rounding off the festival site with a definite border.

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It was here where some excellent sets played before an audience larger than we anticipated. Strange Folk were amazing, yet it was Daydream Runaways who really bought the stage to its pinnacle. Sweltering, this upcoming pop-indie amalgamation of Swindon and Devizes, who I’ve been hailing with praise since I discovered, really delivered an energetic and proficient set of favourite covers and their own accomplished originals.

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Often supporting the guys, Ben Borrill acoustically owned the area next, followed by Devizes space-rockers Cracked Machine. Having not managed to catch this headline act live up till now, I pondered if they could recreate the sublime atmospheric ambience they do on record, and I was not disappointed. This Pink Floyd of the vize volleyed it out of park. With trickles of intoxication, the sound apt under the heat of the sun, the crowd were whisked away blissfully.

 

This was, quite honestly, a highlight of the day, the whole idea to have the second stage was. So, a massive respect goes to Pete, Jacki and all at Vinyl Realm for organising and funding this, and to the Lamb who supplied the power, in more ways than one; I saw Sally wander over to band to hand them all some well-deserved hot dogs!

 

If this doesn’t convince DOCA to support our local music scene, nothing will! Pete has already suggested interest in doing it again next year. But, feeling the need to cover as much of the festival as possible, I scarpered back to witness the most gorgeous African fusion band on the main stage. Blinking heck, s’ all going on, so much so, it’s going off.

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Truly fantastic DOCA and everyone who contributed their share, worked the bars, hosted side stalls and attractions and of course, the bonded spirit of you, the revellers; dotted with the special events, leaving next weekend for Confetti Battle and Colour Rush, I call to embrace this change, as this is destined to progress annually, we should be the envy of all of other towns and be proud of what has been achieved this weekend.

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© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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Spectacular Space-Bots at the Shoebox; Family Performance & Drama Workshop

Swindon’s Shoebox Theatre are getting excited to welcome Edalia Day to the Theatre, as part of their Artist Residency Programme, and invite children aged 7-12 to join in the fun!

Edalia will be developing a new piece of theatre called ‘Spectacular Spacebots.’ It’s a new family show about autism and space adventures. The children will be sharing a relaxed, work-in-progress performance with an after-show Q&A on Saturday the 21st of September.

Join Zee, robot adventurer, as they battle space wizards, gunslingers and a quizzical hippopotamus, asking what does it mean to be human. And how far do you have to go to be accepted as one…

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But the fun doesn’t stop there! There will also be an opportunity for to take part in a FREE pre-show workshop with Edalia.

In this physical workshop, you’ll play improvisation games and learn how Edalia makes theatre. Exploring the voice and movement of digital characters and acting alongside them, using a mixture of wordplay, puppetry, chorus and physical comedy.

Workshop: Saturday, 21st September, 11am-12.00 Midday
How much? FREE!
Suitable for ages 7-12

Work in Progress Performance and Q&A: Saturday, 21st September, 13.00pm
How much: £3

Suitable for all the family aged 5+
Approx. runtime: 45min

Book at www.shoeboxtheatre.org.uk/whatson


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A Touching Conclusion to Clifton’s First Marlborough Open Studio

If you need a feelgood story this week, as the Marlborough Open Studios closes for another year, newcomer to the event and our friend here at Devizine, artist Clifton Powell made a big impact with a heart-warming conclusion.

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Founder member of the Marlborough Open Studios, Elizabeth Scott exhibited every year from 1985 at her studio at Minal, until she moved to Savernake Forest in 2006. There she continued to show in Newbury Open Studios.

Elizabeth starting as a photographer in Rome in the 1960s, where she chronicled Italy through the many people she met there. She settled into family life in Wiltshire in the 1980s and the inheritance of dark room equipment from her brother-in-law led her to study photography at Swindon College.

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Commissioned to produce a series of local portraits, she gained an interest in painting. This second half of her artistic career took her from Marlborough College Summer School to study at the Slade Summer School at St Ives, the Verocchio Arts Centre in Italy and more recently for the Rabley Drawing Centre. Her painting, drawing and etching from these travels, along with inspiration from the Wiltshire downs were all shown in her open studios and exhibited further afield.

All this came to an abrupt halt in 2017 when Elizabeth had a pulmonary embolism, following a number of mini strokes. Determined to keep up her art she joined a local watercolour class and then was offered a place in an Arts Together group in Pewsey. This is where she met Clifton Powell, one of a number of volunteer artists who lead the groups.

Marlborough Open Studios chose an annual charity to support, and this year it was Arts Together. If you recall, I spent a special day visiting Clifton at a group in Melksham, here is how it went, it also goes some way to explain the importance of the work Arts Together does.

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This final weekend of the Open Studios came to an emotional pinnacle for Clifton, who was displaying some of Elizabeth’s work within his own open studio exhibit in Potterne. Elizabeth made a surprise visit at the studio. She took great pleasure in seeing her work on show again. Good friend, Bev said, “The whole family came, eight of them, all the way from London, and they had a family picnic in our lounge! It was very touching.”

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Her family commented, “Arts Together has been without doubt the most human and empathetic support offered to her during difficult times.” Showing some of Elizabeth’s work at this year’s Open Studios was an opportunity to both honour her work as an artist, her founding contribution to Open Studios and the ongoing work of Arts Together.

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© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


 

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Marlborough Opens Studios in July

Imagine, if you will, don’t feel you have to on my account, but imagine an art gallery the size of a county, with forty artists exhibiting over a whole month. For some that may be overload, it’s understandable; there’s only so much trudging through an art gallery one can do without the need to scream “where’s the door, my head can only take in so much?!”

If there’s also apprehension from the artist, it’s understandable, if you even get to meet them. It’s a gallery, you’re a potential customer, they’ve got to be sober, wear plastic smile and clothes not splattered in gouache. Art galleries can often be perceived as chic, swanky places, the chinking of wine glasses and ho-ray Henries chortling, “oh, how awfully common.”

How better to visit a more relaxed artist, at their home or studio? That’s the beauty of an Open Studios event, and we have a whopper on our doorstep. Often lonesome by occupational hazard, those creative minds open up their studios in faith you’ll pay them a visit. They call it Marlborough Open Studios, but it pans across the downs from Calne and Devizes to Hungerford, and from Pewsey to Wroughton.

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Arty Pumpkin

We previewed it last year, don’t think we got much of a thanks or response from the committee, truth be told; probably favouring pressing the local rag and those ritzy websites and publications with covers of models in Harris Tweed suits and shooting rifles over their shoulders, prancing about woodland. There’s the whole systematic issue with art today, it’s considered too hoity-toity for the average, chips-from-the-chippy type person. I despise this stereotype; art appreciation should be for the masses. I like art, I don’t wear a beret, never have.

Anyway, I’m waffling. Thing is, with forty artists on show this year, I couldn’t possibly cover them all. So, I encourage you to browse their comprehensive website or pick up the guidebook distributed locally. I’m going to flick through, highlight some I like the look of, the rest is up to you.

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Normandy Barcelo-Soto

It is free to visit any artist, and they open for the first for Saturdays and Sundays of the month of July, but you need to check ahead for the particular artist as not all open every weekend. Some have special events and workshops which may incur a cost.

Again, the Open Studios committee select some exhibiting artists for a bursary award, these this year go to Japanese inspired furniture maker Josh Milton and bespoke hatmaker, Sophia Spicer.

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Mark Somerville 

I’m delighted to say The Marlborough Open Studios has chosen Arts Together to be supported charity this year. I’ve covered the charity some months ago, when I attended a workshop by artist Clifton Powell, one of a number of volunteer artists who lead the groups.

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Clifton @ Arts Together

It should be noted that Clifton Powell will also be exhibiting his fine realism paintings from his Potterne home, a variety of wildlife, locally and throughout his travelling, and the most poignant theme of unrest in the world.

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Roy Evans

Here’s my alphabetical rundown of other favourites to attend:

Anne Swan at Rowde: Botanical coloured pencil drawing.
Arty Pumpkin at Wroughton: urban mixed media printmaker with word and image combinations.
Diccon Dadey in Hungerford: amazing modern metal life sculptures.
Jenny Pape at Chirton: Oil Landscape artist.
Mark Somerville at Ogbourne St George: Lens based urban artist.
Mary Wilkinson at Mildenhall: oil and pastel landscape artist.
Normandy Barcelo-Soto in Froxfield: Mexican modern surrealist.
Roy Evans at Potterne: Coppersmith sculptures of nature.
Sarah Burton at Chirton: Expressive landscape artist.
Susan Kirkman in Ramsbury: multi-media landscape collages.
Susie Bigglestone at Calne: abstract photography.
Tania Coleridge at Wroughton: Textiles, pastel and paint imagery.

Yet, it’s just the tip of the iceberg, there is so many others to explore. Do check the website.

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Chatting Carnival with Loz

With a nail in the offside rear tyre, I’ve got a three-quarter of an hour window to nip to Mike Woods and stop for a drink at Times Square before the school run. Prioritise Worrow, prioritise; erm, just a cup of tea thanks, you get a little biscuit on the side anyway.

Loz Samuels beats me hands down when it comes to time management, it’s her second visit to coffee shop today, chatting and encouraging the progress of DOCA. Whenever I catch her, Loz laments how crazy it’s all been, yet I suspect she wouldn’t have it any other way. Appears to me she personifies the satisfaction of commitment so much it’s scary; procrastination not in her agenda, unlike me who lives by its golden rule.

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Skipping the announcement of Vinyl Realm’s second stage at the Street Festival, as despite being the reasoning for arranging the meeting, I measured both Pete and I too enthusiastic about the prospect to wait till now. Seems Loz wanted to concentrate on the subject of carnival and the nearby sub-events, opening with a partnership project with Amesbury Carnival. “We’ve created a six-feet high puppet of a mammoth,” she explained, confirming after some deliberation of the crane’s availably, it will stomp its way through our procession.

I note it’s the kind of thing you see at carnivals in South America or the Caribbean. “Yes,” she agrees, describing a second mahoosive moveable puppet of a Neolithic woman, “it’s quite colourful, because the theme is Through the Ages, so it works, it works well for them (the sponsors) because they wanted something to do with heritage.”

There was me thinking about an old British Pathe film showing a Devizes carnival of yore, but Loz explained the theme is more general, not as I thought, a historical look at Devizes Carnival. “No, just through the ages, you know, could be the future, could be aliens, but maybe someone will interpret it like that.”

So, carnival is on the 13th July this year, a change that’ll bring the walls down and make life no longer worth living, according to “traditionalists” on social media. In our last chat with Loz, we enlightened the reasoning for the change, aside the fatigue of DOCA’s volunteers with a full fortnight of events, the hesitancy of schools to contribute during summer holidays has opened up. Schools are able to work on their projects earlier in the year, and workshops have been running in seven participating schools, with others coming. The theme, Loz explains, is suitable for their curriculum too, be it Victorians, or pirates for example; one positive reason to change. Loz stressed how pleased she was with this change; carnival wouldn’t be carnival without the children.

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We move onto the notion that the subevents, the Colour Rush and the strictly Devizes “thing,” The Confetti Battle can now be on a Saturday too, rather than weekdays as previous. “So hopefully,” she nods, “there will be masses there. We had four thousand there last year, and on a Wednesday night when you’ve got to get up next day, it’s quite late….”

“It’s going to be different every year, I mean,” she continued, “how many times are you going to go to Confetti Battle when it’s the same old thing?”

I agreed, despite my kids loving it when younger, they consider they’re getting too old to bother. “But they might do this year,” Loz interrupted ardently, “because there’s gonna be massive inflatable crazy things that’ll appear in the crowd!”

Loz’s hopes for additions to this year’s Confetti Battle are from Willy Wonka’s rulebook, golden tickets to win £50 in the bags of confetti, and more side attractions will add to its appeal. “The Confetti Battle could be nationally known,” she continued, comparing its potential to the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Roll, “but not on a Wednesday night. People aren’t going to be travelling from, say, London on a Wednesday night.”

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Confident to grow this unique element of our carnival, Loz continued to express advantages of the battle commencing over the weekend, taking down the rigs in order for market the following morning will be a thing of the past, meaning a more elaborate setup. She had a meeting with the astatically pleasing festival, BoomTown, aiming to create a visually stunning spectacle with wider appeal.

If cynical of her ambitious outlook, Loz claimed, “the sky’s the limit, if we can raise money to put into it, then we can do it, we can do anything, so, it’s a start, I’m aware people are sceptical about changes but if we stay as we are, we’re not going to grow, we’ve no potential to make money, our arts funding will decrease.” Seems logical to me. We talked of possibilities, of Caribbean carnivals where the procession concludes into an arena for a concert afterwards. “I think it’s really exciting,” she stated, “doors are opening now.”

The crucial thing to note in this chat, is that this is only Loz’s third year at the helm, finding her feet has been uphill, with a system only documented only in her predecessor’s head. She now feels in a position to build on past experiences and deliver us the large-scale outdoor events we will be talking about through the forthcoming ages.

So, let’s get things straight right now, DOCA’s program of events is ever as lively, but with a few changes:


Saturday 6th July: Carnival Costume Making Workshop @ Wiltshire Museum:

Help prepare a large-scale costume to walk in this year’s parade. Families and children aged 8+ are invited to make some spectacular back pack style costumes. This will be a group making session working on revamping backpacks which will match with costumes made by our school groups, in either Medieval, Tudor, 18th Century, or Victorian style.

Artist and costume designer Abi Kennedy will guide you through making a colourful back pack, a fun and creative afternoon is promised. No experience is necessary.


Wednesday 10th July: Skittles Night @ The Wyvern Club

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Saturday 13th July: Devizes Carnival Through the Ages.

Entrant registration from 4pm, Procession starts at 6:15pm.

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Sunday 18th August: Picnic in the Park @ Hillworth Park


Sunday 25th August: International Street Festival @ The Green


Monday 26th August: International Street Festival @ The Market Place

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Friday 30th August: Kennet & Avon Canal Trust’s Music by the Canal

6.30pm until 10pm @ Devizes Wharf.


Saturday 31st August: The Colour Rush

Starts at Green Lane Playing Fields and finishing in Market Place.


Saturday 31st August: Confetti Battle @ The Market Place

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UduL by Los Galindos @ The Green
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An award-winning Catalan circus company who inhabit a traditional Mongolian yurt which will be located on the Green for three days. Saturday 24th August: Doors 7pm Show 7.30pm, Sunday 25th August: Matinee Doors 1.45pm, show 2pm. Evening Doors 7pm Show 7.30pm, and Monday 26th of August: Doors 7pm Show 7.30pm. Minimum age recommended from 7 years. TICKETS: £5 Early bird price until 31st July, thereafter: £7 each, £5 for under 16’s.


Shop Window Competition

Shops around town have placed one item in their window, during Street Festival fortnight, that they don’t normally sell. Spot them all and be in with a chance of winning £25! Entry forms will be available online throughout the Street Festival Fortnight or from Devizes Books and the Town Hall. Completed forms can be left at the Town Hall.


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REVIEW –Devizes Arts Festival Fringe – Josephine Corcoran – 16th June @ The Vaults, Devizes

Penultimate Parade of Poetry

 

 Written by Andy Fawthrop

Images by Gail Foster (except the one of Gail Foster)

 

Another gig on the final day of Devizes Arts Festival, and something a bit different for the penultimate performance of the Free Fringe – a nice portion of poetry.

Down into the dungeons of The Vaults for this one – a perfect venue for a spoken-word event (The Vaults doesn’t have a music licence). After availing myself of an appropriate libation from the wide range of craft keg and cask beers/ lagers/ ciders in the upstairs bar (where the staff were still recovering from the shock of actually getting to see and serve our esteemed leader Darren the day before [They were delighted Andy, didn’t even take my cash- Ed],) I descended into the cellar to meet the very charming Josephine Corcoran. Josephine is not only a poet, but also a playwright (having had two plays performed on BBC Radio). She also runs a regular poetry group in nearby Trowbridge.

A goodly-sized audience (including a few poetry virgins) had assembled and enjoyed two sets of poetry. In each set Josephine read both from her latest publication (“What Are You After?”) as well as some newer unpublished poems, followed by half a dozen or so local contributors in an “open mic” slot. Josephine’s contributions were thoughtful, personal and close to home, as we learned from her careful introductions to each piece. The efforts from the floor varied in style and tone (including Gail Foster’s fine villanelle regarding the passage of time and of people), comic reflections on luxury toilets and on sex, together with more personal and reflective pieces on topics such as loss of loved ones, memory, separation and even anger. Standard stuff for a Sunday afternoon down the Vaults really. But, seriously, a hugely enjoyable and well-attended event. Hopefully we can do something similar next year too.

Josephine’s latest book is called “What Are You After?” (published 2018 by Nine Arches Press) and you can find out more about her, and her poetry, at www.josephinecorcoran.org

The Vaults’ Poetry Group meets monthly at 7pm on various dates TBA. Next meeting is on Wednesday 26th June. Each month a theme is set as a prompt to inspire new work. You can come with your own work, bring poetry by someone you admire, or just come for a listen. This month, a topic suggested by the latest guest at our table is “Addiction”. Who knows where that one will go? It’s sure to be deep, with a smattering of the light-hearted and supportive conversation that is the hallmark of this poetry group. Work, screens, exercise, love – the scope for addiction is as diverse as the waves on the sea, but is there a thread that links them all? Bring along your work and let’s explore together.

And well done (yet again) to Devizes Arts Festival for putting this on as a Free Fringe event.

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Legally Blonde Jnr Comes to Devizes

You got into Harvard Law?

What? Like, it’s hard?

Hey, get your flaxen Barnett around this; Legally Blonde, rom-com, chick-flick adaptation of Amanda Brown’s novel of the same name is eighteen years old. Yeah, like, I know right. Two years later they made the sequel; although a smash at the box office, it never raised a reviewer’s eyebrow, banally crashing the blonde versus brunette joke which Archie Comics carried for over seventy years.

Yet the initial movie stands the test of time, I like it and chick-flick generally isn’t my thing; lack of spaceships blowing things up, see?! The foreseeable gags enhanced by Reese Witherspoon’s amusing characteristics, at a time when The Spice Girls’ run of “girl power” was fading. Challenging the blonde stereotype with comical narrative was a peg in female equality and certainly the break for Reese; ummm, Reese Witherspoon…… where was I? Oh yes, female equality.

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Like many trailblazing films, it received a theatrical reworking by 2007. Premiered on Broadway, Legally Blonde had an efficacious three-year-run at London’s Savoy and picked up many awards. Now, directed by Oliver Phipps and Hayley Baxter with musical direction from Naomi Ibbetson, it has found its way, least a “Jnr” version, to our own Wharf Theatre.

Legally Blonde Jr. The Musical opens at the Wharf Wednesday 24th July, runs until Saturday 27th (7.30pm each evening with a 2.30pm Saturday Matinee) and promises to be pink: “The Musical is a fun and sassy journey of self-empowerment and expanding horizons, with instantly recognizable songs, this show will leave cast members and audiences alike seeing pink!”

Plot being, if the film passed you by: The Delta Nu sorority president, Elle Woods, seems to have it all; good looks, a relationship with the campus catch and a great taste in clothes. However, her life is turned upside down when her boyfriend, Warner, dumps her to attend Harvard Law School. Determined not to lose him Elle uses hard work and a fair degree of charm to get a place there herself so that she can prove she is serious and win him back. Whilst there she tackles stereotypes, snobbery and scandal but she also makes some great new friends along the way and gradually discovers how her new found knowledge of the law can really help others.

With music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin, again it’s a rousing and prevalent choice for the delightfully quaint Wharf Theatre. Tickets, £12 with under 16s £10, can be purchased from Ticketsource, at the Devizes Community Hub and Library on Sheep Street, or by ringing 03336 663 366. To find out what else is on at the Wharf pick up a Spring/Summer brochure which is available from the Community Hub and Library and many other outlets around Devizes.

 

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PREVIEW – White Horse Opera sing Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Mikado” – Saturday 15th June @ St Mary’s Church, Devizes

A Bit of Nanki-Poo in The Vize

By Andy Fawthrop

 

Do you like opera? What about “light” opera? With rather a lot of comedy thrown in? Good – because you’re really going to love this!

Last night I was privileged to attend the full dress rehearsal for “The Mikado” by the splendid White Horse Opera company. I was expecting something perhaps still a little rough round the edges, maybe the odd fluffed line, the occasional note or cue to be missed, but there was really none of that. The company had been rehearsing for months, had chosen their principals carefully, and were absolutely up for it.

Yet again – another gem in the entertainment crown of Devizes – we are so lucky to have these people doing this stuff!

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This particular bit of nonsense, a “comic opera” in two acts, with music by Arthur Sullivan and words by W.S. Gilbert, their ninth of fourteen operatic collaboration, opened in March 1885, in London, where it ran at the Savoy Theatre for 672 performances, the second-longest run for any work of musical theatre, and one of the longest runs of any theatre piece up to that time. Since then it’s been translated into numerous languages, and is one of the most frequently played musical theatre pieces in history. The setting is Japan, an exotic locale far away from Britain, which allowed Gilbert to satirise British politics and institutions more freely by disguising them as Japanese. And the company has done an excellent job of the now-traditional exercise in updating the lyrics of some songs to reflect politics Britain in 2019. Particularly pointed was Ko-Ko’s (The Lord High Executioner’s) song about who he’d like to execute (“I’ve got a little list, and they’ll none of them be missed”).

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It’s always difficult, and sometimes a little invidious, to pick out individual performances but I think it’s worth mentioning particularly Graham Billing, who delivered a hilariously nervous and dithering Ko-Ko, Charles Leeming as a wonderfully pompous and self-important Pooh-Bar (Lord High Everything Else), Lisa House as Yum-Yum, and the resilient Ian Diddams, playing The Mikado splendidly as a power-crazed modern dictator. But there were strong performances all round, from every member of the cast. It was so obvious that they were thoroughly enjoying what they do, delivering a top-notch production.

I’m not going to give the plot away, nor would I even attempt to summarise the complicated ins and outs leading to the hilarious denouement – suffice to say that the story is stuffed with disguises, mistaken identities, the fickleness of emotions, and the usual human drivers of fear and greed. The main characters ham it up splendidly, and deliver the songs with confidence and panache, squeezing every last drop of comedy out of the script.

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Given that it’s performed in modern dress, sung in English, and is a laugh-a-minute, it’s completely accessible and enjoyable. So, even if you thought that you didn’t like “opera”, I can assure you that you are going to love this. Thoroughly entertaining stuff!

It’s going to be performed on Saturday 15th June at St Mary’s church at 7.30pm. Tickets are an absolute bargain at only a tenner, and are available via Ticketsource or the company’s website at
https://whitehorseopera.co.uk/

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Future productions by WHO include:

• Wednesday 30th Oct to Saturday 2nd November @ Lavington School – Bizet’s “Carmen”
• Tuesday 17th December – venue TBA – Christmas Concert
• Friday 20th March 2020 – venue TBA – Spring Concert

And if you’re interested in getting involved yourself, whether singing, playing or behind the scenes, just head over to their website. You can also support them by becoming a “Friend” of the company for £20 p.a. Remember – they are an amateur company, supported by volunteer efforts and by voluntary contributions from their supporters.

 

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You Can’t See the Join; Eric & Little Ern at Devizes Arts Festival

Youngsters may ponder how we survived times of yore with just the three TV channels. Certainly, children’s shows stopped at six, new-fangled video recorders were expensive commodities and presented their users with a horrendous relay, poor sound quality and the tedious labour of rewinding. Yet we had something which barely exists today, an eminence of shows designed to entertain a family; can you think of similar today?

Variety performances outclassed anything you might deem akin today. Simon’s Cowell’s amateur talent contest TV shows remained firmly in the holiday camps, professionals reigned weekend viewers which style and panache. Contemplating it, The Simpsons is perhaps the only show the entire family enjoys, as while I’ll watch Britain’s Got Talent, one eye squints.

Ant and Dec are no replacement for The Two Ronnies, arguably the only duo to come close to the sovereigns of weekend family entertainment, Morecombe and Wise. If you never thought you ever see anything like their magic again, think again.

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Ian Ashpitel & Jonty Stephens are Eric & Little Ern, a remarkably accurate tribute that has to be seen to be believed. Spotted the posters of their Devizes Arts Festival’s event on 14th June I thought “yeah, right.” But no still image can summarise the precision of “An Evening of Eric & Ern,” you have to check these videos out.

Away from my theories, do Ian and Jonty think Morecambe & Wise are still popular today?

“We have been asked, many times, over the years what is the lasting appeal of Morecambe and Wise?” says Ian Ashpitel who plays Ernie “I think that it’s a combination of many things; they grew up with each other and had an instinctive timing that is hard to replicate. They were friends first and foremost, closer than brothers. They grew up learning their craft together. Making mistakes together, finding what works and doesn’t work as they played clubs and theatres for over 20 years before being seen on TV for the first time. They were likeable and people could relate to them, to their sense of humour and their comedy. Working class gentlemen as someone once told us. Eric was one of the finest comics Britain has ever seen and, with the perfect comedy foil at his side, it was a truly magical combination. Having played Ernie, it’s made me realise just how good he was. His timing was immaculate and they had a trust in each other that flowed effortlessly through their performance.”

“Exactly” says Jonty, “They were so relaxed together on stage, so funny, that everyone felt safe in their company. They were brilliant because they appealed to everybody, all walks of life, men-women, young-old, everybody found them funny and it’s very hard to do.”

Their catchphrases now engraved in our language, the songs and gags will never fade with time. So, in their show, it’s Ian and Jonty’s aim to replicate Morecambe & Wise’s live theatre shows, with the famous songs and sketches from their TV moments, as well as a few surprises and a guest singer.

 
Ian and Jonty first met at drama school in Birmingham in 1983 where they became firm friends. Even back then people would ask ‘are you a double act?’ to which the boys would answer, in unison, ‘No.’ Jonty is a brilliant mimic; Eric was one of many impressions he would perform from an early age. He’s a self-confessed Morecambe & Wise anorak and it was his knowledge and love which proved to be the bedrock of their story.

 

Now jobbing actors and members of The Stage Golfing Society, in 2002 Ian and Jonty would put on a review/show. They performed a five-minute sketch and were instantly told ‘you must do something with this’. It has to be said by now nature had taken its course with Jonty’s hair and Ian had fully developed the short fat hairy legs!

 

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During the run of the initial show, which had moved from Richmond to the Edinburgh Festival, Eric’s son Gary Morecambe saw the show and loved it. Support and approval from the family were massively important to Ian and Jonty and continues to be so. The show then went on a hugely successful tour, which culminated in its first West End run in the Christmas of 2013 at the Vaudeville Theatre.

 

The show was nominated for an Olivier Award in 2014. Another tour and a Christmas run at the St James Theatre London followed. Devizes has a grand chance to witness it from the comfort of their own town, one of many highlights of our Arts Festival. Tickets are £21 here.

 

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Barb’d Wire and Corn Exchanging; Reggae Finds a Home at Devizes Arts Festival

Never content with what contemporary music thrust down our throats, even as a youngster, the easiest and sneakiest place to hunt for origins was Dad’s record collection. It would be years before he discovered the shortfall of vinyl and confronted me. Sixties Merseybeat and blues-pop standard, I recall the intriguing moment I unearthed a shabby cover of a girl’s naked torso, “Tighten Up Vol 2” was inscribed on her abdomen in lipstick. So, when he did, I inquired why he bought this, Trojan Record. More concerned where his Pink Floyd gatefold had vanished to, he half-heartedly explained, “it was something different,” as if he didn’t wish to divulge too much, “and cheap.”

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The estate of Bob Marley is still argued over, he never understood how to handle the royalties of rock star. Other than a BMW he had no extravagance, the house on Hope Road a gift from Blackwell, in which he lobbed a single mattress in the corner of a bedroom. What you see of the Jamaican music industry in the movie, “The Harder they Come,” is staunchly realistic; peanuts a too expensive commodity to compare to payments made to singers and musicians.

Poor wages triggered a prolific industry, hundreds of hopefuls jammed Orange Street awaiting to be ripped off. Trojan Records was founded the year after Bluebeat dissolved, 1968. The reasoning both English labels sourced Jamaican music was originally to supply the Windrush generation with the sounds of home, it is doubtful either realised the legacy they would leave. The underpaid nobodies singing on these records meant Bluebeat and Trojan could lower the price tag when compared to what upstarts like Bowie or Clapton would require, and price was everything for white British kids attempting to amass vinyl for house parties; as my father summed up.

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Though the attraction may’ve been the price, the enticement of these records came when the needle hit the groove; these rhythms were insatiably beguiling and exotic. I felt that ambiance too, and fell head over heels. But my palette had been preconditioned without comprehending it. Slightly too young to have immersed in the youth cultures of the late seventies, the sound bequest our pop charts.

Whether it was Blondie or the Police, or Madness, The Beat, or Piranhas, the charts of pre electronica eighties was inspired by the two youth cultures of punk and skinhead, and until the day I discovered a Bluebeat 7” of Prince Buster’s Madness, exposing Suggs and his Nutty Boy’s embodiment, I had no idea. Jerry Dammers’ Two Tone Records only had six years, an insecure contract with a get-out clause after one single, saw the acts achieve acclaim and jump ship.

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But if we celebrated Trojan’s fiftieth last year, we must do the same for Two-Tone’s fortieth, as it engraved its hometown, Coventry, as firmly on the ska map as Kingston. Within its short run Two Tone defined an era and reintroduced the roots of the dub reggae scene that punk spurred to white British youth; ska. The nonchalant rudimentary street-styled design of Two-Tone’s corporate identity is today considered standard ska practise; Dave Storey’s chequered monochrome background with Walt Jabsco, a character based upon a Peter Tosh image.

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It may have challenged punk with chicness akin to mod, but today, these subcultures are inconsequential, we can bundle it all into one retrospective burlesque, select whatever element of any of them and fuse them without pretence or offense; one reason why a group like Barb’d Wire is fresh and electrifying.

Though hailing from Two Tone’s home, Coventry, drummer and vocalist, Trevor Evans, a.k.a. ET Rockers, having begun his sparkling career as roadie turned DJ for The Specials, and with a brass section arrangement by Jon Pudge, ska is only an element of Barb’d Wire’s sound. Guitarist Ryan Every, Fingers Aitken on bass, and Mark Bigz Smith commanding the keys, blend influences as far and wide as punk to orchestral and blues into a melting pot of reggae. Fronted by the spiralling, gospel-inspired vocals of Cherelle Harding, their unique sound drives a heavy dub bassline, while not divulging on its preconditioned instrumental ethos. What we’re left with is a genuinely contemporary reggae lattice landing the group as firm favourites on the dynamic Coventry scene and festival circuit such as Skamouth.

 

While tracks like Duppy Town and Et Rockers Up Town, on their 2017 debut album, Time Has Come, rely on dub, a stepper’s riddim thrives throughout, but incorporates aforementioned influences. The only recognisable cover, for example, is the classic Latino-inspired Rockfort Rock of which the Skatalites perfected a ska-rhumba amalgamation. Produced by Roger Lomas, who also handles Bad Manners and The Selecter, again, Barb’d Wire pride themselves with Two-Tone influences, yet unlike the standard ska cover band you’re likely to get on our local scene, who all have their place in maintaining a clandestine but welcomed scene here, Barb’d Wire will be a fresh and welcomed gig, when they arrive at Devizes Corn Exchange on Saturday 1st June as a feature of Devizes Arts Festival.

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For me, and any reggae/ska/soul aficionado, this is simply unmissable, but for the Arts Festival it may be a risky move, breaking their typical booking in search for newer audiences. While organ recitals, poetry slams and theatre noir have their place, we owe it to ourselves to support this event in hope it will spur future events at the festival of an alternative and contemporary genre. That is why you’ll see our Devizine logo proudly on the posters for this particular appearance, as though we plan to bring you more in-depth previews and reviews of this year’s stunning line-up, I’m most excited about this one!

 

Saturday 1st June: Tickets available now, £18

 

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Made in Dagenham, Showy at Dauntsey’s

Under the circumstances perhaps the most thought-provoking character in the musical Made in Dagenham is wife of Ford Dagenham’s boss, Lisa Hopkins; through her own reservations about her plush lifestyle, the career-aspiring housewife convinces the female factory worker’s spokesperson, Rita O’Grady, that the campaign is one of sexual equality rather than a class struggle. When while the real Ford sewing machinists strike of 1968 did indeed trigger the passing of the Equal Pay act, the issue is quite clearly rooted in worker’s liberty too.

 
So, I bite the bullet and go against my principals, arriving at the prestigious independent school, Dauntsey’s, to watch The Devizes Musical Theatre’s production of Made in Dagenham on their opening night, yesterday. A private school who brazenly parades its charity status, aids a local primary school, does a few sports coaching sessions at others and then sails around the world on its private yacht. Yet the irony of a play with the theme of working-class struggle staged in this tax-avoiding loophole abiding school, which Theresa May pledged against in her 2017 Conservative manifesto, but soon after quietly dropped, seemed to soar clear over the heads of the audience.

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And hey, who’d flunked it, the theatre there is rather luxurious in comparison to a comprehensive school hall. It served its purpose for this, rather splendidly arranged musical, which though received critical response, ending its run at the West End promptly, I enjoyed. Intrigue drew me to the performance, how one can produce a musical from this principled, true story based social-message film of the same name. That and the fact my upbringing lies in Essex, with roots from the East End, to the point of jaded memories of an aunt chasing me with a spoon of wobbling jellied eels.

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Yet it seems any movie is game for a musical adaption these days and for all that’s worth Made in Dagenham stages some apt, witty and intelligently written songs for the pivotal cast. The musical introduced some characters not in the film, of which the audacious bigot, cowboy Ford director was the most excruciatingly farcical, waving an electric guitar around like Peter Capaldi’s Dr Who car crash moment.

 
Though the script’s characters and content felt patchy at times, I loved the comical depiction of Harold Wilson, played brilliantly by Matthew Dauncey. It was almost pantomime-esque against the stern portrayal of Barbara Castle, acted equally radiantly by Laura Deacon. Yet the fourth wall remained bricked at all times. The moral as serious as the trade union’s dissolvement.

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Giving credit for its humorous components, my favourite by far was Rachel Ibbetson’s representation of factory worker clown, Claire; I guess it had to devote somewhat to the Essex girl stereotype. But mostly it remains ethically witty, rather than lambast a weak county pigeonhole. Though I felt the acting ability was varied, the aforementioned, plus lead roles of Lucy Burgess, Chrissie Higgs as Connie and Jon Paget were all fantastic in their acting and singing solos. A further credit must go to the children, Ivan Barter and Emily Noad, for their thoroughly convincing despair when the chips were down.

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I did enter with intensions to jokily knock attempts at the Essex accent, and indeed many actors did purvey more West London pronunciation, yet trivial elements aside, I came out satisfied at a job well done. Particularly poignant was the orchestra, who played marvellously, if not overpowering on-stage dialogue at times. To nit-pick further, the production could have been tighter. The lighting felt limited, microphone moments of lapse, and severe feedback at times, we must overlook; this was presented as amateur dramatics at its best, and the motivation and love of the arts clearly shone through, to demonstrate a dedicated and worthy production. Yeah, box ticked my love, I’m off shopping in Chigwell, rightly portrayed as the San Francisco of Essex!

 
Made in Dagenham only runs at until Saturday, so I’d advise you drop into Devizes Books and hope they’ve still got tickets. Shows start at 7:30 with a 2:30pm Saturday matinee.

 

Devizes Musical Theatre

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Melksham Assemble!

I’m standing on the stage of the Melksham Assembly Hall…. have no fear people of the Sham, I’m not about to burst in song, leave that to the professionals. On Friday, direct from London’s West End the UK’s biggest George Michael tribute, Fast Love, will take my place. Right now, a Tuesday afternoon, the hall is being used as exercise for stroke patients, an indication to the diversity of events at this Council facility, a range Deputy Facilities Manager, Bruce Burry is proud to express; that’s why I’m here.

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Bruce worries about space, the tribute act requesting four dressing rooms when they’ve only two, and a video wall which may not fit, yet the hall is grand on scale for a market town with a capacity of 450, and I cannot help but feel, unlike some prestigious venues, it’s being used to it’s full potential, thanks to the team behind the scenes. And while it’s contemporary design may not aesthetically topple a Bath theatre, with a central location, free car parking and excellent disabled access, it is functional and practical.

 
Yet surely, it’s the quality of event which maketh the night, and while I note there’s a preponderance of tribute acts, they’re all eminent, first-rate, tried and tested. Bruce informed me the Fast Love tour is taking around the original George Michael saxophone player; always a good emblem to take a former original in a tribute act.

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“Tim will vet them,” Bruce explained, “and possibly go see them. We try to get original bands too,” he stated, “we’ve had loads here.”

 
“You recently had the Searchers?” I rudely interrupted.

 
“Yes, I think they come once a year,” Bruce continued, and was keen to point towards comedy too. “I mean, we’ve had Des O’Connor, Lee Evans, and Rich Hall, most recently.” Bruce provides an anecdote on Rich Hall, wandering through the town, getting a feel for the place; inspirational for local observational comedy methinks. The current pamphlet displays Cornish favourite, Jethro on the cover, who is here Friday May 3rd.

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As well as Fast Love, in just the forthcoming months, There’s tributes like Bon Jovi Forever on 13th April, The Ultimate Stone Roses on the 4th May and Kast Off Kinks on the 9th May. Yet I must remind myself, I’ve been here on a handful of occasions, recently for the Legend, Bob Marley tribute, which was dazzling, it flipped any qualms of tribute acts I had clean on their head.

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Bruce was keen to point out the full kitchen, “we do dinner clubs and Sunday lunches when there’s nothing on, or on really big events it’s a bottle bar, taking the strain off the main bar.” The hall is often converted into a cinema, a roller disco, and is home to regular events like the Melksham Rock n Roll Club, West Wilts Model Car Club, The Arts Society, Historical Association, and 55+ senior forums. The annual charity fundraising Female of the Species gig is another memorable gig I attended here, and it’s one of many fundraising events held here. With all this variety and the future development of the old Football club as recreation grounds, it’s simple to see how the Assembly Hall is a community hub we should envy here in Devizes.

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I remind Bruce about the Melksham Comic Con, hitting a high point when although another comic con is doubtful in the near future, he expresses a love of sci-fi and ponders the chance of such a convention. Newly appointed events apprentice, Alex excuses herself while the subject digresses to Daleks temporarily, then we’re onto scanning posters of former events.

 
My tour finishes with a cup of tea in the lounge, and this aforementioned mountain of posters of previous shows which adorn a table; there’s great variety, from male strippers to big bands, and pudding clubs, Only Fools and Horses styled meal where the character lookalikes serve you, to beer festivals and significant and impressive acts of past, which shows no sign of declining.

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The Assembly Hall goes beyond the reach of its town, and deserves to attract from Trowbridge, Chippenham, Devizes and beyond. But while experienced Tim Cross is head Facilities Manager here, Bruce also coordinates The Melksham Party in Park and has been doing so for ten years, before joining the team. The event spans two days, July 19th and 20th. Saturday being the Party in the Park, a pop-orientated family festival at King George Park, which alongside Take That tribute, Take @ That, Kirsty Clinch, and Six O’clock Circus are confirmed this year. I ask of the importance of booking local acts. “I try to keep it local actually,” Bruce nodded, “until about half-past ten when we have a main act.”

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ParkFest is the Friday evening, which started as a warm-up, but has equalled in importance now, “if not taken over it,” Bruce expressed. AND, with live PA tribute FunBoy 2, brilliant local ska band, Train to Skaville, and The Neville Staple Band headlining, it’s easy to see how this event is the more mature option, and is tickling my taste buds!

 
While I’ve been kept busy exploring the delights Devizes has to offer, entertainment wise, it’s great to hear how well our nearest neighbour does too. Only a stone-throw away, The Melksham Assembly Hall is worthy of a visit, providing great variety. Devizine will continue to add their events to our calendar and notify you of them, but you can check the website here, Facebook here.

 


And as for the Party in the Park and Parkfest, more info here.

 

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April Showers with Stuff to Do….

Birds singing, the blossom on the trees, and that first cut of the lawn (groan!) Spring is here and it’s time to venture out and about, without snood and snowshoes. This summer sees some great events and gigs, but what’s on offer this early? Let’s take a look at what’s to be doing this April.

It’s always worthwhile heading to the Southgate in Devizes on a Wednesday if you like acoustic music, you’ll discover regular acoustic jam sessions, where any of our great local musicians may just turn up and improv.

But this Wednesday 3rd, there’s also open mic at New Inn Semington, or the Lamb in Devizes hold their fourth vinyl listening night with Pete from Vinyl Realm. From 7:30-9:30pm you can join this social gathering with a log fire and nibbles. Take your favourite album along to play and natter about all-things music with other vinyl lovers. It’s free, nibbles too, and they’ve a raffle.

If you take your kids anywhere this weekend, Horrible Histories is touring and at The Wyvern from Wednesday to Sunday 7th, with Terrible Tudors / Awful Egyptians.

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For a fiver a pop, the weekend kicks off on Friday with Sheer Music back down the Cellar Bar for the second in a series dubbed Subterranean. Young indie band Falling Fish and Devizine favourites Larkin support Clock Radio. Meanwhile there’s raw roots blues with the king of cigar box guitar, Howlin Matt down the Southgate. But if you want to get dancing, it’s good to hear house music returns to town, it’s Funky Sensation’s launch at the Exchange with DJ’s George G-Force, Nina LoVe and Stach; preview here.

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It’s also good to see People Like Us returning to their former place of residency, The Waterfront in Pewsey, while George Michael fans need to head for the Assembly Rooms in Melksham for Fast Love and lovers of a golden era of music from the 1920s and 1930s need check out the Pasadena Roof Orchestra at the Neeld, Chippenham.

But most eyes focus on Swindon, ska fans in particular, with The Erin Bradwell Collective at the Castle and Ska-Bucks at the Vic, but also, their Fringe Festival begins. Running from Friday 5th to Sunday 14th, there’s a truckload of variety across Swindon’s finest venues, from the Groovy Pig Festival, and our friends at The Ocelot with their regularly hosted comedy nights at The Vic, to bizarre theatrical performances at the Artsite, The Olive Tree Café, and nerdy night of action figure archive show, After Dusk: An Improvised Twilight Zone at The Incredible Comic Shop. Check out the website, too much to list here!

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Saturday night is owned by Devizes, with the Billy Walton Band at the ever-popular Long Street Blues Club, The Duskers live at The Southgate and of course, The Full Tone Orchestra are at St Johns being Big, Bold & Russian. That said, I’m cannot wait for I’ll be at Asa Murphy’s Buddy Holly Lives show at the Corn Exchange, in honour of Bruce Hopkins, oh boy, this’ll be a knockout; preview. (Apologies, terrible pun, could’ve at least pre-warned you!)

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But rock n rollers are spoiled for choice Saturday as Melksham Rock n Roll Club brings us The Hurricanes at the Spencer Sports & Social Club from 7pm. while Local Heroes Inc at The Jenny Wren in Calne, and Port Erin at The Lamb, Marlborough also come recommended, rum n reggae fans need to head for Wotton Bassett, where Razah-I-Fi and Knati P are blasting some sound system culture at the Cross Keys.

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Sunday is Devizes Half Marathon and Fun Run, I’m certain “fun-run” is an oxymoron, but c’est la vie! Be Well, a Holistic Wellbeing & Spiritual Event is at Corn Exchange, but I’d consider PSG Choirs for Alzheimer’s Support @ The Neeld, Chippenham.


 

April’s Second week sees the highly-anticipated production of Made in Dagenham by The Devizes Musical Theatre at Daunstey’s. Running from Wednesday 10th to 13th, this uplifting British musical comedy about friendship, love and the importance of fighting for what is right is inspired by a true story and based on the hit movie, Made in Dagenham. Book a Ticket here.

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Friday 12th is all about Sheer Music’s favourite American, Olivia Awbrey down the Cellar Bar of the Bear, Devizes. To be honest, Saturday looks rather quiet, so far, Fret ‘n’ Keyz are at The Southgate while country fans will enjoy Zenne and Shooting the Crow at the Cavalier.

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Meanwhile Marlborough’s Sound Knowledge celebrates Record Store Day. This year’s list is available online: https://recordstoreday.co.uk/releases/rsd-2019/ They’ll be open from 8am with hundreds of titles from the list. Get in touch with Sound Knowledge and let them know what you’ll be hoping to pick up on the day, they cannot reserve anything, but it insures correct ordering. The fun continues on Sunday, with an amazing live music roster from midday, including The Leisure Society, LION, Tom Speight, Little Geneva, and Wilding. It’s free entry, and has a Bar and barbeque.

Melksham’s newest pub, The Hiding Place hosts song-writing and touring legend, Henry Priestman, a founder member of punk band Yachts in the 70s, and The Christians in the 80s. This is at The Rachel Fowler Centre in Melksham, the venue is so beautiful and yet few people even know it’s there. £10 per ticket, can be bought at the bar in The Hiding Place or over the phone. Eighties soft metal fans meanwhile could take in Bon Jovi Forever at the Assembly Hall.

Swindon also has a metal tribute on Saturday, with Whole Lotta DC at The Vic. But if you’re over that way, I cannot recommend the Boot Hill All Stars enough, they’ll be with Monkey Bizzle at The Rolleston Arms. But if you want to take your kids raving, you know, show them how you did it, Raver Tots return to Meca with Nicky Blackmarket.

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If you’d rather not thrust your bad habits at your children, grab a £10 ticket to the Neeld in Chippenham on Sunday, when it’s Pongo’s birthday party! A colourful farmyard is the setting for these loveable puppet characters; Pongo’s Party is a family show particularly suitable for 2 – 7-year olds, and includes a special guest appearance by the Easter Bunny!

If that all seems a tad too much, adults could try cross-border folk multi-instrumentalists and festival favourites, The Shee at the Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford-on-Avon. An exceptional all-female band boasting powerful and emotional vocal performances and instrumental prowess.


The third week of April sees another Devizes Books Presents event on Wednesday 17th. The theme is Shopping! Women are supposed to love it, men to hate it. Both have written about it. Hear India Knight on its joys, G.K Chesterton on how much he hates grocers, and Sophie Hannah on what she got up to in bookshops. Much more, including Dalgit Nagra, Bill Bryson, Fanny Burney, Evelyn Waugh, Radcliffe Hall plus a guest appearance by a local poet, (that our man, Andy?) 7 for 7.30 Tickets £6 to include a drink and nibbles. Over in Swindon, the Wyvern have a Celebration of eighties soul idol, Luther Vandross.

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Thursday 18th rock fans could try The Sultans of Swingers @ The Bear Hotel, Chippenham, while space rock fans head to The Bell by The Green, Devizes for Pink Floyd Tribute, All Floyd; it’s a fiver on the door. BUT -If you missed Little Geneva’s album launch at the Cellar Bar in March, or you’re just in Marlborough and thinking, I want some raw, passionate blues, Little Geneva are at Club Thirty8, tickets are a fiver too, and you get the incredible George Wilding supporting.

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Ska fans point your boots and braces in the direction of Swindon, where the Erin Bardwell Collective play to their home fans at Beehive before heading for the London Ska Festival. That or, Vic Fest 2019 at, The Vic, where else?! Mod and scooterist fun continues on Friday when the Exit 17 Scooter Club do an Easter egg run, with local sixties garage band, Absolute Beginners at the Consti Club afterwards.

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In Devizes town Honeytrap return To the Southgate, and Vinyl Realm Presents their second drum & bass come house bash at The Fold in the Lamb, with Harry B (Gyro Records) James Threlfall (Mini Rig) and Rappo (b2b/Retrospect.) These nights are quite exclusive, with 50 fiver tickets for each event, 30 spaces on door, but fear not, for Saturday they’re doing it again with a house/trance night with DJ’s Rappo, Morgosis and Shaun Ashley of Rapture recordings.

You haven’t got to go raving though, people of Devizes; Sam and Finley are back together as Larkin Live at the Southgate, or Katy Ellis is at the Devizes Family Club in the Cavalier donning two tributes, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift.

Easter Sunday book your kid into the Hillworth Park Easter Egg Hunt quick, as it’s limited, and at £3 at pop, going to be popular. Adults hide away in the Three Crowns with People Like Us. If contemporary reggae is your thing, try Reggae Wiltshire’s Easter Sunday Reggae night at The Skybar Melksham Football Club; Reggae, RNB, Soul & Ragga mixed by Reggae Wiltshire’s exclusive DJ Mister M.

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Of course, Easter will flow over to Monday, and where better than the Southgate, Devizes where Nuages Gypsy Jazz play some, well, gypsy jazz I’m guessing! It is also the opening night of Andrew Bovell and Freddie Underwood’s Things I Know to be True at The Wharf Theatre, running until Saturday 27th April.


All is rather quiet while we digest our chocolate eggs or else spew them up on mum’s fluffy white stair-carpet. Friday 26th April then, Devizes has King Louie at The Southgate, while The Cavalier have Abba tribute, Abba’s Angels, and its Open Night at the Pump in Trowbridge.

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Renowned Sculptor Fernando P Saenz exhibits at Wine St. Gallery, Devizes from Saturday, and the quiet period crashes down. George Wilding down The Owl in Bromham, the incredible Nerve Endings blast out down The Southgate, and All That Soul returns to the Devizes Scooter Club, after a sell-out show this time last year.
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Out of town, The Delray Rockets are at the Melksham Rock n Roll Club, it’s Buckfest at The Roebuck, Marlborough, the Chippenham CAMRA Beer and Cider Festival at The Olympiad Leisure Centre and the Long Arms Music, Cider & Beer Festival near Steeple Ashton. Dylan & Igor @ Wiltshire Music Centre in Bradford on Avon and Swindon has Shepard’s Pie at The Vic and Complete Madness at Level III.

There’s a tribute to Alfie Boe and The Musicals at Devizes Family Club in the Cavalier on Sunday 28th, and wind down the month at The Vaults with a Tapas Night on Monday, or April Lightgarden at Bradford Folk Club on Tuesday 30th.

Before you’ll know what’s what it’ll be May, with the Devizes Lion’s May Fair, Hopdog Fest at the Woodbridge, Urchfont Scarecrow Festival, Born to Rum at the Wyvern Club Devizes, The Seend Beer Festival with Train to Skaville, Melksham TownFest, All Roads Lead to Frome at Cheese & Grain, Chippenham Soap Box Derby, Shindig Festival, Chippenham Folk Festival, Lechlade Festival, OwlFest, and loads more from the Coopers Hill Cheese Roll to Jason Donovan, yes, Jason Donovan at the Cheese & Grain, and when you’re done with that, it’s Devizes Arts Festival. Keep one step ahead with Devizine, continue to scroll the home page where events are added, like, nearly all the time!

 

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Things I Know to Be True at The Wharf Theatre

 

Ever since Little Shop of Horrors, the things I know to be true about The Wharf Theatre are that, it’s a lovely, unpretentious theatre Devizes should be proud of, and it’s dedicated to bringing quality shows to our town.

Written by Andrew Bovell and directed by Freddie Underwood then, The Things I Know to Be True is their latest offering. It runs from Monday 22nd to Saturday 27 April, curtain at 7:30pm, and despite being a relatively new piece, its first UK production in 2016, it is already on the GCSE syllabus.

Claiming to be an inspirational compliment of text and movement, Things I Know to be True is as beautifully touching as it is funny, a portrait of marriage and family as seen through the eyes of four siblings, Pip, Mark, Ben and Rosie, all of whom have their own struggles and secrets.

Bob and Fran Price have worked hard to give their family all of the opportunities they never had and now, with their children ready to fly the nest, it should be their time, a time to sit back and smell the roses. But a change of season brings some shattering truths as reality is tested and lives are redefined.

Tickets (£12/under 16s £10) can be purchased from Ticketsource at:
https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/the-wharf-theatre/events or at the Devizes Community Hub and Library on Sheep Street, Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm or by ringing 03336 663 366.

To find out what else is on at the Wharf pick up a new Spring/Summer brochure which is now available from the Community Hub and Library and many other outlets around Devizes.

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Feeling the Force of The Devizes Arts Festival

If there’s a stigma among the typical denizen surrounding the Devizes Arts Festival that it’s all rather pompous and geared toward the elder generation, all walks and organ recitals, and that sounds like you, then I bid you look closer at this year’s newly announced line-up.

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Devizes Arts Festival has pulled a colossal rabbit out their hats for this June’s festivities; really, I don’t know where to begin. Yes, some of it conforms to the customary Arts Festival bookings, such as an audience with international journalist and veteran reporter John Simpson (Corn Exchange. Friday 31st May) and an organ recital by the Sub-Organist at Durham Cathedral, Francesca Massey (1st June St Johns.) There’s even a two-hour festival walk; Historic Devizes (2nd June. Devizes Town Centre,) guided by experts from the Wiltshire County Archaeology team, and a Civil War Battlefield walk at Roundway Down on 9th June.

 
Now, don’t get me wrong, while there’s no bad about any such events, and chatting with organiser Phillipa Morgan, who is keen to point out, “we had fifteen sold-out events last year,” there’s many-a darn good reason to cast off this erroneous label.

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I assure, many acts are set to blow some interest in the direction of those who’d not considered the Arts Festival before. Ska, for instance, (you know me, fancy picking on this one first!) with Skamouth favourites, Coventry’s (the home of Two-Tone) Barb’d Wire (1st June Corn Exchange) who boast legendary and original rude boy himself, Trevor Evans, combined with local songwriter/singer Lloyd Mcgrath. This is certain to raise a few eyebrows; perfect for the 40th anniversary of Two-Tone.

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You can zip your soul boots too, for seventies pioneers in funk, The Real Thing are confirmed, (8th June. Corn Exchange.) Known for legendary hits “You to Me Are Everything” and “Can’t Get by Without You,” Devizes is sure to feel the force!

 
Wiltshire’s own Nick Harper is at The Exchange, 13th June, contemporary Congolese and Cuban music 15th June at the Corn Exchange with Grupo Lokito, and experimental prog-rock with CIRCU5 (16th June. Cellar Bar.)

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The brilliant radio, television and stage comedian Ed Byrne (12th June. Corn Exchange) was the other to immediately catch my eye. Joined by special guests, David Haddingham and Sindhu Vee, this one promises to “have you rolling in the aisles.” With sold-out runs at the Edinburgh Fringe, and the West End, it reminded me of a conversation I had with some organisers last year, about how they travel to Edinburgh to source acts for the Arts Festival. This dedication has paid off, it seems, and we’re set for an explosively good year.

 
I asked Phillipa if this stigma was something the committee addressed, as it certainly is a line-up of variety. “Classical music is still there but we’ve tried to broaden the appeal. I think we’ve just moved in that direction as a result of an awareness that the requirement is changing and we’re trying to be more inclusive.”

 
So, what else is up for grabs this year? Children’s author Clive Mantle will be entertaining youngsters with illustrated readings from his time-travelling, Himalayan adventure and talking about his writing and his own travels in Nepal (1st June. Devizes Town Hall 2:30pm.) Although familiar as an actor to audiences of Holby, Vicar of Dibley and Game of Thrones, Clive Mantle is also now a successful children’s author: his first book “The Treasure at the Top of the World” was short-listed for the People’s Book Award and a second book in the series is due out in June. This is suitable for eight-year-olds and above.

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Also, for young-uns, Blue Peter Award winning author and performer, Gareth P Jones presents Aliens in Devizes! (8th June. Town Hall) Pet Defenders, a secret organisation of dogs, cats, rabbits and rodents dedicated to keeping the Earth safe from alien invasion. Suitable ages from six to nine, but sounds like fun to me!

 
The best jazz violinist in the country, Christian Garrick and John Etheridge, one of the most stunningly versatile guitarists, presents Strings on Fire (3rd June. The Exchange.) Meanwhile, two siblings that make up the exceptional violin and viola duo, String Sisters, Angharad and Lowri Thomas String Sisters are at St. Andrews Church on the 5th June. Multiple award-winning musicians, who’ve played with Alfie Boe, Michael Ball, Paloma Faith, Marc Almond, Boy George and Robbie Williams.

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2nd June at The Bear Hotel Ballroom, there’s a quirky, funny and poignant award-winning solo show about Nick Drake; a celebration of music, photography, life, coincidences and the legacy of one of the most influential singers/song-writers of the last fifty years.

 
Competitive improv as you’ve never seen it, The Shakespeare Smackdown (4th June. The Exchange,) is from the creators of Olivier Award-winning “Showstopper! The Improvised Musical.” Britain’s favourite celebrity organic gardener and Gardeners’ Question Time star panellist, Bob Flowerdew has An Audience with on the 5th June at Devizes Town Hall.

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From Atila singing the Nat King Cole Story (6th June. Town Hall) to the dark comic and eclectic music of Moscow Drug Club (7th June Corn Exchange) and from An Audience with grand dame of English literature, Fay Weldon (8th June. Bear Hotel) to Elspeth Beard, the first British woman to motorcycle around the world (8th June. Bear Hotel) no one can deny the quality and variety is extraordinary this year. Talks on Sci-Fi influences on evolutionary linguistics, a homage of renditions of Eric and Ernie, author Clare Mulley’s on her third book, “The Women Who Flew for Hitler”, open mic poetry session with Josephine Corcoran, in fact there’s too much here to list in one article, my wordcount exploding and I fear you’ll be bedazzled by it all.

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So why don’t we regroup tomorrow, when we’ll highlight, in particular, the free fringe events? Phillipa, in charge of the fringe events, notes surprisingly, that although “the fringe events are subsided, for some reason they don’t seem to attract that many people, compared with ticketed recent events such as Rick Wakeman at £45, which sold out.” I think this is down to the aforementioned stigma, and here at Devizine I’m dedicated to prove it wrong. So, same time tomorrow then?

 

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A Get Together with Arts Together

“What we have learned is that simply offering support or information is sometimes not enough,” states Age UK, “older people who are in the worst place often feel there is no hope, leading to a vicious circle of low self-esteem, lack of motivation and reluctance sometimes to ask for, or accept help.”

 
What sounds bad on paper, is often not as the eye perceives. While undoubtedly this is fact, I’m visiting Kestrel Court in Bowerhill, sheltered accommodation for elderly. I bear witness to a lively group, not just engaged in an art class, but merrily lapping up every minute of it. There’re cakes in abundance, tea, and some Mozart as background music. At one-point Gerald gets up to strum a guitar, and once the class is all but ended, the artist Clifton Powell slipped on some reggae; despite hard-of-hearing and cataract, Gladys, from Paraguay, is up dancing.

 
This is the doing of a charity group called Arts Together.

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“I’ve never been a person who joins groups,” Sue tells me as we sit together admiring her still life watercolour, “always been on the edge looking in. I really feel part of this group; that’s so unusual.” Arts Together is perhaps a slightly misleading name for this local charity, as while indeed it provides members with tutorials and equipment to engage in a wide variety of art projects, it also acts as wellbeing, and an invaluable social group.

 
I asked Sue about the community side to it, did she balance it’s worth with the actual art as half-and-half. She agreed it was equally vital, describing her battle with depression. “But this kind of thing really addresses it. There’s so many of the things they say you should do, going to your doctor, behaviour training and what have you, which has never helped me. And then you get something like this, which has been a real help. If this was on prescription, I’d be asking my doctor for it!”

 

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Sue reveals a creative nature, she’s written poems and performed them. Other members of the group, such as Carol, who proudly holds up her painting to show me, has no previous artistic calling. There’s a varied degree of skill, but Clifton commends and encourages all, a reason they all sing his praises. He was joined last minute by Rachel Heard, a Wiltshire artist, known for her “explorations of natural forms,” painting.

 
Arts Together have thirteen accomplished artists, and many group volunteers. In the last year they’ve delivered 180 art sessions, over their six locations across the county. Arts Together meet, in Bradford, Trowbridge, Devizes, Pewsey, Marlborough and here, in Melksham. Projects are as wide as wire and clay sculptures, mosaics and textiles. Sue particularly warmed to the puppet making workshop. I’ve invaded the final meet of this still life project, frames are scattered over the table, once completed a windowsill becomes a makeshift gallery, presenting their work.

 


Arts Together works to support older people who have become physically and socially isolated. I did ponder if they catered for dementia patients and such like, but was informed care homes and hospices organise their own activities, while the elderly in sheltered accommodation are often left out. “There’s nothing like this around here,” I’m told. So, while I didn’t class this as “art therapy” in similar light, it’s indubitably therapeutic, it stimulates and actively encourages the participants to try new things, to be creative and social. In a word, it’s wonderful.

 

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But I’m moved by Arts Together manager, Karolyne’s announcement, “We are on the brink of closure and desperately help.” While this is not the first time the charity has been under financial pressure, they assure me it’s the worst. “Any statutory funding from public money disappeared years ago and it has been our supporters and some enlightened Trusts that have helped us survive.” I find myself shrugging; sad sign of the times.

 
This isn’t some large charity with a whole department dedicated to fundraising, managers balancing campiagns with sessions. It’s lunchtime as I get my coat, I’m invited to stay but cannot. Agreeably I attended for some media exposure, but so welcomed I left with sensation of making real friends. I imagine life for these newfound friends without Arts Together, and shudder.

 
Without Arts Together members return to a solitary, empty week, consequently effecting their health and wellbeing. Wellbeing was a word passed around a lot today, the charity take pride in their achievement, help them maintain it.

 

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There’s a coffee morning at Rick Stein’s on the High Street in Marlborough, on 1st March. Admission by £5 minimum donation, includes coffee tea and cake.

 

I’d like to thank the members I met today, it truly was fun and an inspiration to meet you, and the team behind it. I was enlightened, and think Devizine should stage a fundraising event too, as soon as possible. Anyone interested in helping with me on that please get in touch.

 
Until then, you can donate on the website; please, please, if you can, do. If you’re an artist consider volunteering some time. Any donation from you will help around 80 very frail older people to rediscover their zest for life. Arts Together enables them to rebuild their confidence, self-esteem and resilience and remain living independently in the community for as long as possible.

 

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Wharf Theatre Brings Local Playwriter’s “Broken Wing” to Life

Zara is therapist to a sixteen year old refugee, trying to come to terms with the brutal horrors of war. Her own adopted daughter of the same age is dealing with her ‘inner’ conflict. As the characters of the two girls, Layee and Thea, emerge, they tell not only their own stories but each other’s, to a world which they often feel doesn’t listen or understand.

 
Showing the deep anguish, feelings of loss of identity and abandonment which can link both adoption and asylum, it’s the intriguing plot of Broken Wing, the world premier play of Devizes author Annie L Cooper. Annie was prompted to write it after her personal experiences as a therapist working in Bosnia with the victims of concentration camps, and having witnessed the complex issues involved in adoption. It’s being staged by director Lewis Cowen at The Wharf Theatre in Devizes for Tuesday 19th to Saturday 23rd June.

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Not set in any specific time or place, because sadly these issues still occur in all corners of the world, it’s a powerful production with strong language and disturbing themes, hence its over sixteen guideline.

 
What an inspiring move for our local theatre, adapting a local author’s work and staging an exclusive play which hopefully will be taken up elsewhere.

 
Catch Broken Wing at The Wharf Theatre, Devizes: Tuesday 19th – Saturday 23rd June 2018 @ 7.30pm Tickets £12/£10; concessions can be purchased from the website: wharftheatre.co.uk or at the Devizes Community Hub and Library on Sheep Street, Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm or by ringing 03336 663 366 For further information contact Karen Ellis www.publicity@wharftheatre.co.uk  

Ticket Source here

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Daniella Faircloth in a Shoebox; Unbinding Halloween Chills

It’s been about a year since the editor of Index:Wiltshire sent me to Swindon for the press screening of a new, homemade film. Slightly anxious at the prospect of being among “real” journalists, thought I was in over my head. Instead, I was welcomed by a family atmosphere, with more cakes than journalists (turned out it was the producer’s birthday too.)

 

Immediately I threw off those fears, this isn’t a pretentious Hollywood charade, this is Swindon for crying out loud; only provoking a new concern, how good could a locally made movie really be, would I need to humour wild Swindonian thespians?

 

Turned out I was pleasantly surprised, the film, Follow the Crows, was superb, but my bag of nerves not through yet. An unidentified apocalyptic event threw an oddball bunch of survivors into a baron wilderness, each with their own vicious agenda; the plot of the film unnerving when surreally, you’re sitting amidst the actors playing these fruitcakes.

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At the movie’s close I stumbled up in awe, cake crumbs scattered the floor; this was an awesome film and I felt honoured, as if I was initiated into a secret gang with this exclusive preview. But meeting the actors and one actress, Danielle Faircloth, who I’d just seen at daggers with each other on the screen, I had to acknowledge it was just an act; that’s what these guys do, and very realistically too. This exceptionally talented bunch weren’t about to carve me up over a tin of spam. No, we just shook hands and chatted amicably.

 

I have maximum respect for those who can so convincingly act, my personal performing career peaked when my Shakin’ Stevens impression gained me first place at the Cub Scout pack holiday talent show, the rest has been downhill since (I probably didn’t need to mention that.)

 

The Producer of Follow the Crows, Marcus Starr, explained a lot more work was needed to perfect the sound, and as I write this I’m pleased to announce the team claim a release date is imminent. More on this news as and when, but today I wanted to make a point, and introduce Swindon’s cosy, Shoebox Theatre.

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The Shoebox Theatre is a space in Theatre Square for talented performers, writers, musicians and directors to develop, train, and showcase their work, in hope of bringing something different and exciting to audiences of Swindon. And with the talents of Danielle heading a mature themed horror play, by resident theatre company, the Wrong Shoes, called The Unbinding, I’m rest assured this will be a supreme Halloween indulgence.

 

With a local component, The Unbinding devised from historical accounts of witches from Wiltshire; the play explores mob-mentality and our insatiable need to punish those who are different. Accused of witchcraft, four women are locked together, to await their sentence in the shadows. Scared and hungry they don’t know who they can trust, or who will survive.

 

It promises to be an intense performance, featuring stark realism, horror, physical theatre, strobe lights, and containing scenes of a sexual nature, with violence, and strong language some viewers may find disturbing; has to be scarier than wandering the streets collecting Haribo.

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Book your tickets for The Unbinding, opening on Halloween (31st Oct) and running until 4th November at the Shoebox Theatre via www.theunbinding.co.uk

 

The only thing not scary is the price; tickets at a tenner. Plus, you’ll be supporting the Wrong Shoes at the Shoebox Theatre, who, as well as creating theatre, the registered charity since 2015, also provides educational opportunities for people in Swindon and the surrounding areas to engage in original, contemporary theatre, both as performance makers and as audiences.

 

Look out for ingeniously titled, Much Ado About Puffin too, a performance for the children. Using skilful puppetry, beautiful music, and good old fashioned storytelling, Much Ado About Puffin is about old habits, new friendships and stepping out into the unknown, and runs this Saturday, 14th October.

 

For more information and other performances by the Shoebox Theatre: https://www.shoeboxtheatre.org.uk/

 

But don’t take my word for it; listen to Billie!