Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Nope, just shopping I’m afraid, but a marvellous idea to help small businesses locally!
With a striking superhero comic-book themed corporate identity, a small group of marketing agents from Westbury have donned cloaks and set up a voucher system in support of our local high streets.
Claire Rowlands runs Fundraising in the Community, a local company dedicated to supporting businesses in Wiltshire, whilst helping schools, groups, charities and organisations raise funds. They plan to launch Crusader Vouchers as a subsidiary to FITC Media. As it sounds, it’s a voucher-based concept akin to the website Groupon, but for local small businesses, the ones hit hardest by the lockdown.
Fundraising in the Community is a quality, professional service that offers a unique platform with a tailored audience to help drive prospective new business through the doors of local companies; whilst helping schools, charities, clubs and organisations within the community fundraise for their good causes.
Their voucher idea launches this October, and asks you to “put on your mask, grab your vouchers, support local businesses and bag yourself the best deals in town!” They have a website, but the majority of action is via Facebook, so like their page, where you’ll be able to access monthly vouchers for independent shops and small businesses throughout the South West.
These crusaders of independent shopping say, “the offers that we provide are free for everyone to enjoy, no catches, just straight forward vouchers to take advantage of each month for local small businesses and independent businesses. Due to Covid-19 our businesses need us more than ever so we’re appealing to you to put your mask on, grab your vouchers, buy local and bag yourself the best deals in town!”
Since the successful IndieDay in Devizes, I’ve noticed many similar schemes in local towns but here’s something truly original but like any new scheme, it’ll only work if people get behind it. So please do, everyone loves a voucher!
I am listing local restaurants, cafes and pubs who are participating in the “eat out to help out,” scheme and encourage owners in the Wiltshire area to contact Devizine, to be listed freely. Although you know me, have to have a little rant beforehand, so scroll past my waffling if you wish to get direct to the list! Note the list will be updated, so check back in August.
For information on how to apply for the scheme, see here. Note the scheme comes with restrictions. Only available on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from the 3rd to 31st August 2020, and offers a 50% discount, up to a maximum of £10 per person, for food or non-alcoholic drinks to eat or drink in.
“I believe I dust my broom.” Robert Johnson sung that, the bluesman who sold his soul to the devil at the Mississippi Delta crossroads, in exchange for faultless musical flair, so he must know what he’s on about. Although, to dust your broom actually means to make change, derived from the expression “get up and dust,” or get out of town fast. I didn’t need to do that, just get out of B&Q!
Had my old outdoor broom for decades, but timeworn, it finally gave up the ghost. Sunday, I nipped into B&Q and returned home proud owner of a new broom with a screw-on handle. Too loose, one swipe and the head fell off, tighten it and it passes the thread and…. the head falls off. Time passed and my patience caved by numerous attempts to secure the handle on the head. I came to the forgone conclusion, it’s either fate; star alignment’s fault, since NASA claims I’ve moved from Pieces to Aquarius, or, more likely, it’s mass-produced shite.
After hand sanitising, queuing and following the one-way circuit around the entire store, I returned it, swung into town, parked dead outside Mainleys and picked up a far cheaper, better broom. By very design, glued and stapled, it’s old-fashioned, but a coupling method which has worked for centuries. If it’s not broke…. A lesson learned, then; should’ve shopped local.
Make no mistake, I consider this soundbite “eat out to help out” nauseatingly haughty, coming from a government who had to be dragged kicking and screaming to provide basic meals for school children. Guaranteed, this is yet another move to line the pockets of big business, the mass-producing restaurant chains.
Never forget Boris’s bum-chum, Tim Martin and how he refused to close during lockdown, refused to pay his staff and suppliers. If a Frankie & Benny branch sadly closes, the staff will be the only ones to suffer; that’s sorrowful reality, I’m afraid. Note the variety you think you’re getting with a parade of Wagamama, Frankie & Benny’s, Chiquitito, et all, is false, they’re all the same company and will subside each other; different sauce, same old chicken, pal. If the government are going to open taxpayer’s wallets, I urge the small business and independent eateries, who would otherwise close, lock, stock and barrel, to dip in before the fat cats.
Unfortunately, I’ve experienced the rubber chicken which bounced off the floor of Wetherspoons first hand, lost teeth on Hungry Horse waffles, and felt famished twenty seconds after eating an air-pumped big mac. Like my broom experience, I’m at my tether’s end; best to shop local.
Not that I’m trying to persuade you, the choice to eat out is your prerogative and risk; many pubs and restaurants are continuing to provide takeaway services, many established takeaways are delivering and continuing to provide an excellent service too. Sometimes though, it’s nice to be able to eat out, remember your mask. If you can, here’s a list, then, of local places participating in the 50% off “eat out to help out” scheme; let’s support them.
If you missed my social media requests for participating places to be included, do not worry, I can update this if you twist my arm with some love…. and remember the best way to a man’s heart! Ah, insert laughing emoji here; only kidding, cheeky blagger that I am. Just message me and I’ll get your café or restaurant added! Do take heed though, while we’re here, overflowing with banter, our foodie reviews are the most popular articles, and we’d love to do one for you.
For twenty-seven years Francos was the finest Italian restaurant in Devizes, but with the departure of Sicilian chef, Massimo Pipitone things were never quite the same. Two years ago, Massimo returned to Old Swan Yard to recapture the restaurant’s reputation and with a name change, has succeeded in putting it back on top. Still operating the takeaway service, it begun during lockdown, they’ve now reopened the restaurant, excellently observing social distancing regulations. They serve traditional Italian and Sicilian cuisine, and the pizzas are awesome!
Splendid inn situated at the Market Place, known best for its roast dinners, which can be takeaway too. The Pelican have various cuisine events and has a scrumptious bar menu. An example from this weekend’s roast option: Slow Roasted Leg of Lamb. Chicken is always an alternative every week with a beautiful Home-Made Vegetarian Option. Vegan or Gluten Free diets also catered for with advance booking. £8.95 per person, £5.95 per child, £4.50 per Home Made Dessert. Please telephone 01380 723909 to book.
Sitting somewhere between glorious pub grub and restaurant, New Society in the Market Place was quickly established as one of our best eateries. Our review last September has always been one of our highest hitting articles, and they were glad to announce reopening on 3rd July. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, or perhaps a coffee stop, New Society is a comfortable setting and serves a large selection. Operating usual daytime opening hours, but currently evenings are restricted to Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It is advisable to pre-book for these nights (01380 722288).
One of the newer establishments, it did not take long for 1 Spice in Maryport Street to earn the jewel in the crown of Indian restaurants in Devizes, and rightly so. It’s my chosen place for a knees-under, and is often cited top of majorities’ list. Conventionally, Indian restaurants convey an aptitude of exceptional customer service and etiquette, and 1Spice is of no exception. Expect to be welcomed, but what is more, expect a wide and gorgeous selection, mixing the flavours and spices of India with the finest seasonal ingredients the West Country can offer. It’s driving my appetite for a Ruby just typing this, and I’ve had my dinner already!
Tucked away at Devizes Marina, the Hourglass is a perfect location and serves a high-quality pub menu. Options have been restricted since reopening on 4th July, but expanding now, and takeaway service is available. Booking is advisable for food. Subject to change, opening hours are 11am-9pm every day, with food served between 5-8pm, Thursdays through to Sundays. Book online here.
A cup of Rosy-Lee for me, I’m not a coffee guy. Still, I’ve not been in Tea Inc in the Ginnel (just off the Market Place) and now in Marlborough, sovereign of tearoom towns. This must change, I’m coming for you guys, ensure you have some custard creams! This humble teashop throws off the doily and delicate fingertip-cup-hold stereotype of tea rooms and prides itself with an eclectic, quirky environment they affectionately call “The Shoppe.”
Serving crumpets (fnarr, yurkk, yurkk) sandwiches, salads and soup, this could just be the essential shopping stop-off for tea drinkers; get away from me with your X-L vanilla Nespresso dripping down your MacBook!
Central to Devizes Market Place, Times Square is simply the perfect little coffee shop for a light lunch. Cakes and ice cream, say no more. As the name suggests it may have started by being inspired by American cuisine, yet only in the best possible taste. Times Square is no stranger to hosting the odd event, and is a welcomed shopping stop off.
Brogans Café in the Brittox is one I confess I’ve yet to try. Outside space, ice cream, cakes and milkshakes and smoothies, Brogans prides itself on its vegan options. “Vegan Jaffa Cake style cake” as pictured below, might just twist my arm!
Throughout my years here in Devizes, Bengal Bite in Sheep Street has always been the tandoori kitchen of choice. The Bengal Bite offers contemporary Indian and Bangladeshi food. It’s comfy and hospitable, a romantic place to woe a prospective love with a mild Korma, or equally a place for you and the lads to blow your pants off with a blistering Vindaloo! The Bengal Bite has been voted the best restaurant in Wiltshire by the readers of the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald, and 2014 finalist for Small Business of the Year in the Wiltshire Business Awards.
The most down-to-earth café you’ll find in Devizes, this is Monday Market Street’s gem; great service, gorgeous homecooked breakfasts and lunches at affordable prices, never had a bad fry-up there yet!
The Bell on the Green
Always a favourite for the location in its title, The Bell has reopened with times and obvious restrictions. Here’s their menu….
Marvellous little coffee shop in Lamb Yard, just off Kingston Road, serving hot and cold beverages, breakfast, lunch and afternoon teas with great homemade cakes, and vinyl records too. Comfy hideaway this place, perfect for a stop-off when strolling town. I reviewed it a long time ago for Index:Wiltshire, but the site has been taken down now, so you’ll have to take my word for it! Facebook page here.
If the name Clock Radio suggests an irritating box by your bed you simply want to lunge at in the morning, the casual “Talking Heads” fashion of local purveyors of self-proclaimed “deluded jangle rock,” entice no such violent action; they’re smooth and arty. Though, ironically describe themselves as “easily triggered, dishonest, cryptic yet flirty,” and violence is likely the disingenuous subject of a new tune, virtuously. Talking Heads though, Psycho Killer, qu’est-ce que c’est?
Idiosyncratic irony and intellectual self-satire, isn’t it? Regulars at Devizes Southgate, Clock Radio threw their retrospective namesake to the wind a year ago, and joined the download generation, as far as distributing their wares. “Throw out your vinyl grandad,” they call ageistly called to order, “Clock Radio just went digital!”
Their enigmatic sound though is much the same proficient “new wave” formula you’ll hear live; if it ain’t broke. They brand themselves through posters using snippets from cringeworthy seventies catalogues or Gilliam’s Python animation-styled images; all very pop art. Their sound reflects such an epoch, so such ageist jests can be nothing more than the elemental tongue-in-cheek bravura which will aptly see them billed alongside Calne’s Real Cheesemakers.
Out this week,“Virtuous Violence” is their fifth virtual release, following two singles and two EPs. With a spooky clocktower chime introduction, a gothic guitar riff flows through this otherwise poetic and smooth tune. It’s melodic retrospective post-punk goodness, would be avant-garde if appropriated its era. Yet if that Brian-Eno-slipping-on-The-Pixies kind of causal and breezy ambience is the fashion Clock Radio seek through their previously releases, they’ve nailed it with this one.
For while I’ll flitter with the genre, a tune has to “pop,” for me to take hold of it, and Virtuous Violence transcends the boundaries of their previous releases for catchiness and in capturing the imagination. Don’t run away with the notion they achieved this with the ease of synth-pop, for that’s an element of new wave they steer away from, keeping it traditionally analogue. No, this is just, well, nice on the ears. Another one for post-lockdown “must do” hitlist.
Huzzah, hurrah, hurray, whoop, bravo, hoot, shout, shriek, hosanna, alleluia and other synonyms for expressions of delight which I’ve shamelessly purloined from Word’s dictionary. Do I care? It’s March, time of the Mad March Hare, spring springing, birds a-singing in the blossoming treetops; after such a damp winter it’s refreshing to look forward to the April showers season!
Why do we even call them April showers when they tend to carry through from March to June?! Nevertheless, it’s warmer rain, with momentary lapses of sunshine, those little teasers of spring; don’t blink you might miss them. Still, just like a bear, I’m awakening from my hibernation, and heading downstream for a salmon supper!
In celebration of the feast, here’s some choosiest stuff to do over the coming month, as fished from our event calendar. The list is by no means comprehensive, you know the score by now, it’s updated (nearly) every day, so do try to keep up. Facebook is a good idea, if you do that, our page pumps posts out like Dwayne Johnson on a promise. Also, consider signing up for a weekly email, I don’t spam you, just once a week bulletin of what we’ve done and what’s to come.
First fortnight in March then, here it comes; the second half will follow…… I say that, then like a goldfish it’s a notion that’s gone in three seconds! Also, I can’t provide the links, but it’s all listed on our home page with links; it’ll take till April to do that, computer running at the speed of snail and all!
Devizes: First of the month is Sunday, nice way to ease into it. Georgina, Landlady of the White Bear, is running the London Marathon for Dorothy House, so there’s a pub quiz at 6:30pm to fundraise; £2.50 per person, max. 6 people on a team. Great Scott! St James Church hosts the monthly Devizes Silver Screen Film Club; Back to the Future showing this month. A great social meeting for our elders, and Driving Miss Daisy can provide transport.
If you’re looking for something wilder, The Three Horseshoes in Bradford on Avon is the place to head, where those Back-Wood Redeemers will be twisting those dark country and blues riffs into their splendid frenzy. Highly recommended from Devizine, tell them we sent you!
PSG has their regular Monday “Devizes session of Pop Soul & Gospel Choir,” at the Parish Rooms on Long Street, from 8pm until 9:30pm. Incredibly welcoming, PSG currently expect between 25 and 30 members on a Monday, and inform us “it’s a fantastic sound!” Join them for a fantastic start to your week!
Tuesday 3rd then, and it’s Devizes Film Club at the Town Hall. The Farewell (PG) from China, 2019. Director: Lulu Wang. To western eyes, this film has a curious plot but it becomes understandable in the telling. Billi has left China aged six, to be brought up in New York. Twenty-four years later, she is called back to attend a wedding that has been arranged purely to conceal from her grandmother that she is dying of lung cancer. Such kindly subterfuge is apparently common practice but Billi finds it hard to accept. She sees again many family members and it is her gradual reacquaintance with her Chinese heritage that provides this compelling, spiky exploration of family duty. A heartfelt, funny, emotional and rewarding film. The screenplay and production are wonderful, prompting The Irish Critic to call it the Best Film of the Year.
Wednesday is the regular acoustic jam at the Southgate. Marlborough’s folk-roots club has Edgelarks at the Town Hall; duo Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin combine exquisite folk with influences as diverse as the blues and Indian classical slide guitar, to create a sound that is “subtle, atmospheric and bravely original” (The Guardian.) Alternatively, one of the most romantic operas ever written, La Bohème is showing at Bath Forum.
Even if not for the weather, Thursday 5th should get heated. Extinction Rebellion Devizes and Marlborough debate with MP Danny Kruger at St Mary’s Devizes.
Friday night in Devizes looks loud; hard-edged vintage blues with Barrelhouse at the Southgate will yowl like the Howlin’ Wolf. To contend, AC/DC tribute, Hell’s Bells play the Exchange, but want for a local, loud, classic rock cover-band, the awesome Homer play The Crown at Bishop’s Canning’s, and you’ll probably hear them from the Market Place!
Lighter rock n roll tributes come from Melksham’s Assembly Hall, where you’ll find Buddy Holly and The Cricketers. Or Bath Forum has Elvis show, The King is Back, and Johnny Walker presents Sounds Of The 70s at Swindon’s Wyvern Theatre.
The 7th, first Saturday of the month then, here it is: A songwriter genuinely literate, sometimes almost literary, Ian Parker is an original craftsman. Expressed through a distinctive bitter-sweet vocal delivery, Ian’s songs hold nothing back. His ability and willingness to share with his audience, naked honesty and genuine emotion, is what sets him apart, and The Long Street Blues Club welcomes him and his band back. Meanwhile, a little more light-hearted, Teachers Pet Rock Show comes to The Cavalier Community Hall. If you’ve seen School of Rock, expect an East/West Midlands styled tribute, promising to be a “gut busting, face melting glorious rock show that’s suitable for all ages!”
There’s acoustic fingerpicking, electric guitar thumping rhythms, harmonica and a loop pedal at the Southgate with Jon Pollard, while Marlborough’s Lamb has the high-energy classic rock covers band, The Electric Troubadours. Down t’other end of that enlarged High Street, The Wellington has its Welly-Fest; check their Facebook page as there’s stuff going on the whole month long. Comes to ahead for reggae fans though, on Saturday when our friends Razah and Knati P bring their sound system; oh yes.
Tributes in Trow-Vegas with Abbamania at The Civic. Whereas it’s a Britpop tribute double-header at the Melksham Assembly Hall with Oasis Maybe and Ultimate Stone Roses, and always worth catching, The Blue Rose Band play The Talbot Inn, Calne.
Would you Adam & Eve it, Sunday March 8th is my birthday? Thank you, it’s just a number. Not spoiled for choice as I’ve only one gig listed at the moment, but I do love the White Bear, where Phil Jinder Dewhurst continues their regular Sunday Sessions. Talking Sunday sessions, Swindon promoters Songs of Praise do similar at The Tuppenny, find the Richard Wileman & the Amy Fry Experience there this Sunday 8th.
Second week of March then, then we’re done and you go vacuum the hallway, or whatever else is outstanding; never ends, does it? Extinction Rebellion Devizes and Marlborough holds workshop “Roots of a Regenerative Culture,” Monday 7pm at The Barge on Honey Street. This training demystifies how to make everything we do regenerative and, as such, it is the key to understanding how to build resilience within ourselves and our communities.
Tuesday 10th there be a Quiz Night at The Vaults, Devizes in aid of Opendoors. And the Devizes Film Club has a Mexican movie, The Chambermaid (15) at the Town Hall. Director Lila Avilés’ first film quietly pulses with life in a multi-storey luxury hotel in Mexico. We see the engrossing work of a young, single mother trying her best to be promoted by thorough work, and to study in what spare time she is allowed. There is no life-saving Hollywood romance, just the drudgery of her daily work, problems with her fellow workers and managers and her efforts to improve her life. Cartol acts with sublime understanding of her role. With persistence and wry humour, she rearranges her tasks for variety, wickedly teases the window-cleaners, goes to evening classes and reads Jonathan Livingston Seagull. A subtle gem of a film, beautifully shot against the boring and colourless back-rooms, lush guest-rooms and the stunning city views.
Wednesday 11th at Marlborough’s Merchants House Michael Hart presents “Protestantism and the English Character.” While one of the most intriguing and exciting collaborations on today’s folk scene, Peter Knight, legendary violinist and ex-Bellowhead member John Spiers brings an evening of improvisation and invention of mysterious tunes to Pound Arts in Corsham. In Devizes, it’s time again for the acoustic jam at the trusty Southgate.
Blossoms play the Bath Forum on Thursday 12th, revealing their new album, Foolish Loving Spaces. They explain, “The album is a pure celebration of love in all of its splendid and baffling guises, toying with the so-called sins of lust and forbidden infatuation. It’s inspired by a summer spent listening to ‘Stop Making Sense’, ‘The Joshua Tree’ & ‘Screamadelica’.” If you’re in Swindon though, head for The Tuppenny, where the awesome Jake Martin and Jess Silk perform acoustic. Acoustic, made for Thursday, eh? If you disagree, check out the Winchester Gate, Salisbury where top Ramones tribute, The Ramonas are guaranteed to liven it up.
Friday is the night when the county finally gets ready for the debut gig of super-group The Lost Trades. Highly anticipated amalgamation of our good friends, Phil Cooper, Jamie R Hawkins and Tamsin Quin. We wish you the very best of luck, guys. They’ll be supported by Timid Deer and Vince Bell at Trowbridge’s Village Pump.
Meanwhile, keeping Kalm ‘n’ Kind in Devizes, there’s a Restorative Yoga class with Kim Pierpoint, a Fundraising Quiz Evening for Opendoors at 7.30. Philippa and Declan Morgan are running the quiz at Wiltshire Museum. Tickets £10, including nibbles and a glass of wine. Reserve your ticket online and pay on the door! https://devizesopendoors.yapsody.com/event/index/533176/quiz-evening
On my never-ending list to do is get to “Pelly,” kudos for putting on live music gigs, guys, just got work early in the mornings! Drew Bryant is live at The Pelican Inn on Friday, Lewis Clark & The Essentials with folk, soul, and blues at The Southgate, and there’s a Queen tribute called The Bohemians at the Corn Exchange. Comedy Night at Bradford’s Boat House with Jake Lambert, and the amazing Frank Turner plays Bath Forum.
Tuesday is St Patrick’s Day, but Devizes’ Cavalier can’t wait, and present a St Patrick’s theme weekend with those brilliant Day Breakers in the Community Hall on Saturday 14th. On the other side, three-piece rock originals, the Lightnin’ Hobos play The Southgate, and if you’re not spoiled for choice this Saturday, I don’t know when you will be, as the one and only Pete Gage plays with Innes Sibun and Jon Amor, all backed by Ruzz Guitar Revue at the Sports Club, corrrrr, that’ll be awesome.
Extinction Rebellion Devizes and Marlborough are back at the The Barge, Honeystreet for a gathering, where the evening presents a stripped back, 3-piece version of Troyka Bristol, Troyka Mala. They play a stormy mixture of traditional and original songs and rhythms from the former Yugoslavia and the Balkans with brushes of Klezmer and the Middle East; intrigued? I am.
Powerhouse Gospel Choir play Melksham Assembly Hall while Jon Hopkins is at Bath Forum. For something more off planet, stoner rock and electro art-punk are promised at the Three Horseshoes, Bradford on Avon, with Head Noise, Conspiracy of Chaplains and The Forgetting Curve.
That’s about all, we will follow this up with the final fortnight of March, when I get around to it. I do, though wish I’d stop promising these things! One thing you can depend on, Saturday in Swindon will rock with Splat The Rat at The Merlin on Drove Road, unfortunately, I cannot recommend Talk In Code’s new single Talk Like That enough, see our review. Note, the launch party is at the Castle on this particular Saturday, the 14th, and I can’t think of a better way to finish this lengthy roundup off!
One of the most intriguing blurbs to a local event to catch my eye on recent online travels, in this humble but perpetual quest to bring you news of happenings, has to be a new performance from a Bristol/South-West theatre group, aptly named the Modest Genius Theatre Company. “Truth Sluth: Epistemological Investigations for the Modern Age,” is touring locally, and coming to Trowbridge Library on Tuesday 7th April, Warminster’s on the morning of Wednesday 8th April, the afternoon at Devizes Library on the 8th and Calne on Thursday 9th.
Targeted at everyone aged seven and up, Truth Sluth is a choose-your-own-adventure comedy show that will make laugh, think critically and question everything. It explores contemporary issues surrounding fact and fiction, and asks “ever wondered who you can trust? Ever read a blog and doubted its veracity? (Hummm; ed!) Is your newsfeed feeding you fake fodder? Truth Sleuth is on the case of fake news.”
Pre- booked tickets are £5 and are available from www.modestgenius.co.uk or telephone 01249 701628. Tickets on the door are £7 (cash only for on the door tickets.) Then, be ready to “join Truth Sleuth to gather clues, make decisions and steer the action. Come on down to the birthplace of information itself, the oracle with a public toilet: your local library.”
The Modest Genius Theatre company are fast becoming renowned for their innovative, dark physical comedy about social taboos. Based in Bristol and the South West, the company was formed in 2015 by graduates of the Lecoq, Gaulier and Dell’arte theatre schools, Tristan Green, Sidney Robb and Tess Cartwright. Using clown, mime, physical theatre, storytelling, movement and music they mesmerise audiences with poignant material that takes you on an emotional journey. “We love the extremes,” they tell, “and give our audience permission to feel how they feel.”
Truth Sluth: Epistemological Investigations for the Modern Age is hot topical comedy, in collaboration with Canadian playwright Greg Cochrane, and Pound Arts. Using physical comedy, storytelling and clever wordplay, this is devised theatre that obliterates the fourth wall. I don’t know about you lovely lot; I’m delighted to hear local libraries hosting something so intriguing and hope it’s the beginning of more such performances.
There it goes again, that blasted TV Anchor butter advert. Why, oh why have they used the theme from the classic sitcom Desmond’s? I swear, every time I hear it, I swish around with excitement that rather than the cliché reruns they’ve decided to air Desmond’s again, but it is not to be, just a butter advert. Far from Anchor’s bane of my life, considering they made me redundant when the Swindon plant closed in 2000, where I worked in the cheese hall for five interminable years. People thought I was some kind of expert of cheese production working there, firing all kinds of technicalities at me such as the separation of curd and whey, when all I did was prep and pack the stuff!
I could ask Calne’s Real Cheesemakers the same annoying question, if I wanted to, but I suspect the name derives from cheese’s informal definition; the eminence of being too apparently mawkish. Their debut album, Grated Hits edges this with West Country hilarity. If my hope for a chance rerun of Desmond’s doesn’t qualify me for interest its unsubtle and cringeworthy eighties cultural references, perhaps only the sound of a ZX Spectrum loading would.
Late on the off with this, the album released in November last year, it’s been a monumental twenty-seven years in the making. Twenty-seven years wasted; they’d have got less for murdering a politician. For our local music scene though, it’s a tongue-in-cheek awakening and worthy of your attention. It does to heavy metal-ish banality what The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band did to jazzy psychedelic sixties pop.
Apt that the band cite the Bonzo Dog Band in their bio, as they “formed in 1992 as a duo following the discovery of said band’s records in founding member, Egg’s mum’s record collection.” They continue to explain, “The Real Cheesemakers spent years creating top-quality nonsense and walloping the finest of cods.” They finally played to “an actual audience for the first time,” in 2011, “to some acclaim, and have since performed across the south of England, and added two new members who actually know how to play musical instruments.”
Nonsensically avant-garde from the start, said eighties cultural references from John Craven to Rick Moranis and Marathon’s name change to Margaret Thatcher’s milk snatching, get slammed in “Unicorns of the 1980s.” The blurb explains it as “the now infamous rejected Eurovision Song Contest entry, United by Cheese, and the collaboration with the Godfather of chap-hop and steampunk legend, Professor Elemental.” From here it’s a good guess this album isn’t going to take itself too seriously, and for that, it’s bloody brilliant.
Through a cascade of local refences too, from Cheddar George to the Roundabouts of Swindon, they bash out seventeen songs of confessed love for He-Man and dinosaurs, a dedication to eggs, bacon, chips and beans, pre-assumed affection for cheese, fear of psychopathic tortoises and annoyance of supermarket queuing, with a Pink Floyd-esque ballad to the weasel and a plodding brass explanation for airborne trousers. Like a snail on a lettuce leaf, I’m only teetering the edge of this odd iceberg here, I’d suggest, if you love your nonsense humour and surrealism you steam headlong into it like a Titanic crew comprising of Spike Milligan and the Monty Python team.
Because of its decades-spanning production period, the band explain Grated Hits gives “each song a slightly different feel, but offers high-end production value without overly contaminating the group’s purity and no-fi roots.”
The release topped off a huge year for the “Cheesers,” playing to a sold out Neeld Hall crowd with Professor Elemental and support slots with fellow Chap-Hop pioneer, Mr B Gentleman Rhymer. Most recently, they played with Creed Bratton from the US version of Ricky Gervais’ sitcom, The Office on a few dates of his UK tour to huge acclaim, before supporting Goldie Lookin Chain at their Xmas bash in Bristol. I’ve noted listing them at our trusty Southgate, after hearing this I’m making a beeline for their next local gig, you would too, if you’re the kind of chap who wears a kipper tie and wellington boot on your head, or not, or just when driven to on occasional weekdays.
The album is available to purchase on CD and digital download from Therealcheesemakers.bandcamp.com. The physical copy features and exclusive track, Cheesemaker Blues (live recording), that is not available on the digital version.
Ah, nuts, it’s all over. Get your winter coat, hats and snow shovels and bolt down the hatches; it’s September. “We know that in September, we will wander through the warm winds of summer’s wreckage.” Back to school though, summer usually kicks in around now. So, gig-wise, here’s what we’ve got to warm your soul.
Note, this is for musical gigs, please keep up. Last month I did this people were arguing I forgot their flower pressing show, foot healing festival and stuff like that. Please consult our homepage for it’s THE most comprehensive event guide in these dark waters, even if I do say so myself. Yeah, no, yeah-no, there’s all kinds of stuff listed to do, family stuff, sporty stuff, arty stuff, stuff with stuff in it and all the stuff between. And what is more, it’s updated nearly every day, so keep your eye on it, ‘n’ stay in the know.
Thursday 5th – Sunday 8th
Starting midweek, as I’ve procrastinated this weekend; man cut lawn. Regular acoustic nights on Wednesdays at our dependable Southgate, Devizes, and there’s an open Mic at The New Inn, Semington.
Thursday 5th then, and all I have to date is that American singer-songwriter and one third of acclaimed Americana harmony trio Applewood Road, Amy Speace will be returning to Sound Knowledge, Marlborough to promote her new solo album. Me And The Ghost Of Charlemagne is produced by long-time collaborator Neilson Hubbard and recorded during the final weeks of pregnancy with her first son, capturing Amy at her most honest, with sparsely-decorated songs which double down on her larger-than-life voice and detail-rich song writing. Amy will be playing a short set in the shop and signing copies of her album from 7pm on Thursday 5th September.
Friday, and aside the popular karaoke nights, we’re glad to see The Pelican in Devizes opening up for live music, this should become a regular free venue, and bands are encouraged to get in touch with them. What better way to kick off the proceedings than with Devizes-own Funked Up?
Now, I know my boss at work has a hand in this one, and going on the thought I’ve never seen anyone more dedicated to one particular band than him, I mean it’s an obsession to the point he talks of little else, I have total faith if you like Thin Lizzy, this will be the ultimate tribute band to catch. 4-piece, Twin Lizzy play The Cavalier on Friday, with all the classics that you would expect, but also, they claim to “mix it up with some key album tracks for good measure.” Including a genre-related disco, this is the ideal opportunity to check out the Cavy. It’s booking get evermore diverse, with country and rock, to kid’s discos and a plethora of top pop tributes.
Meanwhile in Swindon, those old-time musical hall, sixties psychedelia and new world country blenders, The Astral Ponies storm the Castle. Least they say “the Astral Ponies politely asking if people would like to come along and enjoy some fine and joyous music with them,” is more suitable. If vintage punk-rock is more your thing, try The One Chord Wonders at the Rolly. Metallers think The Queen’s Tap, with Rorkes Drift, or the Vic where Ion Maiden play; stop head-banging for a second a re-read that, yeah, s’ a tribute.
But if you’re still hunting for festivals, Crash the Festival is in Andover direction, KV Brass are followed by Humdinger on the Friday and Kova Me Badd on the Saturday, roundup the Burbage Beer Festival, on the Red Lion field. The other way, Saturday 7th sees a one-dayer at Marshfield; Marshfest brings together popular Hip-Hop act, Stay Hungry, five-piece rhythm & blues combo Haney’s Big House, indie rock with The Temple Keys and Falling Fish, blues band Antalya, soul-funk with Eden, rock with The Clones, to name but a few. If this doesn’t convince you, Devizine favourites, Train to Skaville are also booked.
Devizes, make your way to the Southgate, Dry White Bones accompanied those Boot Hill Allstars last time I saw them, and it wasn’t nearly for long enough. After a stint at Glasto, it’ll be good to see this duo headlining. Larkin play Melksham’s Pilot, and for folky pop songs, Scratchy Black Cat at Stallards, Trowbridge is recommended.
There’s a Big Get Together at the Neeld, which aims to bring over 50 local clubs and organisations together in one place, to provide a showcase of activities that will encourage people to participate, get involved and expand their social life. Free event. Staying in Chippenham, soprano, Susan Coates, Mezzo- Soprano, Marie Elliott and Concert Pianist, Nick Goodall presents a mix of famous solos and duets from the world of Opera, Broadway and The All-American Songbook at the Cause. Or, rock out with Homer at the Black Horse.
Ska-punk in Swindon, as Operation 77 play Level III, or Led-Into-Zeppelin are at The Victoria.
Sunday, Devizes Town Band takeover Hillworth for the Children’s Proms in the Park, or maybe catch The Everly Brothers and Friends Tribute Show at The Neeld.
Wednesday 11th – Sunday 15th
Acoustic jam down the Southgate Wednesday, Thursday in Devizes is all about Mirko’s band, 10p Mix-Up, playing the Cellar Bar from 8pm. In aid of Liam’s fund, please support this one if you can. I interviewed Mirko recently, which covers the gig fully, so check here.
Meanwhile George Wilding and Plummie Racket support Johnny Lloyd, at The Vic, and Chris Webb does an acoustic set at The Tuppenny, Swindon.
Friday 13th has a good variety of local music, that danceable duo, The Truzzy Boys play The Crown, while our other own indie upcomers, Clock Radio are welcomed by The Southgate. People Like Us nip over to The Seven Stars at Bottlesford, the Chaos Brothers at The Three Horseshoes in Bradford, and The Skandals play The Vic in Swindon.
For an evening of classical music, try the Corn Exchange on Saturday, where two fabulous local musicians, guitarist Andrew Hurst and soprano Chloe Jordan will take you on a journey through a range of music from the medieval to now. There’s a unique original melodic rock band from Glastonbury at the Southgate called The Truthseekers, and favourite rock cover band, the Rockhoppaz play The Cross Keys, Rowde.
While the 2Tone All Ska’s are at The Woodlands Edge, and Level III Punk the Club, there’s a beer, cider and music festival at Wichelstowe, in aid of Wiltshire Air Ambulance, still awaiting the lowdown on this, but rumour has it Lottie J and other Marland favs will be playing. Vinyl Realm is at the helm of this one, and after the amazing show at the Street Festival, I’m expecting this to be a good one.
Wow, The Human League are playing Bath Racecourse on Saturday, but Reggae though? Check those Urban Lions at the Woodbridge Inn, Pewsey, or Train to Skaville at Warminster’s Prestbury Sports Bar.
Ah, we’ve reached the end of the first fortnight, I’ll update this with the following one later, best get this out now so you can plan ahead. Round it up, Sunday the 15th in Devizes where George Wilding supports The Strays at The Cavalier, or The White Bear continues its Sunday sessions with Andrew Bazeley.
Treat this as a guide, though, not a bible; more gigs and events of all kinds are updated on our homepage and Facebook page too.
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.
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.
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!
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
So, yeah, broke my 2019 hibernation and ventured out last night. I know right, but Calne-based, Six O’clock Circus blasted an otherwise mild night at the Southgate with some passionately executed mod, punk and indie covers; right up my street and kicking down my door.
Loud and proud, regardless of the five-piece squashed into Devizes’ answer to the O2 arena, singing toward the wall, plus having gigged the afternoon in Boughton Gifford, and Friday evening with Devizes-based, Burbank, for a Big Yellow Bus fundraiser at the Bug & Spider, they never waned, pulling a fine ensemble of indie covers out of their bag, for the first half, but not before an introduction of the Kinks and Who.
Six O’clock Circus, started at nine o’clock, but despite poor punctuality of their namesake, and lack of clowns, I loved the starter, then it went a bit Britpop; Travis, Stereophonics, James and Shed Seven representations. Yet I nodded through with appreciation, their precision awarded even my non-favs with worthy magnitude. Though I personally like my indie served, as they did towards latter section of the first half, with Primal Scream and the Coral, and overall would favour more mod, of the Jam, which ended the first half, Six O’clock Circus delivered them all feverously, and favourably, with ardent appreciation of their influences.
A quieter night at this haven for live music allowed me to notice the cloudy cider tariff on the wooden beam, where at least one hairy hippy usually leans, obscuring the menu. So a double-whammy for me, securing a love for the Southgate I’d joyfully shout to the hills and back.
Undoubtedly, said cider played it’s part but I supposed the band tightened with every tune. A swap of instruments, promising a “seventies love-song,” they completed by knocking out a genuine “Pretty Vacant” before the break. It was clear Six 0’Clock Circus had no intentions of delivering us a ballad at all, neither attempt something experimental, as the second section banged in with The Buzzcocks’ classic, Ever Fallen in Love, and slipping nicely into London’s Burning by the Clash.
So, the evening’s entertainment leaves me now stamping a thoroughly deserved recommendation on Six O’clock Circus, perfect for the thirty-forty-fifty somethings function or pub circuit, and with that said, I’m off to make a bacon butty.