Liddington Hill Celtic Punk!

Sometimes, and quite a number of times I might add, nothing fits the bill quite like a bout of pounding bibulous Celtic punk, by a band with a girl donning a cow’s head as a mascot. But how far would you expect to trek to find such a group of misfits, Wales, Ireland?

Suggested in the name, Liddington Hill, the beautiful down overlooking Swindon, with the Ridgeway traversing and its iron age hillfort, is local enough. Not since the days of the Blitz, when the area was used as a “Starfish” decoy bombing bunker, has it been so explosive.

What’s the link to Liddington with this scorching five-piece band, who have just released their debut EP, Cow after a few singles, I felt imperative to ask? “We all lived in Swindon at the time we started,” fiddle and vocalist Matt told, “our singer grew up around the area and went up to Liddington Castle a lot as a child. It seemed to be a bit of a landmark and with the Ridgway close by had great links to the past, so I guess it just seemed like a good name.”

Two members remain in Swindon, the other two now live in Oxford, and drummer Chris hails from Chippenham. With fiddles and a bodhrán meshed with electric guitars, the line between punk and traditional Celtic folk cannot be yanked apart, not that there’s any good reason to try to.

The bobbing theme of a band drinking excursion to Oxford, Pub Crawl, follows a dynamic and unique slide-guitar take of the folk sea shanty, Whip Jamboree.

An almost new-wave post-punk feel is implemented into the melting pot with the third tune, Marshlands, an original song about lead guitarist Liam’s Grandfather in Ireland, “who wouldn’t ride a horse,” Matt explained, “but insisted on riding a cow!” Hence the cow symbolism, I’m best guessing.

The EP ends traditionally, with Joseph B. Geoghegan’s anti-war music hall classic, Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye, and Liddington Hill bless the folk feel with their brand of punk, making for a perfect finale. While it might not be as authentic as The Pouges, or as aggressive as The Levellers, with bands like Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys storming success in the US, there’s a huge market for this beguiling genre, yet a scarcity on the local scene, and Liddington Hill pack a punch.

It’s a grower, and I’m loving this, anticipating possibility of an album to greater extend their scope, but as far as energetic presence is concerned, it’s kick-ass. Branded subtly, though, to suit a pub environment, so a live show, fingers crossed for their definite return, would be something highly memorable and I’d recommend landlords book them in; certainly, it’d push up the beer sales!


Trending…

Opinion: Kruger Perpetrates Local Rise of Condemnation for Travellers, Focused in Bromham

In a press release dated 24th September 2020, MP Danny Kruger claimed Boris Johnson had called upon him to report for government calls for a new era of ‘community power.’ This included “proposals to sustain the community spirit we saw during the lockdown.” He christened his paper, “Levelling up our communities,” a vision for “a more local, more human, less bureaucratic, less centralised society in which people are supported and empowered to play an active role in their neighbourhoods.”

As shpil it sounds a-okay, a far cry from a Conservative Party of yore set against the people it’s supposed to serve, a Conservative Party which, on 1st June 1985, ordered police to viciously attack a Peace Convoy, setting up the 1985 Stonehenge Free Festival. History recalls it “The Battle of the Beanfields,” any witness could better perceive it as a politicide massacre. Its aim, to eliminate categories of people who either chose to live their life on the road, happened to stumble across this way of life by unpreventable circumstance, or grew up nurtured in such an environment, for political advantages. As a blanket term we call them travellers.

But that’s all it is, a blanket term, there is no organised grouping anymore than people who own a home are assembled, therefore there is no reason to presume any individual classed as such is part of a joint ethos, a collective philosophy or tenet. Attitudes and opinions of such a grouping differ as vastly as those who live in a house, or a bungalow, or a flat. To note someone who lives in a flat breaking the law, is ludicrous for bungalow dwellers to make a sweeping generalisation that, ergo everyone who lives in a flat is therefore a law-breaker. Yet prejudge typecasting seems to be systematically accepted, ingrained and encouraged when focussed on travellers.  

Hard to define exactly as an ethnic group, as while Romany Gypsies are bound into the stereotype, not all are such, so, calling the racist card is unwarranted, but it is a definite form of prejudice, which aimed at other groupings would be frowned upon. Yet how does Danny Kruger remember the Battle of the Beanfields on its anniversary this week? His office, fronted by, I might add, Rebecca Hudson, the journalist who first broke the news of the Salisbury poisonings and therefore a far more articulate professional than the mere meanderings of a milkman, put out a Facebook post condemning the actions of a traveller site in Bromham. Despite Bromham isn’t his jurisdiction, it is in the division of Wiltshire councillor Laura Mayes, though.

I asked Laura why it’s necessary for Danny Kruger to get involved with, what seems to me, to be a simple planning permission issue. After all, planning permission disputes must be a regular occurrence in the county, and there’s never a need to involve an MP. Laura responded, “the problem is that the planning activity is illegal – there is an Enforcement Notice and an Emergency Stop Notice and the owners have ignored them.”

Danny’s post included the explanation, “deliveries of hardcore were made to the field, breaching the Enforcement Notice. The clear expectation is that an illegal Traveller encampment is being created and an influx of caravans is now expected.” Hardly an “expectation,” rather speculation; a big difference. A speculation driven by the aforementioned ingrained prejudge, is my “expectation.” Fair game by his own criteria?  

In discussion with Gazette & Herald reporter Kirsten Robertson, The Ward family say the delivery of hardcore is to form a bund, an embankment to control the flow of water. Face it, evidence that it’s not a plan to expand the site or allow more travellers onto it. In a heartfelt plea for peace Bridget Ward, 21, told the Gazette, “We just want to live in peace and become part of the community.”

Yet negative, often offensive comments and name-calling slurs flood social media coverage of the simple planning dispute. It doesn’t help bridge the divide when the council “recommends the public stay away from the site.” Neither does it help when an MP lashes out, the post calculatedly shared on only one local Facebook group, known for an absence of admin regulations and therefore being a highly opinionated group.

We should note, they are not residing illegally, the land was bought in 2014, with an article 4 direction on it, which makes it unsuitable for development anyway. Any attempt to improve the site has been refused permission, the adding of fences, planting of trees and creation of an equestrian area. Constant refusal of simple improvement plans, the hostility against them verbally, constitutes the notion they’re simply not wanted there. Where in Wiltshire would they be welcome?

Wiltshire Council own and manage just three residential Gypsy and Traveller sites, with a total capacity to accommodate fifty-one families, who, in contrary to popular belief, are subject to rent charges, Council tax and service charges for site, water and electricity. Across a whole county, it’s a failure compared with Essex, with twelve sites accommodating 188 families, Somerset has eighteen sites, seven sites in Berkshire, the list continues not forgoing Wiltshire Council looks to possibly sell the three sites they do own under part of the recently concluded Regulation 18 consultation to prepare a Gypsy and Traveller Development Plan Document.

While we should respect permissions for planning need to be made, and upheld, little is done to provide a legal alternative for travellers in the county. Coupled with the ramifications of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which could see travellers facing a fine or prison if they set up unauthorised encampments rather than currently being a civil offence, Danny Kruger’s “levelling up our communities,” constitutes of the eradication of a way of life which has operated for centuries. In fact, pre-Neolithic age, we were all nomadic. Chew on that fat for a moment.

One comment added, “we don’t live in a lawless country,” yet when Danny illegally posted his campaign posters around polling stations, when he ignored lockdown regulations by failing to wear a mask on the train, when he allowed his dog to attack deer on Richmond Common, we brushed them under the carpet, I even defended the latter as an accident.

What about when the High Court said government acted unlawfully by failing to publish details of more than 500 Covid contracts, or abolishing the permit-free training scheme for doctors who qualified outside the United Kingdom or the rest of the European Union without proper consultation, or the case where it departed from the UK’s longstanding policy on opposing the death penalty in all circumstances? Need I continue? Why then, can we not give a little leeway here? Is a delivery of some hardcore to create a bund somehow more damaging to society as the examples given above?

The fact Danny’s offending Facebook post had a grammatical error I’d forgive a primary school pupil to overlook, “and a influx of caravans,” suggests this was not the calculated penning of a skilled journalist, rather a knee-jerk reaction handsome-faced Danny K needs to take a chill pill from before the silver spoon launches from his mouth.

And I say this because, the issue at hand is clearly overexposed by our prejudice, a presuppose striking fear into a family with a young child, for crying out loud, take a look at yourself! I plead you put the political matter aside for just a moment and think outside the box, would you try defend yourself given such hostilities towards you? Is it any different from Afrikaans erecting steel gates and barbed wire to protect their property in apartheid-era Johannesburg? How you can expect travellers not to be slightly anarchic when faced with such exacerbation against them?

Especially in this, quite honestly, trivial instant, far from the given stereotype, where we have a local family simply pleading to blend in and be part of a community. Bridget tells me, “I asked him [Danny Kruger] to stand up for us, against the hate and racism, and to sign the pledge card, but he has just ignored that. We just feel helpless.” This isn’t about hardcore delivery at all, is it?

What do you get out of this Danny, a permit to touch Pritti’s petticoat?! Hardly the “proposals to sustain the community spirit we saw during the lockdown,” is it, mucker?!


June: State of the Thing; a Monthly Guide to Last and This Coming Month of Devizine

So, who told the April showers that the lockdown applied to it? Come on, I want names! Last month of lockdown was dry and clement, as soon as things starts opening up again, it phased between drizzle and downpour; you can’t make it up.

Yes, I wrote this too soon; bang on cue, here comes the sun for June.

If May saw a gradual return to normality, pray it continues; June should explode, either way. We started the month with concerns over Calne’s Central Youth & Community Centre, and I attended a small protest in Rowde to save Furlong Close. Not forgetting local election would inevitably send me on the usual rant, but Wiltshire lays all its eggs in the same basket. And then, wham, had to rant twice in one day when Seedy pulled out of the PCC election, you certainly couldn’t make that up!

Save Furlong Close protest in Rowde

Musically, a couple of press releases from Sheer, announcing Salem’s national tour with them hosting Swindon’s Vic gig in October, and Frank Turner at Frome’s Cheese & Grain on both Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th June. But the best Sheer post was more about Kieran’s mum, jumping out of a plane, fundraising for her grandson.

I reviewed Cornish psych-punkers The Brainiac 5’s album Another Time Another Dimension, Trowbridge’s Sitting Tenants album A Kitchen Sink Drama. Also, Sam Bishop’s great EP Lost Promises, a single from Stockwell, Storm Jae and Nory’s called Can’t Come Home, and a new track from the Longcoats, Nothing Good. We also did a great interview with Dave Lewis, one half of Blondie & Ska. Reviews in the next few days will be an EP of Celtic punk from Liddington Hill, some awesome punkish blues from Elli De Mon, and the new album from The Lost Trades, due on 2nd June.

Blondie & Ska

I started a new Sunday series, being the last one was so popular. No satire this time, just a reflection back thirty years to the era of the rave, from a personal angle; I’m having lots of fun with this, if it does make me feel old! This continues into June. So, without further to do, here’s what’s occurring in June.

Old Skool Rave

Firstly, staying at home we can entertain you too. I’m gradually working through writing promotional material and sleeve notes for our compilation album, 4 Julia’s House, which, as it sounds, all proceeds will go to Julia’s House. This has proved more work than I anticipated for me, due to the most amazing line up of talent who has kindly donated a song. The penultimate entry was an exclusive rock steady track by Blondie & Ska, and the latest entry is by none other than Richard Davis & the Dissidents. See what I mean now, don’t you? Absolutely fantastic, massively hugely massive this is going to be, over three hours of genre-crossing music; something for everyone on there. Okay, I’ll copy and paste the artists featured; hold onto your jawbone.

Richard Davis & The Dissidents

A mahoosive thanks goes to: Pete Lamb & Cliff Hall, King Dukes, Erin Bardwell, Timid Deer, Duck n Cuvver, Strange Folk, Strange Tales, Paul Lappin, Billy Green 3, Jon Veale, Wilding, Richard Davis & The Dissidents, Barrelhouse, Tom Harris, Will Lawton & the Alchemists, Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective, Kirsty Clinch, Richard Wileman, Nigel G. Lowndes, Kier Cronin, Sam Bishop, Mr Love & Justice, Barmy Park, The Truzzy Boys, Daydream Runaways, Talk in Code, Longcoats, Atari Pilot, Andy J Williams, The Dirty Smooth, SexJazz, Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue, The Boot Hill All Stars, Mr Tea & The Minions, Cosmic Shuffling, Blondie & Ska, The Birth of Bonoyster, The Oyster, The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show, Julie Meikle and Mel Reeves, Meru Michae, Cutsmith, The Tremor Tones, Big Ship Alliance, First Born Losers, Dutch Money(s), and last but by no means least, Neonian, who is working on a track as we speak.

Phew, so, yes, who is as out-out as Mickey Flanagan in June? I know right, how surreal. I went to a pub, an actual pub, and heard live music last Saturday; down the trusty gate for those Daybreakers. Bloody fantastic it was too. Here’s some things to be looking forward to over this month. Note, this is in no way exhaustive, (which is what I’m going to be trying to keep up to date with it all!) You must continue to check our event guide, for details of all events listed here, updates of events, and even live streamed.

Half term sees us into June, ongoing from Tuesday 1st there’s holiday activities at Wiltshire Museum, which we welcome their reopening, and program of forthcoming events.

Also, back in business is the Nether-Street’s Farm Cookery School, who has a parent and child class called Cake Lady on Thursday 3rd.

The weekend sees The Devizes Lions Sports Coaching Weekend at Devizes Leisure Centre, IndieDay happening across Devizes town centre, meanwhile Devizes Southgate welcomes Texas Tick Fever.

There’s a Court Room Cabaret at Trowbridge Town Hall, Talk In Code play Swindon’s Level 3, with Atari Pilot, and Rude Mood are at The Vic.

Eddie Martin is live at The Bell in Bath, and we wish the Bath Reggae Festival a successful first event, let’s hope it’ll become an annual thing.

While we’re on about festivals, the following weekend, from Friday 11th is Kite Festival at Kirtlington Park, Oxfordshire. Closer to home, Trevor Babajack Steger is at The Southgate, Devizes on Saturday, and don’t forget Lions on the Green in Devizes, Sunday 13th; let’s support their brand-new fund-raising event. Joh Griven also has a guided tour of the Heritage Walk of Devizes.

This sounds fun too, Mustard Brass Band live at The Bell in Walcott Street, Bath

Monday 14th there’s an important meeting online, a progress report on Wiltshire Museum’s hopeful move to the Assize Court.

Summer Solstice weekend, (solstice being 4:30 on Monday 21st) kicks off the Bigfoot Festival at Ragely Hall, Warwickshire. Closer to home, as it goes to press, the Kington Langley Scarecrow Festival is still happening. The HoneyStreet Barge presents Troyka, on Saturday 19th, Jon Amor’s King Street Turnaround at The Southgate, Devizes and Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue with the Pete Gage Band at The Cheese & Grain, Frome.

There are also two great charity fundraising events, Caroline Lowe as Amy Winehouse at Swindon’s Swiss Chalet, in aid of The Specialized Project, which acts as a fundraising portal for many charitable causes and projects. And at The Rose & Crown in Worton, Chloe Jordan, Mistral and the Celtic Roots Collective have a fundraiser for MacMillan Cancer Support.

To the last weekend of what will, finger’s crossed, be an amazing return to normality, on Saturday 26th, The Southgate, Devizes welcomes Blind Justice, and the brilliant Blondie & Ska play The Greyhound, Trowbridge. But I’m hopefully saddling up and heading east, for geetars and corset swinging fun at the Barge on HoneyStreet, where those Boot Hill All Stars plan to moor up, with Dry White Bones; that one will go off!

 As far as I know, the legendary Black Uhuru at Frome’s Cheese & Grain, and Sunday 27th Blondie & Ska will be at the Royal Oak, Corsham. But as I say, loads more will be listed by the time we know what’s what, and hopefully a summer to remember is on the cards; just have to take responsibility for adhering to regulations and observing social distancing. Have a great June.


Trending….

Song of the Day 39: Kirsty Clinch

Song of the day this fine Friday evening… got to be Kirsty, enough said! And that’s my song of the day!! Very good, carry on…..

Tribute Acts Going the Extra Mile; Blondie & Ska

One surprise track contributed for our forthcoming compilation album for Julia’s House, (yes, it’s going sluggish but well, thanks for asking!) comes from Chippenham’s part-Blondie-tribute-part-ska-covers duo, Blondie & Ska. It’s a solid, rock steady original, with the added bonus it sounds as if it could’ve been an album track from Parallel Lines, Plastic Letters or another Blondie album at the peak of their game.  

It’s given me the opportunity to have a chat with Dave Lewis, one half of the duo, on how they started doing what they do, pondering if you just wake up one morning and think, I know, I’m going to be tribute act. If Blondie & Ska actually see themselves wholly as a Blondie tribute act at all, given they not only record original songs, but in a unique slant, perform classic Two-Tone songs from the same period. But most importantly, answering some conundrums I’ve had since hearing a tune with a similar concept by UB40 tribute Johnny2Bad, about tribute acts going the extra mile and recording tracks in the fashion of their inspiration. I mean, is it deliberate that it sounds akin, or simply natural method given the music is based around imitating the act?

Certainly, Blondie & Ska wasn’t formed on a whim. For a decade prior to forming the duo, Lorraine and Dave were both co-members of various bands on the same circuit. The idea, Dave explained, “occurred over a number of phases,” and expressed, as a mod, his love for The Beat. Anxious not to live up to expectations of his idols, Dave continued, “playing ska, was one of those things, because you love it so much, you don’t want to go that direction, but when we kind of got dragged into it, there was no stopping us, because the more we did it, the more we loved doing it, and there was no reason to be nervous!”

In the band as well, was Steve Edge, who co-wrote our song. “Steve and I used to write back in the nineties,” Dave explained, chuffed to be reunited to write this track specifically for us. “And we performed as an originals band,” he enthusiastically continued.

After the originals band, Dave joined his drummer and played in a local blues band called No Ties, which Lorraine also started in, while Dave concentrated on a secondary band aptly named Band Two, which Lorraine would later join. It was there where Dave suggested the concept of Blondie & Ska to Lorraine, in 2013. “She replied, hum, I fancy having a go at that,” Dave revealed. “It took about six months to get rehearsed. We did our first gig, and thought, why didn’t we do this before?” They’ve been performing weekly as a duo act from Land’s End to Barnsley since, clocking up hundreds or appearances together.

I moved onto the question, given recording originals and this mixture of lateral ska tunes added to the Blondie tribute, if they even classed themselves at ‘tribute act’ in the same light as the run-of-the-mill ones. “It’s weird one,” he admitted, “I kind of call it that Blondie and ska sound. Whatever we tend to do, people say I didn’t expect it to be like that, but that’s way things are. If I’m going to do something, we want to do it in a different way.” It’s also practical, using pre-recorded sections such as drums and horns, Blondie & Ska can accommodate the smallest of venues, unlike a large ska band with a horn section. “The other thing which is difficult, with signature bands, is it’s hard work keeping the bands together,” Dave observed, a notorious hindrance with ska bands in particular.  

Dubious it would work at first, during lockdowns alternate Saturdays have seen regular blossoming live streams from Blondie & Ska. “We had over 10 thousand viewers on one,” Dave delighted, “which is bonkers! I think it was just a sign of the time, everyone was just at their computer!” For your attention, next one is tonight at 8pm (Saturday 22nd May) on Facebook, HERE. “If people don’t know us,” Dave suggested, “it’s always a nice test. We’ve been surprised by the positive feedback.”

There’s the thing with Blondie & Ska, and I put it to Dave without trying to cause offence, that though it’s unique, nothing they’re doing is particularly ground-breaking. They’ve no stars in their eyes, but the niche is they’re two musicians having a whole lot of fun, doing what they love doing. And this is what comes across, and why it sounds so good. “Absolutely,” he agreed, suggesting the original blues band was tiresome. “I wasn’t really up for anything after that, and later wanted to get back into the action. We’re doing it now because we enjoy doing it. The Blondie & Ska stuff, you know, the more we play, the more people ask, and more bookings we get in ska clubs, and our repertoire is pushed in that direction.” I laughed, so prolific was the Jamaican record industry during the ska era, there’s always going to be one trainspotter, like me (!) who comes up and asks for some obscure Coxsone rarity!

But in turn, that’s precisely the ethos of both ska, and seemingly Blondie’s music. Aside the political unrest occasionally portrayed in the Two-Tone ska revival of the eighties, the memorable songs come from a carefree perceptive of jollity, and like Madness and Bad Manners, ska is eternally dance music, from the very roots. Likewise, Blondie rarely, if at all, socially commented about anything more than romance.

Dave was so enthusiastic to chat about the reasoning and history behind Blondie & Ska, about the technicalities of recreating the perfect tribute sound, and appeasing the aficionados, we could’ve chatted forever, but I feel you need to witness them in the arena they love, rather than waffle some!

An interesting story surrounding the chosen name for the duo we finished on, as while setting up for an early gig, the organiser summed up the sound on the blackboard by chalking up “Blondie & Ska,” under the premise a lot of blond girls and a lot of male ska fans had turned up. “I was standing there, looking at the name on the poster,” Dave explained. “Lorraine was saying, can you just get on and set up, cos we’ve got to be playing in an hour?! I said, but look at the name on the poster, and she was going, no, get on with what you’re supposed to be doing!” But Dave approached the guy, knowing him through many past gigs, to ask him if he could use it. “The girls danced to the Blondie songs, and the guys danced to the ska,” he noted. Story checks out, the mix works. Tune into their live streams to find out for yourself, or here’s hoping to catch them at a real gig soon.


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Devizes Town Band in Chippenham

“We’ve been waiting patiently to get back to playing again,” says our town band here in good old Devizes, “but now we are getting excited!”

The reason, with regulations permitting, they’ll be at Chippenham’s John Coles Park, off Malmesbury Road, on Sunday 23rd May, 3pm-5pm, for some free live music, promising to be a “musical extravaganza!” Bring a picnic, “we’ll be using our marquee, so you won’t miss us!”

Devizes Town Band formed in April 1999 as the Alpha Wind Ensemble. Mike Ward of Bratton Silver Band joined as Musical Director a year later, and by 2001 they became the Devizes Town Band and gained permission from the Town Council to use the town crest.

Since then, the band has gone from strength to strength, with various concerts including Proms at Hillworth Park. They’ve raised funds for many local charities, including Alzheimer’s Support, Julia’s House Hospice. They’ve played at Royal Victoria Park in Bath and the bandstand at Bournemouth, via their association with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, but recently reduced to making monthly Zoom videos during the lockdown to keep in practise.

For my best memory will always be the Christmas Light Switch-On and Lantern Parade, when, with cold fingers warming around a cup of mulled wine, the Town Band played a brilliant classical version of Jona Lewie’s Stop The Cavalry; and it’s not yule until I hear that song!

And now, showtime is nearing! Devizine wishes Devizes Town Band the very best of luck for a refreshed season. Until then, thanks to Bill Huntly’s now disbanded Devizes TV, enjoy a memory from the 2014 Proms at Hilworth Park.


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Hoping for a Summer of Local Music Festivals

Presented a punter-based cautionary piece on the hopeful move forward for live music this year, and how chancy it all is at this stage. If the playground remains uneven, I never intended the article to be pessimistic, though it may’ve been perceived that way. I just advised applying caution may be necessary prior to a compulsory detonation of over-excitement.

The other side of the coin of this vicious circle is that, without ticket sales there will be no show. While many organisers have cancelled their regular events, some keep their fingers and toes crossed, others are trying to work through it, and are dowsing a silver lining to this cloud with a summer of festivals planned.

Let’s hope and pray it pays off. Festival websites report that it is, and tickets are selling fast, which agreed, could be a sales pitch. So, you’re left to risk the call, and snap up tickets, especially for the most popular ones. I have faith most festivals will refund you if it either goes Pete Tong, or Pete Tong is booked to DJ, or else ask to retain your ticket for another year, because they organise festivals, and festivals are all about openness and sharing. Booking agents on the other hand, might be another story.

Personally, I’ve done gone got the festival t-shirt many moons ago, and the jester’s hat too, come to think about it; I can bide my time from power-napping in a spinning canvas pyramid, paying over the odds for a baggie of basil, and sliding headlong into a ditch of piss. For many though, particularly younger generations, festivals are essential, and vital, for their wonderful feeling of togetherness. For the music industry it’s crucial to maintain this notion; ignore my aged rant, there is no ditch of piss, not really, not in this clean-cut era!

Let’s run through the locally based choicest ones, which sound too good to miss… but remember to check the individual planned conditions of entry, some will ask you to provide evidence of licensed vaccination or negative PCR test within the previous 48 hour period.

June


11th – 13th: Kite Festival

Kirtlington Park, Oxfordshire

Born from a Kickstarter campaign in January 2020, but cancelled for the obvious reasons, it’s this festival’s maiden voyage this year. KITE aims to combine incredible music and breakthrough ideas in a unique programme of live performances and interactive discussions. “We wanted to bring together contemporary and legendary performers, thinkers, writers and public figures from the world of music, politics, business, technology and the arts and give you the opportunity to engage with the people who are influencing the way we live.”

Cultural icon Grace Jones, multi-Grammy-Award winning jazz singer Gregory Porter and gospel legend Mavis Staples were set to lead the music programme for the original date last year, we wait in anticipation to hear the line-up now, as Kite announce they’re working on their 2021 programme. Sign up for their newsletter for updates.


18th-20th: Bigfoot Festival

Ragely Hall, Warwickshire

Another first outing cancelled last year sees its debut this June. Just the map is enticing enough, with a boating lake and woodland and all that stuff. Local breweries and bands, who share the stages with a great line up, including Primal Scream, Fat White Family, Hot Chip Megamix, Maribou State (DJ) Baxter Dury and Dinosaur Pile-Up. There’s also an intersting wellbeing programme with hip hop yoga, boxercise, Let’s Talk About Sex Meditation & Mindfulness, and biscuits & burpees; I’ll just have the biscuits, thank you! Find Bigfoot here.


July


2nd – 4th: Minety Music Festival

Hornbury Hill, Malmesbury

Fourth outing for this popular do. A community non-profit triple day extravaganza, run entirely by volunteers which raised funds for the Wiltshire Air Ambulance, and local schools and charities last year. Guaranteed excellent music, a great, wide range of food and a well-stocked house Bar, Gin & Prosecco Bar and Cocktail Tiki Bar! There will also be a range of FREE activities in the Kidzone, including rock climbing wall, rock climbing digi-wall, an inflatable slide and assault course, bouncy castles, circus skills workshops and kids craft workshops, plus many more activities.

Line-up includes, Dr & The Medics, Space, Jesus Jones, Dreadzone, Crikey Minogue & Six Packs, a Ministry of Samba workshop, and a great local roster of Devizine favourites The Tribe, Talk In Code, The Dirty Smooth, A’La-Ska, Navajo Dogs, Sloe Train and Plucking Different. This is going to be a brilliant one, make sure there’s room in your backpack to sneak me in! Info Here.

Should get you in the mood…..

8th-10th: 2000trees Festival

Withington, Cheltenham

A largely rock and indie festival, 2000trees has a good reputation and won awards. This year sees Jimmy Eat World headline, with Thrice, Creeper, The Amazons, Dinosaur Pile-Up, The Menzingers, The Get Up Kids and many more to make me feel old!  Tickets & info Here.

9th-11th: – Cornbury Festival

Great Tew, Oxfordshire

Still in the planning stages, this ever-growing festival in the most beautiful Oxfordshire Cotswold location think it’s enough just to announce on headline act, yeah, but it is Bryan Adams; show offs! Should be good though. Info here.


22nd-25th Womad (?)

Charlton Park, Malmesbury

Still hopeful, Womad are holding off announcing acts, but you know, I know, we all know it’ll be the crème de la crème of world music on our doorstep, if all goes well, they’ve secured the date and tickets are here.


31st Mfor 2021

Lydiard Park, Swindon

A family orientated, affordable, one day pop-tastic festival I’ve only heard good things about, could be just the thing to introduce kids to festivals. And with Craig David, Rudimental, Ella Henderson, Phats & Small, Mark Hill (Original Artful Dodger), Lindy Layton on the line-up, it’s easy to see how this party is going to go down. I believe local acts will also be on agenda, certain our friends Talk in Code feature. There’s even an over 18 Friday night special additional event, with Five, S Club, Liberty X, Baby and Rozalla; everybody is freeeee, to feeeel gooood, apparently. Info & Tickets.


August


5th-8th: Wickham Festival

Fareham, Hampshire

New one on me this, but The Wickham Festival is an annual four-dayer of music and arts. Boasting three stages, and rated as one of the safest, most relaxed and family-friendly festivals in the UK, Wickham was voted ‘Best UK Festival, cap. under 15000’ at the Live UK Music Business Awards in October 2015; so, they know their stuff; I mean, they’ve got Van the man, and The Waterboys. Note also, Devizine favs, Beans on Toast, Gaz Brookfield, Tankus the Henge along with Nick Parker on the agenda; sweet! Tickets & Info Here.


6th: Love Summer Festival Devon: SOLD OUT.


7th- 8th: The Bath Festival Finale Weekend

And what a finale it is, Saturday; McFly, Scouting For Girls, Orla Gartland, Lauren Hibberd, George Pelham, Josh Gray, Novacub, Dessie Magee and Luna Lake. Sunday; UB40 featuring Ali Campbell & Astro, Billy Ocean, Fun Lovin’ Criminals, Seth Lakeman, Bloco B, Hannah Grace, Casey Lowry, Port Erin Life, and Life In Mono, with more to be announced… Tickets HERE.


21st: Mantonfest

Manton, Marlborough

Any closer than this and it’ll be in your back garden! But that’s not the sole reason to grab a ticket for MantonFest! Just thirty notes for adults, a tenner for teenagers, and a fiver for kids, but that’s not the only other reason. Reports on this family, broad ranging charity fundraising annual do has never been negative, and we’re glad to hear it’s back for 2021. Number one Blondie tribute Dirty Harry headline, along with Dr. Feelgood, Ex-Men (five members of original 60’s bands), Barrelhouse, Jo Martin with his band, Devizine favs Richard Davies and The Dissidents, Josie and the Outlaw and homegrown Skeddadle. We previewed it last year before shit hit the fan; tickets bought in 2020 are valid for 2021. Mantonfest say, “we may have to introduce some anti-covid restrictions. These will be announced nearer the time and will be in line with the latest developments and best practice;” let’s hope this goes off this time. Tickets & Info here.


21st: Live at Lydiard

Lydiard Park, Swindon

Anne‐Marie, Sean Kingston, Roman Kemp [DJ set] Artful Dodger, Chaney, Fabian Darcy on the line-up over four stages for this day festival at Lydiard, with a dance tent, boutique cocktail bar and food court. Info & Tickets here.


21st: Bath Reggae Festival

Now pushed back to August bank holiday, this is the maiden voyage for the Bath Reggae Festival, and we bless them with the best of luck. With a line-up this supreme though, I’d imagine it’ll sell itself. Legends Maxi Priest, Aswad, Big Mountain, Dawn Penn, and The Slits solo extraordinaire Hollie Cook, Laid Back and lovers rocker Wayne Wonder, this is a must for reggae fans. Tickets & info here.


September


4th-5th: Concert at the Kings

All Cannings, Devizes

For locals little more can be said about how awesome this ground-breaking festival raising staggering funds for cancer research is. Since 2012 it has bought international headline acts to the sleepy village outside Devizes; legendary fables and the fondest memories have been had there. No difference this time around, save for some social distancing. Billy Ocean, 10CC, Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, Sweet, Strawbs, Lindisfarne and Devizine favs Talk in Code, with more to be announced; twist your arm anymore, sir? No; no need to! Tickets & Info here.


9th-12th: Swindon Shuffle

Venues across Swindon

A later date for this annual extravaganza of local live music, spread across Swindon’s premiere venues and hugely supportive of original homegrown talent, this is weekend to head for the railway town. Since 2007 the Shuffle raises funds for MIND, and is largely free to attend. Ah, there’s plenty time to arrange a line-up, which is underway, but you can guarantee a truckload of our local favourites will be there, somewhere! Info.


10th-12th: Vintage Nostalgia Festival

Stockton Park, Near Warminster

The mature place to glamp this summer if you want to get retro; classic cars is the concentrate, but there’s no shortage of great bands from rockabilly, doo-wop, blues to mod skiffle, boogie woogie jazz and beyond. Sarah Mai Rhythm & Blues Band, “Great Scott,” Shana Mai and the Mayhems, The Bandits, Junco Shakers,The Flaming Feathers, The Harlem Rhythm Cats, Little Dave & The Sunshine Sessions, The Rough Cut Rebels, Riley K, The Ukey D’ukes and loads more. Info & Tickets Here.


You know, this one could be for me, rather than trying to look youthful clutching onto a marquee pole for dear life while a hoard of sugared-up teeny-boppers check Instagram amidst a soundtrack of dubstep! But look, I reckon there’s something for everyone here, but if I did miss yours, let me know, for a squashy cup of cider at the festie bar, I must just add your do here too!


Trending….

Getting Cosy with the Gyros; Greek Pop-up Catering Coming to Devizes & Melksham

For the love of Eros, what’s the plan for your Valentine’s weekend in this restricted era? Just a language of love suggestion in view of limitations, because I’ve not tasted a Greek gyro, yet, but boy, the ones at The Cosy Kitchen pop-up takeaway look scrum-diddly-umptious! And word on the street is; they’re heading our way. Find them at the Wiltshire School of Gymnastics on Friday 12th and The Moonraker Pub, Devizes on the 13th February.

I’ve been chatting to these SBS winners, finding out how it works and asking them, why Greek. The foremost is simple, just rock up, order and obviously adhere to social distancing measures. They don’t offer pre-orders or deliveries, it’s collection only, “we find it’s not fair to the people queueing to then stop serving them when they’ve been waiting, for someone who has called up,” they explained.

The Cosy Kitchen started in 2019, on the events circuit, which is probably what jogged my memory of their popularity at Devizes Food & Drink Festival that year. “It has been difficult as we have had every event cancelled and I feel most of this year is going to be the same,” they told me, “so we’ve had to adapt to how things are to ensure we’re adhering to guidelines by putting things in place to keep everyone safe, it’s not been easy but all our customers have been amazing!”

The Cosy Kitchen at 2019 Devizes Food & Drink Festival

I’m reckoning it’s great for towns like Devizes, despite awesome Italian, Chinese and Indian restaurants, the choice is mostly limited to these. But why did the Cosy Kitchen decide upon Greek cuisine? I asked if there was a connection.

“We love Greece,” they added, “it was the first place my partner and I went on holiday and we fell in love with the place, since then we go back a couple times a year, to a little village where we are friends with everyone! We would come home, wanting gyros or Greek food and would drive long distances, and not be 100% happy with it, either not tasting right or the wrong atmosphere. So, we thought, let’s just do it ourselves!”

With a chef in the family, a connection to Greek suppliers, and friends who had restaurants (one called The Cosy Corner, influencing the name) to teach them recipes, The Cosy Kitchen was born and it treks Wiltshire towns and villages, bringing them a taste of Greece; what’s not to like?!

Cyprus is as close to Greece I’ve been, personally. An island which seems to cater for the majority English tourist by offering, I found tiresomely, chips with every meal. Much to my initial delight, at one point we tried an Australian bar where the owner proudly acclaimed in broad Sydney accent, “today we’ve got the Sunday roast.” But to my horror, even this was served with chips!

Due to this, the sustenance experience of my life occurred there, and I’ve been a fan of Greek food since. Yep, we’re talking the meze, a boundless round of courses until you drop. Honest, I’m a big eater, but this broke me. There’s a photo I’m not sharing, of me at this conjunction, reddened in face and blotted beyond compare. The waiter noted my faltering and tapped me reassuringly on the shoulder, “not long to go now!” But it was a big fat fib, as they covered the table in traditional Greek dishes, and I’m not one to excuse myself. They were all so fine, I had to try at least a bit of each!

The Cosy Kitchen found my recollection amusing, “ha-ha! Greeks do not understand portion control!” Which led us nicely onto the details of what a gyro is. Akin to the Turkish kebab, its meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie, typically served wrapped or stuffed in a pita, along with ingredients such as tomato, onion, and tzatziki sauce. “In Cyprus,” those Cosy Kitchen folk informed, “they mostly don’t put chips inside their gyros, whereas in Greece they do.” I zoomed in their photos, story checks out, there be chips in there; fortunately, I’d just had my dinner, still got a tad eager though. But the Cosy Kitchen get only good feedback on their brand of “herby fries,” “people just love them!”

It all sounds good, and in my mind, I’m already queuing at the Moonies! But the proof is in the pudding, as they say, of which, incidentally, you can order cheesecake for £3 a slice, and I think we should report back on how they taste on the day, if you’re not tempted already!


Trending…

Song of the Day 16: Blondie & Ska

If you came here looking for an original song by upcoming hopefuls, look away. Chippenham’s Blondie & Ska may not be groundbreaking or looking for a mainstream recording contract, a Blondie tribute act who fuse ska and Two-Tone classics into their repertoire, but what they do they do with a barrel load of lively fun. And, in a nutshell, lively carefree fun is the backbone of ska.

Heores of the live stream currently, booking Blondie & Ska for a party or pub gig in the future, and you can gurantee, if fussy music devotees tut, the majority will be up dancing. For this reason enough, I blinking love this duo, but that alone is plentiful. Like their Facebook page for details of future free streams, it’s an entertaining, unpretentious show.

And that’s my song for the day. Very good. Carry on….


Song of the Day 3: Harmony

Look, right, I’m not at the top yet, but it’s in clear sight. A round number, of the half century kind, awaits me atop the hill, and there’s no stopping the ride to get off.

I guess reaching these milestone ages causes you to analyse your life somewhat, and if there’s one thing I do know in all my years, it’s that I’ve told some colossal pork pies. Some real stinkers. I don’t know why, other than occupational hazard as a journalist, I’ve no excuses, not one which will wash with you clever lot.

Whether it be for the prestige, the glory, or, sometimes just for the sheer hell of it, just because the golden opportunity arose and I couldn’t stop myself, they just slipped out.

I’m not proud, just saying, you know, get it off my chest. Not compulsively, though, I’d go as far to say the majority of what I say is true.

Why do people say, “I’ll be honest with you…” ? Well duh, I sincerely hope you do anyway, it should go without saying. But the phrase immediately raises the alarm; I’m guessing a whopper is on its way. I never use that phrase on principle. The principle I don’t trust myself to keep to it.

See, what with the whopper, the real damaging kind of fib. I consider my track record on that quite good, I tend to lie to big myself up, but not to put others down. I tend to lie to make light of a situation, rather than darken the notion. I tend not to lie to anyone I trust not to lie to me, and I’ve seen too many of them backfire anyway, so, I’m done with lies, filled my quota but retain decency in not being overly destructive with them; quantity not quality!

And anyway, I don’t lie here, cos I trust you all, I really do. This isnt a tabloid, this is me. Clearly you get what you see, which might be a waffling clown but, hey.

So, Harmony, from Chippenham, on the subject of liars; she’s not singing about me, no sir, not when I say with all the honesty left in me, this young singer-songwriter I’ve discovered via Sheer music, has got something really special. And even if I was lying, which I’m not, I’ve shared the video, to prove it.

And that’s Song of the Day, for the third day. It’s become a popular feature, overnight, honest.

Should you choose to believe that!

Have a lovely rest of your day. Very good. Carry on….

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

On Social and Political Matters……

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

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

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

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

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

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

January

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

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

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

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

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

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

February

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

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


Onto Devizine…. kind of.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March


On Music……

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May

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

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

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

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

June

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


On Arts…..

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

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

July


On Food…

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

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

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

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

August


On Stats, Spoofs and the Future….

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

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

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

September