REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival 2022

A Great Festival – Now What About The Future?

Andy Fawthrop

Well, the 2022 Devizes Arts Festival has now drawn to its successful close.  Thanks to a very determined and hard-working committee, this jewel in the D-Town crown was finally shining again.  Along with DOCA-led events like the International Street Festival, Carnival, Colour Rush, Lantern Parade etc, The Food & Drink Festival, the two Beer Festivals, and The Fulltone Music Festival, we are truly spoiled for the cultural life in our town.  We certainly punch way above our weight.….

This year the DAF ran from 9th to 25th June, a fortnight full of great entertainment – I counted 23 events at ten venues across town, showcasing a wide variety of the arts – jazz, classical, rock and country music, comedy, talks, walks.  Most, if not quite all, were well supported and I know that the organisers were pleased overall with ticket sales.  Bearing in mind that this Festival was effectively originally planned in 2019 and meant for delivery in 2020, it finally emerged blinking into the light of a post-Covid world in 2022.  A great job was done in rolling forward as many planned acts as possible, but there were inevitable casualties – some artists previously booked had understandably moved on and taken other bookings in the meantime. So, for the DAF Committee, it must have seemed a little bit like Groundhog Day in getting this thing finally done.

So what was so good about it?  Obviously tastes and opinions are going to differ, but attendances and ticket sales have to be a good indicator.  We saw some nationally-known stars – Lesley Garrett, Simon Calder, Adam Frost, Tankus The Henge, and Darius Brubeck making their way down to this part of rural Wiltshire.  For me, the personal highlights were The Scummy Mummies and Alfie Moore on the comedy side, and Tankus and Darius Brubeck on the musical front.  The spread and variety of events was impressive, the venues were well set up and organised, and the advertising was spot-on.

The things that might need a little further thought about were that some events/ venues weren’t sold out, that there were not more “affordable” events in the mix, and that there were only two Free Fringe events (although both were excellent and very well attended).  Perhaps these factors, and the lack of very much aimed specifically at a much younger audience, did lead to a preponderance of an (ahem) “older demographic” at quite a few events.  Clearly there were a couple of exceptions (Tankus and The Scummies spring to mind), but certainly something I couldn’t help but notice.

But, to be honest, a lot of this is minor quibbling.  The Festival overall was clearly an artistic success, and the DAF committee and volunteers deserve a hell of a lot of praise for getting off their arses and delivering a very high quality event in our town.  Hats off to the lot of them!

So what of the future?  What should we expect?  Already, as the dust settles on this year’s event and all the analysis starts, change is afoot.  The DAF organising committee itself is changing and evolving, as the Chair (Margaret Bryant) and Vice-chair (Vivienne Cuckow) step down from their roles.  Discussion and planning for 2023 and beyond will start shortly, with Vince McNamara and Jean Edwards stepping up to jointly fill the role of Chair.

The broad thinking at the moment is that, now that the “old” Festival has been (finally) delivered, 2023 can start with an almost completely blank sheet of paper.  The decks have been cleared, and the DAF committee are back in the saddle, raring to go.  Is that too many metaphors? – probably, but you get the drift.

There are (hopefully) new venues to think of – the Palace cinema, St. Mary’s, the Vaults and other pubs.  There is the possible prospect of conversations and more co-operation with other music venues in the town, and other Festival organisers – hopefully to mutual benefit.  There might well be more Free Fringe, especially on days/ times that don’t conflict with or overlap the more marquee main events.  Perhaps some choirs or singing events?  Perhaps more to appeal to a younger audience?  (But probably not children’s events – these have been tried several times in the past, but have not succeeded).   Because, whilst it’s important to have an open mind, it would clearly be foolish to completely ignore the hard lessons that have been learned in the past.  Experience has to be blended with innovative thinking.  It has to be a sensible and commercial balance between the completely experimental – bringing in the exotic, the different, unexpected – and the tried-and-trusted popular bankers.

Equally, whilst it’s always good to support artists from our local cultural scene, there needs to be a heavy sprinkling of national/ international stars that audiences in D-Town would never normally get to see at affordable prices.  Frankly, it’s the latter that sells most of the tickets, and the acts that look good on the posters and the advertising!

So it’s going to be a real tightrope walk for the new committee to get this just right.  I don’t envy them, but I do sincerely wish them the very best of luck!

Does this make you feel that you’d like to contribute your ideas and/ or your energy?  If so, I’m pretty sure DAF would like to hear from you – there’s plenty of work to be done to develop and shape a successful festival.  And/ or you can become a Friend of the Festival, volunteer, and – most importantly of all – buy those tickets! For more information see the Devizes Arts Festival website at www.devizesartsfestival.org.uk/


Editor’s note: well, that kept our roving reporter Andy out of trouble for a fortnight! A massive thanks to you, Mr F, you’ve done an astounding job covering the Devizes Arts Festival. As opposed to me who danced my socks off at the fantastic Baila La Cumbia night. Here’s to 2023!


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REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival – Alfie Moore’s Fair Cop Unleashed @ Corn Exchange 24th June 2022

Criminal Humour

Andy Fawthrop

The Devizes Arts Festival left it late in their programme to unleash one of its comedy big guns Friday night, but it was well worth the wait. And a huge audience packed out the Corn Exchange to witness some great comedy in action…..

Alfie Moore is a comparatively recent talent to come on to the comedy circuit, but he’s already cornered the market in combining real-life police experience with a natural comedic ability. Recently retired as a police sergeant, with over twenty years’ front-line service with our finest, he has a wealth of real-life insights and comedy moments to share.

Looking every bit the slightly overweight, world-weary copper who’s heard every excuse in the book, Alfie has developed a wry, observational comedic style, which lends itself to witty, and sometimes gritty, anecdotes based on everyday modern policing. He also proved himself to be an adept socio-political commentator and weaved this all together with his take on the comedy gold of real life, the stuff that you just can’t make up.

He led us through his back-story, including his dyslexia, lack of formal education and his low self-esteem. Born and raised on a council estate in Sheffield, he was an apprentice in the steelworks before managing to join the Police, possibly through a mix-up in the paperwork. He was later inspired to take up stand-up comedy in 2007 after his first taste of live comedy at a local comedy club. He quickly became well and truly hooked, and was soon performing regularly up and down the country. (Since then he has written and performed his own one-man show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival six times now. His BBC Radio 4 comedy series ‘It’s A Fair Cop’ debuted in July 2014 and, following exceptional feedback from listeners and media reviews, further series have since been commissioned.) Last night he was touring his latest show ‘Fair Cop Unleashed’.

The first half consisted mostly of a general stand-up routine, getting himself into the murky world of gender politics, treading a very fine line between the acceptable and the very non-PC, beautifully rescued at the end by a great gag about having to know someone’s gender in order to know how much to pay them. There was some great stuff about police nick-names, the CPS (“Couldn’t Prosecute Satan”), and the ongoing struggle with paperwork in his Grimsby posting.

But it was the second half before he finally laid out his “real life” incident with a mysterious and inebriated clown walking in to his police station, asking for help to find four lions lost from the circus. What followed was the tale of his hilarious attempts to make sense of it all, to work with others (armed police that he referred to as “the Milk Tray men”) to re-capture the four dangerous wild beasts roaming the town (he was advised “try not to look like prey”), whilst overcoming his genuine fear that he might actually die.

His style throughout was engaging, confidential and dead-pan. The whole thing was genuinely funny, laugh-out-loud hilarious, with the gags and asides coming thick and fast. Long and loud applause was his just reward.

The Devizes Arts Festival finished Saturday 25th June with Absolute – Last Night Celtic Party at The Corn Exchange. Devizine congratulates The Devizes Arts Festival and thanks them for putting on such an excellent programme of events, looking forward to another great summer in 2023.

Editor’s Note: I’d also like to thank Andy for his extensive coverage of the Arts Festival over the last fortnight, covering almost every event can be exhausting, but it goes a long way to show how jam-packed the Arts Festival is and the dedication from the team to provide Devizes with some quality and diverse performances.


REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival – The Second Best Bed @ The Merchant Suite 23rd June 2022

The Plays What She Wrote

Andy Fawthrop

The Devizes Arts Festival’s presentation last night was a right little gem.

Alright, it definitely helped if you were slightly interested in William Shakespeare and his back-story, but it certainly wasn’t compulsory in order to have found this production quite fascinating. The central conceit of this compelling monologue, superbly played by Liz Grand, was that her recently-deceased husband William, that “upstart crow”, hadn’t in fact written any of his famous plays and poems at all – and that she, Anne Hathaway, was the real literary genius behind the scenes. Addressing a bust of the bard in her bed-chamber, occasionally sitting upon and referring to the eponymous second-best bed, Anne recounted in hilarious detail how the two of them had, jointly, carried off this major deception over the many years of their marriage.

The piece managed to convey both much factual (or at least conjectured) biographical detail – their marriage, the deaths of their children, the vagaries of the court and the theatrical players of their times – as well as the comic flights of fancy that constructed the central myth of bard’s true authorship. Her description of her trips to London, disguised as a man, to see her own plays performed on the stage, and debated in the taverns, whilst passing unrecognised by her oblivious and complacent husband were hilarious. And to later catch him in flagrante with not just one, but two, whores, just proved to her that her that the man was none too bright.

Anne, now widowed, spoke of her regret that her contribution, indeed her literary genius, had not been recognised. It was not now enough, following William’s death, to simply claim authorship since no-one would ever believe her. It would have needed Will to admit the deception, to corroborate the deceit, whilst he was still alive. And the chance of that had now gone forever. She railed at her ex-hubby – a man who couldn’t even spell his own name the same way twice – for having taken all the credit.

There was some clever stuff here if you listened carefully, with many famous lines from both the plays and the sonnets freely scattered in among the scripted lines, and some hilarious explanations of why certain things had been written the way they had. Indeed one of the highlights towards the end was the now-dead Bard arguing with his own genius wife about why she’d written the various roles of the plays’ heroes and heroines the way she had. Richard III, Macbeth, Hamlet, Lear, Othello, and all the flawed tragic men were swiftly eviscerated, and the roles of the women – Lady Macbeth, Juliet, Desdemona, Cordelia, the “Dark Lady” and the rest – were all grounded in the lives and feelings of real, oppressed women.

Both the script, and Liz Grand’s performance, were a tour de force, eagerly lapped up by an appreciative audience. An entertaining and instructive evening all round.

The Devizes Arts Festival continues only for two more days until Saturday 25th June at various venues across town. Tickets can be booked at Devizes Books or online at www.devizesartsfestival.org.uk


REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival– Darius Brubeck Quartet @ The Corn Exchange 22nd June 2022

“Nice”

Andy Fawthrop

The Devizes Arts Festival rolls on, and I was just thinking that it was high time that we had some proper jazz in the programme. To satisfy this so-far unfilled gap, DAF had managed to secure the services of top-notch international outfit The Darius Brubeck Quartet. Darius, of course, is the son of the famous Dave Brubeck.

Looking and sounding somewhat bemused to find themselves in the heart of rural Wiltshire, and a long way from the fleshpots of that there London, the band turned up smartly booted and suited, glad to be out on the road again playing the music that they love.

Darius himself is an American jazz pianist, composer, author and retired professor residing in the UK. Paying tribute to his father’s music in the jazz master’s centenary year, Darius had teamed up with saxophonist Dave O’Higgins, bassist Matt Ridley and drummer Wesley Gibbens. Not surprisingly, this was their Devizes debut, after playing critically acclaimed international tours and sold-out shows at major jazz houses in London.

The concert included Darius’s own compositions, some pieces influenced by and written by his South African students, as well as some well-loved Dave Brubeck hits, culminating in probably the most recognisable piece of the evening: the sublime “Take Five”.

Darius himself, quietly spoken, dapper and urbane, introduced each piece. The quartet’s mutual understanding and interaction was much in evidence, each musician contributing in laid-back fashion, and giving respectful musical breathing space to the others. Each piece was a delight, clear and unfussy, providing a concert that was certainly “cool” and, in the words of Louis Balfour of The Fast Show “nice”. As might have been expected, Darius’ piano and Dave’s saxophone were very much to the fore in most of the pieces, although there was time for both bass and drum solos.

Overall a very enjoyable evening listening to jazz of the highest calibre.

The Devizes Arts Festival continues for the next few days until 25th June at various venues across town. Tickets can be booked at Devizes Books or online at http://www.devizesartsfestival.org.uk


REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival– Simon Calder @ The Corn Exchange 21st June 2022

Travel Tales

Andy Fawthrop

Well, we’re on to week two of the Devizes Arts Festival, but there’s been no let-up, as the entertainment continues to come thick and fast. Following Florian Felcitta’s wonderful Free Fringe performance in the Three Crowns on Sunday afternoon, and yesterday’s highly entertaining talk from gardening expert Adam Frost, last night it was the turn of The Independent’s travel writer and commentator Simon Calder.

I suppose there was a deep irony at play in Simon coming to D-Town, a place that last saw a rail service back in the 1960s, and which “enjoys” the bus services of a third-world country. Added to which, of course, was the added insult of it being the first day of the national rail strike. Simon’s day had started very early (as early as that of our esteemed milky editor) in his attempt to catch the first (still running) train of the day from London to Gatwick. And even then, his only purpose in being at Gatwick at sparrow’s cough was to be aboard the first Gatwick Express back to London, just so that he could report on the experience for various TV and radio stations. His quest turned out to be forlorn – the first train failed to run (staff shortages), and the second one only managed ten miles before it broke down. It was the start of a day which, he remarked in an understated stage whisper, had “gone completely Tango Uniform”. If you don’t know, Google it.

Following that, he’d made his way via Swindon, and the rigours of the cross-country 49 bus, to finally haul up in The Vize – and there were plenty of graphic pictures to prove it, including a shot of him in Tea Inc. doing yet another media despatch. Having played this early sympathy card, and got the near-capacity audience fully on-side, Simon was off on his more standard presentation on the life of a travel journalist, using photos of funny signs from around the world, personal travel experiences, and his reflections on such issues as the Covid travel restrictions, and the sub-optimal outcomes (for travellers at least) of Brexit.

His style was confident and brisk, with quips, asides and much dry humour in evidence. He was deft in praising the charms of D-Town, whilst playing to the gallery by snarking at Melksham, Swindon and Trowbridge. He’d done his homework all right. The main presentation having concluded, Simon spent a good half hour fielding audience-generated questions (ably delivered by DAF Chair Margaret Bryant) and providing helpful and hilarious advice on topics as wide as Avios points, best and worst places to visit, when to board an aircraft, the quality of airline catering, the value of rail travel, tourism in post-conflict Ukraine, and the feasibility (or otherwise) of electric planes.

An altogether professional and entertaining evening, and another coup for DAF in getting a media personality down to our neck of the woods.

The Devizes Arts Festival continues for the next few days until 25th June at various venues across town. Tickets can be booked at Devizes Books or online at www.devizesartsfestival.org.uk


REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival FREE FRINGE –Florian Felcitta @ Three Crowns 19th June 2022

Superb Talent In The Afternoon

Andy Fawthrop

Another day, and yet another Arts Festival presentation at a different D-Town venue. This afternoon it was the turn of The Three Crowns to host a Free Fringe presentation in their wonderful courtyard. And what a delicious Sunday afternoon treat it was.….

Florian Felcitta is a young man who, in my mind at least, is going places. An extremely accomplished guitarist, who plays modern folk/ gypsy/ jazz, gave an absolute masterclass in how to engage and entertain a Sunday afternoon audience. Modest, self-deprecating, and thoroughly charming to boot, he worked his way through two superb sets of material. With no vocals, but merely relying on his sheer artistry of the guitar strings to produce accomplished instrumental versions of some great pop and rock tunes, the performance was absolutely captivating. Challenging his audience from the outset to effectively “name that tune”, he largely lost his £1000 per tune bets as his listeners homed in on the key melodies. We had hits from Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Wonder, Ed Sheeran, Django Reinhardt, Michael Jackson, Guns & Roses, Tom Petty and many others. But absolutely like you’ve never heard them before.

His guitar skills were superb. Aided by a modest use of loops and pedals, which he never allowed to dominate, he managed to produce a beautiful and very laid-back performance. The audience, despite being in the middle of a very busy pub serving lunches, were never distracted and paid full attention to every song and every introduction. It was stripped back, it was accomplished, and it was very, very good indeed. Hopefully we’ll see and hear much more of this wonderful artist in the future. I’m old and cynical, and not easily impressed these days, but this performance was absolutely spot-on. Highly recommended.

And, yet again, well done to DAF for putting this event on. The fact that it was FREE was just the icing on the cake!

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


REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival –The Homing @ Conservative Club 17th June 2022

A Game of Two Halves

Andy Fawthrop

Another day, another Arts Festival presentation. Following classical, rock, comedy, it was time for something completely different – this time it was alt-country/ folk/ Americana from London-based The Homing, and yet another different D-Town venue. We were up at the Con Club in Long Street, normally home to the very successful Long Street Blues Club. The place was pretty full and, due to the lack of any air-conditioning, a very hot place to be.

The Homing are: Dani Somerside (vocals, percussion), June Brawner (vocals, keyboards, guitar, mandolin), with Abraham Kane (acoustic and electric guitars), Rob Navrati (drums, vocals) and
Arnold Carrete (bass).

This concert, for me at least, was a game of two halves. In the first half the band struggled to reach its stride and to generate much enthusiasm, either on stage or in the audience. The songs were pleasant enough and competently performed, but the vibe was steady and plodding, rather than exciting. Slow and medium tempo numbers ran into one another, and it was a relief to get to half time.

After the break things were different. I don’t know if there was a hairdryer moment in the dressing room, or whether this is just how their shows usually run. But suddenly there was a flash of that missing spark. They lifted the tempo a few notches and, hey presto, the dance-floor quickly filled up. There were still the odd mis-steps in the set-list as the band, inexplicably, twice cleared a busy dance-floor by doing a long rambling intro, followed by another slow one. However, they kept rescuing it, and we just about reached the finishing-line with a guarded thumbs up.

Not the best gig I’ve been to, to be honest, but you can’t like everything. A better-ordered set-list, a couple more upbeat numbers, and slightly less chat might have lifted this performance to “good”. It was an enjoyable night out (just), but I was left feeling that it could have been rather better than it actually was. Oh, and I wouldn’t have called this Americana or alt-country either – more like soft/ folk-rock. Not massively important in the grand scheme of things, but we do worry about our labels don’t we?

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


REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival –The Scummy Mummies @ Corn Exchange 16th June 2022

Scum In The Corn Exchange

Andy Fawthrop

Well we’ve had plenty of music, chats and walks so far in the Devizes Arts Festival, so it was about time that a comedy monster raised its ugly head in our lovely town.  And, as they say, if you’re going to do comedy, best get out there and do it big.  And it doesn’t come much bigger, better and more well-known than the Scummy Mummies…..

For those who don’t know – Ellie Gibson and Helen Thorn originally joined forces to become The Scummy Mummies back in 2013.  Since then they have gone on to produce an award-winning podcast, a popular book, and their own range of merchandise.  They have an ever-growing social media presence, with more than 160,000 followers on Instagram.  There are now over 200 episodes of The Scummy Mummies Podcast, and they have been downloaded more than 5 million times in 150 countries.  The show has featured in “Best Podcast” lists in The Guardian, the Sunday Times, and The Telegraph.  

So taking the next logical step to create The Scummy Mummies as a live comedy show, packed with sketches, songs, and top quality boob jokes, came almost as an inevitability.  In 2019 they made their Edinburgh Festival debut, selling out the entire 25-night run and earning a five-star review.

And last night, the show rolled into D-Town and, not to be outdone by some mere provincial town in Scotland, was a sell-out.  400 or so folks packed into the Corn Exchange.  I’m guessing that there were a lot of dads across town looking after their children, cowering in the darkness, and wondering about how exactly to load the dish-washer, since about 95% of the audience were of the female persuasion.  This was like the biggest prosecco-fuelled hen-party on earth.  The air was thick with the aroma from competing waves of oestrogen and HRT patches, and it was almost over-whelming to we few cowering, intimidated males who had dared to put in an appearance.  Make no mistake – this was a BIG girls’ night out, the WAGs moving en masse, and woe betide anyone who got in their way.

And of course, it was everything the crowd had been expecting – potty-mouthed sketches, observations and songs on all the obvious themes and targets – the failings of men, sex, childbirth, domesticity, parenthood, body issues, you name it.  Every target was greeted with loud hoots and cheers of recognition and sisterhood solidarity.  Subtle and sophisticated it was not – but it was absolutely, side-splittingly, laugh-out-loud, bloody hilarious.  Ellie and Helen were absolutely superb at picking their targets and (male) victims from the audience, riffing and improvising on familiar themes of failed expectations, can’t-be-arsed attitudes, and rapidly-waning interests in other things in life than wine and sex.  I almost felt sorry for poor Phil and Dave sitting up at the front.  But not very sorry, to be honest.  It was excruciating at times, yet never nasty or vicious, just deeply funny.

Musical mash-ups featuring ABBA, Cher, Love Island, RuPaul, and the Nineties were great set pieces, together with sketches about baby-books, hair waxing, the horny-versus-hungry dilemma, and the “beauty” industry.  But the best bits in my view were the observational stand-up sessions, and the games (“I have never…” and the “confession” cards), which were generated by the D-Town audience itself, and led to the best impromptu comedy from both women.  And finally the “scum-ometer” revealed the “scummiest mummy in Devizes”, and then we were done.  Huge, huge cheers and applause was the justified response.

I think (I hope) it’s probably safe for the chaps to come out now, but be afraid – very afraid!

What an absolutely fabulous night out – great entertainment, and two hours of belly-laughs.  Well done DAF for throwing this absolute gem into the mix.

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


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REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival– Darius Brubeck Quartet @ The Corn Exchange 22nd June 2022

“Nice” Andy Fawthrop The Devizes Arts Festival rolls on, and I was just thinking that it was high time that we had some proper jazz in the programme. To satisfy this so-far unfilled gap, DAF had managed to secure the services of top-notch international outfit The Darius Brubeck Quartet. Darius, of course, is the son … Continue reading “REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival– Darius Brubeck Quartet @ The Corn Exchange 22nd June 2022”

REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival– Simon Calder @ The Corn Exchange 21st June 2022

Travel Tales Andy Fawthrop Well, we’re on to week two of the Devizes Arts Festival, but there’s been no let-up, as the entertainment continues to come thick and fast. Following Florian Felcitta’s wonderful Free Fringe performance in the Three Crowns on Sunday afternoon, and yesterday’s highly entertaining talk from gardening expert Adam Frost, last night … Continue reading “REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival– Simon Calder @ The Corn Exchange 21st June 2022”

Devizes School Summer Concert – Celebrating our Local School Community

Devizes School students will be showcasing their artistic and creative abilities at the school’s first public concert since the end of the Covid-19 lockdowns on Friday July 1st from 7:30pm. With performances and pieces from across the arts, the student community of Devizes welcomes local people back to their school with an evening to remember. A mix … Continue reading “Devizes School Summer Concert – Celebrating our Local School Community”

REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival FREE FRINGE –Florian Felcitta @ Three Crowns 19th June 2022

Superb Talent In The Afternoon Andy Fawthrop Another day, and yet another Arts Festival presentation at a different D-Town venue. This afternoon it was the turn of The Three Crowns to host a Free Fringe presentation in their wonderful courtyard. And what a delicious Sunday afternoon treat it was.…. Florian Felcitta is a young man … Continue reading “REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival FREE FRINGE –Florian Felcitta @ Three Crowns 19th June 2022”

REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival –The Homing @ Conservative Club 17th June 2022

A Game of Two Halves Andy Fawthrop Another day, another Arts Festival presentation. Following classical, rock, comedy, it was time for something completely different – this time it was alt-country/ folk/ Americana from London-based The Homing, and yet another different D-Town venue. We were up at the Con Club in Long Street, normally home to … Continue reading “REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival –The Homing @ Conservative Club 17th June 2022”

The Return of Saddleback

Yes, felt obliged to drop into the Saddleback Festival, have a nose….. If a week of heatwave may’ve inconviently paused for drizzle Saturday, fortunately Devizes Rugby Club erected a rather splendid marque for the slight return of their legendary Saddleback Festival. A combination of inclement weather and clashes with other similar town events meant while … Continue reading “The Return of Saddleback”

REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival – Quentin Crisp – Naked Hope @ Corn Exchange 15th June 2022

Lessons In Life!

Andy Fawthrop

The Devizes Arts Festival continues to offer us a wide range of arts performances.  After several, and varied, musical offerings over the past few days, last night was the time to dial things down a little, and to present something completely different and much more personally engaging.….

The Merchants Suite (aka the Corny Bin aka Exchange Night Club on weekend club nights) had been transformed by way of seating and lighting into an intimate theatre-like venue for this most personal of dramatic presentations, given by Mark Farrelly.  His self-scripted show “Quentin Crisp – Naked Hope” – was an absolute tour de force.  The words, largely lifted from Crisp’s 1968 autobiography “The Naked Civil Servant”, and previously in the mouth of the wonderful John Hurt in the 1975 TV adaptation, were wonderfully brought to life again.

The performance fell into three connected pieces.  We began with the younger Crisp, London-based, speaking in his high affected drawl, explaining his early life as “a camp, affected, homo-sexual” making his way through school, art school and the early London gay scene.  Several incidents were played out using different voices to illustrate how contempt and negativity conspired to shape his views.  The scene with the draft sergeant when he turned up, hair freshly henna’d, to try and enlist in the Army at the outbreak of war, was top-notch.

The second monologue was, following a swift on-stage clothes-change and transformation, featured the New-York-based 80-year-old, now gravel-voiced media personality.  His deliberate playing to a “club” audience was both clever and knowing, tired and yet hopeful.  His schtick now alternating between an almost stand-up comedian, and a world-weary philosopher of life.  The section ended with some showbiz-style audience participation (from the helpful Phil), using prepared questions on cards to elicit prepared answers which reflected Crisp’s views on life.

And then it was over and the audience applauded.  But was it really over?  In an impromptu third section, usually reserved for those who would like to beard him the bar afterwards (but the bar being closed), Mark dropped out of character and became himself.  In what was to prove to be the most affecting section, he revealed the true story of his own naked hope that had emerged ten years ago after “a year from hell” which had seen the break-up of a long-term relationship, and the suicide of a close friend.  His misery and despair at that time had been finally counteracted, at least in part, by the picture and the writings of Crisp.  In saving his own soul (as he saw it), he vowed to help others recover from the lowest pitch.  His own philosophy – that hope is always better than despair – reflects that of Crisp.

It was a truly moving and worthwhile personal coda to what had largely been a light and witty in-character monologue.  In my view, Farrelly should always include this section, and never leave it just for the ears of the bar-flies.

In sum, this was a great show, full of witty bon mots, aphorisms and quotable quotes (many worthy of that other famous early gay icon Oscar Wilde).  It was a set of “rules” for living – live your own life, be yourself, let the world come to you, don’t conform to society’s norms, and never look backwards or forwards – only “inside” yourself.

A cracking evening’s entertainment.

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


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REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival –Borealis Saxophone Quartet @ St Andrew’s Church 16th June 2022

Sax in Church

Andy Fawthrop

OK it’s a clickbait headline, but now you’re here, there’s more good news to report.

If you look upon The Devizes Arts Festival as a box of chocolates, this particular concert was a sweet little surprise – an additional lunchtime treat if you will, a chocolate to be enjoyed with a nice cup of (free) tea or coffee (thanks to the grand volunteers at St Andrew’s).

St Andrew’s church is a light, pleasant airy space, and an ideal venue for this sort of lunchtime concert, and it was good to see the Festival making good use of additional venues around the town.

The Borealis Saxophone Quartet is an award-winning chamber ensemble, led by Alastair Penman (soprano saxophone), with the other three members on alto, tenor and baritone saxophones.  They played a varied hour’s programme featuring contemporary & recently commissioned pieces, together with more well-known items by Bach, Gershwin, Rossini and Bernstein/ Sondheim.  Hence we had extracts from West Side Story, and the William Tell Overture (the “Lone Ranger” theme for our more childish readers; Editor’s Note: That’s a-me!)

As one might have expected from such experienced and professional musicians, this was an immaculately performed concert, full of brightness and verve.  All the pieces were well received by an appreciative audience, and the final applause was justifiably fulsome.

All of DAF’s offerings so far have been exceptionally good, and this one just kept their good run going.  Short and sweet, but an excellent concert. 

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


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

Absolutely Stonking!

Andy Fawthrop


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival – Leonore Piano Trio @ Town Hall 13th June 2022

A Real Classic

Andy Fawthrop


It’s taken a lot of resolve and a lot of hard work and planning to get Devizes Arts Festival back on the road after two enforced years away due to that C-thing, so it was great to get back to business as usual. And the good folks of D-Town have responded well by turning out for the first few events.….

Lesley Garrett at the Corn Exchange (“A Diva and a Piano”) was a cracking start with the hall full and Lesley herself on sparkling and witty form. I’m not a personal fan of her singing style, but it was well worth the time just listening to her down-to-earth humour, and her genuinely funny stories. Superb entertainment.

Since then we’ve had Baila La Cumba, South American music (reviewed earlier here on Devizine by Darren) and the first free Fringe event with Rockin’ Billy at The British Lion on Sunday

Which brings us to Monday and our first piece of classical music programming. The Leonore Piano Trio, first formed in 2012, consists of Benjamin Nabarro (violin), Tim Horton (piano), and Gemma Rosefield (cello). Each of them is an acclaimed soloist, having played with many famous orchestras and musical projects around the world. And last night it was a pleasure to welcome them to the beautiful setting of the Town Hall.

An almost-full room were treated to three pieces. The first, and perhaps most familiar was Haydn’s XV:25 in G major (Gypsy Rondo) – a lively and upbeat three-movement work. Second up was the far less familiar four-movement work by Bargiel – Trio in F, a work which the group have been recently recording. And, following the interval, Mendelssohn’s Trio in D minor. For me it was this last piece which struck the deepest chord, with a passionate and romantic first movement, and a wonderful short, sparkling scherzo as its third movement.

To my untrained ear, it was all pitch-perfect. The trio played with spark and intelligence, bringing real feeling to the pieces and, to quote a somewhat unreliable source, played all the right notes in the right order. It was a wonderful, uplifting and entertaining evening. And, as we are fairly starved of classical music in Devizes, a very welcome opportunity to hear three world-class musicians perform in our little town. A thoroughly enjoyable night out.

And there’s plenty more yet to come with the best part of two weeks’ worth of events still to happen, yet again nailing the increasingly redundant myth that “nothing ever happens in Devizes”. It’s good to see this major cultural Arts Festival firmly back in the calendar.

And this is just the Devizes Arts Festival! – don’t forget that there’s plenty of other stuff happening during that same two weeks – Wadworth’s Music (Wadfest), Saddleback Music Festival and Jim Blair solo at The Southgate – and that’s just on Saturday. See elsewhere on Devizine for a complete guide as to what’s on where and when. Get yourselves out there and see some live music!!


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Devizes Arts Festival Coming Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Devizes Arts Festival’s Soulful Finale

Featured image by Gail Foster

You’d be forgiven for assuming I’m reviewing a greyhound race with this introduction, for akin to snapping open the starting traps, it was a fraction of second after Motown Gold played the inaugural bar of The Temptations’ My Girl at the Devizes Corn Exchange Friday evening, that the first punter broke the dancefloor barrier, and a surfeit of dancers followed his lead.

Usually a summer occasion, Devizes Arts Festival succeeded lockdown’s gap year with this arts festival “lite,” consisting of three main events and a sprinkling of free fringe ones across the town; we’ve never had a November this good. The interim mini-festival came to a soulful finale with six-piece function band Motown Gold, who professionally and passionately delivered some classic soul covers.

Image: Gail Foster

Since day dot Devizes Arts Festival have inundated us with quality original acts, from music, dance, comedy, talks and so much more. To stage a covers function band might well be faced with some reproach, from those who didn’t attend and see the speed the mature audience jumped the dancefloor; call Norris McWhirter, I think we’ve a world record on our hands!

Ha, it’s as if many haven’t had the opportunity to shake their tailfeathers for a year or more, which they haven’t, ergo Devizes Arts Festival in all actual fact, perfectly picked their grand finale, because despite the creativity of originally crafted music, sometimes we all need to throw caution to the wind and dance our cares away to classics we know and cherish.

Image: Andy Fawthrop

The standard model of bassist and lead guitar, drums, keys and one saxophonist, with a female and male singer accepted, because they delivered the songs with wow-factor, onus largely on the magnificent vocal range of both, but in turn the glitzy professionalism and tightness of the band’s bonding. To book Motown Gold for your wedding would end in one heck of a memorable occasion, being a cut sky-high above the average.

Image: Andy Fawthrop

That said, for authenticity of the Motown sound, it was absent of various elements. Backing singers would’ve done wonders, an upfront brass section too, for the saxophonist sounded a smidgen lost without the celebrated trumpeters of Motown’s in-house band, The Funk Brothers. And if it failed to fulfil my “brass-is-class” precept, the one missing component most important is the tambourine of Jack Ashford. Forget modern metronome methods, the tambourine man was the time-keeper in this era of yore, so if you crave authenticity, the tambourine is crucial within a classic soul tribute.

Image: Gail Foster

Entering trainspotting mode, I’d also noted not every song was Motown, rather the band selected a wide-ranging repertoire from Stax to eighties RnB, such as Rufus & Chaka Khan, Sister Sledge, et all. But each one a danceable favourite, and executed with faultless precision, it really didn’t matter one, or even half an iota. So much so, my carping is trivial, I’ll put my handbag away.

Image: Andy Fawthrop

The essence is the pleasing performance, the joyful spirit of the crowd, the lights and eras-spanning retrospection, and it undoubtedly set the Corn Exchange alight with an unforgettable ambience, resulting in a brilliant finale to Devizes Arts Festival’s interim mini-festival, and leaves our jawbone firmly on the floor in anticipation for what they have in store for summer 2022. Though I hinted, they were giving away no secrets yet!

Devizes Arts Festival Team. Image by Gail Foster

If there’s one thing, we all need right now, it’s a good ol’ carefree, soul shakedown party. The proof was in the pudding, a grand night was had, the perfect end to what has been a gratefully welcomed Arts Festival for the town. One which Devizine needs to wrap up with a concluding article encompassing all the events into one feature, but right now, I’m still imagining myself doing watusi like my little Lucy, with the memory of a great night out-out!

Image: Gail Foster

REVIEW – Sally Barker @ Town Hall, Devizes – Saturday 13th November 2021

Joni & Sandy at Devizes Arts Festival

Andy Fawthrop

The Devizes Arts Festival continues!  Following Thursday night’s bash at The Corn Exchange with Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, it was time for my second event in DAF’s mini-programme.  This meant a change of both venue and of genre – this time it was folk music at The Town Hall.….

Sally Barker has been around the folk scene for decades, working solo, in duets and various collaborations/ groups (The Poozies, the reformed Fotheringay, The Sandy Denny Project).  She has toured extensively, and played as support act to most of the UK’s folk aristocracy at one time or another (Steeleye Span, Gordon Giltrap, Roy Harper, Richard Thompson, Taj Mahal, Richard Digance, Fairport Convention, Bob Dylan, Robert Plant).  More recently, in ‘The Voice UK’, she was Tom Jones’ finalist on the BBC TV programme in 2014, reducing Sir Tom, and viewers alike, to tears with her flawless performances.

Her focus for much of this time was on singing her own material, but in more recent years (for a variety of reasons), she has tended to focus on playing and interpreting the songs of both Joni Mitchell and Sandy Denny.

And thus it was we got the show entitled “Joni, Sandy and me”, wherein Sally gave us many of the songs of those two fabulous (but very different) famous female artistes.  Sally herself summed up the distinction between the styles of the two songwriters early on her show.  Denny, she said, tended to use “closed lyrics” and “subterfuge” (where you had to look carefully beneath the obvious words to find out what she was really saying), whereas Mitchell was much more like a painter (where the use of bold colours and images made the meaning much clearer).

Aside from the between-song commentary on the style and historical background of the two singers, Sally illustrated what she was saying by singing the songs themselves.  I was impressed by the way she switched easily between Joni and Sandy, her voice conveying just the right level of emotion, vulnerability and fragility in each song.  Some numbers were delivered (to my ears at least) as straight and faithful copies of the songs as I remembered them, whereas others were subjected to much more in the way of re-interpretation.  Either way, it worked for me – Dandy and Joni are two of my favourite artists, and there was absolutely nothing here to spoil it for me.

For this show (compared to the recent WHO offering in the same room) the lighting was much better, highlighting the artist on stage and dimming the background for the audience.  The sound, good when it was working, suffered a number of glitches which were annoying.  The room was at best two-thirds full, and I can’t help thinking that it might have been sold out if there been a little bit more in the way of advertising by DAF.  But that’s a minor quibble – overall an enjoyable and well-received performance. 

Devizes Arts Festival continues for the next week, with a large range of events, including several fringe (free!) events at various venues around the town.  See www.devizesartsfestival.org.uk/ for further details and booking information.  Of particular note will be a rousing finale dance night with Motown Gold this coming Friday 19th November.  Some tickets still available.


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

Jazz Is Back In Town!

Andy Fawthrop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Dave and Deborah at the Southgate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Ronnie Scott’s in Devizes? Devizes Arts Festival Returns for November

Have you missed our wonderful annual Arts Festival, Devizions; too hungry for it to return to wait for next summer? I know I have. Never fear, Devizes Arts Festival offers an interim while we wait for 2022, under the motto, “The Show Must Go On.” Three fantastic musical events at the Corn Exchange and Town Hall over the month of November; and they’re tasty, very, very tasty.

For starters, a taster of London’s legendary Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club is coming to Devizes on the 11th. Celebrating 60-years since the founding of one of the world’s most iconic music venues, the Ronnie Scott’s All Stars take to the road to celebrate the ‘Ronnie Scott’s Story’.

Direct from London’s world-famous jazz club and combining world class live jazz alongside rare archive photos and video footage, The Ronnie Scott’s All Stars, take you on a guided, musical tour of this music institution. Set amongst the dive bars and jazz juke joints of London’s Soho, we hear about the desperate hand-to-mouth finances of the early years and the frequent police raids.

Hear how Ronnie’s became neutral ground within rival gang territory and their scrapes with gangsters including the Krays who were rumoured to have taken Ronnie and Pete “for a little drive”! Life at Ronnie’s is evocatively re-imagined through tales of the club’s past visitors, from pop stars, film stars and politicians to comedians and royalty, but above all, the musicians.

But that’s not all, The Arts Festival are delighted to welcome Sally Barker to Devizes, on the 13th November. In this new show ‘Sandy, Joni & Me’ she will bring some of the songs of both Joni Mitchell and Sandy Denny to the stage, exploring the singer/songwriter legacy that was forged in the early ’70s.

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

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

Online tickets are not yet up on the Arts Festival Website, but will be available from Devizes Books. Events are £21 for Ronnie Scott’s, £16 for Sally Barker and £18 for the Motown evening. To keep in touch with them, get onto their mailing list.

And you could look the part on the evenings, as The Show Must Go On facemask, and similar tote bags, T-shirts, badges, note books and more are available from www.theatresupportfund.co.uk which supports the NHSCovid19 Appeal, the Theatre Support Fund, the Fleabag Support Fund and Acting for Others. There’s currently 20% of all merchandise.

Devizine would like to welcome back The Devizes Arts Festival, and wish the team the very best for these great events.


Emma Langford Sowing Acorns

If I’m majorly disappointed by all the planned events and gigs this year done gone cancelled, probably the biggest of all was when I badgered Devizes Arts Festival into booking Limerick’s folk singer-songwriter Emma Langford. It didn’t take much convincing, just a song or two, and if you hear her new album Sowing Acorns, released yesterday, I guarantee your arm will be twisted too.

Sowing Acorns is everything I’d expect and much more. A spellbinding composition of intelligent lyrics reflecting on past, a place or observation, Emma’s mellifluous vocals and enchanting folk melodies. A magnum opus for this award-winning emerging artist who I’ve followed the progress of for many years.

It’s an album which will transport you to an Irish coastal path, a gentle zephyr as you peer out to the ocean. Port Na bPúcaí perhaps the prime example, with its chilling cello merging into the drifting poetic title track. It’s a whisk of untamed Andrea Corr blending Clannad to Mari Boine, yet somehow completely inimitable. Yet there’s astute honesty within these pieces of musical jigsaw, tales of family woe or enriching scrutiny of a lifecycle. There’s enough going on here to pull to pieces and discover alternative angles with each listen, but allowing it to drift over you is recommended, like waves upon said ocean.

But while Sowing Acorns opens acapella and drifts into traditional acoustic folk, it doesn’t rest, rather merges styles, and by the time you get to Ready Oh some nine tracks in, there’s a blithe soul pop feel, teetering do-wop, similarly the Latino marketable feel of Goodbye Hawaii. Towards the end it returns to the thoughtful prose of Emma’s sublime acoustic and feelgood Irish charm, and it ends with an ambient trance remix of the title track by Avro Party. But each and every segment, every journey this album takes you on, darker or uplifting, is expressively awe-inspiring, as if Emma pushed everything she has into this release; the definitive Emma Langford.

It is, in a word, utterly gorgeous, a definite contender for album of my year, and one I’ll be submerged in its mesmerising portrayals for a long time yet.

Click to download from Bandcamp

Award-Winning Limerick Folk Artist, Emma Langford, to Appear at Devizes Arts Festival

I reckon I’ve been honourable to The Devizes Arts Festival, as in their excitement they’ve often accidently divulged a booking they’d rather have kept secret, and I’ve not yet let the cat out of the bag until they want it unzipped! Said excitement, though, is symbolic of their passion to bring us a wonderfully diverse roster.

For this one I’ve been equally as thrilled, and glad to be the one to broadcast the news; yes, with their permission! Aptly perhaps, as I’m proud it was my suggestion and I’m so glad they took heed.

So, it gives me great pleasure to announce folk singer-songwriter Emma Langford is to appear at this summer’s Arts Festival. From Limerick in South-West Ireland, Emma has gone from strength to strength. But to start at the beginning of our association; it’s been well over a decade since I got chatting to her father, Des, and in sharing a love of comic art, we’ve been online friends since. Call me archaic, but while you can meet lots of people online which the book of face terms “friends,” you have to wonder if they really constitute “friends,” I mean, if you’ve never met them in person. Des is the exception to that rule.

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It was around 2016 when he sent me a video of his daughter singing, yet if I went around telling people “listen to my mate’s daughter sing,” it sounds cringeworthily like I was pushing it only for this reason. I bid you listen to her songs; clearly, it’s not just me saying how utterly fantastic she is. Emma has received unwavering acclaim internationally, after a whirlwind 100-date promotional tour across Austria, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, the UK and Ireland, to launch her 2017 debut album, Quiet Giant. The Irish Times described Quiet Giant as ‘music that weaves a spell as you listen to it… An enduring piece of work’. Ireland’s state broadcaster RTÉ Radio 1 presented Emma with the Best Emerging Artist award at their inaugural Folk Awards in October 2018. She also made her debut appearance in the USA this August, on the Snug Stage at Milwaukee Irish Fest.

Emma possesses a distinct natural tone and resonance that is truly breath-taking. Quiet Giant features stunning full-band arrangements for ten self-penned songs, and following the album’s Irish release, she was invited to launch it internationally with Germany’s Irish Folk Festival tour. In Devizine’s infancy reviewed Quiet Giant, suggesting it’s “a suave survey of dignity and passionate despondency with uplifting string arrangements and traditional Irish folk values.” I worthlessly tried to find a tenacious link to Devizes to justify reviewing it on our local website. I just wanted to get the message across, as I compared her to Andrea Corr, or a young Kirsty McColl.

But, being as it’s said Emma’s “spell-binding” sound is made to be heard live, be it solo or with a full complement of musicians, I took steps to try to bring her to town for a gig, but it fell through. The promoters were in awe though, told me she really needs to head for London for maximum exposure; “she’s too darn good for Devizes,” I was told! Pleased to say, we’ve no need to worry, thanks to the Arts Festival, and I look forward to this with bells on.

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Emma is a prolific artist, recently collaborating locally on projects with musicians, theatre-makers and aerial-dance performers. This summer’s show should align with her highly-anticipated new album.

The Arts Festival had their final committee meeting of the year at the beginning of the month. “The 2020 programme is nearly there,” they say, “although there are some threads to be tied up. We can assure you that it will be as good as (or maybe even better than) 2019.” Other acts already leaked are London’s Tankus the Henge, who describe their sound as “five-wheeled, funk fuelled, open top, custom paint job, rock ‘n’ roll jalopy that comes careering around the corner on a tranquil summer’s day, ruining the silence and disturbing the bats.” Performing comedy for less-than-perfect parents, The Scummy Mummies are also confirmed, along with San Francisco born jazz pianist and composer The Darius Brubeck Quartet.

Roll on summer, roll on!


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


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An Interview with Ed Byrne

With my ribs near fully recovered from giggling injuries caused by the one Ed Byrne, it’s nice to note if you missed him at the rescheduled Devizes Arts Festival evening, he’s playing Trowbridge’s Civic Centre on the 26th September, March 13th at the Wyvern, Swindon and Bath’s Forum on March 19th.

Here’s an interview with the man himself, to tempt your taste buds…. 

Jason Barlow

A household name teetering on the brink of national treasure status, award-winning comedian Ed Byrne enjoys worldwide acclaim for his stand-up. With 25 years under his belt, Ed has parlayed his on-stage success into a variety of notable television appearances. A regular on Mock The Week and The Graham Norton Show, Ed has recently co-presented Dara & Ed’s Big Adventure and its follow-up Dara & Ed’s Road To Mandalay, and managed not to disgrace himself on Top Gear or whilst tackling one of The World’s Most Dangerous Roads. As a semi-professional hill-walker himself and fully paid-up humanist, he also brought a refreshing warmth and honesty to BBC2’s recent hit The Pilgrimage.

But the Irishman is still best-known and best appreciated for his stand-up performances. A quarter of a century at the comedic coal-face has equipped Ed with a highly evolved story-telling ability and a silky mastery of his craft. Yet his wit, charm and self-deprecatory observational humour is often underpinned by a consistently hilarious vitriol and sense of injustice at a world that seems to be spinning ever more rapidly out of control.

Having recently hit a new peak with shows such as the sublime Spoiler Alert and reflective Outside, Looking In, which explored the minefield that is modern parenting and a generational sense of entitlement, Ed’s new show If I’m Honest digs ever deeper into a father’s sense of responsibility, what it means to be a man in 2019, and whether he possesses any qualities whatsoever worth passing on to his two sons. Occasionally accused of whimsy, If I’m Honest is a show with a seriously steely core.

Gender politics, for example, is something Ed readily engages with – deploying his customary comedic zeal. ‘I’ll admit that there are things where men get a raw deal,’ he says. ‘We have higher suicide rates, and we tend not to do well in divorces, but representation in action movies is not something we have an issue with. It was Mad Max: Fury Road that kicked it all off, even though nobody complained about Ripley in Alien or Sarah Connor in Terminator 2. Of course, social media means this stuff gets broadcast far and wide in an instant, which emboldens people.

‘The problem with men’s rights activists is that it’s not about speaking up for men’s rights, it’s about hating women. If you’re a men’s rights activist, you’re not going to care about the fact that there’s an all-female Ghostbusters remake. That’s nothing to do with men’s rights or female entitlement. That’s everything to do with being, well, a whiny baby.’

Photo by Idil Sukan

As ever, Ed manages to provoke without being overly polemical, a balancing act that only someone of his huge experience can really pull off.

‘I did stuff about Trump and the Pizzagate right wing conspiracy,’ he says, ‘and a couple of the reviewers said, “Oh, I would have liked to have watched a whole show of this”. And I think, ‘well you might have, but the average person who comes to see me would not like to see that’. I like to make a point or get something off my chest, or perhaps I’m talking about something that’s been on my mind, but the majority of stuff is just to get laughs.

‘People who come to see me are not political activists necessarily, they’re regular folk. If you can make a point to them, in between talking about your struggles with aging, or discussing your hernia operation or whatever it is, you can toss in something that does give people pause as regards to how men should share the household chores.’

He continues, ‘It’s not that I feel a responsibility, I think it just feels more satisfying when you’re doing it, and it feels more satisfying when people hear it. When a joke makes a good point, I think people enjoy it. It’s the difference between having a steak and eating a chocolate bar.’

Ed, who broke through in the mid-1990s when the New Lad became a genuine cultural phenomenon, doesn’t want to submit to any unnecessary revisionism, but admits that if the times have changed, he has changed with them. He reflects a little ruefully on one of his most famous jokes. ‘There’s an attitude towards Alanis Morrisette in the opening of that routine that I’m no longer comfortable with, where I call her a moaning cow and a whiny bint… slagging off the lyrics of the song is fine, but there’s a tone in the preamble that I wouldn’t write today.’

The new show also takes his natural tendency towards self-deprecation to unexpected extremes. ‘I do genuinely annoy myself,’ Ed concedes. ‘But the thing of your children being a reflection of you, gives you an opportunity to build something out of the best of yourself only for you to then see flashes of the worst of yourself in them. It’s a wake-up call about your own behaviour.’

When I challenge him over the degree of self-loathing he displays, he disagrees. ‘Self-aggrandising humour is a lot harder to pull off than self-deprecating humour,’ he insists. ‘A lot of people get really annoyed when Ricky Gervais is self-congratulatory. I always find it very funny when he accepts awards and does so in the most big-headed way possible. I think it’s a trickier type of humour to pull off, talking yourself up in that way.

‘So no, I don’t think I’m being massively hard on myself. The fact is when you’re the bloke who is standing on the stage with the microphone, commanding an audience’s attention, you’re in a very elevated position anyway.’

Photo by Idil Sukan

That said, If I’m Honest brilliantly elucidates the frustration that arrives in middle age – and lives up to its title. ‘I’m bored looking for things, I’m bored of trying to find stuff, because I can never find it, and it is entirely my fault,’ Ed says. ‘Nobody’s hiding my stuff from me. Although my wife did actually move my passport on one occasion’.

He insists that, while the show might have mordant and occasionally morbid aspects, it’s also not without its quietly triumphant moments. ‘I thought I was being quite upbeat talking about the small victories,’ he says. ‘You know, finding positivity in being able to spot when a cramp was about to happen in your leg and dealing with it before it does. I was very happy with myself about that.’

Age, it seems, has not withered him. Especially now that he’s figured out how to head off ailments before they become a problem. ‘You see comics who are my age and older but are still retaining a level of “cool” and drawing a young crowd. I can’t deny that I’m quite envious of that. But there’s also something very satisfying about your audience growing old with you.’

Ed Byrne is touring nationwide, appearing at Trowbridge’s Civic Centre on the 26th September, March 13th at the Wyvern, Swindon and Bath’s Forum on March 19th. For more information, please visit http://edbyrne.com/


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


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