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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Devizes Town Band to Head on a Fantastic Journey

For their first outing of the year, Devizes Town Band plan to get all Phileas Fogg and beyond, taking the Corn Exchange on a fantastic journey from the depths of the ocean into space and everything in between, and you could onboard!

Since 1999, when the Alpha Wind Ensemble was formed, and Mike Ward of Bratton Silver Band joined as Musical Director a year later, rehearsals at the Wyvern Club led to the Devizes Town Band’s formation in 2001, and they gained permission from the Town Council to use the town crest.

The band came to its summit with 2019’s Spring Concert, Greatest Love Themes, which they state was their best to date; subtly complemented with professional audio and lighting. During lockdown the band stayed strong, rehearsing via zoom and vowed to make a monthly video, which can be found on their website.

Over the last few years, they’ve represented Devizes on the road, appearing at Poulshot Village Hall, Beechingstoke Manor, Avebury Manor, John Coles Park in Chippenham and Swindon’s Town Gardens, and return home to host Remembrance Service at Devizes War Memorial, as well as the celebrated Proms and Children’s Proms at Hillworth Park.

Back together tomorrow, they’ll be rehearsing music for this magical mystery Fantastic Journey set sail for Sunday 15th May 2022, 2:30pm at the Corn Exchange, Devizes.

We’ll let you know when tickets are up for grabs!


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Stormtrooper in a Teacup at Devizes Town Council

A Saturday afternoon, I’m trying to watch the new Boba Fett Star Wars series here, and what’s more important, I ask you; me being fair and impartial about a Handforth-Parish-Council-Zoom-meeting style squabble between Devizes Town Councillors, or the fate of the Tusken Raiders now the Hutt’s legacy has concluded on Tatooine?!

It’s rhetorical, full gone conclusion, yet being without endorsement I was quoted in local rag The Gazelle & Herod, I feel about as moderately involved as Salacious was in Return of the Jedi (he’s the giggling jester gremlin who lives in the folds of Jabba’s flab.)

To quote Obi-Wan, “I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened!” No shit, Jedi; Devizes Town Council are trying to stop councillors posting so much as an amusing meme on social media, or least that’s the talk on social media, initiated by a town councillor!

Between North Ward Conservative Iain Wallis stating his case within the confines of his own Facebook group, Devizes Issues, I’m also chatting with East Ward Conservative Johnathan Hunter, in a kinda east coast/north side stand off. I’ve told them both what they need is a nice, Labour speaker to settle the score, but neither rose to the bait; typical Tories!

To begin I took Iain’s opinion as red, supporting his gallant efforts to project the happenings within DTC, as other councillors don’t use social media with quite the same efficiency. But Johnathan, concerned the local rag went to town with a one-sided scoop, “a half-story without the full facts and presented them in a way which couldn’t be further from the truth,” claimed, “the last thing anyone wants are restrictions in free speech or any type of so-called gagging, which would be absolutely unacceptable as well as plainly ridiculous.”

Yeah, that’s what I was going with, ridiculous. Ridiculouso, because while they’re squabbling between themselves over usage of social media, one has to ponder if they’re dealing with the issues they’re supposed to be dealing with; my nan would say “I’ll bash yer bleedin’ ‘eads together,” cos she resolved conflicts that way, that’s why there were never conflicts in the family.

Jonathan continued, he “would never oppose the use of social media. No one wants draconian restrictions or censorship; however, no single person should control the narrative. Iain provides excellent updates and info on social media, but is selective with rules and posts. I’m not a Guardian but there are some good people who want good stuff for the town. I think with social media groups there should be a more open approach and less controlling if counter views don’t suit a particular narrative.”

So, according to Johnathan, no one objected to a deadlock on social media usage, rather suggested it was controlled with equality for all councillors, and this has been blown out of proportion. “Totally blown!” he responded.

Devizes Town Council proudly announces on its website: In March 2020 the Council was re-accredited with a Quality Gold Award – which it has held since 2015 – demonstrating it delivers its services in a way which is at the forefront of best practice by achieving an excellent standard in community governance, community leadership and performance management.

Ah, that’s nice, but what of it, if the public doesn’t know what services it actually delivers? Where can you find out what’s happening at DTC?

There’s a website, with PDFs of minutes. Can I get the minutes of the meeting involving this outcry? “The 2017 policy is on the council website,” Johnathan tells me, “But as the proposals haven’t been approved, they are not in the public domain.” It’s a far slower process than despatching a Tweet, and besides, you’ve got to go find it, rather than it splash in your face via your phone.

I told Iain, “Folk don’t come (to meetings) as I suspect they believe they’ll succumb to hours of ‘article 234 on the agenda, Reg Smith wants to erect a weathercock on his shed…. type stuff. Ergo, we need a summary, which is exactly what you do, and most would be in favour of that, logically.”

“There is definitely a place for an officially DTC line and it should be on their Facebook page,” Iain replied. “DTC social media presence has improved significantly since the new community engagement manager took up her post.” Though compare Devizes Town Council’s Facebook page’s 1,073 likes, and 123 followers on Twitter, with Devizes Issues’ 14K members, understandable Mr Wallis’ posts there have tenfold the clout of DTC posting on its own page.

What they need is to take a leaf from Iain’s book, create a flourishing “group” rather than a “page” as it’s more open to discussion, and anyone can contribute. Then, and only then, can DTC say please keep social media posts about council matters on the DTC group. Jonathan agrees, “it needs to be improved.”

Hopeful if done it would put an end to the pettiness? Yeah, right. Iain gives me a ‘however’; “I think there is also the case for individual councillors to speak. We are not one council and we are not all bound to think and speak in the same way. We are bound by democratically made decisions but we don’t have to like them. We should be able to engage with the public and give our own views separately to the council’s official position.”

Totally agree with Iain on this one, though on their own platform rather than one they have created for “general purpose.” As the dispute of the impartiality of Devizes Issues is never-ending, it is up to the individual to note he controls that particular powerful Facebook page, and what is published are not agreements made by the entire council; akin to national media, who knows what to believe anymore?

Jonathan’s key concern is that, “an article has been written in the G&H and also posted by Iain, grossly exaggerating potential proposals and is therefore misinforming the public by using headlines like gagging order. The draft policy hasn’t even been debated and agreed in the relevant committee in Council.”

In a heartfelt counter-article placed on other local Facebook groups, which Johnathan says he’s “not allowed to share elsewhere,” he calls there’s “never been any intention to restrict debate, free speech or social media interaction – it’s crucial to have an ongoing conversation within the community and for the community.”

“What a sound social media policy would look like is one when no single individual controls the narrative, and/or censors free speech claiming that it doesn’t fit into the rules as it doesn’t suit a particular narrative. Many organisations are reviewing their social guidelines to also move forward with the times, especially in a world of misinformation.”

Newly elected in May last year, what we know of him is his hard-working community projects particularly during lockdown, in planning and committee responsibilities, his focus on building better provision for young people, and involvement in Greening Projects. “However,” he states, “I am not involved in any schemes to restrict free speech, censorship or that crass term ‘gagging order.’”

What we have here is a storm in a teacup, intended to belittle parts of the council by other sides. In my honest opinion, the argument is crass and misinforming, but not reflective of the good and hard work councillors are really doing behind the scenes.

Though those behind-the-scenes points need to be publicised impartially better than it is, and folk need to be made aware what they’re reading is the view of one councillor only when taking information from the Devizes Issues. We’ve covered the bias there in the past, my conclusion is, intentional or unintentional there is, despite denial from admin. It came to apex when I myself was banned for proposing it was wrong for the taxpayer to fork out the millions for the PCC re-election, and I stand by that notion as proof of censorship.

Same here I confess, if you were to suggest Supreme Chancellor Palpatine was right to manipulate the battle of Geonosis to escalate the Clone Wars, I’d have you banned, outright!

But in the Star Wars universe one councillor would saunter into The Mos Eisley cantina, and with one bout of laser gun battle would solve the problem, and that’s not usually the way it works in Devizes. “Devizes town council meetings actually sound that bit more exciting than I projected here,” I added to Iain’s musings on the episode, “do we bring our own weapons or are they provided?” It got two laughing emojis, which was all I was after, really, I don’t expect this to be solved anytime soon.

Might as well go for all three trilogies in one, and send yourself to a galaxy far far away than wait for a conclusion to this!


Trending….

Devizine Review of 2021; Marginally Better than 2020!

If we recently reviewed Ian Diddams and friends meeting at the Vaults for their annual festive Jackanory, the first article of 2021 was the very same funny fellow reciting his yarn as a live stream from his mocked garden grotto, and in that, surely displays how far we’ve come from the restrictions of lockdown we entered the year with. Though not without the same notion as last Christmas looming over us, like a dirty black shroud, that it was, perhaps, all too soon, and we’ve not seen the backside of the Covid19 yet.

Summarising, 2021 was marginally better than 2020; there were gung-ho moments of throwing caution to the wind, and there were others to make us stop and ponder the consequences of our actions. There’s little doubt the world will never be the same for decades to come; social interaction, shopping, even work practises; but we did get to party on occasions, and when it was good, it was really good.

And if it ended with a Boxing Day brawl, I suspect some wished for the bash-a-sab fest. Even police it seems, who would likely send in The Wealdstone Raider to crowd control a Wealdstone V Whitehawk FC game, if given the assignment. Did I predict this when I said “make no mistake, there’s a civil war under our noses, which comes to an apex when blood-thirsty predators triumphantly parade their wrongdoing on a day when most of us struggle out of bed to reach the fridge?”

Hardly crystal ball stuff, tensions at their highest for rural Wiltshire’s most contradictory dispute, it was on the cards since day dot; when the county voted in a foxhunting Police Crime Commissioner, whose misadventures in drink driving caused him to pull out at a cost of millions to the taxpayer. A calamity most shrugged off with “oh, ha-ha, those naughty Tories, bless ‘em.”


Allowed Out to Play

It was May before I set foot in a pub, lockdown eased and live music was back on the agenda, albeit with hefty restrictions; early ending times, remain seated, table service, no mingling outside of “bubbles,” and deffo no dancing or singing. It felt awkward to begin with, not quite the same, but it was a start, and who better to kick off proceedings than the brilliant Daybreakers, gracing the trusty Southgate? One could sense the joy from Cath, Gouldy et al, to be singing to an audience once again, proving their dedication to the cause. A handclap emoji just isn’t the same.

For a while then The Southgate remained the only venue in Devizes providing live music, and we thank Deborah, Dave and all staff for working within the rules to create a safe space to be blessed with music; it was like they were on roller-skates at times, up and down the beer garden, ensuring not a mouth was left dry!  

I also ventured out to the Barge at Honeystreet, to see how they were coping with the boundaries too. And what a show The Boot Hill All Stars put on there, under a spacious marquee, so tempting to get up and dance, but couldn’t; mastered foot-tapping though.

The return to some normality for many in Devizes came in clement early June, when Devizes Lions held a fantastic car show, plus, on the Green. With side stalls aplenty, nervously folk began to socially distanced mingle; it was a breath of fresh air and a testament to what can be safely achieved with forward thinking and dedication.

Image by Nick Padmore

By July I made it out a few times, the idea of Vince Bell teaming with the individual performers of The Lost Trades, Phil, Jamie and Tamsin was too much of an irresistible hoedown of local talent to miss, and a third trip to the trusty Southgate to tick TwoManTing off my must-do list also proved to be a memorable evening.

The beginning of August I ventured to TrowVegas to tick another off said list, catching those Roughcut Rebels with new frontman Finley Trusler. They blasted the Greyhound, and didn’t disappoint. The month shifted gear for many, and things simply blossomed like there never was a lockdown. Back-to-back weekends saw both my favourite largescale of 2021, the single-most amazing festival near Marlborough; MantonFest is a real gem, professionally done with a real communal atmosphere, the type perpetual drizzle couldn’t put a downer on. This event wowed.

Back in Devizes, the events of the year were the weekend which followed, sitting nicely between a stripped back version of DOCA’s International Street Festival sprinkled across town, was of course, The Full Tone Festival. Without the refreshing emergence of folk out of lockdown, this would have still been something for the town’s history books, but being as it was, the opportunity to head back out and enjoy life once again, the timing, the best weather, the whole ambience was electric. The time and work gone into pulling this off was absolutely outstanding, and for which folk of Devizes will forever mark it as a celebration of post lockdown.

Awakenings even drew Andy out of hiding by September, and I was overjoyed to have him back on the team, without putting his bag and coat on the hook, he went out to play, reviewing Devizes Musical Theatre’s Gallery of Rogues, and Devizes Town Band’s Proms in Hillworth Park. Meanwhile I was delighted to see The Wharf Theatre reopen with a fantastic performance of Jesus Christ Superstar.

September also saw the welcome return of Devizes Comedy at the Corn Exchange, and The Long Street Blues Club, who, kicking off with Creedence Clearwater Review, wasted no time catching up with their rescheduled programme of the most excellent blues nights money can buy. Andy covered these, while I ventured to see Kieran J Moore’s new digs at Trowbridge Town Hall. After a brilliant street art exhibit from Tom Miller, I went to taste the music there, with a most memorable evening from Onika Venus. I returned to the scene in November, for a great gig from Ålesund with support from Agata.

Other than a trip to the White Horse Opera and Southgate to see Jon Amor’s King Street Turnaround, Andy pitched a tent at Long Street Blues Club, one time shipped out to the Corn Exchange in late November for Focus, which Andy crowned best gig of the year. I made it out to the Cross Keys in Rowde for The Life of Brian Band, and to the Southgate see Strange Folk again, since their fantastic set on Vinyl Realm’s stage at a Street Festival of yore. But October held my best gig of the year, the reasons manyfold, and I’m lay them on the line….

For the outstanding fundraising efforts of the Civic award-winning local supergroup, The Female of the Species, I hold them all up as my heroines, therefore the chance to see them again at Melksham’s fantastic Assembly Hall too much to miss, and the fact they’d chosen this time to raise funds for another of my local heroines, Carmela Chillery-Watson, was almost too much to take! With an electric night of awesome danceable covers and a massive raffle, they raised a staggering £1,763 for Carmela’s Therapy Fund.

It will never cease to amaze me the selfless lengths our musicians will go to for fundraising. Even after a year and half of closed hospitality and no bread-and-butter gigs, they continue to offer their precious time to help. While events blossomed late this year, and November saw the return of TITCO, and Devizes Arts Festival added a spellbinding mini-autumn-festival with Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, Sally Barker and Motown Gold, Devizine continued also to preview events and do what we had being doing to find content during lockdown. Yeah, we rattled some cages with social and political opinion pieces, tasted some great takeaway tucker, and we reviewed recorded music further afield as well as local, but we had a number of feelgood stories, most memorable being things like our snowman competition in January, but there was a project which highlighted the sterling effort from musicians to fundraise, and it will be something I’ll never forget.

Image: Gail Foster

So, in April I announced we would be putting together a compilation album, fundraising for Julia’s House Children’s Hospices and by late June it was a thing. It was hard work to put together, but I’m astounded by the plethora of great bands and artists who took the time to send us a tune for inclusion. Knowing time was precious for artists popping out of lockdown, in need to source bookings and rehearse, I only asked them to provide us with an existing tune to prompt their albums, but some went beyond this, giving us exclusive outtakes such as the brilliant Richard Davis & the Dissidents, or some even recorded new songs, like Blondie & Ska, Tom Harris and Neonian.

I picked a staggering forty-six tracks to bind together, to create a boxset so humongous it would need far too many CDs to make it actual, so due to this and the expense of outlaying, it exists as a download on Bandcamp. Think of it as a teaser for the many great acts we’ve supported and reviewed over the years, and for a tenner, it works out under 5p a tune.

For me this was a momentous achievement, and can’t thank them enough. While I’ve put it out to the right places, to the Gazette & Herald and Fantasy, and airtime on West Wilts Radio’s fantastic Sounds of Wilderness Show, there is obviously more I need to do to get the message out there, as sales have been slow, unfortunately.

I could fathom a number of reasons for this, but in all, we’ve raised approximately £177 for Julia’s House, hoping to reach a £200 target before we send them the money, still sales have waivered off so significantly I feel I need to send what we’ve had so far. Please help us to up the total if you’ve not already bought this fantastic album. Gloom aside I will say I’m planning a second volume, and already have a few contributions from incredible acts such as Nick Harper, Onika Venus and Catfish.

Returning to events for the last part of the year, While Andy fondly reviewed Focus, I popped into the Corn Exchange for a quick interview with The Lost Trades, and left to attend a great art show at the Shambles. That weekend the Full-Tone Orchestra played Swindon’s Wyvern, and I’m grateful to Ian Diddams for his review. This is what we need, people, we cannot cover everything, but if you’ve a few words to say about an event or anything local, please, help to make Devizine a comprehensive community, erm, thing!

Of course, one delightful addition to our team TD Rose has been submitting some lovey features, firstly of ramblings, and more recently she made friends with Wiltshire Museum, and reviewed DOCA’s Winter Festival. Thank you so much Tyg, I’ve yet to meet, but we need to arrange this for the new year.

Image: Chris Dunn

Towards the end of November Andy remained seated at Long Street, I did the rum bar thing. Such a refreshing addition to Devizes, The Muck & Dundar pulled off a blinder with Bristol DJs, The Allergies. This was one smooth funky night, best for an age, and it was great to shake my greying tailfeathers. Both Andy and I finished off the year with a Boot Hill bash at the Southgate, where hip hop misfits Monkey Bizzle supported, and was shocked by Andy’s positive reaction, being more my cup of cheddar, this was an awesome night too!

Kossoff played Long Street, Andy also went to White Horse Opera’s Winter Concert and other than the hugely successful Tractor & Tinsel Run, we’re back to where we started with an Ian Diddams’ spoken word showdown the Vaults!


On Stats and Boring Stuff

Our Annual Stats Doubled from Last Year!

Having live music back, no matter the limitations was a breath of fresh air. Prior to it I was still scrambling around in the dark as I was in 2020, hunting for something to write about. But I guess a year of lockdown had given me time to contemplate and improve on the content. This boosted the stats, for if 2020 saw a drop in readership, I hoped to better it, and I’m pleased to announce we had a record amount, well over doubling the figures of 2020. This is awesome news, and I thank everyone for keeping the faith in us, and continuing to support Devizine.

I keep looking at the bar graph of stats, not believing the skyscraper which is 2021. How much we’ve grown, become a “thing” now. It’s fantastic and I hope we will continue to entertain you. I must stress though, we don’t harass you to subscribe or any rubbish like this, we keep advertising to a minimum, and nothing should pop up and distract your reading, and we uphold the ethos features should be free to the end user.

Yet we do need to maintain some budget to keep the site going. That’s currently around £60 a year; we fund our own beer money, thank you, we’re not MPs, we have no expense forms! So please consider donating to keep Devizine afloat, please donate when sending us an advert, unless it is fundraising. I’d really like to build up a small fund to get some charity events off the ground, as I believe the artists should be paid for their time considering their predicament too. So, anything extra will go towards this, and promoting the Julia’s House album.

What can we expect from Devizine in 2022, you might ask; well, if it’s not broken……let’s happily bash on shall we?! Thank you all so much for your support over 2021, the stats show we’re heading in the right direction.


On Food

Said this before, but I take pride in repeating myself; food reviews get an enormous response, yet still eateries seem reluctant to come forward. A food review here will do wonders for your sales, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a greedy so-and-so. Places we’ve eaten out or takeaways we’ve had which failed to live up to our expectations have not been mentioned. I’m no Gordon Ramsey and I’m not about to publish a slagging off. I’d rather tell you to your face why I’m not reviewing it!

During lockdowns the takeaway became essential part of a weekend treat for families with nought else to do, and new establishments opened, while pre-existing ones flourished. In January we praised the Massimos’ Pizza, and the following month saw me queuing halfway down a frozzled Nursteed Road for a rather tasty Greek Gyro from the Cosy Kitchen mobile van; such was the popularity of these mobile units during the bleakest of times.

When things begun to open up in April I went for my first vaccination jab, where they told me not to drive for fifteen minutes. They didn’t say go find a new Indian lunchtime takeaway in the Brittox, but we did, and long should Naan Guru live on!

Not much further into the same month, I tracked down The Feisty Fish, a fish n chips van like no other. They don’t come into town being there’s chip shops here, but track these guys down for the single best gourmet fish n chips you will ever taste, I tell no lie!

June saw a second IndieDay, organised by InDevizes, and prompted people to get out and shop with a bustling farmer’s market, in which I discovered the rosy cheeked benefits of Lavington’s Rutts Lane Cider, and merrily made my way home on the bus! I also had to mention, unsurprisingly to those who know me, that month, that Plank’s Dairies introduced a new locally-sourced organic milk, yogurt and juice range, in sizable and reusable glass bottles, which has proved hugely popular.

Naturally, without a main stage this year, there was a greater interest in the food market at The Devizes Street Festival in August, and the following month we mentioned Devizes Food & Drink Festival’s Market, where I was reunited with Rutts!

It was July when we discovered Thai-day Friday, and that was just delicious!

Mildly amusing than most, I offered a Battle of the Best Devizes Breakfast, in November, something we need to follow up on when the kids are back in school, as Round One, The Condado Lounge Vs New Society was a popular post. I bloomin’ love food, me, y’know, invite me to your café, pub or restaurant and I’ll give you my honest opinion, except I don’t do eggs or liquorice; yuck!


On Music

If I’ve already mentioned our awesome 4 Julia’s House project, and all the artists who contributed are in my good books, we also covered a whole heap of new releases. Plus, we started a Song of the Day, where we post a YouTube link for your pleasure, and generally don’t say much else about it, rather waffle on a tangent! But mostly recorded sound reviews waned when live music reopened, still we strive to continue telling you what we like.

Will Lawton

Will Lawton proposed to open a music school, JMW held a lockdown festival in support of musicians, Wiltshire Council asked Gecko for a Road Crossing song and video, and Wiltshire Rural Music’s announced producing live steams from Trowbridge Town Hall.

Kirsty Clinch announced her music school and book plans, and covered Swindon’s sound system Mid Life Krisis’s live streams. We chatted to The Scribes, announced The Lost Trades Live Stream in Advance of Album Launch, and The Ruzz Guitar Sessions, and Asa Murphy returning to Devizes.

We announced Sheer’s Salem gig, the Dear John Concert Album for War Child, and the bid to help Calne Central. Announced Sheer’s Frank Turner gig at the Cheese & Grain, chatted to Blondie & Ska. Announced Wharf Theatre’s Youth Theatre, Pound Arts Blue Sky Festival, My Dad’s Bigger than Your Dad Festival in tribute to Dave Young. This list goes on, but most enjoyable recently, meeting up with Visual Arts Radio who moved from Frome to Devizes.

We reviewed Terry Edwards Best of Box Set, Ain’t Nobody’s Business by Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue and Pete Gage, Skates & Wagons, Kirsty Clinch, Small Town Tigers, Django Django, Chole Glover, Araluen and Ariel Posen. Trowbridge DJ and producer Neonian, The Direct Hits, Andy J Williams, Erin Bardwell, Nigel G Lowndes, Mike Clerk, Cutsmith, Timid Deer, and Cult Figures.

Horses of the Gods, Lone Ark & The 18th Parallel, Longcoats, Black Market Dub and The Lost Trades.

Brainiac 5, Sitting Tenants, Stockwell, Storm Jae and Nory, Sam Bishop, Longcoats, The Bakeseys and Elli de Mon.

Liddington Hill, Boom Boom Racoon, Longcoats, Girls Go Ska and Daisy Chapman.

Monkey Bizzle, Webb, The Hawks, Captain Accident & The Disasters, Onika Venus, Death of Guitar Pop, The Burner Band, Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer, and Scott Lavene.

Spearmint, Captain Rico & The Ghost Band, Sonny Vincent, Freya Beer, Near Jazz Experience, Beans on Toast, Old Habits, and most recently, Paul Lappin! That enough for you?! 


On the Social and Political Side

The fate of every nation depended on how their governments dealt with the pandemic, and how the public responded to them. I’m not here to dwell on international or even national politics, for this is a review of Devizine, what I define loosely as “an entertainment news and events guide,” for the locality of Wiltshire, focussing particularly on our base, Devizes. Yet tenaciously it is linked, undeniably affecting limitations to what we could and couldn’t do. By the very appalling national statistics, despite rolling out vaccinations like no other country, it revealed true horrors of conflicting government decisions, their general disrespect and selfishness for the public they’re supposed to serve, and the public’s reaction to them.

Like a blind vacuum, sucking in every government blame game, it never ceases to amaze me keyboard warriors on social media turning culpability onto mainstream media, when their task is purely to report news, and capture the mood of the nation. The mainstream media is ruled by the elite, funding the government, they’re in bed together, literally. To publicise shortage of goods is informing of a potential issue, they didn’t enforce panic buying, the public did; chicken and egg. Equally, to publish mood change in the majority lost faith in government, is because there’s a mood change; we’ve lost faith in government.

I’m not here to say I told you so; I’ve not lost faith in this government, I had none to start with!

Take the last set of pandemic announcements, made only hours after government-controlled media broke news of Downing Street Christmas parties, best part of twelve months earlier. A day where the public felt betrayed, even those who voted for Bojo and his cronies held their heads in shame and had to confess it was all too much for a government to break rulings it set itself, and party on while the public suffered, and died. The mood was understandably bleak; why should we do what they say when they clearly don’t?

Why, you ask, for crying out loud? To protect ourselves from a global pandemic, numpty! Government announcements are fed counsel from health organisations and medical experts, skewered by bent politics, naturally, but the bullet points are there. It is not the same self-entitled buffoons, they’re voiceover artists on this occasion; given free reign they’d have “herd immunity,” against WHO advise.

Can you not see through the wool? The government press released the Downing Street Christmas Party scandal themselves, bang on cue of an announcement, so we would all think precisely that, why should we do what they say when they clearly don’t? If we rebel from their restrictions, we’ve only got ourselves to blame when the virus spreads. The government gets what they always wanted, herd immunity, and they’ve shifted the blame away from them and onto you, me, and everyone else.

Therefore, we need to take precautions ourselves, be a community, care for others around us. No hard and fast lockdown is needed, if common bloody sense prevailed, but government seem intent to rinse it from our craniums. We’re not self-service tills, do not robotise us!

We know now how to prevent the virus spreading; keep your distance from others, wear facemasks in public places, follow NHS guidelines in testing and get vaccinated as soon as possible, whether they tell you to or not.

These things should be commonplace, but whenever restrictions ease, like a naughty school-boy triumphantly marching out of detention only to offend again, we forget everything we’ve learned and pay the cost for it. I’m not preaching like a saint, caged too, I urged for a pint, to lob my facemask into the air, hug, and flaunt the rules when the rules relaxed, at times reflecting if we did the right thing, least if we did it too soon. But it’s done now and we can’t turn the hands of time. If we could, I’d still be on Castlemorton Common.

Old Skool Rave

In this, one series of articles I was proud of this summer was in reminiscence of my youth, being the thirtieth anniversary of 1991, an explosion for the rave scene. But another similar premise based on news of illegal raves happening in lockdown, was to ask those old skool ravers if they’d still go raving if there was a similar pandemic in the nineties; with interesting results.

Return of the Rave

And if it sounded like I was defending mainstream media, I wasn’t, only applying a smidgen of sympathy. With Facebook, Twitter et al, media is everyone now; I’m living proof any idiot can publish a blog and make look it like reputable news! Reason why, I guess, criticising other local outlets always brings hits, the occasion I felt the need to defend Devizes against the sharp eye of local gutter-press Wiltshire Live, proved to be our third most popular article of the year.

Devizes is a great place to live, Tory top-heavy, but that’s something anyone with an alternative opinion has to unfortunately suck up. Our fourth most popular article this year was in January, breaking the news Tory PCC candidate for Wiltshire, Johnathan Seed, was a bad card. Something as more evidence came to light, namely drink-driving offences, proved to be true, at the time I put my finger on something conflicting in his chat with us, calling anyone who cared to address fox hunting a “troll,” but requesting we talk on his trespass pledges, blatantly linked to restrict the movement of sabs, the only folk we see actually policing this disgusting and unbelievable smokescreen of trail hunting. Something we covered more recently, suggesting Boxing Day Hunts need better policing.

Moan I’m bias, yeah, no shit, Sherlock. Do I attempt to hide it like others? Why the hell should I side with anyone butchering wildlife for so-called sport, and in that, why the hell would you?! But hey, I remained impartial during local elections, giving each and every candidate a platform, so there!

Never has a PCC election run with such controversy. Aggravation between sides fired, and we did more than blow the lid off Seedy’s bogus campaign, causing some alarming revelations in local social media bias. Tories back Tories, no matter what they’ve done wrong, it’s an allegiance to admire, even if you feel it’s malicious. As well as chatting with Lib Dem candidate Liz Webster and independent Mike Rees, we tried a few spoofs: Play the Wiltshire PCC Game, Basil Brush Missing, and upon the Tories hustling in an alternative candidate by stalling the re-election, we ran a short story The Adventures of Police Crime Commissioner Wilko, which was based upon a better received satire, a long-running mock of Wiltshire Council, in The Adventures of Councillor Yellowhead.

At times Mike seemed such a threat to Wiltshire’s Tory totalitarianism, a media attack seemed the best method to deflect people taking the common-sense vote. The first bout came in January, when Mike was barred from volunteering to administer lateral flow Covid tests, the second in July affected me personally as the Devizes Issues Facebook group revealed its fiercely denied bias, by banning me for using a George Orwell quote to express my concern at the taxpayer having to fork four million quid for a re-election which was clearly the Conservative Party’s fault! I’m adamant it was justified.

Nineteen-eighty-four was supposed to be a warning, not a fucking self-help guide.

Annoyed, I struck out, naturally, and was begged back, after the full-gone conclusion a Wiltshire majority blindly vote for the blue rosette no matter what! But it was a month after the ban, the smear reached its apex, with all posts about the independent candidate immediately banned and deleted on the popular Facebook group, and anyone complaining were blamed by members for the downfall in Mike’s success! You can’t make up hypocrisy that nasty. 

Tory Devizes Town Councillor Iain Wallis on “the Devizes Issues.”

It’s not the politics which bothers me as much as the kind of world they envision. Stories of injustice swamped Devizine this year, more than ever before, even our April Fool’s Joke had stark repercussions. 

Every minute an adolescent arm reaches out of a window, unceremoniously handing a bag of fast food to a driver, they nod a thanks, and leave. That seemed to me to be the maximum social interaction of 2020, yet commonplace in modern living, pandemic or not. I recalled going to a Tesco, paid at the pump, masked expressions as I sauntered the aisles, paid at the self-service till and on the way out considered one could live their life in modern times completely unnoticed, months need pass without human contact. My mind meanders if that’s something young folk actually want, or if they’ve been robotised, or if it’s an age thing leaving me in a care-home for terminally bewildered.

The best hitting article of the year was again, our April Fool’s Day joke, where this time I misleadingly announced the opening of a McDonalds in Devizes. Maliciously planned, it broke the local internet, and despite suggesting it was All Fools Day in the piece, comments and messages flooded in from headline scanners. In favour of it or not, the debate is such popular the joke was lost on many desperate souls dying for a McFlurry; causing faith, just like Chippenham’s recent pandemonium for a bucket of battery chicken in gravy, yes, Aldous Huxley was bang-on, many folks do want to live in this commercialised bubble, void of individualism.


On Everything Else

Individualism, free thinking and fair and just causes we stand for here, it is not my fault the many attempts to counteract this seem to come from a conservative ethos, and therefore get criticised for it. I’m not dead against conservativism, but they seem dead against me, as if we’re supposed to know our place tip our hat and reply, “very good guvnor, I’ll bail your shit for a shilling!”

My god, how they hate common people who can articulate, that’s’ why they slash away like Freddy Kruger at the education budget while back the grammar school relaunch. Then keyboard warriors whinge at juvenile delinquency like it’s a new thing and something stringing them up for will somehow solve. We’re heading into days as dark as the early eighties, perhaps medieval for some, days I remember with a horror in my heart.

The audacious legacy building bashes on with grand and glorious plans, I reported Stonehenge had been saved by the High Court, but they operate above the law and continue to ignore the justice system, plotting to bury a road underneath it, shaking it to ruin, least knocking it of the World Heritage List, for the sake of knocking minutes off commuting times.

I criticised the reality of building a whole new train station miles out of Devizes, against popular opinion, cos I’ll believe it when I see it, and furthermore, I feel there’s more pressing issues which looking at. If not our terrible infrastructure, the state of our roads, and the endless chain of bureaucratic nonsense to get the simplest of notions pushed through bumbling pompousness of councillors and apparent do-gooders, it’s the increasing homeless on our streets, the need for Food Banks which the Tories selfishly assume is a good thing, the poverty level submerging a continuous population and the outright condoning of racist, sexist and homophobic acts. Sort them out, and I’ll gladly stand on Devizes Parkway platform with you, or any other brazen legacy-building pledge you dream up!

Every time I’m duped, I feel like an idiot, unable to get my message through the red tape. You want a train station, yet I reported the dangerous state of a Wiltshire Council playpark in Rowde, FIVE years ago, and I have to seriously throw my toys out of the pram to get anyone to pay it any attention. In February this year I was delighted, based on my article, Councillor Laura Mayes secured £20,000 from WC to re-design the playground and she proudly used it to publicise her election pledge.

But still the playpark remains in the same state of disrepair, not a penny pledged has been spent. Whether this is WC’s fault or the Parish Council I don’t know, they got what I suspect they wanted, a successful election result, and my whinging reduced too. I’ve just lost all faith and interest in continuing to bother with it. You want a train station, huh? Traffic lights at the Black Dog crossroads? A no left turn sign at the top of Dunkirk Hill? Yeah, good luck with that, we’re moving into six years for them to fix a dangerous baseplate of a bouncy chicken in a playpark!

Yet perseverance can pay off; we loved it when Rab Hardie of Duck N Curver broke into Stonehenge to raise awareness of his wish to film a video inside the stone circle, we asked if the Fire & Rescue Service were Cutting Vital Flood Equipment, defended Wiltshire Police from keyboard warriors upset they used a rainbow as their Facebook logo during Pride Month, wished Devizes Lions a happy 50th, supported Joe Brindle on his campaign to save Drews Pond Wood, attended Save Furlong Close protests, added some reflection on the Travellers based in Bromham, praised local artist, Clifton Powell when he was commissioned for English Heritage Exhibition, The African Diaspora in England, had a great time at Breakout, Chippenham’s Alternative Art Show, congratulated the award-winning British Lion. Crickey, the list goes on; the vast array of subjects we’ve covered, even war memorials which look like bins!

I must be boring you into an early grave, which isn’t the best way to start a new year!

One last thing, we did plenty of spoofs and satirical pieces, too many to name, yet, all’s fair in love and war, and it was a great year; here’s to 2022! I leave it there before your head explodes!


Jon Amor to Take Up Sunday Residency at The Southgate

Featured images by Nick Padmore

I still remember landlord Deborah’s face aglow some years back, when she told me Devizes blues legend Jon Amor was booked to play The Southgate. He’s made several appearances since, as solo and as frontman of King Street Turnaround, but today the Southgate announced Jon will take up a Sunday residence at the lively Devizes pub…..

It will be a quieter New Year’s Eve for the Southgate, there is no music booked and from Monday 3rd to Monday 10th January the pub will be closed. “We’re keeping it simple on NYE, no live music, believe it or not!” Deborah said. “But we’re saving the best of the best until Sunday with a mega Blues/Funk/Rock gig to blow away the extended hangovers!

With an awesome line-up on Sunday 2nd, as Jon is joined with Innes Sibun, Pete Gage, Jerry Soffe, and Tom Gilkes, I knew about this little marvel, and it has been up on our calendar for a while now. What I didn’t know is this will build a new house band for the Gate, “yes,” Deborah delights to inform, “Jon Amor and friends are taking up residency! Sunday afternoon gigs, first Sunday every month for 2022.”

So expect to see King Street Turnaround with Jon and friends on the first Sunday of each month down the Gate, which is some great news!

The future is bright, the future is The Southgate! Reopening on Tuesday 11th Jan, with the absolutely awesome rock covers band Triple JD Band on Saturday 15th! Rock on!

Dave and Deborah at the Southgate

Meanwhile our event calendar is building up with choices for New Year’s Eve, do check it out for links, and have a great New Year; hopefully might catch you down the Southgate on Sunday, if I’m allowed out to play by the boss!

Billy Green (solo) @ The Hourglass, Devizes

Devizes Scooter Club NYE Party @ Devizes Cons Club

New Year’s Eve @ The Vaults

New Year’s Eve @ Massimos, Devizes

Rip it Up @ The Greyhound, Bromham

Sour Apple @ The Brewery Inn, Seend Cleeve

Six O’clock Circus @ The Talbot, Calne

The Roughcut Rebels NYE bash @ The Churchill Arms, West Lavington

New Year’s Eve Party @ The Green Dragon, Market Lavington

Illingworth @ the Waterfront Bar, Pewsey

Get Schwithty (Jamie R Hawkins & Phil Cooper) @ The Bear, Marlborough

80s, 90s, 00s NYE Party @ Wellington Arms, Marlborough

Deathproof Audio NYE Party @ the Vic, Swindon

Dubsouls & The Rumble-O’s @ The Bell, Walcott Street, Bath

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Tractors, Tinsel, and “Suggested” Environmental Issues

From Devizes to Marlborough and back, last weekend, Sunday 19th December saw a repeat of last year’s Tractor & Tinsel Run, and Devizes Young Farmers’ fundraising event attracted masses of attention. Our man Andy was at the scene and I leave his thoughts on it here, I just wanted to add my tuppence too; you know me! Firstly, I offer thanks to the Devizes Young Farmers and congratulations on the success of the day.……

Raising for both Wiltshire Air Ambulance and Alzheimer’s Society, the Devizes Young Farmers told me they haven’t got a grand total yet, “we will let the Just Giving page run for a while.” For which you can find by clicking here, if you wish to donate.

Confirming this was their second year, they added it was the, “first year for the night run though!” So popular it virtually broke local social media groups with videos, images and messages of congratulations. I had to ask them if they think this could become something of annual Christmas tradition. “We have discussed doing it bi-annually, however it gets such good feedback and response from the public, we are considering doing it annually.”

In fact, the only negative feedback on social media has been concerns about the environmental impact. Puts me between somewhat of a rock and hard place, being the event’s popularity and the amazing fundraising achievement. I figured I’d ask local “green” experts for their thoughts on the issue, rather than play party to social media ranting; and before you throw your toys out of the pram and ingeniously change the D in my name, Darren, for a K, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by their responses!

In the global scheme of things, I consider the environmental impact of a fleet of tractors pottering around town to be but a pinprick, and Graham for Sustainable Devizes was equally constructive. “We have very little engagement with farmers locally,” he begun, “yet they are essential to protecting the environment and biodiversity.  Our approach to sustainability is to take practical steps and form partnerships.  When we campaign it is to start practical projects that will make changes and not to make criticisms of any particular group. We wish to engage with farmers on big issues such as protecting biodiversity rather than take positions on individual actions which have laudable aims.”

Council Green Party Candidate, the aptly named Margaret Green, was similarly supportive, “I agree that raising money for charity is a good thing and assume that the tractor mileage for the event is a donation from the farmers. I think the event has a positive outcome for the community,” she replied, “In terms of climate crisis and emission reduction, farmers are ideally placed to deliver positive outcomes in the form of increasing biodiversity through wildflower meadows (potentially associated with local energy production in solar farms). Their transition to reduced use of pesticides and fertilisers also benefits the soil’s ability to sequester carbon, a key element in a sustainable future. As stewards of our landscape farmers are our friends!”

Naturally the real test would be from the Devizes and Marlborough Extinction Rebellion group, who were somewhat lost for words, noting “like quite a few charity events, it’s also a polluting event,” but even they weren’t overly negative! So, to those whinging on social media today about the environmental impact, I’d suggest they put that in their vapes and puff it!

It now leaves me with the great pleasure to pass you onto roving reporter on the scene, Andy Fawthrop, for his thoughts. All I will add is; I believe the hashtag #nothingeverhappensinDevizes is a splendid piece of ironic overstatement created, correct me if I’m wrong, by local satirist (among other things) Mr Ian Diddams, therefore not to be taken to heart!


Tractors & Tinsel

Andy Fawthrop

There’s a bit of a (joking) saying that “nothing ever happens in Devizes”, a phrase that deserves to be fully buried and forgotten for just how incredibly inaccurate it now is.……

Whilst in Pyongyang they parade their missile-launchers, and in Moscow they show off their tanks and troops, this bit of rural Wiltshire did something rather better last Sunday by showcasing its own arsenal of terrifying hardware – tractors!  And not just a few tractors, but loads and loads of tractors.  Decked out with tinsel.  And Christmas trees.  And Santa Clauses.  And truly it was enough to frighten the pants off any super-power even thinking of ever invading The Vize.

Along with hundreds of others gathered along the route all the way out to Marlborough and in the Market Place in Devizes, my inner tractor-man came suddenly to the fore.  And what a sight we witnessed, as the massed squadrons of agricultural machinery drove past us, headlights shining, horns blaring, drivers waving.  And this was no mere token gesture, but over 150 colourful beasts roaring past us for the best part of an hour. 

Thanks to Devizes Young Farmers for their amazing vision and organisation, for the second year running, in the middle of deep mid-winter, we had another fantastic display of hardware as tractors rolled through the country lanes of Wiltshire on their way back to T.H. White’s gathering ground.  Rwanda might be famous for its gorillas in the mist, but in this neck of the woods we had tractors in the fog.  And not just the once either – this year for the first time we got a reprise of the shorter D-Town loop in the winter darkness.  It’s said that there are some weird folk, like our doughty editor, who simply don’t “get” tractors, but I can’t understand that at all. Personally, I was mesmerised – like a John Deere caught in the headlights, you might say.

Of course part of the (unintended) entertainment was spotting the looks of horror on the faces of the drivers of cars trying to pass through the town, suddenly finding themselves between a massive JCB or CASE, and a flotilla of Massey-Fergusons, wondering what level of hell they’d suddenly found themselves in – absolutely priceless!

To say that was a great success is surely an under-statement.  You only had to be there looking at the children’s faces (and those of a few slightly leaky-eyed men of a certain age) to realise what a lot of joy and excitement this all brought to the town.  And social media was bending under the sheer weight of photos and videos posted online, as local folk let all their friends know far and wide just what an amazing town this is.

But of course, it wasn’t just for the hell of it: there was a worthy purpose behind such madness.  The whole thing was organised to raise funds for two brilliant charities – Wiltshire Air Ambulance and Alzheimer’s Society.   And there’s still time to help make a difference in our community and beyond by donating at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/devizesyoung-club

So it’s a massive “hats off” to Devizes Young Farmers, and everyone else involved in organising such a fantastic bit of rural entertainment.  It was wonderful, it was awe-inspiring, it was totally bonkers.  And a great event out in the open air in the lead-up to Crimbo.  Let’s just hope it now becomes an annual and traditional fixture in the D-Town “Nothingeverhappens” Calendar!


Editor’s note; I only “don’t get” tractors without fridges and stereos as standard, otherwise I’m virtually Wurzel!


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REVIEW – Kossoff – The Band Plays On @ LSBC, Devizes – Saturday 18th December 2021

Free At Last!

Andy Fawthrop

And so we came to the last LSBC offering of 2021, marking the half-way stage on the current season of concerts.  It’s been a packed programme recently, but no-one’s complaining about that!

Last night’s offering was as good as a double-header as far as I was concerned.

Drafted in at relatively short notice as the support act was local legend Jon Amor, a man I’ve seen many a time as the head-liner.  He bounced onto the stage brandishing an acoustic guitar, and looking full of beans.  It seemed strange and unusual not to see him backed up with one or other of his bands, particular King Street Turnaround, as I last saw him at the Southgate recently.  But there was no stopping him as he confidently blew through several songs, and at one time wandering out in to the audience to sing acapella before returning to the stage to finish the song.  It takes guts and panache to pull that sort of thing off, but it worked wonderfully.  Highlight song for me this time, as often before, was “Another Stitch In Your Party Dress”.  It was a great short set – chipper, upbeat, confident.  Great to see Jon in such great form.

Main act was Terry Slesser’s 5-piece Kossoff – The Band Plays On, who produced two confident and polished sets.  They were last at LSBC back in May 2019, which I remember as one of the highlight gigs of that year.  I won’t bang on about Free/ Bad Company/ Back Street Crawler being the soundtrack to my musical upbringing in the late 60s/ early 70s but….but…well, they just were.  And, yet again, it was soooo good to hear some of their songs knocked out with precision, love and energy.  Slesser, taking lead vocals, is no Paul Rodgers in either looks or voice, but he certainly makes up for it in passion and delivery.  His command of the band and his easy connection with the audience were winning features.  And the band, again no look-alikes, were terrific when it came to that lovely sludgy, driving Andy Fraser bass and that Paul Kossoff squealing lead guitar.

They kicked off with Free’s “Fire and Water”, a stonking opener which immediately put down an early marker of intent.  I’ve said before that these guys are no mere “tribute” band, content to slog through a greatest-hits set and take the money.  This was much more about “homage” to some truly gifted musicians and song-writers, nicely capturing the sound and the feel of the early 70s, with Slesser’s personal recollections of Paul Kossoff interspersing the songs.  And the song selection itself was interesting and respectful, delivering some of the lesser-known numbers, such as “Long Way Down To The Top” and “All The Girls Are Crazy” (Back Street Crawler), “Walk In My Shadow”, and “I’ll Be Creeping” (Free).  And there was the more subtle, non-rocking stuff, such as “Be My Friend”, proving that the band (like all the great rock bands) were not just one-trick ponies, but capable of writing tender and thoughtful lyrics.

Of course there was the usual leavening of stonking hits – “The Stealer”, “My Brother Jake” and (inevitably) “All Right Now” – which all went down a storm.  And, just as Free themselves used to do back in the day, delivering their well-deserved encore that thumping blues classic “The Hunter”.

Great entertainment, and a great night out.  Another great booking by Ian Hopkins. 

Future Long Street Blues Club gigs:

Friday 14th January 2022                               Chicago Living Legends

Saturday 5th February 2022                         Tinsley Ellis

Saturday 19th February 2022                       Mike Zito Band

Saturday 26th February 2022                       Mark Flanagan Band

Friday 4th March 2022                                    Black Sabbitch (Corn Exchange, Devizes)

Saturday 19th March 2022                            Soft Machine

Saturday 2nd April 2022                                 Alastair Greene Band

Friday 8th April 2022                                       Billy Bremner’s Rockfile (Devizes Town Hall

Saturday 9th April 2022                                  Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy (Corn Exchange, Devizes)

Saturday 16th April 2022                               Billy Walton Band

Friday 6th May 2022                                        Birdmens

Saturday 17 September 2022                      CSN Express (New Rescheduled Date)


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REVIEW – White Horse Opera’s Christmas Concert, including Faure’s Requiem @ St John’s Church, Devizes – Saturday 18th December 2021

Chilly Church Concert

Andy Fawthrop

I’m not sure why White Horse Opera are so shy of publicity, but I’d seen very little on social media that this event was even taking place.  Trusting that it was still on, I rocked up at the appointed time, and sure enough there was a gathering of those in the know.  The church was only about half full, and surely would have had a much bigger turn-out if there had been more advertising?  Given all the hard work that goes into rehearsal to produce these concerts to a very high standard, could I tactfully and very gently suggest that they work a bit harder on telling people about what they are doing? (They do usually contact us with news of forthcoming events, although not on this occasion, Andy; Ed.)

St John’s is wonderful old church, built and re-modelled at several stages through the ages, and makes for a challenging concert space.  The main body of the church, housing the pews with the masked-up audience, has a very high vaulted ceiling which creates a very big space to fill.  It also makes it difficult to heat at this time of the year, and I noticed that everyone was keeping their coats on.  So something of a chilly start.

The first half of the concert was a performance of Faure’s Requiem in D minor, Op. 48, composed in the late 19th century.  It’s a choral setting of the shortened Catholic Mass for the Dead in Latin, with a focus on eternal rest and consolation.  On this occasion the choral singers were accompanied only by solo piano played by Tony James.

I have to admit that this was a piece I was not familiar with, and (being honest) not one I’d have chosen as part of a Christmas concert.  Whilst delivered beautifully, voices soaring up into those lofty rafters, you can’t get away from the fact that it’s a very sombre piece.  Given the subject matter, that’s hardly surprising.  I personally found it rather difficult to follow and to enjoy, and was glad when the applause finally signalled that we had reached the interval.  Sorry – it’s not possible to enjoy everything, and this particular work didn’t really float my boat.

Unfortunately I had to leave at that point, as I had somewhere else to be, but hopefully the carols promised in the second half would have been more cheerful and uplifting.

Future WHO events:

Sat 8th Jan 2022                               Top of the Ops                                   7.30pm West Lavington Village Hall

Spring 2022                                        Ruddigore                                           7.30pm Venues TBA

26th, 28th & 29th Oct 2022          L’elisir d’amore                                 7.30pm Lavington School

More information on WHO is available at www.whitehorseopera.co.uk


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Can We Stop Boxing Day Hunts?

Make no mistake, there’s a civil war under our noses, which comes to an apex when blood-thirsty predators triumphantly parade their wrongdoing on a day when most of us struggle out of bed to reach the fridge. Judge for yourselves who’s the goodies and who’s the baddies here, but pray tell me you’re not party to this obnoxious pageant? I mean, hardly “Christmassy,” is it, unless of course, Santa puts a bullet in the head of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for not keeping up with the herd?  

Posing a question in a headline, I’ve learned, attracts hits. Usual method is for me to then waffle endlessly, circling the question but never really answering it, until, only sometimes, at the conclusion. I’m gonna swap, answer it now, get it out in the open. Can we stop Boxing Day hunts across Wiltshire?

Don’t be disillusioned, and apologises for bursting any bubbles; the answer is no, not a chance, pal.

Despite good news last week that the Wilton Hunt Ball has been postponed due to the omicron outbreak, we all know pandemic restrictions last year didn’t bother them, and with reference to breaking news of government Christmas parties, flaunting the law for the most powerful in society doesn’t need investigating, according to police.

I mean, whatever did happen to the inquiry as to how hunting organisations pushed for a drink-driving Avon Huntsmaster to stand as Wiltshire PCC, costing the taxpayer over £3million for a re-election? The carpet is looking lumpy, how much more can be brushed under it?

Every avenue I explore on this subject gets blocked, no one in any position of power to help wants to address the issue. That is a total and utter disgrace and they should, quite frankly, hold their heads in shame.

Make no mistake, Boxing Day Hunts aren’t the bee-all-and-end-all of hunting, but they’re the most important hunt on the annual calendar, because the audience it attracts. The Countryside Alliance will try convince you droves arrive in support. True, Boxing Day hunts aim to condone and promote the tenet, crucial in their campaign to turn the Hunting Act 2004 on its head. Though many onlookers remain oblivious to the cruel realities, while others will be lobbying against it.

If all is not lost, councils of both county, town and parish levels can take action, if they wanted, ban it on their land, or at least refuse to accept invitations to, and disallow council land to be used to meet, thus reducing the celebration of blood sports and gradually eradicating the archaic and brutal custom.

In a heartfelt campaign, non-profit organisation, Keep the Ban, urge concerned folk to contact their councillors, celebrating success when Keswick Town Council in Cumbria decided to revoke their invitation to the John Peel Hunt. Locally, the wonderful Wiltshire Hunt Saboteurs informed me Bradford-on-Avon Town Council “have banned both hunting and culling on their land at town council level” but reckoned, “it’s mostly symbolic, although there are definitely council owned farms (tenant farmers of WCC) that do cull, so a wider wildlife protection policy is probably going to be more use.”

However, fresh from a meeting, Alison Kent, Clerk to Pewsey Parish Council replied yesterday, “the decision was to allow the Tedworth Hunt to meet in the car park on Monday 27th.” A local hunt which the Wiltshire Hunt Sabs claim “weaponised their horses against sabs.” Why would they do this, without anything to hide?

Armed Tedworth Hunters

My first port of call is Wiltshire Councillor Laura Mayes, who despite as Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Education and Skills, this is not her area of expertise, it must be said, is always willing to humour me and answer my endless questions on any random subject, and I thank her for her help. Although, her answer was unswerving; “I have done some digging and asked Cabinet colleagues and we all agreed that WC has no power to take any action, re trail-hunting as it is currently a legal activity. Any illegal activity would be a police matter.”

Wiltshire Council may convince themselves nothing illegal is happening, yet I argue, like a speeding driver, for them, the thrill of the activity outweighs the carnage it might cause. I’m no prude, I can understand it must be exhilarating to ride across the hillsides in pursuit of a target, addictive even, given hunting is ingrained in their psyche, passed down through generations. If an arsonist wandered into a fireworks factory with a lighter, would WC turn a blind eye, safe in the knowledge setting it alight would be illegal, therefore the arsonist would resist the temptation of their own obsession?

Countryside Alliance website outrightly states they oppose the hunting Act 2004, claiming it’s “bad for rural communities,” even, and, get your head around this brazen irony, “bad for animal welfare,” and a “waste of police resources.” If they feel like this, and nothing is done to prevent them, how on God’s earth can you expect them to not pursue a wild animal if it was to be caught in heat of the moment on this supposed fake trail?

Let’s take the last part of the CA’s stance; on Boxing Day police resources will be stretched, on a day they’d rather be peaceful I’d wager, because they’ll need to be present across the country where the crowds gather to observe this pretentiously parade of their unforgiving activity as a magnificent pageant. I have to wonder how much police time is spent keeping an eye on the hunters against policing the meetings. I also emailed Wiltshire Police to ask how they would actually patrol a hunt, horseback I’d imagine being the only effective method.

https://www.facebook.com/wiltshirehuntsaboteurs/videos/1220162211845307

I also wished to enquire what their relationship with the hunt sabs was like, if they supported the portfolio sabs are building to suggest unlawful acts are indeed taking place. Only this week, they posted a video to their Facebook page clearly showing The Royal Artillery Hunt rioting on two deer in an SSSI area on Salisbury Plain Training Area on Saturday 4th December, and Huntsman, Charles Carter, did nothing to call them off; something the Daily Mail suggested put the sabs “at war” with the Army.

A spokesperson for the sabs told me, “If something is being used as a smokescreen for a crime then either it’s an illegal activity or the law needs addressing!” Face it, Western Huntsman John Sampson in Penzance, was only found guilty of being in charge of dogs which killed a cat caught in the hunt on a Cornish housing estate, because a neighbour filmed him from their window, shamelessly lobbing the cat’s dead body into a nearby garden. If it wasn’t filmed, there would be no evidence. A clear indication hunters need monitoring, but while my press office contact with Wiltshire Police is usually responsive, they felt the matter needed to be addressed by the Rural Crime Unit, and passing my queries onto them was the end of our communication.

Should the police wish to respond, I can amend this appropriately, but time is pushing forward to Boxing Day, and my only line of information comes from The Wiltshire Hunt Sabs themselves. Far from a Batman-Chief Commissioner Gordan relationship, where Gordan doesn’t necessarily like the vigilante but compromises on the grounds they share the same goal, the Hunt Sabs were keen to criticise Police.

“I can show you a clip of an officer blocking a byway,” the sabs expressed, “when challenged he demanded evidence that they were illegally hunting, which the sab asked ‘well if you stop blocking the public right of way, I can get you some.’ He refused.” Whatever happened to inspector’s hunch aside, if investigation isn’t gathered by official resources, someone has to, furthermore, isn’t the officer acting unlawfully in blocking the byway, it’s a public right of way?

“Yeah,” the sabs replied, “accessing the byway was first a small section of ORPA (other routes of public access) so even though he had no idea what the public access rights where, he still chose to block it, even after offering to show him on an OS Map.”

Playing devil’s advocate, I supposed, his defence would be they were potentially there to “start trouble” when the hunters were doing nothing illegal. But how can he tell if the police don’t even follow the hunt? Have the Sabs ever seen police patrolling a hunt, keeping up with it to insure nothing illegal occurs?

“There’s no history of us starting trouble,” they replied. “The hunts always claim that but we don’t.  We’re just there to make sure they don’t kill. Wilts Police have never to my knowledge ever patrolled a hunt. Any time they are there it is to ‘keep the peace,’ which in reality means blocking us from stopping them killing.  The police don’t even know the law; on one hunt recently, two officers turned up and had to Google it on the way. I had to explain to them everything that was happening, and to be fair they listened, but initially they were too quick to take the hunt’s word that they were legally hunting. They have no training on this, I personally have emailed the rural crime team and asked, they’re not interested.”

I gulp at this, as while Wiltshire rural crime unit certainly isn’t responsive, the sabs said Gloucestershire Police now have “operation hunt,” and have said they will go out to hunts. But the real hard pill to swallow was my contact with The Wiltshire Hunt Sabs felt contacting the authorities was futile, adding in their understandable frustrations, “I can’t see them doing much, I personally have given up bothering with them.”

Still, all they ask for doing the tasks the police you pay for should be, is the price of a coffee to help their campaign funding, and they ask you sound your objection to Pewsey Parish Council for allowing the Tedworth Hunt to meet in their carpark, or contacting your MP and councillors in general, as Boxing Day Hunts go further than simply potentially bludgeoning a fox or any other animal which might accidently stumble into the crossfire, to death, but also act as a celebration and promotion of such cruelty.

I wish the season of goodwill to all men could extend to all life, all god’s creatures great and small, and I’m a realist who cannot accept nothing unlawful is happening here, when photograph and video evidence is there for all to see that clearly it is, and I thank the sabs for their time when others in power barely gave theirs, and for the difficult and arduous task they take on.


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A Right Christmas Carry-Con at The Vaults

Sunday saw Ian Diddams reading his Christmassy self-penned yarn at The Vaults, which over the past few years has become something of a decidedly anticipated yuletide tradition among Devizes socialites, not to mention raising wonga for local charities.

Directed downwards to, what is fittingly described as a vault, within the Vaults, a communal gathering amassed. With the ethos of a “quiet bar,” the welcoming and cosy Vaults is the perfect place for the art of conversation, and in turn, the superlative place for an event of the spoken word in town. It has hosted sporadic poetry slams, including Devizes Arts Festival ones with poet, Josephine Corcoran.

Previous readings from the amusing and talented writer Ian Diddams have mostly been parody, usually taking a recognised fictional serial, such as last year’s Sherlock Holmes, and placing it within an unsubtle comparison to Devizes, sprinkled with characters suspiciously resembling a variety of known locals. Combined with a truckload of locally-related gags, the effect is laugh-out-loud funny for its audience. This time, while still lampooning, the signage underneath his microphone resembling the florescent warning logos of the government’s national TV pandemic announcements, but reading “Taking the Piss,” gave a clue this one would be somewhat different.

Ideal to prevent things from getting samey, Ian took an alternative angle; a satirical stab at national politics, this time, sardonically capturing the current mood of the country and distaste for the cabinet. This was convenient for me, I pondered during the first interval, being I was subject to one his character assassinations in last year’s online version, and didn’t see how references to a toothless Cockney milkman would quite fit in with this synopsis. Ian, however saw opportunity to sprinkle the tale with a few local caricatures, and did so; I was not left out, something one should see as an honour, I guess!

Taking the viral Handforth Parish Council Zoom meetings, where the toxic Jackie Weaver became the unlikeliest of reality tv stars, as a base, Ian worked a story read through a year’s worth of minutes taken of meetings by an imaginary village, Little Twittington’s Christmas Club. Deliberately badly disguised characters bore remarkable resemblances to MPs, the most obvious and well-placed being a Pritti Patel-a-like, taking the role of Weaver, with her conceited habit of banning and blocking anyone who disagreed with her.

Chaos ensued, gradually building from the bureaucratic nonsense and general pomposity of village or small-town politics, thus partially retaining Ian’s trademark reflection on local affairs, but soaked in an undercurrent of Brexit, handling of the pandemic, perpetual scandals, mishandling and unashamedly backhanding of government.

Taking a subject out of its usual context to display how utterly preposterous it is, is possibly the hardest form of satire to perfect and convey convincingly to an audience, and Sir Ian of the Diddams knocked it out of the park. It must be noted, to mock something so meticulously is partly to recreate the style of it, so if the performance felt drawn-out, it only was so as it reflected the subject it was ridiculing; ever been exhilarated by a village parish council meeting? I rest my case.

Though this meant belly-laughs from the crowd were perhaps lesser than his previous stories, the overall impact was greater. I’ve no doubt this was both the trickiest one to pen, and in so much, the finest one to date; a stroke of genius.

As usual, the reading was separated by poetry, read by our own man in the field, Andy Fawthrop, who also manned the bar, and Devizes own poet Laurette, or laundrette at least, the absolutely brilliant Gail Foster. The multi-skilled master, Andy, gave us some particularly adroit and amusing poems with thoughtful seasonal prose, as is his style. The apex of which was a hilarious recollection of appearing in a school nativity.

Meanwhile Gail gave us a partial seasonal selection, with an amusing personification of the fairy at the top of the Christmas tree, a sombre and powerful pagan reflection of yule, and then she preceded to bring the house down by airing her dirty washing in public, the one of which if you’ve not heard, and are not an unsuspecting and lesser-endowed pipe-fitter from Grimsby, I’ll leave no spoiler.

All this spoken word madness made for my most entertaining Sunday for the longest, which might not be the most fitting accolade it deserves, being I spend most Sunday afternoon’s snoozing on the sofa in front of a Disney-Pixar classic not of my choosing, yet it is doubly satisfying to note a substantial contribution to local homeless charity, Devizes OpenDoors was raised. And if you missed it, I believe photographer Stephen McGrath captured it on film, which will be available to view soon, for a small contribution to OpenDoors. Send us the link, Steve, and we’ll share it here, as this was something you’d be sorry you missed, if you did, bookmark the occasion for a possible next year’s must-do.

A Right Christmas Carry-Con The Movie!

And here it is. Thanks to Steve McGrath for video production. All we ask is that you please donate to Devizes OpenDoors after viewing; there’s a link on the YouTube page, or donate directly HERE, thank you.


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Why Did the Gazette & Herald Single Out Trowbridge Takeaway with Zero Rating?

Working five years or more as a delivery driver for a local butcher, you witness some pretty awful hygiene practises while passing through numerous commercial kitchens. Yet via this experience I conclude, bad hygiene is not confined to any particular sort of eatery or of any class of establishment.

I delivered to everything from greasy spoons to London’s top hotels and restaurants, and in some standards are exceptionally high, whereas others are dreadfully dirty and pertain some terrible practises. I’ve walked through dog turd infested backyards, told to leave raw meat under the baking sun, I’ve seen a fish flipped onto the floor from a frying pan and promptly picked up and put back into the pan, and I could go on putting you off your tea, but never could I suggest such shocking things are only found in lower-priced establishments, the “posh” hotels and restaurants were equally as bad, often arguably worse.

Three days ago, freelance reporter, Beth Gavaghn broke news of four Wiltshire establishments which “have been given a zero rating by food hygiene inspectors,” published in the Gazette & Herald. Nothing wrong with this, you might suggest, it’s handy for the public to know these places rated low, and if you do suggest, I’d agree. My issue is with the structure of this, quite frankly, shoddy journalism, and if not shoddy, some bad choices made it undeniably bias.

The headline reads, “Trowbridge Chinese takeaway Happy Valley gets zero rating.” Aside grammatical errors, three of the four establishments are cherrypicked to be fleetingly noted, while Happy Valley took the brunt of the report, and was singled out in the headline. Billy Batchers Butchers in Shrewton and Sprinkles Gelato in Salisbury both scored equally low following an inspection, five months AFTER Happy Valley, but barely got a mention. The Bell at Great Cheverell also received a zero rating but mention of it was rushed through, despite being assessed at the same time as the Chinese Takeaway.

Not forgoing these inspections were made in March 2021, for The Bell and Happy Valley, and in August of the same year for Billy Batchers Butchers and Sprinkles Gelato, so for all their sakes, some update on work they’ve done to improve since would be handy to know, but I feel impelled to ponder, just why the one establishment was singled out? Did the reporter receive an adverse fortune cookie there, perhaps?!

It’s no good asking you guys, who are understandably as much in dark over this as me. I despatched a direct message to Beth via Twitter, two days ago and await a reply; just wanted to throw it out there, really, being there was plenty of time to reply, and that what I asked isn’t too OTT. That being: If other establishments also received the same low rating, why have you focussed and highlighted one in particular? That hardly seems fair. Well, are you with me? Does it sound fair to you?

Any reasoning would be speculation; I could, but I won’t go there. YetI’m not holding out much hope of a reply, unless she was to read this and shudder, oh, nasty blogger; I’d best dream up and despatch a quickfire excuse, but I had to note, further scrolling on the Gazette & Herald Facebook page revealed a sponsored advertorial for, coincidently, the Bell at Great Cheverell. “Paid partnership,” being the professional term, indicating backhanding cash to get reapproval, an avenue perhaps the Chinese Takeaway couldn’t afford to take, will get you off the hook; and you thought TripAdvisor reviews were skewered.

Conflicting, or simply the answer to our query, I’m not sure, but evidently, money talks. It should be importantly noted, a zero rating doesn’t mean an establishment must close, rather make significant improvements, and I would see no reason to be put off eating at any of them, the Bell is a rather splendid pub, and I’m certain they would have strived to improve on this rating. The others I am unaware of, but I’m sure in these uncertain times for any small business this exposure was superfluous and unwelcome; if all establishments scored equally, so should the balance of the report.

It is not your job, Newsquest, to wreck one business in favour of another. Heck, guys, I’d have given you a glowing review for a bag of prawn crackers; don’t bow to this injustice!

And readers, you’ve got your own mind, use it; accepting unedited and unsolicited submissions makes a newspaper look cheap and nasty, and I don’t believe that is what we want from local press; we’ve enough from Wiltshire Live, don’t stoop to their level, G&H.


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Monkey Bizzle Supports Boot Hill Xmas Bash at The Southgate

Not as greater deal of options for entertainment as recent weekends gone, I still had a double-booked dilemma. As much as nipping to the Sham for Train to Skaville appealed, I can rest assured this gig would go off based on past experience. Similarly, though, whenever those crazy canal-type Boot Hill All Stars are chalked on the Southgate’s board, their unique and often comical frenzy of gypsy-folk-ska is a hoedown not to be missed, despite seeing them plenty before.

I opted for the latter, partially being anything longer than a fortnight without attending the Southgate and I get withdrawal symptoms, but more so because The Boot Hills were supported by Monkey Bizzle, who I’ve yet to witness live. Aware of this bunch of bananas too, though, after fondly reviewing their debut album Idiot Music, back in July, a fine primer to convince anyone checking them out is a must.

So, it was to be, a rare thing; a single record deck united with conventional instruments awaiting a show at the ever-dependable Southgate Inn, Devizes, and intrigue set in on how some of the, shall we use the term conventional again(?) punters would react to this. Our own reviewer, Andy looked ominously at the addition, even when Monkey Bizzle kicked proceedings off, and I wagered he was pleased to see me, knowing I’d cover anything more my cup of tea than his. To mark its greatness though, it must be said, aside from not busting into crazy legs and finishing off with a back spin, Andy reported how much he unexpectedly enjoyed it.

Though just like the Southgate, we are limited to suggest anything about both bands in this double-header are anywhere near conventional, and with corsets, props and handmade geetars from recycled produce, the Boot Hills did their own thing, in their own tried and tested way, and it’s something to behold.

But not before Monkey Bizzle set the scene alight with their outrageous brand of rib-tickling hip-hop. In many ways, despite a different pigeonhole, the two bands complement each other with west country folk background similarities; even sharing drummer, Cerys. If The Streets injected something of urban capital life into UK hip-hop witty commentary, and Goldie Looking Chain did likewise for Cardiff, Monkey Bizzle do it for the west country. Though we may’ve hinted comparable before with the utterly fantastic Corky, while this one-man band offers pastiches of hip-hop classics via an acoustic method, five-piece Monkey Bizzle subtly fuse rock, reggae and ska into original compositions, scratching and rapping over hip-hop beats.

As self-confessed when waxing lyrical, the result is “idiot music, for stupid people,” and “if you think this is stupid, then you’re a fucking idiot,” yet all presented here is tongue-in-cheek. The mocking irony of the egotistical rapper bigging himself up isn’t something entirely new-fangled, neither are pot smoking, blagging mates or akin subjects covered, but Monkey Bizzle boons the concept with an agreeably local touch, and it works so very well.

Was it enough to delight da Southgate posse, hardly being the rock steady crew and all? I believe it was, and kudos to Deborah and Dave for bringing them, something different, to town.

Yet the show was only half-baked, and despite a few sounds hitches and the missing member due to sickness, professional rebels the Boot Hills came on to do what they do best, bring the house down with this insatiable zest for energetic folk rock, as danceable as ska, as cavernous as blues and as west country fun as the Wurzels in Toy Town.

Yes, it’s rude and crude, comically entertaining, with anarchistic, often blasphemous themes where female masturbation references, puking on a night bus and frenzied Dolly Parton and Toots & the Maytals covers come under banjo turmoil goodness. If it sounds like madness, it totally is, but I wouldn’t have it any other way, and it has become something of a personal Christmas treat tradition now; a predictably, but still absolutely fantastic night at the Southgate.

For the Boot Hills, the Xmas party continues next weekend closer to home, at Bradford-on-Avon leading pub venue, The Three Horseshoes. Meanwhile The Southgate hosts Phase Rotate next Saturday, the 18th, followed by Sunday’s unmissable Christmas party with It’s Complicated. Anything succeeding this will be stuffing Quality Street and cold turkey sandwiches.


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The Strange Case of the Bin-Like War Memorial

A Devizes resident, Simon Frankland on a Sunday stroll with his dog, stops to take a snap of an odd concrete rectangle on the grass verge of London Road, opposite the Aster Group building. Posting it to Facebook group, The Devizes Issue caused something of a mysterious stir, because while it rather resembles one of those seventies litter bins, Mr Frankland pointed out it is not, rather it is a YMCA war memorial, dedicating a long-lost garden to the fallen; who knew?

Some did it seems, after publishing this, so please read on to the updated section at the end, where some assumptions I gave are corrected, but the saga continues as more information about it is speculated on social media. The plot thickens, but the one thing we’re certain of it is not a bin, so don’t use it as one!

Begging for some to throw toys from their prams that it is disrespectful to use it as a bin, which by the paper and bottles wedged into it, and doggy poo bags surrounding it, appears it has been for some time, it must be said, you cannot blame folk because, left to the powers of nature, it does look uncannily like a bin, especially if passing by it on a dark winter evening, hurrying on a busy main road. Even those, apparently responsible for its upkeep, Bishop’s Cannings Parish Council, agree it does.

But if it was clearly marked and renovated, yes, of course, it would be disrespectful. There appears to be some markings engraved on the stone, but it is so worn they are near illegible and undefinable. Curiously, despite its rudimentary rectangular design, the reason it has been left to dilapidation, is its very being, and the location of its being.

I’m not here to point the blame at anyone, as it seems it has been understandably overlooked. Though it is based in Devizes, Town Councillor Iain Wallis believes it is the jurisdiction of the Bishop’s Cannings Parish Council, as his area stops at St James Church. Though the parish council admits while it is their responsibility, they appear equally unaware of it as others, and they think the design of it certainly lies with Devizes Town Council.

An antiquated boundary, an unfortunate bad design, premonition of a council litter bin thirty years prior, are likely the reason for it being overlooked and misused; a monument discounted through being on the borderline, near gardens of the barracks long closed down; you can’t stop the hands of time, but we can realise and respond accordingly to correct it.

As a consequence of me bringing the post to the attention of Bishop’s Cannings Parish Council, an email and a photo has been sent to the chair and clerk, and a parish councillor replied, “no doubts it will get sorted, as we have the RBL Seend Secretary as one of our Parish Councillors.”

Seems failproof, but I’m certain if it doesn’t happen through official procedures, our fabulous and trusty CUDS will be on the mission, as someone pointed out, they could just put a flower bed around it. It wouldn’t cost a fortune to make it identifiable, and then if someone still drops a doggie poo bag by it, Facebook police are rightful to have pop!

All’s well that ends well; i figured. We hope it will at least be renovated so it is clear what it is, and hopefully it’s meaning will be restored. Much as some whinge about social media, the power of such a post has to be admired, on a Sunday too; good job Simon!

Important update: contrary to my original assumptions about the monument, I’ve kindly heard from John Merritt, who has opened a Pandora’s box, by explaining it was placed as a result of the efforts of former Mayor of Devizes, Jim Thorpe, and was “unveilled” on 15th of August 2015.

Others have speculated it was merely moved at that point, from Hopton Estate outside the old Kennet Council offices to where it is now, so furthermore, it could actually be the responsibility of Wiltshire Council, or even the defunct Kennet Council, which may explain why it has been left to dilapidate.

Yet John’s revelation explained its existence, it perplexed me even more as to why it was designed to resemble a bin. Asking for it really.

John’s answer was simple and direct, “because nobody cares,” and he shared a letter he personally penned to the Gazette and Herald at the time, expressing dissatisfaction that despite Jim’s sterling efforts to get the stone to prominence, this particular ceremony was not intended to mark VJ Day. Along with traffic in Marlborough not being stopped for the occasion, John added, “contributes to the feelings of those who served in the Far East campaign that they are still the Forgotten Army.” A letter you really need to read to fully comprehend.

I apologise for my assumptions on this issue, and hope it did not offend. I can see this becoming “the war memorial bin saga,” but in light of this update, I’d argue all the more reason to at least renovate it so it is clearly not used for litter.

Personally, you know, I have a tin; that’s my war memorial. I take it out every Remembrance Day and browse through the keepsakes my Nan handed down to me. There’s photos, medels, letters from the war office, a notebook of my grandad’s movements with entries which alarmingly gets vauger as time goes on, and a Christmas dinner flyer 1947, signed on the reverse by all his fellow soldiers. It also interests my children too, who I’ll try my upmost to recite the stories he told me. For me, that’s my stone, and it would never be used as a bin.


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Thieves Break into Ambulance in Devizes

Devizes-based event medical company, GWP reported their rapid response vehicle was broken into over the weekend, and approximately £1,000 worth of vital lifesaving equipment and uniform was stolen.

We make a point of avoiding local news items, rather concentrate on feelgood magazine stories. Leave the hard work and nitty-gritty to Newsquest I say!

But sometimes occurrences come along, such as this, which beggars belief at the audacity and sheer stupidity of some. So, if I am to report on a news item, I reserve my prerogative to cast an opinion, without justification, and today that is directed to the perpetrators of this crime; You. Stole. From. An. Ambulance, for crying out loud, I urge you to read that back to yourself and pray you never need the use of one yourself.

GWP ask the public to please look out for anyone offering kit or uniform, and if anyone has CCTV footage of New Park Street Devizes, they would be very grateful if you could get in touch.

Last weekend the company
provided medical provisions for Midsomer Norton Town Council’s Christmas light switch on, followed by Bradford on Avon Town Council, and a dance event by Oxford County Council. They also start a month-long worth of provisions for Stourhead National Trust and Forest Green Rovers Football Club.

GWP said “they’ve taken about £1000 worth of equipment, but more worryingly is the paramedic marked uniform.”

At first I figured it was just for money, and hadn’t even contemplated the security issues of potentially posing as medical staff. GWP replied, “equipment like the defibrillator is worth money, but yes, posing as medical staff is a big security concern. Especially after last month, someone pretending to be a nurse from the local GP surgery, St James, was uncovered.”

We hope the thieves can be found as soon as possible, and give our support and gratitude to the staff of GWP.

Today though, staff are trying to focus on the positives, showing the new branding added to their ambulance, by local graphics company Kennet Sign & Display, ready to go to Forest Green Rovers Football Club; keep up the great work!

The Allergies Rock Da Muck & Dunder House

Images by Chris Dunn of Inscope Design


Got my groove thang on at the Muck & Dunder, Saturday, with help from The Allergies; yeah, I can still cut a rug, just!…….

It was the standout track on Bath’s premiere funky groovers, Stardust Collective’s 2014 Shindig ‘Afterhours’ collection which alerted me to the wonders of Bristol DJ duo, The Allergies.

Drenched with a classic Stax undercurrent, “As we do our Thing,” acts as a go-between, teasing unnoticeable changeovers from archaic soul, which is favoured by my Boot Boy Radio show audience, to modern breaks, which perhaps is not so favoured, but I love to josher. I’ve blended it in with everything from Harvey Scales & The Seven Sounds’ Get Down, to Big Mama Thornton’s Hound Dog, and out into Skint’s big beat anthems from Cut La Roc, or Wall of Sounds’ Wiseguys. It’s a tune which also turned Craig Charles’ head at the time; nuff said.

Saturday night at Devizes’ one and only rum bar, the glitzy without being pretentious Muck and Dunder, and one half of the duo, Roy, aka, DJ Moneyshot had drawn the short straw, while Adam, or DJ Rackabeat, his partner in beats, browsed the exotic cocktails menu.

Lumbered with me waffling this in his ear, and expanding it into an Uncle Albert moment, Roy didn’t seem to mind, least humoured, my “when I was in the rave,” ramblings, on the grounds we had a mutual associate in Stardust organiser Slim Goodgroove, who I’ve not seen since art college.

If some in Devizes would shake negatively at a £15 ticket stub to watch two guys putting records on, when live music is the usual order of the day, they didn’t see what I and the punters of the Muck & Dunder saw. You know, here at Devizine we promote and celebrate live music, and I could go as far as suggesting for many in this area, DJ culture is somewhat alien. Yet hardly new-fangled, DJ Kool Herc delivered hip hop to NYC ghetto bloc parties the same year I was born, Grand-wizard Theodore, Grandmaster Flash and a handful of others turned mixing records into an art form.

And it’s very much in this ethos and spirt which The Allergies base this show on. Their skills on the wheels of steel are as spellbinding as Miles Davis with a trumpet or Hendrix with a guitar. If it was an honour and privilege to witness this magic here in our humble town, it was nothing compared to the irresistible urge to shake our booties uncontrollably for an astounding two hours, of which these magical master-mixers shaped.

After being smoothed in with RnB jams from Bath’s Graham the DJ, The Allergies went off on one, cutting and scratching with such proficiency they made it look child’s play. I’ve not got my groove thang on like that since the heady days of largin’ it with Norm, Brighton style.

Though comparisons to Fatboy Slim perhaps too meek, if there’s a difference, the squidgy 808s have waned, and the Allergies favour blending seriously intoxicating 45s of classic funk and hip hop with contemporary reworks. The result was an off-the-scale funky jam, the like old Devizes has never seen before, as the duo swapped and changed positions, sometimes passively battling, other times complementing, weaving their enchanted sounds as they used two turntables as a musical instrument.

If crowd-pleasers like Ini Kamoze’s Here Comes The Hotstepper raised the roof, brassy adaptations of Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk captured the imagination, but the melting pot was vast, and wrapped in their unique funk revival ethos, ending on a peak with a mashup of Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s Shimmy Shimmy Ya to the beat of The Special’s cover of Message to you, Rudy; vinyl junkies would kill for a peek into their box of 45s.

Backward caps off to the Muck & Dunder for an excellent booking and most memorable evening’s entertainment, the like we’d usually need to trek to a city of cultural influence for. Here’s a comfy and hospitable lounge striving way beyond ramming a tacky nightclub concept and driving dance music events to Devizes with the matured and sophistication it by now deserves.

While it’s not so easy to review a DJ set as a band, I hope I captured the glorious moment. It needs mentioning, the Muck pulled off something I was interested to peruse the attraction of locally. It was adequately filled, and, as it was in the rave era, the crowd were there to party therefore left qualms and attitude at home. As it should be; dancing is about throwing ones cares aside for the moment, and if you witnessed me gyrating like Sonic the Hedgehog on a gyroscope, it’s because it was impossible not to!

They didn’t mind a joker rearranging letters on their menu board to spell out titillating alternatives, and for every tip you give bar staff comes the promise of giving Boris Johnson a wedgie! A quality night with the tastiest menu of cocktails; it’s a tropical holiday experience in your hometown! Yet while DJ culture will continue at the Muck, there’s a variety of events coming up, including live music Sunday sessions, the first on 19th December, with the brilliant Ben Borrill. Long live the Muck & Dunder, and all those who sail in her.


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Chatting With The Lost Trades

Local newspapers ran with a yarn of snow blizzards, due Saturday, and illustrated the clickbait with scenes of worst weather of yore. The laughable reality was there was a blustery storm which bought five minutes of flurry.

I don’t conscribe to sensationalising, neither need to interview for the emblematic promotion of a new product. The Lost Trades aren’t yet announcing a second album, neither have they memoirs published; there wasn’t a good reason to interview them. They didn’t whet appetites broadcasting a follow-up album when I asked them the standard “what’s next” question, rather spoke about strategies.

I was eager to catch up with them though; haven’t seen them for ages, and they were happy to oblige, because they’re nice like that! They’d finished a soundcheck supporting Focus for a Long Street Blues Club gig at Devizes’ Corn Exchange, which Andy kindly reviewed.

No matter how they’ve been gigging further afield and stamping a benchmark for folk harmony trios internationally with The Bird, The Book and the Barrel, their feet remain on the ground, and this is, after all, their original stomping ground. Two thirds from Devizes, Jamie R Hawkins and Tamsin Quin, while Phil Cooper is from Trowbridge, the latter of whom casually asked prior to the interview what I could write about them which I haven’t already.

Fair cop, since day dot Devizine followed all three, Tamsin crowdfunding her debut album, Gypsy Blood was our first article in 2017, a review of Phil’s Thoughts & Observations closely followed, and I met Jamie slightly later, at the Saddleback Festival’s Battle of the Bands in 2018.

Tamsin and Jamie at Battle of the Bands, 2018, with George Wilding, Claire, Mike Barham, Jordan Whatley, Jack Moore and Sally Dobson. Image by Nick Padmore

The three musicians closely associated themselves with each other, producing and recording, assisting with gigs and collaborating sporadically, until a natural bond had formed and it made sense to form a trio. The news of The Lost Trades we broke in December 2019, a year of lockdown followed their debut gig at Trowbridge’s Pump, but a period which has seen them improve tenfold, together, on their already high standard.

Both the name the Lost Trades and the album name, The Bird, The Book and the Barrel derives from their surnames; Cooper is a barrel-maker, Hawkins the bird and Quins were counsels or scribes, hence the book. Figuring a blithe beginning, being my rare organisational skills surprised them with a typed sheet of questions, I thought I’d ask if Phil minded being referred to as a barrel! He said he didn’t, but do they call him it?

Phil Cooper solo

“From now on,” Jamie laughed while Tamsin christened it his new name. Phil retorted “that makes you Jamie ‘the bird’ Hawkins,” and I added I liked a bird with a beard, which isn’t exactly true but it broke the ice, if there was some to break, which there wasn’t, so I don’t know why I mentioned it!

The Trades know me well, in this, I pointed out a milkman is a something of a lost trade, and wondered if they had space for me, perhaps in the corner, with a triangle! Jamie noted I could be a “bottle fourth member!” While they pondered if there were to be any sensible questions, I broadened it with, “or is three the magic number?” 

Phil was first to confirm, the others agreed humbly. Tamsin expanded, “having three of us there’s no scope for two people going against two other people, you know? It’s always equal.”

“Yeah, democratically it works really well,” Jamie added. “There’s always a mediator,” Tammy motioned, “it works well like that.” Phil enhanced, “from a harmony point of view, I mean, don’t tell any barbershop quartets this but three is the magic number!” To be honest, I’m all out of befriending barbershop quartets these days anyway.

I offered it was great to see them back in Devizes, because it was, and I asked them where was the furthest so far, they’d played. Being, I’d imagine, the map-man of the trio, Phil called Eastbourne.

But are they booked for many festivals this summer? “Yes,” Phil replied, but couldn’t spill the beans. The Lost Trades are getting a lot of bookings, which is understandable. The only characteristic variance I noted seemed to be Tamsin, who once conveyed a slightly anxious persona when performing but is now rightfully brewing with confidence. More importantly, all three seem so at ease with the Trades’ success, loving the moment, and they’re bonded even tighter.

This is the point I slipped in the standard “what’s next,” and asked, “where do you take it from here?”

“Well, we have a strategy, you see?” Tamsin whispered, “first was getting our name out to our fans, and building up this joint fanbase, which is what we’ve worked on. And now we’re trying to build our name up in the folk world. So, hitting the folk clubs.” And they’ve been getting blinding reviews from folk magazines. “And a lot of radio-play from specialist folk shows as well,” Phil added, “up in Cambridge,” he exampled. Nationally, or even internationally, I queried. “Yeah,” Phil answered proudly, “in Canada, and Italy.”

I supposed lockdown live streaming helped in this exporting, despite lack of profit. Phil nodded, “it certainly tied us over, when we weren’t able to do anything, and kept us in people’s minds.” Tamsin assured, “at this stage in our career it’s not about making money, it’s more about getting our name known and reputation built up.”

To prevent it getting too cosy, I had something more challenging up my sleeve. As individuals The Lost Trades are no strangers to diversifying genres and sounds. Phil in particular, who even delves into electronica with a side project called BCC. Yet the Lost Trades is narrow in ethos, like a corporate identity, being strictly a folk trio, even in design of covers and promotional material. Make no mistake, this works, and is a great formula, but I asked how they could future prevent criticism that it’s getting “samey.” In this I gave the example of the Adele single.

“The fact there’s three songwriters in the band, all with different styes, will help keep us fresh,” Phil explained, “and like you say, we do all like to switch and try other things. I think it will happen, but obviously we’ve put this folk package together, and the music is very much modern folk, going to Americana.” I nodded, in theme too, content is modern. Tamsin added “Also that we’re playing multi-instruments too, which keeps us fresh.”

Debut gig at the Pump, Trowbridge

It was perhaps a tricky question, but you only need to listen to The Bird, The Book and the Barrel to note there is room for experimentation within the genre, and The Lost Trades wish to engage this. Phil expressed, “the folk thing is less about the music and more about how we present ourselves, as a brand, if you like.”

On reflection of their earliest songs as the trio, and knowing them as individual performers, I sense each song in style and writing are pitched by one of them to the trio; I could pick out that one was very Jamie, or very Phil, but the lines are blurred on the newer songs, melded so much I cannot pick out who’s idea or who wrote any particular song; is this what they’re working towards, complete harmonising? It was the longest question with the shortest answer, they nodded throughout me asking it. “I guess so,” Jamie replied, “there’s lots of methods and approaches we’ve yet to try out; that’s another reason why I think we’ll stay fresh.”

“One of the reasons the later stuff is harder to tell is,” Phil expanded, “the earlier stuff the other two were harmonising with whoever had the lead vocal, but the stuff we did towards the end of the album didn’t have a lead vocal, it was all about the three voices all the way through. We could get samey if we did just that, so we’ll keep the solo voice every now and then, just to keep it interesting.”

Lost Trades at the Southgate, Devizes

Tamsin added, “Also, as we’ve grown together musically, we’re writing songs specifically for the band. We write our own solo songs and ones which we think, oh, this one would sound better as a harmony; we tailor it to be a band song.”

Sure, feels like a progression happening naturally, as they work closer together. “It already did,” Phil said when I suggested this, “when working on the album there was two or three songs which didn’t exist until a month before the recording. We put them together really quickly, and yes, they were very much that kinda organic feel.”

Mentioning the impending lockdown as they first formed, I wondered if they felt there was positives which came from it. Phil called the album a massive positive, which if you’ve heard it, you can only agree. “There were songs on there written about what we were going through at the time….”

Tamsin responded too, “lots of the songs we wrote when we were feeling down about having to cancel the tour, for example ‘Winning Days’ was where Jamie and I were feeling miserable, and Phil said ‘right I’m going to write a song to cheer us up.”

“I think, perversely,” Phil added, “the fact we’d built up friends on our side, and to suddenly have it swept away, we got a massive outpouring of love towards us, and that has probably put us on a run up the ladder, that maybe we wouldn’t have got at that point.”    

I beg to differ on this one, sensing this shadow of modesty in them, when really, this massive outpouring of love towards them would’ve been inevitable with or without the restrictions of lockdown, because this grouping just works; whether you are folk’s greatest devotee, or not.

For the final question I returned blithe, as I sensed they were busting to get to the stage; “have you ever been interviewed before with questions as stupid as these ones, and did you expect anything less?!”

The one who remained most silent during the interview, Jamie, made a funny noise of which I’m unsure if it was positive or negative, but it rolled out a belly laugh, Phil pleaded the fifth on it, and Tamsin voiced in the background she thought they were “lovely” questions, because that’s our Tammy, Devizes loves her, we love all three; Trowbridge and Devizes finest musical export; I give you The Lost Trades, who I lost; by the time I stopped the record button, they were gone, up on stage, to do what they love, and long may it be so!


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