REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival 2022

A Great Festival – Now What About The Future?

Andy Fawthrop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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Weekend Roundup: 30th June – 3rd July 2022

Full throttle into July, then; here’s what the weekend looks like around these parts. These parts of cultural void, so it’s claimed, we say otherwise…. You want proof?

As usual no links here, the only link you need is here, our event calendar. Have a great weekend whatever you do!

Ongoing from Wednesday until Sunday the Wyvern Theatre, Swindon has got Shrek the Musical. Thursday and Friday, Devizes Musical Theatre presents their Summer Concert, Miss Fortunes at The Wharf Theatre, see the poster, always see the posters!

I’m delighted to hear Devizes LGBTQ+ group’s first big event, Drag Bingo at the Exchange has sold out on Thursday 30th; well done to them and here’s hoping for some similar events in Devizes in the future.

One of folk music’s greatest innovators, Martin Carthy is at Trowbridge Town Hall Thursday, Paul Jones Live in Concert at Christ Church, Swindon while Swindon Arts Centre has a play called Blithe Spirit, running until Sunday.

Friday is pinch punch. Chippenham Comedy Festival at The Old Road Tavern, starts, running all weekend. Limited Weekend Tickets £60, individual shows are all £7 each. Friday 1st July: 7pm Sam Michael & John Matthews: Cister Act, 8.30pm Juliette Meyers: Passport Face,10pm James Dowdeswell: Beers of a Clown. Saturday 2nd July: 5pm Jo Caulfield: Here Comes Trouble, 6.30pm Sooz Kempner: Playstation, 7.45pm Katie Mitchell: She Festers, 9pm Andrew O’Neill: We Are Not In The Least Afraid Of Ruins; We Carry A New World In Our Hearts, 10.15pm Wil Hodgson: Barbicidal Tendencies. Sunday 3rd July: 5.30pm Jessie Nixon, Dannie Johns & Millie Haswell: Dumb Belles,7pm Joe Wells: I am Autistic, 8.30pm Beth Black.

Devizes School Summer School Concert in the main hall. Minety Festival kicks off for the weekend. Melksham’s One Love reggae night has been moved from the Assembly Hall to Spencer’s Club on Beanacre Road, I just haven’t changed the poster, so forget all I said about paying attention to the posters!!

The Ukey Dukes play The New Inn, Winterbourne Monkton. Ska punkers head to The Barge at Honeystreet, for Slageri J headline there, and surfers should wipe-out at The Three Horseshoes, Bradford-on-Avon, where they’ll find the highly recommended Palooka 5. Rorke’s Drift play The Vic, Swindon, and fresh(ish) from Glasto, Jo Whiley plays 90s Anthems at The Cheese & Grain, Frome.

Saturday 2nd, Longleat continues showing off; those who don’t mind standing for hours, with a bottomless wallet and advance planning can see Tears for Fears, the rest of us are not left without options…. like Salisbury Pride at Queen Elizabeth Gardens.

Arts Together fundraise with a day painting at Bowood, see the poster for real this time!

Six O’clock Circus headline The Vale of the White Horse Scooter Rally at The Cooper’s Arms, Pewsey. While there’s a reggae day at The Wheatsheaf, Calne; the Bee Skas play at 3pm!

The Seven Stars in Bottlesford has a Burger BBQ for twenty quid, but you do get The Reason playing.

The amazing Jack Grace is at Southgate, and popular covers band Paradox are down the Cellar Bar in Devizes; yes, I did say The Cellar Bar, glad to see this venue back on our listings.

Band X at the Three Horseshoes Bradford-on-Avon, Siren at the 12 Bells, Trowbridge, with Hatepenny rocking the Town Hall. @Fest mini-festival at the White Hart in Attsworth. Down & Dirty at The Vic, Swindon.

Swindon’s Midlife Krisis sound system was due to setup at The Barge at HoneyStreet, however, due to issues with their secondary camping field it is unfortunately cancelled. We wish the Barge all the best with this issue, and hope it can be resolved as soon as possible.

Sunday 3rd July is DOCA’s Picnic at Hillworth Park. British Blues with Trevor Babajack Steger from 12pm, from 1pm, find some jazz-tinged klezmer and old-world Yiddish folk, from Mozzle Brocha, branch of the collective, Chai for All, who we tried to get to play a Ukraine fundraiser at St Mary’s, but it unfortunately fell through. It will be good to meet you, guys.   

Eastern European folk traditions follow that with East of Eden at 2:40, South African at 4pm with Otto & The Mutapa Calling, finishing off your Sunday entertainment. Also look out for Rose Popay, the “Art Tart,” sounds hilarious, and various carnival workshops, suitable for all ages; see the DOCA website.

Elsewhere, People Like Us headline free live music for Inspire Warminster, preview here. The Cosmic Sausages play The Bell, Bath, The Lost Hills play The Tap & Barrel, Swindon. Blues legend Andy Fairweather Low plays The Cheese & Grain, Frome, with Ruzz Guitar in support, and oh, it’s Aldbourne Doggy Day!

That’s your weekend wrapped up, unless I missed anything? Did you let us know? It’s not too late, I can edit our event calendar, if you’re nice and send cake!


Through the week you can catch a Live Art Demonstration by the wonderful Caroline le Bourgeois at Devizes Conservative Club on Monday 4th, meanwhile David Olusoga presents A House Through Time at The Cheese & Grain, Frome.

Tuesday sees carparks in Devizes closed for the Birmingham 2022 Queen’s Baton Relay; for a whole half-hour! Heaven help us! Keyboard warriors, I’d advise you walk or bus it into town to get your garibaldi biscuits!

The New Forest Folk Festival starts Wednesday, while there’s a bit of Shakey at Bath’s Rondo Theatre, Macbeth; all proceeds go to Marie Curie. Best of luck to the two Devizes actors appearing in this, Lucy Upward and Ian Diddams; break a leg!

Next weekend you need tickets for a fundraising concert for Devizes GAC’s chosen charity, Julia’s House Children’s Hospice, at Devizes School Hall, on Friday July 8th at 7.30pm. Special guests at the concert will be the Pewsey Belles Ladies Choir. Tickets are priced £8 and available from 01761 472468.

Both Readipop Festival and Cornbury Festival, next weekend, and of course, Devizes Carnival and Trowbridge’s ParkFest, both on the Saturday 9th. I believe I’ll be painting the whole village purple at Bishop’s Cannings mini festival at The Crown; please come and support this too. And on Sunday, give our Essex country-rocker favourites, Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective a warm Devizes welcome at the Southgate.

And if you’ve read this far I salute you; people like you who pay attention really need to grab up tickets to the Full-Tone Festival August Bank Holiday, AND Devizes Scooter Rally, AND Devizes Beer Festival too!


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REVIEW – Tamsin Quin & Vince Bell @ The Southgate, Devizes – Sunday 26th June 2022

300 and still counting!

Andy Fawthrop

Is it really (not that) long? Debs suddenly realised over the weekend that this was the 300th gig that she and Dave had put on in The Southgate since taking over in 2018. That’s only four years, and we had a pandemic in the middle when all the pubs were necessarily closed anyway, so that’s a pretty remarkable record! No-one has done more to support live music in D-Town that Debs and Dave, with virtually every weekend supporting at least one gig, sometimes two or three. I do remember one night when there were (for complicated reasons that need not detain us now) two gigs on at exactly the same time – one inside the pub, and one in the skittle alley!

There have been acts from all over the country, and indeed from several other countries. There has been just about every style of music you can think of – rock, prog, psychedelia, blues, funk, soul, folk and every combination thereof that you can think of. Most of it worked too!

So it was really good, albeit perhaps just a lucky coincidence, that gig number 300 should be one of those relaxed Sunday afternoon sessions featuring a couple of the best of our very local singer/ songwriters – Tamsin Quin and Vince Bell. The atmosphere was, as usual, warm and supportive right from the start.

Tamsin was up first, shorn of her Lost Trades buddies, for an occasional solo performance. I’ve known Tamsin since some of her early gigs back in the mists of time at the now-defunct Seend Acoustic. Back then she was chatty, nervous, a little scatty, but clearly a great songwriter and performer. Since then, and I’ve seen her perform many times, she has clearly developed. She’s stronger and more assured in front of a microphone, her singing style is more gentle, and her song-writing has developed in leaps and bounds – intimate, sincere and with a new depth and maturity.

Vince followed her onto the singing stool and showed us, yet again, what a great singer/ songwriter he is. And it was one of those gigs where, instead of being reduced to the “folkie in the corner” everybody (including the dogs) was properly listening. Again we had strong, deep songs, with some occasional Spiderman-pyjama whimsy thrown in, and a captivating performance.

Unfortunately, I had to skip the very last bit where they got to sing some songs together (Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was calling and I didn’t want to get put “on hold”), so as they used to say in The News Of The World “I made my apologies and left”, which was a damned pity because it was such a lovely, homely gig.

There were lots of friends in the audience, and a lot of love in the room. I’m pretty sure I’m right in thinking that both performers enjoyed it as much as we audience did in listening. Wonderful.

So, as I said, a great gig to celebrate 300 and counting. Let’s hope for many more great gigs, and let’s hope that the good folk of D-Town keep on supporting quality live music.

Future gigs at The Southgate:

Saturday 2nd July Jack Grace Band
Sunday 3rd July Jon Amor + Friends


REVIEW – Fulltone Strings @ Town Hall, Devizes – Sunday 26th June 2022

Four Seasons In One Day

Andy Fawthrop


There’s no respite if you’re into your culture in D-Town these days. Fresh off the back of the wonderful Devizes Arts Festival, I headed on a beautiful sunny Sunday evening to a sold-out Town Hall to hear The Fulltone Orchestra in full musical flight. This was FTO’s “taster” event, and an advert for the big event over the August Bank Holiday weekend (Fulltone Music Festival) to be held on The Green on 27th and 28th August….

Anthony Brown (“Our Tone”) had gathered an almost 40-strong string orchestra, with only a very short time for rehearsals, and moulded them together to provide us with a short, but very satisfying musical repast.
To start with, our amuse-bouche if you like, was the short but sweet Adagio in G Minor by Tomaso Albinoni. This 18th Century composer, who was quite famous in his day, and a contemporary of Vivaldi, is less well-known these days. The piece was light and airy, and played with some panache by a clearly enthusiastic orchestra, a perfect Baroque accompaniment to the sunshine flooding in through the open windows, and a piece absolutely suited to the surroundings of the splendid room in which were sitting.

Next up, the real starter, was Ralph Vaughn Williams’ Fantasia on A Theme By Thomas Tallis. Still light but a little more substantial, this was one English composer’s interpretation of an earlier English composer’s work, and is perhaps more recognisable, having been recorded and performed many times over the last century.

And finally, after a short interval, we were onto the main course and, I suspect, the key reason for this concert’s obvious popularity – Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, his violin concerto written roughly 300 years ago in the period 1718-20. For this piece, conductor Anthony willingly ceded the leadership of the strings to guest Russian concert violinist, Elizaveta Tyun. Elizaveta has performed all over the world, and her appearance in Devizes was a real coup for the FTO.

The Four Seasons (“Le quattro stagioni” in Italian) is, by far and away, the best-known of Vivaldi’s works, and is a group of four linked violin concertos, each of which gives musical expression to a season of the year. At the time when they were first performed, they were a revolution in musical conception: in them Vivaldi represented flowing creeks, singing birds, a shepherd and his barking dog, buzzing flies, storms, drunken dancers, hunting parties from both the hunters’ and the prey’s point of view, frozen landscapes, and warm winter fires. Also unusual for the period, Vivaldi published the concerti with accompanying sonnets (possibly written by the composer himself) that elucidated what it was in the spirit of each season that his music was intended to evoke. The concerti therefore stand as one of the earliest and most detailed examples of what would come to be called “program music” — or in other words, music with a narrative element. Vivaldi divided each concerto into three movements (fast–slow–fast), and, likewise, each linked sonnet into three sections. I’m not going to pretend that I knew all of that, but I Googled it and I thought you ought to know! I did it before I listened, and it certainly helped me to understand much better what I was listening to!

What can I say? It was absolutely wonderful, thrilling, inspiring, and emotional stuff. It was live orchestral music at its very best. Elizaveta played with enormous passion and enthusiasm, attacking the faster, trickier passages with great energy. And the strings of the FTO, probably inspired by such skill in their midst, followed her lead and supported her to great effect. It’s an absolutely fabulous piece of music. No matter how many times I’ve heard it played, it never ceases to amaze me. Despite being used in (literally) hundreds of film soundtracks, adverts, and the inevitable telephone on-hold theme, it always comes through as fresh and original. And it was so good to listen to it properly, all the way through, played by a set of musicians who clearly wanted to play it. Hats off to the lot of them – it was absolutely superb!

Well done to Jemma and Anthony Brown for pulling this concert together, well done to Elizaveta for a stirring rendition of the lead violin role, and well done to the scratch group of musicians who came together to deliver an excellent performance. Oh, and well done to the crowd who came out on a Sunday night to support such great live music and gave the performance exactly what it deserved – a long standing ovation and rapturous applause. Absolutely brilliant!

So – don’t forget to buy your tickets for The Fulltone Music Festival on Saturday and Sunday 27th & 28th August on The Green – available from Devizes Books, and online from www. www.ticketsource.co.uk/fulltone


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Miracle at MantonFest!

Ah yeah, Paul McCartney whisked Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl out of his hat at Glasto, and no one can top that, no one dare try, but on the other side of the west country The Fab Four were rejuvenated on stage, and miraculously commanded the weather!

Okay, allow some exaggeration for artistic licence, but being the only sour point about MantonFest last year was spates of torrential downpour, and the forecast foreboding a repeat, note it tried its uppermost to drizzle, but on the one occasion the crowds thought, “this is it,” Nottingham’s fantastic Beatles tribute, The Fab Four broke into George Harrison’s Here Comes the Sun and lo-and-behold, the sunshine returned, to a rapturous applause.

Coincidence, or should these guys try a Paul Daniels tribute next, is besides the point; there were numerous memorable happenings at MantonFest this year, the Beatles tribute controlled clement weather was just the tip of the iceberg.

For eleven years strong MantonFest has been Marlborough’s little gem, punching well above its weight. It’s both communal and friendly, but professionally executed too. If Glastonbury is a city of tents, this day festival is a village of gazebos. Picnicking families return year-after-year, and MantonFest prides itself on a loyal fanbase.

Nit-picking, the focus is entirely on the music, but kids seem unperturbed by any lack of facilities aimed at them. They naturally make their own entertainment, organise a game of football in the ample surrounding fields, more so join the already extensive age demographic and genuinely enjoy the music. Perhaps why The Fab Four were so apt, the Beatles’ early music is the eve of bubble-gum, beguilingly simple for the masses, which makes it timeless.

Talking to them backstage they delighted in the notion they’re a platform introducing Beatles music to a new generation, and in that, plus the fact they are an archetypical four-piece rock band setup without strings and effects, they blasted out the earlier, simpler 45s such as Love me Do and Hold my Hand as a baseplate. And they did it fantastically, with a nod to later Beatles creations such as Yellow Submarine and Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but perhaps most absolute to exposing their skills in ballads, such as Something the aforementioned, Here Comes the Sun, and a grand finale of Hey Jude, this was a very entertaining package.

Take a Beatles tribute as red, my mum, caught up in Beatlemania, thrust it willingly down my throat, so I’m bound to enjoy, but the real surprise of MantonFest 2022 was the second tribute, Jean Genie. As it suggests, accomplished musician and writer in his own right, John Mainwaring becomes David Bowie, more so in sound than appearance.

You can rough me up for this, but note while I fully recognise and accept Bowie’s importance in the progression of pop, and understand why he is idolised, I’m a smidgen too young to have been caught up in the fanaticism surrounding him. But this guy wowed, as simple as; assessment is this is way up on my best tributes leader-board, forcing me to view Bowie in a new light. I mean, the guy toured with Bowie’s own band The Spiders from Mars in the nineties, explaining to me backstage the gradual progression to this career point was, as he sounded so much like his influence, through his own original music, he was persuaded first to attribute the fictional persona Ziggy Stardust, “as Bowie killed him off anyway.”

This performance was truer to the definition “tribute” than the standard tribute act, it was part John Mainwaring, being himself hugely inspired by Bowie, but it was also part Bowie, sublimely, his voice and showmanship as close as you could possibly get, and as Starman echoed out, it was a totally mesmerising performance, my highlight of the day.

Unfortunately, while professional and accomplished, I have to say, I don’t think the headliners The Animals topped this. Maybe it was just me, feeling the strain of not drinking myself stupid, of which, looking back on, I’m proud, but at the time at tad niggly! I’d say the line between a real act and a tribute act are blurred, when a man like Mainwaring, with such experience and close relationship with the act he’s attributing is a tribute, but a band with only one original band member is considered the genuine article. I mean, yeah, it’s labelled as The Animals and Friends, but grammar comes into play somewhat. It’s not plural; The Animal and Friends. A rather plodding show, a bit meh in comparison with what went beforehand.

Between the two tributes stood the testament to MantonFest, Marlborough’s pride, Barrelhouse. With bassist Stuart Whant as artistic director, MantonFest is the Barrelhouse fan club’s annual beano, but they’ve the knack to make their show something watchable on repeat. If you ever figured the timeworn blues of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Bo Diddley,or even when they slip into bluegrass, couldn’t enthuse teenagers today, you need to bear witness to the enduring methods of Barrelhouse, with the growling mysterious frontman Martin Hands, his proficient band, and the reaction of their loyal fans at the one place they’ll guarantee to rule the stage, Manton Grange.

But if Barrelhouse are guaranteed goodness, The Fab Four were what they said on the tin, fab, and Jean Genie was a sublime homage, there was an equally talented act upon my arrival. Rocking up a bit late to catch previous performances, Southend-on-Sea’s Rosalie Cunningham was all I needed as confirmation this was going to be a great day for live music. Program a hundred personas of legendary rock heroines into a computer, from Patti Smith to Suzi Quatro and Debbie Harry to Alanis Morissette, and ask it to compute something analogous, it’d likely create Rosalie Cunningham. She looked the part, she sounded like the part, and in all essence, she was the part.

At first it came across prog-rock, all King Crimson type, but there were riffs to punk, nods to rock n roll, and the band explained they liked it like this, prevented it getting tedious for them. For an audience it was astutely performed, original rock, steady, flowing; the like you’d think you knew already.

All-in-all, Mantonfest is a credit to Wiltshire, but as I said last year, absent are the faces of our own live music aficionados, just a stone-throw away. Marlborough is not the Upside Down from Stranger Things, Devizions, yet those rolling downs seem to divide us into little circuits.

In fact, the only connection to my hometown I made was thinking about my stomach! Yes, amico, that trusty airstream caravan, The Italian Job, usually parked upon the Green in Devizes, was pitched at MantonFest, the wonderful aromas of basil and garlic were as alluring as the seating inside, and for want of a cup of Rosey-Lee, I came bundling out with gorgeous homemade lasagne, garlic bread and rocket, and slouched in a chair below the beautiful slopes of Treacle Brolly; now that’s festivaling Marlboro’ country, something you’re really missing. I’d highly recommend you etch MantonFest 2023 into your must-do-list.


REVIEW – Sarah C Ryan Band @ The Southgate, Devizes – Saturday 25th June 2022

Another Great Find

Andy Fawthrop

Ah – you never know what life is going to throw up at you till it smacks you right in the face.  Coming off the back of two weeks’ worth of fare from Devizes Arts Festival, I poked my head in to The Corn Exchange to catch their very last act – Absolute with their Celtic Party Night.  I managed to stay for the first half (and very it good it was too as the crowd began to thaw and fill the dance-floor), but to be honest, there’s only so much diddley-diddley music that one man can take.…..

And so it was, as a late call, I decided to head up the hill to The Southgate to check out the Sarah C. Ryan Band.  And boy am I glad I did.  These guys were a new band to me, despite being quite local (they even rehearse in Devizes), and I couldn’t believe that I’d never run into them before.

In short they were beltingly good – several notches above most pub bands.  But that judgement is kinda unfair – they were much more than a mere “pub band”.  They played mostly self-penned numbers, with just the occasional leavening of covers.  Being a five-piece, and including three guitars, drums, keyboards and the occasional woodwind, gave them a depth and a richness in their sound.  The songs were clean, sharp, unfussy.  Sarah’s singing in particular lifted the performance with her sweet, clear voice, but the whole thing was a complete pleasure to listen to.  Number after number rolled off their set-list, each one bringing huge applause from a very enthusiastic audience.  Their versions of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and the Cranberries’ “Zombie” were absolutely spot-on, working with the crowd and feeding off their energy.

Really good band – best I’ve seen in ages.  And really nice folks to talk to as well.  They told me that they don’t actually gig very much, but I really can’t understand why – they’ve got the right package – good songs, good playing, good sound and an ability to connect with their audience.  Let’s hope we see much more of them in the future!

Well done to Debs for another great booking, and a good night at The Gate.

Future gigs at The Southgate:

Saturday 2nd July                               Jack Grace Band

Sunday 3rd July                                  Jon Amor + Friends


Editor’s Top-Secret Information! I’m sorry to have missed this gig at our trusty Southgate, for although I’ve not had the chance to catch The Sarah C Ryan Band live, yet, I can leak some top-secret information, or, at least, procrastination being the reason I’ve not mentioned it sooner: I’m fully aware how absolutely awesome The Sarah C Ryan Band are, as they’ve kindly donated a tune called A Woman in White, to the forthcoming second volume of our Julia’s House compilation. And you HAVE to hear it!

We just need a few more songs to make this happen; don’t make me beg!

We want your band name on our desk!
You can download the first Volume here!

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

Criminal Humour

Andy Fawthrop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The Plays What She Wrote

Andy Fawthrop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The World Under the Wood Will Put a Smile on Your Face

A dollop of Lewis Carroll, shards of C. S. Lewis and Roald Dahl, and perhaps even nicer elements of Tolkien, The World Under the Wood will put a smile on your face and bring out the inner child in you.…..

Being honest, it doesn’t take too much to bring out the inner child out in this grumpy old man, but more to cheer me up, and this did both, delightfully!

Running until Sunday, with matinees and evening performances at Devizes’ Wharf Theatre, this simply charming hour-long play, written and directed by Helen Langford is so whimsical, such a delight, you will be captivated by its magical cross-realms. Ideally you need a child aged six plus, but anyone into fairytales you can drag along, I suggest you do. Break out some glitter!

Yet while citing the obvious influences of classic children’s literature combines the settings and themes, it overlooks the subject, a contemporary feel of industry versus nature, the environmental angle on everyone’s lips, especially children. And it presents it in such an easy, fantastical way, without complication or ‘rubbing your face in it’ any age will be absorbed by the moral. Anymore synopsis and I’m verging on spoliers!

All homegrown talent, The World Under the Wood is an unmissable Wharf exclusive. The protagonist, Jodie, a kind of Dorothy-Dora hybrid is played confidently and spectacularly by Georgina Claridge, and her interactions with archetypal characters manage to retain the charm of those they pastiche, a talking tree, played gracefully by Chris Smith, pet dog by Carolynn Coomer, and Louise Peak as the queen-like Great Leader of an industrial underworld of robotic oompa loompa-like humans adds pantomime humour to the show.

Yet, it is not pantomime, in so much its zany or sing-along element is slight above the morals, but it is partially musical, with simple but effective original songs. If I’m honest, I huffed at the thought of going to see a “family” show, but I came out the other end chuffed, sprinkled with psychological fairy dust and mused with an emotion of sustainability on equal terms.

Your kids will love it, you might love it more! The World Under the Wood is running now, ending Sunday 26th June at The Wharf Theatre, Devizes. Tickets HERE.


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

“Nice”

Andy Fawthrop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Travel Tales

Andy Fawthrop

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wadfest; Great Community Do Launched at Wadworth

When a better half browsing Facebook, tells her husband about an event in their own town, that’s informative. When the husband runs a local what’s on guide, it’s a tad embarrassing! But that is the unusual way I found out about Devizes’ cornerstone industry, the Wadworth Brewery putting on a mini-festival in their carpark.

This added a droplet to my overall scepticism as to what a do at Wadworth might involve, but what I overlooked was Jim Smith, frontman of local flightless bird rock covers band, Rockhoppaz, was a valid employee of the institution, so there you go. Now, in our last partial review of last weekend’s entertainment before looking to the next, I’ll tell you I did manage to pop along whilst juggling this and Saddleback, by hotfooting the tow path. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Once informed about this by the good lady wife, I despatched an enquiry as to acts booked, and the usual promise of free promotion, but the only reply I received was something about a free T-shirt. Promoters should note, local rags seem preoccupied with national headline clickbait, and a preview on Devizine is worth a zillion self-promoting Facebook posts, but c’est la vie; when I saw the lineup I was immediately reassured this was a worthy venture, and apologise to Waddies for any aforementioned scepticism.

Upon arrival the wonderful folk acoustic soloist and Visual Radio Arts presenter, Sue Harding, one third of Devizes’ two-thirds of the folk harmony trio on everyone’s lips, The Lost Trades’ Jamie R Hawkins, and the incredibly unpretentious Vince Bell had already played, the latter shrugging I missed him as I approached. How can I excuse the plain and simple fact I need my beauty sleep? But I can take it as red, due to past experience, this is a brilliant way to kick off the proceedings of any local do.

Of great consolation, the fantastically cool Ben Borrill was doing his thing, sublimely covering those tasteful classics. Duty called though, when you’ve an invite to a ticketed event where Ruzz Guitar and his Revue were about to begin, you’re more than obliging. My apologies to RockHoppaz, the first full band on. Again though, this is such a renowned local circuit lineup, it may’ve been seen before but of a quailty worthy of all the repeats of the Dave TV channel.

What I did glimpse of Wadfest was just enough to know, this was Devizes’ surprise freebie event of the summer, central, communal, with both pizza and hog roast, and anything where those dynamic retrospective RoughCut Rebels rocks the finale is a-okay by me.

The only nitpicking to let Wadfest down were not the blame of anyone. Firstly, the natural elements’ temporary weekend pause in a record breaking heatwave will always reduce footfall, unavoidable clashes with other similar events in Devizes added to it. A fair crowd of local music and beer afictionardos gathered nonetheless and an enjoyable afternoon was had, cut short by a medical incident of which we wish the person involved all the best for a speedy recovery.

Just prior though, the drizzle did its worst, as the Roughcuts did their cliché but refined Wonderwall cover, and I ducked into The Tap Shop and Bar, grasping a perfectly baked hot and spicy pizza, breaking my Woodland Pizza Kitchen cherry. Ha, this appleman justifes drinking Frome’s finest Lilley’s Cider in the Waddies Tap Shop as being one of my five-a-day. But have to say, the Tap Shop is a thing of beauty, doubly so with such a tasty pizza.

On a better day, free of other town goings-on and a tad clement, Wadfest would’ve been an absolute blast, as it was it made the best of bad situations and did the town proud. I sincerely hope this will turn into an annual event to look forward to in the coming years, and fully praise Wadworth for hoisting in the community spirit and bringing us this delightful lineup of locally sourced acts.


Devizes School Summer Concert – Celebrating our Local School Community

Devizes School students will be showcasing their artistic and creative abilities at the school’s first public concert since the end of the Covid-19 lockdowns on Friday July 1st from 7:30pm.

With performances and pieces from across the arts, the student community of Devizes welcomes local people back to their school with an evening to remember. A mix of dramatic excerpts, dance recitals across multiple disciplines and a mix of musical styles will be sure to engage and enthral attendees, as well as celebrate the young creatives ushering in the next generation of the arts in our local area and possibly beyond. The stars of the future could very well be born on the Devizes School stage!

Tickets are available now via Devizes School or alternatively on the door on July 1st. 

Adults – £3

Children – £2

Under 5s – FREE

Any further information can be found by emailing Devizes School – devizes_school@devizes.wilts.sch.uk. Or by calling 01380 724886

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

Superb Talent In The Afternoon

Andy Fawthrop

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

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

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

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

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


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

A Game of Two Halves

Andy Fawthrop

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Scum In The Corn Exchange

Andy Fawthrop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Saddleback Back!

In July 2019, straight after the Devizes Rugby Club’s Saddleback Festival, they announced July 11th 2020 for their next festival, but we all know the rest of that sad story. Since 2017 the club organised an annual Saddleback, named after Devizes Rugby team’s nickname, and the event quickly gained an outstanding reputation for bringing some … Continue reading “Saddleback Back!”

REVIEW – Lovesong @ Wharf Theatre, Devizes – Thursday 26th May 2022

Fabulous Stagecraft! by Andy Fawthrop Images used with kind permission of Chris Watkins Media Been a while since I’d been to our town’s lovely little theatre, and it was a joy to go back again.….. The occasion was the staging of Abi Morgan’s “Lovesong”. Now I happen to be a fan of Abi Morgan’s writing, … Continue reading “REVIEW – Lovesong @ Wharf Theatre, Devizes – Thursday 26th May 2022”

Sarnie for Her Majesty!

There’s still time to suggest your ideal sandwich filling fit for the Queen! Devizes Food & Drink Festival are hoping for seventy sandwich fillings…..even I couldn’t eat seventy butties, but I never refuse a challenge, if they need a judge! “Lots have been suggested,” they say, “and BBC Wiltshire’s Sue Davies was suitably horrified by … Continue reading “Sarnie for Her Majesty!”

Indecision’s Final Incursion of Devizes Corn Exchange

The grand finale of popular local covers band, Indecision stormed Devizes Corn Exchange last night, Saturday 21st May, for one last hoorah. A hugely successful turnout in the-hard-to-fill Ceres Hall…… From Seend Beer Festival to Potterne Cricket Club’s, Indecision has been a firm favourite for many-a-year now, playing across the south west from Bromham’s long … Continue reading “Indecision’s Final Incursion of Devizes Corn Exchange”

Castlemorton Wasn’t the Best Rave Ever!

Featured Image ©Alan Lodge Photography Okay, I confess, that’s a clickbait title, forced to make you shout, pantomime style, “oh yes it was!” On this, the thirtieth anniversary of The Castlemorton Free Festival I’m predicting vast quantities of media coverage, hailing its significance in the counterculture of the nineties, and indeed it was the largest … Continue reading “Castlemorton Wasn’t the Best Rave Ever!”

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

Lessons In Life!

Andy Fawthrop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A cracking evening’s entertainment.

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


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

Sax in Church

Andy Fawthrop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Absolutely Stonking!

Andy Fawthrop


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

A Real Classic

Andy Fawthrop


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Great News for The Devizes Assize Court Trust and Wiltshire Museum

Things are finally looking up for that great redundant building on Devizes’ Northgate Street, the Assize Court. You know you’ve passed it gloomily for decades, recognising its potential and hoping one day it’ll be put to good use….

Twisted in red tape, the charitable Devizes Assize Court Trust bought the building from Kamarran Mahmoud in 2018, a London merchant who gave it no attention, yet resisted Devizes Town Council’s resubmission to convert it to homes and a community centre in 2015; yeah, I dunno what all that was about neither, pal. The Trust now strive to raise £13 million to restore and refit it, for conversion into a new home for Wiltshire Museum.

The Trust are delighted to announce this week, The National Lottery Heritage Fund have accepted their ‘Expression of Interest,’ and they are now able to submit an application for funding. This means that the project is now on the first rung of the ladder.

I believe we’re lucky enough already in Devizes, to be home to the county’s museum, imagine the impact of it being in the Assize Court, the expansion potential and possible modernisation. I mean, I know right, it’s a pretty great museum as it is, but imagine buses of school children, all in pac-a-macs and carrying lunchboxes, from all over the country, pulling up there, visitors from afar, actually, like, coming to Devizes, spending money here, not just driving through looking glumly through the windows at us; in’t museums brilliant, yay!

Excuse my Paul Whitehouse-esque over-excitedness, the Trust have twelve months to submit the first-round application, and if successful, then we’re looking at two years of development phase, before a second bid. If it comes up roses, substantial funding to enable work on the building to start, the Trust hope by 2025 or 2026; I’ll be a museum piece myself by then, save my family on care costs, just stick me in glass cabinet!

Meanwhile, Wiltshire Museum continues to operate out of Long Street, with a new exhibit exploring how Thomas Hardy’s writing merged his present with the past, within this ancient landscape. Plus, an ever-growing event calendar full of walks, talks, courses and children’s activities, such as the Young Curators Club for ages 8-13.

The Trust need help developing these plans for the Devizes Assize Court, seeking new trustees who can bring diverse voices and experiences to their board. Deadline for applications is 20th June 2022.