Devizes Food Festival’s Grand Market was Indeed Grand

One small stall holder selling their own brew of beer at the Devizes Food Festival’s Grand Market yesterday told me he was hassled by a woman claiming to be from a nearby Wadworth pub. According to him, the lady in question yelled, “we don’t want your beer around here!”

 

Wherever she intended to rhyme or not is beside the point; shameless. This small-business guy trekking from Bristol only to be bullied by the town’s big boys; any truth in this, I pondered, and if so I wished I hadn’t heard it at all. Other than this bizarre claim though, the day went with full swing, and a great time was had by all.

 

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While Wadworth sponsor the Food Festival, it’s presence at the Market was minimal, the real heroes of the alcohol variety was surely the recently changed Stealth Brew Co, formerly The Kennet & Avon Brewery, as in promoting their new brands, bought the music of local Jamie R Hawkins and the brilliant Rob Lear from Wales.

 
As their acoustic vibes bought ambience to the event, preventing punters from wandering off, Cellar Bar event organiser Mirko was swinging around handing out flyers for the highly anticipated Saddleback Festival. He updated his Facebook status claiming “this is the best food festival yet!” I was still hauling my ass out of bed with all best intentions of checking it out. But I also spotted a video posted, it scanned the event from a birds-eye view, or an overlooking window view at the least; certain randy pigeons didn’t shoot the film. For a “festival” it looked kinda petite, taking up a fraction of the Market Place.

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Now admittedly, I’m a Devizes Food Festival virgin, so no previous years to compare it, but upon sauntering the stalls I contemplated, actually it’s not a festival, rather the market section of a larger event spanning the fortnight. Admittedly, while this was the only free occasion and the others came with a hefty price-tag, for a market it was lively, colourful with fine aromas reaching beyond its boundaries. In fact, when amidst the little stalls of independent cuisine companies, it was plentiful.

 
With my new Stealth brew in hand I blagged an organic apple from Riverford Organic Farmers in Devon, making my beer preferably cider-like, yeah, I dipped it! Worked until I met Harry of Harry’s Cider from Long Sutton, or Harry’s employee at the very least, who gave me some gorgeous samples of raspberry and blackcurrant, and sweet, but the mango and lime flavour was to die for!

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Booze-wise, for I figure it best to cover them first, Devizes Bubble Bar was in attendance, teasing me with filthy-named cocktails; catch up with them at the Caen Hill Flight Festival. I also sampled wines from Pieroth, and a few homemade brandies made me happy I chose to take shanks pony.

 
So I sauntered, dipping crackers or bread into fine chilli rapeseed oils from Stanswick Farm in Shrivenham, or awesome relishes from Rosie’s, based in Chippenham and garlic meshes from the Garlic Growers.

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Ewe Tree Tarts looked appetising, a Black Dog fish stall too. Street food supplied by Cantina El Burrito, and fine sausage rolls from Little Jack Horners, but it was the novel idea of Ravi Ollie and his mate, I was impressed with the most; unusual to see this refined ravioli as street food, I usually just have the squidgy-concoction of a budget tin variety. (You know it mate, hangover munchy classic, on white toast, with a grate of cheddar; can’t beat it, you don’t even need the effort of chewing, just suck.)

 
Sweets were also in abundance, with the most beautiful cupcakes of NestCake from Shepton Mallet, Jacqui’s colourful display of homemade sweets from Broughton Gifford, and Chock-Stock polished it all off, Marshfield Ice Cream goes needs no enlightenment, its reputation precedes.

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All in all, this was food heaven, with only Face Painting and Clare’s Circus as entertainment for the kids, I could imagine your little treasures would be bored after a while, unless sugared-up, and there was plenty of options available here, so yes, family-(ish) fun, but more so for adults, the Devizes Food Festival’s Grand Market was indeed grand, and fulfilling; hats off to all involved; maybe even one of those nacho sombreros which Homer Simpson wore. Do they really have nacho sombreros in America? I suspect they do!

 

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Goodnight Mr Tom at the Wharf

Michelle Magorian’s delightful novel about the experiences of young evacuee has been through a number of incarnations, most notably the TV film starring John Thaw. However David Wood’s stage version is enjoying great success, and directed by Kim Pearce, it’s the latest performance at The Wharf Theatre, Devizes.

 

Running from Friday 9th to Saturday 17th March 2018, 7.30pm each evening with a 2.30pm matinee on Saturday 10th March, this sounds like a heart-warming prose (please note: there are no performances on Sunday11th and Monday 12th March.)

 

Willie Beech is a boy from the slums of south east London who finds himself unloved and unwanted when he is evacuated to the countryside as Britain finds itself on the brink of World War II. Widower Tom Oakley takes the shy young lad under his wing. The aging recluses’ stony heart is gradually softened and the experience poignantly changes both, in this heart-warming tale.

 
Tickets £12/£10 concessions can be purchased from: The Devizes Community Hub and Library, Sheep Street, Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm. The website Wharftheatre.co.uk. Or by ringing 03336 663 366.

 
To find out what else is on at the Wharf pick up the new Spring Summer brochure which is now available from the Community Hub and Library and many other outlets around Devizes.

Mike and the Local Area Invasion Descend Upon The Swan

It was over a couple of years ago I stepped cautiously into the Black Swan, only to receive the pleasant surprise at its renovation and complete change of style. Since this time Devizes takes the alteration as red, and it thrives with eccentricity, vintage chic, quality tucker and music. However, its future is now uncertain as it closes its doors for a refurb and Waddies bring new landlords in.

We hold out for a silver lining, but for the time being, the Black Swan’s current incarnation ends next week. To celebrate its time at the helm of all things unconventional in town, the landlord has requested the presence of the big man, Mike Barham, whose prolific raw dynamism currently reverbs throughout our great county.

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His giant steps certainly get him around, playing the London Road Inn in Calne on Saturday 7th, he’s at the Hare & Hounds in Corsham on the 12th and on the 14th he crosses the border to Frome. In between though, he returns to his hometown for this closing gig at the Black Swan, but he’s inviting a self-labelled “Local Area Invasion,” with him, an amalgamation of our finest local musicians who’ll get to play a couple of songs each, prior to Mike blasting the place with oomph.

 

Yeah, save the date, Wednesday 11th October, where you’ll find at the very least, Jamie R Hawkins, Vince Bell, Larkin, Jack Moore, George Wilding, Jordan Whatley and Tamsin Quin; incredible line-up, for a school night, a virtual who’s who of the Devizes pub music scene sampler; Free!

Here are the details, the rest up to you: https://www.facebook.com/events/282938928863398/

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No Surprises Living in Devizes: Exchanging Preconceptions

Ah, nights at “the Bin,” I remember them……erm…. well, I remember them. The aptly dubbed “Corny Bin,” for those out of town and few who care not to venture the rough streets of Devizes at night (they can be irregular,) is Devizes’s only real nightclub, situated at the basement of the Corn Exchange, hence the name, see?

 
Subject of ridicule for many a decade, (ha-ha, as if Devizes would have nightlife,) it never did itself favours. One night I recall I paused to observe that while the blokes were having a pint and laugh at the bar, the girls were fighting on the dancefloor. A flying knee-length boot flew past my eyes and broke my concentration, I ignored the sentiment; this is Devizes.

 
Could a £45,000 renovation, removal of chewing-gummed carpets, conversion of the DJ booth and bar, and an identity change cleanse its reputation and wipe away the title “Bin?” Manager Ian Mathews believes in time it will; it certainly looks the part.
Essentially, I always liked the layout of the place, meek as an amphitheatre, it’s simple design with the bar across the rear and a square dancefloor with seating looking onto it, is functional and practical. The issue was the clichéd and formulated entertainment on offer for the past decade, something which no matter how much silver paint you lick onto walls is going to benefit.

 
So, the last Friday of the month embraces an under 16’s disco, or “nappy night,” as adults used to dub it when I was a nipper; our generation had to endure their patronising smears, I don’t see why you kids should get off so lightly. Scot free you already are with the old blackboard rubber launch, you don’t even know what a flipping blackboard rubber is. Teachers nowadays sacred to throw a reprimand at a child through fear of a lawsuit, let alone an oak-edged armament; they say it doesn’t hurt so much if you don’t know it’s coming.

 
Whereas, other Friday nights bring us tribute acts and themed nights. This Friday, 29th, is a night for new romantics, as leading synth-pop covers-band, Paul Dodson and Andy Randle, aka BINOMIAL and top international tribute act Keith George, alias ‘The Boy George Experience’ share the stage, sure to redefine the club’s reputation and send a signal to Devizes that times a changin’.

 

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Amusingly, the only comment on the Gazette’s article on the revamp was, “It’ll take quite a lot to shift the name corny bin;” defining Devizes to a T. While we yearn alteration and updating, we crave our traditions and values too much to fully embrace change, undoubtedly because perpetually mocking ourselves is the backbone of our sense of humour; and why not shagger?

 
Take the public meeting on Thursday at the Town Hall, “a vision for Devizes; the next conversation,” sounds like a poor sequel to a movie franchise which was okay to begin with. Organised by The Trust for Devizes and Devizes Area Board, chairing the meeting is none other than Claire Perry, who said, “I’m really looking to being part of the next conversation about the vision for the future.” (Unsure if the word “forward,” is missing from that.)

 

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new look Devizes

 

Now don’t get me wrong, I think there’s far worse a right-wing politician to be our spokesperson for Westminster; Enoch Powell, Napoléon Bonaparte, Alan B’Stard, to name a few. Yeah, make no mistake, I like some things Claire says to the community, but she’s hardly a worthy contestant for Catchphrase; “say what you see.”

 

Being a method of attaining affordable housing is key subject, Claire Perry, really? Who during the “bedroom tax” outrage, voted for reducing housing benefit for applicable social tenants? Claire Perry, who unswervingly voted for phasing out secure tenancies for life, and charging a market rent to higher earners renting a council home? (theyworkforyou.com)

 

With the political ethos in which Nick Clegg leaked the Tories refused to build social housing, because it would ‘create Labour voters’, can they really risk a torrent of affordable homes in such a safe consistency? Especially while May annoys Brexit leavers and remainers alike, in one swift goof.

 
Minister Gavin Barwell confessed to Inside Housing Magazine, they were scheduling to build higher rent homes, and supplying socially rented council housing was just a giggle. Upon being asked if homes planned would be of lower-level council rents, the minister said, “No, I think the idea is that they are what you’d call affordable rents in housing terminology, but they are social housing.” Shamefully, what’s “affordable” to a minister, far out-stretches what’s affordable to most.

 
So, a meeting to discuss future housing in our town, with an MP who, according to theyworkforyou, “has never rebelled against their party.” A parliament which can’t guarantee safety in existing social housing, and u-turned their flagship pledge to build the “a new generation” of social housing announced in their manifesto? Okay, I’m not holding my breath; preparing for a winter of discontent like a Tory; I’ve got my badger-skin hat on already.

 
I’d rather take my chances with a Boy George tribute act, than a hag like May from the church of the poison mind. Good luck to the Exchange, we’re gonna need to let our hair down.

No Surprises Living in Devizes: Conkers or Bonkers?

Around this season in years gone by, kids yielding nailed planks and discarded house-bricks gathered in the suburban scrapheap where I grew up. No, it wasn’t something as vicious as a rival school skirmish, that would’ve been later in the term. They congregated unsupervised at the aptly named Chestnut Crescent, to lob items into trees.

 

The parameters of health and safety would’ve been a call to “watch out,” while children launched said items, wrecked go-karts and toddlers airborne. Those who dared scramble the shelling zone would collect spoils the big kids disregarded. There was no more order then this; if you were hit you learned a lesson, for the sake of conkers.

 

 

Next day my Dad would search his shed for his screwdriver, while mum was adamant she wouldn’t put the cooker on just to bake conkers. But, mention the game to kids these days, they’d probably search Google Play-Store on their tablets; “nope Dad, no such game exists; you’re making it up.”

 

Kids don’t play conkers, it’s vanished along with concrete playground floors and triangular shaped flapjack, because we’re health and safety conscious, aren’t we?

 

Yeah right, not while a nation sinks under hurricanes, yet insists “god’s punishing us for electing a Muslim president.” I watched a video on this; Middle Americans witnessed their town submerged, even remarked it’s happening more frequently, awaiting Trump to slip his undercrackers outside his suit, don a cloak and save the day.

 

They really believe climate change is a hoax; the word of a xenophobic, chauvinistic melted figurine of He-Man, who scrapped Obama’s flood protection standards days prior to Harvey, over scientists.

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We’ve gone from conkers to bonkers. What do scientists gain from fibbing? What about crocked politicians in bed with the energy industry? Hum… tricky.

 

That insane trigger-happy President is proof alone we’re far from health and safety conscious, with 6,800 nuclear warheads at his disposal, compared to North Korea’s four; he can’t be trusted with a Twitter account, let alone a nuclear arsenal.

 

“Don’t throw that triangular shaped flapjack son, it might be dangerous.”

 

“Don’t vote for selfish, warmongering pricks Dad, it might be slightly more dangerous.”

 

And we follow them like sheep, desperate for a trade deal because we wanted our cake and to eat it. If Middle Americans believe it, we’re never far behind.

 

So, don’t be giving me H&S assurances, not while we speed like a bat out of hell with blatant disregard, while rotting conkers line pavements and gardens; take this as a metaphoric Brexit remark, or a literal stab that we drive too fast, I’ve overtaken caring; conkers to bonkers, see?

 

From Rotherstone residents rightfully wishing to close their road to cars, to the stretch from Honey Street to Woodbrough being upgraded, existing chicanes outside the school being treated as a challenge rather than a traffic calming measure. It’s called Broad Street, not Brands Hatch. Past tragedies seemingly forgotten, our need to get to work paramount; time is money.

 

We must stop this craziness and slow down, it really is this simple. Why even make a car with a hundred on the clock? Yet, mention an electric car or bike and we quiver; the prospect to skid in a climate change conspiracy theory puddle.

 

Step in Sustainable Devizes, using their (third Saturday) monthly stall in the Shambles yesterday to promote their Next Generation Vehicles Show, to be displayed at the Market Place on Saturday 30th, from 9am to 3pm. Working to reduce the town’s carbon footprint, they invite you to throw off the stigma, come see, and test drive, a large variety of electric vehicles, from hybrid cars to scooters.

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Over the winter Sustainable will be hosting a variety of talks at the Quaker Meeting House, starting on 11th October’s discussion on Food Assemblies. Being Devizes is breaking the limit for nitrous oxide emissions, we owe it to the future, rather than continue the current slack attitude; we can’t even be trusted to park responsibly.

 

It’s all fun on the Parking like a Muppet Facebook page, but the shebang appears to have attracted Traffic Wardens on overtime.

 

Once a free-parking day, sparks flew on social media as a photo of a traffic warden who either appeared to be working on a Sunday, or least playing a game on his mobile.

 

Comments roared about changing times. I dispatched an email to Mrs Bilella, processing officer of Wiltshire Council’s parking services, asking why this has suddenly come to pass, being Sunday has always been free to park in Devizes and inquiring about changes; signs don’t display this information.

 

The reply was prompt but vague, “Officers have always worked on Sundays; this has not changed. There will be a consultation soon regarding parking charges, this will be available at libraries, online and local newspapers.”

 

Within the day I asked to be sent the details, but was told, “Please check the website for more details,” which I searched but found nought. I commented on the post, asking the tagged traffic warden if he was merely checking for Muppets, or parking fees had been secretly introduced. I inquired, more importantly, his high score on Snake. But commenting on the post was turned off prior to his reply; I bet Joanne Moore doesn’t have these problems, but she reports, I’m just here to wind you up!

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So, I’ve no idea what’s what; park like a Muppet and face changing consequences for all I care. More professional whinger, Iain Wallis rightfully ranted it’s, “become a target for raising parking charges where other similar towns pay half what we do, and see no rise. Is it because we’re doing markedly better than other towns? Or is it because we seem to try and stand apart from Wiltshire Council?”

 

Mr Wallis suggested the proposed increase is, “a fudging of the law to allow rural bus route funding, when the road traffic act specifically forbids using parking charges to top up other budgets.” The concern the consultation will affect business in town; no surprises there.

 

Traffic wardens don’t receive fair representation, but I’m not here to set any records straight. Sorry guys, but it’s when you say, “just doing my job sir.” Well don’t; find another job, go cull badgers, or something more productive.

 

Here’s another annoyance; cull puppies too, they bite. No, love puppies, but not badgers; out of sight out of mind. I see them, every morning, they’re my work buddies, with their silly waddles; until, because of our persistence to speed, they’re roadkill.

 

Until we slow down we’re wiping out enough of this beautiful wildlife already, and without sufficient research to prove a cull will cure bovine TB in cattle, we’ve no right to go through with this. Wait for scientist’s reports, or we mirror Middle-Americans, wailing climate change is a hoax while neck deep in flooding.

 

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