Teddy Bears and Market Place Parking

“I work with a lot of politicians, I talk to a lot of people on county level, at national level, and I have never come across resistance like I get from the Devizes Town Council. We go into meetings and people listen, even if they don’t agree, and we come out of it with some sort of way forward. The Town Council have simply said, ‘we’re not going to work with you,’ and completely closed the door on us. I mean, I am a pain in the backside, and a stubborn person, and that’s probably why they think I’m the devil.”

In order to play devil’s advocate to this parking in Market Place fiasco, I am having a nice cup of tea, in his shop, with a teddy bear hospital shelf, where each bear is given a bed, and a biscuit while awaiting medical attention. I ask you, what kind of demon owns such a shop?! The guy is like a big teddy himself, but local businessman, renowned for kicking up a stink, Iain Wallis, is still discontent with the way the issue is being dealt with.

As an events and entertainment guide, I favour to leave local politics to the local rag, yet the acquisition of certain town control passed from Wiltshire Council to Devizes Town Council has been delivered on an ultimatum of ending free carparking in the Market Place, now a sad reality. Proposed the area could become a lively event space, and as we stand to promote and encourage events, I confess I warmed to the idea, but not as a persuasive blanket, built on a farcical ploy. We all know, the Market Place has already been used for such, with great effect and when there is no event it functions as a carpark. The notion, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it, springs to mind, as the community of Devizes rally akin to its own little Brexit.

With this in mind, I’m keen to hear how the subject is progressing, if at all and who better to chat to then Iain, who has not only been chief activist, but built an independent campaign for a seat on the council around the cause? Firstly though, after a tour of teddy heaven, I pondered the type of clientele Moonraker Bears attracts, surely, they wouldn’t mind paying 70p to park?

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“Exactly,” Iain expressed, “The problem our customers have is slightly different. It’s finding somewhere to park for long enough. Like our teddy workshops, many of them will come to sew a bear, and they need three or four hours, most parking is three hours maximum.” But he explained the issue is not directly for his customers, “for me, if people aren’t coming into town, they won’t discover we are here. So, the issue doesn’t affect my business as much as it does for others. It’s about the whole town being one entity, a community.”

So, where are we at the moment with the issue, what’s the current update?

“Difficult to answer, because they’re not really talking to us at the moment. Where we are; we have saved parking in the market place, after they were going to take it away permanently. Wiltshire Council had to change their mind, and led on that, really, despite town council taking credit. So, despite the machine not working, we saved some parking.” Indeed, it now costs 70p per hour, with a maximum stay of two, but tickets can only be gained via mobile phone, causing a stir, alongside the position of the machine by the Market Cross. I have to wonder if it’s placing is strategic; look at what happens if you don’t pay your share, you’ll end up like Ruth Pierce and the wrath of god will strike ye down!

“It’s a temporary machine,” he clarified, “it can be moved when a final design is decided. I feel that’s a little optimistic, because the information we have is even when a final design is put forward, it’s not going to happen for 12 to 18 months. What’s happened now, is the Town Council called a consultation, and take heed of each focus group. All the information has been published on the Town Council website; out of it a group of councillors came up with the two designs. We asked if we could be part of that process, but it was refused. So, we gave them time to come up with the plans.” As far as Iain is concerned, only one option is feasible, the second concerns the needed service road. “Everyone asked said, keep (the pedestrianised area) as small as possible,” as like we said, it isn’t broken.

This has happened to Melksham, the event area lays dormant, but while they have some greater amenities, and it’s only 40p to park, but face it, not as bustling or as charming as Devizes town centre. Sure, a lively space akin to Camden Market I’d welcome here, if it could be so. Yet, with this in mind, we need to be encouraging visitors, and thinking of creating more, and cheaper parking spaces, not reducing them, surely?

“Absolutely,” hail, Mr Wallis and I agree! “I think what both councils are not considering is that we have two distinct visitors using parking. Residents who live in the villages, who’s needs are to get in quick, do a few jobs and leave; they don’t want to pay, as they’re staying an hour, they live here so feel some ownership, pay their council tax to provide such services. Then you have the visitors, who, as you said, if you visit a town you don’t mind paying for convivence. What we seem to be forgetting about are the residents; we need to provide short-term parking for them, but at the same time, encouraging visitors to stay longer. This thing of having short-term carparks is crazy, we need all options.”

Iain thought signage for carparks is poor, and visitors find it difficult to find them, like Station Road. But the whole issue is beyond parking for Iain, “it’s about councils listening to the people who know what they’re talking about, those running businesses and using the town.” The origin of the word ‘text’ to connote a body of words stems from textiles. Weavers sat outside their houses because their material was too large to operate on inside, would hear the word on street and politicians would take notes from them, to incorporate into policies. They were the hairdressers and taxi drivers of their era! Yet, has this ancient tradition escaped our town council?

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“The way this all started, we all got around the table,” Iain added, “we were all saying this, and we were sort of being listened to. Then, all of a sudden, it was all closed doors, because the asset transfer had come up. They did this without any reference to anybody, and said we’ve done it for the best interest of the town. I have no doubt the vast majority who stand for the town council, do so with good intentions, they want to do the right thing for the town, but they don’t see the other option. The option is to get the town onboard with them, and if WC are causing the problem, we can help them change it.” Convinced they cannot do it alone, Iain expressed he doesn’t know why, but is certain it ends with Devizes losing out, “for not having effective representation at Wiltshire level.”

“We talked to the people of the town,” he told, “they said we need as much parking as possible. Would love it to be free, but actually, the fact it’s there is most important.” On the origins of the fiasco, to provide an event space, Iain could see no reason to remove those parking spaces. Wiltshire council were saying they wanted to charge £1,500 a day for the suspension of parking, despite it being free at the time. “But since the people stood up and said, ‘we don’t like this,’ WC came up with a better deal, Devizes Town Council will own the space, we operate the parking, but any day you want it for special events it will be free of charge. That’s fantastic, and now we have that, it supports things like the Full Tone Festival, which went brilliantly. That can now happen as much as possible, and if so, it happens more, and at the point there is something happening each weekend, that’s the point where we could say we do want to pedestrianize some of this space.”

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The only argument I’ve really seen positive light on regarding the issue is the environmental angle, but while Iain agreed, observed it’d only move the problem, and lobbying to provide the area with better equipped recharging points, and availability for next generation vehicles is better, but another issue.

Herein lies our task, and why the issue involves Devizine, as we aim to promote and encourage events in our town. So, I finish by asking Iain if he feels the issue is akin to our own little Brexit! “I feel there’s a lot of parallels there! Similar is that it’s a problem of their own devising. We don’t have to have any changes to the market place.” Personally, he is up for making the area look as nice as it can be, but expresses the costing of the changes, and concerns himself that the Town Council haven’t costed the alterations effectually.

“We never campaigned for free parking,” Iain said, “only for fair parking.” Waffling on about the cost to councils for providing free parking on business rates.” Whatever, all I know is if it’s 40p in the Sham, but 70p here, people will shop elsewhere, and how can this move possibly be in the best interest to the town?

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The fight continues, I proposed to Iain if he feels it will get to the drastic stage of organising a protest. “I prefer to be collaborative, but it’s interesting to look at the fact the change came, the council doing a U-turn, came after a lot of the public attended the meetings. So, it may have to come to that, or a vote of no-confidence in the Council. I think it’s a last resort, but are we not getting to that last resort?”

I’ll let you decide, I’ve ironically near overstayed my parking limit, but thank Iain for his lengthy opinions on this pressing issue and the tour of his wonderful teddy bear shop!

Join The Devizes Future Market Place Facebook group for updates and information


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


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REVIEW – Lark In The Park (Hillworth), Kimberley Rew @ The Southgate, Eddie Witcomb@ White Bear, Devizes

In The Wet And The Dry

Andy Fawthrop

Another busy Sunday afternoon of free music gigs around the town.

First to Hillworth Park for the much under-advertised “Lark In The Park”. I’ve heard of stealth marketing, but sometimes I think Fantasy Radio can take this too far. I saw/ heard very little about this, apart from one post on Facebook, so I wasn’t surprised to turn up an hour after the start of this event to find very few people there. Granted the weather forecast wasn’t great, but I suspect they’d get bigger audiences if they told a few more people what was going on. I managed to catch Clare doing a short set before the heavens opened in mid-afternoon then, like others, took refuge in the café for a coffee. Once it became obvious that the rain wasn’t going to stop any time soon, the few brave souls who’d turned up just melted away. I decided to join them. Bit of a wash-out.

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Fortunately the Southgate is just round the corner so I settled in there with a pint, and was soon joined by friends. The entertainment was provided by Kimberley Rew on guitar, and his wife & partner-in-crime Lee Cave-Berry on bass. Rew’s main claim to fame is having been guitarist and song-writer with Katrina & The Waves, having penned their big hit “Walking on Sunshine”, followed later in 1999 by “Love Shine A Light” when the band won the Eurovision Song Contest (remember that??). Since the band’s demise, Rew has produced a string of solo albums, and has clearly not lost the knack of writing catchy tunes.

The duo served up plenty of bop-along material, blending riffs from pop, boogie-woogie, rock and blues. There was some fine lead guitar from Rew, and solid vocals from both. If anything, it was a bit too exciting for a rainy Sunday afternoon, but absolutely nobody was complaining. It certainly blew out the cobwebs.

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By the end of their first set, the weather had started behaving itself again, and the sun made a belated appearance. So I made my way back down into town, and to the White Bear to catch Eddie Witcomb.

Eddie hails from up the road in Marlborough, and he’d pulled along his dad and a mate or two. So we had the start of a small, but beautifully-formed, audience which grew in size as the afternoon turned into early evening. Eddie did two sets, nicely blending his own very personal material with some carefully selected covers. We were treated to his versions of “Paranoid”, “Roxanne”, “Tears In Heaven” and “Stand By Me”, amongst others. His own songs were well-turned, featuring some fine playing, and delicate vocals. It was a mark of the quality of these songs, that they were as strongly received as the covers. His style was relaxed, and he was fully ready to engage in banter with the audience. He did confide that he was playing with a bit of a hangover, but if he was there was very little sign of it.

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So another great (free) Sunday of music around the town. I think we just shaded it – Weather 1, Music 2, and we all went home happy yet again.


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


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REVIEW – The Bone Chapel @ The Southgate, Devizes

No Bones About It!

Andy Fawthrop

Another little stroll up the hill on Saturday night to The Gate to see Swindon-based The Bone Chapel.

Drawn in by their billing as “cosmic Blues featuring broken guitars, shamanic percussion and whisky- soaked original songs of salvation, damnation, lost dreams, hope and love”, I had to admit I was intrigued to see if that was actually what they delivered. TBH it wasn’t. I’m not sure that any of that was ever actually on offer, just nicely-turned marketing bollocks. But on the positive side I did get to see and hear a rather excellent band.

The duo, consisting of guitar/ vocals and drums, got off to a gentle, laid-back start. It took a little while to get the crowd actually listening, rather than chatting, but once they got into their stride, things picked up quite a bit. There was nothing showy, nothing forced or strained, just some very competent blues and boogie-woogie. Folks started dancing and getting into the swing. We got some nice covers, including a great version of Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi, which went down a storm. And, for a mere two-piece, they laid down some great sounds, and nicely-textured toons.

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There were no broken guitars – but there was some great playing. There was no shamanic percussion – but there was good drumming. The crowd built, the crowd stayed, and the crowd liked what they heard. Can’t say fairer than that.

Another good gig – thanks Debs & Dave!

Future gigs at The Southgate (all FREE) are:

Friday 16th August: Broken Bones Matilda
Saturday 17th August: The Corsairs
Friday 23rd August: Beyond The Storm
Saturday 24th August: Sophia & The Soul Brothers
Sunday 25th August: Vince Bell
Friday 30th August: Daydream Runaways
Sunday 1st September: Gary Hall


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


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REVIEW – George Wilding @ Cellar Bar, Bear Hotel, Devizes

Andy Fawthrop

Images by Gail Foster

George Goes Wild For Charity

 

We all have different approaches to raising money for charity. Some of us lie naked in a bath full of cold baked beans. Some of us shave off all our hair. And some of us choose to terrorise the local neighbourhood by driving a milk float dressed in a Spiderman onesie. [what kind of idiot would even contemplate that?! ED] Each to their own. But some people go for a more straight-forward approach and simply put on a musical benefit night (so as not to frighten the neighbours).

And so it was that Mirko Pangrazzi put on a concert to raise funds for specialist treatment for brain damage for his son Liam. And so it was that we all dutifully piled in to the Cellar Bar last night to support him. Of course The Cellar Bar as a venue would have been a pretty poor attraction in its own right, but thankfully there was the irrepressible George Wilding to light up the evening for us.

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You’ve got to admire George for his sheer versatility. Not only did he showcase some of his own (very good) material, but he belted out covers from right across the musical spectrum. I love the way he’s prepared to have a crack at almost anything, sometimes discovering half-way through a number that he can’t remember the rest of it. But it doesn’t matter. Every number is good fun anyway. I’ve recently started to think of him as a sort of human juke-box, such is his range. And he delivers it all with enormous energy and great good humour.

To be honest – he was playing to a good roomful of friends and fans, but I don’t think it would have made the slightest difference – the boy would’ve been super-good whatever the circumstances.

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But amid all the great music, the wonderful atmosphere, and the cracking-good entertainment, it would have been easy to forget why we were all there. Turns out that financially it was a great success, with over £300 raised for Liam. So the crowd were not only enthusiastic, but also very generous.

It was good to see Mirko back at the helm in the Cellar Bar again, good to see George on absolute top form, and great to see a good crowd enjoying themselves. Great night.

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


 

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REVIEW –Rockin’ Bandits @ Hillworth, Jamie Williams @ Southgate, and Ian O’Regan @ The White Bear, Devizes – Sunday 28th July 2019

Another Free & Easy Sunday Afternoon in The Vize

 

Andy Fawthrop

This is getting to be a habit now. It’s a Sunday, the weather is balmy, and there’s lots of free music on offer.

Firstly to Hillworth Park for Fantasy Radio’s final Month of Sundays, featuring a live on-air radio show, showcasing the talents of a local artists. Today it was the turn of the Rockin’ Bandits, who delivered their usual performance of swing, country and rockabilly. Mixing a few of their own numbers with plenty of covers – Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins, Johnny Horton, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash – you name it – the crowd really lapped it all up. Perfect nostalgia music for a sunny afternoon in the park.

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I couldn’t stay quite to the end because I wanted to get along to The Southgate to catch Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective – a five-piece band who really dress the part. This Essex-based outfit knocked out an altogether more get-down-and-boogie kind of sound, with a blues and Americana edge to their original material. Their set also took a tour around some nice country-rock licks. It was a good atmosphere, with all the windows thrown open, the crowd listening both inside and outside of the pub.

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And finally, back down into town to listen to Ian O’Regan at the White Bear. Ian doesn’t really do his own material – he’s not yer usual singer/ songwriter – but what he lacks in the song-writing department he more than makes up for in the quality, range and sheer versatility of his singing and guitar-playing. His skill lies in the interpretation and delivery of other people’s great songs. His repertoire is eclectic, covering blues, folk, “Irish & Western”, country and rock. Occasionally sipping at his water, he established his usual friendly bantering rapport with the audience. And he played his heart out to a very appreciative audience – for two hours solid without a break! And even after that he had enough energy left to play an encore. Amazing stamina and dedication!

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Yet another great afternoon – three gigs in five hours – and all of it free!

So keep your eyes peeled over the next few weeks, both before and after the Devizes International Street Festival there’s loads more (free) music scheduled in Hillworth Park, The Southgate, The Three Crowns, The White Bear and other venues too.


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


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Things to do with your Little Darlings during the Summer Hols!

Have I even got time between running around the house shouting “Pikachu,” and polishing my Minecraft skills to draft this article in time? Yep, take a gulp of wine parents, it’s school summer holidays, again. Take another gulp, it’s forecast to be hot and bothering, heck, give them the whole flipping bottle!

Ease up though, Devizine has bought you a guide of local things to do, which won’t strain your purse too much.

If you send me details of an event or activity I have missed, I can edit this; let’s make a comprehensive guide to everything going on for kids and parents, before they complain they’re bored……the parents that is!


Friday 26th July:

Legally Blonde @ The Wharf Theatre, Devizes

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Mini Fair @ The Rowdey Cow, Devizes

The mini fair is coming to the Rowdey Cow to celebrate the start of the summer holidays- with inflatables, roundabout, hook a duck and football fun and they will be staying with us for a couple of weeks!


End of term disco @ The Cavalier Community Hall, Devizes

5pm – 7:30pm. Admission is FREE, just turn up.

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Saturday July 27th:

Steampunk Workshop @ Wiltshire Scrapstore & Resource Centre

Get creative, take up the gauntlet and sign up for this Steampunk Challenge Workshop! Steampunk inspired refreshments provided. During the workshop, you’ll be making hats, masks and accessories. Bring your own items to upcycle, or let your imagination go wild and make something from scratch; all using our resources! They will provide all resources required.


Bowood’s Summer Garden Party

https://www.bowood.org/whatson/


Sunday 28th July:

Family Fun Day @ Fortune Inn Pub & Chinese Restaurant

https://www.facebook.com/events/295861581331046/


Monday 29th July:

Young Melksham

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Young Melksham’s Summer Holiday Activity afternoons kick off on Monday! So why not come down and join in the fun?! 2pm till 5pm Monday to Friday just £2.50 per session!! For all young people going into year 5 and up! https://www.youngmelksham.org.uk/


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Monday 29th July – Friday 2nd August:

MUSICAL IN A WEEK! @ Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon

Whether you were born to be on stage or this is your first step into the limelight, join Felicity Courage for a fantastic five days – jam packed with singing, acting, and dancing – creating a brand-new show-stopping mystery musical. 5 – 14 yrs: £120 child / £110 sibling (five days) Dress for movement / Bring a packed lunch.


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This Summer @ Fired Thoughts. Clay Fun Fridays & Ad hoc Saturdays! Call or email, or book online to come and make in clay. Simple projects to get you started or do your own thing. General studio sessions £10 per person per session. Wheel sessions: £22.50 per half hour with 1:1 tuition.


Tuesday 30th July:

Shires Craft, Trowbridge

Pop along to the Shires for fantastic, free crafts. Drop-in 10.30 – 12.30 and 1.30 – 3.30. Ages 4+.

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Wessex Water(y) Workshop @ Wiltshire Scrapstore & Resource Centre

Wessex Water provide water to your taps at home and at school. Gillian Smith, Education Adviser will be there to help you create some wonderful watery creations! Please bring your ideas and imagination! Perhaps you would like to make a friendly, fishy mobile to hang in your bedroom? Could you invent a new sea creature? Can you make a diorama to show where the sea creature would live?


Wednesday 31st July:

Free Children’s Boot Camp @ Rowde Playing Field

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Ages 5-16. Reserve your place: rpc.lisayouth@gmail.com


Thursday 1st August:

Kids Summer Sewing for 8-11-year olds @ Franklins, Salisbury.


Friday 2nd August:

Ali Baba & the Forty Thieves!’ outdoor family theatre @ Lacock Abbey


Saturday 3rd August:

Splash Park Grand Opening @ King George Playing Field, Melksham

Free to attend, its beach themed without the sand! Fish & chips, ice cream, deck chairs and water play.. fun for all the family.

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Summer of Fun @ Borough Parade, Chippenham.

Starting Saturday 3rd August and for the following 2 Saturdays at Borough Parade they can enjoy themed family fun for Free from 11am. Why not give our balloon modellers a challenge, have your face painted with your fave character or join in with some of the circus skills on show.


Monday 5th August:

FIDGETY FEET DANCE AND DRAMA @ Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon

9.30AM – 10.20AM / 10.30AM – 11.20AM Join Fidgety Feet for a Pirate and Mermaid themed interactive dance, drama and storytelling workshop. Using props, music and lots of imagination come with us on an exciting journey on and in the high seas. Perfect for little performers! 18 mo – 5 yrs: £7 child / £2 adult. Supervision required, babes in arms attend for free.


Monday 5th – Tuesday 6th August:

NEON DANCE @ Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon

10AM – 3PM. Join internationally renowned choreographer Adrienne Hart for a two-day contemporary dance course. Morning technique class will be followed by choreography and rehearsal as participants work towards a final showcase. This is a friendly and inclusive course for young dancers to improve their skills. 13 – 18 yrs: £50. Open to all abilities. Dress for movement / Bring a packed lunch.


Tuesday 6th August:

A Treasure at Sea for Dragon & Me at Chippenham Library

Dorset & Wilts Fire & Rescue Service story session. Water safety for kids (and dragons!). FREE interactive story time suitable for 4-7-year olds. There will be fun activities and dressing up too! Booking recommended.
https://www.facebook.com/events/856298231403596/


SONGWRITING FOR IMPROVERS @ Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon

Develop your skills and take your song writing to the next level with songwriter, performer and artist Louise Jordan. 13 – 18 yrs: £15 All instruments welcome but not required


SONGWRITING FOR BEGINNERS @ Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon

Learn how to write songs and bring your ideas to life with songwriter, performer and artist Louise Jordan. 13 – 18 yrs: £15. Open to all abilities, all instruments welcome but not required.


Tuesday 6th August- Wednesday 7th August:

Dinosaurs and Fossils @ Wiltshire Museum

Art and craft activities for under 11s. There is a different theme each week: Activities to include creating miniature dinosaur lands. Two sessions per day: 11am to 12.30pm and 1.30pm to 3pm. Booking essential as there are limited places. £5 per child. Under 8s to be accompanied by an adult please.

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Wednesday 7th August:

Free Children’s Boot Camp @ Rowde Playing Field

Ages 5-16. Reserve your place: rpc.lisayouth@gmail.com


Willy Wonka – Wonderful Wednesday Workshop @ Wiltshire Scrapstore & Resource Centre, Bowden Hill.

They’ve got the perfect crafting workshop for you… Willy Wonka inspired Workshop with super Sara, sweets & decorations are the order of the day. Light refreshments served during the workshop.


ANIMATION WORKSHOP @ Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon

Create your own stop-frame animation during this fun workshop with film producer and photographer Jamie McDine. You will learn professional film making skills with lots of hands on activities and working within teams you will plan and produce your own stop-motion film! 9 – 14 yrs: £25. Open to all. Bring a packed lunch.


Thursday 8th August:

BEAUTIFUL BUGS & BUTTERFLIES @ Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon

10AM – 11.30AM Join Chrissie to explore the magical world of creepy crawlies and butterflies through songs, creative art, messy play and a special interactive story. Activities will include making a caterpillar sock puppet, a peg butterfly and junk modelling. 2 – 4 yrs: £7 child / £2 adult. Supervision required, babes in arms attend for free. Dress for mess!


BIRDS IN FLIGHT @ Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon

Flap your wings and get ready to fly. Come along and make a unique bird mask and wings. Will you choose to be a tame garden bird, an exotic parrot or a soaring eagle? 5 – 7 yrs: £7 child / £2 adult. Supervision welcome but not required. Dress for mess.


Friday 9th August:

SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW@ Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon

10AM – 11.30AM Join Chrissie on a very messy rainbow journey, explore colour in a variety of ways, using hands and feet, paint and playdough. Sing your way through the morning as you make colourful art to take home. 2 – 4 yrs: £7 child / £2 adult. Supervision required, babes in arms attend for free. Dress for mess!


FLAGS AND BUNTING @ Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon

1PM – 3PM. Join Chrissie to make a string of bunting for your bedroom and a rainbow flag for your garden. We will experiment with wax, pens and paints to create special works of art. 5 – 7 yrs: £7 child / £2 adult. Supervision welcome but not required. Dress for mess.


Saturday 10th August:

Seend Village Fete

Undoubtedly one of the best villages fetes for miles; good family fun!


Summer of Fun @ Borough Parade, Chippenham

Starting Saturday 3rd August and for the following 2 Saturdays at Borough Parade they can enjoy themed family fun for Free from 11am. Why not give our balloon modellers a challenge, have your face painted with your fave character or join in with some of the circus skills on show.


Saturday 10th – 11th August:

Frome Comic Con

https://www.fromecomiccon.com/


Sunday 11th August:

Lark in the Park with Fantasy Radio @ Hillworth Park, Devizes


Monday 12th August:

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A THOUSAND TWANGLING INSTRUMENTS @ Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon

Calling all budding musicians, composers, actors and songwriters! Over the course of 3 days, we will put on a Shakespeare play, complete with songs and music written during the course. Work with two experienced professionals to create a unique performance with sound and music. 12 – 21 yrs: £85 Bring a packed lunch.


Monday 12th – Wednesday 14th August:

Create a play in a week! Summer Schools for ages 4-10 @ The Shoebox Theatre, Swindon

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Our drama summer schools are designed to support your child in their creative development. We introduce children to interesting stories, characters and text in an imaginative and fun way. As well as developing their performance skills, students will learn to work with others, build confidence and improve their communication skills.

At the start of the week our two groups (ages 4-6 and ages 7-10) will choose a classic children’s story to bring to life and will then spend the week creating their very own version including the performance, masks and props!

On the final day, we’ll invite friends and family to come and see the final show! Expect a week of learning, friend making, creativity and fun!

All our Teachers are Drama School or University educated and undergo enhanced DBS checks.

When: Monday 12th – Friday 16th of August, 9am-3pm
Cost: £125: https://www.shoeboxtheatre.org.uk/summerschool


DEVISING DRAMA @ Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon

10AM – 3PM Join Beth for an imaginative three days, devising from a variety of different stimuli, developing drama skills, making new friends and creating your very own show. Join us for a brilliant, busy three days of fun! 6 – 11 yrs, £60. Dress for movement / Bring a packed lunch


Tuesday 13th August:

August Children’s Holiday Clubs @ The Farm Cookery School, Netherstreet

We run Children’s holiday clubs throughout August for ages: 5+, 7-9, 8+ & 11+. Every week is a different cooking theme with Mexican, British & Greek food. These are great classes for kids to learn new skills and have lots of fun. Please see our website for more details: https://thefarmcookeryschool.co.uk/childrens-holiday-clubs/


JUNGLE FEVER – SQUAWK, RATTLE AND ROAR@ Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon

10AM – 1.30PM Come and spend a morning making a range of simple instruments with Dave King to create your own Jungle Orchestra to play and take home! Learn how sound is produced using everyday materials and discover the amazing properties of bamboo, the world’s most sustainable plant. 8 – 13 yrs, £18


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Wednesday 13th and Thursday 14th August:

Ancient Greek Mythology @ Wiltshire Museum

Activities to include golden head dresses and painting terracotta dishes with mythological designs. Two sessions per day: 11am to 12.30pm and 1.30pm to 3pm. Booking essential as there are limited places. £5 per child. Under 8s to be accompanied by an adult please.


Thursday 15th August:

A Musical Zoo! @ Marden House, Calne or Trowbridge Town Hall

Music for Miniatures host concerts for kids, Join them for a musical journey to the zoo and more, with music from oboe, cor anglais, clarinet, bass clarinet and piano. Bring your cuddly animals along too, or dress up as an animal! A lively morning of amazing live classical music for you and your little one. Tickets available online or on the door.


Friday 16th August:

LITTLE PICCOLOS@ Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon

9.30AM – 10.20AM. Music Classes specifically designed to make music accessible for younger children. Each session is full of singing, playing instruments, and are entirely acoustic. 1 – 6 yrs: £7 child / £2 adult. Supervision required, babes in arms attend for free.


THE YOGA PATCH@ Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon

10.30AM – 11.20AM Yoga comes to life in these fun and creative classes designed to stimulate younger children’s growing curiosity. We use playful yoga poses, animated breathing exercises and imaginative relaxation techniques, to help enhance language development, motor coordination and play skills. 2 – 6 yrs: £7 child / £2 adult. Supervision required, babes in arms attend for free.


Saturday 17th August:

Pirate Family Fun Day @ The Borough Parade & Chippenham Museum

If you’ve a little scallywag then make sure you bring them along on Saturday 17th August for some Pirate themed fun at Borough Parade. The fabulous Clare’s Circus are back with their incredible face painting creations, balloon modelling madness and unbelievable interactive circus skills. The lovely staff at Waterstones have confirmed they’ll also be running storytelling and activities that day to add to the holiday fun. Will you find the treasure or will you be made to walk the plank?
All the activities happening at Borough Parade are FREE and are funded by the generosity of our stores as part of our community engagement scheme.
There will also be lots more swashbuckling activities happening throughout the town thanks to Chippenham Town Council.

Pirate Family Fun Day


Warminster Medieval Fair

This free entry event will bring the medieval times to the historical town of Warminster with knightly combat, living history and historical education. There will also be live acoustic music contemporary to the era, storytelling and falconry as well as a folk market. Living history tents will demonstrate skills and replica items to immerse you into the medieval mindset and lifestyle. https://www.facebook.com/events/309398803255677/


The Hall Family Day, Bradford on Avon

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-hall-family-day-tickets-64958988082


Glow in the Park: Longleat

https://www.longleat.co.uk/whats-on/glow-in-the-park


Saturday 17th & Sunday 18th August:

Outdoor Adventure Weekend- Climbing Wall @ Whitehall Garden Centre, Lacock

A selection of activities including archery, axe throwing and an 8-metre climbing wall. Experienced instructors are on hand at each event to assist you and all equipment is provided.


Sunday 18th August:

Picnic in the Park @ Hilworth, Devizes


Trowbridge Soapbox Derby

https://www.facebook.com/events/2457145290997609/


Miss Squire at Home @ Sevington Victorian School, Chippenham

http://www.sevingtonvictorianschool.co.uk
Wiltshire’s best kept secret. Homemade afternoon tea, children’s activities and free tours of the school. Admission per head: Adults £2 , Children £1 Family ticket £5


Monday 19th August:

The Fulltone Music School: Summer Holidays Musical Theatre Workshop, Potterne

A fantastic 4-day course on musical theatre for age 11 and up. Learning stagecraft, singing techniques, singing in harmony and singing a selection of fantastic musical theatre songs culminating in a SHOWCASE on the Thursday evening at 5pm! It will be a FANTASTIC few days! £100 email jemmaroberts@hotmail.com to book!


SINGING DAY WITH KATE COURAGE @ Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon

10AM – 3PM Come and sing for a whole day! Learn new songs, make new friends and develop your voice and singing techniques. We will perform a concert at the end of the day of everything we have learned. We will try out new warm-ups, work on performance skills and sing in harmony. 8 – 14 yrs, £25. Open to all abilities. Bring a packed lunch.


Tuesday 20th August:

August Children’s Holiday Clubs @ The Farm Cookery School, Netherstreet

We run Children’s holiday clubs throughout August for ages: 5+, 7-9, 8+ & 11+. Every week is a different cooking theme with Mexican, British & Greek food. These are great classes for kids to learn new skills and have lots of fun. Please see our website for more details: https://thefarmcookeryschool.co.uk/childrens-holiday-clubs/


MYTHICAL STORIES WITH MICHAEL LOADER@ Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon

10AM – 3PM Join Michael Loader for an exciting workshop where you will hear and tell stories, play drama games, create theatre and make music. Bring your ideas, enthusiasm and imagination to put into your own creative performance! 7 – 11 yrs, £20. Costumes and instruments provided but you are welcome to bring your own. Bring a packed lunch.


Dinosaur Roar! Story and craft session @ Chippenham Library

Suitable for ages 4-7. Tickets £1.50 for library members and £2 for non-members. Please book at the library desk.


Tuesday 20th & Wednesday 21st August:

Summer Textiles and Craft @ Wiltshire Museum

Activities to include painting fabric bags with summer designs and mini sun and flower design rag rugs. Two sessions per day: 11am to 12.30pm and 1.30pm to 3pm. Booking essential as there are limited places. £5 per child. Under 8s to be accompanied by an adult please.


Wednesday 21st August:

Let’s Go Fly a Kite Wonder Wednesday Workshop @ Wiltshire Scrapstore & Resource Centre

Do you want to experience a truly Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious workshop? Then come and join this Mary Poppins inspired workshop, and make your own kite from all our lovely Scrapstore resources. Light refreshments served during the workshop.


ROCK THE TOTS – SUMMER PARTY! @ Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon

Gigs for little people… and their grown-ups! With music, puppets, percussion and stories, you and your little one will have a blast. After lots of fun music events across Wiltshire in 2019, this is Rock The Tot’s big summer gig, where all our songs will have a summer theme! 0 – 5 yrs, £7 child / £3 adult. Babes in arms attend for free.


August Children’s Holiday Clubs @ The Farm Cookery School, Netherstreet.

We run Children’s holiday clubs throughout August for ages: 5+, 7-9, 8+ & 11+. Every week is a different cooking theme with Mexican, British & Greek food. These are great classes for kids to learn new skills and have lots of fun. Please see our website for more details: https://thefarmcookeryschool.co.uk/childrens-holiday-clubs/


Thursday 22nd -Friday 23rd August:

REVINYL SESSIONS@ Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon

10AM-3PM Calling all secret bedroom DJs! Hit the decks and learn from industry professionals in this two-day session perfect for beginners. Revinyl Sessions are here to share their love of music and DJing. 13 – 19 yrs, £50.


Sunday 25th August:

Devizes International Street Festival, The Green


Stompers Juniors: Juniors in The Jungle! @ Venom nightclub, Westbury

A Magical rave experience for the whole family in a safe, fun & friendly environment. With DJs Dougal, Miss Special K, Andy Demize, Slic and MCs 3man & Restless.


Children’s Treasure Hunt @ Swindon & Cricklade Railway

An easy day for the kids- spot 30 little engines around the railway and win a prize. https://www.facebook.com/events/1905855732797531/


Monday 26th August:
Devizes International Street Festival, The Market Place


Tuesday 27th August:

August Children’s Holiday Clubs @ The Farm Cookery School, Netherstreet.

We run Children’s holiday clubs throughout August for ages: 5+, 7-9, 8+ & 11+. Every week is a different cooking theme with Mexican, British & Greek food. These are great classes for kids to learn new skills and have lots of fun. Please see our website for more details: https://thefarmcookeryschool.co.uk/childrens-holiday-clubs/


Thursday 29th August:

Salisbury Forest School Holiday Club: for children aged 7-11

Forest School holiday club includes nature-themed activity sessions run by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust staff. Activities include: Bird watching- Woodworking- Nature discovery trail- Pond dipping. Cost: £20 per child. Drop off: 8:30amPick up: 5:30pm Children will need to bring a packed lunch/snacks for the day. Please make sure your child comes with the appropriate clothing for outdoor activities. Upon completion of booking an email will be sent to you with Parental Consent form, which must be completed prior to final confirmation. This reserve can be hard to find, so please look at directions before travelling and leave with plenty of time. More information on the reserve and directions can be found here. To book, please contact events@wiltshirewildlife.org or 01380 829070 or book online.


Friday 30th August:

First Aid Training for Children @ Marlborough Rugby Club

Do you want your children to have the confidence to step forward and save a life?

Then book them onto one of my first aid courses on Friday 30th August at Marlborough rugby club. These sessions are fun and practical and teaches them how to save your life, while you enjoy a well earned break in the shops and cafes of Marlborough, or catch up on some admin!

🔹️5-9 year olds at 1030am-12 noon – £18 (£15 for siblings)
🔹️10-14 year olds at 1230-230pm – £24 (£20 for siblings)

Price includes certificate, handout and refreshments.

Details and online booking at https://www.facebook.com/events/440730396483621/


Saturday August 31st:
Devizes Confetti Battle

Little introduction needed for this one, but The Confetti Battle takes place at the finish line of the new Colour Rush 5km route, so expect to see some exceptionally colourful visitors in the crowd.

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Last year saw the introduction of a token system where you can buy tokens to exchange for the confetti before the event, they’ll use the same system again this year. The token stand will be outside the Corn Exchange. Swap your tokens for confetti at the tables near to the front of Times Square. Keep your eyes peeled when collecting your confetti as one lucky person will receive a Golden Ticket in a confetti bag, info about the prize will be announced soon.

Jennings fairground will be in the Market Place on until 11.00pm


Melksham Food and River Festival 2019

The Melksham Food and River Festival is organised by the Festival Committee with support from the Melksham, Calne & Chippenham Branch of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust and the Wiltshire Youth Canoe Club. The Festival seeks to provide a platform for local food and drink producers, community groups, local entrepreneurs and start-up businesses.
Come and visit us during the weekend 31st August – 1st September 2019 entry is FREE and after browsing the stalls and indulging in some retail therapy, you can relax and enjoy al-fresco locally produced food and drink, whilst listening to the live music and watching the boats on the river.


Sunday September 8th:

Children’s Proms in the Park @ Hillworth Park, Devizes

This is a free, family friendly event supported by Devizes Town Council. 2pm-4pm.
Singalong with Devizes Town Band at their annual hugely successful Children’s Proms event as they delight with film and TV themes from past and present; dressing up essential!

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Various Dates Throughout the Holiday!

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Wiltshire Council’s Camp Active

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Summer Fun Activities @ The Neeld, Chippenham

This summer, the Neeld Community and Arts Centre will be offering fun circus skills sessions with Clare’s Circus!
There will be lots of exciting activities for children, and parents will be very welcome to join in with the fun and games! Clare’s Circus can teach you to juggle, you can learn tricks with spinning plates and diabolo and there will be stilt walking and pedal go’s, as well as soft play for the little ones and a tightwire for thrill seekers.
In addition, there will be a great craft making table and the chance to make balloon animals with Mr Twister, the best balloon twister this side of the River Avon! Child (Under 16) £5 Free entry for accompanying adults: http://www.neeld.co.uk/whats-on/summer-fun-activities.


Active Trowbridge @ King George Playing Fields, Melksham

Each Wednesday Active Trowbridge will be in the park with activities, sports and bouncy castles!


Jurassic Farm @ Roves Farm, Swindon

Fire up your imagination on a Roves Farm tractor ride this summer. We’ve got three fun and interactive themed events that the whole family will enjoy, including our Jurassic Farm safari!
Join the Roves Farm ranger as we take a tractor safari through our very own dinosaur territories. We’ll be trying to detect and even discover a brand-new species of dinosaur as we go… What will we find?
Meanwhile back at the farm there’s a whole day of hands-on farm activities to keep you busy including; egg collecting, meet the animals, feed the goats, animal racing and lots more!

https://rovesfarm.co.uk/whats-on/


Family Fun Coaching @ Sleight Valley Golf Range

Family coaching with our Golf Coach is free but you will need to purchase the range balls you use; these start at £4.75 for 50 balls. club hire is free. There is no need to book just turn up.
Our Homefield Cafe will be open so pop in for something to eat and drink while you are here. For more details call 01380 729053. THURS 1st 10:00 – 12:00, FRI 9th 10:00 – 12:00, WED 14th 10:00 – 12:00, WED 21st 10:00 – 12:00, WED 28th.


Wiltshire Scrapstore & Resource Centre: Holiday Art Club

Scrap Modelling at its finest! Bring your mini-Monet’s along to these popular Holiday Art Clubs, and teach them the importance of reducing and reusing our waste; all whilst having lots of fun using the scrap resources! Each session is run by a qualified trainer. Find out more about them here: https://www.wiltshirescrapstore.org.uk/press-media/?v=79cba1185463


Australian Summer @ Longleat, Warminster

20th July – 2nd September
https://www.longleat.co.uk/whats-on/an-australian-summer


Devizes Marina

Looking for something to do over the school holidays that’s a bit different? Why not take our day boat out for the day? Up to 8 people (and a dog) can be aboard for a day exploring the Kennet & Avon Canal. Find out more at http://www.devizesmarina.com


Trowbridge Museum

Has a number of events, activities and workshops taking place over the summer holidays. This summer they take the “Museum on The Move” as they decamp to the Shires for a crafty day, spend a couple of days in the Sensory Garden on their Archaeological Dig, visit Salisbury’s Rifles Museum for some WW2 activities and put on a Summer School of craft demonstrations, local history and more at Trowbridge Town Hall.
Saturday 27th & Sunday 28th July, 11am – 3pm: Archaeological Dig in the Sensory Garden
If you’ve ever wondered what lies underneath the Sensory Garden, now is the chance to find out because we are going to dig several large holes to find out. Come along to our archaeological dig and see what treasures we unearth! Suitable for all the family.

WW2 at the Rifles Museum, Salisbury
Come and join us for three days of WW2-themed activities in the beautiful gardens of the Rifles Museum. There’ll be challenges, crafts and dressing up, with something different each day. You can drop in between 11am and 3pm.
Wed 7th August: Rifles
Wed 14th August: Rifles
Wed 21st August: Rifles
Fri 9th August, 2pm: Strange Stroll (Family History Guided Walk)
Discover the weird world of the woollen trade; £2 per person, Ages 7+, children under 8 must be accompanied by an adult. Walks starts outside Mastershoe.


Town Hall Summer School, Trowbrigde

Trowbridge Museum are working with Town Hall Arts to bring you a summer of art, craft, history, fun and (war) games. Together with our volunteers we’ll be demonstrating a diverse range of art and crafts, putting on some challenging Mouse Hunts, sharing the secrets of Napoleonic war gaming and revealing some snippets of the town’s history. These drop-in activities are free but a donation would be really appreciated – give a little or a lot – it’s up to you!
Mon 29th July, 11am – 3pm: Stick weaving
Wed 31st July, 11am – 3pm: Printmaking
Thu 1st Aug, 11am – 3pm: Felting
Fri 2nd August, 11am – 3pm: Printmaking
Mon 5th Aug, 11am – 3pm: Mouse Hunt
Tue 6th Aug, 11am – 3pm: Willow Weaving
Fri 9th August, 11am – 3pm: War Gaming Demonstration
Mon 12th August, 11am – 3pm: Crochet
Wed 14th August, 10am – 12pm: Weaving
Mon 19th August, 11am – 3pm: Mouse Hunt
Tue 20th Aug, 11am – 3pm: Willow Weaving
Wed 21st August, 11am – 3pm: Trowbridge Postcards & Photos
Wed 28th August, 11am – 3pm: Trowbridge Postcards & Photos
Thu 29th Aug, 11am – 3pm: Willow Weaving
Fri 30th August, 11am – 3pm: Felting


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REVIEW –Tamsin Quin/ Andrew Hurst @ Hillworth and Andy Juan @ The White Bear, Devizes – Sunday 21st July 2019

Laid-back musical Sunday afternoon in The Vize

Andy Fawthrop

 

Yet again it’s a Sunday, the weather is balmy, and the hangover is starting to recede a little. There seems to be a recurring theme here. Whatever.

After last night’s stunning free show in the Market Place, delivered by The Fulltone Orchestra, today was a day when there was a need to get very much chilled out and calmed down. I mean – singing along to Queen’s greatest hits, and dancing along to the Ibiza set are all very well, to say nothing of the odd jar of liquid refreshment – but since the crowds had all dispersed into the night a few hours previously, something a little more relaxed was very much required.

But not to worry. As ever, our little town, punched above its weight yet again and delivered just what was required.

Firstly to Hillworth Park for Fantasy Radio’s Month of Sundays, featuring a live on-air radio show, showcasing the talents of a couple of local artists. This was the third Sunday show for July (last one is next week 28th July), and it was the turn of Tamsin Quin and Andrew Hurst.

Tamsin’s two short sets included songs from her album Gypsy Blood. Her gentle, simple songs rang out across the park, and behind each one was a personal story, a thought, a feeling. Her delivery was both clear and heart-warming, and she (as always) established a friendly rapport with her audience. Perfect.

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Andrew Hurst is also no stranger to the park, having played here for Fantasy last year too. Only last week I enjoyed Andrew’s longer session in the White Bear, but today it was a couple of shorter sets. He played both covers and self-penned numbers, ranging from the quiet and intimate, through to the noisier upbeat numbers. I was left wondering how two hands can play quite so many notes so quickly. Close your eyes sometimes and it sounded like two guitars – fantastic stuff.

Next week, the final one of the Month of Sundays, will feature the very entertaining Rockin’ Bandits. So get yourself along there!

I left the crowd enjoying their Sunday afternoon in the park because a) I wanted to check out another artist playing in the White Bear’s Sunday afternoon sessions, and b) it was time for a beer! The artist in question was Bristol-based Andy Juan – new to me, but glad I made the trip.

Andy is a singer/ songwriter of some considerable talent. His songs were well-crafted, his vocals intense, and his guitar-playing spot on. He’s one of those artists who, when he’s playing a song, gets completely in the zone, completely in the moment. His focus, his concentration, were wonderful to behold. Playing mostly his own beautiful songs, he wasn’t afraid to throw in the occasional cover as well. But this wasn’t done as a mere afterthought. I’ve long been of the opinion that, if you’re going to cover a well-known song, you need to do one of two things – either replicate the original very exactly (to show how well you can actually listen to another artist’s work), or else give the original a complete re-working (to show how you can re-interpret the meaning, or the feeling, of the original song, to add something entirely new). Andy was definitely in the latter category, and the results were truly stunning. I shall definitely be listening to this guy again.

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On top of all that he delivered his sets with warmth and humour, engaging the audience throughout. And he was a nice bloke too.

Next Sunday (28th July) the White Bear’s Sunday session at 5pm will feature the very talented, and very versatile, Ian O’Regan. One not to be missed.

So there you go – one afternoon, three acoustic artists. Three different styles, but all united in being very talented, very entertaining and (thankfully) very laid-back – perfect! What’s not to like?


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


 

Adverts & All That!

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How Does Devizes Confetti Battle Compare to the World’s Most Bizarre Festivals?

Perhaps the most interesting part of our chat with DOCA coordinator, Loz, and definitely, the most controversial was the carnival’s date change. Still social media comments groan that Confetti Battle was traditionally on a Wednesday. Yet, bringing it to a Saturday makes it feasible for higher attendance, particularly tourists and day trippers.

Loz expressed it could be as renowned as the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Roll, and intends to diversify and extend the concept to interest a wider audience. In Devizes we take it for granted people annually gather in the Market Place to fling confetti at each other, without contemplating how bizarre this notion is to outsiders. Bizarre attracts adventurous visitors, hunting for something different; they’d come, they’d spend money, but less likely on a Wednesday evening.

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This morning I read a blog about The Rainforest World Music Festival, three days partying in the rainforest near Kuching, Sarawak in Malaysia. Okay, the English was poorly translated, but the photos wowed. Given I’ve jested the word “festival” these-days seems to be a new-fangled soundbite whereby anyone can pop up a gazebo, hire a man with a guitar, sell some tinnies and allow gatherers to piss on his rhododendrons, and dub it a festival, it got me thinking exactly what constitutes a festival, internationally, how bizarre do some get, and how does our Confetti Battle compare?

coopershill

Investigation exposed some pretty outlandish and curious events, and some complete bonkers. Many you’d need to pack a suitcase for a lengthy flight for, others it seems are not so far away. The Coopers Hill Cheese Roll in Gloucestershire cropped up more times than injuries undoubtedly caused there, but nowhere have I discovered mention of Pewsey’s locally eminent Wheelbeerow Race, or Devizes and the weird custom of lobbing confetti at each other. Think outside the box, or Brittox, it is a tad weird, guys; but both on weeknights.

moose

Do they compare in weirdness to a moose dropping festival? Talkeetna, Alaska, it’s not snow falling from the sky, but moose poo, painted white and dropped from a helicopter! Or the International Hair-Freezing Contest in Yukon, Canada, where, as the name hints, using only water and the frosty air, contestants freeze their Barnett Fair into the most peculiar and eccentric shapes?

hair
Go under, check my pubes

While some are just ascetically bizarre, like the Burning Man in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, or Florida’s Underwater Music Festival, it’s the theme of many which alarms or amuses; Roswell obviously has a UFO Festival. Devon’s Blackawton International Festival of Worm Charming, is a thing. The World Bog-Snorkelling Championships in Llanwrtyd Wells and Ashbourne’s toedium smack down, the World Toe Wrestling Championships are too.

bog
I want to be just like him when I grow up

Wife Carrying Championship, anyone? The wedding vow of husbands metaphorically carrying spouses in times of sickness is taken a smidgen too literally in Sonkajärvi, Finland. Awards for the swiftest, toughest and amusingly costumed pairs are handed to contestants who carry their wives across a 254-metre obstacle course. But at the Festa del Cornuto, outside Rome, the Festival of the Horns, the men of cheating wives’ parade, crying and smashing possessions they gifted them to honour and console their woe.

wife
I’ll give you put the cat out!

Confetti Battle is a tad more family-orientated, like Krampusnacht in Germany, where every December an anti-Santa hands every naughty kid a lump of coal. Why not dress as devils and jump over our babies, because it has constituted a festival for over four-hundred-years in Castrillo de Murcia, Spain? If you think Don Quixote in a Lycra Satan suit leaping over your darling isn’t quite psychologically traumatic enough for them, how about Tokyo’s Naki Sumo, where oversized sumo-wrestlers square-up in a ring, each holding a baby, the contest being the first to make the other’s baby cry? Supposed to ward off evil spirits, so if your kid sees no fear in the wrester, the referee jumps in donning a scary mask to ensure a change of nappy is needed.

APphoto_APTOPIX Japan Crying Baby Contest
Think that’s scary? You should check my nappy, pal!

Some are pleasant, like the Cheung Chau Bun Festival in Hong Kong, where competitors’ climb sixty-foot towers of sweet buns which line the streets. Or the Floating Lantern Festival in Hawaii, and Beer Floating in Finland; steady, floating down a river in an improvised raft gulping Carlsberg. Others equal this pleasantness but add humorous elements, like the village of Brawby, where the Yorkshire Pudding Boat Race takes place over Bob’s Pond.

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Who left that sausage in here?

Food leftover fights are commonplace, La Tomatina in Spain, The Battle of Oranges in Ivrea, Italy. I mean, sure, Rayne in Louisiana has a Frog Festival, and turkey testicle eating contests are widespread across the USA. Alongside the sinister Day of the Dead Festival, Mexico has Noche de Rábanos at Oaxaca, or “The Night of the Radishes.”

radish
We are the Radish Army, arm your salad!

Korea has the Boryeong Mud Festival, where if you thought Pilton can get pretty filthy on a rainy July, you should see these lot engaging in mud photography workshops or having mud massages. But mud is great for the skin, ambiguously, especially the Boryeong mud used in their cosmetics. Or the valued tradition of Hadaka Matsuri in Okayama, where 9,000 naked Japanese men wrestle for sticks thrown by a Shinto priest. If the winner puts the sticks into a wooden box with rice, he will be contented the whole year.

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Anyone got a chewing gum?

Equally as cringeworthy to me, but hey, you might fancy the Japanese Kanamara Matsuri, or festival of the penis. They have penis artworks (unsure if they’re pictures of dicks or drawn with one, like drawing using a fat, wax crayon in your left-hand,) penis-shaped sweeties and carved vegetables, decorations, and a phallic mikoshi parade. Yet again the logic centres around a shrine once popular for prostitutes to pray for protection from sexually transmitted diseases. But legend has it, a Vagina Dentata demon lurks inside vaginas to castrate young men on their wedding night. If told that, you’d be celebrating the prosperity of your manhood.

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I always dress like I’m Nigel Farage

Finland’s Air Guitar World Championships claims the ideology would end wars, stop climate change and eradicate all bad things. So, all of them have a history, or logic behind them, no matter how bizarre they may seem. Peru’s Cat Food Festival, for example, you may think this annual gathering in Cañete, where they munch on cats is to cull an overpopulated stray cat problem, but no, they breed the animals especially for human consumption at the gig. Apparently, cat meat has aphrodisiac properties and also prevents ailments in the bronchi; I’ll skip it and just try the veg, thanks all the same.

At least Thailand’s annual Monkey Buffet Festival isn’t as bad, despite the alarming name, it’s the monkeys who get a feast, not us nibbling on monkey meatloaf. They honour the descendants of a monkey warrior in Lopburi, and it’s a crowd-puller. Seems disease-spreading blood-sucking pests get honoured, The Great Texas Mosquito Festival brings three days of carnival to Clute; food, drink, games and rides, craft or cooking workshops.

monkey
Hey, where’s the KP Skips?

Confetti Battle roots to Carnival in 1913, where confetti and rose petals were thrown by the crowd at people in the procession. The tradition evolved into a fully-fledged battle around 1955, started by Jim Jennings, but the reason is unknown. Maybe we need to make one up; a nobleman’s wedding that went horribly wrong?

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I’m just nipping into Greggs

Even bulls rampaging around the streets, averagely injuring three hundred people and killing fifteen at the Fiesta San Fermin, doesn’t stop people gathering and making a festival out of. Why then, should changing our relatively harmless confetti battle from Wednesday to a Saturday bother you?! I’m not suggesting we have a penis fest, or eat cat, but what Devizes has is unique, and could be on this list!

Devizes Confetti Battle
Devizes Market Place – Saturday 31st August 2019
Entertainment starts from 7.30pm
Battle commences 8.00pm


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


 

Adverts & Stuff Like That!

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We see Same Days

Extensively featuring Devizine’s friend, Finely Trusler, half of Larkin and The Truzzy Boys, a new single from Same Days, a twenty-year-old London born Swindon performer is out for streaming today. Real name, David Whelpdale is cousins with Fin. He’s built an audience since a debut single in April, trying his hand at producing too. With Funked Up Dad, Martin, and Fin’s other cousin, Harvey, making up the other half of The Truzzy Boys, I had to ask Fin if he has any non-musical relations.

“Not many, mate!” was his answer, simple but to the point. Though this is something altogether different, as Same Days adopts that prevalent merger of singing with rap, popularised by the likes of R. Kelly. Yeah, alright, I’d need to speak to my daughter for more present comparisons! Still, old fart or not, I like it; “You See Me” offers a smooth and confident rap which oozes in and out of adroit boyband vocals. With natural ease this slick contemporary composition lustres authenticity with Fin’s acoustic component, harmoniously breathing air away from any unethical stereotype of rap fuddy-duddies may wrongfully spurt!

The accompanying video also assists with this acoustic measure, taking to the woods and other natural landscapes for locations rather than the banal urban scene. See for yourself, and all the best with it guys!


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


 

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Your Friendly Neighbourhood Milkman!

After the results of our dare, I’m going to do it, but not without your help raising some awareness of Carmela’s Stand up to Muscular Dystrophy…..


UPDATE!

Thank you for the kind donations, we’ve made £100 so far, but Spiderman isn’t coming out to play unless we can get some more!! Please donate to my dare, whatever you can will be a great help to Carmela and her family. A big thank you to The Gazette & Herald for covering the story, and Claire Perry MP who retweeted our campaign on her Twitter page.

I was delighted today, as for the first time I met Carmela and her mum, Lucy, when they came for a visit and, if a little hot and bothered, we posed for some photos! If anything though, it’s made it feel so much more real about doing this silly thing!

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Donate Here!


Writing my rant column about Devizes on Index, some years ago now, would rattle some cages on Facebook. The satire soared over the heads of some conservative-minded individuals. One commented “don’t give up the day job.” I replied, “for the record, I love my day job,” and, weather permitting, I do.

When children say what they want to be when they’re grownup, they tend to suggest jobs they see around them, a teacher, a policeman, something like that. With a love of drinking milk, I wanted to be a milkman, among other things. I’d take the bottles out of my fridge and place them on the neighbour’s doorsteps. They’d knock our door, bottles in hand, saying, “I think he’s been at it again!”

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Forward wind some decades, I figured of all the things, becoming a milkman was as unlikely as my idea to be an astronaut, being supermarkets had seen off the trade. When the job came up at Planks, I gave it a go, and after five years, never tire of it. There’s a tranquillity, a gratifying element to it beyond your average delivery driver. We are the fourth emergency service, supplying milk to those in far-flung villages who otherwise would have to travel some distance. This is warmly appreciated, particularly from the older generation, and with ecological awareness on plastic, the occupation is back in fashion.

Just so you know, Devizine is a hobby, you’ll be sadly mistaken if you think it prints money. Still, love doing this too. It became apparent when I made it a regular joke, readers thought it strange or didn’t believe I was really the milkman, so a month ago I posted video proof. Being I get quite a few strange looks, this day and age, trundling around in a milk float, it wouldn’t make the slightest difference if I did it dressed in my Spiderman onesie; would it? I asked you all if you’d dare me to do my milk round in my Spiderman onesie!

With great milk deliveries must also come great responsibilities, never ran over a hedgehog yet; they’re too fast for me! The poll exposed a slim majority (98%!) dared me to do it. So, I half-heartedly accept the challenge, but ask you to put your money where your mouth is; think we can raise some funds for Carmela, a five-year-old girl from Lavington with a very rare form of muscular dystrophy called LMNA Congenital Muscular Dystrophy? Then, I promise, to dooooo ittttt.

LMNA-CMD is a progressive muscle wasting disease that weakens the skeletal muscles, to the point where Carmela relies on a powerchair fulltime and needs someone to do everything for her. The heart and lungs are affected too. LMNA-CMD is incredibly rare with around only 50 known cases in the UK. Many years ago, affected children would typically die before the age of ten from respiratory and heart complications, but modern intervention has seen an increase in life expectancy. Carmela now has a 60-70% chance of living to sixteen. If lucky, she could make it to her twenties.

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All parents live to wonder, myself included, to their children’s future and inspire and encourage their success, as I watch my daughter run rings around me, football glued to her feet, I cannot imagine what life must be like for Carmela and her family at times. Though Carmela rarely doesn’t wear a smile. I’m no superhero by wearing a Spiderman onesie, more of a loon, but Carmela is.

Mind you, I received word she prefers Wonder Woman, but to see me in blue starry hot-pants is a step too far!

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There is no cure or treatment to slow down the disease but to help with the discomfort, pain and stiffness that comes with a progressive muscle wasting disease, Carmela requires daily mobility and stretching exercises, massages, hydrotherapy, swimming, and cycling using an adapted trike for low tone children. As her disease weakens her, adaptations in the garden and specialist equipment will change, costing in the thousands. For more information on Carmela’s story, see here: http://www.carmelasstanduptomusculardystrophy.co.uk/

My spider-senses are tingling, telling me I’ve got to do this, on Friday 9th August, weather permitting. I will take some photos and make a video diary of my morning, travelling through: Potterne, Worton, Great Cheverall, The Lavingtons, Easterton, Urchfont, Chirton, Patney, Beechingstoke, Woodborough, Marden and back into Devizes, before returning to Plank’s Dairy in Poulshot. I’ll also try a live stream to our Facebook page for the last part of the journey, and Carmela may join me at some point too! If this isn’t enough proof for you, I plan to stop outside the Bear Hotel in Devizes, Friday mid-morning where you can meet and laugh, I mean cheer me on!

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If there is to be a gathering, and any of my musical friends are free, I’d welcome you entertaining the any gathering few with an acoustic song or two, please let me know guys!

On the day, you should be able to track my progress on the Devizine Facebook page, and I’ll announce an ETA back into town; do, if you can support me, there will also be a bucket for donations, or you can use this donation page here. Please, I know times are tough, but one thousand four hundred bods like the Facebook page, near 40,000 of you read the website annually, if everyone just gave a pound coin, it’d make a massive difference to Carmela’s life. She’s such a happy-go-lucky five-year-old, despite this condition, and refuses to let it prevent her from smiling.

Here’s the link, let’s get this to as much as we can, help me by sharing and caring! If Steve Ditko could see me now… probably cry with laughter!

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Click to Donate!

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Food Fight!

On the eve of The Devizes Food Festival announcing their schedule, I contemplate what attributes taste, be it class, culture or trends…..

 

You know, we chat and cover a lot of musical genres here, some are picky about what they like, but I think food is even more subjective. After all these years, for example, I just discovered the better half favours apricot jam tarts in an assortment box. That’s just weird, everyone knows the blackcurrant ones are the best and raspberry a close second.

More Facebook group members have fallen out over the great pineapple on pizza debate than Brexit. Forget fights over Oasis or Blur when you throw in a tin of Quality Street and ask them to arrange from best to worst. The other day, right, I took a shark-sized bite from a doughnut only to discover to my absolute horror, some compete psychopath had put custard in rather than jam. What kind of sicko even contemplates that?

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Pure Evil, at Asda

While many children will only eat a thing if it’s endorsed by Spongebob or their favourite superhero, (I appreciate this; love Peppa Pig, especially lying on a bread bed smothered in ketchup,) the affluent will consume any old entrails provided the name of it has been swanked up. Give it a Mediterranean namesake and they’ll pay triple the price-tag. I’m not buying it; crème Anglaise? Custard, mate. Jus, don’t give me jus, it’s watery gravy; stick another oxo cube in it for crying out loud. Fromage et jambon panini, yeah right, it’s a cheese and ham toastie, pal.

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Whether it’s pondering if peas should have a home in a pasty, or if gherkins belong in a Big Mac, what divides us all is our taste buds. They don’t rely on gender, race or religion, they just randomly respond to some things better than others, or do they? I mean, tastes can attribute to class; The Queen chomps on swans by the dozen, but I only get penguin biscuits. You can tell my working-class background by the stench of Iceland’s hotdog pizza on my breath. Yet when I spotted in their fridges a chicken tikka lasagne, even I considered it a trailer-trash step too far.

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Tastes also fluctuate depending on trends. Have you noticed, no one slices pork now? It’s got to be “pulled.” Pulled pork meant something entirely different when I was a teenager! My gran would slap us if she saw us buy a premade sandwich, yet delis sell them by the truckload. They sell grated cheese in bags, we buy it; have cheese grater, left abandoned, crying in the cupboard.

It also attributes to culture, yet exploited by soundbites like delicacy or gourmet. What may be considered an exotic delicacy here, is actually staple diet elsewhere, because it’s cheap and in abundance. Take maple syrup, so pricey for a drizzle, yet lucky Canadian’s have it running from a third tap!

Maple Syrup Weekend

Rice, couscous and noodles are popular in Asia because they are obtainable and economical, treated like potato and bread here. Yet we lap these things up. There’s posh pubs in East London who sell tourists plates of pie with eel liquor as if it’s a local delicacy, a word usually meaning rare, luxurious food, sophisticated. EastEnders ate ‘pie n mash’ because of poverty, eels were leftovers at the port, just as lobsters were too in North America until the mid-19th century.

By Dickens, how far are you willing to take it, gruel? Japanese Fugu, or bird’s nest stew? Flamingo tongue, a prized dish in ancient Rome. Escamoles in Mexico, that’s ant’s larvae to you and me. Half a million dogs are slaughtered annually for meat in the Philippines; teatime kids! I know we must convert to vegan, but think “bacon” and it’s an ecological step too far for me. I can and will eat vegetarian food, so long as there’s a chicken on the side.

If it’s not the ingredients it the presentation, honestly, I don’t care if it’s slopped on a plate like a car crash, dribbling over the edges, provided it tastes nice. I don’t need to be waiting an extra ten minutes for you to “plate-up,” carefully aligning each faultlessly equilateral chip atop of my cod, delicately garnished with a smudged splash of ketchup and pea puree. That’s if it’s served on a plate at all. Masterchef, right, seems the strength of the “dish” is based upon purposely not being on a dish at all. What’s wrong with a plate? Spaghetti Carbonara served in an old go-kart tyre, beef wellington in an actual welly. Duck-a-l’orange in a paddling pool, minted lamb kebabs on a pavement slab, that kind of thing; nobody order the coq-a-vin.

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If I contemplate it’s all a bit much, I digest the Devizes Food Festival have launched this year’s events on a new website, by a new committee. 28th September to 6th October, sets the dates, time enough for you get over my rant about habits in the Philippines. They’ve adopted the pineapple as their logo, but why, you may ask. Interestingly, you can grow pineapples in the UK with use of a polytunnel; who knew and why didn’t they tell me? Because I’d go scrumping no doubt; blinkin’ love pineapple, me.

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Partly because the pineapple is a symbol of hospitality and friendship, the connection is Adam Taylor’s ‘A Gardener near Devizes.’ Published in 1769, there’s a treatise on how to grow a pineapple. No polytunnel needed to heat it, he used a horse manure pit, probably for the first time too. This pineapple hothouse meant smaller estates could afford to serve pineapple, but did Adam order it as a topping from Dominoes, I ask you?!

For the duration of the festival you can pick up a Pineapple Trail Sheet (for a small contribution) from Devizes Books or Wiltshire Museum during the Festival, and hunt for Princess Pineapple, and her eleven friends, peeking out from shop windows throughout Devizes. The Museum will also hold a display on the Pineapple, both in the treatise, and local architecture; yeah, you seen it too, just can’t think where!

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The Devizes Food Festival has a varied range of events. Devizes Mayor Judy Rose will be officially opening the Festival at the Corn Exchange for a FREE World Food Lunch on Sunday 29th September from 12.30. There you can explore the globe on a plate. With a handful of 50p vouchers to exchange, local residents with far flung roots invite you to sample a family favourite from their homeland, from the cuisines of Poland, New Zealand, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Fiji, the USA, Scotland, France and plenty more nations of the world. I asked if I could rustle up my Essex-stylee beans on toast speciality without response; what? It’s got Maldon sea salt on it.

Many other events seem to be about eating in strange places; Town Hall lock-up, Kennet Furniture Refurbiz, the bell tower at St Mary’s and even Erlestoke prison; porridge anyone? There are the usual food quiz and Come Dine With Us events, visits to Wadworth, a’Becketts Vineyard in Littleton Panell, East Farm at Winterbourne Monkton and a pumpkin prowl at VP Collins, Bromham. Oh, and it’s pizza time at Vaughan’s Cookery School. Peter, please divulge your opinion on pineapple on pizza.

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Check the website for details, of course the grandest moment in the Festival is the marvellous market, on the 28th September at the Market Place. I had a feast there last year, enough me to stop fussing about apricot jam tarts, custard doughnuts, Escamoles and why pork has to be pulled rather than sliced these days. Guess I’m obsolete, pass the prawn cocktail and switch on the teasmade.

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


 

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REVIEW –Vince Bell – 7th July 2019 @ The White Bear, Devizes

VB @ the WB!

Andy Fawthrop

 

OK so it’s the day after the (wonderful!) Devizes Beer Festival and you’ve worked your way through the hangover. You’re starting to feel normal again, but the sun is still shining, the world is still a beautiful place, and you really don’t want to start thinking about Monday just yet. What you gonna do?

Well, here’s a possible solution – head on down to the White Bear. Let me explain.

The White Bear (one of the oldest pubs in Devizes, blue plaque on the wall, blah, blah, blah) is rather on the up over the past few months. New landlords Marc & Georgie have been transforming the place since they moved in. Not only do they have an agreement with Wadworth that the pub can also supply a limited range of non-Wadworth beers on their pumps, and not only has chef Marc shaken up the menu with some glorious and interesting new food choices, and not only do they have some wonderful B&B accommodation, but now they are experimenting with providing a new laid-back music venue.

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The plan is to feature a different artist every Sunday in the 5pm to 7pm slot, in a small, intimate venue with good food and beer, and to create a pleasant and laid-back vibe, perfect for winding down the week-end.

First up this Sunday was local musical hero Vince Bell. But before he took to the mic we had a great support slot from Fraser Tilley, who turned in an enthusiastic and lively set featuring both original and covers material (Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, T. Rex and others). He in turn was supported by drummer Tim Watts, laying down some very gentle percussion accompaniment (having played with It’s Complicated at the previous day’s Devizes Beer Festival). The two of them provided exactly what was needed – an uncomplicated (geddit?) drift of songs that had the audience listening and applauding.

After a short break, Tim stuck around to accompany main man Vince. Last time I saw Vince was a few weeks back at Long Street Blues Club, playing support act to Skinny Molly in front of a very large and noisy audience. On Sunday the audience was much smaller, much more intimate, but equally enthusiastic. Vince seemed relaxed and quickly established an easy rapport with the assembled crew, which (obviously) included many local friends. His choice of material was good, mixing his own self-penned numbers, with a few covers including those from a certain Mr Bowie, the Killers, David Gray etc. For an encore he asked the audience which they’d prefer – one his songs? Or a cover? The audience wanted both, and that’s what Vince obligingly delivered.

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So, for the launch of yet another musical venue in The Vize, was it a success? An unequivocal thumbs-up from here – good venue, good beer, good food, nice cool atmosphere and, of course, some great music.

Future gigs are to be announced, but next Sunday (14th July) is already lined up with Bristol-based singer/ songwriter Andy Juan.


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


 

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Devizes First Scooter Rally; A Historic Weekend

Chatting to Gouldy of the Daybreakers, due to play Minety Festival the following day, we mutually complimented the setup at The Devizes Scooter Rally. Pleased for his input, as there was always a risk, being this is my first scooter rally, that any review would be comparable to a festival. Prior to the event, I admit I was mindful to this, telling myself not to hype it, as it’s a scooter rally, not a festival. Yet Gouldy described the archetypical rally as lesser in design and setup than your average festival. Given this notion I encouraged The Scooter Club to embrace wider appeal; they were in agreeance, it wowed and will undoubtedly go down in Rowde’s history.

This paid off, for two years in the planning, and some bumps between us along the way, the Devizes Scooter Rally was uniquely designed and executed with individualism and panache, binding a positive festival vibe with the style of a scooter rally, surely producing an event to shame other similarly labelled events; and all for the first time too.

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Booking The Tribe, Swindon’s hip hop-reggae whizzers, popular on said festival scene, was attributed to this notion; partly my suggestion, but to open wasn’t. Perhaps this wildcard could’ve fitted later, yet, their wider appeal indeed took the younger’s interest, even if not digested by traditional scooterists. They played an arresting and dynamic set as always, rapper AJ Mayhew joining the slight crowd for a dance momentously inspiring for the younger.

More so, it was the plentiful choice of food stalls, bars and side attractions which blessed this event with that genuine festival feel, as opposed to the average rally’s hashed barbeque, hosted by the least drunken skinhead, and the bar being the pub across the road! All slight, but there were fair stalls, rides and a bouncy castle to keep young ones amused. Food stalls of pizza, noodles, burgers, hog roast varied catering, retro clothes stalls and the Vespa Owners Club had travelled afar to join many local ventures such as Vinyl Realm holding their first stand.

Aside the brilliant homemade bar, with pumps and Pimms, which was reasonably priced even for a pub, let alone event, choices were also available, from separate coffee or Prosecco bars, and the strikingly Caribbean yet local rum distributor Muck & Dunder’s mobile bar, which I could make my second home!

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So fruitfully the Scooter Rally developed, combining the favourable elements of festivals and scooter rallies equally to create what they wished, done their own, localised way. Villagers and Devizes residents mingled with widespread scooter aficionados in a joyful ambience. Meeting enthusiasts who’d journeyed from the North, or Exeter, was amalgamated with strictly Rowde branded humour, such as parish councillor, dubbed “Rowde Mayor,” John Dalley, who had his head shaved by Tracie Lawson of Devizes Beauty Boutique for children’s cancer charity CLIC Sargent.

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Late Friday evening, drinks may’ve flowed, but chatting to DSC Colonel, Adam Ford, there was little doubt, though the monumental organisation thrusted into an event of this calibre, that he’d do it all again, next year. For when it came together, a fabulous time was had by all and full marks must be awarded to all members of the club.

To nit-pick there will be lessons learned, the PA needed a little hoof, least villagers only went to their Facebook group to inquire where the wonderful music was ascending from, rather than complain. This came to a head at the concluding act, Bad Manners tribute, The Special Brew, who worked professionally through technical faults to bring a madcap finale we’ll be talking about for years to come. Lighting and washing facilities for those camping, may also have been on the hitlist, though elements ramp the ticket stub, and it was ever kept a reasonable price.

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Friday then, and local folklore heroes, The DayBreakers followed the Tribe, with their wonderful brand of folky-retro-pop. South-coast’s ska legends Orange Street headlined with a tight and proficient set of ska and two-tone classics, they simply astounded, leaving us with little doubt the weekend was a winner.

Trilbies must also be raised to the solo effort from renowned DJ Terry Hendrick in the marquee, who both filled in whenever necessary and bought each evening to a climax. Neither angered by my pestering, browsing his astounding collection of seven-inch rarities, he even allowed me a little taster on his wheels of steel!

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Local retro covers band, Cover Up did a grand job opening Saturday’s live music, upon the return of the scooterists on a ride-out across Devizes and villages, parking by the stage for browsing devotees. For me, the highlight was always to be Swindon’s Erin Bardwell Collective, whose rock steady and boss reggae classics appropriately fit the sunny afternoon breeze. As well as Double Barrell, Let Your Yeah be Yeah, and Jackpot, there was a sublime cover of Horace Andy’s Skylarking, a blend of Harry J’s Liquidator with Staple Sister’s I’ll Take you There, and just one of their own songs, a new one called Just Loving You.

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The Start bought the event to boiling point, Essex’s finest gave us a loud and proud varied performance, shelling us with iconic Two-Tone and sixties to eighties mod-rock anthems which defined the eras. The Start were confident and highly enjoyable, rousing the crowd for Special Brew. If it was an unfortunate technical fault, worry didn’t project dismay, they battled through and such was the unabridged event, it mattered not.

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What a marvellous weekend, possibly the most bizarrely enlightening the village has ever seen, unless you different? Detroit USA, Kingston Jamaica, London, New York and Coventry; all established places on the soul & reggae map. Thanks to Devizes Scooter Club, we can now add Rowde to that map!

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


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REVIEW –Watermelon Slim – 28th June 2019 @ Long Street Blues Club, Devizes

A Fruitful Night

Andy Fawthrop

Final gig of the current season at Long Street Blues Club, and we went out with a bang with two great acts.

First up was local bluesman Andrew Bazeley. Having made this style of music his life-long hobby, I’d go so far as to say that what this guy doesn’t know about Delta Blues just ain’t worth knowing. He lives and breathes this stuff, and this is reflected in his playing – soulful, bluesy, stripped-back, atmospheric. His introductions and between-song patter are a delight for anyone who wants to know something about the songs they’re listening to – informative without being preachy. He told me before the gig that he was nervous, but it didn’t show one little bit. And afterwards said that it was probably the biggest audience he’d ever played to. No worries – the boy done good.

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Then the main act. Two sets of howling, rasping blues from the trio fronted by Watermelon Slim. We started off, very unusually, with the main man introducing his band – before a note had even been played! But after that it was down to business. Slim himself alternated between playing his guitar lap-style on a table and his trusty harmonica, but always ably supported by solid drums and bass. The vocals were howling and husky-voiced, the playing effortless. The banter was self-mocking (“almost 50 years now”), drawling and laconic, betraying the man’s Deep South origins. Frequently Slim came off stage and into the front of the crowd to let his howling harmonica do the talking. And he talked a lot, and with laid-back humour. At times the performance felt a little hammy and hackneyed, pushing all the usual I’m-a-great-bluesman buttons but – hey – he IS a great bluesman, so who’s complaining? The audience certainly weren’t, lapping up both the chat and the music.

The start of the second set was my highlight – leaving his buddies backstage for a while, his opening number featured just acapella voice and that screaming harmonica – absolutely sublime.

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It was a great finish to the current season, and I’m already looking forward to the next one. Ian Hopkins was very happy to discuss his forward booking plans and mentioned a few names, but I won’t steal his thunder until the new season is announced in full later in the year.

Great club, great venue, great artists and superb entertainment. A real advert for live music in our town.

 

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Chatting Carnival with Loz

With a nail in the offside rear tyre, I’ve got a three-quarter of an hour window to nip to Mike Woods and stop for a drink at Times Square before the school run. Prioritise Worrow, prioritise; erm, just a cup of tea thanks, you get a little biscuit on the side anyway.

Loz Samuels beats me hands down when it comes to time management, it’s her second visit to coffee shop today, chatting and encouraging the progress of DOCA. Whenever I catch her, Loz laments how crazy it’s all been, yet I suspect she wouldn’t have it any other way. Appears to me she personifies the satisfaction of commitment so much it’s scary; procrastination not in her agenda, unlike me who lives by its golden rule.

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Skipping the announcement of Vinyl Realm’s second stage at the Street Festival, as despite being the reasoning for arranging the meeting, I measured both Pete and I too enthusiastic about the prospect to wait till now. Seems Loz wanted to concentrate on the subject of carnival and the nearby sub-events, opening with a partnership project with Amesbury Carnival. “We’ve created a six-feet high puppet of a mammoth,” she explained, confirming after some deliberation of the crane’s availably, it will stomp its way through our procession.

I note it’s the kind of thing you see at carnivals in South America or the Caribbean. “Yes,” she agrees, describing a second mahoosive moveable puppet of a Neolithic woman, “it’s quite colourful, because the theme is Through the Ages, so it works, it works well for them (the sponsors) because they wanted something to do with heritage.”

There was me thinking about an old British Pathe film showing a Devizes carnival of yore, but Loz explained the theme is more general, not as I thought, a historical look at Devizes Carnival. “No, just through the ages, you know, could be the future, could be aliens, but maybe someone will interpret it like that.”

So, carnival is on the 13th July this year, a change that’ll bring the walls down and make life no longer worth living, according to “traditionalists” on social media. In our last chat with Loz, we enlightened the reasoning for the change, aside the fatigue of DOCA’s volunteers with a full fortnight of events, the hesitancy of schools to contribute during summer holidays has opened up. Schools are able to work on their projects earlier in the year, and workshops have been running in seven participating schools, with others coming. The theme, Loz explains, is suitable for their curriculum too, be it Victorians, or pirates for example; one positive reason to change. Loz stressed how pleased she was with this change; carnival wouldn’t be carnival without the children.

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We move onto the notion that the subevents, the Colour Rush and the strictly Devizes “thing,” The Confetti Battle can now be on a Saturday too, rather than weekdays as previous. “So hopefully,” she nods, “there will be masses there. We had four thousand there last year, and on a Wednesday night when you’ve got to get up next day, it’s quite late….”

“It’s going to be different every year, I mean,” she continued, “how many times are you going to go to Confetti Battle when it’s the same old thing?”

I agreed, despite my kids loving it when younger, they consider they’re getting too old to bother. “But they might do this year,” Loz interrupted ardently, “because there’s gonna be massive inflatable crazy things that’ll appear in the crowd!”

Loz’s hopes for additions to this year’s Confetti Battle are from Willy Wonka’s rulebook, golden tickets to win £50 in the bags of confetti, and more side attractions will add to its appeal. “The Confetti Battle could be nationally known,” she continued, comparing its potential to the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Roll, “but not on a Wednesday night. People aren’t going to be travelling from, say, London on a Wednesday night.”

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Confident to grow this unique element of our carnival, Loz continued to express advantages of the battle commencing over the weekend, taking down the rigs in order for market the following morning will be a thing of the past, meaning a more elaborate setup. She had a meeting with the astatically pleasing festival, BoomTown, aiming to create a visually stunning spectacle with wider appeal.

If cynical of her ambitious outlook, Loz claimed, “the sky’s the limit, if we can raise money to put into it, then we can do it, we can do anything, so, it’s a start, I’m aware people are sceptical about changes but if we stay as we are, we’re not going to grow, we’ve no potential to make money, our arts funding will decrease.” Seems logical to me. We talked of possibilities, of Caribbean carnivals where the procession concludes into an arena for a concert afterwards. “I think it’s really exciting,” she stated, “doors are opening now.”

The crucial thing to note in this chat, is that this is only Loz’s third year at the helm, finding her feet has been uphill, with a system only documented only in her predecessor’s head. She now feels in a position to build on past experiences and deliver us the large-scale outdoor events we will be talking about through the forthcoming ages.

So, let’s get things straight right now, DOCA’s program of events is ever as lively, but with a few changes:


Saturday 6th July: Carnival Costume Making Workshop @ Wiltshire Museum:

Help prepare a large-scale costume to walk in this year’s parade. Families and children aged 8+ are invited to make some spectacular back pack style costumes. This will be a group making session working on revamping backpacks which will match with costumes made by our school groups, in either Medieval, Tudor, 18th Century, or Victorian style.

Artist and costume designer Abi Kennedy will guide you through making a colourful back pack, a fun and creative afternoon is promised. No experience is necessary.


Wednesday 10th July: Skittles Night @ The Wyvern Club

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Saturday 13th July: Devizes Carnival Through the Ages.

Entrant registration from 4pm, Procession starts at 6:15pm.

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Sunday 18th August: Picnic in the Park @ Hillworth Park


Sunday 25th August: International Street Festival @ The Green


Monday 26th August: International Street Festival @ The Market Place

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Friday 30th August: Kennet & Avon Canal Trust’s Music by the Canal

6.30pm until 10pm @ Devizes Wharf.


Saturday 31st August: The Colour Rush

Starts at Green Lane Playing Fields and finishing in Market Place.


Saturday 31st August: Confetti Battle @ The Market Place

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UduL by Los Galindos @ The Green
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An award-winning Catalan circus company who inhabit a traditional Mongolian yurt which will be located on the Green for three days. Saturday 24th August: Doors 7pm Show 7.30pm, Sunday 25th August: Matinee Doors 1.45pm, show 2pm. Evening Doors 7pm Show 7.30pm, and Monday 26th of August: Doors 7pm Show 7.30pm. Minimum age recommended from 7 years. TICKETS: £5 Early bird price until 31st July, thereafter: £7 each, £5 for under 16’s.


Shop Window Competition

Shops around town have placed one item in their window, during Street Festival fortnight, that they don’t normally sell. Spot them all and be in with a chance of winning £25! Entry forms will be available online throughout the Street Festival Fortnight or from Devizes Books and the Town Hall. Completed forms can be left at the Town Hall.


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Devizes Nights: At the Southgate, Jon Amor, One and All

Images by Nick Padmore

In that year of the breakdancing fad waning my brother went off and bought Born in the USA, and we became Boss fans overnight. So, he nipped out and bought Nebraska too, and we were like, “oh…”

It took some time for my infantile mind, accustomed to pop, to appreciate acoustic, but as I listened to those dark portrayals, I saw the worth of the simplicity of just a person, a guitar and maybe a harmonica for good measure. I understood now, if a musician can strip back his music to the bear minimum and still captivate, they were among the most highly accomplished.

As Jon strummed the most popular song on his Colour in the Sky album, Red Telephone, singing “why don’t you call me on red telephone,” then adding “it’s 01380…” it produced a belly-laugh. I doubted it would elsewhere, being the audience recognised it as their own area code. I then considered if I need review this gig at all.

For Jon Amor is to Devizes as Springsteen is to New Jersey. He was among natives last night and with stripped back versions, some amusing covers and local banter, all knew what they’d come for. Do I really need to elucidate his excellence on a website with a commonly Devizes demographic?

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Do I need to outline how great the evening was and what great company we were in, being over the last year and half, the Southgate has become widely known as Devizes haven for live music and friendly, grassroots atmosphere? It’s rough and ready, it makes do with what it has, but the Southgate is, simply, the best pub in town for music, through dependability. You can scroll through Devizine to see what’s going on locally, don’t let me put you off that, but if you’re ever stuck for something to do, you need not, just head down there, because nearly every Friday and Sunday, and defo each Saturday you’ll find a cracking band or solo artist doing their thing without regulations, without pretence.

During the week it’s either quiz night or an acoustic jam Wednesday, we know what Deborah and Dave have blessed us with, need I really go on? It is Sunday, for crying out loud! I left only a two-word note on my phone for this review, “Word Up,” a reminder that Jon did a comical cover of. The rest of the time was spent catching up with friends amassed for Mr Amor, for free, as that is the ethos of the Southgate. So, do I really need to review this evening, when everyone who is anyone in Devizes attended, even both Devizine’s roving reporters? Maybe I could delegate the task to Andy?!

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Do I even need to whip out my little… (wait for it) … camera, when our own Nick Padmore is stood at the front with his sizable lens? Ack, I suspect you’re thinking now, lazy bugger; probably hungover. But truth be told, after walking uphill to town from my village for the past few weekends, I couldn’t face it this time, so I drove. Proof with the cracking combination of Jon Amor and the Southgate, with this blagger’s addition it was free, and so many gathered to chew the ears off, I needed not to intoxicate myself to have a blinding night. Shit, does this imply I’m mature? Bugger, I need to make up for lost time and have a Sunday afternoon drinkie. That’s me out of here, and no doubt unconscious on the sofa right after dinner!

Yet one thing you can be sure of, you need not feel sorrow if you missed it, The Southgate, check it out on our event guide, will continue to bring us many a grand and memorable night with Devizes written all over it, even if the enormity of Jon Amor is rare, you’ll never not be entertained by brilliantly sourced live music. Amen.


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


 

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REVIEW –Skinny Molly – 21st June 2019 @ Long Street Blues Club, Devizes

Sweet Home Devizes

Andy Fawthrop

Just when you think the current season is over at Long Street Blues Club, Ian Hopkins sneakily adds a couple more gigs.

First up on tonight’s Friday gig, playing support, was local troubadour Vince Bell who delivered his usual thoughtful and well-polished set. Vince doesn’t always play the most cheerful or upbeat songs but, as he remarked later, he tends to go with the flow of whatever mood he’s in at the time. The audience didn’t give too much of a toss about that, judging by the well-deserved applause he received.

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Then Skinny Molly, a Tennessee-based four-piece, hit the stage to thunderous applause and got straight down to work. From the very first minute we were in rock territory, with heavy driving bass and drums, fronted by a pair of hot guitarists who meant business. This was loud-and-proud, take-no-prisoners rock and roll. And the guys looked the part too – plenty of black leather, hats, long hair, tattoos. Sounded like a rock band, looked like a rock band. All boxes ticked.

A couple of numbers in and the band hit Steve Earle’s Copperhead Road at full speed, an absolutely belting version of this great song, quickly followed by the band’s own If You Don’t Care, complete with squealing guitar solo. The crowd was getting warmed up now and we knew we were in for something special. The Devil In The Bottle served up all the standard licks, followed by a stunningly good version of Free’s Wishing Well.

Only after this did the band rein it in a bit to draw breath and to indulge in a little chat and audience participation. But then we got lots of good stuff about “the look” and how their wanderings around Devizes earlier in the day had gone down with some of the locals. Sainsbury and Poundland will never be the same again.

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But then we were back to the music – including Sweet Home Alabama (what else from the children of Lynyrd Skynyrd??) which turned into a bonkers dance-floor-filler. Following rapturous applause we got a double-number encore, culminating in (what else?) Freebird, which morphed into a belting long jam of a number before everyone retired to a darkened room to have a quiet lie-down.

Great band, great gig.

Tickets still available for next Friday’s gig at Long Street Blues Club – Watermelon Slim, one of the blues greats.

 


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


 

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Mod R&B Legend, Georgie Fame Coming to Devizes!

Update:

Tickets for Friday 8th November are Here!

 

I’ll probably get told off by my mum for adding this photo, but I love it. My parents and friends at a dance in Shoreditch Town Hall, 1964. Dad captioned the bands were Screaming Lord Such and The Rockin’ Berries. How cool those mods looked!

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Zip forward to 2004 and tired of taking my mum to see mod legend, Georgie Fame, my dad dropped us off in Camberley. It was an awesome night, he played a homage to Ray Charles who had passed that week, and told some great stories. One about Mitch Mitchell, the drummer in his band, the Blue Fames. After checking out an American guy in a club nearby their gig in 1966, Mitch ran back to tell the band how awesome he was, and was soon signed to The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Georgie’s son played guitar at the event, did an amazing solo of Hendrix’s Red House. And of course, Mr Fame, aged sixty-one at the time and still looked cooler than the mods in this photo, played his plethora of hits, “Yeah Yeah,” “Do the Dog,” and “The Ballad of Bonnie & Clyde.” Though I don’t recall my personal favourite, “Somebody Stole my Thunder,” a mod classic which still gets people up today; I know, played at the Scooter Club’s family fun day.

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With my mum, incessantly inquiring if I thought he’d remember a club in the East End he used to play at, regularly in my earlobe becoming somewhat irritating, after the gig and standing waiting for my Dad to pick us up, I noted Georgie gathered with just a handful of people by a car. “I don’t know!” I huffed, pointing the figure of this senior chap out to her, “why don’t you go ask him?!”

My mum quivered like a star-struck teenager, “oh no, I couldn’t possibly do that!”

“Ahk! He’s standing right there!!” But alas, anxiety got the better of her. It pushed into my mind, that we were all young and impressable once, we all idolised heroes. Yet, though I may shudder to recall some of my own lax, eighties idolisations, I have to admit, Georgie Fame would’ve been one cool one to follow, if I lived in that era.

But time is an illusion my friend, for just when you thought we’d seen the end of The Devizes Arts Festival for the year, they today whack us with the announcement Georgie Fame is coming to Devizes on Friday 8th November, playing a one off at the Corn Exchange. I knew this, Margaret whispered her secret some weeks ago, been aching to announce it since!

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I will let you know when tickets are out, but this fantastic news. This Lancashire lad is a legend on the rhythm and blues scene, played alongside rock n roll heroes like Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran, and an idol to mod/soul aficionados as one of the first British Caucasians to be influenced by ska. Whether you lived through the sixties or not, this is an absolute teaser to forthcoming Arts Festival events, and I thought I was done praising them for the year!


 

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


 

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REVIEW –Devizes Arts Festival Fringe – Josephine Corcoran – 16th June @ The Vaults, Devizes

Penultimate Parade of Poetry

 

 Written by Andy Fawthrop

Images by Gail Foster (except the one of Gail Foster)

 

Another gig on the final day of Devizes Arts Festival, and something a bit different for the penultimate performance of the Free Fringe – a nice portion of poetry.

Down into the dungeons of The Vaults for this one – a perfect venue for a spoken-word event (The Vaults doesn’t have a music licence). After availing myself of an appropriate libation from the wide range of craft keg and cask beers/ lagers/ ciders in the upstairs bar (where the staff were still recovering from the shock of actually getting to see and serve our esteemed leader Darren the day before [They were delighted Andy, didn’t even take my cash- Ed],) I descended into the cellar to meet the very charming Josephine Corcoran. Josephine is not only a poet, but also a playwright (having had two plays performed on BBC Radio). She also runs a regular poetry group in nearby Trowbridge.

A goodly-sized audience (including a few poetry virgins) had assembled and enjoyed two sets of poetry. In each set Josephine read both from her latest publication (“What Are You After?”) as well as some newer unpublished poems, followed by half a dozen or so local contributors in an “open mic” slot. Josephine’s contributions were thoughtful, personal and close to home, as we learned from her careful introductions to each piece. The efforts from the floor varied in style and tone (including Gail Foster’s fine villanelle regarding the passage of time and of people), comic reflections on luxury toilets and on sex, together with more personal and reflective pieces on topics such as loss of loved ones, memory, separation and even anger. Standard stuff for a Sunday afternoon down the Vaults really. But, seriously, a hugely enjoyable and well-attended event. Hopefully we can do something similar next year too.

Josephine’s latest book is called “What Are You After?” (published 2018 by Nine Arches Press) and you can find out more about her, and her poetry, at www.josephinecorcoran.org

The Vaults’ Poetry Group meets monthly at 7pm on various dates TBA. Next meeting is on Wednesday 26th June. Each month a theme is set as a prompt to inspire new work. You can come with your own work, bring poetry by someone you admire, or just come for a listen. This month, a topic suggested by the latest guest at our table is “Addiction”. Who knows where that one will go? It’s sure to be deep, with a smattering of the light-hearted and supportive conversation that is the hallmark of this poetry group. Work, screens, exercise, love – the scope for addiction is as diverse as the waves on the sea, but is there a thread that links them all? Bring along your work and let’s explore together.

And well done (yet again) to Devizes Arts Festival for putting this on as a Free Fringe event.

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REVIEW –Devizes Arts Festival Fringe – The Hot Club – 16th June @ Three Crowns, Devizes

Hot Club, Cool Atmosphere!

Andy Fawthrop

 

The final day of Devizes Arts Festival, and a day that featured some of the Free Fringe Events.

Seems like a long time ago (was it only last Summer?) that I was in the rather pleasant courtyard of The Three Crowns listening to some good music on a lazy Sunday afternoon. But here I was again, and it all came flooding back in an instant.

Founded and led by guitarist Alex Bishop, The Hot Club consists of various combinations of musicians in various formats, ranging from a simple two-guitar set-up, all the way up to a full six-piece. They meet up at The Pound Arts Centre in Corsham, where Alex is usually based. Alex also has a local folk trio called Effra.

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Our roving reporter Andy caught on camera! Image by Gail Foster

Anyhow, the music for today’s occasion was provided by a trio of instrumentalists (two guitars and double bass), three very relaxed guys knocking out some classic 1930s gypsy jazz tunes in the style of Django Reinhardt. This style of music was born in the pavement cafes of Paris, so I suppose a courtyard of a pub in Devizes is a pretty close match, right? Anyhow, the atmosphere was swinging and relaxed (chilled? yes- even in the welcome sunshine!). The packed crowd loved it, and even the (well-behaved) dogs were barking in appreciation. The wind occasionally tried to lift the small marquee, but no-one was going to let the elements spoil what was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.

If you want to know more about The Hot Club head over to www.hotclubjazz.co.uk . They seem to be very popular for weddings, parties and private functions!

I’m sure there’ll be more Sunday afternoon gigs in this great venue over the Summer, so watch out for announcements from The Three Crowns on Facebook.

And well done (yet again) to Devizes Arts Festival for putting this on as a Free Fringe event.

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Grupo Lokito Brings a Cuban-Congolese Fusion to Devizes Arts Festival

Images by Gail Foster

 

Can’t come out to play today, despite the finale of Devizes Arts Festival is all totally free. Three fringe events across town; The Hot Club (opps, nearly typed hot-tub then) at the Three Crowns at 1pm, Josephine Corcoran reading her poems and an open-mike session at the Vaults at 5pm and last, but not least, they’ve Circu5 closing the festival at the Cellar Bar, Bear Hotel at 8pm.

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For me, what’s been the best Devizes Arts Festival line-up ever, came to an explosive and marvellous conclusion last night when the Corn Exchange filled with the absolutely unique and gorgeous sound of Grupo Lokito. A packed Saturday night of the widest demographic you’d expect in Devizes, proves word is out; they’ve made a fool of anyone who attains this pompous, straitlaced pigeonhole they’ve so wrongly picked up. It has been a surfeit of talented and quality entertainment, amazingly diverse, and something our town should be very proud of.

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My thanks and praises go to all the organisers, who’ve worked their socks off but retained a smile and positive attitude throughout. So as the band members of Grupo Lokito mingled in the foyer, there was an atmosphere of delight for if this sundry group blend into a city’s world music setting, they were certainly a breath of fresh air in Devizes.

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The further away our ears travel from our perceived impressions of music, taken from what we’re exposed to at home, the harder it is, I think, to pinpoint and define the variety of styles. That’s what makes world music so fascinating. But, without recognisable covers or pastiches, and such a free-flowing sound, it does make a review somewhat tricky to write. Not helped by our brilliantly informative interview with Grupo’s keyboardist and manager Sara McGuiness, who outlined the nature of the band’s style.

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It intrigued me, Sara labelling the sound of the Buena Vista Social Club nostalgic and polarized, despite its positive effect in spreading Cuban music, to just how this night was going to go down. Indeed, Salsa dance classes had congregated, with their magnificently sassy style and gracefully romantic moves, yet I questioned if the music fitted. Salsa dancing tends to make use of traditional Rhumba, this was definably not. It was contemporary dance, do-what-ever-you-like dance, so while the salsa dancers didn’t look out of place, some arbitrarily bobbed along (myself included) and others tried to mimic the frontmen’s choregraphed hip movements, like guests on the Generation Game, none of it mattered. The concentration was on pure enjoyment of this glorious and peripheral style of music and it was thus.

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Evenly paced throughout, I observed this Cuban-Congolese fusion ecstatically. Noticing African sounds, like township jive in a particular tune, only for the next to be decidedly Cuban, and what followed them, a curiously exciting blend of the two to the point it neither mattered nor favoured one over the other; it’s just marvellous music without labels.

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I tingled when popping back to the foyer to ensure Devizes Market Place still existed and I wasn’t at Womad, informing photographer Gail it felt like I was on was holiday, a holiday I couldn’t actually afford!

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And that, in a nutshell, is the indication of a quality and exotic night. A big group hug for the Devizes Arts Festival, what a super conclusion…. Can we book Ziggy Marley next year, otherwise how are you going to top that?!

 

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Just Comedy Friends; Ed to Follow

Broken Down on the M25 Wednesday, the Devizes Arts Festival comedy event, Ed Byrne and Friends unfortunately altered to just friends.

 
Then the mobile rang…. A call from Beano artist Kev F. On any other occasion this would’ve been a most welcomed call, but I was rubbing my forehead on a plush street in Bath when I was supposed to be setting up a table at the Bristol Comic Expo. My debut stand at a convention, the next evolutionary stage of comic glory, rather than the usual sauntering the site, lugging a bag chockful of my smutty outpourings, chatting and hoping to flog a comic or two.

The curse was an egg-shaped black rubber ring, which I held in greasy fingers while frowning in abundance. Like an elephant’s trunk suspended on an earring, this was, I’d just discovered, what supported the exhaust pipe of my VW Polo, which now dragged along the road beneath the car. Bit of a design fault, I was eventually informed, fortunately from a ‘mechanic’ passer-by, once the ring bent out of shape, the exhaust dropped.

He eavesdropped my apologies, as I explained the situation to Kev. We talked of my destination, and because of the interest he exhibited, I gifted him a comic, hoping he’d fix the car. I then ventured underneath it, an attempt to assign the ring back onto its bar, and hopefully attach the exhaust pipe; breakdown services for losers! Needless to say, the effort futile. I appeared from under the car to the sound of the mechanic giggling; the guy engrossed in my homemade publication! “No,” he explained the aforementioned design fault. Humm, I see that now. “Thanks for the comic,” he acknowledged, and whistled off on his way.

A wedge of abandoned broken bin held it, not quite long enough to make it to Bristol, but after a few pitstops I arrived, fashionably late. Tense, irritated and in no mood to greet people with plastic smiles and laughs, I spent the day hoofing and sulking. My point to this anecdote, other than I’ve not much of a review to write about Ed Byrne and Friends? When vehicles breakdown on an imperative assignment, nothing is more frustrating. Therefore, to the hundreds sitting uncomplainingly in the Devizes Corn Exchange Wednesday, perhaps it’s best Ed Byrne didn’t make it.

Rescheduled for September, if he had of made it, would he have been on top form, would comical genius spurt from his mouth? Yeah, he’s professional, suppose. Still, I’d favour the feverishly brilliant observational comedy routine, the like we’ve come to expect from Ed would be best served cold. An odds-on at the bookies he’ll open with the tale of his primary attempt to make it to our backwater. Not everyone could conjure an amusing story of being stuck on the M25, I bet Ed could. That’s why these people rule the comedy circuit. See above, I’m capable of writing a comic tale of woe, but I’d never acquire the valour to perform it before an audience; it takes guts and a chunk of lunacy.

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Chris Stokes Image: Gail Foster

The support acts then, did a grand job. Opening act Chris Stokes vastly different in style to David Hadingham, who followed. Akin to a lovechild of Mickey Flanigan and Bill Hicks, I’d argue David had the posture, the visual comedy, and through crazy expressions could, just, carry off a corny gag. But his style akin to a working-man’s club, was coarse, banal but often hackneyed. References to masturbation and psychedelia pigeonholed him as outrageous, though the quality of the jokes have to match that panache.

For me, David started off brilliantly but declined somewhat, while Chris, more stiff and static to begin with, especially considering he had to break the ice after the devastating blow Ed may not appear, by joking about said devasting blow, grew in wittiness. Through local observations of his bus journey from Chippenham, to a set routine about his Black Country homeland, he improved with each laugh that passed, and importantly, had  incomparable originality. Thick and tough those laughs hailed through the Corn Exchange.

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David Hadingham. Image: Gail Foster

No doubt both these guys were remarkably funny, easing the blow dramatically, yet I’d argue Chris was the better of the two, as he played to the mostly, conventional audience. Well done to both for covering the absence of Ed, an unfortunate turn of events. Least, I think, we’d be set for a better performance from him in September than one after a car breakdown.

 

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Vinyl Realm Hosts New Stage at DOCA Street Festival

Yeah, it’s a toasty secret I’ve been busting to spill the beans on for eons; and we’re gathered here today to announce the line-up!

Sometime ago I suggested a local affair for DOCA’s amazing street festival on 26th August, just a small marquee-fashioned area, I imagined, set aside to highlight our local acoustic musicians. Like most of my ideas though, I throw away all practicalities and left it up to a fellow worker to causally whisper it’s a Monday and I’d be working in the morning!

Similarly, though, Pete of Vinyl Realm wanted to do something along these lines, and I’m delighted to announce he has taken the project under his wing and only gone done it, with bells on. The idea has expanded to a full-sized stage, with a great line-up that I’m here today to tell you about.

So, well done to Pete, Loz, et all, who’ve worked tirelessly to sort this out. Next week I’ll be chatting with Loz of DOCA about carnival and the street festival in general, but for now, all eyes on this, set to be the loudest alternative corner of the street festival, ever!

At this point, times of the bands performing are unconfirmed, as it needs to coincide with acts on the main stage. While DOCA’s booking of some fantastic international acts each year, it leaves us eager to know what they’ve in store for August; it’s secret left for you to buy a programme. But do save some room in your wandering for the Vinyl Realm Presents stage at the corner St Johns and Long Street, bang outside the shop.

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Ah, the new four-piece indie-rock band I’ve been harking on about recently, Daydream Runaways will be playing. Wiltshire-based Ben Heathcote on vocals, Cam Bianchi on Guitar, Nath Heathcote on Bass and drummer, Brad Kinsey. Citing influences from the likes of The Killers, The Strokes and Sam Fender, Airborne, they also praise Fleetwood Mac, The Stones and Talking Heads. We reviewed their excellent single Light the Spark a few months ago, and have high hopes for this youthful bunch.

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Whisked away on one awesome, blissful journey through sound after just one listen of their debut album, I, Cosmonaut, Cracked Machine have been mentioned and rightfully praised on Devizine over the last year. Formed in Wiltshire also, in 2015, local space-rock hypnotists, weaving “mesmerising grooves, infectious riffs and layers of sonic texture to create compelling and original soundscapes which take fellow cosmic explorers on an exhilarating trip through the cosmos.” This is Pink Floyd likened space-rock, meeting ambient trance for a new generation, yet their second album, The Call Of The Void, reflects a harder, rock edge, we’re talking Hawkwind here, and it’s reverie style will hold you spellbound.

 

Deemed the headline act, Cracked Machine is a quartet of experienced musicians, brought together in a quest for aural mayhem; Bill Denton on guitar, Clive Noyes on keys samples and vocals, Chris Sutton on bass and Blazej Gradziel on drums. They play the Southgate today, and are a welcome blessing to our local scene.

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Vibrant retro-rock fusion with folk and neo-gothic, Somerset/Hampshire’s Strange Folk UK is one I’ve not heard of, and look forward to. The band’s roots are in folk, and distinct rock aspirations are tempered by a recognisable folk vein running through their songs to varying degrees. Dark impressive vocals ride the crest of a truly great sound that transports the listener to another time.

Quoting their influences may divulge that time; sixties psychedelic legends such as Dylan, Janis Joplin, T-Rex, The Doors, Free, Hendrix, and Jethro Tull, there’s mod influences too like The Who, and Genesis, and harder rock like Zeppelin and Judas Priest.

Between bands, we announce acoustic artists, Devizes singer-songwriters, Marland favourite Tom Littlefair and the brilliant Ben Borrill, topped off with a local funky soul DJ set from Usaf. I’m truly delighted to bring you this news, reckoning this is addition is going to really add a whole new musical dimension to this already fantastic gem on Devizes event calendar. As well as all of DOCA’s exciting circus, street theatre side stalls, rides and games, it now stands at two stages large, double the fun!

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Oh, and I do believe Devizine has the exclusive on this one; expect a plagiarising Gazelle or Herod along any moment. Please feel free to share our posts, but if republishing them observe copyright and quote Devizine as the source; basic etiquette, thanks!

 

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She Robot Assimilates the British

Images used with kind permission of

Gail Foster.

 

Summer Sunday afternoons in the beer garden of the British; it’s a Devizes thing, a ritual stretching back long before I anchored on these shores. Yet it’s unusual for an android to be found there. In all truth, if any kind of automaton did start socialising on the pub scene, the British Lion would probably be bottom of the list. There’s nothing modern or chic about this favoured watering hole, no ultramodern silver-plated décor, just a good bunch of humans, the odd canine, a happy atmosphere and casks of affordable drinks.

The name of this Devizes Arts Festival free fringe event somewhat misleading, I expected She-Robot to be mysteriously mechanical, and gregariously unresponsive, akin to a robot, even if it was to be that she wasn’t really a robot. I suspected weirdness, machinelike repartee, as the name suggests. Instead, Suzy Condrad is most definitely human, affable, humoured and inspired, wearing her heart on her sleeve regarding her art, and modest with her talent.

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Queen of the Boss loop station, this multi-instrumentalist, one-woman band interlaces, effects and autoharp, glockenspiel, thumb piano and random objects to produce a unique sound, reflecting synth-pop and electro of yore, yet with a twist of contemporary ambient house like a strong bassline, and perhaps most poignant, her echoing voice and beatboxing.

She Robots hails from Bristol, her loose, avant-garde repertories remind me of Portishead, least the Bristol techno downtempo scene, to an extent, yet it’s more inimitable and individual. Captivating the audience to silence as she glides through her own compositions, and discretely reassigned covers like Kate Bush’s Running up that Hill, and one I virtually missed the source of through her own take, KRS-1’s Sound of the Police.

So yep, there’s something unquestionably electro-80s about Suzy, archiving influences I suspect from Depeche Mode, Joy Division and Yazoo, to perhaps the Art of Noise. Yet, here’s the thing, the style, the namesake gave me this preconception it’d be Kraftwerk-stiff and structured, Art of Nose secretive, but the sound flowed stunningly, ambiently and she spoke with poise and ease during prolonged breaks as she aligned her technology and instruments to perfection; far more down-to-earth than your typical robot.

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She jested, with accounts of previous gigs, such as excusing malfunctions in her loop-pedal as mud from a festival, or recounting an amusing episode gigging in Camden where the sound of an ambulance siren got caught in the loop-pedal. See, robots don’t do that, they cannot articulate socially, joke and frantically dance like a raver, with all the joy of presenting her music unto us, and that, was the most appealing part of She-Robot’s show.

So, I could argue her one-woman-band was not the master of a particular instrument, more so, the skill is the precise timing, using that loop-pedal like an instrument all of its own. I pondered what atrocity of unorganised clamour I’d create given half a turn on the thing! Yet to turn away, you’d be forgiven for thinking there was a full band up there.

Aptly, and prior to her encore, Suzy finished on Blue Monday, pure and effective nod to her principle influences, and doubtlessly as it’s an irresistible foot-tapper. But along with her genial charisma, and immense skill, it was the individuality which allured me, and her use of the ukulele, in particular, to bless the otherwise electro-synth pop sound with a reggae skank; trust me to pick up on that!

If I was informed in the past, the free fringe events of Devizes Arts Festival often failed to attract attention, it was not the case here. I hope I’m getting through those who may wear this out-of-date typecast of what the Arts Festival is about, because let’s not name and shame, I’ll admit I was once like you, but now I’ve seen the light.

 

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REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival – Moscow Drug Club – 7th June @ Exchange Night Club, Devizes

Drugs Down In The Bin!

By Andy Fawthrop

 

Well, sort of. Bear with me. In fact this was yet another Devizes Arts Festival offering that turned out to be an absolute cracker of a gig.

Descending into The Corny Bin, or The Exchange Night Club to be precise, I wondered why this particular venue had been chosen for this particular gig. But as soon as I got in there, it was flippin’ obvious. The place had been set out with plenty of tables and chairs, the lights had been set to low and sleazy, and the crowd packed into every last place had created exactly the right ambience. We were in a real nightclub – old school! As Katya, lead singer of the band, remarked immediately she came on stage: ‘wow! This place is for us! This is where we should live!’ Indeed.

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Moscow Drug Club describe themselves as “transcendent troubadours of gypsy cabaret and swing” and that’s exactly what we got. Material ranged from their own self-penned compositions, a couple from Eartha Kitt, via way of Louis Armstrong, Jacques Brel’s “The Port Of Amsterdam”, Charles Aznavour and Tom Waits. And, was that a nod towards Django Reinhard? Leonard Cohen?
Each number took us a different musical place, a different atmosphere – Berlin cabaret, Hot Club de France, old Tangiers, eastern Europe. But it was always dark, earthy, sweaty, smoky. We were in the 30s, now the 40s, now the 50s. We were listening to blues, to jazz, to gypsy swing rhythms.
It was a heady and intoxicating mixture, delivered with some style. Canadian Katya Gorrie led from the front with some cool, dark, sleazy vocals, ably assisted by her splendid 5-piece band. Stand-out performer for me was Jonny Bruce on trumpet, who belted out some astonishing solos, as well as filling in the rhythm with some spicy interjections. And I cannot remember the last time I actually heard a double bass solo (delivered with aplomb by Andy Crowdy) and where an entire room of drinkers was reduced to awe-inspired silence.

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The whole concert was fantastic, delivered with style, humour, great musicianship and plenty of warmly-felt audience engagement. For me this was a superb all-round performance – I gave it 5 out of 5, and my companion (who is notoriously difficult to please) declared it to be the best gig I’d ever taken her to! The crowd absolutely lapped it up, and the fully-deserved encore featured the song that began it all for the band:
“Moscow Drug Club – it’s a secret rendezvous!

Moscow Drug Club – where the Reds play the Blues!”

If you’d like to see and hear more of Moscow Drug Club, head over to their website at http://moscowdrugclub.com/ which includes a list of their future gigs for the rest of the year.

So – well done (yet again) to DAF for booking this wonderfully bonkers band, and bringing them to our town!

Don’t forget there’s plenty more music and other stuff before the Festival finishes on 16th June. If you haven’t done so yet, get yourself a ticket and get along to see something!

 

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Billy Green 3; Should not be Moved

On my holibobs last week, local Geordie Britpop/mod musician Bill Green of trio Billy Green 3, (not to be confused with the British-Upper Canadian scout who saw victory at the Battle of Stoney Creek, naturally) messaged a YouTube link to his debut single, “I Should be Moved.” Promised to get on it this week, finally made it; procrastination rules, but glad I did.

Impartial towards Britpop, it’s not Marmite, I take it or leave it. In my defence, during the era rave was the thing, Madchester just a slice and not a principally progressive slice when compared with breakbeat. To shock horror of Oasis fans, I sauntered past them on the NME Stage at Glasto 94; never heard of them, never cared to; I was hunting hi-tech party vibes, not a Beatles tribute.

I try to decipher if my appreciation of the genre has matured, or if it’s the forceful sixties-mod element which, while present in Britpop generally, seems particularly prominent in Billy Green 3’s style. The words and riff echo a Britpop classic for catchiness, studio noise and tambourine intro and, especially, the chorus though, rings the simplicity of sixties mod. With the modern component of a perfectly placed sample, the circle is complete, Samuel L Jackson’s one-liner as Pulp Fiction’s Jules Winnfield completes it. “Sounds great, Bill,” I replied after a tinny listen on my phone’s speaker, because it does. Grown on me more, now I’ve got it on loud.

If anything, the magnitude of this slick three-minute ride spurs me bookmark Billy Green’s next local gig, though none listed yet; watch this space. Meanwhile I wanted to gage Billy about what the recording side equates to. “I assume it’s an original song,” I asked, “written by you?” and fired several other minor questions all at once, at least England was one-nil up…. at that point.

“First recording with the new project, me and a young lad called Harvey Schorah on drums, backing Vox and all-round vibes,” Bill replied. “I wrote the words and music, played guitar, bass and sang lead and backing vocals. Martin Spencer [The Badger Set, Potterne] produced. He’s a magician, essentially, he took the song in my head and made it come out of the speakers; just love this creative process in addition to the recent live shows.”

On what this will spur, Billy explained, “second song in mixing as we speak, and then hopefully will work out how to put them out as a mini EP.” Posted on their Facebook page today, we may get a listen to it, Lose Our Way, at 7pm.

Drafting my next question, for the review lead us onto football, I mouthed my thoughts that England are sitting back on a 1-0 and then, oh dear (or words to that effect!)

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“Brilliant,” Billy added, “the review, not the football, they were poor on the first half apart from the penalty, still time though; being a Newcastle fan sometimes optimism is all you have!”

This fell appropriately onto my last question; does Bill think Newcastle had a scene during the Britpop era to rival Manchester?

“Prior to Britpop I think,” He suggested, “later 80s, there was a label called Woosh, my mate’s band, the Nivens were on there and ran on Flexi discs. There’s a retrospective out called C87 which was named after the NMEs C86, but a couple of decades later, they’re on there, so jangly guitar pop; the Nivens actually opened for the Smiths. Club nights at the Broken Doll and the Riverside, basically was my musical apprenticeship, introduced me to so many great bands. Moving into the 90s, there was more of a grunge scene with Cranes etc, now there is a resurgent drone scene with a hotel in Byker putting on Japanese noise artists, it’s a bit bonkers.”

“Bonkers could describe any current pop scene in the UK though,” I scoffed.

“Fair point,” Bill nodded, “Alan McGee doing his bit for guitar bands with the Creation23 label, and This Feeling are putting on some good nights. I work in London a bit, so have been to a few of their club nights. Met up with the now defunct the Shimmer Band from Bristol, who I thought were destined for great things. DMAs came out of that scene, from Australia, and are now heading festivals, think Shame came up through there, my mate’s band Free Money are booked in, they even did the last Lexus ad, which is a bit mad. I guess I’ll always be a fan of the get a group of mates together and play in a garage until someone notices you route.”

Well, that’s been the ethos for many a decade and never did the garage scene of the sixties any harm. Stuff the Simon Cowell karaoke TV show fiasco, Billy Green 3 is archaic in fashion, just enough to know the score, yet fledgling to fit into the burgeoning music scene here; I think “I Should be Moved,” puts a stamp on that; take a listen and decide for yourself.

 

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Legally Blonde Jnr Comes to Devizes

You got into Harvard Law?

What? Like, it’s hard?

Hey, get your flaxen Barnett around this; Legally Blonde, rom-com, chick-flick adaptation of Amanda Brown’s novel of the same name is eighteen years old. Yeah, like, I know right. Two years later they made the sequel; although a smash at the box office, it never raised a reviewer’s eyebrow, banally crashing the blonde versus brunette joke which Archie Comics carried for over seventy years.

Yet the initial movie stands the test of time, I like it and chick-flick generally isn’t my thing; lack of spaceships blowing things up, see?! The foreseeable gags enhanced by Reese Witherspoon’s amusing characteristics, at a time when The Spice Girls’ run of “girl power” was fading. Challenging the blonde stereotype with comical narrative was a peg in female equality and certainly the break for Reese; ummm, Reese Witherspoon…… where was I? Oh yes, female equality.

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Like many trailblazing films, it received a theatrical reworking by 2007. Premiered on Broadway, Legally Blonde had an efficacious three-year-run at London’s Savoy and picked up many awards. Now, directed by Oliver Phipps and Hayley Baxter with musical direction from Naomi Ibbetson, it has found its way, least a “Jnr” version, to our own Wharf Theatre.

Legally Blonde Jr. The Musical opens at the Wharf Wednesday 24th July, runs until Saturday 27th (7.30pm each evening with a 2.30pm Saturday Matinee) and promises to be pink: “The Musical is a fun and sassy journey of self-empowerment and expanding horizons, with instantly recognizable songs, this show will leave cast members and audiences alike seeing pink!”

Plot being, if the film passed you by: The Delta Nu sorority president, Elle Woods, seems to have it all; good looks, a relationship with the campus catch and a great taste in clothes. However, her life is turned upside down when her boyfriend, Warner, dumps her to attend Harvard Law School. Determined not to lose him Elle uses hard work and a fair degree of charm to get a place there herself so that she can prove she is serious and win him back. Whilst there she tackles stereotypes, snobbery and scandal but she also makes some great new friends along the way and gradually discovers how her new found knowledge of the law can really help others.

With music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin, again it’s a rousing and prevalent choice for the delightfully quaint Wharf Theatre. Tickets, £12 with under 16s £10, can be purchased from Ticketsource, at the Devizes Community Hub and Library on Sheep Street, or by ringing 03336 663 366. To find out what else is on at the Wharf pick up a Spring/Summer brochure which is available from the Community Hub and Library and many other outlets around Devizes.

 

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REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival – String Sisters –5th June @ St Andrew’s Church, Devizes

A Cracking Little Concert

By Andy Fawthrop

 

There’s so much to do and see in this year’s Devizes Arts Festival that it’s hard to pick out the best bits. From what I’ve already seen and heard, this year’s event is turning out to be another cracker, and there’s plenty still to go.

Today, for a bit of a change, I decided to go to church. No – I’ve not suddenly seen the light. I decided to go and see String Sisters in a lunchtime concert at St Andrew’s church in Long Street. The place wasn’t quite full. But not far off. And it turned out to be a good way to spend a lunchtime.

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Angharad and Lowri Thomas (can you tell that they are from that there Welsh Wales??) are sisters who play the violin and the viola respectively. They also play those instruments darned well. We were treated to a whole range of pieces from classical (Vivaldi, Bach) to modern (Can’t Help Falling In Love, Delilah) to tunes from the musicals (America from West Side Story, I Could Have Danced All Night from The King and I) and all beautifully wrapped up in some charming and funny anecdotes. These sisters not only knew how to play, but how to engage with the audience and therefore how to entertain.

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The concert was only an hour long (I could have listened all afternoon), but it was packed with goodies, and thoroughly entertaining – a little cracker of a concert.

Well done to DAF for finding String Sisters and bringing them to our town!

Don’t forget there’s plenty more music and other stuff before the Festival finishes on 16th June. If you haven’t done so yet, get yourself a ticket and get along to see something!

 

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Our Cheque to OpenDoors

Hey there, just a quick one from me today, mind, I say that then I start waffling, you know how it is!

 
Delighted to announce that I handed a cheque for the total sum of £225 to Devizes Opendoors today, from our fundraising events at the Bear Hotel’s Cellar Bar in Devizes last month.

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It was good to see the homeless charity still thriving, offering takeaway food after their cooked breakfast. Books and clothes are also available to takers; people in sheltered accommodation or sleeping rough in our neighbourhood. It has been over a year since I paid them a visit to highlight the good work they do, see the article here. It was great to know the followers of Devizine has contributed, even just this small amount to this often-overlooked charity.

 
With Devizes Opendoors saddened by the recent passing of one of their regular guests, Richard Manning early in May, the organisation could do some better news. They’ve raised funds from their recent Quiz Night, and The Sing Alive Choir’s event on the 11th May. You can find out from their exhibit at Devizes Health and Wellbeing event, and from the website, here.

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It was even better to acknowledge that we had fun doing it! Reminders of our two events can be read here, and here. Again, a massive thanks for all who attended, to Luke and the Cellar Bar staff for putting up with us. To Harvey and Finely Trusler of the lively Truzzy Boys, Jordan Whatley aka The Hound on the Mountain for that fantastic and expressive set, Gail Foster for brill photographs which just seem to get better with every snap, and her witty and poignant poetry interludes, and the gents of those brilliant Roughcut Rebels; Jamie Elly, Doug Wilcox, Mark Slade, and John Burns.

 
Of course, that was just the first night, an assortment of live music. For our second, all-reggae night the following Saturday we have Nick Newman, aka Razah, and Knati P, aka Clifton Powell to massively thank. Alongside their dedicated team who carried the equipment down those wonky steps to build the loudest sound system the Cellar Bar has ever witnessed, and stayed to party with us! Particularly Sam Chaloner for assisting the door and encouraging punters to come party.

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What comes next? Thanks for asking, but I’ve no idea. I’d like to get summer over and done with, so full of great events already. Then I’d like to do some more Devizine Presents gigs, using our many venues in town and highlighting the best of our local talent. There are many other charities I’d like to include and so, watch this space until the leaves fall from the trees (let’s not think about that yet though, eh?!)

 

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PREVIEW – White Horse Opera sing Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Mikado” – Saturday 15th June @ St Mary’s Church, Devizes

A Bit of Nanki-Poo in The Vize

By Andy Fawthrop

 

Do you like opera? What about “light” opera? With rather a lot of comedy thrown in? Good – because you’re really going to love this!

Last night I was privileged to attend the full dress rehearsal for “The Mikado” by the splendid White Horse Opera company. I was expecting something perhaps still a little rough round the edges, maybe the odd fluffed line, the occasional note or cue to be missed, but there was really none of that. The company had been rehearsing for months, had chosen their principals carefully, and were absolutely up for it.

Yet again – another gem in the entertainment crown of Devizes – we are so lucky to have these people doing this stuff!

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This particular bit of nonsense, a “comic opera” in two acts, with music by Arthur Sullivan and words by W.S. Gilbert, their ninth of fourteen operatic collaboration, opened in March 1885, in London, where it ran at the Savoy Theatre for 672 performances, the second-longest run for any work of musical theatre, and one of the longest runs of any theatre piece up to that time. Since then it’s been translated into numerous languages, and is one of the most frequently played musical theatre pieces in history. The setting is Japan, an exotic locale far away from Britain, which allowed Gilbert to satirise British politics and institutions more freely by disguising them as Japanese. And the company has done an excellent job of the now-traditional exercise in updating the lyrics of some songs to reflect politics Britain in 2019. Particularly pointed was Ko-Ko’s (The Lord High Executioner’s) song about who he’d like to execute (“I’ve got a little list, and they’ll none of them be missed”).

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It’s always difficult, and sometimes a little invidious, to pick out individual performances but I think it’s worth mentioning particularly Graham Billing, who delivered a hilariously nervous and dithering Ko-Ko, Charles Leeming as a wonderfully pompous and self-important Pooh-Bar (Lord High Everything Else), Lisa House as Yum-Yum, and the resilient Ian Diddams, playing The Mikado splendidly as a power-crazed modern dictator. But there were strong performances all round, from every member of the cast. It was so obvious that they were thoroughly enjoying what they do, delivering a top-notch production.

I’m not going to give the plot away, nor would I even attempt to summarise the complicated ins and outs leading to the hilarious denouement – suffice to say that the story is stuffed with disguises, mistaken identities, the fickleness of emotions, and the usual human drivers of fear and greed. The main characters ham it up splendidly, and deliver the songs with confidence and panache, squeezing every last drop of comedy out of the script.

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Given that it’s performed in modern dress, sung in English, and is a lau