Something I’m personally impartial about, though DOCA’s carnival consultation flagged it as a major issue for many, the recent date changes of carnival is set to be returned to the original date.…..
Announced this evening, DOCA said, “based on what we’ve heard, we have made the decision to move the Carnival back to the traditional date, the first weekend of September.”
Confetti Battle and the Colour Rush will remain on a Saturday, DOCA suggesting it’s “been a welcome change overall,” and will be set two weekends prior to Carnival. This will create the “Carnival Fortnight,” as it was before, alongside some fringe events of entertainment in collaboration with local businesses. The International Street Fair will stay in early summer.
The key dates for next year look at little something like this:
As sparkly as Elton John at his most sparkliest, Devizes Outdoor Celebratory Arts pulled the tinsel out of bag for the annual Winter Festival yesterday evening, leaving no niggles for a ‘review’ here, as such, just saying, and besides, if you live in or around Devizes, you were likely there anyway!
Edited out of my chat with one half of the new management team, Annabel, a few months ago, was the part where I described partaking in a lantern parade of yore, when the nippers were nippier and I was lesser of grey hair. It was met with a torrential storm, after we’d walked from St Johns, the lantern collection point, to the starting blocks at the Wharf. After a lengthly wait, while professional lantern makers gasconaded and kids became tiresome already, we marched on, around the entire town, arriving in the Market Place like war-torn soldiers. We carried freezing slain underarm, tired toddlers unable to stay concious and victims of gale forces gallantry still waving a bare stick in the air, of where a lantern once stood, only because it was frozen to their hand!
Okay, please allow slight exaggeration for artistic licence, but it was a trek even for the able-bodied. If the route these days is far more suitable, just a loop around the Market Place via Long Street and returning along the High Street, it was about the only change made, opting for all the custom aspects of the occasion; should keep the traditionalists content!
Except Devizes Town Council seemed to not warrant inviting Father Christmas to make for the high ground to make the light switch, as is tradition and a grand element of excitement for the little people, which was a shame. Otherwise, everything was in place for a wonderful time, this mild November evening.
The few art installations were aside the usual routes, so not trying the event to be akin to street festival, it was left to Devizes Town Band to entertain, under the memorial, which they did, kicking off with Hark the Herald Angel Sing; yep, definitely in the Christmassy mood now!
Devizes Young Farmers parked their tractors, adorned with fairy lights and tinsel, ahead of their Tinsel Run on Sunday 18th, a newer event by comparison, but over the last couple of years, fast also becoming a tradition. I’m unsure if they’ll keep all those lights on and flashing until the 18th, while working the fields, or if they take them all off again until the big day.
From the bustling Shambles to the Market Place crowds gathered, a variety of stalls, a great selection of tucker, and a busy craft fair in the Corn Exchange, coupled with the ever-fantastic lantern parade, which, once gathered the tree lights go on and the finale of fireworks commence. It’s the working method Devizes has seen in the season with for decades, and it made no sense to alter it; if it’s not broken…… congratulations again, DOCA, a super evening was had.
To look back at the pandemic as a terrible era in our lives is justified, but as with all hard times some positives came from it; how we can care and respect each other, how to try our best to carry on, and, how we can continue traditions we once took for granted. In the latter, changes were made to events and entertainment, some changes which worked remain. Devizes Outdoor Celebratory Arts, like all event organisers were under pressure to come up with some way of celebrating Christmas, Window Wanderland was it. So popular with Devizes residents it is great to see it happening this year.
DOCA invite our local community to create something special in their windows, to show just what an amazingly creative place Devizes is. This Winter Festival theme is ‘Cold Weather, Warm Hearts’ and they would love to see some windows decorated around this to feed into the other work they are doing across the weekend. This window extravaganza will run from 24th – 27th November 2022, from 5pm-9pm daily.
Anyone with a window can create a display which they hope will light up Devizes. Make sure you wrap up warm, get out and enjoy the change of window scenery. To take part is free, all you have to do is register your window. This will allow it to be included on the interactive map of Devizes, highlighting all the different window locations.
Threw my cards on the table, and pitched being Father Christmas at Devizes Winter Festival, but was informed that was arranged by the Town Council…. so, that’s that idea well and truly quashed! It was great, though, to meet Annabel, one half of the new management team of Devizes Outdoor Celebratory Arts, to chat on changes and new visions for carnival and the various other annual town events they organise……
It’s been an autumn since I quizzed former DOCA artistic director, Loz, on whether she had a say on choosing people for the role. I was glad her reply confirmed this, through fear fond events like the street festival might get all ‘village fete.’ Make no mistake, keyboard warriors on social media were quick to sound negativity on decisions taken by DOCA recently, but I’d argue Loz justified these rightfully, did an outstanding job stamping her own mark on DOCA. This came to an apex at this year’s street festival, with the mind-blowing Ceres display telling the Ruth Pearce story, something I’d dub Loz’s farewell gift to Devizes. Annabel was due to be production manager on the project, but caught covid, though she praised Baseline Circus who staged it, explaining she’d worked with them before and would use them again for DOCA.
And that’s where we open said episode, continuing from Loz’s input. I’m partly aware of Annabel’s past experience on the festival circuit, I was as pleased as punch to hear she’s taken on the role, and I came away from our chat at New Society positive this opens a new chapter for DOCA. If one reaction to changes made, such as moving the dates of summer events to spread the workload and effort, not forgoing allowing time for schools to participate better, was this rather insular notion Loz was not from the area. Rather I liked this aspect, Loz bought in acts we otherwise may never have known. Put your pitchforks away, Annabel really is Devizes born and bred. The role though has been split into two, as Bristol-based Ashley takes the artistic side responsible for booking acts; best of both worlds.
“Ashley and I really love that she split the job between us,” Annabel began, “you’ve still got the element of someone who’s got their finger on the pulse of the artists, and I’m from Devizes. But though I’m based here, I’ve got the experience of twenty years of doing different festivals!”
I asked her what festivals, Boomtown, Glastonbury, I knew of. “All of them really,” she responded, “Secret Garden Party, Leeds Festival, and over winter I’ve been working in Edinburgh, so, Hogmanay and their street party. So, quite a lot of variety, but I always come back here.”
Not beating about the bush, my first question was on Street Festival, because personally it’s my favourite! I love that we get these colourful and lively carnival type bands full of brass and blend of gypsy ska-folk type shenanigans, but I’m also keen to suggest the event also highlights local musicians too. I’ve also heard criticism of lengthy changeovers on the stage, where Loz expressed it was to allow for the circus sideshows, of which the sound of would be drained out by bands on stage.
This idea was met in 2019 when Vinyl Realm funded and organised a fantastic second stage, my vision is now driven towards getting local acts on the main stage, rather than it being a ‘bolt-on.’ My pitch suggests if we host a number of acoustic acts between main bands, it wouldn’t drown out the circus acts, would satisfy bar loiterers, and it would highlight our local circuit to an audience who perhaps doesn’t make it out to our pub-venues. I’m pleased she made a note of this, though it was perhaps better put to Ashley, who wasn’t present. “Ashley’s got some great ideas on that,” Annabel replied, “about bringing in different types of acts from different places, and also keeping it accessible locally as well.“
She toyed with this word, ‘accessible’ extending it to what’s important to her, “particularly in participation, whatever form that takes, whether it’s volunteering, attending, or performing, I want to make it accessible, finding out what will make it easier for people to enjoy it and in taking part as well.” Fire in the hole, golden opportunity for my summary on people’s, often passionate, feelings about the events, is it’s that delicate balance of pleasing everyone. “That’s the difficult bit,” Annabel confessed, “unfortunately you’re never going to please all the people all of the time, however I think by listening to people and communicating, would really help.”
And in fact, they’ve done precisely this, an online “carnival consultation” survey, which is still open, so too early to analyse results. Based solely on carnival, “because,” she explained, “I think there’s a particularly strong feeling DOCA wasn’t always listening to the people of Devizes, which they were to a certain extent, but maybe the communication wasn’t there, so we’re trying to make it as clear as possible, by opening it up and allowing people to have their say.” Annabel moved onto lower participation levels recently, due to difficulties of the pandemic era being “something we’d really like to address, and find out how we can make it easier for everyone.” A meeting about the results of the survey will follow, and really, you cannot ask for a better response than this, in my humble opinion!
There was one Facebook rant recently, comparing Devizes carnival with Pewsey’s, something I felt a tad unfair as Pewsey’s renowned reputation has taken decades to build, and a carnival is formed by people, Pewsey works because everyone comes out to play. “It takes an awful lot to get it to that level and keep it continuing,” Annabel mused, “it’s not a straight forward thing to do, and throwing in the spanner of a couple of years of nothing happening, and, yeah…” I trailed back to the tricky subject of satisfying everyone.
“The way we want to move forward is taking away the concept of us and them,” she expressed, “it’s all of us together, and that collates what you said as well, it needs to be something that everyone can feel they can get onboard with and get involved with, whether it’s something they’re already familiar with, or shared love of something new.”
If only those so quick to criticise could see, what I described as an iceberg, whereby it’s equal in size underwater as it is above, the inner-working of what it takes to stage these huge town events, they’d not, as dubious they do, take it somewhat for granted. Volunteering at this year’s street festival, which might’ve ended with me just clearing bins, opened my eyes to the mammoth task.
“Yes,” Annabel agreed, “and when you’re doing a good job, it’s when people don’t realise what’s going on behind the scenes, the amount of pre-planning, private funding, all of that sort of thing to bring it together, it’s a huge amount, especially these days when you’ve got all the red tape, but we trying to open it up, find out what’s going to make it easier for people to get involved, and do something about it. There’re a few different ideas we’ve outlined in the consolation, one idea was a ‘makers week,’ which could be weeks prior to carnival, where people who want to make something for carnival can come together and learn different skills.”
‘Together’ was becoming a word of the day, Annabel talking a lot on widening the volunteer spectrum to an almost ‘festival training core’ concept, and between this and her parenthood reasons for wishing to reduce her, what she described as “nomadic” festival life and be based here, “because I just love it,” is whyI came away positive from our chat.
The Winter Festival will be the proof in the pudding, Annabel and Ashley’s first DOCA event; had to wonder if this was possibly the most difficult of them to find a balance. “It’s all systems go,” she replied, “but I’m really excited about it already,” then told of the anticipation surrounding school’s lantern workshops, adding methods for creating similar enthusiasm for carnival.
For some unexplainable reasoning, I commenced waffling about Glastonbury festivals of yore, the different the weather makes, and we settled returning the conversation back to the beginning; changes, after Annabel spoke of Winter Festival’s indoor craft markets. “it’s difficult,” she responded, “but times do change. There’s a lot to be said for tradition, but a lot also to be said for new experiences; it’s about finding the right balance between the two, and making it work for as many people as possible, for the right reasons.”
As I said, I came away from our chat at New Society positive this opens a new chapter for DOCA, and I sincerely wish Ashly and Annabel the very best with their roles in our delightful carnival committee.
I believe I speak for most of us, when I say we all love that Devizes punches above its weight when it comes to hosting some grand universal events, such as yesterday’s historic, if bizarre local ritual, Confetti Battle. DOCA and others, such as the Devizes Food & Drink Festival, use the Market Place to be exactly what it was intended for, free social gatherings. They take a lot of organising, and are open to everyone to enjoy, or are they?
When the parking places in Market Place are occupied by an event and carparking is closed there, there is no provision or replacement for the absence of disabled bays, and a lack of them causes some disabled people to be unable to attend.
I spoke to Claire, who is disabled and lives in Devizes. Claire would’ve liked to attend the Confetti Battle this year, “I would like to attend Christmas events too,” she said, “but there is no option for disabled people to park.”
“I do appreciate how hard people work to make our lovely town fun,” Claire expressed, “but I had to miss last night because there was nowhere close enough to park.”
I must confess, in promoting our events I hadn’t stopped to consider this, and would like to be clear, this is, I suspect, an oversight on Devizes Town Council’s part. Therefore, I’m not out to point fingers and play the blame game, (ha, not this time!) rather to suggest some provision is introduced so when disabled bays are closed for events, suitable temporary bays can be created specifically for disabled badge-holders. “Even if one extra disabled person could enjoy the events,” Claire stated, “this will make a difference to someone’s life, rather waiting to see it all in Facebook, which is what I do.”
This is unfortunate and unfair, certainly unintentional, but I’m confident with some awareness spreading it’s easily resolved. I’d be interested to hear any town councillor’s views on this, their feedback would be helpful; hey, no, their feedback is essential! I will call out ignorance on the issue if not, (they know that by now!)
No large-scale event goes ahead without meeting requirements for the disabled, simple as. I’d suggest perhaps arranging a booking-in system so a specific number of parking bays can be reserved, this way everyone with a blue badge who wants to attend can, and needless spaces wouldn’t be used as disabled bays. That would take one DTC admin and one spreadsheet five minutes to produce.
“These events should be for all,” Claire asked me, “wouldn’t you agree?” That doesn’t need answering, Claire, not from me I’m afraid, I’m with you fully, and I’m here to pitch the same question to the powers that be. Perhaps there is some provision already in place that we don’t know of, but I’m happy to publish any such answer too.
I’m aware Wiltshire Council is introducing paying for disabled parking in their carparks, but that is a different topic for another time, don’t even get me started on that. We’re here today to assume something as simple as allowing space for disabled folk to accessibly park to be able to enjoy the events as we do, be resolved. Whether or not they have to pay for that space is the responsibility of Wiltshire Council, who, to be honest, I’m at my tethers end with anyway.
“I had to cancel plans this weekend in town,” Claire continued, “because I couldn’t park close enough. Not even close enough to get to the pharmacy, so I went without my pain relief.” We await your response with thanks, Devizes Town Council.
Jeepers. No one works that hard on a Sunday, surely? Even if your boss shoves a Sunday shift unwillingly on you, you brush as much as you can under the carpet; anything which can wait until Monday, should do. I’ve mentioned it in passing, but not given Jon Amor’s monthly residency at the Southgate full coverage before, because those who know, know anyway.…..
For procrastination isn’t in our Devizes’ blues living legend’s vocabulary, neither is the notion it’s only a free pub gig. Jon Amor and friends blows the Southgate down, every first Sunday of the month. The like you’d happily pay a ticket stub for, and he throughly loves every second of it.
It’s a pub Sunday roast with a difference; you’re the meat. Jon bangs up the heat and cooks like Heston Blumenthal on a promise, usually drafting in a renowned sous chef from his network of astounding bluesmen. On this occasion King Street Turnaround bassist, Jerry Soffe and quickfire drummer Tom Gilkes joined him, along with the single most dexterous keyboardist I’ve had the pleasure to witness, John Baggot.
With more to appease than Devizes blues afictionardos in the middle-aged mosh pit, being footfall decended clockwork from DOCA’s fantastic Picnic in the Park, Jon didn’t concern himself to warm the oven first, sizzling our tender loins with his signature ‘Juggernaut,’ I was assured from start, this was a hip rub with michelin star garnish.
Baggot was the gravy boat, seemingly improv throughout, his sublime skill at the keyboard poured the stock on so thickly, contrails were visible from his hands. Complimenting Jon, Tom and Jerry’s jam, it came together impeccably. We’re looking at the Devizes’ very own juke joint here, the tunes they played through unimportant when you’re going with the flow, the outstanding quality is the only element paramount for mentioning.
See, I’m a world music lover, mightily impressed by DOCA’s ethos of providing our town with these slices of something all together different for these back waters. But due to Dad’s taxi service I rocked up belated enough only to catch the finale of their carnival warmup at Hillworth; beguiling marimba rhythm band, London-based Otto & The Mutapa Calling. Their enchanting tempo breezed through the crowd and trees beyond, contrasting in genre to the familiarity of what was to follow a stone throw away at our Southgate. Yet to palsy-walsyily acquaint with electric blues is to Devizes what Merseybeat is to Liverpool or triphop to Bristol, Jon is the kingpin, and we love it with bells on.
The rare occasion timings between events occur in town like this, is fantastic, bit like sauntering between stages at Glastonbury, without the wellies. The sporadic spoils of DOCA or Devizes Arts Festival, Long Street Blues Club or the Wharf truly are blessings to the town when they occur, but the Southgate is that dependable, regular stalwart, something Deborah and Dave should be very proud to have developed.
With such a flowing lineup, it’s never a disappointment, but I recall a day a few years past, when, with glint in her eye, landlady Deborah told me Jon Amor came in and wanted a slot; look how far we’ve come. For if the musical menu is tantalising weekly, this residency is the house special.
For personal reasons Strong Lady Charmaine Childs was unable to perform her show, Power at the DOCA Street Festival this year, but came to visit Devizes as a one-off separate show in St Andrew’s Church yesterday, and it was as advertised, inspiring……
I can stagger home from a music gig already with an oven-baked opinion, and have a broad idea of what to write about it. It may take serious grammar corrections if I do jot intoxicated notes down, but the basis is there. Whereas in, as what was essentially street theatre, it takes a little time and reflection for what I just witnessed to fully sink in; that’s certainly the case with Power.
Often the fascinating world of street theatre DOCA artistic director Loz Samuels brings to us is abstract, provocative, and most importantly for our market town, completely off the wall. A Strong-Lady conjures ideas of circus, of ta-da-da…and-for-my-next-trick-type acts, of which Charmaine was keen to elucidate the roots of her talent lie there. But this was different, this was theatre, and it had an enthralling narrative.
There was no big top, crazy clown costumes, blinding stage lights, in-your-face effects, and shows of acrobatic talent were minimal, in context. There was only, at first what might appear somewhat disappointing to those in want of dazzling mainstream spectacles, just a fortysomething Australian lady in gym shorts and vest carry two tote bags of house-bricks.
I mean, yeah, props expanded to some books, planks and two wallpaper stands, but that was all you were getting. Yet, through charisma, magnetism and skill she weaved an autobiographical tapestry with audio excerpts taken from other’s personal reflections on the subject of times they felt, or didn’t feel powerful, of which she had collected on her journey, and visually created an act of tragedy, comedy, and thoughtful prose which was itself, powerful.
If there were feminine connotations, they were subtle, the message was neutral on every level, open to all. The idea we all have it within ourselves to overcome mental obstacles and have the power to continue, was prominent, though other angles like attaining power through success was touched upon, as Charmaine opened up her story, and related the recorded ones accordingly. And for the times when she did perform acts of strength and agility, they were backed with reason and relation to the monologue. She is one strong lady indeedy, yet while there was wasn’t the crowd counting along and drum rolls, these shows of strength were incorporated in such a way as not only to impress, but to provoke an emotion; there is no circus act which does this.
It was indeed something entirely different, and unable to pigeonhole, and for that alone, deserves recognition and commendation. The result was apparently, to leave the audience “energised and hopeful,” and it was indeed a positive catalyst, but more so, it was inspirational, conjuring your own stories of times you were powerful. I reminisced upon two occasions immediately afterwards, and while I could reveal them in interminable yarns, I think you’d rather me get directly to the point. You don’t want me to get all Uncle Albert on you, not on a Friday at any rate!
Needless to say, the stories differ in two basic elements, one was a time when due to a personal tragedy I had to undertake tasks I’d rather have not, nor ever expected I’d need to, whilst retaining a plastic smile, and it was, I guess, the power in me and my love for that person, to have managed. The other is less abstract and more physical, but I did once, in my younger years have one of these massive super-heroics shows of ability, accomplishing a feat I’d never even contemplate attempting, if it hadn’t been for the fact if I didn’t, I could’ve died. Now I know, if you know me, you’re thinking, na, mate, get out of town, but it is true. Now I find myself contemplating which one was more relevant to Power, which show of power was the Strong Lady getting at, mental, physical, or both? But it doesn’t matter, what matters is it got the cogs revolving, it got me mulling it over, and in turn, it evoked personal reflection in its narrative; hence I rightfully call it inspiring.
Charmaine Childs is a Strong Lady touring internationally as an independent artist since 2002. She trained in theatre at university, before focusing on outdoor arts festivals and circus/variety shows; if you get the opportunity to see this show, don’t argue with a strong lady, just go!
Woe is me; tis a fortnight did pass since the beloved Devizes Street Festival. I did happen to saunter through the market lodging Saturday, peered ov’r to whither the main stage once gallantly did stand, but ‘t wast just parked cars and a bank façade; insert depress’d visage emoji…..
Because that’s it, folks, that’s your bloomin’ lot; there is nothing else happening in Devizes this summer, nought, nada….
Okay, that probably didn’t work, you’re nobody’s fool, and you probably know these already, but here’s a quick guide to the BIG events in Devizes and surrounding villages over the summer months; you know, so bods don’t whinge on social media, “I didn’t hear about this, I took my dog out for a poo and ka-blamo, without so much as a warning some kind of social event hit me square in the chops.”
Oh, and before I commence the proceedings be aware there’s always something on, some little events here and there, like free music at The Southgate every Saturday for instance, do keep in tune with our event calendar, but for this particular outing, we’re thinking BIG (ooh, matron.)
Sunday 15th May: Devizes Town Band’s Fantastic Journey at the Corn Exchange.
Their first outing of the year, Devizes Town Band plan to get all Phileas Fogg and beyond, taking the Corn Exchange on a fantastic journey from the depths of the ocean into space and everything in between, and you could onboard! Tickets are £10 here: http://devizestownband.com/
Saturday 21st May: Indecision’s Last Hoorah Tour at the Corn Exchange.
Popular covers band on the local circuit and beyond, Indecision, has indeed made a mutual decision to split up, but not without going out with a bang; they’re hosting a “Last Hoorah” gig at Devizes Corn Exchange. Proceeds go to Wiltshire Search and Rescue and the Fatboys Charity.
Running till May 28th, Lovesong is the story of one couple, told from two different points in their lives, as young lovers in their 20s and as worldly companions looking back on their relationship. Their past & present selves collide onstage as we witness the optimism of youth becoming the wisdom of experience | Love is a leap of faith. Freddie Underwood brought Things I Know To Be True to the Wharf stage in 2019. Movement has become Freddie’s personal stamp within her productions and Lovesong will be similar to her previous work which fuses movement & music, partnering within the work of the text.
Saturday 28th May: Hardy’s Wessex: The Landscape Which Inspired a Writer, Exhibition at Wiltshire Museum
Running until 30th October, this exhibition opens 28th May, and will explore how Hardy’s writing merged his present with the past. Within this ancient landscape, old beliefs died hard and Hardy’s plots are set against a background of superstition. Hardy felt that these past ways of life were important, helping us understand ourselves and our relationship with the environment; he also made a film outside the Bear Hotel, like a TikTok-obsessed teenager up for a rumble. Okay, that last bit isn’t strictly true!
Note: The first week of June is the Jubilee, where there’s so many village or town street parties to list here, so check your village magazines and social media sites for archetypical clipart bunting posters, and gawd bless ‘er, guvnor.
Thursday 2nd – Monday 6th June: Honey Folk Festival @ The Barge Inn, HoneyStreet
Bit of prequel to July’s HoneyFest, as you might expect from the trusty Barge, it’s a folk fest with a difference. Acts here range globally and incorporates the loose pigeonhole world music too, so much so it’s like a mini-Womad!
Saturday 4th June: Bromham Carnival
Friday 10th – Sunday 26th June: Devizes Arts Festival
A fortnight long arts festival on your doorstep! Including Baila La Cumbia, Rockin Billy, Tankus the Henge, The Scummy Mummies Show, Asa Murphy and so, so much more; we do love Devizes Arts Festival. Do check our preview, and links to The Devizes Arts Festival for more details of separate events and tickets.
Saturday 11th June: Sustainability Fair
Arranged by Sustainable Devizes, there will be a day celebrating all things sustainable in the Market Place and Shambles; let’s get green.
Sunday 12th June: Lions on the Green
Talking of green, it’s always a fantastic free day out with the Devizes Lions, on the Devizes Green, with a car show, beer tent, and whole lot more.
Sat 18th June: Saddleback Music Festival with LottieFEST
Yes, Saddleback is erm, back! This one stealthily popped up out of nowhere, which is good if you’re a Shaolin assassin but not if you want people to come to your festival; a little bit of notice on this wouldn’t go amiss, guys, like a marketing strategy and erm, telling your friendly neighbourhood Spider-event guide!
So, you may not have heard; Devizes Sports Club in full force with a blues extravaganza. Jon Amor & King Street Turnaround, Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue, Joe Hicks, No Manz Land, Carolyn McGoldrick & Friends, Matt Peach, Public Eye and The Best of Ratcat feature, with DJs until the early hours, which is different but I guess that’s where the Saddleback incorporates LottieFEST too, a celebration of the life of Lottie Rapson, who sadly passed away aged just 27 from Friedreich’s Ataxia. Tickets are £30, with £5 donated to Ataxia UK & the Lily Foundation.
Thurs 23rd June: The World under the Wood @ Wharf Theatre, Devizes
Running until June 26th; Jodie meets a magical talking Tree, as you do, who asks for her help, as they often do. The wood seems to be dying and Tree thinks the incredible World under the Wood may hold the answer… Jodie is whisked away to a super-world where life moves super-fast. But she discovers that this world is failing too; the super-humans have been collapsing and productivity is down. Jodie and Harley the dog must now journey between worlds to find an answer. Can the mega-multiplier plants restore the wood? And what is the mysterious ‘Source’?
A magical story of courage, friendship & unity to inspire a greener generation – For everyone 6+; of which I fall into this age-group, just.
Always a lovely carnival in a lovely village, that’s on the 4th June, but bon’t forget their Teddy Bear Trail from 25th – 26th June, this year’s theme will be ‘Someone Beginning With B,’ with 40+ Teddies around the village, created and generously sponsored by local businesses and individuals. See how many you can guess!
Saturday 25th June: MantonFest
A tad further out, this side of Marlborough, but always worth a big mention, cos it’s such a well-organised community-driven yet professional one day music festival; certain I did a preview about it, here, and yeah, I might be going too but don’t let that put you off; you don’t have to talk to me if you don’t want to.
Saturday 3rd July: DOCA Picnic in the Park @ Hillworth Park
Picnic in the Park is DOCA’s traditional start to the festival week. It’s a chance for the community to get together in the beautiful surroundings of Hillworth Park. There’s top quality music, stalls and a bar. You can also buy snacks, ice-creams and hot drinks from the café on the park. Bring your friends and a picnic, for the perfect Sunday afternoon.
Acts include a travelling duo of a Dubliner and a songwriter in the vein of Tom Waits or Leonard Cohen, called The “Grave” Diggers, bluegrass Americana with The Stemville Ramblers and Bristol based trio Boogaloo String Band.
Artist and performer Boogaloo Stu, too, while we’re on boogaloo, who promises to gets up-close and personal with Puppet Paramour, a one-to-one session of craft activity and psychic surgery to create your ideal partner in sock-puppet form.
And resident artist Libertine, a free-motion embroider who specialises in social commentary and out of the box thinking which is reflected in her work. She will take up residence at the Picnic and gather your musings on the last year, the year ‘we’ missed, she will commit them to fabric and thread.
Saturday 9th July: Devizes Carnival
Devizes comes alive carnival day, need I say more?
Saturday 9th July: CrownFest @ the Crown, Bishops Cannings
Queen tribute Real Magic headline this mini-festival with serious clout, not so far from carnival, in Bishops Cannings. Some awesome acts, check the poster, Including Illingworth, George Wilding, Humdinger and local legend Pete Lamb & the Heartbeats. This is such a nice setting; it has to be done.
Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th July: Market Lavington Vintage Meet Family Fun Weekend
Ah, big steam engines, proper job!
Saturday 23rd July: Devizes Beer & Cider Festival
Details of this still in the pipeline, but that’s no excuse for not putting the date in your diary for this historic wharf-side beer fest; I’ve still got my half-pint glasses from the early noughties!
The Devizes Scooter Club have worked tirelessly through lockdown postponements and beyond to recapture the magic of their first scooter rally in 2019, which went way beyond the archetypical scooter rally and border-lined festival with the supreme acts it booked; here’s hoping they achieve this again, but I can pre-empt it will just by the line-up, most of which have been tried and tested at former Devizes Scooter Club gigs, the poignant Motown covers band All That Soul, Orange Street, who were the pivotal act at the last rally, The Specialized Specials tribute, local sure-things, The Roughcut Rebels, and a wildcard; Slade tribute Sladest!
Saturday 13th July: Seend Fete 2022
Always a real community-feel to Seend’s fete, a great family out!
Thursday 25th till Sunday 28th July Honey Fest @ The Barge Inn, HoneyStreet
Again, the annual kingpin at a campsite, wharf and pub which is like a mini-festival all year around! You can guarantee this will be amazing.
Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th August: Fulltone Music Festival
OMG Super-Proms….Can they do it again? Go compare, I think they can! The funding and effort put into last year’s Full Tone Festival on the Green was truly the jewel in Devizes’ event calendar, a memorable history in the making. To help replicate the magic there’s a bigger line-up of other acts as well as the Full Tone Orchestra. Including our favourite country solo singer Kirsty Clinch, Pete Lamb’s Heartbeats again, DJ James Threfall and it’s great to see local piano virtuoso, young Will Foustone heading the bill.
Also note my pun above, as an opera section with a host of guests including local music school owner, the breath-taking Chloe Jordan and Welsh soprano Wayne Evans, better-known to gogglebox slouchers as the Go Compare man!
Saturday 3rd September: Devizes Confetti Battle and Colour Rush
If you don’t know what this most bizarre event of Devizes calendar consists of, you’re not from Devizes!
For those who aren’t, please come and see what it’s all about: This year the Confetti Battle continues to grow and the colourful chaos has been added to with the introduction of the Colour Rush, an amazing 5 km mixed terrain fun run – what better way to arrive at a Confetti Battle than covered in multi-coloured powder!
There is no ‘battle’ as such, just a very silly half-hour during which a lot of fun is had, and a lot of confetti is thrown about. Expect to get ‘attacked’ by complete strangers throwing paper! The Battle continues to gain popularity and 2017 saw over 3500 people take part. The event takes place at the finish line of our new Colour Rush 5k run so expect to see some exceptionally colourful visitors in the crowd.
Enjoy yourself on Jennings funfair in the Market Place on both Saturday 31st of August and Sunday 1st of September operating between 5.30 pm until 11.00 pm.
Buy tokens to exchange for the confetti before the event – look out for our stand and get your tokens in advance to reduce queuing time during the event. You’ll still need to line up to collect your confetti prior to the 8pm kick-off.
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.
Saturday 24th September2nd October: Devizes Food & Drink Festival
More food than I can reasonably stuff into my oversized cakehole, and trousers for afterwards, and that’s really saying something more than Bananarama. Saturday 24th kicks straight off with the free market in the Market Place, and there’s a packed lunch full show of events, including designing a sandwich fit for the Queen, workshops, talks, meals, foraging, Come Dine with Us, and a Teddy Bear’s picnic; details of which are on their website.
And that’s about it, summer over, batten down the hatches for autumn; unless you know any different? Something we missed? Why didn’t you tell us about it? Too late now…..unless you twist my arm, editing on this article is strictly and unashamedly governed on favouritism!
That’s overall, as in “taking everything into account,” and not the all-in-one pac-a-mac kind, I thought you should know before I commence waffling…
Do they even sell pac-a-macs now? Google it if you feel the need, but keep the results to yourself; ah, off I trek… Sunday, the second day of Devizes Street Festival, and the main stage had a little hat; unfortunately, weather turned more appropriate for April and I’d wager combined with fragments of hangover, it resulted in a slightly lesser crowd.
Nevertheless, the show marched on unperturbed. I confess, due to Dad’s taxi on call, I rocked up far too late to justify a precise evaluation, but you know me, I relish in the attention giving my tuppence brings, so I will, thank you.
Firstly, I’ll apologise if Saturday’s thoughts came across a tad preachy, about volunteering and playing your part, but my reasoning was concern. It is critical younger volunteers take up these posts as the years pass; I worry if generation next doesn’t replicate what DOCA have achieved, it could go all village fete fashion, rather than what we have now, the colourful array of variety, the festive-style we rarely see the like of around these backwaters.
Though I accept how it is, folk are busy, working, have other priorities (like dad’s taxi) and want the occasion to unwind and enjoy themselves, that is, after all, its purpose. I found myself caught in this dilemma helping out Saturday. Self-assigned myself to wheelie bin patrol, I figured I could keep one eye on them from the bar area! Anyhoo, let’s drift away from that thought and look at what an utterly fantastic show it was; don’t wanna jinx it.
An assessment of social media commentary hailed it a success, aside one ironic Facebook jester. Many suggested it was the best yet, though it came to us at a light at the end of a biennial tunnel, void of much entertainment at all, so a Jim Davidson tour would sound fantastic by comparison. But I agree, taking heed of various attendees’ observations, yeah, it was equally if not better than previous street festivals. I believe the change of stage positioning, binding food stalls into a horseshoe was a benefactor for this, but aside design the surprise icing on the cake had to be the Ceres show, the splendour of which was covered in my previous article. The local folklore subject breathed a sense of inimitability and distinctiveness to the whole shebang, it really did.
I confess, when I first read about the idea, I was sceptical, even at its commencement I doubted but now, the more I consider it the more astonished and overwhelmed I become with its magnificence. Sunday for me though had one highlight I simply couldn’t miss; I’ve been raving Bristol’s folk-Balkan ska ensemble Mr Tea & The Minions since I fondly reviewed their albumMutiny in 2019. So much so I’ve been trying to convince anyone and everyone to book them somewhere local since; you should’ve seen my little chubby chops light up when I noticed their name on the schedule, the like of a toddler at Christmas. Why did I then go about, recommending them to every passer-by? The proof was in the pudding, they didn’t disappoint despite the pedestal I put them on, as their album they were lively, jubilantly danceable, the perfect match for the spirit of the street festival.
With some brilliant new tunes and a handful from their album they won the audience over with their stylised formula of blending localised folk into this already deeply fused south-eastern European genre which reflects its own roots with the off-beat of Jamacia’s finest musical export. As an enthusiast of ska keen to ascertain its contemporary global progression, I’m resolute we castoff the polarized presumption it belonged to a time of yore, of eighties skinheads and Two-Tone. Memorable and fantastically beguiling though Madness, The Specials, et al were, developments internationally offer us a much wider variety often overshadowed by the aforementioned retrospective cult in the UK. I think Mr Tea & the Minions represent this, but as the tradition presides, they have a truckload of carefree fun while doing it.
I could chew your ear off about how much I enjoyed that particular act, but it is the combination of all which really made the weekend something special. Equally as much as I love the wealth of local talent, and do believe they too should be represented at the Street Festival, director Loz’s determination to present us with a variety of sounds unconventional to our usual local circuit, the liveliest and most colourful array of world music, is something I welcome with open arms. Just like the South American vibe of Mariachi Las Velentinas, Simo Lagnawi’s Gnawa Blues All Stars, on one act prior to Mr Tea, was the perfect example; you don’t get to hear Gnawa, the scared trance music of Morocco in the pubs around here, and they played it sublimely for our alternate jiffy.
In this, the most conventional act on the main stage was perhaps the Brass Junkies, and by our usual expectations they were pretty much unconventional! I note them because while a covers band, where I usually assess with their attention of making a cover their own, this Bristol-based versatile brass band of New Orleans style do this so absolutely proficiently. So, to appease the populace, covers of contemporary, foot-tapping pop hits, such as Daft Punk’s Get Lucky get a brass makeover, and they refined this angle with bells on.
But more so on this variety point is the vast array of circus and street theatre, too many to cover, they just go on, around you, in a breath-taking inclusive show you dare not blink at. If one constructive criticism I heard bounding about requested DOCA add more music to the main stage, the answer would have to be, aside the sheer cost and the time needed to soundcheck for these multi-instrumental seven- or eight-piece bands, is that DOCA want you to explore the Market Place and take in the variety of side-shows, and to have a continuous rave at the main stage would both distract the crowds and drown out the sounds of them too; and you know what? I think that’s fair point.
The combination of all these elements meant the Street Festival is restored post-lockdown, better than it ever was and is continuing to better itself through continued assessment and experimental changes; something we are very lucky to have here in Devizes. Though the smiles in the crowd said it all, then the topical and uniquely Devizes narrative of this added element, this sublime finale, combing dance, acrobatic performance, poetry and music truly was the binding component which confirms my assertion and made it, undoubtedly, the finest street festival yet. Thank you once again, all the organisers and volunteers of DOCA.
Onwards, carnival is July 9th, the Confetti Battle and Colour Rush are on 3rd September, but next up is The Picnic in the Park at Hillworth Park, Devizes, on Sunday 3rd July, all the info you need is at the DOCA website; enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.
Well okay, there’s a meerkat atop a camal, patrolling him through Devizes Market Place, while girls attired in Victorian strongman leotards heckle the crowds, spoiling for arm wrestling contests.Grown men in pink bunny onesies hop outside the Corn Exchange while Bristol’s riotous transeuropean folk drum n bass agricultural revolutionaries Ushti Baba harmonise beatbox and an acordian in a sea-shanty-come-klezmer fashion on an open stage where you usually park to use the cashpoint. Devizes Street Festival blessed us early this year.…
Ignoring the idol threat of April showers, Saturday was an absolute blast with the clement weather of summer and revellers out to play. The Market Place was thriving with smiley faces young and old and merriment abound. After last year’s restricted effort, we needed to blow it out of our system, and Devizes Outdoor Celebratory Arts knocked that sentiment out of the park.
Yet I do this; recover enough to string a haggard description of multiple circus and street theatre occurences into a kind of overhaulled review with a sensational “wow, this slice of festival really happened in Devizes” angle, every year. Throughly deserved though it is, to saunter through the crowd is to be joyful in the spirit of the moment, but blissfully unware of its inner workings.
Have faith, or take for granted the Market Place will magically tranform into Boomtown for a weekend, your free playground of revellery, with little consideration to how much effort has been made by a vast amount of contributors and volunteers.
So, the angle this time is only partially how utterly fantastic it so obviously was, rather focus behind the scenes, because arts director Loz and her volunteering team are not Paul Daniels, and this free fairytale bonanza doesn’t magically appear overnight.
To do this I’m high-viz wearing undercover, and for all the use I’ll be, other than clearing a few wheelie bins, misguiding folk in the opposite direction to the loos, and assigning myself offical cider tester, I’ve assimilated myself into the festival maker collective.
Adorned with access-all-areas privileges the Corn Exchange exposed the inner workings. Loz and leaders divide their time between rushing around like headless chickens and coordinating on a laptop, while every member wears a smile on their face despite the mundane or heftiness of the errand they’ve been set. Take these crates of food into the kitchen, I’ll be glad to. Happy to be on the team, which I haven’t made head nor tail of tasks set on a rota board by the entrance. I’m a newbie, many volunteers have done this for decades.
If you ever thought outside was bizarre, that hall you’ve been to for your covid jab is equally. A makeshift office-back stage circus hybrid, with a camal parked in the foyer, dancers choreographing in the hall, tree people preparing to wander out into the drunken abyss, and I’ve adopted the English tradtion of speaking my own language just with a hint of Latino accent in order to communicate with a crew of traditional Spanish saliors enjoying the supplied buffet. It’s an eye-opener to the inner workings of the centrepiece of DOCA.
Oh, for the energy, teamwork and amazing effort from everyone here, other than me, who, to put it nicely, aren’t getting any younger, to the keyboard warriors of social media land who continue to criticise changes to the programme, I confirm to you, my feet were aching by the first morning, and I was merely part time bin inspector. Criticise all you will, that is your perogative; they could’ve done this like this, not like that, where’s my favourite brand of lager, and the tradtionalist toppermost, why can’t they keep the dates as they were, all contained in a fortnight? Why not drain every last gram of stamina out of these volunteers and hang them up on a glucose drip afterwards?! Seriously, take a look at yourself, those guilty few, have you offered to help or are about to anytime soon? I took my best shot, it’s exhausting, I first-hand know this to be true now.
If its done anything it’s made me appreciate even more the will and effort of the volunteers, and respect that not every minor market town is blessed with such an event; we should be far more grateful. Then I revert, ignore the hiding whingers, they are but few. For everyone here, throughly enjoying themselves, the Ceres finale came at 6pm.
A theatrical acrobatic display of song and dance with the narrative of town’s folklore incident involing Ruth Piece, on this very spot, was promised. At first, while a hefty crane hoisted a peformer high into the sky, few drinkers at the bar huffed “hippy shit,” least admired the machinery and skill of the crane operator. Yet as the ambince of the drum beats, the haunting narrative of the moment, the strawmen casting shadows over the crowd, and the absolutely sublime acrobatic display above them, I swear every single person in the Market Place was left spellbound; you could hear a pindrop.
Unlike the usual fizzling out of the street festival, whereby revellers stagger away over time, navigated by a broken compass with the hide-in-a-pub or go home to sober up dilemma, even if they did they bore the imprint of a kind of subliminal concept, inserted through the medium of arts.
Perhaps Ruth Piece isn’t as portrayed, the archetypal baddie here, and while of course it is wrong to cheat, poverty and demading situations caused her to do what she did. Perhaps, just perhaps, the heckling and petty squabbling attaining her guilt was also at fault, and we should instead learn to have some sympathy and understanding. Perhaps, in turn, those complaining about the breaking up of the ‘fortnight of fun’ should consider the gallant work carried out by this group of volunteers, and appreciate their combined efforts, because Saturday was outstanding, and Sunday is awakening, the carnival, confetti battle and later events DOCA gift us with will arrive later in the summer, and you’re grownup, you can wait.
Ah, I’m getting all morally correct again, just ignore my insane dribbling if you will, the Street Festival continues today, I’m looking forward to it but I’m currently away in Taunton, typing this on my phone, where it’s rather drizzly. I hope this passes upon my return to Devizes later and we can do it all again; hope to see you there, and any delicious brownies from the Bake With Lil stall will be gratefully received!
This incredible Ceres show, with written verses by our resident poet Gail Foster, will be repeated as the finale again at 6pm, and prior one of my favourite bands, Mr Tea and the Minions are due to blast their sublime folky Balkan ska at us; lack of Mr Blue Skies I sincerely hope won’t prevent that!
Pushed forward to Mayday bank hols, who’s getting excited about Devizes International Street Festival? I am, I always am, it’s been the best weekend of the year in our humble town for many a year, and though we’ve had setbacks with the dreaded year of lockdown and DOCA’s valiant effort to stage something near similar within the restrictions of last summer, we’ve been waiting, debatably patiently, for this summer extravaganza.
But my levels of excitedness have gone from 500% to 1,000 meows, now I’ve seen the program of acts. A band who contributed to our Julia’s House compilation, I’ve been aching to get Bristol-based frenzied folk ska-punk outfit Mr Tea & The Minions to play our town, and DOCA have either noted their brilliance themselves, or have taken heed of my constant whining of a suggestion; either way, we’re quids in, pinky promise. It means two things; someone actually listens to me, and you’ll have your socks blown off by this band I totally love!
Though that’s the icing on the cake for me, the line-up looks set to thrill us as it ever did. Hints of the acts are there to see on the DOCA website, and as usual neither the site nor us can reveal times and places of the acts, you’ll need to buy a programme, as it’s an essential fundraiser for DOCA. But we are allowed to breeze over it.
Expect mischievous experimental entertainment and audience participation, performed in the round by Full Circle, upbeat funk and Northern Soul influenced Desert Boots from Worcester, a quirky Folkdance performance around a 12-foot maypole, fusing everything from clogging to breakdance and beat boxing, a Playground of Illusions, created by Travelling Light Circus, a heavily laden golden postman suddenly surprised by a rain shower, by A bird in the Hand Theatre Company, the latest creation of Jon Hicks and Matt Rudkin, a Visionary who is said to have wisdom beyond knowledge, incredible acrobatic gravity defying feats from Spanish/Swiss collective Tripotes la Compagnie, Dr Jones & Professor Barnard’s Medicine Show, professional painter and amateur alchemist Malcolm Brushell, on a quest to find the pinky-est pink paint on the planet, sea shanties and sing-alongs with some Old Time Sailors, the minuscule majesty of meerkat Prince Amir on the back of his pet camel, circus shenanigans on a giant red carpet, Treemendous tree-people, riotous folk-fusing hypnotic trans-European melodies with Ushti Baba, of course the bustling market and side-stalls of food and drink, and my aforementioned icing on the cake, Mr Tea & The Minions.
All this happens on Saturday 30th April and Sunday 1st May, in Devizes Market Place, it’s free, it’s fantastic, it’s the Devizes event of the year, on a day where there’s also the Born2Rum Festival at the Muck & Dundar, though you’ll be hard pressed to pick up a ticket for this, plus the Leon Day Band play the Southgate, Seend has it’s annual Beer Festival and it’s Urchfont Scarecrow Festival; whoa, what a weekend!
We must praise DOCA yet again to the highest heights, but point out, The International Street Festival relies on it’s collective of volunteers to create and control the magic, who are keen to hear from anyone interested in becoming a “festival maker” by helping out in a number of vital roles. One good Facebook group to join if interested is the festival makers group, where there’s details on how you can get involved, upcoming workshops and all the behind-the-scenes gubbings which need to happen to make this magical event it is.
So, yeah, I’m excited, possibly over-excited, can you tell?!
Next weekend folks, you should know the drill by now, but being Friday sessions had to be cancelled and those tickets transformed into Saturday ones, tickets for Saturday’s afternoon and evening sessions are virtually sold out for The Devizes Winter of Festival Ales. You need to sort your tickets out now, if you want to go, or be left sobbing in the Market Place carpark!
So, just a quick post from me, as this event sells itself anyway, but it is a vital fundraising bash for DOCA, and always a great shindig.
Saturday evening sees The Rob Lear Band providing the entertainment, and the afternoon session will be The Lost Trades; say no more, aside the vast selection of ales on offer.
If you’re as lucky as Charlie Bucket, these golden tickets can be found online at the DOCA website, or at Devizes Books, Wadworth Visitors Centre and of course the Vaults, as Stealth Brewery put on this show… but I urge you get a pace on!
Finally, after a missed year (best to write 2020 off the map) our Christmas festival was back on Friday and as illuminating as ever….
With enchanting light displays, bombastic fireworks, specialist stalls (in the Marketplace, the Corn exchange and the Shambles), seasonal music performed with gusto, the spectacular parade beaming with all its glorious homemade creations and of course our signature local atmosphere, the festival had it all and showed our little town is getting back into the groove of doing what it does best: the kind of spirited events you’ll only find down in Devizes.
On a funny note, much to the amusement of both me and the woman sitting opposite, we both got an accidental front row seat to the firework display, which was suitably loud!
Once the parade, the fireworks and the music had faded into the night, I caught the beginning of an artistic shadow puppet show with beautifully built wooden Reindeer.
Having all of this right on my doorstep has got me right into the Christmas spirit. After all, aren’t we lucky to live here in the most wonderful time of the year?
Christmas is coming and Devizes is the place to be!
Spoiled Rotten in Devizes this November you are. In what is usually a quiet month leading up to yule, the easing of lockdown has detonated the month, opening it up as anyone’s game. It’s just so good to see a chockful event calendar for the whole county, and so many event organisers making a Rocky Balboa style comeback.
Aside our dependable Southgate, who’ve led the way for events in Devizes, and continue to provide top notch live music every weekend, free I might add, it’s exciting to see the Cavalier, The Muck & Dundar, and even the Condado Lounge in the running.
There are some big guns coming out too, as we welcome back the Wharf Theatre, who hosted The Paul Simon Story last weekend, and the return of the Invitation Theatre Company from Tuesday (9th) to Saturday (13th) this coming week. The Long Street Blues Club are back in force with three gigs this month, the Gerry Jablonski Band Saturday 13th, Force on the 20th, which is such a whopper it’s coming out of The Corn Exchange rather than usual Cons Club, and the Antonio Forcione Quartet on the 27th.
If it’s sounding good so far, we’ve not even touched on Devizes Eisteddfod from Thursday 18th to Saturday 20th, The Lawrence Art Society’s exhibition at the Town Hall from 25th to the 27th, and of course DOCA bring the Winter Festival and lantern parade on the 26th.
With all that I’ve mentioned it would be understandable to have overlooked the icing on the cake; Devizes Arts Festival surprisingly pops up to host some awesome events this month, when it’s usually confined to more summery months. Despite we’ve outlined the individual gigs lined up at the Arts Festival, back when it was announced in August, such has lockdown caused much jiggery-pokery with the dates of such things, and not forgoing I’d suspect the Arts Festival got itchy fingers and simply couldn’t wait until summertime to present us with some amazing performances, these things need reminders, so here I am!
Though the opening gig, Thursday’s Ronnie Scott’s All Stars Jazz Club Tour has sold out, tickets for the others are on the table awaiting your attention, plus, of course there’s free fringe events across town too. Let’s have another look at what’s on offer here, to wet your appetite shall we?
Under the banner, “the show must go on,” the Arts Festival are delighted to welcome Sally Barker to Devizes, on the 13th. In this new show ‘Sandy, Joni & Me’ she will bring some of the songs of both Joni Mitchell and Sandy Denny to the stage, exploring the singer/songwriter legacy that was forged in the early ’70s.
Veteran folk-blues singer/songwriter Sally Barker became Tom Jones’ finalist on The Voice UK 2014 after reducing her mentor, and many watching the TV, to tears with her performances. Sally has toured with Sir Tom, Bob Dylan and Robert Plant amongst others. Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans said, “Sally changes the atmosphere in a room when she sings.”
And Friday 19th is Motown Gold time at the Corn Exchange. Dust off your dancing shoes for a fabulous evening from a fantastic band. Motown Gold celebrate the finest songs from the timeless Motown and Classic Soul era, which kind of speaks for itself.
As for free Fringe events, The Muck & Dundar have loop pedal guru Arif Najak bringing laid-back reggae sounds on Friday 12th. Sunday 14th is at New Society, where you’ll find Bristol’s dynamic jazz vocalist Lucy Moon, performing energetic swing and classic swing-era tunes to liven up your Sunday lunchtime. Booking is essential for this one, contact New Society to reserve your table.
There’s a couple more fringe events before the Arts Festival’s grand Motown finale; South Wales’s Big Sky are at The Crown on Wednesday 17th, with roots rock infused with touches of blues, country and psychedelia, they are known for being one of the few bands containing brothers who have not yet had an on-stage altercation! And Thursday 18th sees Mark Harrison at the Three Crowns. An original and interesting songwriter, a stunning guitarist, and a master storyteller.
It is, in all my years of running Devizine, the biggest November I’ve ever seen! But the Devizes Arts Festival doesn’t stop there, this is just filling a gap. I asked artistic director Margaret Bryant if there will be something in the pipeline for a summer arts festival too, and she replied “yes, we’re already planning 2022!”
Devizes Outdoor Celebratory Arts are in the thick of planning for the LanternParade and Winter Festival, set to take place at the Market Place on Friday the 26th and Saturday 27th of November, but it looks doubtful the usual mass-gathering to see Santa Claus switching on the Christmas lights will be possible this year.
Divided in opinion on controlling the pandemic and vaccinations we may be, but I’m certain, though disappointed, it would be an understandable move to spread the festival out for safety reasons, as it did so well with the town’s celebrated International Street Festival in the summer. Not forgoing, we’ll all agree, the last person we need to test positive at this time of year, is Santa!
“Traditionally Devizes Lantern Parade,” DOCA announced, “a huge magical community event comes to our streets on the last Friday of November, it is usually part of the Town Councils Light Switch on. Things may be a little different this year.”
But, let’s look forward for the positives; posters are going up around town this coming week, lantern making workshops in schools and at the Wiltshire Museum will take place on the 7th and 21st of November, and DOCA is gearing up to present the town with a wonderful parade and market. “We can confirm that we will have an amazing festive market,” they delight to inform, “with carefully selected sellers and makers bringing unique gifts, tasty food, and drinks to our Market Place.”
“The Makery” in the Corn Exchange will hold independent crafter stalls on both days, where you’ll find beautiful handmade gifts. Fantasy Radio will be playing festival tunes in the Market Place, Devizes Town Band will bring class brass to the Market Place, from 6-7pm each evening, with fireworks straight afterwards, and the highlight lantern parade starting off at 6:30pm.
There is a revised route for the parade, DOCA advises checking maps on lampposts around the town. Collect your lanterns from St. John’s Church between 5pm until 6pm. Leave unwanted lanterns under the Christmas Tree in the Market Place for recycling.
Other first-time things to look out for include the Air Giants, outside the Corn Exchange and the Town Hall at 5:30pm and 8:30pm. Amazing gentle giants, Triffid and Luma are huge illuminated, emotionally expressive, soft robotic creatures. “You may think the wind is blowing them, but they can actually sense you and will interact with you as you approach them,” DOCA claim. This I have to see for myself; who knows, by the end of the evening we’ll be best buddies and probably stop off for a pint at the British!
Also look out for Ghost Caribou; part caribou, part spirit, roam a mystical world after dark. That being outside the Mayflower on Long Street at 5:30pm and 7:10pm, and they’ll go walkabout along the High Street and Long Street afterwards. Join them as they clear a space to perform their other-worldly ceremony, with music, song and shadow puppets they tell stories of lost homes, impossible migrations and seeds of hope before continuing the journey into their hauntingly beautiful dream-world of the night.
Spooky! Hope to catch you there, with mulled wine and mittens! Find out more, HERE.
There are two giant kangaroos hopping through Long Street in Devizes, one bantering to a passer-by in a mock-Aussie accent, “no, I’m not into bondage, you can’t tie me down, sport!”
Meanwhile a gypsy woman riding a quad-cycle with a double bass attached follows a dapper man in top hat and tails, playing a piano on wheels, adorned with flowery ornaments and mirrors, past the Nationwide on Maryport Street. This isn’t your archetypal afternoon in town, this is a scattered post-lockdown version of DOCA’s beloved Devizes Street Festival, and while this isn’t going to be quite as simple for me to angle this time around, it is, unarguably, something fantastic.
With the main stage outside the Corn Exchange missing this year, there was no centrepiece binding the annual event together, therefore from the outside looking in, one could perceive it being all rather mishmash. I feel this was intentional, to avoid crowding, and a wise move considering the circumstances. The crucial point is, the magic was still there, for all ages; side stalls, street food, fairground rides, static and wandering circus acts and street theatre all played as colourful and lively part of the street festival as it ever did, it was just dispersed around the town centre.
If the lack of live music was a shame this time around, least it drew attention to side attractions. I’ve a particular penchant for the offbeat street theatre, fondly reminding me of sunny Glastonbury festivals of yore. It is, then, precisely this, and the variety of side attractions, especially catering for children which spells out to me, this is so much more than the perceived monumental piss-up locals dub, “Black Rat Monday,” with its monocultured ethos of cider-swigging debauchery.
However, and this is a big however, if DOCA wishes to cast off this label, that is it’s prerogative to do so, but they should note the nickname is not to be taken seriously, it is all part of a running joke in true west country fashion, an inward banter of ironic overstatement. Folk know it’s more than the sum of downing as much cider as they can, that’s the joke. Backside of the coin, though, a large part of the community does want exactly that. Far from loutish behaviour, the spirit of eat, drink and be merry is imbedded in our history.
But, as of yet, there’s no indication DOCA wish to cast the namesake off, being despite informing The British Lion, after their mainstay position serving the apple poison about-centre for a mere couple of decades, that their presence is no longer required, they themselves sold Black Rat cider solely other than Pimm’s, at their own bar. I sigh at this, considered titling this piece, “a shame,” but supposed later, DOCA’s overheads must be ginormous, laying such a memorable and legendary event on for free, scraping a tad back from sales of said cider plays a small part and the need to do this is understandable.
I’m impartial on this one, not here to cast accusations or play a blame game, taking on board, and agreeing with much of the hearsay and rumours revolving through the natives, though. Local politics isn’t my bag, if there’s monopolising tactics at the root of this, I think that’s unfair and certainly not in the community spirit of the event, at all.
And there it lies, in a word; community. Keep the “international” in the title, by all means, I, and I believe I speak for most of us when I say bringing the worldwide stage to our doorsteps with a plethora of top world music acts is a wonderful idea and we love DOCA for it, but this doubles-up, and always did, as a festival for the community. DOCA abide by this with plentiful locally sourced side attractions, but personally I think we need to honour local talent too.
I’d welcome artistic director Loz to give me a bell come the time for booking acts, and be it from my own personal judgement or a Facebook poll, ask me to name two local acts who deserve to be on the main stage billing. And at least two do, those who’ve excelled through these challenging times and take a little piece of Devizes with them around the country. If it’s a mouthful to call it, “the Devizes International Community Street Festival,” then just “Devizes Street Festival” will suffice.
Of course, DOCA did take heed, and allowed a secondary local music stage in 2019, of which Pete and Jackie of Vinyl Realm completely funded and organised. This was something beautiful, and became a key feature of the street festival that year. But no matter how large this goes, it will always feel like a bolt-on, when what I’d really appreciate is the pick of local talent up on that main stage.
There, said my piece, and don’t wish to end on a sour note, not that it was, just constructive criticism. Children are trampolining in Sidmouth Street, while a couple of, what can only be described as “rock n roll slappers” entice passers-by to peak into their ‘peepshow’ wooden box at the other end. Limbo dancers outside the town hall, with a man rolling around inside an oversized metal hull-a-hoop, and a giant exoskeleton puppet wanders down the Brittox, stopping to sniff the hanging baskets. How can I possibly be critical about any of this? Rising against the challenges, DOCA made an absolutely fantastic show of colour, curiosity and entertainment, amidst vibrant atmosphere, this is a town-wide show unlike any other and should never be taken for granted.
I tip my hat to DOCA as a samba band play by the Market Place cross, but I feel impelled to check out the British Lion, all things considered, and that lengthy beer garden sure is alive with punters, those loyal to the Black Rat. Tom Harris, Pat Ward, Claire et all, play unplugged as a barbeque for Dorothy House sizzles and friends gather to mark their appreciation of “the British.” And that is the true meaning of “community,” it doesn’t need props and extravagant shows, it just takes hospitality and compromise.
That said I’m pleased to see those trampolines, extending the street festival out from the Market Place, as it’s a stone throw from the welcoming pub, and combined it into the event rather than making it feel out on a limb, and for that, for the whole bank holiday weekend, what with Full Tone frenzy too, Devizes is truly great, when it works together. The British Lion is an institution here in the ‘Vizes, the reliably stable free house has stood the test of time with little need to fix its unbroken charm. This is the only regular gig on their calendar which sees them gallivanting from their bar and making an appearance in the Market Place, something which has become equally as traditional as the event itself. It is a shame not to have them present this year. Competition is healthily, remember, a range of breweries can compromise and find a solution, of that, I’m certain, and look forward to the possibility it will be so in future years.
Just a quick one from me this morning, as I’m at a total loss for words. A video has emerged on Facebook from the Herefordshire Hunt Saboteurs of a host and hunt supporter on the Ladywood Estate, home of the Cottesmore Hunt, running over a sab at high speed. The Sab organisation claim it was…
Yep, it’s true, Devizes’ wonderful Hillworth Park is to get an all-weather outdoor table tennis table, installed over the coming weeks, agreed at a Devizes Town Council recreation and properties committee meeting yesterday…. Funded through the council’s CIL receipts, the project has been a bit ping-pong since the idea was put forward at the beginning…
So, Rishi Sunak is prime minister, eh, how about that for diversity? Last time, a woman, of sorts, now an Asian chap. A tax-avoiding billionaire Asian chap with a name which sounds like a brand of orange fizzy-pop, but one nonetheless. You’ve got to wonder who it’ll be next week. My money is on a…
Thoroughly Good Thorogood In Praise Of Sunday Afternoons At The Gate Andy Fawthrop Do you ever get that feeling that each day has its own special feeling, its own atmosphere? Do we even need to talk about Mondays? Fridays, especially Friday evening, have that “thank God it’s all over for another week; let’s go out and have…
Amidst the number of other suspicious, much less futilely brutal activities, in the pursuit of rural blood sports, we’re currently knee-deep in the badger cull, set to run until 2025 at least, and Government’s dodgy bTB eradication policy plans makes hard reading, but who, locally, bothers with licences anyway? Just lob some peanuts, and fire…
Such is the universal beauty of Bandcamp, one goes exploring music from another continent and discovers something sublime, from only ninety miles down the M5! If it’s unlikely there’s an Exeter Audio Club in Senegal, there’s certainly a Dakar Audio Club in Devon, whereby afrobeat fusion knows no boundaries. I mean, I went searching for…
It was a typical, standard Saturday night at Devizes Southgate, but a typical and standard night at the Gate equates to an absolutely blinding night in most other pubs…… Amidst friendly faces, welcoming staff and warm familiar surroundings, the unpredictable drizzling autumn was set aside for Mr Eddie Martin to group with the finest drum…
Good to hear homeless and sheltered charity Devizes Opendoors is planning to open a new session every other Tuesday, for women only. Promising coffee, crafts and pamper sessions, as well as health and wellbeing awareness, it will be the safe space for women in the community to find clothes, common ground, and oh yes, cake!…
Threw my cards on the table, and pitched being Father Christmas at Devizes Winter Festival, but was informed that was arranged by the Town Council…. so, that’s that idea well and truly quashed! It was great, though, to meet Annabel, one half of the new management team of Devizes Outdoor Celebratory Arts, to chat on…
Here’s our weekly summary of things to do over the coming week. It saves you surfing every individual event calendar, and saves me waffling on about some unrelated rubbish, which I admit I have a tendency to do, but in the words of the great philosopher, KC, and, of course, his Sunshine Band; that’s the…
Devizes Outdoor Celebratory Arts are asking budding crafters and artists to help brighten up the town.
“Devizes is usually festooned with hanging baskets at this time of year,” they point out, “but they have been a bit absent since Covid struck and we miss them and all the colour they bring to the town. It got us thinking! We would like to create something equally colourful to decorate the streets of Devizes at our events, and we’d love your help to do this.”
There are two ways you can do this…
Make flowers: They are asking anyone of any age to make flowers, so they can make beautiful garlands to drape over the barriers. You can make them out of anything, any size big or small, and DOCA will assemble them.
Materials that can stand getting wet and don’t take too long to dry are the best, old carrier bags, sweet wrappers, used foil wrapping paper, coffee wrappers whatever you can find. We know we have a talented bunch of folk in Devizes and we’d love to see what you come up with for this project. You can drop off your flowers at the Kingfisher Café on Devizes Wharf. Please try and avoid their busy lunch time periods.
Draw pictures: DOCA invites children of 8 years or under to draw pictures of circus characters, performers or other festival or DOCA related things. They will pick out the best artwork and work with a graphic designer to make a montage which will be printed on gauzes to decorate the dull barriers they use to divide up their events. Please send images as Jpegs.
DOCA need your work to be sent in digital format, so you can scan it or take a picture and send it. The email to send your artwork to is firstname.lastname@example.org
The future of Devizes’ carnival and Outdoor Celebratory Arts is looking great, as DOCA announce today some exciting news; they are delighted to have received funding from the government’s #CultureRecoveryFund.
The much-needed funding will cover their overheads in the coming months. Allowing investments in developing their Board of Trustees, employ a Volunteer Coordinator and begin reconnecting with the existing “family” of volunteers. They also seek new recruits to help deliver the fantastic program of events. Such as new volunteer coordinator, Holly Solo-Hawthorn, who joined the team in last November. If volunteering with DOCA is something you are interested in please email: email@example.com
Chair of the Trustees, Kelvin Nash said, “we know people can’t wait to get out and meet up with others and enjoy all the things we might have taken for granted before COVID. We also know we are very privileged to receive this funding that will help us continue bringing great events to Devizes. We hope everyone will continue to support us this year to make these events happen safely, plans are still tentative of course, but it does feel like there is now a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Artistic Director, Loz Samuels expressed although DOCA are able to start planning Summer events, not all of the usual events will be back this year. “This year will have a different feel but we know that it will be just as amazing as ever. There will be no Confetti Battle this year we hope to combine the Colour Rush with the Street Festival which will add an explosion of colour to the day and we hope to attract some new people along to the event.”
As we look forward to future events in Devizes, DOCA will be touching base with market traders and coordinating a hopeful new season of celebrations. Here’s the plan to date:
Sunday 22nd August 2021 – Picnic in the Park
Monday 30th August 2021 – Devizes International Street Festival
Monday 30th August 2021 – Colour Rush
Friday 26th November 2021 – Winter Parade
Saturday 27th November 2021 – 31 Trees and Counting
Saturday 26th & Sunday 27th Feb 2022 – Festival of Winter Ales
The weekend traditionally for Devizes Lantern Parade, 27th-28th November, there promises to be a huge magical community event this year, because of circumstances beyond their control, DOCA are doing things a little differently, and invites you to be apart of the Devizes Winter Festival. There are plenty of things to do, see, and get involved in.
FOR YOUR ENTERTAINMENT For your delight, they will have roaming performers and an amazing walking trail for you to visit, suitable for all ages.
Projector Boom Bikes by Sound Intervention
Dan Fox will be bringing his amazing projector bikes which will fill the streets with music and light. Interact with all the strange and familiar creatures the bikes project onto the buildings of Devizes. Location: Leaving from the yard of the Black Swan Appearing: Friday 27th 17.00 -17.45, 18.30-19.15 & 20.15-21.00 Saturday 28th – 16.45- 17.30 & 18.00-19.00
Celestial Sound Cloud by Pif Paf
Dance and wave and the Sound Cloud will react to you to create a unique conversation in sound and light. Don’t be shy, it’s your chance to be the conductor to create beautiful harmonies and make light patterns like you’ve never seen before. Access to the SoundCloud will be managed by volunteers for your safety. Location: Wiltshire Museum’s garden, Long Street, SN10 1NS. Access through the rear car park Times: Friday 27th – 16:00 – 21:00, Saturday 28th – 16:00 – 19:00
The Bell Orchestra by Beautiful Creatures
This amazing supersize instrument is waiting for you to come and play. Created by Beautiful Creatures Theatre who will invite you to experiment with these giant illuminated chimes. Come and enjoy some safe togetherness and make some beautiful music in this lovely Devizes square. Suitable for all ages and abilities Location: The Chequers Garden, High Street, SN10 1AT Times: Friday 27th 16:30 – 18:30 & 19:00 – 21:00
Devizes Town Band
Devizes Town Band will bring the sound of festive tunes that you know and love to the Market Place. Saturday Morning – times to be announced soon
Virtual light switch on by Father Christmas From his home
Like most of us Father Christmas is having a trickier year than usual! To make sure everyone is safe he won’t be appearing in person at the Light Switch on this year but he’ll do it from his home. He’s asking children to write to him, to help you he has sent us a letter template which you can pick up from the Shambles Market between the 31st of October and the 14th of November. If you want him to write back you’ll need to tick the box on the back of the letter and post it into the red letterbox in the Shambles by 4pm on the 16th of November. All the letters will be sent to Father Christmas who will be reading out a selection on You Tube at 7pm on the 27th along with a tour of his house and workshop. He’ll also write back to you, your letters will be ready for collection on Saturday the 5th and 12th of December between 9am and 12 noon from the Shambles. The YouTube channel address is http://bit.ly/DevizesSanta
FOR YOUR SHOPPING NEEDS
Doca have selected the best traders in the area, offering a host of fantastic flavours, amazing tipples, beautiful handmade gifts and more. Explore the expanded festive markets in safety over 3 days at your leisure. Please view trading times below.
Friday 27th Market Place 4 – 9pm Corn Exchange 2.30 – 8:30pm The Shambles 10:00am – 8:30pm Town Hall 2.30 – 8:30pm
Saturday 28th Market Place 10am – 7pm Corn Exchange 10am – 7pm Town Hall 10am – 7pm
Sunday 29th Market Place 10am – 2pm Town Hall 10am- 2pm
BE APART OF THE MAGIC with Window Wanderland
Doca have invited homes, venues and shops to get creative through this Internationally known event, and hope it will become a new tradition in Devizes. Look on the Window Wanderland website or follow the link from ours for more information. http://www.windowwanderland.com/event/devizes-2020/ Times: 17:30 to 21:00 each night.
Shambles Festive Makeover
With your help DOCA are attempting to transform the Shambles, the roof will be decked with baubles made by the community. Check their website for details for dates and opening times. docadevizes.org.uk/make-a-bauble-for-the-shambles-installation
HELPING TO KEEP YOU SAFE
Attendees and audiences will be required to follow safety measure. Please ensure you use our track and trace system, scan the QR code in all venues and register using your smartphone Use hand sanitizer provided Wear a mask at all times Maintain a safe distance from people Bring your own cups for drinks and help the environment too
As part of their new Winter Festival, DOCA are inviting our local community to create something special in their windows to show just what an amazingly creative place Devizes is. Window Wonderland is a Covid-sade way to connect people, transforming streets into magical outdoor galleries.
DOCA invite anyone with a window to create a display which will become part of a programme of events over a weekend which they hope will light up Devizes. Over the weekend you will be able to pick up a map or download online.
Follow the trail of windows into Devizes Town Centre where you’ll find seasonal markets both indoors and out, selling beautiful artisan gifts, delicious food and drink, light installations and walkabout performers, a warm welcome and plenty of smiles.
TAKE PART To take part and register your own window for this event follow the link to the Windon Wanderland website. Everyone that registers a Window will be added to our event map. You will be reminded of when to display your window and keep your light on!
Proper quality celebratory glasses here y’ know, no squashy disposable cups; something of a memento. There are flowers in a jar on the table, aroma of hot pie, and a bulky fellow juggling knifes, while straddling our own Ian Diddams while he lies flat on his back on stage. If your preconception of a beer festival is a marquee in a muddy field, think again, this is the prestigious Devizes Corn Exchange and DOCA, our Outside Celebratory Arts association, are holding their annual Festival of Winter Ales in conjunction with the Stealth Brewery Company.
I’ll come clean, I’m breaking my Festival of Winter Ales cherry tonight, and I’m also fashionably late. Friday night was a sell-out, I’m informed, today is near equal in success, but I’d better hurry on in, the beers were running out. Another confession, I be a cider drinker, part of my five a day. Our man Andy cannot report, he’s here in a professional capacity, tending the bar, least lengthy set of tables. I would have kept him on his toes, but he’s attending to the ale end of things, I’m occupying the cider corner. A rhubarb laced cider is my first glassful, despite the event’s name, there’s ciders aplenty, but the choice of ale was extensive and over the whole weekend you could possibly, but unlikely to, pursue them all.
With a customary token system functioning, and barrels aligning the length of the grand hall, there’s part of this event which reflects the standard beer festival format, in a grand fashion. Yet it has a civilised angle, prementioned flowers on tables, etc and surrounding the magnificent stage as if it was an awards evening rather than a beer festival. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a complaint but a compliment, twas a splendid arrangement for a splendid evening; no one need a muddy field in a rain drenched February, save perhaps the odd duck.
If I’m honest, which you know I blatantly am, I’m not surprised by the impressive event, Stealth knows good beer, and DOCA know what they’re doing and could arrange a party on a glacier off Antarctica and it’d still be awesome. Winter beanies off to them both, for this inviting and warming occasion which is, essentially, an important fundraising event which will help fund the carnival and massive summer events such as the beloved annual street festival.
Through the three sessions over two days, our best local bands and musicians played, the wonderful It’s Complicated, Splat the Rat and Vince Bell. I was there in time to catch the finale of Matt Barnard, who has amused as compere, and all-round entertainer through the festival. He’s a confident, comical and cheery chap with that unique Saturday Night at the Palladium ability to cover all aspects of showbiz proficiently. Kris Dollimore followed, with an extensive résumé, this member of Del Amitri drove from Cornwall to pick a guitar akin to an illusionist vanishing the Eifel Tower. I pay particular astonishment to his beautiful rendition of Marvin Gaye’s Inner-City Blues.
What a most splendid event, one worthy of your attention for next year, and priced at a tenner with first pint free in your keepsake glass, you cannot go wrong.
Tickets for DOCA’s Devizes Festival of Winter Ales 2020 at the Corn Exchange on Friday 28th and Saturday 29th February 2020 are now on sale…..
The Devizes Festival of Winter Ales is a fundraising event to help meet the costs of DOCA’s free annual programme of outstanding outdoor arts events and activities, including the Devizes International Street Festival, Confetti Battle, Devizes Carnival and the Christmas Lantern Parade.
Held in collaboration with Stealth Brewery, DOCA have bespoke, warming ales and ciders from some of the best independent breweries in the country, as well as some fantastic bands and special DOCA style entertainment. You’ll be able to chose from a selection of Lovett’s pies, and top quality snacks to keep you going.
Expect fantastic bands over the three sessions, Soon to be announced. In usual DOCA style we will bring to you a cabaret act with a difference!
This year, for your entertainment they will be welcoming Matt Barnard. Matt has performed across the world as a compere, actor, musician, singer and as himself in his unique one man show.
He was the resident compere of the cult Sensation Seekers Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, starred in London’s oldest variety show in the West End in and performed his unique act at the famous London Palladium. He also appeared in the Hollywood movie Mrs Henderson Presents in which he performed the famous sand-dance with Gareth Jones.
Unfortunately, DOCA will be unable to admit people who are under 18. Tickets will include a festival half pint glass and enough beer tokens for two half pints.
Gigantic bouncy slide outside the trusty Pelican, where we usually wait for a bus. Beyond, a superior stage surrounded by pockets of circus acts, charity stands, clothes stalls, and street food heaven wraps the Market Place, where DOCA gave information and a Pimms bar bustled. Happenings snaked down Snuff Street, over St Johns, and across the town centre, the atmosphere buzzing. What’s not to like?
From fudge and churros, to Tibetan cuisine and crocodile burgers, food and drink was diverse. Stealth Brewery held the most aesthetic bar and seating area, The British Lion occupied the other, functional side, frantically serving the cider which gives this event it’s local auxiliary namesake. Yes, Black Rat Monday, or as the wonderful organisers would favour you call it, The Devizes International Street Festival. Upon us, the customary bubbliest, most multicoloured and all-round brilliant community-fuelled event to bless our spirited market town.
If many a festival constitutes packing camping gear, blagging petrol money off mates and trekking through town and country to attend, DOCA bring the spirit of festival to your doorstep, and do it with bells on. As the crowd bobbed and gyrated at the main stage, I spotted a musical statue, poised to snap a photo, or ten. Gail turned to me with a smile, “it’s my favourite day of the year,” she uttered. Whatever I write of it will be deficient and incomplete, for there’s so much going on. It’s our Mardi Gras; you wander, you catch what you can, go where you like, impossible for me to document it all, especially half-toasted as I was! Gail summed it in a sentence.
As the sun shone, I must say yet again, this was the fantastic event it traditionally always has been, and improves annually. Impossible to stage something so vast and varied without slight hip-cups. I’m not rising to grumpy hecklers taken to Facebook to whinge their futile vendetta against DOCA, all over a carnival date change so volunteers can take a well-earned break and schools can be encouraged to participate. Drunkenly calling for the artistic director’s head on a platter, as if they were the manager of Newcastle is pathetic. Did you slip through a wormhole and appear in an alternative reality, because I thought it was awesome? Take your storm in a teacup to Rio, least upon return from Lalaland give yourself the directive to resist the urge to post when sozzled!
Ha, an opinion piece it be, refraining from writing journalistically as I do, it’s my belief we should praise DOCA, award the highest accolade. This weekend was tremendous. Budget didn’t stretch to quite as many cosplayers, walkers and random street theatre than previous years, something funding will help towards, or hey, the attendees maketh the festival; maybe dress up yourself! No Andy; Spiderman onesie is in the wash, thank you!
My attention was drawn to an apparent lack of activities at the Northgate end, usually the child-friendly zone. I’ll say Sunday on the Green is more geared towards our younger, still it’s fair feedback. Though, it’s all the criticism I will accept as constructive. Yes, unobtainable was sitting around The Market Cross; it was fenced off due to structural damage and danger of pieces falling; no fault of DOCA. Similarly, a band mistaking their performance time is an unavoidable calamity. This caused a rather vacant period on the main stage, which was a shame, yet well-oiled crowds laughed between themselves, and thus away with the fairies went such trivial issues.
However, it did mean many flocked past the Town Hall, an area which usually fizzles out back to the reality of everyday Devizes. I’m so happy to say, prompting DOCA to take onboard our local music scene, I suggested something I really couldn’t commit to; had to work in the morning. But it was so, that Pete of Vinyl Realm had similar ideas, and executed a second zone of music in a manner I couldn’t have. My dream to have a little marquee with some acoustic singers was transformed into not only a trailer stage, but acoustic area and vinyl DJ, adding that extra dimension and rounding off the festival site with a definite border.
It was here where some excellent sets played before an audience larger than we anticipated. Strange Folk were amazing, yet it was Daydream Runaways who really bought the stage to its pinnacle. Sweltering, this upcoming pop-indie amalgamation of Swindon and Devizes, who I’ve been hailing with praise since I discovered, really delivered an energetic and proficient set of favourite covers and their own accomplished originals.
Often supporting the guys, Ben Borrill acoustically owned the area next, followed by Devizes space-rockers Cracked Machine. Having not managed to catch this headline act live up till now, I pondered if they could recreate the sublime atmospheric ambience they do on record, and I was not disappointed. This Pink Floyd of the vize volleyed it out of park. With trickles of intoxication, the sound apt under the heat of the sun, the crowd were whisked away blissfully.
This was, quite honestly, a highlight of the day, the whole idea to have the second stage was. So, a massive respect goes to Pete, Jacki and all at Vinyl Realm for organising and funding this, and to the Lamb who supplied the power, in more ways than one; I saw Sally wander over to band to hand them all some well-deserved hot dogs!
If this doesn’t convince DOCA to support our local music scene, nothing will! Pete has already suggested interest in doing it again next year. But, feeling the need to cover as much of the festival as possible, I scarpered back to witness the most gorgeous African fusion band on the main stage. Blinking heck, s’ all going on, so much so, it’s going off.
Truly fantastic DOCA and everyone who contributed their share, worked the bars, hosted side stalls and attractions and of course, the bonded spirit of you, the revellers; dotted with the special events, leaving next weekend for Confetti Battle and Colour Rush, I call to embrace this change, as this is destined to progress annually, we should be the envy of all of other towns and be proud of what has been achieved this weekend.
For me it’s not enough to say something is “weird.” To start, is it a “good” weird or a “bad” weird? If the opposite of weird is normal, and normal considered boring, then weird must surely entertain. It’s subjective; depends where you sit on the border of what constitutes an acceptable limit of weirdness. When it goes beyond this level maybe it fails to entertain you, by being so weird you cannot process any logic or reason within it, ergo “bad” weird, in your opinion.
Yet illogical or plain nonsensical has always been a backbone of humour. Many strive to extend said border, for if Spike Milligan or Monty Python pushed the limits in surrealism, Miguel de Cervantes did too, 350 years beforehand. I’d suggest there’s something very Don Quixote about Los Galindos’ Udel.
Humour at its most basic level is visual, a baby will find perpetual peek-a-boo hilarious. Similarly, visual humour relies on those classic formulas; falling over, sudden disappearance and reappearance and dumbfounded surprise. Akin to silent movies, voices are minimal and slapstick in Los Galindos is bountiful, and executed with distinction. But it is weird.
See, I like weird, strive for weirdness, savour weird things, chat to sane people hopefully making me appear weirder. Perhaps I set the barrier of what constitutes too weird high. If you agree, you will love this show. If you’ve wandered past the Green and seen a Mongolian yurt and thought, well how is a circus act supposed to be staged in there, without spoilers I’ll enlighten; that’s part of the joke.
If you’re thinking where does this article stop being a thought on the word weird, and become a review for this fantastically curious show, then you’re already putting barriers at your chosen level. For I don’t want to ruin the surprise, for the show continues through to Monday, but it left me wondering at what point the show actually started. Could be as soon as everyone was seated, even when we were kindly ushered in, perhaps just outside the door. Maybe all walking past, contemplating said notion, well how is a circus act supposed to be staged in there, have already become the audience of sorts.
It’s a prime example of what I’m getting at, the act is the production, the production is an act, the props are parts of the stage and yurt, and the yurt, stage, and possibly the audience too are the props. The costumes and overall impression are modest, yet charming. The acrobatics are deliberately played down like Tommy Cooper’s magic, but are exceptionally skilful.
Wrapped in essence of a humbled, poor circus family, who overdramatically welcome you, their efforts to make you comfortable and enjoy their show is the clowning element, perhaps it’s only narrative. The hazard of these disguised clowns executing daredevil circus stunts within inches of your face is worrying, and part of its attraction which will leave you in awe.
If you’re the sort expecting a traditional request, “I need a volunteer from the audience,” disregard your expectations. This is a unique and original take on circus noir, it’s clowning and acrobatics combined in a manner leaving you spellbound and pondering what exactly just happened, and why.
There was a point in the act, without giving the game away, where the doors blew open, and in viewing a glance outside there was a gentle reminder you were sitting on the Green in Devizes, and not immersed in a scene from Don Quixote staged by amateurs with a homemade theatre, in some remote mountainous village north of Barcelona.
It’s fantastically abridged circus, something radical moulded into a Mediterranean era of yore, and honestly, something you’ve not see in Devizes before, or probably ever will again, even if you consider Devizes is weird!
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.
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.
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.”
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
Saturday 13th July: Devizes Carnival Through the Ages.
Entrant registration from 4pm, Procession starts at 6:15pm.
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
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
UduL by Los Galindos @ The Green
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.
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 DOC