The stalwart venue of Melksham is being viewed more like just a wart by town councillors, in a sad day which could see the closing curtain for the Assembly Hall.
Melksham News reported on the rumour I’ve been trying to hold back on, hoping the day wouldn’t come, that Melksham Assembly Hall and the Town Hall could be sold off under controversial plans being considered by Melksham Town Council.
More than once, Conservative Councillor Phil Alford contradicts himself in conversation with Melksham News, in the very same sentences!
Here he defends his case by telling the newspaper, “the Assembly Hall needs £400K for refurbishment,” but adds “we should build a new facility.” Is it just me being thick, I mean I’m no building contractor, but wouldn’t building a new facility cost more than repairing the one you’ve got?!
And does it even need this colossal cost for a refurb at all? It looks fine to me as it is, lick of paint, job done. Face it, Melksham, other than a handful of excellent local pubs, like the Pilot and Foresters supplying the town with live music, you’ve hardly any few entertainment venues as it is.
The Assembly Hall is a pillar to the community, with a brilliant programme and variety of events to suit everyone. From top class tribute acts, massive fundraising events such as the legendary Female of the Species gigs, which had to be shifted to Seend, to regular clubs such as the twenty-five year strong Rock n Roll Club drawing crowds from across the country, and even the popular male stripper nights. Perhaps it’s the latter offending Mr Alford; feeling somewhat inferior?!
Has the smokescreen got in your eyes yet? The new campus project has seen closure of the library and historic Blue Pool too; how many eggs does this Councillor want to put in the same basket, I sigh. “We now have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to do something about it,” he continues his pitch, why is it “a once-in-a-lifetime chance?” is there no chance of a backhander in the future?
He said this, He. Actually. Said. This. “Now is the time to be creative, trust residents, decide on a plan and move forward for the benefit of the town,” regardless of the simple fact, next Tuesday’s meeting to decide upon the fate of the hall has the proposal it should be held as a closed session, preventing the press and public from attending. If that’s the best method of involving public opinion then I’m the Queen of Sheba.
It’s begger’s belief how closing a venue would “benefit” a town, but the cavalry comes in the form of independent councillor Jon Hubbard, who told Melksham News, “we don’t know the details of the options yet, but the Assembly Hall is a massive asset to the town.
“It’s one of the largest halls in Wiltshire, there is nothing else that can compete with it in terms of capacity and I think we would be quite mad to even contemplate getting rid of that without replacing it with an equivalent facility.
“All of the plans I have seen have been talking about significantly smaller facilities and Melksham already has a wealth of smaller halls and I see no reason why the town council should invest taxpayers’ money into facilities which will compete with existing assets that the town has.”
Well said Jon, it goes in line with the original rumour circulating, that some councillors wanted the hall to be only for events which they feel benefitted the community, in which case they’re in the wrong job and should be an events coordinator rather than a councillor. The Assembly Hall is the brilliant venue hosting self-propelled events I wish we had here in Devizes. The running at a loss argument is piffle in a peroid of economic decline, they all are unfortunately. Especially when said peroid is a direct result of appalling national decisions of the political party Mr Alford himself supports.
The irony is blinding, but folk have hijacked the Facebook post to express their disappointment and point out the significance of the Assembly Hall. One said, “The Town Hall is the very fibre of this town’s history. Its location at the heart of Market Place is the embodiment of the pride we have for our town. To sell the building for private ownership is beyond conscionable.”
Another said, “The town hall is the focal point for nearly all the town events. Selling it off is 100% short sighted. People travel for miles to see melksham Xmas lights and other events, if the town hall goes we would lose those or they would move to melksham house which doesn’t have the same focus in the town.”
The post is here, you can comment, but I’d advise to take your opinion to Mr Alford himself, his email is: Phil.Alford@wiltshire.gov.uk
The annual all-female local supergroup get-together is annouced for the Halloween weekend, at a new venue, Seend Community Centre.…
Nicky Davis from People Like Us and The Reason, Julia Greenland from Soulville Express & Delta Swing, Claire Perry from Big Mamma & The Misfitz, solo artist Charmaigne Andrews, and Julie Moreton from Trowbridge’s Train to Skaville and Jules & The Odd Men, form the Civic Award-winning supergroup The Female of the Species. I’ll let you in on a secret if you’ve not been to one of their six annual gigs, it’s a party not to be missed.
Halloween costumes optional, but you can guarantee the girls will be dressed up for their annual fundraising extravaganza.
Last year’s event raised a staggering £1,763 for the Therapy Fund of Devizine’s other superheroine, Carmela Chillery-Watson. This time around the girls said, “it’s so difficult to choose from all the incredible charities that apply to us every year, but this year, with the way mental health has been such a huge topic, particularly amongst our younger generations, we have gone with TeenTalk.”
TeenTalk is the early help and support service, run by Young Melksham. TeenTalk’s mission is to reduce and relieve the suffering and distress, and to improve the emotional wellbeing, of young people and their families throughout North and West Wiltshire.
The date for this seventh spectacular is set for Saturday 29th October 2022, now moved to Seend Community Centre, famous for their epic beer festivals.There will be a support act, yet to be confirmed, but doors open at 7pm for drinks, and Female of the Species take to the stage at 8:30pm. Get your tickets here.
Entertainment events in the county blossoming out of lockdown came to a pinnacle this weekend. We were spoiled for choice, and without cloning technology the decision would’ve been a toughy for me, if it hadn’t had been for the no-brainer; the sixth annual outing of local supergroup, The Female of the Species at Melksham’s brilliant Assembly Hall.
From the moment I was pinged the lowdown on this event my heartstrings spasmed, five band’s fantastic frontwomen in their own right united for the rare, Community Civic award-winning, fundraising bonanza which has become somewhat equal in legend around these parts as a Spice Girls reunion. And perhaps what is more, the proceeds this year were directed at another personal superheroine, Carmela Chillery-Watson.
Super-heroic is a term I don’t use lightly, and not out of sympathy for Carmela’s rare strain of muscular dystrophy. Over the past two years I’ve followed the progress of Carmela and her family’s fight against this muscle-wasting condition, since mum, Lucy sent Devizine a fundraising event poster and I figured I could do more, which consequently saw me take to my milk-round dressed in my Spiderman onesie! For, now at seven years old, Carmela’s zest for life and amiable charisma is an inspiration to everyone she meets. I found it rubs off on you with immediate effect, something hordes of international celebrities have also now discovered.
Bringing this celebrity herself now back home to Wiltshire for a fundraising event, I was not only delighted to meet her and her family again, but mightily impressed with her handling of fame. Carmela responds accordingly to mounting attention, never excluding or shunning any individual yet finding the time to address them all equally; a skill many a celeb could learn from.
With a bombardment of unfortunate planning episodes, Jools of the reggae-ska band Train to Skaville confessed, “it was a nightmare trying to get this event off the ground,” it truly became a sense of it’ll be alright on the night, and the party went off with an explosive boom. The amalgamated wealth of experience, proficiency and professionalism of The Female of the Species shone through; they are deadlier than the male.
Dedication too, to overcome obstacles, apexed by performer and musical director, Nicky Davis of bands People Like Us and the Reason, who took a fall during rehearsals to personify the performance idiom, break a leg. Frustrated by her vocal restrictions slouched at the keyboard, the second half of the show proved too tempting, and Nicky manged to make it onto her feet to sing behind the keys, rather more like Jerry Lee Lewis than Elton John in style!
But we are getting ahead of ourselves now, for full credits have to be awarded to support act, Melksham-based Plan of Action. Unbeknown to me, this male trio with a female bassist took me by surprise. Based on previous FOTS supports, I was expecting soothing acoustics, yet Plan of Action done what it suggested on the tin, and executed said plan in a hard rock fashion akin to the Foo-Fighters covers they blasted with certain precision. They then beseeched their benchmark, rather than redefined their style, to cover Wilson Pickett’s Mustang Sally in hard-edged blues fashion, and finished more retro than they started with rock classics such as Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell.
Not only did they fire up the audience superbly in preparation, but their fanbase also resolved the terror of who would be first to break the dancefloor reservations. Now there was no stopping the crowd, as Female of the Species drummer, Pip Phillips of People Like Us was first to appear, foot-peddling the bass drum to build anticipation while the girls came onstage under an impressive light show.
Second tune in, Nicky Davis led them in an accomplished cover of Hotel California, and solo soul singer Julia Hanratty followed lead on Stevie Wonder’s Superstition, as is the Female of the Species code of conduct; memorable pop covers ranging the spectrums of their individual tastes. That said, we had none of the two-tone of Jools’ Train to Skaville, although she did an outstanding lead on Deacon Blue’s Real Gone Kid.
With affections towards uncompromising rock, Charmaigne Andrews’ AC/DC Highway to Hell boosted the crowd, but not before an early highlight for me; Julia’s absolutely outstanding cover of Aretha Franklin’s Respect, something I’d not advise any singer to attempt, as with Nicky last time, who gorgeously portrayed Heard it Through the Grapevine, Julia clearly knocked this one clear out of the park.
Claire Perry of Big Mama’s Banned not only brings range to the repertoire, but witty if saucy repartee to the show, unsurpassed during the break where Carmela joined her to announce raffle prize-winners. Sporting Wonder Woman headgear for the second half, they raised the roof of the Assembly Hall, as much as they raised serious funds for the cause.
Aforementioned, Nicky stood for the second half despite her plastered leg, as they played through memorable covers, dancefloor fillers, and perfected songs you’d be excused from thinking, oh my, they’re covering that?Bohemian Rhapsody, Grease Lightening, Oh, Sweet Child of Mine, and Jacko’s Beat It for examples. Jool’s cover of Kirsty MacColl’s New England, Claire’s I’ll Put a Spell on You, Charmaigne leading on Republica’s Ready to Go, the show continued past my bus time, but I could faintly hear Mr Blue Skies while I waited!
Yeah, here’s a thing I hadn’t thought of before; escaping the Devizes westwards for the evening is surprisingly possible via public transport, and it wasn’t a drunken fallout zone, like the Boot Hill All Star’s hilarious song, Night Bus, which I imagined, rather a mediocre and tranquil bus journey!
The last bus on the 273 route leaves Bath at 11:30, and gets to the Sham at ten-to-midnight; blooming marvellous, for Melksham have a real gem with the Assembly Hall. Drinks are affordable, the service well-staffed, the atmosphere is hospitable and they’re continuing to bring outstanding shows and events to the Sham.
All in all, this show was professional yet communal, absolutely fantastic and spellbindingly electric; if another comes along, I suggest you don’t miss out. But I must finish in thanking the Female of the Species and all involved for supporting such an amazing cause, and local girl; and to Carmela, you are a superstar.
Here’s the thing, did you realise Monday marked the second anniversary of when Wonder Woman joined me on my milk round?! Yeah, true, and we raised some wonga for her alter-ego Carmela’s fund and fight against muscular dystrophy. And now Carmela is not only a tiny best friend of mine, but huge inspiration to us all and something of celeb now too.
Star of her own fun children’s book you can buy in Devizes Books to raise funds for her campaign, as well as hobnobbing with the stars, I’m delighted this evening to hear, some other of my favourite girls are reforming their supergroup to raise some funds in her name too.
Pre-lockdown, girl members of six bands annually joined for a fundraising one-off gig, and it was always something explosive, fun and a darn awesome night. Nicky Davis from Warminster based People Like Us and The Reason, Glastonbury’s Julia Greenland from Soulville Express & Delta Swing, Frome’s Claire Perry from Big Mamma Banned & The Misfitz, solo artist Charmaigne Andrews from Melksham, and Julie Moreton from Trowbridge’s Train to Skaville and Jules & The Odd Men, will come together once again, at the Melksham Assembly on 16th October, for a show not to be missed.
This, for me, is all too much to take in, girls, girls, girls, I’m not sure I can control myself. The Female of the Species raised just over £3,000 in 2018 for the fantastic youth community project, Young Melksham, and for all their efforts, they were selected for a Community Civic Award.
This time all of your pennies from the tenner tickets will go to Carmela’s Fight Against Muscular Dystrophy, and those tickets are here.
Support will come from Melksham rock, blues and alternative covers and original band Plan of Action. Seriously folks, put this is your diary.
Everyone having a nice March so far, been alright, innit? I promised, when I featured the first fortnight of events, here, that I would return to complete the last two weeks. I’ve promised this before and totally spaced on it, for which I apologise; not enough hours in the day. Nothing to do with my goldfish memory. Here though, this month, I’ve actually only gone and done it, before the 31st March too! See below if you don’t believe it’s true, the last fortnight in March, stuff to do while waiting for the supermarkets to restock on bog roll, and all that. I know, it scares me sometimes too.
Bear in mind, mind, our calendar is constantly updating, so do check in as more events and gigs are bound to magically appear like the shopkeeper in Mr Ben.
Sunday 15th is where we were up to, and I got two fantablous gigs, Burbank are the White Bear in Devizes, while Jon Amor is at the Three Horseshoes in Bradford on Avon; nice.
Monday, I never know if the Devizes Folk Club is on down the Lamb or not, to be frank, but it’s a place for a beer if I’m wrong and it’s not!!
Tuesday 17th The Stonehenge lecture at the Wiltshire Museum is now sold out. Celebrated cartoonist and artist, Norman Thelwell is at The Merchant’s House in Marlborough, for a fascinating hour illustrated talk, tracing his life, passions and artistic development. Thelwell produced 1,500 cartoons and 60 front covers for the famed Punch magazine alone and some 32 books translated into a dozen different languages. His works were full of beautifully observed detail and mainly of rural subjects, including country and leisure pursuits, sport, house sales and renovation, stately homes, gardening and sailing. Failing that, Cracknakeel provides live music at The Sun in Frome for their St Patrick’s Day celebration.
Wednesday 18th is jam-packed, for a Wednesday! Acoustic jam down the Southgate, Devizes. Bromham’s Farm Cookery School has a Taste of Morocco class, where you could be learning how to make a Briouat which is like a Moroccan Samosa, make your own Khobz and Kefta Mkaouara. £40.00 per person. Over in Marlborough David Evans gives the second of three lectures in The Merchant’s House Study Series, focussing on Reformation in England and the Arts. The Roots Sessions continues at Frome’s Cheese & Grain with the fantastic Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue.
Thursday 19th and you could be back down The Farm Cookery School in Bromham for a Mozzarella & Halloumi Masterclass with Josie. She will teach how to make both cheese which is technical but fun! £35.00 per person. The fantastic Ed Byrne is at the Bath Forum and Moles has a punky/metal night with the Anarchist’s Bookfair, Butter The Pavement and Out Of Reach.
If it’s a slow start to the week, Friday 20th March makes up for it. If, like me, all you know about Jesus Christ Superstar is that he came down from heaven on a Yamaha, and you have doubts with your conviction of that, it’s the opening night for this amateur production by arrangement with The Really Useful Group Ltd at Devizes’ Wharf Theatre. Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic musical portrayal of the last seven days of the life of Christ as seen through the eyes of Judas Iscariot runs until Sat 28th March and while tickets are still available as I write this, do be as quick, as if you were on a Yamaha yourself; take care not to skid though!
Meanwhile Devizes Town Hall is the place to head for opera fans, as The White Horse Opera presents their Spring Concert. Including Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’amore, Ruddigore by Gilbert and Sullivan and Hadyn’s Creation, this would be the perfect introduction to opera for those, like me, who thought Donizetti was a type of pasta sauce!
If you fancy music more pop, the local supergroup I’m always raving about, the Female Of The Species play Melksham’s Assembly Hall. Fusing all their respective band’s influences, expect the best of rock, soul and ska as the girl’s combine forces for a fun-filled gig; I’ve been to see one of these shows and I’m not hyping it up because they’re all awesome chicks, I highly recommend it!
Day one of two, at the inspiring Shoebox Theatre in Swindon of their FUSE Festival where six emerging artists test a new performance idea over three days. Fuse is about supporting the beginnings of new work before it’s fully developed. Watch, discuss, and be part of the creation of something brilliant. Two performances Kat Lyons’ Dry Season, interweaving music and movement with original spoken word poetry and extracts from medical literature. And the debut one-woman-show from Mighty Mammal Theatre, Swine of the Times, where you can meet the piggies at the troff; they sing songs, say prayers and even mime. Alice Wolff-Whitehouse employs her skills in physical comedy, dance and song to bring to life a series of flawed and quintessentially British characters, looking at the grotesque nature of privilege in the UK through a warped and colourful lens.
Staying in Swindon, Baila Coffee & Vinyl have some Disco Voodoo with DJ Amir, or try indie rock covers with Joli & the Souls at the Vic. Elsewhere, the Leathers play The Three Horseshoes in Bradford on Avon, Clannad are at Bath Forum, and Jack Dee’s Off The Telly tour is at Salisbury City Hall.
Saturday 21st then. After the hugely successful free concert in the Market Place last summer, The Full Tone Orchestra have taken their show to Marlborough, and return to town to rave the night away at the Corn Exchange. Taking the most popular section of their show, the club anthems, expect this to be something innovative and all glowsticks, as conductor Anthony Brown’s beloved orchestra reproduce the club classics which defined an era.
The Cavalier go country with the Stone Mountain Sinners, caught these guys before, they’ve a refreshing approach to country-rock which is a cut above the rest. And breezy, original songwriter Ed Witcomb makes a welcome return to The Southgate. For surf beats, odd time signatures, eccentric tunes and irony-fuelled free jazz, try The Barge at Honeystreet, where bonkers surf surrealists Mustard Allegro do their stuff.
Super Trooper Abba tribute, Sensations grace the Seend Community Centre, while Swindon’s Meca has a Whitney Houston tribute. Don’t forget though, it’s day two of the Shoebox’s Fuse Festival too.
Mercy Lounge at The Three Horseshoes, Bradford on Avon. Recommended ska night at Warminster’s Prestbury Sports Bar with the Train To Skaville, and Paul Carrick is at Bath Forum.
Head to the Southgate for an afternoon pint or three, on Sunday 22nd, and our fantastic singer-songwriter Vince Bell will entertain you. Meanwhile, Groovelator play The Three Horseshoes in Bradford.
Tuesday, Devizes Film Club at the Town Hall have the latest Ken Loach film, Sorry We Missed You, which you will be if you miss this one film fans. Full of drama, tension and heartbreak. Ricky and Debbie are the parents of teenage children. Ricky joins the ‘gig’ economy with a franchise for a parcel delivery firm. The job is sold to him as one where he will become master of his own destiny. Providing, that is, he complies with the labyrinth of deadlines, rules and conditions imposed by the company, a near impossible task. Debbie is a care worker who wants to care for the old people as though they are her Mam. But her working conditions thwart her in doing the job as she thinks fit. This modern Dickensian story dramatises the conflict between work and family life in contemporary Britain.
Don’t forget Wednesday’s acoustic Jam down the Southgate, and blues-folk singer Elles Bailey is with Phil King at the Chapel Arts, Bath. Thursday you can witness epic human-powered feats, life-affirming challenges and mind-blowing cinematography on the big screen at The Banff Mountain Film Festival world tour, coming to the Salisbury City Hall. Staying in Devizes on the last Thursday of every month though is no bore, as the regular and celebrated open mic night at the Cellar Bar is something to behold.
Seventies punk bands never had such a great name as Brighton’s Peter & The Test Tube Babies. Still going strong forty years on, they play the Vic in Swindon on Friday 27th. Tenner on the door. Swindon also has an Improv Jam at The Shoebox, and homemade function band Locomotion at the Swiss Chalet.
While it’ll sadly never be possible for the boys to be back in town, Preston’s tribute Twin Lizzy will. They make a welcomed return to the Cavalier, Devizes on Friday. Meanwhile, the Devizes & District Twinning Association take over the town hall to bring us some French Café Music with Jac & Co, tickets are also a tenner for both these diverse evenings.
How much more diverse do you want? A dedicated club night for adults with Learning Disabilities? This Is Me at the wonderful charity youth centre, Young Melksham is precisely that, a night of great music and friendship. There’s a series of these events, first one is Friday.
Another welcomed return to Marlborough Folk-Roots at the Town Hall on Friday, when Steve Knightley explores the themes and stories that inspire him and shows how music and words can become lyrics and chords and notes can meld to create songs that acquire a life of their own.
For want of an authentic tribute band, From The Jam play The Cheese & Grain in Frome, and I’ve heard all good stories about them. If originals are what you want though, The Queen’s Head in Box has a double-booking Friday. Katy Hurt stretches the country music genre in exciting new directions; haunting blues vocals, towering country rock guitars, even a reggae vibe, and she is followed by psychedelic alternative rock band, The Bohemian Embassy.
Saturday night of the 28th March is alright, but no fighting, please. Time for the Devizes Lions’ Spring Concert at St Andrew’s Church, where Ian Diddams comperes Bath Coleman, Bangers & Nash, and the Trowbridge & District Youth Band. Tickets are £10, proceeds to Wiltshire Young Carers.
The Corn Exchange has a Gin Festival. Tribute act, Motley Crude are The Cavalier and local heroes Rockhoppaz play The Black Swan. For high octane original and classic rock mixed with some tasteful Bluesy tracks, check the Mark Smallman Band at the Southgate.
Devizine is the unofficial Tamsin Quin fan club, if you wanna hear why, head to Bromham’s Owl on Saturday. Another Abba Tribute, Swede Dreams play Market Lavington Community Hall.
Highly recommended for the mods, The Roughcut Rebels are at The Pheasant in Chippenham. Also, Blondie & Ska are great fun, they’re at the Wiltshire Yeoman in Trowbridge, checking ahead, they play in Devizes, at the Pelican in May. The Blue Rose Band at The Westbury Conservative Club and an Amy Winehouse tribute at Bath’s Odd Down AFC & Social Club. Level III have a “One Step Beyond-ska and punk club-night.
Elsewhere in Swindon, homemade Damm at Coleview Community Centre and P!nk tribute, Beautiful Trauma play Brookhouse Farm, and a Pearl Jam tribute, Earl Jam at the Vic.
Sophie Matthews explores the links between the visual and the aural in a one-hour presentation at the Merchant’s House, Marlborough. Drawing on the works of great painters including Brueghel, Hogarth and Rigaud, Sophie presents a feast of images featuring historical woodwind instruments in their original social context interspersed with live performances of historical music using authentic instruments.
Sunday 29th – Nearly there, and breath…. Yin Yoga & Gong Bath at Devizes Corn Exchange, The Sunday Sessions continue at The White Bear with Matt Cook and Gary Hall at The Southgate. There’s a Comic-Con at Bath Pavilion, to be frank, it’s a commercial affair rather than a genuine “comic” con, with cosplay, gaming and meeting vague TV actors and ex-Gladiators, but might be fun for the kids.
That’s it, folks, March done, save Bradford on Avon Folk Club have Geoff Lakeman on Tuesday 31st. Let’s regroup in April, but feedback on these articles are needed. Do they work for you? Long-winded I know, but in order to fit it in. Devizine is a work in progress, I enjoy and need to know what’s working and what’s not. So, if you’ve read this far, I salute you! Tell me about it!
Even if they are deadlier than the male, Devzine still loves The Female of the Species. Separate they are dynamic performers, each assigned to the crème of local bands, but when they get together it’s like the Spice Girls were librarians. We’ve covered their Melksham Assembly Hall annual fundraising gigs in the past, now they look set to take 2019 too.
Recently announced date with the ladies then, 30th November and supported by some so far unannounced special guests, this show will be knockout, believe me, witnessed it last time. It’s becoming as traditional as Christmas, this annual jaunt for solo singer Charmaigne Andrews, Jules Morton of Train to Skaville, Nicky Davis of the Reason, Julia Greenland of Soulville Express and last but my no means least, the one and only Claire Perry of Big Mamma’s Banned.
They blend all their separate influences to create one super party as polished as Mrs Bucket’s (pronounced Bouquet) mantlepiece, and as about as much fun as an orgy in zero G, not nearly as fruity, but it does at times border. Devizine interviewed them all in one go, a occasion I’ve still not recovered fully from, and we celebrate this announcement with bell on.
So, bookmark the date, tenner tax, and all, I mean all, proceeds go to a chosen charity each year. This time it’s for Stepping Stones. Stepping Stones is an Opportunity Group for children with special needs. From Ages 0-5 with varying levels of need, Stepping Stones, based in Trowbridge, covers the West Wiltshire Area from Trowbridge, Melksham, Westbury, Warminster, Bradford on Avon and all the surrounding villages.
This non-profit organisation is only partly funded by Wiltshire County Council. Each year they have to raise £40,000 in order to continue to provide the service to the children. They pay for extra therapy sessions for the children and also fully fund both the Music therapy and Hydrotherapy sessions. There can be no better way to support this worthy charity then to party with the Female of the Species!
Knicker incidents, gaffer tape and award ceremonies, I chat with the Female of the Species; defo deadlier than the male!
Last year was full of highlights for me, perks of the job. Despite downsides; attending on my Jack Jones, not finding a single person I knew and having to stay sober to drive home, one particularly memorable evening was at the packed Melksham Assembly Hall in September, for the annual get-together of an explosive all-female local supergroup, The Female of The Species, in September.
The annual gig has run for three consecutive years, the first raising money for the mental health awareness charity, Mind. 2017 was donated to the Wiltshire Air Ambulance. The girl’s raised just over £3,000 last year for the fantastic youth community project, Young Melksham, and for all their efforts, the Female of the Species have been selected for a Community Civic Award. They attend an award ceremony, at the Mayor’s Reception on 22nd March, at the Assembly Hall.
A huge congratulations to the supergroup, constructed of female leads in local groups: Claire Perry of Big Mama’s Banned, Nicky Davis of the Reason, and People Like Us, Julia Greenland from Soulville Express, solo artist Charmaigne Andrews, Jules Moreton of Train to Skaville, and of course, their backing band, including Train to Skaville’s saxophonist Karen Potter. I thought I’d create a group chat with Nicky, Jules, Claire and Julia in order to send my congrats and have a chat about how they feel about receiving the award; glutting for punishment?!
I decided to open with, “afternoon ladies, sorry for a group chat but it is just you girls and me, please be gentle,” but consider I may’ve been asking too much.
A moderate reminder from Jules, “Gentle is not in our vocabulary Darren.”
I asked for confirmation, “deadlier than the male, eh?”
“You know it,” Jules replied, “and thanks, we’re delighted about the award.”
“I guess the first question is, where does this take the FOTS next, I know you were thinking about more than the annual gig?”
Nicky replied with emoji, “London O2, then America, then world domination!”
“Yes,” Jules bought it down a peg, “we’re looking at doing two, one in Devizes and one in Melksham, or what Nicky just said!”
Prior to the interview going completely off on one, as I suspected it would, I asked, “do you see this more as a get-together, being it’s an amalgamation of groups, or could it become a gigging group?”
“We’re working towards gigging group!” Jules informed.
Nicky added, “we think we’d all love for it to become a regular gigging band, if we could make it work!”
The girl’s certainly bounce off each other, verbally mind, steady on. Banter ensues, and from recalling the noise in the green room of the Melksham Assembly Hall, equally as loud as the gig, I’m fully aware they get on like a house, or even, residential estate on fire. But, what about their respective bands, are they jealous of the accolade?!
“No jealousy at all from my lot,” Nicky confirmed.
“Some gigs will be for personal revenue,” I asked, “rather than charity?”
Perfectly understandably, “yes,” Jules confirmed, “after 5 years of us paying for rehearsal rooms, travel expenses etc, it’s about time we earned ourselves a few quid!”
Will they do an annual fund-raiser this year too, though?
“Every year!” Jules exclaimed, “We won’t forget our roots.” We chatted on ideal venues in Devizes, which is never simple, Female of the Species draws crowd, and being there’s five divas here, they’d need a lot of room. I’d have to be careful how I put that to them though!
“Yes,” Claire Perry finally entered the chatroom; when all hell is due to break lose, “…need lots of room to shake our thangggsss!”
“Will you be doing a song or two at the mayor’s reception,” I asked, in an attempt to keep it refined, “or just getting a badge and certificate?”
“I’m going for the champagne!” Nicky laughed.
“Haaa!!” Claire, stuck on the previous subject responded, “be warned…some of us have ‘thannnngggs’ that need a wide-angle lens!?”
That’s simply not true, it’s all about the bass, no treble. “It’s a beautiful thang,” I pay compliment, “am I quoting you on that Claire?!” I reiterated, “let me rephrase: I am quoting you that!”
To Claire, it’s all meat and no gravy, considering she should ask for extra gravy on the menu choice, I guess the girls get fed at this award ceremony. “That’s fine Darren, but I’m the naughty one! – the girls might have to bring a roll of gaffer tape to keep me schtum!”
Jules finally answers the actual question, “We won’t be performing at the awards ceremony, this will be the only time that we can all get together and enjoy a drink or two! I’ve got the gaffer tape, Claire. We also thought we would make a little video entitled ‘a girl’s guide to gigging’. Between us we have some of the most hilarious gig stories.”
I guess it’s good to trade off on other’s gigging experiences, “what of gigging for girls, how does it differ than gigging for boys?” I’ll probably regret asking.
“I don’t think a gigging boy has ever had to ask a total stranger to help them out of their dress because it’s totally stuck to them and they can’t do it themselves!” Jules replied. Boy George, Jules?
“Do the knickers show through the dress?” Nicky added, “Can I get away with performing in my hoodie or do I really have to make an effort? One plus side- if the voice isn’t on form, I can wear a low-cut top and distract the audience from my crap singing by wobbling the boobs around a bit!”
Taken with a pinch, when recalling how Nicky sublimely covered “Heard it through the Grapevine,” at September’s gig. Still, I’m getting a tad hot under the collar. Meanwhile, Claire belts in with caps lock stuck on, “THE FRONT ROW HAVE TO HOLD ON TO THEIR BEVERAGES IF I HAVE VOICE PROBLEMS NICK!! Back stage stories; we were toying with one of the chapters entitled: Is that meant to be hanging out? Oh, wait…I’ve got an industrial safety pin in my sponge bag that should hold it?! … followed by the chapter…. NO IT WON’T!”
I can see where this is heading, consider making my excuses; Nicky advised I make a run for it. But at this point, Julia Greenland joined the conversation, “Geez how do I even start cutting in on this one?! It’s a closely guarded secret that a few of the band went on stage ‘commando’ as they had got the wrong knickers for their outfits; no names!”
Suspect Jules gave the game away, “I know Julia has a couple of wardrobe malfunction stories,” she mused.
“You’re still on record,” I felt the need to remind them, “things will be taken down.”
“Can you see why we we’re deadlier than the male?!” Claire asked me. Feared answering, I’m asking the questions!
“For once I’m speechless,” Julie admitted, “either that or holding back. Once I get started there’s no stopping me…. us girls have a lot of stories to tell….”
Lo-and-behold a selection of those stories were relayed to me; you don’t need hear of them! “Have you considered a gig/festival with all your respective bands playing?” Not to change the subject or anything like that.
“Many times!” Nicky clarified, “It’s just getting all our band members available on the same date.”
“Yes,” Julia approved, “but it’s a mammoth task to organise something on that scale.”
“Darren,” Nicky checked I was still awake, “these girls need a lot of steering… it’s like herding cats at rehearsals!”
They all agreed, and it was high time to least attempt to bring this rabble of an interview to a close; being as they make the Spice Girls look like the St Winifred’s Choir, I contemplated, “one idea; what about recording a charity single?”
“There’s no one quite like Grandma?” Claire pondered.
“Do They Know it’s a Knicker-less Gig at all?” I considered.
“…. only if you tell ‘em!” Jules added, despite the fact I explained I’ll print whatever they say!
“Don’t you dare!” Julie said, “Spinal Tap have nothing on us.”
“I meant as opposed to; Do they know it’s Christmas,” I explained. “That’s it; I’m sooo out of here!”
“Coward!” Julie joked, as Jules advised I did leave, to save myself. The only thing really becoming clear, The Female of the Species is a tightknit girl gang, with seamless talent, precariously hilarious banter, and hearts of gold; well done to them for this amazing award.
Being one of our first pieces it has to be said, not only is it of far better quality than the type of rubbish I’m now putting out, but it had an inspiring theme! The reason I bring it up, because the local, all-girl supergroup The Female of the Species, which was its subject, are at it again, and tickets for their gig at the Melksham Assembly Rooms are now on sale.
Tackily pasted from last year’s event, I wrote: “Nicky Davis from People Like Us and The Reason, Glastonbury’s Julia Greenland from Soulville Express & Delta Swing, Frome’s Claire Perry from Big Mamma & The Misfitz, solo artist Charmaigne Andrews from Melksham, and Julie Moreton from Trowbridge’s Train to Skaville and Jules & The Odd Men, form the supergroup for Live on the Night, at the Melksham Assembly Rooms on Saturday 30th September.” So, other then being pushed back a day, I asked Nicky if anything else has changed?
“Claire (Big Mama) no longer performs with the Misfitz,” noted Nicky, “instead she’s now with ‘Big Mama’s Banned.” Jules added, “The girls are delighted to announce that joining us as part of our band line up this year, on sax, is my fellow ‘Train to Skaville’ band-mate, the awesome Miss Karen Potter.” So other than this it’s much the same and on target to rock the Melksham Assembly Rooms on Saturday the 29th September.
This year’s event is subtitled “Raising Money Through Music,” and is in aid of Young Melksham, a registered charity which “work as a community to provide all children and young people with opportunities to thrive, develop and participate.” Young Melksham really makes a huge difference to the lives of youth in our area, by hosting more events than I can list here, including The Melksham Young People’s Awards.
They make trips to shows locally, hold a variety of regular weeknight “youth club styled” workshops and events from their Canberra Club, from cookery to sports. They even run a shuttlebus to get kids there safely. The policy of Young Melksham is: “advancing in life and helping children and young people by developing their skills, capacities and capabilities to enable them to participate in society as independent, mature and responsible individuals; advancing education, providing recreational and leisure time activities in the interest of social welfare designed to improve their conditions of life.” They even have fully-trained counsellor and listening support workers when youth need a friendly face and a listening ear.
Supporting the supergroup this year will be young songstress with that oh so soulful voice, Laura Jayne Burt, Melksham’s guitar/soloist Sarah Deer and batting for the boys, Bath’s acoustic duo Ben & Tim. This is one unmissable annual extravaganza which takes the best elements of all these local groups and combines them into a blend of reggae and ska, soul and Motown, blues and rock. It can only guarantee too ooze with local talent and blow the roof of the Assembly Rooms, for just a tenner a ticket, with ALL proceeds going to this fantastic charity-based community project…..and it’s full of gorgeous ladies; what’s not to like?!
Deadlier than the male, The Female of the Species is an amalgamation of female musicians from various local bands who team up to host charity gigs; what’s not to like?
Nicky Davis from Warminster based People Like Us and The Reason, Glastonbury’s Julia Greenland from Soulville Express & Delta Swing, Frome’s Claire Perry from Big Mamma & The Misfitz, solo artist Charmaigne Andrews from Melksham, and Julie Moreton from Trowbridge’s Train to Skaville and Jules & The Odd Men, form the supergroup again for “Live on the Night,” at the Melksham Assembly Rooms on Saturday 30th September.
Seriously not to be missed; Beginning by showcasing two young performers; James Dempsey and Laura Jane Burt, giving them stage time and experience. The show then continues with People Like Us. The finale, Female of the Species sure to be the icing on the cake. Blending their influences in a mash-up of reggae and ska, soul and Motown, blues and rock, how on Earth do they govern what genre is coming next?
I thought I’d hassle Jules of Train to Skaville for an answer. “Each of the girls chooses three or four songs from their band’s set list,” explained the self-confessed rude-girl, “and then we add in the stuff we sing together.”
The Female of the Species first formed for a one-off gig at the Civic Hall, Trowbridge in 2014 for the Hope Centre in Southwick, a charity for adults with learning difficulties, “but it was so successful,” Jules continued, “we had no choice but to do it all again….and again.”
This news nugget keeps getting better though, as this year they’re fund-raising for the Wiltshire Air Ambulance. The previous appearance at the Assembly Hall in Melksham, back in 2015 raised £2,920 in aid of WILTSHIRE M.I.N.D Mental Health Charity. The founding gig at The Hope Nature Centre in Southwick in 2014 I previously mentioned, raised an amazing £3,395.
While the next Train to Skaville is boarding from the White Swan, Trowbridge, Big Mama and the Misfitz only coming as close to us as The Fox and Hounds in Colerne on 4th November and the next People Like Us gig being a longer bus journey to Bath, at the Westgate on 22nd, here’s something in easy reach and all for the greatest cause. Tickets at just a tenner can be snatched from the Assembly Rooms or online here.