Top Twenty Best Vids of the Vizes!

Wet play project, can’t be bothered to go out. I’ve complied the best-loved videos documenting our crazy lil’ town, yet it can be updated if you know of a better one? And not one of your barbeque party where cousin Billy lost it on the trampoline; I’m not Harry flipping Hill and you won’t get two-hundred and fifty quid out of me, lucky to blag 10p. Let the arguments commence, but I’ve tried to top twenty the best, based on historical fact, entertainment value, general nostalgia and quantity of eighties short-shorts.

1- I was fascinated to watch this near on half-hour 1956 silent film, A Small Town Devizes. Made by cameraman David Prosser, from a series of similar Small-Town shorts. It features the lives of people in Devizes during Carnival Week August 1956. In the YouTube notes there’s an extensive list of people and companies which featured in the film. If it brings any notable points of interest it must surely be lobbying DOCA to reintroduce the drag-your-wife-along-in-a-pram-attached-to-a-motorbike race, methinks.

2 – Lion in the Hall! Courtesy of BBC Points West, the day in 1980 when escaped circus lions paid Devizes School a visit during the lunch hour goes down in history. Were you there, are you showing your age, and did you try feed the lion your mate’s school tie? What about today’s pupils, do you think Mr Bevan should reinstate this lion, maybe give him a TA job? Would your teacher benefit from fighting a lion, it might help to maintain the pupil’s interest in the lesson?

3 – Boto-X clip 1986. See, my Devizes born and bred better half told me about this strict health & safety regulated event and, if it hadn’t been Devizes, I’d probably have branded her a liar. Delighted to see Caen Hill Locks dig up a clip of this incredibly brilliant Boto-X from 1986. Stop! Win a Colour Telly!

4 – Oh get off my back, I’ve read Tess of the d’Urbervilles, just not any other of ol’ Tom Hardy’s books, it’s not like he’s going to hassle me about it. Far From The Maddening Crowd was his first major novel, and had four film adaptations. John Schlesinger’s 1967 MGM version was part filmed in Devizes, and Bill Huntly of Devizes Television loses his shit about it like it was Casablanca or Star Wars; bless. There are some great clips of the film in this interview, of people drunkenly singing and dancing in the Market Place; something you don’t see every day, eh? Yeah, I know, right, not that far from the maddening crowd at all really, wait for the bin to kick out.

5- Out of all Simon Folkard’s gorgeous aerial shot films, last year’s snow-covered town and canal was undoubtedly the most breath-taking. Oh, that Beast from the East, looks beautiful from above, but just to think, I was wheel-spinning a milk-float down there somewhere, holding on to me gold-tops for dear life.

6- While we’re on the subject of the milkman, here’s Madness disciple Mark’s moment in the spotlight as BBC Wiltshire focus on Plank’s Dairy. It has to be nine below zero before he puts his long trousers on, no one needs to see those knees, Mark. Ask him to whistle a Thin Lizzy tune on his round, I double-dare you.

7- 19 36- Last Train From Devizes. Post-punk poets, Browfort, ingeniously fuse synth-pop and local history in this video about The Beeching Axe and the last train from Devizes in 1966. There’s some great railway footage, mixed with their performance at The Bell on the Green. There’s no evidence to suggest the band will reform as Julia’s House to pay tribute to the first train from Devizes Parkway, when…. erm, if it happens.

8 – If you’re considering shoplifting for camera film in town, watch this early-eighties adaptation of the story of Ruth Pierce by Devizes Cine Club, and you’ll quickly be bored into submission. It really is so bad it’s good. I need not mock it, the acting, production and deviation of facts does it for me. Just to say though, is it me, or does the lead role sound a little like Claire Perry?!

9- We love our whacky historian John Girvan, the only man to enter the Town Hall lock up and live to tell the tale, save for feasting food festival fanatics who failed to note there’s the far comfier Peppermill across the road. But did you know, rather than most men whose interests lie more on what’s inside them, John confesses a love for brassieres? So, if your bra goes missing from the washing line, you know who to point the finger at.

10- Proof that either the legendary ghost of Room 4, or stranger still, the Black Swan’s window cleaner has five fingers. In 2014 the Visual Paranormal Investigations team trucked their mystery machine into our town and, without the great Dane and giant sandwiches, set up an experiment to find out if the ghost broadcasts on FM, like Ken Bruce.

11- More actual evidence in this charmingly narrated clip, this time of the Muppetry of the new traffic light system on London Road. Evidence the road planning department of Wiltshire Council are, and I quote, “retarded!” Classic, don’t hold back Truthseeker. I don’t know who you are pal, but you’re defo not Philip Whitehead.

12- There’s countless musical performers I could include here, but perhaps the widest known and appreciated is blues legend Jon Amor. Here he is, at the International Street Festival 2015 with a lengthy but worthy song, Even After That.

13- Talented Arthur Plumb, the Juggling Unicyclist at Sidmouth Street Festival 2015. While there’s a vast amount of street acts posted to YouTube, from our street festivals and carnivals, if I could only pick one it’s this entertaining Devizes TV presentation of a rather youthful Arthur Plumb. Three years ago, Shambles trader Bill Huntly was fast becoming our town’s TV host, where did he go, someone nick his cravat? Seriously though, hope you are well Mr Huntly and wishing you all the best; we loved your short films.

14- Usually reserved for the still camera, Nick Padmore is a man loved by our local music scene, for capturing the essence of its performers. Here though he videos the man, Vince Bell at Sheer Music in the Fold. Not intending to post too many music-related videos here, this 2017 performance is a must, if not just for Ship of Fools, but his amusing ditty about Devizes, Nobody Gets Out of Here Alive, right at the end of this film.

15- If you ever wondered why Tesco shut its Devizes metro branch, this may go some way to explain why. Yep, never had a lick of paint applied to it since the release of Michael Jackson’s album Thriller. The staff were friendly though!

16- Set the captives free! No really, I think they’d have moved convicts before blowing Devizes prison to the ground to make way for housing in 1927, wouldn’t they? Or did they move into the houses? Might explain a few things. British Pathe have millions of videos on their website, search Devizes and you’ll find a carnival parade of the 1920s and an Army Football Cup final from 1955, to name a couple.

https://www.britishpathe.com/video/prison-walls-make-cottage-homes/query/devizes

17- There’s nothing sarcastic I can comment here, even I wanted to, which I wouldn’t, cos I’m not like that; a gorgeously edited film of Devizes at Christmas by Chris Watkins, accompanied by a song written and performed by the equally wonderful Kirsty Clinch, makes my bells go all jingly…I said my bells!

18- Well done Paige Hanchant, for the only Harry Hill style clip I’m going to allow; capturing this amusing moment on the canal, just when it was going so well too; who ordered the chubster? Awl, bless.

19- No one interrupted the march to nip into Greggs for a sausage and bean melt in 1983, not in this pleasant three-minute video of the parade at least.

20 – Moonrakers Fable. Vintage poem narrator Alan Doel puts on his best Wiltshire accent to recite Edward Slow’s 1881 telling of the Moonrakers fable, and illustrated with postcards and emblems, makes a fair job of it. Yet the tale is known only too well in Devizes, it be rioght gurt lush to ‘ear it read in ye olde Wiltshire dialect, ewe.

That’s all folks, well, I’m sure there’s many others, but these were my favs. Not to blow my own trumpet, but Devizine does have its own YouTube channel, mostly I create wobbly musical performance clips, with a cider in the other hand and standing far too close to the speaker to do the band or musician justice, but they seem like a good idea at the time. So, subscribe at your own risk. I set it up primarily to capture this meeting with local street magician Raj Bhanot in Café Nero last summer, and here he is for a bonus vid.

Perhaps, if we get another rainy day, which is doubtful, I’ll find another set of videos based in Devizes. If you know of any which should be included then do send the link. Saucy ones to my personal email though, please.


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
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Angela’s Secret Swindon

My satirical rant, No Surprises Living in Devizes, once popular Sunday reading, now lies dormant. I’ve deliberated writing a conclusion, but that would be the final nail in the coffin I’m not ready to hammer in. The issue; I loved trudging my week, hunting a subject to bombast about the town I live in, and receiving the relative responses, be they positive laughs or death threats.

 
The reason for its gradual demise is simple; there’s finite topics to explore, and while at first the obvious flooded me, as time progressed I struggled. Methods to keep it running when subjects wore thin were many fold; more positive episodes transpired into what we now have, Devizine. The negative I’ve abandoned under the premise life is too short to be whinging, even if some thought it amusing. One of my earliest methods of trapping a good rant when nothing in Devizes sprung to mind though was to take the column to other towns, as a kind of “unwanted roadshow.”

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Chippenham took the brunt of these outings, but one Sunday, when the subject centred on Swindon, I predicted many would assume it’d be the icing on the cake, as it’s a common joke that Swindon has a lot to rant about. However, for this episode I twisted the cliché, determine not to follow sheep and waffle how cultureless and uninspiring our nearest metropolis is, rather share my opinion that while, as any large town does, Swindon has its social issues, it is far from the negative stereotype it’s frequently perceived as.

 
This turned the head of a fellow writer at Index:Wiltshire, Angela Atkinson. Angela was brought up in a Derbyshire mining village and moved to West Swindon in the 1990s. It’s fair to say she has fallen head-over-heels for Swindon, and alongside her proofreading business, AA Editorial Services, scribes a popular local blog called Born Again Swindonian. The original blog entries were the exploration of her new surroundings; a guidebook to the Magic Roundabout or a piece on the West Swindon sculpture trail, and, akin to the direction I took my article the aforementioned week, it now centres around her conviction that Swindon is actually a great place with more than first meets the eye.

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Her argument is convincing and thorough, to the point where she was approached by Gloucestershire publisher, Amberley Books, to pen a title on Swindon in its ‘Secret’ series. This week sees the book “Secret Swindon” released, and its launch is at Swindon Central Library, between 11am and 1pm; July 28th. Angela will be there to sign copies, and it’ll be available in the library shop afterwards.

 
Intrigued to know what “secrets” Angela could uncover to challenge my assumption everything that may be of historical or contemporary interest in the town I’m already fully aware of. That then, some topics did not spring surprise, Angela commences with a brief general history, from it’s namesake “pig hill” origins to the birth of its industrial revolution; the GWR. But it’s the depth Angela goes which is informative, and in the loose, blog-style, she writes which entertains.

 
I thoroughly enjoyed this read, gaining knowledge of many aspects and artistic properties of Swindon I could’ve driven past and only causally pondered their history. From the wonderful mural on the side of the house near Lion Bridge, which I pass, like, but seldom aspire to seek any knowledge of its artist or background, to the thought process of the contemporary architecture which Swindon holds, with all its 1970s futurism; the Meccano-fashioned “Renault” building, or the curvaceous landmark David John Murray tower. All of these popular sites of Swindon are featured and detailed, with fascinating facts you never thought to ask about. And yeah, the Magic Roundabout is covered too!

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There’s quantity and a vast array to subjects, meandering off the concept Swindon has a magic roundabout and that’s about it. One would be forgiven for assuming “Secret Swindon” is going to be a mammoth read and ponder why they’d want to take up so much time reading about Swindon. But while it’s arranged with copious facts, it remains brief enough not to grow tiresome of, and with informal speech style of writing, doesn’t aim to baffle.

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Angela covers art, sculpture, architecture, literature, music, industry, war eras, and many notable Swindonians. In one neat, ephemeral but enlightening package Angela challenges Swindon’s negative stereotype, steps in the ring and knocks it for six in the first round. It’s a perfect natural progression and extension of Born Again Swindonian.

 
It also highlights areas I was totally unware of, agreed I’d heard of Spitfire Way, having worked on South Marston Industrial Estate, but confess I was ignorant as to why it was named thus. So aside the fascinating facts about the more renowned landmarks of Swindon, and people, such as a captivating insight about Edith New, there are some completely new things I learned, awarding the book’s apt title.

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Here is a book which will inform and entertain the proudest Swindonian, the curious history hobbyist, and any mere window-shopper of local history. A perusal for students, or general passing interest, I tick none of the above, but still adored this. I only apologise to Angela for waffling on about my own little column at the beginning of this review, but it was necessary to elucidate my personal relevance to it!

 
If you ever pause while shopping, look around for a brief second, in any town you’ll note something you may not have ever noticed but bears heavy importance to the history of the area; “Secret Swindon” proves Swindon is far from the exception.

 
Secret Swindon’s RRP is £14.99. It can be bought through Amazon and via Amberley Books at https://www.amberley-books.com/secret-swindon.html.
To follow Angela’s blog visit http://swindonian.me/ and for more information about AA Editorial Services go to: https://www.aaedits.co.uk/

 

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