Hooch on Streaming

Once a cover band, east Wiltshire’s rootsy four-piece Hooch have moved to writing and recording original material. Their discography goes onto music streaming sites today (Sunday 3rd July,) and if you like your country-rock breezy and uplifting, with a subtle touch of psychedelia and surf, then it’s worthy of your attention…..

The instrumental Eagle Ray is particularly awash with this aforementioned surf-rock style, while all tracks have this sunny-side-of-the-street, retrospective feel about them. Slowburn, for instance, is good time mid-era-Beatles in nature and Voodoo Hair is outright groovy.

Well even if you don’t do the streaming platforms you can get a listen direct from their website.Ten tunes on offer here, enough for an album, guys? An album of ten jumpy, anthemic ballads like Sweet Maria would see us fine, this one in particular is a beguiling peach I could imagine fans chanting back at them after only a few listens.

Live is a bigger part to Hooch, I’m certain you’ll make a beeline for a gig upon hearing these well crafted tunes, they’re at the Seven Stars in Bottlesford Saturday July 16th, tickets are a purple one, I believe this includes a barbecue thrown into the bargin, and a summer mini-fest at the Horseshoe Inn, Mildenhall July 23rd.

Expect “unusual” covers choices, they say, but I’d argue the cited Depeche Mode, Space and The Coral are apt, this upbeat melodic blend from Martyn Appleford, Nesh Thompson, Simon Dryland and Matt Ryan reflects this, with a dash more roots than perhaps, new wave mod, but with a move to electrification enhacing their acoustic roots, they weave perfect pop simplicity into their lyrics, and that’s where it is to pinning an imitatble, memorable style.

If the name derives from the late 19th century abbreviation of Hoochinoo, a North American tribe in Alaska renowned for brewing booze, this is certainly fun time drinking music, but the sound is far more matured than its commonly associated brand of alcopop. Ha, whatever happened to that, do they still sell it? It certainly took the brunt of the blame for underage drinking in the nineties, as if they invented the concept and no kid ever tried alcohol before their ingenious bottle of wobbly lemonade came onto the market!

Sickly sweet though, wasn’t it? Precursor to the Bacardi Breezer and Smirnoff Ice, but try the tune Aluna for size, and you’ll see, though there’s elements of the Kinks at their most comical, or subtle Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band at times, it’s a choice for grownups, with no immature persuasion; I love it, and hope they’re encouraged to perform their own tunes live, rather than an all-covers set; the difference between buying spirits and mixing it to your own taste or letting mainstream brewers decide on your sugar levels!


Weekend Roundup: 30th June – 3rd July 2022

Full throttle into July, then; here’s what the weekend looks like around these parts. These parts of cultural void, so it’s claimed, we say otherwise…. You want proof?

As usual no links here, the only link you need is here, our event calendar. Have a great weekend whatever you do!

Ongoing from Wednesday until Sunday the Wyvern Theatre, Swindon has got Shrek the Musical. Thursday and Friday, Devizes Musical Theatre presents their Summer Concert, Miss Fortunes at The Wharf Theatre, see the poster, always see the posters!

I’m delighted to hear Devizes LGBTQ+ group’s first big event, Drag Bingo at the Exchange has sold out on Thursday 30th; well done to them and here’s hoping for some similar events in Devizes in the future.

One of folk music’s greatest innovators, Martin Carthy is at Trowbridge Town Hall Thursday, Paul Jones Live in Concert at Christ Church, Swindon while Swindon Arts Centre has a play called Blithe Spirit, running until Sunday.

Friday is pinch punch. Chippenham Comedy Festival at The Old Road Tavern, starts, running all weekend. Limited Weekend Tickets £60, individual shows are all £7 each. Friday 1st July: 7pm Sam Michael & John Matthews: Cister Act, 8.30pm Juliette Meyers: Passport Face,10pm James Dowdeswell: Beers of a Clown. Saturday 2nd July: 5pm Jo Caulfield: Here Comes Trouble, 6.30pm Sooz Kempner: Playstation, 7.45pm Katie Mitchell: She Festers, 9pm Andrew O’Neill: We Are Not In The Least Afraid Of Ruins; We Carry A New World In Our Hearts, 10.15pm Wil Hodgson: Barbicidal Tendencies. Sunday 3rd July: 5.30pm Jessie Nixon, Dannie Johns & Millie Haswell: Dumb Belles,7pm Joe Wells: I am Autistic, 8.30pm Beth Black.

Devizes School Summer School Concert in the main hall. Minety Festival kicks off for the weekend. Melksham’s One Love reggae night has been moved from the Assembly Hall to Spencer’s Club on Beanacre Road, I just haven’t changed the poster, so forget all I said about paying attention to the posters!!

The Ukey Dukes play The New Inn, Winterbourne Monkton. Ska punkers head to The Barge at Honeystreet, for Slageri J headline there, and surfers should wipe-out at The Three Horseshoes, Bradford-on-Avon, where they’ll find the highly recommended Palooka 5. Rorke’s Drift play The Vic, Swindon, and fresh(ish) from Glasto, Jo Whiley plays 90s Anthems at The Cheese & Grain, Frome.

Saturday 2nd, Longleat continues showing off; those who don’t mind standing for hours, with a bottomless wallet and advance planning can see Tears for Fears, the rest of us are not left without options…. like Salisbury Pride at Queen Elizabeth Gardens.

Arts Together fundraise with a day painting at Bowood, see the poster for real this time!

Six O’clock Circus headline The Vale of the White Horse Scooter Rally at The Cooper’s Arms, Pewsey. While there’s a reggae day at The Wheatsheaf, Calne; the Bee Skas play at 3pm!

The Seven Stars in Bottlesford has a Burger BBQ for twenty quid, but you do get The Reason playing.

The amazing Jack Grace is at Southgate, and popular covers band Paradox are down the Cellar Bar in Devizes; yes, I did say The Cellar Bar, glad to see this venue back on our listings.

Band X at the Three Horseshoes Bradford-on-Avon, Siren at the 12 Bells, Trowbridge, with Hatepenny rocking the Town Hall. @Fest mini-festival at the White Hart in Attsworth. Down & Dirty at The Vic, Swindon.

Swindon’s Midlife Krisis sound system was due to setup at The Barge at HoneyStreet, however, due to issues with their secondary camping field it is unfortunately cancelled. We wish the Barge all the best with this issue, and hope it can be resolved as soon as possible.

Sunday 3rd July is DOCA’s Picnic at Hillworth Park. British Blues with Trevor Babajack Steger from 12pm, from 1pm, find some jazz-tinged klezmer and old-world Yiddish folk, from Mozzle Brocha, branch of the collective, Chai for All, who we tried to get to play a Ukraine fundraiser at St Mary’s, but it unfortunately fell through. It will be good to meet you, guys.   

Eastern European folk traditions follow that with East of Eden at 2:40, South African at 4pm with Otto & The Mutapa Calling, finishing off your Sunday entertainment. Also look out for Rose Popay, the “Art Tart,” sounds hilarious, and various carnival workshops, suitable for all ages; see the DOCA website.

Elsewhere, People Like Us headline free live music for Inspire Warminster, preview here. The Cosmic Sausages play The Bell, Bath, The Lost Hills play The Tap & Barrel, Swindon. Blues legend Andy Fairweather Low plays The Cheese & Grain, Frome, with Ruzz Guitar in support, and oh, it’s Aldbourne Doggy Day!

That’s your weekend wrapped up, unless I missed anything? Did you let us know? It’s not too late, I can edit our event calendar, if you’re nice and send cake!


Through the week you can catch a Live Art Demonstration by the wonderful Caroline le Bourgeois at Devizes Conservative Club on Monday 4th, meanwhile David Olusoga presents A House Through Time at The Cheese & Grain, Frome.

Tuesday sees carparks in Devizes closed for the Birmingham 2022 Queen’s Baton Relay; for a whole half-hour! Heaven help us! Keyboard warriors, I’d advise you walk or bus it into town to get your garibaldi biscuits!

The New Forest Folk Festival starts Wednesday, while there’s a bit of Shakey at Bath’s Rondo Theatre, Macbeth; all proceeds go to Marie Curie. Best of luck to the two Devizes actors appearing in this, Lucy Upward and Ian Diddams; break a leg!

Next weekend you need tickets for a fundraising concert for Devizes GAC’s chosen charity, Julia’s House Children’s Hospice, at Devizes School Hall, on Friday July 8th at 7.30pm. Special guests at the concert will be the Pewsey Belles Ladies Choir. Tickets are priced £8 and available from 01761 472468.

Both Readipop Festival and Cornbury Festival, next weekend, and of course, Devizes Carnival and Trowbridge’s ParkFest, both on the Saturday 9th. I believe I’ll be painting the whole village purple at Bishop’s Cannings mini festival at The Crown; please come and support this too. And on Sunday, give our Essex country-rocker favourites, Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective a warm Devizes welcome at the Southgate.

And if you’ve read this far I salute you; people like you who pay attention really need to grab up tickets to the Full-Tone Festival August Bank Holiday, AND Devizes Scooter Rally, AND Devizes Beer Festival too!


Trending…..

Miracle at MantonFest!

Ah yeah, Paul McCartney whisked Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl out of his hat at Glasto, and no one can top that, no one dare try, but on the other side of the west country The Fab Four were rejuvenated on stage, and miraculously commanded the weather!

Okay, allow some exaggeration for artistic licence, but being the only sour point about MantonFest last year was spates of torrential downpour, and the forecast foreboding a repeat, note it tried its uppermost to drizzle, but on the one occasion the crowds thought, “this is it,” Nottingham’s fantastic Beatles tribute, The Fab Four broke into George Harrison’s Here Comes the Sun and lo-and-behold, the sunshine returned, to a rapturous applause.

Coincidence, or should these guys try a Paul Daniels tribute next, is besides the point; there were numerous memorable happenings at MantonFest this year, the Beatles tribute controlled clement weather was just the tip of the iceberg.

For eleven years strong MantonFest has been Marlborough’s little gem, punching well above its weight. It’s both communal and friendly, but professionally executed too. If Glastonbury is a city of tents, this day festival is a village of gazebos. Picnicking families return year-after-year, and MantonFest prides itself on a loyal fanbase.

Nit-picking, the focus is entirely on the music, but kids seem unperturbed by any lack of facilities aimed at them. They naturally make their own entertainment, organise a game of football in the ample surrounding fields, more so join the already extensive age demographic and genuinely enjoy the music. Perhaps why The Fab Four were so apt, the Beatles’ early music is the eve of bubble-gum, beguilingly simple for the masses, which makes it timeless.

Talking to them backstage they delighted in the notion they’re a platform introducing Beatles music to a new generation, and in that, plus the fact they are an archetypical four-piece rock band setup without strings and effects, they blasted out the earlier, simpler 45s such as Love me Do and Hold my Hand as a baseplate. And they did it fantastically, with a nod to later Beatles creations such as Yellow Submarine and Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but perhaps most absolute to exposing their skills in ballads, such as Something the aforementioned, Here Comes the Sun, and a grand finale of Hey Jude, this was a very entertaining package.

Take a Beatles tribute as red, my mum, caught up in Beatlemania, thrust it willingly down my throat, so I’m bound to enjoy, but the real surprise of MantonFest 2022 was the second tribute, Jean Genie. As it suggests, accomplished musician and writer in his own right, John Mainwaring becomes David Bowie, more so in sound than appearance.

You can rough me up for this, but note while I fully recognise and accept Bowie’s importance in the progression of pop, and understand why he is idolised, I’m a smidgen too young to have been caught up in the fanaticism surrounding him. But this guy wowed, as simple as; assessment is this is way up on my best tributes leader-board, forcing me to view Bowie in a new light. I mean, the guy toured with Bowie’s own band The Spiders from Mars in the nineties, explaining to me backstage the gradual progression to this career point was, as he sounded so much like his influence, through his own original music, he was persuaded first to attribute the fictional persona Ziggy Stardust, “as Bowie killed him off anyway.”

This performance was truer to the definition “tribute” than the standard tribute act, it was part John Mainwaring, being himself hugely inspired by Bowie, but it was also part Bowie, sublimely, his voice and showmanship as close as you could possibly get, and as Starman echoed out, it was a totally mesmerising performance, my highlight of the day.

Unfortunately, while professional and accomplished, I have to say, I don’t think the headliners The Animals topped this. Maybe it was just me, feeling the strain of not drinking myself stupid, of which, looking back on, I’m proud, but at the time at tad niggly! I’d say the line between a real act and a tribute act are blurred, when a man like Mainwaring, with such experience and close relationship with the act he’s attributing is a tribute, but a band with only one original band member is considered the genuine article. I mean, yeah, it’s labelled as The Animals and Friends, but grammar comes into play somewhat. It’s not plural; The Animal and Friends. A rather plodding show, a bit meh in comparison with what went beforehand.

Between the two tributes stood the testament to MantonFest, Marlborough’s pride, Barrelhouse. With bassist Stuart Whant as artistic director, MantonFest is the Barrelhouse fan club’s annual beano, but they’ve the knack to make their show something watchable on repeat. If you ever figured the timeworn blues of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Bo Diddley,or even when they slip into bluegrass, couldn’t enthuse teenagers today, you need to bear witness to the enduring methods of Barrelhouse, with the growling mysterious frontman Martin Hands, his proficient band, and the reaction of their loyal fans at the one place they’ll guarantee to rule the stage, Manton Grange.

But if Barrelhouse are guaranteed goodness, The Fab Four were what they said on the tin, fab, and Jean Genie was a sublime homage, there was an equally talented act upon my arrival. Rocking up a bit late to catch previous performances, Southend-on-Sea’s Rosalie Cunningham was all I needed as confirmation this was going to be a great day for live music. Program a hundred personas of legendary rock heroines into a computer, from Patti Smith to Suzi Quatro and Debbie Harry to Alanis Morissette, and ask it to compute something analogous, it’d likely create Rosalie Cunningham. She looked the part, she sounded like the part, and in all essence, she was the part.

At first it came across prog-rock, all King Crimson type, but there were riffs to punk, nods to rock n roll, and the band explained they liked it like this, prevented it getting tedious for them. For an audience it was astutely performed, original rock, steady, flowing; the like you’d think you knew already.

All-in-all, Mantonfest is a credit to Wiltshire, but as I said last year, absent are the faces of our own live music aficionados, just a stone-throw away. Marlborough is not the Upside Down from Stranger Things, Devizions, yet those rolling downs seem to divide us into little circuits.

In fact, the only connection to my hometown I made was thinking about my stomach! Yes, amico, that trusty airstream caravan, The Italian Job, usually parked upon the Green in Devizes, was pitched at MantonFest, the wonderful aromas of basil and garlic were as alluring as the seating inside, and for want of a cup of Rosey-Lee, I came bundling out with gorgeous homemade lasagne, garlic bread and rocket, and slouched in a chair below the beautiful slopes of Treacle Brolly; now that’s festivaling Marlboro’ country, something you’re really missing. I’d highly recommend you etch MantonFest 2023 into your must-do-list.


Thoughts About George Ezra at Trowbridge’s Civic

Yes, I did, thank you; and what a brilliant show it was last night when George Ezra came to Trowbridge!

Consider the punks, who spat at conformity, consumerism and society’s esteem of pop culture, are now near, if not pension age, when digestating the derisions and jeers from a few when I told them “I’m going to see George Ezra.” Marketed commercialisation, yeah, I get that; if for the pre-gig meal we frequented the golden arches, I was more than disappointed my “Italian Stack” was just a cheeseburger with rocket salad and pesto sauce. I mean, who puts a pasta sauce on a burger, adding insult to injury what with the broken milk shake machine, my only guilty pleasure from Ronald?

For them though, I bid they take heed of my anecdote more than those who attended George Ezra at Trowbridge’s Civic Centre yesterday, which, like many of my yarns, begins with me spending a penny. Upon my return to the hall, in which we were instructed in this record-breaking heatwave to “squeeze in as tight as possible,” a few had gathered behind my teenage girl posse. With my customary irony I nudged in front, “make way, responsible adult coming through!” only to note I’d obscured the view of a young girl behind me.

The expression of anticipation at seeing George Ezra drained from her face, unacknowledging now she’d only see the back of a podgy middle-aged parent in a Batman t-shirt. But before she could completely well-up, I promised to stand aside as soon as he came on stage, but if I moved now someone not so willing might push in. Though she doubted my conviction, I did retreat from my position, her parents expressed their gratitude. The space my belly once occupied ample for her to sing and dance her heart out, which she did, and her expression of sheer joy made my night.

Because, while George and his band may’ve only blasted a job-and-finish half-hour set at us, damn it the guy puts some umph in. Honestly, he’s like the geek of a Saturday supermarket job who really puts his all into shelf-staking. Professionally executing the placid and sincere pop star persona, the guy convinced me he’s the genuine article, finding time to box-in his every known popular tune. Sure, playing through his new album The Gold Rush Kid, was a pointless marketing exercise, being the ticket price included a copy of it, but there was everything there you’d expect from an upcoming musician and none of the bravado of celebrity; passion, drive, and even some narrative of backstory.

But for his best efforts, I owe it to the little girl in front of me, and every other screaming teenager or child, to express what a superb evening it was, her mien said it all. For it was never about anti-corporatism critics, rather the rare opportunity for youths to see a popstar in the flesh, in Trowbridge, which would otherwise cost the parents something quite unaffordable in tickets and travel costs.

Doubtless this was The Civic’s finest half-hour, though structured without encore, for less than a purple one, we got our money’s worth in George and his band’s dynamic performance; worth the hassle of fastest-finger first ticket booking system, which sold out in seconds of going online, queuing in the heat only to be squashed in like sardines, but perhaps not the no drinks policy profiteering attitude, which saw the bar closed and only bottled water they sold allowed. Maybe laws have changed without my knowledge, but I assumed not providing free drinking water was unlawful, and even if not, it’s safety and basic etiquette poorly overlooked by The Civic.

Yet we owe it to Marlborough’s music shop, Sound Knowledge for this most excellent show. Must be best part of quarter-of-a-century Roger has been the best purveyor of records around these backwaters, and stayed afloat through this technology-changing era by hosting these fantastic album marketing gigs. Usually based in the shop itself or in the club opposite, it’s bought many an upcoming act to Marlborough, including Ezra in 2014. The only other time a band has been too big to fit in was when they shifted Rag’N’Bone Man to the College campus, but George was too bigger name, even for this venue, causing the organisers to add a matinee at the Civic.

But usually, there’s a post-gig meet-and-greet opportunity, something though we took our CDs we had to accept would’ve sadly been unviable due to the vast number of attendees. And that, in a nutshell, whitewashes any niggly criticisms, because maybe restrictions have to be set in order to pull off an event of this magnitude, perhaps you do have to shout orders at the crowd and search children’s bags in this day and age. Even though this isn’t what I’m used to, I was happy in the knowledge that for many there, this was not just a golden opportunity, but a first-time concert which will live in their memories forever.

It got me thinking of my first ever gig, about the same age as my daughter and her friends now. To set the bar high, it was Bruce Springsteen, and, George, sorry mate, but through rose-tinted specs, while you weren’t quite that good, you were totally amazing. Proof of this goes along the lines of me mumbling the words to Shotgun all day today, the profound effect is unimaginable for those younger, if it got this grumpy old git inspired!               


Trending…

George Ezra in…. Trowbridge!

Dad’s taxi drops off, and the driver impatiently awaits his off-spring to exceed the bluetooth boundary; ha, I’ve got of my car stereo back. It’s not all bad, just a majority of my daughter’s playlist is, coupled with her insistance it’s played; control freak!

Yet we can agree on somethings, the acoustic genius of George Ezra is perhaps the most mutual. Thanks to Marlborough record store, Sound Knowledge, I’m more than happy to go gigging with her and her mates.

He’ll be playing a short, intimate set to promote the release of his highly anticipated third album ‘Gold Rush Kid’ at 8pm on Thursday 16th June at The Civic in Trowbridge, Sound Knowledge’s first event in the venue.

Update:

Due to overwhelming demand a 2nd GEORGE EZRA show has been added for 6pm on Thursday 16th June.

Tickets will be on sale 10am tomorrow EXCLUSIVELY from http://www.sound-knowledge.co.uk ONLY. Please do not call The Civic to try to book tickets.

Tickets for the later show sold out in seconds, be quick on the fingers to get in!

The Brit Award-winning singer-songwriter first played Marlborough back in 2014 before the release of his debut ‘Wanted On Voyage’, his first chart-topping album. Its follow-up ‘Staying At Tamara’s’ hit No. 1 on both the Albums and Singles Chart with the mega track “Shotgun“. His new album was written and produced entirely in London with longstanding collaborator Joel Pott. “The Gold Rush Kid? That’s me,” says George, reflecting on the title of his third record, a twelve-strong suite of marvellous, transporting, elevational songs, that more than anything “sound like me. That’s what ties them together.”

Gold Rush Kid‘ is released on 10th June. Tickets and bundles are available exclusively online from Sound Knowledge RIGHT NOW, from 10am on Friday 20th May.

If you have any queries about the event, you know, prone to overthinking, please contact them in-store or over the phone on 01672 511106 but please note that tickets and bundles can only be purchased via the website.

CD & ticket bundle – £19.50
LP & ticket bundle – £25
Blue LP & ticket bundle – £28
Ticket-only *max 1 per customer* – £16.00

Sound Knowledge has become renowned for these instore events, while it’s great promotion for new releases from the artists, they’re also an affordable opportunity for locals, particularly younger, to get to meet, greet and hear them play, which would usually involve trekking to a festival or city-based gig. Though while Sound Knowledge have hosted all manner of artists in the past, George Ezra has top the lot, hence a larger venue is needed. Of course, this puts something of a tag on Trowbridge too, and I’m hopeful it’ll really lift an already blossoming reputation for the town’s live music scene, of which Kieran Moore and others has worked so tirelessly to attain.

And afterwards, perhaps my daughter and I can slip his CD in my car stereo and finally find some common ground!

Marlborough’s Lamb Announce LambFest

Contrary to popular belief, particularly my kids, I was young once, and back in that iron age I used to live in a motte-and-bailey hillfort in Marlborough; not a lot of people know that, except for the one’s who know that, and even they’ve probably blocked it from their memories.

Yes, Merlin-Borough, famous for a wide high street, a mound and a fair about mops, just fifteen miles from Devizes but a six hour bus journey with two changes, somehow perceived being on another planet for Devizions. But I promise you, it’s a lovely town and the only reason I left was because I found said bus stop.

Back then, you either risked shopping in Somerfield or waited for the final seconds of Waitrose’s hours of business to nip in and blag whatever they had duly reduced;  every night was like Ready, Steady Cook, and you were Ainsley Harriott.

Entertainment was the pub, which I had no quarrels about. My regular watering hole was The Green Dragon, until I matured enough to upgrade to The Lamb, at about 18. It has been a mainstay in Marlborough life for as long as I know, a welcoming and dependable tavern run by the only recently retired Vyv.

Sporadically we’d have free live music, and it was there us crafty little ravers perchanced to become fans of Swindon’s legendary Two-Tone band The Skanxters. So popular the sound that Marlborough formed it’s own ska band, Ska Trouble. But if there’s one unforgettable homegrown band it was Pants, as they were as the name suggests. Heavy metal covers of current pop songs came to a head with a thrashed version of the Mr Blobby song; man, we’ll never get that magic back.

Or will we? Pants are still on the circuit, and they’re still shit but proud, recently making me bath up toast commenting on social media at a G&H journalist’s report on Vyv’s retirement in which only frontman Moose Harris got a mention, like the others, whoever the fuck they are, had deserved some credit.

You can see for yourself, as The Lamb announce LambFest today, with Pants on the washing line and a whole host of others. Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th June is the dates, it’s free but in aid of men’s mental health, and as well as Pants they promise Swindon’s premiere indie-pop darlings, Talk in Code, the one and only Gaz Brookfield, and Marlborough’s popular Kova me Bad. Interestingly, Mark Colton’s new Ian Dury tribute make their first appearance outside Swindon too.

Inside there’s acoustic acts, including the bearded third of the Lost Trades, Jamie R Hawkins. Heck, it continues Sunday with said Pants and Swindon’s punk ensemble Navago Dogs.

By the state of this fantastic lineup of local talent, dammit, this one’s calling me, tugging on my raw appetite for live music and cider. Which is a shame, because my pass for the glorious Mantonfest just came through and that’s in June too. Marlborough folk are going to assume I’ve moved back, and that terrible fake news bulletin could be just the one to push them over the edge of Merlin’s Mound.


Laughable Excuses for Savernake Forest Proposals  

Last week I tried to convey how Savernake Forest has fond memories for all who live nearby it, and how it’s cherished by users in the same manner today, in the wake of a publication by Forestry England called “Our Shared Forest.” Ironic by title, it seemed to propose restricting the public to set walking trails at the Postern Hill site, extending the carpark and forcing people to pay for the privilege of using it. We’ve since heard back from Forestry England, as I emailed them the article, though I believe they’ve not quite got over All Fools Day……

A Forestry England spokesperson explained, “Since Our Shared Forest was published, there have been many reports misrepresenting an internal discussion document called ‘A Way Forward’, which was prepared at the request of our landlord, the Savernake Estate. This paper makes no formal proposals for the Forest. It was drafted in response to concerns raised by the Estate regarding the impact of public access, particularly in light of growing visitor numbers since the start of the COVID pandemic.”

Their wishy-washy, ‘we were just having a laugh, you know, didn’t mean it,’ excuses continues thus, “The document explores potential ways we might work to deliver some of our management commitments within Our Shared Forest. A number of our aspirations for a sustainable and resilient Savernake can only be achieved with Estate consent, so early discussion between tenant and landlord is essential. Public access within Savernake Forest has always been with the agreement of the Estate. Any changes to public access can only happen with the consent of the Estate trustees. That internal document has been extensively quoted out of context so we have published it in full on our website so that the community may read it themselves.”

“We recognise and appreciate the great depth of affection felt for Savernake Forest. In response to the extraordinary level of interest in Our Shared Forest, we have extended our feedback survey until 22nd April to ensure as many people as possible are able to review the information and have their say.” The document is HERE.

So, what? They were just brainstorming, you know, knocking some ideas across the table, oh, cheeky monkeys. Call me stupid, I’ve been called far worse, but why would you even contemplate closing the forest, and even if you thought it might be something worthy of acting on, why would you publish your inane plotting online?! It’s not “misrepresenting” at all, it clearly states, “The redevelopment of Postern Hill would be coupled with the closure of the Grand Avenue, and indeed the rest of the Forest for vehicular access by visitors.”

Yet it apparently makes “no formal proposals for the Forest,” and “Any changes to public access can only happen with the consent of the Estate trustees,” begging the question, what was the point in it anyway, then, being owner of the forest Lord Cardigan has been on the telebox, I see the dude, strongly objecting to the notion?!

This change of heart/pathetic excuse (delete as appropriate) has nothing to do, either, with Marlborough Times reporting the “applause after applause” from a large crowd resounding throughout the Court Room in the Town Hall at Monday 11th April’s full Town Council meeting, “where councillors vented their opposition to Forestry England’s ‘internal’ suggestion to close Savernake Forest to all vehicles,” then?!

The article rightfully states, “Councillor Nick Fogg was vehement in his condemnation of the ‘plans’ presented by Forestry England, and whilst in their defence, they claimed that their words had been ‘misrepresented’, Councillor Fogg made clear that, having (like all other Councillors) read and digested the Forestry England ‘internal discussion document’ in its entirety that in his view it ‘was a serious proposal’.”

I, as I’m sure most others were overjoyed to read that, “in the end Councillors voted emphatically and unanimously to object to any such proposals, echoing the resounding opinion of the community at large and those packing the hall,” because whoever concocted this daft-as-a-brush proposal sure has an egg factory on their stupid face!

I also love that the paper classed it ‘Disneyfication.’ As in: “Next step? A statement from either Forestry England or the Forestry Commission setting out exactly what they are proposing regarding vehicular access, the future of the Postern Hill car park (enlarging to 350 cars / ‘Disneyfication’ / charging?) and if they are really going to ‘develop’ this part of Savernake Forest to commercial ends with the ecological consequences. Or let the natural and glorious beauty of Savernake Forest be there for all to enjoy.” The finale of which is perfect. Explore the Grand Avenue area of Savernake and you will find some deep craters, my good friend who grew up in forest referred to them as “bomb holes.”

Now, I always believed it was just a term of phrase, pondering why German WW2 pilots would target a forest, until the day I took my son to a war exhibit at Wiltshire Museum and perchance to browse some old photos with an informative chap, who was a police officer during the era. I found a photo of the gates of Grand Avenue, heavily guarded, and asked him what was happening here. He told me it was a bomb disposal area, and the penny dropped.

And here’s why I bring the subject up: those bomb-holes today are teeming with life, shrubs, grass and trees have grown over them, wildlife nests inside, because a forest replenishes itself over time, naturally, because, well, because it’s a blooming forest and that’s what forests do! You’d have thought an organisation called Forestry England might’ve figured this out themselves. No matter what damage a man walking his dog, a family enjoying a picnic or even, dare I say it, minor acts of anti-social behaviour, might cause in the forest, they cannot be any worse than exploding a WW2 bomb, you’d have thought?!

Leaving me to conclude, for what it’s worth, this proposal was as predicted, simply a suggestion to profiteer from people’s freedom to roam this beautiful feature on our Wiltshire landscape, disingenuously disguised as attempting to environmentally aid it; what a terrible, greedy thought bubble. I’ve got to leave it there, for the sake of my blood pressure.

Though to fully conclude, please, I beg of every potential fly-tipper, litterbug and general knuckle-dragger, please don’t fuel their fire, and give them opportunity or an excuse to pursue this, respect and look after our forests and woodlands, please; I asked nicely, three times at the last count!


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House of Casks; Barrelhouse Played The Southgate

Easter weekend in Devizes, where aside a canoe race, we’re awash with options for blues music. A diversity of genres debatable, blues is Devizes’ mainstay; a majority wouldn’t wish for it to be any other way. Me? I’m fine too with Billy Walton at Long Street while the Southgate has a local blues band, especially when it’s Barrelhouse….

Hailing from the Marlborough-Swindon areas, I’ve seen this five-piece offering “vintage blues with a hard-edged groove,” before on their home-turf MantonFest, where they rule the day through dependency. I witnessed an expectant crowd swamp the stage area upon their arrival. Such is the limbos of local circuits, while Barrelhouse have graced the trusty Gate before, many there seemed unaware of their excellence, and were pleasantly surprised.

Apt is their self-penned description, they sent us a signature tune about voodoo for our first Julia’s House compilation, with a seriously beguiling blues riff. One has to wonder to the significance of their voodoo affiliation; young, slim lead vocalist Martin Hands appears to have magically exchanged voices with an aged, stout Afro-American, akin to Howlin’ Wolf, to the point it’s possible there’s such a character wandering the Mississippi giving west country tongue, “lush moi luver, praper jarb!”

I use the term lead vocalist rather than frontman, for while last week’s offering at the Southgate was the incredible Worried Men, focus there was on frontman Jamie Thyer with his spellbinding guitarwork bridging every historical variety of blues and rock fusion, the golden element of Barrelhouse is quite the opposite, it’s the unification of the band, and their set style.

Tightly rehearsed, they work as a unit and customise that age-old delta blues formula, to the point where even if other Americana covers are played out, like Johnny Cash, as they did, they’re enriched with that simple working recipe. That’s why the roots of blues are so memorable above later adaptions, it’s the expediency of the rhythm.

So, between their parallel originals, they’re best covering the likes of Bo Diddly, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, Hand’s gritty vocals, coupled with the twang of lead guitarist Tim’s cigar-box guitar bleeds authenticity into it. Though they’re known to also blend the same formula to version other crowd-pleasing genres, such as their celebrated cover of Ace of Spades.

Newly released to a third album, we were introduced to some teasers, and hardly noticeable between said covers, they played out previous album tracks. Mostly upbeat, there were also some sublime moments of smooth downtempo, where as Jim Morrison could, Martin held the audience in his palms. Unusually for typical local bands, Hands plays no instrument, ergo the comparison to someone like Morrison is justified, more so by his somewhat mysterious stage presence, as bass player Stuart Whant seems to take over the stage banter and tune introductions.

Whichever they decide, covers archetypical of their style, adaptions or originals, there’s short blasts of enriching fineness, a working combination flows through them, and the ride is exhilarating.

Precisely what they did last night, and effortlessly won the minor crowd, who broke out in uncontainable bopping; another grand night at the dependable Southgate.


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Savernake Forest Restrictions; Residents Say No!

Marlborough residents rally online to criticise Forestry England’s proposals for Savernake Forest. The questionable survey’s deadline has been extended to the 22nd of April, and a previously internal document called Savernake Forest – a Way Forward, has been published which suggests serious restrictions of access to the forest, in favour for paid parking facilities and a polarized vision for future usage.

“We are so privileged to have this beautiful and ancient forest on our doorstep,” one pleaded, “where we can freely wander where we wish. The Forestry Commission wish to change this. No vehicular access through the forest, paid parking for vehicles at Postern Hill and designated walking routes.”

Early one Sunday morning, mid-to-late nineties, and police arrive at a location off the Grand Avenue in Savernake Forest. They tell us the owner of the forest, Lord Cardigan, has reported a party. “But all we see is a few kids tidying up,” they observed with mirth, and went on their merry way. We carried on our labour, binbags in hand; we might’ve had a party, that much would be telling, but we were adamant we’d leave the forest as we found it, and mother nature would do its thing.

We did this because while we had our fun, we also respected the forest, and I don’t believe for one second any past or future generation’s youth would think any different. Long before it was “our” back garden, and I’d like to think long after, Savernake Forest has served tourists and residents alike, as a free, natural and muti-purpose attraction. It’s 4,500 acres, for crying out loud, you can have a party one end and folk can have a bike ride at the other and each be oblivious to what the others are doing!

Residents appear to take the opinion if it’s not broken, but Forestry England say “our Vision for Savernake is to nurture a shared forest unlike any other. By allowing the decisions we take to be guided by the natural potential of the land, as well as by the varied influences of our ever-changing world, we will create a diverse and inclusive forest that is a global example of what can be achieved through forward-thinking forestry.” Ah, yeah, sounds nice; when can we see it? NEVER!!

It continues to use environmental issues as a smokescreen to create a polarized plan restricting access to only the formal recreation facilities at Postern Hill.

Despite claiming the “popularity [of Postern Hill] is having a detrimental impact on the ecological values, and aesthetic values,” rather than continue the free access elsewhere to spread footfall out, the vision is for “Postern Hill being developed as the only visitor hub, where a new, larger car park (probably 300 to 350 spaces), is provided with proper toilets, play and café facilities. Leading out from the new car park would be a series of trails.” Naturally, this would be “coupled with the closure of the Grand Avenue, and indeed the rest of the Forest for vehicular access by visitors.”

Here’s the obvious clinch, the carpark will be a paid carpark, and herein the penny drops; this conservative value which seems to hate the concept no one is profiteering, even if it’s entirely natural. Similar misguided logic as the construction of a tax-funded yet chargeable mound at Marble Arch, or a tunnel under Stonehenge so one can’t see our wonder of the world unless one pays. The vision for Savernake Forest is rinsed with “spin, mis-information and claims masquerading as facts on a grand scale,” calls one local resident.

“The whole survey is worded in such a manipulative way,” suggests another Marlborough resident, “it can’t even be taken seriously! You can want all the things it tricks you into agreeing with without wanting to allow profiteering and restricted use of a beautiful local asset.”

One submits, “I’m sure the number of pheasant pens has increased in the last few years – does that count as diversity of wildlife? Certainly, a reason the Estate side that run them might be supportive and why they wouldn’t be keen on people walking around freely.” And on this, another speculates, “what they are up to is keep the public out so they can lease the bottom half of the Forest out for shooting and stalking deer.”

On several occasions the report points the finger at antisocial behaviour, that “the historic nature of the Grand Avenue, in terms of landscaped parkland; as well as the biodiversity and aesthetic values of the Forest are poorly served by the unregulated use of the Grand Avenue by the public for recreational access, anti-social activities and using the Avenue as a through route, or ‘rat-run’.” As if one can eradicate anti-social behaviour by banning everyone from a particular place it might just happen at.

One resident rightly points out the Grand Avenue is far from a sensible option as a rat-run, “more like a snail run,” they say, “as it takes three times as long driving through the Avenue as it does to drive round via Bedwyn or Burbage; it’s like these muppets have never visited the Forest!” And be safe in knowledge I agree, you really don’t want to race through Grand Avenue unless you want wrecked suspension and deer impact craters on your bodywork.

The lane is a beautiful drive, take it less than 20mph, find a place to stop, take a wander, have a picnic, that’s its purpose, and so should it continue to be. “As a resident of Marlborough for 64 years,” Barry tells me, “And a constant user of Grand Avenue, the idea of closing it is totally absurd and only being carried out for monetary gain by the commission. Their survey was, to say the least misleading, although I did highlight the removal of access should not be considered. The forest has been a lifesaver before, during and after lockdown, you only have to drive through it to see the amount of use it gets.”

Usage it might get, but the scale of it means it’s far from overcrowded. Steve expresses his concern to me, “the busiest part is at Postern, but even then, it’s not crowded. But with a car park and cafe it will be crazy. The rest of the forest is never busy, it’s mainly locals that walk in the less well-known areas. Of course, no one likes pollution from cars, but with Savernake being adjacent to two major roads the small amount of traffic on the grand avenue is like a piss in the ocean. I was bought up with the forest as our back yard; my mother who is 87 with early dementia and not very good mobility loves it when I take her in the car through the Avenue.”

Whatever their broken logic, it seems restriction of Savernake Forest, so dear to local residents is a detrimental supposition of liberty, “a lesson in how to alienate all green and nature followers,” suggested an online commentor. Another says “a project of this scale must be preceded by an Environmental Impact Analysis. I can’t find any evidence that one has been done. No EIA no planning consent.”

Please contact the Forestry Commission if you feel strongly about this. Every letter/email WILL help.


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Helping Ukraine in Wiltshire

Coordinating an event in Devizes fundraising for the Ukraine has fallen wayside at the moment, I need a rethink. Meanwhile there’s lots of ways to help in Wiltshire and I thought I’d see if we can’t amalgamate them into one article….

Wiltshire Council has provided some FAQs on all aspects of fundraising, donating and housing refuges HERE, I’ve been in search for others.

Starter for ten, there’s some fundraising events coming up, starting tomorrow Tuesday 29th, at Downton Social Club, Salisbury, who have a big band concert, free with donations, just turn up after 7:30pm.

Wednesday 30th with a Community Supper at Devizes Corn Exchange, organised by Devizes Food & Drink Festival, details HERE, and Saturday sees punky rock covers bands Stone’s Throw and Izzy Barsby appear at Market Lavington Community Hall, tickets are £6, HERE.

Phoenix Brass have a concert for Ukraine at Marlborough Town Hall on Sunday 10th April, ticket info on the poster below.

If there’s one band in the UK most apt for a Ukraine fundraiser it’s the incredible lively and traditional folk-punk of The Ukrainians; I’ve seen them many years ago at the Endorset in Dorset Festival and they were unforgettable. Obviously originating from Ukraine they’re based in the north of England and have been working tirelessly raising £13,000 to-date, donating to Association of Ukrainians in GB and DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal and have also committed to pay the travel expenses of two transit vans taking locally donated medical supplies to Lviv hospital. They play Salisbury Arts Centre on Saturday 23rd April with Pronghorn, Lump and Gypsy Jukebox. Tickets vary from £15 upwards, pay what you can.

Frome’s Cheese and Grain presents a Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal Event on Saturday April 30th with The Back Wood Redeemers, Mighty One, Back Of The Bus, Henry Wacey and DJ Patmandu, with all proceeds donated to the fantastic Frome Town Council’s twin town Ukrainian refugee appeal. £10 in advance HERE.

Over Easter half-term, 11th-14th April, and again from 19th-22nd, Trowbridge Town Hall has some Workshops in aid of Humanitarian Aid Centre. There are badges, flag making and sunflower sowing at £1-3, kids arts open competitions for ages 5-18yrs, and a prize raffle. There’s also an online auction of local and Ukrainian artists, with a live preview of work on 23rd April from 10am -4pm in the Old Court at the Town Hall. Details HERE.

Warminster has two Concerts for Ukraine at the Athenaeum Centre, on Fri 22nd and Sat 23rd April. All tickets are £10 HERE. Warminster Military Wives Choir, Bonner & Blake, The Echobirds, Hilary Pavey and Andrew Bazeley perform.

I’m sure there’s more yet to discover, everywhere you look there’s churches collecting donated clothes and food, there’s schools holding cake stalls, and so many other amazing efforts. If you know of some worthy to add here, please do let us know.

The response to this crisis has been overwhelming in Wiltshire. Like Wroughton businessman Cliff Barry who raised more than £20,000, bought a van and left last Thursday to deliver donations to the border. But so many others have rallied to the cause, donating or even opening their homes to refuges, it’s incredible!

WILTSHIRE for UKRAINE

Trying to find the best avenue to donate should our gig have happened, I joined a Facebook group, Wiltshire for Ukraine, assuming it was just a place to post fundraising efforts, folk looking to house refugees and visa-versa, and other general news on the theme. But I was surprised to hear Wiltshire for Ukraine is all these things and so much more. I spoke to admin Magdalena, direct from Poland, where her group are visiting charities and places dealing with help for refugees.

She was keen to point out, raising funds for smaller community groups is more effective now. They bridge the gap between big charities and its users. “Of course,” she explained, “big charities are super important and professionally help all in need. In a crisis like war help is needed immediately and funds collected by groups can immediately collect and give money to those most needed. At Wiltshire for Ukraine we collect money to help refugees who fled with nothing. We give them money directly and help them have a new start in foreign countries.”

To donate to WILTSHIRE for UKRAINE find their go-fund-me page HERE, and their Facebook group has so much more info of people going that extra mile, ideas on ways you can get involved, and information for those taking in refugees. Such as Salisbury’s Valeriy, raising £10,000 for personalised help to the children and their families inside of Ukraine who have no possibility to leave the war zone. Their GoFundMe is HERE

Another Marlborough based Facebook group called Ukrainians and their Sponsors in Marlborough and surrounding area is helping link Ukrainians needing homes with sponsors and is giving Marlborough residents a place to offer practical advice once they’re here. Find the group HERE.

There is so many amazing people locally, doing whatever they can, I am sorry if I missed you and yours, the beauty of the online blog though, this can be updated if you send me details!


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Marching On, Things to do Next Month, Part 1……

I bloomin’ love March, usually, but as we show this month the door, and with such a mild winter, do not get over excited; while temperatures improve slightly, except it’ll be a wet one. A day of snow predicted Thursday, March kicks in better, but worsens by the second week, with a forecast 15-22 days of perpetual rain, hopefully clearing at the end, from Thursday 24th.

To add a degree of optimism to all this, there’s a truckload of things to do over the first month of so-called spring, there’s hope we can see less events being cancelled and life in the great outdoors taking steps towards the positive. Still, I advise to check ahead before venturing out, via the links provided; our ever-updating event calendar doesn’t update that quickly to include cancelations, and I can’t be held responsible for such cancelations or failure of organisers to refund tickets. Also, it’s a minefield adding links to these events, so find them all on the calendar, ta muchly.

And do not take this as comprehensive, the calendar is being updated all the time, this is just some advance highlights and all things I’d do, if I had cloning technology……

Given all I’ve said about the weather, it doesn’t seem too bad for Bath’s Big Sleepout on Friday 4th in Alice Park; hats off to Julian House and all doing it, raising vital funds and awareness for people forced to sleep-out every night.

Prior, live rock, electronica and folk from novelist, playwright and stand-up comedian Grant Sharkey, with ecologist Thomas Haynes and Bristol the Badger, aka Grasslands, on Wednesday 2nd, at that little coffee shop Baristocats, on Commercial Road Swindon. While Thursday sees one half of Show of Hands, Steve Knightly, at Trowbridge’s Pump, and the other, Phil Beer kicking off his So Much to Choose From tour at Corsham’s Pound Arts. Meanwhile, it’s a three-way guitar showdown at Chapel Arts in Bath with Daryl Kellie, Will McNicol and David Mead, and the Apricity Theatre group bring a Greenhouse of emerging artists out of lockdown to the Rondo Theatre.

WEEK 1

Friday 4th

To week one, then; starting Friday 4th, for parents and babies, Pound Arts has Swings & Roundabouts by the Filskit Theatre, who are inviting the bum wipers, bedtime boppers and owners of tiny humans, to join actor, musician, and mummy, Sophie Ross, for a brand-new comedy musical. A nappy change in the evening though, with dark, gut-wrenching adult stand-up from Bobby Mair, on his Cockroach tour.

The Exchange, Devizes pushes up the Tempo with a drum n bass night, while for a more hip-hop/reggae related evening, try DJ Nicewun & Mac Lloyd at The Village Pump. For something lighter, Alan Titchmarsh is at the Theatre Royal, Bath!

If you are in Bath, though, and into folk, try internationally renowned Faustus at Chapel Arts, who also come to Marlborough folk Roots the next week, Friday11th, or The Rondo, where Cindy Stratton and Marius Frank, ZBella, men’s choir Sasspafellas and upcoming singer/songwriter Ellie Frank headline an evening of entertainment raising money for the refugee charity UNHCR.

Closer to home, our good friends Bran and Mirko, as The Celtic Roots Collective bring some Irish roots to Seend Community Centre, from 7pm, which is free or donations. Also look out for one-man mechanical alt-blues band, Funke and the Two-Tone Baby at the Winchester Gate, Salisbury, a tribute to Nightwash, Knightwish, at the Vic, Swindon, or Coyote Kings at the Village Inn. Oh, and the Fillers play the Cheese & Grain, Frome.

Saturday 5th

Saturday, and the Wharf Theatre, Devizes has the award-winning theatre company White Cobra, presenting Bette & Joan, i.e., Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, in danger of becoming has-beens but get an opportunity to appear together in a new film, if the arch-rivals don’t clash.

Swindon’s original band with bluesy intent, Thud come to The Southgate, while the Bear’s Cellar Bar reopens with free entry to a 70s-80s Disco with DJ Andy Saunders.

It’s happy third birthday to Melksham’s The Hiding Place, and The Carpenters Experience, which speaks for itself, at the Assembly Hall.

Trowbridge Town Hall get post-punk DIY vibes with a triple billing of Slagheap, Slug Puppie and Carsick, while Chippenham’s Neeld have Amen Corner’s Andy Fairweather Low & the Low Riders, and The Cuban Brothers take The Cheese & Grain, but when in Frome, local punkers One Chord Wonders play the Sun. In complete contrast, Pound Arts has critical acclaimed folk and Americana, with Ida Wenøe & Samantha Whates.

Back to the arts, Rondo Theatre, Bath have Charlotte Palmer in an hilarious and moving one woman show, sometimes angry exploration of women over 50, who find themselves overlooked, ignored, disregarded, in short becoming The Invisible Woman, and Theatre Royal’s Egg have The Dark, Peut-Etrê Theatre which merges vibrant physicality with live music to create captivating and energetic performances for the whole family. It is even accessible for blind and visually impaired children through integrated audio description and touch tours.

Sunday 6th

Jon Amor’s first Sunday of the month residency at the Southgate, Devizes is the place to be, promising guest Jonny Henderson. But allow me to also recommend Bath’s Yiddish folk collective, Chai For All, who celebrate International Women’s Day at the Grapes.

Week 2

The Theatre Royal, Bath starts Willy Russel’s musical Blood Brothers on Tuesday 8th and running until Saturday, while the Ustinov Studio has an epic cycle of short plays exploring the personal and political effect of war on modern life, called Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat running from Thursday to Saturday.

But for a locally themed performance, try the Theatre screening of Naming The View at Pound Arts, Corsham, on Thursday. Naming the View takes its inspiration from Shakespeare’s much-loved comedy, The Taming of the Shrew, yet it’s setting is Seend.

Meanwhile, Chapel Arts, Bath has three days on the trot of acoustic folk with Chris Wood on Wednesday, Nick Hart on Thursday, and The Lost Trades play Friday.

Friday 11th

Aforementioned internationally renowned folk with Faustus at Marlborough Folk Roots club, and there’s open mic night at Trowbridge’s Pump, the third heat for amateur musicians of Take The Stage at Chippenham’s Neeld, and ancient ballads promise to be awoken, poems given the tunes they’ve long deserved with Salt House, Scotland’s foremost performers; Jenny Sturgeon, Ewan MacPherson and Lauren MacColl at Pound Arts.

I’d recommend the experimental jazz-fusion of SexJazz, at Swindon’s Beehive for a Harbour Project FUNdraiser, funding art sessions for Swindon refugees and asylum seekers. Also, the Relayaz Band at Bradford-on-Avon’s Boathouse, or for Thin Lizzy fans, as I know there’s a few, Limehouse Lizzy play The Cheese & Grain.

But Devizes best of luck wishes go out to our Full Tone Orchestra, who present Gilbert & Sullivan Pirates of Penzance at Bath Abbey; glorious!

Saturday 12th

Saturday is a whopper, spoiled for choice you are! The most excellently unique Bristol-based Two-Tone punk meets Sierra Leonean percussion duo, Two Man Ting return to The Southgate, Devizes. Meanwhile the Corn Exchange opens its doors to the Lacock-based Wiltshire Soul & Blues Club with a blues extravaganza headlining Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue, and there’s a rock n roll night at the Conservative Club, fundraising for Kennet Gateway Club with Mickey Ace and the Wildcards and DJ.

With support by the awesome Train to Skaville, boot boys need to get to Melksham, where Madness tribute Complete Madness take the Assembly Hall one step beyond. Meanwhile our indie-pop heroes, Talk in Code support for The Worried Men at Trowbridge Town Hall. The Dunwells play The Croft, Hungerford.

The Roving Crows play Chapel Arts, Bath, masters of euro-trance, Transglobal Underground at The Cheese & Grain, Frome, and there’s a Party & The Pavilion at Minety Rugby Club, featuring a number of bands, including our friends The Dirty Smooth.

Deep Purple, Rainbow and Whitesnake tributes rolled into one at the Vic, Swindon, with Rising from the Deep, meanwhile, Room 101 take the Castle, and Mean as Custard, Loaded Dice and Six O’clock Circus have a free band-off at Level III, fundraising for Swindon homeless charity the Moonlight Express Project. Oh, and MECA have a Sausage & Cider Fest; two of my favourite things!

But if gigs don’t tickle your fancy, there’s some excellent family theatre too; Saturday and Sunday at the Theatre Royal, is the place to find The Super Greedy Caterpillar, and Pound Arts in Corsham have Zoo Co Theatre coming in, presenting Messy, where you can meet Daisy. She’s got a messy brain and a messy bedroom, which makes it very difficult to look after her class hamster Mr Twiggy! A magical visual story, complete with original music, puppets, tap dancing and even a trip to the moon!

Messy is performed by a deaf and hearing cast with Sign Supported English, created in partnership with ADHD Foundation, where all performances are Relaxed, without loud noises and lights left on, and it is followed by a free workshop afterwards.

Saturday at Pound Arts also sees ENG-ER-LAND by Hannah Kumari and WoLab, a football-themed play set in 97, with 13-year-old Lizzie, obsessed with the beautiful game.

Sunday 13th and I got nothing, yet, except CSF Wrestling at The Cheese & Grain, but that’s why you need to keep checking into our bulging event calendar, as more comes in all the time. So much, I’m leaving it there, through fear of repetitive strain injury of my typing fingees. Either that, or it’ll be the middle of April before you finish reading it. But don’t, whatever you do, think for a second there’s nought to do in Wiltshire, and we’ll finish off the rest of March in a few days, give you time to digest this lot first!


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Wiltshire Council Whack Up Parking Charges

It took only a couple of hours at a Wiltshire Council meeting yesterday, to decide punishing drivers would be the order of day; they intend to whack up parking charges an extra 10p per hour, and enforce blue-badged disabled drivers to cough up too…...

Free Sunday parking and Town Council’s free event parking will also be a thing of the past, as the conservative-led council voted in favour of the proposals.

Liberal Democrats called for the amendment to be scrapped, while Wiltshire Council leader Richard Clewer called it “economic illiteracy” and “morally bankrupt.” Apparently,it’s all part of our town centres’ “transformation.” Cllr Clewer claimed the Conservative administration “has a clear plan for the future of our towns,” continued to slag off the Lib Dems’ for their “lack a coherent strategy,” and accused them of “playing politics for short-term gains.”

So, there you go, online shoppers, let’s say a prayer for our High Streets, as we once knew them…..


Manton Fest Reveal 2022 Line-Up

Drizzle couldn’t prevent MantonFest from being one of my fondest memories of last year. There’s a real community-feel to this honourable little festival, yet it prevails professionalism aside it’s cheery atmosphere. Enough for me to label it “a gem in Marlborough’s event calendar” last time; let’s see what’s in store this year, as organisers announce dates and line-up for 2022….

Set for Saturday 25th June this time, headlining are seminal rhythm & blues band, Animals & Friends, which boasts original Animals drummer John Steel, and keyboardist Mick Gallagher, who joined The Animals in 1965, replacing Alan Price, and is perhaps best known as a founding member of Ian Dury and the Blockheads.

Returning to MantonFest after a five year gap, Animals & Friends still command great respect internationally amongst their peers, as well as from fans of all ages who instinctively respond so enthusiastically to such pivotal songs from The Animals catalogue such as ‘We Gotta Get Out Of This Place’, ‘Boom Boom’, ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’, ‘Baby, Let Me Take You Home’, ‘I Put A Spell On You’ and the bands’ multi-million selling anthem and Number One hit across the world, ‘House of The Rising Sun’.

Also appearing with an astounding résumé for a tribute act, 1993’s creation of John Mainwaring and John Ford, Jean Genie, has a founding in the very person it’s attributing, Bowie, of course. An original recording artist in his own right, John Mainwaring has been signed by numerous record companies throughout his career, twice with Warner Bros. In the 1980s David Bowie’s world-famous producer Tony Visconti produced some of John’s songs when he was signed to WEA.

Not forgoing work with Jarvis Cocker and Tony Christie, co-writing and recording Beverley Callard’s work-out fitness DVD, John is currently signed to Bucks Music Publishers for his original material, and, more apt for the role, in the late 1990s John was approached by ‘The Spiders from Mars,’ asking if he’d front the band and tour with them. Has to be said, it’s a rare thing for a tribute to have toured and performed with the original artist’s band.

Barrelhouse

Marlborough’s own and MantonFest favourites, Barrelhouse are returning. With a penchant for vintage blues, I was mightily impressed with Barrelhouse las year, very nearly dropping my hotdog, blending their original material with classic blues covers so you couldn’t see the seam. Promoting a new live CD, they’re a winner every time.

Another act, another tribute. One which I’m sure will be welcomed with open arms by the MantonFest crowd, Nottingham-based Beatles tribute band, The Fab4. Formed thirty-two years ago, they’re renowned for using classic sound equipment, much the same gear as the Beatles, to get that authentic sound, and were the first band invited to play at the Paul McCartney Auditorium at the Liverpool institute of Performing Arts.

Compelling and daring, former Purson singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, from Southend, Rosalie Cunningham is also on the line-up, whose 2019 debut solo album earned a Top 10 placing in the UK’s official independent chart. Along with local acts Dangerous Kitchen, a four-piece rock band, acoustic and electric band covers trio, @59, Adam Ford, Eddie Witcomb and LLoyd Crabb as Kotonic, and Manton’s very own semi-acoustic blues, jazz and soul crossover group, Skedaddle.

@59

So, yeah, this variety, mostly rock, blues and soul one-dayer shindig, comes highly recommended by yours truly. Gates open at 11am on Saturday 25th June, and advance tickets have just gone online, for £35 until 15th June, £40 afterwards. Child tickets are a fiver, under 7’s go free, youth tickets are £15. This year people can book a plot for a campervan for £20, or a gazebo pitch for £10, payable on the day at the gate.

With an assortment of food and drinks stalls, picnics and bring your own booze are still welcomed, in this overall fantastically friendly festie overlooked by the beautiful surroundings of Treacle Brolly near Marlborough, it’s walking distance into town; what more do you want? Well, I’d like to see Blondie tribute Dirty Harry from last year; see if I can get her phone number this time; epic fail due to cider last attempt!

There she is, see? Shouting out to me, “don’t call me, go home, you’re drunk!”

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Tractors, Tinsel, and “Suggested” Environmental Issues

From Devizes to Marlborough and back, last weekend, Sunday 19th December saw a repeat of last year’s Tractor & Tinsel Run, and Devizes Young Farmers’ fundraising event attracted masses of attention. Our man Andy was at the scene and I leave his thoughts on it here, I just wanted to add my tuppence too; you know me! Firstly, I offer thanks to the Devizes Young Farmers and congratulations on the success of the day.……

Raising for both Wiltshire Air Ambulance and Alzheimer’s Society, the Devizes Young Farmers told me they haven’t got a grand total yet, “we will let the Just Giving page run for a while.” For which you can find by clicking here, if you wish to donate.

Confirming this was their second year, they added it was the, “first year for the night run though!” So popular it virtually broke local social media groups with videos, images and messages of congratulations. I had to ask them if they think this could become something of annual Christmas tradition. “We have discussed doing it bi-annually, however it gets such good feedback and response from the public, we are considering doing it annually.”

In fact, the only negative feedback on social media has been concerns about the environmental impact. Puts me between somewhat of a rock and hard place, being the event’s popularity and the amazing fundraising achievement. I figured I’d ask local “green” experts for their thoughts on the issue, rather than play party to social media ranting; and before you throw your toys out of the pram and ingeniously change the D in my name, Darren, for a K, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by their responses!

In the global scheme of things, I consider the environmental impact of a fleet of tractors pottering around town to be but a pinprick, and Graham for Sustainable Devizes was equally constructive. “We have very little engagement with farmers locally,” he begun, “yet they are essential to protecting the environment and biodiversity.  Our approach to sustainability is to take practical steps and form partnerships.  When we campaign it is to start practical projects that will make changes and not to make criticisms of any particular group. We wish to engage with farmers on big issues such as protecting biodiversity rather than take positions on individual actions which have laudable aims.”

Council Green Party Candidate, the aptly named Margaret Green, was similarly supportive, “I agree that raising money for charity is a good thing and assume that the tractor mileage for the event is a donation from the farmers. I think the event has a positive outcome for the community,” she replied, “In terms of climate crisis and emission reduction, farmers are ideally placed to deliver positive outcomes in the form of increasing biodiversity through wildflower meadows (potentially associated with local energy production in solar farms). Their transition to reduced use of pesticides and fertilisers also benefits the soil’s ability to sequester carbon, a key element in a sustainable future. As stewards of our landscape farmers are our friends!”

Naturally the real test would be from the Devizes and Marlborough Extinction Rebellion group, who were somewhat lost for words, noting “like quite a few charity events, it’s also a polluting event,” but even they weren’t overly negative! So, to those whinging on social media today about the environmental impact, I’d suggest they put that in their vapes and puff it!

It now leaves me with the great pleasure to pass you onto roving reporter on the scene, Andy Fawthrop, for his thoughts. All I will add is; I believe the hashtag #nothingeverhappensinDevizes is a splendid piece of ironic overstatement created, correct me if I’m wrong, by local satirist (among other things) Mr Ian Diddams, therefore not to be taken to heart!


Tractors & Tinsel

Andy Fawthrop

There’s a bit of a (joking) saying that “nothing ever happens in Devizes”, a phrase that deserves to be fully buried and forgotten for just how incredibly inaccurate it now is.……

Whilst in Pyongyang they parade their missile-launchers, and in Moscow they show off their tanks and troops, this bit of rural Wiltshire did something rather better last Sunday by showcasing its own arsenal of terrifying hardware – tractors!  And not just a few tractors, but loads and loads of tractors.  Decked out with tinsel.  And Christmas trees.  And Santa Clauses.  And truly it was enough to frighten the pants off any super-power even thinking of ever invading The Vize.

Along with hundreds of others gathered along the route all the way out to Marlborough and in the Market Place in Devizes, my inner tractor-man came suddenly to the fore.  And what a sight we witnessed, as the massed squadrons of agricultural machinery drove past us, headlights shining, horns blaring, drivers waving.  And this was no mere token gesture, but over 150 colourful beasts roaring past us for the best part of an hour. 

Thanks to Devizes Young Farmers for their amazing vision and organisation, for the second year running, in the middle of deep mid-winter, we had another fantastic display of hardware as tractors rolled through the country lanes of Wiltshire on their way back to T.H. White’s gathering ground.  Rwanda might be famous for its gorillas in the mist, but in this neck of the woods we had tractors in the fog.  And not just the once either – this year for the first time we got a reprise of the shorter D-Town loop in the winter darkness.  It’s said that there are some weird folk, like our doughty editor, who simply don’t “get” tractors, but I can’t understand that at all. Personally, I was mesmerised – like a John Deere caught in the headlights, you might say.

Of course part of the (unintended) entertainment was spotting the looks of horror on the faces of the drivers of cars trying to pass through the town, suddenly finding themselves between a massive JCB or CASE, and a flotilla of Massey-Fergusons, wondering what level of hell they’d suddenly found themselves in – absolutely priceless!

To say that was a great success is surely an under-statement.  You only had to be there looking at the children’s faces (and those of a few slightly leaky-eyed men of a certain age) to realise what a lot of joy and excitement this all brought to the town.  And social media was bending under the sheer weight of photos and videos posted online, as local folk let all their friends know far and wide just what an amazing town this is.

But of course, it wasn’t just for the hell of it: there was a worthy purpose behind such madness.  The whole thing was organised to raise funds for two brilliant charities – Wiltshire Air Ambulance and Alzheimer’s Society.   And there’s still time to help make a difference in our community and beyond by donating at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/devizesyoung-club

So it’s a massive “hats off” to Devizes Young Farmers, and everyone else involved in organising such a fantastic bit of rural entertainment.  It was wonderful, it was awe-inspiring, it was totally bonkers.  And a great event out in the open air in the lead-up to Crimbo.  Let’s just hope it now becomes an annual and traditional fixture in the D-Town “Nothingeverhappens” Calendar!


Editor’s note; I only “don’t get” tractors without fridges and stereos as standard, otherwise I’m virtually Wurzel!


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Tree People, a Gold Postman, Tea, Minions, Pet Camels, Red Carpets, Old Time Sailors and More; Who’s Excited About Devizes International Street Festival?

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 … Continue reading “Tree People, a Gold Postman, Tea, Minions, Pet Camels, Red Carpets, Old Time Sailors and More; Who’s Excited About Devizes International Street Festival?”

The Devizine Online Local Yuletide Market

If you’re like me and leave shopping to the last-minute Christmas eve frenzied dash like a headless turkey, or even if you’re arranging next year’s already, here’s some local Christmas gifts and ideas, which will build up, I hope, to a virtual Christmas market, a warm winter wonderland!

Surfing through the Net, with a one-maned open search engine, over Facebook we go, laughing all the way! Hey, crafty crafters, cheeky chefs and any other local creative types, I haven’t got a naughty or nice list, so don’t make me hunt you down. I know you’re busy, but it takes a second or three, and costs nought, to message us at Devizine and get your Christmassy products and ideas listed here, on our online local Yuletide market.

So, do bookmark this page and drop back in regularly, as it will be updated.

And for those who prefer the physical, there’s a list of Christmas Craft Markets at the bottom of this list, just keep on scrollin’!

Real Christmas Trees in Devizes

Back at the Bell on the Green this year from the 26th November, as it has been for 23 years, real Christmas trees will be for sale. You can pre order your trees for click and collect or delivery at www.merryChristmastrees.co.uk

AbraKadabra

AbraKadabra make these wonderful handmade magic seed-bombs, always popular at Christmas! Contact them via Facebook or Esty, and if you are in Devizes, put the discount code DEVIZES at checkout and you’ll get free postage!

Alan Watters

Rowde artist Alan Watters has limited edition signed and mounted prints of his recent drawing of a highland cow, and gives some of the proceeds to charity. This picture is also a signed cow greetings card with each print and posting worldwide. Have a look at https://alansfineart.com if interested. Cost is just £30 with delivery included.

Arthe

From the creators of Devizes-own artistic, hectic, eclectic, chaotic, linguistic, poetic, bombastic, fantastic, and perhaps a little anarchistic, kawaii bear, Arthe, there’s some groovy greeting cards and gifts on their website, tote bags, mugs, tees, etc; check it out funk soul bears.

Andy Fawthrop

Whilst some people might have spent their Lockdown baking banana bread or stockpiling toilet rolls, our very own roving reporter, Andy was hard at it, writing short stories. These have now been published in three volumes. There’s 49 new stories in all, featuring the usual gentle topics of murder, blackmail, mistaken identity, revenge, infidelity, piracy, robbery and…oh…well, anyway, they’re jolly entertaining, and by turns spooky, bizarre or comic. You can buy them direct from Andy for a tenner each, or order them through the wonderful Jo at Devizes Books, or even buy them from Amazon (paperbacks £10, Kindle downloads £3). “They would obviously make ideal Christmas presents,” Andy says, “particularly for that special person that you don’t like very much.” I’ve read his “stuff” and beg to differ.

Beeze’s

Easy choice, you just know Beeze’s in Devizes’ Ginnel are going to have some great ideas for Christmas gifts; they’ve got a whole Christmas Collection, not to mention Little Beeze’s toys next door. Chocolate message bars? Say no more!

Website Facebook

Blossom Hill Cards

Devizes-based Blossom Hill Cards has five Christmas wonderful card designs, with all proceeds going to Alzheimer’s Society. You can buy them HERE.

Cositas Bonitas

The brilliant shareware craft shop in Sidmouth Street Devizes, Cositas Bonitas is a must stop off on your Christmas shop, you will be spoiled for choice. Check out Facebook, to see what I mean!

The Little Eco Shop, Devizes

I’m so glad to hear the Little Eco Shop is back. Go there for zero waste Christmas Eco wrapping essentials. Recycled craft wrapping paper in brown, green and red. Compostable brown paper tape. Christmas patterned brown paper tape (perfect for jazzing up the paper) Natural twine. Coloured twine made from recycled plastic. Paper bows. Craft card tags. Make your own elf Christmas crackers.

Little Eco Shop is off Couch Lane, Devizes: Website. Facebook

My Happy Place

Such a lovely name for this Devizes-based small decoupage business; so it’s mainly bottles and jars, with lights or wooden hearts hanging plaques, but owner Cassie tells me, “pretty much anything I can get my hands on that will work!” Join her Facebook group for more details.

Caroline Le Bourgeois

If you’re lucky to find this amazing wildlife artist at the Shambles, or many local fairs and markets, her cute pictures would make a perfect wall hanging gift, or greetings cards. If not, her website is here.

Dollies Dimples

Devizes-based Dollies Dimples makes these charming secret pocket tins with personalisation, visit their Etsy shop here.

The Healthy Life Company

From Green and Blacks, Montezuma, Moo Free and Clipper tea advent calendars to Vaughn’s Kitchen Christmas Cake Packs, the Healthy Life in Devizes’ Little Brittox is more than muesli. With a reduced carbon footprint focus, they have a pop-up gift shop each year, with those gifts that you won’t find elsewhere on the high street. For a healthy, planet-friendly Christmas, visit The Healthy Life, or on Facebook.

FM by Gem

Perfume, the ideal gift; Gemma is your local FM rep with everything from real discounted perfumes, to home fragrances, makeup and even cleaning products. You will need to join this Facebook group to find out more.

Shaz’s Chutneys and Pickles!

Shaz’s homemade chutneys, pickles and hampers are up for grabs from the Southgate, Devizes. With a 5 star Food Hygiene Rating, they do look tasty!

The Devizine Compilation Album, of Course!

If you’re not fussed about unwrapping gifts, I could shamelessly plug our Devizine compilation album. It can’t be on CD, because it’s far too mahoosive, it would need approximately 6 discs to cram onto, ergo you can download it, and your money goes to Julia’s House Children’s Hospices. And on it you’ll find the very best of what local music has to offer, I pinky promise you that much!

Download it HERE

White Chalk Gallery

Newly opened in Devizes, The White Chalk Gallery would be the perfect stopping place on any Christmas shop, there’s handmade jewellery and sculptured pots as well as art, and will you just look at these two needle felted cutties made from pure wool by Jo Lilley @miceandmole. Find the White Chalk Gallery in Devizes Market Place, or website here.

Simon Folkard Photography

Amazing photographer Simon Folkard has a range of Devizes themed Christmas cards, as well as his celebrated calendars. He will be at the Corn Exchange’s Christmas fayre on Saturday 15th November, look him up or contact him via Facebook.

The Gourmet Brownie Kitchen

The way to a man’s heart this festive season I can tell you, for I’m dreaming of a brownie Christmas, and no one, I repeat, no one makes a brownie as good as The Gourmet Brownie Kitchen. Currently based at Poulshot Farm Lodge, plans are afoot for a new shop, but while it looks like Devizes, it’s all top secret at the moment, so keep in the loop via Facebook, and visit their website! UPDATE: it’ll be on Maryport Street; yay!

Kit Tags

Personalise your kit bags with combat proof tags, here!

Will Do Studio

On a Bauble or hanging decoration, personalisation is trending, Westbury’s Will Do Studio have personalised Christmas ornaments. Write your wishes on the bauble and give it to the person who is important to you. Add any text and make this souvenir on the Christmas tree.

Website Facebook

The Bird, The Book & The Barrel

I could recommend a billion albums, but this debut from our brilliant The Lost Trades would be my pickermost for the yule season, it’s just sooo nice! And yes, they have this on CD, so you can gift-wrap it! Buy it here.

Hannah Cantellow Studio

From Poulshot’s to Lockeridge’s village halls, Hannah runs linocut Christmas card workshops, a great way to create multiple cards yourself. You’ll be able to make and handprint a set of 10 Christmas cards and a carved block to take away with you, which you’ll be able to print again and again. All materials, tools, design templates and refreshments are provided (however, you’re welcome to bring your own design if you prefer.) Check the website for dates and booking.

Wix n Scents

Based at Castle Combe, who wouldn’t want a pug or boxer fart scented candle, I ask you? Other scents are available! Check them out here.


Christmas Shopping in Devizes

Our friends at InDevizes has created this map of all the independent shops around Devizes, for refence when out there shopping, and the cafes too, naturally!

Christmas Markets

Coming over all Oliva Newton John? Prefer the physical? Yeah, for shopaholics there’s nothing like trampling around a craft market this time of year, so I’ve also included a list of known Christmas craft fayres locally. If I missed yours, my gift to you is I can add it, which is not quite as good as socks or a Lynx deodorant set, but c’est la vie.

Deck The Halls @ Devizes Corn Exchange: 12th & 13th Nov.

Forest Friends Online Christmas Fayre: 15th-21st Nov.

Festive Shopping Night @ Bratton Jubilee Hall. 7-9pm. 18th Nov.

Wootton Rivers Village Hall: 20th Nov.

Westbury United FC: 20th Nov.

Shop Small Swindon Artisan Market @ The Hop Inn: 21st Nov.

Devizes Winter Festival: 26th Nov.

Christmas Market Night @ Abbey Meads School, Swindon. 5:30-8:30pm 26th Nov.

Charity Craft Fair in aid of St Joseph’s Nursey @ Devizes Conservative Club: Nov 27th, 10am-12.

Wadworth Christmas Fair: 27th Nov, 10am-4pm.

The Lamb Inn, Urchfont: 27th Nov.

Shield & Dagger Christmas Market, Swindon: 27th Nov.

Christmas Charity Fair @ The Cheese & Grain, Frome: 27th Nov.

Chippenham Festival of Christmas: 28th Nov.

Bishops Cannings School Christmas Fayre: 4th Dec.

Christmas Extravaganza @ St Johns Church, Devizes: 4th Dec.

Biddestone Christmas Fayre: 4th Dec.

Christmas Fayre at Ridgeway School, Wroughton: 4th December.

Codford Christmas Artisan Market: 4th Dec.

Mamma Events Christmas Market @ Mecca, Swindon: 11am-3pm. 5th Dec.

St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, Devizes: 10th Dec

Christmas Fair at the Churchill Arms, West Lavington. Saturday 11th Dec.

Christmas Craft Fair @ Warminster Park Community Centre: 11am-3pm 11th Dec.

Christmas Nativity @ White Hart Attworth


Print me out and colour me in!

Oh, and send me them via our Facebook page, with your name and age, and we’ll decide winners in December. If anyone of the lovely businesses we’ve helped by plugging their wares could offer a prize, do let me know!!


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How Common is “Spiking” in Wiltshire?

We’re talking with Wiltshire Police about spiking in the area, how common it is, how to best prevent being a victim of it, and what to do if you suspect you’ve been “spiked.”

There’s been a truckload of media coverage of “spiking” nationally, with a notion towards a trend of using needles rather than the more common practises of topping up a drink or dropping a drug into a drink. If anything, it’s made me realise how totally out of touch I am with modern clubbing. While it may’ve been a while since I got my groove thang on, which I feel imperative to add I can still cut-a-rug as good as any twentysomething, clubbing was a religion in my younger years, and I retain, just about, fond memories of carefree dancing the night away; but you don’t want to hear about that!

Therefore, I’m saddened and literally sickened to hear stories in the press of youngsters who’d rather stay in than risk being spiked, and those who’ve been victims. So, I’ve called upon Wiltshire Police, to find out how common this appalling trend is in the county, what people can do to both prevent it, and what action they should take if they suspect they’ve been spiked.

Wiltshire Police told me, “This issue has caused a lot of interest recently and we are keen as a Force to make sure the story is being told correctly and the actual picture in Wiltshire is being shown.” Still, I’d like to think cases in our county are low, and figures for the past three years in Wiltshire, supplied by Wiltshire Police’s Business Intelligence Unit show while twelve incidents were reported in 2019, this was reduced to eight incidents in 2020, which I suppose lockdown had an effect, because unfortunately, this year another twelve incidents have been reported. Police are keen to point out, these figures include instances where spiking may be mentioned in the summary of the incident but may not later be confirmed, and they relate to drink spiking, not needle spiking.

Yet this leaves me pondering incidents which go unreported, and I’m alarmed to read the charity Talk To FRANK website suggesting “while the aim may be to incapacitate someone enough to rob or sexually assault them, sometimes it is just intended as a joke – a bad joke as it is very dangerous.”

Beggar’s belief someone would do this as a prank, and in turn, I must say, I’ve had trouble angling this article. Firstly, if you’re a regular reader you’ll be aware I attempt sprinkling humour into my words, but there’s nothing funny to this issue. Secondly, I originally thought I’d have something concrete to say to anyone considering spiking another person, but I changed my mind; I have nothing to say to you which you’d probably take heed of, and I could legally publish.

The concentration has to be on sending a message to potential victims, which could be anyone. I’d like to advise you not to let these nasty bastards spoil your fun, but at the same time I implore you to stay safe.

Watch your drink at all times, remain within a group of trusted friends, and if you believe you’ve been spiked, try not to panic, but find support from friends. I accept this is easier said than done, the drugs these idiots use can be seriously intoxicating, things are going to get wobbly, so much more than having too many drinks, which should act as the indicator something is amiss, especially if you’ve taken account of how much you’ve drunk.

You may question what’s happening, where you are, even who you are, commonly used drugs like ketamine and Rohypnol are seriously debilitating, so getting help urgently is paramount. Wiltshire Police say, “we would encourage anyone who believes they have been the victim of spiking or have witnessed it to contact us on 101. Any reports of spiking will be investigated and taken seriously.” Details of prevention on Wiltshire Police’s website can be found here, please read it.

FRANK gives tips to stay safe: Plan your night out, including your journey there and back. Make sure the venue you are going to is licensed – venues are required to take steps to ensure the safety of their customers. When going to a pub, club or party avoid going alone. Friends can look out for one another. Stay aware of what’s going on around you and keep away from situations you don’t feel comfortable with. Think very carefully about whether you should leave a pub, club or party with someone you’ve just met, and make sure your mobile phone has plenty of charge in it before you leave home and keep your mobile safe.

I’m pleased to read nightclubs like The Chapel in Salisbury and Tree Swindon freely distribute “bottle stoppers,” but contacting another two local nightclubs, I received no response when asking them what they’re doing to prevent such incidents. While I know it’s not an easy issue, I urge them to reconsider policies such as no glass on dancefloors, hoping they can provide a plastic alternative.   

Wiltshire Police have launched Project Vigilant, with operations being carried out on a frequent basis to proactively prevent violence and sexual offences. You can read more about Project Vigilant on the Wiltshire Police website. A Wiltshire Police spokesperson said: “We continue to work closely with licensed premises and our partners across the county through initiatives like Project Vigilant to ensure everything is being done to spot the signs of predatory behaviour.”

FRANK continues onto how to avoid drink spiking, suggesting always buy your own drink and watch it being poured. Don’t accept drinks from strangers. Never leave your drink unattended while you dance or go to the toilet. Don’t drink or taste anyone else’s drink. Throw your drink away if you think it tastes odd.

There is also an initiative led by Wiltshire Council called Ask For Angela, which the Police supports. The scheme helps people who are on a date or who have met someone at a venue and feel unsafe get help from bar staff. Anyone who feels unsafe in such a situation can get help from bar staff by simply asking to speak to “Angela.”  Staff will then assist the person in leaving the venue discreetly and getting home or to a place of safety. This could mean taking the distressed person out of sight, calling for a taxi and making sure they get home okay or even asking the person causing distress to leave the venue if appropriate. Details about this are here.

To conclude, I’d just like to reaffirm my appeal you stay safe by taking heed of the advice, because although the media are focussing on needle spiking, spiking your drink is far more common and easier to execute. Prof Adam Winstock from the Global Drugs Survey says it would be difficult to inject someone with drugs in a night out situation, “needles have to be inserted with a level of care – and that’s when you’ve got the patient sitting in front of you with skin and no clothes. The idea these things can be randomly given through clothes in a club is just not that likely.” But not impossible, and dropping a pill into a drink, well, this is far simpler, so go out and have fun, but be aware, please.


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Boo! Spooky Halloween Happenings for Everyone!

Fantastic and spooky image of St Johns, Devizes, used with permission from Simon Folkard Photography

I say everyone, but it’s the inbetweenies always at a loss during Halloween, I tend to find. Too old for patronising trick or treating, only a handful of idiots, sulking at their lack of Harbio, who opt for the terrorising old folk kind, which spoils it for them, and for younger kids too, when everyone under the age of eighteen is tarnished with the same witch’s broom.

Yet too young to attend adult Halloween parties, which we all know, generally end up as mindless drunken satanic orgies, full of naked chicks pouring the blood of scarified male counterparts over themselves in a hellfire pit of inequity to the sound of evil giggling, and thrash metal roaring from the rafters…. at least, in my mind it does.

What?! I’m speculating, I wouldn’t know whether they break out the leather, or not. I grew up in a household where the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain was considered American commercialisation, and since escaping the nest I built my own, whereby on All Hallows’ Eve I don a beanie and wander aimlessly in the background, as “protector” parent of hyperactive children, getting ecstatic about being out under street light.

I awkwardly grimaced at housekeepers like a vagabond, as neighbours loaded their pumpkin-shaped buckets with cheap confectionary they don’t like anyway. We’d join chains of other trick or treaters, my watchful duties waning with each grouping; safety in numbers I’d suppose perfunctorily, as I tire and they run off in merriment and sugar-fuelled frenzy. Responsibility is a bitch.

I’ve got cheap, Wilkos luminous paint on my jersey from a leaking zombie, whose mask is sagging where they broke the elastic, otherwise I blur into the background and children organise themselves, until one genuinely gets scared, and I get to return home, ignore door-knocking and slope on the sofa, groaning like a headless horseman, wishing one day they’ll grow out of it.

And before you know what’s what, they do, and you pity the complaining, realise you miss the thrill in their eyes, and await the welcomed subsequent phase, grandchildren, when you hope them to provide the perfect excuse to get back out trick or treating again; by this age you need no mask or makeup, but you can return them sugar-bursting; mwahahaha!

Anyway, enough of my problems, you came here wanting to hear about all the spooky events and monster mashes going down over the Samhain, and that’s what I’m about to do, just, you know, had to get that off my chest.

Although if I’ve missed yours, I can always add them, if you liked, just message, email or howl under the full moon when the wind is blowing my direction, but the first “halloweeny” type event we’ve found, is All Cannings’ Pre-School Half term Halloween Trail, starting on 23rd October and running until the 30th. Take your little ones to All Cannings, buy a trail map from the village shop and walk the village looking for clues to spell a spooky word! Put your completed maps into our box at the back of the village hall for your chance to win a Halloween prize.

Leading up to the Halloween weekend, Crazy P’s Ron Basejam brings some Halloween disco to Komedia on Thursday 28th, but Saturday is when the spookiness really comes out to play….

In Devizes, the trusty Cavalier have a children’s Halloween fancy dress disco, with prizes for the best dressed boy and girl. You’ll need a £3 ticket, available here.

Forgive me if I’m wrong but I believe wonderful DJ, Holz Stone will be on the spooky wheels of steel for the Halloween fancy dress disco at the Wyvern Club. There’ll be hot dogs, burgers and sweet bags, a novel hook-a-skull game, guess the weight of the pumpkin and what’s in the box, as well as best dressed prizes. This one’s £2 per child, on the door.

For Devizes grownups, over 21s, there’s a DJ set from Houses of Joy Soundsystem at The Muck & Dundar’s Zombie Cocktail Special night. Free entry, walk-ins, favourably like a zombie, and feel free to dress up or down. I think they’ll need an exorcist like me, to purify those spirits!

And of course, the traditional Krazee Devil Halloween Karaoke Disco will be down the The Pelican, Devizes. Only numbers are limited this year, so if you want to Party Pelicano style this Samhain then shout Sarah-Jane on (01380) 723909.

The Truzzy Boys welcome fancy dress at their Halloween Party at the Churchill Arms in West Lavington, also on Saturday. Honey-Street’s Barge have a monster mash rock ‘n’ roll Halloween party, with Little Miss Blue Bass, Mutley and Rockin Rich. Best dressed wins a £20 bar tab, which beats a bucket of Freddos. They want only £6 off you for the pleasure, tickets here.

Meanwhile, over misty graveyards and ancient burial mounds to Bradford-on-Avon, where the Three Horseshoes host Strange Folk for a Halloween party. If you checked them out last weekend at the Southgate, or read our review, you’ll know this will be a great, and very apt Halloween venture. It should go without saying by now, its fancy dress, with a prize for best dressed.

In spooky Swindon, The Swiss Chalet have one hell of a show from 2pm onwards. Train to Skaville, The DayBreakers, Hip Replacements and Mark Colton bring the skalloween tunes, all in aid of the fantastic Big Yellow Bus Project. Door tax is just a quid, with mac n cheese and a chance to win a Nintendo Switch!

Vampires and zombies of Frome only need head to The Cornerhouse, where they’ll find the highly recommended Back Wood Redeemers, with a dark country, twisted blues and religious fervor eve of Halloween. Expect special guests and they’ll be introducing the MagiGant Ska Sound System. There will be dancing afoot! Bring your relevant body parts and dress up should the whim arise… you’ll be in good company.

But not everyone wants dancing afoot, and for a relaxed meal-type Halloween event, Rowde’s legendary George & Dragon have a Rocky Horror Tunnel Party, in, as the name suggests, their secret, aptly spooky, tunnel. Dress up in your favourite horror costumes for a three-course BMF supper, and a party to follow.

And on the Sunday, the 31st, The Roebuck Inn, Marlborough, has a Halloween Open mic Night, while over in Market Lavington’s Green Dragon, there will be all sorts of spooky bonkers things going on all day, perfect for kids and grown up kids alike; with the fantastic People Like Us playing from 8pm.

I’m sure that list isn’t exhaustive, and I’ll add your event if you tell me about it. Otherwise have a grand Halloween, and as I say, I’ll be maxing relaxing, safe in the knowledge my kids now consider themselves too old for the trick or treating fiasco. I mean, I’m not naming and shaming, but one of my nippers must be the only person who can lose a tooth bobbing for apples, for crying out loud into the cold night air!


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Marlborough’s Festival Gem; Manton-Fest

Reading Wiltshire Live’s article this morning, in which attendees were evacuated at Swindon festival Live at Lydiard Park yesterday due to looming thunderstorms, somewhat reflected my own weekend. Music Director Stuart Whant of Mantonfest near Marlborough looked solemnly at me and said if we had thunderstorms, he’d have to pull it. I tried to deflect it with flippancy, doubting it would come to that, but his expression told the story of how passionate and dedicated he is about Mantonfest.

Fortunately, despite one passing downpour, bad weather held off for the tenth anniversary of this magical and beloved little one-day festival. If Barrelhouse, the band Stuart plays bass for, performed the most excellent cover of Muddy Water’s “Got my Mojo Working,” wasn’t the only muddy element to this event, it certainly wasn’t going to upset the mood of the crowd.

Here, the port-a-loos are sectioned off according to gender, I duly noted; definitely a very Marlborough occasion! And for the locals Mantonfest has become a cherished institution. With Stuart organising, means Barrelhouse are firm fixture, as the crowd’s explosion of delight when they came on revealed, if the amount of folk attired in the band’s T-shirt didn’t.

I saw, and heard their reasoning, Barrelhouse seriously have their mojo working. Vintage blues with a hard edge groove their strapline, and apt. The cover of Hoochie Coochie Man sealed the deal for authenticity, but more captivating was the way they sublimely adjusted The Ace of Spades to said strapline, breathing a delta style into the metal anthem. Frontman Martin Hands is one cool dude in shades, playing no instrument he sullenly strides around the stage like a young Jim Morrison, and he has the rich, gritty voice which allures like him too.

For want of a plug, Barrelhouse’s signature tune and title track of their latest album, Mainline Voodoo appears on our Julia’s House compilation album, and the instant magnetism of its riff is the central reason why I’m here; they did not disappoint, rather kick over the pedestal the tune caused me to put them on, and replaced it with a much higher, more expensive one! A Everybody Needs Somebody to Love, and Honky Tonk Woman finale sealed the deal.

This band, domestic and obviously essential to the festival, were far from the only thing to impress. Due to congestion Marlborough is currently experiencing due to roadworks, they swapped places with Richard Davies & The Dissidents, who as a band made their debut appearance at Mantonfest, with very proficient free-flowing feelgood rock n roll.

The causal, untamed beatnik frontman though has previously performed here in different bands. As a persona he very much reflects a mellowed Jagger-Petty mesh, and has the skill to support the accolade. Backed by a professional bunch, their wavey folk-blues is perfection, told in our review of their debut album, Human Traffic. You’re washed over with the sensation you’ve somehow known these original songs all your life, they’d blend so wonderfully into a collection of Steve Winwood, Springsteen in all his Darkness glory, Traveling Wilburys and particularly, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, yet with a subtle hint of English punk, and amusing stage presence, they’re clearly one to watch.

No expense had been spared to make the stage centrepiece, with great acoustics whatever angle you’re situated, as the semi-circle shaped festival, overlooked by the beautiful surroundings of Treacle Brolly embraced it. Top-notch pyrotechnics breathed professionalism into the show as dusk became it, set for Dr Feelgood. A band formed in 1971 which never waned the passing of their frontman, Lee Brilleaux and various member changes, is one I confess my knowledge to not be up to much more than their name, therefore through their qualified skill at projecting some raw-edged blues with expertise ease and passion knocked me for six, particularly, a memorable guitar solo. Even if the encore felt forced when the frontman called it, Milk & Alcohol caused me to realise I knew more about Dr Feelgood than I gave credit for!

Another surprising revelation is the age demographic here, first impressions was an expected older crowd, with their umbrellas and collapsible chairs, but as I enjoyed a rather tasty Sumblers hotdog at the bar, I observed calculating an average age group was near impossible. To nit-pick being kid friendly, could’ve warranted some activities for them, but they seemed as content dancing as the teenagers and twentysomethings who rolled in to enjoy the show; some, I might add, better prepared for inclement weather than I!

But side provisions were adequate for a festival of this size, the upper-end of the food options being a pricey but worthy selection by Green Farm, based in Urchfont. The bar, provided by Ramsbury Brewery was of fair price, and the staff were extremely friendly. And this goes for as a summary of the festival, it was exceptionally localised and welcoming, the organisation of which was untroubled and willing to help with any inquiry.

Working in the morning made me fashionably late, as ever, sorry for missing local band Catfish the most, and only catching the end of The Ex-Men. First act for me to witness was impressive enough. Easy-listening folk Americana filled the bowl from a proficient Joe Martin and backing band. With a golden, rich voice soaring above his age, his originals were astutely written, one called Heartbreak Cult doubly-so, and covers of James Taylor’s Fire and Rain especially wonderful.

I was tipped off to the excellence of this regular event by Devizes’ local music enthusiast and photographer, Nick Padmore some time ago, and on his recommendation made a bee-line for it; it did not fail to live up to it. Yet I didn’t bump into anyone I know from our area, causing me to ponder my notion of a superficially psychological wall on those downs.

Honestly, decades ago when I announced I was moving from Marlborough to Devizes it was met with a horrified reaction, as if I’d suggested moving to Tijuana, or some other murder capital of the world, and equally Devizions perceive to Marlborough to be as affluently cliquey as the Bullingdon Club of 1870, when neither stereotype is true; only a lack of a direct bus route separates them. Yet if such a barrier does exist, it means there’s another circuit of local talent worth exploring, operating literally a twenty-minute drive away. Mantonfest’s dedication to local music proves this, but it’s prone to bringing in some big guns to top it off, too.

The icing on this case, if the mind-blowing Dr Feelgood wasn’t enough, was a welcomed Blondie tribute act as finale. Scotland-based Dirty Harry is the crème de la crème of tribute acts, genuinely and professionally mirroring the magic of Blondie in their prime. The lights shone over the returning drizzle as Mantonfest 2021 came to an enchanted end, tambourine-butt-tapping Dirt Harry, found time to banter with the crowd, young and old, bash out every known Blondie classic, some rarities and even The Ramones The Blitzkrieg Bop unto an appreciative bopping crowd.

Union City Blue, Heart of Glass, Denis and Call Me showcased the culmination of what was a wonderful return for live music in the area, and an area which should take heed, like other towns county-wide; ignore the relation to Devizes in the name Devizine, that’s just our base, we welcome news, events and stories from further afield, including you! And if Mantonfest is anything to go by, I’m taking this show on the road! meanwhile, you should bookmark Mantonfest 2022….


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A Gecko in Trowbridge Town Hall

It’s always a warm greeting as you enter Trowbridge Town Hall, even if, like me on this occasion, you’re running late….. Prior to my arrival I digested the fact I’d likely forgone the supposed support act, Gavin Osborn, but was dammed if I’d miss Gecko, as since reviewing his sublime second album Climbing Frame back … Continue reading “A Gecko in Trowbridge Town Hall”