Here’s the thing, did you realise Monday marked the second anniversary of when Wonder Woman joined me on my milk round?! Yeah, true, and we raised some wonga for her alter-ego Carmela’s fund and fight against muscular dystrophy. And now Carmela is not only a tiny best friend of mine, but huge inspiration to us all and something of celeb now too.
Star of her own fun children’s book you can buy in Devizes Books to raise funds for her campaign, as well as hobnobbing with the stars, I’m delighted this evening to hear, some other of my favourite girls are reforming their supergroup to raise some funds in her name too.
Pre-lockdown, girl members of six bands annually joined for a fundraising one-off gig, and it was always something explosive, fun and a darn awesome night. Nicky Davis from Warminster based People Like Us and The Reason, Glastonbury’s Julia Greenland from Soulville Express & Delta Swing, Frome’s Claire Perry from Big Mamma Banned & The Misfitz, solo artist Charmaigne Andrews from Melksham, and Julie Moreton from Trowbridge’s Train to Skaville and Jules & The Odd Men, will come together once again, at the Melksham Assembly on 16th October, for a show not to be missed.
This, for me, is all too much to take in, girls, girls, girls, I’m not sure I can control myself. The Female of the Species raised just over £3,000 in 2018 for the fantastic youth community project, Young Melksham, and for all their efforts, they were selected for a Community Civic Award.
This time all of your pennies from the tenner tickets will go to Carmela’s Fight Against Muscular Dystrophy, and those tickets are here.
Support will come from Melksham rock, blues and alternative covers and original band Plan of Action. Seriously folks, put this is your diary.
Everyone having a nice March so far, been alright, innit? I promised, when I featured the first fortnight of events, here, that I would return to complete the last two weeks. I’ve promised this before and totally spaced on it, for which I apologise; not enough hours in the day. Nothing to do with my goldfish memory. Here though, this month, I’ve actually only gone and done it, before the 31st March too! See below if you don’t believe it’s true, the last fortnight in March, stuff to do while waiting for the supermarkets to restock on bog roll, and all that. I know, it scares me sometimes too.
Bear in mind, mind, our calendar is constantly updating, so do check in as more events and gigs are bound to magically appear like the shopkeeper in Mr Ben.
Sunday 15th is where we were up to, and I got two fantablous gigs, Burbank are the White Bear in Devizes, while Jon Amor is at the Three Horseshoes in Bradford on Avon; nice.
Monday, I never know if the Devizes Folk Club is on down the Lamb or not, to be frank, but it’s a place for a beer if I’m wrong and it’s not!!
Tuesday 17th The Stonehenge lecture at the Wiltshire Museum is now sold out. Celebrated cartoonist and artist, Norman Thelwell is at The Merchant’s House in Marlborough, for a fascinating hour illustrated talk, tracing his life, passions and artistic development. Thelwell produced 1,500 cartoons and 60 front covers for the famed Punch magazine alone and some 32 books translated into a dozen different languages. His works were full of beautifully observed detail and mainly of rural subjects, including country and leisure pursuits, sport, house sales and renovation, stately homes, gardening and sailing. Failing that, Cracknakeel provides live music at The Sun in Frome for their St Patrick’s Day celebration.
Wednesday 18th is jam-packed, for a Wednesday! Acoustic jam down the Southgate, Devizes. Bromham’s Farm Cookery School has a Taste of Morocco class, where you could be learning how to make a Briouat which is like a Moroccan Samosa, make your own Khobz and Kefta Mkaouara. £40.00 per person. Over in Marlborough David Evans gives the second of three lectures in The Merchant’s House Study Series, focussing on Reformation in England and the Arts. The Roots Sessions continues at Frome’s Cheese & Grain with the fantastic Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue.
Thursday 19th and you could be back down The Farm Cookery School in Bromham for a Mozzarella & Halloumi Masterclass with Josie. She will teach how to make both cheese which is technical but fun! £35.00 per person. The fantastic Ed Byrne is at the Bath Forum and Moles has a punky/metal night with the Anarchist’s Bookfair, Butter The Pavement and Out Of Reach.
If it’s a slow start to the week, Friday 20th March makes up for it. If, like me, all you know about Jesus Christ Superstar is that he came down from heaven on a Yamaha, and you have doubts with your conviction of that, it’s the opening night for this amateur production by arrangement with The Really Useful Group Ltd at Devizes’ Wharf Theatre. Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic musical portrayal of the last seven days of the life of Christ as seen through the eyes of Judas Iscariot runs until Sat 28th March and while tickets are still available as I write this, do be as quick, as if you were on a Yamaha yourself; take care not to skid though!
Meanwhile Devizes Town Hall is the place to head for opera fans, as The White Horse Opera presents their Spring Concert. Including Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’amore, Ruddigore by Gilbert and Sullivan and Hadyn’s Creation, this would be the perfect introduction to opera for those, like me, who thought Donizetti was a type of pasta sauce!
If you fancy music more pop, the local supergroup I’m always raving about, the Female Of The Species play Melksham’s Assembly Hall. Fusing all their respective band’s influences, expect the best of rock, soul and ska as the girl’s combine forces for a fun-filled gig; I’ve been to see one of these shows and I’m not hyping it up because they’re all awesome chicks, I highly recommend it!
Day one of two, at the inspiring Shoebox Theatre in Swindon of their FUSE Festival where six emerging artists test a new performance idea over three days. Fuse is about supporting the beginnings of new work before it’s fully developed. Watch, discuss, and be part of the creation of something brilliant. Two performances Kat Lyons’ Dry Season, interweaving music and movement with original spoken word poetry and extracts from medical literature. And the debut one-woman-show from Mighty Mammal Theatre, Swine of the Times, where you can meet the piggies at the troff; they sing songs, say prayers and even mime. Alice Wolff-Whitehouse employs her skills in physical comedy, dance and song to bring to life a series of flawed and quintessentially British characters, looking at the grotesque nature of privilege in the UK through a warped and colourful lens.
Staying in Swindon, Baila Coffee & Vinyl have some Disco Voodoo with DJ Amir, or try indie rock covers with Joli & the Souls at the Vic. Elsewhere, the Leathers play The Three Horseshoes in Bradford on Avon, Clannad are at Bath Forum, and Jack Dee’s Off The Telly tour is at Salisbury City Hall.
Saturday 21st then. After the hugely successful free concert in the Market Place last summer, The Full Tone Orchestra have taken their show to Marlborough, and return to town to rave the night away at the Corn Exchange. Taking the most popular section of their show, the club anthems, expect this to be something innovative and all glowsticks, as conductor Anthony Brown’s beloved orchestra reproduce the club classics which defined an era.
The Cavalier go country with the Stone Mountain Sinners, caught these guys before, they’ve a refreshing approach to country-rock which is a cut above the rest. And breezy, original songwriter Ed Witcomb makes a welcome return to The Southgate. For surf beats, odd time signatures, eccentric tunes and irony-fuelled free jazz, try The Barge at Honeystreet, where bonkers surf surrealists Mustard Allegro do their stuff.
Super Trooper Abba tribute, Sensations grace the Seend Community Centre, while Swindon’s Meca has a Whitney Houston tribute. Don’t forget though, it’s day two of the Shoebox’s Fuse Festival too.
Mercy Lounge at The Three Horseshoes, Bradford on Avon. Recommended ska night at Warminster’s Prestbury Sports Bar with the Train To Skaville, and Paul Carrick is at Bath Forum.
Head to the Southgate for an afternoon pint or three, on Sunday 22nd, and our fantastic singer-songwriter Vince Bell will entertain you. Meanwhile, Groovelator play The Three Horseshoes in Bradford.
Tuesday, Devizes Film Club at the Town Hall have the latest Ken Loach film, Sorry We Missed You, which you will be if you miss this one film fans. Full of drama, tension and heartbreak. Ricky and Debbie are the parents of teenage children. Ricky joins the ‘gig’ economy with a franchise for a parcel delivery firm. The job is sold to him as one where he will become master of his own destiny. Providing, that is, he complies with the labyrinth of deadlines, rules and conditions imposed by the company, a near impossible task. Debbie is a care worker who wants to care for the old people as though they are her Mam. But her working conditions thwart her in doing the job as she thinks fit. This modern Dickensian story dramatises the conflict between work and family life in contemporary Britain.
Don’t forget Wednesday’s acoustic Jam down the Southgate, and blues-folk singer Elles Bailey is with Phil King at the Chapel Arts, Bath. Thursday you can witness epic human-powered feats, life-affirming challenges and mind-blowing cinematography on the big screen at The Banff Mountain Film Festival world tour, coming to the Salisbury City Hall. Staying in Devizes on the last Thursday of every month though is no bore, as the regular and celebrated open mic night at the Cellar Bar is something to behold.
Seventies punk bands never had such a great name as Brighton’s Peter & The Test Tube Babies. Still going strong forty years on, they play the Vic in Swindon on Friday 27th. Tenner on the door. Swindon also has an Improv Jam at The Shoebox, and homemade function band Locomotion at the Swiss Chalet.
While it’ll sadly never be possible for the boys to be back in town, Preston’s tribute Twin Lizzy will. They make a welcomed return to the Cavalier, Devizes on Friday. Meanwhile, the Devizes & District Twinning Association take over the town hall to bring us some French Café Music with Jac & Co, tickets are also a tenner for both these diverse evenings.
How much more diverse do you want? A dedicated club night for adults with Learning Disabilities? This Is Me at the wonderful charity youth centre, Young Melksham is precisely that, a night of great music and friendship. There’s a series of these events, first one is Friday.
Another welcomed return to Marlborough Folk-Roots at the Town Hall on Friday, when Steve Knightley explores the themes and stories that inspire him and shows how music and words can become lyrics and chords and notes can meld to create songs that acquire a life of their own.
For want of an authentic tribute band, From The Jam play The Cheese & Grain in Frome, and I’ve heard all good stories about them. If originals are what you want though, The Queen’s Head in Box has a double-booking Friday. Katy Hurt stretches the country music genre in exciting new directions; haunting blues vocals, towering country rock guitars, even a reggae vibe, and she is followed by psychedelic alternative rock band, The Bohemian Embassy.
Saturday night of the 28th March is alright, but no fighting, please. Time for the Devizes Lions’ Spring Concert at St Andrew’s Church, where Ian Diddams comperes Bath Coleman, Bangers & Nash, and the Trowbridge & District Youth Band. Tickets are £10, proceeds to Wiltshire Young Carers.
The Corn Exchange has a Gin Festival. Tribute act, Motley Crude are The Cavalier and local heroes Rockhoppaz play The Black Swan. For high octane original and classic rock mixed with some tasteful Bluesy tracks, check the Mark Smallman Band at the Southgate.
Devizine is the unofficial Tamsin Quin fan club, if you wanna hear why, head to Bromham’s Owl on Saturday. Another Abba Tribute, Swede Dreams play Market Lavington Community Hall.
Highly recommended for the mods, The Roughcut Rebels are at The Pheasant in Chippenham. Also, Blondie & Ska are great fun, they’re at the Wiltshire Yeoman in Trowbridge, checking ahead, they play in Devizes, at the Pelican in May. The Blue Rose Band at The Westbury Conservative Club and an Amy Winehouse tribute at Bath’s Odd Down AFC & Social Club. Level III have a “One Step Beyond-ska and punk club-night.
Elsewhere in Swindon, homemade Damm at Coleview Community Centre and P!nk tribute, Beautiful Trauma play Brookhouse Farm, and a Pearl Jam tribute, Earl Jam at the Vic.
Sophie Matthews explores the links between the visual and the aural in a one-hour presentation at the Merchant’s House, Marlborough. Drawing on the works of great painters including Brueghel, Hogarth and Rigaud, Sophie presents a feast of images featuring historical woodwind instruments in their original social context interspersed with live performances of historical music using authentic instruments.
Sunday 29th – Nearly there, and breath…. Yin Yoga & Gong Bath at Devizes Corn Exchange, The Sunday Sessions continue at The White Bear with Matt Cook and Gary Hall at The Southgate. There’s a Comic-Con at Bath Pavilion, to be frank, it’s a commercial affair rather than a genuine “comic” con, with cosplay, gaming and meeting vague TV actors and ex-Gladiators, but might be fun for the kids.
That’s it, folks, March done, save Bradford on Avon Folk Club have Geoff Lakeman on Tuesday 31st. Let’s regroup in April, but feedback on these articles are needed. Do they work for you? Long-winded I know, but in order to fit it in. Devizine is a work in progress, I enjoy and need to know what’s working and what’s not. So, if you’ve read this far, I salute you! Tell me about it!
Even if they are deadlier than the male, Devzine still loves The Female of the Species. Separate they are dynamic performers, each assigned to the crème of local bands, but when they get together it’s like the Spice Girls were librarians. We’ve covered their Melksham Assembly Hall annual fundraising gigs in the past, now they look set to take 2019 too.
Recently announced date with the ladies then, 30th November and supported by some so far unannounced special guests, this show will be knockout, believe me, witnessed it last time. It’s becoming as traditional as Christmas, this annual jaunt for solo singer Charmaigne Andrews, Jules Morton of Train to Skaville, Nicky Davis of the Reason, Julia Greenland of Soulville Express and last but my no means least, the one and only Claire Perry of Big Mamma’s Banned.
They blend all their separate influences to create one super party as polished as Mrs Bucket’s (pronounced Bouquet) mantlepiece, and as about as much fun as an orgy in zero G, not nearly as fruity, but it does at times border. Devizine interviewed them all in one go, a occasion I’ve still not recovered fully from, and we celebrate this announcement with bell on.
So, bookmark the date, tenner tax, and all, I mean all, proceeds go to a chosen charity each year. This time it’s for Stepping Stones. Stepping Stones is an Opportunity Group for children with special needs. From Ages 0-5 with varying levels of need, Stepping Stones, based in Trowbridge, covers the West Wiltshire Area from Trowbridge, Melksham, Westbury, Warminster, Bradford on Avon and all the surrounding villages.
This non-profit organisation is only partly funded by Wiltshire County Council. Each year they have to raise £40,000 in order to continue to provide the service to the children. They pay for extra therapy sessions for the children and also fully fund both the Music therapy and Hydrotherapy sessions. There can be no better way to support this worthy charity then to party with the Female of the Species!
Hark, the darling buds of May. Already looking quite blossomy isn’t it? Well, blossoming too is stuff to do in and around our local neighbourhood, and a few weeks ago I presented you with a lengthy look at what’s on during the first fortnight; see here.
Now though, sit down and brace yourself for some shocking news. I have, actually produced the second part of the monthly preview, and here it is! Though promised with previous months, I tend to side-track, or just plain scatter-brain and not carried it through. Not so this time, you don’t have to thank me, unless you have a choc n nut Cornetto.
Week 3: Mon 13th – Sunday 19th May
Regular sing-a-long at Devizes Folk Club in the Lamb, Devizes on Monday, similar on Tuesday if your go to the Bradford Folk Club, 8pm in the Cellar Bar of the Swan Hotel. Meanwhile, St James Wine Vaults in Bath where Radical Westie Productions presents Daisy, Television Villain, Ravetank and Devizine favourites Nerve Endings; £3 door tax.
Wednesday 15th, and Peter Vaughan does pasta at Vaughan’s Kitchen Cookery School, later don’t forget the acoustic jam at The Southgate, Devizes.
There’s Bach Suites by Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment: Young Artists Anima Fidis Quartet at the Wiltshire Music Centre Bradford on Avon.
Thursday’s is acoustic night at The Royal Oak, Corsham. Hannah Rose Platt and Black Sheep Apprentice at The Tuppenny, Swindon or tribute night with The Quo Experience at The Cheese & Grain, Frome.
There’s a barn dance on Friday 17th at the West Lavington Hall. Usually wouldn’t make a song and dance out of such, but all proceeds go to the wonderful charity Arts Together; read about my visit, and the great work they do, here. Please support Arts Together, they’ve music, buffet, bar and raffle, see the poster for details. Future Devizine Presents nights will also like to donate to Arts Together.
Sheer Music is back in Devizes, the Cellar Bar has Smokin’ Donuts; one-part Carter USM and t’other festival cult hero, Doozer McDooze. Brilliant indie-pop Talk In Code and the talented Jezilyn Martyn support. £7 advance from Sheer Music, a tenner on the door.
But if you thought Devizes was a one-gig Friday town, you’d be very much mistaken. There’s Johnny 2 Bad, an eight-piece boasting to be the UK’s number one UB40 tribute at The Cavalier Community Hall. Except the reggae train-spotter in me upheaves that Johnny Too Bad is actually by The Slickers and only covered by UB40, eh? Bit of reggae in the Vizes, though; never going to knock it. £10 in advance and should be great night.
It’s rather retrospective in the Southgate too, with sixties garage and Mod band, Absolute Beginners at The Southgate playing a debut in the town. Three-piece playing covers of songs by The Who, The Small Faces, The Kinks, The Eyes, The Creation, The Jam, Secret Affair, Squire, and The Purple Hearts.
Without a cinema, the Assembly Hall in Melksham shows movies, The Favourite is on Friday. Break Cover are at The Talbot, Calne. An Open Mic at The Pump, Trowbridge. Comedy Night at the Boat House, Bradford on Avon. Tensheds live at the Rolly in Swindon and amusingly named Antarctic Monkeys at the Cheese & Grain, Frome.
Back on reggae for Saturday, although other events are available, it’s Devzine’s second gig of the month, a reggae and ska night at the Cellar Bar with Knati P and Razah and I’ll be warming up for them with a ska show live. Look, again I’m asking you to come along, listing door damage as a fiver but as long as you give us what you can, that’s good enough. For all the proceeds go to homeless charity, Devizes Opendoors. For want of a quieter evening Opendoors also have a Quiz Night from 7pm at Nursteed Community Centre.
Those Truzzy Boys play the Conservative Club in Devizes, £3 on the door, Drew Bryant at The Southgate, and Sound Affects support the Dusk Brothers at the Cavalier’s Ameripolitan Music Club. Meanwhile, The Wharf Theatre welcome back Hancock clone, James Hurn, with new scripts.
Brother from Another at the Woodbridge Inn, Pewsey, and Woodborough Social Club has Humdinger. Blues Bros & The Commitments at Melksham Assembly Hall. Còig at the Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon while the Neeld Chippenham has medium Derek Acorah.
Fresh from Montreal LG Breton and drummer Marco Dionne joins Phil Cooper for his Vise-Versa tour, closet to us is Saturday at the Village Pump, Trowbridge, other dates here: http://phil-cooper.co.uk/tour-dates
Sunday 19th sees the Chippenham Soap Box Derby and John Etheridge’s Sweet Chorus is at the Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon.
Week 4: 20th -26th May
Devizes Folk Club down The Lamb on Monday, An Evening with Graham Gooch at the Neeld, Chippenham on Tuesday. Acoustic Jam at The Southgate, The Royal Ballet’s Mixed Triple Bill at Wiltshire Music Centre, and The Waterboys @ Bath Forum on Wednesday.
Thursday is Acoustic Oak night at The Royal Oak, Corsham. Boxing Day and All Better play Level III in Swindon, and Carus Thompson is at The Beehive. But if you ever doubted summer is on its way, the bank holiday truly kicks off festival season, with Bearded Theory’s Spring Gathering in W. Midlands, or most fruitfully funky and stunningly popular dance fest, Shindig starts in Bruton. Shindig Festival is a glorious mash up of a gig, a house party, circus show, comedy night, a wellbeing retreat and kid’s party. No main stages, just an arrangement of stretch marquees, so you can be in amongst it, or chill on the grass. Kids can learn to DJ, breakdance and urban art.
This crazy weekend sees Chippenham Folk Festival starting Friday, as does Lechlade Festival. With Salisbury Live beginning, and Frome’s R&B festival with Frankie Miller’s Full House at the Cheese & Grain, you’re spoiled for choice.
Back in Devizes, Friday 24th, Bob Drury pays tribute to Neil Diamond at The Wharf Theatre. Adriano Adewele, Gwilym Simcock and Jason Rebello are at the Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon. While in Swindon, the Wyvern Theatre presents The Rolling Stones Story, Sheer Music has Press To Meco at Level III and there’s a Ska’mageddon at the Vic with SN Dubstation and King’s Alias @ The Vic, but for real roots adventurers, try RDK Hi-Fi meets Roots Inspiration @ Black Swan, Bristol. I’m steering clear of Bristol as there’s too much to list, but that one will go off.
Saturday then, the 25th. Long Street Blues Club celebrate the music of one of rock’s best-loved icons Paul Kossoff, with May Kossoff the band. A chilled but robust night is promised at the Southgate, with Nick Tann’s British folk take on Americana heartland traditions.
It’s also time for Bromham to host the second combined cider and music extravaganza, OwlFest at the Owl, obviously. Did this last year, loved this last year, although I’ve no line-up info for you, you can bet your Bromham dollar this’ll be great. Another to watch is Marland’s showpiece, Gladstonebury at the Gladstone Arms, Chippenham, expect Steve Morano, the Sweet Swing Trio, The Chicken Teddys and Burbank.
Loud soulful, happy vibes will come from The Pilot, Melksham where Big Mama’s Banned play. The Gimme Gimme Gimmes and Devizine favs, The One Chord Wonders are at St James Wine Vaults, Bath, Frome’s R&B Festival continues at the Cheese & Grain with Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band.
The old English spelling of Savernake Forest, Safernoc inspires an intriguing event in Marlborough on Saturday too; “violin, voice and banjo music from the 16th century to the present day, world premiere of Paul Elwood’s Safernoc; a series of compositions for mezzo soprano Alice Simmons and violinist Tam Coates by composer Paul Elwood. Both Simmons and Coates live near the forest and both have found inspiration in the shadows of that ecosystem. The text by the composer is a play on trees and an imagined impression of Savernake taken from Dante, Bernini’s sculpture of Daphne transforming into a tree, and Mexican painter (Sister) Juana Beatriz de la Fuente’s, “The Tree of Life.” Admission £10, email email@example.com for tickets.
Alex Roberts Live at The Southgate on Sunday 26th, the wonderful Sugar Motown returns to the Three Crowns. While Dr Feelgood plays the Frome R&B Festival at the Cheese & Grain.
End of May, Mon 27th – Friday 31st
Proper West Country, it’s the Coopers Hill Cheese Roll at Brockworth on Monday, Frome’s R&B Festival has Nick Lowe & Los Straightjackets.
With Bandeoke at Chippenham’s Neeld and Jackie & Felix Byrne at the Bradford Folk Club, that makes up Tuesday, while Wednesday it’s the World Music Club at The Beehive in Swindon, and of course, an acoustic jam at The Southgate, Devizes.
You can Meet the Gruffalo at Hillworth Park in Devizes on Thursday 30th, for his 20th birthday, Devizes Books bring the books, with a trail around the park, a prize draw and guest appearances, should be fun for kids of all ages.
Acoustic Oak at The Royal Oak, Corsham and Jonathan James is Discovering Music at the Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon, while tribute The Commitments Experience are at the Neeld, Chippenham and Gaz Coombes is at the Cheese @ Grain.
That’s the month of May done, Friday 31st the Brodsky Quartet are at the Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon and Salisbury Live continues. Other than this, seems like a quiet Friday, save for the fact it’s time for the opening of the Devizes Arts Festival, I think it’s the best line-up yet, starting with An Audience with John Simpson at Corn Exchange. Check our preview of the festival here, and I will be highlighting some of the separate events as the month goes on.
More details of all events here are on our event calendar which makes up Devizine’s busy home page, but bear in mind this is not a exhaustive list, the calendar is updated (nearly) every day, so keep checking for updates; too much of it to continuously post to Facebook, you need to check in every now and then, or you might miss something you need tickets for.
Have a grand and blossoming May, it’s building up to a great summer ahead!
I’m standing on the stage of the Melksham Assembly Hall…. have no fear people of the Sham, I’m not about to burst in song, leave that to the professionals. On Friday, direct from London’s West End the UK’s biggest George Michael tribute, Fast Love, will take my place. Right now, a Tuesday afternoon, the hall is being used as exercise for stroke patients, an indication to the diversity of events at this Council facility, a range Deputy Facilities Manager, Bruce Burry is proud to express; that’s why I’m here.
Bruce worries about space, the tribute act requesting four dressing rooms when they’ve only two, and a video wall which may not fit, yet the hall is grand on scale for a market town with a capacity of 450, and I cannot help but feel, unlike some prestigious venues, it’s being used to it’s full potential, thanks to the team behind the scenes. And while it’s contemporary design may not aesthetically topple a Bath theatre, with a central location, free car parking and excellent disabled access, it is functional and practical.
Yet surely, it’s the quality of event which maketh the night, and while I note there’s a preponderance of tribute acts, they’re all eminent, first-rate, tried and tested. Bruce informed me the Fast Love tour is taking around the original George Michael saxophone player; always a good emblem to take a former original in a tribute act.
“Tim will vet them,” Bruce explained, “and possibly go see them. We try to get original bands too,” he stated, “we’ve had loads here.”
“You recently had the Searchers?” I rudely interrupted.
“Yes, I think they come once a year,” Bruce continued, and was keen to point towards comedy too. “I mean, we’ve had Des O’Connor, Lee Evans, and Rich Hall, most recently.” Bruce provides an anecdote on Rich Hall, wandering through the town, getting a feel for the place; inspirational for local observational comedy methinks. The current pamphlet displays Cornish favourite, Jethro on the cover, who is here Friday May 3rd.
As well as Fast Love, in just the forthcoming months, There’s tributes like Bon Jovi Forever on 13th April, The Ultimate Stone Roses on the 4th May and Kast Off Kinks on the 9th May. Yet I must remind myself, I’ve been here on a handful of occasions, recently for the Legend, Bob Marley tribute, which was dazzling, it flipped any qualms of tribute acts I had clean on their head.
Bruce was keen to point out the full kitchen, “we do dinner clubs and Sunday lunches when there’s nothing on, or on really big events it’s a bottle bar, taking the strain off the main bar.” The hall is often converted into a cinema, a roller disco, and is home to regular events like the Melksham Rock n Roll Club, West Wilts Model Car Club, The Arts Society, Historical Association, and 55+ senior forums. The annual charity fundraising Female of the Species gig is another memorable gig I attended here, and it’s one of many fundraising events held here. With all this variety and the future development of the old Football club as recreation grounds, it’s simple to see how the Assembly Hall is a community hub we should envy here in Devizes.
I remind Bruce about the Melksham Comic Con, hitting a high point when although another comic con is doubtful in the near future, he expresses a love of sci-fi and ponders the chance of such a convention. Newly appointed events apprentice, Alex excuses herself while the subject digresses to Daleks temporarily, then we’re onto scanning posters of former events.
My tour finishes with a cup of tea in the lounge, and this aforementioned mountain of posters of previous shows which adorn a table; there’s great variety, from male strippers to big bands, and pudding clubs, Only Fools and Horses styled meal where the character lookalikes serve you, to beer festivals and significant and impressive acts of past, which shows no sign of declining.
The Assembly Hall goes beyond the reach of its town, and deserves to attract from Trowbridge, Chippenham, Devizes and beyond. But while experienced Tim Cross is head Facilities Manager here, Bruce also coordinates The Melksham Party in Park and has been doing so for ten years, before joining the team. The event spans two days, July 19th and 20th. Saturday being the Party in the Park, a pop-orientated family festival at King George Park, which alongside Take That tribute, Take @ That, Kirsty Clinch, and Six O’clock Circus are confirmed this year. I ask of the importance of booking local acts. “I try to keep it local actually,” Bruce nodded, “until about half-past ten when we have a main act.”
ParkFest is the Friday evening, which started as a warm-up, but has equalled in importance now, “if not taken over it,” Bruce expressed. AND, with live PA tribute FunBoy 2, brilliant local ska band, Train to Skaville, and The Neville Staple Band headlining, it’s easy to see how this event is the more mature option, and is tickling my taste buds!
While I’ve been kept busy exploring the delights Devizes has to offer, entertainment wise, it’s great to hear how well our nearest neighbour does too. Only a stone-throw away, The Melksham Assembly Hall is worthy of a visit, providing great variety. Devizine will continue to add their events to our calendar and notify you of them, but you can check the website here, Facebook here.
Knicker incidents, gaffer tape and award ceremonies, I chat with the Female of the Species; defo deadlier than the male!
Last year was full of highlights for me, perks of the job. Despite downsides; attending on my Jack Jones, not finding a single person I knew and having to stay sober to drive home, one particularly memorable evening was at the packed Melksham Assembly Hall in September, for the annual get-together of an explosive all-female local supergroup, The Female of The Species, in September.
The annual gig has run for three consecutive years, the first raising money for the mental health awareness charity, Mind. 2017 was donated to the Wiltshire Air Ambulance. The girl’s raised just over £3,000 last year for the fantastic youth community project, Young Melksham, and for all their efforts, the Female of the Species have been selected for a Community Civic Award. They attend an award ceremony, at the Mayor’s Reception on 22nd March, at the Assembly Hall.
A huge congratulations to the supergroup, constructed of female leads in local groups: Claire Perry of Big Mama’s Banned, Nicky Davis of the Reason, and People Like Us, Julia Greenland from Soulville Express, solo artist Charmaigne Andrews, Jules Moreton of Train to Skaville, and of course, their backing band, including Train to Skaville’s saxophonist Karen Potter. I thought I’d create a group chat with Nicky, Jules, Claire and Julia in order to send my congrats and have a chat about how they feel about receiving the award; glutting for punishment?!
I decided to open with, “afternoon ladies, sorry for a group chat but it is just you girls and me, please be gentle,” but consider I may’ve been asking too much.
A moderate reminder from Jules, “Gentle is not in our vocabulary Darren.”
I asked for confirmation, “deadlier than the male, eh?”
“You know it,” Jules replied, “and thanks, we’re delighted about the award.”
“I guess the first question is, where does this take the FOTS next, I know you were thinking about more than the annual gig?”
Nicky replied with emoji, “London O2, then America, then world domination!”
“Yes,” Jules bought it down a peg, “we’re looking at doing two, one in Devizes and one in Melksham, or what Nicky just said!”
Prior to the interview going completely off on one, as I suspected it would, I asked, “do you see this more as a get-together, being it’s an amalgamation of groups, or could it become a gigging group?”
“We’re working towards gigging group!” Jules informed.
Nicky added, “we think we’d all love for it to become a regular gigging band, if we could make it work!”
The girl’s certainly bounce off each other, verbally mind, steady on. Banter ensues, and from recalling the noise in the green room of the Melksham Assembly Hall, equally as loud as the gig, I’m fully aware they get on like a house, or even, residential estate on fire. But, what about their respective bands, are they jealous of the accolade?!
“No jealousy at all from my lot,” Nicky confirmed.
“Some gigs will be for personal revenue,” I asked, “rather than charity?”
Perfectly understandably, “yes,” Jules confirmed, “after 5 years of us paying for rehearsal rooms, travel expenses etc, it’s about time we earned ourselves a few quid!”
Will they do an annual fund-raiser this year too, though?
“Every year!” Jules exclaimed, “We won’t forget our roots.” We chatted on ideal venues in Devizes, which is never simple, Female of the Species draws crowd, and being there’s five divas here, they’d need a lot of room. I’d have to be careful how I put that to them though!
“Yes,” Claire Perry finally entered the chatroom; when all hell is due to break lose, “…need lots of room to shake our thangggsss!”
“Will you be doing a song or two at the mayor’s reception,” I asked, in an attempt to keep it refined, “or just getting a badge and certificate?”
“I’m going for the champagne!” Nicky laughed.
“Haaa!!” Claire, stuck on the previous subject responded, “be warned…some of us have ‘thannnngggs’ that need a wide-angle lens!?”
That’s simply not true, it’s all about the bass, no treble. “It’s a beautiful thang,” I pay compliment, “am I quoting you on that Claire?!” I reiterated, “let me rephrase: I am quoting you that!”
To Claire, it’s all meat and no gravy, considering she should ask for extra gravy on the menu choice, I guess the girls get fed at this award ceremony. “That’s fine Darren, but I’m the naughty one! – the girls might have to bring a roll of gaffer tape to keep me schtum!”
Jules finally answers the actual question, “We won’t be performing at the awards ceremony, this will be the only time that we can all get together and enjoy a drink or two! I’ve got the gaffer tape, Claire. We also thought we would make a little video entitled ‘a girl’s guide to gigging’. Between us we have some of the most hilarious gig stories.”
I guess it’s good to trade off on other’s gigging experiences, “what of gigging for girls, how does it differ than gigging for boys?” I’ll probably regret asking.
“I don’t think a gigging boy has ever had to ask a total stranger to help them out of their dress because it’s totally stuck to them and they can’t do it themselves!” Jules replied. Boy George, Jules?
“Do the knickers show through the dress?” Nicky added, “Can I get away with performing in my hoodie or do I really have to make an effort? One plus side- if the voice isn’t on form, I can wear a low-cut top and distract the audience from my crap singing by wobbling the boobs around a bit!”
Taken with a pinch, when recalling how Nicky sublimely covered “Heard it through the Grapevine,” at September’s gig. Still, I’m getting a tad hot under the collar. Meanwhile, Claire belts in with caps lock stuck on, “THE FRONT ROW HAVE TO HOLD ON TO THEIR BEVERAGES IF I HAVE VOICE PROBLEMS NICK!! Back stage stories; we were toying with one of the chapters entitled: Is that meant to be hanging out? Oh, wait…I’ve got an industrial safety pin in my sponge bag that should hold it?! … followed by the chapter…. NO IT WON’T!”
I can see where this is heading, consider making my excuses; Nicky advised I make a run for it. But at this point, Julia Greenland joined the conversation, “Geez how do I even start cutting in on this one?! It’s a closely guarded secret that a few of the band went on stage ‘commando’ as they had got the wrong knickers for their outfits; no names!”
Suspect Jules gave the game away, “I know Julia has a couple of wardrobe malfunction stories,” she mused.
“You’re still on record,” I felt the need to remind them, “things will be taken down.”
“Can you see why we we’re deadlier than the male?!” Claire asked me. Feared answering, I’m asking the questions!
“For once I’m speechless,” Julie admitted, “either that or holding back. Once I get started there’s no stopping me…. us girls have a lot of stories to tell….”
Lo-and-behold a selection of those stories were relayed to me; you don’t need hear of them! “Have you considered a gig/festival with all your respective bands playing?” Not to change the subject or anything like that.
“Many times!” Nicky clarified, “It’s just getting all our band members available on the same date.”
“Yes,” Julia approved, “but it’s a mammoth task to organise something on that scale.”
“Darren,” Nicky checked I was still awake, “these girls need a lot of steering… it’s like herding cats at rehearsals!”
They all agreed, and it was high time to least attempt to bring this rabble of an interview to a close; being as they make the Spice Girls look like the St Winifred’s Choir, I contemplated, “one idea; what about recording a charity single?”
“There’s no one quite like Grandma?” Claire pondered.
“Do They Know it’s a Knicker-less Gig at all?” I considered.
“…. only if you tell ‘em!” Jules added, despite the fact I explained I’ll print whatever they say!
“Don’t you dare!” Julie said, “Spinal Tap have nothing on us.”
“I meant as opposed to; Do they know it’s Christmas,” I explained. “That’s it; I’m sooo out of here!”
“Coward!” Julie joked, as Jules advised I did leave, to save myself. The only thing really becoming clear, The Female of the Species is a tightknit girl gang, with seamless talent, precariously hilarious banter, and hearts of gold; well done to them for this amazing award.
Being one of our first pieces it has to be said, not only is it of far better quality than the type of rubbish I’m now putting out, but it had an inspiring theme! The reason I bring it up, because the local, all-girl supergroup The Female of the Species, which was its subject, are at it again, and tickets for their gig at the Melksham Assembly Rooms are now on sale.
Tackily pasted from last year’s event, I wrote: “Nicky Davis from People Like Us and The Reason, Glastonbury’s Julia Greenland from Soulville Express & Delta Swing, Frome’s Claire Perry from Big Mamma & The Misfitz, solo artist Charmaigne Andrews from Melksham, and Julie Moreton from Trowbridge’s Train to Skaville and Jules & The Odd Men, form the supergroup for Live on the Night, at the Melksham Assembly Rooms on Saturday 30th September.” So, other then being pushed back a day, I asked Nicky if anything else has changed?
“Claire (Big Mama) no longer performs with the Misfitz,” noted Nicky, “instead she’s now with ‘Big Mama’s Banned.” Jules added, “The girls are delighted to announce that joining us as part of our band line up this year, on sax, is my fellow ‘Train to Skaville’ band-mate, the awesome Miss Karen Potter.” So other than this it’s much the same and on target to rock the Melksham Assembly Rooms on Saturday the 29th September.
This year’s event is subtitled “Raising Money Through Music,” and is in aid of Young Melksham, a registered charity which “work as a community to provide all children and young people with opportunities to thrive, develop and participate.” Young Melksham really makes a huge difference to the lives of youth in our area, by hosting more events than I can list here, including The Melksham Young People’s Awards.
They make trips to shows locally, hold a variety of regular weeknight “youth club styled” workshops and events from their Canberra Club, from cookery to sports. They even run a shuttlebus to get kids there safely. The policy of Young Melksham is: “advancing in life and helping children and young people by developing their skills, capacities and capabilities to enable them to participate in society as independent, mature and responsible individuals; advancing education, providing recreational and leisure time activities in the interest of social welfare designed to improve their conditions of life.” They even have fully-trained counsellor and listening support workers when youth need a friendly face and a listening ear.
Supporting the supergroup this year will be young songstress with that oh so soulful voice, Laura Jayne Burt, Melksham’s guitar/soloist Sarah Deer and batting for the boys, Bath’s acoustic duo Ben & Tim. This is one unmissable annual extravaganza which takes the best elements of all these local groups and combines them into a blend of reggae and ska, soul and Motown, blues and rock. It can only guarantee too ooze with local talent and blow the roof of the Assembly Rooms, for just a tenner a ticket, with ALL proceeds going to this fantastic charity-based community project…..and it’s full of gorgeous ladies; what’s not to like?!
Sixties Mod group The Searchers are really at the Melksham Assembly Hall on Thursday. Up there with Merseybeat greats, The Beatles and Gerry & The Pacemakers, pop wouldn’t be the same without them.
With only one original band member, John Mcnally and Frank Allen who joined the band in 1964, they’ll still put on a great, memorable show.
Okay, we’re talking about total record sales well in excess of 50 million here, in their heyday their immaculate pop style was sensational. The Searchers still have great appeal today to young and old.