Back at th’ Argy Bargee

Ahoy, took a journey across the downs to Honeystreet Saturday, the ol’ stomping ground never looked so good.

Amidst affluent villages of the Marlborough Downs few pockets of counter culture hide. Notably, none more renowned than The Barge at Honeystreet.

With memorable days of yore, the pub, its adjoining wharf and campsite has always thrived with the spirit of a mini festival. If this lively reputation has been dubious recently, with changes of ownership and a community buyout, it’s now confirmed; the once jewel in our live music scene has regained its dynamism and essence.

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On adding gigs to our calendar, I’d noticed a consistent drift of local acts adding regular nights at this scenic old mill house, and with our prime sound system attending Saturday, I couldn’t hold back any longer, the desire to investigate was paramount; fetch my tie-dye tee.

Rammed carpark, a straggler sitting on a sarsen stone with a can of Strongbow took it upon himself to police parking, and kindly directed me back towards the sawmill. Sauntering the track on foot, familiar sounds of a gypsy boater’s haven blessed my ears; jolly laughter, dogs barking and the compulsory thunder of bass.

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The front lawn was chock-full of revellers upon my arrival, dogs and kids running wild, drinks flowing merrily around a strategically positioned speaker by the door. Struggle to ascend to the bar without smiling greetings, welcoming hugs, and the customary handclasp from Razah heading the controls to a tower of speakers. The bass is positively throbbing inside as merrymakers mingle and skank, I’d expect no less.

I observed, design wise things looked fresh; same ol’ extensive bar, retaining the previous open-plan renovation. Wow, must’ve been my stag do last time I was here; complete with charred sausages from a drunken campsite barbeque, perpetual rounds of tequila and a druid grudgingly cast as the wizard-o-gram.

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Speaking to the site manager, who’s name escaped my lobes (Dylan?) due to the sweet reggae vibes of our local purveyors of sound system culture, Razah and Knati P, I’m informed most Fridays and every Saturday is dedicated to live music. Where the crop circle centre of the world identifier perhaps waning with trends, the inescapable music scene is blossoming once again.

 

This Saturday evening as lively as ever before, if not more, engrained what I’d anticipated, The Barge is back on the circuit and the news is out. With the rotting neighbouring barn replaced by a plush wooden extension with showers and camping washing facilities, upwards there’s a community arts space, which opens up to the rear garden.

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Outside table areas are equally as jam-packed as the front, beyond, the fire-lit campsite resembling a free party of days gone by. A basic play area for kids and table tennis balances something for all here, yet the icing on the cake is eternally unchangeable, the stunning surroundings of Alton Barnes and the White Horse on Milk Hill.

What a wonderful setting for a gathering of any sort, but with the inimitable radiance of the inhabitants of the Pewsey vale, and the ethos of bringing the best local live music acts, you know it’s going to go off. Any normal night will cost £8 to camp, and good homecooked food is served, so despite its middle-of-nowhere location, you need not fuss about getting home, even to feed the dog. The site is dog-friendly, if you haven’t got a dog, you’ll be issued with one for the weekend.

From those twisted masters of the dark Somerset blues, The Black Wood Redeemers, to Devizes-own indie-pop People Like Us, and from Swindon’s skanking hip hoppers, The Tribe to Avebury’s star George Wilding, The Barge wasted no time whamming its pin back in the map.

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Coming Friday (2nd August,) sees the ferocious and whimsical galloping of gypsy boat folk, with Calico Jack, while reggae vibes return Saturday with both a live set from The Urban Lions, a band who campaigned and fundraised to get this Barge back on waters, and their dub sound system Lionheart Vibration. In contrast, perhaps, I’m equally pleased to see indie-pop upcomers, Daydream Runaways headlining August 17th, with Ben Borrill supporting, and a suburb bank holiday festival line-up.

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With Punjabi style Bhangra outfit, RSVP, headlining, The Argy Bargee Weekender on 23rd-26th August, set in a marquee in the camping field, may come at a £12.50 day ticket stub, or £30 for the whole weekend, but also promises People Like Us, Matt Cook, Phil Cooper & Jamie R Hawkins, Panacoustic, Tripolar and The Tribe, with Knati & Razah’s sound system too. And of course, the given notion they’ve got the know-how-to-party t-shirt, it’s more than tempting.

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So, topper-most respect t’ Brenden ‘n co, th’ new crew o’ th’ Barge, th’ acts ‘n that crazy crowd; yeâd be a land-lubbin’ mug nah t’ bookmark th’ destination this summer!


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A Get Together with Arts Together

“What we have learned is that simply offering support or information is sometimes not enough,” states Age UK, “older people who are in the worst place often feel there is no hope, leading to a vicious circle of low self-esteem, lack of motivation and reluctance sometimes to ask for, or accept help.”

 
What sounds bad on paper, is often not as the eye perceives. While undoubtedly this is fact, I’m visiting Kestrel Court in Bowerhill, sheltered accommodation for elderly. I bear witness to a lively group, not just engaged in an art class, but merrily lapping up every minute of it. There’re cakes in abundance, tea, and some Mozart as background music. At one-point Gerald gets up to strum a guitar, and once the class is all but ended, the artist Clifton Powell slipped on some reggae; despite hard-of-hearing and cataract, Gladys, from Paraguay, is up dancing.

 
This is the doing of a charity group called Arts Together.

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“I’ve never been a person who joins groups,” Sue tells me as we sit together admiring her still life watercolour, “always been on the edge looking in. I really feel part of this group; that’s so unusual.” Arts Together is perhaps a slightly misleading name for this local charity, as while indeed it provides members with tutorials and equipment to engage in a wide variety of art projects, it also acts as wellbeing, and an invaluable social group.

 
I asked Sue about the community side to it, did she balance it’s worth with the actual art as half-and-half. She agreed it was equally vital, describing her battle with depression. “But this kind of thing really addresses it. There’s so many of the things they say you should do, going to your doctor, behaviour training and what have you, which has never helped me. And then you get something like this, which has been a real help. If this was on prescription, I’d be asking my doctor for it!”

 

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Sue reveals a creative nature, she’s written poems and performed them. Other members of the group, such as Carol, who proudly holds up her painting to show me, has no previous artistic calling. There’s a varied degree of skill, but Clifton commends and encourages all, a reason they all sing his praises. He was joined last minute by Rachel Heard, a Wiltshire artist, known for her “explorations of natural forms,” painting.

 
Arts Together have thirteen accomplished artists, and many group volunteers. In the last year they’ve delivered 180 art sessions, over their six locations across the county. Arts Together meet, in Bradford, Trowbridge, Devizes, Pewsey, Marlborough and here, in Melksham. Projects are as wide as wire and clay sculptures, mosaics and textiles. Sue particularly warmed to the puppet making workshop. I’ve invaded the final meet of this still life project, frames are scattered over the table, once completed a windowsill becomes a makeshift gallery, presenting their work.

 


Arts Together works to support older people who have become physically and socially isolated. I did ponder if they catered for dementia patients and such like, but was informed care homes and hospices organise their own activities, while the elderly in sheltered accommodation are often left out. “There’s nothing like this around here,” I’m told. So, while I didn’t class this as “art therapy” in similar light, it’s indubitably therapeutic, it stimulates and actively encourages the participants to try new things, to be creative and social. In a word, it’s wonderful.

 

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But I’m moved by Arts Together manager, Karolyne’s announcement, “We are on the brink of closure and desperately help.” While this is not the first time the charity has been under financial pressure, they assure me it’s the worst. “Any statutory funding from public money disappeared years ago and it has been our supporters and some enlightened Trusts that have helped us survive.” I find myself shrugging; sad sign of the times.

 
This isn’t some large charity with a whole department dedicated to fundraising, managers balancing campiagns with sessions. It’s lunchtime as I get my coat, I’m invited to stay but cannot. Agreeably I attended for some media exposure, but so welcomed I left with sensation of making real friends. I imagine life for these newfound friends without Arts Together, and shudder.

 
Without Arts Together members return to a solitary, empty week, consequently effecting their health and wellbeing. Wellbeing was a word passed around a lot today, the charity take pride in their achievement, help them maintain it.

 

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There’s a coffee morning at Rick Stein’s on the High Street in Marlborough, on 1st March. Admission by £5 minimum donation, includes coffee tea and cake.

 

I’d like to thank the members I met today, it truly was fun and an inspiration to meet you, and the team behind it. I was enlightened, and think Devizine should stage a fundraising event too, as soon as possible. Anyone interested in helping with me on that please get in touch.

 
Until then, you can donate on the website; please, please, if you can, do. If you’re an artist consider volunteering some time. Any donation from you will help around 80 very frail older people to rediscover their zest for life. Arts Together enables them to rebuild their confidence, self-esteem and resilience and remain living independently in the community for as long as possible.

 

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Pewsey Carnival Photo Gallery

It’s been a few too many years now since I attended Pewsey Carnival, at one time the largest and most renowned carnival in Wiltshire; I wonder if it’s still as madcap and brilliant as it once was? Ever wondered the same? I mean, howling winds, raining cats and dogs this year; surely they wouldn’t have all……..

If you thought like this, you’re not from Pewsey! Do these excellent images by James Kellar answer your questions?!  Thank you very much for allowing us to publish them James!

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Pewsey Carnival’s Signature Wheelbarrow Race Never Loses Its Cool

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There’s something frivolously unique about Pewsey. Tucked deep in our exclusive district, it thrives with lovable brashness and an inimitable eccentricity which is hard to hide at the best of times, let alone during carnival week.

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For those who recall Pewsey Carnivals of yore, as I do, ranting things wouldn’t be the same, rambling off health and safety procedures like they wrote them, I’ve nicked this lovely gallery from Peter Emblin to prove otherwise. Thank you, Peter, most kind of you.

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For those not in the know, this is the precursor to Saturday’s parade, called the Wheelbarrow Race, locally dubbed “wheelbeero race,” for self-explanatory reasons.

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If I remember rightly, if there are any rules above visiting each pub and stumbling back to the finish line, they’re blatantly overridden.

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For outsiders, it’s truly something to behold, a spectacle of rural hilarity and misfit in which every man and his dog, from youngest to oldest, the WHOLE darn village, and boy it’s a big village, dresses up fancy and celebrates in self-regulating panache.

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So, have no doubts; Pewsey Carnival never loses its cool, and ponder, shit the bed, I missed that; I’d better bookmark next year’s.

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