Devizes Street Festival; Day Two and Overall

All images used with the kind permission of Simon Folkard Photography

That’s overall, as in “taking everything into account,” and not the all-in-one pac-a-mac kind, I thought you should know before I commence waffling…

Do they even sell pac-a-macs now? Google it if you feel the need, but keep the results to yourself; ah, off I trek… Sunday, the second day of Devizes Street Festival, and the main stage had a little hat; unfortunately, weather turned more appropriate for April and I’d wager combined with fragments of hangover, it resulted in a slightly lesser crowd.

Nevertheless, the show marched on unperturbed. I confess, due to Dad’s taxi on call, I rocked up far too late to justify a precise evaluation, but you know me, I relish in the attention giving my tuppence brings, so I will, thank you.

Firstly, I’ll apologise if Saturday’s thoughts came across a tad preachy, about volunteering and playing your part, but my reasoning was concern. It is critical younger volunteers take up these posts as the years pass; I worry if generation next doesn’t replicate what DOCA have achieved, it could go all village fete fashion, rather than what we have now, the colourful array of variety, the festive-style we rarely see the like of around these backwaters.

Though I accept how it is, folk are busy, working, have other priorities (like dad’s taxi) and want the occasion to unwind and enjoy themselves, that is, after all, its purpose. I found myself caught in this dilemma helping out Saturday. Self-assigned myself to wheelie bin patrol, I figured I could keep one eye on them from the bar area! Anyhoo, let’s drift away from that thought and look at what an utterly fantastic show it was; don’t wanna jinx it.

An assessment of social media commentary hailed it a success, aside one ironic Facebook jester. Many suggested it was the best yet, though it came to us at a light at the end of a biennial tunnel, void of much entertainment at all, so a Jim Davidson tour would sound fantastic by comparison. But I agree, taking heed of various attendees’ observations, yeah, it was equally if not better than previous street festivals. I believe the change of stage positioning, binding food stalls into a horseshoe was a benefactor for this, but aside design the surprise icing on the cake had to be the Ceres show, the splendour of which was covered in my previous article. The local folklore subject breathed a sense of inimitability and distinctiveness to the whole shebang, it really did.

I confess, when I first read about the idea, I was sceptical, even at its commencement I doubted but now, the more I consider it the more astonished and overwhelmed I become with its magnificence. Sunday for me though had one highlight I simply couldn’t miss; I’ve been raving Bristol’s folk-Balkan ska ensemble Mr Tea & The Minions since I fondly reviewed their album Mutiny in 2019. So much so I’ve been trying to convince anyone and everyone to book them somewhere local since; you should’ve seen my little chubby chops light up when I noticed their name on the schedule, the like of a toddler at Christmas. Why did I then go about, recommending them to every passer-by? The proof was in the pudding, they didn’t disappoint despite the pedestal I put them on, as their album they were lively, jubilantly danceable, the perfect match for the spirit of the street festival.

With some brilliant new tunes and a handful from their album they won the audience over with their stylised formula of blending localised folk into this already deeply fused south-eastern European genre which reflects its own roots with the off-beat of Jamacia’s finest musical export. As an enthusiast of ska keen to ascertain its contemporary global progression, I’m resolute we castoff the polarized presumption it belonged to a time of yore, of eighties skinheads and Two-Tone. Memorable and fantastically beguiling though Madness, The Specials, et al were, developments internationally offer us a much wider variety often overshadowed by the aforementioned retrospective cult in the UK. I think Mr Tea & the Minions represent this, but as the tradition presides, they have a truckload of carefree fun while doing it.

I could chew your ear off about how much I enjoyed that particular act, but it is the combination of all which really made the weekend something special. Equally as much as I love the wealth of local talent, and do believe they too should be represented at the Street Festival, director Loz’s determination to present us with a variety of sounds unconventional to our usual local circuit, the liveliest and most colourful array of world music, is something I welcome with open arms. Just like the South American vibe of Mariachi Las Velentinas, Simo Lagnawi’s Gnawa Blues All Stars, on one act prior to Mr Tea, was the perfect example; you don’t get to hear Gnawa, the scared trance music of Morocco in the pubs around here, and they played it sublimely for our alternate jiffy.

In this, the most conventional act on the main stage was perhaps the Brass Junkies, and by our usual expectations they were pretty much unconventional! I note them because while a covers band, where I usually assess with their attention of making a cover their own, this Bristol-based versatile brass band of New Orleans style do this so absolutely proficiently. So, to appease the populace, covers of contemporary, foot-tapping pop hits, such as Daft Punk’s Get Lucky get a brass makeover, and they refined this angle with bells on.

But more so on this variety point is the vast array of circus and street theatre, too many to cover, they just go on, around you, in a breath-taking inclusive show you dare not blink at. If one constructive criticism I heard bounding about requested DOCA add more music to the main stage, the answer would have to be, aside the sheer cost and the time needed to soundcheck for these multi-instrumental seven- or eight-piece bands, is that DOCA want you to explore the Market Place and take in the variety of side-shows, and to have a continuous rave at the main stage would both distract the crowds and drown out the sounds of them too; and you know what? I think that’s fair point.

The combination of all these elements meant the Street Festival is restored post-lockdown, better than it ever was and is continuing to better itself through continued assessment and experimental changes; something we are very lucky to have here in Devizes. Though the smiles in the crowd said it all, then the topical and uniquely Devizes narrative of this added element, this sublime finale, combing dance, acrobatic performance, poetry and music truly was the binding component which confirms my assertion and made it, undoubtedly, the finest street festival yet. Thank you once again, all the organisers and volunteers of DOCA.

Onwards, carnival is July 9th, the Confetti Battle and Colour Rush are on 3rd September, but next up is The Picnic in the Park at Hillworth Park, Devizes, on Sunday 3rd July, all the info you need is at the DOCA website; enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.


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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 of the year in our humble town for many a year, and though we’ve had setbacks with the dreaded year of lockdown and DOCA’s valiant effort to stage something near similar within the restrictions of last summer, we’ve been waiting, debatably patiently, for this summer extravaganza.

But my levels of excitedness have gone from 500% to 1,000 meows, now I’ve seen the program of acts. A band who contributed to our Julia’s House compilation, I’ve been aching to get Bristol-based frenzied folk ska-punk outfit Mr Tea & The Minions to play our town, and DOCA have either noted their brilliance themselves, or have taken heed of my constant whining of a suggestion; either way, we’re quids in, pinky promise. It means two things; someone actually listens to me, and you’ll have your socks blown off by this band I totally love!

Though that’s the icing on the cake for me, the line-up looks set to thrill us as it ever did. Hints of the acts are there to see on the DOCA website, and as usual neither the site nor us can reveal times and places of the acts, you’ll need to buy a programme, as it’s an essential fundraiser for DOCA. But we are allowed to breeze over it.

Expect mischievous experimental entertainment and audience participation, performed in the round by Full Circle, upbeat funk and Northern Soul influenced Desert Boots from Worcester, a quirky Folkdance performance around a 12-foot maypole, fusing everything from clogging to breakdance and beat boxing, a Playground of Illusions, created by Travelling Light Circus, a heavily laden golden postman suddenly surprised by a rain shower, by A bird in the Hand Theatre Company, the latest creation of Jon Hicks and Matt Rudkin, a Visionary who is said to have wisdom beyond knowledge, incredible acrobatic gravity defying feats from Spanish/Swiss collective Tripotes la Compagnie, Dr Jones & Professor Barnard’s Medicine Show, professional painter and amateur alchemist Malcolm Brushell, on a quest to find the pinky-est pink paint on the planet, sea shanties and sing-alongs with some Old Time Sailors, the minuscule majesty of meerkat Prince Amir on the back of his pet camel, circus shenanigans on a giant red carpet, Treemendous tree-people, riotous folk-fusing hypnotic trans-European melodies with Ushti Baba, of course the bustling market and side-stalls of food and drink, and my aforementioned icing on the cake, Mr Tea & The Minions.

All this happens on Saturday 30th April and Sunday 1st May, in Devizes Market Place, it’s free, it’s fantastic, it’s the Devizes event of the year, on a day where there’s also the Born2Rum Festival at the Muck & Dundar, though you’ll be hard pressed to pick up a ticket for this, plus the Leon Day Band play the Southgate, Seend has it’s annual Beer Festival and it’s Urchfont Scarecrow Festival; whoa, what a weekend!

Ushti Baba

We must praise DOCA yet again to the highest heights, but point out, The International Street Festival relies on it’s collective of volunteers to create and control the magic, who are keen to hear from anyone interested in becoming a “festival maker” by helping out in a number of vital roles. One good Facebook group to join if interested is the festival makers group, where there’s details on how you can get involved, upcoming workshops and all the behind-the-scenes gubbings which need to happen to make this magical event it is.

So, yeah, I’m excited, possibly over-excited, can you tell?!


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Street Festival, Yeah!

Images used with the kind permission of

Tanya Jurkiewicz Photography

and Gail Foster

 

Gigantic bouncy slide outside the trusty Pelican, where we usually wait for a bus. Beyond, a superior stage surrounded by pockets of circus acts, charity stands, clothes stalls, and street food heaven wraps the Market Place, where DOCA gave information and a Pimms bar bustled. Happenings snaked down Snuff Street, over St Johns, and across the town centre, the atmosphere buzzing. What’s not to like?

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From fudge and churros, to Tibetan cuisine and crocodile burgers, food and drink was diverse. Stealth Brewery held the most aesthetic bar and seating area, The British Lion occupied the other, functional side, frantically serving the cider which gives this event it’s local auxiliary namesake. Yes, Black Rat Monday, or as the wonderful organisers would favour you call it, The Devizes International Street Festival. Upon us, the customary bubbliest, most multicoloured and all-round brilliant community-fuelled event to bless our spirited market town.

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If many a festival constitutes packing camping gear, blagging petrol money off mates and trekking through town and country to attend, DOCA bring the spirit of festival to your doorstep, and do it with bells on. As the crowd bobbed and gyrated at the main stage, I spotted a musical statue, poised to snap a photo, or ten. Gail turned to me with a smile, “it’s my favourite day of the year,” she uttered. Whatever I write of it will be deficient and incomplete, for there’s so much going on. It’s our Mardi Gras; you wander, you catch what you can, go where you like, impossible for me to document it all, especially half-toasted as I was! Gail summed it in a sentence.

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As the sun shone, I must say yet again, this was the fantastic event it traditionally always has been, and improves annually. Impossible to stage something so vast and varied without slight hip-cups. I’m not rising to grumpy hecklers taken to Facebook to whinge their futile vendetta against DOCA, all over a carnival date change so volunteers can take a well-earned break and schools can be encouraged to participate. Drunkenly calling for the artistic director’s head on a platter, as if they were the manager of Newcastle is pathetic. Did you slip through a wormhole and appear in an alternative reality, because I thought it was awesome? Take your storm in a teacup to Rio, least upon return from Lalaland give yourself the directive to resist the urge to post when sozzled!

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Ha, an opinion piece it be, refraining from writing journalistically as I do, it’s my belief we should praise DOCA, award the highest accolade. This weekend was tremendous. Budget didn’t stretch to quite as many cosplayers, walkers and random street theatre than previous years, something funding will help towards, or hey, the attendees maketh the festival; maybe dress up yourself! No Andy; Spiderman onesie is in the wash, thank you!

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My attention was drawn to an apparent lack of activities at the Northgate end, usually the child-friendly zone. I’ll say Sunday on the Green is more geared towards our younger, still it’s fair feedback. Though, it’s all the criticism I will accept as constructive. Yes, unobtainable was sitting around The Market Cross; it was fenced off due to structural damage and danger of pieces falling; no fault of DOCA. Similarly, a band mistaking their performance time is an unavoidable calamity. This caused a rather vacant period on the main stage, which was a shame, yet well-oiled crowds laughed between themselves, and thus away with the fairies went such trivial issues.

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However, it did mean many flocked past the Town Hall, an area which usually fizzles out back to the reality of everyday Devizes. I’m so happy to say, prompting DOCA to take onboard our local music scene, I suggested something I really couldn’t commit to; had to work in the morning. But it was so, that Pete of Vinyl Realm had similar ideas, and executed a second zone of music in a manner I couldn’t have. My dream to have a little marquee with some acoustic singers was transformed into not only a trailer stage, but acoustic area and vinyl DJ, adding that extra dimension and rounding off the festival site with a definite border.

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It was here where some excellent sets played before an audience larger than we anticipated. Strange Folk were amazing, yet it was Daydream Runaways who really bought the stage to its pinnacle. Sweltering, this upcoming pop-indie amalgamation of Swindon and Devizes, who I’ve been hailing with praise since I discovered, really delivered an energetic and proficient set of favourite covers and their own accomplished originals.

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Often supporting the guys, Ben Borrill acoustically owned the area next, followed by Devizes space-rockers Cracked Machine. Having not managed to catch this headline act live up till now, I pondered if they could recreate the sublime atmospheric ambience they do on record, and I was not disappointed. This Pink Floyd of the vize volleyed it out of park. With trickles of intoxication, the sound apt under the heat of the sun, the crowd were whisked away blissfully.

 

This was, quite honestly, a highlight of the day, the whole idea to have the second stage was. So, a massive respect goes to Pete, Jacki and all at Vinyl Realm for organising and funding this, and to the Lamb who supplied the power, in more ways than one; I saw Sally wander over to band to hand them all some well-deserved hot dogs!

 

If this doesn’t convince DOCA to support our local music scene, nothing will! Pete has already suggested interest in doing it again next year. But, feeling the need to cover as much of the festival as possible, I scarpered back to witness the most gorgeous African fusion band on the main stage. Blinking heck, s’ all going on, so much so, it’s going off.

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Truly fantastic DOCA and everyone who contributed their share, worked the bars, hosted side stalls and attractions and of course, the bonded spirit of you, the revellers; dotted with the special events, leaving next weekend for Confetti Battle and Colour Rush, I call to embrace this change, as this is destined to progress annually, we should be the envy of all of other towns and be proud of what has been achieved this weekend.

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Chatting Carnival with Loz

With a nail in the offside rear tyre, I’ve got a three-quarter of an hour window to nip to Mike Woods and stop for a drink at Times Square before the school run. Prioritise Worrow, prioritise; erm, just a cup of tea thanks, you get a little biscuit on the side anyway.

Loz Samuels beats me hands down when it comes to time management, it’s her second visit to coffee shop today, chatting and encouraging the progress of DOCA. Whenever I catch her, Loz laments how crazy it’s all been, yet I suspect she wouldn’t have it any other way. Appears to me she personifies the satisfaction of commitment so much it’s scary; procrastination not in her agenda, unlike me who lives by its golden rule.

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Skipping the announcement of Vinyl Realm’s second stage at the Street Festival, as despite being the reasoning for arranging the meeting, I measured both Pete and I too enthusiastic about the prospect to wait till now. Seems Loz wanted to concentrate on the subject of carnival and the nearby sub-events, opening with a partnership project with Amesbury Carnival. “We’ve created a six-feet high puppet of a mammoth,” she explained, confirming after some deliberation of the crane’s availably, it will stomp its way through our procession.

I note it’s the kind of thing you see at carnivals in South America or the Caribbean. “Yes,” she agrees, describing a second mahoosive moveable puppet of a Neolithic woman, “it’s quite colourful, because the theme is Through the Ages, so it works, it works well for them (the sponsors) because they wanted something to do with heritage.”

There was me thinking about an old British Pathe film showing a Devizes carnival of yore, but Loz explained the theme is more general, not as I thought, a historical look at Devizes Carnival. “No, just through the ages, you know, could be the future, could be aliens, but maybe someone will interpret it like that.”

So, carnival is on the 13th July this year, a change that’ll bring the walls down and make life no longer worth living, according to “traditionalists” on social media. In our last chat with Loz, we enlightened the reasoning for the change, aside the fatigue of DOCA’s volunteers with a full fortnight of events, the hesitancy of schools to contribute during summer holidays has opened up. Schools are able to work on their projects earlier in the year, and workshops have been running in seven participating schools, with others coming. The theme, Loz explains, is suitable for their curriculum too, be it Victorians, or pirates for example; one positive reason to change. Loz stressed how pleased she was with this change; carnival wouldn’t be carnival without the children.

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We move onto the notion that the subevents, the Colour Rush and the strictly Devizes “thing,” The Confetti Battle can now be on a Saturday too, rather than weekdays as previous. “So hopefully,” she nods, “there will be masses there. We had four thousand there last year, and on a Wednesday night when you’ve got to get up next day, it’s quite late….”

“It’s going to be different every year, I mean,” she continued, “how many times are you going to go to Confetti Battle when it’s the same old thing?”

I agreed, despite my kids loving it when younger, they consider they’re getting too old to bother. “But they might do this year,” Loz interrupted ardently, “because there’s gonna be massive inflatable crazy things that’ll appear in the crowd!”

Loz’s hopes for additions to this year’s Confetti Battle are from Willy Wonka’s rulebook, golden tickets to win £50 in the bags of confetti, and more side attractions will add to its appeal. “The Confetti Battle could be nationally known,” she continued, comparing its potential to the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Roll, “but not on a Wednesday night. People aren’t going to be travelling from, say, London on a Wednesday night.”

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Confident to grow this unique element of our carnival, Loz continued to express advantages of the battle commencing over the weekend, taking down the rigs in order for market the following morning will be a thing of the past, meaning a more elaborate setup. She had a meeting with the astatically pleasing festival, BoomTown, aiming to create a visually stunning spectacle with wider appeal.

If cynical of her ambitious outlook, Loz claimed, “the sky’s the limit, if we can raise money to put into it, then we can do it, we can do anything, so, it’s a start, I’m aware people are sceptical about changes but if we stay as we are, we’re not going to grow, we’ve no potential to make money, our arts funding will decrease.” Seems logical to me. We talked of possibilities, of Caribbean carnivals where the procession concludes into an arena for a concert afterwards. “I think it’s really exciting,” she stated, “doors are opening now.”

The crucial thing to note in this chat, is that this is only Loz’s third year at the helm, finding her feet has been uphill, with a system only documented only in her predecessor’s head. She now feels in a position to build on past experiences and deliver us the large-scale outdoor events we will be talking about through the forthcoming ages.

So, let’s get things straight right now, DOCA’s program of events is ever as lively, but with a few changes:


Saturday 6th July: Carnival Costume Making Workshop @ Wiltshire Museum:

Help prepare a large-scale costume to walk in this year’s parade. Families and children aged 8+ are invited to make some spectacular back pack style costumes. This will be a group making session working on revamping backpacks which will match with costumes made by our school groups, in either Medieval, Tudor, 18th Century, or Victorian style.

Artist and costume designer Abi Kennedy will guide you through making a colourful back pack, a fun and creative afternoon is promised. No experience is necessary.


Wednesday 10th July: Skittles Night @ The Wyvern Club

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Saturday 13th July: Devizes Carnival Through the Ages.

Entrant registration from 4pm, Procession starts at 6:15pm.

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Sunday 18th August: Picnic in the Park @ Hillworth Park


Sunday 25th August: International Street Festival @ The Green


Monday 26th August: International Street Festival @ The Market Place

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Friday 30th August: Kennet & Avon Canal Trust’s Music by the Canal

6.30pm until 10pm @ Devizes Wharf.


Saturday 31st August: The Colour Rush

Starts at Green Lane Playing Fields and finishing in Market Place.


Saturday 31st August: Confetti Battle @ The Market Place

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UduL by Los Galindos @ The Green
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An award-winning Catalan circus company who inhabit a traditional Mongolian yurt which will be located on the Green for three days. Saturday 24th August: Doors 7pm Show 7.30pm, Sunday 25th August: Matinee Doors 1.45pm, show 2pm. Evening Doors 7pm Show 7.30pm, and Monday 26th of August: Doors 7pm Show 7.30pm. Minimum age recommended from 7 years. TICKETS: £5 Early bird price until 31st July, thereafter: £7 each, £5 for under 16’s.


Shop Window Competition

Shops around town have placed one item in their window, during Street Festival fortnight, that they don’t normally sell. Spot them all and be in with a chance of winning £25! Entry forms will be available online throughout the Street Festival Fortnight or from Devizes Books and the Town Hall. Completed forms can be left at the Town Hall.


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Vinyl Realm Hosts New Stage at DOCA Street Festival

Yeah, it’s a toasty secret I’ve been busting to spill the beans on for eons; and we’re gathered here today to announce the line-up!

Sometime ago I suggested a local affair for DOCA’s amazing street festival on 26th August, just a small marquee-fashioned area, I imagined, set aside to highlight our local acoustic musicians. Like most of my ideas though, I throw away all practicalities and left it up to a fellow worker to causally whisper it’s a Monday and I’d be working in the morning!

Similarly, though, Pete of Vinyl Realm wanted to do something along these lines, and I’m delighted to announce he has taken the project under his wing and only gone done it, with bells on. The idea has expanded to a full-sized stage, with a great line-up that I’m here today to tell you about.

So, well done to Pete, Loz, et all, who’ve worked tirelessly to sort this out. Next week I’ll be chatting with Loz of DOCA about carnival and the street festival in general, but for now, all eyes on this, set to be the loudest alternative corner of the street festival, ever!

At this point, times of the bands performing are unconfirmed, as it needs to coincide with acts on the main stage. While DOCA’s booking of some fantastic international acts each year, it leaves us eager to know what they’ve in store for August; it’s secret left for you to buy a programme. But do save some room in your wandering for the Vinyl Realm Presents stage at the corner St Johns and Long Street, bang outside the shop.

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Ah, the new four-piece indie-rock band I’ve been harking on about recently, Daydream Runaways will be playing. Wiltshire-based Ben Heathcote on vocals, Cam Bianchi on Guitar, Nath Heathcote on Bass and drummer, Brad Kinsey. Citing influences from the likes of The Killers, The Strokes and Sam Fender, Airborne, they also praise Fleetwood Mac, The Stones and Talking Heads. We reviewed their excellent single Light the Spark a few months ago, and have high hopes for this youthful bunch.

cracked machine

Whisked away on one awesome, blissful journey through sound after just one listen of their debut album, I, Cosmonaut, Cracked Machine have been mentioned and rightfully praised on Devizine over the last year. Formed in Wiltshire also, in 2015, local space-rock hypnotists, weaving “mesmerising grooves, infectious riffs and layers of sonic texture to create compelling and original soundscapes which take fellow cosmic explorers on an exhilarating trip through the cosmos.” This is Pink Floyd likened space-rock, meeting ambient trance for a new generation, yet their second album, The Call Of The Void, reflects a harder, rock edge, we’re talking Hawkwind here, and it’s reverie style will hold you spellbound.

 

Deemed the headline act, Cracked Machine is a quartet of experienced musicians, brought together in a quest for aural mayhem; Bill Denton on guitar, Clive Noyes on keys samples and vocals, Chris Sutton on bass and Blazej Gradziel on drums. They play the Southgate today, and are a welcome blessing to our local scene.

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Vibrant retro-rock fusion with folk and neo-gothic, Somerset/Hampshire’s Strange Folk UK is one I’ve not heard of, and look forward to. The band’s roots are in folk, and distinct rock aspirations are tempered by a recognisable folk vein running through their songs to varying degrees. Dark impressive vocals ride the crest of a truly great sound that transports the listener to another time.

Quoting their influences may divulge that time; sixties psychedelic legends such as Dylan, Janis Joplin, T-Rex, The Doors, Free, Hendrix, and Jethro Tull, there’s mod influences too like The Who, and Genesis, and harder rock like Zeppelin and Judas Priest.

Between bands, we announce acoustic artists, Devizes singer-songwriters, Marland favourite Tom Littlefair and the brilliant Ben Borrill, topped off with a local funky soul DJ set from Usaf. I’m truly delighted to bring you this news, reckoning this is addition is going to really add a whole new musical dimension to this already fantastic gem on Devizes event calendar. As well as all of DOCA’s exciting circus, street theatre side stalls, rides and games, it now stands at two stages large, double the fun!

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Oh, and I do believe Devizine has the exclusive on this one; expect a plagiarising Gazelle or Herod along any moment. Please feel free to share our posts, but if republishing them observe copyright and quote Devizine as the source; basic etiquette, thanks!

 

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