Shuffling in Swindon

Swindon Shuffle has been mouthed around my earshot recently, whazat? Some kind of euphemism? Nope it’s Swindon’s longest running contemporary music festival; been ‘appening since 2006. It now consists of four days of original live music spread over Swindon’s finest music venues, much of it locally sourced, and it’s free entry to the whole shebang!

 

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Swindon being cultureless is an old wife’s tale as ancient as carrots helping you see the dark, I learned this when drawing my little goldfish cartoon for the free rave/rock zine De-Railer in 1992, and nights at Queen’s Tap when the Skanxters shook the rafters. Swindon always has had a healthy music scene, don’t let anyone tell you any different, and even if they do, here’s a chance to prove that it’s staying more alive than John Travolta in a hot tub time machine.

 

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So, for a cheap article, I’ve cut and pasted the line-up, check it out and dribble! But also take note, sponsor the West Berkshire Brewery will be brewing an ale especially for the event called 5 Knuckle, which will be available in venues. Our friends at the Ocelot have been long-time supporters and a partner of the Shuffle, alongside Swindon Viewpoint, Britain’s original public-access television service, and venues The Beehive, Vic, Tuppenny and Castle. The Shuffle will also be raising money for the Swindon branch of Mind, a mental health problems charity.

 

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Yeah, so blow me down and call me David Murray John, it looks a little bit like this:

Wednesday 11 July 2018 – The Beehive Stage
19:30 Swindon Shuffle Music Quiz

Thursday 12 July 2018 – The Castle Stage
22:15 Slagerij
21:30 Street Outlaws
20:45 Post 12
20:00 Flour Babies
Thursday 12 July 2018 – The Tuppenny Stage (acoustic)
21:45 Canute’s Plastic Army
21:00 Tamsin Quin
20:15 Atari Pilot (acoustic)
Thursday 12 July 2018 – Baila Stage
(time tbc) Live Hip Hop Jam Session

Friday 13 July 2018 – The Victoria Stage
22:50 The Harlers
22:00 GETRZ
21:10 Monkfish
20:20 The Oxymora
19:30 Falls On Deaf Ears
Friday 13 July 2018 – The Castle
22:15 SN Dubstation
21:30 Wilding
20:45 Basement Club
20:00 The Compact Pussycat
19:15 Matthew Bryant
Friday 13 July 2018 – Baila Stage
(time tbc) After Party DJs

Saturday 14 July 2018 – The Victoria Stage
22:50 Wasuremono
22:00 Fabian Darcy
21:10 SHORE
20:20 Palm Rose
19:30 Moleville
Saturday 14 July 2018 – The Beehive Stage
22:15 SexJazz
21:30 Aural Candy
20:45 Grasslands
20:00 The Illustrations
Saturday 14 July 2018 – The Tuppenny Stage (acoustic)
18:30 Josh Wolfsohn
17:45 Sarah C Ryan
17:00 Steve Cox
16:15 The King In Mirrors
15:30 Sumita
14:30 Raze*Rebuild (acoustic)
Saturday 14 July 2018 – Baila Stage
(time tbc) After Party DJs

Sunday 15 July 2018 – The Beehive Stage
20:15 True Strays
19:30 Hip Route
18:45 Sunset Service
18:00 Cobalt Fire
17:15 Richard Wileman
16:30 Strange Tales
Sunday 15 July 2018 – The Tuppenny Stage (acoustic)
15:30 Emily-Jane Sheppard
14:45 Jack Moore
14:00 Special Guests
13:15 The Shudders (acoustic)

Swindon Shuffle Website

Facebook Page

 

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The Great Western Reggae Soundclash

Trains have an emblematic relationship with reggae and its predecessor ska.

 

The chugging offbeat imitating a steam engine has been a running theme throughout its history. From choo-choo vocals of the Ethiopian’s classic “Train to Skaville,” to Keith & Tex’s rock steady anthem, “Stop that Train,” and The Wailer’s song of the same title, reggae is awash with train themes; it’s only apt there’s such thing as “Great Western Reggae,” and a substantial scene in the historic railway town of Swindon.

 

Pop-a-Top Records is Swindon’s label dedicated to its reggae homebrew. It’s headed by the ex-Skanxter, Erin Bardwell and his Collective who’ve just released “Great Western Reggae Soundclash,”a double-album which serves as a prodigious sampler for Pop-a-Top’s Great Western Reggae style.

 

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In those ravey daze, the Skanxters were a local archaic blessing, harking to an era when life was less Altern 8 and more, well, Specials. I fondly recall heady nights following the Skanxters, at the Queen’s Tap, The Vic, and the Lamb in Marlborough, and remember the disheartening revelation a gig at Level III in 98 would be their last. I reminisce how, during their comical, “I’ll never know (who nicked my bike),” lead singer Andy Paton would ask the dodgiest looking audience member, “Oi, was it you?” and how once I was selected for the honour!

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Imagine my delight at catching up with Erin, who played keyboards in the band and hasn’t stopped since. “Not all the artists (on Pop-a-Top) are from Swindon,” Erin explained, “but most are, or have links to it.” With countless projects under his belt, such as dub production duo Subject A’s “Sleepwalkers” release with ex-Skanxter bass player Dean Sartain, and nostalgic two-tone reunion gigs for the Skanxters, Erin is exceptionally prolific.

 

Though meticulous effort has been refined into “Great Western Reggae Soundclash,” and while not astoundingly lyrical, despite the opening track “Rock Steady Rub,” with vocals parallel to Johnny Cash popping into Studio One, GWR concentrates more-so on keyboards akin to Jackie Mitto.

 

The Collective glide steadily through a plethora of traditional rock steady, which while wouldn’t sound out of place on a Trojan “Tighten Up” compilation, also has a sprinkle of reflections on Swindon. Again, in the aforementioned running train theme, the tongue-in-cheek “Night Bus to Highworth,” and a nod to Edith New, the Swindonian suffragette first to campaign in an aggressive manner.

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Fans of Jamaican music in Britain tend to separate into two trends, echoing dub and skinhead ska; the transitional stage is often overlooked. When really, developed through hard times in 1960s Kingston, where curfews set by the government to curb “rude boy” culture, it consequently mellowed the mood for the following era, and was Jamaica’s most creative period musically.

 

To hark back to this rock steady/boss reggae period is tried and tested in this album, a rarity left to groups like New York’s Frightnrs, who in turn add a little New Yorker panache to their sound. The Eric Bardwell Collective do similar, plus, while fundamentally inspired by rock steady they’re not afraid to explore techniques usually saved for ska or reggae, from chugging choo-choo vocals to nyabinghi drums and one drops, the tune “Why Why,” being a grand example of this, and along with both male and female vocals, the latter supplied by Dominican-born Sandra Bell, it makes the sound wholly unique and excitingly refreshing.

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With rich history including backing reggae star Dennis Bovell, and a trip to Jamaica in 2003, to record at Byron Lee’s legendary Dynamic Sounds with Studio One engineer Sylvan Morris, Erin Bardwell has the contacts to add a plethora of talent to feature within the Collective. On this release you’ll find Selecter Guitarist Neol Davies, drummer Matty Bane of the Neville Staple Band, Pat Powell of the Melbourne Ska Orchestra alongside Swindon’s finest line-up, such as, among others, horns from the SN Dubstation.

 

There’s much here to impress and delight the reggae enthusiasts, my personal favourite being “Change,” where the Byron Lee influences shine, reminding of the frequently sampled piano riff of “My Conversation,” by the Uniques. Although there’s equally as much inspiration external to reggae, at times the soundscape took me to contemplate early Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett days, and a sprinkling of Sgt Pepper towards the album’s close. So, I figure there’s as much here to enjoy for the occasional reggae listener.

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There’s an album launch at the Thomas Hughes Memorial Hall in Uffington on December 1st, the Erin Bardwell Collective are also live at The Castle in Swindon on Friday 8th and Zed Alley in Bristol 15th December. If that’s too close to the big C, I’d highly recommend you keep warm and treat yourself to an early yule pressie; grab yourself a CD or download of this outstanding local riddim redeemer here at Bandcamp.

 

For more info on Erin Bardwell Collective and the Top-a-Pop label, click here.

 

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Daniella Faircloth in a Shoebox; Unbinding Halloween Chills

It’s been about a year since the editor of Index:Wiltshire sent me to Swindon for the press screening of a new, homemade film. Slightly anxious at the prospect of being among “real” journalists, thought I was in over my head. Instead, I was welcomed by a family atmosphere, with more cakes than journalists (turned out it was the producer’s birthday too.)

 

Immediately I threw off those fears, this isn’t a pretentious Hollywood charade, this is Swindon for crying out loud; only provoking a new concern, how good could a locally made movie really be, would I need to humour wild Swindonian thespians?

 

Turned out I was pleasantly surprised, the film, Follow the Crows, was superb, but my bag of nerves not through yet. An unidentified apocalyptic event threw an oddball bunch of survivors into a baron wilderness, each with their own vicious agenda; the plot of the film unnerving when surreally, you’re sitting amidst the actors playing these fruitcakes.

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At the movie’s close I stumbled up in awe, cake crumbs scattered the floor; this was an awesome film and I felt honoured, as if I was initiated into a secret gang with this exclusive preview. But meeting the actors and one actress, Danielle Faircloth, who I’d just seen at daggers with each other on the screen, I had to acknowledge it was just an act; that’s what these guys do, and very realistically too. This exceptionally talented bunch weren’t about to carve me up over a tin of spam. No, we just shook hands and chatted amicably.

 

I have maximum respect for those who can so convincingly act, my personal performing career peaked when my Shakin’ Stevens impression gained me first place at the Cub Scout pack holiday talent show, the rest has been downhill since (I probably didn’t need to mention that.)

 

The Producer of Follow the Crows, Marcus Starr, explained a lot more work was needed to perfect the sound, and as I write this I’m pleased to announce the team claim a release date is imminent. More on this news as and when, but today I wanted to make a point, and introduce Swindon’s cosy, Shoebox Theatre.

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The Shoebox Theatre is a space in Theatre Square for talented performers, writers, musicians and directors to develop, train, and showcase their work, in hope of bringing something different and exciting to audiences of Swindon. And with the talents of Danielle heading a mature themed horror play, by resident theatre company, the Wrong Shoes, called The Unbinding, I’m rest assured this will be a supreme Halloween indulgence.

 

With a local component, The Unbinding devised from historical accounts of witches from Wiltshire; the play explores mob-mentality and our insatiable need to punish those who are different. Accused of witchcraft, four women are locked together, to await their sentence in the shadows. Scared and hungry they don’t know who they can trust, or who will survive.

 

It promises to be an intense performance, featuring stark realism, horror, physical theatre, strobe lights, and containing scenes of a sexual nature, with violence, and strong language some viewers may find disturbing; has to be scarier than wandering the streets collecting Haribo.

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Book your tickets for The Unbinding, opening on Halloween (31st Oct) and running until 4th November at the Shoebox Theatre via www.theunbinding.co.uk

 

The only thing not scary is the price; tickets at a tenner. Plus, you’ll be supporting the Wrong Shoes at the Shoebox Theatre, who, as well as creating theatre, the registered charity since 2015, also provides educational opportunities for people in Swindon and the surrounding areas to engage in original, contemporary theatre, both as performance makers and as audiences.

 

Look out for ingeniously titled, Much Ado About Puffin too, a performance for the children. Using skilful puppetry, beautiful music, and good old fashioned storytelling, Much Ado About Puffin is about old habits, new friendships and stepping out into the unknown, and runs this Saturday, 14th October.

 

For more information and other performances by the Shoebox Theatre: https://www.shoeboxtheatre.org.uk/

 

But don’t take my word for it; listen to Billie!