Liddington Hill Celtic Punk!

Sometimes, and quite a number of times I might add, nothing fits the bill quite like a bout of pounding bibulous Celtic punk, by a band with a girl donning a cow’s head as a mascot. But how far would you expect to trek to find such a group of misfits, Wales, Ireland?

Suggested in the name, Liddington Hill, the beautiful down overlooking Swindon, with the Ridgeway traversing and its iron age hillfort, is local enough. Not since the days of the Blitz, when the area was used as a “Starfish” decoy bombing bunker, has it been so explosive.

What’s the link to Liddington with this scorching five-piece band, who have just released their debut EP, Cow after a few singles, I felt imperative to ask? “We all lived in Swindon at the time we started,” fiddle and vocalist Matt told, “our singer grew up around the area and went up to Liddington Castle a lot as a child. It seemed to be a bit of a landmark and with the Ridgway close by had great links to the past, so I guess it just seemed like a good name.”

Two members remain in Swindon, the other two now live in Oxford, and drummer Chris hails from Chippenham. With fiddles and a bodhrán meshed with electric guitars, the line between punk and traditional Celtic folk cannot be yanked apart, not that there’s any good reason to try to.

The bobbing theme of a band drinking excursion to Oxford, Pub Crawl, follows a dynamic and unique slide-guitar take of the folk sea shanty, Whip Jamboree.

An almost new-wave post-punk feel is implemented into the melting pot with the third tune, Marshlands, an original song about lead guitarist Liam’s Grandfather in Ireland, “who wouldn’t ride a horse,” Matt explained, “but insisted on riding a cow!” Hence the cow symbolism, I’m best guessing.

The EP ends traditionally, with Joseph B. Geoghegan’s anti-war music hall classic, Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye, and Liddington Hill bless the folk feel with their brand of punk, making for a perfect finale. While it might not be as authentic as The Pouges, or as aggressive as The Levellers, with bands like Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys storming success in the US, there’s a huge market for this beguiling genre, yet a scarcity on the local scene, and Liddington Hill pack a punch.

It’s a grower, and I’m loving this, anticipating possibility of an album to greater extend their scope, but as far as energetic presence is concerned, it’s kick-ass. Branded subtly, though, to suit a pub environment, so a live show, fingers crossed for their definite return, would be something highly memorable and I’d recommend landlords book them in; certainly, it’d push up the beer sales!


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June: State of the Thing; a Monthly Guide to Last and This Coming Month of Devizine

So, who told the April showers that the lockdown applied to it? Come on, I want names! Last month of lockdown was dry and clement, as soon as things starts opening up again, it phased between drizzle and downpour; you can’t make it up.

Yes, I wrote this too soon; bang on cue, here comes the sun for June.

If May saw a gradual return to normality, pray it continues; June should explode, either way. We started the month with concerns over Calne’s Central Youth & Community Centre, and I attended a small protest in Rowde to save Furlong Close. Not forgetting local election would inevitably send me on the usual rant, but Wiltshire lays all its eggs in the same basket. And then, wham, had to rant twice in one day when Seedy pulled out of the PCC election, you certainly couldn’t make that up!

Save Furlong Close protest in Rowde

Musically, a couple of press releases from Sheer, announcing Salem’s national tour with them hosting Swindon’s Vic gig in October, and Frank Turner at Frome’s Cheese & Grain on both Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th June. But the best Sheer post was more about Kieran’s mum, jumping out of a plane, fundraising for her grandson.

I reviewed Cornish psych-punkers The Brainiac 5’s album Another Time Another Dimension, Trowbridge’s Sitting Tenants album A Kitchen Sink Drama. Also, Sam Bishop’s great EP Lost Promises, a single from Stockwell, Storm Jae and Nory’s called Can’t Come Home, and a new track from the Longcoats, Nothing Good. We also did a great interview with Dave Lewis, one half of Blondie & Ska. Reviews in the next few days will be an EP of Celtic punk from Liddington Hill, some awesome punkish blues from Elli De Mon, and the new album from The Lost Trades, due on 2nd June.

Blondie & Ska

I started a new Sunday series, being the last one was so popular. No satire this time, just a reflection back thirty years to the era of the rave, from a personal angle; I’m having lots of fun with this, if it does make me feel old! This continues into June. So, without further to do, here’s what’s occurring in June.

Old Skool Rave

Firstly, staying at home we can entertain you too. I’m gradually working through writing promotional material and sleeve notes for our compilation album, 4 Julia’s House, which, as it sounds, all proceeds will go to Julia’s House. This has proved more work than I anticipated for me, due to the most amazing line up of talent who has kindly donated a song. The penultimate entry was an exclusive rock steady track by Blondie & Ska, and the latest entry is by none other than Richard Davis & the Dissidents. See what I mean now, don’t you? Absolutely fantastic, massively hugely massive this is going to be, over three hours of genre-crossing music; something for everyone on there. Okay, I’ll copy and paste the artists featured; hold onto your jawbone.

Richard Davis & The Dissidents

A mahoosive thanks goes to: Pete Lamb & Cliff Hall, King Dukes, Erin Bardwell, Timid Deer, Duck n Cuvver, Strange Folk, Strange Tales, Paul Lappin, Billy Green 3, Jon Veale, Wilding, Richard Davis & The Dissidents, Barrelhouse, Tom Harris, Will Lawton & the Alchemists, Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective, Kirsty Clinch, Richard Wileman, Nigel G. Lowndes, Kier Cronin, Sam Bishop, Mr Love & Justice, Barmy Park, The Truzzy Boys, Daydream Runaways, Talk in Code, Longcoats, Atari Pilot, Andy J Williams, The Dirty Smooth, SexJazz, Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue, The Boot Hill All Stars, Mr Tea & The Minions, Cosmic Shuffling, Blondie & Ska, The Birth of Bonoyster, The Oyster, The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show, Julie Meikle and Mel Reeves, Meru Michae, Cutsmith, The Tremor Tones, Big Ship Alliance, First Born Losers, Dutch Money(s), and last but by no means least, Neonian, who is working on a track as we speak.

Phew, so, yes, who is as out-out as Mickey Flanagan in June? I know right, how surreal. I went to a pub, an actual pub, and heard live music last Saturday; down the trusty gate for those Daybreakers. Bloody fantastic it was too. Here’s some things to be looking forward to over this month. Note, this is in no way exhaustive, (which is what I’m going to be trying to keep up to date with it all!) You must continue to check our event guide, for details of all events listed here, updates of events, and even live streamed.

Half term sees us into June, ongoing from Tuesday 1st there’s holiday activities at Wiltshire Museum, which we welcome their reopening, and program of forthcoming events.

Also, back in business is the Nether-Street’s Farm Cookery School, who has a parent and child class called Cake Lady on Thursday 3rd.

The weekend sees The Devizes Lions Sports Coaching Weekend at Devizes Leisure Centre, IndieDay happening across Devizes town centre, meanwhile Devizes Southgate welcomes Texas Tick Fever.

There’s a Court Room Cabaret at Trowbridge Town Hall, Talk In Code play Swindon’s Level 3, with Atari Pilot, and Rude Mood are at The Vic.

Eddie Martin is live at The Bell in Bath, and we wish the Bath Reggae Festival a successful first event, let’s hope it’ll become an annual thing.

While we’re on about festivals, the following weekend, from Friday 11th is Kite Festival at Kirtlington Park, Oxfordshire. Closer to home, Trevor Babajack Steger is at The Southgate, Devizes on Saturday, and don’t forget Lions on the Green in Devizes, Sunday 13th; let’s support their brand-new fund-raising event. Joh Griven also has a guided tour of the Heritage Walk of Devizes.

This sounds fun too, Mustard Brass Band live at The Bell in Walcott Street, Bath

Monday 14th there’s an important meeting online, a progress report on Wiltshire Museum’s hopeful move to the Assize Court.

Summer Solstice weekend, (solstice being 4:30 on Monday 21st) kicks off the Bigfoot Festival at Ragely Hall, Warwickshire. Closer to home, as it goes to press, the Kington Langley Scarecrow Festival is still happening. The HoneyStreet Barge presents Troyka, on Saturday 19th, Jon Amor’s King Street Turnaround at The Southgate, Devizes and Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue with the Pete Gage Band at The Cheese & Grain, Frome.

There are also two great charity fundraising events, Caroline Lowe as Amy Winehouse at Swindon’s Swiss Chalet, in aid of The Specialized Project, which acts as a fundraising portal for many charitable causes and projects. And at The Rose & Crown in Worton, Chloe Jordan, Mistral and the Celtic Roots Collective have a fundraiser for MacMillan Cancer Support.

To the last weekend of what will, finger’s crossed, be an amazing return to normality, on Saturday 26th, The Southgate, Devizes welcomes Blind Justice, and the brilliant Blondie & Ska play The Greyhound, Trowbridge. But I’m hopefully saddling up and heading east, for geetars and corset swinging fun at the Barge on HoneyStreet, where those Boot Hill All Stars plan to moor up, with Dry White Bones; that one will go off!

 As far as I know, the legendary Black Uhuru at Frome’s Cheese & Grain, and Sunday 27th Blondie & Ska will be at the Royal Oak, Corsham. But as I say, loads more will be listed by the time we know what’s what, and hopefully a summer to remember is on the cards; just have to take responsibility for adhering to regulations and observing social distancing. Have a great June.


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Song of the Day 39: Kirsty Clinch

Song of the day this fine Friday evening… got to be Kirsty, enough said! And that’s my song of the day!! Very good, carry on…..

Salem Announce National Tour with Sheer Hosting Swindon’s Vic Gig

There’s something indefinitely old school punk about Salem, with nods to pop-punk, goth and rockabilly, hoisting them to the absolute top of their scene. No one in the UK are delivering this genre better right now.

This side project of Will Gould from Creepers and Matt Reynolds of Howards Alias is loud, proud and spitting; dripping with Siouxsie and the Banshees, laddered fishnet stockings and Robert Smith influences. Quite honestly, Kieran’s right, again; it’s knocking deafeningly at my front door!

They described their self-titled debut 2020 EP as “spooky, silly, romantic punk rock songs.” Yeah, figures.

Today they announce their October UK tour, with Oxford’s Bullingdon, Frome’s Cheese & Grain, and Bristol’s Exchange included, and nestled between them, on October 16th, Sheer Music & Bandit present them at Swindon’s grandstand music venue, The Victoria.

Support for the Salem’s tour comes from a new solo project from Welsh former Holding Absence bassist, James Joseph; James and the Cold Gun. A playful twist on his name, James and the Cold Gun is named after a Kath Bush song. They promise to be something of a rock n’ roll blues revue, akin to former British rock n’ roll heroes The Computers. They signed to Gallows label Venn Records for the release of their debut album.

Tickets go on sale Thursday (6th May.) £10 adv. / £13 OTD for the Vic.


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Song of the Day 36: Daydream Runaways

It’s those guys again. Yes, we’ve reviewed the song before, but this our quick song of day feature, which usually requires a video, and it’s the vid which is new…. and marvelous.

“Something Anerican Pie about it,” Ollie of the Longcoats suggests on Instagram, and I tend to agree. Due to lockdown the Daydreamers haven’t managed to produce a video for it, so photographer Vansessa Paiton made it using stock footage. And what a grand job, it looks fantastic and apt for the tune. Makes feel young again, but I’ll say no more!

And that’s my song of the day!! Very good, carry on…..


Erin Bardwell Gets Organised

A new album released yesterday from Swindon’s premier reggae keyboardist and producer Erin Bardwell made me contemplate a section of Henri Charrière’s book Papillon. The autobiographical account of a fellow no prison or penal colony can seem to keep incarcerated. There’s a point where Papillon deliberately causes a disturbance in order to be put in solitary confinement. He claims he prefers it to the regular cells, because away from the other inmates, alone in pitch darkness he can reimagine, practically hallucinate and relive his better days.

For the concept of the album and accompanying film Get Organised is largely reminiscing and reflecting on his past. Possibly, I suspect, due to age becoming, the fact this marks a thirtieth anniversary of the formation of his heyday two-tone band, The Skanxters, but largely due to lockdown.

Myself, lockdown has been parttime. I’ve worked throughout, galivanting through the villages, meeting early morning risers, and it’s all been much the same as it ever was, just cannot nip t’ pub, or see family living out of the area. Which is frustrating at times, but I accept it’s not as bad as those shielding and self-isolating; that would’ve driven me insane my now. It’s common in isolation to consider one’s life and recollect, but Erin does it over a reggae beat; and I approve!

We’ve been here before; this is not Erin’s first reflection of lockdown. Pre-pandemic he directed a collective who were pushing new boundaries in rock steady. But April last year saw the solo release of Interval, a deeply personal reflection and mind-blowingly cavernous concept album, diving into the psyche and exploring past events; scarce formula for reggae.

Erin Bardwell

Yet Erin’s style is such; relished in unconformity, individualism and freethinking, factors which make it so utterly unique it’s hard to compare. It’s this standout signature which Erin stamps on all projects, be them solo, as the Collective, or side projects such as the experimental dub of Subject A with Dean Sartain, or The Man on the Bridge project with ex-Hotknives Dave Clifton, which defines the very sound of reggae in Swindon and puts it on the skanking map. If there was a skanking map, which I wish there was!

Whereas Interval’s morose mood merged styles through experimentation, some often out of the confines of reggae, be they jazz, ambient and space rock, Get Organised will wash better with the matured skinheads, scooterists and Two-Tone aficionados, for it sits with more golden era reggae, particularly of the sixties Trojan “boss” reggae epoch. They tend to know what they like, and favour tradition over risky and radical progressions.

In this notion too it’s sprightlier and more optimistic than Interval, a result of vaccinations and this “roadmap” out of lockdown, perhaps; The Erin Bardwell Trio booked for a gig at Swindon’s Victoria on 1st July. Though at times there’s still the thoughtful prose Erin is fashioned for, reflecting the effect of lockdown. The lyrics of Eight O’clock, for example, which notes despite the usually lively nightlife at this time, the town is quiet.

The Erin Bardwell Collective

They’re all sublimely crafted pieces, the title track’s mellow riff nods to Lee Scratch Perry’s middling Upsetters period with something akin to a tune like Dollar in the Teeth. And in that, we have to consider the great producers of rockers reggae for comparisons, rather than the artists. Aforementioned Perry, but of Niney the Observer, of Harry J too, and Get Organised subtly delves into dub, so I guess King Tubby also. Yet the opening tune reminded me of the earlier, legendary producer Duke Reid.

Erin has the proficiency to cherry-pick elements from reggae’s rich history, effectively merge them and retain this said signature style. The Savoy Ballroom has the expertise keys of Jackie Mittoo, with the vaudeville toytown sound of Madness. That said has opened another Pandora’s box, as Two-Tone also has a significant influence on Get Organised, naturally. The grand finale We Put on that Show is reflective of the era, along the lines of the steady plod of Do Nothing rather than the frenzied ska of Little Bitch, if we’re going to make a Specials contrast, which I think is apt.

Equally, you’re going to love this if, like me, you cite the debut album Signing Off, as UB40’s magnum opus rather than their following pop covers, or just if you’re looking for something different from the norm.

These recollections are visualised in a half-hour video, making it more poignant. It’s a scrapbook film, with homemade clips of The Skanxters setting up or driving to a gig, footage I’d expect to have been largely unseen until now. There’s also a montage of memoirs chronicling Erin’s career, as the camera pans across gig posters, bus tickets, vinyl and press cuttings. Though far from documentary, the sound plays out the album, the material an aid to the songs, and a fascinating art project to accompany it.

 “A second solo album wasn’t really part of the plan,” Erin explains, “but with the current climate as it is, I still found myself coming up with music and songs. These tunes started following a theme, that led to a film idea, and the sounds and visuals grew together influencing each other.”

The point in the early nineties, when the Skanxters were the pride of Swindon’s two-tone scene is captured well, and while those on the circuit, or even living locally then, will love recognising the many memoirs, anyone into the scene at the time will thoroughly enjoy this outing. Overall, though, Erin continues to break boundaries, and this album is a blessing and pleasure to listen to, alone from its narrative and meaning, as all good reggae should.


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Hoping for a Summer of Local Music Festivals

Presented a punter-based cautionary piece on the hopeful move forward for live music this year, and how chancy it all is at this stage. If the playground remains uneven, I never intended the article to be pessimistic, though it may’ve been perceived that way. I just advised applying caution may be necessary prior to a compulsory detonation of over-excitement.

The other side of the coin of this vicious circle is that, without ticket sales there will be no show. While many organisers have cancelled their regular events, some keep their fingers and toes crossed, others are trying to work through it, and are dowsing a silver lining to this cloud with a summer of festivals planned.

Let’s hope and pray it pays off. Festival websites report that it is, and tickets are selling fast, which agreed, could be a sales pitch. So, you’re left to risk the call, and snap up tickets, especially for the most popular ones. I have faith most festivals will refund you if it either goes Pete Tong, or Pete Tong is booked to DJ, or else ask to retain your ticket for another year, because they organise festivals, and festivals are all about openness and sharing. Booking agents on the other hand, might be another story.

Personally, I’ve done gone got the festival t-shirt many moons ago, and the jester’s hat too, come to think about it; I can bide my time from power-napping in a spinning canvas pyramid, paying over the odds for a baggie of basil, and sliding headlong into a ditch of piss. For many though, particularly younger generations, festivals are essential, and vital, for their wonderful feeling of togetherness. For the music industry it’s crucial to maintain this notion; ignore my aged rant, there is no ditch of piss, not really, not in this clean-cut era!

Let’s run through the locally based choicest ones, which sound too good to miss… but remember to check the individual planned conditions of entry, some will ask you to provide evidence of licensed vaccination or negative PCR test within the previous 48 hour period.

June


11th – 13th: Kite Festival

Kirtlington Park, Oxfordshire

Born from a Kickstarter campaign in January 2020, but cancelled for the obvious reasons, it’s this festival’s maiden voyage this year. KITE aims to combine incredible music and breakthrough ideas in a unique programme of live performances and interactive discussions. “We wanted to bring together contemporary and legendary performers, thinkers, writers and public figures from the world of music, politics, business, technology and the arts and give you the opportunity to engage with the people who are influencing the way we live.”

Cultural icon Grace Jones, multi-Grammy-Award winning jazz singer Gregory Porter and gospel legend Mavis Staples were set to lead the music programme for the original date last year, we wait in anticipation to hear the line-up now, as Kite announce they’re working on their 2021 programme. Sign up for their newsletter for updates.


18th-20th: Bigfoot Festival

Ragely Hall, Warwickshire

Another first outing cancelled last year sees its debut this June. Just the map is enticing enough, with a boating lake and woodland and all that stuff. Local breweries and bands, who share the stages with a great line up, including Primal Scream, Fat White Family, Hot Chip Megamix, Maribou State (DJ) Baxter Dury and Dinosaur Pile-Up. There’s also an intersting wellbeing programme with hip hop yoga, boxercise, Let’s Talk About Sex Meditation & Mindfulness, and biscuits & burpees; I’ll just have the biscuits, thank you! Find Bigfoot here.


July


2nd – 4th: Minety Music Festival

Hornbury Hill, Malmesbury

Fourth outing for this popular do. A community non-profit triple day extravaganza, run entirely by volunteers which raised funds for the Wiltshire Air Ambulance, and local schools and charities last year. Guaranteed excellent music, a great, wide range of food and a well-stocked house Bar, Gin & Prosecco Bar and Cocktail Tiki Bar! There will also be a range of FREE activities in the Kidzone, including rock climbing wall, rock climbing digi-wall, an inflatable slide and assault course, bouncy castles, circus skills workshops and kids craft workshops, plus many more activities.

Line-up includes, Dr & The Medics, Space, Jesus Jones, Dreadzone, Crikey Minogue & Six Packs, a Ministry of Samba workshop, and a great local roster of Devizine favourites The Tribe, Talk In Code, The Dirty Smooth, A’La-Ska, Navajo Dogs, Sloe Train and Plucking Different. This is going to be a brilliant one, make sure there’s room in your backpack to sneak me in! Info Here.

Should get you in the mood…..

8th-10th: 2000trees Festival

Withington, Cheltenham

A largely rock and indie festival, 2000trees has a good reputation and won awards. This year sees Jimmy Eat World headline, with Thrice, Creeper, The Amazons, Dinosaur Pile-Up, The Menzingers, The Get Up Kids and many more to make me feel old!  Tickets & info Here.

9th-11th: – Cornbury Festival

Great Tew, Oxfordshire

Still in the planning stages, this ever-growing festival in the most beautiful Oxfordshire Cotswold location think it’s enough just to announce on headline act, yeah, but it is Bryan Adams; show offs! Should be good though. Info here.


22nd-25th Womad (?)

Charlton Park, Malmesbury

Still hopeful, Womad are holding off announcing acts, but you know, I know, we all know it’ll be the crème de la crème of world music on our doorstep, if all goes well, they’ve secured the date and tickets are here.


31st Mfor 2021

Lydiard Park, Swindon

A family orientated, affordable, one day pop-tastic festival I’ve only heard good things about, could be just the thing to introduce kids to festivals. And with Craig David, Rudimental, Ella Henderson, Phats & Small, Mark Hill (Original Artful Dodger), Lindy Layton on the line-up, it’s easy to see how this party is going to go down. I believe local acts will also be on agenda, certain our friends Talk in Code feature. There’s even an over 18 Friday night special additional event, with Five, S Club, Liberty X, Baby and Rozalla; everybody is freeeee, to feeeel gooood, apparently. Info & Tickets.


August


5th-8th: Wickham Festival

Fareham, Hampshire

New one on me this, but The Wickham Festival is an annual four-dayer of music and arts. Boasting three stages, and rated as one of the safest, most relaxed and family-friendly festivals in the UK, Wickham was voted ‘Best UK Festival, cap. under 15000’ at the Live UK Music Business Awards in October 2015; so, they know their stuff; I mean, they’ve got Van the man, and The Waterboys. Note also, Devizine favs, Beans on Toast, Gaz Brookfield, Tankus the Henge along with Nick Parker on the agenda; sweet! Tickets & Info Here.


6th: Love Summer Festival Devon: SOLD OUT.


7th- 8th: The Bath Festival Finale Weekend

And what a finale it is, Saturday; McFly, Scouting For Girls, Orla Gartland, Lauren Hibberd, George Pelham, Josh Gray, Novacub, Dessie Magee and Luna Lake. Sunday; UB40 featuring Ali Campbell & Astro, Billy Ocean, Fun Lovin’ Criminals, Seth Lakeman, Bloco B, Hannah Grace, Casey Lowry, Port Erin Life, and Life In Mono, with more to be announced… Tickets HERE.


21st: Mantonfest

Manton, Marlborough

Any closer than this and it’ll be in your back garden! But that’s not the sole reason to grab a ticket for MantonFest! Just thirty notes for adults, a tenner for teenagers, and a fiver for kids, but that’s not the only other reason. Reports on this family, broad ranging charity fundraising annual do has never been negative, and we’re glad to hear it’s back for 2021. Number one Blondie tribute Dirty Harry headline, along with Dr. Feelgood, Ex-Men (five members of original 60’s bands), Barrelhouse, Jo Martin with his band, Devizine favs Richard Davies and The Dissidents, Josie and the Outlaw and homegrown Skeddadle. We previewed it last year before shit hit the fan; tickets bought in 2020 are valid for 2021. Mantonfest say, “we may have to introduce some anti-covid restrictions. These will be announced nearer the time and will be in line with the latest developments and best practice;” let’s hope this goes off this time. Tickets & Info here.


21st: Live at Lydiard

Lydiard Park, Swindon

Anne‐Marie, Sean Kingston, Roman Kemp [DJ set] Artful Dodger, Chaney, Fabian Darcy on the line-up over four stages for this day festival at Lydiard, with a dance tent, boutique cocktail bar and food court. Info & Tickets here.


21st: Bath Reggae Festival

Now pushed back to August bank holiday, this is the maiden voyage for the Bath Reggae Festival, and we bless them with the best of luck. With a line-up this supreme though, I’d imagine it’ll sell itself. Legends Maxi Priest, Aswad, Big Mountain, Dawn Penn, and The Slits solo extraordinaire Hollie Cook, Laid Back and lovers rocker Wayne Wonder, this is a must for reggae fans. Tickets & info here.


September


4th-5th: Concert at the Kings

All Cannings, Devizes

For locals little more can be said about how awesome this ground-breaking festival raising staggering funds for cancer research is. Since 2012 it has bought international headline acts to the sleepy village outside Devizes; legendary fables and the fondest memories have been had there. No difference this time around, save for some social distancing. Billy Ocean, 10CC, Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, Sweet, Strawbs, Lindisfarne and Devizine favs Talk in Code, with more to be announced; twist your arm anymore, sir? No; no need to! Tickets & Info here.


9th-12th: Swindon Shuffle

Venues across Swindon

A later date for this annual extravaganza of local live music, spread across Swindon’s premiere venues and hugely supportive of original homegrown talent, this is weekend to head for the railway town. Since 2007 the Shuffle raises funds for MIND, and is largely free to attend. Ah, there’s plenty time to arrange a line-up, which is underway, but you can guarantee a truckload of our local favourites will be there, somewhere! Info.


10th-12th: Vintage Nostalgia Festival

Stockton Park, Near Warminster

The mature place to glamp this summer if you want to get retro; classic cars is the concentrate, but there’s no shortage of great bands from rockabilly, doo-wop, blues to mod skiffle, boogie woogie jazz and beyond. Sarah Mai Rhythm & Blues Band, “Great Scott,” Shana Mai and the Mayhems, The Bandits, Junco Shakers,The Flaming Feathers, The Harlem Rhythm Cats, Little Dave & The Sunshine Sessions, The Rough Cut Rebels, Riley K, The Ukey D’ukes and loads more. Info & Tickets Here.


You know, this one could be for me, rather than trying to look youthful clutching onto a marquee pole for dear life while a hoard of sugared-up teeny-boppers check Instagram amidst a soundtrack of dubstep! But look, I reckon there’s something for everyone here, but if I did miss yours, let me know, for a squashy cup of cider at the festie bar, I must just add your do here too!


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The Return of Local Live Music; should I add a question mark?

“But I’m bidin’ my time

‘Cause that’s the kinda guy I’m

While other folks grow dizzy

I keep busy

Bidin’ my time,”

George Gershwin

It’s important, I think, not to get over-excited, but I understand and expect a major outbreak of momentary bipolar disorder from myself and many others when we look somewhere over the rainbow at the prospect of events restarting, and live music in particular.

How the next few months pan out will be crucial to this concept of returning to normality, and we all play the part of Sarah Connor in Terminator 2; Judgement Day, when she said, “the unknown future rolls toward us. I face it, for the first time, with a sense of hope.” Hereafter the bit about a Terminator learning the value of human life is inconsequential to our particular occasion, but maybe has some relevance. We have to hold it down, guys, we have to be like little Fonzies here, and as Samuel L Jackson will ask you, Yolanda, what’s Fonzie like?

If we charge this thing it could backfire. It was heart-breaking and annoying too, running through our event calendar deleting everything, and despite the concern I’m going to be a busy bee updating it when events actually start happening, I’m like George Gershwin, biding his time. This said, you should note month-to-month the event calendar is far from void, there’s lots of live streams, online events and popup kitchens to check out; do not abandon it. But, and this a big but, bigger than the butt of Rod Stewart and Jennifer Lopez’s lovechild, we should keep in mind the word of the day is possibilities, and nothing should be set in concrete yet.

Still the local rag seems more gung-ho than me, which is odd until you figure they’ve staff to pay, advertisers to appease and content must be attractive. As I write this, they announce the headline “Fulltone Festival will be back in town this summer!” as I’m sure you’ll all be happy to hear this news, planning to go ahead on the 28th and 29th August, as am I, but I worry for the word “will” in this piece of clickbait, because right now can we really say will?

Look, my ol’ mucker, I don’t want to pop your bubble of optimism, I’m just playing the realist. Tomorrow sees schools and higher education heading back out; how strict testing will be, given pupils will test themselves in some circumstances, the same pupils who created the user-name “reconnecting,” so teachers would think they’re having connection issues with their online class! The R-rating hinges on this moment and its success, ergo the rest of this so-called roadmap does.

The second part of this giant step, on the 29th March includes the use of outdoor swimming pools, for example, but pubs won’t reopen until step 2 on April 12th. How are fifty-plus bods dribbling into a swimming pool safer than a socially distanced pint in your local? There’s inconsistences and flaws, to be expected, the further the pitch extends, but the wording is all made up of “we hope,” and “the government will look to continue easing limits,” there is no “Will,” therefore no media outlet should be using the word, unless mass hysteria is what they want.

The COVID-19 Response – Spring 2021 (Summary) on Gov.UK is quite clear, “in implementing this plan we will be guided by data, not dates, so that we do not risk a surge in infections that would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS. For that reason, all the dates in the roadmap are indicative and subject to change.” Yet bands are getting bookings, events are being arranged, money is being pumped into thin ice. The Victoria in Swindon is planning a comeback with Ion Maiden, Iron Maiden tribute on 14th May, but The Tuppenny aren’t announcing yet. Bradford-on-Avon’s Three Horseshoes haven’t added anything on Facebook until 7th August, when the brilliant Strange Folk are booked, whereas same band are the only thing to be listed at Devizes Southgate on 9th October.

But can you rely on the Fakebook as a source? Southgate landlady Deborah has been “quietly booking up bands,” with seventeen in the pipeline to date, starting from 22nd May. “This year,” she explained, “we’re concentrating almost entirely on just one gig per week. The earliest gigs will be outside with early evening start and finish times, but we hope to get back to our pre-COVID timings as soon as possible.”

The Long Street Blues Club state “there is light at the end of the tunnel,” aiming to restart their program on Saturday 18th September with the popular Billy Walton Band. This is brilliant news, but here, I believe is where the boundary lies, the smaller pub and club gigs. The idea of large-scale concerts and festivals, and upholding conditions are simply incalculable, for some.

Devizes Scooter Club have sadly cancelled their brilliant rally, as organiser Adam Ford said after making the decision in February, “even if it were allowed to proceed, we feel it will not be possible to host any event to the standard we would want to, and that attendees deserve.” There’s a similar feeling at Devizes CAMRA who have cancelled the Beer Festival. This is, sad but true, the exact logical response we should respect from those in the responsibility of organising events, well done to them both.

One should follow the lead of the Eavis family, experts in, quite literally, their field. If Glasto says no, then you, as an organiser should perhaps take heed. Meanwhile, Lydiard Park in Swindon is set for MFor 2021 is set as early as 31st July, and tickets are 50% sold. They remain adamant they’ve not the massive structure and organisation as Glasto, and will proceed with social distancing measures in operation. What I am questioning with these events still on the agenda, will we need proof of vaccination, as we’re a long way from vaccinating the country? Unless you imagine an evening with only over-70s going to watch Craig David, it’s a melon twister.

Talking with Kieran J Moore of Sheer Music, he stated, “the proof question hasn’t been answered by the Music Venue Trust yet, so there is no guidance or anything for the venues to base their decisions on. We can’t do gigs until May either, so still plenty of time for the working outs to begin.” Sheer has something in pipeline in Frome at the end of June, but isn’t really resurfacing until the highly anticipated Jon Gomm gig with support from The Lost Trades at Trowbridge’s Emmanuel’s Yard on the 15th October.

Satisfied that their safety measures conformed to the government regulations last Summer, the Southgate will do the same this time around. “Government guidelines have not yet been published,” Deborah said. “Unless we are required to do so, we have no intention whatsoever of  demanding proof of vaccination.”

Loz of Devizes Outdoor Celebratory Arts, who give us the unforgettable carnival, street festival and winter ales events, among others is looking forward to coming back “to help us make amazing things happen in the future.” She said, “I’ve spent every spare minute searching for and writing funding applications to ensure DOCA can relaunch at the end of this crazy blip in our history. I’m currently working on an Arts Council Cultural Recovery Bid; it’s a lot of work and I am supported by our fantastic Trustees whenever I have a question I stall on.”

But still, carnival in Devizes hangs in the ropes. But this is how it has to be, unfortunately. Believe me, I am adamant my next gig will not be when a kindly lady wheels her Bontempi organ into my care home to recite Bridge over Troubled Water, all I’m urging people to do is keep things in perspective and not raise their hopes, or more-so, let their guard down, just yet.


Trending…

Swindon Sound System Mid Life Krisis Live Streams

If you’re missing a tubthumping club night, you could clear your laminate flooring of breakables, blag your kid’s colour-changing lightbulb, overcharge yourself for a Bacardi Breezer from your own fridge, and belch up kebab behind your sofa.

All these things are optional to simulate the full lockdown nightclub in your own home. But, even creating a cardboard cut-out queue for the downstairs bog, or hiring a doggie tuxedo so your pet can double-up as the bouncer, extreme measures in extreme times will doubtfully replicate the genuine clubbing experience; sad but true.

However, if props don’t make the neon grade, the music can. Swindon-based tri-county sound system, Mid Life Krisis, abbreviated to MiLK, announce an online schedule for live DJ feeds and multi-genre events. “We will be putting on events post Covid for the people of Swindon and beyond,” they say.

There’s an interesting line-up ahead, prompted to me by Pewsey acoustic performer Cutsmith, who is on this Sunday (28th Feb.) Yet most are hard floor, afro/tribal house, trance, techno and drum n bass DJ sessions, freely shared onto a Facebook group, here. Join the group, throw your hands in the air, scream oh yeah, just don’t set your own roof on fire, it’s only going to increase your insurance direct debits, mo-fo.

Your exhaust cannot drop off en-route, girlfriend needs not to spend umpteen hours sorting her hair, and there’s no over-vocal knob jockey giving you all that in the carpark to distract you. No excuse for unattendance; no dress-code either, get funky in your jimmy-jams, if you like, you know I will. Shit, I’m like the Arthur Dent of Mixmag!

Now, I’m also gonna start adding these posters to our event calendar, which despite being about as tech-savvy as Captain Caveman, I’ve taken the time when nought is really happening to redesign it, to be more user-friendly.

All needs doing is directing buggers to the thing, as we’re listing global online and streamed events, and until a time when Bojo the Clown finally stops mugging us off and announces a release date, it’s not worth adding real live events for me to have to go delete them again.

That said, I find difficulties in keeping up to scratch with what’s on in the online sense, partly because I’m fucking lazy, but mostly because they pop up sporadically and unexpectedly.

Else they’re mainstream acts begging via a price-tagged ticket. I can appreciate this, it’s a rock and hard place, and we all need to get some pocket money, but from a punter’s POV, charging to watch their own laptop screen in hope they get a good speed for their feed, can be asking a bit much and one now favours a PayPal tip jar system.

Such is the nature of the beast, where a performer or DJ could be slumped in front of Netflix one minute and suddenly decide they fancy going live. Thankful then, we should be, to these Facebook groups hosting streams, in order to create some kind of structure.

The positive, for what it’s worth, is boundaries have been ripped down. Without travel issues, online, your performance has the potential to reach a global audience, and hopefully attract newbies to your released material. Who knows, pre-lockdown you played to a handful of buddies at your local watering hole, but afterwards tribes from Timbuctoo might rock up at your show. Okay, I’ll give you, they might not, but potentially, the world is your oyster. Just a shame its shell is clamped shut.


Trending….

Song of the Day 1: Atari Pilot

Irregularly I share a music video to our Facebook page with the status “song of the day,” or week, or whenever, as if it’s a daily occurrence. When the reality is it’s a big, fat fib on my part, it’s only when I happen to find such a video and can be arsed to share it. What-cha gonna do, sue me?

So, just in case your lawyer says you have a case, I thought I’d streamline this sporadic idea for 2021, make it an actual feature on the site rather than a Facebook post, and show off that I know what long words like “sporadic” mean.

Little more gone into it than this, you should be used to it by now. I’m not going to review them, just embed them here for your own appraisal and entertainment purposes. Potentially, it’ll be a groundbreakingily breif post, a simple but effective phenomenon, and something I can do without missing the Simpsons.

The challenge is consistency; whether I actually stick to the idea or, like others, it’ll be a flash in the pan. Who knows, this could be the start of something beautiful, this could be the thing they’re talking about in decades to come. A holographic Ken Bruce could be asking “what was the very first Devizine Song of the Day” in a Pop Master 200 years from now.

And you can answer it with who I bestow this honour, Atari Pilot. They’ll be revelling in the triumph of the hour if it wasn’t lockdown, I bet.

History in the making then, the only issue I foresee is I over-waffle any old crap, which is, incidentally, not what’s happening now and rarely does here; I had to explain myself, didn’t I?

Okay, I get message; here it is then, enjoy the tune, enjoy the rest of your evening. Good job, carry on.


  • Devizes; an LGBTQ+-Friendly Community, a Devizes Pride?

    As a new local Facebook page for the LGBTQ+ community, Devizes Lgbtq+ springs to life, I’m left wondering exactly what social and counsel interactions are readily available in Devizes today. So, I’m chatting with the page’s admin, Oberon, about his group’s aims and goals.

    What I think was most interesting about it, while I dug for negativity, I’d suspect will be evident in our local community towards LGBTQ+, Oberon simply didn’t take the bait, and remained positive throughout our friendly chinwag. Sorry if you came here looking for controversy, this is just a plug for the page and hope it’ll strength both the community and opinions of others towards it.

    Firstly, someone shared an already existing Facebook group for LGBTQ+ in Devizes. I supposed having a page rather than a group is less exclusive and not as restricted being it can make looser, more general connections. “I agree,” Oberon started, “a page is much broader and will be easier to reach out to a wider range of people, which will make it easier to advertise, make connections and get the word out.”

    As I understand it, Devizes School has an excellent program to deal with the issue, but suppose once pupils leave, there’s little else in town, no real places to feel like a community. “I’m very glad Devizes School have a good programme to help their pupils!” he continued. “As far as when they leave goes, as the LGBTQ+ community grows I’d be happy to say that there will be a place to be a community online and, once the community has found its feet, offline and in person too. The sooner the better I say!”

    But is a group like this is more important in a smaller town like Devizes, than say, a city, where there’s already more in place to bring together like-minded people? “I do think an LGBTQ+ community is very important in small towns,” Oberon expressed, “just as much as a city. Many people don’t live in cities or grow up in them, myself included. For a small town to be just as proud and just as accepting is important because it helps to reach everyone. Even if there are a smaller group of LGBTQ+ residents in Devizes it helps to create a safe, inclusive space for us and stops the feeling that small towns don’t ‘understand’ or ‘accept’ as much as larger places do. Furthermore, it can show people that aren’t LGBTQ+ what we’re all about and hopefully help them get a greater understanding of who we are.”

    And there’s a thing, causing me to mention Pride. Pride is supported by many people outside the LGBTQ+ community, and that’s probably more important than just being there for those who are, because it’s about casting negative opinions of yore aside, especially in a smaller community like here. Because, and here’s the crunch, being honest, I do think there’s a number of insular people here who simply refuse to shake off the old stereotypes, maybe more so than urban environments.

    We’ve come a long way even in my own lifetime, I suggested to him, flagrantly showing my age by citing the awareness in the eighties by singers like Boy George, Jimmy Somerville et all! As while they made it a recognisable subject and broke the taboos we now see in our society, at the time people were still hiding in shame, you still wouldn’t have same sex couples on tv shows like you do today.

    The fear is, I do however think we’re in danger of letting that progress slip backwards, as all prejudices seem to be at the forefront and a right wing, or far right-wing gains popularity. I mean we only have look at the onslaught of negative comments when Wiltshire Police added a rainbow flag back in February.

    Oberon replied admirably, I must say! “Every human being is an individual with their own beliefs and views, my aim isn’t to change people, it’s just to show them a greater understanding of things, and be who we are. I agree, we have come a very long way and, as with everything, there will always be a negative and a positive side of things. I choose to focus on the positive and that’s the light I aim to share.”

    Okay, given that, let’s go for it; imagine, a Devizes Pride! At least, some smaller events, or a physical club would be a great start.

    A Devizes Pride would be fantastic and of course that wouldn’t happen overnight,” he replied, which is just as well, as it’s past my bedtime already!

    “I aim to start off with smaller events,” Oberon suggested, “community outreach and fundraisers. Physical clubs, meet-ups and youth groups are also something I’d like to get started, as I think they’ll help LGBTQ+ people find one another, in a safe space, and grow a strong community together.”

    Still, he didn’t rule out the possibility of a Devizes Pride. “Devizes having its own Pride celebration is an avid goal of mine, amongst others! I believe that the stronger the representation of LGBTQ+ people in Devizes the more that people will have a greater understanding of who we are and what we’re all about. Devizes is a town with a strong community and I am for the LGBTQ+ community to have a ‘louder voice’ as it were.”

    But, like any new venture, it would need the support behind it, and all this costs, at this stage is to “like” the page on the Book of Face, and join the separate entity group too, if you wished. It was nice chatting to Oberon, on what can be a touchy subject we need to open up to and address.


  • Planks Dairies Introduces Locally Sourced Organic Dairy Range

    Now, I know what you’re asking; aren’t you in someway affiliated with Planks’ Dairies, in which case isn’t this a shameless advertorial? Yes, and no, respectively. The historical truth behind the former is next-door neighbours would knock at my door when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, to return our half-filled milk bottles, which I took from our own fridge and delivered to their doors in want to be a milkman! And now, well, ask me again when it’s snowing for a slightly differing opinion, but I’m living the dream!

    The answer to the latter is not really, no, you get paid for advertorials, I’m doing it out of the kindness of my heart, the circulation of news and the slim possibility they’ll chuck a yogurt at me, most likely at the head!

    If Planks have been delivering milk and products around the area since 1936, you’d be fooled into thinking nothing has changed. Agreeably not much has changed, and they pride themselves in upholding the traditional door-to-door milk delivery services, which is something of an obscurity in other areas of the UK. So much so, tourists tend to take photos when the milk-floats pass through town, and I’m likely having a bad hair day!

    However, just like the eighties when Stewart Plank introduced the electric fleet we know, love and occasionally get stuck behind today, times are changing at the legendary dairy. Hold the front page, we have a website! Click here, if you don’t believe such an oddity is possible!

    But the really great news is, in line with current trends, a new, locally sourced from Berkley Farm in Wroughton, organic range is heading our way. Delivered to your door in larger, returnable glass bottles, as is the sustainable living ethos Planks adopt, what with electric milk-floats and all, organic milk has never been this good; you don’t even have to change out of your jimmy-jams!

    Other than the PJs part, there are many benefits to buying organic, including higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids and CLA, more antioxidants, and more vitamins than regular milk. We’ve even got organic, or regular milkshakes. There’s a half price offer on your first order of the new organic range, whether you are a new customer or just changing your regular order.

    The delivery areas are Devizes, Melksham, Corsham, and Pewsey, and most surrounding villages from Poulshot, Potterne, Rowde, All Cannings, Urchfont, Chirton, Woodborough, Wilcot, Seend Cleeve, Bromham, Box, Colerne, Easterton Market Lavington, Great Cheverell and many others.

    By the way, as well as soya and lactose free milk, bread, butter, eggs, yogurts, juices (including a fine bottle of a’Becketts apple juice), seasonal potatoes, and yes, those broken biscuits you used to love as a kid, can be delivered too!

    And that’s it, contact the dairy-ologists and you’re one step closer to opening your door in the morning to find milk on the step, the way it has always been, prior to supermarkets undercutting dairy farmers, and the way it will continue at Planks. There’s nothing more for me to say, other than perhaps a milkman joke; why don’t cows wear flip-flops?

    Because they lack-toes!

    Okay, I’ll get my coat….


  • Full Steam Ahead for The Collected Grimm Tales at The Wharf Theatre

    Despite the gloomy pushback to the 19th July for step four of the roadmap to reopen venues, government announced plans to pilot test live theatrical performances with increased capacities, as it has already done for music festivals and sports events.

    While this will delight larger city venues, our Wharf Theatre in Devizes must continue with a limited socially distanced capacity for its reopening performance of The Brothers Grimm. All the more reason to book early for this delightful sounding family-orientated presentation!

    Collected Grimm Tales runs from Tuesday 13th to Saturday 17th July, with doors opening at 7.30pm.  It’s adapted by Carol Ann Duffy of the Young Vic Company, dramatized by Tim Supple and directed by Debby Wilkinson.

    In this acclaimed adaptation of Hansel and Gretel, Ashputtel, Rumpelstiltskin and more are bought to life by a small adult cast using a physical and non-natural style of performance.  It will take you on a journey into the world of imagination, as you discover the elusive paths that wind through the dark woods of fairy tales and invite you to experience again the living power of theatre.

    Tickets can be purchased by ringing 03336 663 366; from the website Wharftheatre.co.uk and at the Devizes Community Hub and Library on Sheep Street.

    The fitting with the prince onlooking, illustration in Les Contes de Perrault by Gustave Doré, 1862

  • Fiesty Fish will be at a’Becketts Vineyard on Saturday

    I don’t know where the ingenious pub name The Chocolate Poodle came from, or why it had to sadly close, but it always sounds like it should be the name of an East End pub to me, so, for fun, here’s a preview today written in cockney rhyming slang, (although there will be no jellied eels) with translation in brackets so not to ganderflank the yokels!

    Allwhite me ol China (mate)? Thee know those gorgeous lads with their gourmet Lilian Gish n jockey whips (fish n chips) slice (van) The Fiesty Fish, right? Well, usually they’re up at the ol’ Chocolate Poodle bath (pub) in West Lavington on a poet’s day (friday) evening, right?

    Well ave a Butcher’s (look) at this;

    This Saturday, June 19th, they’ll be driving a few yards up the Jack n Jill (hill), at a’ Becketts vineyard where you can try their fantastic sparkling Calvin (wine) while you get your laughing gear around yer tucker in the picturesque surroundings!

    Pre-order from their website and join them from 11am-2.30pm. That sounds sugar (nice), innit?! Roll out the barrel.

    Best way to locate these travelling fish n chips virtuosoes is to like their Facebook page.


  • Lions, be on the Green!

    Though for trade description purposes, there were no actual lions on the Green, (not this time, it’s not 1980) if I had to sum up The Lions on the Green in a word today it would be; blooming marvellous, which I know is two words, but allow me thus, the heat is getting to me.

    Under a scorching 30-degree sun, Devizes came out in full colour for something we’ve truly missed. Any kind of gathering right now is a blessing, but I have to commend and thank the amazing effort at creating a bonza family-orientated occasion. Devizes Lions pulled out all the stops with a car show plus.

    Fantasy Radio provided the soundtrack, there was a great selection of hot food and a bar with seating half in the shade of the trees, doughnut and ice cream vans, kids fairground rides, and a variety of stalls from Julia’s House tombola, Jeanette Von Berg’s Wiltshire Air Ambulance toy stall, local crafts, Rutts Lane Cider (I swear that guy is following me around!) Wiltshire Museum with their jack-in-the-box, and lots more to see and do for everyone.

    People flocked, to browse the vintage cars, and oh yes, Bertie the Bus, in the glorious sunshine. I’m not one for bragging my infinite knowledge of the mechanics of motor vehicles, but I appreciate perusing their splendour, imagine myself donning leather gloves and racing goggles, and revving them for a burn-out, or pondering the backseat space of, in particular, those American beauties; “take me home, Charles, I’m not that kind of girl!” Ah yes, that kind of ye oldie face-slapping scenario.

    In true community spirit Devizes should be honoured today, and glad to have the dedicated organisation Devizes Lions at hand. A town where even our post boxes wear knitted tams, there’s a buzz in the air, a pride we can’t hide. Well done to all!


  • Thirty Years a Raver: Part 5: The Final Frontier

    “If you’re hanging on to a rising balloon, you’re presented with a difficult decision – let go before it’s too late or hang on and keep getting higher, posing the question: how long can you keep a grip on the rope? They’re selling hippie wigs in Woolworth’s, man. The greatest decade in the history of mankind is over. And as Presuming Ed here has so consistently pointed out, we have failed to paint it black.”

    Danny from Withnail and I.

    I could read back on last week’s part of this series; definitely donning my designer rose-tinted specs. For it was our rave honeymoon, and we had not a care in the world. We partied, that was it. Ignoring the government ousted their iron lady, the first war for oil had escalated from Operation Desert Shield, and tensions were raging in Northern Ireland, we partied. We partied until the cows come home, and if they did come home, to find twenty thousand madcap ravers gyrating in their field, well, we’d have worked around them, and carried on the party.

    If I recounted the incident at the Banbury rave, with the careless driver taking heed of a crusty and significantly slowing down, someone on a Facebook group, DOCU FREE PARTY ERA 1990-1994 – WERE YOU THERE? reminded me of a tragic 1991 rave on Roundway Hill, near to my now hometown of Devizes. A young girl was seriously injured when a car run her over as she laid in long grass. An aide-memoire, not everything that glitters is gold.

    Myself, I didn’t attend it. So myopic, my vision extended no further than my own perception of the movement, naïvely assuming because I saw no issue, I could freely wheel-off my illicit activities to my old folks, and they’d be content. Unfortunately, they didn’t see it the same way, family tensions reached a peak, so I steered clear of the party that particular weekend; mates filled me in on the upsetting details.

    To push aside the parties, and think back to 1991 with clarity, it was a terrible year for me. I went into it with a girlfriend, a part-time job and place in art college. By the end of it I was filled with teenage anguish, lost girlfriend, job and was kicked out of college. The only truly fond memories were the parties, but Autumn was settling, raves continued, but as winter fell it waned.

    A party on New Year’s Eve would, in later years be my only winter cert, the rest fell into hibernation. But I’m struggling to recall what I did for it in 1991. We awaited 1992, assuming it will be the same, but bigger, better, and at the beginning, you’d have been fooled into thinking it would be so. 1992 vastly differed.

    Schemes to detect and prevent raves had stepped up a notch, as police waivered serious crime to focus on averting people having illegal fun. They put their foot down at the prospect of Hungerford common being invaded, but as sure as the Belthane came, the only thing they achieved was to move the party north, to Lechlade.

    Just as today, life in the Cotswold gateway was filled with conservative thinkers and powerful politicians, bombarded with complaints as the quarry was conquered and the party went on for days. For us, inside the compound, it was a magical moment, proof of strength in numbers. The media pounced more than ever, but, like all other things, be they current affairs, our own personal issues, none of it mattered.

    In fact, I, and I don’t think many others did either, contemplate the significance of the next bank holiday bash on Castlemorton common, near Malvern in Worcestershire, until the point we climbed a hillside and looked down on how much it had grown. An estimated forty thousand, so they reckoned. A fear shuddered over me; they were not going to let us get away with this.

    Only now, as they bashed the idea of the Criminal Justice Act around parliament in Castlemorton’s aftermath, did we become political, fighting for the right to party. But for the large-scale rave, it was the last. The government smashed the last nail in its coffin, and quashed an upcoming generation of rebellious, potential travelling folk.

    You see, raves were organised by sound systems, and folk from all walks of life flocked to attend, but whenever something went wrong at an illegal rave, the travellers took the blame from the media. At Romsey’s regular Torpedo Town not long after Castlemorton, the police were not playing ball, and consequently there was an aura of anarchy in the air. Under instruction, they set up road blocks, which ravers simply parked alongside and walked to the site. This moved the commotion from the site to the town, and ITV News invited everyone to join in, including troublemakers, who torched a rubbish incinerator.

    Outright, TV news teams blamed the travellers, and only a small report without apology followed some weeks later when they arrested two men from Birmingham, who had homes, and were not really defined as “ravers,” or “travellers” at all.

    Many sound systems jumped the sinking ship, trekking across Europe and further, which, in turn, spread the culture, but for us, we were just kids, I don’t think I even had a passport! But life did get better, I passed my driving test fortunately the week before Castlemorton, and I’d eventually flee the family nest. But as my facilities to attend raves improved, the free party scene drowned in its own popularity.

    The problem for authorities, was despite killing the physical party, they couldn’t cure the bug; the desire to carry on regardless. We only had to source other avenues. The first was the pay-rave, large-scale organised events saw a sudden influx.

    By the end of the year 92, not one for the officialness the epoch had become with pay raves, one on our doorstep seemed viable, a nice, easy ticket to see in 1993 seemed like a good idea. Fantazia had a good rep, but little did we know it had been swallowed by big businessmen. At Littlecote House they promised free parking, but made us cough up a fiver; should have been a clue. A number of broken promises let it down, but if disillusioning the punters, they aimed for, dumping the contents of the port-a-loos on a farmer’s track nearby was a step too far.

    Why did it matter to anyone other than the farmer? Because it projected bad on the scene, via media, it cast a shadow over our moral standards, all of us. Did Littlecote ever host another rave?

    For the most part, though, the pay raves dedicated loyally to the raver. The scene grew stronger for this, against the businessman capitalising on the trend, those pay events with morals could erect stages and effects which took on concert and festival proportions, and was largely responsible for the compatible atmosphere of today’s festival scene.

    But for the demise of the freedom, the self-determination of do-it-yourself counterculture and autonomy of the society it created within it, we paid the cost.

    For the record, while any specific event can not be singled out, many illegal events were indeed well, if not better, organised than the pay ones, they were policed in their own special way, i.e.; one respected the travellers for being on their site, or the sound systems for their efforts, else risk an almost mediaeval punishment.

    And for what it is worth, there was always an effort to clean up afterwards. Hard to imagine, after a heady night, these illegal ravers were handed bin bags, and they got onto the task without persuasion or wages, rather for the genuine want to return the land to how it was before their arrival, but it did. I can assure you; this didn’t happen at pay raves.

    Other avenues worthy of exploring was Glastonbury, bunk the fence and you were in a whole new world, a city of tents, but it took some years for the Eavis family to accept an incursion of ravers, with their electronic bleeps. Prior to a time when The Prodigy would headline, ravers were a lost entity at the festival, wandering miles with only the rumour of an apt party to hand. Being they too had driven the travellers off with riotous consequences, a rave remained a rumour, and most made do standing outside a stall selling blankets, marching to their small sound system.

    As we progressed through the nineties, smaller localised raves would break out. These were great, communal and friendly, and local police, while casting a beady eye, bypassed the Justice Bill rulings, acknowledging making a fuss about them was far more destructive than effective.

    The safest bet to party though, was the club. Prepared to travel some distance to go clubbing, we’d eventually explore London and Brighton, but for the beginnings we stayed closer. The UFO Club at Longleat’s Berkley Suite would be a fluorescent trancey techno ball, Swindon’s Brunel Rooms presented hardcore, with a side order of house, whereas the hall of Golddiggers in Chippenham blew full-on hardcore out of the arena and into the carpark, and it was free with a little flyer.

    It was in that same carpark, in conversation with an unknown straggler I had an epiphany. We asked him if he was having a good night, but he was negative. “I’m not going back in there,” he whined, “it’s all that jungle music.”

    It occurred to me then, the hardcore was splitting. The solemn shadowy drum n bass was dividing from the merry hi-hats, crashing pianos and squeaky female vocals of what the younger raver deemed “happy hardcore.” If it tended to be racially motivated, or just socially, I couldn’t pick a side, appreciating them both for their dividing differences. Now considered a more mature raver, we shipped into the steady house and let the factions pull apart into the thousands of subgenres electronic music now finds itself with.

    As we come to our final part of the series next week, I’m contemplating the effect and impact the free rave scene had, but lest we remember, for us it was over, and whatever avenue we did explore to satisfy our craving, it would never be the same.


  • Liddington Hill Celtic Punk!

    Sometimes, and quite a number of times I might add, nothing fits the bill quite like a bout of pounding bibulous Celtic punk, by a band with a girl donning a cow’s head as a mascot. But how far would you expect to trek to find such a group of misfits, Wales, Ireland?

    Suggested in the name, Liddington Hill, the beautiful down overlooking Swindon, with the Ridgeway traversing and its iron age hillfort, is local enough. Not since the days of the Blitz, when the area was used as a “Starfish” decoy bombing bunker, has it been so explosive.

    What’s the link to Liddington with this scorching five-piece band, who have just released their debut EP, Cow after a few singles, I felt imperative to ask? “We all lived in Swindon at the time we started,” fiddle and vocalist Matt told, “our singer grew up around the area and went up to Liddington Castle a lot as a child. It seemed to be a bit of a landmark and with the Ridgway close by had great links to the past, so I guess it just seemed like a good name.”

    Two members remain in Swindon, the other two now live in Oxford, and drummer Chris hails from Chippenham. With fiddles and a bodhrán meshed with electric guitars, the line between punk and traditional Celtic folk cannot be yanked apart, not that there’s any good reason to try to.

    The bobbing theme of a band drinking excursion to Oxford, Pub Crawl, follows a dynamic and unique slide-guitar take of the folk sea shanty, Whip Jamboree.

    An almost new-wave post-punk feel is implemented into the melting pot with the third tune, Marshlands, an original song about lead guitarist Liam’s Grandfather in Ireland, “who wouldn’t ride a horse,” Matt explained, “but insisted on riding a cow!” Hence the cow symbolism, I’m best guessing.

    The EP ends traditionally, with Joseph B. Geoghegan’s anti-war music hall classic, Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye, and Liddington Hill bless the folk feel with their brand of punk, making for a perfect finale. While it might not be as authentic as The Pouges, or as aggressive as The Levellers, with bands like Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys storming success in the US, there’s a huge market for this beguiling genre, yet a scarcity on the local scene, and Liddington Hill pack a punch.

    It’s a grower, and I’m loving this, anticipating possibility of an album to greater extend their scope, but as far as energetic presence is concerned, it’s kick-ass. Branded subtly, though, to suit a pub environment, so a live show, fingers crossed for their definite return, would be something highly memorable and I’d recommend landlords book them in; certainly, it’d push up the beer sales!


  • How to Discourage a Tory from Coming to your Party!

    Now lockdown restrictions are looking to be eased, you might be considering hosting a party.

    Given the last thing you need is for a conservative supporter to gate-crash and ruin the atmosphere, we’ve ten handy top tips on how to discourage a tory from attending your bash.

    History proves conservative thinkers wouldn’t know a party if it came up to them holding balloons, cracking party poppers and wearing a large and loud T-shirt with “hello, I’m a party,” written on it in bold, unmistakable letters, unless it’s holding a bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothschild.

    Incredibly thick-skinned at the best of times, if we remember what the best of times was once like, they’re renowned for failing to comprehend exactly how repugnant and deplorable their ethos generally is. If they sniff a party going on, they might want to attend, if a new series of Game of Thrones hasn’t started on Netflix, blind to the notion they’re as much wanted there as a touchy-feely leper, or a starved sabre-toothed tiger.  

    You know they’ll eat all but one vol-a-vaunt and flaunt about how they’re allowing that one to trickle down. You understand they’ll be loudly scoffing and chortling at anyone unable to afford a tux, or anyone who might arrive in anything less than a seventy-plate Chelsea tractor. You can take it as red, they’ll boast about their luxurious holidays, and why everyone needs to go to Hilltop Villa, for the sake of the indigenous people of Fiji, and waffle on tedious random tangents about their charity donations are tax deductible, how the footsie 100 is bearing up against their shares, or why everyone should invest in a tax-free wine collection.

    They’ll gush piffle phrases of management speak and hypocritical twaddle until your other guests excuse themselves and leave, or are physically ill. At its basic level, the majority of Tories are killjoys, fact. You don’t need that, your guests don’t need that either, so we’ve produced a list of budget ideas and accessories to dissuade tory scum from infiltrating your party.

    Perhaps you could think of some more; join the tory-bashing fun until they Tweet how they’re not as wealthy some might think, and were tormented so much they had to book an emergency flight to their Caribbean beach condo for rehab. We can at least hope, but don’t overdo it, lockdown has been hard on them too, furloughed on only eighty percent of their £80K salary, some with only the single tennis court and a regular sized heated swimming pool and sauna.

    Of course, not every Conservative supporter is so wealthy to afford a luxury villa on an exotic island, and many are simply insentiently transformed working-class patriots who digested too much Daily Fail bullshit and think the Queen loves them, and there’s no better alternative than voting for a party which hates them with a passion, but hides it behind the fat aging arse of a pitiful clown prime minister; there is no hope for them. You could try the tips below, but it’s not guaranteed they will be intelligent enough to take the hint.

     1- In preparation for your party….

    Capture and hold captive a small number of pheasant prior to your party. If a tory is loitering on your lawn, blagging something along the lines of “Tarquin said we were invited, Ho-ha,” secretly release the pheasants and point to them shouting, “I think I just saw some game!” Hey presto, while it may be animal torture, it’s a small price to pay to see your unwanted guests gathering their shooting rifles and not bothering you again.

    2- Put a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Jeremy Corbyn by the door.

    Infallible this one; cardboard cut-outs of the tory nemesis, grand-wizard JC can be found online. No matter what you think of the dude personally, this will scare the bejesus out of the most lenient tory. Even if you suppose the most lenient, middle-of-the-road kind of tory might be just about acceptable to allow in, a word of warning; once you’ve let one in, they’ll all want to follow, and behind every half-decent tory, there will unfortunately be a thousand insane bastards behind them.

    3- Tell your guests to pretend the cakes were made by Diana Abbott, should a tory ask.

    To the average tory, Diana Abbott is the socialist equivalent of Typhoid Mary, who should be deported, and the thought of her afro-Caribbean-rooted fingers kneading dough will sicken them to the core; job done.

    4- Tell unwanted tory guests you’re just popping out to Lidl for more gin.

    Tories hate affordable supermarkets; Tories are narcissists, and will assume you are a peasant and waddle off muttering something about how much better Tarquin’s, or their own party was, because they used an online Waitrose delivery service and even tipped the driver 20p.

    5- Ensure you have invited some Europeans, eastern ones if possible. Failing that, encourage your guests to chat among themselves in French accents.

    The last thing a Tory needs to notice is Johnny Foreigner breaking through the toughened border control, and Brexit is a sham. Encourage your guests to discuss how they came for summer fruit-picking jobs, and Tories will automatically find the door.

    6- Play music defined as ‘Merseybeat.’

    Playing music such as the Beatles, Gerry & the Pacemakers and the Searchers, at least until suspicions you might be scousers creep in and they bugger off, is a failsafe. Tories have something against natives of Liverpool, which we need not get into the details of, but suffice it to say, this will work a treat, particularly if you hire a DJ of the LGBT community.

    7- Announce the first party game will be truth or dare.

    The thought of telling the truth will crumble the even most central-standing tory, and they’ll be making excuses about having to go home to feed the horses. Have their coats ready.

    8 – Tell your guests they can camp the night in your garden.

    Without official glamping facilities such as electrical hook-up, room service or even four poster beds, the average tory will assume your guests will overstay their invite and you’re effectively setting up a gypsy traveller encampment. They’ll be off to complain to your parish councillor in no time at all, safe in the knowledge racist slurs towards travellers is the last nationwide acceptable form of prejudice other than red-heads.

    9- If you spot a Tory gate-crasher, introduce your them to your frontline doctor friend.

    It doesn’t matter if you’ve not got a frontline doctor as a friend, beat them at their own game and lie; pretend they are. Initiate a conversation about the NHS, and the gate-crasher will flee the scene because they know a doctor will fact-check from personal experience and their “clapping” fiasco cover will be blown. Many Tories even unbelievably blag that the Conservative government created the health service, to smokescreen the irrepressible desire to privatise it to US companies.

    10 – If all else fails, tell anti-Semitic jokes.

    It may go against all your stable moral judgements, I know, but you could try this desperate measure as a last resort. Most Tories have the bizarre concept that criticising the actions of an oppressive government committing genocide is somehow racist, possibly to overshadow their own unmerited prejudges. To hear an anti-Semitic joke will misleadingly convince them they were right. Note; it is very simple to convince a tory they are right. With any hope, they will be heading for the door in no time at all, mumbling double standards like, “I told you so, Harry, they’re all the same these intolerant lefties, just like Hitler,” and you can return to your politically correct and balanced banter as soon as they’ve driven off in their Range Rover Discovery.


  • Local Artist Clifton Powell Commissioned for English Heritage Exhibition The African Diaspora in England

    A proud moment for Devizes-based artist Clifton Powell as he poses for a photo next to his amazing portrait of Abbot Hadrian, in Canterbury.

    Clifton joins Elena Onwochei-Garcia, Glory Samjolly, Mikéla Henry-Lowe, Hannah Uzor and Chloe Cox in a project by English Heritage. EH has commissioned a series of portraits depicting six historic figures from the African diaspora whose stories have contributed to England’s rich history. Each artist has been supported by their curators and historians to creatively portray their subject. Each painting will be hung at the English Heritage site connected to its subject this summer.

    St Hadrian of Canterbury played a pivotal role in the early history of the English Church. He was born in North Africa and travelled to Italy, most likely as a refugee, before making the journey to Canterbury. He was abbot of the monastery of St Peter and St Paul (later St Augustine’s) in Canterbury, between 670 and 710.

    During his time in Canterbury, he became an influential teacher and scholar, and helped shape the theology and rites of worship of the English Church.

    Clifton Powell studied at the Jamaica School of Art in Kingston, Jamaica, and moved to the UK in the late 1980s. A versatile and skilled painter, Clifton is influenced by the places he has travelled to and the people he’s met. He has taken part in numerous exhibitions and art fairs in London, Bath, Stroud and the West Country including the International Black Art Fair, The House of Emperor Haile Selassie, Bluestone Gallery and Diaspora at Salisbury Arts Centre.

    You may also remember me reporting on the day I attended the charity-run art group for the elderly, Arts Together, in Melksham way back in February 2019, where I met with Clifton, who is a mentor and volunteer.

    Recent areas of exploration in his work include the Wiltshire countryside, wildlife, birds, still life and his remarkable series of paintings depicting unrest in the world. He is currently working on a painting project titled African Art. You can catch his work closer to home, from 21st June to 3rd July at The Yelde Hall in Chippenham when he exhibits as part of Breakout, the Alternative Art Show.

    A follow-up to the 2019 exhibit Never Mind The Heritage, Here’s an Art Show, in which three local artists, Si Griffiths, Mike Long and Emma Sally exhibited their “alternative art,” Breakout extends the concept, with additional artists Clifton, Daniel Carmichael, Helen Osborne-Swan, Jimmer Willmott and Montague Tott, as well as Si, Mike and Sally. I’m looking forward to this one.

    While I’m on the subject of art, don’t forget we have an online art gallery on Devizine, yes we do! Each artist gets a page to show off their work, Clifton’s is here, and if you’d like to be featured with links to your website, just drop us a line, there is no fee.


  • Devizes Wharf Theatre Launch Youth Theatre

    Have you any young budding actors in your family? Drama kings and queens?! You might like to know Devizes Wharf Theatre have just launched a Youth Theatre. See I could have done with this when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, as I liked to act. Okay, you got me, that was act the fool. I’d think myself lucky if I got the rear-end role of the pantomime horse!

    In the past, The Wharf Theatre has produced some amazing youth productions, if you remember the hugely successful Legally Blonde Junior in the summer of 2019, for example.

    Wharf Theatre

    “We have long felt and recognised that to safeguard the future of the world of theatre it is vital to inspire and encourage the next generation and have been working, behind the scenes, to create a group especially dedicated to them,” they say, announcing two youth theatre directors now in a position to officially launch The Wharf Youth Theatre, ready for September. Here are the details:

    Senior Actors Company

    Friday 6-8pm. Sept 24th – Oct 22nd/Nov 5th – Dec 3rd

    For school years 10-13 (as of September ‘21)

    This group will be led by Lou Cox.  Lou’s career highlights include theatre tours, The Edinburgh Festival, singing professionally at Glastonbury festival and stand-up comedy. Lou is now a freelance drama teacher at various schools in the area and is a LAMDA examiner. She also directs and has recently started exciting projects with Barnardo’s adoption agency, using drama as a training tool for adoptive parents and a refugee charity in Swindon.

    This Company bridges the gap between school drama offering you further practitioner knowledge, a chance to develop your performance skills and many opportunities to perform in our very own theatre. It is a chance to work with like-minded people once a week who share the same passion for drama. You will explore theatre through the ages, engage in practitioner acting theories, work with text and devise your own work. There will be opportunities for students to compete in performance festivals, perform a live play to a paid audience and most importantly have fun!

    10-week term £90. (Concessionary places available – please contact; artisticdirector@wharftheatre.co.uk)

    If you have any questions, please feel free to email Lou at: senioryouthdirector@wharftheatre.co.uk

    Junior Actors Company

    Thursdays 4.30-6pm Sept 23rd – Oct 21st/Nov 4th – Dec 2nd

    This group is for school years 6-9 (as of September ‘21)

    This group will be led by Lucia Pupilli.  Lucia studied at The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and has worked professionally in various theatre and film productions including ‘White collar hooligans’ directed by Paul Tanter in Rio de Janeiro and ‘His and Hers’ directed by Lisa Spirling at The Egg theatre in Bath. Lucia has performed in clubs and restaurants as a cabaret singer and has also worked as a Primary School teacher for five years in Wiltshire. She founded ‘Music with Lucia’ teaching instrumental lessons on Piano, Flute and Voice and, in addition, enjoys performing with ‘The Invitation Theatre Company’ and The Fulltone Orchestra.

    10-week term £75. (Concessionary places available – please contact:artisticdirector@wharftheatre.co.uk)

    If you have any questions, please feel free to email Lucia at:

     junioryouthdirector@wharftheatre.co.uk

    Bookings for Autumn Term Opening Soon

    In order to book please find details of the membership system on their website: wharftheatre.co.uk

    Look under ‘get involved’ and click on ‘wharf youth theatre’

    Wharf Theatre

    The concentration will be on fun at the junior actor’s school workshops, building confidence and gaining skills through drama, games and improvisations. They’ll be rehearsing and performing scenes from plays and devising their own. The aim is to put on an annual show as they progress.

    The workshops are not only an opportunity to develop acting and drama skills but also to make friends and become confident young adults. The Wharf encourage all children to reach their full potential in a safe and inclusive environment.

    In addition to the fuller workshops of these new youth companies, the Wharf are also offering two Summer Workshops this year. These will offer an opportunity to have fun and participate in various drama activities.  Whilst they will give you a flavour of the work you could be exploring over the forthcoming terms these are stand-alone sessions and are open to all.

    Senior Actors with Lou

    Wednesday July 28th 10am-1pm

    Wednesday August 11th 10am-1pm

    Junior Actors with Lucia

    Wednesday August 4th 2-5pm

    Wednesday August 11th 2-5pm.

    Each 3-hour workshop costs £15.

    Bookings can be made on Ticketsource via their website wharftheatre.co.uk .  Look under ‘get involved’ and click on ‘wharf youth theatre.’ Places are limited but they will be operating a wait list system if groups are full.

    Me? I’m passed it now, I’m afraid, but I’ll always have my moment in the spotlight, my Shakin’ Stevens impression on my cub scout pack-holiday. You had to have been there…..or not!


Devizine’s Review of 2020; You Can’t Polish a Turd!

On Social and Political Matters……

For me the year can be summed up by one Tweet from the Eurosceptic MEP and creator of the Brexit Party, Nigel Farage. A knob-jockey inspired into politics when Enoch Powell visited his private school, of which ignored pleas from an English teacher who wrote to the headmaster encouraging him to reconsider Farage’s appointed prefect position, as he displayed clear signs of fascism. The lovable patriot, conspiring, compulsive liar photographed marching with National Front leader Martin Webster in 1979, who strongly denies his fascist ethos despite guest-speaking at a right-wing populist conference in Germany, hosted by its leader, the granddaughter of Adolf Hitler’s fiancé; yeah, him.

He tweeted “Christmas is cancelled. Thank you, China.” It magically contains every element of the utter diabolical, infuriating and catastrophic year we’ve most likely ever seen; blind traditionalist propaganda, undeniable xenophobia, unrefuted misinformation, and oh yes, the subject is covid19 related.

And now the end is near, an isolated New Year’s Eve of a year democracy prevailed against common sense. The bigoted, conceited blue-blooded clown we picked to lead us up our crazy-paved path of economic self-annihilation has presented us with an EU deal so similar to the one some crazy old hag, once prime minster delivered to us two years back it’s uncanny, and highly amusing that Bojo the clown himself mocked and ridiculed it at the time. I’d wager it’s just the beginning.

You can’t write humour this horrifically real, the love child of Stephen King and Spike Milligan couldn’t.

Still, I will attempt to polish the turd and review the year, as it’s somewhat tradition here on Devizine. The mainstay of the piece, to highlight what we’ve done, covered and accomplished with our friendly website of local entertainment and news and events, yet to holistically interrelate current affairs is unavoidable.

We have even separated the monster paragraphs with an easier, monthly photo montage, for the hard of thinking.

January

You get the impression it has been no walk in the park, but minor are my complaints against what others have suffered. Convenient surely is the pandemic in an era brewing with potential mass hysteria, the need to control a population paramount. An orthornavirae strain of a respiratory contamination first reported as infecting chickens in the twenties in North Dakota, a snip at 10,400km away from China.

Decidedly bizarre then, an entire race could be blamed and no egg fried rice bought, as featured in Farage’s audacious Tweet, being it’s relatively simple to generate in a lab, inconclusively originated at Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, rather spread from there, and debatably arrived via live bat or pangolin, mostly used in traditional Chinese medicine, a pseudoscience only the narrowminded minority in China trusts.

Ah, inconsistent pseudoscience, embellished, unfalsifiable claims, void of orderly practices when developing hypotheses and notably causing hoodwinked cohorts. Yet if we consider blaming an ethos, rather than a race, perhaps we could look closer to home for evidence of this trend of blind irrationality. Truth in Science, for example, an English bunch of Darwin-reputing deluded evangelicals who this year thought it’d be a grand and worthy idea to disguise their creationist agenda and pitch their preposterous pseudoscientific theory that homosexuality is a disease of the mind which can be cured with electro-shock treatment to alter the mind inline with the body’s gender, rather than change the body to suit the mind’s gender orientation, to schoolchildren!

Yep, these bible-bashing fruit-bats, one lower than flat earth theorists actually wrote to headmasters encouraging their homophobia to be spread to innocent minds, only to be picked up by a local headmaster of the LGBTQ community. Here’s an article on Devizine which never saw the light of day. Said that Truth in Science’s Facebook page is chockful with feedback of praise and appreciation, my comments seemed to instantly disappear, my messages to them unanswered. All I wanted was a fair-sided evaluation for an article, impossible if you zip up.

Justly, no one trusts me to paint an unbiased picture. This isn’t the Beeb, as I said in our 2017 annual review: The chances of impartiality here, equals the chances of Tories sticking to their manifesto. Rattling cages is fun, there’s no apologies I’m afraid, if I rattled yours, it just means you’re either mean or misguided.

Herein lies the issue, news travels so fast, we scroll through social media unable to digest and compose them to a greater picture, let alone muster any trust in what we read. I’m too comfortable to reside against the grain, everyone’s at it. I reserve my right to shamelessly side with the people rather than tax-avoiding multinationals and malevolent political barons; so now you know.

February

If you choose to support these twats that’s your own lookout, least someone should raise the alarm; you’d have thought ignoring World Health Organisation advise and not locking down your country until your mates made a packet on horseracing bets is systematic genocide and the government should be put on trial for this, combined with fraud and failure of duty. If not, ask why we’re the worst hit country in the world with this pandemic. Rather the current trend where the old blame the young, the young blame the old, the whites blame the blacks, the thin blame the fat, when none of us paid much attention to restrictions because they were delivered in a confused, nonsensical manner by those who don’t either, and mores to the pity, believe they’re above the calling of oppressive regulations.

If you choose to support these twats, you’re either a twat too, or trust what you read by those standing to profit from our desperation; ergo, twats. Theres no getting away from the fact you reep what you sow; and the harvest of 2020 was a colossal pile of twat.


Onto Devizine…. kind of.

For me what started as a local-based entertainment zine-like blog, changed into the only media I trust, cos I wrote the bollocks! But worser is the general obliteration of controversy, criticism and debate in other media. An argument lost by a conformer is shadowed behind a meme, or followed up with a witch hunt, a torrent of personal abuse and mockery, usually by inept grammar by a knuckle-dragging keyboard warrior with caps-lock stuck on; buy a fucking copy of the Oxford Guide to English Grammar or we’re all going to hell in a beautiful pale green boat.

We’re dangerously close to treating an Orwellian nightmare as a self-help guide, and despite fascists took a knockdown in the USA and common sense prevailed, the monster responded with a childish tantrum; what does this tell you? The simple fact, far right extremism is misled and selfish delinquency which history proves did no good to anyone, ever. Still the charade marches on, one guy finished a Facebook debate sharing a photo of his Boris “get Brexit done” tea-towel. I pondered when the idiot decided a photo of his tea towel would suffice to satisfy his opinion and convince others, before or after the wave of irony washed over his head in calling them Muppets.

I hate the term, it’s offensive. Offensive to Jim Henson’s creations; try snowflake or gammon, both judgemental sweeping generalisations but personally inoffensive to any individual, aside Peppa Pig. I wager you wander through Kent’s lorry park mocking the drivers and calling them snowflakes rather than tweeting; see how far you get.

So, the initial lockdown in March saw us bonded and dedicated, to the cause. We ice-skated through it, developed best methods to counteract the restrictions and still abide by them; it was kind of nice, peaceful and environmentally less impacting. But cracks in the ice developed under our feet, the idea covid19 was a flash in pan, akin to when Blitz sufferers asserted it’d all be over by Christmas, waned as we came to terms, we were in it for the duration.

Yet comparisons to WWII end there, lounging on the sofa for three months with Netflix and desperate peasants delivering essential foodstuff, like oysters, truffles and foie gras is hardly equivalent to the trench warfare of Normandy. Hypocritical is me, not only avoiding isolation as, like a nurse, my labour was temporarily clapped as key worker in March, I figured my site would only get hits if I wrote something about Covid19, and my ignorance to what the future resulted in clearly displayed in spoofy, ill-informed articles, Corona Virus and Devizine; Anyone got a Loo Roll? on the impending panic-buying inclination, and later, I Will Not Bleat About Coronavirus, Write it Out a Hundred Times…

The only thing I maintained in opinion to the subject, was that it should be light-hearted and amusing; fearing if we lose our sense of humour, all is lost. Am I wrong? Probably, it’s been a very serious year.

It was my first pandemic-related mention, hereafter nearly every article paid reference to it, no matter how disparate; it’s the tragedy which occupied the planet. But let’s go back, to oblivious January, when one could shake hands and knew where the pub was. Melksham got a splashpad, Devizes top councillors bleated it wasn’t fair, and they wanted a splashpad too. They planned ripping out the dilapidated brick shithouses on the Green and replacing it with a glorious splashpad, as if they cared about the youth of the town. I reported the feelings of grandeur, Splashpad, I’m all over it, Pal! A project long swept under the carpet, replaced with the delusion we’ll get an affordable railway station. As I said, convenient surely is the pandemic.

So many projects, so many previews of events, binned. Not realising at the time my usual listing, Half Term Worries Over; things to do with little ones during February half-term… would come to an abrupt halt. Many events previewed, the first being the Mayoral Fundraising Events, dates set for the Imberbus, and Chef Peter Vaughan & Indecision’s Alzheimer’s Support Chinese New Year celebration, to name but a few, I’m unaware if they survived or not.

March


On Music……

But it was the cold, early days of winter, when local concerns focused more on the tragic fire at Waiblingen Way. In conjunction with the incredible Liz Denbury, who worked tirelessly organising fundraising and ensuring donations of essentials went to the affected folk, we held a bash in commemoration and aid down that there Cellar Bar; remember?

It was in fact an idea by Daydream Runaways, who blew the low roof off the Cellar Bar at the finale. But variety was the order of the evening, with young pianist prodigy Will Foulstone kicking us off, opera with the amazing Chole Jordan, Irish folk with Mirko and Bran of the Celtic Roots Collective and the acoustic goodness of Ben Borrill. Thanks also has to go to the big man Mike Barham who set up the technical bits before heading off to a paid gig. At the time I vowed this will be the future of our events, smaller but more than the first birthday bash; never saw it coming, insert sad-face emoji.

We managed to host another gig, though, after lockdown when shopping was encouraged by In:Devizes, group Devizes Retailers and Independents, a assemblage of businesses set up to promote reopening of town. We rocked up in Brogans and used their garden to have a summer celebration. Mike set up again, and played this time, alongside the awesome Cath and Gouldy, aka, Sound Affects on their way to the Southgate, and Jamie R Hawkins accompanied Tamsin Quin with a breath-taking set. It was lovely to see friends on the local music scene, but it wasn’t the reopening for live music we anticipated.

Before all this live music was the backbone of Devizine, between Andy and myself we previewed Bradford Roots Music Festival, MantonFest, White Horse Opera’s Spring Concert, Neeld Hall’s Tribute to Eddie Cochran, and the return of Asa Murphy. We reviewed the Long Street Blues Club Weekender, Festival of Winter Ales, Chris O’Leary at Three Crowns, Jon Walsh, Phil Jinder Dewhurst, Mule and George Wilding at The White Bear, Skandal’s at Marlborough’s Lamb, and without forgetting the incredible weekly line-up at the Southgate; Jack Grace Band, Arnie Cottrell Tendency, Skedaddle, Navajo Dogs, Lewis Clark & The Essentials, King Street Turnaround, Celtic Roots Collective, Jamie, Tamsin, Phil, and Vince Bell.

The collection of Jamie R Hawkins, Tamsin Quin and Phil Cooper at the Gate was memorable, partly because they’re great, partly because, it was the last time we needed to refer to them as a collection (save for the time when Phil gave us the album, Revelation Games.) Such was the fate of live music for all, it was felt by their newly organised trio, The Lost Trades, whose debut gig came a week prior to lockdown, at the Pump, which our new writer Helen Robertson covered so nicely.

For me, the weekend before the doom and gloom consisted of a check-in at the Cavy, where the Day Breakers played, only to nip across to Devizes Sports Club, where the incredible Ruzz Guitar hosted a monster evening of blues, with his revue, Peter Gage, Innes Sibun and Jon Amor. It was a blowout, despite elbow greetings, I never figured it’d be the last.

It was a knee-jerk reaction which made me set up a virtual festival on the site. It was radical, but depleted due to my inability to keep up with an explosion of streamed events, where performers took to Facebook, YouTube sporadically, and other sites on a national scale, and far superior tech knowhow took over; alas there was Zoom. I was happy with this, and prompted streaming events such as Swindon’s “Static” Shuffle, and when PSG Choirs Showed Their True Lockdown Colours. Folk would message me, ask me how the virtual festival was going to work, and to be honest, I had no idea how to execute the idea, but it was worth a stab.

One thing which did change, musically, was we lowered our borders, being as the internet is outernational and local bands were now being watched by people from four corners of the world, Devizine began reviewing music sourced worldwide. Fair enough, innit?

The bleeding hearts of isolated artists and musicians, no gigs gave them time on their hands to produce some quality music, therefore our focus shifted to reviewing them, although we always did review records. Early local reviews of 2020 came from NerveEndings with the single Muddy Puddles, who later moved onto an album, For The People. Daydream Runaways’ live version of Light the Spark and Talk in Code’s Like That, who fantastically progressed through lockdown to a defining eighties electronica sound with later singles Taste the Sun and Secret.

We notified you of Sam Bishop’s crowdfunding for a quarantine song, One of a Kind, which was released and followed by Fallen Sky. Albums came too, we covered, Billy Green 3’s Still in January, and The Grated Hits of the Real Cheesemakers followed, With the former, later came a nugget of Billy Green’s past, revealing some lost demos of his nineties outfit, Still, evidently what the album was named after.

Whereas the sublime soul of Mayyadda from Minnesota was the first international artist featured this year, and from Shrewsbury, our review of Cosmic Rays’ album Hard to Destroy extended our presence elsewhere in the UK, I sworn to prioritise local music, with single reviews of Phil Cooper’s Without a Sound, TheTruzzy Boys’ debut Summertime, Courage (Leave it Behind), a new single from Talk in Code, and for Daydream Runaways’ single Gravity we gave them an extensive interview. This was followed by Crazy Stupid Love and compiled for an EP, Dreamlands, proving they’re a band continuously improving.

April

Probably the most diverse single around spring though was an epic drum n bass track produced right here in Devizes, featuring the vocals of Pewsey’s Cutsmith. Though while Falling by ReTone took us to new foundations, I ran a piece on the new blues sounds locally, as advised by Sheer Music’s Kieran Moore. Sheer, like all music promoters were, understandably, scrambling around in the dark for the beginnings of lockdown, streaming stuff. It wasn’t long before they became YouTube presenters! The Sheer podcast really is something special, in an era leaving local musicians as dry as Ghandi’s flip-flop, they present a show to make ‘em moist!

Spawned from this new blues article, one name which knocked me for six, prior to their YouTube adventures, was Devizes-own Joe Edwards. I figured now I was reviewing internationally; would it be fair to local musicians to suggest a favourite album of the year? However, Joe’s Keep on Running was always a hot contender from the start, and despite crashing the borders on what we will review, I believe it still is my favourite album of the year.

Other top local albums, many inspired from lockdown came flowing, perhaps the most sublime was Interval by Swindon’s reggae keyboardist virtuoso, Erin Bardwell. The prolific Bardwell later teamed with ex-Hotknive Dave Clifton for a project called Man on the Bridge.

Perhaps the most spacey, Devizes’ Cracked Machine’s third outing, Gates of Keras. Top local singles? Well, George Wilding never let us down with Postcard, from a Motorway, and after lockdown reappeared with his band Wilding, for Falling Dreams and later with a solo single, You Do You. Jon Amor was cooking with Peppercorn, which later led to a great if unexpected album, Remote Control.

There was a momentary lapse of reason, that live streaming was the musical staple diet of the now, when Mr Amor climbed out onto his roof to perform, like an ageless fifth Beatle. Blooming marvellous.

Growing up fast, Swindon’s pop singer Lottie J blasted out a modern pop classic with Cold Water, and no one could ignore Kirsty Clinch’s atmospheric country-pop goodness with Fit the Shoe.

Maybe though it wasn’t the ones recorded before, but our musicians on the live circuit coming out with singles to give them some pocket money, which was the best news. I suggest you take note of Ben Borrill’s Takes A Little Time, for example.

I made new friends through music, reviewing so many singles and EPs; Bath’s Long Coats, and JAY’s Sunset Remedy. Swindon’s composer Richard Wileman, guitarist Ryan Webb, and unforgettable Paul Lappin, who, after a couple of singles would later release the amazing acoustic Britpop album The Boy Who Wanted to Fly. Dirty and Smooth and Atari Pilot too, the latter gave us to cool singles, Right Crew, Wrong Captain, and later, Blank Pages. To Calne for End of Story and Chris Tweedie, and over the downs to Marlborough with Jon Veale’s Flick the Switch. I even discovered Hew Miller, a hidden gem in our own town.

May