Feeling the Force of The Devizes Arts Festival

If there’s a stigma among the typical denizen surrounding the Devizes Arts Festival that it’s all rather pompous and geared toward the elder generation, all walks and organ recitals, and that sounds like you, then I bid you look closer at this year’s newly announced line-up.

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Devizes Arts Festival has pulled a colossal rabbit out their hats for this June’s festivities; really, I don’t know where to begin. Yes, some of it conforms to the customary Arts Festival bookings, such as an audience with international journalist and veteran reporter John Simpson (Corn Exchange. Friday 31st May) and an organ recital by the Sub-Organist at Durham Cathedral, Francesca Massey (1st June St Johns.) There’s even a two-hour festival walk; Historic Devizes (2nd June. Devizes Town Centre,) guided by experts from the Wiltshire County Archaeology team, and a Civil War Battlefield walk at Roundway Down on 9th June.

 
Now, don’t get me wrong, while there’s no bad about any such events, and chatting with organiser Phillipa Morgan, who is keen to point out, “we had fifteen sold-out events last year,” there’s many-a darn good reason to cast off this erroneous label.

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I assure, many acts are set to blow some interest in the direction of those who’d not considered the Arts Festival before. Ska, for instance, (you know me, fancy picking on this one first!) with Skamouth favourites, Coventry’s (the home of Two-Tone) Barb’d Wire (1st June Corn Exchange) who boast legendary and original rude boy himself, Trevor Evans, combined with local songwriter/singer Lloyd Mcgrath. This is certain to raise a few eyebrows; perfect for the 40th anniversary of Two-Tone.

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You can zip your soul boots too, for seventies pioneers in funk, The Real Thing are confirmed, (8th June. Corn Exchange.) Known for legendary hits “You to Me Are Everything” and “Can’t Get by Without You,” Devizes is sure to feel the force!

 
Wiltshire’s own Nick Harper is at The Exchange, 13th June, contemporary Congolese and Cuban music 15th June at the Corn Exchange with Grupo Lokito, and experimental prog-rock with CIRCU5 (16th June. Cellar Bar.)

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The brilliant radio, television and stage comedian Ed Byrne (12th June. Corn Exchange) was the other to immediately catch my eye. Joined by special guests, David Haddingham and Sindhu Vee, this one promises to “have you rolling in the aisles.” With sold-out runs at the Edinburgh Fringe, and the West End, it reminded me of a conversation I had with some organisers last year, about how they travel to Edinburgh to source acts for the Arts Festival. This dedication has paid off, it seems, and we’re set for an explosively good year.

 
I asked Phillipa if this stigma was something the committee addressed, as it certainly is a line-up of variety. “Classical music is still there but we’ve tried to broaden the appeal. I think we’ve just moved in that direction as a result of an awareness that the requirement is changing and we’re trying to be more inclusive.”

 
So, what else is up for grabs this year? Children’s author Clive Mantle will be entertaining youngsters with illustrated readings from his time-travelling, Himalayan adventure and talking about his writing and his own travels in Nepal (1st June. Devizes Town Hall 2:30pm.) Although familiar as an actor to audiences of Holby, Vicar of Dibley and Game of Thrones, Clive Mantle is also now a successful children’s author: his first book “The Treasure at the Top of the World” was short-listed for the People’s Book Award and a second book in the series is due out in June. This is suitable for eight-year-olds and above.

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Also, for young-uns, Blue Peter Award winning author and performer, Gareth P Jones presents Aliens in Devizes! (8th June. Town Hall) Pet Defenders, a secret organisation of dogs, cats, rabbits and rodents dedicated to keeping the Earth safe from alien invasion. Suitable ages from six to nine, but sounds like fun to me!

 
The best jazz violinist in the country, Christian Garrick and John Etheridge, one of the most stunningly versatile guitarists, presents Strings on Fire (3rd June. The Exchange.) Meanwhile, two siblings that make up the exceptional violin and viola duo, String Sisters, Angharad and Lowri Thomas String Sisters are at St. Andrews Church on the 5th June. Multiple award-winning musicians, who’ve played with Alfie Boe, Michael Ball, Paloma Faith, Marc Almond, Boy George and Robbie Williams.

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2nd June at The Bear Hotel Ballroom, there’s a quirky, funny and poignant award-winning solo show about Nick Drake; a celebration of music, photography, life, coincidences and the legacy of one of the most influential singers/song-writers of the last fifty years.

 
Competitive improv as you’ve never seen it, The Shakespeare Smackdown (4th June. The Exchange,) is from the creators of Olivier Award-winning “Showstopper! The Improvised Musical.” Britain’s favourite celebrity organic gardener and Gardeners’ Question Time star panellist, Bob Flowerdew has An Audience with on the 5th June at Devizes Town Hall.

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From Atila singing the Nat King Cole Story (6th June. Town Hall) to the dark comic and eclectic music of Moscow Drug Club (7th June Corn Exchange) and from An Audience with grand dame of English literature, Fay Weldon (8th June. Bear Hotel) to Elspeth Beard, the first British woman to motorcycle around the world (8th June. Bear Hotel) no one can deny the quality and variety is extraordinary this year. Talks on Sci-Fi influences on evolutionary linguistics, a homage of renditions of Eric and Ernie, author Clare Mulley’s on her third book, “The Women Who Flew for Hitler”, open mic poetry session with Josephine Corcoran, in fact there’s too much here to list in one article, my wordcount exploding and I fear you’ll be bedazzled by it all.

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So why don’t we regroup tomorrow, when we’ll highlight, in particular, the free fringe events? Phillipa, in charge of the fringe events, notes surprisingly, that although “the fringe events are subsided, for some reason they don’t seem to attract that many people, compared with ticketed recent events such as Rick Wakeman at £45, which sold out.” I think this is down to the aforementioned stigma, and here at Devizine I’m dedicated to prove it wrong. So, same time tomorrow then?

 

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Shakespeare Back at the Wharf Theatre

Aye, heareth this, mine own cater-cousins, Shakey is backeth at the Wharf Theatre in Marcheth; timeth to beest did enlighten and amus’d.

 
Liz Sharman, who directed the incredibly successful, “A Funny Thing Happened on The Way to The Forum” last year, is taking the helm again for William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It;” it promises to be a strong show.

 
Showing from Monday 11th to Saturday 16th March at 7.30pm, this 1599 pastoral comedy has remained an audience favourite for over four hundred years.

 
Duke Senior has been usurped by his younger brother Duke Frederick and is now exiled from the controlling confines of court. His daughter Rosalind and her cousin Celia have also run away and arrive in the forest with Rosalind now dressed as a young man in order to avoid detection. Others taking refuge amongst the country folk of the Forest of Arden include Rosalind’s admirer Orlando, the court fool, Touchstone and melancholy traveller, Jaques, who gives many of Shakespeare’s most famous speeches including “All the world’s a stage”, “Too much of a good thing” and “A fool! A fool! I met a fool in the forest!”

 
As with all good comedies much confusion ensues amongst the wooing as society’s rules are overthrown. As You Like It remains an exuberant theatrical journey featuring several songs, a wrestling match, a joyful quadruple wedding and no funeral!

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Tickets (£12/under 16s £10) can be purchased from Ticketsource at: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/the-wharf-theatre/events or at the Devizes Community Hub and Library on Sheep Street, Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm or by ringing 03336 663 366.

 
To find out what else is on at the Wharf pick up a new Spring/Summer brochure which is now available from the Community Hub and Library and many other outlets around Devizes.

 
For further information contact Karen Ellis: http://www.publicity@wharftheatre.co.uk

 

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Half Term Fill: Local Things To Do For Kids

Big gulp of wine Mums, it’s half term next week. Okay, that’s quite enough, don’t panic. From daffodil picking, cooking and first aid, to football, driving tanks and having a go at being a DJ, here’s some things to keep little soldiers and princesses of all ages at bay, and smiling!

 
Sure thing is a movie; “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” is at the Palace Cinema, from today until Thursday 21st. “The Lego Movie 2” is a must, from Friday 15th also until Thursday 21st.

 

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From Thursday 14th through to Friday 22nd there’s a funfair at The County Ground in Swindon, from 2pm. Scream if you want me to go faster, or you’re running low on wine.

 
There will be the usual free swimming at the Leisure Centres, but check ahead, as some timetables have changed.

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You could take them for a trip down the Kennet & Avon, The Admiral is free on Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th, find it at the Caen Hill Café, below the bridge at lock 44, at 11am. There will be trial sheets to explore the Jubilee Woods, and, back on board there will be a history of the canal and its restoration.

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Starting Saturday 16th, you can pick your own daffodils at Woodborough’s Whitehall Garden Centre, available daily until 31st March. £4.99 per bag. Both centres, at Woodbrough and Lacock, have a Gardening Nature Trail until Thursday 21st. Claim a lollipop at customer services for every completed entry.

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Saturday (16th) The Devizes Family Club have at Children’s Disco at the Conservative Club. 6:30-8pm, all are welcome but only above 9 years should be left. There’s an adult creche for you, with bar! £3 on the door, lucky dip 50p, tbc face painting and optional princess and superhero fancy dress. Proceeds are going to Rowde Academy.

 
Starting Sunday and running through the week, The Wyvern Theatre in Swindon has a roadshow at The Brunel Centre, inviting children to join in at The Crossing, to make dinosaurs or dragons to celebrate the arrival of Dinosaur World Live and Julia Donaldson’s Zog in April.

 
In Melksham there’s activities all week long at Young Melksham’s The Canberra Club. These clubs are for all young people in Year 5 and above (aged 8 to 16) and will run from 2pm till 5pm Monday to Friday, with entry costing £2.50 per session or a week-long pass for just £10. There will be a plenty of activities on offer including pool, table tennis, table football, arts and crafts, karaoke, cooking and baking, games and sports and much more. There are also computers and consoles available for use and a chill out room where you can watch tv or a film together.

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The Canberra Centre is amazing building with lots of space to run around and have fun and play games with your friends. There is also an outside courtyard for football, basketball and just burning off some energy! A variety of hot and cold food and snacks will be available to purchase as well as free squash.

 
How about teaching your nipper some line dancing on Monday? All ages and abilities welcome at The Town Hall, Devizes. Early Bird Session: 6.30-7.30pm £5 Beginners: 7-8pm £5. Improvers 7.30-9.30pm £6.

 
For footballers ages three to six, Devizes Town Youth has free coaching in their Little Kickers sessions from 9.30am to 11am on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the Football Club. Kid receive a free t-shirt and football. To sign your child up contact Mr Sheridan on 07860232052 or Raymond King on 07917787903 or Jon Wozencraft on 07767851332

 
Tuesday and Wednesday with two sessions per day: 11.00am – 12.30pm & 1.30pm – 3.00pm, there’s Wildlife in Wiltshire at The Wiltshire Museum, Devizes. Art and Craft activities linked to their Natural History Exhibition. You can make animal masks, create animal models and pictures. These sessions are very popular, so booking is essential. It’s suitable for age 11 and under. Age 8 and under to be accompanied. £5 per child. Accompanying adults free.

 
Or maybe try your hand at being a DJ? Trowbridge’s Community Area Future has a Free Half Term DJ Workshop at Studley Green People’s Place on Tuesday 19th. DJ Nina LoVe will show you how to mix the Old Skool way, using vinyl records! There will be a few different types of music available – House, UK Garage or Drum and Bass. Come and check it out, book yourself some time on the decks or get on the microphone! For ages 13-18. Please feel free to drop in or call to book a place on 07765371051/tcaf@trowbridge.gov.uk

 
Have a go at a soldier-led assault course, plus Tank-themed fun family activities, at the REME Museum, Lyneham. Make your own tank with parachute and see if your engineering skills are up to scratch by dropping your tank “into battle” in one piece. On the artistic side, you can design and colour-in tanks. There’re model tanks which you can drive on a special course. Drop in from 11 am to 3 pm, any day from Tuesday until Friday. Special soldier run kid’s assault course will be running, plus fun tank-based kids trails, activities and craft in the museum. All children to be accompanied by an adult. All activities are included in the admission fee. Assault Course suitable for 5 – 12-year olds. The Museum is open from 10 am to 4.30 pm (last entry at 3.30 pm), some activities run from 11 am to 3 pm. Museum admission required to take part in activities. No pre-booking required for this activity, just turn up and enjoy.

 
Wednesday 20th is time to get fit in Hillworth Park, free event, in association with Boot Camp UK, it’s going to be all Sprint, Slide, Shake, Scamper, Scurry, Swing and Stomp!

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For arts and crafts, Fired Thoughts at the Old Potato Yard, Devizes, has Half Term Lino Workshops, from Wednesday to Friday. A two-hour workshop to design, cut and print using Lino and inks. All ages and abilities welcome. All materials included, but please book: Tel:01380 840666 email: info@firedthoughts.co.uk

 
At the Court Street Gallery in Trowbridge, there’s a Children’s Silk Sun Catchers Workshop on Wednesday at 10am. £15 per person including materials. To learn more and book, visit: www.nicoladaviscrafts.co.uk/workshops.html

 
How about some first aid training for your children? Louise Worsley, a qualified trainer is at Marlborough Rugby Club on Thursday, 21st, 09:30 – 15:30 with an essential First Aid Training for Children. Sessions are tailored to age groups and are full of practical to make them fun and memorable: 9:30-11am – Mini Life-Savers course for 5-8-year olds – £18 (£15 for a sibling.) 11:30am-1pm – Mini Life-Savers course for 8-12-year olds – £18 (£15 for a sibling) and 1:30-3:30pm – Teen-Aiders course for 12-16-year olds – £24 (£20 for a sibling)

 
Thursday is the opening night for MACS Theatre School’s “The Addams Family” at Devizes School. It runs until Sunday. Tickets at Devizes Books or online here. Doors open at 6:30pm for a curtain up at 7:30. There’s also a mini Macs matinee performance on Saturday at 2:30pm.

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From Thursday until Saturday 23rd The Seend Village Pantomime presents “Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs.” It takes place at Seend Community Centre, it’s the Fawlty Players 40th Anniversary, and there’s three of the cast were in the first Snow White in 1981! Tickets at the Post Office and Community Centre.

 
At Bradford on Avon’s St Margaret’s Hall, two of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes will be performed by local theatre group, the multi award-winning Bradfordians Dramatic Society. A take on Dahl’s retelling of the classic fairy tales, Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk. Following their success with The Twits last year, the group will bring Dahl’s honest, often vicious wit and humour to the stage in this production. Show times: Thursday 21st February – 6.30PM, Friday 22nd February – 6.30PM, Saturday 23rd February – 11AM, Saturday 23rd February – 2.30PM, Sunday 24th February – 2.30PM. Head to the Bradfordian’s website to see the full cast and more information here: http://www.thebradfordians.com/

 
Learn some street dance with a taster class at Charlotte’s School of Dance, Bath Rd Business Centre, Devizes, at 7:30pm on Friday with Jacinta Childs. To book this £5 session text: 07903812364.

 
Aspiring chefs, Saturday 23rd is for you; Margaret Bryant hosts Middle Eastern at Vaughan’s Kitchen Cookery School, Devizes. Spicy (but not hot) Falafels; Hummus; Baklava. Designed to give your youngster a firm foundation that will provide them with the techniques and knowledge they need to grow into competent and confident cook, it is also lots of FUN and they will bring home the results of the session to share with the family.

 

That enough?! Still bored?

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Wharf Theatre Brings Local Playwriter’s “Broken Wing” to Life

Zara is therapist to a sixteen year old refugee, trying to come to terms with the brutal horrors of war. Her own adopted daughter of the same age is dealing with her ‘inner’ conflict. As the characters of the two girls, Layee and Thea, emerge, they tell not only their own stories but each other’s, to a world which they often feel doesn’t listen or understand.

 
Showing the deep anguish, feelings of loss of identity and abandonment which can link both adoption and asylum, it’s the intriguing plot of Broken Wing, the world premier play of Devizes author Annie L Cooper. Annie was prompted to write it after her personal experiences as a therapist working in Bosnia with the victims of concentration camps, and having witnessed the complex issues involved in adoption. It’s being staged by director Lewis Cowen at The Wharf Theatre in Devizes for Tuesday 19th to Saturday 23rd June.

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Not set in any specific time or place, because sadly these issues still occur in all corners of the world, it’s a powerful production with strong language and disturbing themes, hence its over sixteen guideline.

 
What an inspiring move for our local theatre, adapting a local author’s work and staging an exclusive play which hopefully will be taken up elsewhere.

 
Catch Broken Wing at The Wharf Theatre, Devizes: Tuesday 19th – Saturday 23rd June 2018 @ 7.30pm Tickets £12/£10; concessions can be purchased from the website: wharftheatre.co.uk or at the Devizes Community Hub and Library on Sheep Street, Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm or by ringing 03336 663 366 For further information contact Karen Ellis www.publicity@wharftheatre.co.uk  

Ticket Source here

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Goodnight Mr Tom at the Wharf

Michelle Magorian’s delightful novel about the experiences of young evacuee has been through a number of incarnations, most notably the TV film starring John Thaw. However David Wood’s stage version is enjoying great success, and directed by Kim Pearce, it’s the latest performance at The Wharf Theatre, Devizes.

 

Running from Friday 9th to Saturday 17th March 2018, 7.30pm each evening with a 2.30pm matinee on Saturday 10th March, this sounds like a heart-warming prose (please note: there are no performances on Sunday11th and Monday 12th March.)

 

Willie Beech is a boy from the slums of south east London who finds himself unloved and unwanted when he is evacuated to the countryside as Britain finds itself on the brink of World War II. Widower Tom Oakley takes the shy young lad under his wing. The aging recluses’ stony heart is gradually softened and the experience poignantly changes both, in this heart-warming tale.

 
Tickets £12/£10 concessions can be purchased from: The Devizes Community Hub and Library, Sheep Street, Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm. The website Wharftheatre.co.uk. Or by ringing 03336 663 366.

 
To find out what else is on at the Wharf pick up the new Spring Summer brochure which is now available from the Community Hub and Library and many other outlets around Devizes.

Daniella Faircloth in a Shoebox; Unbinding Halloween Chills

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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