All images used with the kind permission of Simon Folkard Photography
That’s overall, as in “taking everything into account,” and not the all-in-one pac-a-mac kind, I thought you should know before I commence waffling…
Do they even sell pac-a-macs now? Google it if you feel the need, but keep the results to yourself; ah, off I trek… Sunday, the second day of Devizes Street Festival, and the main stage had a little hat; unfortunately, weather turned more appropriate for April and I’d wager combined with fragments of hangover, it resulted in a slightly lesser crowd.
Nevertheless, the show marched on unperturbed. I confess, due to Dad’s taxi on call, I rocked up far too late to justify a precise evaluation, but you know me, I relish in the attention giving my tuppence brings, so I will, thank you.
Firstly, I’ll apologise if Saturday’s thoughts came across a tad preachy, about volunteering and playing your part, but my reasoning was concern. It is critical younger volunteers take up these posts as the years pass; I worry if generation next doesn’t replicate what DOCA have achieved, it could go all village fete fashion, rather than what we have now, the colourful array of variety, the festive-style we rarely see the like of around these backwaters.
Though I accept how it is, folk are busy, working, have other priorities (like dad’s taxi) and want the occasion to unwind and enjoy themselves, that is, after all, its purpose. I found myself caught in this dilemma helping out Saturday. Self-assigned myself to wheelie bin patrol, I figured I could keep one eye on them from the bar area! Anyhoo, let’s drift away from that thought and look at what an utterly fantastic show it was; don’t wanna jinx it.
An assessment of social media commentary hailed it a success, aside one ironic Facebook jester. Many suggested it was the best yet, though it came to us at a light at the end of a biennial tunnel, void of much entertainment at all, so a Jim Davidson tour would sound fantastic by comparison. But I agree, taking heed of various attendees’ observations, yeah, it was equally if not better than previous street festivals. I believe the change of stage positioning, binding food stalls into a horseshoe was a benefactor for this, but aside design the surprise icing on the cake had to be the Ceres show, the splendour of which was covered in my previous article. The local folklore subject breathed a sense of inimitability and distinctiveness to the whole shebang, it really did.
I confess, when I first read about the idea, I was sceptical, even at its commencement I doubted but now, the more I consider it the more astonished and overwhelmed I become with its magnificence. Sunday for me though had one highlight I simply couldn’t miss; I’ve been raving Bristol’s folk-Balkan ska ensemble Mr Tea & The Minions since I fondly reviewed their album Mutiny in 2019. So much so I’ve been trying to convince anyone and everyone to book them somewhere local since; you should’ve seen my little chubby chops light up when I noticed their name on the schedule, the like of a toddler at Christmas. Why did I then go about, recommending them to every passer-by? The proof was in the pudding, they didn’t disappoint despite the pedestal I put them on, as their album they were lively, jubilantly danceable, the perfect match for the spirit of the street festival.
With some brilliant new tunes and a handful from their album they won the audience over with their stylised formula of blending localised folk into this already deeply fused south-eastern European genre which reflects its own roots with the off-beat of Jamacia’s finest musical export. As an enthusiast of ska keen to ascertain its contemporary global progression, I’m resolute we castoff the polarized presumption it belonged to a time of yore, of eighties skinheads and Two-Tone. Memorable and fantastically beguiling though Madness, The Specials, et al were, developments internationally offer us a much wider variety often overshadowed by the aforementioned retrospective cult in the UK. I think Mr Tea & the Minions represent this, but as the tradition presides, they have a truckload of carefree fun while doing it.
I could chew your ear off about how much I enjoyed that particular act, but it is the combination of all which really made the weekend something special. Equally as much as I love the wealth of local talent, and do believe they too should be represented at the Street Festival, director Loz’s determination to present us with a variety of sounds unconventional to our usual local circuit, the liveliest and most colourful array of world music, is something I welcome with open arms. Just like the South American vibe of Mariachi Las Velentinas, Simo Lagnawi’s Gnawa Blues All Stars, on one act prior to Mr Tea, was the perfect example; you don’t get to hear Gnawa, the scared trance music of Morocco in the pubs around here, and they played it sublimely for our alternate jiffy.
In this, the most conventional act on the main stage was perhaps the Brass Junkies, and by our usual expectations they were pretty much unconventional! I note them because while a covers band, where I usually assess with their attention of making a cover their own, this Bristol-based versatile brass band of New Orleans style do this so absolutely proficiently. So, to appease the populace, covers of contemporary, foot-tapping pop hits, such as Daft Punk’s Get Lucky get a brass makeover, and they refined this angle with bells on.
But more so on this variety point is the vast array of circus and street theatre, too many to cover, they just go on, around you, in a breath-taking inclusive show you dare not blink at. If one constructive criticism I heard bounding about requested DOCA add more music to the main stage, the answer would have to be, aside the sheer cost and the time needed to soundcheck for these multi-instrumental seven- or eight-piece bands, is that DOCA want you to explore the Market Place and take in the variety of side-shows, and to have a continuous rave at the main stage would both distract the crowds and drown out the sounds of them too; and you know what? I think that’s fair point.
The combination of all these elements meant the Street Festival is restored post-lockdown, better than it ever was and is continuing to better itself through continued assessment and experimental changes; something we are very lucky to have here in Devizes. Though the smiles in the crowd said it all, then the topical and uniquely Devizes narrative of this added element, this sublime finale, combing dance, acrobatic performance, poetry and music truly was the binding component which confirms my assertion and made it, undoubtedly, the finest street festival yet. Thank you once again, all the organisers and volunteers of DOCA.
Onwards, carnival is July 9th, the Confetti Battle and Colour Rush are on 3rd September, but next up is The Picnic in the Park at Hillworth Park, Devizes, on Sunday 3rd July, all the info you need is at the DOCA website; enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.
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