Devizine Review of 2021; Marginally Better than 2020!

If we recently reviewed Ian Diddams and friends meeting at the Vaults for their annual festive Jackanory, the first article of 2021 was the very same funny fellow reciting his yarn as a live stream from his mocked garden grotto, and in that, surely displays how far we’ve come from the restrictions of lockdown we entered the year with. Though not without the same notion as last Christmas looming over us, like a dirty black shroud, that it was, perhaps, all too soon, and we’ve not seen the backside of the Covid19 yet.

Summarising, 2021 was marginally better than 2020; there were gung-ho moments of throwing caution to the wind, and there were others to make us stop and ponder the consequences of our actions. There’s little doubt the world will never be the same for decades to come; social interaction, shopping, even work practises; but we did get to party on occasions, and when it was good, it was really good.

And if it ended with a Boxing Day brawl, I suspect some wished for the bash-a-sab fest. Even police it seems, who would likely send in The Wealdstone Raider to crowd control a Wealdstone V Whitehawk FC game, if given the assignment. Did I predict this when I said “make no mistake, there’s a civil war under our noses, which comes to an apex when blood-thirsty predators triumphantly parade their wrongdoing on a day when most of us struggle out of bed to reach the fridge?”

Hardly crystal ball stuff, tensions at their highest for rural Wiltshire’s most contradictory dispute, it was on the cards since day dot; when the county voted in a foxhunting Police Crime Commissioner, whose misadventures in drink driving caused him to pull out at a cost of millions to the taxpayer. A calamity most shrugged off with “oh, ha-ha, those naughty Tories, bless ‘em.”


Allowed Out to Play

It was May before I set foot in a pub, lockdown eased and live music was back on the agenda, albeit with hefty restrictions; early ending times, remain seated, table service, no mingling outside of “bubbles,” and deffo no dancing or singing. It felt awkward to begin with, not quite the same, but it was a start, and who better to kick off proceedings than the brilliant Daybreakers, gracing the trusty Southgate? One could sense the joy from Cath, Gouldy et al, to be singing to an audience once again, proving their dedication to the cause. A handclap emoji just isn’t the same.

For a while then The Southgate remained the only venue in Devizes providing live music, and we thank Deborah, Dave and all staff for working within the rules to create a safe space to be blessed with music; it was like they were on roller-skates at times, up and down the beer garden, ensuring not a mouth was left dry!  

I also ventured out to the Barge at Honeystreet, to see how they were coping with the boundaries too. And what a show The Boot Hill All Stars put on there, under a spacious marquee, so tempting to get up and dance, but couldn’t; mastered foot-tapping though.

The return to some normality for many in Devizes came in clement early June, when Devizes Lions held a fantastic car show, plus, on the Green. With side stalls aplenty, nervously folk began to socially distanced mingle; it was a breath of fresh air and a testament to what can be safely achieved with forward thinking and dedication.

Image by Nick Padmore

By July I made it out a few times, the idea of Vince Bell teaming with the individual performers of The Lost Trades, Phil, Jamie and Tamsin was too much of an irresistible hoedown of local talent to miss, and a third trip to the trusty Southgate to tick TwoManTing off my must-do list also proved to be a memorable evening.

The beginning of August I ventured to TrowVegas to tick another off said list, catching those Roughcut Rebels with new frontman Finley Trusler. They blasted the Greyhound, and didn’t disappoint. The month shifted gear for many, and things simply blossomed like there never was a lockdown. Back-to-back weekends saw both my favourite largescale of 2021, the single-most amazing festival near Marlborough; MantonFest is a real gem, professionally done with a real communal atmosphere, the type perpetual drizzle couldn’t put a downer on. This event wowed.

Back in Devizes, the events of the year were the weekend which followed, sitting nicely between a stripped back version of DOCA’s International Street Festival sprinkled across town, was of course, The Full Tone Festival. Without the refreshing emergence of folk out of lockdown, this would have still been something for the town’s history books, but being as it was, the opportunity to head back out and enjoy life once again, the timing, the best weather, the whole ambience was electric. The time and work gone into pulling this off was absolutely outstanding, and for which folk of Devizes will forever mark it as a celebration of post lockdown.

Awakenings even drew Andy out of hiding by September, and I was overjoyed to have him back on the team, without putting his bag and coat on the hook, he went out to play, reviewing Devizes Musical Theatre’s Gallery of Rogues, and Devizes Town Band’s Proms in Hillworth Park. Meanwhile I was delighted to see The Wharf Theatre reopen with a fantastic performance of Jesus Christ Superstar.

September also saw the welcome return of Devizes Comedy at the Corn Exchange, and The Long Street Blues Club, who, kicking off with Creedence Clearwater Review, wasted no time catching up with their rescheduled programme of the most excellent blues nights money can buy. Andy covered these, while I ventured to see Kieran J Moore’s new digs at Trowbridge Town Hall. After a brilliant street art exhibit from Tom Miller, I went to taste the music there, with a most memorable evening from Onika Venus. I returned to the scene in November, for a great gig from Ålesund with support from Agata.

Other than a trip to the White Horse Opera and Southgate to see Jon Amor’s King Street Turnaround, Andy pitched a tent at Long Street Blues Club, one time shipped out to the Corn Exchange in late November for Focus, which Andy crowned best gig of the year. I made it out to the Cross Keys in Rowde for The Life of Brian Band, and to the Southgate see Strange Folk again, since their fantastic set on Vinyl Realm’s stage at a Street Festival of yore. But October held my best gig of the year, the reasons manyfold, and I’m lay them on the line….

For the outstanding fundraising efforts of the Civic award-winning local supergroup, The Female of the Species, I hold them all up as my heroines, therefore the chance to see them again at Melksham’s fantastic Assembly Hall too much to miss, and the fact they’d chosen this time to raise funds for another of my local heroines, Carmela Chillery-Watson, was almost too much to take! With an electric night of awesome danceable covers and a massive raffle, they raised a staggering £1,763 for Carmela’s Therapy Fund.

It will never cease to amaze me the selfless lengths our musicians will go to for fundraising. Even after a year and half of closed hospitality and no bread-and-butter gigs, they continue to offer their precious time to help. While events blossomed late this year, and November saw the return of TITCO, and Devizes Arts Festival added a spellbinding mini-autumn-festival with Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, Sally Barker and Motown Gold, Devizine continued also to preview events and do what we had being doing to find content during lockdown. Yeah, we rattled some cages with social and political opinion pieces, tasted some great takeaway tucker, and we reviewed recorded music further afield as well as local, but we had a number of feelgood stories, most memorable being things like our snowman competition in January, but there was a project which highlighted the sterling effort from musicians to fundraise, and it will be something I’ll never forget.

Image: Gail Foster

So, in April I announced we would be putting together a compilation album, fundraising for Julia’s House Children’s Hospices and by late June it was a thing. It was hard work to put together, but I’m astounded by the plethora of great bands and artists who took the time to send us a tune for inclusion. Knowing time was precious for artists popping out of lockdown, in need to source bookings and rehearse, I only asked them to provide us with an existing tune to prompt their albums, but some went beyond this, giving us exclusive outtakes such as the brilliant Richard Davis & the Dissidents, or some even recorded new songs, like Blondie & Ska, Tom Harris and Neonian.

I picked a staggering forty-six tracks to bind together, to create a boxset so humongous it would need far too many CDs to make it actual, so due to this and the expense of outlaying, it exists as a download on Bandcamp. Think of it as a teaser for the many great acts we’ve supported and reviewed over the years, and for a tenner, it works out under 5p a tune.

For me this was a momentous achievement, and can’t thank them enough. While I’ve put it out to the right places, to the Gazette & Herald and Fantasy, and airtime on West Wilts Radio’s fantastic Sounds of Wilderness Show, there is obviously more I need to do to get the message out there, as sales have been slow, unfortunately.

I could fathom a number of reasons for this, but in all, we’ve raised approximately £177 for Julia’s House, hoping to reach a £200 target before we send them the money, still sales have waivered off so significantly I feel I need to send what we’ve had so far. Please help us to up the total if you’ve not already bought this fantastic album. Gloom aside I will say I’m planning a second volume, and already have a few contributions from incredible acts such as Nick Harper, Onika Venus and Catfish.

Returning to events for the last part of the year, While Andy fondly reviewed Focus, I popped into the Corn Exchange for a quick interview with The Lost Trades, and left to attend a great art show at the Shambles. That weekend the Full-Tone Orchestra played Swindon’s Wyvern, and I’m grateful to Ian Diddams for his review. This is what we need, people, we cannot cover everything, but if you’ve a few words to say about an event or anything local, please, help to make Devizine a comprehensive community, erm, thing!

Of course, one delightful addition to our team TD Rose has been submitting some lovey features, firstly of ramblings, and more recently she made friends with Wiltshire Museum, and reviewed DOCA’s Winter Festival. Thank you so much Tyg, I’ve yet to meet, but we need to arrange this for the new year.

Image: Chris Dunn

Towards the end of November Andy remained seated at Long Street, I did the rum bar thing. Such a refreshing addition to Devizes, The Muck & Dundar pulled off a blinder with Bristol DJs, The Allergies. This was one smooth funky night, best for an age, and it was great to shake my greying tailfeathers. Both Andy and I finished off the year with a Boot Hill bash at the Southgate, where hip hop misfits Monkey Bizzle supported, and was shocked by Andy’s positive reaction, being more my cup of cheddar, this was an awesome night too!

Kossoff played Long Street, Andy also went to White Horse Opera’s Winter Concert and other than the hugely successful Tractor & Tinsel Run, we’re back to where we started with an Ian Diddams’ spoken word showdown the Vaults!


On Stats and Boring Stuff

Our Annual Stats Doubled from Last Year!

Having live music back, no matter the limitations was a breath of fresh air. Prior to it I was still scrambling around in the dark as I was in 2020, hunting for something to write about. But I guess a year of lockdown had given me time to contemplate and improve on the content. This boosted the stats, for if 2020 saw a drop in readership, I hoped to better it, and I’m pleased to announce we had a record amount, well over doubling the figures of 2020. This is awesome news, and I thank everyone for keeping the faith in us, and continuing to support Devizine.

I keep looking at the bar graph of stats, not believing the skyscraper which is 2021. How much we’ve grown, become a “thing” now. It’s fantastic and I hope we will continue to entertain you. I must stress though, we don’t harass you to subscribe or any rubbish like this, we keep advertising to a minimum, and nothing should pop up and distract your reading, and we uphold the ethos features should be free to the end user.

Yet we do need to maintain some budget to keep the site going. That’s currently around £60 a year; we fund our own beer money, thank you, we’re not MPs, we have no expense forms! So please consider donating to keep Devizine afloat, please donate when sending us an advert, unless it is fundraising. I’d really like to build up a small fund to get some charity events off the ground, as I believe the artists should be paid for their time considering their predicament too. So, anything extra will go towards this, and promoting the Julia’s House album.

What can we expect from Devizine in 2022, you might ask; well, if it’s not broken……let’s happily bash on shall we?! Thank you all so much for your support over 2021, the stats show we’re heading in the right direction.


On Food

Said this before, but I take pride in repeating myself; food reviews get an enormous response, yet still eateries seem reluctant to come forward. A food review here will do wonders for your sales, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a greedy so-and-so. Places we’ve eaten out or takeaways we’ve had which failed to live up to our expectations have not been mentioned. I’m no Gordon Ramsey and I’m not about to publish a slagging off. I’d rather tell you to your face why I’m not reviewing it!

During lockdowns the takeaway became essential part of a weekend treat for families with nought else to do, and new establishments opened, while pre-existing ones flourished. In January we praised the Massimos’ Pizza, and the following month saw me queuing halfway down a frozzled Nursteed Road for a rather tasty Greek Gyro from the Cosy Kitchen mobile van; such was the popularity of these mobile units during the bleakest of times.

When things begun to open up in April I went for my first vaccination jab, where they told me not to drive for fifteen minutes. They didn’t say go find a new Indian lunchtime takeaway in the Brittox, but we did, and long should Naan Guru live on!

Not much further into the same month, I tracked down The Feisty Fish, a fish n chips van like no other. They don’t come into town being there’s chip shops here, but track these guys down for the single best gourmet fish n chips you will ever taste, I tell no lie!

June saw a second IndieDay, organised by InDevizes, and prompted people to get out and shop with a bustling farmer’s market, in which I discovered the rosy cheeked benefits of Lavington’s Rutts Lane Cider, and merrily made my way home on the bus! I also had to mention, unsurprisingly to those who know me, that month, that Plank’s Dairies introduced a new locally-sourced organic milk, yogurt and juice range, in sizable and reusable glass bottles, which has proved hugely popular.

Naturally, without a main stage this year, there was a greater interest in the food market at The Devizes Street Festival in August, and the following month we mentioned Devizes Food & Drink Festival’s Market, where I was reunited with Rutts!

It was July when we discovered Thai-day Friday, and that was just delicious!

Mildly amusing than most, I offered a Battle of the Best Devizes Breakfast, in November, something we need to follow up on when the kids are back in school, as Round One, The Condado Lounge Vs New Society was a popular post. I bloomin’ love food, me, y’know, invite me to your café, pub or restaurant and I’ll give you my honest opinion, except I don’t do eggs or liquorice; yuck!


On Music

If I’ve already mentioned our awesome 4 Julia’s House project, and all the artists who contributed are in my good books, we also covered a whole heap of new releases. Plus, we started a Song of the Day, where we post a YouTube link for your pleasure, and generally don’t say much else about it, rather waffle on a tangent! But mostly recorded sound reviews waned when live music reopened, still we strive to continue telling you what we like.

Will Lawton

Will Lawton proposed to open a music school, JMW held a lockdown festival in support of musicians, Wiltshire Council asked Gecko for a Road Crossing song and video, and Wiltshire Rural Music’s announced producing live steams from Trowbridge Town Hall.

Kirsty Clinch announced her music school and book plans, and covered Swindon’s sound system Mid Life Krisis’s live streams. We chatted to The Scribes, announced The Lost Trades Live Stream in Advance of Album Launch, and The Ruzz Guitar Sessions, and Asa Murphy returning to Devizes.

We announced Sheer’s Salem gig, the Dear John Concert Album for War Child, and the bid to help Calne Central. Announced Sheer’s Frank Turner gig at the Cheese & Grain, chatted to Blondie & Ska. Announced Wharf Theatre’s Youth Theatre, Pound Arts Blue Sky Festival, My Dad’s Bigger than Your Dad Festival in tribute to Dave Young. This list goes on, but most enjoyable recently, meeting up with Visual Arts Radio who moved from Frome to Devizes.

We reviewed Terry Edwards Best of Box Set, Ain’t Nobody’s Business by Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue and Pete Gage, Skates & Wagons, Kirsty Clinch, Small Town Tigers, Django Django, Chole Glover, Araluen and Ariel Posen. Trowbridge DJ and producer Neonian, The Direct Hits, Andy J Williams, Erin Bardwell, Nigel G Lowndes, Mike Clerk, Cutsmith, Timid Deer, and Cult Figures.

Horses of the Gods, Lone Ark & The 18th Parallel, Longcoats, Black Market Dub and The Lost Trades.

Brainiac 5, Sitting Tenants, Stockwell, Storm Jae and Nory, Sam Bishop, Longcoats, The Bakeseys and Elli de Mon.

Liddington Hill, Boom Boom Racoon, Longcoats, Girls Go Ska and Daisy Chapman.

Monkey Bizzle, Webb, The Hawks, Captain Accident & The Disasters, Onika Venus, Death of Guitar Pop, The Burner Band, Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer, and Scott Lavene.

Spearmint, Captain Rico & The Ghost Band, Sonny Vincent, Freya Beer, Near Jazz Experience, Beans on Toast, Old Habits, and most recently, Paul Lappin! That enough for you?! 


On the Social and Political Side

The fate of every nation depended on how their governments dealt with the pandemic, and how the public responded to them. I’m not here to dwell on international or even national politics, for this is a review of Devizine, what I define loosely as “an entertainment news and events guide,” for the locality of Wiltshire, focussing particularly on our base, Devizes. Yet tenaciously it is linked, undeniably affecting limitations to what we could and couldn’t do. By the very appalling national statistics, despite rolling out vaccinations like no other country, it revealed true horrors of conflicting government decisions, their general disrespect and selfishness for the public they’re supposed to serve, and the public’s reaction to them.

Like a blind vacuum, sucking in every government blame game, it never ceases to amaze me keyboard warriors on social media turning culpability onto mainstream media, when their task is purely to report news, and capture the mood of the nation. The mainstream media is ruled by the elite, funding the government, they’re in bed together, literally. To publicise shortage of goods is informing of a potential issue, they didn’t enforce panic buying, the public did; chicken and egg. Equally, to publish mood change in the majority lost faith in government, is because there’s a mood change; we’ve lost faith in government.

I’m not here to say I told you so; I’ve not lost faith in this government, I had none to start with!

Take the last set of pandemic announcements, made only hours after government-controlled media broke news of Downing Street Christmas parties, best part of twelve months earlier. A day where the public felt betrayed, even those who voted for Bojo and his cronies held their heads in shame and had to confess it was all too much for a government to break rulings it set itself, and party on while the public suffered, and died. The mood was understandably bleak; why should we do what they say when they clearly don’t?

Why, you ask, for crying out loud? To protect ourselves from a global pandemic, numpty! Government announcements are fed counsel from health organisations and medical experts, skewered by bent politics, naturally, but the bullet points are there. It is not the same self-entitled buffoons, they’re voiceover artists on this occasion; given free reign they’d have “herd immunity,” against WHO advise.

Can you not see through the wool? The government press released the Downing Street Christmas Party scandal themselves, bang on cue of an announcement, so we would all think precisely that, why should we do what they say when they clearly don’t? If we rebel from their restrictions, we’ve only got ourselves to blame when the virus spreads. The government gets what they always wanted, herd immunity, and they’ve shifted the blame away from them and onto you, me, and everyone else.

Therefore, we need to take precautions ourselves, be a community, care for others around us. No hard and fast lockdown is needed, if common bloody sense prevailed, but government seem intent to rinse it from our craniums. We’re not self-service tills, do not robotise us!

We know now how to prevent the virus spreading; keep your distance from others, wear facemasks in public places, follow NHS guidelines in testing and get vaccinated as soon as possible, whether they tell you to or not.

These things should be commonplace, but whenever restrictions ease, like a naughty school-boy triumphantly marching out of detention only to offend again, we forget everything we’ve learned and pay the cost for it. I’m not preaching like a saint, caged too, I urged for a pint, to lob my facemask into the air, hug, and flaunt the rules when the rules relaxed, at times reflecting if we did the right thing, least if we did it too soon. But it’s done now and we can’t turn the hands of time. If we could, I’d still be on Castlemorton Common.

Old Skool Rave

In this, one series of articles I was proud of this summer was in reminiscence of my youth, being the thirtieth anniversary of 1991, an explosion for the rave scene. But another similar premise based on news of illegal raves happening in lockdown, was to ask those old skool ravers if they’d still go raving if there was a similar pandemic in the nineties; with interesting results.

Return of the Rave

And if it sounded like I was defending mainstream media, I wasn’t, only applying a smidgen of sympathy. With Facebook, Twitter et al, media is everyone now; I’m living proof any idiot can publish a blog and make look it like reputable news! Reason why, I guess, criticising other local outlets always brings hits, the occasion I felt the need to defend Devizes against the sharp eye of local gutter-press Wiltshire Live, proved to be our third most popular article of the year.

Devizes is a great place to live, Tory top-heavy, but that’s something anyone with an alternative opinion has to unfortunately suck up. Our fourth most popular article this year was in January, breaking the news Tory PCC candidate for Wiltshire, Johnathan Seed, was a bad card. Something as more evidence came to light, namely drink-driving offences, proved to be true, at the time I put my finger on something conflicting in his chat with us, calling anyone who cared to address fox hunting a “troll,” but requesting we talk on his trespass pledges, blatantly linked to restrict the movement of sabs, the only folk we see actually policing this disgusting and unbelievable smokescreen of trail hunting. Something we covered more recently, suggesting Boxing Day Hunts need better policing.

Moan I’m bias, yeah, no shit, Sherlock. Do I attempt to hide it like others? Why the hell should I side with anyone butchering wildlife for so-called sport, and in that, why the hell would you?! But hey, I remained impartial during local elections, giving each and every candidate a platform, so there!

Never has a PCC election run with such controversy. Aggravation between sides fired, and we did more than blow the lid off Seedy’s bogus campaign, causing some alarming revelations in local social media bias. Tories back Tories, no matter what they’ve done wrong, it’s an allegiance to admire, even if you feel it’s malicious. As well as chatting with Lib Dem candidate Liz Webster and independent Mike Rees, we tried a few spoofs: Play the Wiltshire PCC Game, Basil Brush Missing, and upon the Tories hustling in an alternative candidate by stalling the re-election, we ran a short story The Adventures of Police Crime Commissioner Wilko, which was based upon a better received satire, a long-running mock of Wiltshire Council, in The Adventures of Councillor Yellowhead.

At times Mike seemed such a threat to Wiltshire’s Tory totalitarianism, a media attack seemed the best method to deflect people taking the common-sense vote. The first bout came in January, when Mike was barred from volunteering to administer lateral flow Covid tests, the second in July affected me personally as the Devizes Issues Facebook group revealed its fiercely denied bias, by banning me for using a George Orwell quote to express my concern at the taxpayer having to fork four million quid for a re-election which was clearly the Conservative Party’s fault! I’m adamant it was justified.

Nineteen-eighty-four was supposed to be a warning, not a fucking self-help guide.

Annoyed, I struck out, naturally, and was begged back, after the full-gone conclusion a Wiltshire majority blindly vote for the blue rosette no matter what! But it was a month after the ban, the smear reached its apex, with all posts about the independent candidate immediately banned and deleted on the popular Facebook group, and anyone complaining were blamed by members for the downfall in Mike’s success! You can’t make up hypocrisy that nasty. 

Tory Devizes Town Councillor Iain Wallis on “the Devizes Issues.”

It’s not the politics which bothers me as much as the kind of world they envision. Stories of injustice swamped Devizine this year, more than ever before, even our April Fool’s Joke had stark repercussions. 

Every minute an adolescent arm reaches out of a window, unceremoniously handing a bag of fast food to a driver, they nod a thanks, and leave. That seemed to me to be the maximum social interaction of 2020, yet commonplace in modern living, pandemic or not. I recalled going to a Tesco, paid at the pump, masked expressions as I sauntered the aisles, paid at the self-service till and on the way out considered one could live their life in modern times completely unnoticed, months need pass without human contact. My mind meanders if that’s something young folk actually want, or if they’ve been robotised, or if it’s an age thing leaving me in a care-home for terminally bewildered.

The best hitting article of the year was again, our April Fool’s Day joke, where this time I misleadingly announced the opening of a McDonalds in Devizes. Maliciously planned, it broke the local internet, and despite suggesting it was All Fools Day in the piece, comments and messages flooded in from headline scanners. In favour of it or not, the debate is such popular the joke was lost on many desperate souls dying for a McFlurry; causing faith, just like Chippenham’s recent pandemonium for a bucket of battery chicken in gravy, yes, Aldous Huxley was bang-on, many folks do want to live in this commercialised bubble, void of individualism.


On Everything Else

Individualism, free thinking and fair and just causes we stand for here, it is not my fault the many attempts to counteract this seem to come from a conservative ethos, and therefore get criticised for it. I’m not dead against conservativism, but they seem dead against me, as if we’re supposed to know our place tip our hat and reply, “very good guvnor, I’ll bail your shit for a shilling!”

My god, how they hate common people who can articulate, that’s’ why they slash away like Freddy Kruger at the education budget while back the grammar school relaunch. Then keyboard warriors whinge at juvenile delinquency like it’s a new thing and something stringing them up for will somehow solve. We’re heading into days as dark as the early eighties, perhaps medieval for some, days I remember with a horror in my heart.

The audacious legacy building bashes on with grand and glorious plans, I reported Stonehenge had been saved by the High Court, but they operate above the law and continue to ignore the justice system, plotting to bury a road underneath it, shaking it to ruin, least knocking it of the World Heritage List, for the sake of knocking minutes off commuting times.

I criticised the reality of building a whole new train station miles out of Devizes, against popular opinion, cos I’ll believe it when I see it, and furthermore, I feel there’s more pressing issues which looking at. If not our terrible infrastructure, the state of our roads, and the endless chain of bureaucratic nonsense to get the simplest of notions pushed through bumbling pompousness of councillors and apparent do-gooders, it’s the increasing homeless on our streets, the need for Food Banks which the Tories selfishly assume is a good thing, the poverty level submerging a continuous population and the outright condoning of racist, sexist and homophobic acts. Sort them out, and I’ll gladly stand on Devizes Parkway platform with you, or any other brazen legacy-building pledge you dream up!

Every time I’m duped, I feel like an idiot, unable to get my message through the red tape. You want a train station, yet I reported the dangerous state of a Wiltshire Council playpark in Rowde, FIVE years ago, and I have to seriously throw my toys out of the pram to get anyone to pay it any attention. In February this year I was delighted, based on my article, Councillor Laura Mayes secured £20,000 from WC to re-design the playground and she proudly used it to publicise her election pledge.

But still the playpark remains in the same state of disrepair, not a penny pledged has been spent. Whether this is WC’s fault or the Parish Council I don’t know, they got what I suspect they wanted, a successful election result, and my whinging reduced too. I’ve just lost all faith and interest in continuing to bother with it. You want a train station, huh? Traffic lights at the Black Dog crossroads? A no left turn sign at the top of Dunkirk Hill? Yeah, good luck with that, we’re moving into six years for them to fix a dangerous baseplate of a bouncy chicken in a playpark!

Yet perseverance can pay off; we loved it when Rab Hardie of Duck N Curver broke into Stonehenge to raise awareness of his wish to film a video inside the stone circle, we asked if the Fire & Rescue Service were Cutting Vital Flood Equipment, defended Wiltshire Police from keyboard warriors upset they used a rainbow as their Facebook logo during Pride Month, wished Devizes Lions a happy 50th, supported Joe Brindle on his campaign to save Drews Pond Wood, attended Save Furlong Close protests, added some reflection on the Travellers based in Bromham, praised local artist, Clifton Powell when he was commissioned for English Heritage Exhibition, The African Diaspora in England, had a great time at Breakout, Chippenham’s Alternative Art Show, congratulated the award-winning British Lion. Crickey, the list goes on; the vast array of subjects we’ve covered, even war memorials which look like bins!

I must be boring you into an early grave, which isn’t the best way to start a new year!

One last thing, we did plenty of spoofs and satirical pieces, too many to name, yet, all’s fair in love and war, and it was a great year; here’s to 2022! I leave it there before your head explodes!


Why Did the Gazette & Herald Single Out Trowbridge Takeaway with Zero Rating?

Working five years or more as a delivery driver for a local butcher, you witness some pretty awful hygiene practises while passing through numerous commercial kitchens. Yet via this experience I conclude, bad hygiene is not confined to any particular sort of eatery or of any class of establishment.

I delivered to everything from greasy spoons to London’s top hotels and restaurants, and in some standards are exceptionally high, whereas others are dreadfully dirty and pertain some terrible practises. I’ve walked through dog turd infested backyards, told to leave raw meat under the baking sun, I’ve seen a fish flipped onto the floor from a frying pan and promptly picked up and put back into the pan, and I could go on putting you off your tea, but never could I suggest such shocking things are only found in lower-priced establishments, the “posh” hotels and restaurants were equally as bad, often arguably worse.

Three days ago, freelance reporter, Beth Gavaghn broke news of four Wiltshire establishments which “have been given a zero rating by food hygiene inspectors,” published in the Gazette & Herald. Nothing wrong with this, you might suggest, it’s handy for the public to know these places rated low, and if you do suggest, I’d agree. My issue is with the structure of this, quite frankly, shoddy journalism, and if not shoddy, some bad choices made it undeniably bias.

The headline reads, “Trowbridge Chinese takeaway Happy Valley gets zero rating.” Aside grammatical errors, three of the four establishments are cherrypicked to be fleetingly noted, while Happy Valley took the brunt of the report, and was singled out in the headline. Billy Batchers Butchers in Shrewton and Sprinkles Gelato in Salisbury both scored equally low following an inspection, five months AFTER Happy Valley, but barely got a mention. The Bell at Great Cheverell also received a zero rating but mention of it was rushed through, despite being assessed at the same time as the Chinese Takeaway.

Not forgoing these inspections were made in March 2021, for The Bell and Happy Valley, and in August of the same year for Billy Batchers Butchers and Sprinkles Gelato, so for all their sakes, some update on work they’ve done to improve since would be handy to know, but I feel impelled to ponder, just why the one establishment was singled out? Did the reporter receive an adverse fortune cookie there, perhaps?!

It’s no good asking you guys, who are understandably as much in dark over this as me. I despatched a direct message to Beth via Twitter, two days ago and await a reply; just wanted to throw it out there, really, being there was plenty of time to reply, and that what I asked isn’t too OTT. That being: If other establishments also received the same low rating, why have you focussed and highlighted one in particular? That hardly seems fair. Well, are you with me? Does it sound fair to you?

Any reasoning would be speculation; I could, but I won’t go there. YetI’m not holding out much hope of a reply, unless she was to read this and shudder, oh, nasty blogger; I’d best dream up and despatch a quickfire excuse, but I had to note, further scrolling on the Gazette & Herald Facebook page revealed a sponsored advertorial for, coincidently, the Bell at Great Cheverell. “Paid partnership,” being the professional term, indicating backhanding cash to get reapproval, an avenue perhaps the Chinese Takeaway couldn’t afford to take, will get you off the hook; and you thought TripAdvisor reviews were skewered.

Conflicting, or simply the answer to our query, I’m not sure, but evidently, money talks. It should be importantly noted, a zero rating doesn’t mean an establishment must close, rather make significant improvements, and I would see no reason to be put off eating at any of them, the Bell is a rather splendid pub, and I’m certain they would have strived to improve on this rating. The others I am unaware of, but I’m sure in these uncertain times for any small business this exposure was superfluous and unwelcome; if all establishments scored equally, so should the balance of the report.

It is not your job, Newsquest, to wreck one business in favour of another. Heck, guys, I’d have given you a glowing review for a bag of prawn crackers; don’t bow to this injustice!

And readers, you’ve got your own mind, use it; accepting unedited and unsolicited submissions makes a newspaper look cheap and nasty, and I don’t believe that is what we want from local press; we’ve enough from Wiltshire Live, don’t stoop to their level, G&H.


Trending…

Chatting With The Lost Trades

Local newspapers ran with a yarn of snow blizzards, due Saturday, and illustrated the clickbait with scenes of worst weather of yore. The laughable reality was there was a blustery storm which bought five minutes of flurry.

I don’t conscribe to sensationalising, neither need to interview for the emblematic promotion of a new product. The Lost Trades aren’t yet announcing a second album, neither have they memoirs published; there wasn’t a good reason to interview them. They didn’t whet appetites broadcasting a follow-up album when I asked them the standard “what’s next” question, rather spoke about strategies.

I was eager to catch up with them though; haven’t seen them for ages, and they were happy to oblige, because they’re nice like that! They’d finished a soundcheck supporting Focus for a Long Street Blues Club gig at Devizes’ Corn Exchange, which Andy kindly reviewed.

No matter how they’ve been gigging further afield and stamping a benchmark for folk harmony trios internationally with The Bird, The Book and the Barrel, their feet remain on the ground, and this is, after all, their original stomping ground. Two thirds from Devizes, Jamie R Hawkins and Tamsin Quin, while Phil Cooper is from Trowbridge, the latter of whom casually asked prior to the interview what I could write about them which I haven’t already.

Fair cop, since day dot Devizine followed all three, Tamsin crowdfunding her debut album, Gypsy Blood was our first article in 2017, a review of Phil’s Thoughts & Observations closely followed, and I met Jamie slightly later, at the Saddleback Festival’s Battle of the Bands in 2018.

Tamsin and Jamie at Battle of the Bands, 2018, with George Wilding, Claire, Mike Barham, Jordan Whatley, Jack Moore and Sally Dobson. Image by Nick Padmore

The three musicians closely associated themselves with each other, producing and recording, assisting with gigs and collaborating sporadically, until a natural bond had formed and it made sense to form a trio. The news of The Lost Trades we broke in December 2019, a year of lockdown followed their debut gig at Trowbridge’s Pump, but a period which has seen them improve tenfold, together, on their already high standard.

Both the name the Lost Trades and the album name, The Bird, The Book and the Barrel derives from their surnames; Cooper is a barrel-maker, Hawkins the bird and Quins were counsels or scribes, hence the book. Figuring a blithe beginning, being my rare organisational skills surprised them with a typed sheet of questions, I thought I’d ask if Phil minded being referred to as a barrel! He said he didn’t, but do they call him it?

Phil Cooper solo

“From now on,” Jamie laughed while Tamsin christened it his new name. Phil retorted “that makes you Jamie ‘the bird’ Hawkins,” and I added I liked a bird with a beard, which isn’t exactly true but it broke the ice, if there was some to break, which there wasn’t, so I don’t know why I mentioned it!

The Trades know me well, in this, I pointed out a milkman is a something of a lost trade, and wondered if they had space for me, perhaps in the corner, with a triangle! Jamie noted I could be a “bottle fourth member!” While they pondered if there were to be any sensible questions, I broadened it with, “or is three the magic number?” 

Phil was first to confirm, the others agreed humbly. Tamsin expanded, “having three of us there’s no scope for two people going against two other people, you know? It’s always equal.”

“Yeah, democratically it works really well,” Jamie added. “There’s always a mediator,” Tammy motioned, “it works well like that.” Phil enhanced, “from a harmony point of view, I mean, don’t tell any barbershop quartets this but three is the magic number!” To be honest, I’m all out of befriending barbershop quartets these days anyway.

I offered it was great to see them back in Devizes, because it was, and I asked them where was the furthest so far, they’d played. Being, I’d imagine, the map-man of the trio, Phil called Eastbourne.

But are they booked for many festivals this summer? “Yes,” Phil replied, but couldn’t spill the beans. The Lost Trades are getting a lot of bookings, which is understandable. The only characteristic variance I noted seemed to be Tamsin, who once conveyed a slightly anxious persona when performing but is now rightfully brewing with confidence. More importantly, all three seem so at ease with the Trades’ success, loving the moment, and they’re bonded even tighter.

This is the point I slipped in the standard “what’s next,” and asked, “where do you take it from here?”

“Well, we have a strategy, you see?” Tamsin whispered, “first was getting our name out to our fans, and building up this joint fanbase, which is what we’ve worked on. And now we’re trying to build our name up in the folk world. So, hitting the folk clubs.” And they’ve been getting blinding reviews from folk magazines. “And a lot of radio-play from specialist folk shows as well,” Phil added, “up in Cambridge,” he exampled. Nationally, or even internationally, I queried. “Yeah,” Phil answered proudly, “in Canada, and Italy.”

I supposed lockdown live streaming helped in this exporting, despite lack of profit. Phil nodded, “it certainly tied us over, when we weren’t able to do anything, and kept us in people’s minds.” Tamsin assured, “at this stage in our career it’s not about making money, it’s more about getting our name known and reputation built up.”

To prevent it getting too cosy, I had something more challenging up my sleeve. As individuals The Lost Trades are no strangers to diversifying genres and sounds. Phil in particular, who even delves into electronica with a side project called BCC. Yet the Lost Trades is narrow in ethos, like a corporate identity, being strictly a folk trio, even in design of covers and promotional material. Make no mistake, this works, and is a great formula, but I asked how they could future prevent criticism that it’s getting “samey.” In this I gave the example of the Adele single.

“The fact there’s three songwriters in the band, all with different styes, will help keep us fresh,” Phil explained, “and like you say, we do all like to switch and try other things. I think it will happen, but obviously we’ve put this folk package together, and the music is very much modern folk, going to Americana.” I nodded, in theme too, content is modern. Tamsin added “Also that we’re playing multi-instruments too, which keeps us fresh.”

Debut gig at the Pump, Trowbridge

It was perhaps a tricky question, but you only need to listen to The Bird, The Book and the Barrel to note there is room for experimentation within the genre, and The Lost Trades wish to engage this. Phil expressed, “the folk thing is less about the music and more about how we present ourselves, as a brand, if you like.”

On reflection of their earliest songs as the trio, and knowing them as individual performers, I sense each song in style and writing are pitched by one of them to the trio; I could pick out that one was very Jamie, or very Phil, but the lines are blurred on the newer songs, melded so much I cannot pick out who’s idea or who wrote any particular song; is this what they’re working towards, complete harmonising? It was the longest question with the shortest answer, they nodded throughout me asking it. “I guess so,” Jamie replied, “there’s lots of methods and approaches we’ve yet to try out; that’s another reason why I think we’ll stay fresh.”

“One of the reasons the later stuff is harder to tell is,” Phil expanded, “the earlier stuff the other two were harmonising with whoever had the lead vocal, but the stuff we did towards the end of the album didn’t have a lead vocal, it was all about the three voices all the way through. We could get samey if we did just that, so we’ll keep the solo voice every now and then, just to keep it interesting.”

Lost Trades at the Southgate, Devizes

Tamsin added, “Also, as we’ve grown together musically, we’re writing songs specifically for the band. We write our own solo songs and ones which we think, oh, this one would sound better as a harmony; we tailor it to be a band song.”

Sure, feels like a progression happening naturally, as they work closer together. “It already did,” Phil said when I suggested this, “when working on the album there was two or three songs which didn’t exist until a month before the recording. We put them together really quickly, and yes, they were very much that kinda organic feel.”

Mentioning the impending lockdown as they first formed, I wondered if they felt there was positives which came from it. Phil called the album a massive positive, which if you’ve heard it, you can only agree. “There were songs on there written about what we were going through at the time….”

Tamsin responded too, “lots of the songs we wrote when we were feeling down about having to cancel the tour, for example ‘Winning Days’ was where Jamie and I were feeling miserable, and Phil said ‘right I’m going to write a song to cheer us up.”

“I think, perversely,” Phil added, “the fact we’d built up friends on our side, and to suddenly have it swept away, we got a massive outpouring of love towards us, and that has probably put us on a run up the ladder, that maybe we wouldn’t have got at that point.”    

I beg to differ on this one, sensing this shadow of modesty in them, when really, this massive outpouring of love towards them would’ve been inevitable with or without the restrictions of lockdown, because this grouping just works; whether you are folk’s greatest devotee, or not.

For the final question I returned blithe, as I sensed they were busting to get to the stage; “have you ever been interviewed before with questions as stupid as these ones, and did you expect anything less?!”

The one who remained most silent during the interview, Jamie, made a funny noise of which I’m unsure if it was positive or negative, but it rolled out a belly laugh, Phil pleaded the fifth on it, and Tamsin voiced in the background she thought they were “lovely” questions, because that’s our Tammy, Devizes loves her, we love all three; Trowbridge and Devizes finest musical export; I give you The Lost Trades, who I lost; by the time I stopped the record button, they were gone, up on stage, to do what they love, and long may it be so!


Trending….

Seend to get Jazzy!

If I’ve been bragging about trekking to Trow-Vegas this weekend for musical indulgence, next weekend you don’t even need to journey that far to get a dosage, just that direction…..

Halfway house, the lovely village of Seend, with its wonderful Community Centre on the Green hosts a roaring twenties jazz party, next Saturday (20th November.)  And what was an £11 ticket stub is free, if you share and tag your friends in this here Facebook post. Each friend tagged will gain you an entry into the prize draw – the more friends tagged, the greater the chance of winning (Terms and conditions apply.)

A Bristol-based ragtime jazz band, Trip For Biscuits, with Charlie Minty offering a Charleston dance workshop, this roaring evening will transport you back to the 1920’s, an era of speakeasies, prohibition and feather boas, and DJ Meaze will then be on hand to keep the party going until late.

Fancy Dress is also encouraged to get everyone in the mood, and 1920’s Cocktails and Nibbles will be available to purchase on the evening. Tickets are here. “Awl, applesauce!” 


Trending…..

Ålesund and Agata at Trowbridge Town Hall

With Andy gig-galivanting the Vizes this weekend, I trekked to neighbouring Trowbridge, to find mesmerising and enriching vibes at the Town Hall, via Ålesund and Agata; hold my hat, there’s a good fellow……

Just as Jim Crow segregation laws spawned juke-joints, the twentieth century is littered with examples of mainstream music venues unable to stay in touch, and consequently underground scenes progressing and pushing musical boundaries. It’s true for the Mods, frequenting coffee bars when pubs closed early and refused to play jazz, for beatnik outlawed psychedelia, and from Jamaican sound systems to bless ghettos of New York with hip hop.

Late eighties and early nineties Bristol reflected a different party from the paisley clubs of London. Leftover reggae sound systems merged dub back into hip hop, and a subversive scene of downtempo “trip hop” was innate, swamping rave chillout tents, and imaged by supplementary graffiti artists. If worldwide recognition for Banksy puts Bristol on the art map, I deliberate the music clearly rubbed off on a new generation, subsequently resulting in Bristol’s paramount cultural scene today.

I ponder this while a youthful Bristol-based four-piece fill Trowbridge Town Hall with blissful ambience. The band is Agata, based upon the Polish-born singer-songwriter’s name, and they’re only the support act, apparently! I’d blue-in-face argue this gig is a double-biller, not only from Agata’s proficiency to perform, but similarities to the headline, Ålesund, complimented them perfectly.

It’s spellbindingly mellow, even if the sound is stripped of yesteryear’s trip hop beats it maintains shards of electronica’s downtempo mellifluousness, of Massive Attack, and is governed with emotively powerful female vocals, riding me back to Portishead on a drizzly Glastonbury stage of yore. Drums prominent on these wholly and uniquely original pieces, bass and lead guitars sprinkle over the electronica soundscape, caressing Agata’s delicate but emotive and elegant voice. I love Salisbury’s Timid Deer for all the same reasoning.

Gavin Osborn, the town hall’s music and performance programmer is Bristolian, ergo he’s bringing a taste of the city to Trowbridge, which itself has a blossoming post lockdown gig map. Yet if the mass appeal of Gary Kemp deejaying eighties’ dancefloor fillers at the reopened Civic this weekend wasn’t your cup of tea, make your Trow-Vegas sojourn the Pump or Town Hall. There’s a continuous programme of exhibitions, arts and music at the Town Hall and musicians queue orderly for bookings at the Pump.

With music performances set in a characteristic yet intimate setting, gigs are a convivial experience here, one easy to interact with the bands, and you come away feeling part of it rather than a face in the crowd. Agata though would make for a perfect Sunday festival act, and have played Larmer Tree, Dot-to-Dot and Simple Things.

Currently touring a lockdown inspired EP “A Thread in the Dark,” Ålesund likewise, but the similarities don’t end there. Again, a Bristol-based four-piece creatively pasting natural soundscapes into a mellowed original repertoire, with upfront drums, female vocalist on keys, and bass and lead guitars adjoining them. The main difference is only a hint more professionalism than Agata, a tad more powerful voice commands, and more prominence on that mystifying Celtic folk-rock of say, Florence and the Machine.

Alba Torriset fronts the band, explained to me the Norwegian namesake is rooted to her father’s side. She cites Florence as a major influence, alongside Bat for Lashes, but she was eager to indicate Kate Bush to me too, as I nodded approvingly, thinking the same, and pointed to the preponderance of drums akin to Running Up That Hill. Also, her ability to use her voice as a musical instrument, results in a striking performance, as her naturally emotive soothing vocals carries you aboard her journey, equally as Kate Bush could.

On this particular occasion, in the usual drummer’s absence, an apt replacement was found, and boy did she give it her all, causing me to reason she must belong to a more hard-hitting rock band, later confirmed by sound technician Kieran J Moore. And in turn, this was a spellbinding performance. Hypnotically pleasing it cradled their new lockdown inspired songs, as Alba expressed her solace to the tranquillity of the moment, in the absence of industry and traffic she focused on the birdsong, and her writing reflected this, a song called Dawn Chorus particularly inspired from the notion, enthused with subtle birdsong samples in the background.

So yes, yes indeed, a memorable and most enjoyable evening at the Trowbridge Hall; both Ålesund and Agata less hip hop than predecessor Bristol scene acts like Massive Attack, less gothic than All About Eve, and less retrospective dejection than The Strangler’s Golden Brown, or 10CC’s Not in Love, but equally capsulating, emotive and euphoric; just with an uplifting contemporary method, gaging and merging aforementioned influences, future-beautiful. If either of these bands play near you, you’d be a fool to miss them.

As for the Town Hall, next Saturday (20th Nov) night proves not to be so laidback, as another Bristol-based band, IDestroy plans to bring a riotous, all-female party-punk live show to Trowbridge. Kid Carpet, Larkhall, Katherine Priddy all lead up to the new year, when 22nd January sees Gaz Brookfield booked, and com’ ere, there’s more……


Trending…..

Ride & Oasis Member “Andy Bell” Brings his Space Station tour to Trowbridge

Not only am I old skool enough to recall DJ Sonique singing whilst on the wheels of steel, I’m even so aged to confuse this musician-come-DJ with the namesake of the Erasure frontman. But Sheer promoter, Kieran J Moore is excited with the announcement the frontman of legendary Oxford “showgaze” pioneers, Ride, also called Andy Bell is coming to our county town.

“This is huge deal for me,” self-confessed massive fan of shoegaze and Ride, Kieran, explained, “so being able to bring this Independent Venue Week to a new and very cool venue in our County Town is special.” The reasoning for me bringing up Sonique is that on this Space Station tour, Andy deejays with live guitar, something I must say, is completely original to me.

Ride’s album “Nowhere” will often jostle for top spot in the all-time-shoegaze lists with “Loveless” by My Bloody Valentine. But you may also know him from late 90s indie outfit Hurricane #1 or latterly as the Oasis bassist, joining them for their last four studio albums and finally Liam Gallagher’s post-Oasis band, Beady Eye. He’s also appeared live with Pink Floyd, The Creation, Talk Talk, and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, and has appeared on record as guitarist for Andrew Weatherall, and recently as bass player for Du Blonde. Wherever you know him from, he’s a big figure in the industry, one of Oxford’s finest alumni and a noted figurehead of a scene.

Lockdown project, Andy Bell Space Station started in 2020, when Andy had a residency at Lo-Fi, a coffee shop in Crouch End, where he lives. As a way of reaching people with some form of live music, Andy started streaming performances from the empty coffee shop, playing electric guitar along with reworked versions of backing tracks from his various musical worlds, the backing tracks are deconstructed and extended in a way that makes them easy to improvise over; something I’d be both intrigued and impressed to see for myself.

Andy Bell will be performing his Andy Bell Space Station, at Trowbridge Town Hall on Sunday 6th February 2022, as part of a national campaign called, Independent Venue Week. Set at the end of January every year, the week-long campaign is designed to raise the profile and support independent venues during a period that is traditionally quite quiet.

“This is often done with underplays,” Kieran explained, “where a larger artist than would traditionally play a venue, goes in to give the venue a killer experience. This is also hand in hand with making the events really affordable and accessible.”

Tickets for our Andy Bell Space Station show go on sale this Monday, 15th November via WeGotTickets, priced a paltry £8, and in the spirit of things these gigs are all age too!


Trending…..

The Devizine Online Local Yuletide Market

If you’re like me and leave shopping to the last-minute Christmas eve frenzied dash like a headless turkey, or even if you’re arranging next year’s already, here’s some local Christmas gifts and ideas, which will build up, I hope, to a virtual Christmas market, a warm winter wonderland!

Surfing through the Net, with a one-maned open search engine, over Facebook we go, laughing all the way! Hey, crafty crafters, cheeky chefs and any other local creative types, I haven’t got a naughty or nice list, so don’t make me hunt you down. I know you’re busy, but it takes a second or three, and costs nought, to message us at Devizine and get your Christmassy products and ideas listed here, on our online local Yuletide market.

So, do bookmark this page and drop back in regularly, as it will be updated.

And for those who prefer the physical, there’s a list of Christmas Craft Markets at the bottom of this list, just keep on scrollin’!

Real Christmas Trees in Devizes

Back at the Bell on the Green this year from the 26th November, as it has been for 23 years, real Christmas trees will be for sale. You can pre order your trees for click and collect or delivery at www.merryChristmastrees.co.uk

AbraKadabra

AbraKadabra make these wonderful handmade magic seed-bombs, always popular at Christmas! Contact them via Facebook or Esty, and if you are in Devizes, put the discount code DEVIZES at checkout and you’ll get free postage!

Alan Watters

Rowde artist Alan Watters has limited edition signed and mounted prints of his recent drawing of a highland cow, and gives some of the proceeds to charity. This picture is also a signed cow greetings card with each print and posting worldwide. Have a look at https://alansfineart.com if interested. Cost is just £30 with delivery included.

Arthe

From the creators of Devizes-own artistic, hectic, eclectic, chaotic, linguistic, poetic, bombastic, fantastic, and perhaps a little anarchistic, kawaii bear, Arthe, there’s some groovy greeting cards and gifts on their website, tote bags, mugs, tees, etc; check it out funk soul bears.

Andy Fawthrop

Whilst some people might have spent their Lockdown baking banana bread or stockpiling toilet rolls, our very own roving reporter, Andy was hard at it, writing short stories. These have now been published in three volumes. There’s 49 new stories in all, featuring the usual gentle topics of murder, blackmail, mistaken identity, revenge, infidelity, piracy, robbery and…oh…well, anyway, they’re jolly entertaining, and by turns spooky, bizarre or comic. You can buy them direct from Andy for a tenner each, or order them through the wonderful Jo at Devizes Books, or even buy them from Amazon (paperbacks £10, Kindle downloads £3). “They would obviously make ideal Christmas presents,” Andy says, “particularly for that special person that you don’t like very much.” I’ve read his “stuff” and beg to differ.

Beeze’s

Easy choice, you just know Beeze’s in Devizes’ Ginnel are going to have some great ideas for Christmas gifts; they’ve got a whole Christmas Collection, not to mention Little Beeze’s toys next door. Chocolate message bars? Say no more!

Website Facebook

Blossom Hill Cards

Devizes-based Blossom Hill Cards has five Christmas wonderful card designs, with all proceeds going to Alzheimer’s Society. You can buy them HERE.

Cositas Bonitas

The brilliant shareware craft shop in Sidmouth Street Devizes, Cositas Bonitas is a must stop off on your Christmas shop, you will be spoiled for choice. Check out Facebook, to see what I mean!

The Little Eco Shop, Devizes

I’m so glad to hear the Little Eco Shop is back. Go there for zero waste Christmas Eco wrapping essentials. Recycled craft wrapping paper in brown, green and red. Compostable brown paper tape. Christmas patterned brown paper tape (perfect for jazzing up the paper) Natural twine. Coloured twine made from recycled plastic. Paper bows. Craft card tags. Make your own elf Christmas crackers.

Little Eco Shop is off Couch Lane, Devizes: Website. Facebook

My Happy Place

Such a lovely name for this Devizes-based small decoupage business; so it’s mainly bottles and jars, with lights or wooden hearts hanging plaques, but owner Cassie tells me, “pretty much anything I can get my hands on that will work!” Join her Facebook group for more details.

Caroline Le Bourgeois

If you’re lucky to find this amazing wildlife artist at the Shambles, or many local fairs and markets, her cute pictures would make a perfect wall hanging gift, or greetings cards. If not, her website is here.

Dollies Dimples

Devizes-based Dollies Dimples makes these charming secret pocket tins with personalisation, visit their Etsy shop here.

The Healthy Life Company

From Green and Blacks, Montezuma, Moo Free and Clipper tea advent calendars to Vaughn’s Kitchen Christmas Cake Packs, the Healthy Life in Devizes’ Little Brittox is more than muesli. With a reduced carbon footprint focus, they have a pop-up gift shop each year, with those gifts that you won’t find elsewhere on the high street. For a healthy, planet-friendly Christmas, visit The Healthy Life, or on Facebook.

FM by Gem

Perfume, the ideal gift; Gemma is your local FM rep with everything from real discounted perfumes, to home fragrances, makeup and even cleaning products. You will need to join this Facebook group to find out more.

Shaz’s Chutneys and Pickles!

Shaz’s homemade chutneys, pickles and hampers are up for grabs from the Southgate, Devizes. With a 5 star Food Hygiene Rating, they do look tasty!

The Devizine Compilation Album, of Course!

If you’re not fussed about unwrapping gifts, I could shamelessly plug our Devizine compilation album. It can’t be on CD, because it’s far too mahoosive, it would need approximately 6 discs to cram onto, ergo you can download it, and your money goes to Julia’s House Children’s Hospices. And on it you’ll find the very best of what local music has to offer, I pinky promise you that much!

Download it HERE

White Chalk Gallery

Newly opened in Devizes, The White Chalk Gallery would be the perfect stopping place on any Christmas shop, there’s handmade jewellery and sculptured pots as well as art, and will you just look at these two needle felted cutties made from pure wool by Jo Lilley @miceandmole. Find the White Chalk Gallery in Devizes Market Place, or website here.

Simon Folkard Photography

Amazing photographer Simon Folkard has a range of Devizes themed Christmas cards, as well as his celebrated calendars. He will be at the Corn Exchange’s Christmas fayre on Saturday 15th November, look him up or contact him via Facebook.

The Gourmet Brownie Kitchen

The way to a man’s heart this festive season I can tell you, for I’m dreaming of a brownie Christmas, and no one, I repeat, no one makes a brownie as good as The Gourmet Brownie Kitchen. Currently based at Poulshot Farm Lodge, plans are afoot for a new shop, but while it looks like Devizes, it’s all top secret at the moment, so keep in the loop via Facebook, and visit their website! UPDATE: it’ll be on Maryport Street; yay!

Kit Tags

Personalise your kit bags with combat proof tags, here!

Will Do Studio

On a Bauble or hanging decoration, personalisation is trending, Westbury’s Will Do Studio have personalised Christmas ornaments. Write your wishes on the bauble and give it to the person who is important to you. Add any text and make this souvenir on the Christmas tree.

Website Facebook

The Bird, The Book & The Barrel

I could recommend a billion albums, but this debut from our brilliant The Lost Trades would be my pickermost for the yule season, it’s just sooo nice! And yes, they have this on CD, so you can gift-wrap it! Buy it here.

Hannah Cantellow Studio

From Poulshot’s to Lockeridge’s village halls, Hannah runs linocut Christmas card workshops, a great way to create multiple cards yourself. You’ll be able to make and handprint a set of 10 Christmas cards and a carved block to take away with you, which you’ll be able to print again and again. All materials, tools, design templates and refreshments are provided (however, you’re welcome to bring your own design if you prefer.) Check the website for dates and booking.

Wix n Scents

Based at Castle Combe, who wouldn’t want a pug or boxer fart scented candle, I ask you? Other scents are available! Check them out here.


Christmas Shopping in Devizes

Our friends at InDevizes has created this map of all the independent shops around Devizes, for refence when out there shopping, and the cafes too, naturally!

Christmas Markets

Coming over all Oliva Newton John? Prefer the physical? Yeah, for shopaholics there’s nothing like trampling around a craft market this time of year, so I’ve also included a list of known Christmas craft fayres locally. If I missed yours, my gift to you is I can add it, which is not quite as good as socks or a Lynx deodorant set, but c’est la vie.

Deck The Halls @ Devizes Corn Exchange: 12th & 13th Nov.

Forest Friends Online Christmas Fayre: 15th-21st Nov.

Festive Shopping Night @ Bratton Jubilee Hall. 7-9pm. 18th Nov.

Wootton Rivers Village Hall: 20th Nov.

Westbury United FC: 20th Nov.

Shop Small Swindon Artisan Market @ The Hop Inn: 21st Nov.

Devizes Winter Festival: 26th Nov.

Christmas Market Night @ Abbey Meads School, Swindon. 5:30-8:30pm 26th Nov.

Charity Craft Fair in aid of St Joseph’s Nursey @ Devizes Conservative Club: Nov 27th, 10am-12.

Wadworth Christmas Fair: 27th Nov, 10am-4pm.

The Lamb Inn, Urchfont: 27th Nov.

Shield & Dagger Christmas Market, Swindon: 27th Nov.

Christmas Charity Fair @ The Cheese & Grain, Frome: 27th Nov.

Chippenham Festival of Christmas: 28th Nov.

Bishops Cannings School Christmas Fayre: 4th Dec.

Christmas Extravaganza @ St Johns Church, Devizes: 4th Dec.

Biddestone Christmas Fayre: 4th Dec.

Christmas Fayre at Ridgeway School, Wroughton: 4th December.

Codford Christmas Artisan Market: 4th Dec.

Mamma Events Christmas Market @ Mecca, Swindon: 11am-3pm. 5th Dec.

St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, Devizes: 10th Dec

Christmas Fair at the Churchill Arms, West Lavington. Saturday 11th Dec.

Christmas Craft Fair @ Warminster Park Community Centre: 11am-3pm 11th Dec.

Christmas Nativity @ White Hart Attworth


Print me out and colour me in!

Oh, and send me them via our Facebook page, with your name and age, and we’ll decide winners in December. If anyone of the lovely businesses we’ve helped by plugging their wares could offer a prize, do let me know!!


Trending….

How Common is “Spiking” in Wiltshire?

We’re talking with Wiltshire Police about spiking in the area, how common it is, how to best prevent being a victim of it, and what to do if you suspect you’ve been “spiked.”

There’s been a truckload of media coverage of “spiking” nationally, with a notion towards a trend of using needles rather than the more common practises of topping up a drink or dropping a drug into a drink. If anything, it’s made me realise how totally out of touch I am with modern clubbing. While it may’ve been a while since I got my groove thang on, which I feel imperative to add I can still cut-a-rug as good as any twentysomething, clubbing was a religion in my younger years, and I retain, just about, fond memories of carefree dancing the night away; but you don’t want to hear about that!

Therefore, I’m saddened and literally sickened to hear stories in the press of youngsters who’d rather stay in than risk being spiked, and those who’ve been victims. So, I’ve called upon Wiltshire Police, to find out how common this appalling trend is in the county, what people can do to both prevent it, and what action they should take if they suspect they’ve been spiked.

Wiltshire Police told me, “This issue has caused a lot of interest recently and we are keen as a Force to make sure the story is being told correctly and the actual picture in Wiltshire is being shown.” Still, I’d like to think cases in our county are low, and figures for the past three years in Wiltshire, supplied by Wiltshire Police’s Business Intelligence Unit show while twelve incidents were reported in 2019, this was reduced to eight incidents in 2020, which I suppose lockdown had an effect, because unfortunately, this year another twelve incidents have been reported. Police are keen to point out, these figures include instances where spiking may be mentioned in the summary of the incident but may not later be confirmed, and they relate to drink spiking, not needle spiking.

Yet this leaves me pondering incidents which go unreported, and I’m alarmed to read the charity Talk To FRANK website suggesting “while the aim may be to incapacitate someone enough to rob or sexually assault them, sometimes it is just intended as a joke – a bad joke as it is very dangerous.”

Beggar’s belief someone would do this as a prank, and in turn, I must say, I’ve had trouble angling this article. Firstly, if you’re a regular reader you’ll be aware I attempt sprinkling humour into my words, but there’s nothing funny to this issue. Secondly, I originally thought I’d have something concrete to say to anyone considering spiking another person, but I changed my mind; I have nothing to say to you which you’d probably take heed of, and I could legally publish.

The concentration has to be on sending a message to potential victims, which could be anyone. I’d like to advise you not to let these nasty bastards spoil your fun, but at the same time I implore you to stay safe.

Watch your drink at all times, remain within a group of trusted friends, and if you believe you’ve been spiked, try not to panic, but find support from friends. I accept this is easier said than done, the drugs these idiots use can be seriously intoxicating, things are going to get wobbly, so much more than having too many drinks, which should act as the indicator something is amiss, especially if you’ve taken account of how much you’ve drunk.

You may question what’s happening, where you are, even who you are, commonly used drugs like ketamine and Rohypnol are seriously debilitating, so getting help urgently is paramount. Wiltshire Police say, “we would encourage anyone who believes they have been the victim of spiking or have witnessed it to contact us on 101. Any reports of spiking will be investigated and taken seriously.” Details of prevention on Wiltshire Police’s website can be found here, please read it.

FRANK gives tips to stay safe: Plan your night out, including your journey there and back. Make sure the venue you are going to is licensed – venues are required to take steps to ensure the safety of their customers. When going to a pub, club or party avoid going alone. Friends can look out for one another. Stay aware of what’s going on around you and keep away from situations you don’t feel comfortable with. Think very carefully about whether you should leave a pub, club or party with someone you’ve just met, and make sure your mobile phone has plenty of charge in it before you leave home and keep your mobile safe.

I’m pleased to read nightclubs like The Chapel in Salisbury and Tree Swindon freely distribute “bottle stoppers,” but contacting another two local nightclubs, I received no response when asking them what they’re doing to prevent such incidents. While I know it’s not an easy issue, I urge them to reconsider policies such as no glass on dancefloors, hoping they can provide a plastic alternative.   

Wiltshire Police have launched Project Vigilant, with operations being carried out on a frequent basis to proactively prevent violence and sexual offences. You can read more about Project Vigilant on the Wiltshire Police website. A Wiltshire Police spokesperson said: “We continue to work closely with licensed premises and our partners across the county through initiatives like Project Vigilant to ensure everything is being done to spot the signs of predatory behaviour.”

FRANK continues onto how to avoid drink spiking, suggesting always buy your own drink and watch it being poured. Don’t accept drinks from strangers. Never leave your drink unattended while you dance or go to the toilet. Don’t drink or taste anyone else’s drink. Throw your drink away if you think it tastes odd.

There is also an initiative led by Wiltshire Council called Ask For Angela, which the Police supports. The scheme helps people who are on a date or who have met someone at a venue and feel unsafe get help from bar staff. Anyone who feels unsafe in such a situation can get help from bar staff by simply asking to speak to “Angela.”  Staff will then assist the person in leaving the venue discreetly and getting home or to a place of safety. This could mean taking the distressed person out of sight, calling for a taxi and making sure they get home okay or even asking the person causing distress to leave the venue if appropriate. Details about this are here.

To conclude, I’d just like to reaffirm my appeal you stay safe by taking heed of the advice, because although the media are focussing on needle spiking, spiking your drink is far more common and easier to execute. Prof Adam Winstock from the Global Drugs Survey says it would be difficult to inject someone with drugs in a night out situation, “needles have to be inserted with a level of care – and that’s when you’ve got the patient sitting in front of you with skin and no clothes. The idea these things can be randomly given through clothes in a club is just not that likely.” But not impossible, and dropping a pill into a drink, well, this is far simpler, so go out and have fun, but be aware, please.


Trending…..

The Evolution of Kirsty Clinch

“The only thing disappointing about Kirsty Clinch’s Evolution is, it ends.”

It’s a generation X thing, I’m suggesting, which levels me to downloading an album as the last port of call to actually “owning” something anywhere near physical, against this era of streaming music, sourly missing the fondness of holding a piece of vinyl for all its crackles and jumps. Because owning an album was like a piece of treasure, the cherished keepsake sense you don’t get with streaming, and in review today is exactly the sort of album to be such a cherished keepsake.

Nevertheless, Wiltshire’s adorable country-pop virtuoso, Kirsty Clinch has mastered the art of marketing, and with a drive to succeed, knows precisely through social media, how to gain and keep engaged a modern audience, equally to her exceptional gift as a musician and singer-songwriter. Yes, you could’ve guessed it, her new album Evolution is a masterpiece. The finale of which being aptly a tune called Social Media, which expertly reflects on the image one projects online against the hidden imperfections of reality.

But the ingenuity of marketing is a miniscule element as to why Kirsty manages to reach the fourth position in the iTunes charts in under a few short weeks of releasing her debut album, against the much larger reason that this is the sort of music which doesn’t require pigeonholing, because whatever the angle of your personal taste, you’ll emerge from it thinking; you know what, I like country-pop now.

So, I bite the bullet, stream it on Spotify, like a fledgling, mottled boss, ignoring the invasion of adverts for the sake of hearing an album I’ve held in high anticipation, since she mentioned it to me quite a while ago. If it’s taken time, it’s primarily Kirsty being a perfectionist, and it shows. Nothing here will disappoint or make me doubt the faultlessness of the composition of this album, and in turn, Kirsty’s talent, her picture-perfect balance, in such a way, it’s impossible not to love.

Around and Around’s modest drum makes this song an irresistible introduction, if the astute song writing, complimented by Kirsty’s rich and warming voice, doesn’t, oh but it does. Water’s Running Low continues the quality, confirming you’re in for a beautiful journey, ten tracks strong.

Fit The Shoe, the single we’ve fondly mentioned prior, is hauntingly divine, like William Orbit’s production of Madonna’s Frozen, with a theme of who the cap fits, which is followed by the title track, again, wonderful. Uplifting is the keyword throughout, maintain the balance of sombre yet jubilance. I am Winning, a song of faith in your accomplishments, being a grand example, it drifts over you, as if it’s always been in your life.

Previously there’s always been an obviously and well played out taste of country’s female giants clearly influenced in Kirsty’s songs, of Tammy or Dolly, but here, now, this is wholly Kirsty, it sounds freshly awakened to the junction whereby one day, not far away, reviewers will cite her influence on newer folk artists; that much I’m certain. 

Perhaps the memorable, yet not as quirky as the title suggests, No Cornflakes makes me sigh, are we past the halfway mark already? The only thing disappointing about Kirsty Clinch’s Evolution is, it ends.

But not before I Am Me, a rejected romance theme, breaths the most heart-warming narrative of all, with a trialling drumbeat imposing you to realise her style is contemporary, rather than the genre’s archetypal nostalgia. And three more tunes which never faulters the experience, the catchiest of them being Down, and it ends with the aforementioned Social Media.

In this finale you get the confirmation behind the stunning, echoing voice lies honesty in the song writing, from the heart and soul. And that’s it’s worth, in a nutshell, you feel as if you’re getting a little piece of this performer, who is the whole deal, plus one. Self-managed, produced, save the odd tip and mastering from Pete Lamb, marketed, Kirsty even drew the cover illustration. She puts the young students of her newly opened music school before that of promoting this album, she surely shines, and if you heard her previous songs, seen her perform live, you’ll remain convinced this album, is Kirsty indeed evolving into a shooting star you cannot ignore.


Trending….

Onika Venus Smooths Trowbridge Town Hall

A truly wonderful night was had at Trowbridge Town Hall with soul-reggae artist Onika Venus and band….

Agreed, you may have to sift through wildly nerdy debates over Kirkby and Buscema’s cross-hatching, or season 12 of the Fourth Dr Who against season 13, but one great thing about socialising in the comics industry, unlike the mainstream music one, is level-pegging. The fact everyone gets paid peanuts no matter if you’re inking for Dark Horse or small pressing under a broken photocopier, means no snobby hierarchy, and this compares to local music circuits too, something I wrongly didn’t expect it to be like last night.

The arrogance and haughtiness of the pop star is historically documented. If I go above my station, it usually ends in disappointment, because I’m not wearing a Rolling Stone stage pass. I check ahead this weekend, because Onika Venus responded with gratitude when we reviewed her wonderful album, and on the strength of it alone, I made Trowbridge Town Hall my mecca for my evening’s intake of quality music. The message simple; make door-staff aware to allow me backstage if you would like to say hi.  

Now I’m sitting in a modest room of the Town Hall, with a slight crowd of approximately forty, rather than the grand ballroom and mass gathering I was expecting, and husband half of the duo, Mark Venus comes to thank me for the review, joking, “it’s okay, I’ve cleared your backstage pass!”

Why my assumptions? Not alone the prestigious connotations of “Trowbridge Town Hall,” but the sheer quality of Onika Venus’s album, Everything You Are. Her rich, beautiful vocals commands superiority, as if she’s pre-famed internationally, rather than the veracity; she’s upcoming, gigging together for the best part of twelve years on their local music scene around Bristol and the Forest of Dean, fans of which travelled to attend in support.

Reason enough to cry her name from the hilltops, which I intend to do, because last night was absolutely fantastic, and if everyone knows Macy Grey, Erykah Badu, or even Ariana Grande heaven help, everyone should know the music of Onika Venus.

I could ponder why until the cows come home, and conclude imminent attention aside, there’s a unique crossover with this singing duo making it tricky to pigeonhole. Husband Mark very much has the style of acoustic country or easy listening, a passionate James Taylor quality, whereas Jamaican-born Onika belts out a naturally sublime soulful voice where reggae is ascertained.

In a world where traditionally, husband and wife duos are unified in style, from Abba to Sonny & Cher, or Johnny Cash and June Carter, this blend is welcomingly unique, and I have to say, works so, so well. Critics should also take heed this little-known fact, historically as well as blues and RnB, country music bears a huge influence on the Jamaican recording industry pre the era of their homegrown radio stations, where folk would hear the sounds of US stations.

I discussed this with the pair, Mark acknowledged Onika’s mother back in JA sung country songs. In turn this also revealed, like many Jamaican musicians, music is in her blood. For while soulful, there’s nothing diva about Onika, coming across reserved and shy. Reflecting in the passion of her voice, on stage she shines like a beacon, with the joyfulness of female reggae artists of yore, particularly that of Marcia Griffiths, who always held an esteemed cheerfulness in her sound.

So, amidst this modest audience, accompanied by her husband Mark on acoustic guitar, and two other members, a percussionist on snared cocktail cajon and multi-instrumental brass player, they played out tunes from their album with a perfection spectators held in awe, then took a break.

This was not before the brilliant oddity of a comical support act, namely Big Tom, a friendly Londoner with a warming smile and penchant for original music hall. Whom covered the age-old bawdy parody of the nursey rhyme, “Oh Dear What Can the Matter Be,” where seven old ladies were locked in the lavatory. This took me back to the cockney songs my own nan would sing, and I told him so within this surprisingly communal and outgoing environment.

It also gave the opportunity, said environment, to chat with Onika and Mark, the latter suggesting his eclectic influences included mod revival and two-tone ska as well as country-rock. This came to an apex in the second half of the show, whence after playing a few more songs from the album, and introducing us to some new songs they’ve been working on for a follow-up, the four-piece burst into a lively finale of reggae classics. From Dandy Livingstone to the more obvious Toots and Marley, this medley gave the crowd the incentive to dance, making for a celebratory and memorable culmination.

But if this felt essential given Onika’s origins, it certainly wasn’t pushy, and with equal joy Onika sang the songs which blessed reggae into international recognition as she did their own compositions. Yet it is in those originally penned songs where this band all gleam, the album is a must-have. I adhere to this notion so much, I’ve a CD of said album to give away, see below.

For now, though, know this was a wonderful evening, with Sheer Music’s Kieran at his beloved control tower, Trowbridge Town Hall intends to break barriers and offer a variety of events for all in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Not forgoing, Onika and her band were astounding.

WIN A CD OF EVERYTHING YOU ARE!

So, if you want a copy of Everything you Are by Onika Venus, it’s on Bandcamp, or you could win one (if you live in the Devizes area so I can deliver it!) Please ensure you’ve liked our Facebook page, and Onika’s too. But I’m not making it that easy, you will have to give me, via Facebook comment, a great example of where country music influenced reggae, post a YouTube link to the song, and let’s get educating! Winner will be the one who picks my favourite example, by chance!


WIN 2 TICKETS HERE!

Trending….

Everything You Are, Onika Venus

You remember being given some coursework, when back in higher education, with various objectives and your task was to choose one to complete? Not really wanting to do it, you go to the student at the top of the class, and ask them what they’ve done. They reply, “ah, not much,” and this gives you the cue to do absolutely nothing. Then, on the day of handing it in, they’ve unexpectedly produced the single-most awesome project, covering all the objectives in one ingenious combination, and you stand there with zilch, except a jaw hanging and an implausible excuse, which you made up on the bus coming in?!

I’d imagine Onika Venus to be just like that. Now Bristol-based, Jamaican-born Onika plays Trowbridge Town Hall on September 18th, so, given reggae is cited as an influence, I thought I’d check out her debut solo album, Everything You Are, which was released back in March.

The title track was chosen as Songsmith’s Song of the Year 2020, and it’s easy to hear why. I’ve not been this blown away by a female vocalist since discovering Minneapolis’s Mayyadda.

Immediately this pushed my buttons, but if this opening title tune is decidedly acoustic blues, with a distant harmonica resounding in the background, there’s a truckload more going on than the first impressions here.

The premise from the beginning is as simple as, Onika Venus has the prevailing soulful voice to carry whatever genre is thrown into the melting pot, and drizzle it over you like hot sauce. It only leaves you pondering how far she will take it. The second tune I pigeonholed as RnB pop, a contemporary Macy Gray or Erykah Badu, aiming for chart success. When I’m Broken carries this concept to a higher height, and is simply, the model formula of popular music every song should aim for.

Yet, three songs in and here comes the Caribbean influence. Friday Love has a clear mento feel, it’s immediately beguiling, a good-time chugging song in the face the despondent romance theme. This will occur again towards the middle the album with Who’s Been loving You. Again, with Shotgun there’s similar appeal, perhaps the most definable as “roots reggae,” and, for me, they’re the favoured sections.

But it swaps back to the mainstay for track four, steady soul with an orchestrated ambience; Everything has its Season, is the ideal equilibrium to bless that heavenly voice and compose this euphoric moment of bliss. After a surprising modern dancehall intro, we’re back to an acoustic guitar riff for the poignant The Storm, using sax to mitigate jazz. I Need You, though, has kick-ass funk, Ike & Tina Turner in their prime.

With only three tunes to go, just when you think influences have been exhausted, there’s a duet with a male voice, supplied by husband, Mark, Mary, sounds classic Americana, as if Joe Cocker just walked into the studio and said, why don’t you try this?!

To keep you guessing what the last couple of tunes will hold, yeah, folk is strapped onto soul, Reaper Man aches of Aretha Franklin, but by this point you just know Onika Venus can carry this off with bells on. Raising the bar of comparisons is justified, believe me. For when it’s funky I’d give you Randy Crawford, Chaka Khan, and when it levels with acoustic and folk, her voice dishes out notions of reggae heroines, of Phyllis Dillon or Marcia Griffiths, and the gospel finale, yeah, Aretha will be justified, if not Sister Rosetta Tharpe; it is this magnificent.

Yet, unlike all these aforementioned legends, the style here is not monocultured, neither does it jerk from genre to genre without consistency and flow. Onika Venus gives volumes to the eclecticism, and it moulds efficaciously into one melting pot, beautifully. Prior to this solo launch, in a band called Slyde, her voice customised their breakbeat, techno and house style, to great effect, and I can well believe it. The flexibility of her skill is captured here, I’d imagine as comprehensively as she chooses personally, and just as the student who bursts in effortlessly, with the homework complete and to an exceptional standard, Onika Venus makes this look easy!


Win 2 free tickets here!

Trending….

What’s Happening in September?

That’s it, one big blowout of a bank holiday weekend and August is kaput. Nights drawing in, the fall will be here before you can say “was that it, summer?” Given last years blazing heatwave, while we were couped up, this summer’s been comparatively damp, you could’ve have made it up. There were lots of great things to do, and that doesn’t show signs of slowing through next month.

So, check in and scroll down to see what’s happening this bank holiday, where’s there’s more than enough just in Devizes alone to keep us busy. Awesome, firstly, to see Swindon’s indie-pop stars, Talk in Code will join our favourite Daydream Runaways, for the first Friday night of music down at The Southgate. Then the town goes festival crazy, for three solid days! Full-Tone Festival hits the Green, Saturday and Sunday, and Monday you have to get down to the Market Place for our wonderful, Devizes Street Festival and the Colour Rush.

September 2021Once you’ve gotten over that, September then, here’s the highlights:

Running now until the 4th, Four artists exhibit at Trowbridge Town Hall. A selection of 2D and 3D works by local artists Deborah Clement, Sonja Kuratle, Jennie Quigley and Jane Scrivener.

It was in August 1979 that arguably Swindon’s greatest-ever band, XTC, released their first commercially successful album, 42 years on, original drummer Terry Chambers pays tribute as EXTC, at Swindon’s Victoria on Thursday 2nd.

Following night, Friday 3rd, the Pink Floyd-Fleetwood Mac double-tribute act, Pink Mac will stand on the same stage, at the Vic, while The Wiltshire Blues & Soul Club presents an evening with Sloe Train at Owl Lodge in Lacock, and Corsham’s Pound Arts has comedy with the brilliantly titled “Rescheduled Rescheduled Rescheduled Time Show Tour 2021” by Rob Auton.

Burbage celebrates their the 24th Beer, Cider and Music Festival, with Humdinger and Kova me Badd.

Saturday 4th and there’s a Greatest Showman Sing-a-Long with the Twilight Cinema at Hillworth Park, yet it will be loud down Devizes Southgate, with a welcome return of NervEndings, Fangs & The Tyrants sound equally as loud, they’re at Swindon’s Vic. For a more chilled evening, Cara Dillon plays the Neeld. An extraordinary, captivating Irish singer Mojo magazine claims to be “quite possibly the world’s most beautiful female voice.”

It is also good to see the Melksham Assembly Hall back in the biz, they have Travelling Wilbury tribute, The Unravelling Wilburys! And there’s a unique blend of melodic folk-pop blowing out from Trowbridge Town Hall as Bristol band Sugarmoon come to town.

One to overshadow the lot, is The Concert at the Kings at All Cannings, happening over the weekend. Great line-up for Rock against Cancer, as ever, with Billy Ocean headlining Saturday and 10CC on Sunday, albeit they seem completely unresponsive to messages from us. While I accept the strength of booked acts alone means they need no local press presence, it’s a shame they won’t care to respond; it would be great to cover this.

Ah well, Sunday rocks anyway, with an incredible booking by The Southgate, mind-blowingly awesome US blues outfit of Well-Hung Heart, with a local twist, Beaux Gris Gris & The Apocalypse play. Not to be missed. Westwards, Schtumm presents Will Lawton & The Alchemists with support by Hazir at the Queens Head, Box, and north, Syteria play the Vic, with Adam & The Hellcats and Awakening Savannah.

Oh, and The Lions Clubs of Trowbridge & Westbury have their White Horse Classic & Vintage Vehicle Show on Sunday 5th too!

Second weekend of September and things just get better, from Thursday to Sunday, the place to be is Swindon. The free roaming festival is back, with a line-up across too many venues to list, see the poster. The Swindon Shuffle is truly a testament to local music, everyone who is anyone will be there, in the words of Zaphod Beeblebrox.

It’s time for Jesus Christ Superstar to magically appear in Devizes, as the Wharf Theatre showcases the retro musical, opening Friday 10th, running until 18th.

A hidden gem in the heart of the Wylye valley, the Vintage Nostalgia Festival begins too, running until Sunday at Stockton Park, near Warminster. Sarah Mai Rhythm & Blues Band, Great Scott, Shana Mai and the Mayhems all headline, with those crazy The Ukey D’ukes and our favourites The Roughcut Rebels also play. Lucky if you’re off to the Tangled Roots Festival in Radstock, all sold out.

Closer to home though, Saturday 11th sees the Stert Country House Car Boot Sale, for Cancer Research, the Corsham Street Fair, Women in Rock at the Neeld and The Rock Orchestra by Candlelight at Swindon’s MECA. Eddie Martin’s solo album launch, Birdcage Sessions, at the Southgate, Devizes and the awesome Will Lawton and the Alchemists are at Trowbridge Town Hall. Two Tone All Ska’s play Chippenham’s Consti Club.

Staying in Trowbridge, Rockhoppaz at the Park for an Alzheimer’s Support Gig on Sunday 12th. Meanwhile it’s Hillworth Proms in the Park with Devizes Town Band, and the incredible homegrown guitar virtuoso, Innes Sibun is at The Southgate.  

Third weeks into September, find some jazz with Emma Harris & Graham Dent Duo at Il Ponte Ristorante Italiano, in Bradford-on-Avon. By Thursday 16th, The Derellas play the Vic, and a welcomed reopening of the the Seend Community Centre sees our good friends Celtic Roots Collective play on Friday 17th.

Also Friday, in Swindon, Road Trip play The Vic, and Hawkwind, yes, Hawkwind at MECA!

It’s Dauntsey Academy Scarecrow Trail and there’s a Happy Circus in aid of Nursteed School in Devizes on Saturday 18th, and the welcomed return of Devizes Long Street Blues Club, with the Billy Walton Band. People Like Us are playing The Churchill Arms in West Lavington, ELO Beatles Beyond at Melksham Assembly Hall, and the amazing Onika Venus is at Trowbridge Town Hall.

Sunday 19th sees the Rock The Rec for Macmillan Cancer Support, free fundraiser at Calne Recreation Club.

On Thursday 23rd Antoine & Owena support the The Lost Trades at Komedia, Bath, Steve Knightley plays the Neeld, and there’s ‘An autobiographical journey of a deaf person trapped in a hearing world’ calledLouder Is Not Always Clearer at Pound Arts.

Tom Odell is at Marlborough College Memorial Hall on Friday 24th, and Fossil Fools play the Vic in Swindon.

Sat 25th sees the opening of the Devizes Food & Drink Festival, with the market. A Full Preview of everything happening at HERE. The HooDoos do The Southgate.

Meanwhile, Melksham Rock n Roll Club presents Johnnie Fox & The Hunters, Juice Menace play Trowbridge Town Hall. Wildwood Kin at Christ Church, Old Town, Swindon, and, this will go off; Talk in Code, The Dirty Smooth & The Vooz at the Vic, while tributes to Katy Perry vs Taylor Swift @ MECA.

Award for the most interesting thing to do this Saturday goes to Pound Arts. Sh!t Theatre Drink Rum with Expats is a production which contains distressing themes, images covering topics including migration and political assassination, plus a dog onstage; make of that what you will!

By the end of the month things look a little sportier, with bookworms, Sunday 26th is The Hullavington Full Marathon & 10K, travel author and TV presenter Simon Reeve talks at Dauntseys on Wednesday 29th, Thursday sees the opening of Marlborough Literature Festival.

But this list is by no means exhaustive, stuff to do is coming in all the time, making it near impossible to keep up, you need to regularly check our event calendar. Help me to help you by letting me know of your events, and if you’ve the time, write us a preview or review, I can’t be everywhere at once, and sometimes get so overloaded I just want to slouch on the sofa watching Netflix!

Have a good September!


Trending….

Tories Step Up Online Hate Campaign Against Wiltshire PCC Independent Candidate

With just a couple of days until the second Wiltshire PCC election, the first defunct by the Conservatives, local Tory supporters are rallying, keen to criticise and form an online hate campaign against the independent candidate, Mike Rees.

Should we flip this into a positive, clearly, it’s troubling them?!

After Conservatives corrupted the process of the original election by pitching candidate Johnathan Seed for the post, and cost Wiltshire taxpayers £1.4 million for a re-election, when it was discovered, on top of his suspicious activities as hunts master, drink driving convictions disallowed him from standing, it’s little wonder those able to think outside the box might be frustrated by the extravagant and costly campaign for the new conservative candidate Phillip Wilkinson. Especially being he’s tipped to win, based on Wiltshire’s silent majority historically being so blinded by Tory propaganda.

Phillip himself has rightfully been on the sharp end of some challenging questions on his own Facebook page, and has decided the hostile approach is the most suitable. Rudely responding to anyone with a genuine question he might not like the angle of, he’s also bashfully bantered about shooting people, wonkily suggested his military experience is favourable over the experience of policing, in a policing role and anyone dare criticise has been banned from his page. I’m willing to accept this is an oversight on his part, and etiquette on social media is not his field of expertise, still it projects the image of a punitive and unfairly harsh police crime commissioner.

I’m of the opinion here, and don’t let me sway yours, but cannot help but feel the only vision whereby military experience is superior over policing experience for a policing role, is that of Priti Patel’s, where clearly a Gestapo militia is needed to combat a naturally occurring rebellion from an oppressive regime; are we expecting or encouraging, even, a civil war, or are we just after someone to solve common crimes in our county?

In any other circumstance, say a sleeping Shire where crime is comparatively tame, an outstanding retired policeman might be more appropriate for the role, simply down to his on-hand experience. Promote from within though seems to be an outmoded concept, favoured by delusions of grandeur that every politician is super heroic. Evidently proved wrong by the colossal chain to scandals and corruptions of recent; nothing funny to say about it unfortunately, you can’t write comedy like it.  

Lie: He is associated with the Conservative Party, says so on his campaign leaflet!

There is nothing within these public inquiries on his Facebook page to suggest any allegiance to any other candidate, but while other candidates are available, Mike seems to be tenaciously linked. Fact of the matter, I’ve scanned Phillip’s page and find no interaction, be it positive or negative on his page from Mike himself or anyone else involved in his campaign, rather the Lib Dem candidate Brian Mathews, who has rightfully dared challenge Phillip on some of his pledges. Although Lib Dem candidate Liz Webster drew a second-place last time around, the focus seems to entirely rest on Mike.

Tory Devizes Town Councillor Iain Wallis on “the Devizes Issues.”

Spilling outwards from his own page, it’s clear the objective is to slate the independent candidate. While Tory Devizes Town Councillor and admin of the second most popular Facebook group in the town, Iain Wallis is adamant his group is unbiased, he took it upon himself to outright ban any post concerning or promoting Mike Rees on Sunday evening. A step up from outright banning of anyone who attempts to question the conservative candidate. A clear indication the group is about as unbiased as GBeebies, who axed a presenter for a gesture of equality and replaced him with a known fascist lunatic who might be dangerous if it wasn’t for the fact, he’s a man made completely out of foreskin.

We’ve been here before, call a spade a spade, this is clearly an act to condemn the opposition, and should not belong on a supposedly general local Facebook group.

Is it too much to ask for a level playing field, or can we agree Mr Wallis is not Mark Zuckerberg, and other sources for expressing opinion on local issues online are available?! Time to use them and not depend on petty bias Facebook groups political point-scoring.   

In another turn of affairs, on an uncensored Devizes Facebook group where Phillip is admittedly quite harshly criticised, keyboard warriors gathered to immediately point the finger at Mike’s supporters, again, despite there being no reference to him at all the post. Local online meeting points have become assuming while others jump the bandwagon; it’s even gone as far to suggest the support people are showing for Mike is, bizarrely, counterproductive to his campaign and, in another it suggests its angle is perpetrated by “loony lefties!”

Have to shudder at the laughable idiocy displayed here; Labour do have their own guy, Mr Junab Ali, you know? One which incorrectly aforementioned “loony lefties” can opt to vote for, and most likely would. Truth be told, support for the independent candidate is coming from all walks of life, class and political orientation, simply because common sense prevails, a man of past experience is favourable for such an important role, over a politician, no matter what colour rosette they pop on their top pocket. No point in calling an electrician for a plumbing job.

Besides, the hypocrisy is better measured by the bleeding obvious fact that Mike is independent, he’s apolitical, and his whole campaign is based on the PCC role not being a political one, rather the only allegiance he has being with the people the police are supposed to serve! Mr Spock would surely agree with the logic. In speaking several times to Mike, at no time did the subject of politics even arise, and Mike gave no indication to his own political preference.

Not forgoing, the former Detective Superintendent who solved the murder of Sian O’Callaghan, Steve Fulcher is backing Mike Rees, as would, I suspect most police officers, and hardly any of them could be described as “loony lefties!”

 

Mike Rees with Steve Fulcher

It would be a wonder where on earth the notion of left-wing sway in an independent campaigner derives from, if not this underlying concern, seemingly the average conservative thinker assumes anyone with the slightest concern for towing the Tory line completely, comprehensively and without question, must therefore be some kind of imaginary leftist extremist and as reformist as Jeremy Corbyn’s vest.

This is about as shallow as it gets, for the time being. I have to wonder what dirt they’ll pathetically attempt to smear on him next, he probably pulled down the Edward Colston statue, organised the suffragette movement, or is secretly Watt Tyler leader of the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt!

Ah, bless ‘em; you have to salute their comradeship and solidarity, if not their canopy of disillusionment disallowing them gumption. You believe what you will; I’m getting no kudos here, no reason to back any side other than my own self-assurance Mike is without question the chap for the job. And in that there’s no reason for me to be dishonest. Mike is a genuine guy with time for everyone, hardened by the force, firm but fair, the man for the job.

At the time he threw me off the group for suggesting it was unfair to the conservatives to throw money at their campaign, when the outstanding debt in still is dispute, Iain Wallis was keen to suggest I met with Phillip; “if you get the chance to interview Philip, you should take it. He is a good man.” And that’s precisely the argument misrepresented here; they’ve missed the entire point. I’ve not criticised the guy in any way, I’m in no doubt he’s a good guy with personality and charisma. I’m certain he’s effective at his previous roles, and I’m in awe and grateful for the service he has undergone to defend the crown and country. I would never mock any of this at all, rather salute him for this. It’s the hill of these beans though, which I don’t think is in anyway better for the PCC role than a man of previous experience, and it’s as simple as that.

I’d go as far as to say I didn’t even want to come to this party today. I’ve not the time left to interview all candidates, man gotta have a break now and then, and so I decided not to interview any of them. You can read Mike’s interview here. I’d sooner take a backseat on this journey, but messages I’ve received show me this is clearly an issue which folk want me to rant on, therefore I’m always willing to please, if my tuppence is worth anything!

Meanwhile, on Brian’s Campaign trial there’s a petition to Make the Conservatives pay for the re-election bill, click to sign it.

Meanwhile, on Brian’s Campaign trial there’s a petition to Make the Conservatives pay for the re-election bill, click to sign it.

As for labelling this website as bias, I would, if it was, but I’m only here to follow my gut reaction, more often than not supporting the underdog and the righteous; that’s my only ethos, what rosette you wear is up to you, I’d sooner we were all friends, but while extremism is flooding the conservative party, I cannot be in support of it, and deliberately associating the opposition with any negative commentary about their own is unfair, uncalled for downright deliberately devious. I only hope this will blow up in their faces, and the good folk will decide enough is enough, and vote out politics in this PCC election, for the display of deception is clearly being corrupted and this gives me little faith for a well serving police force should the Conservatives win.

Only you, and your vote stand between them.

Gail Foster interviews Mike

Up to Trowbridge for Some Miller-Art

Halfway up the grand staircase of Trowbridge Town Hall, where it splits into left or right, my daughter, permanently two paces ahead of me, asked me which way now. I’d noted a sign to the art exhibit I’ve been aching to check out, so I called it. Problem was, the show is called “Up,” to which her only rejoinder could’ve been, “yes, I know it’s up, but which way?!!”

If I had reservations about the unpredictably positive response in asking if she wanted to come, being sports is her thing and creativity perhaps not so much, it was only that she might drag me around Usain-Bolt-going-for-gold fashion. Key to my pitch was that, essentially, the most appropriate movement in which to pigeonhole artist Tom Miller was street art, secondarily only to the fact she was “bored, with nothing better to do anyway!”

But it’s not her incentive on entry which is important here, rather her reaction inside the exhibit, and if she enjoyed it, which she did, anyone with a mere slither of a passing interest in art will we wowed by this show. For me, it was up my street and knocking loudly on my door.

Native to Trowbridge, Tom Miller exhibits at his hometown until 20th August, not long left to pay it a worthy visit. For yeah, Miller typically uses spray paint as street artists do, but only as a base for these canvases. He thickly layers acrylics and oils over it, amalgamating mediums as much as influences, in explosions of colour and meticulous and intricate detail. The result is staggering.

Swirls of psychedelia snake your eyes across them, akin to underground comix or yore, and in particular S. Clay Wilson. They can be themed darkly, with elements of cyberpunk, or lighter, fine art, impressionism is at play too. Yet there’s a nod to pop art, capturing humorous elements, wide-ranging themes from flowers to ice creams, and contemporary cultural icons, such as The Simpsons can be discovered on closer examination. Then, as you pan out, you begin to focus on a central point, the composition vortexes into a subject, often random, but themed to suit the surroundings. It is also a clear running concept to repeat the central subject atop the first, but slightly smaller in scale, and perhaps the topper most of one below, larger, like a play with a hall of mirrors.

Apt to mention a hall of mirrors, as there’s generally something fairground going on here, if the repetition of the central subject is cubist, it would be like viewing cubist art whilst on the waltzer. On a few occasions the subject can feel tangible, as fine art, expressionism, but with Miller’s style brashly expanding the realms of normality, somewhere along the lines. For this, and the running theme of these scaled duplications, Edvard Munch meets Marcel Duchamp in Salvador Dali’s studio, as the lines of expressionism, futurism and surrealism blur into dada in such a way only pop artists could’ve dreamed of.

But, as I said, if your knowledge of art doesn’t stretch to the influences and movements I’ve cited, none of it really matters, as why I contemplated René Magritte, my daughter also examined the concepts and discovered subjects. Like a Where’s Wally book, you could circle this exhibit twenty times and still discover something you’d not noticed before in these canvases.

Added to the pieces, there’s some sublime charcoal sketches, showing his workings and thought process. There’s also a bio, with printed matter showing the various private commissions and frescos which obviously couldn’t come to the exhibit, for quintessentially, Miller is a street artist, and in Bristol and round and about Trowbridge there’s some excellent examples. The brilliant finale to this show is, once you’ve left, you can make a beeline to Stallard Street to find such a wall with Miller’s art displayed, and in the same ethos as what’s on display inside. This added an extra dimension to the enthralling exhibit.

Plus, I’m pleased to say, Usain-Bolt had no influence over my daughter’s pace through the show, she took her time, examined everything and came out with some exceptionally precise observations. This is ideal to enthuse a non-art lover equally as much as one who is, as good street art does, but with the extra dimension of this influx of various art movement influences. Go see it, but hurry; it’s only running until 20th August!

Not forgoing Trowbridge Town Hall is a friendly place, where I gossiped and namedropped to the man on reception. There’s a vast and amazing array of events planned over the coming months, from the yoga classes to the PSG Choir and from Moo Moo Music for little ones to an impressive gig line up from the likes of Will Lawton & the Alchemists on 11th September, Onika Venus on 18th, Juice Menace on 25th, and on the list goes on….


Trending….