Thoughts About George Ezra at Trowbridge’s Civic

Yes, I did, thank you; and what a brilliant show it was last night when George Ezra came to Trowbridge!

Consider the punks, who spat at conformity, consumerism and society’s esteem of pop culture, are now near, if not pension age, when digestating the derisions and jeers from a few when I told them “I’m going to see George Ezra.” Marketed commercialisation, yeah, I get that; if for the pre-gig meal we frequented the golden arches, I was more than disappointed my “Italian Stack” was just a cheeseburger with rocket salad and pesto sauce. I mean, who puts a pasta sauce on a burger, adding insult to injury what with the broken milk shake machine, my only guilty pleasure from Ronald?

For them though, I bid they take heed of my anecdote more than those who attended George Ezra at Trowbridge’s Civic Centre yesterday, which, like many of my yarns, begins with me spending a penny. Upon my return to the hall, in which we were instructed in this record-breaking heatwave to “squeeze in as tight as possible,” a few had gathered behind my teenage girl posse. With my customary irony I nudged in front, “make way, responsible adult coming through!” only to note I’d obscured the view of a young girl behind me.

The expression of anticipation at seeing George Ezra drained from her face, unacknowledging now she’d only see the back of a podgy middle-aged parent in a Batman t-shirt. But before she could completely well-up, I promised to stand aside as soon as he came on stage, but if I moved now someone not so willing might push in. Though she doubted my conviction, I did retreat from my position, her parents expressed their gratitude. The space my belly once occupied ample for her to sing and dance her heart out, which she did, and her expression of sheer joy made my night.

Because, while George and his band may’ve only blasted a job-and-finish half-hour set at us, damn it the guy puts some umph in. Honestly, he’s like the geek of a Saturday supermarket job who really puts his all into shelf-staking. Professionally executing the placid and sincere pop star persona, the guy convinced me he’s the genuine article, finding time to box-in his every known popular tune. Sure, playing through his new album The Gold Rush Kid, was a pointless marketing exercise, being the ticket price included a copy of it, but there was everything there you’d expect from an upcoming musician and none of the bravado of celebrity; passion, drive, and even some narrative of backstory.

But for his best efforts, I owe it to the little girl in front of me, and every other screaming teenager or child, to express what a superb evening it was, her mien said it all. For it was never about anti-corporatism critics, rather the rare opportunity for youths to see a popstar in the flesh, in Trowbridge, which would otherwise cost the parents something quite unaffordable in tickets and travel costs.

Doubtless this was The Civic’s finest half-hour, though structured without encore, for less than a purple one, we got our money’s worth in George and his band’s dynamic performance; worth the hassle of fastest-finger first ticket booking system, which sold out in seconds of going online, queuing in the heat only to be squashed in like sardines, but perhaps not the no drinks policy profiteering attitude, which saw the bar closed and only bottled water they sold allowed. Maybe laws have changed without my knowledge, but I assumed not providing free drinking water was unlawful, and even if not, it’s safety and basic etiquette poorly overlooked by The Civic.

Yet we owe it to Marlborough’s music shop, Sound Knowledge for this most excellent show. Must be best part of quarter-of-a-century Roger has been the best purveyor of records around these backwaters, and stayed afloat through this technology-changing era by hosting these fantastic album marketing gigs. Usually based in the shop itself or in the club opposite, it’s bought many an upcoming act to Marlborough, including Ezra in 2014. The only other time a band has been too big to fit in was when they shifted Rag’N’Bone Man to the College campus, but George was too bigger name, even for this venue, causing the organisers to add a matinee at the Civic.

But usually, there’s a post-gig meet-and-greet opportunity, something though we took our CDs we had to accept would’ve sadly been unviable due to the vast number of attendees. And that, in a nutshell, whitewashes any niggly criticisms, because maybe restrictions have to be set in order to pull off an event of this magnitude, perhaps you do have to shout orders at the crowd and search children’s bags in this day and age. Even though this isn’t what I’m used to, I was happy in the knowledge that for many there, this was not just a golden opportunity, but a first-time concert which will live in their memories forever.

It got me thinking of my first ever gig, about the same age as my daughter and her friends now. To set the bar high, it was Bruce Springsteen, and, George, sorry mate, but through rose-tinted specs, while you weren’t quite that good, you were totally amazing. Proof of this goes along the lines of me mumbling the words to Shotgun all day today, the profound effect is unimaginable for those younger, if it got this grumpy old git inspired!               


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Just the Beginning, Start The Sirens

If it’s the beginning, it’s a loud one; kicking punk album release from Start the Sirens out last week has got me potentially stage-diving off the top of wardrobe.…..

A collaboration of members from Trowbridge, Devizes, Westbury and Wotton Bassett, Start The Sirens formed in 2019, hit the pandemic with an acoustic EP, which bassist Leyton Jones, aka Rocky explains was an experimental project to “find our own style, and achieve that upbeat sound.” Just the Beginning is the kicking debut, and a testament to accomplishment; they rock it with bells on.

If Forget What You Heard sets the mood, kick-ass skater punk which takes no prisoners, the second track Sunset to Sunrise breathes an air of carefree ingenuity akin to millennial pop-punk. Three tunes in though, Tell Me hints of traditional punk, well, at me it does! Lead vocalist Holly Harwood in Siouxsie Sioux fashion, especially with the “Whoa Whoa” chorus. It’s beguiling stuff hard to pinpoint but with a wave insensible to pigeonholing; just shut it and rock out.

Keen though I am to shelf this with punk roots, for it has that DIY ethos, Rocky was adamant to cite pop-punk and emo bands like New Found Glory and Blink 182 as obvious influences, and I’m forced to shed my aged perceptions and agree, it’s high-energy vibes and doesn’t come up for air, but cast in positive light rather than the dejected attitude of original punk. Positivity was key, Rocky established with me.

Design by Nikki Noodle

We spoke of tricky placements in local circuit pub gigs, though the band rocked Trowbridge’s Stallards last weekend, play the Old Bear Staverton tonight (2nd June) at 8pm, and support USA’s Hit Like A Girl with Brighton-based I Feel Fine, for a Sheer Music gig at The Village Pump on Friday 17th June. Rocky spelled out their motivation was a labour of love, and based on this showcase album, they should be placed firmly on a touring map of UK punk venues. Though I think Swindon’s Vic should snap them up, Bradford’s Three Horseshoes and Devizes Southgate would love it too.

Seven original three-to-four-minute heroes here, the penultimate This One’s For You perhaps the most enticingly commercially viable, and it finishes with one final name-sake anthem blast; I’m looking forward to catching these guys live. What? No, I’m convinced I still got it, mate! I’ve told you my story of Dad’s taxi to a Bowling for Soup gig at Bristol’s O2 before, haven’t I? I was like leaning on the railings of the upper area when I perchance to spot another glum looking expression on a guy of similar age. Seems like he was also chaperone to his kids, and we did the dad nod. Then I thought fuck it, I’m here, allowed to enjoy myself too and tried to drag that son to the mosh pit!

I may be outdated for the skater punk detonation, but it’s high energy, full of zest and aspiration, that’s my take, and something Start the Sirens has captured here; have a listen, get ’em in your local….  


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Billy Green’s Garden

To deal with my forgetfulness I have a to-do-list. The only issue with my to-do-list is I forget I started it; Billy Green released a new single last month, it’s a poetic stonker of indie-rap, with his usual nod to Britpop, and still it fell through the floodgate. Apologies to Bill, but it’s a convenient time to bring it up, as he gigs at Trowbridge’s Pump next Friday, May 27th, for Sheer Music.…..

What makes it even more exasperating for me, is that I was gossiping about the man himself, with Pip Phillips of People Like Us at Long Street Blues Club, what was it, just last week?! All good things, reminiscent of when they were in the nineties indie band, Still, together. Because Billy Green has a history, and it’s savoured in a nimble and accomplished style of the time; zip your tracksuit jacket up to the chin and hide your swirly pupils under a Kangol bucket cap!

The impression of Still remains a forefront for Bill, who named his 2020 album after the band, and followed it with a preceding collection of lost demos, made with the band mid-nineties. Tales of musical happenings in times of yore, before I landed on planet Devizes, always fascinate me, and I never tire of hearing about the blues bands of an era long past, with good folk like Exchange-owner Ian James. Yet Billy echoes out his antiquity, The Pump gig will incorporate his songs from the Still album, which relish in this bygone fashion, adroitly.

Billy Green @ Still

Surprised I was to note the quasi-rap poetry of this new tune, Garden, but twas a pleasant one. Teetering with his Geordie mockery it holds an ironic slate against the charade of social media embodiment, “people posting inspirational memes in one post, and ruining people in the next,” Bill describes it to me; I know that sentiment, probably a smidgen guilty myself, Bill, you bloody stickler!

Though hints of the everyday rap style of The Streets, it’s wrapped rather in the upbeat jaunty attitude of Blur, awash with Britpop influences of acts like James, for example. But don’t take my word for it, ere, have a listen yourself mate, and you’ll be mad-for-it too; sorted.


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George Ezra in…. Trowbridge!

Dad’s taxi drops off, and the driver impatiently awaits his off-spring to exceed the bluetooth boundary; ha, I’ve got of my car stereo back. It’s not all bad, just a majority of my daughter’s playlist is, coupled with her insistance it’s played; control freak!

Yet we can agree on somethings, the acoustic genius of George Ezra is perhaps the most mutual. Thanks to Marlborough record store, Sound Knowledge, I’m more than happy to go gigging with her and her mates.

He’ll be playing a short, intimate set to promote the release of his highly anticipated third album ‘Gold Rush Kid’ at 8pm on Thursday 16th June at The Civic in Trowbridge, Sound Knowledge’s first event in the venue.

Update:

Due to overwhelming demand a 2nd GEORGE EZRA show has been added for 6pm on Thursday 16th June.

Tickets will be on sale 10am tomorrow EXCLUSIVELY from http://www.sound-knowledge.co.uk ONLY. Please do not call The Civic to try to book tickets.

Tickets for the later show sold out in seconds, be quick on the fingers to get in!

The Brit Award-winning singer-songwriter first played Marlborough back in 2014 before the release of his debut ‘Wanted On Voyage’, his first chart-topping album. Its follow-up ‘Staying At Tamara’s’ hit No. 1 on both the Albums and Singles Chart with the mega track “Shotgun“. His new album was written and produced entirely in London with longstanding collaborator Joel Pott. “The Gold Rush Kid? That’s me,” says George, reflecting on the title of his third record, a twelve-strong suite of marvellous, transporting, elevational songs, that more than anything “sound like me. That’s what ties them together.”

Gold Rush Kid‘ is released on 10th June. Tickets and bundles are available exclusively online from Sound Knowledge RIGHT NOW, from 10am on Friday 20th May.

If you have any queries about the event, you know, prone to overthinking, please contact them in-store or over the phone on 01672 511106 but please note that tickets and bundles can only be purchased via the website.

CD & ticket bundle – £19.50
LP & ticket bundle – £25
Blue LP & ticket bundle – £28
Ticket-only *max 1 per customer* – £16.00

Sound Knowledge has become renowned for these instore events, while it’s great promotion for new releases from the artists, they’re also an affordable opportunity for locals, particularly younger, to get to meet, greet and hear them play, which would usually involve trekking to a festival or city-based gig. Though while Sound Knowledge have hosted all manner of artists in the past, George Ezra has top the lot, hence a larger venue is needed. Of course, this puts something of a tag on Trowbridge too, and I’m hopeful it’ll really lift an already blossoming reputation for the town’s live music scene, of which Kieran Moore and others has worked so tirelessly to attain.

And afterwards, perhaps my daughter and I can slip his CD in my car stereo and finally find some common ground!

Hip Hop Hooray; The Scribes Rock Trowbridge Town Hall

Pleased as Punch I’ve managed to tick three Bristol-based musical acts off my must-see list in as many weeks; Boom Boom Racoon, Mr Tea and the Minions, and this Saturday night saw me boom-bap bouncing to The Scribes in the most unusual of places to find hip hop, Trowbridge Town Hall…

And bouncy it certainly is, an irresistible, partially old skool sound which embraces all the positives of UK hip hop, and none of the negative stereotypes. If we were the other side of the pond, it’d be classed east coast rap, surely(?) as the Scribes find the perfect balance between carefree and enjoyable, the like of De La Soul, the concentrated harmonising of A Tribe Called Quest, and the tongue-twisting proficiency of The Fu-Schnickens.

It’s poignantly layered with denotation, when it needs to be, yet it remains without the pretentious bravado and bling; there wasn’t a gold bikini-clad hoard of chicks sprawled across a white stretch limo (partly a shame), there wasn’t a single baseball cap on back-to-front, or a gold chain large enough to anchor a cruise ship. In chatting with Ill Literate outside, he was keen to cast off those preconceptions for his trio, and UK hip hop in general.

In fact, he was tremendously outgoing, sociable and articulate, this common association of a chip on shoulder was non-existent. What there was where truckloads of intelligent lyrics, executed so incredibly intricately, precise and with a skill way, way beyond the average; dope is the appropriate term, apparently!

But from listening to their tracks, I gathered this long before the show, I’ve been waffling about their talent for some time now, trying to get the message out there; the Scribes are the most promising hip hop act currently on the UK circuit; I’ll call it.

Though if last night proved my point, the crowd at the Town Hall was minimal and disappointing, but one talent I hadn’t predicted was their stage presence. The Scribes have a natural ability to entice, encourage and involve the crowd; it was virtually holiday camp entertainment fashioned at one point, where they divided the room in two for heckling humour, but if this was cliché, they united the sides again in harmony; nicely done.

There could be many factors as to why numbers were down, perhaps the Town Hall has a stigma for younger local hip hop fans, perhaps the publicity didn’t reach the required audience, maybe, it was pointed out by an attendee that the scaffolding obscures the wealth of events happening inside. I’d favour some marketing brainstorming might be an idea, the poster designs are rather formulated, this one hardly spelt out the awesome hip hop gig it was. Outside, a popular nearby bar’s DJ blasted out Wham’s Wake me up Before you Go-Go to a busy crowd; you can’t train stupid!

What Trowbridge and neighbouring villages need to twist their melon around is the venue is offering a vast variety of affordable events, and with the incredibly motivated Sheer Music promoter, Kieran Moore at the helm, it’s quality not quantity. Twist to the predictable preconception is, Trowbridge Town Hall is a wonderfully welcoming and aesthetically pleasing venue, pushing the boundaries. And in this notion, The Scribes were in fact the perfect act, as they too clearly push boundaries.

The Scribes are booked to many festivals, from Shindig to Boomtown, and are popular regulars at Salisbury’s Winchester Gate. As I peered inward and ignored the lack of audience, I could imagine they’d handle a huge crowd with similar ease, and the whole house would be jumping like House of Pain on trampolines in zero G.

Support came from Salisbury-based Mac Lloyd, a solo artist impossible to pigeonhole. With a sensationally emotive voice he cast some original compositions to the crowd, using ambient and breaks backing tracks, but at times incorporating electric guitar and sporadically rapping. I could suppose it’s intelligent hip hop, at base level, but it’s too unique to categorise and played out with such skill and passion, let’s roughly liken him to what Pewsey’s Cutsmith is putting out, and open a whole new pigeonhole for them; now that’s experimentally creative and interesting. Keep your eye on Mac Lloyd.

But look, it’s Sunday; permission granted for me to go out on a whim, get a little rant off my chest?! Concerning today, not for The Scribes’ sake, more so for the general misconception of this genre, quintessentially the new rock n roll? And for it we need to go back, way back, back into time, back to legwarmers and BMX….

I grew up in dog-turd-paved suburbia, bin bag mountains on the streets, where binmen were on strike, hardly anyone under the age of 25 had a job, and a frustrated generation hostage to a Conservative regime caused white to blame black and only unite to bash the Asians. Yet gradually, Skinhead and teddy-boy gangs dwindled as we joined hands in primary school, and body-popped; I was too chubby to breakdance!

Just as a decade prior in New York’s ghettos, racially segregated warfare came to an end through the invention of block parties heralding a mixture of musical genres to appease them all. Just as rock n roll united black and white, hip hop dragged everything into its melting pot.

Now, exported to Britain a short-lived fad arrived, quickly as ever commercialised. It was carefree party vibes; Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel’s The Message was the exception to the rule, ground-breaking it displayed conscious prose, just as Gill Scott Heron, which warped into a freedom of expression ethos whereby frustrations of ghetto life could be voiced; enter Public Enemy and NWA.

Consequently, it became aggressive, angry and as it spread across the States rivalry got heated. It took us to the late eighties whereby the backlash returned us to a carefree offshoot. The likes of De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest and Arrested Development put the hippy back into hip hop.

The genre ruled the day, but the commercialism only resisted and what rebelled was slackness in lyrics, this polarised philosophy of do or die; gold, guns and hoes; that sort of macho bullshit.

Afraid it is so, but so too does rock and ska have their extremities, and we don’t single them out with a narrow-minded preconception, we accept there’s that part to them but it doesn’t represent a majority, why do we do it with hip hop?

The roots of hip hop are not lost, just obscured like a flower in bracken. The original ethos was more akin to the carefree spirit of early rave, a generation on, than it is to a modern commercial hip hop market. We see this now through the later nineties’ association with the big beat sound of Skint and Wall of Sound, using breakbeat to throw jazz, blues, rock, and reggae into a melting point; what-cha gonna do when the fat boy’s trippin; that kinda Brighton rock!

One good reason why The Scribes are ahead of their game, they can fit into this, and unlike the nonsensical chanting of an MC, they lyrically supply something sublime.

This may play off well in the cities and festivals, but by the end of the night I tried to convince Ill Literate not to give up prompting The Scribes to the smaller, more rural backwaters, as there are pockets of resistance; there are hip hoppers doing crazy legs in the fields! Secret is, they come to Devizes via our tropical holiday-at-home rum bar, The Muck & Dundar in November; I’d sincerely hope we can show them some serious support, because believe me, the Scribes, and Mac Lloyd rocked da house, aka, Trowbridge Town Hall last night, and this thoroughly deserves our attention.

The Scribes

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Professor Elemental Booms Trowbridge Town Hall with Raccoons and Cheesemakers

Type “smack me” into Google, at your own risk, and third predicted search is “…on the bottom with a woman’s weekly.” Six years since her passing, and over three decades since Victoria Wood first performed the Ballad of Barry and Freda her finest hour is everlastingly. Proof while often pushed into the “novelty” pigeonhole, comical songs can be as eternal as serious songs; if I had a penny for every time someone called me Ernie……

Horse and carriage association, comedy and music, since day dot. Be you come at it from a comedian background or as musician, the aged hybrid functions, and it’s effective equally if, like me Saturday night at Trowbridge Town Hall, your jawbone aches from grinning like a jester as much as your feet do from dancing!

It’s been something of a music-comedy weekend at the county town, Barnsley’s The Bar Steward Sons of Val Doonican played the Pump Friday, with their cheeky, seventies children’s TV presenter style of pop adaptions, chief coordinator Kieran sung their praises while I regretted my absence. But I crossed the border and landed in Vegas for Saturday’s offering at the Town Hall; couldn’t resist.

Hosting three acts of varying genres, tenaciously linked by the comical element, the night will end bizarrely, with naturally witty Brighton chap-hopper Professor Elemental rapping through a horse’s head and encouraging the audience to knock an inflatable unicorn between them. But the assorted crowds gathered this wasn’t going to be the archetypal hip hop gig.

Starter for ten the first act is Bristol’s conscious, anarchist, cross-dressed trio, Boom Boom Racoon. An acoustic ska-punk band I’ve been raving, but dubious they’d fit into Devizes’ rather polarised music epoch. Apologies are made for the bassist recovering from a gum infection, as his usual shouty exclamations will be reduced. Nevertheless, offerings approximately casing their fondness of invading dustbins, the NHS, and Lotus Biscuits were purveyed with finesse, and the poignantly satirical Fuck You, Ashley, the final tune on their second album, Songs From Before the Times.

I’d argue though unconventional, in a geek post-punk fashion, veganomics, LGBT and other leftist subjects maintain a seriousness edge, making Boom Boom Racoon uniquely placed at a comical gig, yet concluding on their amusing high-energy adaption of the Venga Boy’s Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom, wherein they dub their own band name into the title, there’s forever a feeling not to take them seriously.

Calne’s Real Cheesemakers on the other hand blast loud rock in your face, all the while maintaining a heap of West Country humour. Akin to Boom Boom Racoon in only one factor, hilarity. Their psychedelia, surrealist-edged rock is aptly introduced with The Tortoise is Coming, and retrospective contemplation with Unicorns of the 1980s.

It becomes almost Dr Seuss at times, such as the vaudeville Trouserland. There’s a ballad involving dinosaurs, local banter with the Roundabouts of Swindon, and a Springsteen-fashioned lengthy, emotional build-up to a song which lasts but a second. The Real Cheesemakers nonsensically mock everything, in a metal style, even down to the dark, satanic ethos of the genre, as if Spike Milligan was Iron Maiden’s frontman, yet they were a Wurzels tribute, naturally.

They’ve supported Professor Elemental in the past, allowing him bound majestically on stage for a duet. Then the stage was stripped bare for the Prof to do his thang, an astounding hilarious stand-up routine, rapped.

Unlike the others, I suspect Professor Elemental comes from the comedian-turned-musician angle, as he weaves rap so effortlessly into what’s best described as stand-up. Topically waxing lyrical, satire and observational humour abound, astute in audience participation, such as the cliché rapper’s request to the crowd to “make some noise,” the Prof appeals they make specific noises.

As any professional stand-up he comments on his surroundings, the venue’s similarities to a council hall, cos it is; he elects himself mayor. He’s also no stranger to character assassinations, whipping off the jacket of his rainbow suit and trademark hunter’s Pith helmet, to become a crude and condescending businessman, heckling an unsuspecting girl in the crowd.

Everything the Professor does is astutely performed, with whimsical yet chivalrous charisma. He simply charms with lyrics chockful of pop culture references and judicious observations, it’s nothing less than hilarious. As the show progresses so too does the insanity level, to the aforementioned section where he’s donned a horse’s head and encouraging the crowd to bounce an inflatable unicorn between them.

Never a dull moment, there’s so much jammed into this show it’s tricky to pin the man down, like a one-man Airplane movie, blink and you’ll miss something. He explodes with colour and amusement, while attracting hip hop aficionados his performance is favourable to all, still, in his own unique manner, he can execute a fine rap too. He comes with a treasure trove of merchandise: comics, books, stickers and of course CDs, though I’d suggest the live show is his forte.

Once he lost the pith helmet, I realised he was older than I assumed, a stand-up comedian stage presence attributing hip hop into his act, he cited the Sugarhill Gang, suggesting his roots lie as old skool as I, a genre he salutes rather than mocks.

I sincerely hope he’s happy independently doing circuits, seemed as if he is, as his professionalism and natural comical ability would be ideal for mainstream TV to wreck, theoretically selling-out as a game show host, or mores to the pity, the best damn Doctor Who post-Tom Baker.

If I pondered through pigeonholing how divergent the three acts were, I was pleasantly surprised when they came together for an improvised finale, and in this the gig was a prime example of Trowbridge Town Hall’s diversity in programming; this was something I’d expect to see at a city venue or festival. A highly enjoyable evening with an assortment of hilarious class acts, in which I got to bounce a unicorn.





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Helping Ukraine in Wiltshire

Coordinating an event in Devizes fundraising for the Ukraine has fallen wayside at the moment, I need a rethink. Meanwhile there’s lots of ways to help in Wiltshire and I thought I’d see if we can’t amalgamate them into one article….

Wiltshire Council has provided some FAQs on all aspects of fundraising, donating and housing refuges HERE, I’ve been in search for others.

Starter for ten, there’s some fundraising events coming up, starting tomorrow Tuesday 29th, at Downton Social Club, Salisbury, who have a big band concert, free with donations, just turn up after 7:30pm.

Wednesday 30th with a Community Supper at Devizes Corn Exchange, organised by Devizes Food & Drink Festival, details HERE, and Saturday sees punky rock covers bands Stone’s Throw and Izzy Barsby appear at Market Lavington Community Hall, tickets are £6, HERE.

Phoenix Brass have a concert for Ukraine at Marlborough Town Hall on Sunday 10th April, ticket info on the poster below.

If there’s one band in the UK most apt for a Ukraine fundraiser it’s the incredible lively and traditional folk-punk of The Ukrainians; I’ve seen them many years ago at the Endorset in Dorset Festival and they were unforgettable. Obviously originating from Ukraine they’re based in the north of England and have been working tirelessly raising £13,000 to-date, donating to Association of Ukrainians in GB and DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal and have also committed to pay the travel expenses of two transit vans taking locally donated medical supplies to Lviv hospital. They play Salisbury Arts Centre on Saturday 23rd April with Pronghorn, Lump and Gypsy Jukebox. Tickets vary from £15 upwards, pay what you can.

Frome’s Cheese and Grain presents a Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal Event on Saturday April 30th with The Back Wood Redeemers, Mighty One, Back Of The Bus, Henry Wacey and DJ Patmandu, with all proceeds donated to the fantastic Frome Town Council’s twin town Ukrainian refugee appeal. £10 in advance HERE.

Over Easter half-term, 11th-14th April, and again from 19th-22nd, Trowbridge Town Hall has some Workshops in aid of Humanitarian Aid Centre. There are badges, flag making and sunflower sowing at £1-3, kids arts open competitions for ages 5-18yrs, and a prize raffle. There’s also an online auction of local and Ukrainian artists, with a live preview of work on 23rd April from 10am -4pm in the Old Court at the Town Hall. Details HERE.

Warminster has two Concerts for Ukraine at the Athenaeum Centre, on Fri 22nd and Sat 23rd April. All tickets are £10 HERE. Warminster Military Wives Choir, Bonner & Blake, The Echobirds, Hilary Pavey and Andrew Bazeley perform.

I’m sure there’s more yet to discover, everywhere you look there’s churches collecting donated clothes and food, there’s schools holding cake stalls, and so many other amazing efforts. If you know of some worthy to add here, please do let us know.

The response to this crisis has been overwhelming in Wiltshire. Like Wroughton businessman Cliff Barry who raised more than £20,000, bought a van and left last Thursday to deliver donations to the border. But so many others have rallied to the cause, donating or even opening their homes to refuges, it’s incredible!

WILTSHIRE for UKRAINE

Trying to find the best avenue to donate should our gig have happened, I joined a Facebook group, Wiltshire for Ukraine, assuming it was just a place to post fundraising efforts, folk looking to house refugees and visa-versa, and other general news on the theme. But I was surprised to hear Wiltshire for Ukraine is all these things and so much more. I spoke to admin Magdalena, direct from Poland, where her group are visiting charities and places dealing with help for refugees.

She was keen to point out, raising funds for smaller community groups is more effective now. They bridge the gap between big charities and its users. “Of course,” she explained, “big charities are super important and professionally help all in need. In a crisis like war help is needed immediately and funds collected by groups can immediately collect and give money to those most needed. At Wiltshire for Ukraine we collect money to help refugees who fled with nothing. We give them money directly and help them have a new start in foreign countries.”

To donate to WILTSHIRE for UKRAINE find their go-fund-me page HERE, and their Facebook group has so much more info of people going that extra mile, ideas on ways you can get involved, and information for those taking in refugees. Such as Salisbury’s Valeriy, raising £10,000 for personalised help to the children and their families inside of Ukraine who have no possibility to leave the war zone. Their GoFundMe is HERE

Another Marlborough based Facebook group called Ukrainians and their Sponsors in Marlborough and surrounding area is helping link Ukrainians needing homes with sponsors and is giving Marlborough residents a place to offer practical advice once they’re here. Find the group HERE.

There is so many amazing people locally, doing whatever they can, I am sorry if I missed you and yours, the beauty of the online blog though, this can be updated if you send me details!


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Devizes Town Council Seek Road Improvement Plans from County Hall

It’s the satirist in me which smirks at the audacity of placing a right-sided “road narrows” roadwork sign on the last bend before Potterne, up Whistley Road. In all actual fact, the road widens at this point, rather it’s potholes the size of moon craters, on both sides of the road, which cause it to be an ineffectual passing place, unless you own one of those American monster trucks, and if you do, navigating the B-road in question wouldn’t be advisable.

In fairness, for your car’s protection, gradually sinking traffic cones have been strategically placed in the singularities (that’s what physicists call the centre of a black hole, by the way; a point where extremely large amounts of matter are crushed into an infinitely small amount of space, such as your alloys and bumper.)

Secondary fairness, the dilapidation of tarmac is as never-ending as washing dishes, and extreme weather conditions are like your kids, bringing dirty crockeries to the kitchen when you thought you’d just finished. Washing up is a perpetual task, but if you don’t persevere it accumulates, to the point you’re eating breakfast from the dog bowl; see where I’m going with this, Wiltshire Council?

The problem remains, Whistley Road is not the exception to the rule, rather the standard these days in our country lanes’ decrepitude; take a journey up The Kings Road in Easterton, hardly fit for a king at all, and a wonder why on earth it needs speed bumps when natural depressions in the road bigger than the actual village itself, you’d like to think, should prevent anyone in their right mind from speeding.

One would like to imagine accelerating over fifteen miles an hour might yet be a very real possibility once you’ve boarded our main roads, only to find their condition is hardly better. Yet, at Tuesday’s Devizes Town Council Meeting, Councillor Jonathan Hunter pointed to his understanding that for the financial year 2021-22 Wiltshire Council was awarded 22,924,000 smackers from the Government’s Highway Maintenance Fund to pay for a range of highway improvements, begging the question why our local roads still make the Giant’s Causeway look like an autobahn.

Brickley Lane

Johnathan, the kind of Conservative which makes you realise not all of them would piggyback their crippled grandmothers to reach a bottle of Bollinger from a top shelf, put forward a proposal to inquire how the money has been spent. Putting to DTC, “it would be helpful to understand how this funding has supported highways improvements in the county; if any substantive project in the last twelve months have been undertaken in Devizes, and if this government funding was used to deliver them.”

“Furthermore,” he added, because councillors tend to go on a bit, “Devizes Town Council seeks visibility regarding the plan for this year’s road improvement programme within the Devizes area, and what are the local priorities.” And it would seem the Council agreed.

Cromwell Road

“With the poor state of the local road network,” Jonathan told Devizine, excited by his proposal being met, “including many sections of surface degradation and dangerous potholes, it is encouraging that this proposal was fully agreed by Town Council members.”

“For reasons of road user safety, travel inconvenience and the cost of vehicle maintenance it is important that local road users and pedestrians should be able to receive a full progress update on the current roads programme and importantly receive clear visibility about tax payer funded plans for the local road network that serves Devizes.”

“Currently, to find out anything about road repair plans, you have to don some deep-sea-diving apparel and search in the very deep and murky waters of the online kingdom, even Jacques Cousteau would find that a challenge!”

Very well, Johnathan, well done, but we do the funny bits if you don’t mind! But it would be good to know, in this era whereby you can triple the value of your car simply by filling it up with petrol, that you’re not going to forsake your tyres on the next bend, unless you’re a Kwik-Fit manager.

We look forward to the possibility of seeing the plans by Wiltshire Council; roads don’t fix themselves and no one said it was going to be easy, but you choose the bloomin’ job! For everyone on Facebook, you can join in the fun at the Devizes Pot Hole Spotter’s Club, here!


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A Gecko in Trowbridge Town Hall

It’s always a warm greeting as you enter Trowbridge Town Hall, even if, like me on this occasion, you’re running late…..

Prior to my arrival I digested the fact I’d likely forgone the supposed support act, Gavin Osborn, but was dammed if I’d miss Gecko, as since reviewing his sublime second album Climbing Frame back in October 2020, I’ve been aching with the understandable desire to see him pull it off live.

Mellowed piano song oozed from the humble hall ahead, oh no, I figured, Gecko has already begun. Such it is that Gavin recently resigned event coordination at the hall to the capable hands of then sound engineer, Kieran Moore, I assumed he was billed as a kind of farewell to his previous position, unmindful I’d emerge from the Hall a Gavin Osborn fan too. Even by the evening’s culmination I was also dubious of suggestions the two were collaborative, or if it was just banter between them.

But it seems a tag-touring-team is a reality, and given I’d mistaken Gavin for Gecko in the vestibule, who could be more apt to work with for the reptilian-named poet-esque singer? For luckily, Gavin was still on the subtle stage, virtually stripped bare of instrumentation save a banjo, microphone, music stand and randomly placed hardback chair.

Yet a guy looking remarkably like photos I’d used of Gecko accompanied him on a piano, tucked away by a side door. After the song I’d made my stealth entrance to was over, the pianist sat behind me. Uncertain glances behind affirmed, if there was a gecko in the room it was undeniably him, giggling at Gavin’s witty prose. I suppose this, coupled with their styles so similar I mistook the pair, should’ve been damming evidence this was more than a headliner and support act thrown in for sentiment, but what can I defend myself with, naivety caused by surviving on powernaps?!

In this, is the delight of the communal venue too. If there’s a stage green room it’s unused every time I visit; awaiting performers merge into the audience. This is no venue for egotistical celebs, and with barely raised stage and modest lighting, it’s a non-gimmick venue which bases solely on performance rather than dazzling affects. Professionalism and proficiency given, if you can hold an audience spellbound with such minimal affects and props.

Both did with bells on, and while I suspected the case with Gecko, Gavin was the surprise element. Akin to Gecko, Gavin is more storyteller than singer, though splices of prominent points were executed through great folky vocals, and highly amusing prose. Unlike Gecko, Gavin’s baseplate is folk, who through exceptionally crafted verse reminded me of the sentimentality of our own folk hero, Jamie R Hawkins.

Perhaps more akin to Beans on Toast, lacking Ozzie tinge, through observational narratives he weaved through subjects with spellbinding accuracy, hinging on familiarisation; I identified with many, particularly the amusing banjo led ditty of an aged fellow sneaking out to gigs while his wife seemed blissfully unaware in her slumber! But with heart-melting twists, Gavin wraps them up amusingly, either echoing retrospective contemplation or hinting at his political stance.

Time for Gecko’s opening song; could be anything less than the hilarious start of his album, Can’t Know all the Songs, which counteracts those who shout requests. Virtually unplugged he executed highlights of the album acoustically, and gave us unheard of tunes too, passing off his lack of backing as witty repartee. Such as pausing the song to switch from singing to kazoo during an amusing and uplifting tale of the Tamworth Two pigs, Butch and Sundance, who escaped their fate at a Malmsbury abattoir in 1998.

On this note it’s appropriate to highlight the major reason Gecko is so utterly entertaining, for not through particular quality of musician, though he is a natural, rather his choice of content and subject is so original, and his method of metaphorically weaving it into a more general point. Who writes a song from the POV of escaping pigs, or a dog sent into space? But better still, who can bend such narrative into a point you identify with? It’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull, in song.

It’s a classic formula attributed to authors rather than songwriters, and Gecko reigns as either, acting with pseudo-confidence, encouraging audience participation to save him hiring a gospel choir, planning out a cliché encore by hiding behind the piano, even submitting profit margin differences between buying his CD here and streaming his music.

I think I put too much emphasis on hip hop in my album review, as his rap-fashion tendency contradicts his indie-pop overall, making it his unique style, part nerdy, part too cool for skool, but through stripped back live performance it is clear his devotion is with the latter, indie-pop acoustic goodness. A fashion with ageless attraction. But whatever pigeonhole you opt for, it’s undeniably entertaining.

If I’ve an only criticism the show was too short, the comeback is both Gavin and Gecko can suck you into their stories so time passes unnoticed, coupled with my late arrival of which I’ve only myself to blame!

Another wonderful evening at Trowbridge Town Hall, building a reputation for introducing a variety of interesting and upcoming acts, affordably; you need to be putting future dates in your diary.


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Tree People, a Gold Postman, Tea, Minions, Pet Camels, Red Carpets, Old Time Sailors and More; Who’s Excited About Devizes International Street Festival?

Pushed forward to Mayday bank hols, who’s getting excited about Devizes International Street Festival? I am, I always am, it’s been the best weekend of … Continue reading “Tree People, a Gold Postman, Tea, Minions, Pet Camels, Red Carpets, Old Time Sailors and More; Who’s Excited About Devizes International Street Festival?”

Marching On, Things to do Next Month, Part 1……

I bloomin’ love March, usually, but as we show this month the door, and with such a mild winter, do not get over excited; while temperatures improve slightly, except it’ll be a wet one. A day of snow predicted Thursday, March kicks in better, but worsens by the second week, with a forecast 15-22 days of perpetual rain, hopefully clearing at the end, from Thursday 24th.

To add a degree of optimism to all this, there’s a truckload of things to do over the first month of so-called spring, there’s hope we can see less events being cancelled and life in the great outdoors taking steps towards the positive. Still, I advise to check ahead before venturing out, via the links provided; our ever-updating event calendar doesn’t update that quickly to include cancelations, and I can’t be held responsible for such cancelations or failure of organisers to refund tickets. Also, it’s a minefield adding links to these events, so find them all on the calendar, ta muchly.

And do not take this as comprehensive, the calendar is being updated all the time, this is just some advance highlights and all things I’d do, if I had cloning technology……

Given all I’ve said about the weather, it doesn’t seem too bad for Bath’s Big Sleepout on Friday 4th in Alice Park; hats off to Julian House and all doing it, raising vital funds and awareness for people forced to sleep-out every night.

Prior, live rock, electronica and folk from novelist, playwright and stand-up comedian Grant Sharkey, with ecologist Thomas Haynes and Bristol the Badger, aka Grasslands, on Wednesday 2nd, at that little coffee shop Baristocats, on Commercial Road Swindon. While Thursday sees one half of Show of Hands, Steve Knightly, at Trowbridge’s Pump, and the other, Phil Beer kicking off his So Much to Choose From tour at Corsham’s Pound Arts. Meanwhile, it’s a three-way guitar showdown at Chapel Arts in Bath with Daryl Kellie, Will McNicol and David Mead, and the Apricity Theatre group bring a Greenhouse of emerging artists out of lockdown to the Rondo Theatre.

WEEK 1

Friday 4th

To week one, then; starting Friday 4th, for parents and babies, Pound Arts has Swings & Roundabouts by the Filskit Theatre, who are inviting the bum wipers, bedtime boppers and owners of tiny humans, to join actor, musician, and mummy, Sophie Ross, for a brand-new comedy musical. A nappy change in the evening though, with dark, gut-wrenching adult stand-up from Bobby Mair, on his Cockroach tour.

The Exchange, Devizes pushes up the Tempo with a drum n bass night, while for a more hip-hop/reggae related evening, try DJ Nicewun & Mac Lloyd at The Village Pump. For something lighter, Alan Titchmarsh is at the Theatre Royal, Bath!

If you are in Bath, though, and into folk, try internationally renowned Faustus at Chapel Arts, who also come to Marlborough folk Roots the next week, Friday11th, or The Rondo, where Cindy Stratton and Marius Frank, ZBella, men’s choir Sasspafellas and upcoming singer/songwriter Ellie Frank headline an evening of entertainment raising money for the refugee charity UNHCR.

Closer to home, our good friends Bran and Mirko, as The Celtic Roots Collective bring some Irish roots to Seend Community Centre, from 7pm, which is free or donations. Also look out for one-man mechanical alt-blues band, Funke and the Two-Tone Baby at the Winchester Gate, Salisbury, a tribute to Nightwash, Knightwish, at the Vic, Swindon, or Coyote Kings at the Village Inn. Oh, and the Fillers play the Cheese & Grain, Frome.

Saturday 5th

Saturday, and the Wharf Theatre, Devizes has the award-winning theatre company White Cobra, presenting Bette & Joan, i.e., Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, in danger of becoming has-beens but get an opportunity to appear together in a new film, if the arch-rivals don’t clash.

Swindon’s original band with bluesy intent, Thud come to The Southgate, while the Bear’s Cellar Bar reopens with free entry to a 70s-80s Disco with DJ Andy Saunders.

It’s happy third birthday to Melksham’s The Hiding Place, and The Carpenters Experience, which speaks for itself, at the Assembly Hall.

Trowbridge Town Hall get post-punk DIY vibes with a triple billing of Slagheap, Slug Puppie and Carsick, while Chippenham’s Neeld have Amen Corner’s Andy Fairweather Low & the Low Riders, and The Cuban Brothers take The Cheese & Grain, but when in Frome, local punkers One Chord Wonders play the Sun. In complete contrast, Pound Arts has critical acclaimed folk and Americana, with Ida Wenøe & Samantha Whates.

Back to the arts, Rondo Theatre, Bath have Charlotte Palmer in an hilarious and moving one woman show, sometimes angry exploration of women over 50, who find themselves overlooked, ignored, disregarded, in short becoming The Invisible Woman, and Theatre Royal’s Egg have The Dark, Peut-Etrê Theatre which merges vibrant physicality with live music to create captivating and energetic performances for the whole family. It is even accessible for blind and visually impaired children through integrated audio description and touch tours.

Sunday 6th

Jon Amor’s first Sunday of the month residency at the Southgate, Devizes is the place to be, promising guest Jonny Henderson. But allow me to also recommend Bath’s Yiddish folk collective, Chai For All, who celebrate International Women’s Day at the Grapes.

Week 2

The Theatre Royal, Bath starts Willy Russel’s musical Blood Brothers on Tuesday 8th and running until Saturday, while the Ustinov Studio has an epic cycle of short plays exploring the personal and political effect of war on modern life, called Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat running from Thursday to Saturday.

But for a locally themed performance, try the Theatre screening of Naming The View at Pound Arts, Corsham, on Thursday. Naming the View takes its inspiration from Shakespeare’s much-loved comedy, The Taming of the Shrew, yet it’s setting is Seend.

Meanwhile, Chapel Arts, Bath has three days on the trot of acoustic folk with Chris Wood on Wednesday, Nick Hart on Thursday, and The Lost Trades play Friday.

Friday 11th

Aforementioned internationally renowned folk with Faustus at Marlborough Folk Roots club, and there’s open mic night at Trowbridge’s Pump, the third heat for amateur musicians of Take The Stage at Chippenham’s Neeld, and ancient ballads promise to be awoken, poems given the tunes they’ve long deserved with Salt House, Scotland’s foremost performers; Jenny Sturgeon, Ewan MacPherson and Lauren MacColl at Pound Arts.

I’d recommend the experimental jazz-fusion of SexJazz, at Swindon’s Beehive for a Harbour Project FUNdraiser, funding art sessions for Swindon refugees and asylum seekers. Also, the Relayaz Band at Bradford-on-Avon’s Boathouse, or for Thin Lizzy fans, as I know there’s a few, Limehouse Lizzy play The Cheese & Grain.

But Devizes best of luck wishes go out to our Full Tone Orchestra, who present Gilbert & Sullivan Pirates of Penzance at Bath Abbey; glorious!

Saturday 12th

Saturday is a whopper, spoiled for choice you are! The most excellently unique Bristol-based Two-Tone punk meets Sierra Leonean percussion duo, Two Man Ting return to The Southgate, Devizes. Meanwhile the Corn Exchange opens its doors to the Lacock-based Wiltshire Soul & Blues Club with a blues extravaganza headlining Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue, and there’s a rock n roll night at the Conservative Club, fundraising for Kennet Gateway Club with Mickey Ace and the Wildcards and DJ.

With support by the awesome Train to Skaville, boot boys need to get to Melksham, where Madness tribute Complete Madness take the Assembly Hall one step beyond. Meanwhile our indie-pop heroes, Talk in Code support for The Worried Men at Trowbridge Town Hall. The Dunwells play The Croft, Hungerford.

The Roving Crows play Chapel Arts, Bath, masters of euro-trance, Transglobal Underground at The Cheese & Grain, Frome, and there’s a Party & The Pavilion at Minety Rugby Club, featuring a number of bands, including our friends The Dirty Smooth.

Deep Purple, Rainbow and Whitesnake tributes rolled into one at the Vic, Swindon, with Rising from the Deep, meanwhile, Room 101 take the Castle, and Mean as Custard, Loaded Dice and Six O’clock Circus have a free band-off at Level III, fundraising for Swindon homeless charity the Moonlight Express Project. Oh, and MECA have a Sausage & Cider Fest; two of my favourite things!

But if gigs don’t tickle your fancy, there’s some excellent family theatre too; Saturday and Sunday at the Theatre Royal, is the place to find The Super Greedy Caterpillar, and Pound Arts in Corsham have Zoo Co Theatre coming in, presenting Messy, where you can meet Daisy. She’s got a messy brain and a messy bedroom, which makes it very difficult to look after her class hamster Mr Twiggy! A magical visual story, complete with original music, puppets, tap dancing and even a trip to the moon!

Messy is performed by a deaf and hearing cast with Sign Supported English, created in partnership with ADHD Foundation, where all performances are Relaxed, without loud noises and lights left on, and it is followed by a free workshop afterwards.

Saturday at Pound Arts also sees ENG-ER-LAND by Hannah Kumari and WoLab, a football-themed play set in 97, with 13-year-old Lizzie, obsessed with the beautiful game.

Sunday 13th and I got nothing, yet, except CSF Wrestling at The Cheese & Grain, but that’s why you need to keep checking into our bulging event calendar, as more comes in all the time. So much, I’m leaving it there, through fear of repetitive strain injury of my typing fingees. Either that, or it’ll be the middle of April before you finish reading it. But don’t, whatever you do, think for a second there’s nought to do in Wiltshire, and we’ll finish off the rest of March in a few days, give you time to digest this lot first!


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Trowbridge Town Hall Rides into Spring

At the beginning of the month Devizine covered Trowbridge’s musical renaissance, highlighting The Village Pump and Town Hall’s dedication to introducing a variety of upcoming local bands and performers. Explaining Sheer Music’s Kieran Moore had “big shoes to fill,” taking over as chief event coordinator for the Town Hall from Gavin Osborn. Well, the proof is in the pudding, and that dish has made it off the serving counter and onto our table.….

Not forgoing, the programme is already in full-swing, with Truckstop Honeymoon at the Pump on Friday, (18th) a cider swiggin’ scrumpy and western hoedown with The Skimmity Hitchers and our great friends, and the Boot Hill All Stars supporting at the Town Hall on Saturday.     

Boot Hill All Stars

Such is the fashion for live music in Trowbridge, Fridays at the Pump, Saturday at the Town Hall, aside some great happenings at Stallards and Emmanuel’s Yard, comedy and more commercial nights at the Civic. Gecko appears next Saturday at the Town Hall, and all-day Sunday there’s   fundraising session, Kalefest, a family-orientated mini-festival for some musical equipment for a teenager with a severe brain injury, in which Zone Club, Pete Lamb’s Heart Beats and The Relayz play.

Marching on atop this free six-week interactive course of workshops for 16- to 18-year-olds, covering all aspects of the music industry, next month sees a continuation of great bookings, of which we highlighted in the aforementioned preview, here. What we’re here today for is to check in on Kieran, see if he indeed “filled” those shoes for the ongoing season.

So, just revealed, April and May listings at the Town Hall and Pump, which have equally exciting news, as, perhaps, Mr Moore asks the shopkeeper for a shoehorn. Isle of Man’s recent export to Wiltshire, Becky Lawrence, the musical theatre singer-songwriter who wasted no time fitting into the local circuit, joining established local bands, The Bourbons UK and Clyve and the Soul City Foundation, teams up Bristolian country singer-songwriter Zoe Newton to pinch-punch April at the Pump.

Zoe Newton at Bradford Roots Festival

Whereas, in the name of variety I’m surprised to see The Town Hall hosting a “rum and reggae night” on Saturday April 2nd; it’s as if they’re calling to me! Seriously though, I’d wager youngsters reading this are asking Siri what the hell a shoehorn is.

But nice surprises flow, as Gavin Osborn himself plays The Pump, Friday 8th, with his band Comment Section. Regulars at Stallard’s, locally-based indie-rockers Riviera Arcade arrive at the Town Hall with Gloucestershire’s electric-punk favourites, Chasing Dolls on Saturday, with (udated) Devizes/Swindon NervEndings headling the show.

NervEndings

Alcopops Records’ Croydon duo, The Frauds play the Pump on the 15th, with Ipswich’s experimental indie-pop darlings, Lucky Number 7, while Henry Wacey and Dan O’Farrell are there on Saturday. Surreal stand-up, Welsh hard rockers The Vega Bodegas are at the Town Hall on the Saturday, with support from Wiltshire-based metal trio newcomers, Last Alvor and self-confessed “degenerates,” synth-punk noise-makers Benzo Queen.

If that weekend is atypical of what I’d expect Mr Moore to assign, the following, Saturday 23rd is different. Kieran is no stranger to asking what acts local giggers would like to see via social media, as Brighton’s Chap-Hop legend Professor Elemental comes to the Town Hall, with support from my recommendation, Bristol’s fantastic veganomic ska-punk-folk crazies, Boom Boom Racoon, who’ve we fondly followed in the past on Devizine.

Boom Boom Racoon

If I’m excited with boom boom coming soon, while “Sunday league” songwriter Tom Jenkins finishes off April on Saturday 30th, May is positively booming too. Local soul-hip hop DJ, Mac-Llyod gets the crowd prepped for another of my personal favourites, Bristol’s bouncy boom-bap virtuosos The Scribes, on Saturday 7th May. Aching to encourage these guys a gig more local than Salisbury’s Winchester Gate, I’m delighted to see this on Trowbridge Town Hall’s listing; they’re definitely calling to me now!

Pan-European ‘inventive and thrilling’ alt-folk duo, singer-songwriter Tobias Jacob and double-bass playing multi-instrumentalist Lukas Drinkwater play the Pump on Thursday 12th May, whereas I’m notified Saturday 14th’s do at the Town Hall will be a “pipe and slippers rave,” of which I had to inquire if, as it sounds, it’ll be an old skool DJ rave type thing, and this it was confirmed, “that’s exactly it.” If they’re calling me, now they’re mocking; the feet in my slippers were stomping in mud when you were an itch, whippersnappers! “Honey, where’s my whistle and white gloves?”

Sheffield’s award-winning finger-style guitarist, Martin Simpson breathes some folk to the Pump on Friday 20th May, while the Town Hall blow cobwebs off with Trowbridge’s own hardcore metal quartet, Severed Illusions. With nine years under their belts, they opened for Hed PE at the now defaulted Beirkeller in Bristol, and played metal festivals’ assemblage M2TM. Joined by doomcore fourpiece Eyesnomouth, and Salisbury’s screaming metalcore Next Stop Olympus; that’s going to go off.

The Lost Trades

From here gigs are pencilled in, June sees Martin Carthy, Jon Amor with Kyla Brox, Hip Route and Billy & The Low Ground feature, but be certain the near-future looks bright and varied for Trowbridge’s live music scene, particularly as the last gig of May is our beloved folk-harmony trio The Lost Trades on Saturday 28th. Bring in the summer with Graham Steel’s award-winning Phil, Jamie and Tamsin, what more could you ask for?


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Wiltshire Council Whack Up Parking Charges

It took only a couple of hours at a Wiltshire Council meeting yesterday, to decide punishing drivers would be the order of day; they intend to whack up parking charges an extra 10p per hour, and enforce blue-badged disabled drivers to cough up too…...

Free Sunday parking and Town Council’s free event parking will also be a thing of the past, as the conservative-led council voted in favour of the proposals.

Liberal Democrats called for the amendment to be scrapped, while Wiltshire Council leader Richard Clewer called it “economic illiteracy” and “morally bankrupt.” Apparently,it’s all part of our town centres’ “transformation.” Cllr Clewer claimed the Conservative administration “has a clear plan for the future of our towns,” continued to slag off the Lib Dems’ for their “lack a coherent strategy,” and accused them of “playing politics for short-term gains.”

So, there you go, online shoppers, let’s say a prayer for our High Streets, as we once knew them…..


Devizine 4 Julia’s House; Volume 2 in the Pipeline, Need Your Help!

I’m delighted to transfer £186.46 over to Julia’s House Children’s Hospices today, the proceeds to-date of our compilation album; well, I call it an album, but it’s one mahoosive boxset really, a staggering forty-six tracks from local artists and others worldwide who’ve featured somewhere on Devizine in the past.

If you’ve not heard this absolutely stunning Miss World of music before, a virtual Now, That’s What I Call Devizine Music, she’s here for your viewing pleasure, please download your copy, exclusive on Bandcamp, as I feel this site offers the best deal to artists. Once you buy it, it stores in your account cloud, and you have unlimited downloads, so you can put it onto various devices.

Unlike a fundraising event, here is something which will stay in the domain, something you can download whenever you like, and we’ll continue to build a little stash and send it over to this wonderful registered charity once it builds up again. If I’m honest, I’ve been waiting for it to total to a nice round £200 before sending, but attention on the project has waned recently, and it’s been a while.

There are ways I could prompt folk towards it, a poster or flyer campaign would be handy, but I figure, as lots of bands and musicians expressed an interest to be included, after its release, time is nigh to start plotting a second volume.

As we penned all the acts onto an army surplus bag for the front cover, as many students in my era did just this, I thought we’d do similar this time. So, see our old school desk below, eerily free of graffiti? It is aching for me to inscribe your band name or logo onto it, with chewed biro.

You should note we have three tunes for volume 2 already, from Nick Harper, yes, I said Nick Harper, the wonderful Onika Venus, and Marlborough rockers, Catfish. But we need you onboard too. I envision it being entirely new artists, so if you contributed a track to volume one, I sincerely thank you, but unless you’re absolutely bursting with enthusiasm to forward a second song, let’s try to compile a whole new set of artists.

What got to me last time, was the unexpected amount of work I’d set myself. There was me, at the beginning, thinking I’d just be bobbing about, enjoying the ride, while our contributing artists did all the hard labour!

It occurred to me at the time, I’d likely raise better funds riding through town in a bathtub full of cold baked beans, and while I’ve certainly not scrubbed the idea, I would like this compilation project to build into a series, really prompting and promoting the best of the music we feature on Devizine, and giving the good folk out there a sampler of what great music there is, as well as raising funds for such a brilliant charity; it’s a double-whammy. Ergo, sending us a song will put you straight onto the good list!

So, I ask, if you want to contribute a song, please bear with, and I’ll be back in touch as soon as possible, but last time I was inundated. Streamlined, that’s the key here, so I’ve set out some guidelines to contributing below.

Firstly, we NEED original songs, NO COVERS, not even Chas & Dave ones, as copyright is a minefield. You must own the rights to the song, or have permission from everyone who owns the rights to it, and you MUST TELL ME THIS, see the form at the bottom.

Secondly, please remember this is a children’s charity, and while Julia’s House has been accepting of all the styles and content, really, I don’t want songs with unsuitable themes, or constant bad language. Willing to accept the odd naughty word, and extreme content should be avoided, thanks.

Thirdly, any genre is fine; I want to get a real cross-section of sounds, no pigeonholing. While some chose to record an exclusive song, and that was great, all I ask is for an album track or outtake not currently doing the rounds, but you’re free to choose whatever one suits you best.

Fourthly, there is NO DEADLINE set as of yet, but I will email you once one is decided; please do not wait for the deadline if you can help it; last time I got confused where I stood on so many promised contributions, and it doesn’t take a lot of confuse me.

And, oh fifthly, if that’s not already too much to take in already?! Please ensure you include how you’d like the song to be listed, i.e. Name of Artist and Song. Sounds rather obvious, but also, if I don’t know you already, send some links to websites, social media, and a short bio too!

You can copy and paste this passage below into an email, fill in the dotty bits, and send it to me at devizine@hotmail.com – attach a WAV file format of the song you’d like me to add, and wait patiently for a reply; I look forward to hearing your song; you flipping superstar, you!

I, (FULL NAME) confirm I’m the full copyright holder of the track (ENTER SONG NAME) or that I have contacted any other parties which holds rights to the track and have gained their permission also. 

I hereby grant Darren Worrow of Devizine, my permission to use it as part of the 4 Julia’s House Volume 2 compilation album, fundraising for Julia’s House. Registered Charity Number 1067125. I also agree to allow clips of the track to be used for promotional purposes of the album mentioned above only.

In turn, Darren Worrow and Julia’s House maintain the artist of the track reserves all rights to the track, and it is only used in conjunction with the aforementioned album.

(If you have PRS details, Tunecode or ISWC, please add them.)


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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.


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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