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Arts & Entertainment - Reviews

REVIEW: St Peter's Church recitals: a brilliant young pianist is joined by a brilliant young violinist

The Choi-Fox DuoThe Choi-Fox DuoOn a cold November night these two young musicians provided us with a feast of lovely music: Harry Nowakowski-Fox (piano) and Judith Choi-Castro (violin) - who perform and record as the Choi-Fox Duo.

The first half of this recital in the was devoted entirely to piano works played by Harry. He began with JS Bach’s Partita No2 in C Minor, very well known to the St Peter's Church audience. The work begins with an opening sinfonia, which has three very different sections.  We were treated to a very formal almost solemn grave section, which gives way to a lovely gentle andante before finishing with a two-part fugue in which Harry showed  a thorough mastery  of Bach’s familiar counterpart.  

Then follow a series of dance movements, all very varied in speed and in mood.  However it is in the last two movements, the rondeaux and finally the capriccio, where all the excitement lies.  Technically demanding, Harry sailed through these movements at a cracking tempo, the notes just pouring from his finger tips.

The Chopin Barcarolle in F Sharp Major which followed is a very different piece. A barcarolle is based on the rhythm and mood of the ‘barcarola’, a song sung by Venetian gondoliers, and a source of inspiration to many nineteenth century composers.  This one is lovely.

Harry articulated the rippling arpeggios which were reminiscent of sunlight on the waters of the Grand Canal, and poured much expression into the main theme, which is unmistakably Italian in its form.

The great Piano Sonata no 21 in C major, the ‘Waldstein’, was a complete contrast. Here is one of Beethoven’s finest piano works. Two thunderous outer movements are separated by a short and reflective adagio. Harry played with huge confidence, mastering the bravado that this work demands, but, at the same time, highlighting the moments of quiet contemplation found therein.

The second half saw Harry back at the piano to accompany Judith in two well-established works for piano and violin duo. The first of these was Beethoven’s wonderful Violin Sonata in F Major which, thanks to its sunny and joyous character has been known as the ‘Spring’ sonata.  

Its ‘uncomplicated’ light-heartedness makes a good contrast with the powerful Waldstein which had preceded it.  You can’t help but smile from the first moment of this work. Judith gave us a very personal rendering, highlighting the sometimes very intimate ‘conversation’ between the violin and the piano. This was joy both to watch and to hear.

The concert finished with a violin sonata in F Major written in 1838 by a young and buoyant Mendelssohn.  It is more complex than the Beethoven, and requires more attention from both the performer and the listener.  There are serene moments where the elegant melodies are reminiscent of the Songs Without Words. These were played with great eloquence. However, it is the ‘dash for the finish’, the assai vivace, with its long and breathless passages of joyous fast notes passed from one instrument to the other that was memorable.

Played with youthful bravado, this was a worthy end to the concert. Perhaps, though, Saint Peter’s church is not an ideal acoustic for the violin and there were times when the balance between the two instruments was not good, and the quiet intimacy of the instrument was drowned out by the piano.  Nevertheless this concert was recognised by many as one of the very best in these recent series of recitals by young musicians.


Review: Wessex Places - Wiltshire Museum's exhibition brings new views of ancient sites in their modern landscapes


Silbury at Night - David InshawSilbury at Night - David InshawThe Wessex Places exhibition at the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes is precisely the right space for new works by four artists David Inshaw, Ray Ward, Robert Pountney and David Gunning.  Many of the works are for sale - mostly as artist's prints.

They all bring into the museum archaeological survivors that will never find a place in a museum.  They are, of course, too big. But close by the gallery you can see artefects found in or near these larger sites - work of extreme delicacy to contrast with some of these massive avchievements.

They are also monuments from our distant past that need the context of their landscapes - ancient and modern.  And depiction of landscape has long been a cherished and characteristic feature of British art.

Central to these artists is the Wessex inheritance of megaliths: Stonehenge, Avebury, Silbury Hill and, last but by no means least, the Marlborough Mound which is now known to be 'Silbury's Little Sister.'

David Inshaw is the well local known artist who first came to the public's attention in 1973 with his painting The Badminton Game - now in The Tate Gallery.  He came to Devizes in 1971 and formed a group of artists which became known as The Brotherhood of Ruralists.  He left the Group in 1983 and after some years in the Welsh borders, he returned to Devizes in 1995.

He works mainly on large oils, etchings and drawings. In this exhibition David Inshaw is showing some startling views of Silbury.  

His etching Silbury Sunrise is a representation of the mound and a rising sun that verges on the abstract.  It is almost as though it comes from a field notebook - hurriedly capturing the essence of the view complete with a jotted tree framing the right side of the view.  Regrettably it is not for sale.

The etching Silbury at Night, which appears on the poster for the exhibition, is rich with atmosphere.  The semi-darkened moon looks as though Inshaw may have captured an eclipse in progress.  And the familiar Silbury outline contrasts dramatically with the natural shapes of nearby trees.

Ray Ward has lived in Wiltshire for thirty years.  He graduated in fine art from Trent Polytechnic in 1983 and has supported his artistic life with a series of jobs - including work as an art technician at Marlborough College.  And his work for this exhibition  gives us several new and often surprising glimpses of the Marlborough Mound - on College property and now known to be the same age as Silbury Hill.

Marlborough Mount - Ray WardMarlborough Mount - Ray WardRay Ward works in in a variety of disciplines including drawing, painting and performance: "Last year I was asked to do some drawings for a book about Silbury Hill and thereafter the hill and its counterpart in Marlborough have infiltrated my thinking and have become markers not merely in the landscape but also in my personal history."

"The feeling that that they've always been there while everything around them has changed gives these mysterious man-made structures an occasionally comic but always prescient mystique."

One of Ray Ward's computer drawings printed onto archival rice paper shows the Marlborough Mound standing alone with bits of the College's Norwood Hall and Chapel peeping in from the side - trying their best to impose something a bit more modern on the tree-covered mound.

His Silbury Hill 009 shows the ancient man-made mound in the foreground against a broad, even rolling, Wiltshire landscape.  It shows with great ease the extraordinary scale of this 'Hill'.

If you thought you had seen Silbury Hill from just about every angle, in every weather, under every possible sky, from both sides of the A4 and from Avebury itself, you will get a very pleasant surprise from Ward's Silbury Hill 160 (Behind the trees.)  A very different view - with gentle colours of nearby vegetation.

Robert Pountney concentrates on the landscapes of Dorset. But in this exhibition he has a wonderfully evocative charcoal drawing of Avebury.  It features one standing stone dwarfed by heavy, rolling clouds of the kind that might well have frightened or at the very least worried the men and women who built Avebury.

"The predominant use of chiaroscuro in my drawings is intended to help dramatise the relationship between past and present, the seen and the unseen in prehistoric landscapes..."

As if to prove his point we have his charcoal drawing of Rawlsbury Camp under a starlit sky.  The camp is on a promontory of Bulbarrow Hill just west of Blandford Forum.  Not much of the five acre Iron Age fort is left, but seeing its rounded remains under the same star light as its Iron Age defenders saw it, does bring out that relationship between past and present.

David Gunning is represented by some of his depictions of Stonehenge and many other megaliths.  Throughout his life, Stonehenge, Avebury and other major Wiltshire sites, have captivated and fascinated him: "This new set of work reflects my continued passion and admiration for the megalithic builders who have left us such a magical heritage to reflect upon."

One of Gunning's really eye-catching works is Many Megaliths an imposing  assemblage of sixty small etchings lined up on a giclee print in four ranks showing megaliths from all over the British Isles.  They come in so many different shapes and landscapes that you begin to wonder how the ancients' skills were spread around.

Another of his works is a small etching Silbury Hill, Avebury - dated June 2015.  This is a narrow picture putting Silbury into its present day agricultural landscape with a post and wire fence in front of the ancient structure.

Wessex Places:  the exhibition is open until 2 January 2016.  The Museum is open: Monday - Saturday 10-5, Sundays and Bank Holidays 12-4. But it will close for Christmas from December 20-28.

Top row:  Left - David Inshaw with the curator and his Silbury Sunrise. Right - Ray Ward with one of his views of the Marlborough Mound.  Bottom row: Left - David Gunning. Right - Robert Pountney with his charcoal drawing of Avebury. [Photo courtesy Wiltshire Museum]Top row: Left - David Inshaw with the curator and his Silbury Sunrise. Right - Ray Ward with one of his views of the Marlborough Mound. Bottom row: Left - David Gunning. Right - Robert Pountney with his charcoal drawing of Avebury. [Photo courtesy Wiltshire Museum]



A brilliant young pianist returns to Saint Peter’s Church - the fourth recital series begins

Mai Charissa Tran-Ringrose at the time of her first Marlborough recital...Mai Charissa Tran-Ringrose at the time of her first Marlborough recital...The new season of recitals at Saint Peter’s church began (October 25) with a return visit to Marlborough by Mai Charissa Tran-Ringrose who first came to play for the Brandt Group Brilliant Young Pianists series three years ago.  Mai Charissa was then aged 16, and now, aged 19, she is an undergraduate reading languages at Trinity College Cambridge.

In her short career as a pianist Mai Charissa won, aged 13, first prize in Thailand’s National Piano Competition for Young Pianists. At the same age she achieved the Diploma (with Distinction) of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, and a year later she was awarded its Licentiate.  She has also been awarded the equivalent qualification in France: the Diploma d’Etudes Musicales.

The first half of her programme was devoted entirely to Beethoven - just two works, both in very sombre minor keys.  First came the 32 Variations in C Minor. These toy variations, lasting in some cases but a few seconds each, were based on a simple eight-bar melody. There was a rich kaleidoscope of temperament in a very short time, some tempestuous, others placid, all rushing past the listener until Beethoven finally pauses for breath with the last dramatic and demanding variation. Mai-Charissa demonstrated not only her technical skills but also her ability to interpret each of these variations individually.  

Beethoven's Sonata 17 in D minor followed - another work in a dark key.  It begins with a remarkable first movement, with a series of tempo changes that leaves the listener wondering what Beethoven was planning. The movement remains one of huge variations in mood: the fast sections are almost manic in intensity.

The second movement has a steady and persistent rhythm, the repeated chords in the bass creating the atmosphere of a funeral march. Relief finally arrives in the rippling and gentle allegretto movement, but even here the movement ends quietly with a profoundly melancholic theme which completes this troubling sonata.

We heard some technical skill here and Mai Charissa wrung from the work the dramatic mood changes and all-embracing sense of anguish which the work conveys.

Most of the second half was devoted to Chopin. Mai Chairissa began with two of Chopin’s Nocturnes, E Minor and B flat Minor - a form Chopin popularised. After the tempestuous Beethoven these were a good deal more calming. They are lyrical and wistful and very elegantly played.  

...and more recently...and more recentlyThese were followed by Chopin’s Ballade in F Minor - another musical form which Chopin popularised. The name might suggest that there is a specific textual underlay; the telling of a story. There are pronounced shifts in mood, reflective passages which then lead into lighter dance-like moments, before ending in a dramatic and virtuosic outburst. Mai Charissa highlighted these mood changes in such a way that we could build up our own ‘ballad’ from the music.

The Chopin experience was briefly broken with the miniature ‘Smyrna’ which Edward Elgar had written in 1905 which visiting the eastern Mediterranean. This lovely work is very atmospheric, and the ‘colour and movement’ which Elgar describes is  bedded deep in the left hand where there are traces of eastern harmonies and rhythms.     

Finally the recital's grande finale: Chopin’s Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante - two wildly differing works which are frequently paired for their dramatic contrast. The Andante is gentle and has a very familiar lullaby feel to it - in complete contrast to the fireworks of the Grande Polonaise.

Yet another musical form popularised by Chopin, the ‘polonaise’ is loosely based on the rhythms of an energetic traditional Polish dance. This Polonaise, the most ambitious Chopin wrote, is joyful, full of wild rhythms and a sense of bravura leading towards a dramatic climax of arpeggios stretching the pianist to the limit, arms stretching the length of the keyboard and hands lost in an avalanche of notes.

What a performance! It was technically very good indeed and the appreciative audience  greeted its conclusion with rapturous applause.

For a young pianist of but nineteen years Mai Charissa shows a very mature technical command of the piano. Perhaps her playing as yet, reflects too little of her own personality.  Furthermore she should learn to engage more with her audience.  However these are early days. After she completes her studies at Cambridge she plans to become an accountant.  Nevertheless, let us hope that she will continue to play, for without her the world of music would be all the poorer.   

For dcetails about future recitals in the series go to the MBG website - or follow our What's On Calendar.



One piano and four hands make 'a very successful' recital to aid the Mayor's fund raising for The Brain Tumour Charity

On Sunday (September 13), at St Peter's Church, in a concert organisedd by the Mayor of Marlborough, Councillor Margaret Rose, The Cook and Stanley Piano Duet provided a large audience with a varied range of works.  

Berendina Cook and Matthew Stanley had met in 1984 whilst they were music students at the Royal Holloway College, University of London and have continued to play together ever since. They have become established as one of the leading specialists in Piano Duet work, and have played in venues all over the world. International recognition came when in 1996 they won no less than three prizes at the International Piano Duet Competition in Tokyo

The recital began with Mozart's Sonata in C (which may have originally been intended for two pianos.) A spirited allegro opens the piece, contrasting with a gentle andante, before launching into a jaunty allegretto, the main theme returning time and time again.  

Schubert was a very able pianist and wrote extensively for the duet. His lovely Rondo in A may well have been written for him to play alongside one of his gifted pupils, probably one of the daughters of his patron, Prince Esterhazy. The work is based on a gentle, poignant theme around which the four hands interweave in a series of atmospheric and intimate variations. Such beauty, from a composer close to death from a terminal illness!

What a contrast this made to the bombastic and extrovert Valses Bourgeois by the larger-than-life Lord Berners.   Berners was one of the flamboyant figures of Britain in the 1920’s. A gifted musician, poet, novelist, artist and erstwhile diplomat, his social life revolved around the Sitwells, William Walton and Constant Lambert as well as the Mitford sisters. His hospitality at Faringdon House, where he kept a flock of doves dyed in vibrant colours, was legendary.  These Valses, are, not surprisingly, larger than life - showy, brash, satirical, and harmonically edgy. Furthermore, they were brilliantly played - a very suitable end to the first half.

The second half began with a Suite in Three Movements  by York Bowen, a sadly neglected composer these days, but one of the recognised musical talents of the interwar years. He was also a talented horn player and piano teacher. His Suite, probably written for his own use, is very difficult and requires substantial changes in mood. The wonderful central movement is a Nocturne, initially a gentle reflective piece which steadily rises to a disturbing climax. The last movement, Dance, is another tour de force.

Debussy’s Petite Suite is well-known to duet lovers and was beautifully played. The four movements begin with En Bateau, (a serene evening on a boat rudely interrupted by a nasty squall!) and includes a striking Minuet before finishing with a very well-known Ballet.

The programme finished with a piano duet version of Gershwin’s famous Rhapsody in Blue, better known in its original version for piano and orchestra. Indeed the work loses something of its variety of colour in this version for duet.  Nevertheless, it was played with great style and made a very suitable climax to the evening’s music.

It was most fitting because George Gershwin died at the age of 38 from a brain tumour, thus cutting short a very flourishing career. Berendina’s own son died of a brain tumour in 2000 at the age of 14, while the Town Mayor’s son-in-law suffered the same fate.  The concert, appropriately, was to raise money for The Brain Tumour Charity which will remain the Mayor’s Charity of choice throughout her year in office.  This was a worthy and most enjoyable start - a very successful concert.


Return to ‘spiritual home’ of Pewsey for blues star Jon Amor


Jon AmorJon AmorInternationally-renowned blues singer and guitarist Jon Amor returned to his ‘spiritual home’ at the weekend – headlining Pewsey Music Festival in a field behind the Coopers Arms pub.

And following an hour-long set, the musician discovered escaping his spiritual home was no easy task, as he and his band exited the stage, returned for a one-song encore which became two songs, then came back for a grand finale after making their second exit from the stage.

Drawing on a back catalogue that spans more than 20 years, Amor told the crowd that he considered the village – and more specifically the Coopers – ‘my spiritual home.'

“My old man, who is looking down on me, telling me it’s too loud, was born and raised in the Coopers,” he reminded an audience that was more than familiar with his backstory.

He recalled that some of his earliest gigs with The Hoax, the Devizes-based blues band that has found itself a contender in the category of Best Band at the 2015 British Blues Awards, took place at the pub, in front of an audience of 30 or so. These days, they play gigs and festivals across Europe.

Amor promised a set of ‘feel good blues’, and his four-piece band delivered an hour of foot-stomping R&B, with Amor sharing singing duties with gravelly-voiced keyboardist Pete Gage.

Earlier in the evening, the crowds were treated to sets from Invisible Vegas, a young Oxford four-piece dressed in heavy metal sleeveless t-shirts, but who delivered a melodic set of blues and rock covers alongside their own compositions.

Vocalist Alex Colman endeared himself to the Pewsey crowd by telling his audience “You guys are so much better than [local festival rival] Faringdon.” Later, they wrote on their Facebook page “Great show, great crowd!” and “Bring on the next one!”

Meanwhile, a reggae ska set from the Swindon-based Erin Bardwell Collective accompanied the setting of a sun which had blessed the audience – and no doubt contributed to the sale of real ale and cider – throughout the day.

Organiser Liz Boden said: "It was an amazing day with a fantastic crowd. Everyone seemed to have a great time and those I chatted to from further afield said they'd be bringing their families and friends next year."

Next year's Pewsey Music Festival will be on Saturday, August 6.

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Jon Amor belts out another oneJon Amor belts out another oneCrowds at Pewsey Music FestivalCrowds at Pewsey Music FestivalErin Bardwell CollectiveErin Bardwell CollectiveInvisible VegasInvisible Vegas



National Play Day in Aldbourne is pure magic


Magic with childrens entertainer RazzamatazzMagic with childrens entertainer RazzamatazzYoung people in Aldbourne celebrated National Play Day on Wednesday by hitting each other with sticks.

The inflatable pugil stick arena was part of a range of free activities laid on by Aldbourne Youth Council, which also included Zorbing – rolling downhill hamster-style in a giant inflatable ball – and surmounting a climbing wall.

There was also the opportunity for youngsters to shoot at each other in the Lazer Tag Maze and ride a rodeo bull, while for younger visitors there were bouncy castles, a soft play area, and a magician.

The day-long event, which was enjoyed by young people from toddlers to teenagers, was free to attend, and gave visitors a taste of the activities on offer at the Community Junction youth centre.

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Bouncy castle fun with Jack (3)Bouncy castle fun with Jack (3)Milo (9) scales the climbing wallMilo (9) scales the climbing wallOscar Reeves (11) on the rodeo bullOscar Reeves (11) on the rodeo bullPugilist Tom Maslin knocks friend Catherine Jutchings off her feetPugilist Tom Maslin knocks friend Catherine Jutchings off her feetA mass Macarena performance by members of the Aldbourne Youth CouncilA mass Macarena performance by members of the Aldbourne Youth Council



REVIEW: The Wiltshire Museum has a summer of superb exhibitions

The Devil's Den (copyright Steve Speller) The Devil's Den (copyright Steve Speller) Two exhibitions currently open at the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes are attracting great interest.  One is temporary, the other is a new permanent display.

The temporary exhibition shows the remains our forebears left above the ground - remains still staking their dramatic place in the modern landscape.  The other shows finds excavated from below the surface of our landscape, forming another part of the Museum's ambitious programme of chronological displays revealing items that have often stayed hidden in storerooms.

Traces is an exhibition of really stunning photographs taken by Steve Speller.  In his words it is "a personal exploration of English prehistory in today's landscape."

Steve grew up near Avebury (he now lives and works in West Sussex) and has produced startling images of The Devil's Den, a single chamber 'portal tomb' on Fyfield Down just west of Marlborough, and a most unusual view of Silbury Hill.  This is a distant view of the mound seen over a field in flower, but it shows more clearly than ever the extraordinary scale of this giant Neolithic mound - the tallest man-made earthwork in Europe.

Speller's photographs (prints of which are for sale) include sites at Buxton, the Isle of Wight, Sussex and the bizarre Rudston Monolith in the East Riding of Yorkshire.  This is the United Kingdom's tallest standing stone - at 25 feet - and seems to have had the village church built round it.  It now stands there rather like a very tall vicar welcoming worshippers.

Ceramics by Alison Milner Ceramics by Alison Milner Complementing the photographs is a display of beaker ceramics by Alison Milner - also for sale.  These have delicate images inspired by the flora found growing around her husband Steve Speller's choice of Neolithic remains.

Her designs of spare fronds, florets and stalks look as though they are taking us back beyond Neolithic times towards those fossilised filigree remains of plants found between layers of slate and in coal seams.

This exhibition runs until late August.

A Saxon warrior's sword - from Blacknall FieldA Saxon warrior's sword - from Blacknall FieldAfter the recent openings of newly mounted displays of the Museum's amazing selection of Neolithic gold ornaments from the time of Stonehenge, they have now opened a new Saxon gallery: "Saxons: the making of the Kingdom of Wessex."

These display cases are of special interest to the Marlborough area as they tell the story of the Blacknall Field Saxon cemetery close to Pewsey, which was partially excavated in the 1960s and 1970s.  Its finds are now brought together and, with other finds as well, tell a fascinating story of Saxon life in Wiltshire.

The Blacknall Field cemetery served a village of about 50 people and included graves of all ages and conditions of men, women and children.  One grave held the remains of an important warrior - buried with his beautifully decorated sword, shield and spear.  Close by was a woman buried with superb jewellery and nearby the remains of three children - perhaps a family group.

Saxon jewels for a girl old enough to bear childrenSaxon jewels for a girl old enough to bear childrenAn ornate clasp for an older woman of some importanceAn ornate clasp for an older woman of some importanceBeing able to tell age of these remains has meant that archaeologists can show how, as children grew into adults, they were adorned with more and better jewellery (for girls) and more and better weapons (as boys grew into manhood.)  Much of the jewellery looks at first sight like gold, but is in fact bronze covered in gilt.

The Saxons were farming peacefully in the Vale of Pewsey.  But the cemetery does include signs of warring - with one skull showing the results of a definite and lethal blow from a sword.

There is a third display at present in the museum which is linked to the excavations that have just started in the Vale of Pewsey led by Dr Jim Leary of Reading University.  These cases show some of the finds from previous digs at Marden and nearby.  

(Front) The Clench Common bracelet - the other bracelet was found at Potterne(Front) The Clench Common bracelet - the other bracelet was found at PotterneDr Leary will be hoping that his students from Reading University's Archaeological Field School and their international colleagues will make many more finds to reveal how people lived at the time the henges at Marden, Avebury and at Stonehenge were in use.  They have already made some significant finds.

Visitors should not leave the Museum without finding time to marvel at the Later Bronze Age gold bracelet found at Clench Common.

Marlborough Open Studios:  to help mark the twentieth anniversary of Marlborough Open Studios, the Wiltshire Museum is putting on a special display over the weekend of 11 & 12 July.  They are bringing out of their storerooms works by some of the areas best known artists.  

The gallery will also include a display about Eric Ravilious (1903-1942)  - a water-colourist famous for his views of Wiltshire such as Wiltshire Landscape, Strawberry beds near Pewsey and the iconic painting of Westbury's White horse seen from a third class railway carriage.   He was killed when he was working as a war artist and his plane disappeared off Iceland.



Family day puts wind in sails of windmill charity


David Lemon as Mr Toad welcomes visitors to the windmillDavid Lemon as Mr Toad welcomes visitors to the windmillA Wind in the Willows themed family fun day brought hundreds of adults and children to the only working windmill in Wessex on Saturday.

The event was a chance to play games, meet animals, and taste produce – including bread made with flour milled on site – in the grounds of Wilton Windmill.


Wilton Windmill was builtin 1821 and fell into disrepair in the 1920s. In the 1960s it was listed as Grade II, and in 1971 it was bought by Wiltshire County Council and leased to the Wiltshire Historic Buildings Trust, which early in 1972 began to restore it to working condition.

The windmill started milling again in 1976, and the running was taken over by the Wilton Windmill Society, which still runs the mill today.

The windmill will next be open to the general public during Heritage Open Days weekend, which runs from September 10 to 13.

Meanwhile, the windmill is hosting a murder mystery evening next Saturday, June 27. For more information, see our feature here.

Enlarge pictures by clicking on them




Mr Toad arrives in a 1935 Morris Eight driven by Tony Gilbert, one of the men who persuaded Wiltshire Council to buy the windmill in 1971Mr Toad arrives in a 1935 Morris Eight driven by Tony Gilbert, one of the men who persuaded Wiltshire Council to buy the windmill in 1971In Wind in the Willows the stoats and weasels take over Toad Hall. Here, a ferret has a go.In Wind in the Willows the stoats and weasels take over Toad Hall. Here, a ferret has a go.Kymani Wheatley (5) and his brother Eben (7) watch the snail racingKymani Wheatley (5) and his brother Eben (7) watch the snail racingRichard Paget of My Apple Juice. Richard collects apples from people's gardens, juices them and returns them in bottles branded with the fruit owner's name. His new product line – launched at the event – is sorbet.Richard Paget of My Apple Juice. Richard collects apples from people's gardens, juices them and returns them in bottles branded with the fruit owner's name. His new product line – launched at the event – is sorbet.The Garrison Gallopers morris dancers entertained the crowdsThe Garrison Gallopers morris dancers entertained the crowds



Queens and Minions entertain the crowds at Pewsey Carnival


A pair of Foxy HuntersA pair of Foxy HuntersA queen on the throne, The Queen on 'the throne', Father Christmas, and a milk float with a difference were all part of Wiltshire’s oldest and most vibrant illuminated carnival last night (Saturday).

117 years has not dulled the spirit of Pewsey residents who, if they weren’t in fancy dress in the procession, had turned out in traditionally-large numbers to cheer on the participants.

As always, the Carnival Queen and her attendants led the procession, but were followed not long afterwards by Her Majesty herself, or at least someone posing as her – a walking entrant sitting in a toilet, the legend Still On The Throne alluding to Elizabeth II’s record-breaking reign.

There were more topical floats – one in the form of the milk float with a life-sized cow implored local people to pay a fair price for their milk.

There was an early showing for Father Christmas and his elves, courtesy of the Party Animals, and as always a good smattering of popular culture references – the recently-resurrected TV classic Thunderbirds, Disney’s enduring Frozen, and the unescapable Minions.

And from the baby the the pouch of a kangaroo as part of the Cotton Eye Joey float, to the Pewsey Old Broilers – who used their Dun Clucking float to announce their retirement from Carnival – the event managed to appeal to every generation.

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An Elf from the Party Animals Christmas floatAn Elf from the Party Animals Christmas floatCarnival Queen Daisy-Mae Phythian and attendant Chelsea WeirCarnival Queen Daisy-Mae Phythian and attendant Chelsea WeirKennet Valley Brass Bavarian Band Kennet Valley Brass Bavarian Band Make Love Not WarMake Love Not WarMinions 2015Minions 2015Pewsey Hasbeens Thunderbirds Are GoPewsey Hasbeens Thunderbirds Are GoPewsey Legions Two Tribes floatPewsey Legions Two Tribes floatPewsey Old BroilersPewsey Old BroilersPVADS Madness-themed floatPVADS Madness-themed floatStill on the ThroneStill on the ThroneThe Major WrecksThe Major WrecksThe milk float campaigns for fair milk prices for farmersThe milk float campaigns for fair milk prices for farmersThe youngest participant  Cotton Eye JoeyThe youngest participant Cotton Eye Joey



Trio of cultural landmarks to open free for Heritage Days


A reconstruction of 17th century life at The Merchant's House in MarlboroughA reconstruction of 17th century life at The Merchant's House in MarlboroughThree of the Marlborough area’s cultural landmarks will be throwing their doors open next weekend for Heritage Open Days.

Wilton Windmill – the last working windmill in Wessex - will hold an open day on Sunday, September 13 from noon until 5pm. Children’s games and free guided tours are all aprt of the package.

Nearby, visitors will be able to see the world's oldest working beam engines at the Crofton pumping station. Although the pumping station will not be 'in steam', volunteers will be given guided tours of the facility.

The Grade I listed Crofton Beam Engines - complete with original Boulton & Watt beam engine dating from 1812, and a Harvey of Hayle Cornish beam engine built in 1846 and rebuilt in 1905 - will be open in Saturday and Sunday, September 12 and 13, from 10.30am until 4.30pm.

And entry will be free at The Merchant’s House on Sunday, September 13, with free tours starting at 10.30am, noon, and 1.130pm.

The House of Thomas Bayly was built following the Great Fire of Marlborough in 1653, and reconstructions of life in the 17th century will take place around the house and gardens.

For information about Heritage Open Days events locally and further afield, log on to www.heritageopendays.org.uk




Review: Jerusalem by Gatecrash Theatre Company

A scene from Jerusalem by Gatecrash TheatreA scene from Jerusalem by Gatecrash TheatreYesterday I enjoyed a 'bucolic alcoholic frolic' at the theatre of Swindon Dance.
It was a weird experience; it felt like a play that could have been written for an amateur cast to be performed locally, simply because everything was so familiar.
But then I reminded myself that this was not only the seminal West End play of 2010 but also a Broadway smash. Fancy little 'ole Pewsey (masquerading as Flintock) with its 'gypos', drunken teens and carnival having international exposure.
And so the new semi-professional Gatecrash Theatre chose 'Jerusalem' by Jez Butterworth as their inaugural performance, featuring a talented cast of young and older.
Steve O'Halloran played grimy, drug dealing, alcoholic pied piper Johnny 'Rooster' Byron with his collection of teenage 'educationally subnormal outcasts'. They have nothing to do but drink and take drugs, but it does look like one hell of a party.
Johnny offers tall stories and whizz to the kids, hides the 15 year old May Queen who's probably abused by her violent step-father, but he can't relate to his own ten year old son.
The play is a microscope on small town/big village life with one foot in tradition - the fair (carnival), the local pub and the King Alfred statue - and one on modern concerns - the vice grip of the pub's brewery, the erosion of local news, NIMBYism and reliance on alcohol and drugs for entertainment.
Gatecrash Theatre made a brave attempt at this well-scripted play - well defined characters and committed acting, a great set that was less caravan and more Pewsey-style favela - and mostly it worked.
The length of the play - especially with the second half double the length of the first - the heat of the auditorium combined with the fag smoke on stage and some of the poignant lines delivered a little too quietly to be heard at the back made the final section sag a little.
But overall I enjoyed this expletive ridden 'rebuff to the antiseptic world'.  An exciting, promising start for a new Swindon theatre company.

Jerusalem by Gatecrash Theatre at Swindon Dance, Friday 7 August 2015. http://gatecrashtheatre.co.uk




The weird magic of Wonderland comes to Priory Gardens


Mad Hatter Charlotte Kinnaird and Josie Goddard's AliceMad Hatter Charlotte Kinnaird and Josie Goddard's AliceOne hundred and fifty years after the classic children’s book was first published, the Mad Hatter, Queen of Hearts and Alice herself brought the magic of Wonderland to the Priory Gardens in Marlborough yesterday (Sunday).

And during Alice's Enchanted Family Picnic – a party thrown by mayor Margaret Rose for the community – actors from Marlborough Young Actors kept their characters faithful to the original story: Alice pouted as much as she laughed, the Queen of Hearts never cracked a smile, and the Mad Hatter engaged adults and children in meaningless conversation.

Meanwhile, singers and dancers from Marlborough Academy of Dance and Drama brought a lighter, more Disneyfied version to proceedings, with dozens of younger children as white rabbits proving particularly appealing.

The Priory Gardens was packed with families enjoying the spectacle in glorious sunshine.

  • Click any image to enlarge

Tweedledum (Ben Scott) and Tweedledee (Adam Coveney) with white rabbits Arabella Burns, Jessica Muller, Mila Trusson, Lotte Davies, Isobel Place, Sophie Deadman, Mia Webb and Olive BarrattTweedledum (Ben Scott) and Tweedledee (Adam Coveney) with white rabbits Arabella Burns, Jessica Muller, Mila Trusson, Lotte Davies, Isobel Place, Sophie Deadman, Mia Webb and Olive BarrattThe March Hare (Carys Muirhead-Davies) and The Queen of Hearts (Sasha McClintock)The March Hare (Carys Muirhead-Davies) and The Queen of Hearts (Sasha McClintock)Picnickers Sofia Wilkinson as the Mad Hatter, Jimmy Fairer-Smith as the March Hare and Ava Wilkinson as the DormousePicnickers Sofia Wilkinson as the Mad Hatter, Jimmy Fairer-Smith as the March Hare and Ava Wilkinson as the DormouseWhite Rabbits from Marlborough Academy of Dance and Drama in actionWhite Rabbits from Marlborough Academy of Dance and Drama in actionOlder members of MADD entertain the picnickersOlder members of MADD entertain the picnickers



No candles but plenty of flames as steam rally celebrates 40 years

Stunt Mania in actionStunt Mania in actionThere were no candles, but plenty of flames as the Wiltshire Steam and Vintage Rally celebrated its 40th anniversary at Oare this weekend.

The flames came in the form of mother-and-son motorcycle display team Stunt Mania. Over two shows each day they thrilled crowds with jumps, wheelies and - finally - fire stunts, with self-proclaimed Fire Queen Hayley Rilings riding her bike through a blazing hay bale as her son Ashley mounted a ramp and jumped above her.

Creating lots of smoke, but enjoying a far more sedate pace, were the steam miniatures. More than 30 of them took to the arena, and several could be seen ring-side running belt-driven agricultural equipment.

There were plenty of full-size steam engines around the Rainscombe Park showground too, including a 1909 Burrell Agricultural Engine owned and driven by Tim Mayhew of Wilton near Salisbury.

There were almost 80 vintage commercial vehicles including delivery and haulage trucks, fire engines and ambulances, Land Rovers and Jeeps, most in stunning condition after being brought back to life by enthusiastic owners.

The show attracts well over 100 classic and vintage cars every year. Some - including Minis, VW Beetles and MG roadsters – are barely older than the show itself. Others, like the 1992 convertible BMW318i, have attained the status of recent classics.

But undoubtedly the oldest, and the noisiest, was the 1905 Fiat Isotta Fraschini land speed record car. The spoked rear wheels are driven by a chain attached to a 16.5 litre aero engine designed to power an airship. It has a top speed of 120mph, and was warmly welcomed by enthusiasts having made the short trip from Burbage – especially when that engine was first fired up.

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Tim Mayhew with his Burrell Agricultural EngineTim Mayhew with his Burrell Agricultural EngineA 1969 E-Type Jaguar, 1972 VW Beetle 1302S, and a Triumph Herald  from 1960A 1969 E-Type Jaguar, 1972 VW Beetle 1302S, and a Triumph Herald from 1960A 1949 Thornycroft delivery van in Elkes Biscuits livery, a 1959 Bensons Sweets delivery van, and a Bedford Morris vanA 1949 Thornycroft delivery van in Elkes Biscuits livery, a 1959 Bensons Sweets delivery van, and a Bedford Morris vanMiniature engines in steamMiniature engines in steamA four-and-a-half-inch scale replica of a Burrell engineA four-and-a-half-inch scale replica of a Burrell engineThe 1905 Fiat Isotta Fraschini in actionThe 1905 Fiat Isotta Fraschini in action


Music fans are not immune to charms of The Vaccines


Young fans meet Pete Robertson Freddie Cowan Justin Young and Arni Arnason of The VaccinesYoung fans meet Pete Robertson Freddie Cowan Justin Young and Arni Arnason of The VaccinesHundreds of music fans made a last-minute dash to Marlborough on Saturday to enjoy an intimate set by indie rock band The Vaccines.

The band performed at Azuza to promote their new album English Graffiti, and signed copies of the album for fans at neighbouring record store Sound Knowledge, which organised the gig.

The event was only announced on Thursday afternoon, but such is the following of the band – especially among younger music-lovers – that there were never any doubts the 6pm performance would be well-attended.

In the event, a quiet acoustic set lasting 25 minutes was delivered by frontman Justin Young, while bandmates Árni Árnason, Pete Robertson and Freddie Cowan watched from the side of the stage.

In fact the six-song set was so quiet that many fans outside the venue did not realise the performance – which included new tracks Denial and Want You So Bad – had begun, while others strained to hear the music over the excited chatter.

"It’s amazing you all came out at such short notice,” Young told the crowd. “You ordered The Vaccines and got a pub singer.” He then led fans in a singalong of two of the band’s best-known hits, If You Wanna and Wetsuit.

Justin Young of The Vaccines performs an intimate acoustic set at AzuzaJustin Young of The Vaccines performs an intimate acoustic set at AzuzaEnglish Graffiti is the band’s third studio album. It follows the debut  What Did You Expect from the Vaccines?, which was the best selling debut album of 2011, and The Vaccines Come of Age, which entered the UK album chart at Number 1.

The concert was one of a regular series hosted by Sound Knowledge at Azuza. The next, on Sunday, July 5 at 4.30pm is a performance by indie folk singer-songwriter Lucy Rose, to support the release of her new album, Work It Out.

Lucy, who has also collaborated with the likes of Bombay Bicycle Club and Manic Street Preachers, last appeared in Marlborough back in 2012 to perform tracks from her debut album Like I Used To, which went on to chart in the top 15 and from which she released six singles including Middle of the Bed and Shiver.

The concert is free to attend for those who buy a copy of the album. For more details, log on to the Sound Knowledge Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pages/Sound-Knowledge/108109829223506




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