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Arts & Entertainment

White horse walkers and their colourful banners get warm welcome at Devizes street festival

The three-month long art project the culminated with Walking Wiltshire’s White Horses had a dramatic finale on Monday (August 26.)  Accompanied by a samba band, the walkers paraded their eight silk banner – one huge banner for each white horse monument – in Devizes’ Market Square.

The whole project was titled Freedom on my Doorstep.

The Square was full of a large Bank Holiday crowd enjoying the final hours of Devizes’ International Street Festival. 

ALI DEVIZES 2 800ALI DEVIZES 2 800To applause and cheers, the walkers holding aloft the colourful silk banners wove their way through the packed Square.

The banners were designed during a series of workshops at the Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes and were inspired by the silk ‘escape maps’ used during the Second World War by spies and airmen escaping after they had been shot down.

For artist Ali Pretty, digital artist Richard White and their followers it was the final stage of the hundred mile, five day walk linking Wiltshire’s eight white horse monuments.  

Ali Pretty descibed to Marlborough News Online the entry into Devizes: "It felt really fantastic. We all felt a sense of achievement - it was quite an emotioinal occasion."

The advance party reach Pewsey White HorseThe advance party reach Pewsey White HorseOn Sunday the band of walkers had gathered at Marlborough library at 9.00am to start the penultimate day of their trek – a nineteen mile walk via Martinsell Hill and ending at Pewsey’s white horse.

The Pewsey white horse – on the downs below the road to Everleigh – was originally cut into the grassland in 1785 and is said to have included a rider.  The present horse is a 1937 re-design by a Mr George Marples.

In the days when the village was a much larger centre for the Pewsey Vale’s agricultural community, it was cut by men from the Pewsey Fire Brigade.  On Sunday it was the scene of some rehearsals for the choreography on the final day.

Down below them in the Vale farmers were hard at work on the harvest - trying to beat the rain. 

Sure enough soon after walkers and banners had left the white horse, there was a heavy downpour.

On Sunday Ali Pretty and her walkers had six banners – two more were to be collected during the Monday walk to Devizes via Alton banners and Devizes’ own white horse.

After their welcome in Devizes market Square – and joined by the Devizes International Street Festival’s director Dave Buxton – the group made the last few yards to the Wiltshire Heritage Museum where Ali and Richard have been artists in residence. Back at the Wiltshire Heritage MuseumBack at the Wiltshire Heritage Museum 

Their installation there – with more banners, framed versions of the designs, digital displays and soundscapes – is open until August 31. 

At the end of such a long project, and having met so many people, adults from all walks of life and children keen to take part, Ali Pretty was very sad to be leaving the area to start her next project: "It's been a really, really brilliant five days. The people with us tell us they've had a powerful experience. We've connected with so many people - adults and children."

She hopes she will be back in this area of Wiltshire very soon.

At the museum you can buy versions of their silk designs, one ‘escape map’ representing each of the locations for the eight white horses, either on a small scale as handkerchiefs or much larger as scarves.

To enlarge images click on one and then < & >

Ali Pretty with the Pewsey banner Ali Pretty with the Pewsey banner

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Superstition and magic promised as Giffords Circus rolls into town

Giffords Circus presents Lucky 13Giffords Circus presents Lucky 13Superstition and magic are promised as Giffords Circus brings its new show – Lucky 13 – to Marlborough Common from August 29.

The glamorous new show promises to take its audiences back in time to mysterious and foreign lands  where fire, magic, puppets, illusion, dancing, hilarity, horses and Brian the goose, will star alongside world-renowned acrobats, jugglers, hand balancers, wire-walkers, magicians,  tap dancers and aerial artists from all around the globe.

The troupe is joined by Hungarian aerial sensation Imre Bernath and Argentinean magician extraordinaire, Maximiliano Stia, as well as firm favourites Bibi and Bichu the jugglers, vintage hand balancers Pat and Kate, Ukrainian acrobats, the eccentric Nancy Trotter as Andromeda and the ever-popular Tweedy the clown, hot from the Cheltenham Everyman Theatre pantomime.

Musical entertainment is provided by a wild Serbian Gypsy trio and a delicate classical ensemble, who will do battle under the direction of Nick Hooper, who wrote the scores for the movies Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Performances will take place on Thursday, August 29 (6pm), Friday 30 (5pm and 7.30pm), Saturday 31 (11am, 2.30pm, 7.30pm), Sunday, September 1 (11am, 2.30pm, 7.30pm), Monday 2 (6pm), Tuesday 3 (6pm), Thursday 5 (6pm), Friday 6 (5pm and 7.30pm), Saturday 7 (11am, 2.30pm and 7.30pm), Sunday 8 (11am, 2.30pm and 5pm) and Monday 9 (1pm).

For bookings, log on to www.giffordscircus.com

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New chance for Marlborough’s young actors to take to the boards

Somewhere in between Shakespeare’s mewling schoolboys (and girls?) and his sighing lovers (girls and boys) come Marlborough’s young would-be actors – and Anna Friend is keen to recruit them.

Anna is launching Marlborough Young Actors and her inaugural course starts with a recruitment evening on September 1.  She’s planned a series of workshops and rehearsals leading up to three performances at the Theatre on the Hill at the end of October.

And the play?  That depends on the talent joining the course, the gender mix and so on: “I don’t know who I’m getting and what’s going to suit them – what they’re good at.”

But it’s unlikely to be a musical:  “A lot of other youth theatre – quite rightly – concentrates on musical theatre because it’s inclusive and can have a large cast with a range of ages.”  So watch this space.

And after the performances the cast will have two workshops: one on working with Shakespeare given by the actor Sam West – of Howards End and Enron fame, and who is now a successful stage director.  The other workshop on using physical theatre will be with Jesse Briton of the award-winning Bear Trap Theatre.

Anna moved to the area in June last year and to Marlborough in October.  Her husband is director of science at St John’s Academy and she has just had their second child.

She's already been recruited by the Marlborough Players and had a notable role in their recent production of Habeas Corpus.

She is also teaching 16-18 year-olds at the Stagecoach Performing Arts School in Swindon which holds classes every Saturday during term-time.

After state education and with a university degree centred on stage design, Anna Friend began her career making music videos and commercials.  She then decided that was not good enough and in 2004 trained as a teacher at the Central School of Speech and Drama.

She found she loved teaching and after her first day in the classroom she said to herself:  “I should always have been a teacher’”

She moved from London to Somerset and ran the Wells Community Youth Theatre company for three years producing six performances. Their Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hamlet were performed as part of the Bristol Shakespeare Festival.

click to visit Marlborough Young Actorsclick to visit Marlborough Young ActorsAnna believes that training in acting skills brings definite advantages.  Of her last company at Wells, six young actors went on to drama school and twelve more went to read drama at university.

But beyond that more tangible success, the training has very useful by-products giving the whole of a company confidence and the ability to speak in public.

“Working with young actors is an absolute gift for a director.  They are so full of emotion.” And she favours ‘serious’ plays: “Serious drama can handle topics and language that’s more challenging – and emotionally deeper.”

For her first performance at Wells she re-worked Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet into two one act plays under the title Blood, Sweat and Tears: “They loved it. I do mess with Shakespeare” – just as Shakespeare messed with his sources.

“One of the nicest things said to me after a performance at Wells was ‘Shakespeare comes trippingly off the tongues of these young people’.”

And as the Bard nearly wrote one young actor in their lives plays many parts – with their exits and entrances.  Anna Friend’s Young Marlborough Actors will provide an exciting entrance to the world of theatre.

For full information about joining Marlborough Young Actors contact Anna at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit the website.

 

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Wiltshire’s White Horses inspire a major artistic enterprise – and a lot of downland walking

Ali Pretty and Richard WhiteAli Pretty and Richard WhiteArtists Ali Pretty and Richard White are about midway through a summer-long artistic enterprise inspired by Wiltshire’s eight White Horses.

They call themselves the analogue and digital partnership – Ali uses more traditional artistic mediums and Richard uses computers, apps, GPS, digital images and sound.

Ali Pretty has worked for several years on carnival connected projects.  She designed the opening ceremony for Fifa’s 2009 Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi and designed part of the closing ceremony for the London 2012 Paralympics.

Marlborough News Online asked Ali Pretty why she thought the White Horses would be a good starting point for an artistic project: “I’ve been working on carnivals and ceremonies a lot and wanted to get out into the landscape.  I knew I wanted to start walking and doing something small and intimate.”

Opening ceremony Fifa Club World Cup 2009Opening ceremony Fifa Club World Cup 2009The project – titled Freedom on My Doorstep – emerged from a commission to link up all Wiltshire’s White Horses.  And grew when Ali met Richard and decided to collaborate on a wider project connecting people and the White Horses.

It began last month with a series walks to each of the eight White Horses. Groups including enthusiasts from Essex London and Bristol joined the walks and contributed their ideas and collected sounds and images as they went.

Now Ali has finalised the eight designs or ‘escape maps’ relating to the Horses and the walks – indeed created by the people who did the short walks.  

The idea of the ‘escape maps’ came from the parachute silk maps carried by air crew during the Second World War.  Maps and silk are central to the whole project.

Until 19 July Ali will be holding a series of silk painting workshops at the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes inviting people to come and help and learn about this skill.  They will be turning the images into eight banners – four metres tall by one metre wide.  

The banners will be at the centre of a unique installation that’s being created at the Museum and can be seen free of charge from 16 to 31 August.  It will bring together the 500 images and sounds – including voices – collected during the short walks.

The walks may have been short, but Ali says the weather was pretty terrible: “Sometimes it was so windy, you felt it was more like a walk by the ocean – you even felt like being on the sea rather than on the downs.”

After the eight short walks comes the long walk from 22 to 26 August. It will be a one hundred mile walk linking all the eight white horses. The route can be found and followed here.

You can sign up for the silk painting workshops or to join the long walk for one or more days.

As the walkers reach each of the Horses, the appropriate banner will be brought from the Museum to join the walkers.  And back at the Museum as each banner is handed over, there will be a change to the installation.

Finally the banners will become a key part of this year’s Devizes’ International Street Festival and Carnival.  As Dave Buxton, director of the Devizes Outdoor Celebratory Arts group, explained:

“The last part of the long walk brings the banners to Devizes.  They’ll be brought down into the crowded market square on the second day of our Street Festival (26 August) and with some drama they’ll be welcomed into the Square.”

As an organiser of outdoor events, Dave is an optimist and he’s sure the weather will be great for the Street festival.  And will last for another five days when the banners will join the Devizes Carnival procession (31 August.)

Ali Pretty started a studio called Kinetika in 1997 to work on carnival inspired projects with lots of participation. She has worked on Paralympic and football events.  So what’s next?

From the gentle curves of the Wiltshire downs, she moves to a not so gentle sport. She’s designing the opening ceremony for the Rugby League World Cup in Cardiff in October.

And if when you visit the installation or catch sight of the banners on the long walk or in Devizes, you spot one of the ‘escape maps’ that reminds you of Martinsell Hill – you’ll be right.  Sitting on Martinsell Hill chatting to a local farmer, Ali had ‘a moment of happiness’.

So Martinsell became ‘Moment of happiness hill’ and a theme for one of the banners.  And after all you can just see one of the White Horses from Martinsell.

It is a really wonderful map-like design – you can get a glimpse of it here.  Do go and enjoy these imaginative banners.


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Local bands steal limelight at Mantonfest

Rock veterans the Rolling Stones may have stolen the show at Glastonbury Festival on Saturday, but at Mantonfest, in the Marlborough countryside, local bands stole the limelight.

Established acts NewQuay Times, Jo Peskett, Mothers Jam, Josh Baldock, Angela Jones performed in bright sunshine to a happy crowd, grateful to have avoided the rain of last year.

Meanwhile, newcomers Mike Booth and Marcella, All Cramped Up, Empty Gestures, Ways to Wear Shade, and Josie and the Outlaw who had some help from a young member of the audience (see photograph) were welcomed with open arms.

Musician Stuart Whant had his work cut out, not only directing the festival but also appearing in not one, but two lineups: Skedaddle and headliners Straight Six.

Organiser Roger Grant, said “This has been an exceptionally good day and a considerable amount has been raised for Wiltshire Air Ambulance and Manton Village Hall.

“We will be starting work for next year’s Mantonfest very shortly which I hope will be even bigger and better.”

Pictures courtesy of Val Compton

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School proms? St John’s students are going one better with GREASE

GreaseGreaseThe annual St John’s musical takes place this week in the Theatre on the Hill  - and this time they’re doing a little contemporary history lesson with GREASE.

The cast for this production is made up of students from Years 10-13.  Their considerable talents have been nurtured and developed by Tess Ellison, a Year 13 student.

Tess has stepped up from her previous acting and co-directing roles to direct this production single-handed.

All you have to do is dust off your leather jackets, pull on your bobby-socks and take a trip to a simpler time as ‘bad boy’ Danny and ‘the girl next door’ Sandy fall in love all over again.

It’s the original High-School musical, featuring all those unforgettable songs including You’re The One That I Want, Summer Nights, Sandra Dee, Freddy My Love, Hopelessly Devoted To You, Greased Lightnin’ - and many more.

So throw your mittens around your kittens and Hand Jive the night away with the show that’ll make you want to stand up and shout, ‘A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop, A-wop-bam-boom!’

The word from rehearsals is that it’s ‘electrifying’.  So don’t miss GREASE.

Performances are Tuesday, July 9,  Thursday July 11, and Friday July 12 -  at 7.30 pm.

Ticket prices are  adults £8 each. U18/ Senior Citizen £6 each. Family Tickets (2X2)  £25.

Call 01672 516156 now to book your ticket back to those good old days when music was music and you just had to dance to it.

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Fresh from New York debut, Zoe pulls up a piano stool at Marlborough Jazz

Zoe RahmanZoe RahmanFresh from her American debut at the renowned Dizzy's in New York, ivory tickler Zoe Rahman will be joining the lineup at the Marlborough International Jazz Festival.

Considered one of the brightest stars in contemporary jazz, Zoe – who won a MOBO award earlier this year for her album Kindred Spirits – will be leading a quartet which also features flautist Rowland Sutherland, bassist Alec Dankworth and New York drummer Gene Calerazzo.

Zoe will play at the Priory Gardens marquee on Sunday, July 21 in a concert sponsored by Awdrey, Bailey & Douglas solicitors.

For more details, log on to www.marlboroughjazz.com

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