FANS of music, drama, personalities and diverse branches of the arts have flocked to events as part of Devizes Arts Festival this week, packing into venues large and small all over the town.

Organisers are delighted with the response to events, and have been busy taking feedback from audiences so they can improve the programme even further next time.

Margaret Bryant, Chairman of the Festival, said: “The beauty of the Devizes Arts Festival is that we see many people we know who support us and come to many events, but we also attract a new audience at every event – long may it continue. Let us have your thoughts on what you would like to see in 2020.”

The Festival runs until Sunday, with performances every day including a comedic tribute to Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise on Friday night, Wiltshire Tales with Nick Harper on Thursday and music, poetry and history over the weekend.

Below are reviews of some of the events over the last week: full details of the rest of the programme at

REVIEW: String Sisters

Today, for a bit of a change, I decided to go to church. No – I’ve not suddenly seen the light. I decided to go and see String Sisters in a lunchtime concert at St Andrew’s church in Long Street. The place wasn’t quite full. But not far off. And it turned out to be a good way to spend a lunchtime.

Angharad and Lowri Thomas (can you tell that they are from that there Welsh Wales??) are sisters who play the violin and the viola respectively. They also play those instruments darned well. We were treated to a whole range of pieces from classical (Vivaldi, Bach) to modern (Can’t Help Falling In Love, Delilah) to tunes from the musicals (America from West Side Story, I Could Have Danced All Night from The King and I) and all beautifully wrapped up in some charming and funny anecdotes. These sisters not only knew how to play, but how to engage with the audience and therefore how to entertain.

The concert was only an hour long (I could have listened all afternoon), but it was packed with goodies, and thoroughly entertaining – a little cracker of a concert.

Well done to DAF for finding String Sisters and bringing them to our town!

Andy Fawthrop

REVIEW: Bob Flowerdew

Trust Your Grandparents, says organic gardener Bob Flowerdew - for there was plenty of common sense on display as the renowned organic gardener and BBC presenter explained why we should not always listen to experts in a fascinating talk that was followed by an extensive Q&A in Devizes Town Hall.

Explaining that if you want to grow blueberries you should not plant radishes, Bob went on to discuss why so-called experts are often the last people to take advice from. Gardening should be enjoyable, not a chore, and the proof of the pudding is in the eating of the fruit and vegetables that come out of our gardens, and not necessarily in perfect, regular shapes. Nature doesn't favour straight lines and neither should our allotments.

Bob, a lapsed vegan and former fruitarian, explained that he now enjoys a macrobiotic diet, one that reduces but does not cut out animal products, that focusses on locally-grown produce in season, and promotes moderation in portion size. Farmed animals should be nurtured with care and love, a philosophy that Bob argues should be extended to include plants and trees as well. Who are we to argue with that.

The evening was fun and educational from the start. How many other speakers could mix a discussion on public sector planning policy with advice on eradicating horsetail weeds, interspersed with songs, rap and rhyme from his own book of poetry, "Pulpit in the Potting Shed". An inspirational evening for all aspiring gardeners, beginners and experts alike.

Vince McNamara

REVIEW: Atila Sings Nat King Cole

Atila is musically classy, and along with his accomplished piano and double bass players we were taken back to a romantic time when songs were about love.

The audience loved the evening which took place in our elegant Town Hall.

Atila transported us back in time to the start of Nat King Cole's career. His feel for the lyric was impressive and the musical arrangement was tight. Atila performed in an amiable style with a vocal ability that brought back fond memories of the pre rock and roll era.

Songs were interspersed with stories and live recordings – and so the legend lives on.

Margaret Bryant

REVIEW: Moscow Drug Club

Moscow Drug Club delighted the audience at the Exchange nightclub on Friday. A six-piece with a style somewhere between German cabaret and Hot Club de France, the band played a mix of songs from sources such as Jacques Brel, Eartha Kitt and Tom Waits as well as a tribute to Dr John.

And we found out at the end of the gig how they came to get their name – it was lifted from a song which was a hit single in Canada in the 1980s! With a touch of humour and some excellent musicianship.

Philippa Morgan

REVIEW: Elspeth Beard

The glittering chandeliers of the Bear Hotel’s ballroom might seem a strange setting for bikers’ helmets and leathers, but the contrast was a perfect backdrop for Elspeth Beard’s talk. As a broken-hearted youngster, Elspeth set off alone to motorcycle around the world. Now a fêted architect, she’s written an award-winning book about her trip, which she shared with a rapt audience on Saturday. The elegance of the speaker and genteel surroundings only highlighted her tales of grime and dust, broken bones and smashed bikes.

Whilst her cure for heartache seems a little radical, it clearly worked brilliantly for Elspeth. She had broken off her architectural studies to go travelling, but came home 2½ years later, qualified and went on to win awards in her professional career. She was prompted to write by a Hollywood director asking for permission to film her story.

Despite her dyslexia, she wrote the book which went on to win the SheXtreme Adventure Book Award of 2018. Successful against the odds in such different spheres, her story of perseverance, told with charm and humour, was truly inspiring. Her audience of bikers and Devizes literati were enthralled and the Q&A session which followed her talk could have lasted hours. Elspeth’s Book Lone Rider is available from Devizes Books.

Clair Figes

REVIEW:The Real Thing

The Real Thing did not disappoint! The Real Thing Band got the party started with some soul/funk to get everyone in the mood, and then after a short break the show got going.

Sadly, only 2 members from the original 4 remain (Chris Amoo and Dave Smith) but they, along with the 5 band members delighted the audience, ensuring everyone joined in with the songs ……and the dance moves!

Chris and Dave are 66 but on stage look younger and have dance moves they taught to the crowd.

The Corn Exchange vibrated, reverberated and bounced – and it was a party atmosphere where everyone left the building buzzing and wanting more.

Margaret Bryant

REVIEW: Sunsplash

Mellow jazz on a Sunday evening - what better way to end the week than with some relaxed grooves from this jazz quartet?

The accomplished band played music from South African legends including Hugh Masakela and Abdullah Ibrahim. The combination of lightness of touch with a rhythmic sensibility were a winning combination, and the audience were relaxed and appreciative.

From South Africa to Devizes, the evening conjured up a range of moods and places – a chilled evening.

Margaret Bryant