Devizes International Street Festival retains its place on our ‘must-do’ list

30 Aug

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With 16,000 people watching 30 acts over two days, the Devizes International Street Festival was bigger than ever before.

From a spectator’s view, the crowds were mercifully thinner this year than in 2011, thanks to the Street Festival being held over two days: Sunday, as well as its traditional bank holiday Monday spot.

I wonder whether rain, or at least the threat of it, may have also kept the audience size manageable on the Monday, when the Festival Chroniclers made their third consecutive pilgrimage to the event – despite some stiff competition it’s become a ‘must-do’ in our calendar.

Those who did, like us, venture out in the drizzle were treated to unrivalled ground-level views of Cataldo, the eccentric French chef, and clown George Orange, on the slack wire, and the hilarious unicycling, stripping jugglers, Goronwy Thom and Richard Garaghty – who still managed to pull a sizeable Market Place crowd.

Outside the Town Hall, Bash Street Theatre presented a silent movie inspired piece of theatre with piano accompaniment, called The Strongman, which propelled the actors several stories into the air – good news for those at the back of the crowd, especially as the sea of open umbrellas added an extra barrier when we rolled up.

Meanwhile, Pif-Paf gave free rides to kids – including six-year-old Chronicler Milo – in their Flycycle and Submercycle.

On the music stage, the Jon Amor Blues Band kept toes tapping and, as the sun set and the rain fell, Ska Cubano brought a fiesta style atmosphere while giant inflatable puppets from Neighbourhood Watch Stilts International moved through the crowd – to the delight of adults and children alike.

There was a touch of nostalgia, too, in the form of a the Buller traction engine which was made at the Brown and May factory in Devizes and took part in the town’s first carnival procession exactly 100 years ago.

If I could make one constructive criticism it would be this – each of the static festival acs attracts a large crowd, making it very difficult to see any ground-based performance for anyone more than two or three rows back. Raised performance areas or greater space in front of the performances would make the viewing experience more enjoyable for everyone.

Devizes International Street Festival, which along with the traditional float-driven carnival forms part of a fortnight of festivities in the town, continues to provide free and first-class entertainment that is really putting the town on the map. It’s not moving from our ‘must-do’ list anytime soon.

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