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  • Miles Hedley


Updated: Sep 7, 2020

Severndroog Castle mirrored its status as Greenwich’s most beautiful hidden gem with the brilliance of its creative programme when it hosted a week-long festival to keep its profile to the fore during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The festival, only available to enjoy online, featured a string of performances, workshops, talks and other events recorded in socially-distanced circumstances in an around the 18th century tower in the magical woodlands off Shooters Hill.

The tone was set by a fabulously laidback set in the castle courtyard by Jools Holland’s arranger and sax player Phil Veacock who showed off his prodigious horn-playing talents with the help of veteran virtuoso jazz guitarist Dave Warren. The pair are pictured above during their performance on Severndroog’s YouTube channel.

Music played a huge role throughout the festival. The gorgeous Lady James Room featured fine sets by acclaimed local C&W quartet Gillywood, a lovely collection of new tunes by singer-songwriter Maria Wade and her producer partner Ian Broughton, two appearances by up-and-coming songwriter Daisy Veacock and a storming jazz programme by singer Jessica de Giudici and guitarist Simon Morris which included the iconic My Baby Just Cares For Me.

On the nearby lawn, opera soprano Tamara Stein catered for classical music fans by singing a different popular aria every weekday teatime. And each morning funky duo Razamataz gave us a pop classic, including hits by The Supremes, Barry White and Puff Daddy.

The Blackheath Society screened daily archive films focusing on this part of south-east London over the past century or so, there were yoga sessions with castle trustee Kallie Schut – who also offered a mesmerising 45-minute gong bath – volunteer Ian Small gave a series of fascinating talks about the castle’s history, story-tellers spun yarns for children, local crafts experts gave online how-to demonstrations and in one particularly intriguing event, artist Wayne Fostkett demonstrated the wonders of the camera obscura and showed how simple it was to create one.

This was a festival that truly offered something for everyone - quite an achievement at this weird and deeply worrying time when venues like Severndroog are struggling to survive. To find out more about the castle and how to help it keep going, log on to

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