Petersham Festival 2008 – 22-30 March

Written by: Michael Darvell

Following last year’s successful inaugural events, the Petersham Festival returns with an expanded programme, with much that is musical.

Petersham is situated just outside Richmond-upon-Thames, on the road towards Kingston and close to Ham. Both Petersham and Ham are places are of historic interest as they both began as ancient villages along the River Thames, between the larger settlements of Shene (now Richmond) and Kingston. The manor of Petersham was granted in the 7th-century to the Abbey of St Peter in Chertsey and a church has stood there since Saxon times. Parts of St Peter’s church survive to this day, although the church itself has been expanded over the years.

Petersham village was mentioned in the Domesday Book, although Ham was not. Ham House (presented to the National Trust in 1948 by the Earl of Dysart) was built in 1610 for Sir Thomas Vavasour, Knight Marshall to King James I, and it has been the scene of political intrigue throughout the centuries, most notably during the reign of Charles II. During the 18th-century the formal gardens were finished but fell into decay and were restored to their centuries-old style in 1975.

Many famous visitors have graced Ham and Petersham including Horace Walpole and John Gay first rehearsed “The Beggar’s Opera” in the area. Maritime explorer Captain George Vancouver wrote his “Voyage of Discovery” at Glen Cottage on River Lane, Charles Dickens wrote and set part of “Nicholas Nickleby” at Elm Lodge, and architect George Gilbert Scott lived in Manor House at Ham. His son is buried in a tomb designed by Scott in St Peter’s churchyard. Tommy Steele lived in Montrose House for many years and Richard E. Grant is a current resident.

The 2008 Petersham Festival opens on Saturday 22 March at the Dysart Arms where pianist Paul Tucker plays popular works from Bach to Liszt and some of his own compositions. Easter Sunday sees a Festal Evensong at St Peter’s Church at 4 p.m., following the 1662 prayer-book liturgy. Soprano Emma Kirkby with Anthony Rooley on the lute gives the evening concert on Monday, songs by John Dowland. On Tuesday Michala Petri and Lars Hannibal, on recorders and guitar, with local cellist Andrew Skidmore, play a selection of music from the Baroque to the contemporary. All these concerts are at St Peter’s.

On Wednesday, The German School hosts a concert by the Richmond Youth Orchestra conducted by Michal Kazmowski with violinist Rachel Gormley and includes Debussy, a Beethoven Romance, Saint-Saëns’s Havanaise and Haydn’s Symphony No.104 (London). On Friday, Chinese musician, composer and cook, Guo Yue, who lives in Petersham, gives a recital of his own music on bamboo and jade flutes, with Mark Alcock on Japanese percussion, at St Peter’s Church. There are two concerts at St Peter’s 29 March, a lunchtime session by the Sirocco Quartet playing Handel, Albéniz, Gershwin and Philip Glass, while the late-night concert (10 p.m.) has Skidmore playing again, this time Bach’s Cello Suites. On Sunday, the festival ends with Songs of Praise (hymns, songs and readings old and new) at St Peter’s.

Throughout the week there are many other events including pop, rock and funk music by Natalie-Marie at The Fox & Duck, Easter Egg rolling with Zac Goldsmith at Pembroke Lodge, a Chinese feast with Guo Yue, followed by a flute recital at Petersham Nurseries, children’s music and a singing workshop, workshops on print making, watercolours and Japanese drumming, a curry and quiz night, an evening on the music of Thelonius Monk, a Bamboo Flute bonanza, a Gershwin recital, a classical guitar concert and a late-night 1950s disco. Walks and talks on local topics, a photographic exhibition and a poetry competition complete a crowded programme of events.

  • Petersham Festival
  • Information on 020 8549 7324 and
  • Tickets on 0844 586 7644
  • Nearest stations are Richmond or Kingston (from Waterloo) and then buses 65 or 371

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