Castlemas 2021 - a brand new festive event for Kent
What I loved about it:
Set against the backdrop of historic Tonbridge Castle, Castlemas is a real celebration of all of the incredible home-grown talent that Kent has to offer. With a market showcasing local businesses, an array of food and drink and a timetable bursting with workshops and shows, it’s the perfect way to get into the festive spirit!
Value for money (out of 10):
An exciting new Christmas tradition
If you live in West Kent, there’s a high chance you’ll have spotted the posters and adverts for Tonbridge’s brand new festive fare, Castlemas, over the past few months. Popping up like a beacon of normality and bringing a sprinkling of magic to our little corner of Kent, it’s been wonderful to have an exciting, Christmas event to look forward to.
So when I was kindly invited to the opening night of this brilliant ten-day festive experience, I jumped at the chance to get a taste of all Castlemas had to offer. From the moment we arrived, it was clear this was something special. The castle itself was lit up with snowflakes and the Castlemas logo, with festoon lights guiding our way into the castle lawn which was filled with wooden market huts and more festive lighting. The centrepiece of this mini festival, though, is the impressive 300-seat Igloo Theatre which sits in the middle of the green and plays host to the many shows and performances scheduled for the ten days ahead. We had tickets to one of these brilliant shows – Jess Robinson’s ‘12 Days Of Jessmas’ (more on that below) – but arrived an hour before to explore Castlemas’ two free, unticketed areas first, Mistletoe Town and the Jingle Bell Bar.
Made up of beautiful wooden chalets, Mistletoe Town is the perfect place to shop locally this Christmas, with a lovely variety of stalls featuring everything from clothes and local art, to delicious food and drink. Some of my personal favourites on offer when we visited included Debbie Draws Maps (wonderful prints, coasters and towels featuring great spots in Kent), The Bloom Foundry (amazing Tunbridge Wells-based florist), Little Wild Co (gorgeous baby products) and Crumbs & Treacle (sooo many tasty treats!). We treated ourselves to an enormous festive burger from Hook & Cook street food, jam-packed with turkey burger, pigs in blankets and gravy-naise, which certainly set us up for the night!
We also visited the tented Jingle Bell Bar where you can enjoy a drink or two, accompanied by live music from the bandstand. Though we didn’t spend too long here before the show, there was a great atmosphere and a good array of tipples on offer!
Walking through an enchanting arched tunnel of twinkly lights, we then entered the Igloo Theatre – an incredible inflatable domed and well-ventilated structure which makes it reassuringly Covid secure.
As mentioned, we were seeing a very festive performance from award-winning singer, impressionist and comedian, Jess Robinson. Famed for her outstanding appearance on Britain’s Got Talent back in 2017, and stints on shows such as Spitting Image (ITV), Dead Ringers (BBC One) and The Last Leg (Channel 4), Jess’ show ‘12 Days Of Jessmas’ features music mashups, a fabulous live band and some side-splitting impressions.
I had no idea what to expect, but from the moment she walked on stage (in the most stunning red skirt which I was very envious of, I might add!), we knew we were in for a treat! From the angelic operatic tones of Katherine Jenkins and sultry voice of Billie Holiday, to the slightly less angelic musings of Sonia from Eastenders or Greta Thunberg, we enjoyed an hour of spot-on impressions and belly laughs.
I don’t want to give too much away, but to say this lady is talented is an understatement! Seamlessly transitioning between famous voices such as Barbara Streisand, Julie Andrews, Lady Gaga and Billie Eilish, with oodles of comedy in between, it was a hilarious and brilliant night of festive fun – exactly the laugh we all need right now!
Castlemas runs from Friday 10th – Sunday 19th December, with tickets available for events, workshops and displays via the website. Non-ticket holders can enter Mistletoe Town and Jingle Bell Bar free of charge subject to capacity.