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Dennis Severs’ Tour

July 1, 2021
by the gentle author

‘I am going to take you through the picture frame and into another world…’

During lockdown, I have been working for a year on a secret project which I can now reveal to you. The Spitalfields Trust commissioned me to re-imagine the tours that Dennis Severs gave when he first opened his house to visitors in the last century. Over six months last year, I wrote the script and, through the spring and early summer of this year, I have been rehearsing with actor Joel Saxon in preparation for the launch on Thursday 29th July.

Each room was arranged by Dennis Severs to illustrate a scene in the life of an imaginary family of immigrants who lived in the house since it was built in 1725. The famously evocative tours that he gave, telling his tall tales of old London, became celebrated and David Hockney described it as ‘one of the world’s five great experiences.’ Yet after twenty years, Dennis Severs grew tired of it, inviting visitors to walk around his house in silence and imagine their own stories instead.

Over the past year, Dennis Severs’ House was closed for the first time since it opened to the public in the early eighties. This provided the opportunity for spring cleaning and repairs that had not been possible before. In this process, a cache of Dennis Severs’ cassette recordings was discovered that provided a tantalising fragmentary glimpse of his tours. Taking inspiration from these recordings and studying Dennis Severs’ book ’18 Folgate St’ and his unpublished novel, I wrote a new script that reimagines the tours for another century.

It has been my great delight to reintroduce theatre to the house and conjure it back to life. Once you learn the story, you understand why each room is as it is. When Dennis Severs created a cast of characters for his house, he never expected to become part of the drama himself yet – twenty years after his death – this is precisely what has happened.

Working with actor Joel Saxon, I have created an intimate piece of promenade theatre for an audience limited to just six, transporting you through time and into other worlds to encounter the spirits that linger in Dennis Severs’ House.

Tickets can be booked at

Photographs © Lucinda Douglas Menzies

Dennis Severs House, 18 Folgate St, Spitalfields, E1 6BX

19 Responses leave one →
  1. July 1, 2021

    FABULOUS … well done! Break a leg.

  2. Alex Knisely permalink
    July 1, 2021

    Remarkable ! I should like of all things to be among those guided on your tour.

  3. July 1, 2021

    Brilliant! I loved our silent tour in 2019, but this sounds like it will be even more amazing. Hoping we can fly over from Australia again one day very soon to enjoy it. 🙂

  4. Helen permalink
    July 1, 2021

    This sounds absolutely wonderful and you are the perfect one to accomplish this task dear Gentle Author. Thank you

  5. Mike McGonigle permalink
    July 1, 2021

    Oh gosh – what wonderful news! I’m so pleased that the live performances are restarting again. I came to one of Dennis’ marvelous performances back in the nineties. I will certainly be booking my place very soon – but remember, ‘you either see it, or you don’t’! Mike McGonigle

  6. July 1, 2021

    You felt the call of the bones, it must be brilliant.

  7. Laura France permalink
    July 1, 2021

    Along with so many others clamoring for admission “through the picture frame”, I wait in anxious anticipation for the time I may participate in this adventure! What a terrific surprise from your enterprising self!

  8. July 1, 2021

    Soooo exciting! Would gladly make the trip to the Smoke to be in that number!

  9. July 1, 2021

    This brought back memories of our wonderful visit in the 80’s. An article in I think House and Garden encouraged me to want to see the real thing! We were told by Denis to wait at the door at precisely, I think, 7 pm for our candlelit experience led by Denis. There was straw on the pavement and no sign of life when a few of us assembled wondering what was happening. Then the door opened and we were invited in and asked to be respectful and silent. It was pure magic finishing in the Victorian drawing room with a glass of port and the sound of horses hooves on the cobblestones outside. We returned some years later and it was not the same without Denis so am delighted to read that the magic is being recreated. Thank you.

  10. Kelly Holman permalink
    July 1, 2021

    How fantastic. Wishing you great success with the tours although that is hardly in doubt. Such a wonderful project to bring them back to life. Hats off to you 🙂

  11. Amanda permalink
    July 1, 2021

    Such intrigue ! l also await in supreme anticipation to tread the creaking boards in the shadows of candlelight.

    Such an deserved honour eminating from the GA’s early life in theatre. A commission carried out in secret during this century’s eerie silence while normal London life was brought to a halt.

    l am a believer that every one of our early (even seemingly insignificant) skills and the tasks life bestows upon us, combined with all our frugally rewarded work experiences will one day, when we least expect, become magically woven together in a tapestry of recognition and pride.

  12. Paul loften permalink
    July 1, 2021

    A really innovative project . I have often imagined my father’s childhood living at the tiny house he was brought up on in Spitalfields. It brings together the different threads of all the generations of immigrants that have passed through these little houses. Wonderful!

  13. Helen H permalink
    July 1, 2021

    This is wonderful news! I too, came to one of Denis’ tours back in mid 1990s and I can honestly say it was one of the most extraordinary but magical nights of my life. He was a brilliant story teller and our small group was captivated from the moment we stepped over the threshold. I was so saddened to hear of his death, and I felt the silent tours were the right thing, which have allowed a space and a new window to emerge, and now it’s time to bring the house back to life! I sure Denis would heartily approve and that you both will do justice to him and the house.

  14. July 1, 2021

    Bravo! Well done! Fantastic!

  15. July 1, 2021

    What a fantastic venture. This house continues to live, breathe, inspire, and enthrall. Thanks to wonderful conspirators like you, GA. Reminds me of a quote from Freud:
    “Art is the detour through which dreams find their way back to reality.”

    Hurrah and huzzah.

  16. Ann V permalink
    July 1, 2021

    How wonderful! Having visited the house a few years ago with my daughter, I would love to visit again and experience this new tour. Well done GA, it sounds just fabulous!

  17. July 1, 2021

    I visited 12 years ago, it was fantastic. I am sure that it will be even better now, thank you for doing this. It will bring much joy to many I am sure.

  18. Richard Slugge-Pelet permalink
    July 1, 2021

    This looks exciting. Hope I will be able to come.

  19. July 11, 2021

    Brilliant—can’t wait to experience this. Missed out on my last trip.

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