Please don't put a spell on our playground, the council men said to the High Priest of Witches

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The Independent Online
The cats were safely locked away but the broomstick was there as the men from the council arrived for their meeting with Kevin the Witch.

He and his priestess, Sandie, a financial adviser from Barclays Bank, were in their robes but they did their best to give Southwark council's head of parks a warm welcome.

"I see you didn't come alone," Kevin said to Colin Brand. "Afraid I'd sacrifice you?"

Mr Brand and his assistant, Robin Hayworth, were the unluckiest council officials in Britain yesterday. It was their task to travel to Hastings in East Sussex to try to talk Kevin Carlyon, High Priest of British Witches, out of casting a spell on a controversial council scheme to move a south London children's playground to a new site in the borough.

A number of residents, who suspected the council was planning to sell the site to developers, called in Mr Carlyon to stymie the scheme - a threat the Labour-controlled council was taking seriously.

"You see, the council's concerned because the Bishop of Greenwich is getting involved now," said Mr Brand, sitting uncomfortably on Kevin's sofa.

"Some parents are worried. And there are rumours that you're going to cast spells that could hurt the children. The Bishop says that if you go along to cast your spell, then he'll have to go along and do his thing to exorcise it."

As it turns out, there isn't a Bishop of Greenwich. Representatives of the Bishop of Woolwich, the Right Rev Colin Buchanan, and the Bishop of Southwark, the Right Rev Roy Williamson, denied that they were planning a Denis Wheatley-style confrontation.

However, the Rev Michael Counsell, vicar of St Augustine's church in Honour Oak, nearest to the proposed new playground, said he had planned to invoke Christian goodness to counteract Kevin's pagan spell - a spell that would involve only wishing local residents success in their campaigning.

"I had planned to say prayers in the church at the same time as he was casting his spell," said Mr Counsell.

But that won't now be necessary. After an hour spent patiently explaining about the new, state-of-the-art playground, with Tarzan swings and a rubber surface on which children will bounce, Mr Brand, a cool man in a crisis, convinced Kevin the Witch that the spell would not be necessary.

"It sounds like a smashing new playground," said Kevin. "In fact, we've decided to cast a new spell instead, wishing the project, and all who use it, great fun and success."

It was clear yesterday that the Church of England wasn't too keen on witches' spells, so what about the new one?

"Well," said Mr Counsell, "if that's what he's going to do, we'd welcome him with open arms."