five days every July, just after the Henley Regatta, a riverside
in the small Oxfordshire town of Henley overflows with artistic
was my first time at the Henley Festival, which was described by
the organisers as 'a complete entertainment experience… a parallel
universe where we can imagine with no holds barred'.
of the amazing artwork at Henley Festival.
I indeed felt transported to another worldly realm on this beautiful
July evening as we strolled through crowds of elegant, black-tied
and cocktail-dressed champagne-sippers who mingled happily with
gold-suited stilt-dancers and street theatre performers.
Festival ran for five days from Wednesday 9 July to Sunday July
13, and culminated in a Family Fiesta and Concert on Sunday.
offered festival-goers an opportunity not only to sample magnificent
gala concerts, but also to participate in a hugely diverse mix of
cultural experiences; painting, sculpture, music and theatre from
artists young and old, fringe and mainstream.
who went along on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday enjoyed music from
the Fine Young Cannibals, Lesley Garrett, Bryn Terfel, East of Ealing
and Stacy Kent, and many more.
of the festival performers.
was comedy from Mel and Sue; and poetry from Sarah-Jane Arbury,
Marcus Moore and Jude Simpson.
on the Saturday evening, I was instantly struck by the atmosphere
of the event: a kind of 'Glastonbury with a dress code'.
took everything in at a leisurely pace, finding ourselves by the
resident performers 'Mischief La-Bas' and the street theatre group
dotComed and proceeded to be hypnotised by the sassy beats and faultless
poetry of Philip Wells and the tabla player Sirishkumar.
then boogied to the rhythms of world musicians Angata, and enjoyed
the gypsy fiddle music of Zum.
Tim Rice performing live during the gala tribute to his work.
there we drank in visual arts from sculpture to watercolour landscapes;
and, of course, we gazed enviously at the diners in the Albert Roux
climax of the evening for me was the musical extravaganza on the
deftly and self deprecatingly by the great lyricist himself, who
arrived 'hotfoot' from Lords in a London taxi, he regaled us with
some of his greatest hits, including numbers from 'Joseph' and 'Jesus
Christ Superstar',accompanied by the City of London Philharmonic.
the words of 'Don't Cry for Me Argentina' echoing in our ears, we
later marvelled at the amazing 'Hydro-pyro-mania' water and fireworks
display before drumming our feet to the Beating Retreat of the Coldstream
Guards (which was also much enjoyed by a certain Mr Titchmarsh,
sitting right behind me).
and comedian, Rainier Hersch entertains the crowds.
but happy, we finally left the festival in the early hours, leaving
the champagne-fuelled revellers in full-swing, and determined to
return next year.
Festival of the Arts runs for five days in July annually. Advance
booking is essential.
By Victoria Roddam