Henley Festival of Music and Arts is held every July on the Berkshire bank of the River Thames, and it isn’t like a festival like any other, the main stage floats on the river! This year, ‘UK’s most glamorous boutique festival’ is taking place on 11th – 15th of July.
Using the facilities from the Henley Royal Regatta, which is held a week before, attendees use the grandstand previously to watch the rowing event, but for the festival of music and the arts, guests experience talent from a wide variety of genres and performers from R&B to classical, from jazz to pop. This year’s event will host the likes of Nile Rodgers and Chic, the iconic Grace Jones, Rita Ora on the standout ‘Floating Stage’ while other stages will exhibit other entertainment such as Yolanda Brown, Ray Gelato & The Giants in ‘The Jazz Club’ sponsored by Pizza Express. There is also an assortment of comedy acts from the likes of Rhys James, Phill Jupitus, Suzi Ruffell all with a lot of TV experience.
Since the foundation years of the Henley Festival, it has evolved substantially as previously perceived as a solely classical music festival but few traditions have been sustained such as the strictly black tie dress code and to bring music and culture to the town of Henley-on-Thames since 1983.
Wednesday 11th July fires off the festival with the first performance of the week from the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, followed by Rita Ora performing her latest hits ‘Girls’ and ‘For You’ along with some of her other smash hits.
Thursday 12th July features Flo & Joan, a British musical comedy duo, and sisters known for their witty songs ‘The 2016 Song’ and ‘Have a cup of Tea’. A real boundary pusher of modern art Grace Jones blesses the floating stage radiating the ego and electric energy of the 80’s. You will know when you are in her presence.
Friday 13th July is the day I will be attending and I’m very excited to participate in the atmosphere of the festival and watch the magic that is Nile Rodgers & Chic. I’ve always loved listening to Chic’s work and other groups from the genre like Kool & The Gang. Their vibes bring another perspective to the mind of what cool, funky fresh music can sound. Play what feels good. Rhys James will also be giving his two pence worth at the festival at The Salon Comedy Club, with appearances on Mock the Week, Russell Howard’s Stand Up Central and more, there’s no reassurance needed to know if you’ll have a great time watching his show.
Curtis Stigers and The Ronnie Scott’s Big Band presents ‘Sinatra at the Sands’ on the floating stage on Saturday. Transitioning from his smooth blend of soul and rock back when he released his self-titled multi-platinum debut in 1991 he is now most commonly known as a jazz singer with versions of pop songs and new compositions. He is recently working with The Ronnie Scott’s Big Band performing ‘Sinatra at the Sands’ on tour.
The festival doesn’t just cater to lovers of live entertainment and those within a demographic of typically 30-70 years of age, but the Sunday is popular as the famous family fun day aimed at children. Family and kids can take part in lots of fun activities such as the ‘Playground of Illusions’, ‘Mr Danger’s Really Safe Show’, and other fun comedy acts like ‘Mr Bloom’ and ‘Jones & Barnard’.
I have my eyes set on the Audacious Crispy Squid food stall for my dinner there as the choice between two seasonings, sweet chilli and chorizo or Cornish sea salt and Szechuan pepper with Hoisin with Squid has got my stomach growling already.
I am very fortunate to have been invited to the festival, and I’m excited to get my black tie out and have a fun time. I have high expectations for the Henley Festival and with previous lineups of Chaka Khan, Paloma Faith and Pet Shop Boys and being much more formal than other festivals there is plenty of opportunity to have a good time and get your groove on.
Find out more and book tickets here.