Henley Festival announce 2020 lineup



































 Henley Festival, the UK’s most glamorous festival, and winner of Headline Performance of the Year in 2016 returns to its spectacular setting on the riverbank in Henley-on-Thames from 8th to 12th July 2020.

As the UK’s only black-tie festival, Henley Festival is glamour personified, offering Michelin starred food, award-winning comedy, critically acclaimed artists and the biggest names in popular, world, jazz and classical music. Many festival goers arrive by boat, as the green lawns of the festival are transformed into a Great Gatsby vision, as black tie clad revellers spill across the festival site, champagne in hand, while fireworks explode overhead.

Established 38 years ago as a classical music charity event, Henley Festival continues to run as a non-profit organisation, supporting charitable projects at both a national and local level.


Seminal British pop band Madness will open Henley festival 2020 on Wednesday night. One of the top 20 selling UK groups of all time, Madness have seven top ten albums, 22 top 20 hits and over six million album sales to their name.  Having celebrated 40 years in the music industry in 2019, Madness will perform much loved classics including ‘House of Fun’, ‘Baggy Trousers’ and ‘It Must Be Love’ alongside new songs from their first album in five years ‘The Bullingdon Boys.’ A British group like no other, formed in the heyday of punk, Madness are true originals who mix ska and reggae rhythms with social comment and music hall humour. Their appeal endures to this day, Madness’ latter-day concerts having become fun-packed celebrations of one of the best-loved songbooks in British pop.

On Thursday night, Henley Festival is delighted to welcome the multi-platinum selling singer-songwriter James Blunt to headline the Floating Stage. A household name across the UK and beyond, Blunt rose to fame in 2004 with the release of his debut album Back to Bedlam, achieving worldwide acclaim with the hit singles ‘You’re Beautiful’ and ‘Goodbye My Lover’. Back to Bedlam went on to become the best-selling album of the 2000s in the UK, with over 11 million copies sold worldwide. Blunt has received numerous awards, including two Brit Awards, two MTV Video Music Awards and two Ivor Novello Awards, as well as receiving five Grammy Award nominations. He has continued to achieve huge commercial success with his following releases, the latest being his new album Once Upon a Mind.

The Henley festival audience are in for a treat on Friday night, as singer-songwriter sensation Sophie Ellis-Bextor takes to the floating stage. The queen of ‘sophisticated pop’, Ellis-Bextor released her double-platinum selling debut album Read My Lips in 2001, which reached number two in the UK Albums Chart and produced hit singles including ‘Murder On The Dancefloor’ and ‘Take Me Home’. The album also experienced international success, selling more than 2 million copies worldwide and winning the Edison Award for ‘Best Dance Album’ in 2003. Ellis-Bextor continued to achieve great commercial success with her following releases. In 2014, her fifth studio album Wanderlust became her highest charting album since Read My Lips, peaking at number 4 in the UK. Bringing a vibrant mixture of mainstream pop, disco, nu-disco and 1980s electronic sounds to Henley, Ellis Bextor’s headline show is bound to have the whole festival dancing the night away!

Friday night’s performance by Sophie Ellis-Bextor on the floating stage will be followed by Sara Cox presents: Just Can’t Get Enough 80s.Dance the night away to classic tunes from the TV and radio broadcast legend! Join Sara Cox for all the hits from the best decade, delivered with a stunning stage set and amazing visuals. Huge anthems for monumental crowd participation moments making epic memories to take home. If you’ve got fond memories of legwarmers and spandex, ‘Just Can’t Get Enough 80s’ is a new show set to send you into a retro frenzy!

Lovers of disco are in for a once-in-a-lifetime treat on Saturday night, as a collection of the world’s most iconic dancefloor hits are reimagined, reinvented and brought to the floating stage by Disco Classical, with legendary Special Guest Sister Sledge featuring Kathy Sledge. Formed in 1971, Sister Sledge achieved international success at the height of the disco era. The year 1979 saw the release of their breakthrough album We Are Family, which peaked at number three on the US Album Chart and included the top ten singles ‘He’s the Greatest Dancer’ and ‘We Are Family’, the latter earning a Grammy Award nomination. Alongside the Manchester Camerata Orchestra – who opened Glastonbury 2017 – a live band, guest singers and renowned crowd-pleaser DJ Mark Armstrong, Disco Classical and Sister Sledge will create one of the most memorable and uplifting live music experiences around, filled with captivating light displays and glittering disco balls; it’s the perfect party show!

On Sunday 12th July, classical superstar Myleene Klass will present Classic FM’s Classical Salute, an evening of classical and military music performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Stephen Bell.

Classical Salute celebrates the power and glory of one of our finest orchestras and the theatre of the military around the world. During the evening, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra will be joined by a string of military musicians including Ceremonial Trumpeters for Verdi’s Grand March from Aida, a band of Military Drummers for Ravel’s Bolero as well as uniformed pipers for Highland Cathedral by Roever. The orchestra will also be joined by internationally acclaimed soloists for performances of popular greats including Rule Britannia, Bizet’s Carmen and a rousing performance of Goodwins 633 Squadron. There will also be music by Gershwin, Strauss and many others, and the evening will end with triumphant fireworks exploding over the river on the final night of the festival.


The 2020 comedy line up at Henley is set to be bigger and better than ever, with the likes of Al Murray, Milton Jones, Shappi Khorsandi and Rory Bremner among the stellar 20 comedians performing at this year’s festival. One of Britain’s favourite comedians, Al Murray’s hard-edged social and political satire is sure to have the audience in fits of laughter. In 2003, Murray was listed in The Observer as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy, and in 2007 he was voted the 16th greatest stand-up comic on Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Stand-Ups.

Milton Jones will be bringing his hilariously clever one-liners to Henley’s comedy line up, involving puns delivered in a uniquely deadpan and purposely neurotic style. Jones has had various shows on BBC Radio 4 and is a recurring guest panellist on Mock the Week. Along with the likes of comedian and author Shappi Khorsandi and Scottish impressionist and comedian Rory Bremner, his hilarious show is certainly not to be missed. In addition, runner-up on series 12 of Britain’s Got Talent, Robert White, and the first stand-up comedian in Britain to use a communication aid in his routines, Lost Voice Guy, will also be keeping audiences thoroughly entertained, alongside a whole host of up-and-coming comics.


Henley Festival’s very own Jazz Club in the stunning Spiegel Tent offers dining and live jazz music before and after the main headline act. With their thrilling three-part harmonies, mercurial percussion, virtuoso violin and soaring sax and clarinet, The Boneshaker Band will create an inimitable and unmissable opening to the Jazz Club on Wednesday night. On the following night, Moscow Drug Club will bring their intoxicating & intimate musical experience – where elements of Berlin Cabaret, Hot Club de France, French Musette and Storytelling meet – to Henley’s Jazz Club. Friday night will see London’s own Jazz Dynamos transform and reinvent well-known songs from Peggy Lee, Dolly Parton and Madonna with a mix of jazz, bossa, samba, and contemporary pop music – occasionally all at the same time!

On Saturday night, internationally acclaimed Swing band Natty Congeroo & the Flames of Rhythm will bring the party to the Jazz Club with their high-energy, immersive live performance. Led by the legendary showman Natty Congeroo, the Flames’ repertoire is a combination of tight original numbers and explosive interpretations of classic Hot Jazz, Swing, Rhythm ’n’ Blues and Gospel. Closing the Jazz Club on Sunday, Austrian ensemble Aureum Saxophone Quartet will showcase the richness and infinite array of sounds that are possible on the saxophone; your ears will be amazed! In addition, electrifying live outfit The Hawkmen will bring a taste of rhythm ‘n’ blues, soul and rock ‘n’ roll – brought together in a uniquely classic, rootsy, hybrid blend – to Henley.


Enter the Bedouin Tent for a taste of world music and home-grown British folk at their best. World music highlights include Paprika, the UK’s leading Balkan band, who create fiery melodies and foot-tapping rhythms that fuse Eastern European, Balkan, Gypsy and Classical music in a whirlwind performance of frenzied virtuosity. Max Pashm will also bring his infamous live show experience to Henley, featuring uplifting percussion, vocals and keyboards along with his general showmanship and sense of humour on stage. Fusing the folk and urban traditions of her Zambian homeland and her Scottish roots with London’s eclectic music scene, Namvula’s uplifting, emotive songs will transport the Henley audience into different worlds, while staying firmly rooted in African soil.

The Bedouin Tent will also be presenting up-and-coming names in folk music, including Julu & Heg, who have taken the scene by storm with their evocative, harmony-rich songs. Award-winning fiddle player Henry Webster is also among the latest generation of folk musicians bringing a fresh perspective to the tradition. Teaming up with singer-songwriter and guitarist Elliott Morris, this special performance is not one to be missed. In addition, folk duo Nicola & Jim will present the amazing spectacle of Nicola’s simultaneous fiddle playing and clog dancing alongside the driving sounds of Jim’s piano and accordion. Having recorded and performed with international stars including Eric Clapton, Van Morrison and Laura Marling, British slide guitarist and songwriter Martin Harley will also showcase his incredible artistry and intimate, gritty style to the Henley audience, and with three albums and numerous gigs across Europe already under her belt, Charlotte Campbell will be bringing her charming London street performances to the Bedouin Tent stage.


BBC Music Introducing was created in 2007 to support unsigned, undiscovered and under the radar musicians. Henley Festival is hugely excited to be working with BBC Music Introducing discovering breaking acts from the region, all of whom have featured across the BBC network before.

This year Henley Festival will be hosting new local producer talent in addition to emerging bands and songwriters. Elton John and Lauren Laverne approved multi-instrumentalist Ralegh Long brings his Nick Drake-like sombre lyricism to Henley on Wednesday night followed by the London based and Reading bred electronic composer Darshaan on Thursday. On Friday Henley audience gets to enjoy the intricate folk of Roz Firth and on Saturday the singer-songwriter Olly Chamberlain will grace the stage at Pure Heaven before hitting major UK festivals in Reading and Leeds. Nigerian-Australian Tabi Gazele’s hypnotic melodies and joyful yet thought-provoking lyrics have drawn her comparisons to Emeli Sande. Her first performance at Henley Festival follows over 2 million combined streams of two  track features (Devil On My Shoulder and Soul Glo with Lee Fields) on multi-platinum Australian hip-hop group Bliss n Eso’s 6th Studio Album ‘Off The Grid.’


Henley Festival is one of the very few festivals in the UK to showcase artworks from some of the UK’s most talented artists, photographers and galleries. Focusing largely on local talent this year, Henley Festival is delighted to play host to a string of up and coming makers and craftsmen, including artisanal jewellers of Studio 35 and Cristo Design’s striking wooden furniture. The festival will also welcome back Tommy Burr’s urban art that repurposes mundane materials like traffic signs into vibrant pieces of art. The festival will also collaborate with the internationally recognised Bishopsland Educational Trust for the first time, celebrating the craftmanship of the recent jewellery graduates.



Michelin starred chef Angela Hartnett MBE will be returning to Henley Festival 2020 to run Europe’s biggest field restaurant, creating a bespoke menu exclusively for Henley, at the Riverside Restaurant. Angela Hartnett’s astonishingly creative, flawlessly executed dishes focus on purity of flavour and reverence for ingredients. A festival for food lovers, Henley caters for all tastes offering a huge number of restaurants and pop ups from street food to fine dining. Restaurant’s popping up at the festival will include Garden Bistro by Jimmy Garcia, Green Box, Oink, BBQ Club, Hotel Chocolat, Jessecco Prosecco, Black Cab Coffee Company and many more.



Sunday sees the festival transformed into an enchanting playground for families and children of all ages, with a whole host of dazzling activities, performances and concerts.

Headlining the stage on Family Sunday is award-winning children’s presenter and double MOBO winning saxophonist YolanDa Brown performing with the spellbinding Henley Symphony Orchestra. From glitter face painting, eccentric comedy and theatre shows to interactive performance art, Family Sunday is a whole day dedicated to nurturing adventurous, curious and creative little minds.

For kids who love our furry friends, globe-trotting theatre troupe Creature Feature will roam the grounds as hugely lifelike and interactive gorillas for the day, for kids who love music there will be jazz and funk fuelled storytelling taking them on a magical adventure under the sea from Groove Baby whose latest show ran at London’s Southbank Centre, and for kids that love to have a giggle, hilariously silly comedy-duo Mad Etiquette will be performing one of their critically acclaimed skits.

With a programme packed full of wildly imaginative activities, Family Sunday at Henley Festival promises a truly entertaining day out for all the family.

Henley Festival 2018 brings Grace Jones, Rita Ora, Nile Rodgers & Chic plus more

As the UK’s only black-tie boutique festival, Henley Festival is glamour personified, offering Michelin starred food, award winning comedians, Turner Prize nominated artists and the biggest names in popular, world, jazz and classical music. Many festival goers arrive by boat, and the green lawns of the festival are transformed into a Great Gatsby vision, as black tie clad revellers spill across the festival site, champagne in hand, while fireworks explode overhead.

2018 Lineup















Established 36 years ago as a classical music charity event, Henley Festival continues to be run on a not for profit basis supporting charitable projects at both a national and local level. This year proceeds from the festival will go to two charities. Dedicated to supporting young people with depression, and encouraging discussions around mental health, the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust was set up in memory of a young man who took his own life whilst suffering from depression. The Teenage Wilderness Trust supports students who find it difficult to engage with mainstream education by offering reengagement courses using bush craft, wilderness learning techniques and practical life skills to encourage students to get back into learning. 
Following the release of her long awaited album in Spring 2018, Rita Ora will open Henley Festival 2018 on the Wednesday night. The global pop star, with four No.1 hit songs to her name, including Radioactive and I Will Never Let You Down, will get the UK’s most glamourous festival off to an explosive start with her 2017 hit singles Kiss Me, Your Song and Anywhere.  


A lifelong provocateur Grace Jones will light up Henley Festival with her energetic headline set that is guaranteed to include a string of costume changes and dance-club hits including her acclaimed reinvention of Piaf’s classic “La Vie En Rose”. One of the world’s most iconic women, singers, songwriters, supermodels, actresses and infamous Bond Girl, Grace Jones’ daring and original headline set will be one of the highlights of the festival.  
Among music legends, Nile Rodgers is truly exceptional. He amplifies his legacy as a multi-Grammy-winning composer, producer, arranger and guitarist by constantly traversing new musical terrain and successfully expanding the boundaries of popular music. As the co-founder of CHIC, Rodgers pioneered a musical language that generated chart-topping pop hits like "Le Freak," sparked the advent of hip-hop with "Good Times,” and won CHIC eleven Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominations. More recently he has worked with Daft Punk, Avicii, Disclosure, and Sam Smith.

Saturday night at Henley Festival will see Curtis Stigers and The Ronnie Scott’s Big Band present ‘Sinatra At The Sands.’ Internationally acclaimed American jazz vocalist Curtis Stigers will channel the hip, swinging chemistry of Frank Sinatra and the Count Basie Orchestra for a brilliant night which will fly the Henley audience to the moon.
Henley Festival will close in true style on the Sunday night with one of the UK’s foremost opera companies the English National Opera performing with soloists, full orchestra and chorus and under the baton of ENO Music Director Martyn Brabbins. Their repertoire is taken from many of the greatest operas including Carmen, The Marriage of Figaro, Madam Butterfly, Turandot and La Traviata as well as a little Gilbert & Sullivan to top the night off.  
The 2018 comedy line-up is set to be bigger and better than ever, with the likes of Paul Merton, Lee Nelson, Lucy Porter, Mark Watson and Dominic Holland among the biggest names of the 25 comedians performing at this year’s Festival. The comedy line up will also include a very special evening of unscripted, unrehearsed and spontaneous comedy from Dead Ringers’ impressionists Jon Culshaw and legendary comedy producer Bill Dare in their sell-out show The Great British Take Off. In addition, up and coming comics including Suzi Ruffell, Pierre Novellie, Rhys James, Flo & Joan, Alfie Brown and Adam Rowe will also be keeping audiences entertained as well as jaw-achingly funny cabaret from Tina C and Vellma Celli.
Henley Festival’s very own Jazz Club in the stunning Spiegel Tent offers dining and live jazz music before and after the main headline act. Credited for helping kick off the Swing revival in the early '80s Ray Gelato and the Giants will open Henley’s Jazz Club on Wednesday night. On the Thursday Pop Noir songstress Purdy will be performing, local to Henley, Purdy has supported Lana Del Ray and Jools Holland. Friday Night will see the high-energy Soul/R'n'B band The Staks Band comprised of virtuoso players working with some of the music world’s biggest artists, the band have a lineage that defies easy description. Saturday night will see performances from King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boys whose dazzling musicianship and riveting stage performances will get the crowd jiving stomping and swinging, finally on Sunday Miss Kiddy and the Cads, will provide sensational live jazz, swinging beats, toe-tapping finesse and a lot of laughter to transport you straight to 1945s swing town, bringing Henley Festival’s Jazz Club to a high octane close.
BBC Music Introducing was created in 2007 to support unsigned, undiscovered and under the radar musicians. Henley Festival is hugely excited to be working with BBC Music Introducing discovering breaking acts from the region, all of whom have featured across the BBC network before. 
Pearl, TN is a British country band with bittersweet songs of love and regret featuring Harriet James on vocals that are pure as a mountain stream. Inspired by American country artists including Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings this is one country band you don’t want to miss. Lorne is a singer, songwriter and pianist from Berkshire who released his debut EP Maze on 24th November 2017. With a sound that is a cross between Bon Iver, Brandon Flowers and Damien Rice, his gentle melodic pop and soft rock is a beauty to behold. Alex Green is a songwriter from Reading, previously the front man of the band Attention Thieves. He takes inspiration from artists within such genres as folk, country, blues and rock. Cecil is an alternate indie pop artist from Berkshire. Her debut E.P was released in April 2017 and received support from BBC Introducing, BBC Radio 2 and several other radio stations. Her debut album is due out this summer and with her music being compared to somewhere between Lana Del Rey and Kate Bush she is definitely a one to watch in 2018! WolfNote is a new acoustic folk and roots quartet from Berkshire comprising multi-instrumentalist Mike with his gammy leg, violinist and vocalist Ceri with her dodgy back, guitarist and vocalist Gill, also falling to bits and cellist and vocalist Bex, a crazy cat lady.
Enter The Bedouin Tent for a taste of global world music as well as home spun British folk at its best. World Music comes from Senegalese band The Coute Diomboulou Band led by Cissokh use traditional instruments including the kora, tamma and djembe  expect an extraordinary mix of mbalax and afrobeat grounded in African traditions. Son Yambu play authentic Cuban son, the intoxicating fusion of Spanish and African rhythms that gave rise to salsa. They give this irresistible music a contemporary edge, bringing their audiences a truly, sensational, authentic Latin music experience. The Bikini Beach Band begins with one man – Jesus C. Escovedo – guitarist, revolutionary, ladies' man and 1956 All-Mexico Surfing Champion (for real). Expect rockin surf sound and chilled 1950s Mexican beach vibes. Trovador is a flamenco fusion trio with influences from Brazilian and classical music based in UK, providing a performance full of rhythm, passion and grace. Powerful and uplifting music from the virtuoso duo of guitarist Matt Sullivan and percussionist Jo May; Against the Grain will dazzle you with their stunning musical skills and exciting performances. Stirring the styles of West Africa, South America and Spain, Jo and Matt create an original blend of musical flavours.
Henley will be presenting up and coming folk music names in the Bedouin Tent including “alt-bluegrass” act The Coal Porters who demonstrate the foot stomping power of fiddle, mandolin, banjo, acoustic guitar and doghouse bass when matched with four-part harmonies. Winner of the 2009 BBC Young Folk Awards, Megan Henwood began writing songs in her early teens including her poignant song about relationship/abuse “White Lies”, from her debut album “Making Waves”. Firmly established in the roots scene, Maz O'Connor is a folk force to be reckoned with, the simplicity of her music recalls the starkly beautiful Cumbrian landscape of her childhood.  Solasta are an outstanding folk ensemble known for their inventive arrangements, unique sound and exhilarating live performances. Comprised of award winning fiddler Elisabeth Flett, cellist Hannah Thomas, and guitarist Jamie Leeming, their dynamic interpretations of Celtic based material are rooted firmly in tradition. Art Deco Band Le Bistrotet was formed as the result of recordings made for the soundtrack of the Oscar winning movie, The Theory of Everything, expect classic Vaudeville and European café-bar music.
For the 2018 festival, Michelin starred chef Angela Hartnett MBE will be taking the reins of Europe’s biggest field restaurant, creating a bespoke menu exclusively for Henley, at the Riverside Restaurant. Angela Hartnett’s astonishingly creative, flawlessly executed dishes focus on purity of flavour and reverence for ingredients. Angela Hartnett commented: “I am absolutely delighted to be working closely with the Henley Festival for the first time and to serve the food that I love at such a great and iconic event.” A festival for food lovers, Henley caters for all tastes offering a huge number of restaurants and pop ups from street food to fine dining. Restaurant’s popping up at the festival will include Crooked Billet, The Spice Merchant, and Brasserie @ Jazz Club in the Speigltent, alongside street food from BBQ club, Snob Lobster, Jessecco Prosecco, Pizza Express and Audacious Crispy Squid, and champagne and cocktails from Moët Champagne Bar, Black Cab Coffee & Cocktails, Hotel du Vin and many more.
Henley Festival is one of the very few festivals to showcase art work from some of Britain’s most talented artists photographers and galleries. Henley is hugely excited to announce that this year, the festival will be showcasing work from the Turner Prize nominated artist and Royal Acamadician David Mach, Britain’s father of landscape photographer and founder of the Landscape Photographer of the Year Awards, Charlie Waite, award winning sculptures Rosamond Lloyd and will also be collaborating with the contemporary art curator and aboriginal art collector Jennifer Guerrini Maraldi. More artists, galleries and curators will be announced later in the year. 
And while the festival is an adult only event, Sunday daytime sees the festival turned into a huge playground for families and kids of all ages, with activities and entertainers, who captivate and enchant. 2018’s Family Sunday offers balloon making, glitter tattoos, music lessons, comedy for kids, toddler disco, choir performances as well as fantastic entertainment from TV favourites Mr Bloom,  Mr Danger and Fun & Gamz.
Henley Festival is topped off each night by a jaw dropping overhead firework display. In 2018 the fireworks display will be designed by Titanium Fireworks, the team who have put on some of the UK’s biggest firework shows in the last decade including the 2012 London Olympics, the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, the London New Year’s Eve Fireworks display and Hogmany in Edinburgh, as well as pyrotechnics for some of the biggest names in music including Adele, Will Smith, Coldplay and Take That. Henley Festival is currently the only music Festival which Titanium work with.

Will Young at Henley Festival 2016 and why Henley is a ‘go-to’ festival!

Henley Festival is a rather sophisticated 'black tie' event held over five nights on the river bank at Henley on Thames, Oxfordshire – notably most famous for its annual regatta. Henley Festival has been running for years with this year being its 34th year. The festival, limited to approx 5,000 tickets, offers live music, comedy, art and fashion as well as many marquees with fine dining, which have to be pre booked, as well as other food and drink outlets spread around the festival.

Henley Festival is more than just a festival, it is an excuse for a pleasant evening out with family and friends where you can dress up as extravagantly as you wish – you will only be looked upon admiringly – it is most certainly the place to be and is so spectacularly different from any other festival that, instead of wellies, you see designer shoes, instead of rowdy beer drinkers, people in deep conversation holding glasses of champagne or Pimms and the only smoking I saw were of cigars as ladies walked around the festival in old theatric Interval style over the shoulder holders selling them.
This year, the line up was one constantly talked about, especially with regard to Wednesday headliner Sir Elton John. Sir Elton’s night sold out in minutes, with the other nights featuring Elvis Costello, Bryn Terfel and the WNO Orchestra, Dame Shirley Bassey and Will Young following closely behind. Speaking to some of the guests, they informed me that the night Sir Elton played, the festival was over subscribed by approximately 2,000 extra ticket holders, making it impossible for guests to move freely and becoming quite a health and safety concern. This, I was told, took away the true essence of Henley Festival's charm and left many loyal attendees disappointed, angry and perplexed as to how this could be allowed to happen.
On Sunday night, the night I attended, was Will Young’s night and was, thankfully, quite a different story. Arriving promptly at 6pm, I took the short walk from the car park to the main entrance dressed up for the night as it is not everyday you get to attend a Black Tie event. The entrance had a beautiful pop up doorway, in blue with silver sparkly writing and with entrance staff dressed up just as smart as the guests.
As soon as I arrived I was drawn towards all the guests as they shone out as visually artistic shown by the range of outfits worn, the different styles, colours, hats, bags and even down to the shoes they were wearing. People really went out of their way to look the part and look the part they did. I loved the street performers who were dressed in their variety of spectacular costumes. There were performers dressed as Angels with large wings moving around on rollers, two men dressed as tall – small headed men with their actual heads being lower down making you wonder how they could see. Over the course of the other nights there were Gorilla costumes, tree costumes and various artists with painted faces and silver hair.

Oh and the toilets…the toilets were AMAZING…so clean and not your typical festival toilet, that is a reason alone to go to Henley Festival, ha!

Despite this being a relatively small festival, you couldn't get bored as there was something for everyone.  Mini art galleries were dotted along the walkway to the main lawn area, overlooking the river. There were many boats moored in the middle of the Thames eagerly waiting to hear a night time of music from their decks.
Ronnie Scott's Jazz Bar had prime position at the far end providing a fairly similar look to the original bar in London, and was a round pop – up venue which had impressive décor both outside and in.
In the centre of the main lawn area were six large boards raising awareness for the charity The Children’s Society who the festival were working in partnership with.  The boards all carried a statement from Young carers telling of their aspirations in life whereas their reality was far different. Very moving to read, it tugged at your heart strings to discover that so many children become young carers for their siblings or parents from such a young age. The charity is a very important part of Henley Festival. The Children’s Society is a national charity that runs local services, helping children and young people when they are at their most vulnerable, and have nowhere left to turn. They also campaign for changes to laws affecting children and young people, to stop the mistakes of the past being repeated in the future. Their supporters around the country fund their services and join their campaigns to show children and young people they are on their side. More information on the charity can be found here : http://www.henley-festival.co.uk/support-henley-festival/henley-festival-trust/The-Childrens-Society
And here: http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk

With various stages scattered around the festival, I started at Ronnie Scott's as The Ronnie Scott's Story began. The Jazz Band took centre stage and played a beautiful set of Jazz music which was both relaxing and mesmerising. I did not stay for the duration as I wanted to take a look at the other stages before Will Young commenced. Just outside the main entrance stood The Pizza Express Live stage, with 90’s pop Jazz band Shakatak. I was not aware of this band prior to this event but they certainly pulled a crowd and really knew how to put on a show. With the female lead singer being a Jazz powerhouse and a band really comfortable with knowing how to fully play their instruments and playing a very impressive set, they certainly knew how to entertain a crowd.
I quickly moved on to The Comedy Stage, expecting to see comedy. I was pleasantly surprised to catch the end of Shlomo. Shlomo is a British beatboxing artist, technologist, composer and teacher. I only caught his last two tracks which left me gutted that I hadn't watched the entire performance. His audience absolutely loved him and, being a young beatboxer, I was surprised by the amount of older people really getting into his set. Multi-talented, I would love to see this artist on a bigger stage one day. He had great original material and had so much energy running all over the stage singing, beatboxing and mixing. I did miss out on buying a cd he was selling afterwards as he had a long line of fans and I had to get to my seat for Will Young but Shlomo, I want one, so I hope there is somewhere I can purchase one?

Now to the main event of the evening. Will Young, who was closing the evening and the entire festival. Will was performing on The Floating Stage which is so named because the stage was built mostly on the actual river with the audience on the river bank. The seated areas were either on the lawn in front of the stage or the grandstand, the grandstand being the most expensive ticket. I obviously knew who Will Young was as I had watched Pop Idol together with most people my age and his song Leave Right Now was one of the most played songs the year it was released.  But I had never really sat down and paid full attention to his other music. So…prior to this night, I binged listened to Will Young without barely coming up for air so that I knew what to expect. Well..Will had a lot more songs I knew than I had realised and his new album 85% Proof was very impressive. I could not find a bad song on there, no fillers at all, so this made me especially excited for his show.

From the minute his band arrived on stage the crowd were cheering. Running to the microphone, he started with the song Joy. The audience sang along whilst large beach balls were floating on the stage. Love Revolution, one of my favourites, was the next song and most people stood up during this, which was hardly surprising with it being such an upbeat song. Will addressed the audience telling them how happy he was to be back at Henley Festival, his home town, and how his father lives on the other side of the river. Will has such a great, fun personality with a typical British sense of humour, so had the audience howling throughout, myself included. Stories about his dad walking around the festival with him debating whether some lady was wearing knickers or not and later texting Will at midnight to say “ You know, I don’t think she was wearing knickers.” Hilariously, Will’s mother had been banned for life from Henley Regatta for purposefully jumping in a puddle to ruin a lady's white dress back in her youth. With many other funny stories, Will entertained the crowd the entire evening and even sang Happy Birthday to a fan in the front row.
Will’s vocals are just as perfect as they sound on his studio recordings. His tone is so unique and beautiful that he was a joy to listen to. He made use of his stage with little dance moves and he waved to the audience throughout – giving a shout out too to ticket holders who were stood at the side of the lawn area. Will’s band and backing singers were also amazing, giving us a flawless performance in a perfect summer evening setting. It was lovely to see people on their boats dancing and there were crowds of people over the other side of the river too. At one point in the evening, Will asked everyone to get their phones out to shine them and making them sway them in the air, side to side, up and down and all around. Even the people on the boats and other side of the river had their phones shining which I doubt he knew and it was truly spectacular to witness.

The set list was a lovely mix of his big hits as well as album tracks. We were treated with probably, most peoples' favourite songs and, as the night went on, people got merrier and more confident to get up and dance. Everyone sang along to songs such as Light My Fire, Leave Right Now and Jealousy with Will often holding the microphone to the crowd to hear them sing. We were also treated with a rendition of Evergreen which was Will’s winning song on Pop Idol and was not originally on the set list. The encore saw Will returning to stage on a mobility scooter with a fixed keyboard doing a cover version of David Bowie’s Let’s Dance.
I simply could not fault Will's performance and am so glad that I went. As someone who was neither a fan, or not a fan prior to this show, I can most certainly say that I am now a Will Young fan and would definitely go to see him perform live again. I even overheard a guest saying that she had attended all five nights of the festival and that Will Young was the best performer by far.
His show was certainly not average, I don’t think you could ever call that average!

The night closed with a spectacular show of Fireworks over the river followed by a performance from comedian The Boy With Tape On His Face on The Comedy Stage who I sadly had to miss due to travel commitments but I hear he is fantastic.
Set List
Love Revolution
Light My Fire
(The Doors cover)
Thank You
Who Am I
You and I
Switch It On
Leave Right Now

Let's Dance
(David Bowie cover)
Your Game
All Time Love

Elton John, Dame Shirley Bassey and more lead Henley Festival lineup

Henley Festival, the UK’s most glamorous boutique festival, returns to its stunning setting along the river in Henley-on-Thames from 6th – 10th July 2016 with tickets going on sale to the general public on Thursday 25th February at 10am.
As one of the most decorated and recognisable names in British music, we are delighted that Elton John and His Band will open Henley Festival 2016 on Wednesday 6th to a sold out audience, whilst one of Britain’s greatest-ever entertainers Dame Shirley Bassey will be teaming up with Brit-Award winning vocal group BLAKE on Saturday 9th. Legendary multi award winning singer song writer Elvis Costello & The Imposters will keep the party going on Thursday night when they take to the floating stage. Friday night will see the festival return to its classical roots with legendary Welsh Opera singer Bryn Terfelperforming with the Welsh National Opera Orchestra. Finally everyone’s favourite singer-songwriter Will Young will bring Henley Festival to a momentous close on the Sunday night.
Will Young said: I’m really very excited to be closing Henley Festival on the Sunday night. I had such fun playing there last time, it’s such a beautiful setting on the banks of the river Thames, not to mention headlining alongside one of my favourite people, Sir Elton John.
One further act headlining the festival on Saturday 9th July is yet to be announced.
Brand new for 2016, legendary jazz club Ronnie Scott’s will be making the festival their home for the full five days.  Festival goers will be treated to the full Ronnie Scott’s experience, seated at cabaret style tables they will be able to watch performances by the stellar Ronnie Scott’s Allstars under the guidance of Jazz maestro James Pearsonwhile waiters discretely serve cocktails and show stopping food.
Also hugely exciting for 2016 is the arrival of the New Music Stagefeaturing 10 of the brightest names in new music. Taking over the newly erected big top, Henley Festival will showcase up and coming talent with a five day programme of unsigned acts taking place before the floating stage performance each night.
Legendary nightclub Heaven will be bringing their sister club Pure to the festival, kicking off the dancing each night as soon as the headline act finishes on the floating stage
Our BIGGEST COMEDY line up yet!
Shaking up its festival format for 2016, Henley will be bringing a programme of red hot British comedians to the festival, quadrupling Henley Festival’s comedy bill in size from previous years.  We are hugely excited to be announcing Al Murray, Reginald D Hunter, Nina Conti, Dillie Keane, Richard Herring, Adam Kay, The Boy with Tape on His Face, Hal Cruttenden and Simon Evans as some of the biggest names on the line up of 20 comics who will keep crowds entertained each night at the festival.
For the 2016 festival, Michelin starred chef Daniel Clifford will be taking the reins of Europe’s biggest field restaurant, creating a bespoke tasting menu exclusively for Henley, serving 950 covers a night at the Riverside Restaurant. Daniel Clifford’s astonishingly creative, flawlessly executed dishes focus on purity of flavour and reverence for ingredients. He was AA Chefs' chef of the year in 2015 and his restaurant ‘Midsummer House’ in Cambridge holds two Michelin stars, garnering widespread acclaim and cementing his reputation as one of the best chefs in Britain.
Daniel said: I am incredibly excited to work at such an iconic event as Henley. The Riverside Restaurant will be the fine dining offering for guests with dishes such as Sautéed scallop, granny smith apple, celeriac and perigold truffle puree and Seared Cornish mackerel, piccalilli Chantilly, pickled white cabbage
For festival goers who prefer to eat on the go, there are plenty of other food options. Ronnie Scott’s will offer superb steaks, Ronnie style burgers and gorgeous fish pie with a fine dining twist. A stalwart of the festival, Paul Clerehugh will be with us throughout the week with his bespoke festival menu at The Crooked Billet, offering fantastic British food using locally sourced seasonal ingredients. Cooking up a storm of authentic Indian food, Hasan & Bashir deliver Northern Thali to hungry festival goers at Spice Merchant Pop-Up. For street food enthusiasts, head to The Top for a diverse mix of cuisine and a never ending banquet of first class food to go.
Legendary events company rhubarb are confirmed as the food partner for Henley Music Festival 2016 and will be managing the catering for theRiverside Restaurant, Ronnie Scott's, and The Terrace. Glen Sutton, Director of Events for rhubarb said: We are delighted to partner with Henley Music Festival. This is an exciting addition to our events portfolio and our culinary team are preparing a range of beautiful and delicious menus to further enhance what is set to be a fantastic few days of music and celebrations.

Embrace a revelry filled night of the surreal and the beautiful as you encounter Henley Festival’s international collective of street theatre entertainers, cabaret stars, buskers and entertainers.
From deeply silly giant kangaroos to a lifelike family of gorillas, a troupe of hairy angels and a provocative exhibition of hair art, Henley Festival’s enchanting roving troupe of street theatre entertainers interact with festival goers offering delights, surprises and mesmerising performances throughout the festival.
For lovers of cabaret and circus, Henley has teamed up with the UK’s leading circus technology troops to offer a dazzling show of LED lit circus and cabaret performances as part of the all new Digital Cabaretin the brand new Big Top stage. From neon lit flapper girls and fairy dust ballet dancers, to mesmerising digital hoops and jugging displays, fans of La Clique, La Soiree and Cirque de Soleil will not be disappointed!
Henley Festival’s visual art offering has grown from strength to strength in the last decade, and the festival prides itself on supporting independent artists and galleries. In 2016 the festival will showcase contemporary art installation and sculpture across the festival site as well as hanging works by leading photographers and painters in a series of pop up galleries dotted around the festival. Artists lined up include installation artists Aether & Hemera, Goldie, Illuminati and sculptorsDanu and Dawn Benson.
Not just for grownups, Sunday at Henley festival is Family Day, where kids can enjoy festival site and interact with children’s entertainers, musicians, comedians and street entertainers including Beatbox starShlomo, comedy from Jay Foreman, and leading circus company, Upswing as well as taking part in crafting sessions and making art, while parents can relax in the stunning festival grounds.
Henley Festival and The Children’s Society are working in partnership to bring inspiration and vital support to thousands of children who care for their parents and family members. The Children’s Society is a national charity that runs local services, helping children and young people when they are at their most vulnerable, and have nowhere left to turn. We also campaign for changes to laws affecting children and young people, to stop the mistakes of the past being repeated in the future. Our supporters around the country fund our services and join our campaigns to show children and young people they are on their side.

Elton John to open Henley Festival 2016

Following the release of his hotly anticipated new album, Wonderful Crazy Night due out on 5th February 2016, Elton John will perform on the Floating Stage for the first time in the 34 year history of the festival. Elton John’s performance at Henley will be one of only five concerts in the UK next year and the only place to see him perform in a unique riverside setting.

lton John is one of the world’s most famous and best loved musicians. Having sold more than 250 million records worldwide, he holds the record for the biggest selling single of all time, has had 37 gold and 27 multi-platinum albums, and has played over 3,500 concerts across 80 countries.
With festival goers dressed in black tie and Michelin starred food on offer, Elton John’s performance on the River Thames to 7,000 festival goers will be the most exclusive night of the year, his performance will be followed by a magical 15 minute firework display along the river.
Elton John has said: 

“The simple truth is I want to spend more time with my family, and I am only too aware of just how precious the time ahead is. My sons are growing up so quickly; their early years are just flying by and I want to be there with them. So these concerts will give me the chance to thank the British audiences who have been so faithful to me over these many decades. We cannot get to everyone but I am going to try – and I am thrilled that I will be able to say I have played the beautiful Henley-on-Thames.” 

Charlotte Geeves, Henley Festival Director commented: “We are extremely excited to be able to announce that the world’s most famous pop star will be headlining Henley Festival for the first time. Henley Festival goers are huge Elton John fans so he can expect a very warm welcome when he plays at Henley. It’s definitely going to be a night to remember and we can’t wait for him to open the festival in July.” 

Henley Festival Review 2015

Taking place over five days in the quintessential Oxfordshire town of Henley On Thames, Henley Festival is an event like no other. With a focus on fine dining, high end art and a carefully selected line-up of musical acts it offers a very unique experience to a certain audience who otherwise might not attend your typical ‘music festival’. With a strictly black tie dress code the event oozed sophistication with absolutely no wellies in sight- in fact, people may complain about rain at glasto but if it rained here it wouldn’t just be spirits that are dampened but some serious designer clobber.

With the sophistication of the BBC Proms and the boozy clientele of any festival there was a real party atmosphere from the off set, the only difference being, instead of swigging from cans of warm strongbow, attendees quaff from champagne flutes and pints of Pimms. The sophisticated nature of the festival was probably best represented in its art agenda. Although nearly all UK festivals promote themselves as offering a certain degree of ‘art’ at their events, the Henley Festival really steps this up a gear. There are numerous temporary art galleries set up throughout the site all offering pieces for sale with a pretty hefty price tag.

Although there was other musical performances put on during the night, the main focus was quite clearly Jessie J’s headline set on the iconic floating stage- literally a stage that sits floating on the water of the Thames. From the offset Jessie faced a challenge playing to a completely seated crowd- that was of course until she bounded on stage and threw herself straight into an explosive set that gradually had everyone up on their feet dancing by winning over the crowd with her cockney charm and relentless enthusiasm.

Photo courtesy of Henley Festival

Throughout her set she played all her biggest hits, with short interludes where she would engage with the crowd, at some points even offering motivational tips on how best to pursue their life. Although this might have been partially lost on some of the older members of the crowd, as she pointed out even if she positively affects one person with her set she would be happy. This was a fun addition to this headline set instead of simply walking on stage, belting out the hits and scurrying off.

An obvious highlight for the crowd and also for Jessie was her first ever hit Do It Like a Dude, which pleased and confused the masses in equal measures at its time of release. No matter how people felt about the song in the past however, it went down a storm with the Henley crowd who embraced the dancing encouraged by Jessie and got even the most stand offish audience member swinging their hips from side to side.

Jessie J is clearly a well practiced performer who knew exactly how to win the crowd over to her way of thinking, including adapting the lyrics of her hit song Bang Bang (which she ended on) to “You need a girl from Henley to blow you mind”. Jessie was certainly a great choice to kick off this years festival.

Spandau Ballet complete Henley Festival 2015 lineup

On Sunday 12th July one of Britain’s biggest bands Spandau Ballet will take to the Floating Stage and close 2015’s fun-loving & quirky festival. With ten UK top 10 singles, eight top 10 albums and a catalogue of iconic hits including, Through The BarricadesTo Cut A Long Story ShortGold and the legendary number 1 single True; Spandau Ballet are one of the most successful groups to emerge from the New Romantic era and are sure to give the Henley Festival crowd a foot-stomping performance this July. Tickets are on sale from 2pm www.henley-festival.co.uk priced from £35.

Known for its summer evenings, full of eclectic & world-class performances on the stunning banks of the River Thames, Henley Festival’s mix of entertainment from across the globe never fails to impress & excite guests.  Once through the doors, the weird & wonderful worlds of art, comedy, theatre and fine dining collide with unexpected surprises waiting for you at every turn. Just 6,000 tickets are available for each black tie evening; so don’t miss your chance to experience the magic.

Spandau Ballet said: “Summer by the Thames at Henley sounds like an offer not to be refused.  We can’t wait to see everyone there and raise money for such a good cause."

Jessie J and Gipsy Kings set for Henley Festival 2015

Now the festival’s mix of musical entertainment just got even more spectacular with the addition of chart topper Jessie J on Wednesday 8th July, World Music pioneers Gipsy Kings featuring Nicolas Reyes & Tonino Baliardo on Saturday 11th July and a host of top comedians. Appearing in The Salon Late enjoy the award winning Mark Watson, impressive impressions from The Only Way Is Downton, musical comedy from The Horne Section, risingstar Abandoman, Australian maestro Adam Hills and the multi talented Adam Kay.  

WEDNESDAY 8TH JULY – Bringing her inimitable vocal talent to Henley Festival’s Floating Stage is one of the UK’s most successful contemporary artists, Jessie J, whose much-anticipated performance sure to light up the riverbanks. Over in The Salon Late, TV personality and first rate stand up Mark Watson takes to the stage ready toleave the audience in stitches.

Jessie J said: “So excited to be headlining the opening night of the Henley Festival this year and performing alongside the likes of Lionel Richie!!

THURSDAY 9TH JULY – Bringing all the hits, allnight Long on Thursday, international superstar Lionel Richie makes his Henley Festivaldebut on the Floating Stage. Comedy masterpiece The Only Way Is Downton takes over The Salon Late as impressionist extraordinaire Luke Kempner comes to Henley, plus guests can enjoy music from singer songwriter Hannah Scott and more talented performers throughout the evening.

FRIDAY 10TH JULY – For One Night Only – By overwhelming popular demand a full orchestral, classical concert headlines the festival on Friday. Celebrate the music of George Gershwin in the company of the full Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Troy Miller and Fabio D’Andrea. Vocal sensations Laura Mvula and Gregory Porter perform together alongside superstar classical trumpeter Alison Balsom and Chinese wunderkind Ji Liu at the piano. For ballet fans, Ballet Black unveils new dances to accompany the music devised by the acclaimed choreographer and performer Christopher Marney.   Plus, the UK’s finest musicians and comics come together in the Salon Late in the form of The Horne Section, a spontaneous stand-up performance with outlandish musical talent, followed by superstar DJ Krystalroxx who returns for the second year in Indigo.

SATURDAY 11TH JULY – Taking the top slot is the Grammy Award winning Gipsy Kings featuring Nicolas Reyes and Tonino Baliardo, who have dominated the World Music charts for 25 years and sold more than fourteen million albums. After a sell out headline performance at Henley Festival in 2008, the group make welcome return to the Floating Stage. The multi Award winning Abandoman heads up the evening’s comedy in The Salon Late, creating hilarious freestyle songs at lightening speed based on audience suggestions. Also joining the comedy bill in the Salon Late Late is writer, producer, musician and comedy connoisseur Adam Kay who’s songs and performances have made him one of the most in demand comedians of the moment.

Gypsy Kings said: "We love playing Henley Festival and the audience that comes out, we look forward to the fiesta."

SUNDAY 12TH JULY – Ahead of announcing our special guest headline act, Henley Festival is proud to host one of the world’s best stand-up comics, Adam Hills.  Having achieved international success with many critically acclaimed shows, his combination of positive uplifting comedy & rampant spontaneity have seen him receive numerous of awards, glowingreviews and a legion of fans around the planet, don’t miss this special performance in The Salon Late.

Lionel Richie set for Henley Festival 2015

The glamorous Henley Festival in partnership with BMW, returns to the banks of the River Thames for five extraordinary installments from 8th– 12th July 2015.  From the moment you enter our world,the fun-loving & quirky black tie festival presents a kaleidoscope of entertainment at every turn.  Join us for world-class music, witty comedy shows, art & sculpture, eclectic pop up dining, immersive street theatre and fireworks with a twist each evening. Just 6,000 tickets will be available for each evening from www.henley-festival.co.uk at 9am on 26th January, priced from £35.

THURSDAY 9TH JULY, LIONEL RICHIE – Making his Henley Festival debut on the Floating Stage, the multi award winning, international superstar, Lionel Richie, who has been on the forefront of the music scene with a career spanning over three decades. With over 100 million album sales worldwide to his name and hits including HelloAll Night Long and Dancing On The Ceiling, this will be a night not to be missed.

Lionel Richie said: “I’m looking forward to playing at Henley Festival as I don’t think I’ve ever played on a Floating Stage on the River Thames before!  There’s been some great acts perform over the years at Henley so I’m very excited for it to be my turn.” 

FRIDAY 10TH JULY – Who got Rhythm?! – A Gershwin Spectacular – Back by overwhelming popular demand, an orchestral experience like no other takes the headline slot on Friday 10th July. Celebrate the music of George Gershwin in the company of the entire Philharmonia Orchestra, as they perform a selection of timeless classics, spanning an iconic repertoire, including lavish arrangements of Rhapsody in Blue, Fascinating Rhythm, A Foggy Day in London Town – and of course I Got Rhythm. Conducted by Troy Miller and Fabio D’Andrea, the all-star cast will see performances from acclaimed jazz singer Gregory Porter, award-winning trumpet soloist Alison Balsom and Chinese prodigy Ji Liu at the piano, plus a host of other stars taking to the Floating Stage.