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
 
Joy
Love Revolution
Runaway
Light My Fire
(The Doors cover)
Thank You
Changes
Who Am I
You and I
Grace
Switch It On
Leave Right Now
 

Encore:
 
Let's Dance
(David Bowie cover)
Your Game
Jealousy
All Time Love
Evergreen

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.
 
THE FLOATING STAGE 
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.
 
RONNIE SCOTT’S
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.
 
NEW MUSIC STAGE
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.
 
PURE HEAVEN 
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.
 
FOODIE 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.

 
DIGITAL CABARET & STREET THEATRE
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!
 
VISUAL ARTS
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.
 
FAMILY SUNDAY
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.
 
THE CHILDREN’S SOCIETY
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.

Lineup announced for Cornbury Festival

Just look who’s coming…major international stars like Elvis Costello, James Morrison and Alison Moyet….great performers like Will Young, Jools Holland, and the irrepressible bluesman Seasick Steve, pop princess Pixie Lott, the intriguing trio Stooshe and mischievous Norwegian instrumentalists Katzenjammer will all join the fun. US diva Macy Gray makes her first ever UK Festival appearance.

James Morrison

Here’s Cornbury 2012’s complete line-up…SO FAR.

Opening up Friday is aspiring singer Juan Zelada and rocker Beth Hart. The day unfolds with appearances from the likes of critically-acclaimed star Gretchen Peters, the awesome live act that is Eli Paperboy Reed & The True Loves along with starlet Pixie Lott. Friday night sees festival favourites Waterboys, 80s diva Alison Moyet and singer-song writer James Morrison.

Come Saturday and Cornbury favourite Elvis Costello will be joined on the main stage by his band The Imposters, while gracing the Songbird stage will be House TV star-turned bluesman Hugh Laurie & his Copper Bottom Band. Revellers will also be treated to the ultra-talented Police Dog Hogan along with local hero Danny & The Champions of the World on the main stage. Other artists include troubadour Newton Faulkner, the awesome Rainy Boy Sleep, the emotionally raw Tom Baxter, joined by Aloe Blacc, who brings his Motown-esque troupe for some compulsory dancing on the back of their international hit ‘I Need a Dollar’

National Treasure Jools Holland, brings his unique Rhythm & Blues Orchestra to Sunday’s proceedings with guests Marc Almond & Ruby Turner. Rhythm & blues fans are further catered for with legendary rockers 9 Below Zero and extraordinary Texan rockers Los Lonely Boys. Closing the Songbird stage is the beautiful songwriter Nerina Pallot, who makes a welcome return, and Norway’s best live band, the completely brilliant Katzenjammer will be strumming, plucking, blowing and banging their way through a huge selection of instruments.

Also at Cornbury 2012…

The Absolute Comedy Stage returns bigger and better than ever before. Expect a fun-filled Friday programme presented by local regulars Charlbury Riverside, who is set to field a two-day 3rd stage line-up joined by Balham’s infamous Kashmir Club. On top of this, a fantastic children’s zone with countless programmes will keep kids entertained all weekend long.

Getting the artist bill together is always a nail-biting task but I think we’ve raised the bar yet again with some great exclusives and a fantastic range of artists, so there really is something for everyone –  and maybe I’ll even get to see some of it” says festival director Hugh Phillimore.  

    “2012 could be our best year yet. We’ve weathered some difficult times in previous years, successfully relocated the festival to an even better site, stayed true to our original aims in remaining a truly independent family festival, and I’ve had nothing but positive feedback from the local community who’ve supported us brilliantly over the years – so all bodes well for a successful 9th Cornbury.”

As a family-orientated festival, Cornbury undoubtedly offers something for everyone. The glamour, the charm and the comfort of a VIP area have given it the status for being UK’s ‘cleanest, cosiest’ boutique festival. With a slightly eccentric atmosphere and mixture of the old and new, this quintessentially English event preserves its good natured, inclusive feel. Set in one of the most spectacular and most ancient sites in the Cotswold countryside, coupled with some truly ‘feel-good’ music, Cornbury 2012 is sure to resonate in everybody’s mind.