The Henley Festival is a wonderful annual black tie event bringing together music, culture, art and fine dining for a five evening celebration. Headline performers on the floating stage this year included Tom Jones, Jools Holland , Mica Paris and Alexandra Burke. Other performers are situated throughout the festival, from classical musicians to comics and variety performers plus performance artists wandering amongst the crowds. Galleries of all types displayed every imaginable sort of art works, from sketches to sculptures. Everything was for sale, from work by fledgling artists’ at reasonable prices to an original Dali sculpture priced at over £1.5 million.
The food is pretty amazing too, and there is absolutely no shortage of places to eat at virtually every price point. From Albert and Michel Roux’s Roux at the Riverside and La Scala to the beautiful Terrace Restaurant, there is something for everyone. Heston Blumenthal even has an outdoor branch of his very famous pub, The Hinds Head, on site.
We ate in The Terrace Restaurant, and enjoyed a beautiful three course meal, accompanied by champagne and some lovely wines, that I will be writing more about on The 21st Century Housewife’s Kitchen. It’s wonderful eating right by the banks of the Thames, watching the wonderful launches, boats and yachts go by.
As we attended on the Friday night, we enjoyed the performance by Jools Holland and his band on the floating stage. The more expensive seats are all under cover, although you can sit right on the edge of the river in deck chairs if you want to be closer to the action (and risk the British weather). Luckily, while it was overcast and cool last Friday night, it did not rain. We were not taking any chances though, and I had booked the seats under cover!
It’s such fun watching the boats, which continue to go past during the performance (they can proceed behind the floating stage and out the other side). The people on the boats wave and dance, and folks in the audience wave back. One particular boat had about five teenagers dancing on the top of it (watched over by two adults on the deck, thankfully no one fell in!) and they danced the whole time. The folks in the audience got such a kick out of it that every time they passed, many of them stood up and danced too!
After the main performances are over, you can wander round the festival, choosing either to watch some of the fringe performances or visit one of the many bars. We had a glass of champagne in The Bedouin Lounge Bar before stopping at The Hinds Head pop up pub on our way to leave the festival.
We passed up the chance to queue to go into the world’s smallest nightclub (verified by the Guinness Book of World Records), a small tent on the banks of the river, complete with a dance floor and bar!
The evening is rounded off by a fabulous fireworks display, complete with acrobats, which this year were floating in mid-air suspended from huge balloons. The Henley Festival really is a wonderful event, such a great evening out, and we are already looking forward to attending next year!
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