Tuesday, 14 July 2009

The Henley Festival

For over a quarter of a century the Henley Festival of Music and The Arts has been a permanent fixture of the summer social calendar here in Henley. I’ve been to every single one of them, and with its unique riverside setting the five-day festival offers an incredible variety of artistic performances both visual and musical.

The scene on the river at Festival time

This year the organisers really surpassed themselves. I went on Wednesday evening with Felicity, Josephine and cousin Paul. The main attraction and star of the show was the fabulous young singer - Katherine Jenkins. What a n extraordinary repertoire she has!

Katherine Jenkins
She was performing on the floating stage. This enormous stage is set right on the river, facing back towards the Regatta stands. As you watch the show boats of every description silently glide past, forming a unique moving backdrop. Before the show we wandered around the many tented art galleries dotted around the grounds. Certainly the best ever art exhibits they’ve staged, in my opinion. Here are a few examples:

At the end of the evening we were treated to a spectacular ‘aerialist’ artistically cavorting to music high in the air encased in a semi-transparent orchid-shaped bubble called ‘The Diamond’ which slowly inflated to a height of over 30 feet. (During a phone-in last Sunday morning to BBC Radio Berkshire, in my excitement when describing the Festival, I irreverently described the Diamond as a giant sparkly transparent condom! Oh dear).

The Diamond
Adjacent to the Diamond a lone violinist played a melody as he carefully transversed a tightrope high above our heads.

The evening ended with a firework spectacular, set to music.

Sunday was the last day of the Festival. I‘d been invited there, with a companion (Kerry), by the Chairman. We met at Paul and Debbie’s home and were all at the Festival grounds by 6pm, which gave us time - before joining our hosts for dinner - to see more of the art exhibits. As we went in a pair of enormous ‘flies’ towered over us accompanied by an equally tall ‘Devil’.

A big 'Fly'
Kerry, me, Debbie and Paul

An exclusive exhibition of Salvadore Dali’s work was on display. This bronze sculpture is of a ballerina dancing on a piano.

The Terrace Restaurant overlooks the river where we joined our hosts for dinner. As we ate we watched the tranquil ever-changing scene before us. It was a beautiful balmy night, which pleased the girls, even though they’d brought pashmina’s in case the wind blew in from the river. The main attraction on the floating stage was ‘The Bootleg Beatles’ - probably the best tribute Beatle band in the world. Kerry, being a dancer and singer, was thoroughly enjoying herself from our wonderful vantage point in the stand as she clapped away in time to the music. Me, I’m more of an Elvis Presley fan.

The 'Bootleg Beatles' on the floating stage
The evening – and the Festival – ended with Jo Brand performing at the Riverside Cabaret tent. She’s one of Britain’s best female comedians and is renowned for being a bit scatological. I find her extremely funny. Pity we had to stand – she’s very popular. Her show lasted nearly an hour, after which we wended our way home around midnight.
I haven’t done much painting this week. Been a bit under the weather, I’m afraid.
You know, I really value my friends. Very caring. On Saturday morning, for example, Felicity drove me to The Royal Berkshire Hospital for a pelvic scan. And waited the couple of hours till it was over to bring me back home. And another good friend will take me to another hospital on Thursday morning for my scheduled colonoscopy- which I’m not looking forward to.


Joy said...

Thinking of you Bill and wishing you well come Thursday my friend!

Bluebells in the spring said...

Hope you feel better and nothing to worry about Thursday, they get you a little high and it will be over before you know it!

Stay well!

Golden Oriole said...

Nice to have good friends to help out in difficult times. You look after them, they will look after you.

I'm sure you will be fine on Thursday. I know a friend of mine who had it done, it's not the nicest of procedures, but you'll survive it.

Artydave said...

I wouldn't worry about the condom comparison Bill, I thought it was most apt! All the best for tomorrow, I'm sure you'll bounce back in your inimitable style...

RG9 said...

I told folk it was a blue condom too!

We went up to the Festival in the boat on Friday with some friends and provided part of the "silent backdrop".

A little rain did nothing to dampen our spirits [or dilute the red wine] and as we cast off from our mooring the moment the firewaorks barrage ceased, we were the second boat into Hambledon Lock so no queueing there!

Later that night I heard several boats in the main river channel going absolutely flat out and on Saturday evening we saw three speedboats doing at least 20 mph [the river speed limit is 5 mph] on their way to the festival, none of which slowed even when shouted at by other river users. They simply didn't care what their wash was doing to the other boats or the river bank.

Anyway, I hope tomorrow goes well for you. Fingers crossed.

RG9 said...

For those of you who don't know - and I hope Bill won't mind me posting this when he returns - he had an operation last week and may not be posting for a little bit.
I am sure I can speak for everyone when I say we all wish him a full and speedy recovery.

AnotherGoodFriend said...

Yes, as RG9 says, Bill was taken into hospital for an operation last Thursday. He's recovering well but will be there for a few days yet. One of his first requests however was his laptop and that coupled with a USB broadband dongle and a helpful friend with fast typing fingers might allow him to post something in the coming days, though he gets tired very quickly.
I'll pass on your good wishes, RG9, I'm sure he'll appreciate it.

RG9 said...

I saw the Swan Upping for the first time this morning: it was just as Bill had painted it. Then, walking through Henley this afternoon, there was Bill's painting in pride of place in the window of a newly opened art gallery!

Joy said...

omgosh! My thoughts are with him! I've been thinking of him EVERYDAY and just thought to check out if any other comments were left. Wishing him a speedy recovery and waiting to 'hear' his voice updating the blog. HEaling thoughts from Joy in the USA!