The UK’s most glamorous festival is back! 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 music, and the Festival was due to return to its spectacular setting on the riverbank in Henley-on-Thames in July 2020. However, it is with much sadness and regret that the Henley Festival Board of Trustees and CEO Nick Mattingley have agreed to postpone Henley Festival for a full year, meaning that the festival will return on 7th – 11th July 2021. Thus far, the line-up remains unchanged.
Seminal British pop band Madness will open Henley Festival on the Wednesday night. One of the top 20 biggest-selling UK groups of all time, Madness have seven top 10 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 Baggy Trousers, House of Fun and It Must Be Love alongside new songs from their first album in five years, titled 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, with their 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 his hit single You’re Beautiful. The album 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 pop queen 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. 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 and 1980s electronic sounds to Henley, Ellis Bextor’s headline show is bound to have everybody dancing the night away!
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 a full 36 piece orchestra, live band, singers and dancers for an amazing performance of Disco Classical, along with the legendary Kathy Sledge of Sister Sledge. Formed in 1971, Sister Sledge achieved international success at the height of the disco era and Kathy Sledge will be performing some of their most loved tracks including hits from their breakthrough album We Are Family. Disco Classical and Kathy Sledge will create one of the most memorable live music experiences, filled with fun and captivating light displays.
On Sunday night, classical superstar Myleene Klass will present Classic FM’s Classical Salute, an evening of classical and military music performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Stephen Bell. 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 Goodwin’s 633 Squadron. The evening will end with triumphant fireworks exploding over the river to celebrate the final night of the Festival.
There is a stellar comedy line-up at this year’s Henley Festival, set to be bigger and better than ever with the likes of Al Murray, Milton Jones, Shappi Khorsandi and Rory Bremner among the comedians performing. 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, while Milton Jones will be bringing his hilariously clever one-liners to Henley’s comedy line-up, delivering puns in his uniquely deadpan and purposely neurotic style.
Henley Festival is one of the very few festivals in the UK to showcase artworks from some of the UK’s most talented artists. Focusing largely on local talent this year, Henley Festival is delighted to play host to a string of up-and-coming 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 – not to be missed!
For further information and to book tickets for this year’s Henley Festival, go to www.henley-festival.co.uk.