Now in its 36th year, Henley Festival – the UK’s most glamorous boutique festival – is returning to its spectacular setting on the riverbank in Henley-on-Thames from 11th – 15th July 2018.
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.
The Headliners On The Floating Stage
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, will get the Festival off to an explosive start with her 2017 hit singles, Your Song and Anywhere.
A lifelong provocateur, Grace Jones will light up Henley Festival with an 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 surely 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. Curtis Stigers and the Ronnie Scott’s Orchestra will also be joined by a very special guest – the actor, writer, comedian and impressionist, Rob Brydon. The star of the memorable BBC drama Gavin & Stacey and chair of BBC’s hit panel game show Would I Lie To You?, Rob will bring his trademark comic style and vocal impressions to Saturday night’s Floating Stage concert.
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 the award-winning young welsh Soloist Natalya Romaniw, 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 and Turandot, as well as a little Gilbert & Sullivan to top the night off.
The Stellar Comedy Line-up
The 2018 comedy line-up is set to be bigger and better than ever, with the likes of Paul Merton, 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, Rhys James, Flo & Joan and Adam Rowe will also be keeping audiences entertained, as well as jaw-achingly funny cabaret from Tina C and Vellma Celli.
Folk Music In The Bedouin Tent
Enter The Bedouin Tent for a real taste of folk. Henley will be presenting up-and-coming folk music names 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, and 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.
Food By A Michelin Star Chef
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. 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’s astonishingly creative, flawlessly executed dishes focus on purity of flavour and reverence for ingredients. Angela admitted that she is “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.”
Dramatic Visual Arts
Henley Festival is one of the very few festivals to showcase artwork 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 by Rosamond Lloyd and will also be collaborating with the contemporary art curator and aboriginal art collector Jennifer Guerrini Maraldi.
Henley Festival is topped off by a jaw-dropping overhead firework display. The display this year 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 and Hogmanay 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 that Titanium works with.