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What on earth do you do all night, Mr Director?
Published 02/06/14

Artistic director of the 2014 Henley Festival STEWART COLLINS explains what tough going it is once the music gets underway.

I WAS doing a bit of guest speaking about my role the other day and when we got to the Q&A session one of the questions was: “What do you actually do while the festival is on?” I felt like a young mum who’s asked, “What do you actually do all day?”

I think the assumption was that I hunkered down in one of the dining marquees or at a bar waiting for calls on the radio in case anything went wrong. In fact, the answer is that I do pretty much what a promenader does on a festival evening. I get out and see as much of the evening’s programme as possible, partly for fun, but also to note what and what isn’t working.

Firstly, I take in as much of the Roving Company of Eccentrica’s antics as possible. As the name suggests, these guys rove constantly around the site, helping create the ambience that makes the festival as relaxed and quirky as possible, and it’s great to see how these performing oddities (in the nicest possible sense) interact with the crowd. This year I shall be fascinated to see how our friends the Cupids from France make out, as well as first-time visitors to the UK the Mirror Family from Slovakia. It’s often the overseas acts that are the most surreal and, believe it or not, the most eccentric.

Stewart Collins, Henley Festival
Stewart Collins, artistic director of the 2014 Henley Festival

I always endeavour to catch the early evening concerts in the Salon, and this year that will be even higher on my agenda as the acts we have in place are of terrific quality. Purely for the fun of it I’ll be watching the “Sinatra” event, Thursday night’s Close to You, as the musicianship as well as the entertainment value will be of the highest order. I shall almost certainly drop in on one of our catering outlets for a momentary bit of grazing and being next to the Salon, Paul Clerehugh’s new Crooked Billet pop-up just will almost certainly win the day as I so love what that guy does.

Then before checking in on the Floating Stage act, I will head to the main lawn to see how the art and sculpture is being received (this year’s collection is truly terrific), but also to see some of the many performances scheduled for the early evening — the aerialist La Luna, the kite-flying Spaniards of A ta ka! and Daria van den Bercken’s open-air classical piano concerts — before moving on to the bedouin tent to see how that’s checking out and how the music is going in there….

Then there will be some shape-throwing in the Indigo night club if I’ve got any spare energy. It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it. Any more questions?

PUBLISHED 02/06/14

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