Artistic director of the 2014 Henley Festival STEWART COLLINS explains how the team are always up for a change...
I HAVE an exciting addition to this year’s line-up to announce — Eliza Doolittle is joining the legendary Burt Bacharch as a guest on stage on the Friday night.
Eliza is a fabulous example of young British songwriting talent and I can’t think of a better way of combining the old with the new.
Here at the festival office we are limbering up for our 32nd year at the stewards’ enclosure at the royal regatta site, a good time to remember something that’s sort-of been forgotten.
This time last year we revealed the possibility that the festival would be moving. It hasn’t moved, of course, but one year on it’s probably worth reflecting that we did indeed listen to the sentiments being expressed by our supporters in making that decision. The move was clearly something that a lot of people felt very strongly about, but we have used the energy of the whole debate to do some fresh thinking about the festival.
Fresh thinking has always been in the festival’s DNA. You will probably have noticed that only very very rarely do you see the same artists twice. But this year we have gone that extra mile to ring the changes. None of our headliners have been before: Bryan Ferry, Joss Stone, Burt Bacharach, The Jacksons, The Overtones, Rebecca Ferguson, Jasper Carrott, Alastair MacGowan, Rick Wakeman, Milton Jones and so on, but there’s loads more that’s new.
A second stage will be built into the river to accommodate the Lords of Lightning fireworks spectacle. Our new fireworks company will also show some mesmerizingly beautiful fire sculptures on the lawns. For the first time ever our Roving Company of Eccentrica will be delivering their bizarrely wonderful brand of magic right through into the later evening, while there will also be performances on the lawns as never seen before.
But equally we’ve taken the opportunity this year to re-think a lot about that other massively important element of any Henley Festival, the dining. We will be able to cater for more festival goers this year, but even more importantly we’ve introduced a newer, more varied range of options — Paul Clerehugh’s wonderful Crooked Billet from Stoke Row joins the all new Salon Quarter, and last year’s popular local success, The Spice Merchant, is back with us bigger and better. A new un-reservable outlet called Jerry Boham’s (yes, it is a pun!) makes its bow as do a whole series of top quality “on-the-go” grazing outlets. .
They say that a change is as good as a rest. Well we’re changing and not resting!