Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Performers ready to go

HENLEY’S sixth annual Living Advent Calendar will begin on Thursday.

There will be an opening night performance on the town hall steps in partnership with the Spice Merchant restaurant.

The following night’s show will take place in Friday Street, in partnership with Boatique and Hot Gossip, during the Henley Christmas Festival when thousands of people will be in the town centre for the switch-on of the Christmas tree lights, entertainment and late-night shopping.

The calendar, which is sponsored by the Henley Standard, is an annual charity fund-raiser that involves 24 half-hour performances by singers, dancers, poets, musicians and other artists on every evening from December 1 until Christmas Eve.

The identity of each performer is kept a secret until they actually appear, as with opening a door on an actual advent calendar.

Each night starts at 6.15pm and is dedicated to a particular charity or community group, which can promote its work while holding a bucket collection and raffle. Different businesses support each event by providing free refreshments.

As usual, the closing event will take place at St Mary’s Church in Hart Street.

Organiser Richard Rodway, of the Head Partnership solicitors, said: “Everything’s ready to go. Everyone is so positive and enthusiastic about it that it makes my life a lot easier.

“The long-term weather forecast is good and we’re got some brilliant acts lined up so all the ingredients are in place for another successful year.”

Meanwhile, next Friday’s festival will be opened at 5pm by town crier Ian Beyts which will be followed by a children’s lantern parade featuring pupils from the town’s primary schools.

Father Christmas will lead the youngsters around the town centre, finishing at the town hall steps in Market Place before he moves to his grotto at King’s Arms Barn.

Children who visit Santa will be given a free present donated by the Tesco.

The lights on the tree in Market Place will be switched on by Mayor Julian Brookes, the winner of his Christmas card competition and a representative from Invesco Perpetual, which paid for the tree.

This will be followed by carol singing on the town hall steps, with accompaniment from the Marlow Town Band and choirs from Henley Baptist Church and Gillotts School.

Hart Street will be closed to traffic from 3pm until 10pm while Bell Street, Friday Street and Duke Street will be closed from 4pm until 10pm.

As usual, there will be craft, charity and community group stalls and others selling food and drink in Market Place, while fairground rides will be set up in Hart Street, Bell Street and Duke Street.

Henley in Bloom will run a “wishing tree” where children can write their festive wishes on a tag then hang it on a branch.

A display all the entries to the Mayor’s Christmas card competition will be in the window of the former Spirited Wines premises in Market Place.

There will be a box office selling tickets to the Kenton Theatre’s Christmas pantomime Sleeping Beauty and members of the cast will be greeting visitors in character.

Many shops will open until 9pm so people can go shopping.

Councillor Brookes said: “The Christmas festival will offer something for all ages, whether it’s activities for the children or the chance to shop and enjoy a late dinner for parents.

“It really adds to the economic vibrancy of the town and the businesses get as much out of it as the residents.”

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