Thursday, 21 September 2017
Erosion of standards
Sir, — Huge numbers of residents and visitors, who have been avid supporters of Henley Festival for many years, have witnessed with dismay the gradual morphing over recent years of the once prestigious and glorious Henley Music Festival into a Rewind-type event (with festival prices), delivering concerts by popular “beat” performers and attracting a much younger audience who appreciate the excessive volume, flashing lasers, and constant thud of the contemporary genre.
We remember past performances by the likes of Montserrat Caballé, Kiri Te Kanawa, Bryn Terfel, spectacular marching military bands, full concert orchestras supporting the music of Abba and Queen. And, more recently, legends like Lionel Richie, Elton John and Burt Bacharach.
Things have changed, and one of the turning points was when Alfie Boe, much revered for his delivery of songs from the shows and opera, and attracted a huge audience of excited “people of a certain age”, the real festival followers, who were so disappointed that his repertoire on the night was largely pop music!
Doesn’t the festival team tell performers what we want to hear? Now they don’t even allow us one evening of popular classical music and this year the real fireworks have disappeared.
There is now noisy music on the “floating stage” before the main concert too, so that we can’t properly enjoy our meal in the terrace restaurant because it is impossible to hold an audible conversation with our guests.
Even worse, people in the audience are constantly leaving their seats, shoving past the rest of us and returning noisily, loaded with champagne buckets and glasses, and standing up to boogie, regardless of the people sitting behind them, throughout the evening.
Years ago, people remained in their seats, as requested, right through the performance. Whatever has happened to etiquette?
The current organising team should consider all of this because a whole generation of disappointed faithful supporters will in future “vote with their feet” with great personal loss. Does this indeed worry the team?
There have been many improvements on site, dining facilities in particular. We appreciate the need to change, and the need to better support the charities is hugely important. However, in some areas, quality has been sacrificed for revenue, resulting in an erosion of standards. – Yours faithfully,
Marlow Road, Hambleden
Bring back classy acts
Sir, — I’ve supported the Henley Festival since its inception 35 years ago and I can honestly say that you have definitely lost the plot when it comes to the “floating stage” entertainment.
The music should reflect the true values of the event, unique, engaging, classy and special but can you honestly say the likes of Chaka Khan, Goldie, All Saints really do this?
I’ve never seen the grandstand empty out so quickly when they were subjected to Chaka Khan’s abject performance, talk about losing an audience.
I live across from the festival site and even had to shut my windows when Goldie was strutting his stuff, the consolation being I didn’t have to pay for it!
I appreciate the corporate element requirement to help balance the books is important and, realistically, these folks don’t care too much about who is entertaining them as long as the drinks flow all night but please take a good hard look at what you’re doing to a very special event.
I also appreciate that the festival has to appeal to a broader diverse audience but why on earth can’t you across five days have one decent orchestra, it doesn’t have to be too highbrow, there are enough sing-a-long classical songs to keep our corporate chums happy. The talent doesn’t even have to cost that much, there is huge variety of great young talent in Europe who would love to showcase their talent and enrich the evening.
As things stand I’m never going to waste my money on a grandstand ticket again, I will just visit the festival and treat it as a posh comedy club!
Please, please, put the class back in to classy and get a musical line-up that is befitting of such a special event in a very special location. — Yours faithfully,
Thames Side, Henley
New direction is not for me
Sir, — I write with real disappointment that this year’s Henley Festival will likely be my last.
Having attended the festival annually since the Eighties when I was a teenager, I have become increasingly disappointed by the direction the festival appears to have taken.
When I first attended the festival, it was very much an arts festival with an eclectic mix of classical music, comedy, book readings, arts and crafts and, of course, the entertaining travelling artists.
When asked to describe the festival I would struggle to label it as just one thing but “eccentric” and “typically British” were words often used.
Now, sadly, the festival has turned into a platform for pop artists with the classical element and arts almost completely cast aside.
Where there used to be a real mixture of paintings, sculptures etc, we now have a series of sweaty bars with loud booming music with very little to do post the main event other than drink.
One of the highlights for me was always the “spectacle” following the main event on the “floating stage” — some of which were so extraordinary and unforgettable.
This year, we were treated to some half-hearted flares and one minute of “fireworks” (I would also suggest the festival change their advertising photos as the current shots clearly show an extravagant firework display over the “floating stage”).
What has changed in the last five years to necessitate such a commercial approach? With all the additional seating being squeezed in and the clear increase in ground ticket sales, surely the Festival’s profits have increased?
In recent years, the crowds have been so bad that it can become hard to walk from one area to another, such is the throng of attendees.
Over the years, I have enjoyed the mixture of pop/classical/musical theatre and wonder why the festival seems so keen to disenfranchise the “older” audience that supported it so wholeheartedly when it started?
Unfortunately my parents and many of their friends see no reason to ever return (many of whom have high levels of membership to the Festival). Perhaps even some of those of who consider ourselves “younger” would enjoy a greater degree of cultural challenge?
Despite an unparalleled riverside setting, the festival has lost all its charm and is running the risk of completely alienating loyal residents and visitors. Having attended on Friday night and noted the grandstand gradually emptying during Chaka Khan’s performance, the audience are already voting with their feet. — yours faithfully,
Canford Road, London
Sir, — What a fantastic festival. The site looked wonderful, remarkable after such a fast turn-round from the regatta, and so did the people, the atmosphere was magical, it was good to see the involvement of so many local restaurants and businesses, the art was inspirational, the security was discreet but reassuring, the welcome and the farewells were friendly and cheerful and there was a huge amount to see, listen to and enjoy.
My dogs were miffed because there was nothing to forage for in the car parks – the litter pickers both on site and out were incredibly efficient. The programme may have seemed a little disappointing at first but the brilliant organisation more than made up for it, helped by the weather. Well done and thank you to the Festival team.
I shall certainly be back every evening next year if I possibly can, and won’t hesitate to recommend it to any family and friends I would like to spend a fun evening with and impress.
I am sure there will be complaints because there always are, as it’s easier to criticise than to praise, but let’s look at the positives. The people of Henley and Remenham are very fortunate to have this utterly unique event on our riverbank and we should be very proud — lucky us. — Yours faithfully,
My dream headliners
Sir, — I had a great night at the festival with my granddaughter and her friend on Wednesday, she loved Less Gin, sorry, Jess Glynne and I loved seeing Geno Washington after many years since the Ricky-Tick Windsor nights.
I was approached by your reporters who asked who I would like to see playing there. Not having much time to think on my feet I said Enya, her sister Moyà and Meg Ryan.
I stand by my answer but, having had time to think about it, I would have also included the three octave singer Lisa Gerrard, Blondie and the Rolling Stones.
I would also love to see Georgie Fame, Eric Burdon and The Animals but the ideal artist would be Ray Davies…Cliff Richard and The Shadows would be a Brucie bonus. – Yours faithfully,
Train service is chaotic
Sir, — The First Gresat Western service is chaotic at best and a disgrace at worst.
The two-hour delays getting home on Wednesday night last week were bad enough but we were greeted by delays again the following morning.
Twyford was chaotic with the 08.14 to Maidenhead and the 08.26 both delayed. It appeared to have a knock-on effect after that.
Not a staff member was in sight to explain which train was which as the announcements were a mess and changed every minute.
I caught the 8.26, which crawled towards Maidenhead, close to 20 minutes behind schedule.
I have a job to do which relies on being on time to attend meetings but I can’t rely on FGW’s service to allow me to do that.
What is going on? If the FGW managing director Mark Hopwood had any deliverable targets set by his bosses he would be on a disciplinary by now and facing dismissal for this mess we live with daily. — Yours faithfully (and delayed again),
High Street, Wargrave
Mark Hopwood, managing director, Great Western Railway, responds: “Please accept my apologies for the delay you experienced to your journeys. last night and this morning.
“Wednesday night was awful. As you may know it was caused by a failure in the signal system at the Heathrow Airport Junction. Network Rail could not operate any signals and all trains were brought to a stop. In all, 23 trains were partially cancelled and further 99 were cancelled altogether. It was a really difficult evening for customers and I am sorry you were affected.
“The delays on Thursday were caused by another signal failure, which delayed trains coming off Old Oak Common depot and into service. This caused a number of late starts and impacted services throughout the morning peak.
“We are working with Network Rail to address the performance issues and have a dedicated team working on this. I will raise the issue of no visible staff with our regional retail manager — this is not good enough and I apologise.”
Inconvenient cycle race
Sir, — Apparently I am meant to be honoured, as a resident in Woodcote, to have the Wallingford Festival of Cycling race through the village.
I pay tax, road tax and council tax — I do not consider it an honour to be told I cannot leave my home, if I require it, because some U18s need to race.
I agree it is a good cause but a little consideration from the participants and organisers would be good.
We are unable to close the road for 10 minutes for Remembrance Day but U18s can close it for a whole day. Where is the justice there?
Plus, why must we clear the roads of parked cars thus stopping churchgoers who need to come by car? We pay taxes to allow us to use the roads.
I do believe I am not alone in being annoyed at this inconvenience. — Yours faithfully,
South Stoke Road, Woodcote
Sir, — We have just returned from holiday to find a large yellow notice outside our house saying our road will be closed on Sunday morning and afternoon for a bicycle race and I have no other way of driving to or from my property.
The road is called a “public highway”. It is owned by and for use of the public. It is not a private cycle path.
It was my intention to go to The Thames Traditional Boat Festival in Henley on Sunday but, obviously, I can’t if the road is closed.
I can’t go to the shops, the church or do anything, it is riduclous. We may have had friends and family coming for lunch, if we had that would have had to have been cancelled. I do not know who organised or agreed to this closure but I was certainly not consulted.
I accept highways may have to be closed or controlled for maintenance of the surface or the underground services occasionally, but not for a privately-organised bicycle race that locks us and others into their properties. — Yours faithfully,
Mark P Hatt
South Stoke Road, Woodcote
Wallingford Festival of Cycling co-organiser Tony Sefton responds: “We are hugely endebted to the local people for their support for the event and recognise that it will cause some inconvenience but overall think that the opportunity to inspire a generation in our area was worth the disruption. This was very much echoed by the parishes at out consultation meeting in February.
“The volunteer festival organisers have appointed a traffic management company, Road Traffic Solutions, to help them come up with a plan to cause as little disruption as possible to traffic on the day. To host this top sporting event, they are also working in partnership with several parish councils, Wallingford Town Council, South Oxford District Council, Oxfordshire County Council and British Cycling.
“We have had many queries regarding the rolling road closure since the yellow road closure signs have been put in place in the last week. The times on the yellow signs are indicative time periods within which the racers are predicted to pass through. Because the race involves loops, some of the time periods are long to allow for the riders to pass multiple times. We are trying to keep all the roads open for as long as possible, hence the rolling road closure. The riders will pass by very quickly and the traffic is only held back for the passing of the riders.
“There are motorbikes which drive ahead and behind the cyclists and communicate with the Marshalls. The Traffic Marshalls will be in high visibility vests and will help you in and out for access when the racers are not using the road. Local radio and WFOC social media will be keeping the public up to date too.
“On Sunday, anyone who has a medical emergency should call 999 as normal and we are working with the emergency services to ensure rapid access and egress to the affected area. Anyone requiring regular medical care should get their care-worker or company to call our hotline number: 01491 528900.
“We thank local residents for putting up with this inconvenience for only one day in the year, where thousands of spectators can be inspired by watching top class athletes compete for a place on the podium and possibly inspire the next generation of Olympic Cyclists!
“To find out more about all the exciting activities taking place on the day and to view the detailed traffic management plan, please visit www.wfoc.co.uk. If you need any further advice regarding how the rolling road closure might affect your journey on Sunday 16 July, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org”
System needs an overhaul
Sir, — Your article on page 12 headed “Patients still receiving fines for parking at GP surgeries” (Standard, July 7) makes interesting reading as I have suffered the same fate as some of your correspondents.
During the past few weeks I have had to attend the Bell Surgery on a number of occasions due to an ulcer on one leg and cellulitis on the other.
The care of the doctors, nurses, in particular has been exceptional, and also the help of the receptionists very good.
When visiting the surgery I have always parked in the disabled spaces (I do have a disabled badge) and have, in my view, and also confirmed by the receptionist, filled in the correct details of my name and car registration number.
On three occasions I received fines and when appealing these were refused, but when the practice manager became involved the three fines were revoked, many thanks to her.
I still have to attend the surgery on a regular basis, and on another occasion have received yet another fine, and am awaiting the outcome.
To contact “Smart Parking” by telephone is a nightmare as you have to wait 20 minutes or so before receiving a recorded message telling you to send the money.
My view is that either the console in the Bell Surgery is faulty, or “Smart Parking” don’t check on disabled spaces (maybe no cameras there) or they don’t tie up the information given to them by the consoles with the appointments in the surgery.
From the many complaints received it would seem they need to overhaul their system or have some double check with the surgery so genuine patients do not receive a fine. I quite agree with the system to stop shoppers using the car park, but it must be monitored correctly. — Yours faithfully,
Wargrave Road, Henley
Sir, — I write in response to Garry Forster’s letter (Standard, July 7) suggesting that Shiplake residents are Nimbys stuck in the Fifties.
The Shiplake community is currently working together to decide how and where new development should take place in accordance with the targets set by South Oxfordshire District Council.
Henley and Harpsden have already completed such an exercise very recently and have a extant neighbourhood plan already which was approved at referendum.
The basic principle of a neighbourhood plan is that the community accepts that development must take place, but can say where it should happen, rather than leaving it to developers and speculators.
The neighbourhood plan steering group has identified a large number of potential development sites (more than 30) and these are all being considered and ranked following which there will be a public consultation exercise. These are hardly the actions of Nimbys!
With regard to the reference to the Bremont factory, there is great concern that Henley and Harpsden’s own recently adopted neighbourhood plan is being ignored.
Bremont is proposing to build on greenfield unallocated land between Henley and Shiplake and not on the designated brownfield site where the former Wyevale Garden Centre was located on the A4155 just outside of Shiplake. Given the ready availability of allocated land it is perhaps surprising that Bremont are proposing to develop on unallocated land in the countryside.
The latest Bremont application is for a facility almost twice the size of that identified in their first application approved but a few short months ago and will also provide for 250 parking spaces so can hardly be considered to be a very minor departure from the neighbourhood plan, but a major development proposal in open countryside. The Wyevale site is actually much closer to Shiplake and is a designated employment site, so the Nimby accusation falls flat on its face for the second time. Mr Forster should really check his facts first before throwing accusations around. — Yours faithfully,
Chairman, Shiplake neighbourhood plan steering group, Reading Road, Lower Shiplake
Just being protective
Sir, — Over some considerable time, the so called “Nimbys of Shiplake”, according to Garry Forster, are stuck in the Fifties and hostile to any change.
This is simply not true. I have lived here for 47 years and Shiplake has expanded within its boundaries in all available areas.
It continues to be a building site as gardens and backland development seem to be the current trend.
However, Shiplake has managed to build new homes and melt in with a rural environment which gives the village its individuality.
The term “Nimby” is interesting, I would suggest that we all become Nimbys when a possible planning notice arrives through the letter box and we find that a proposed development site is next door or opposite. As our homes are our biggest investment, its not surprising that we are concerned. Then there is concern for the village as a whole, what could be termed as the environmental Nimby.
Many people in Shiplake are protective of the whole parish no matter which bit of it is under threat of development. They are concerned, rightly so, of the infrastructure, the school, the roads and the balance which may or may not be able to support a major housing estate.
It is axiomatic that once planning is granted for major developments for both housing and even light industry on the outskirts of a rural village, it is only a matter of time before the next applications appear for “infill’ development — and the village simply becomes an extension of Henley.
There have been many letters over the past year accusing Shiplake and Harpsden residents of opposing any new developments and a good many of these letters seem to come from miles away; particularly in the case of the Thames Farm proposal which seemed to activate the minds of people from miles away.
Shiplake has managed to keep much of its character thanks partly to its river boundary, fields and woodland and a caring parish council who monitor and try to keep a balance of the built and natural environment but its a fragile balance and this period is pivotal. — Yours faithfully,
Station Road, Shiplake
Sir, — I am writing a week after Henley Royal Regatta to set out the reasons why I think your club has behaved so badly and selfishly in closing the section of the towpath in front of your club and Remenham Club.
This towpath is, of course, a right of way and has been since time immemorial until the Stewards obtained a closure order for their section of the towpath from Wokingham Council in the last century. I have cycled and walked it for more than half a century during the regatta.
The reasons given for closure by the club are simply erroneous and, in my view, are a selfish attempt by the club to give their members privileged and private riverfront viewing. It is said by the committee that the towpath is a safety risk, a fashionable reason for preventing another’s pleasure. The only occasion that this safety issue can be said to exist is on a Saturday night. Never during the regatta.
The regatta and its spectators do no harm to your land. We love it and cherish it, as you do. If we picnic on it we do no harm.
It is said by the committee that the debris left by the spectators is an expense to you. But much of the debris is generated by your own sales pitches and debris is left along the whole riverfront. When you acquired this land you chose to acquire this liability of allowing spectators to pass and re-pass along the right of way.
It is said by the committee that the way they have opened is easier to access. It is not. It is longer. It is actually away from the river we come to walk along.
The precedent set by the club could well lead to the closure of other sections of the towpath. I implore you to rectify this serious error of judgement and confirm that you will let us all pass and repass along the right of way without let or hindrance by the club. — Yours faithfully,
Poling, West Sussex
Sir, — In response to the recent news that The Heights Primary has achieved an outstanding Ofsted classification, I am writing, firstly, to congratulate the school and, secondly, to support the choice of Mapledurham Playing Fields (MPF) as its permanent site.
Whilst I appreciate concerns regarding any development on MPF, I believe that a school would bring a huge net benefit to the whole community; this is reflected in the recent consultation where the majority of Caversham residents favoured MPF as the permanent site.
I wish to raise a number of important points.
Firstly, a primary school does not simply deliver education for young children — it is an invaluable resource for the local community: a school can be a venue for a diverse range of activities including adult education, sports classes and so on.
Secondly, MPF are woefully underused. My husband and I have collectively lived in Caversham for more than 50 years, and in that time we have rarely seen anything other than a few people on the fields.
Notwithstanding, the footprint of the school is small in proportion to the MPF area as a whole, and its development should not, therefore, compromise use of the fields; in fact, a primary school may facilitate greater use.
Finally, as a local GP, I am well aware of the impact of car overuse on the community, namely, increased pollution (with adverse effects on respiratory conditions), frequent accidents affecting drivers and pedestrians, and spiralling childhood obesity. All impact negatively on ever-decreasing health and social care budgets.
I strongly believe that a school based within Caversham Heights would have a significant impact on reducing car use. This is surely to be applauded. — Yours faithfully,
Dr L Jamnicky
Priory Avenue, Caversham
I support new site
Sir, —I grew up on St Peter’s Avenue and was fortunate enough to have a garden which backed on to Mapledurham Playing Fields with a “secret” gate which had direct access to this fantastic open space.
I spent many happy hours building camps in the woods, playing tennis at the tennis club, attending play schemes during summer holidays and riding my bike around the park.
Having moved away for 15 years I now find myself back in the area living on Woodcote Way with my husband and two young boys. It quickly became apparent that there was a lack of primary school places and we were thrilled when The Heights opened in 2014 and our son was given a place in 2016.
We were even more thrilled to learn it was deemed outstanding at a recent Ofsted inspection. The reason for me writing is the permanent site.
The temporary site is not sustainable long term and is in the wrong area for where the vast number of children live (there are 10 families alone living on Woodcote Way with children at The Heights).
You may think I would be against the proposal of placing it on the playing fields given my love for it as a child and the fact I have two young children who love running around in a big open space, but I’m not. It’s the perfect site for a school and the majority of open space will remain.
I truly believe the proposal offers a unique opportunity to regenerate the playing fields and enhance an existing asset which can be used by everyone, including my parents who live around the corner.
I understand some people think this might lead to further development but I don’t believe this would be the case as it could only happen if it was in line with the recreation trust.
I look forward to making use of the future, much improved, playing fields with our kids, my parents and our friends for many years to come. — Yours faithfully,
Woodcote Way, Caversham
Sir, — I recently wrote about the poor state of the roads in and around Henley and I am heartened to see part of the Kings Road has a lovely new surface. Thank you to our new county councillor.
However, last week driving along in Harpsden the road was so bad that I thought pieces might fall off my car.
I think its time, through the pages of the Henley Standard, to call upon the Highways Department of Oxfordshire County Council to justify to the people of Henley why they have neglected our roads for years and years.
Now they do not even bother to patch potholes that damage cars and threaten cyclists. Let them reply to this letter and state why the roads are deplorable and what they are going to do about them and when.
We are supposed to be in an era of open government so let us all see what they have to say. — Yours faithfully,
Elizabeth Road, Henley
Welcome back Walnut Tree
Sir, — Well done and many congratulations to the “Fawleyensians” who have won their fight to resurrect The Walnut Tree.
As a former landlady from the Seventies I was saddened to hear of its closure some years ago , but was even more devastated when driving past a few months ago to see the building still boarded up and looking like a demolition site.
The structure itself was never very pleasing to the eye however the throngs of people who used to frequent the pub were able to look beyond that, and in its heyday it was one of the most popular places for miles. I have so many fond memories, had so much fun and met so many people, lots of whom are still lifelong friends — one has even become my present husband!
I am therefore very excited about its revival and hope that all the team who have persevered and worked so hard will be able to enjoy huge success at their local watering hole. — Yours faithfully,
Sir, — The very triumphalist Labour leader and his Marxist comrades might reflect that even with the Tory party shooting themselves in both feet on a daily basis during the general election campaign as Jeremy Corbyn was resorting to bribery with free university places, they still had to accept defeat.
Does this make Corbyn the most unelectable Labour leader since Michael Foot?
It is said the young vote swung in Labour’s favour. The young and first-time voters perhaps have no knowledge of the Blair/Brown leadership and the financial mess they created.
The UK already pays £55billion interest on our debt annually — how much more with Labour’s plans?
The BBC reportage about the Grenfell tower block cladding became suddenly muted when Camden and Tower Hamlets councils were found to have similar issues. Local residents, please note! — Yours faithfully,
Fair Mile, Henley
Then the cat came back...
Sir, — He comes, often unaccompanied, by our gentle ginger Toffee. A ginger stray who is very vocal and looks like a tiger and so we tell him he is very beautiful with all his wonderful stripes at which he looks slightly embarrassed.
He looks like quite a tough guy who knows the ropes but puts his faith in us as we feed him and tell him how beautiful he is, peering through the conservatory window as if he wishes he could be invited in, but disease stops us.
In the meantime, Toffee peers through the window and is persuaded to stay indoors and we tell him he is very kind to invite his “friend” to supper. He knows nothing of health risks with stray cats.
Suddenly he has gone, we know not where perhaps to tuck himself into one of the barns, we do not know where he came from, but as long as he visits there will be a meal and some milk waiting and he will someday tell us his story albeit in stripey cat language! — Yours faithfully,
Nice tribute to George
Sir, — I would like to say thank-you for your coverage of the George Michael gathering in Goring (Standard, June 30).
Finally, a newspaper who says that we all miss him — thank you!
He deserves to be honoured in this way. He left us a legacy of humanity, love and care. Witness to this are the innumerable acts of charity borne in his name after his death. And this is just the most visible part of how he positively influenced people’s lives.
Thank you again. — Yours faithfully,
My wildlife fantasy
Sir, — With regard to the letter headlined “Red kite goes shopping” (Standard, June 30), your readers might be interested in the following incident.
During the recent hot weather, I have been leaving my front door open. Imagine my surprise when I found a deer in my living room, presumably seeking shelter from the sun.
I live in some woodland where the deer are very common, at least I thought it was a deer, but my daughter says it was a rabbit. — Yours faithfully,
17 July 2017
WATLINGTON’S newly re-formed reserve team began ... [more]