THE widow of George Harrison has given her blessing to a community project in Henley honouring the former Beatle.
Olivia Harrison has written to the Standard after more than 2,000 signatures were collected on a petition calling for a statue of her husband to be erected in Henley.
The musician lived at Friar Park from 1970 until his death in 2001 and his widow still lives at the mansion.
In her letter, Mrs Harrison says: “It has come to my attention that a petition with over 2,000 names is circulating in support of a memorial for George Harrison.
“After many years of thoughtful consideration, and with great appreciation of the sentiment towards George, we have decided that a more appropriate way of honouring his memory in Henley would be to support a community project.
“We will announce the details by the summer of 2013.”
James Lambert, 42, who launched the petition in June, suggested a music festival could be created in honour of Harrison, who recorded much of his solo material at Friar Park.
The PR company owner sent Mrs Harrison a number of letters and emails asking for her support and said he was glad the petition had not been a waste of time.
Mr Lambert, of Friday Street, Henley, said: “I welcome her statement and it’s great to hear from her.
“It’s a shame there’s no possibility of having a memorial statue but obviously we have to take into account Olivia’s personal feelings.
“I think a community project would be great and it will be exciting to see exactly how it transpires.
“We had been thinking of starting some sort of music festival for George each year on the anniversary of his death.”
Mr Lambert said Harrison left a legacy to Henley by restoring Friar Park and supporting the campaign to retain the Regal Cinema as well as helping to establish the former Engbers Garden Centre in Shiplake.
He said: “The statue wasn’t supposed to be a worldwide salute to him but more of a nod from Henley for the work he specifically did for the town and the fact he loved living here. Something more low-key gives everyone an opportunity to recognise George was a really big part of Henley and would let us show that kind of appreciation.”
Former mayor Gill Dodds, who knows Mrs Harrison, said she would support a community project.
She said: “I think it’s very important that the town does what Olivia and her family want.
“It’s lovely that she wants to recognise George’s importance in the town and the way he’s respected here.
“Let’s just see what ideas come forward and see what she wants because she might have something in mind.”
Mrs Harrison took part in Martin Scorsese’s 2011 documentary film Living In The Material World, which chronicled the life of the guitarist and included footage recorded at Friar Park.
Mrs Dodds, of Greys Road, Henley, said: “Olivia wanted to make sure she got it right with the film and I’m sure it’s going to be something in that vein that she wants to do in Henley. She will want to do it right.”
In November 2002, Mrs Harrison produced the Concert for George at the Royal Albert Hall on the first anniversary of her husband’s death. Artists included fellow Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr as well as Eric Clapton and Tom Petty.
Singer Sam Brown, from Sonning Common, who also took part, said she would support another concert and would be willing to perform on the ukulele, which was a favourite instrument of Harrison.
She said: “I know Olivia and providing it was all right with her I would love to take part in some way.”