Sunday, 19 September 2021

Record crowds enjoy sunny start to festival

THE ninth annual Henley Literary Festival has smashed its previous attendance records

THE ninth annual Henley Literary Festival has smashed its previous attendance records.

About 18,000 tickets have been sold for more than 130 events, up 10 per cent on last year. Sales are up for the eighth consecutive year since the festival began in 2007.

Hospitality businesses have enjoyed a boost in trade as unseasonably warm weather ushered in the start of the seven-day festival on Monday.

Organisers have put up speakers at Hotel du Vin, the Red Lion Hotel, the Denmark House bed and breakfast, the Row Barge pub and Milsoms while cafés and pubs have reported a surge in trade.

Neil Ainsworth, landlord of the Argyll pub in Market Place, said his takings were up 30 per cent.

He said: ?We always get a good response and the festival has been tweeting recommended pubs and restaurants. You can tell that some customers are connected with the festival ? on Monday we had a group in for lunch who had been to see a show that morning.

?We are also doing deals during the festival to reward those who are coming into the town.?

Rob Hooton, landlord of the Old Bell in Bell Street, said: ?The festival has definitely improved business.

?We don?t really do food during the week so people have been popping in for a drink and I would expect that to continue.?

Mirka Mazurtzak, manager of Maison Blanc in Duke Street, said: ?We are busier and we?re having to get extra staff in. We?re not busier at any particular time ? it?s all day.

?We have sponsored some of the events so people know we?re here that way.?

Szabi Majoros, who manages Patisserie Valerie in Market Place, said: ?We?ve had a huge pick-up. Since Monday we have been really busy, probably because of the festival.?

Hattie Barford, who is running the Chocolate Café in Thames Side while owner Vivienne Lee is on holiday, said: ?We?ve had pretty good days since Monday but we have a pretty good level of trade anyway.

?It?s not the regatta level of impact but has definitely been positive.?

Tom Ryan, programming director for the festival, said the good weather had a positive impact on visitor numbers.

He said: ?It is very sunny but not so warm that people don?t want to sit inside for an hour at one of our events.?

Mayor Lorraine Hillier said the festival had become a real force in the town and generated national attention.

?It is a fantastic event,? she said. ?It has gone from strength to strength and long may it continue.?

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