Thursday, 18 August 2022

Town’s young musicians all band together

HENLEY’S young musicians are rocking up to Mill Meadows tomorrow (Saturday) for a free one-day festival aimed at giving them the chance to showcase their talents in a live setting.

HENLEY’S young musicians are rocking up to Mill Meadows tomorrow (Saturday) for a free one-day festival aimed at giving them the chance to showcase their talents in a live setting.

Billed as a great family day out, the last Music on the Meadows event drew an estimated 2,000 people to the riverside bandstand — and the organisers are hoping to repeat that success this year, weather permitting.

Tomorrow’s event, which pays tribute to the late George Harrison, is the third of its kind — having originally been held in 2013 to mark the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation.

A second event followed in 2014 but last year the organisers instead decided to focus on setting up a series of monthly music workshops for young people at Magoos Bar in Hart Street.

The Acoustic@Magoos sessions, as they are known, have now been running for just over a year on the last Wednesday of each month.

Catering for 13- to 18-year olds, they have featured a series of musical masterclasses led by industry professionals looking to share their skills with the next generation.

Some of the fruits of this work were on show in the Bedouin Tent during the Henley Festival’s daytime Family Sunday event, with a total of 10 young acts from Acoustic@Magoos performing.

Their appearance followed months of rehearsals and an audition process that culminated in a final nerve-racking selection being made by the Henley Festival’s artistic director Stewart Collins.

Acoustic@Magoos and Music on the Meadows organiser Maggie Atkinson said she had been blown away by Sunday’s performances.

“It was eye-wateringly stunning — it was incredible,” she said. “I was so proud. Just amazing.”

But while Sunday’s two 45-minute sets were for the benefit of a paying audience, tomorrow’s festival is free for everyone to enjoy.

This year’s Music on the Meadows is divided between two stages — one of which is the bandstand. It is being compered by Jayson “JJ” Jaurigue of Henley talent agency Eight Ray Music, alongside musicians Georgia Michel and Mollie Marriott. A full list of performers and stage times is given below — see box — but nine of the 10 acts who played at the Henley Festival will be appearing.

These are: Jake Molloy, Georgia Cusk, Lottie Bell, Anusha Stribbling, Christian rapper Teelow, Natalie Gleeson, and Georgia Michel — plus double acts Jim Crowder and Sam Brett, performing as Circus Street, and Max Wermann and Jake Collins aka JaXX.

Joining them on the bill are other young musicians from the Acoustic@Magoos sessions, plus the Acorn Music Theatre Company — renowned for their repertoire of pirate dramas — who are the first act on stage at 11.45am.

Other expected highlights include hula dancing at 3.30pm and salsa dancing at 6pm.

Avant-garde hair sculptures and body art by La Medusa and The Salon of Chi will be among the stalls.

A range of international street food will be on offer, plus cocktails and Prosecco from the the We-Pop Cocktail Bar, while Magoos Bar will also be serving. And there will be a raffle with a range of prizes.

As part of the tribute to George Harrison, the festival will feature an “art jam” for all the family running throughout the day, led by Henley Murals artist Nicola Sutherland. The resulting artworks will then be auctioned at 9pm, along with other memorabilia including CDs donated by the late Beatle’s widow, Olivia.

As Maggie explains: “Two of the artworks are going to be in George’s baby-faced Sixties Beatles phase, and two of them are the more long-haired iconic black and white paintings. They’re huge and I think they should raise lots of money.”

Following the auction, headliners Here Comes The Sun will take the stage at around 9.20pm. Named in honour of one of the late Beatle’s best-known compositions, the band is a local supergroup featuring the talents of Lucky To Be Alive lead singer Matt Richardson alongside Pete Brown on lead guitar, Jerry Soffe on bass and Hugo Loudon on drums.

Maggie confirmed that a selection of Harrison’s hits would round off the festivities, adding: “They’ll do lots of George’s songs and Beatles songs to finish off on. All old favourites that everyone loves to stop and dance to.”

Maggie said she was delighted that, as with the 2013 and 2014 festivals, Music on the Meadows has again been endorsed by Olivia Harrison “as a tribute to honour the contribution of George Harrison to world music”.

She added: “Olivia has given her wonderful blessing to the whole thing — and encouragement — and has donated stuff to auction.”

Closer to home, Maggie said her work with young people — and the idea for Music on the Meadows itself — had been inspired by her and her husband Ed’s experience of being foster carers. The couple, of Queen Street, Henley, have two grown-up daughters aged 26 and 24, and have been fostering for around 20 years.

Maggie said: “We realised the whole importance of building self-esteem and giving kids a purpose and a passion. If they’ve got something they can hang on to and say ‘I’m good at that, this is my thing’ — be it singing or being part of a band or composing or performing — it’s about honing their talents and giving them a platform to really build their confidence and give them a voice, really.”

Surprisingly, while they recognised its power to bring people together, neither Maggie or Ed have a musical background themselves.

“Not at all,” said Maggie. “I just think music was the chosen vehicle to use as a great leveller for all the different kids coming from various different backgrounds — to broaden, to build friendships, really.

“Friendships and learning to communicate across the usual barriers is absolutely vital and to build relationships is key. And for them to feel they belong to something — belonging is key to their security.”

Reflecting on the ongoing success of Acoustic@Magoos, she added: “Music is the magnet. It crosses all boundaries in terms of age and background — and socially there have been some wonderful friendships built.

“We always finish the open mic session with a big jamming session where they all play and rock up together and just join in and jam as the finale. It’s just the most beautiful thing, it really is.”

Tomorrow’s festival is being supported by Henley Town Council and will be formally opened by the mayor, Councillor Julian Brookes.

Profits from the event will be shared between Acoustic@Magoos and Wokingham-based charity Brass for Africa, whose mission is to make a positive change to the lives of disadvantaged children and young people in Africa through the power of brass music.

For more information on Music on the Meadows, visit the event’s website at

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