Saturday, 13 August 2022

Singer takes final bow and follows her heart

AWARD-WINNING singer-songwriter Naomi Vallance has left Henley after almost 30 years for a new career — and love.

AWARD-WINNING singer-songwriter Naomi Vallance has left Henley after almost 30 years for a new career — and love.

The 37-year-old moved here when she was only seven and grew up to become a well-known entertainer.

She performed at many events in Henley, including the launch of the Poppy Appeal, the youth festival, the Henley Fringe festival and the Mayor’s annual Christmas party for the elderly.

Naomi also sang to help raise money for charities such as the Millie’s Dream defibrillator appeal and Camp Mohawk, a day centre for children with special needs near Wargrave.

When she wasn’t on stage, she worked for the Geos Group in Henley, a marine gas oil supplier, as personal assistant to the managing director.

Now she has left her home in Reading Road and moved to Northampton to become a teaching assistant and live with her partner Richard Jones, a 30-year-old construction worker. She will train for a year before undertaking a Postgraduate Certificate in Education and hopes to be fully qualified as a drama teacher in 2018.

Naomi, who has a degree in drama and theatre, said: “I thought ‘this is a fantastic opportunity to finally get into teaching and fulfil that dream’.

“I do love being with kids and young adults.

“It’s so exciting because I’m going to be with my partner, whom I’m absolutely in love with, and it’s going to be a new life with him.

“I will miss Henley dreadfully. I love the town as I really haven’t lived anywhere else.

“I love the community, the feel of it and the town itself. It’s so busy and there’s always something going on.

“I will be coming back to visit — it’s not the be all and end all.”

Naomi, who is an accomplished ukulele player and plays in a group called Pure Fluke, was honoured at the Sue Ryder Women of Achievement Awards in 2013 when she won performer of the year.

This came just six months after she was hospitalised with the viral form of meningitis, which meant she had to quitperforming for a long period.

She recalls: “It was lovely just to be recognised. The award really was just a fabulous feeling. It was completely unexpected and such a surprise.

“My singing really has been fantastic for me and I do love it. I’ve also had so much encouragement.

“It’s a real creative release — you can really let go and just enjoy it and when you see other people are enjoying it that really keeps you going.

“For me, whether it’s charity or paid, it’s the fact you’re achieving something and giving back something.

“I’ve made some really good friends along the way. They have all helped me to achieve what I have.”

Naomi left with a message for the people of Henley, saying: “I’m so grateful to everybody who has supported me and for their kindness. Thank you.”

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