Thursday, 23 September 2021

Backlash as Henley branded 'dull'

ANGRY residents of Henley have lambasted a national newspaper columnist who branded the town dull.

ANGRY residents of Henley have lambasted a national newspaper columnist who branded the town dull.

Lucy Cavendish wrote the article for The Telegraph after comedian Russell Brand was reported to have been house-hunting in the area.

She described the town as ?blue-rinsed and genteelly well-heeled?, where only women had long hair, and suggested that the inhabitants were of the ?hang-em-high-my-other-car?s-a-Porsche brigade? while she was the only Labour voter.

The freelance journalist, who was born and bred locally and still lives here, also wrote: ?So little happens in this sleepy town I sometimes wonder if its ageing population has already died and gone to heaven.?

Readers complained to the Henley Standard about the column, which contained a number of spelling mistakes.

Teacher Lisa McDonald, of, St Andrew?s Road, Henley, said: ?When I first saw the article I couldn?t believe what I was reading.

?She?s clearly entitled to her opinion but because this was in a national newspaper and about the town I live in and love, I couldn?t believe it. It was sloppy, inaccurate and wildly exaggerated.

?She has put herself forward as an expert and given this picture to people who don?t know the town. I seriously wonder if she has even been here - it?s patronising with a capital P.

?We love Henley. I?ve lived here for 17 years and can?t imagine being somewhere else. It?s a friendly and inclusive place so what is the reason for this poisonous article?

?My son found the article on Facebook and he was incredulous while reading it to me. He sent me the link and I was astonished, then angry.

?She?s a professional journalist so she must know she has a voice while we don?t. To put this out there and rubbish the place I love leaves me feeling impotent.?

Henley Mayor Lorraine Hillier said: ?I was shocked when I read the article. It?s one of those typical viewpoints of Henley from someone who doesn?t know the town.

?I thought it was insulting. To be honest, I?d prefer Russell Brand in the town to Ms Cavendish. It made me so cross that I?ve written my own reply to her. ?I feel quite angry that someone could have such a biased opinion of the town ? it?s wrong.

?I can see that she was trying to write in a funny and entertaining way but I didn?t think it was humorous and it could have a negative impact on the town.

?What she said is a common perception of Henley that people have until they come here. We need to reinforce the message that this is the best place in the world!?

Former Henley mayor Elizabeth Hodgkin, of Nicholas Road, Henley, said the column was ?insulting?.

She said it was ?her Henley-on-Thames? but I don?t recognise it compared to my Henley and I don?t think many other people would either.

?We have so many community organisations, it?s not just the regatta and the festival. I moved here in 1959 to make Henley our home and I wouldn?t live anywhere else.

?We all moan and groan but I think it?s quite disloyal because this is a lovely town to live in and has lots of things to do.

?I was so indignant when I saw the article that I cut it out of the paper and showed it around to people.

?She says she was born and bred in Henley but continues to slag it off. If you?re going to write something like that why not be positive about the town?

?It gives a bad view of Henley just to make copy. You can still be entertaining and write a positive article.

?She just needs to walk to the town hall and pick up a town guide to see how much goes on here. I don?t think the article is representative of what this town has to offer.?

Fiona Franks, of Makins Road, Henley, wrote to The Telegraph?s letters page to express her ?incredulity? at the article.

She said: ?There are many activities here, comparable to those offered by any other town of around 20,000 people. These range from art classes and rowing to playing the ukulele and Zumba dancing.

?Could it be that Russell Brand, a potential new resident, hopes to participate in some of these pursuits??

Matt Richardson, a former resident who now lives in France, used Facebook to condemn the article as ?utter drivel?.

He said: ?She should and does know better but like a shoddy journalist, Lucy Cavendish has gone for ?humour? by trotting out ill-informed cliches about Henley as though she?s never been there. Absurd.?

Gray Joliffe, a national newspaper strip cartoonist who is in his Seventies and has ?longish? hair, said: ?At my age, if you?ve got it, flaunt it. And I live in one of the chocolate box villages near Henley.

?I have to say that having spent most of my life in London as a writer in the rather louche advertising businesses, living out here is quite a relief.

?It is all the things you dream of and if Lucy thinks nothing ever happens then she should get out more often. She?s obviously found herself in boring company. There?s more to Henley than Phyllis Court, Lucy.

?There are always great bands playing in the village pubs, and way after bedtime. And all your mates are close by. In London you live in a street and everyone?s a stranger. Dinner parties entail miles of traffic lights and traffic.

?Sure, London has the galleries and the movies and the theatre, but how hard is to get there from Henley? Less than an hour the way I drive. So if you go stir crazy in Henley, whizz into town. Or watch Netflix if you can?t be bothered. ?I?ve only seen blue hair once in Henley and it belonged to an 18-year-old Goth in Magoos. Or there?s the old joke: What?s got blue hair and fifty legs? The front row in the Kenton.

?Of course if you?re a Labour voter in Henley you will be described as ?hopelessly lost? but you shouldn?t live round here if you can?t take a joke.?

Other people also saw the funny side of the column.

Gillian Nahum, a director of the Henley Partnership who runs the Henley Sales and Charter boat company in Friday Street, said: ?It?s the kind of thing that makes me laugh and I can?t imagine why anyone would be cross about it - Lucy Cavendish is paid to be outspoken.

?I don?t think people should take this too seriously. Anything that talks about Henley is good publicity.?

Ms Cavendish declined to comment.

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