Sunday, 06 December 2020

New mayor wants to revamp Christmas festival

THE Mayor of Henley has called for a revamp of the town’s annual Christmas festival and late–night shopping event.

THE Mayor of Henley has called for a revamp of the town’s annual Christmas festival and late–night shopping event.

Lorraine Hillier says she is worried that the festivities focus too much on the town centre and not enough on the outlying streets.

The Mayor, who runs the Hot Gossip coffee house in Friday Street and the Upstairs & Downstairs tea rooms in Duke Street, said: “I have seen footfall in the shops decrease considerably in the last two years but the town centre does well.

“What we used to have was points of interest down other streets and that has been taken away.”

Councillor Hillier said she would shut her businesses on the night if the arrangements were not changed.

She said: “It is a fun evening but we have had some things that are not Henley, like fairground attractions. I think it all needs revisiting. It has not been right for two years.”

Last year, the town council and South Oxfordshire District Council staged the first Switch On and Shop evening in November when more than 40 shops pledged to stay open until 8pm. While some reported seeing increased footfall and takings, others said they closed early and that the evening was unsuccessful.

In previous years, shoppers have been encouraged to attend the annual Christmas festival, which is held on the first Friday in December.

Cllr Hillier also called for the new town centre manager to visit traders.

The current manager Peter McConnell is leaving next month after three years in post to take up another job.

She said: “If we advertise for a replacement I would like to see something geared towards someone who has a heart for Henley rather than professional qualifications.

“We want the right town centre manager who will actively come and visit all the traders rather than it all being done through the web.”

Town clerk Mike Kennedy said: “I have already made strides in looking at the current job description and have made some slight changes in conjunction with the town centre manager.”

Meanwhile, the organiser of the Henley Living Advent Calendar has pledged to help more charities this year.

The award–winning calendar, which is now in its fifth year, features 24 nights of entertainment by singers, dancers and musicians at a range of venues in the run–up to Christmas.

Richard Rodway, who chairs the charitable trust, said the bucket collections that are held each night would be for different local causes this year.

He said: “This will enable us to showcase more of the immense good work that is done locally and to raise some much–needed funds while also having a fabulous time with an entertaining performance,

“We would love to hear from local charities that would like to get involved and fund–raise on their night.”

Last year, about £3,500 was raised and split between five charities.

Mr Rodway also appealed for more volunteers, saying: “Whether as a venue, performer, charity, sponsor or marshal, there a lots of ways in which people can contribute to the event. It would be great to hear from anyone who wants to get involved.”

To sponsor or volunteer at the event, visit

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