Sunday, 26 September 2021

Boy, seven, who brought the house down juggling oranges

THE Henley Youth Festival, which takes place next month, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, so co-founder Alfie Hay asked some of its previous performers, parents and organisers for their memories.

Here’a selection of the responses:

Caroline Fairbrough remembers her daughter Anne talking part in the production of Tom in 1999.

She says: “I telephoned Anne and she sang, word perfect, the words from her solo song.

“In the intervening 18 years she has sung so many different pieces that I couldn’t quite believe that she could still remember this one.

“She just laughed and said how much fun it was being involved in the production and she really loved singing that song.

“She also told me she still had the music in a folder in her room and sure enough I found it exactly where she said it would be and I could see the words were correct.

“I think I can definitely say her involvement made an impression on her!”

Janine FitzGerald, another festival co-founder, recalls a performance at the Kenton Theatre in which a boy of about seven decided do a juggling act with oranges.

She says: “He had never performed before and couldn’t juggle but he picked up the rolling oranges and just carried on until someone loudly whispered from the wings, ‘okay, you can stop now — take a bow’.

“With tears in my eyes, I joined the standing ovation of clapping and cheering.

“I will always remember the courage of that small boy appearing on a stage, on his own, in front of a live audience in a real theatre. He was very entertaining. He will be 30-something now and I wonder if he remembers that moment of stardom.”

Tina Jacobs, a festival committee member, remembers the Art in the Square event in 2013 when local primary schoolchildren decorated small sheds which they proudly set up on a beautiful Saturday.

She says: “Someone began a chalk pavement drawing which gradually covered the whole square, filling it with exuberant patterns and colours.

“The Mayor wasn’t very pleased at this artistic takeover bid but the kids and families loved it and, with the application of a couple of brooms and a bucket of water by the Henwoods and friends at
the end of the day, it soon

Christine McNaughton, a former festival trustee, loved the Stonor Run which always used to take place at the end of the week’s sporting activities.

She says: “It was great to see kids egging each other on to sign up for a race, which would take them out of their comfort zone. Even children who had no confidence in running would be prepared to give it a go.

“Many children even turned up in fancy dress. It was a challenging run and the children were always proud to receive their medal at the end.”

Alfie adds: “During this year’s festival the Gala event at the Kenton Theatre on March 17 will explore many of the memories with pictures, videos and live performances to bring back the 25 years of dynamic energy that has captivated Henley each spring.”

If you have a memory of the festival to share, or if you know the orange juggler, email Alfie at

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