Saturday, 31 July 2021

21st Henley Youth Festival 'utterly terrific'

ASPIRING young artists and writers attended a prize-giving ceremony to round off the 21st Henley Youth Festival.

More than 2,000 children took part in a range of activities during the two-week festival, including four nights of performances at the Kenton Theatre, workshops, sports sessions and a film screening.

Mayor Stefan Gawrysiak presented certificates and prizes to the winners of the art, photography and writing competitions at Henley Youth Centre on Sunday. He said: “Henley Youth Festival was absolutely and utterly fantastic. I think we should really thank all the people who got involved and all the young people here who entered, so well done to you all.”

The competitions were open to children aged four to 18 and had a theme of “Heroes”.

The joint winners of the group category were Nettlebed School’s art and craft club for its project Hero Street and Charlie Hayward, from Sonning Common Primary School, who led an art class on how to draw superheroes. Charlie, 10, said: “When I got the letter at school I thought it was something bad because I was the only one who got it but when I opened it I was really happy.”

Martha Collins, seven, who attends Rupert House School, won the infant category with her piece, called Grace Darling, while Nell Priestley, seven, was awarded second place and seven-year-old Matilda McCartney was third.

Isabella Nye, 11, from Shiplake, who goes to the Abbey School in Reading, won the junior category with her pastel drawing of Nelson Mandela. She said: “I chose him because he died recently and he was a real hero.”

Darcey Jones, eight, came second and Lily Wylie, eight, was third. Philippa Slay, 17, from Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School in Marlow, won the senior category for her piece, SHE.

In the writing competition, Alice Horncastle, 16, from The Henley College, won the senior section for her poem, called My Heroes.

In the junior section there were joint winners — eight-year-old Emilia McLoughlin, of Trinity School, with a piece called How My Best Friend Became My Hero and Edward Pratt, eight, from Valley Road Primary School, with an essay about his great, great grandfather who died in the First World War.

The Bell Book Shop donated copies of Jane Eyre and books about Greek heroes as prizes.

The photography competition was won by Rosie Tong, 15, from Henley, for her images called Wire From The War and A Soldier of the Great War and Grace Pratt, six, for a picture called Super Monty Dog.

The 3D category was won by 10-year-old Zara Lake, from Rupert House School, for her model, called Heroes of the Sea. Sassy Kichon, 10, was second and Beau Gadsdon, seven, was third.

Claire Forno, of Gainsborough Road, Henley, who helped to organise an exhibtion of the art at the youth centre, said: “It has been really interesting to see the children’s different takes on what a hero is. There was a lot of skill and joy in all the paintings.

More than 90 young musicians took part in the festival Proms. Among the performers were the Henley Festival Youth Orchestra, Gillotts School percussion group and soloists from schools and colleges.

More than 150 people attended the event, which was compered by Henley College student Amy Thomson.

Tom Hart, 11, from Woodcote, played Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer with the Henley Festival youth string ensemble before performing a solo rendition of Pastorale by Oskar Reiding. Tom, who has been playing the violin since he was three and recently passed his grade five exam, said: “I enjoyed it. I was a bit nervous before I went on but that makes you perform better.
“I messed up a bit but overall it went well and it was nice to also be able to play in an orchestra.”

Festival organiser Tina Jacobs said: “It was really good. We probably had the most musicians we have ever had on stage and there were some amazing performances.”

On Thursday last week, 60 youngsters performed in Henley Youth Festival Entertain, which showcased a range of talents including singing, dancing, acting and poetry.

It was the first festival appearance for singer-songwriter Matt Maltese, 18, from Sonning Eye, who is to release his song Cover My Wounds as a single on April 21.

Matt, who is studying A level music, English and maths at The Henley College, said: “I was encouraged to take part in the festival by a teacher at college. “It’s a great thing because it’s an opportunity for everybody to play and it’s nice for the younger children who maybe don’t have experience of performing.” Matt, who has played the piano since he was seven and has been songwriting since the age of 13, has a place to study English literature at King’s College, London, in September and plans to keep writing music.

Other performers included Sam Beattie, 11, and his eight-year-old sister Milly and Capucine English, eight, who read a poem called Steve The Super Hero. Liz Marshall, one of the organisers, said: “What I thought was amazing was the age range, right from the tiny tots all the way up to performers like Matt who is at the top of his game.

“This year we wanted to encourage a more diverse group of children because sometimes they think if they aren’t properly trained they can’t take part.” Henley Youth Festival Dance took place on Friday night and on Saturday there was a new event, Sing, which featured the Henley Youth Festival chorus, made up of The Henley College choir, Gillotts School choir and Shiplake College choir, as well as solo performers.

Directed by Benjamin Goodson, the 48-strong choir sang The Salley Gardens, Panis Angelicus, The Rhythm of Life and Mamma Mia by Abba.

Mrs Jacobs added: “Henley Youth Festival found a new energy in its 21st year with new events, volunteers, sponsors and a new website. A record number of young people got involved in organising and staffing the festival, which is fantastic and something we want to encourage next year.”

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