Thursday, 05 August 2021

‘Paloma is such a lovely girl’

ONE of the stars of Henley Festival prepared for her headline performance by spending time on the River Thames with a family from the town

ONE of the stars of Henley Festival prepared for her headline performance by spending time on the River Thames with a family from the town.

Instead of waiting in her dressing room, Paloma Faith travelled up and down the Henley reach on a boat with Duncan Hodgkinson, his wife Rachel and five-year-old daughter Charlotte on Sunday.

Mr Hodgkinson, of St Andrew’s Road, then secretly escorted the singer to the floating stage on his Antaris boat and was given front-row seats along with friends as a reward.

He said: “It was lovely to meet her. She was delightful. Paloma was so kind and she had so much fun with Charlotte. She was very grateful for coming on the river and had a great time. It was a fantastic afternoon.”

Faith told the Standard: “I had a wonderful day and was so overwhelmed by the warmth from Duncan and his family.”

Mr Hodgkinson, who owns Hofmann’s luxury car dealership, in Newtown Road, had previously worked at the festival escorting stars to the stage in vintage cars.

He was moored next to the stage listening to Faith warming up earlier in the day when he began talking to security personnel. They said the star wanted to travel to the stage by boat rather than in a BMW because she didn’t want to reveal what she was wearing until the beginning of the performance.

Mr Hodgkinson agreed to escort Faith, who had earlier been swimming in the river, so she climbed aboard to check she could climb on to the back of the stage from the vessel.

The family then spent several hours with the star, who had performed the previous day at T in the Park festival, and took her to Marsh Lock and Temple Island, where they enjoyed ice cream.

Mr Hodgkinson said: “She was with us for a couple of hours because she was waiting to do her sound check at 6pm. She got a good look at Henley from the river, which she wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

“It was just a privilege to be able to show her the sites of Henley and she’s such a lovely girl.”

Faith had a big fan in Charlotte, a pupil at Sacred Heart Primary School, who had her photograph taken with the singer.

“They were just chatting on the boat,” said Mr Hodgkinson. “Paloma was so delightful with her and it was just two girls having ice cream together having fun.”

Mr Hodgkinson and his wife were joined at the festival by friends David and Karen Bushnell, who own Bushnells Marina in Wargrave and sold them the boat.

They took her from her dressing room, which was on the tow path next to a BMW bar, to the back of the stage minutes before she was due to perform.

Mr Hodgkinson said: “My boat was reversed up to the stage door as close as I could get it so I could deliver her to the back of the stage to do her big reveal.

“It was only a two to three minute paddle down the river. I asked her if she gets nervous before performances and she said ‘you know what Duncan, it’s the one time I don’t get nervous’.

“She said she it’s the only time she has confidence because she really enjoys the performing side and the one time she feels in control.”

Mr Hodgkinson, who attended every night of the event, said it was the best festival in years.

“The weather was with us and the acts were absolutely phenomenal. Paloma’s performance finished the whole festival off brilliantly.”

It might not be the last he has seen of the star, either, as she is interested in buying a Fifties-style car from his garage.

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