THE chief executive of the Henley Festival has urged residents to support the event now that it has decided to
THE chief executive of the Henley Festival has urged residents to support the event now that it has decided to stay in the town.
Gill Mitchell warned that if tickets sales didn’t improve, it could put the event’s whole future at risk.
She said: “Contrary to popular belief, we don’t sell out. Tickets only sell out if we have a Sting.” The former Police singer performed at the event in 2012.
This year, a total of 18,500 people attended over the five days of the festival, well short of the 25,000 capacity. Headline acts included the Beach Boys and Madness.
Ms Mitchell said: “We try on the main stage to have quite an eclectic group but we can’t have a Sting every night. We have tried to balance it over the week and clearly some nights do not sell.
“More and more people are hearing about the festival and they come and they love it but our core market is the Henley community.
“If they love it then they should come and join us — that’s the real message. We have listened to you so come and support us, please. We need people of Henley to use it or they will lose it.”
Ms Mitchell, who has been chief executive for nine years, said it was hoped to make improvements to mark the festival’s decision to stay put.
She said: “We consistently want to refresh and improve our offering and last year we did strengthen the side acts and we would like to strengthen them even further, where previously we had to reduce them due to the financial implications.
“We have our own ideas about who we want to perform but they have got to want to come, be affordable and be available. Over the last few years our reputation in the music industry has grown and it is becoming easier to get access to the bigger stars.”
The festival is a not-for-profit event and the Henley Festival Trust, its holding company, has donated more than £2million to music and art charity projects in the Thames Valley over the last 30 years.
One beneficiary is the Henley Festival Orchestra, which gives 100 children subsidised lessons and instruments which some of them would not be able to afford otherwise.
The trust has also funded a music therapist at brain injury charity Headway for the past seven years.
This year, the festival ran The Wall, an urban art project for teenagers which involved schools, including Chiltern Edge, and Stoke Mandeville Hopsital.