THOUSANDS of prime seats to see Elton John on the opening night of next year’s Henley
THOUSANDS of prime seats to see Elton John on the opening night of next year’s Henley Festival sold out before the general public even had a chance to buy them.
Unprecedented demand to see the Rocket Man singer means that as few as 700 general admission only tickets will be available to buy when they go on sale at 10am on Monday.
These £35 tickets allow holders access to the festival enclosure but not to the grandstand or seated area in front of the “floating” stage during the performance.
The seated tickets, which cost between £70 and £200, were snapped up by “selected members” such as festival patrons to whom they went on sale from 10am on Tuesday last week.
The festival denied it had given priority to sponsors and said the majority of buyers were local people who had supported the festival for years.
Chief executive Charlotte Geeves said: “It’s one night only. We have a limited capacity and everyone knows this because we’re small. It’s a real challenge for us to get the balance right.”
By Monday lunchtime all 4,300 seats had been bought, leaving only 2,800 of the general admission tickets available but as the Henley Standard went to press more than half of these had also gone and more were expected to be bought over the weekend.
The festival said it would keep back another 700 for general sale on Monday.
Tickets went on sale to corporate members and patrons just two hours after the festival announced that Sir Elton would be appearing at the festival on Wednesday, July 6.
Platinum members had the chance to buy tickets from Thursday last week and gold friends from Monday. Silver friends were able to purchase general admission tickets from Wednesday and bronze friends from today (Friday).
To become a bronze friend costs £30 a year while patrons pay £2,500. Normally there would be a 60 per cent take up of tickets by friends and members for a big name like Lionel Richie, who appeared this year. But even some friends were disappointed this time.
Miss Geeves said: “We have seen an unprecedented amount of sales in the last week for Elton John, much greater than we saw for Lionel Richie.
“The general public seems to think we prioritise and give away tickets to corporations and sponsors but we haven’t at all over-allocated tickets to see Elton John to our sponsors. There has been no change to the allocation.
“The majority of our friends are residents of Henley and have been coming to the festival for many, many years, so it’s not a corporate affair.
“There are lots of events, festivals and shows where tickets sell out before they go round to the general public.
“Ultimately we want to sell as many tickets as possible as that enables us to make a profit and allows us to give grants.”
Miss Geeves said the festival had seen some “unusual behaviour” among habitual purchasers who had been buying more tickets than normal.
Staff had been contacting buyers and asking them to justify the size of their purchases to ensure tickets were not being resold and were also checking online ticket websites.
Last week, the Henley Standard reported that Elton John tickets were be offered on one site at 15 times the cover price but the festival believes this was an attempted fraud and the “seller” hadn’t got any tickets.
Miss Geeves said: “Because of the way the tickets have been selling and so quickly, we’re looking at people who have been purchasing them and making sure there isn’t anything untoward happening.”
She said the ticket allocation policy would be reviewed in time for the 2017 festival.
“If we have a popular artist in 2017 we will look at all our membership groups and look at restricting the amount of tickets people can purchase for that artist without putting restrictions across the whole of the week,” said Miss Geeves. “We have never been in that position before.”
Fans have been writing on Twitter about the difficulty in obtaining ticket.
Sarah Bell, wife of former Olympic skier Graham, who lives in New Street, bought some but said tickets were now “rarer than Willy Wonka’s golden tickets”.
“Henley Lady” wrote: “Gutted! Elton John tickets sold. Surely some could have been reserved for the people of Henley and not just the corps.”
At the time of last week’s announcement, Sir Elton was going to play only five shows in the UK this year but this week he added two more dates.
The mini-tour is in support of his 33rd studio album, Wonderful Crazy Night, which is due for release on February 5.