Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Singer waxes lyrical about regatta

Poole Party

REBECCA POOLE says Henley Royal Regatta is a reminder of home and good times.

The jazz singer, who performs as Purdy, grew up in Nettlebed and has been to the event many times.

She enjoys nothing more than a glass of Pimm’s in the sunshine and a picnic by the Thames.

Which is why we chose her for this special Henley Royal Regatta fashion shoot and teamed her up with elite rower Francis Highton.

Rebecca, who now lives in Fulham, says: “It’s a lovely opportunity for me to come and catch up with family and when the weather’s lovely it’s the best place to be.

“It’s a good chance to catch up with my sister Laura and get dressed up — it’s a fun day out.

“When I go to the regatta I try to avoid the weekend, I quite enjoy the Thursday.

“Occasionally, I go to one of the enclosures if I’m invited but I’m happy to take a picnic down to the bank and watch everything that’s going on from there.

“I try to stay moderately well behaved so I can enjoy the racing! Everyone enjoys a little bit of hedonism at the regatta.

“Having grown up in this area and become more interested in the sport, I enjoy the atmosphere.”

Not surprisingly, she loves to find the places where there’s live music.

“I enjoy finding spots where my friends are performing,” says Rebecca.

“When I was younger I went to the Barn Bar and I fell in love with live music because they had a band playing on the bandstand and they captured that quintessential English scene with picnics, people eating triangular sandwiches and strawberries and cream.

“Whenever I tell people that I’m from Henley they say ‘oh, that’s where they have the regatta’.

“In a sense it’s a symbol of home, summer and good times and a reconnecting with old friends.”

She says fashion is an important part of the occasion for spectators like her.

“It’s a brilliant excuse to be typically British and avant-garde, isn’t it?” she says.

“I think it’s lovely for the ladies especially to be able to wear dresses and lovely hats. The more eccentric at regatta the better, I think.

“My sister bought about 15 dresses to choose from last year so she gets very excited! I’m a last-minute kind of girl if I’m honest.

“I like a charity shop bargain so I like to find things that are vintage and unusual that someone else won’t be wearing. I also like to support local businesses and boutique shops.

“My particular tastes are Forties to Sixties so I go for something classic, vintage.

“I’m very lucky as I’ve got a seamstress now so she makes clothes for me.

“The great thing about the regatta for women is they get to feel elegant. It’s an event for everybody — not everybody dresses up, but it’s something that everyone can enjoy.”

Like many rowers, Francis says blazers are an all-important part of his Henley Royal Regatta ensemble.

The 26-year-old Leander Club athlete says: “I like the colours – they’re so vivid and you always know who is cheering for whom. You see the bright pink, yellow and blue and you immediately know who is racing that day.

“Everyone comes together wearing their crazy colours and nobody judges anyone.

“Being a rower, I’m part of the regatta so it makes it even more special for me when I get to wear my blazer. It’s a badge of honour to be able to have these colours – you have earned them by racing for them.”

Francis, who works as an events manager for Moving Ahead, a Henley-based mentoring consultancy which develops leaders in sport and business and helps athletes move from sport to the workplace, always looks forward to the regatta.

He says: “Henley is a beautiful town in its own right and for a week everyone descends on it.

“Part of the charm is that the regatta doesn’t change and that’s why people come back time and time again. Part of the charm is knowing that no matter what, you can come back to Henley in that week in July and it will be the same.

“It’s a brilliant way to bring people from all over the globe to celebrate something really gladiatorial.”

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