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Sunday, 24 March 2019
JESSIE J will not be the first performer returning to the Henley Festival.
The Price Tag singer also headlined on the opening night in 2015 when she thrilled the audience with what this newspaper called “an energetic and provocative set”.
Dressed in a black, thigh-length, see-through T-shirt reading “Henley-on-Thames”, black boots and black underwear, she told the crowd: “I’ve got a sneaky suspicion I’m a little bit under dressed!”
Speaking at the official launch of this year’s festival, chief executive Charlotte Geeves said: “We are approaching the 40th anniversary and we are going to do a three-year retrospective where we bring back artists that have been really successful at the festival.
“We are really excited about Jessie J. She took off her T-shirt and threw it into the crowd the last time she was here.
“One of our patrons is the lucky owner of that.”
The launch was held at the River & Rowing Museum in Mill Meadows and was attended by patrons and friends of the event, who support it financially, and other invited guests.
Artistic director Stewart Collins was away so Ms Geeves announced the line-up, which also includes Boy George, Tom Odell, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and ABBA tribute Bjorn Again.
Ms Geeves said she was particularly looking forward to the Friday evening when Odell’s set will be followed by a DJ set of Nineties music presented by Jo Whiley.
“That night has something for everyone but I am looking forward to the whole week,” she said.
Ms Geeves also spoke about the festival reducing its carbon footprint, as exclusively revealed by the Henley Standard in January. The tens of thousands of plastic “glasses” will be replaced by fully recyclable ones this year.
Ms Geeves said: “We are working with people who work in recyclable material and we are removing single-use plastic from the site.”
Members of the audience were sworn to secrecy about the line-up until it was announced publicly yesterday (Thursday). Master of ceremonies Ben Whitmarsh told them: “Raise three fingers in the air. If you do fail to do this, Charlotte will knock on your door and when you open it she will perform Dancing Queen. That is a promise, isn’t it Charlotte?”
Ms Geeves said she was pleased that the festival would once again be raising money for two charities, the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust and the Teenage Wilderness Trust.
The former works to equip young people with information and tools to maintain their mental health.
Founder Mark Waller said: “Our son Charlie took his own life at the age of 28. It was not just a shock, we discovered all sorts of things afterwards.
“Depression and mental ill-health is rife among young people and Charlie obviously was depressed before he died but we did not recognise it.
“Of course he did talk about being unwell. He would not sleep and he would blame himself for mistakes that he was not making.
“We set up a trust with the idea of trying to educate young people on how to keep well and we do visits to schools.
“One in eight children between the ages of five and 19 suffers from a mental health problem.
“Three in every class of 26 have some sort of mental health problem. One of the other problems is getting the help. Twenty-five per cent of the children that need clinical help are getting it.
“What that does is place extra pressure on school masters and families and on GPs.
“We have been into something like 700 schools and saw more than 4,000 pupils, staff and teachers. I am grateful for the support of the Henley Festival.”
The Teenage Wilderness Trust supports students who struggle in mainstream education by teaching them bushcraft and practical life skills to develop their curiosity and foster a love of learning.
Tom Evans, from the trust, unravelled a sleeping bag and said: “I am going to be sleeping in one of these things.
“I will be sleeping with some boys in the outdoors. The question is why?
“What we do is very simple. We take them outside, we hang out with them, give them life skills and belief. We really enjoy seeing them make progress.”
The final word went to Mr Whitmarsh who revealed that both he and Ms Geeves had both attended Emmbrook School in Wokingham.
“Charlotte was a few years older than me,” he said. “I know things about her, hence the look of fear in her eyes…”
11 March 2019
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