Thursday, 25 February 2021

What’s on, off or still in doubt after lockdown

What’s on, off or still in doubt after lockdown

EVENTS due to take place in the Henley area have been cancelled or postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

While the prospect of the end of the third lockdown grows, some organisers have made their decisions well in advance due to the uncertainty or threat of forced cancellations.

But other events are still scheduled to take place or will move online, or organisers have still to decide.

The Henley House and Garden Show, which was due to be held on March 4 and 5, is off. It will now be held next March.

About 6,000 people attended the event in 2019, which featured more than 65 exhibitors of high-end interior and garden goods and services, experts, demonstrations, trade stands, talks and interior designers.

Organiser Niki Schäfer, an interior designer, said it would not be responsible or practical to stage an event where large crowds would gather.

Mrs Schäfer, who also chairs the Henley Business Partnership, said: “We made the decision just before Christmas. Fitting 6,000 people into a tent isn’t anybody’s idea of heaven at the moment.

“These things take a long time to organise — it takes me at least nine months and I need to be talking to sponsors and they need to be in a position to invest money. If people are uncertain at that stage, then I can’t commit.”

A decision has not yet been made about the Henley Design Day, which is due to be held at the town hall on March 20.

However, organiser and town councillor Sarah Miller says there is a strong likelihood she will call it off or move it online.

This event has been held at Henley town hall every year since 2013 and gives architects, interior designers, kitchen specialists and landscapers the chance to interact with people who are looking to upgrade their homes.

Mrs Miller, who organises events for the Royal Institute of British Architects, said: “We really don’t know at the moment and it all depends what Boris Johnson says. I usually run it in March and I think at this stage it is highly unlikely we will have a face-to-face event.

“What I’m doing with RIBA events is moving them online and I’m hoping to be able to do that with the design day.

“If we get the go ahead to run these events then it is more than likely it will happen but later in the year. It is such a popular event and I think now more than ever, with people working from home, there’s going to be a lot who are keen to discuss how they can adapt their homes to create more space.”

Cllr Miller is also responsible for the Henley May Fayre, which is due to be held in Market Place on Monday, May 3, a bank holiday.

She said that if it was to go ahead it would have to change venue. No decision had been made but the cut-off point would be around the end of this month.

Cllr Miller said: “We’ve booked Market Place and I’ve booked the Morris dancers but, again, it is all down to the man at Number 10.

“I don’t know if there will be a safe way of putting on the fayre unless we could move it to a new location where everyone was more spread out. It needs a big lead time to make it a big event.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be on that bank holiday Monday and, if events are allowed, there is no reason why it couldn’t be pushed back to the other bank holiday [May 31].”

Organisers of the Henley Youth Festival, which normally takes place in March, took the decision not to go ahead in September.

They said the ongoing pressures of the pandemic and a shortage of volunteers made it difficult to hold the 14-day festival.

Kate Swinburne-Johnson, former co-chair and a trustee of the festival, said: “Even though it takes place in March, we start planning and fundraising in the September prior.

“Even if the pandemic wasn’t here, I doubt we would be running it anyway because we’ve got a really big shortage of volunteers. We haven’t had anyone come forward to take on the role of chair, so that alongside the pandemic has made it tough.”

The Gillotts Spectacular show, which is hosted annually by arts students at the Henley secondary school, will not take place.

First held in 2018, the show is usually held across two nights before Easter and includes music, drama and dance performances in the school hall.

Headteacher Catharine Darnton said it would be impossible to make the show work with the requirement for a socially distanced audience.

She added: “One of the aspects of school life that we have missed the most this past year are the performances, notably the carol service in December and the spectacular that normally takes place just before Easter.

“With the students having to be kept in year group bubbles, rehearsing for mixed-year events has been impossible.”

The Henley Art and Crafts Guild’s spring exhibition, which was due to take place over two weeks in April, has been cancelled.

There would normally be more than 150 entries for the show.

The booking for the Old Fire Station Gallery has been carried forward to next year and the guild is hoping to still hold its autumn and Christmas events.

Ann Spicer, who chairs the guild, said: “We’ve been running Zoom workshops and demonstrations two or three times a month, which have been very popular.

“We hope to start work on the autumn show soon and get entries around May. If we can safely invite the public into view our work, I know there will be hundreds of artists who’ve been working like mad over the last year because it has kept us all sane.”

The JWS Cross Country event, due to be held at RAF Benson on March 21, has been postponed until the autumn. The Goring Heath and Whitchurch Spring Show, which was due to be held in April, has been cancelled.

Environmental group Econet still plans to hold its annual Bean Pole Day at Caversham Court on May 1.

A date has not been set for the Meadow Day event at Clayfield Copse in Emmer Green. It is normally held on the last weekend in June or first weekend in July.

The Chelsea Fringe Henley festival is set to be held from May 15 to 23 but the organisers are unsure how many events there will be or whether it will all have to be online, as it was last year.

The highlight of the alternative gardening festival, now in its seventh year, is the floral flotilla on the river with decorated boats.

Co-ordinator Victoria Newton said: “We are in a slightly better position than last year because we have an idea of the limitations that might still be in place.

“We will put as many events online as we can but as we get nearer to May we hope it will open up a bit to do face-to-face events.

“Everything was online last year but that was actually a benefit as we had access to a much bigger audience. We are hoping to build on that this year and we would love to hear from people who have innovative ideas.”

The Chiltern Vintage Tractor Run could take place on May 16.

The event involves a convoy of tractors and trailers which travels across the Hambleden Valley. It has raised nearly £60,000 for the Thames Valley Air Ambualnce since launching 15 years ago.

Organiser Gary Anderson said: “It is still on, subject to government guidelines. Once they are relaxed to allow travel for pleasure instead of essential needs then we will be looking to go ahead.

“If we couldn’t go ahead in May, we would look to move it to later in the year.”

The Henley Schools Together Festival, organised by the Henley Music School, has been cancelled.

Laura Reineke, organiser and founder of the school, had not set a date for the event, which is usually held in May at a local primary school. Students have been taught online during the pandemic but the school has had to raise thousands of pounds in order to survive.

Mrs Reineke said: “At the moment we are having to take everything month by month and the first thing to do will be to go back to rehearsing in small groups. I don’t think we will realistically be able to do that until the next academic year.”

Philippa Ratcliffe, organiser of the Eat! Food Festival in Henley, says the event will be going ahead one way or another.

Last year’s two-week festival was due to take place in June and was pushed back to August before being postponed.

The dates for this year are June 12 to 26 and Mrs Ratcliffe says the format and venues will depend on the covid restrictions nearer the time.

She said: “The plan is to go ahead. Obviously, it is all down to where we are at closer to the time. We are hoping that because we are a little bit further down the line we will be able to have two weeks of smaller events that are covid-secure.

“We can adapt and change to the circumstances and we could even do online events. Hopefully we can go ahead with a fair few events to support local businesses. I have my fingers crossed for this year and am trying to be positive.”

A decision on the Bix and Assendon village fete, which is due to be held on Bix Common on June 19, has not been made yet.

Emma Beesley one of the organisers, said: “We’ve been wondering whether or not to hold it. We are waiting for government guidance as to where we get with the vaccine and whether things like open-air markets will be allowed.

“We still need to be very careful and measured but it would be up to the public to run stalls or come as a visitor. To give something to the community, we’d love to go ahead. It would be amazing for people to have something to look forward to. We didn’t do anything last year because it really didn’t feel appropriate.

The Wargrave Village Festival, which was due to be held over 19 days in June, has been postponed until next year. The organisers made the decision in November, saying the financial commitment and complications caused by the virus created too much uncertainty.

The organisers of the 39th annual Stoke Row Steam and Vintage Rally hope to go ahead on June 12 and 13 but no decision has been made yet.

Entries are open for three of Henley Swim’s events. The company intends to hold all four but is waiting for further guidance for the Club to Pub on July 24 as the finishing point is the Angel on the Bridge pub.

The other three events are the Henley Classic (June 27), the Henley Swim Festival (July 11) and the Thames Marathon (August 15).

The Henley Classic and Swim Festival went ahead last year between lockdowns.

Juliet Hume, operations director for Henley Swim, said: “We’re hopeful and we’ve learned a lot from last year. We followed up with the people who swam and 98 per cent said they felt safe all of the time, which was amazing. It shows that we can do it in a safe way with lots of space.

“The trickiest one is the Club to Pub and that will very much depend on social distancing and what pubs are allowed to do. We are holding off on entries for this because that is a little bit more out of our control.

“There is definitely optimism out there and people are willing it to happen.”

Upper Thames Rowing Club is due to give an update on the Henley Masters Regatta by early April.

The event is normally held the week after Henley Royal Regatta in July. The club has been considering different scenarios.

The Goring & Streatley Regatta is still due to go ahead on July 17. The event did not take place last year as the organisers did not want to clash with the Gap Festival in Goring.

Organised by Goring Gap Boat Club, a record number of people attended the biennial festival in 2019 and there was free entry for children for the first time.

Iain Cheyne, who chairs the committee, said: “We are cautiously going ahead and hoping to have a full regatta. Whether spectators will be allowed remains uncertain.

“We are also making plans for a scaled-down event if the full regatta isn’t possible. One way or another something will happen unless there is a total lockdown still going in July.”

The Henley Town & Visitors’ Regatta is due to take place on July 31 but no decision has been made on whether it will go ahead.

Chairman Martin Levy said: “We had a committee meeting and the prevailing theory was to wait and see what others do.

“We don’t know what the Government will allow at that time. Because of the way our regatta is set up, we can’t stop crowds coming in and that will make it hard.

“You have to have a covid officer and jump through so many hoops to make it work.”

No decision has been made about Nettlebed Arts Society’s annual art and craft show. which is normally be held at the village school. The provisional dates are July 31 and August 1.

Susan Byers, treasurer of the society, said: “Even if it does go ahead, we are going to have to have so many restrictions, which will make it very difficult.

“If it was an outside event it would be different. I’ve got a feeling it won’t go ahead.

“One of our committee members has been shielding for nearly a year and another has had major surgery, which is another issue to think about. You’ve got to be practical.”

The Wargrave and Shiplake Regatta is scheduled to be held on August 6 and 7 but a decision will not be made until the spring.

Peter Symons, honorary secretary, said: “It’s too early to make a decision but we are hoping to do so by Easer. We’re hugely mindful that our supporters will want to make plans for their summer and if we’re not going to hold it they need to know.”

The organisers of the Hurley Regatta are also holding out hope that the event can go ahead on August 21.

Chairman Martin Fry said: “The vision at the moment is that we will hold it, assuming there isn’t another major problem. It may have to be scaled down a bit. We will do the best we can, but circumstances keep changing. We don’t want to miss two years in a row.”

The Binfield Heath Flower Show is due to take place on August 29.

Co-chair Peter Ransom said: “We certainly haven’t written it off, but it’s not a certainty either.

“I don’t know if we will be able to run the show but with it being the end of August, we still have a bit of time.

“We can put it together with fairly little notice and we’d probably look for a slightly scaled- down version. I think there’s a 50-50 chance at the moment.”

A date of September 18 has been set for the Henley Regatta for the Disabled but the organisers are waiting for government advice before making a decision.

Carolyn Molyneux, administrator for the committee, said: “We will have more of an idea after our meeting in March. The Government should have announced its next steps by then but it is going to be very difficult.

“We have to remember that it is a disabled regatta and we will have the most disabled people coming to it.”

The Henley Literary Festival is set to go ahead slightly later than usual, from October 2 to 10. Last year’s event was held online.

Director Harriet Reed said: “The best thing we can do is make plans with the information we have in front of us and we have changed our dates, which we hope will work in our favour.

“Last year we proved we can pivot and go virtual if we have to. We had people watching from more than 40 countries and I see that being a big part of what we do in the future whatever happens.”

Henley Town Council is hoping to go ahead with its Health and Wellbeing Festival on October 31 and the Henley Heroes Awards, which are supported by the Henley Standard, are set to return on November 5.

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