Henley Festival – Fantastic, Formal & Friendly

Henley holds fond memories for the team at Enjoy HQ (some blurry admittedly) of classic river sport, retro pop and camping!

Years later (2021) we are delighted to be invited to the autonomous Henley Festival, which, while unrelated to the Henley Regatta or indeed the Rewind music festival, boasts the best of both worlds.

The invitation and ticket request black-tie attire and responsible behaviour with the headlining acts for our date on the contemporary Friday (day three of five that cover classical, jazz, comedy and food) including Sophie Ellis Bexter, our Kitchen Disco lockdown saviour rand Sara Cox with her 80’s Just Can’t Get Enough party set. All this girl-power punctuated with – well… more girl power as we kick off our evening with comedienne Shappi Khorsandi in the Salon Comedy Club.

Gates open at 5pm and the river is, well, just open! And on arrival, it is a delight to see many messing about on the Thames; fairy lights, champagne, music, and hampers. A typically English affair!

The weather is stunning, and Audi UK makes their presence known with the RS e-tron GT at the gates, their elaborate hospitality suite (village!) midway down the festival. Which is worth the walk, end to end past food, street entertainers, cocktails, and the main floating stage, shouldered by Moet Et Chandon Ice Champagne stalls.

Adore the art, be adored by others, and participate for a couple of minutes with the entertainers… fun to see and great to selfie.

There’s fresh air, fresh talent, and a fresh look – the event is choreographed like a slick West End production. Security is discreet, the organisers are welcoming, and the main events are breathtaking – Shappi Khorsandi literally – her risqué act pushing the limits with her tales of her parents and life with her father, the Iranian political satirist, Hadi Khorsandi. Her set is hilarious and raises eyebrows… brilliant!

We take our seats (no one sits at an Ellis Bexter gig – particularly not after the Lockdown genius of her Kitchen Discos). Bexter at her best, shimmering sequins, perfect pop and an adoring 40+ audience… all her hits – back as far as Groovejet (21 years ago – eek!) and Murder on the Dancefloor and a classic encore of the 1977 Baccara hot Yes Sir I Can Boogie – which even after Sara Cox’s set left me with a mind melody for days!

Sara Cox live is way more than the sum of her broadcast parts… she the ultimate entertainer with dry and quick humour throughout – hit after 80s hit accompanied by various inflatable 80s icons (Rubik cubes rather than latex Rod Stewarts!) and games, with guests and dancers to reflect those retro Relax times and tunes!

The audience at the floating stage was always Champagne fuelled and on the best of form, as was everyone attending – well dressed, well behaved, and well entertained. Henley offers the best of culture and fun for all (Sunday is family day).

Book your 2022 tickets between 6-10th July and grab your tux, this is one not to miss if 2021 was anything to go by – we hope to participate in more of the week – what a classic pleasure…

Tales of the Riverbank