Friends of Henley Literary Festival were the first people again to get their hands on tickets for this year’s festival on Monday which will feature best selling authors, politicians, TV celebrities and sports stars with many attending a launch party at Phyllis Court Club in the Riverside Pavilion.
This year’s festival has been extended from a week to nine days (29 September to 7 October) and will see over 150 events for adults and 40 for children. Top names include Sebastian Faulks, Michael Murpurgo, John Simpson, Paddy Ashdown, Pam Ayres, Paddy Ashdown and Kevin Keegan.
Festival Director, Sue Ryan said, “The Friends of the Festival are the bedrock of what we do and who we are. This launch party began as a pop up box office with a drink. Most of you now book your tickets online and so now it’s all about the drinks!” She then went on to thank sponsors Laithwaites wine who provided the wine and Phyllis Court Club for hosting the event.
This year’s events will take place again at venues in and around Henley including the Town Hall, Christ Church Centre, Kenton Theatre, Phyllis Court Club, Bix Manor and new for this year Hurley House Hotel. The marquee hub will be returning too in the Market Place which will be another venue for talks plus interesting stalls, food and drink stalls and children’s crafts organised by River & Rowing Museum.
This is the 12th year of the Festival, Sue reminisced by saying, “When our little literary festival was conceived Tony Blair was Prime Minster and it was the year which the Apple iPhone, version 1 was produced and the word hashtag entered into the English language. Closer to home Henley only had 3 coffee shops – how did we manage?”
Last year the Festival sold over 22,000 tickets and they’re hoping to top this year with over 4,000 being brought by the Friends already.
The festival has forged two new partnerships this year – one with the London Library and the second with charity partner Smart Works Reading which helps vulnerable women build the confidence they need to get back to work and regain their financial independence.
Sue gave a special mention to former Trustee and Committee member, Caroline Blagg who died earlier this year. She said, “Caroline was a source of enthusiasm, good humour, encouragement and efficiency. We miss her so, so much but I know she would have been proud of this year’s programme.”
She concluded by saying, “The truth of the success of the Henley Literary Festival owes its success not to us, but to you (the Friends). You are the intelligent audience, whose inquiring minds, thirst for knowledge and general enthusiasm has put us on the map.”
Tickets go on general sale to the public on Monday 23 July at 9.00am via the website at www.henleyliteraryfestival.co.uk