The last weekend of Chelsea Fringe Henley finished with two great fun finale events.
The first on Saturday morning in the sunshine was a Funk Your Junk picnic at Freemans Meadow, a new event for the festival, which invited residents to funk something floral from junk. Guests enjoyed delicious cakes, biscuits and scones made by local resident and founder member of Friends of Freemans, Jill Buckett along with edible worms in soil (jelly sweet worms and crushed oreo biscuits).
Entries for the funk your junk competition included a thyme plant in a cracked mug, a marigold in a colander, a cracked flower pot planted with herbs, a tomato plant in a shell and a plastic bottle made into a flower pot planter and a wasp catcher bottle. Kyle Dowling, Horticultural Parks Warden at Henley Town Council entered a last minute entry using an old protein drink bottle and a cutting from one of the crab apple trees in the new orchard. Kyle pointed out laughing that the bottle said “It’s been fuelled by protein!” Chair of Henley in Bloom, Councillor David Eggleton made some on the spot entries too showing how a simple pine cone could have some floral added to it.
The winner of the competition was Pippa Hare from New Street with her cracked herb planted flower pot. Pippa said, “I heard about the event from a flyer that was put through my door. I’ve planted it up with sage, chives, parsley, thyme and marjoram. I’d kept the pot to break up for bits to go in the bottom of flower pots for drainage and I used some gravel I got from Bell Lane.”
Our Editor, Michaela Clarke was runner-up with her recycled bottle plant pot which she cut into a flower shape, painted it and decorated the bottom by wrapping wool around it. In third place was Councillor Kellie Hinton, who in her prize acceptance speech said, “I feel a complete charlatan as my partner should be credited with this but I’d like to thank my Mum too for living in Spain where the shell and the tomato plant came from!”
Chelsea Fringe Henley Co-Founder Victoria Newton said, “This event is really typical of what we really want to come out of Chelsea Fringe in Henley. It is absolutely fantastic that people have got so involved being led by the enthusiasm of a few key residents and they’ve been driven by that. We now have this fantastic open space, this wonderful orchard planted and plans for redevelopment of the playground. I hope that the residents carry on and use it.”
Sunday’s different overcast weather slightly dampened the number of entries expected at this year’s finale event, the floral flotilla on the Thames.
Big Duck though brightened up the atmosphere, leading the parade again this year with a shed on the floating raft! Owner, Tim Dodd-Wilson said, It was pretty hairy getting him in as it was raining and the wind was really blowy. We made it just!” After going under Henley Bridge, Big Duck got loose. Tim explained, “We loosened the front ropes so he tips, he went back and then came off the pole but we managed to get him back upright at Phyllis Court. Tim is planning a big adventure in June taking Big Duck up the river to Lechlade and back down to Teddington going under 23 bridges lower than Henley and raising money for the RNLI. He hopes though to be back for Henley Regatta and Festival. Tim added, “Today he was just tied each side but when we do the big trip he will be tied on eyes and will be tied on to the raft. On the really low bridges we’re going to have spin him right round so that we can deflate him, go under the bridge and then pump him back up again using the generator on the raft. We originally hoped to practice this today.”
There were few new entries to the boat parade this year which included the ‘Paddling Petals’ a bell boat rowed by members from the Eyot Boat Centre. Richard and Liz Parham had organised the crew with the lady members wearing daffodil headdresses, Richard was dressed as a scarecrow and Simon Last played Cruising Down the River on the ukulele. Asked whether they were Welsh rugby supporters and had the daffodils in their wardrobes, one of the ladies replied, “No we bought them especially but perhaps we should start supporting them so that we can get our money’s worth out of them!”
Simon Davis and his friends were on his boat Sparx. Simon said, “I know Victoria and she encouraged me to enter this year. Caroline (Whittaker) helped me design the boat. Kevin and Salley Thomson on Sally Forth found out about the flotilla through the River & Boating Interest Group at Phyllis Court. Kevin said, “The boat is always decorated like this, we’ve just bought the dog planter and hanging basket from home.” Chair of Henley in Bloom and Deputy Mayor, Councillor David Eggleton was invited on Charles Evans’ boat, Eliza Grace who has recently launched his new boat hire company; Henley River Boats. David said, “I made these recycled bottle flowers with my daughter Daisy earlier today which I thought would be a great addition to boat.”
There was another quacking duck in the parade too – on the front of Hector Horatio which is owned by the Moberleys. Annie Moberley said, “My Mum (Karen) made him about 15 years ago with Modrock plaster bandage but this is the first time he’s been on the boat.”
The Sound Force Band who were playing on the Mill Meadows bandstand joined in by wearing floral hats and Floral Flotilla organiser, Victoria Newton and Deputy Mayor, Councillor David Eggleton presented prizes to their top 3 best hats.
To start the weekend off, Chelsea Fringe Henley co-founders Victoria Newton and florist Jane McFarlane Duckworth hosted floral drinks on Friday evening to launch the floral exhibition and play with flowers workshops at the the Old Fire Station gallery.
Guests enjoyed rose gin and tonic and the work of floral artist, Amanda McGregor. Amanda said, “I’ve supported the Chelsea Fringe over the last 4/5 years through helping to curate at other events and I support the flotilla. I realised I had enough flower paintings to show as a solo artist and I asked Jane if I could show this week and it works really well. For me it’s perfect harmony – my mother is a florist and how I became familiar with and inspired by flowers. So the sense of having buckets of flowers around makes it relaxed and it creates life in the gallery. Often gallery spaces can feel a bit empty and although people bring life to the gallery, having actual real flowers creates a whole different experience. To be active with a process of flowers at the same time, it really does help to understand the inspiration behind the paintings. Flowers touch people’s lives in all ways. For me it’s the depth of colour and experience of lightness in all ways.”