Marvellous Music and Mayhem at Henley Festival Family Sunday

Whilst adults danced the nights away, children also got their fair share of fun last week with the return of Henley Festival’s Family Sunday. The ever-popular event contained its usual ingredients: top notch entertainment, creative activities, musical interludes and an enchanting array of street performers.

This year’s headline act was writer and presenter Stefan Gates. The food scientist, famous amongst youngsters for his acclaimed TV series Incredible Edibles and Gastronuts, conducted a number of quirky experiments on the Floating Stage. His spirited interactive demos were as educational as they were explosive, and kept kids giggling throughout. Stefan was not the only performer to grace the Floating Stage, as Festival favourites Henley Youth Choir returned for another year. The group of 7 to 17 year olds sang through a delightful set of traditional songs, showing off their impressive harmonies.

For those unfortunate enough to miss Henley Youth Choir’s show, there were plenty more musical features lined up. The Bedouin tent was bustling with activity as BBC Music Introducing Berkshire welcomed two talented young artists, Ophelia Ray and Cannibal. Award-winning folk duo Megson then rounded up the Bedouin schedule with their playful, interactive concert, performing children’s folk songs both old and new. Elsewhere, in the Salon Comedy Club, Nick Cope put on a hilarious family concert, setting the tone for Murray Lachlan Young’s ‘Modern Cautionary Tales For Children’ later in the afternoon. And if all this music got you itching for a dance, Pure Heaven were on hand with their Baby Loves Disco, which had people of all ages busting moves throughout the day.

Two more esteemed Henley festivals popped up at Family Sunday: Henley Literary Festival, and Henley Youth Festival. Taking up residence in the tents by the entrance, the two local festivals put on yet more unmissable entertainment for the children. Henley Literary Festival hosted readings of the beloved Dr Seuss tale, ‘The Cat In The Hat,’ brilliantly delivered by local actor Simon Williams. Meanwhile, Henley Youth Festival offered a spectacular programme of workshops for their first ever Henley Festival Pop-Up. Illustrator Lily Rossiter talked children through her craft, photographer Kathryn Fell gave a masterclass in smartphone photography, and Emily Cooling created an ambitious giant jellyfish with the children using single use plastic waste. The eye-catching sculpture was made of old plastic bags, bottles, bubble wrap, and more rubbish donated by local stores, such as Caffe Nero, and schools including Gillotts and Badgemore. Given Henley Festival’s recent focus on sustainability (this year, the event replaced its single use plastic glasses and food containers with reusable alternatives) the artwork seemed a fitting tool to highlight the impact of plastic waste.

Of course, in the spirit of Henley Festival, the visitors were joined by some more unusual guests: the roaming street performers! Pirates zoomed around on their electric skateboard ships, sharing their treasure with children who could decode their map, whilst grannies blared music from atop their supersized shopping trollies. Perhaps the biggest hit was the giant blue octopus meandering around the grounds, who was followed by a trail of children gleefully leaping up to grab its tentacles. On top of all of this, the guests get their face painted – in obligatory festival fashion – or pick up elaborate balloon sculptures from Donna Sarney.

Once again, Henley Festival Family Sunday proved to be an unmissable event in the local calendar, packed with outrageous fun for patrons of all ages. We’re can’t wait to see what they have in store next tear!

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