Mer-mazing Channel Challenge in aid of Henley Music School

A group of five women from Henley who have named themselves The Henley Mermaids will swim the English Channel next year in support of Henley Music School.  The 21 mile challenge will be completed in a relay between the group with each swimmer swimming an hour at a time.

The Henley Mermaids are all regular swimmers with the Henley Open Water Swimming Club, and with an average age of 50, will embark on the challenge in June 2020.

Laura Reineke, the team’s captain, said “I love long distance open water swimming and we find it increasingly difficult to raise the £60,000 a year needed to fund the Henley Music School. I thought swimming the Channel could be a great way of combining the two.” Mother-of-three Laura founded the Henley Music School in 2010 to provide music tuition for anyone regardless of age, ability, background and means.  However, the most need is in schools where funding is lacking.

A virtuoso violin, viola and piano player, Laura knows well the importance of musical education for all children. “Due to an appalling lack of funding, schools are forced to drop subjects in order to make ends meet, resulting in children never having contact with wonderful, life-fulfilling education such as music.  Henley Music School aims to fill the gap, in the hope of offering music education to everyone, at a heavily subsidised cost, and in many cases free.  The result is well-rounded, happy children.”

Henley Music School offers inclusive music education in all its forms; from individual lessons, small group ensembles, school curriculum lessons, specialist autism piano lessons, HMS Sunday school, and Youthful Orchestra (an inclusive adult orchestra for the rusty older musician!).  It has over 500 children and 100 adults taking part in all its various musical activities, and this is increasing monthly.

Joan Fennelly, 53 and originally from Ireland, a sales and marketing manager for Oracle, has been swimming in the Thames for years. One of eight children, Joan grew up swimming in the river Oweness, in the Irish midlands. On swimming the Channel, she said: “I’m doing it because I can. It’s an iconic swim that’s on my bucket list.”

Mother-of-four Fiona Print, of St Mark’s Road, is a Registered Nurse at the Rapid Access Care Unit at Townlands Hospital has been swimming in the river for 3 years and loves it. She welcomes the challenge of the Channel swim

Susan Barry, a French teacher and mother of three, said “I want to get out of my comfort zone. My children are proud of me, but they think it’s bonkers!”

Jo Robb, 42, and a Green Councillor with South Oxfordshire District Council, joked “I’m doing this because Laura roped me in and you don’t say no to Laura.” “But seriously, more people have climbed Everest than have swum the English Channel. It is the pinnacle of human endurance achievement. It will be easier for us as we’re swimming as a relay but we will have to train and adapt to the cold water and prepare for jelly fish and choppy conditions.”

The Henley Mermaids are looking for sponsorship to help them with the cost of the boat, pilot and crew to join Orchard House (IFAs) Ltd – Helen Fraser and Hallmark Care Homes who have already pledged their support. In order that all money raised through their GoFundMe – Henley Mermaids page can go directly to HMS, and their school music provision.

To donate go to