Henley Festival Presented by Westcoast has revealed this year’s sensational line-up, featuring five unmissable summer nights packed full of world-class music, comedy, dining, dancing and magical moments. Westcoast, a local technology company distributing some of the world’s leading tech brands, are excited to continue their long association with Henley Festival in 2023 and are delighted to be supporting RISE.
From Wednesday 5 July to Sunday 9 July, the UK’s only boutique black-tie festival will present an unforgettable experience on the stunning riverside in Henley-on-Thames. Henley Festival is truly like no other, with a vibrant line-up of pop, world, classical, folk and jazz music sitting alongside award-winning comedy, visual art and sculpture installations on the green banks of the Thames, and first-class gastronomy. Festival goers will be enchanted late into the night by this captivating programme of music and arts – with each evening coming to an epic close with a jaw-dropping firework spectacular.
As part of Henley Festival’s new charitable programme nurturing the next generation of talent – RISE – this year’s festival will give a platform for young musicians, comedians and visual artists taking their first steps on stage, as well as offering opportunities for young people aspiring to work behind the scenes.
THE FLOATING STAGE HEADLINERS 2023
Opening this year’s Henley Festival on the iconic Floating Stage is Rag’n’Bone Man, with his characteristic blend of traditional blues and hip hop, and powerfully deep baritone voice. Rory Graham’s stratospheric rise to fame saw him win the BRIT’s ‘British Breakthrough Act’ and ‘Critics’ Choice Award’ in 2017, followed by the record-breaking release of his 4x platinum #1 debut album Human. Rag’n’Bone Man has since collaborated with international artists including Gorillaz, Logic, Calvin Harris and Pink, and last year his second #1 album Life by Misadventure spent 7 weeks in the Top 10.
Henley Festival’s first night will be brought to an energetic ending by Ben Portsmouth: This is Elvis, and his jaw-dropping tribute to The King of Rock and Roll, invoking the Henley Festival Club with the spirit of Elvis.
On Thursday, the Floating Stage will host Nicky Byrne, Kian Egan, Shane Filan and Mark Feehily, aka the most successful Irish boyband of all time: Westlife. With 36 #1 albums worldwide, Westlife are the UK’s top selling group of the 21st century. They are one of pop music’s most influential boy bands and have sold six million concert tickets worldwide and counting. Westlife will thrill the Henley crowd with their chart-topping hits including Flying Without Wings, World of Our Own and Uptown Girl.
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee and a multiple Grammy Award winning songwriter, composer, producer, arranger, guitarist and music legend, Nile Rodgers will headline on Friday. As the co-founder of CHIC, Rodgers pioneered a musical language that generated chart-topping hits like “Le Freak”, the biggest selling single in the history of Atlantic Records, and sparked the advent of hip-hop with “Good Times.” His work in the CHIC Organization including “We Are Family” with Sister Sledge and “I’m Coming Out” with Diana Ross and his productions for artists like David Bowie (“Let’s Dance”), Madonna (“Like A Virgin”) and Duran Duran (“The Reflex”) have sold over 500 million albums and 100 million singles worldwide while his innovative, trendsetting collaborations with Daft Punk, Daddy Yankee and Beyoncé reflect the vanguard of contemporary hits.
On Saturday night, the Floating Stage crowd will be on their feet as Ministry of Sound Classical takes on the very best tunes hand-picked from dance music history and recreates in a breath-taking performance by an incredible 30-piece orchestra. The beautiful riverside backdrop will set the scene for a live music spectacle, featuring guest DJ Danny Rampling and stunning vocalists performing classical remakes of iconic dance anthems including Fatboy Slim’s Right Here, Right Now and The Chemical Brothers’ Hey Boy Hey Girl – alongside a sound and light experience like no other. This is no normal DJ set, and a night Henley will not forget!
The final evening – ‘Sunday Night Sessions’ – will reflect the breadth and depth of this unique festival, with something to entertain the tastes of all culture vultures. Following an inspirational Chamber Music performance by family string ensemble The Kanneh-Mason Trio in the Spiegel Tent – who have wowed audiences since their semi-final success on Britain’s Got Talent in 2015 – the euro-disco phenomenon Boney M. with the original lead singer Liz Mitchell are back by popular return, performing international chartbusters with a 15-piece band as the sun goes down on The Floating Stage and this year’s phenomenal edition of Henley Festival. Stay tuned for further line-up details for ‘Sunday Night Sessions’!
RISE by HENLEY FESTIVAL
Henley Festival was set up in 1982 as a charity whose mission is to stage an unforgettable music and arts Festival for the local community and this mission remains the same. Last year, Henley Festival launched a new charitable initiative RISE, nurturing the next generation of talent to take their first steps into the wonderful world of performance, both in front and behind the spotlight. RISE creates opportunities for emerging talent to learn, perform and flourish: for young musicians and visual artists to showcase their work on a grand scale, alongside a work experience programme to support young people aspiring to work behind the scenes on bringing the creative process together.
Miya Miya, one of the musicians who performed last year, said they were grateful ‘to get the exposure, experience and opportunity to play at such a beautiful event under the RISE programme’ and Flo Blue said that Henley Festival ‘gave her the platform to showcase her music’ and she has ‘already been asked to perform at other events off the back of Henley Festival.’ Lizzie Wheeler was one of the RISE artists who exhibited in 2022 and described the experience as ‘an amazing springboard for young artists wanting to get their name out there’ as it gave her ‘a massive boost to her confidence in selling’.
This year, the RISE line-up is bigger and better including British-Ghanian singer-songwriter Joshua Kyeot who performs soul songs with a timeless quality and an instantly recognisable tone; Horse on The Beach’s female fronted live shows with an eclectic mix of Latin and Balkan jazz, hip hop and ska that stimulate the body and mind in equal measure; the warm, rejuvenating tunes of Jamie Cooke which will make listeners feel instantly soothed; modern country pop singer Louise Parker from Essex; Bristol-based musician Louis Cardozo known for his fast-paced lyrics and Spanish guitar; Hackney resident Mychelle who wrote and sang on Idris Elba’s Yardie Mixtape project, the soundtrack to his directorial film debut; pop princess Bee Arnold who performs unforgettable bangers that will be stuck in your head for weeks. London singer-songwriter Sassy Hammerslay will be bringing this year’s RISE line-up to a close with her combination of emotional lyricism and strong vocals.
JAZZ & SWING in the Spiegel Tent & Jazz Club
Henley’s very own jazz club opens its doors on Wednesday with a stunning performance from Robyn – who counts Ashton Kutcher and Lauren Laverne as fans – and her signature dreamy style of electro pop, and as the sun goes down, the Roo Savill Band – whose frontwoman Roo has been praised for her unique vocal stylings and featured in everything from TV shows to Hollywood movie soundtracks – will take to the stage to share a beautiful array of genres that will get festival goers moving. Thursday’s line-up features the UK’s finest swing musicians Boulevard – known for their authentic vintage style and expert musicianship – followed by celebrated jazz, swing and blues ensemble Palace Avenue, who will transport the audience to the golden age with their top-tapping, big band stylings. Friday sees Gypsy Swing extraordinaries Holder & Smith bring their hypnotic fusion to the Spiegel Tent, with vibrant party band CASA set to bring everyone to the late-night dancefloor with their irresistible Latin twist.
Come Saturday, award-winning saxophonist Robin Porter and pianist Rob Brockway will get the crowd in the mood for dancing with their warm, joyful tunes, and festival favourites Natty Congeroo & The Flames of Rhythm return to share their trademark high energy performance of electrifying Hot Jazz, Swing, Rhythm ‘n’ Blues and Gospel numbers. Rounding off the revelry on Sunday is distinguished violinist Katie Sharp, whose passion for improvisation has seen her work with a diverse range of DJs including Nervo, Pete Tong, and Mark Ronson, followed by exciting new trio TRIONIQ, whose acclaimed members have collaborated with some of the biggest acts worldwide, including, Sister Sledge, Jamiroquai and Beverly Knight.
WORLD & FOLK in the Bedouin Tent
Henley Festival’s beautiful Bedouin Tent will treat festival goers to a spellbinding mix of global world music and local folk in a relaxed, bohemian setting, alongside drinks and dancing. On Wednesday, singer/songwriter John James Newman, who has written songs for everyone from Joe Cocker to X Factor finalists, will kick things off with his intimate guitar stylings, while Apres-ski icons – Bloc off the Wall – will round off the opening night with their roster of dance and chart hits. On Thursday, lauded singer and songwriter Tom Speight will share a performance packed with sunny song titles, boisterous guitars, shimmering electronics and lashings of beautiful backing vocals before celebrated pop rock group Eddie & The Murphys will ring in the evening with an energetic set of music spanning six decades, from Bruno Mars to The Killers. Nostalgia is given a contemporary twist on Friday night when independent Pop/Soul artist Amber Prothero sets the stage alive with her deliciously unique blend of Pop, Soul, Funk, and R&B, while blues-meets-club ensemble Richie Quain Trio will keep the party going well into the night with their rootsy tunes and frontman Richie’s enchanting vocals.
Come Saturday, London-based Brazilian composer, arranger, singer and guitar player Mario Bakuna draws on the greats of Afro-Brazilian Music, Samba, Jazz and Bossa Nova for a memorable performance, while party band the Cinelli Brothers will summon the spirit of 60s and 70s’ Chicago and Texas blues for what promises to be a truly electric experience. Sunday ends with a bang with South London’s newest singing sensation Valntna who brings her love of 90’s R&B and Soul to the Bedouin Tent for a special, intimate performance.
AWARD-WINNING COMEDY in the Spiegel Tent
Henley Festival will once again be bringing the laughs to the Thames riverside with multi-award-winning Marcus Brigstocke kicking off this year with his blisteringly funny stand-up show Absolute Shower, celebrating the personal triumphs and small victories of the past couple of years, while acknowledging it has, in so many ways, on so many days, for the most part, been an absolute shower of shit. Also on the bill is one of the UK’s best comics, Jo Brand – star and writer of Getting On, the BBC’s BAFTA award-winning series set on a hospital’s geriatric ward – who will be entertaining the crowd, and TV favourite Chris McCausland – a regular face on Have I Got News for You, Would I Lie to You? and his recent Channel 4 travel show: The Wonders of the World I Can’t See. On Saturday night, award-winning comedian and former junior doctor Adam Kay will share hilarious anecdotes from his bestselling literary sensation This Is Going To Hurt, plus new stories from the forthcoming: The Story of a Medic Who Ran Out of Patients, in an electrifying evening of stand-up and music. Sunday will see one of Britain’s biggest and best-loved comedy stars Jack Dee capturing audiences with his signature dry humour and deadpan delivery to bring Henley Festival to a close.
FESTIVAL FOR FOOD LOVERS
Henley is the Festival for food lovers, with Michelin starred chefs cooking up a storm in the past few years including Angela Hartnett MBE, Albert Roux, Michel Roux Junior and Daniel Clifford. Proud to support British farming and seasonal, locally sourced produce, ‘Dish’ will return to the stunning Riverside Restaurant this year, offering festival goers an outstanding fine dining experience of exceptional quality and innovative design. From fine dining to street food, the raft of pop-up bars and restaurants adorning the riverside is sure to tantalise all taste buds!
VISUAL ARTS SHOWCASE
Henley Festival is celebrated for bringing visual art to the forefront: breaking the mould of traditional art displays at festivals with innovative installations curated by some of the UK’s most talented artists, photographers and galleries. From fine art, ceramics and sculptures to photography, prints and paintings, this year’s impressive visual arts programme is bigger and better than ever before with work presented by the likes of Panter & Hall, Woolf Gallery, Turner Perspective, Maria Morrow and world-renowned artists Tommy Gurr and Nina Brooke. The visual artists taking part in Henley Festival’s new charitable initiative RISE will also be showcased at this year’s riverside edition, including Morag Caister – an award winning London based figurative-portrait artist working mostly in oils and pastel on paper and calico or raw canvas, and this year’s winner of Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year.
PLAYTIME AT HENLEY FESTIVAL
The Henley Festival Family Funday will take over the riverside on Sunday with a range of activities and performances for children of all ages. Comedian Adam Kay will be sharing a hilariously gross history of the human body from his best-selling children’s book Kay’s Anatomy, and Festival favourite MC Grammar will be returning to tackle a whole variety of subjects in his hugely popular Wonder Raps. There will be entertainment aplenty for little ones with family friendly theatre experts Stuff and Nonsense putting on a memorable and playfully mischievous production; crazy time-travelling magician Professor Strange performing mind-blowing magic and lively circus tricks on his giant tricycle; The Extraordinary Gentleman’s unique one man show featuring astonishing displays of showmanship; Cookie the Clown’s thrilling balloon models; Funky Faces face-painting sessions and a live Doodle Jam session with Tommy Gurr. Family Sunday is truly an unmissable day out for the whole family with a jam-packed programme.
Each iconic evening at Henley Festival is brought to a jaw dropping conclusion with a spectacular firework display designed by the passionate pyrotechnic professionals at Titanium Fireworks, the team behind some of the UK’s biggest firework shows in the last decade including The Mayor of London New Year’s Eve celebrations, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, Liverpool River of Light, Hull 2017 City of Culture, England 2015 Rugby World Cup, Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and the London 2012 Olympics. Henley is the only music Festival working with Titanium, and their extraordinary brand of sparkle is the perfect partner for the magical and unforgettable memories made on the Henley-on-Thames riverside.