The Thatcham Festival 2021 – a look back at the final weekend

The 2021 Thatcham Festival ended on 17 October having run for nine days with 35 individual events celebrating the best of local talent. Thatcham Town Council’s Events Officer John Sackett here looks back at a memorable final weekend.

“Everyone was delighted to have the festival back as an in-person series of entertainments this year,” he told Penny Post. “We were particularly pleased that our new events like the Night Fest on the High Street were really popular so we will definitely do them again. A huge thank you, hats off, round of applause or what you will to all those who made this possible, including Thatcham Town Council, the the volunteers, the performers and the many people who turned up to see the shows. We’ll be announcing the 2022 Thatcham Festival dates in due course. In the meantime we are looking forward to Christmas in Thatcham and plans are already well in hand.”

 

Thatcham Town Council’s Thatcham Festival finished on a high on Sunday 17 October with a strong and rousing finale as Cold Ash Brass band delivered a Proms-style concert to lift the social distanced capacity audience at Thatcham’ s at St Marys Church.

Conductor Jemma Johnstone started Cold Ash Brasses section of the programme with the 633 Squadron from the film of the same name. She then took the audience on a journey around the British Isles, dropping in at Ireland with The Londonderry Air, Scotland with A Hundred Pipers and Wales with Men of Harlech.

The audience were encouraged to wave their Union Flags for Pomp and Circumstance and the closing number of Fantasia on British Sea Songs, which Cold Ash Brass graciously played an encore of after the entertained audience so enthusiastically requested it.

The evening was ably supported by West Berkshire Rock Choir, directed by Rachel Button, who opened the concert with the hit song This is Me from The Greatest Showman, following with Jess Glynne’s I’ll Be There and the incredibly moving Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen. The Choir then entertained with hits such as Paloma Faith’s Make Your Own Kind of Music, The Cranberries’ Dreams and James Bay’s Hold Back the River. The Rock Choir didn’t hold back with their dance moves and the crowd were happily clapping along to their closing number of Kenny Loggins’ Footloose.

Just before the interval, Mayor Councillor John Boyd introduced local poet Alex Lombardo who read three pieces inspired by the Words of Recovery project organised by Thatcham Town Council, Newbury Building Society and Sovereign.

At the concert’s end the Mayor then thanked the acts and presented the two conductors with flowers. “Sunday night’s Festival Finale concert was the most fitting way to end what has been a fantastic Thatcham festival,” he said “I have been lucky to attend most of the events and, where I couldn’t, my Deputy Mayor Jeff Brooks kindly stepped in. The people of Thatcham have once again been supportive in their attendance of our events and also generous in their donations. The finale concert alone raised £294 for my chosen charities of Swings & Smiles and Thatcham Town Cricket Club. I was also grateful to the High Sheriff of Berkshire, Mr Willie Hartley Russel, for attending the finale concert and showing his support to the town.”

The presentation of music was one of the triumphs of this year’s Festival with live music being sorely missed by both audiences and the performers themselves.

The night before the finale concert, also at St Mary’s Church, Incantata Ladies Choir, led by musical director Nic Cope, performed a mixture of folk songs and music from the movies including a medley from the 1965 Audrey Hepburn film My Fair Lady. The choir was even able to perform in Elvish during Enya’s May it Be from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. They ended with Abba’s Thank you for the Music; after which Mayor John Boyd formally thanked them for their music.

The Choir was delighted to raise £120 for their nominated charity of Berkshire Women’s Aid which works against domestic abuse in Berkshire. Incantata is a non-auditioned, friendly choir and always welcome new members and so if you are interested in joining or would like some more information see www.incantata.co.uk

Earlier in the day the Watership Cantabile showcased their choral skills as well as inviting public to join in an open workshop. The Roots of Jazz presentation at The Parish Hall also attracting a good audience. All the arrangements (of which there are many) all came together very comfortably on the day,” Pastor Hedley Clemo said afterwards. “We had around 50 people attending. There was a very positive atmosphere with the whole production being very professional. As Councillor Jeff Brookes commented at the end , it was lovely to be able to come out and hear live music again.”

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Covering: Hungerford, Marlborough, Wantage,   Lambourn, Newbury, Thatcham & Theale