When people mention the word festival in the UK, the first thing you think of is mud, or being dirty. It's the nature of the beast. Festivals require tents, wellies, cleansing wipes and copious amounts of alcohol to make you forget you haven't taken a shower in two days or more. Well, last night the word festival was redefined for me by BMW. A few weeks ago I received the invite to attend Henley Festival with BMW in, you guessed it, Henley. Perhaps best known for it's regatta, Henley is a rather distinguished part of the world not often associated with fields of mud and crazy rockstars. So initially I scratched my head and wondered if I had missed a trick. As I read on I saw that this was in fact a Black Tie Festival that BMW was inviting me too and I would be treated to a champagne arrival, a three course seated dinner and prime seats for a special performance by Paloma Faith.
First of all, rarely will a moment present itself when I say no to any invitation that comes my way from BMW. I am a bit of a closet metal head so I'm already in heaven with the idea that I'm being chauffeured to and from Henley in the new BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo. I had a charming chauffeur who kept telling me he'd be more than happy for me to take the wheel and try the vehicle out for myself. Oh how tempting that would have been, but alas, all I have is an American driving license so didn't want to see myself behind bars for driving without the appropriate papers. On a technical note here, I have to thank BMW for developing a 3 series with more legroom. The new 3 Series GT has a full 75mm of extra legroom, making it almost as spacious as the 5 series. Supermodels everywhere, I hear you cheering.
After 35 minutes of moving at a brisk speed through London and onto Henley in the most comfortable of vehicles (thank you again BMW), we arrived at the festival grounds and what I saw before me was something from another world. Throughout the field, people had parked their cars and had set up elaborate tailgate parties to celebrate the start of the festival. The kicker was that they were all in black tie. It was blissfully civilised. Finally, I have found my festival of choice in the UK.
Our first stop on the Henley Festival tour was the floating BMW bar on the water.
Yes, flotation was a theme at this festival as even the stage where Paloma Faith would later perform that night was actually floating in the river as well. After talking shop with a few BMW know-it-alls (yes, I was in heaven) and sipping a few flutes of champagne, we disembarked from the swaying drinking hole and made our way over to our tent for the three course dinner. On our way there we ran into several rather unexpected scenes. The festival was full of themed performers who acted as roaming entertainment for the night.
Truly, this was a festival for all the senses, eyes, ears, nose, touch and of course taste. Now, about that taste...
Needless to say, our tummies were full and our thirst quenched . At this point I still didn't believe I wasn't dreaming this whole thing up. However, hearing the first few notes from Paloma Faith definitely woke me up. In fact, I'm pretty sure Paloma Faith woke the entire town of Henley with her first song. Boats surrounded the pavilion as she serenaded the night. While I tried my best to concentrate on the stage, I found my eyes wondering to the water as boats passing by showcased teenagers with their hands held high in the air swaying to and fro with the music.
And then, all too soon, it was over. There were more festivities that took place for the remainder of the night, but sadly I had deadlines to attend to and had to vanish before 11pm. For this, I do apologise as I am sure I would have so much more to share had I stayed for the duration. All I can say is that I hope each and every one of you can participate in this marvellous festival at some point. I know I'll be booking tickets from now on for each year. Black tie instead of tie dye, Moet instead of mud and BMWs instead of bogus tents, all add up to my perfect festival.
Thank you BMW and Henley Festival for inviting me to participate in such a monumental evening.
For more info on the car I was testing on the night, click on over to BMW where you'll find tons of cool facts and figures about this stunning vehicle.