Sunday 2nd August was festival day here at The Oakley Court.
If you work in hospitality, you will be no stranger to early starts on a Sunday. This particular weekend, however, we hosted our inaugural Live & Unwind Festival – bringing, to our team, a whole new meaning to the word early! With coffee in hand, fuelled by the anticipation and excitement that filled the air, we applied the finishing touches to the stage, marquees and grounds. All the while sporting our rather fetching special event t-shirts.
With the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted, lists checked and final preparations in place, all that was left to do was await the weather. Right on cue the sun came out, enhancing the natural beauty of our estate and putting the final natural spotlight on our festival. Richard, our General Manager gave us all an inspiring pep talk, leaving the team not just ready, but eager, to deliver a day of wonderful family fun. The final hay bale seats were set out; the clock struck twelve. It was time for the festival to begin.
As the crowds poured in, our MC, Paul Saunders, formally began the day’s frivolities. Families basked in the sunlight and friends explored our estate to the soundtrack of acoustic covers of the music of the last 40 years, performed by local artist Murphy James. Guests were asked to leave their money at the door, as The Oakley Court personalised poker chips became the currency of the day, ready to spend on a huge selection of food and drinks, before enjoying the unspoilt views across the river, right on our doorstep.
Quirky culinary excellence was on the menu at our Live & Unwind Festival. Guests had the chance to try everything from Wood Oven cooked pizza – from the back of a Land Rover, no less! – to Liquid Nitrogen ice cream, all washed down with a glass or few of fizz from our Tattinger Champagne tent. Our own team of chefs were also on hand to provide a delicious BBQ, with a menu packed full of stylish variations of classic dishes. Our bar team were on hand, stocked up on Pimms, wine, beer and soft drinks, to ensure no glass was left empty. There was even Afternoon Cream Tea aboard the roof terrace of the Edwardian Steamer Streately, offering uninterrupted views across both the River Thames and our grounds.
The next few hours saw a big variation in the soundtrack of our festival. Award-winning folk artist Megan Henwood took to the stage, performing songs from her upcoming second album Head, Heart, Hand. She was followed up by electric piano and singing duo, Joe Topping and Chris Howard. Then it was time for midlands based artist, Sunjay, to take the stage, complimenting the atmosphere of the whole day with his smooth, soulful blues melodies.
While the adults immersed themselves in the music and tucked into some delicious food, the kids were happily pre-occupied in an interactive re-telling of the classic Alice in Wonderland. This production, brought to us by Once Upon a Bus, showcased storytelling at it’s finest aboard their revamped specialist double-decker bus. With a bouncy castle, face painter and candy store cart all just a few steps away, the little ones had a lot to squeeze onto their plates.
The festival was a hub of fun activities throughout the day, welcoming over 600 guests. Families relaxed across the lawn in riverside deckchairs, as people of all ages took advantage of our perfectly placed ‘selfie spot’ – even the staff got involved! The festival was a wonderful success, and was rounded off perfectly by the compelling 5 piece Merry Hell, whose energetic performance had the crowd singing unassisted by the band, to bring a storming finale to our first annual Live & Unwind Festival.
Thank you to everyone who made this an unforgettable day for all of us here at The Oakley Court. Thanks to you, and our amazing dedicated team, August in Windsor will never be the same again.