The annual Henley festival – this was its 34th year – is a very different experience from other music festivals that pop up throughout summer.

Ten-hour traffic jams, mud and infamous portaloos are mercifully absent in the riverside venue, and with the fine weather in Festival week the strict black tie dress code certainly sets it apart.

The musical acts on offer are just as impressive, and with Elton John, Elvis Costello and the legendary Shirley Bassey headlining over the four days, there was no shortage of big names. The site itself though is welcomingly small and convenient, with all seats for the main Floating Stage offering an up-close experience.

There is also a comedy tent featuring the likes of Al Murray, and a loyal re-creation of Soho’s iconic Ronnie Scott’s jazz club with its house band performing a historical musical overview of the club’s history.

At our visit on Friday Bryn Terfel and the Wales National Orchestra performed a playful variety of opera hits on the Floating Stage ranging from arias to an amusing rendition of “If I were a rich man” from Fiddler on the Roof. With a backdrop of the sun setting and pleasure boats passing by on the Thames, the experience was truly magical.

For this key event in the Henley calendar, festival goers really make the effort – think ball gowns for the ladies and bow ties for the men. Arriving by boat is obviously the way to go, but parking is remarkably easy.

Aside from the music and comedy tents, there is fine dining and pop-up champagne bars every few metres. There was even a well-dressed gentleman selling Cohiba cigars from a baby’s pram which he was pushing around, seemingly doing quite good business.

By Sandra Carter