CHART-topping singer-songwriter James Blunt, 80s party band Madness, pop sensation Sophie Ellis Bextor, DJ Sara Cox and disco legends Sister Sledge are to headline this year’s Henley Festival.

The artists were revealed by organisers today, following months of speculation. They join the previously announced Myleene Klass who presents a night of classical music with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

The festival, which runs from July 8-12 on the town’s Royal Regatta site beside the Thames, also features a programme of first class comedy, with shows by ‘Pub Landlord’ Al Murray, impressionist Rory Bremner, master of the one-liner Milton Jones, and the erudite Simon Evans.

Also up are poker player-turned comic Ken Cheng, Didcot lad Matt Forde, Anuvab Pal, Chris Stokes, Shappi Khorsandi, Olga Koch and Justin Moorhouse among others.

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Further music comes from jazz acts The Boneshaker Band, Moscow Drug Club, Jazz Dynamos, Natty Congeroo & the Flames of Rhythm, Groove under the Sea, Aureum Saxophone Quartet, and The Hawkmen. A programme of world and folk music features Julu & Heg, Martin Harley, Henry Webster & Elliott Morris, Nicola & Jim, Charlotte Campbell, The Gaslight Troubadours, Max Pashm Paprika, Thrill Collins and Namvula. There is also a bill hosted by BBC Music Introducing Berkshire – but not Oxfordshire.

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The festival is the most upmarket event of its kind in the country, with black tie and evening wear de rigueur, a well-heeled clientele and luxurious champagne and cocktail bars – including one built over the river itself.

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Established 38 years ago as a classical music charity event, Henley Festival continues to run as a non-profit organisation, supporting charitable projects.

Madness will open the festival on the Wednesday with a hit-filled set of their trademark ska-pop, including classics House of Fun, Baggy Trousers and It Must Be Love, alongside new songs from their first album in five years The Bullingdon Boys.

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Multi-platinum selling James Blunt brings his hit You’re Beautiful and other songs on the Thursday. Blunt’s debut album Back to Bedlam was the best-selling album of the 2000s in the UK, with over 11 million copies sold worldwide and saw the former army officer pick up two Brit Awards, two MTV Video Music Awards and two Ivor Novello Awards. He comes packing latest album Once Upon a Mind.

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Friday sees Sophie Ellis-Bextor taking to the festival’s floating stage. She comes armed with hits Murder On The Dancefloor, Groovejet and Take Me Home. Her show will be followed by Sara Cox presenting her show Just Can’t Get Enough 80s.

Saturday promises to be equally vibrant, with a Disco Classical show, featuring orchestral renditions of disco greats by the Manchester Camerata Orchestra with a special guest performance by Sister Sledge, fronted by original member Kathy Sledge.

Formed in 1971, Sister Sledge achieved international success at the height of the disco era – including tunes He’s the Greatest Dancer and We Are Family.

Former Hear’Say star Myleene Klass will close the festival on the Sunday with Classic FM’s Classical Salute, an evening of classical and military music performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Stephen Bell.

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The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra will be joined by a string of military musicians including ceremonial trumpeters for Verdi’s Grand March from Aida, a band of military drummers for Ravel’s Bolero and uniformed pipers for Highland Cathedral by Roever.

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The orchestra will also be joined by internationally acclaimed soloists for performances of popular greats including Rule Britannia, Bizet’s Carmen and a rousing performance of Goodwins 633 Squadron. There will also be music by Gershwin, Strauss and many others, and The evening will end with fireworks over the river.

Food is high quality, with Michelin-starred chef Angela Hartnett running what promises to be Europe’s biggest field restaurant.

A spokesman said: “As the UK’s only black-tie festival, Henley Festival is glamour personified, offering Michelin starred food, award-winning comedy, critically acclaimed artists and the biggest names in popular, world, jazz and classical music.

“Many festival goers arrive by boat, and the green lawns of the festival are transformed into a Great Gatsby vision as black tie-clad revellers spill across the festival site, champagne in hand, while fireworks explode overhead.”

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