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A group of five women from Henley will swim the English Channel next year in support of Henley Music School.


The Henley Mermaids, all regular swimmers with the Henley Open Water Swimming Club, and with an average age of 50, will embark on the challenge in June 2020.


Laura Reineke, the team’s captain, said “I love long distance open water swimming and we find it increasingly difficult to raise the £60,000 a year needed to fund the Henley Music School. I thought swimming the Channel could be a great way of combining the two.” Mother-of-three Laura founded the Henley Music School in 2010 to provide music tuition for anyone regardless of age, ability, background and means. However, the most need is in schools where funding is lacking.


A virtuoso violin, viola and piano player, Laura knows well the importance of musical education for all children. “Due to an appalling lack of funding, schools are forced to drop subjects in order to make ends meet, resulting in children never having contact with wonderful, life-fulfilling education such as music. Henley Music School aims to fill the gap, in the hope of offering music education to everyone, at a heavily subsidised cost, and in many cases free.  The result is well-rounded, happy children.”


Joan Fennelly, 53 and originally from Ireland, a sales and marketing manager for Oracle, has been swimming in the Thames for years. One of eight children, Joan grew up swimming in the river Oweness, in the Irish midlands. On swimming the Channel, she said: “I’m doing it because I can. It’s an iconic swim that’s on my bucket list.”


Mother-of-four Fiona Print, of St Mark’s Road, is a Registered Nurse at the Rapid Access Care Unit at Townlands Hospital has been swimming in the river for 3 years and loves it. She welcomes the challenge of the Channel swim


Susan Barry, a French teacher and mother of three, said “I want to get out of my comfort zone. My children are proud of me, but they think it’s bonkers!”

Jo Robb, 42, and a Green Councillor with South Oxfordshire District Council, joked “I’m doing this because Laura roped me in and you don’t say no to Laura.” “But seriously, more people have climbed Everest than have swum the English Channel. It is the pinnacle of human endurance achievement. It will be easier for us as we’re swimming as a relay but we will have to train and adapt to the cold water and prepare for jelly fish and choppy conditions.”


Henley Music School is a charity set up to provide music education to anyone, regardless of age, ability, background or means. Originally set up as a simple club, it has grown to such an extent that over £60,000 is needed annually for it to run.  It offers inclusive music education in all its forms; from individual lessons, small group ensembles, school curriculum lessons, specialist autism piano lessons, HMS Sunday school, and Youthful Orchestra (an inclusive adult orchestra for the rusty older musician!).  It has over 500 children and 100 adults taking part in all its various musical activities, and this is increasing monthly. 


The school teaches over 14 autistic children free of charge, and offers curriculum music lessons to three of the four primary schools in Henley, and individual and small group lessons to all four primaries. It also supports the secondary school with their music provision.  HMS has over 20 music tutors, all of whom are specialists in their field, professional musicians in their own right, and all fully checked & insured.


HMS perform regularly in the area around eight times a year - from the Living Advent Calendar, to Rotherfield Greys Village Fete, and have a wonderful Gala concert at Phyllis Court Club in June.


Henley Music School has an ethos of inclusiveness and fairness. Everyone is welcome, regardless of means or ability. Our aim is to promote commitment, confidence, fun and a life-long love of music.


Contact: Laura Reineke

Founding Director & CEO

07989 396210 Henley Music School


henleymusicschool@hotmail.co.uk @henleymusicsch


The Mermaids are looking for sponsorship to help them with the cost of the Boat, pilot and crew to join Orchard House (IFAs) Ltd – Helen Fraser and Hallmark Care Homes who have already pledged their support. In order that all money raised through their GoFundMe – Henley Mermaids page can go directly to HMS, and their school music provision.