Rye Arts Festival

15th to 30th September

The 41st annual Rye Arts Festival runs from 15 to 30th September, with a packed fortnight of events including an exciting mix of contemporary and classical music, literary talks, comedy, walks, theatre and children’s events at venues in and around Rye, many of which are free of charge.

Jazz saxophonist Courtney Pine is possibly the headlinegrabber in the contemporary music programme since he is one of the true ‘greats’ of the UK jazz scene, enjoying worldwide acclaim. This is a must-see concert.

As is the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. They’re coming back to Rye for the fourth time and now have a deserved international following, with their mix of amazing music and witty banter. They play everything from George Formby standards to Hip Hop, by way of Joy Division! Last time around, they were responsible for successfully introducing much of Rye’s older audience to grunge, and the audience went away humming Smells Like Teen Spirit, looking forward to listening to some more Nirvana!

Other highlights include US bluesman Catfish Keith, who will be performing at the Festival’s inaugural concert at the Tilling Green Community Centre. British folksters Plainsong are coming to Rye as part of their farewell tour, while Pete Morton will perform Chaucer’s The Miller’s Tale by way of the songs of Bob Dylan! Hank Wangford & the Lost Cowboys bring country music to the Festival for the first time – yee hah!

And don’t forget, once again there will be a number of free gigs at pubs in and around Rye as part of the Festival ‘fringe’.

Classical Music highlights include the internationallyrenowned Zemlinsky Quartet who will be flying in especially from Prague to perform. There is a welcome return of Euphonia Works, who last year introduced Rye to fully-staged opera. This time they’re back with Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte – a firm favourite with audiences for 250 years and if you’ve never seen an opera, here’s a great place to start since it is accessible and extremely reasonably priced for a professional production. Euphonia Works is a company of young and very talented professional singers and musicians and as Rye seeks to promote up and coming talent. For the first time there will be lunchtime concerts under the banner of Ryesing Stars.

The classical programme includes the Sitkovetsky Trio, who have built a reputation as an outstanding trio since their foundation in 2007, and also the Fitzwilliam String Quartet, who have been delighting audiences around the UK and the world for many more decades! Upping the numbers is Perfect Fifth, whose five talented musicians have established themselves as one of the foremost brass ensembles in just three short years.

The Festival will close on the afternoon of Sunday 30th Sept with a concert at St Mary’s Church by the London Adventist Chorale – an uplifting and joyful performance by one of the UK’s leading gospel choirs is guaranteed. If you’ve never seen gospel music performed live, make sure you don’t miss this wonderful opportunity.

The large and varied literary programme includes a talk by Penny Junor, who has had a long career writing Royal biographies, most notably a number of books about Charles and Diana. However, she will be focusing on Prince William, as she has just written his first biography to mark his 30th birthday.

Veteran ITN newscaster Sandy Gall will be talking about Afghanistan and the long ongoing war against the Taliban, based on his extensive knowledge of the country from where he has reported many times, and will be exploring where it all went wrong.

John Julius Norwich is Courtney Pine Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain Sitkovetsky Trio Sandy Gall an acclaimed historian and talented writer, and he will be talking about his latest book which looks at the history of England by reference to 100 buildings.

Local author Frank Barnard, who has written a series of novels about WWII fighter pilots, will be giving a talk on his latest novel, which against the backdrop of war, features Rye and the area. And Adam Nicolson, who is the tenant of Sissinghurst, his family home that is now owned by the National Trust, will discuss the English gentry – the people who owned much of the country for generations, but who were never accepted as aristocracy being more connected to the ordinary local people with whom they lived and worked.

We have comedy in the form of Instant Sunshine – whose amusing songs have been entertaining Britain since the ‘70s when they were regulars on the Stop The Week on Radio 4. We have a theme going on as the IS boys have, or had, day jobs as doctors, just like Hank Wangford, a consultant gynaecologist when he’s not being a cowboy!

Laughter is the best medicine, and we are also pleased to welcome Funny Women to Rye. The full line-up of comediennes on the bill won’t be known until the 11th hour, since one will be the newly crowned queen of comedy at the Funny Women competition in London.

But definitely entertaining the audience will be Rowan Pelling, who cut her teeth journalistically as editor of the Erotic Review magazine before trying her hand at stand-up. So there is likely to be some sauciness – but she’s definitely not the female Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown!

Theatre is back, with the professional actors of Myriad Theatre Company returning to Rye. To mark the bicentenary of Charles Dickens’ birth, they will be performing an adaptation of Our Mutual Friend. And Idolrich Theatre will use puppetry to tell the ancient Greek tale of Persephone in the Underworld which echoes last year’s Fukushima disaster in Japan and also this year’s 25th anniversary of the dreadful Chernobyl catastrophe. The issues raised will be discussed after the show, and might not be suitable for younger children.

We are delighted to welcome the Little Cauliflower Machine – street theatre throughout Rye on the opening day of the Festival, Saturday 15th Sept, is guaranteed fun for children and adults, and will start with a free performance at Tilling Green in the morning before moving on around the town to Strand Quay.

Other children’s events include a performance by the children of Rye Community Primary at Great Dixter, who will be reading the poems that they have written having been inspired by the lovely gardens under the guidance of local award-winning children’s author Roy Apps.

Youngsters from the Rye Dance Centre will once again perform at Rye College. This year marks the Centre’s 30th anniversary, and it has launched the careers of a number of professional dancers as well as giving fun and enjoyment to hundreds of children across the generations. So why not come along and support today’s talented students as well as celebrate what has become a Rye institution.

Once again the ever-popular Winchelsea Cellar Tours and tours of the Romney Marsh churches are back on the programme, plus the Rye in World War II walk, which was run last year for the first time with great success. And this year we introduce a special Bird Ringing Tour at the Wetland Trust in the Pannel valley. Early booking is recommended for all these events as numbers are limited.

For more information on all events, go to the website www.ryeartsfestival.co.uk . This year there is also a blog at www.ryefestival.blogspot.com which provides up-to-date information on this year’s exciting programme of events.

Postal booking for the general public start on Monday 30th July and the Box Office at Phillips & Stubbs in Cinque Ports Street opens for bookings in person from 9.30am to 1.30pm Monday to Saturday from 13th August.

So if music, theatre, comedy, literature or informing and inspiring speakers float your boat, make sure you check out what’s on offer between 15th and 30th September in Rye and make sure you don’t miss the best smaller Festival in the UK!

“Rye’s Own” August 2012

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