Horses only – as the roads close

The road is closed, but not to horses

As the sun beat down over the Bank Holiday weekend, three roads closed in Rye for the jazz festival and the road through Camber was also closed – for most of the day on Monday.

However, the closure of East Street, Market Street and Lion Street on three afternoons was planned because of free concerts in the Butter Market under the 18th century Town Hall.

Steward Alex Stone guards the entrance to East Street, closed to traffic

What was not expected though was Dom Pipkin and The Ikos climbing on to a brewers’ dray (pictured above) for a musical tour of the town – which did cause a long tailback of traffic briefly – and a bit of clearing up when the horses stopped for a break.

Traffic problems in Camber though can always be anticipated when there is good weather and Londoners flock to the beaches. This weekend was no exception and some probably ended up in Rye instead, judging by the queues everywhere.

In Rye itself, volunteer festival marshals worked hard to direct motorists along alternative routes (see photo, right) when three roads were closed for three afternoons. And they were kept busy at both the bottom of East Street where it leaves the High Street and near Lamb House on the corner of Mermaid Street and West Street.

Marshals were also busy outside the Butter Market keeping the pavement clear outside residents’ homes and keeping a pathway clear to the outdoor stage in the grounds of the Kino cinema.

A steward keeps the pavement clear as the Butter Market proved popular with audiences throughout the weekend
The pavement is kept clear as performances at the Butter Market drew crowds

A flurry of concern Saturday lunchtime by fire engine sirens – and Facebook later was full of speculation about what had happened. However, it proved to be a kitchen fire at the back of Rye Art Gallery and there was no sign at the front of the building in the High Street of the galleries themselves being too affected.

The festival had kicked off Thursday night with gigs at The Standard in the Mint and the Grapevine on Conduit Hill – the latter featuring the Bling Crosbies.

The Grapevine also featured Dom Pipkin on Saturday who then re-appeared at the Butter Market’s free event on Sunday before jumping on the brewer’s dray.

Dom Pipkin and The Ikos on the brewers’ dray at the top of Lion Street
The Jazz Funk Giants playing outside Simply Italian in The Strand

By Monday the whole town felt surrounded by music with The Rockitmen on the “Wipers” open air stage at one end (behind the castle) and the Jazz Funk Giants at the other outside the Simply Italian restaurant on Strand Quay.

The Fabulous Red Diesel were a popular choice on Monday at the Butter Market and will be back in town on September 8 inside the Wipers (Ypres Castle Inn) from 9:30pm to 11:30pm, the outside stage having finished its holiday visit.

Being outside was a popular choice this weekend and on Monday the crowds at the Wipers had overflowed into the Gun Garden and the queues for drink at the inside bar and the garden bar nearly met at the garden entrance.

The Grapevine’s audience also spilled out into Conduit Hill, as being inside felt more like being in a sauna, but careful drinkers moved themselves out of the door while keeping their drink at arm’s length inside.

The modestly named Fabulous Red Diesel proved a fabulous hit with the crowds at the Butter Market on Monday

One of the many queues on Monday was of those waiting for the Seth Lakeman concert, the last of five in St Mary’s Norman church dating back to 1100.

Kandace Spring’s concert on Saturday in St Mary’s was packed out well before it started after, a preview on BBC South East’s TV news  – and the Town Hall also had a busy weekend.

The first concert in the Butter Market was preceded by a wedding in the Town Hall’s council chamber and the wedding guests, led by the Town Crier, processed down to their reception in the George’s courtyard between musicians and others setting up the Kino’s courtyard stage. The Crier also appeared later announcing gigs.

The Violet Jive play to a packed Kino Terrace – although the open-air bar also proved an attraction

Sunday morning started with an early sea mist and church services in St Mary’s had to work around the large stage – with the altar and Rector Canon David Frost much higher than usual, and with better acoustics.

Church black cat Sylvester, discomforted by the changes, sought out friends in the pews to reassure him – and visitors to the church tower had an eagle’s eye view of the stage as well as of the surrounding countryside.

The ever-popular bar at the Kino Terrace

Eric Bibb’s concert later on Sunday in St Mary’s was also very popular.

The musicians were however not limited to obvious places and there was cool guitarist Ed Holden in the new “Ethel Loves Me” gallery in East Street.

Artists were also nearly as busy as musicians packing up the Rye Society of Artists and Tuesday Painters exhibitions – with the latter somewhat overwhelmed by the Kino jazz and bar immediately outside their door.

Buyers were taking away their artistic purchases (after careful wrapping) and no doubt the final sales figures will emerge in due course.

The festival finally ground to a halt late Monday with yet another queue. Marino’s fish and chips in The Mint had closed due to a technical difficulty and, as a result, the Kettle of Fish queue at Strand Quay was over 30 strong , ending up in the car park exit.

Photos: John Minter, Tony Ham


  1. What a lovely weekend – met so many appreciative tourists: what was not to like with the weather, music and general good times; yes, it was crowded, but hey-ho that’s what our town lives on – tourism, business and a good bit of industry, artistry and wit – well done Ian Bowden for organising such a positive and well received festival.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here