Curtain up on Rye Arts Festival


Rye Arts Festival stomps off Friday night, September 12th, with the Hallelujah Trails’ country music in the Community Centre – and it’s free, but you need to get tickets in advance from the box office at Phillips & Stubbs in Cinque Ports Street, open 9.30am – 1pm Monday to Saturday; and there is an action packed programme (cover pictured) through to Sunday September 28th, split into eight categories – classical and contemporary music, the fringe, literature, theatre, walks, and special and other events.

Tickets have been selling fast, and are also available online at – but some events have quite a few left, while others are either sold out – or on their last tickets. The box office may have returns or the odd ticket sometimes, so check there if you are desperate.

The fringe includes art, which has a growing presence (see article), and the contemporary music includes tango, flamenco, blues, jazz and folk ; and venues range from St Mary’s and the Methodist Church for classical concerts ; the Conduit Hill Community Centre for more contemporary music; and the Lamb House marquee and the George hotel (amongst others) for literary events. The opera La Traviata features at the Milligan Theatre in Rye College, and Rye College, the Studio School and Rye Primary all host events.

Walks and tours include Rye, Winchelsea and Romney Marsh; there are concerts as well at St Thomas’s Winchelsea and All Saints, Iden; and there are free events at the George and the Queen’s Head, the School Creative Centre, Rye’s Art Gallery and East Street Museum, and the William the Conqueror pub in Rye Harbour amongst others.

At the start of this week ticket sales were varied. Two classical concerts were sold out, and one was nearly sold out – but 77 seats remained for “La Traviata” and, while the best seats had gone for concerts in the Methodist and St Mary’s Churches, there were many seats still available – particularly cheaper ones at the back and sides. On the contemporary music front Irish folk and the songs of Edith Piaf and Jacques Brel had both sold out, but there were still Community Centre tickets available for blues and jazz concerts, as well as some for tango, flamenco and folk.

Cricket commentator Henry Blofeld and a talk about Vita Sackville-West’s garden were both “Literary” sell-outs, but there were still tickets available for talks about 1914, Kipling, Hong Kong, Robert Bruce (see article), Lady Chatterley, potters and prison economics so the chattering classes should find something of interest. TV presenter Peter Snow’s talk on when Britain burnt down the White House has sold out, but there are still tickets later in the festival for talks on artist Edward Seago, and government blunders. Rye residents however might not be as light on their feet as they would like as tickets are still going begging for the tango and flamenco workshops.

The “specials” category includes the opening free Hallelujah Trails concert as well as the East Street Museum’s special exhibition on the town’s historic links with France. A tour around Romney Marsh’s historic churches is already sold out though, but there are seats left for a talk on saving historic buildings – which should be of local interest. The events include some specially for schools like children’s author Ian Whybrow and some by children such as Rye Dance Centre students performing at Rye College on Saturday September 20th.

Included in the “specials” is a talk by TV personality Gyles Brandreth on Sunday September 21st and tickets are still available. Theatrical events include The Rain That Washes (see article) by the Chickenshed theatre company, Rye College’s Year 10 performing a Sondheim musical, and “Bite size plays” at Rye College on Thursday September 25th.

But even if Ryers are not eager to dance, they are willing to walk. Two walks around medieval Rye have sold out, as have most of the visits to Winchelsea cellars – though a couple of tickets are left on Friday September 19th and Friday September 26th. The World War Two walks have also been very popular and only eight tickets are left – one for the 20th, five on the 25th and two on the 27th. So get out your diary, and check your wallet, as the curtain goes up on two hectic weeks of the Rye Arts Festival.


The image is the cover of the festival programme

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