Festival gets green light

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A previous festival launch in 2016 in the Oak Room at The Mermaid

At Rye Arts Festival’s AGM last Sunday, March 14, festival director John Case announced that the 2021 festival would go ahead from Friday, September 10 to Sunday, September 26, pandemic permitting.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the festival and to mark it the programme will be packed with classical and contemporary music, books and talks, theatre and film, walks and tours and other special events.

Giving focus first to the literary offering, John Case said: “We will again be holding another Cryme Day on September 11, which will be a celebration of the detective novel, focusing on the golden age of crime writing. We are excited to welcome Nicola Upson, Elly Griffiths, Andrew Wilson and Martin Edwards to Rye.

“Martin is making a return visit, having been part of the festival’s first Cryme Day in 2019, In fact he loved his visit to Rye so much that he has made the town a feature of his latest crime novel which will be published later this year.

Codebreaking celebrated

“RyeSpy, a celebration of espionage and codebreaking, will be held on Saturday, September 18 and amongst the writers we will welcome will be Tania Szabo, daughter of Violette (a heroine of the Resistance in the second world war), and Dermot Turing, who will talk about his famous uncle, Alan Turing, who broke the German code in the second world war.

“In addition, on various days throughout the festival,  we will be celebrating the lives of many writers with a local connection including Sheila Kaye-Smith, Radclyffe Hall, and children’s writers Malcolm Saville and Monica Edwards.

“Our director of music, Alison Moncrieff-Kelly is busy planning an exciting programme of classical events and all will be revealed in July when we hope to hold our launch for members. Social distancing would make it necessary to utilise the larger venues available in Rye such as the Creative Centre and St Mary’s Church.”

Linda Harland, one of the festival trustees, commented that the organising committee had been working hard, booking artists, performers, and authors. From a contractual point, everything was Covid-dependant with a reciprocal opt-out clause; the artists were generally just keen to have the opportunity to perform in public again.

Loss with last year’s cancellation

The AGM, held on Zoom, was a much reduced affair than in previous years, with only 15 or so members in virtual attendance, and little opportunity therefore for interaction and discussion.

John Phillips, the treasurer, presenting the accounts for the year ended December 31, 2020, noted that the cancellation of last year’s festival had resulted in a small loss of £1,766. Expenditure on artist’s and venue bookings had been successfully curtailed.

The trustees remain committed to broadening the audience base with new forms of events, and they continue to seek a permanent chairperson to lead the festival. Their report for 2020 outlines the various measures introduced to compensate for the cancellation of last year’s festival.

In order to maintain links with members, a series of festival podcasts, called RyePod, had been launched in collaboration with film maker and musician Alisdair Kitchen and Alison Moncrieff-Kelly. These podcasts are still available.

Image Credits: Kenneth Bird .

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