Lifting the curtain on jazz and blues


No sooner had the hugely successful Christmas concerts finished than the team behind the Rye Jazz festival were back, hard at work putting their heads together to make this year’s festival even bigger and better. Now in its eighth year the festival has grown hugely, as have the numbers of additional visitors to Rye that it brings with it. The public are often amazed at the staggering level of musical talent who willingly come to perform in Rye, the artists love the boutique atmosphere of the beautiful and iconic St Mary’s church and all that the town has to offer.

As the new year dawns, Jazz HQ is swiftly on the case orchestrating the next festival with furtive phone calls and emails winging regularly between the artists, their agents and the festival team, negotiating performing rates, thrashing out contracts and making the numbers work.

Many artists arrive here from abroad. They need collecting from airports or stations and they need accommodation in the town and enjoy our hospitality. Their band and team also need putting up and feeding and they all need to be paid. The logistics involved can be nail biting as they often run very tight schedules as many perform all over the world. Last Christmas for example, only the day before Jose Feliciano played for us at St Mary’s he was performing by special invitation with none other than the Pope at a private audience in the Vatican!

Getting equipment, staging, lighting and artists set up in the various venues is not without its challenges; at St Mary’s the usual set up is unrecognisable once the pews have been moved, a bar installed along with lighting, staging, sound equipment, grand piano and artists lounge and despite all this, “normal” life continues at the church including weddings, christenings and services, there’s never a dull moment!!

Policing road closures, crowd control, security and public safety also have to be carefully planned and executed on the day. The infrastructure costs of the festival need to be secured each year through the generosity of sponsorship, patronage and adverts in the festival guide, which collectively make it all possible. Banners, boards, posters, leaflets, flyers and intense marketing all need to be organised to make sure the message gets out there – a huge ask but all made possible due to the commitment of a team of volunteers who are passionate about what they do and help so much to make it such a success.

You would be amazed by what goes on behind the scenes to ensure the festival delivers a memorable and enjoyable experience, it also promotes Rye to a huge audience and generates a great deal of extra business for traders in the town. The programme of events for 2019 is very exciting, there is lots more news to follow but for now, more detailed information is available at


Image Credits: Nick Forman .

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  1. I am surprised that the great Salena Jones has never performed in Rye. In Japan, for years, she has been their No.1. Jazz singer and returns every year on tour with her musicians. She lives in Ascot, UK and is married to Keith Mansfield. Salena has sung with the greatest – Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, Maynard Ferguson, Lionel Hampton, Tom Jones, Antonio Carlos Jobim amongst many others. When she was very young and starting out on her career, she did demos for Lena Horne and Peggy Lee. She is extremely versatile and is loved worldwide. She has recorded over 45 albums and 22 singles.
    Her first big hit was the vocal version of “Walk in the Black Forest” with lyrics by Roy Cowen and local Rye pianist Iain Kerr. Don’t you think It is about time Salena came to Rye? We do. And, by the way, she is certainly not 89 as stated (and disputed) on Wikipedia!


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