Strumming in the sunshine

Rye Ukelele Experiment committee members: Lorna Hall, Graham Stroud (seated) Rose Kempson, Pam Stroud, Justin Barber, Heidi Foster and Ali Catt

Rye was alive with the sound of ukuleles last Sunday May 24, as over 100 musicians joined together to strum their way through a wonderful sunny afternoon. Many more visitors gathered in the garden at the Cinque Ports Inn to listen and support some brilliant bands from Kent and East Sussex – including Rye, Headcorn, Wadhurst, East Grinstead, Doddington, Deal, Lewes, Hastings and Folkestone.

The Wadhurst ukelele band
The Wadhurst ukelele band

An eclectic variety of music from each group was rounded off with a rousing ‘Big Busk”. The world record attempt for kazoo and ukulele played together was highly entertaining and our spotters calculated around three hundred players, although this has yet to be verified.

The Rye organisers (pictured above) have received many messages since the festival, and this is just one example: Huge congratulations from all of us here in Headcorn for such a successful and enormously enjoyable day yesterday. No mean feat of organisation and you even managed to control the weather too! We had a number of members who were performing in public for the very first time yesterday and the feedback from everyone is how supportive the audience were and how encouraged everyone felt – just how it should be. There was a really good range of groups  – thank you for including our ‘new’ club in the line-up.George Bartle of Headcorn Ukulele Group.

We are astounded at the interest this first festival has gathered and will certainly consider another similar event next year – when we’ve recovered from this one. I would like to thank Ian Burford, Musical Director of the Experiment, for all his work and for being an impressive Master of Ceremonies. The rest of the Rye group also worked incredibly hard to make the day a success and we are very grateful to our sponsors Rye Town Council, EDF and The Windmill Guest House.

The Deputy Mayor in conversation
The Deputy Mayor in conversation

Many Rye businesses made very generous contributions to the raffle and Kirsty Doherty did a wonderful job on the design side. Thanks also to Rye’s Deputy Mayor Jonathan Breeds (pictured left, centre, cooking burgers and sausages with former councillor Ian Potter, far left) and his team at the Cinque Ports and to our wonderful sound man Andy, and to anyone else who supported us on the day. A substantial sum of money, to be confirmed, was also raised for St Michael’s Hospice.

For more details and pics see

Photos: Kenneth Bird