The write stuff at Arts Festival

Sophie Hannah

Rye Arts Festival has just released tickets for sale for four of its key “Books and Talks” programme of events in the 49th annual festival which will be from September 14 to 28. And some really top-quality speakers have been lined up to entertain and inform the Rye audience.

Max Hastings

Sir Max Hastings, for example, really needs little introduction, but here goes anyway!
He is the noted former foreign correspondent for the BBC – the war journalist whose finest hour was perhaps his coverage of the Falklands War when he was the first man into Stanley and greeted the British troops when they arrived. He was The Daily Telegraph editor-in-chief, is a military historian of the highest renown and a best-selling author.

The exciting news is that Sir Max is coming to Rye on Monday September 23 at 7pm in the Milligan Theatre at Rye College to talk about his forthcoming new book which provides a detailed, enquiring and highly readable story of the legendary Dambusters raid.

Sir Max, who has previously written a book about Bomber Command, re-examines the events of the night of May 16/17 1943 and puts them into a wider context. With the forensic eye of the professional historian he looks again at the evidence and while the real heroes (Wing Commander Guy Gibson VC and all those who took part in the raid as well as Barnes Wallis who designed the revolutionary bouncing bomb), are in no doubt, he questions who were the villains, who were the victims, and what objectives the raid actually met. Is our view of history clouded by a long and familiar narrative and a film with iconic music?

Here is a dramatic retake on familiar history by a master of the art, who is also a brilliant speaker. This talk is really not be missed.

Lord Owen

And neither is the talk by Lord Owen on Wednesday September 25 at 7pm in St Mary’s Church. Now a cross-bench peer, David Owen trained as a doctor, became a Labour MP and was appointed as Foreign Secretary aged just 38 in 1973 – the youngest holder of the post since Anthony Eden in 1935. Famously, he co-founded the SDP in 1981 with the “Gang of Four”, but when this merged with the Liberals to form the SLP and then the Liberal Democrats, David Owen opted out of the merger.

However, his Continuing SDP party carried on until 1990 when it was beaten at a Bootle bye-election by Screaming Lord Sutch’s Official Monster Raving Loony Party.

Lord Owen has a lifetime of political experience and inside knowledge of both the UK and the US to draw on, and in his book, Hubris: The Road to Donald Trump, he analyses and describes the mental and physical condition of political leaders past and present with a particular view that what went before paved the way to President Trump.

‘Hubris’ is a brilliant exposé of the mental and physical condition of UK and US political leaders, past and present.

Turning away from non-fiction for a moment, Rye Arts Festival is thrilled that the bestselling novelist, Sophie Hannah (main picture) is coming to Rye on September 19 at 7pm in Rye Methodist Church.

Sophie Hannah is an internationally renowned writer of psychological crime fiction,
published in 49 languages. Plus, for good measure, she is a brilliant speaker, holding audiences with her humour.

She was already renowned as a writer of her own fiction, but in 2014 her career took a new turn when she took on Agatha Christie. Not combatively, of course, she had the blessing of Agatha Christie’s family and estate, to write an entirely new Poirot novel.

The Monogram Murders was an instant hit and a top five bestseller in 15 countries.

Following the critical and sales success of her debut in the caring custody of the moustachioed Belgian sleuth, Sophie has gone on to write two more Poirot novels – Closed Casket and The Mystery of Three Quarters. And both immediately featured in The Sunday Times Top Ten bestsellers lists.

Last of this Famous Four writers, but very far from least, is the wonderful Kate Bradbury – a wildlife writer and journalist who writes about her subject across all the mediums with great knowledge, intelligence and humour. And one of her real passions and specialisms is wildlife gardening.

Kate Bradbury

On Saturday September 28 at 3pm in Rye Methodist Church she will be talking about her new book, Wildlife Gardening for Everyone and Everything, which will be published in May. In this talk, Kate will show you how to make your garden, balcony, doorstep or patio a haven for wildlife. Kate will offer tips on the best way to take matters into our own gardens and provide new homes for a variety of species, no matter what space we have to offer.

Katie will also talk about her previous book, The Bumblebee Flies Anyway – the story of how Kate, finding herself in a new home in Brighton, sets about transforming her decked, barren backyard into a beautiful wildlife garden, documenting the unbuttoning of the earth and the rebirth of the garden.

Kate is the wildlife editor on BBC Gardeners’ World magazine, and a freelance writer for The Guardian, BBC Wildlife magazine, and Telegraph Gardening. She is also a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time.

Tickets (with discounts of 10% for Members and 15% for Benefactors on unlimited purchases) for these events plus a few other top-quality events are on sale now, but they are available online only (and sales are ticking over already).

Image Credits: Rye Arts Festival , Toby Madden .


  1. What an amazing selection of talent for all to enjoy and that is not all of it. Do book your tickets and tell your friends.


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