The annual garden party for Rye Museum was to have taken place as usual in Rae Festing’s beautiful garden at 11 High Street on Saturday July 19. The day before saw the usual preparations: men putting up a marquee for the book sale and setting up tables, arrivals of bric-à-brac, plants, jams, handbags and scarves, tombola items, bags and boxes of books, including the entire contents of the East Street museum’s bookstall, to spend the night under cover lest it rain.
But then came a tornado! (Call it a “high wind event” or something else if you wish.) Power cut. Torrential rain. Trees down. Trapped cars. But might it all blow over in time?
Morning appraisal: marquee collapsed, its broken bits strewn about the garden. Tables wet. But wasn’t the weather brightening? Tables wiped. Books to the garden and stored under tables, waiting for full sun. It rained again. What to do?
“We’ve got an hour,” said a level-headed director. “Let’s move everything to East Street . . . [would that be physically possible?] . . . and people will understand if we’re still setting up at opening time.”
Our indefatigable chairman Jo Kirkham agreed. And that’s when Ryers rallied round: a pair of gardeners arriving for a different job, a neighbour who spotted the scurrying, people bringing more contributions, stall volunteers, one with a pair of willing young grandchildren, early arrivals to the fair. . .
The mangled marquee was removed, tables ferried and dried, multiple trips with bags of books delivered to the team sorting them into sensible order on to those emptied shelves and all the other items to hastily allocated sale locations.
Of course the earliest visitors did understand. One ex-mayor sat at the entrance behind a tub for donations; another again worked his magic selling artwork, a guitar and “special” books. Visitors made new acquaintances at the tables where they took their cake and coffees, teas, and lingered to look around the museum. And the weather did brighten. So we extended opening hours and by the end of the day nearly 400 people seemed to have enjoyed the party. Though it wasn’t in that lovely garden.
Names would take too many lines and leave too many heroes unsung, but Rye Museum wants to say a very big “Thank You!” to all who helped turn a chaotic beginning into a great fundraising day after all.
See also: Blacked out by storms
Jean Floyd is company director of Rye Museum Association