This year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List celebrates two local women, Mary Howse and Rae Festing, with British Empire Medals (BEM) in recognition of their efforts in serving the community.
Mary Howse has been the Honorary Treasurer of the Rye Arts Festival for a number of years, bringing to the role the diligence and eye for detail of a trained chartered accountant and the unbridled enthusiasm of a fan of all the arts! You are as likely to find Mary in the audience enjoying a string quartet as at a gig by a hairy folk duo, or engrossed in a talk by a grizzled explorer as well as chortling at a comedy event.
Mary has always sought to encourage the Committee to plan a programme of events each year to a sound budget, but also to support innovation in terms of artistes booked. She has whole-heartedly supported broadening the appeal of the Festival to a wider community, with an ambitious programme of free events, but always on the back of a financially secure footing.
Of course, the Rye Arts Festival is only part of Mary’s rich and varied life, where her tireless energy and ability to get things done without fuss is much appreciated by all those who work with her. She hugely deserves the BEM she has been awarded, as there are so many people in the Rye and Beckley communities who have benefited from her efforts!
Rae Festing is one of the cornerstones on which the Rye community is built and her charity work is legendary. Throughout the summer, her garden is seemingly open every other weekend, raising lots of money for a wide range of deserving charities and good causes. And Rae is always at hand serving coffee and biscuits or cream teas and cakes that she has spent days making or has obtained for the event! And she has only just started slowing down her mobile cream tea or evening canapé service, delivering and serving food and nibbles for charitable events at Rye Community Centre, St Mary’s Centre and Rye Town Hall.
For a number of years, Rae has been on the Rye Conservation Society Committee, where her remit has always extended far beyond preparing the food for the AGM and annual Christmas Gathering. Rae’s deep knowledge of Rye, its people, its buildings and their history, as well as her considered pragmatism, has meant that present and past chairmen of the Society and also its Planning Committee, have hugely valued her tireless input. She really is a pillar of the Rye Conservation Society.
Rae’s charity work must have influenced nearly everyone’s lives locally and her recent honour is most richly merited.
Indeed, everyone whose lives have been touched in some way by Rae and Mary and that must be just about everyone in Rye, will be thrilled with their recent honours and be in agreement that their BEMs are thoroughly deserved!
Photos: Kenneth Bird and Heather Lambert