Outgoing mayor’s update

Rebekah Gilbert

As outgoing mayor, I have now been able to consolidate all my fundraising over the past nine months and announce that £13,468.78 has been raised for my mayoral charities. These were the Rye Wurlitzer Academy which, far from just teaching young people to play this mighty cinema organ, also gives them the life skills of self confidence, discipline, team working, talking to audiences, time management and opportunities to travel through music. The other was the Rye Old Scholars Association Generation X Fund, which with Richard Moore, chair of both charities, we set up to allow those under 35 who went to Rye College and have entrepreneurial ideas to help start them off with some seed funding; plus an opportunity for old scholars to act as mentors to the younger business people. They gained £7,261.89 and £6,206.89 respectively.

I wasn’t able to raise money until nine months ago when Covid restrictions were lifted, so I crammed in a classical concert in Winchelsea church, a quiz night, a gala dinner and auction, plus a Messiah from scratch. In addition, working with veteran photographer Susie Benn, we created a calendar of local women working in Rye. There were two events especially for the Wurlitzer – the last night of the proms with Michael Wooldridge accompanying me, former mayor, Jonathan Breeds and current mayor, Andi Rivett, plus a sponsored walk that Richard did. I would also like to thank Judith Blincow as treasurer to the charities for her hard work.  Thank you also to all those to so kindly contributed to the fundraising. Finally, alongside donations, I also offered to shave my head for the charities, but raised so much not to, that I still have a full head of hair!

In my outgoing speech I paid special tribute to Lois Benton and Lesley Brownbill, both freewomen of the town of Rye, for the inspiration, teaching and help they had given me as a teenager. I said that, having come to Rye in December 1978, a month before my ninth birthday, with pretty much just the clothes I had on as my parents had separated, these women showed me that through music you can turn your life around. Helping me get into the National Youth Choir and travel the world and record for BBC, EMI, and be an ambassador for my country, then graduate from the Royal Academy of Music as a concert soloist and again travel the world and work with some outstanding people. As they had given me the opportunity and start in life, these two charities were a chance to hand that on to the next generation, give back, and help youngsters.

When asked how it was, being mayor, I answer “frustrating” – due to Covid, as it curtailed my hopes to start discussions to build social housing in Rye, get electric vehicle charging points in the town, and even some recycling bins in the main streets for visitors to use, but I will continue to lobby, as well as working on other projects quietly behind the scenes. Words of advice for the new mayor? Make the very most of it because, like our town clock – time is but a very shadow that passeth away – time in office goes so quickly.

It has been a huge privilege to serve the town. I started out lobbying for a vaccine centre for Rye and finished getting a hub for Ukrainian refugees started, neither of which would have been possible without the incredible energy, enthusiasm and selflessness of Dr Anthony Kimber, and I thank him greatly for his endeavours. As too our town clerk, Richard Farhall for all he has done and his wise counsel over the two years. I am looking forward to continuing that service as mayoress to the new mayor, Councillor Andi Rivett.

Image Credits: Rebekah Gilbert .


  1. congratulations on what was a frustrating time in office for Rebekah, To raise such an amount of money which all goes to helping young people of our town . I was witness to the amount of work that Rebekah had to do under a difficult period ,not only fund raising but with all the projects she put her time and energy into ,well done and i look forward to working along side as my mayoress within my first term of office an outstanding job well done .

  2. Thank you Rebekah, in your dedication and hard work and achievements through difficult times you were – and continue to be – an inspiration to us all.


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