A tale of two festivals

A special meeting was held at the Town Hall this week to recruit volunteers for this winter’s Christmas festival at the same time as success appears to have killed off another festival, the summer’s Maritime Festival (pictured above). And success is also a problem for Rye News.

Strand Quay buzzed with noise, activity and colour
Strand Quay buzzed with noise, activity and colour last year

The special meeting on Monday, pictured above, was chaired by the Mayor Cllr Bernardine Fiddimore, and another group of councillors led by Cllr Rebekah Gilbert have also been trying to reinvigorate the Chamber of Commerce and pull together the town’s marketing efforts – by volunteers as well as by businesses.

Whether the council can, will or should step in to help or advise the Maritime Festival’s organisers remains to be seen – but last year’s crowds appear to have highlighted the dangers of a quayside-based event alongside sometimes deep and always muddy waters.

Like the Christmas Festival’s organisers, Rye News and its current volunteers are also victims of its own success. And, though more contributors are always needed, more volunteers are also needed to handle the growing volume of stories.

These are aimed as much at visitors to the town (as it is available online anywhere) as it is for local residents. See our front page panel top right “Get Involved” on how to contribute and volunteer.

Indeed many visitors came to Rye when “Great Expectations” was staged last December (making much use of online publicity and social media) and, as someone commented, “everyone benefits when Rye pulls in the same direction”.

The High Street was packed from side to side last year. Can this be repeated ?
The High Street was packed from side to side last year. Can this be repeated ?

However Monday’s meeting, attended by around 30 people, was told by last year’s organisers that “it is paramount that more hands are on deck” and “as passionate as we are about the festival, we cannot allow it to have the same impact on our lives, jobs and families as it did last year”.

Other volunteers, and voluntary organisations, may say the same and the Maritime Festival’s organisers may also say something similar. But they have not as yet, apparently, asked the Town Hall for help in keeping the festival afloat.

However the Town Hall has been helping to rejuvenate the Chamber of Commerce and more feedback is needed from local businesses to make further progress – and a further meeting is planned for next month.

The Business Development Working Group of the council, which was behind this initiative, has also been looking at ways to bring inward investment into Rye and promote the town, including co-ordinating all relevant websites.

Rye News falls into that category, and there are many “voluntary” activities such as the Christmas Festival, and indeed the Rye Arts Festival, which bring visitors and business to the town.

But, like the Chamber of Commerce, they need volunteers and the “Christmas in Rye” Committee in particular would like to hear from any willing volunteers – as much advance preparation and fundraising is needed.

Last year’s festival focused on “Great Expectations” and this year’s theme is “Tales of Old” – a combination of some of the works of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson which include “The Little Match Girl”, “Rumpelstiltskin”, and “The Snow Queen” amongst others.

The organisers say this theme “sits well with the natural beauty of the town and provides a really interesting theme for schools, traders and community groups to work with – and the aim, like last year, is to include everybody”.

Events may not be restricted to just one day, other locations and venues are being considered , and all ideas – and help – are welcome.

In the meantime Rye News has now published over two thousand stories since it went “live” in May 2014 and, while in the first year, only one month’s output exceeded 100 stories, seven in the past year have exceeded 100 stories a month – with the summer (not surprisingly for Rye) being busier than the autumn. But that does mean, each and every week, more volunteers and contributors are needed… so get involved.


Photos : Rye News Library and Ray Prewer

Image Credits: Jenny Sinclair .

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