Jazz festival moves

Scenes of Rye's 2019 Jazz Festival as the crowds spilled down the Mint.

The photograph above was taken during the August bank holiday weekend in 2019 when the Rye Jazz Festival was in full flow with crowds following our very own town crier as he led the revellers around the town.

The atmosphere was electric, the weather was beautifully sunny all weekend, shops, restaurants, bars and accommodation were packed with visiting tourists, tills were bulging, and the town was in full swing.

Alas, Covid struck and the following year things changed dramatically and, with the country going into lockdown, most events had to be cancelled or, at best, postponed. 2020 became the year of non-events, and it was the year to forget as most of us were “confined to barracks” whilst the NHS and various support networks, against unbelievable odds, pulled us through. Only now do we seem to be getting closer to the new normal.

Rye Jazz Festival plays an important role in attracting visitors and business to the town and, having been personally involved in organising the logistics of the festival, I know for a fact how hard it is to make it financially viable.

So while there is tremendous support for the jazz festival in many quarters, for others jazz is still a dirty four letter word, and the fact that the festival is moving “temporarily” must be music to their ears. Change is inevitable, particularly given what we have all been through recently, and the team at Rye Jazz HQ have had to do some serious re-thinking as a result.

The new venue for this summer’s Rye Jazz Festival.

In a statement issued by festival director, Ian Bowden, he says:

“We have put a lot of careful thinking into our summer 2021 programme and specifically the August bank holiday festival. Whilst the roadmap is expected to see the full re-opening of the hospitality sector for the summer, there is still an air of uncertainty surrounding Covid.

“Our first priority is to ensure the safety of our audiences and artists and for this reason we have come to the decision that we will not host any indoor shows at this time and therefore the festival will not be in its usual form.

“For this year only, we are moving the August bank holiday festival outdoors to the beachside South Lawn of the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill on Sea. This move will enable a limited capacity audience and ensure a Covid-safe environment .

“We’ve planned an incredible line-up over the long weekend to celebrate the best of British live music. Our headline acts, Gabrielle and Incognito, will all be performing as part of this line-up and tickets already purchased for these concerts will automatically be transferred to the new venue. In addition we are adding to the weekend line-up with more talented British artists including Paul Carrack, Rumer, Courtney Pine, Mica Paris, and The Kingdom Choir among others. Ian Shaw and Liane Carroll will now form part of this line-up.

“Rye Jazz…bringing the best of British jazz, soul, funk, gospel and contemporary music to the great British seaside! ”

But not all is lost as he then goes on to say

“We still plan to bring some great FREE music to the streets of Rye. However this is subject to receiving a successful grant application from Rother District Council and other grant funding avenues – the applications are in and everything is crossed that we receive good news so that we can programme live music for the Butter Market, The Landgate, and our favourite corners on the streets of Rye. Keep updated as we programme these over the coming months once we hear the outcome of our applications.”

Let’s hope their funding applications are successful as Rye needs the festival now more than ever before as without it the town will certainly notice the difference.

Image Credits: Nick Forman , Rye Jazz Festival .


  1. Yes it’s sad that the main events for this year are moving to Bexhill but as mentioned in the article we are still experiencing trying times and safely and making the events viable are crucial!! However I am pleased to hear that subject to the necessary grants being available from Rother there should be some live music in the streets which will be great and will also help the businesses in the town too!


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