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Rye Arts Festival

Starts: 14th Sep 2019

A multi-arts festival featuring music, drama, film, books and talks, walks and comedy


Start Date

14th Sep 2019

End Date

28th Sep 2019




Eliza & Martin Carthy, Max Hastings, Tasmin Little, Lord David Owen, Kate Bradbury, Nancy Kerr & James Fagan, Emma Kirkby, Roderick Williams


Rye Arts Festival has announced a dozen or so selected events from an exciting menu of world-class artistes, performers and talkers who have been signed up to entertain audiences between 14-28 September this year. And tickets sales for literary talks, classical music, drama, and contemporary music have been opened so people can snap up tickets before they sell out!

So, what’s on offer?

Going by the book, let’s take literature first. The opening day of the Festival – Saturday 14th September – marks an inaugural cRYmE Day! This will be a whole day, festival within a festival and will be a great opportunity to meet, listen to and eat with four well-known crime writers - Simon Brett, Martin Edwards, William Shaw and Lynne Truss – and to find out tricks of the trade and what makes them tick. There are day tickets available to see all the talks plus a package that includes a four-course, crime themed lunch. And since Rye has a long and proud history of criminal activity. The town got rich on smuggling in the 18th Century and many a splendid Georgian-looking house in the Citadel was possibly the result of money made from dodging ‘trading’. And the HQ for the infamous Hawkhurst Gang, whose tentacles of illegal activity spread through Sussex, Kent and up into London was the iconic Mermaid Inn. So, it is fitting that lunch will be held at the Mermaid (although a real murder isn’t on the menu) and everything has been above board for over 100 years!

Freshly exonerated of any collusion with the Russians Donald Trump strides the world like a paragon of virtue. But Lord Owen – the former British Foreign Secretary David Owen – will be coming to Rye at 7.00pm on Wednesday 25 September to talk about his new book 'Hubris - The Road to Donald Trump'.
Before David Owen became a politician, he was a doctor and it is with these joint backgrounds he analyses the mental and physical condition of political leaders, leading to a conclusion that what or who went before (in both the US and UK) lead inevitably to President Trump.

And on Monday 23rd March, also at 7pm, Sir Max Hastings will be dropping into two to deliver a talk based on his latest book. And the renowned military historian, who was famously the first man into Stanley in the Falklands war, will talk about his new history of the Dambusters Raid in 1943.

Sophie Hannah is an internationally bestselling writer of her own fiction, but in 2014 her career took a new turn when she took on Agatha Christie! Not combatively, of course! She had the blessing of Agatha Christie’s family and estate, to write an entirely new Poirot novel.

The published book – ‘The Monogram Murders’ - was an instant hit and a top five bestseller around the world. Two other Poirot novels have followed. On Thursday 19th September at 7.00pm come and find out how Sophie came to Poirot and the process of getting inside the mindsight of the Sleuth and, of course, his creator! And find out what makes a novelist tick!

Three top classical music concerts have been announced. The Festival starts on Saturday 14th September with a concert by the leading violinist Tasmin Little accompanied by Martin Roscoe on piano. Both artistes have played at Rye in the recent past but, sadly, this Is likely to be the last chance for Rye listen to Tasmin playing live! Earlier this year, Tasmin made shocked the music world by announcing that she will no longer perform on the concert stage, anywhere in the world, from the Summer 2020. So, Rye is extremely lucky to have secured her for this year, when she will play three Beethoven sonatas with Martin as an early celebration of the great composer’s 200th anniversary on 2020.

Tasmin’s ‘swan song’ is not to be missed. And neither is the return to Rye of the baritone Roderick Williams, who will be singing songs from the Schwanengesang cycle by Franz Schubert. Schwanengesang translates from German as ‘swan song’ and is a series of songs that were written at the end of the composer’s life and were published posthumously.

Williams has been described by Classic FM DJ and The Daily Telegraph columnist Simon Heffer s ‘a stupendous and intelligent singer at the zenith of his powers”. Williams will be accompanied on Friday 27th September by pianist Iain Burnside, who has also visited Rye in the past, and will be warmly welcomed back.

Last of these early bird concerts, but far from least, Rye Arts Festival is thrilled to welcome back Emma Kirkby with Dowland works to sing and play ‘early music’ from the English cannon on Saturday 28th September. Starting with John Dowland’s music the concert will also feature his successors – John Danyell, the brothers Lawes and Henry Purcell.

Emma Kirkby is world-renowned as an early music specialist and is one of the UK’s finest sopranos, and while she has no plans to retire at any time soon, this concert will be the swan song of the 2019 Rye Arts Festival as it is the final concert

All three concerts will be at St Mary’s Church in Rye starting at 7.30pm, but doors open at 7.00pm and there will be a bar open for pre-concert drinks.
The contemporary music features two of the UK's best folk duos - Martin and his daughter Eliza Carthy, and Nancy Kerr with James Fagan.

The Carthys are possibly the nearest thing to British Folk royalty – although of the egalitarian kind! Whilst Martin Carthy has appeared at Rye Arts Festival with his wife Norma Waterson and Eliza has played there with her own band (both some years ago), this September they play the Festival as a duo for the first time. The gig will be at 8pm on Saturday 21st September and it promises to be just one of the must-see events at this year’s Festival. The Carthys are playing at the intimate Rye Community Centre and so tickets (just £20) are likely to sell out quickly.

Nancy Kerr (vocals, fiddle, viola, autoharp and guitar) with James Fagan (vocals, bouzouki, guitar, mandolin and piano) have been showered with awards that match their undoubted talent. They have twice taken home the coveted ‘Best Duo’ title at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. So, their gig on Saturday 14th September will be a great chance to see another of the UK’s finest duos in the folk scene.

On Friday 27th September the Jim Hammond Blues Band will do what it says on the tin - play earthy, raunchy blues at their best. The eponymous band is fronted by Jim who sings lead vocals and plays guitars and piano, switching effortlessly from slide guitar to boogie-woogie piano. He is joined on stage by blues harp player Rollo Markee, with Orlando Shearer on bass and Loris Peverani on drums. And, in front of the stage he is likely as not to be joined by members of the audience, compelled to dance along to the infectious sound delivered by the band!”

The Festival’s drama programme includes the riotous Enid Blyton parody improv show 'Bumper Blyton' where you will be in danger of splitting your shorts laughing at 4pm on Sunday 15th September.

This is Enid Blyton for grown-ups who are either still young at heart or who have never really grown up and ho are looking for a splendid adventure on a Sunday afternoon just before supper time! This will be a riotous parody, chock full of innuendo and lashings of puns, the cast invent an hilarious, improvised adventure live and on the hoof; inspired by audience suggestions.

Featuring a picnic basket of the UK’s best known improvisers from stage and screen, this is quality comedy theatre that’ll grab you by the jolly hockey sticks and leave your sides aching!

If you came to see Austentatious a couple of years ago at Rye Arts Festival, which was brought to you by elderly cousins of the Bumper Blyton team, you'll know what to expect! And if you missed it, make sure you don’t miss out this time - you won't be disappointed.

The chair of the Festival’s Organising Committee Mike Eve says: “The 2019 Rye Arts Festival is breaking new ground this year by putting tickets for some of its selected events on sale now rather than waiting till mid-July as in the previous 47 years!

“And the Festival has announced a dozen such events early this year so the public (whether they are from Rye and the surrounding area or the rest of the UK, or even from across the World!) can see what's on offer, book tickets and make plans for the end of the Summer.”

Tickets (with discounts of 10% for Members and 15% for Benefactors on unlimited purchases) for the dozen events flagged up above are on sale now, but they are available online only (and sales are ticking over already)!

Disabled Facilities

Diabaled access to all music events and most books and talks


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