This year’s Rye Arts Festival which runs from 15th to 30 September 2018, promises to be the biggest and best yet and the organisers have scoured not just the UK but the planet for the best of talent to bring to Rye. There is music from Congo to Louisiana, classical music including opera, literary events, talks, theatre and much more in a packed fortnight.
Let’s start with contemporary or world music. Mose Fan Fan is the leader of the acclaimed Congolese band Somo Somo, and on 26th September this brilliant band returns to Rye Arts Festival. They play happy, infectious Congolese pop music with electric guitars, bass and drums, and Rye Community Centre is set to be one hot night as the sounds of Kinshasa take over. This gig is not to be missed!
Radio and TV presenter, DJ and music enthusiast Andy Kershaw is a champion of World Music, who cut his teeth at BBC Radio 1 sharing the same office with the legendary John Peel and his right-hand man and producer John Walters.
And on 20th September at 7.30pm he will be at Rye Community Centre. His one-man show is a two-hour audio-visual presentation about Andy’s life, career, his adventures and experiences so far in radio and television, live music (from all around the World), travels to extreme countries and foreign correspondence.
His show has been described by Stephen Fry as: “Sensational… wildly hilarious. An amazing man.”
The crowd-pleasing Dervish are headlining on the middle Saturday of the Festival (22nd September) with a gig in the intimate Rye Community Centre which has limited capacity and so tickets are likely to sell out fast. The Irish band is fronted by the incomparable Cathy Jordan. Not only has she the voice of an angel, which will tear your heart to shreds when she sings emotional songs, but she is a brilliant raconteur and the funny asides she makes when introducing the songs are worth the price of the ticket alone! The craic will be good!
And on Saturday 29th Daoiri Farrell will also be performing at the Rye Community centre. A singer who also plays the bouzouki, Daoiri has been picking up the plaudits in Ireland and the UK and this has been backed up by awards. And in the 2017 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Daoiri converted an eye-catching three nominations into two awards. So, if you’re looking for some of the very best traditional Irish music in the World, book your tickets quickly.
Turning to talks and literary events there is a wide selection from which to choose. 1968 was the year in which the brilliant West Indian Garry Sobers achieved the cricketing equivalent of the four-minute miles when he hit six sixes in an over. And on Monday 24th September BBC sports journalist Grahame Lloyd will give a historical talk about this event, which then goes onto a tale of intrigue. In 2006, “the ball used in the over” fetched a record £26,400 at Christie’s – but was it the right one? On sale again in 2012, the plot thickened. Come and hear Grahame’s fascinating story.
And this year, marking the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the UK, the organisers have booked a trio of Dames to entertain at what has been described as one of the UK’s best arts festivals – Jenni Murray, Joan Ruddock and Emma Kirkby. Dame Jenni Murray is the doyenne of radio presenters; Dame Joan Ruddock is a politician of note and Dame Emma Kirkby is a soprano with worldwide reputation.
Dame Jenni Murray closes the Festival on Sunday 30th September at the Milligan Theatre in Rye College. She hardly needs any introduction, since she has been a fixture on BBC Radio 4 for many decades, presenting Women’s Hour since 1987.
In Jenni’s latest book, A History of the World in 21 Women (which won’t be published until 6th September) she looks at the great women of the world, rescuing some from obscurity and shining a new light on familiar names. For example, Joan of Arc, Catherine the Great, Madonna, and Frida Kahlo are included.
But the Rye Arts Festival this year opens with another British woman of great note – Dame Joan Ruddock, who will be speaking at Rye Community Centre at 11am on Saturday 15th September.
Dame Joan is lifelong feminist and environmentalist, and she first came to national attention in the 1980s when she became chair of CND. She then moved into mainstream politics and Dame Joan held numerous shadow briefs before becoming the very first full time Minister for Women in 1997, a post which was only created a full 79 years after women were given the vote! Dame Joan will be introduced by her Parliamentary colleague, and former Hastings and Rye MP, Michael Foster.
Dame Emma Kirkby will be making her first appearance at Rye Arts Festival – an event which is perhaps long overdue since the soprano is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s premier early music specialists. On Friday 28th she will be performing at St Mary’s Church with Dowland Works – singers and lutists who play their instruments sat at a table, which provides resonance for the lutes! The programme will provide some of the finest Renaissance and Baroque music by some of the finest musicians on the planet!
And as Dame Emma is at the head of her chosen specialism, so the baritone Richard Suart also enjoys similar standing in the world of ‘patter’! Patter is the rapidly spoken word ‘songs’ that are such a feature of the hugely popular Gilbert & Sullivan operettas – think the ‘Model of the Modern Major General’! With its emphasis on rhythm, rhyme e and timing, patter is a sport of proto rap from the 19th Century performed by white men! And Richard is the past master of patter. He will also sing songs by the comic geniuses Tom Lehrer, Noel Coward and Flanders and Swann! ‘A Matter of Patter’ will be at The Milligan Theatre on Saturday 15th September!
This year marks the centenary of the death of the French poet Apollinaire. And his 1903 plays forms the libretto for the opera by Francis Poulenc called Les Mamelles de Tiresias, which will be performed at the Milligan Theatre in Rye College on Saturdays 22nd and 29th September.
A riotous farce full of gorgeous tunes and lush harmonies, Poulenc’s opera, written in 1945, is a setting of Apollinaire’s 1903 surrealistic play inspired by the story from Greek mythology of the Theban soothsayer Tiresias.
Poulenc inverted the myth to produce a provocative interpretation with feminist and pacifist elements. It tells the story of Thérèse, who changes her sex to obtain power among men with the aim of changing customs, subverting the past and establishing equality between the sexes.
On Monday 17th September the British baritone Roderick Williams will be singing songs alongside the poetry of World War I poet Ivor Gurney spoken by the actor Philip Franks.
The 60-strong City of London Choir will be singing in the same church on Sunday 23rd September. Founded in 1963, City of London Choir has enjoyed the direction of just two dedicated conductors: founder Donald Cashmore for its first quarter century, and, since 1989, Hilary Davan Wetton.
It has earned an enviable reputation, both in the national media and among audiences, for a distinctive youthful sound and the quality of its performances. Come along and you will not be disappointed.
On Friday 21st September the globally renowned British pianist Danny Driver will be playing at St Marys’ Church in Rye. Audience responses around the world have cemented Danny Driver’s international reputation as a versatile and creative pianist of sophistication, interpretative insight and musical depth!
Local artist, musician and film director Dave McKean will be performing songs and showing artworks inspired by World War I artist Paul Nash in a show called ‘Black Dog – the Dreams of Paul Nash’. The show has been performed around the UK, including in Tate Britain, as well in Europe.
St Mary’s Church is the venue for a moving World War I drama at 7.30pm on Tuesday 25th September. Flying Bridge Theatre Company are bringing Stephen MacDonald’s acclaimed (and Fringe First winning) play about the friendship between celebrated First World War poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. They met at Craiglockhart Hospital in 1917 and bonded over a mutual hatred of war and love of poetry.
The Festival is delighted that the noted barrister John Cooper QC is finding time out of busy schedule involving high profile hearing and cases to come and speak on Saturday 29th. Whilst an advocate for our criminal justice system, John believes that it is always under threat. He has recently worked on the Deepcut Barracks case, a challenge to the Government’s cash for DUP support deal and the Warboys Parole Board all of which are likely to feature in his ‘Blunted Sword and Broken Scales’ talk.
On a lighter note, Rye Arts Festival is pleased to welcome Walmington on Sea’s finest to the town for the first time! Yes, all those wonderful and familiar characters, including Captain Mannering, Sergeant Wilson, Corporal Jones and Private Fraser, will travel along the coast on the afternoon of 16th September. And Rye Community Centre will provide them with a fitting home for home as they perform Dad’s Army Radio Hour!
These events are just for a taster of what’s on offer – there are many more and, of course, many don’t have connections with these two themes – they are there simply to entertain!
Tickets are now on sale for members of the Festival, and go on general sale on 6th August. For the full list of events, and to book tickets, go to www.ryeartsfestival.org.uk . Otherwise ring the Box Office on 01797 224442.