Massive multi-arts festival in Rye enters its second week

Saturday, September 21, marks the start of the second week of the annual Rye Arts Festival.

Friday, 20th September 2019, 6:58 pm
Roderick Williams. Picture by Benjamin Ealovega

And the fare at this feast of entertainment is mouth-watering.

It includes truly world-class singers and musicians, authors who top best-sellers lists around the globe, classic films and the very best drama.

For classical singing there is Roderick Williams who is a brilliant baritone at the height of his powers.

The Pink Singers. Picture by Jessica Rowbottom

Roderick will be singing songs from the ‘Schwanengesang’ cycle by Franz Schubert on Friday, September 27, at St Mary’s Church, joined by renowned pianist Iain Burnside. 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.

On Sunday, September 22, also at St Mary’s Church in Rye the Festival introduces Tangram – a collective that creates and plays the new music from the Chinese diaspora. Led by Alex Ho, Reylon Yount, Beibei Wang and Daniel Shao, Tangram was founded in January of this year. The collective, which has a variety of backgrounds, weaves a path between European Classical and Chinese music, including traditional and newly written work.

Tangram will be playing a concert at 7.30pm but this is preceded by a free workshop at 5.30pm for 45 minutes, allowing young and old to come along and have a go on their instruments.

On September 24 a real treat is in store at Winchelsea. The Norwegian cellist Ernst-Simon Glaser, who was schooled in England, but who is now principal cellist for the Gothenburg Orchestra in Sweden, will be playing a remarkable concert.

A Regular Little Houdini

Ernst-Simon will be playing three brand new pieces written specially for him by three Norwegian composers, and these will be performed by the three Bach cello pieces, which directly inspired the new works. This triple world premier is not to be missed.

The contemporary music menu brings The Pink Singers, who are Europe’s longest-established LGBT + choir, and they bring a fun, vibrant performance to the stage, with an irrepressible energy and joy that leaves the audience wanting them to carry on through the night (7.30pm, September 21, St Mary’s Church, Rye).

Their programme is called ‘Divas Through the Decades’ and they will sing some of the true greats of popular music – come along and listen to their loving tributes to the music of Shirley Bassey, Barbra Streisand, Kylie Minogue, Judy Garland, Diana Ross and, of course, Ella.

The Pink Choir is an enormously talented community choir made up of people from a diverse range of sexual orientations, genders identities and backgrounds, united in a joint passion for singing great choral music and delivering glorious performances that will delight their audience. This show promises to be one of the most fun events of the Festival.

Max Hastings. Picture by Toby Madden

The drama programme has amazing one-may plays, which shouldn’t be missed. On Sunday, September 22, you can see If I Catch Alphonso, Tonight! This will be a lovely afternoon in which you’ll delve into the life and times of one of Music Hall’s greatest and most revered artists, who is now sadly much over-looked – Billy Merson.

Mile Jenner, the head brewer at Lewes brewery Harvey’s, takes time out to play Billy, whose career lasted for 50 years and spanned music hall, revue and cinema, against the backdrop of two world wars. This new musical play contains 16 of the great man’s comic songs. It is a story of a great survivor, a man who bounced back from the ropes again and again. A natural born thriller, Billy was an inspiration for future generations of comedians and his story deserves a hearing, and the show deserves to be seen (Sept 22, Rye Community Centre, 3pm).

Thursday, September 26, brings A Regular Little Houdini to Rye Community Centre. This is a multi-award-winning one-man play set in Edwardian South Wales. A dockworker’s son is obsessed by the great Harry Houdini. Despite the chains of poverty, and adult cynicism, our hero trains himself to emulate his hero. And then he meets the great showman, who came to Britain and spent time in Newport, Gwent. The play is a roller-coaster of emotions but hope determination and magic win through. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll think.

Rye Arts Festival is thrilled that one of the country’s best-loved and best-selling novelists is coming. On Tuesday, September 24 (Rye Methodist Church, 3pm), Patrick Gale will make his first visit to Rye. The writer of 16 novels and the award-winning 2017 BBC drama Man in an Orange shirt has a huge following around the world. He will be talking about his most recent novel Take Nothing With You – a funny, sad book that explores the collision between childish hero worship and an extremely messy adult love life. The protagonist is a teenage cellist, and the cello was and is a passion of Patrick’s – so how much is autobiographical?

Patrick is an interesting, engaging and charming speaker – so much so that at an event just down the coast from Rye last year his female interviewer passed out on stage in mid-conversation with the author. One thing we can promise, you won’t be disappointed by an afternoon in the company of Patrick Gale.

On September 26 at 12pm (Rye Methodist Church) is the date and time of historian Professor Andrew Roberts talk about his new biography of Sir Winston Churchill. There have been around 1,000 biographies of Churchill, but the redoubtable Roberts has managed to break new ground by gaining the first ever access to King George VI’s private diaries, as well as 40 other new sources.

Of course, as Roberts is a professional historian makes no attempt to hide Churchill’s many faults, but in doing, his strengths, virtues and character are brought even more to the fore. This is a must-see event for anyone who has the slightest interest in one of Great Britain’s greatest ever sons.

Sir Max Hastings will be talking at The Milligan Theatre (September 23, 7pm). His new book, Chastise: the Dambusters Story, 1943, will be quite literally hot off the press, since it was published on September 5th. So, this will be one of the very first times the renowned former war correspondent and military historian will be talking in public on the subject. We can expect Hastings to give us the big picture, warts and all, but at the same time we can be assured that he will show the greatest of respect to these young heroes who sacrificed all for their country.

Tickets for all the events are on sale at or call the box office on 01797 224442.

The Goldhawks breathe new life into The Who’s rock opera. Click here to find out more.

Four things to do in the Eastbourne area. Click here to find out more.

Four things to do in East Sussex. Click here to find out more.

Four things to do in the Hastings area. Click here to find out more.

Boyzone and Westlife stars join forces for a huge show at White Rock Theatre. Click here to find out more.