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Rye Arts Festival 2017 - 7 highlights

PUBLISHED: 09:00 07 September 2017

Illustration by Josephine Scales

Illustration by Josephine Scales

Josephine Scales

The town which was home to comic creations Mapp and Lucia is celebrating their creator E F Benson’s 150th anniversary in style as Duncan Hall discovers

Mapp and Lucia

Rye was first transformed into Tilling in writer E F Benson’s tale of the fearsome Miss Mapp. When he introduced into this world his other comic creation the pretentious Lucia, in the classic Mapp and Lucia, the town became a third character in a battle of snobbery and one-upmanship. To mark the 150th anniversary of his birth Rye Arts Festival is hosting a series of Mapp and Lucia-related events, including a walking tour (from Hilders Cliff Lookout, Mon 18, 11am, £7.50); a free screening of the 2014 BBC production filmed in the town (Kino Cinema, Wed 20, 11.30am); and a literary Lucia’s luncheon with Guy Fraser-Sampson telling stories of the characters and their author (Tuscan Kitchen, Wed 20, 12.30pm, £44). 

Jane Austen

This year is also the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, and the doyen of English manners is being celebrated across the festival programme. Karin Fernald explores Austen’s lesser-known juvenilia in Jane Austen – The Early Years (Rye Community Centre, Sun 17, 7pm, £15) while Terri Fleming introduces her Pride and Prejudice sequel Perception (Mermaid Inn, Mon 18, 3pm, £12). Plus there’s a screening of the Emma-inspired Clueless (Kino Cinema, Thurs 21, 8.10pm, £10) and improv troupe Austentatious create a whole new Austen novel from scratch using a title suggested by the audience (Rye Community Centre, Sun 1, 5pm, £15).


Last year it was revealed Shakespeare’s troupe of actors visited Rye in 1597 to attend the mayor-making of Mermaid owner John Fowtrell. In honour of this new discovery the Bard is celebrated in two shows at The Mermaid Inn’s Tudor Room. Andrew Hadfield, English professor at the University of Sussex, gives a lecture on the Rye connection on Sunday 17 (3pm, £12). And Nicolas Collett plays both a Shakespeare-denying academic and the Swan of Avon himself in Your Bard (Sun 24, 6pm, £15). 


Throughout the festival the recently saved 14th century Austin Friars Monastery in Conduit Hill is providing a backdrop for art, sculpture, antiques and interiors curated by Alex Macarthur Interiors. Tours are run for ten visitors at a time, so pre-booking is essential from the festival box office. Rye Art Gallery, in High Street, is hosting exhibitions by glass artist Hildegard Pax and paperscape-maker Rhoda K Baker from 16 Sept to 7 Oct, accompanied by works from the permanent collection selected by local artists Louis Turpin and Davida Smith. And Rye and District Camera Club take over St Mary’s Centre from Sat 23 to Sun 24. 

Family and theatre

Rye Arts Festival launches on Saturday 16 September with free performances in Church Square and the Kino Courtyard – featuring an ice cream saleswoman with a rodent problem, Hunt and Darton’s own local radio show and juggling dancers The Flying Bazazi Brothers (from 12.30pm, free). The Kino Courtyard is also home to Caravan Shorts, a pair of short plays running in a loop from noon in the titular pop-up theatre space which can hold ten people at a time (Sat 23, noon to 7.30pm, £6). Plus youngsters from Rye Dance take over Rye Community Centre on Sun 24 (from 3pm, £7/£5).


Arguably the biggest musical event this year is the return of Alisdair Kitchen’s Euphonia Studio with La Boheme at Rye College’s Milligan Theatre on Saturday 23 (6.30pm, £20). But there is plenty of music for all tastes, from Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition winner Kenneth Broberg (St Mary’s Church, Wed 20, 8pm, from £10) to The Twilight Ensemble performing Songs of Love and Romance (Methodist Church, Thurs 28, 8pm, £15). Other highlights are chamber orchestra The English Concert (St Mary’s Church, Sat 16, 6.30pm, from £10)and the Mountain Firework Company (Rye Community Centre, Fri 29, 8pm, £12).


Opening this year’s festival is Father of the House the Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke, who looks back over his 50 years in politics (Milligan Theatre, Sat 16, 11am, £20). The varied programme of speakers and writers ranges from crime writer William Shaw (Mermaid Inn, Fri 29, 3pm, £12) to biographer Sally Smith QC, on charismatic defence barrister Marshall Hall (Methodist Church, Tues 19, 5.30pm, £12). Discussing their memoirs are Vanessa Nicolson, granddaughter of Vita Sackville-West (Methodist Church, Wed 27, 3pm, £12) and Loaded founder James Brown ahead of a five-a-side football match against a local team (Cricket Pavilion, Fri 22, 5.30pm, £12).

www.ryeartsfestival.co.uk | 16 September-1 October


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