About us

Our Festival is Rye’s principal annual arts event, taking place over the weekends and last two weeks in September. It has developed over the past 51 years into one of the most successful and respected small festivals of its kind, dedicated to high quality performances in music, literature, theatre and other art forms coupled with a range of activities in heritage and the environment.

We are committed to protecting and respecting your privacy.  Any personal information such as name, postal address, telephone number and email address you supply will be used to provide you with information and requested services and to properly administer membership.  It will not be disclosed to any third party without your prior permission, or unless we are required to do so by law.  You have the right to request deletion of your personal data where there is no compelling reason for us to continue to hold it.

Rye Arts Festival announced in January 2018  that it had completed the process of becoming a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO).  This clearly defines the responsibilities of members and is a more efficient structure for the way we operate. Our charity number is 1175309. If you would like to read a copy of our Constitution, please click here.

In recent years, Rye Arts Festival has featured, among others: Dame Ellen MacArthur, Sandy Gall, Peter Snow, Sir Max Hastings, Henry Blofeld, Tasmin Little, Benjamin Grosvenor, Jane Gardham, Philip Venning, Voces8, Nikolai Demidenko, The Zemlinsky Quartet, The Sitkovetsky Piano Trio, The English Concert, Lord David Owen, Vicky Pryce, Sarah Raven, Adam Nicolson, Frances Spalding, John Julius Norwich, A.N.Wilson, Richard Lester, Professor Robert Winston, Professor David King, Flossie Malavialle, Dervish, “West” Weston, Courtney Pine, The Big Chris Barber Band and the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.  Click here for a full list of past performers.

The Festival’s main audiences are from Rye and the surrounding area, although it now attracts increasing numbers from further afield.  The Committee always seeks to widen access to its programmes while continuing to deliver excellent events and performances. Many thousands of tickets are sold to those attending approximately 60 events during each Festival and many others enjoy events to which there is free access, including all the special exhibitions in and  around Rye that are on offer at the time.

As part of our policy to support local educational activities and encourage involvement in the Festival by younger generations, we provide specialist workshops, drama and literary events for school-age children and free tickets to local students. In the past we have also offered the chance to attend Committee Meetings and discover how our charity operates. Other students have  helped us keep photographic records of previous Festivals. This builds on a long standing tradition to include events for young people in the programme.

The Festival is a registered charity organised by a team of trustees and volunteers. Its purpose is to foster and promote knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the arts and sciences of music, opera, dance and drama, film, literature and drama / visual arts.  It aims to do this for as wide an audience as possible and to attract them by, among other things, keeping the cost to the public of high quality performances as low as possible.

The question was again raised at the 2018 AGM about membership rights.  For clarification the Trustees have introduced the following rules:
The membership year will commence on 1st January with effect from January 2020 (April 2018 Board Minutes)
Applications for membership shall be accepted throughout the year except during the 14-day closed period of notice of General Meetings (May 2018 Board Minutes).

This second rule now complies with the constitutional requirement to give 14 days clear notice of meetings to all members.  All paid-up members are entitled to vote at General Meetings.

Annual Report and Accounts

You can download the latest Trustees’ Reports and Financial Statements here:

Annual Report 2023

Treasurer’s Report 2023

Annual Report 2022

Annual Report 2021

Treasurer’s Report 2021

Annual Report 2020

Annual Report 2019

Annual Report 2018

Annual Report 2017

Annual Report 2016

The documents detail our charity information, Trustees’ Report, Statement of Financial Activities for the year, the Balance Sheet and Notes to the Accounts.