PREVIEW/ INTERVIEW: Ian Bowden, Rye Internatonal Jazz & Blues Festival, (Aug 21-25)

We spoke to Ian Bowden, Founder and Director of the Rye Internatonal Jazz & Blues Festival, now in its third year, about the background to the Festival, and about this year's line-up:

LondonJazz News : What made you first think of having a jazz festival in Rye?

Ian Bowden: I have been visiting Rye for many years with friends and family . It has a tremendous history and this makes you feel that you are really getting away from everything.

The medieval town centre of Rye is known as the Citadel. It's small and compact, everywhere is within an easy walk around the town; which makes it perfect to stage live music events at many of the hotels, pubs, restaurants. I liken it to a mini New Orleans in some way which is vibe and atmosphere that you get during the entire festival weekend.

Landgate, Rye. Photo Credit: Paul Hermans/ creative commons

LJN: And it's a pretty town with loads of history?

IB: Yes, almost a thousand years of history that dates back to the Norman Conquest! Rye became a major coastal defensive stronghold in medieval times and is to this day a ‘Cinque Ports Town’.

The town was built higher up on a hill as hundreds of years ago the sea came right up to the undercliff of the town where the fishing fleet was moored.

Today if you walk through the streets of Rye you will find some of the most amazing timber built houses that were once owned by wealthy merchants. The Cobbled streets of Mermaid Street are one of the most iconic images of Rye and we are presenting a number of wonderful jazz events at the stunning and ancient Mermaid Inn throughout the festival.

Rye itself is a mixture of Medieval and Georgian architecture. There is even a defensive castle called the Ypres Tower that was used as a prison during the Napoleonic wars. It really is like going back in time!

LJN: How does it work? Do you have concerts during the day?

IB: We have various live performances that take place at venues located within Rye throughout the day over the August bank Holiday weekend.

Lots of free street music, jazz sessions and acoustic sets take place between 1.00pm – 6.00pm. We also have an outdoor performance stage which runs across the entire weekend that is free entry.
Many bands perform at this venue over the Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 3.00pm – 9.45pm.

Music styles include Blues, Jazz, Swing, Soul and Funk. We have some amazing performances from London, regional and local based bands.

Ticketed concerts take place in the evenings at an array of superb intimate venues. We transform a wonderful Georgian Ballroom into a stunning Jazz Club. Other venues include the beautiful St Mary’s Church Rye, which boasts almost a thousand years of history! This year, we have also introduced a Jazz Lounge. We will be presenting evening concerts and a number of ‘Late Night Sessions’ aptly titled ‘ Late at The Lounge’.

Earl Okin at the Rye Jazz Festival

LJN: What's the main venue?

Our main venue this year is our dedicated Jazz Lounge where we are presenting a number of outstanding concerts. We also have other super venues where professional concerts take place and these include the Jazz Club Ballroom at The George in Rye, St Mary’s Church Rye and The Ypres Castle Inn where our outdoor festival music stage is located.

LJN: A small town suits a jazz festival?

Absolutely, park up and within 5 minutes you are within the heart of Rye. The town itself is very compact and there are many cobbled streets to wonder down that take you to stunning views across the Romney Marshes.

Literally, everything is within easy reach and you will hear the live music coming out of various venues, on street corners. The festival provides that feeling and atmosphere of intimacy and fun and this works extremely well.

LJN: Who did you have as headliner in the first year?

The Legendary Ginger Baker and his band Jazz Confusion headlined the festival in 2012 which was a complete sell-out!

LJN: Who's on this year?

IB: The rising talented Julia Biel and Antonio Forcione headline the festival on Friday 22nd August.

Jason Rebello and Joy Rose headline on Saturday 23rd August.

Other superb headline events include local hero Herbie Flowers and his Jazz All Stars, the Simon Spillett Quartet, Kitty LaRoar and the Lucky Victims, Earl Okin,  Gareth Lockrane’s Grooveyard, Ola Onabule and may more superb acts. (pp)

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