History of Ryde Arts Festival

History of Ryde Arts FestivalRyde Arts Festival grew from the SEEDA funded Ryde Development Trust in 2001.  One of the Trusts aims was to stimulate the regeneration of the town through the arts. 

When the SEEDA funding ended, a group of volunteers determined to continue and develop this unique community-based Festival. The aim is  to enliven the cultural scene in the town and offer professional development for the many artists living locally. Working with pump priming funding from the Ryde Town Council and the Isle of Wight Council we have received over £30,000 from Arts Council England.  In addition we count ourselves lucky to have sponsors from local businesses and individual donations.

The Arts Festival Committee is open to all with time and energy to devote to this exciting project.  We run workshops throughout the year, although our main focus is the activities during Arts Festival Week in midsummer. We take part in the national event The Big Draw and celebrate the start of the Christmas season with traditional green garland making and are always looking to new and creative ideas to enrich the cultural aspect of the town. We also work in partnership with the New Carnival Company and the Depozitory.

Each year we aim to commission new projects working in collaboration with many different organisations within our community.

Ryde Arts Festival 2013 review

28 June – 7 July 2013


‘Art in all its forms’ – Isle of Wight County Press report 5 July 2013:

Contemporary classics have been a large part of Ryde Arts Festival.

Supported by Arts Council grants totalling £20,000, the festival began last Friday and draws to a close on Sunday with a series of talks and exhibitions over the weekend.

The work of 19 year old music student Cyrus Dean was the centrepiece of Cheese and Whisky – a concert last Friday at St Thomas’ Heritage Centre in the centre of Ryde.

The concert was largely a celebration of young classical composition. It opened with Richard Benger’s Highland Malts for String Quartet and included Fulvetta for woodwind quintet by Claire Groves and Enchase, also for woodwind, by Beth Griffin, before concluding with Dean’s Cheeseboard composition.

The evening, appropriately, finished with cheese given by the IW Cheese Company, bread from the IW Bread Company and wine from Michelangelo’s Restaurant in the town.

At Ryde Library the following day, Ryde mayor Cllr Wayne Whittle opened an art installation created by Jonathan Ward, Tim Johnson and Dan Roberts.

They worked with readers’ groups and children to transform the library, working on the theme of The Book.

Ryde School Swing Band performed in Vernon Square Gardens, and in St Thomas’ Heritage Centre on Wednesday, Acoustic Originals came to the venue from its usual Quay Arts base.

It was at the venue where artists Chris Jenkins and Ian Whitmore brought to life research by Ryde Social Heritage Group, using the former church’s box pews to open new chapters of history.

Readings, poetry and workshops took place throughout the week at venues including The Depozitory in Nelson Street and the Mermaid Investiation Bureau in the High Street.

Ryde Arts Festival 2012 review

29 June – 7 July 2012

Ryde Arts Festival got off to a stunning start on Friday 29 June 2012 with a performance of Soundscape at St Thomas’ Heritage Centre, Ryde. Soundscape is a collaboration between Chris Jenkins a local sculptor, who has built a magnificent fortlike structure inside St Thomas’ Heritage Centre, and Gareth Baltch a local composer who wrote ‘Tower Music’ especially for the event.

On Friday evening invited guests were enthralled by the first sight of the huge fortification built by Chris from recycled wood and found objects and heard Tower Music performed live by local musicians. After the performance guests were invited to stay and chat and enjoy a glass of wine and local cheese and bread.

St Thomas’ Heritage Centre was open daily until Saturday 7 July for people to see the structure and listen to a recording of Tower Music. Ryde Social Heritage Group had two exhibitions in St Thomas’ throughout the festival;  ‘Music and Entertainment in Ryde’ and ‘St Thomas Church and the Lords of the Manor of Ryde’.

In Ryde Library an exhibition by Ryde Social Heritage Group, with the theme ‘Friendship Across the World’, complimented the ‘Friendship Quilt’. The quilt, made up of textured felt squares with designs depicting friendship, was made by local people in a series of workshops leading up to the festival. The workshops taught the participants how to make the felt before decorating the squares with paints, fabrics and decoupage. A number of the squares were made in Ryde, Australia following links made with the library in this city by the festival organisers. The squares were sewn together to make a wall hanging which is on permanent display in the library. Ryde Library also held an open gallery inviting members of the public to submit artworks for display.

Friendship Quilt 2012

Ryde Arts Festival 2011 review

24 June – 2 July 2011

2011 programme 1

The theme of the festival ‘Stars’ was appropriately opened by the Ryde Arts Festival Sinfonietta with the first performance of ‘Sirius’ including ‘Four Minitaures for Flute and Piano’ by Gareth Balch. Sirius, written for chamber orchestra, was initially inspired by the bas-relief of HMS Sirius on Ryde seafront which commerorates the bicentenary of the voyage of the First Fleet to Australia in 1787. Picturing the fleet in the huge expanse of ocean led Gareth to explore ideas that suggested energy and movement whilst the Four Miniatures music revolved around Gareth’s memories of growing up in South Wales, conjuring a pastoral, lyrical and nostalgic picture of summer holidays.

Sirius is known colloquially as the ‘Dog Star’. St Thomas’ Churchyard played host to ‘Dog Days’ by artist Steven Sales where, as a physical measurement and marker of sacrifice and death, gravestones imprisoned the blood red form of a dog Sirius A. Alongside rested the imposing carbon orb of Sirius B, playing judge, jury and executioner to its canine counterpart.

Continuing the Star theme, family workshops to ‘Catch a falling Star’ were held at The Depozitory and Open Artists’ Studios at Cuckoo Gallery in the High Street with an installation by Jo Hummel Newell entitled ‘Beast Fables’.

To celebrate the NatWest Island Games XIV held on the Isle of Wight (25 June to 1 July), Ryde Social Heritage Group held an exhibition on Ryde Sporting Life in Ryde Library. The exhibition included detail about the Ashey Races, Ryde Lawn Mead Tennis Club and other sporting events and characters from Ryde.

Exhibitions on the First Fleet, Mayors of Ryde and the Town Hall were held in St Thomas’ Heritage Centre, also by Ryde Social Heritage Group who hosted Open Days where members gave guided tours of the now de-consecrated church and explained its significance and place in the history and forming of the town of Ryde, originally two small hamlets, one fishing and one farming.

Music was provided by the Fareham Barbershop Choir who surprised travellers on the Fastcat from Portsmouth to Ryde with their singing, and the Rainbow Wight Singers.  An Open Mic Poetry and Music evening was held at the Blacksheep Bar and Mikado Karaoke at St Thomas’.

Ryde Arts Festival 2010 review

2 – 11 July 2010

Ryde Arts Festival 2010 Logo

An infusion of local artists, musicians, performers and featured events were staged at various locations throughout the town, both indoors and out.

St Thomas’ Heritage Centre, St Thomas Street

Ryde Social Heritage Group (RSHG) had a small historical exhibition that visitors viewed during a number of events in the centre.  The two themes to the exhibition were Music and Journeys to and from Ryde:
‘Music’ featured a mixture of the Musical Heritage of Ryde including detail about The Dunford Orchestra, Big Bands, Dances, Cinemas and Concerts.
‘Journeys to and from Ryde’ included famous visitors to the town, emigration to new lands, visits to America and Europe in the 1800s, coach tours and excursions by land and sea.

RSHG  also assisted artist Karen Grainger by providing many old photographs of people of Ryde to use in her art installation in the Garden of Rest where local artists ‘decorated the trees’:

‘I am not afraid’ – a series of other worldly installations from Island artists Lisa Traxler and Karen Grainger. Inspired by cultural beliefs and perceptions of life and death and the rituals we follow, a contemporary public art piece that questioned what is here and what is there?

‘New String Quartets for Ryde’ – The ‘Ryde Arts Festival Quartet’ played newly composed pieces for string quartet by local composers featuring the first performance of ‘String Quartet No 1’ by Gareth Balch, whose first large-scale symphonic work ‘Forever Begin’ received warm reviews on its premier by the Isle of Wight Symphony Orchestra last season.

Other pieces included Alec Grainger’s ‘String Quartet in E Minor’, Richard Benger ‘String Quartet – The Highland Malts’, Kier Hicks ‘Sea Shanty in A Minor’, Cyrus Dean ‘Ternary’ and Fay Todd’s ‘String Quartet in G Major’. A performance of Ludvig Van Beethoven’s ‘Quartet in C Minor, Opus 18, No 4’ concluded the evening.

‘An Evening Recital with Lydia Fleming’ – Lydia (mezzo soprano) performed fantastic opera and jazz for one night only (Thursday 8 July). Fans of classics such as Ave Maria and Summertime were treated by this one-off performance by a very talented Island born opera singer.

‘Gilbert and Sullivan Karaoke’ – An evening of the best karaoke!

‘Niki B’s Note-orious Tea Party’ – An excellent afternoon for all the family of acapella music and cakes with Nichola Bailey’s Note-orious choir.

‘A Picturesque Tour of the Island’ – Ryde Social Heritage Group presented Robin McInnes who gave an illustrated talk on the Island.

 The Depozitory, Nelson Street

‘Homegrown ll’ – Some very creative works by local artists, and, on the Sunday, a chance for anybody to create a piece of art.

The basement played host to a two week residency by four contemporary artists to create an immersive environment. Lisa Traxler, Adrienne Wroath and Steven Sales collaborated to create a 3D imagined landscape from paper and fabric, whilst sound artist Erga Phizmiz formed an accompaning audio soundscape. Erga also hosted a ‘Radiophonic Workshop’ creating pictures in sound during the week.

‘Pathway over the Sea’ – Tim Johnson. Taking inspiration from the Isle of Wight’s costal heritage, artist Tim Johnson created a new installation commissioned especially for Ryde Arts Festival. Using local and sustainably sourced natural materials Tim explored the structure and symbolism of pier architecture.

‘Pick up Sticks workshop’ – Exploring sticks as a creative buiding material, with nails and tape, towers, jetties and piers were constructed.

Ryde Arts Festival 2009 review

11 – 18 July 2009

2009 cover

Ryde Library

Ryde Social Heritage Group’s exhibition ‘Art and Entertainment in Ryde’ had information on art exhibitions, the Theatre and Victoria Rooms, carnivals and some local entertainers from the 1800s onwards.

 The Depozitory

‘Homegrown’ –  Exhibition. New ways of seeing and fresh ideas from contemporary Island artists.

“The surreal disused basement of an old Wesleyan chapel in the heart of Ryde will play host to an eye opening collection of works from contemporary Island artists from 11th to 18th July.”

The artists included Carole Gledhill, Lisa Traxler, Chris Jones, Jo Hummel Newell, Adrienne Wroath, Chris Ballingal and Birgitte Haahr Lund. A launch party was held on Saturday 11th July at 3pm with fuureshhh DJs and free cake.

‘Peanut Planter’ –  Exhibition opens on Monday 13 July in the upstairs ‘ballroom’.

St Thomas’ Heritage Centre

‘Sea, Shore and Coastline’ Thursday 16 July – a celebration by Poetry Society Stanza Isle of Wight and Ryde Arts Festival.

Readers: Keith Bennett and Edmund Matyjaszek.

An evening to celebrate the anniversaries of The Poetry Society 1909 – 2009, Alfred, Lord Tennyson born 1809 and Algernon Charles Swinburne died 1909.

Arthur Dunford String Orchestra Event (rehersal – informal event) Saturday 18 July

Many members of the Isle of Wight Symphony Orchestra Society remember the Arthur Dunford String Orchestra which played in Ryde for many years until the 1970s. Some current members were players in the Dunford for many years (Josie Snow, Rosemary Woodhouse, Gareth Jones). In some ways the IWSO is a child of the Dunford. This year Ryde Arts Festival will be remembering the contribution the Arthur Dunford Orchestra made to the cultural life of the town by encouraging players and audience members to contribute to a ‘history’ of the orchestra.

As part of the event the string orchestra is playing through some of the repertoire of the Arthur Dunford Orchestra which is still held by the IW library. The pieces being rehearsed include:

Mozart, Divertimento lll (K138) – Allegro – Andante – Presto

Elgar, Serenade for Strings – Allegro piacevole – Allegretto – Larghetto

Grieg, Holberg Suite – Praelude, Sarabande, Gavotte, Air, Rigaudon

After the performance members of Ryde Social Heritage Group will help take memories from the audience and hold an exhibition on the history of the Arthur Dunford Orchestra with information collected to date.

Ryde Beach

Diablo Tennis Sunday 12 July – Diablo Tennis tournament on the beach near Ryde Inshore Rescue with open circus workshops and Yurt with story telling.

Ryde Arts Festival 2008 review

2008 peacock

Despite the weather, Ryde Social Heritage Group held a successful activity day in Ryde cemetery on 6 July in support of the IW Council’s Restoration Project and in association with Ryde Arts Festival.  Ryde Social Heritage Group, Friends Of Ryde Cemetery, Island 2000 and Bereavement Services joined together to give the public a comprehensive insight into the workings of the cemetery and some of the ongoing projects.  Councillor Arthur Taylor was one of the first through the gate at just after 11am and an estimated 400 people attended the event.

Sadly, because of the weather, some of the activities, such as the bug hunt and the visit of the horse-drawn hearse from Brickfields, were unable to go ahead, but there was still plenty of things to do. St Paul’s Chapel was the site of a hugely popular demonstration of stone masonry by Wight Stonemasonry Ltd. The central chapels were the scene of great activity. In the North Chapel there was a Creative Arts exhibition by pupils of Dover Park School and a small colouring competition for three different age groups, with a first prize of a gift voucher for each group. Ryde High School also had a display of their very impressive photography. The last main event of the day was a talk on some of the inhabitants of the cemetery by local historian Roy Brinton

Ryde Arts Festival 2007 review

2007 Postcard

Ryde Arts Festival 2006 review

Two Ryde cemetery walks were held in July during Ryde Arts Festival week. Groups met at the gates on West Street, and took a tour of 20 or so selected graves, taking about an hour and a half. The Leaders, members of Ryde Social Heritage Group,  were Janette Kitching and Sally-Ann Garrett, who provided information about the people buried in the graves, and pointed out additional items of interest.

As part of the festival, Artworks at 165 High Street, Ryde, combined the Art of Painting and Poetry in two exclusive presentations by the well known local poet Edmund Matyjaszek in the Artworks Gallery at the rear of the shop. The poems were written about renowned paintings, to show how they can be interpreted, how they tell a story and to give an insight into each work of art and its creator.

 artworks 2006

Ryde Arts Festival 2005 review

1 – 10 July 2005

2005 cover

‘The talk of the town…festival fun in the town square’

  • Street Grafix
    Aerosol artist Steve Miles, fresh from painting live at Download and Wireless festivals, brought graffiti art to this year’s festival for the first time.
  • The Mobile Gallery
    The smallest, friendliest, most surprising exhibition space on the Island – in a converted caravan! Featured different exhibiting artists each day throughout the festival week.
  • A Cruise through History
    Local historian Roy Brinton provided a new perspective of the town – from the water during a leisurely cruise of the Solent.
  • ‘History, Death and Other Bitter Fruit’
    With thanks to Ender Ozbek, the first showing on the Island of this powerful installation piece by Roger Butler, given even greater impact by its setting in a restored Wesleyan Chapel (now The Depozitory). Full of emotive imagery exploring the darker side of the human condition.
  • Images of Victoriana
    Presented by Dimbola Lodge at Wightlink’s terminal, a selection of images drawing on Victoria’s legacy.
  • Message in a Bottle
    Kicked off by local school children who wrote messages on special cards displayed on Ryde Pier, visitors were invited to write their own message to share with the world.
  • Rollin’ Poems
    Original poems by local people displayed inside Island Line train carriages – an idea inspired by London Underground’s famous rolling poetry exhibition and a reminder of the Island’s trains’ heritage.

More events took place all over the town including Beach Hut Boogie at Appley and Coracle Racing on the Canoe Lake, music in several local pubs, flower festivals in the churches and festival workshops ‘Starting from Sculpture’ and ‘Get Cracking with Mosaics’.

Ryde Arts Festival 2004 review

Ryde Arts Festival 2003 review

5 – 20 July 2003

2003 cover

One of the most packed and exciting events on the Island this summer – Ryde Arts Festival!

With two hugely successful years behind it now, this years’s festival moved forward in the calendar to July – a change which enabled much more involvement from local schools. Almost every school in Ryde contributed to the 2003 event and many of them came together for a new Art Festival Parade on 12 July.

In another first for Ryde Arts Festival, there was a show by six young Island artists graduating this year from the Portsmouth School of Art, Design and Media.

Displaying talent in a range of disciplines, from computer animation to decoration and restoration, the IW New Designers exhibition captured the spirit of the festival – celebrating all aspects of the arts and welcoming all artists; young and old, internationally acclaimed and those just setting out.

Ryde Arts Festival also serves to celebrate our town – its rich heritage and its bright future. Nowhere was this better illustrated than in ‘Remembering Ryde’ – a project involving young people using new technologies to create a historical record of Ryde in the 1950s. The outcome of this project was a multimedia exhibition at the historic Prince Consort building.

Even the youngest festival goers joined in the fun. Childtren’s book events ran throughout the festival week as part of ‘Ryde’s Big Read’.

‘One Last Dance’ at Ryde Pier Head saw a striking new video installation, commissioned for the 2003 festival. Using black and white film, artist Dave Gibbons paid tribute to bygone days of the Pier Pavilion (Seagull Ballroom) which stood at the end of the pier until the 1960s.

‘Seaside Flags’ at Ryde Harbour – stunning silk flags, hand painted with images of sea and wildlife from around the shores decorated the harbour throughout the festival made as part of an Adult & Community Learning project featuring the creative input from local groups.

Ryde Arts Festival 2002 review

25 August – 8 September 2002

2002 cover

Local people will tell you that Ryde hasn’t stopped buzzing since last year’s Carnival & Arts Festival. The incredible success of the 2001 festivities spawned carnival clubs and community arts initiatives across the Island that have been preparing for its return ever since. Now with the launch of another vibrant and varied festival programme, presenting internationally acclaimed artists alongside home grown talent and ambitious community arts projects, we’re inviting you to join the fun. Come and celebrate the arts! – Ryde Art Works.

Mobiles on the Esplanade – in association with Healing Arts supported by the Adult & Community Learning Fund. Spectacular hand-painted silk mobiles are set to transform Ryde Esplanade as the result of a creative learning project involving local groups from the Riboleau Centre, Church View, Halberry Lodge and Sure Start.

  • Art on the Pier – featuring new work by Island artist Fiona Moatt who specialises in paper collages inspired by the Solent.
  • Poems in Places – Healing Arts writing groups display poems in surprising places around the town – watch out for them on posters, banners, even on napkins!
  • Animal Magic – an exhibition of life-size 2 and 3D exotic animals made by students of Ryde High School.
  • Ryde Artists & Makers Summer Show – Showcasing some of the best work by professional artists based in Ryde.