POLITICAL heavyweights Kenneth Clarke and Margaret Hodge are the headline names at this year’s Rye Arts Festival.

Conservative MP Mr Clarke, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer and the current Father of the House, will talk about his long career in politics and his experiences at the heart of government in ministerial positions he has held, including Home Secretary, Education Secretary and Health Secretary.

Described as a lifelong fan of jazz, sport and birdwatching, he is known for his fondness for the shoes Hush Puppies. His talk, entitled My First 50 Years In Politics, kicks off the festival, which runs until Sunday October 1.

From the opposition benches comes Dame Margaret Hodge (pictured above), the Labour MP who  from 2010-15 was chair of the government’s Public Accounts Committee, which oversees public expenditure of around £700billion each year.

The politician will shine a light on some of the most fascinating issues facing Britain today when she speaks at an event named Called To Account.

The painter Fiona Graham-Mackay, who is known for her portraits of the Royal Family, will talk about her work during the festival at the Rye Art Gallery.

Fiona, who studied under Quentin Blake at the Royal College of Art, has a studio in East Sussex, where she runs workshops. Her Painting In Italy courses in Venice, Sicily, Florence, Saragano and Montefalco attract students from all over the world and she’s currently working on portraits of the the actor Juliet Stevenson, opera singer Danny De Niese and Ed Watson, principal ballet dancer for the Royal Ballet. Her Radio 4 programmes A Portrait Of… will be broadcast later this year.

The  46th annual Rye Arts Festival is in line to be the biggest so far with events including both contemporary and classical music, book talks, historical and nature walks, professional theatre, film, art exhibitions and children’s events.

World class musicians will be coming to Rye throughout the festival. For six years, the classical music programme has been built around live opera with the hugely talented young professional singers of London-based Euphonia Studio. This year, they’re back, with a performance of La Boheme by Puccini starring Icelandic soprano Rannveig Karadottir.

The English Concert, one of the world’s finest chamber orchestras, returns to Rye with a classical programme when the orchestra’s newly appointed principal guest conductor Kristian Bezuidenhout plays Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 13 in C major, K.415 on the fortepiano.

Picture: Chris Donovan

There’s more world class musicianship when the choir Tenebrae (pictured above) sing at St Mary’s Church, and Kenneth Broberg, the young American winner of the 2017 Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition, is jetting in from Missouri for a concert.

In the contemporary music category, some of the best talent from around the world will perform. Scottish band Malinky are coming south of the border for a one-off gig of traditional folk music that mixes both joy and heartache. Singer/guitarist Sarah MacQuaid also performs at the festival. Born in Spain, raised in Chicago, but now living in England, this musician’s songs move around the ages, taking the audience with her on an outstanding odyssey.

In the literary programme, award-winning young novelist Evie Wylde returns to the Festival for a talk at The Mermaid Inn, while local glass shopkeeper Andy McConnell will be talking about his varied life, which has seen him become one of the much-loved experts on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow.

The Film programme marks the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen with a screening of the cult comedy Clueless starring Alicia Silverstone, which sees the Emma storyline moved to LA in the 1990s. Amy (pictured above), the Oscar-winning documentary on Amy Winehouse, is also showing.

Picture: Robert Viglasky

The Theatre programme also focuses on Jane Austen in the author’s bicentenary year. Austentatious (pictured above) is an improvisation of a Jane Austen-style play using the audience’s suggestions, a fun-filled finale to the Festival.

The Theatre programme also focuses on Jane Austen in the author’s bicentenary year. Austentatious (pictured above) is an improvisation of a Jane Austen-style play using the audience’s suggestions, a fun-filled finale to the Festival.

There is also the return of a 10-person capacity theatre inside a caravan parked outside the Kino in Lion Street, with several performances of two 15-minute plays.

Rye Arts Festival runs from Saturday September 16 until Sunday October 1 at various venues around Rye.

Phone the box office on 01797 224442 or visit ryeartsfestival.co.uk.

My First 50 Years In Politics with Kenneth Clarke is at the Milligan Theatre, Rye College, The Grove, Rye, on Saturday September 16

Called To Account with Dame Margaret Hodge is at Rye Community Centre, Conduit Hill, Rye, on Thursday October 28 at 6pm. Tickets £15.

Fiona Graham-Mackay talks at Rye Art Gallery, 107 High Street, Rye, at 6pm on Wednesday September 20. Tickets £10.

La Boheme is at the Milligan Theatre, Rye College, The Grove, Rye, at 6.30pm on Saturday September 23. Tickets £20. There’s also a Gala Performance at 6.30pm on Saturday September 30. Tickets £30.

The English Concert perform at St Mary’s Church, Lion Street, Rye, at 6.30pm on Saturday September 16. Tickets £10 and £20. They also perform Tenebrae, conducted by Nigel Short, in Spanish Glories of the 16th Century at 7pm on Friday September 22. Tickets £10-£25.

Kenneth Broberg is at St Mary’s Church, Lion Street, Rye, at 8pm on Wednesday September 20. Tickets £10 and £20.

Malinky play at Rye Community Centre, Conduit Hill, Rye, at 8pm on Saturday September 16. Tickets £15.

Sarah MacQuaid performs at Rye Community Centre, Conduit Hill, Rye, at 8pm on Tuesday September 26. Tickets £10.

Talk on the Wylde Side with Evie Wylde is at The Mermaid Inn, Mermaid Street, Rye, at 3pm on Saturday September 23. Tickets £12.

Beyond The Roadshow with Andy McConnell is at The Mermaid Inn, Mermaid Street, Rye, at 11.30am on Friday September 22. Tickets £12.

Clueless is showing at the Kino Cinema, Lion Street, Rye, at 8.10pm on Thursday September 21. Tickets £10.

Amy is showing at the Kino Cinema, Lion Street, Rye, at 8.10pm on Monday September 25. Tickets £12.

Austentatious is at Rye Community Centre, Conduit Hill, Rye, at 5pm on Sunday October 1. Tickets £15.

Caravan Shorts are in the Kino Cinema Courtyard, Lion Street, Rye, at 12noon and 12.30pm on Saturday September 23. Tickets £6.